Friday, February 03, 2006

Is Total Information Awareness in Operation Today?

Yesterday's Senate Intelligence Committee hearing may have seemed just like a dry-run for Gonzales grilling set to take place next week. Yet there were some startling revelations made that may shed light on just how explosive a scandal this story has become.

Specifically, note this exchange between Senator Wyden and General Hayden:

A similarly revealing sparring session came when Senator Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon, pressed the intelligence officials about whether a controversial Pentagon data-mining program called Total Information Awareness had been effectively transferred to the intelligence agencies after being shut down by Congress.

Mr. Negroponte and the F.B.I. director, Robert S. Mueller III, both said they did not know. Then came the turn of Gen. Michael V. Hayden, who headed N.S.A. for six years before becoming the principal deputy director of national intelligence last spring.

"Senator," General Hayden said, "I'd like to answer in closed session."

Right around the time Bush says he signed his domestic spying order, the government created a massive data-mining program called "Total Information Awareness" (TIA). Created in January 2002, the program was heralded as "adapting" our technology to meet the threat of terrorism. The New York Times reported on the controversial program in 2002:

The Pentagon is constructing a computer system that could create a vast electronic dragnet, searching for personal information as part of the hunt for terrorists around the globe -- including the United States.

As the director of the effort, Vice Adm. John M. Poindexter (yes, that Poindexter), has described the system in Pentagon documents and in speeches, it will provide intelligence analysts and law enforcement officials with instant access to information from Internet mail and calling records to credit card and banking transactions and travel documents, without a search warrant.


Memo Shows Bush & Blair Determined to Start War in Iraq, Regardless

A memo of a two-hour meeting between the two leaders at the White House on January 31 2003 - nearly two months before the invasion - reveals that Mr Bush made it clear the US intended to invade whether or not there was a second UN resolution and even if UN inspectors found no evidence of a banned Iraqi weapons programme...
· Mr Bush told Mr Blair that the US was so worried about the failure to find hard evidence against Saddam that it thought of "flying U2 reconnaissance aircraft planes with fighter cover over Iraq, painted in UN colours". Mr Bush added: "If Saddam fired on them, he would be in breach [of UN resolutions]".
· Mr Bush even expressed the hope that a defector would be extracted from Iraq and give a "public presentation about Saddam's WMD". He is also said to have referred Mr Blair to a "small possibility" that Saddam would be "assassinated".
· Mr Blair told the US president that a second UN resolution would be an "insurance policy", providing "international cover, including with the Arabs" if anything went wrong with the military campaign, or if Saddam increased the stakes by burning oil wells, killing children, or fomenting internal divisions within Iraq.
· Mr Bush told the prime minister that he "thought it unlikely that there would be internecine warfare between the different religious and ethnic groups". Mr Blair did not demur, according to the book.

Official: Army Has Authority to Spy on Americans

“Contrary to popular belief, there is no absolute ban on [military] intelligence components collecting U.S. person information,” the U.S.Army’s top intelligence officer said in a 2001 memo that surfaced Tuesday.
Not only that, military intelligence agencies are permitted to “receive” domestic intelligence information, even though they cannot legally “collect” it,” according to the Nov. 5, 2001, memo issued by Lt. Gen. Robert W. Noonan Jr., the deputy chief of staff for intelligence.
“MI [military intelligence] may receive information from anyone, anytime,” Noonan wrote in the memo, obtained by Secrecy News, a newsletter from the non-profit Federation of American Scientists in Washington.
Defense Department and Army regulations “allow collection about U.S. persons reasonably believed to be engaged, or about to engage, in international terrorist activities,” Noonan continued.
“Remember, merely receiving information does not constitute ‘collection’ under AR [Army Regulation] 381-10; collection entails receiving ‘for use,’ ” he added. (Army Regulation 381-10, “U.S. Army Intelligence Activities,” was reissued on Nov. 22, 2005, but had not previously been disclosed publicly.) “Army intelligence may always receive information, if only to determine its intelligence value and whether it can be collected, retained, or disseminated in accordance with governing policy,”
The distinction between “receiving” and “collecting” seems “to offer considerable leeway for domestic surveillance activities under the existing legal framework,” wrote editor Steven Aftergood in Tuesday’s edition of Secrecy News.

NASA's Inspector General Under Investigation

An FBI-led watchdog agency has opened an investigation into multiple complaints accusing NASA Inspector General Robert W. Cobb of failing to investigate safety violations and retaliating against whistle-blowers. Most of the complaints were filed by current and former employees of his own office.
Written complaints and supporting documents from at least 16 people have been given to investigators. They allege that Cobb, appointed by President Bush in 2002, suppressed investigations of wrongdoing within NASA, and abused and penalized his own investigators when they persisted in raising concerns.
The complaints are being reviewed by the Integrity Committee of the President's Council on Integrity and Efficiency. The complaints describe efforts by Cobb to shut down or ignore investigations on issues such as a malfunctioning self-destruct procedure during a space shuttle launch at the Kennedy Space Center, and the theft of an estimated $1.9 billion worth of data on rocket engines from NASA computers.

Cheney and Libby Knew Niger Story Wasle False

Vice President Cheney and his then-Chief of Staff I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby were personally informed in June 2003 that the CIA no longer considered credible the allegations that Saddam Hussein had attempted to procure uranium from the African nation of Niger, according to government records and interviews with current and former officials. The new CIA assessment came just as Libby and other senior administration officials were embarking on an effort to discredit an administration critic who had also been saying that the allegations were untrue.
CIA analysts wrote then-CIA Director George Tenet in a highly classified memo on June 17, 2003, "We no longer believe there is sufficient" credible information to "conclude that Iraq pursued uranium from abroad." The memo was titled: "In Response to Your Questions for Our Current Assessment and Additional Details on Iraq's Alleged Pursuits of Uranium From Abroad."
Despite the CIA's findings, Libby attempted to discredit former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, who had been sent on a CIA-sponsored mission to Niger the previous year to investigate the claims, which he concluded were baseless.

FactCheck.Org: Misstatement of the Union

The President left out a few things when surveying the State of the Union:
*He proudly spoke of "writing a new chapter in the story of self-government" in Iraq and Afghanistan and said the number of democracies in the world is growing. He failed to mention that neither Iraq nor Afghanistan yet qualify as democracies according to the very group whose statistics he cited.
*Bush called for Congress to pass a line-item veto, failing to mention that the Supreme Court struck down a line-item veto as unconstitutional in 1998. Bills now in Congress would propose a Constitutional amendment, but none have shown signs of life.
*The President said the economy gained 4.6 million jobs in the past two-and-a-half years, failing to note that it had lost 2.6 million jobs in his first two-and-a-half years in office. The net gain since Bush took office is just a little more than 2 million.
*He talked of cutting spending, but only "non-security discretionary spending." Actually, total federal spending has increased 42 percent since Bush took office.
*He spoke of being "on track" to cut the federal deficit in half by 2009. But the deficit is increasing this year, and according to the Congressional Budget Office it will decline by considerably less than half even if Bush's tax cuts are allowed to lapse.
*Bush spoke of a "goal" of cutting dependence on Middle Eastern oil, failing to mention that US dependence on imported oil and petroleum products increased substantially during his first five years in office, reaching 60 per cent of consumption last year.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Vote Machine Flaws Hidden by Non-Disclosure Agreements?

Voting system examiners in several states have reportedly been prohibited from revealing voting system flaws to the public due to nondisclosure agreements they signed with the vendors.
With the future of democracy is at stake, just what agreements were signed by examiners like Steve Freeman (CA), Brit Williams (GA, MD, VA), Paul Craft (FL), Doug Jones (IA), and David Jefferson (CA)?
Black Box Voting has learned that vendors have been requiring nondisclosures to block release of information of critical importance to the public. Secretaries of state have failed to protect their voting system examiners, reportedly requiring administrative rules that prevent proper analysis and evaluation of voting systems by state examiners.
Black Box Voting has filed public records requests to obtain all nondisclosure agreements signed by Paul Craft, David Drury, David Jefferson, Steve Freeman, Doug Jones, Brit Williams, Merle King, and Michael Shamos.
We have already obtained one of the Diebold nondisclosure requirements. Diebold attempts to block everything that should be revealed -- even if the contractor is served with a subpoena or court order!

Administration backs off Bush's vow to reduce Mideast oil imports

One day after President Bush vowed to reduce America's dependence on Middle East oil by cutting imports from there 75 percent by 2025, his energy secretary and national economic adviser said Wednesday that the president didn't mean it literally.
What the president meant, they said in a conference call with reporters, was that alternative fuels could displace an amount of oil imports equivalent to most of what America is expected to import from the Middle East in 2025.
But America still would import oil from the Middle East, because that's where the greatest oil supplies are.
The president's State of the Union reference to Mideast oil made headlines nationwide Wednesday because of his assertion that "America is addicted to oil" and his call to "break this addiction."

$200,000,000,000 scandal?

America is ranked 16th in the world in Broadband speed. Wanna know why? Verizon won’t tell you, but Bruce Kushnick will. His latest book, $200 Billion Dollar Broadband Scandal, is a powerful critique that outlines a truly massive case of fraud. The Bell Companies (Verizon, SBC, Qwest, and BellSouth) used trickery and deceit to swindle the U.S. out of a promised 45mbps internet connection. They collected billions of dollars in regulatory fees, and now they are attempting to commoditize the Internet. Kushnick's book uses stunning detail to expose this treachery with accuracy and thoroughness. [from]

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Lawmaker Condemns NASA Over Scientist's Accusations of Censorship

The chairman of the House Science Committee sharply criticized NASA yesterday after the agency's top climate scientist and several public affairs officers complained of political pressure intended to prevent public discussions of global warming.
"Good science cannot long persist in an atmosphere of intimidation," the chairman, Representative Sherwood Boehlert, Republican of New York, said in a letter to NASA's administrator, Michael D. Griffin.
"Political figures ought to be reviewing their public statements to make sure they are consistent with the best available science," Mr. Boehlert said. "Scientists should not be reviewing their statements to make sure they are consistent with the current political orthodoxy."

US savings rate sinks to lowest since Great Depression

Americans spent $42bn (£24bn) more than they earned last year, turning the annual US savings ratio negative for the first time since the Great Depression.

Cindy Sheehan arrested for wearing anti-war T-shirt at State of the Union

Peace activist Cindy Sheehan was arrested Tuesday in the House gallery after refusing to cover up a T-shirt bearing an anti-war slogan before President Bush's State of the Union address.
"She was asked to cover it up. She did not," said Sgt. Kimberly Schneider, U.S. Capitol Police spokeswoman, adding that Sheehan was arrested for unlawful conduct, a misdemeanor.
The charge carries a maximum penalty of one year in jail, Schneider said.
Schneider said shortly after the State of the Union speech that Sheehan was still being held but should be "out sometime tonight."
...Sheehan, who became a vocal war opponent after her son was killed in Iraq, was an invited guest of Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-California, who has called for a withdrawal of troops in Iraq and supports legislation for the creation of a Department of Peace.

Project Censored: Top 25 Censored Stories of 2006

#1 Bush Administration Moves to Eliminate Open Government

#2 Media Coverage Fails on Iraq: Fallujah and the Civilian Death

#3 Another Year of Distorted Election Coverage

#4 Surveillance Society Quietly Moves In

#5 U.S. Uses Tsunami to Military Advantage in Southeast Asia

#6 The Real Oil for Food Scam

#7 Journalists Face Unprecedented Dangers to Life and Livelihood

#8 Iraqi Farmers Threatened By Bremer’s Mandates

#9 Iran’s New Oil Trade System Challenges U.S. Currency

#10 Mountaintop Removal Threatens Ecosystem and Economy

#11 Universal Mental Screening Program Usurps Parental Rights

#12 Military in Iraq Contracts Human Rights Violators

#13 Rich Countries Fail to Live up to Global Pledges

#14 Corporations Win Big on Tort Reform, Justice Suffers

#15 Conservative Plan to Override Academic Freedom in the Classroom

#16 U.S. Plans for Hemispheric Integration Include Canada

#17 U.S. Uses South American Military Bases to Expand Control of the Region

#18 Little Known Stock Fraud Could Weaken U.S. Economy

#19 Child Wards of the State Used in AIDS Experiments

#20 American Indians Sue for Resources; Compensation Provided to Others

#21 New Immigration Plan Favors Business Over People

#22 Nanotechnology Offers Exciting Possibilities But Health Effects Need Scrutiny

#23 Plight of Palestinian Child Detainees Highlights Global Problem

#24 Ethiopian Indigenous Victims of Corporate and Government Resource Aspirations

#25 Homeland Security Was Designed to Fail

US Military Aiming for Strike Capabilities Against Communications Networks Worldwide

The "roadmap" calls for a far-reaching overhaul of the military's ability to conduct information operations and electronic warfare. And, in some detail, it makes recommendations for how the US armed forces should think about this new, virtual warfare.
The document says that information is "critical to military success". Computer and telecommunications networks are of vital operational importance.
The operations described in the document include a surprising range of military activities: public affairs officers who brief journalists, psychological operations troops who try to manipulate the thoughts and beliefs of an enemy, computer network attack specialists who seek to destroy enemy networks.
All these are engaged in information operations.
Information Operations Roadmap [PDF]

Attorney General says Bush will keep using PATRIOT Act powers even if Congress votes "no"

A footnote in Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales's 42-page legal memo defending President Bush's domestic spying program appears to argue that the administration does not need Congress to extend the USA PATRIOT Act in order to keep using the law's investigative powers against terror suspects.
The memo states that Congress gave Bush the power to investigate terror suspects using whatever tactics he deemed necessary when it authorized him to use force against Al Qaeda. When Congress later passed the PATRIOT Act, Bush already had the power to use enhanced surveillance techniques against Al Qaeda, according to the footnote.
Thus, legal specialists say, the administration is asserting that Bush would be able to keep using the powers outlined in the PATRIOT Act for Al Qaeda investigations, regardless of whether Congress reauthorizes the law.

Expert Calls for Increased E-voting Security

Can you provide some details of your effort to hack into Leon County's Diebold e-voting machines on Dec. 13?
We conducted a hack of the Diebold AccuVote optical scan device. I wrote a five-line script in Visual Basic that would allow you to go into the central tabulator and change any vote total you wanted, leaving no logs. It requires physical access to a machine. In Leon County, they have good policies and procedures in place. But in many counties, where such awareness doesn't exist, that brings up some serious concerns about someone being able to tamper with the results.
[Finnish security specialist] Harri Hursti [who also took part in the hacking exercise] changed the contents of a memory card used in the optical scan device and preloaded it. If you can get access to the memory card, you can change its logic and have it do whatever you want. That hack was like prestuffing a ballot box to handicap one candidate by giving them negative votes and giving another positive ones.
Do you think e-voting security has become a political issue?
I'm strictly an independent person donating my time. It's not political. Bad software is the issue. I'm a software security guy. I see a lot of bad software. All software has security vulnerability -- this is just particularly bad. As an election official, you have to be wary when touching a tabulator or a memory card; it has to be treated like a box of live ballots.
How do you respond to Diebold's claims that the hacks were unfair?
I would love to do a demonstration where Diebold participates. There are certainly other voting companies that make tabulation software as well as optical scan gear, and we're seeing the same vulnerabilities as we've seen in Diebold's systems, which raises a broader question. That's about whether the verification and validation processes these machines go through are woefully inadequate or not. The e-voting companies aren't volunteering their systems for independent audits and analysis.

Florida: The Harri Hursti Hack and its Importance to our Nation

Written by Susan Pynchon, Florida Fair Elections Coalition
[excerpt:] So, TJ became convinced that it was all right to upload the memory card, which he did. And there, on the central tabulator screen, appeared the altered results: Seven "Yes" votes and one "No" vote, with absolutely no evidence that anything had been altered. It was a powerful moment and, I will admit, it had the unexpected result for me personally of causing me to break down and cry. Why did I cry? It was the last thing I thought I would do, but it happened for so many reasons. I cried because it was so clear that Diebold had been lying. I cried because there was proof, before my very eyes, that these machines were every bit as bad as we all had feared. I cried because we have been so unjustly attacked as "conspiracy theorists" and "technophobes" when Diebold knew full well that its voting system could alter election results. More than that, that Diebold planned to have a voting system that could alter results. And I cried because it suddenly hit me, like a Mack truck, that this was proof positive that our democracy is and has been, as we have all feared, truly at the mercy of unscrupulous vendors who are producing electronic voting machines that can change election results without detection.
Beyond this, however, what is the real significance of the "Harri Hursti hack?" There are several answers to that question.

The Significance of Harri's Hack
First of all, the Hursti hack reveals only one vulnerability in an almost unlimited number of potential flaws or vulnerabilities in electronic voting systems (both op-scans and DREs). However, the Hursti hack is individually significant because the flaw it exposed is a planned vulnerability in the system, not something that is accidentally there. It had to be PUT there (programmed) on purpose. For Diebold to claim innocence about this would be absurd. It would be like saying you didn't know your garage had a door while you were standing there holding the garage door opener. Or, because this security vulnerability is so huge, it would more accurately be like saying you didn't know your house had a garage at all!!

EFF's Class-Action Lawsuit Against AT&T for Collaboration with Illegal Domestic Spying Program

In the largest "fishing expedition" ever devised, the NSA uses powerful computers to "data-mine" the contents of these Internet and telephone communications for suspicious names, numbers, and words, and to analyze traffic data indicating who is calling and emailing whom in order to identify persons who may be "linked" to "suspicious activities," suspected terrorists or other investigatory targets, whether directly or indirectly.
But the government did not act-and is not acting-alone. The government requires the collaboration of major telecommunications companies to implement its unprecedented and illegal domestic spying program.
AT&T Corp. (which was recently acquired by the new AT&T, Inc,. formerly known as SBC Communications) maintains domestic telecommunications facilities over which millions of Americans' telephone and Internet communications pass every day. It also manages some of the largest databases in the world, containing records of most or all communications made through its myriad telecommunications services.
The lawsuits alleges that AT&T Corp. has opened its key telecommunications facilities and databases to direct access by the NSA and/or other government agencies, thereby disclosing to the government the contents of its customers' communications as well as detailed communications records about millions of its customers, including the lawsuit's class members.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Harry Belafonte on President Bush

Transcript (audio links on page)

[N]o previous regime tried to subvert the Constitution. They may have done illegal acts. They may have gone outside the law to do these, but they did them clandestinely. No one stepped to the table as arrogantly as George W. Bush and his friends have done and said, ‘We legally want to suspend the rights of citizens, the right to surveil, the right to read your mail, the right to arrest you without charge. You do not have the right to counsel if we so decide, and you can stay in prison as long as we want you to, until we're satisfied that we have reached the objectives that we want, despite the Constitution.’
I think that every person in the United States of America should be up in arms, should be up in rebellion against the reality that we face, that it is that fact that made me say that I think and I feel that we are at the dawnings of a new Gestapo state here in the United States, through the security -- Securities Commission and through the Homeland Security, as well – National Security Agency. All of these different agencies, all of these different bureaucracies have their own special assignments, and then they come – and when you look at the collective, America is playing out a horror theme. The fact that we're a joyous nation, when you see sports and you see so much light, frothy, mindless entertainment bombarding you every day and so much disinformation coming your way, is enough to make any citizen mentally, as well as socially, blurred to truth.
But the fact is that it exists, and it exists very intensely in our midst. There are citizens at this moment who are being arrested, who are not being told why they're arrested. Some have been spirited out of this country to faraway places to be imprisoned and tortured. These are realities, and the American people had best wake up, because as one priest once said, or I think it was a protestant minister in Germany, said, ‘When they came for the communists, I didn't know any. When they came for the Jews, I didn't know any. When they came for the labor movements, I didn't know any. And then when they came for me, no one was left.’ I don't think we can distance ourselves from what's going on in America. And as Roosevelt said, that ‘When our government is being subverted, our Constitution is being undermined by those who sit in the seat of government and power, it is the right of citizens and the responsibility of citizens to raise their voice against this intrusion and this collapse and should speak out against it and, in fact, change the government; and those who do not do that, should be charged with patriotic treason.’

Politcal Staffers Editing Wikipedia Entries

The staff of U.S. Rep Marty Meehan wiped out references to his broken term-limits pledge as well as information about his huge campaign war chest in an independent biography of the Lowell Democrat on a Web site that bills itself as the "world's largest encyclopedia," The Sun has learned.
The Meehan alterations on represent just two of more than 1,000 changes made by congressional staffers at the U.S. House of Representatives in the past six month. Wikipedia is a global reference that relies on its Internet users to add credible information to entries on millions of topics.