Thursday, November 7, 2013

World Wide Web Creator Blasts NSA For Undermining Online Security

You have to hand it to the spooks at NSA for being mischievous liars, dissemblers, prevaricators, obfuscators.....however you want to put it. And it's amazing how their crap works hand in glove with other spooks, from other nations. Case in point, the recent (TIME) comments of French Head Spook Bernard Squarcini, who deplored the "level of naïvete" of those condemning the NSA spying on allies when "we all do it". This, even as NSA Troglodyte James Clapper admitted in a Sunday NY Times interview ('No Morsel Too Minuscule for All -Consuming NSA', Nov. 1) that despite dismissing objections from other nations to NSA spying as "brazen hypocrisy":

There's no question that "from a capabiity standpoint (of the scale of eavesdropping of the NSA), we probably dwarf everybody on the planet with perhaps the exception of China and Russia"

Really now? Of course, he was referring - as the article noted - to the 35,000 workers and the $10.8 b a year which sets it apart for such dedicated international spookery. All money, imho, that is totally wasted. Money that could better be allocated to replacing the $40b to be cut from the food stamps program over the next 10 years - thanks to the security fetishist Reepos and assorted Demo Neoliberal punks in their camp. Just 4 years worth of NSA "allies' phones spymongering" would pay for that sliced SNAP program! It would mean the difference between kids in the "richest nation on Earth" going to bed hungry or not.

Anyway, now the creator of the World wide web has come out against the way this hyper, no holds barred spy craft is undermining the whole security of the web. According to a UK Guardian report, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the computer scientist who created the world wide web, has called for a "full and frank public debate" over internet surveillance by the National Security Agency and its British counterpart, GCHQ, warning that the system of checks and balances to oversee the agencies has failed. Make no mistake that as the inventor of the global system of inter-connectivity known as the web, with its now ubiquitous www and http, Berners-Lee is uniquely qualified to comment on the internet spying revealed by the former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

In an interview with the Guardian, he expressed particular outrage that GCHQ and the NSA had weakened online security by cracking much of the online encryption on which hundreds of millions of users rely to guard data privacy. He said the agencies' decision to break the encryption software was appalling and foolish, as it directly contradicted efforts of the US and UK governments to fight cybercrime and cyberwarfare, which they have identified as a national security priority. Berners-Lee also said it was a betrayal of the technology industry. Let's recall, by way of fixing ideas here, how the NSA last year helped the Israelis create the 'Stuxnet' then 'Flame' virus - which escaped their control and (after being created as worms to destroy Iranian centrifuges for nuclear processing) and now lurks as a weapon that can be turned back on us all. (To get my take on it, see my post: 'The Stupidity of Stuxnet' from March 5, last year.)

Make no mistake that as a brilliant guy, Berners-Lee sees the Guardian news organization and Snowden as having acted in the public interest. This is in contrast to several senior British Puppets......errrrr....politicians – including the prime minister, David Cameron – who have called for The Guardian to be investigated over reporting of the Snowden leaks. Similar to the Neoliberal poseurs and puppets like Chuck Schumer and Dianne Feinstein who loudly proclaimed Snowden a "traitor" and called for his prosecution, even as they turned a blind eye to the actual violations of the 4th amendment by using bogus Fisa courts to secure mass warrants as opposed to the individualized ones required by the 4th.

Berners -Lee went on to observe in his Guardian interview:

"Whistleblowers, and responsible media outlets that work with them, play an important role in society. We need powerful agencies to combat criminal activity online – but any powerful agency needs checks and balances and, based on recent revelations, it seems the current system of checks and balances has failed."

Sadly, the NSA has broken beyond all bounds of any useful or reasonable checks and balances. As the NY Times piece reported (op. cit., p. 11) the "exploits of the Tailored Access Operations, or T.A.O., is the prim name for the NSA division that breaks into computers around the world to steal the data inside, and sometimes leaves spy software behind." I mean, is it any wonder many citizens are flocking to the downloadable Tor browser (which is pre-configured to mask your IP address and therefore your location) with this shit going on and few legislators with the balls to impose some kind of control?

Today is to have been D-day when an unprecedented hearing in Westminster questions the conduct of Britain's spy agencies and the heads of the three secret services – MI5, MI6 and GCHQ – go before parliament's intelligence and security committee. The 90-minute session will give the nine-strong committee, led by Sir Malcolm Rifkind, a chance to question the agencies about the reach of the mass surveillance programmes that have provoked a global debate about privacy in the internet age.

Meanwhile, in the U.S., two parallel tracks for legislation - one bogus as a $3 bill, the other serious and real, are up for consideration. In the case of the former, the bill sponsored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, would effectively legalize many of the NSA’s controversial spying tactics that have been exposed to the public recently. It would also expand the NSA’s powers, giving the agency new authority to tap cellphones, track cellphones, and would also impose 10-year sentences on any unauthorized person who accesses the NSA’s data. In other words, it's '4th amendment, fuck you' hubris raised to the googleplex power. Citizens need to barrage their reps to stop this perfidy. Whether Reepo or Demo, tell them no votes on their next election bid if they fuck this up.

The other bill, by Sen. Patrick Leahy and Jim Sensenbrenner (an original co-author of the Patriot Act), would actually reform the NSA. It would end the NSA’s bulk collection of data, require the government obtain court orders before it could use information collected on Americans, create transparency by allowing communications providers to disclose information about the orders they've received from the NSA, make FISA court orders since 2003 public, and create a public advocate for the FISA Court. Feinstein has vowed to kill Leahy’s legislation. We can't let that happen. Not on our watch, not when this may be the last, best chance to regulate the spooks gone wild.

Back to Berners-Lee. Speaking from his office at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts, he said that though he had anticipated many of the surveillance activities exposed by Snowden, including taps on the internet through the Prism program, he had not been prepared for the scale of the NSA/GCHQ operations, he "didn't realize it would be so big." At worst, such spying could damage the public's confidence in the intimate privacy of the internet as a free and safe place to interact, adding: "When you take away the safe space, you take away a lot of the power of human problem solving,".

Berners-Lee, who was honored in the opening ceremony of the London Olympics, reserved his harshest words for GCHQ and the NSA's undermining of the protection afforded by encryption, which he said would benefit organized criminal hacker gangs and hostile states. He said:

"In a totalitarian state where it reckoned it was the only strong state in the world, I can imagine that being a reasonable plan. But in this situation, internet security is hard. It's naïve to imagine that if you introduce a weakness into a system you will be the only one to use it."

He also criticised the cracking of encryption on ethical grounds:

"Any democratic country has to take the high road; it has to live by its principles. I'm very sympathetic to attempts to increase security against organised crime, but you have to distinguish yourself from the criminal."

Is the U.S. really a democratic nation any more, or has it reverted to a total, lawless gangster state? - As author Michael Parenti has warned, from the time of the JFK assassination. (When the security state finally grabbed the last leash of governance via complicity in Kennedy's assassination, facilitating it and its ensuing cover-up). This 50th anniversary year of the assassination is the perfect time to apply the ultimate litmus test to see whether we're a gangster state, or still a nominally democratic nation. If Feinstein's bill wins, you damned well know the answer.

And, btw, if you believe that's "over the top", consider the words of former senior NSA official Bill Binney, who in a CBS June 19 interview declared there were "simple principles that can be used to find bad guys without violating anyone's privacy". In the NY Times piece (ibid.), at the very end, Binney goes on the record again, stating bluntly, that without new leadership, new laws and top-to-bottom reform:

The agency will represent a threat of 'turnkey totalitarianism' - the capability to turn its awesome power - now directed mainly against other countries - on Americans.

To be forewarned, and all that....

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