‘Is It Safe?’

March 26, 2014

pt_948_11108_oRaining fairly heavy this way-too-early Wednesday on California’s north coast, but maybe the sun will show itself later, like it did yesterday afternoon — gorgeous and warm.
We need the rain, though, and lots more.

Quick snapshot of America 2014 from Democratic pollster Celinda Lake: “Both parties are universally despised. The best thing the Republicans have going for them is how much the Democrats are hated. The best thing the Democrats have going for them is how much the Republicans are hated.”

(Illustration found here).

In the same ugly vein, Americans are also caught in the politics of stupid in the Eddie Snowden predicament — is he a good guy, or bad? President Obama tried to soften the blow yesterday in a move to end the NSA’s bulk collection and storage of phone records — yet leaving them with look-see rights.
We the people are confused — from CBC:

Most Americans disapprove of the blanket electronic eavesdropping carried out by the vast apparatus of U.S. security organs.
It is, they tell pollsters, an infringement of their privacy and liberty.
Yesterday, President Barack Obama sympathized: “I think the fears about our privacy in this age of internet and big data are justified,” he told reporters in The Hague.
At the same time, polls suggest Americans overwhelmingly believe that Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor who revealed that electronic spying, is a traitor who harmed his country.
Obama’s officials wholeheartedly concur with that view.
In fact, they want Snowden returned from his Russian asylum in chains.
Only one conclusion can sensibly be drawn from such profoundly contradictory attitudes: Americans, like most other people perhaps, prefer contented ignorance to uncomfortable truth.
It is now pretty clear that Snowden, far from being an enemy of his country, sacrificed his future to tell his fellow Americans what their government’s secretive National Security Agency has for years been scooping up all the records of every email and cellphone call they make.
It is also clear, as Obama acknowledged Tuesday, that had it not been for Snowden, his administration would not be supporting legislation that would put an end to that program.

Snowden is an asshole. No, he’s not an asshole. All depends on the hole you’re asking.
A goodly-chunk of those Americans really don’t have a clue. They’re wishy-washy on climate change, and funny about the Tea Party and are way-misinformed about the NSA — shit! The head of that agency lied to Congress!

And Americans are outside the loop — Bruce Schneier at The Atlantic:

The U.S. intelligence community is still playing word games with us.
The NSA collects our data based on four different legal authorities: the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) of 1978, Executive Order 12333 of 1981 and modified in 2004 and 2008, Section 215 of the Patriot Act of 2001, and Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act (FAA) of 2008.
Be careful when someone from the intelligence community uses the caveat “not under this program,” or “not under this authority”; almost certainly it means that whatever it is they’re denying is done under some other program or authority.
So when De said that companies knew about NSA collection under Section 702, it doesn’t mean they knew about the other collection programs.
The big Internet companies know of PRISM — although not under that code name—because that’s how the program works; the NSA serves them with FISA orders.
Those same companies did not know about any of the other surveillance against their users conducted on the far more permissive EO 12333.
Google and Yahoo did not know about MUSCULAR, the NSA’s secret program to eavesdrop on their trunk connections between data centers.
Facebook did not know about QUANTUMHAND, the NSA’s secret program to attack Facebook users.
And none of the target companies knew that the NSA was harvesting their users’ address books and buddy lists.
These companies are certainly pissed that the publicity surrounding the NSA’s actions is undermining their users’ trust in their services, and they’re losing money because of it.
Cisco, IBM, cloud service providers, and others have announced that they’re losing billions, mostly in foreign sales.
These companies are doing their best to convince users that their data is secure.
But they’re relying on their users not understanding what real security looks like.
IBM’s letter to its clients last week is an excellent example.
The letter lists five “simple facts” that it hopes will mollify its customers, but the items are so qualified with caveats that they do the exact opposite to anyone who understands the full extent of NSA surveillance.
And IBM’s spending $1.2B on data centers outside the U.S. will only reassure customers who don’t realize that National Security Letters require a company to turn over data, regardless of where in the world it is stored.

The biggest Internet companies don’t offer real security because the U.S. government won’t permit it.
This isn’t paranoia.
We know that the U.S. government ordered the secure e-mail provider Lavabit to turn over its master keys and compromise every one of its users.
We know that the U.S. government convinced Microsoft—either through bribery, coercion, threat, or legal compulsion—to make changes in how Skype operates, to make eavesdropping easier.
We don’t know what sort of pressure the U.S. government has put on Google and the others.
We don’t know what secret agreements those companies have reached with the NSA.
We do know the NSA’s BULLRUN program to subvert Internet cryptography was successful against many common protocols.
Did the NSA demand Google’s keys, as it did with Lavabit?
Did its Tailored Access Operations group break into to Google’s servers and steal the keys?
We just don’t know.

And that’s the way-bottom line. All this conjecture, though, and all this surveillance talk wouldn’t have happened without Eddie Snowden.
And last week, the boy made an appearance at a TED conference via video, and among the bits of information, he claimed “some of the most important reporting” on his revelations “is yet to come,” and he took a poke at The Dick:

“At the time Julian Assange was doing his greatest work, Dick Cheney was saying he’d endangered governments worldwide, the skies were going to ignite, seas would boil off.
“Now he says it was a fleabite.
“We should be suspicious of overblown claims from these officials.
“But! Let’s assume that these people really believe this.
“I would argue they have a narrow conception of national security.
“The prerogatives of people like Dick Cheney do not keep the nation safe.”

No one can keep us safe. Especially with someone digging into your mouth asking the nonsensical question: “Is it safe?”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.