As part of the “Today We Fight Back” initiative I clicked the “call your legislator” button on the pop-up I’ve installed here for the day. The way it works is you give your phone number, then their bot calls your phone, asks for your zip code, and connects you to your representatives.
I was duly connected to Sen. Nelson’s office, where they answered on the second ring, and a polite gentleman noted my concerns and promised “to pass it along to the Senator” (uh-huh).
Then the app connected me to Senator Rubio’s office. The phone rang eight times and no one answered. Is no one home? Do they have caller ID and not bother answering calls that come in via the EFF’s app?
Then it was on to Rep. Ros-Lehtinen’s office, where it barely rang twice, and another nice gentleman, this time with an Australian accent, took down my info.
Back when I did politics, I used to only half-jokingly say that one indication of a struggling political outfit was if the phone ever rang more than three times. By that standard Rubio is tanking.
Not answering the phone is no way to treat constituents, even if you know they don’t agree with you. Lame. Very lame.
Today is Data Privacy Day. Start your celebration with Unqualified Offerings:
Snowden’s revelations must be especially hard on the psychiatric profession. If one patient dismisses the idea that the government is spying on him, and the other is convinced that the government is working with major electronics manufacturers to put listening devices in his personal belongings, which one do you diagnose as being unable to distinguish reality from fantasy?
At a University committee meeting recently, I suggested the University should provide us all with encryption so we can protect our data on our computers, and in transit, as it was at risk of interception. The ranking University official at the meeting smiled dismissively and said something along the lines of ‘Well, if you are worrying about that…”. I said, “but it’s national policy – the President announced it.” He stopped smiling.
EFF tries to strike a note of cautious optimism about President Obama’s NSA reform package, Obama Takes First Steps Toward Reforming NSA Surveillance, but Leaves Many Issues Unaddressed, even though by my reading Obama’s reforms, such as they are, don’t do very well on yesterday’s EFF scorecarrd.
Simon Davis is more pessimistic:
US privacy advocates are right to conditionally welcome some of Obama’s reforms, but they should take into account two critically important implications that the President avoided.
The first of these is the NSA’s intimate operational partnership with Britain’s SIGINT agency, GCHQ. Nothing in his reform package indicates a brake on the current arrangements which allow GCHQ to collect information on US persons.
The second key element is that the proposals appear to merely shift the current collection and retention of metadata from a centralised NSA operation to more of a European-style communications data arrangement that requires commercial entities to maintain a distributed retention. That arrangement in Europe has been deemed unlawful, but there is every chance the US will adopt it.
All things considered, the prospects for genuine intelligence reform at the global level are more bleak than they were 24 hours ago.
I’m underwhelmed by President Obama’s new Presidential Policy Directive/Ppd-28 on Signals Intelligence.
As I read it, the document announces various fine principles for how drift-net collection of email and telephone and other computer data will be used, but says nothing about collecting any less of it. The memo purports to define “why, whether, and how” this data will be collected; in fact it has a lot more to say about limitations on use than collection, most of it pretty good.
Unfortunately the collection section, section 3, is the shortest and, on first reading, the worst. Here it is in full:
Sec. 3. Refining the Process for Collecting Signals Intelligence.
U.S. intelligence collection activities present the potential for national security damage if improperly disclosed. Signals intelligence collection raises special concerns, given the opportunities and risks created by the constantly evolving technological and geopolitical environment; the unique nature of such collection and the inherent concerns raised when signals intelligence can only be collected in bulk; and the risk of damage to our national security interests and our law enforcement, intelligence-sharing, and diplomatic relationships should our capabilities or activities be compromised. It is, therefore, essential that national security policymakers consider carefully the value of signals intelligence activities in light of the risks entailed in conducting these activities.
To enable this judgment, the heads of departments and agencies that participate in the policy processes for establishing signals intelligence priorities and requirements shall, on an annual basis, review any priorities or requirements identified by their departments or agencies and advise the DNI whether each should be maintained, with a copy of the advice provided to the APNSA.
Additionally, the classified Annex to this directive, which supplements the existing policy process for reviewing signals intelligence activities, affirms that determinations about whether and how to conduct signals intelligence activities must carefully evaluate the benefits to our national interests and the risks posed by those activities. (footnote omitted)
I read that to mean … “trust us”. Am I wrong?
1. The NSA hacks BIOSes. Indeed it does everything that it wants you to worry that the Chinese might do and more. The NSA even monitors certain online orders of computers so it can intercept the computers and modify them with BIOS-level or system-level spyware.
2. It’s possible to hack a MicroSD card — or indeed any flash storage device. I’m waiting to learn when the NSA does that too.
Edward Snowden’s Christmas message (Channel 4 UK, 1 minute 43 seconds). Worth watching.
And, a bit more heavy-handed, but appropriate for this high-travel season, ReasonTV’s The TSA’s 12 Banned Items of Christmas: