Surveillance

Google Secretly Spying On Computer Users Via Microphones

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InfoWars
by PAUL JOSEPH WATSON

Infowars first warned of PC microphone snooping nearly a decade ago

google

Almost a decade after Infowars first warned that corporations may be spying on computer users via PC microphones, it has now come to light that secretly installed Google software is doing precisely that.

“The Chromium browser – the open source basis for Google’s Chrome – began remotely installing audio-snooping code that was capable of listening to users,” reports the London Guardian.

The software was designed to work with Chrome’s ‘OK, Google’ hotword detection, which functions in response to voice commands given by the user – but in some cases the software was installed and activated without permission.

“Without consent, Google’s code had downloaded a black box of code that – according to itself – had turned on the microphone and was actively listening to your room,” writes Pirate party founder Rick Falkvinge. “Which means that your computer had been stealth configured to send what was being said in your room to somebody else, to a private company in another country, without your consent or knowledge, an audio transmission triggered by … an unknown and unverifiable set of conditions.”

Google has denied the accusations, asserting that users have to “opt-in” before the software is activated, but developers insist otherwise.

“The default install will still wiretap your room without your consent, unless you opt out, and more importantly, know that you need to opt out, which is nowhere a reasonable requirement,” said Falkvinge.

Way back in 2006 we first reported that both the state and corporations were moving to utilize microphones attached to people’s computers to eavesdrop on their conversations, as well as for building psychological profiles for the purposes on invasive, Minority Report-style advertising.

Indeed, that same year Google announced that they were developing software that would use PC microphones to listen to ambient background noise in order to generate “relevant content” for the user.

“Since at least 150 million Americans are Internet-active they will all be potential targets for secret surveillance and the subsequent sell-off of all their information to unscrupulous data mining corporations and government agencies,” we reported nearly nine years ago.

Other companies have also been accused of using voice recognition software to spy on conversations.

Back in November we reported on Samsung’s new global privacy policy for its line of Smart TVs. which states that a user’s personal conversations will be recorded by the device’s microphone and transmitted to third parties.

Since its launch in 2010, Microsoft’s X-Box Kinect games device has a video camera and a microphone that records speech. The company informs its users that they “should not expect any level of privacy concerning your use of the live communication features,” while Microsoft also “may access or disclose information about you, including the content of your communications.”

Last year, Microsoft was forced to deny claims that the Xbox One’s Kinect camera could see gamers’ genitals after video footage emerged which suggested the device’s IR camera was so sophisticated that it could capture the outline of a user’s penis.

Gamers also complained that Kinect was monitoring their Skype conversations for swearing and then punishing them with account bans.

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Paul Joseph Watson is the editor at large of Infowars.com and Prison Planet.com.

InfoWars

‘Smart Cities’ are the Next Phase in the 21st Century Surveillance Grid

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New Eastern Outlook
by Steven MacMillan

8482365_sThe century of ‘big data’ will be the century of unprecedented surveillance. The dream of tyrants down through history has been the total monitoring, control and management of the public, with the ability to predict the behaviour of entire populations the most efficient means of achieving this objective. For millennia, this has mainly existed in the realm of fantasy, however with the vast leap in technology in recent decades, this idea is becoming less a dystopian science fiction movie and more the daily business of totalitarian high-tech regimes.

Most readers are now familiar with the predatory surveillance practices of agencies such as the NSA and GCHQ, which high-level NSA whistleblower William Binney describes as “totalitarian” in nature, adding that the goal of the NSA is “to set up the way and means to control the population”. Yet many people may not be aware of the next phase in 21st century surveillance grid; the ‘smarter city’.

Promoted by some as a low-cost and efficient way of managing the workings of a city, others see the surveillance implications of such initiatives as chilling to say the least.  Smart cities are broadly defined as digitally connected urban areas filled with ubiquitous sensors, monitors and meters, which collect data on every aspect of the city; from energy usage, to transport patterns. This data is then analysed and used by city planners to ‘improve decision making’.

Today, more than half the world’s population lives in urban areas – a trend that is set to accelerate into the future – meaning the smart city concept is going to affect the lives of billions of people around the world. India is at the forefront of this push as it plans to build 100 smart cities in the coming years, with Singapore set to become the world’s first smart nation. Smart cities are not just confined to Asia however, as Glasgow (where I’m writing from), Rio de Janeiro, New Orleans and Cape Town are just a handful of cities involved in IBM’s “smarter cities challenge”.

Privacy in a Smart City

 The global move towards a ‘smarter planet’ is a worrying prospect for many who are concerned with the growing erosion of privacy in the modern world. Can privacy exist in a smart city where every corner and crevice of the urban environment is fitted with digital sensors collecting data on every movement of the city 24 hours a day?

Furthermore, many of the supporters and proponents of smart initiatives are multinational corporations and notorious foundations, including IBM, Siemens, Cisco and the Rockefeller Foundation. The notion of corporate giants managing a smarter planet becomes even more troubling when you consider the history of companies such as IBM, which played a pivotal role in the holocaust and worked closely with Nazi Germany. Given IBM’s dark history, should we trust it with the power to regulate and manage numerous cities around the world?

In an article for AlterNet titled: The Terrifying “Smart” City of the Future, Allegra Kirkland details some of the more disturbing aspects of a smarter planet:

“The surveillance implications of these sorts of mass data-generating civic projects are unnerving, to say the least. Urban designer and author Adam Greenfield wrote on his blog Speedbird that this centralized governing model is “disturbingly consonant with the exercise of authoritarianism.” To further complicate matters, the vast majority of smart-city technology is designed by IT-systems giants like IBM and Siemens. In places like Songdo, which was the brainchild of Cisco Systems, corporate entities become responsible for designing and maintaining the basic functions of urban life…. Private corporations are the ones measuring and controlling these mountains of data, and that they don’t have the same accountability to the public that government does.”

The Age of Big Data and Predictive Policing

 The amount of data generated in recent years has skyrocketed, with IBM CEO Ginni Rometty noting in a 2013 speech that “90% of all the data ever known to man has been created in the last two years”. With this trend only set to continue into the future, the race is now on to develop systems to accurately predict the behaviour of entire populations through scanning copious volumes of data for behavioural patterns.

In Australia, the federal crime commission is now using big data systems to analyse patterns of behaviour in a quest to predict criminal activities before they occur. It seems the world is moving closer to the themes in the 1950’s science fiction story by Philip K. Dick and the later film adaptation of the work, ‘The Minority Report’.

It is not just Australia however that is engaged in such activities, as the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) has a division called the Real-Time Analysis and Critical Response Division (RACR). The RACR uses cutting-edge algorithmic systems and analytics in an attempt to predict future crime. British police in Kent have also been using a precrime software program called Predpol for two years, which analyses crimes based on date, place and category of offence, in order to assist police in making decisions on patrol routes.

The ethical and moral questions of the move towards predictive policing are obvious, leading many to fear a potential ‘tyranny of the algorithm’ in the future. With big data being used in the field of law enforcement to surveil and attempt to predict criminal behaviour, you can be assured that intelligence agencies and corporations will be using big data in the futuristic smart city to monitor and predict the behaviour of the city’s population.

Crystal Ball Software

Back in 2010, we got a glimpse into the intentions of the CIA and Google when they funded a start-up company called ‘Recorded Future’, an organisation that claimed to have technology that could predict the future through collecting data from the internet.  ‘Recorded Future’ attempts to scan the entire web looking for patterns and analyzing information on a global scale; with the companies CEO Christopher Ahlberg revealing that the software scans “8 billion data points, [from] 600, 000 sources” each week.

As the Internet of Things (IoT) continues to expand in size and scope producing even more data, demand for companies such as ‘Recorded Future’ by intelligence agencies and corporations will continue to increase. Techopedia defines the IoT as a “computing concept that describes a future where everyday physical objects will be connected to the Internet and be able to identify themselves to other devices.” The number of devices connected to the internet has exploded in recent years, a trend that Cisco details in a 2011 report:

“In 2003, there were approximately 6.3 billion people living on the planet and 500 million devices connected to the Internet… Explosive growth of smartphones and tablet PCs brought the number of devices connected to the Internet to 12.5 billion in 2010… Cisco IBSG predicts there will be 25 billion devices connected to the Internet by 2015 and 50 billion by 2020.”

Many have voiced privacy concerns over the idea of the internet being embedded in everything considering the fact that government agencies and corporate entities have been illegally collecting vast swaths of personnel information from the internet for years. As Michael Snyder writes in a recent article, “could an IoT create a dystopian nightmare where everyone and everything will be constantly monitored and tracked by the government? “

We are truly entering a ‘Brave New World’, where science fiction is becoming reality. But what input will the people of the world have in the creation of this ‘Brave New World’, and what role will representative government play?

Steven MacMillan is an independent writer, researcher, geopolitical analyst and editor of  The Analyst Report, especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

New Eastern Outlook

The NSA’s Technotyranny: One Nation Under Surveillance

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The Daily Sheeple
by John W. Whitehead

under-surveillance

“The ultimate goal of the NSA is total population control.”—William Binney, NSA whistleblower

We now have a fourth branch of government.

As I document in my new book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, this fourth branch came into being without any electoral mandate or constitutional referendum, and yet it possesses superpowers, above and beyond those of any other government agency save the military. It is all-knowing, all-seeing and all-powerful. It operates beyond the reach of the president, Congress and the courts, and it marches in lockstep with the corporate elite who really call the shots in Washington, DC.

You might know this branch of government as Surveillance, but I prefer “technotyranny,” a term coined by investigative journalist James Bamford to refer to an age of technological tyranny made possible by government secrets, government lies, government spies and their corporate ties.

Beware of what you say, what you read, what you write, where you go, and with whom you communicate, because it will all be recorded, stored and used against you eventually, at a time and place of the government’s choosing. Privacy, as we have known it, is dead.

The police state is about to pass off the baton to the surveillance state.

Having already transformed local police into extensions of the military, the Department of Homeland Security, the Justice Department and the FBI are preparing to turn the nation’s soldier cops into techno-warriors, complete with iris scanners, body scanners, thermal imaging Doppler radar devices, facial recognition programs, license plate readers, cell phone Stingray devices and so much more.

This is about to be the new face of policing in America.

The National Security Agency (NSA) has been a perfect red herring, distracting us from the government’s broader, technology-driven campaign to render us helpless in the face of its prying eyes. In fact, long before the NSA became the agency we loved to hate, the Justice Department, the FBI, and the Drug Enforcement Administration were carrying out their own secret mass surveillance on an unsuspecting populace.

Just about every branch of the government—from the Postal Service to the Treasury Department and every agency in between—now has its own surveillance sector, authorized to spy on the American people. Then there are the fusion and counterterrorism centers that gather all of the data from the smaller government spies—the police, public health officials, transportation, etc.—and make it accessible for all those in power. And of course that doesn’t even begin to touch on the complicity of the corporate sector, which buys and sells us from cradle to grave, until we have no more data left to mine.

The raging debate over the fate of the NSA’s blatantly unconstitutional, illegal and ongoing domestic surveillance programs is just so much noise, what Shakespeare referred to as “sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

It means nothing: the legislation, the revelations, the task forces, and the filibusters.

The government is not giving up, nor is it giving in. It has stopped listening to us. It has long since ceased to take orders from “we the people.”

If you haven’t figured it out yet, none of it—the military drills, the surveillance, the militarized police, the strip searches, the random pat downs, the stop-and-frisks, even the police-worn body cameras—is about fighting terrorism. It’s about controlling the populace.

Despite the fact that its data snooping has been shown to be ineffective at detecting, let alone stopping, any actual terror attacks, the NSA continues to operate largely in secret, carrying out warrantless mass surveillance on hundreds of millions of Americans’ phone calls, emails, text messages and the like, beyond the scrutiny of most of Congress and the taxpayers who are forced to fund its multi-billion dollar secret black ops budget.

Legislation such as the USA Patriot Act serves only to legitimize the actions of a secret agency run by a shadow government. Even the proposed and ultimately defeated USA Freedom Act, which purported to restrict the reach of the NSA’s phone surveillance program—at least on paper—by requiring the agency to secure a warrant before surveillance could be carried out on American citizens and prohibiting the agency from storing any data collected on Americans, amounted to little more than a paper tiger: threatening in appearance, but lacking any real bite.

The question of how to deal with the NSA—an agency that operates outside of the system of checks and balances established by the Constitution—is a divisive issue that polarizes even those who have opposed the NSA’s warrantless surveillance from the get-go, forcing all of us—cynics, idealists, politicians and realists alike—to grapple with a deeply unsatisfactory and dubious political “solution” to a problem that operates beyond the reach of voters and politicians: how do you trust a government that lies, cheats, steals, sidesteps the law, and then absolves itself of wrongdoing to actually obey the law?

Since its official start in 1952, when President Harry S. Truman issued a secret executive order establishing the NSA as the hub of the government’s foreign intelligence activities, the agency—nicknamed “No Such Agency”—has operated covertly, unaccountable to Congress all the while using taxpayer dollars to fund its secret operations. It was only when the agency ballooned to 90,000 employees in 1969, making it the largest intelligence agency in the world with a significant footprint outside Washington, DC, that it became more difficult to deny its existence.

In the aftermath of Watergate in 1975, the Senate held meetings under the Church Committee in order to determine exactly what sorts of illicit activities the American intelligence apparatus was engaged in under the direction of President Nixon, and how future violations of the law could be stopped. It was the first time the NSA was exposed to public scrutiny since its creation.

The investigation revealed a sophisticated operation whose surveillance programs paid little heed to such things as the Constitution. For instance, under Project SHAMROCK, the NSA spied on telegrams to and from the U.S., as well as the correspondence of American citizens. Moreover, as the Saturday Evening Post reports, “Under Project MINARET, the NSA monitored the communications of civil rights leaders and opponents of the Vietnam War, including targets such as Martin Luther King, Jr., Mohammed Ali, Jane Fonda, and two active U.S. Senators. The NSA had launched this program in 1967 to monitor suspected terrorists and drug traffickers, but successive presidents used it to track all manner of political dissidents.”

Senator Frank Church (D-Ida.), who served as the chairman of the Select Committee on Intelligence that investigated the NSA, understood only too well the dangers inherent in allowing the government to overstep its authority in the name of national security. Church recognized that such surveillance powers “at any time could be turned around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left, such is the capability to monitor everything: telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn’t matter. There would be no place to hide.”

Noting that the NSA could enable a dictator “to impose total tyranny” upon an utterly defenseless American public, Church declared that he did not “want to see this country ever go across the bridge” of constitutional protection, congressional oversight and popular demand for privacy. He avowed that “we,” implicating both Congress and its constituency in this duty, “must see to it that this agency and all agencies that possess this technology operate within the law and under proper supervision, so that we never cross over that abyss. That is the abyss from which there is no return.”

The result was the passage of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), and the creation of the FISA Court, which was supposed to oversee and correct how intelligence information is collected and collated. The law requires that the NSA get clearance from the FISA Court, a secret surveillance court, before it can carry out surveillance on American citizens. Fast forward to the present day, and the so-called solution to the problem of government entities engaging in unjustified and illegal surveillance—the FISA Court—has unwittingly become the enabler of such activities, rubberstamping almost every warrant request submitted to it.

The 9/11 attacks served as a watershed moment in our nation’s history, ushering in an era in which immoral and/or illegal government activities such as surveillance, torture, strip searches, SWAT team raids are sanctioned as part of the quest to keep us “safe.”

In the wake of the 9/11 attacks, George W. Bush secretly authorized the NSA to conduct warrantless surveillance on Americans’ phone calls and emails. That wireless wiretap program was reportedly ended in 2007 after the New York Times reported on it, to mass indignation.

Nothing changed under Barack Obama. In fact, the violations worsened, with the NSA authorized to secretly collect internet and telephone data on millions of Americans, as well as on foreign governments.

It was only after whistleblower Edward Snowden’s revelations in 2013 that the American people fully understood the extent to which they had been betrayed once again.

What this brief history of the NSA makes clear is that you cannot reform the NSA.

As long as the government is allowed to make a mockery of the law—be it the Constitution, the FISA Act or any other law intended to limit its reach and curtail its activities—and is permitted to operate behind closed doors, relaying on secret courts, secret budgets and secret interpretations of the laws of the land, there will be no reform.

Presidents, politicians, and court rulings have come and gone over the course of the NSA’s 60-year history, but none of them have done much to put an end to the NSA’s “technotyranny.”

The beast has outgrown its chains. It will not be restrained.

The growing tension seen and felt throughout the country is a tension between those who wield power on behalf of the government—the president, Congress, the courts, the military, the militarized police, the technocrats, the faceless unelected bureaucrats who blindly obey and carry out government directives, no matter how immoral or unjust, and the corporations—and those among the populace who are finally waking up to the mounting injustices, seething corruption and endless tyrannies that are transforming our country into a technocrized police state.

At every turn, we have been handicapped in our quest for transparency, accountability and a representative democracy by an establishment culture of secrecy: secret agencies, secret experiments, secret military bases, secret surveillance, secret budgets, and secret court rulings, all of which exist beyond our reach, operate outside our knowledge, and do not answer to “we the people.”

What we have failed to truly comprehend is that the NSA is merely one small part of a shadowy permanent government comprised of unelected bureaucrats who march in lockstep with profit-driven corporations that actually runs Washington, DC, and works to keep us under surveillance and, thus, under control. For example, Google openly works with the NSA, Amazon has built a massive $600 million intelligence database for the CIA, and the telecommunications industry is making a fat profit by spying on us for the government.

In other words, Corporate America is making a hefty profit by aiding and abetting the government in its domestic surveillance efforts. Conveniently, as the Intercept recently revealed, many of the NSA’s loudest defenders have financial ties to NSA contractors.

Thus, if this secret regime not only exists but thrives, it is because we have allowed it through our ignorance, apathy and naïve trust in politicians who take their orders from Corporate America rather than the Constitution.

If this shadow government persists, it is because we have yet to get outraged enough to push back against its power grabs and put an end to its high-handed tactics.

And if this unelected bureaucracy succeeds in trampling underfoot our last vestiges of privacy and freedom, it will be because we let ourselves be fooled into believing that politics matters, that voting makes a difference, that politicians actually represent the citizenry, that the courts care about justice, and that everything that is being done is in our best interests.

Indeed, as political scientist Michael J. Glennon warns, you can vote all you want, but the people you elect aren’t actually the ones calling the shots. “The American people are deluded … that the institutions that provide the public face actually set American national security policy,” stated Glennon. “They believe that when they vote for a president or member of Congress or succeed in bringing a case before the courts, that policy is going to change. But … policy by and large in the national security realm is made by the concealed institutions.”

In other words, it doesn’t matter who occupies the White House: the secret government with its secret agencies, secret budgets and secret programs won’t change. It will simply continue to operate in secret until some whistleblower comes along to momentarily pull back the curtain and we dutifully—and fleetingly—play the part of the outraged public, demanding accountability and rattling our cages, all the while bringing about little real reform.

Thus, the lesson of the NSA and its vast network of domestic spy partners is simply this: once you allow the government to start breaking the law, no matter how seemingly justifiable the reason, you relinquish the contract between you and the government which establishes that the government works for and obeys you, the citizen—the employer—the master.

Once the government starts operating outside the law, answerable to no one but itself, there’s no way to rein it back in, short of revolution. And by revolution, I mean doing away with the entire structure, because the corruption and lawlessness have become that pervasive.

Constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead is founder and president of The Rutherford Institute, where this article first appeared. He is the author of A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State and The Change Manifesto.

The Daily Sheeple

Governments Eye New Stingray-Detecting System

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InfoWars
by MIKAEL THALEN

Espionage driving governments to protect their cellular communications

stingray

A new system designed to detect and track IMSI catchers, commonly referred to as “Stingrays,” is grabbing the attention of Western governments as revelations of widespread cellular surveillance continue to emerge.

IMSI catchers, known best for their use by law enforcement, are suitcase-sized devices that mimic cell towers in order to capture anything from a mobile phone’s current location to text and voice data.

Recent stories on the subject have revealed extensive and unwarranted use by police departments across the country, with agencies such as the FBI and U.S. Marshals Service spearheading a campaign to deceive prosecutors and judges on the technology.

Both governments and the public alike became increasingly aware of the technology’s pervasiveness late last year when security experts detected as many as 18 IMSI catchers while traveling through Washington D.C.

Fearing deployment by foreign and rogue actors, who have the ability to build such devices for less than $1,500, governments have now approached those same security experts to acquire “Overwatch,” the first real-time IMSI catcher detection system.

“ESD Overwatch gives alerts in real-time of IMSI catcher and jammer threats,” Les Goldsmith, CEO of ESD America, told Infowars. “Using the system, governments can detect organized crime or foreign spies who use IMSI catchers to track people or listen to calls.”

Six years in the making, the system integrates a set of sensors with the Overwatch software platform to detect and even neutralize active attacks on mobile communications.

Overwatch3

“ESD Overwatch sensors are strategically placed around a geographic area of interest,” Goldsmith said. “They gather information on all cell towers in the given area. When an IMSI catcher or jammer is detected, the sensor conducts a number of tests and feeds the information back to Overwatch for analysis and reporting.”

More than a dozen countries, including the United States, are currently in the process of acquiring the system. According to Goldsmith, economic espionage remains a large factor for those looking into Overwatch.

“Today even small countries run their own sprawling listening and monitoring stations,” writes cell provider GSMK, a partner of ESD America. “More and more of the capabilities are being used for economic espionage…”

“Private investigators also routinely and illegally try to get access to calls by a variety of means, for purposes of industrial espionage, business intelligence and economic warfare between competing companies.”

While governments attempt to detect adversarial IMSI catchers, the public likewise attempts to shed light on government use.

In response to public scrutiny, the U.S. Justice Department announced a full review of the IMSI catcher program earlier this month in order to specify policies regarding use by law enforcement.

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InfoWars

Swarms of Tiny, Silent Cicada Drones to be Deployed

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The New American
by Joe Wolverton, II, J.D.

tiny-drones
Video of prototype of cicada drone: U.S. Naval Research Laboratory

The Department of Defense is well on its way to developing various iterations of tiny drones that will give the federal government “squad level intel” on every man, woman, and child in the United States, even inside their homes.

The latest addition to the miniature monitors is the U.S. Navy’s Cicada drones. Business Insider published an AFP story describing the tiny vehicles:

US military scientists have invented a miniature drone that fits in the palm of a hand, ready to be dropped from the sky like a mobile phone with wings.

The “micro air vehicle” is named after the insect that inspired its invention, the Cicada, which spends years underground before appearing in great swarms, reproducing and then dropping to the ground dead.

“The idea was why can’t we make UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) that have the same sort of profile,” Aaron Kahn of the Naval Research Laboratory told AFP.

“We will put so many out there, it will be impossible for the enemy to pick them all up.”

That wouldn’t be such a threat to liberty were it not for the fact that since the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012, the United States has been designated a theatre in the “War on Terror” and Americans can be denied the most fundamental of their rights and indefinitely detained on the command of the president.

In other words, in order to appreciate the danger of these drones, one must understand the contemporary definition of “enemy.”

Unlike their larger, louder cousins, the Cicadas (an acronym standing for Covert Autonomous Disposable Aircraft) are quiet and nearly invisible until it’s too late. Business Insider reports the battlefield workings of the weapon:

It is designed to glide to programmed GPS coordinates after being dropped from an aircraft, a balloon or a larger drone, researchers said.

In a test about three years ago in Yuma, Arizona, Cicada drones were released from 57,600 feet (17,500 meters). The little drone flew — or fell — 11 miles, landing within 15 feet of its target.

The Cicada drone can fly at about 46 miles (74 kilometers) per hour and are virtually silent, with no engine or propulsion system. 

“It looks like a bird flying down,” said Daniel Edwards, an aerospace engineer at the Naval Research Laboratory. But, he said, “it’s very difficult to see.”

In light of the revelations made a few years ago by this reporter regarding Trapwire — the software that allows the government to aggregate all surveillance and traffic camera video feeds and send them to federal agencies — the next potential use for the Cicadas is particularly worrisome to all defenders of individual liberty.

One possible scenario could be using the drones to monitor traffic on a remote road behind enemy lines.

“You equip these with a microphone or a seismic detector, drop them on that road, and it will tell you ‘I heard a truck or a car travel along that road.’ You know how fast and which direction they’re traveling,” a Navy official said, as quoted by the AFP.

It isn’t beyond the region of imagination to foresee a not-so-distant future where anyone audacious enough to challenge the hegemony of the federal government could have his every move monitored by these powerful pocket-sized eyes in the sky.

BizTekMojo.com reports, “Even intelligence agencies were interested in the Cicada program. It makes sense as they could be used to spy on enemy territory with minimal risks and costs. Instead of spy planes, the drones could be scattered … through fields without being spotted.”

The blog “In Homeland Security” in its report on the Cicadas suggests that the bad press generated by the civilian assassinations carried out by Predator drones may have prompted the move to shrink the vehicles. “This may replace the larger Predator class drones where such large kinetic strikes elicit diplomatic outrage and local backlash on the populations below. In spite of the tremendous amount of precision and the increased efforts and pressure to limit and lessen collateral damage, American forces are learning to go smaller and stealthier,” the blog reports.

It is informative that none of the stories, in particular the one from In Homeland Security, mentions that perhaps we should focus less on making it easier carry out kill missions and more on upholding the rule of law that supports life and liberty.

In fact, not only does the report not mention this aspect of the plan, but it seems to glorify the mortal might of the Cicada and similar weapons: “Next generation models of mini-drones might well take on the additional form of a swarming tornado of artificial locusts that could one day devastate and destroy the urban enemy in a matter of hours like the agrarian croplands. A micro-UAV locust model might become the next killer variant.”

As long as money can be made by the military industrial complex, it’s unlikely that peaceful, constitutional alternatives will ever be seriously considered.

Another disturbing fact about this deadly plague is that not only could the Cicadas monitor and record movements and conversations (the AFP report calls it a “phone with wings”), but when the mission is complete, the devices could be destroyed, as one of the selling points is that their price point makes them “disposable.” The Washington Post reports:

By the estimates of the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory, a single prototype for a CICADA can be produced for less than $1,000. And as more uses are found for these micro-drones, it’s easy to see the price falling further. One scenario being bandied about is using these CICADAS to monitor extreme weather situations, such as tornadoes. Within a few years, as more applications are discovered, that price might drop to as low as $250.

Two hundred and fifty dollars for that type of killing machine — who could say no?

Apparently, nobody. Silicon Republic reports on the durability and desirability of the tiny drones:

“They’ve flown through trees. They’ve hit asphalt runways. They have tumbled in gravel. They’ve had sand in them. The only thing that we found that killed them was desert shrubbery,” said Daniel Edwards, aerospace engineer at the US Navy’s research laboratory.

He went on to say that people from many fields, both military and civilian, are interested in the Cicada: “Everyone is interested. Everyone.”

It’s little wonder that a president that has assumed autocratic authority over life and death would want such an arrow in his quiver. That is a given. What is still a variable, however, is how the American people will respond to this latest threat to their civil liberties.

Of course, in the present climate of near-constant urban unrest, it isn’t a stretch to see the deployment of these drones justified by the urgent need to restore peace and order.

Thanks to the legal plunder perpetrated by the federal government and the billions of dollars it puts at the disposal of the Department of Defense, the watchers will soon be able to be the proverbial fly on the wall — walls within the formerly private residences of Americans.

Day by day, the dossier of dictatorship being compiled by President Obama grows thicker and thicker. From the assumption of authority to draw “First Amendment Zones” to the supposed right to capture and indefinitely detain American citizens in violation of the Fourth and Fifth Amendments and the capacity to send swarms of nearly silent, nearly invisible miniature drones throughout urban areas, President Obama and his congressional co-conspirators are attacking the constitutional barriers protecting the people from tyrants.

But the complete shredding of the U.S. Constitution protecting us from tyranny is not inevitable, and the damage already inflicted on history’s greatest experiment in human liberty can be reversed over time — if enough citizens become informed and then work with others to put the federal government back into its constitutional restraints.

The New American

NSA Trying to Track Your Smartphone Finger Strokes

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Defense One
by ALIYA STERNSTEIN

Smartphone technology built by Lockheed Martin promises to verify a user’s identity based on the swiftness and shape of the individual’s finger strokes on a touch screen

smartphone

The National Security Agency has tested the use of smartphone-swipe recognition technology, according to the tool’s manufacturer.

The mobile device feature, created by Lockheed Martin, verifies a user’s identity based on the swiftness and shape of the individual’s finger strokes on a touch screen. The technology is but one incarnation of handwriting-motion recognition, sometimes called “dynamic signature” biometrics, which has roots in the Air Force. 

Nobody else has the same strokes,” said John Mears, senior fellow for Lockheed IT and Security Solutions. “People can forge your handwriting in two dimensions, but they couldn’t forge it in three or four dimensions. Three is the pressure you put in, in addition to the two dimensions on the paper. The fourth dimension is time. The most advanced handwriting-type authentication tracks you in four dimensions.”

The biometric factors measured by Lockheed’s technology, dubbed “Mandrake,” are speed, acceleration and the curve of an individual’s strokes. 

We’ve done work with the NSA with that for secure gesture authentication as a technique for using smartphones,” Mears said. “They are actually able to use it.”

NextGov has contacted NSA for comment.

Lockheed officials said they do not know how or if the agency has operationally deployed the Mandrake smartphone doodling-recognition tool. The company also is the architect of the FBI’s recently completed $1 billion facial, fingerprint, palm print, retina scan and tattoo image biometric ID system. That project, called the Next Generation Identification system, could tie in voice and “gait matching” (how a person walks) in the future, the bureau has said.

Mandrake potentially might be useful for emergency responders who often do not have the time or capability to access an incident command website, Mears said.

If you are going 100 miles down the road, you are not going to enter a complex 12-character password to authenticate yourself,” he said. “We have some customers who deal with radioactive material and they can’t touch things” that small with gloves on — “How do they authenticate?”

In 1978, the Air Force and contractor MITRE published some early test results on handwriting-motion ID verification. The use case back then involved gaining entry to restricted facilities, not locked-down smartphone apps. 

As part of a project to develop external physical security systems for the Pentagon, the Air Force acquired an “automatic handwriting verification system,” according to a research abstract. The technique required two forms of identification.

An individual desiring access into a controlled area arrives at the entry control point” and types in a four-digit ID number “through a keyboard,” the paper states. Then, the system prompts the user to further prove identity through handwriting. It matches the individual’s scribbling in real time against a pre-enrolled “pressure versus time history of a signature,” the study states.  

Experiments were performed in a laboratory and in a weapons storage area at Pease Air Force Base in New Hampshire. Interestingly, the error rate was higher for females than for males. But in general, it was determined the results should not be affected by “the sex or the handedness” of the person. At that time, the technology was too embryonic to operate under real world conditions, the research said.

Today, in retail, handwriting-gesture recognition is sometimes used to enhance customer service, by allowing sales staff to authorize sensitive transactions wherever convenient. 

For example, in 2012, Asian life insurance company AIA started using a Kofax-brand app on tablet computers that captures the image, speed and acceleration of a person’s strokes with a stylus. 

Broadly speaking, however, gesture recognition has not found its sweet spot in the ID management sector.

A 10-year biometrics market forecast released earlier this month by research firm Tractica found that the technology was not lucrative in any of the 194 countries analyzed.

Research on signature dynamics … has been ongoing for nearly 50 years, but still there is no viable use case, and it was never mentioned during any of the interviews conducted for this report,” the study concluded.​

Defense One

FBI Confirms No Major Terrorism Cases Cracked Via Unconstitutional Patriot Act Phone Spying

Posted on Updated on

Liberty Blitzkrieg
by Michael Krieger

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FBI agents can’t point to any major terrorism cases they’ve cracked thanks to the key snooping powers in the Patriot Act, the Justice Department’s inspector general said in a report Thursday that could complicate efforts to keep key parts of the law operating.

Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz said that between 2004 and 2009, the FBI tripled its use of bulk collection under Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which allows government agents to compel businesses to turn over records and documents, and increasingly scooped up records of Americans who had no ties to official terrorism investigations.

– From the Washington Times article: FBI Admits No Major Cases Cracked with Patriot Act Snooping Powers 

Back in 2013, as debate about the Snowden revelations was at its zenith, I published a post titled NSA Chief Admits “Only One or Perhaps Two” Terror Plots Stopped by Spy Program. Here’s an excerpt:

The Obama administration’s credibility on intelligence suffered another blow Wednesday as the chief of the National Security Agency admitted that officials put out numbers that vastly overstated the counterterrorism successes of the government’s warrantless bulk collection of all Americans’ phone records.

Pressed by the Democratic chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee at an oversight hearing, Gen. Keith B. Alexander admitted that the number of terrorist plots foiled by the NSA’s huge database of every phone call made in or to America was only one or perhaps two — far smaller than the 54 originally claimed by the administration.

“One or perhaps two.” Or perhaps zero. The guy has the nerve to say “perhaps.” How do you not know? What a bunch of lying assholes. How the heck does 54 turn into “one or two,” and I’ll tell you something else, I don’t believe the one or two figure for a minute. I mean there’s no way he would say “zero” when he is fighting to keep his petty little Stasi state intact. Furthermore, how about some details here. What was the one plot the NSA foiled? Some teenager throwing firecrackers on the White House lawn? These guys need to get lost already. From the Washington Times:

As time has passed and the years have gone by, it has become increasingly clear that the phone records collection program hasn’t stopped a single terror attack. In fact, a recently published report by the Justice Department’s inspector general admitted as much. This takes on increased significance with parts of the Patriot Act set to automatically sunset on June 1st.

The Washington Times reports:

FBI agents can’t point to any major terrorism cases they’ve cracked thanks to the key snooping powers in the Patriot Act, the Justice Department’s inspector general said in a report Thursday that could complicate efforts to keep key parts of the law operating.

Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz said that between 2004 and 2009, the FBI tripled its use of bulk collection under Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which allows government agents to compel businesses to turn over records and documents, and increasingly scooped up records of Americans who had no ties to official terrorism investigations.

Backers say the Patriot Act powers are critical and must be kept intact, particularly with the spread of the threat from terrorists. But opponents have doubted the efficacy of Section 215, particularly when it’s used to justify bulk data collection such as in the case of the National Security Agency’s phone metadata program, revealed in leaks from former government contractor Edward Snowden.

“The agents we interviewed did not identify any major case developments that resulted from use of the records obtained in response to Section 215 orders,” the inspector general concluded — though he said agents did view the material they gathered as “valuable” in developing other leads or corroborating information. 

The report was heavily redacted, and key details were deleted. The entire chart showing the number of Section 215 requests made from 2007 through 2009 was blacked out, as was the breakdown of what types of investigations they stemmed from: counterintelligence, counterterrorism, cyber or foreign intelligence investigations.

Redacted indeed. This is what pages 16-20 look like, and the pages immediately after these are just as bad.

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Most transparent administration ever.

Moving along, the conclusion that Section 215 of the Patriot Act hasn’t stopped any terror attacks naturally won’t stop FBI director James Comey (and others) from fear-mongering. A favorite pastime of government officials and their lapdogs. As Politico reports:

Speaking at an American Law Institute event this week, FBI Director James Comey warned that a PATRIOT Act sunset would “severely” affect his agency. The FBI relies heavily on the soon-to-expire provisions of the law to obtain specific business records — from library records to gun ownership data — and wiretaps for multiple devices, he said.

“If I lose these tools, it’s a huge, huge problem,” Comey said. “We use [Section 215 to obtain specific records] fewer than 200 times per year, but when we use it, it matters tremendously.”

But not for terrorism, and the Patriot Act was specifically passed to deal with terrorism.

“ISIS is singing a siren song, calling people to their death to crash on the rocks — and it’s the rocks that ISIS will take credit for,” said Ron Hosko, president of Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund and former assistant director of the FBI. “They’re looking for those who are disaffected, disconnected and willing to commit murder. So if we’re willing to take away tools, OK, congressman, stand behind it [and] take the credit for putting the FBI in the dark.”

Can you believe people like this exist, and that their insane rhetoric actually speaks to some people? Scary.

While the current debate about Section 215 of the Patriot Act is encouraging and necessary, it is extremely important to understand that this is just a tiny, potentially meaningless tip of the iceberg when it comes to unconstitutional government surveillance. As The ACLU’s Chris Soghoian explains courtesy of Schneier.com:

There were 180 orders authorized last year by the FISA Court under Section 215 — 180 orders issued by this court. Only five of those orders relate to the telephony metadata program. There are 175 orders about completely separate things. In six weeks, Congress will either reauthorize this statute or let it expire, and we’re having a debate — to the extent we’re even having a debate — but the debate that’s taking place is focused on five of the 180, and there’s no debate at all about the other 175 orders.

Now, Senator Wyden has said there are other bulk collection programs targeted at Americans that the public would be shocked to learn about. We don’t know, for example, how the government collects records from Internet providers. We don’t know how they get bulk metadata from tech companies about Americans. We don’t know how the American government gets calling card records.

So the 215 program that has been disclosed publicly, the 215 program that is being debated publicly, is about records to major carriers like AT&T and Verizon. We have not had a debate about surveillance requests, bulk orders to calling card companies, to Skype, to voice over Internet protocol companies. Now, if NSA isn’t collecting those records, they’re not doing their job. I actually think that that’s where the most useful data is. But why are we having this debate about these records that don’t contain a lot of calls to Somalia when we should be having a debate about the records that do contain calls to Somalia and do contain records of e-mails and instant messages and searches and people posting inflammatory videos to YouTube?

Certainly the government is collecting that data, but we don’t know how they’re doing it, we don’t know at what scale they’re doing it, and we don’t know with which authority they’re doing it. And I think it is a farce to say that we’re having a debate about the surveillance authority when really, we’re just debating this very narrow usage of the statute.

The battle to push back the American Stasi is just beginning.

For related articles, see:

Congress is Attempting to Reauthorize Key Patriot Act Provisions by Sneaking it Into “USA Freedom Act”

How NSA Surveillance Was Birthed from the Drug War – The DEA Tracked Billions of Phone Calls Pre 9/11

Decoding the NSA: How the Agency Manipulates Language to Mislead the Public

Congressman: Did You Think This Program Could be Indefinitely Kept Secret from the American People? Government Attorney: “Well we Tried”

Manufactured Terrorism – U.S. Officials Claim Credit for Stopping Another Terror Attack Created by the FBI

Liberty Blitzkrieg