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Keeping Up with the Snoops 6: A Game of Chairs

We reported back in “Keeping Up with the Snoops 4: When the Going Gets Weird…,” (13 March 2014) that the United States Senate had accused the CIA of spying on Senate staffers, something that CIA Director John Brennan denied at the time, saying it was “beyond the scope of reason.”

The scope of reason is apparently a bit broader than imagined, because Brennan has recently admitted to, and apologized for, the CIA illegally searching Senate computers.

So what happens now? Probably nothing of any serious consequence. The Justice Department has said it will not bring charges, and despite senators’ calls for the CIA director’s resignation, President Obama has stated that he has “full confidence” in Brennan, who has created an accountability board to investigate the situation. Oh, and “We tortured some folks,” Obama added.

Torture, or rather the CIA’s use of it in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, is the root of the scuffle. The Senate Intelligence Committee spent years, and millions of tax dollars, on a report investigating the CIA’s use of torture, which remains classified. The Obama administration, which bears responsibility for declassifying the report, has been accused of dragging its feet, presumably to save face.

Just as it was looking like the report was finally to be released to the public, Senate Intelligence Committee chair Dianne Feinstein sent it back due to excessive redactions that “eliminate or obscure key facts that support the report’s findings and conclusions”.

While the report remains, and may forever remain, classified, the Los Angeles Times said, “Those who have read the report say it concludes that the agency used brutal and sometimes unauthorized interrogation techniques, misled policymakers and the public, and sought to undermine congressional oversight. It also reportedly rejects the idea that waterboarding and other ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ (a euphemism for torture) produced information vital to preventing terrorist attacks.”

While the Senate and the CIA continue to bicker, the lot of whistleblower Edward Snowden, himself locked behind the Iron Curtain, has grown a shade brighter. After fears that his temporary asylum in Russia might expire, he was granted a three-year residence permit, with permission to travel abroad for up to three months at a time. Perhaps Snowden is feeling a bit freer to travel now, given his recent outing to the theater, his first public appearance in Russia.

But while Snowden’s eventual fate remains up in the air, one thing is certain: the United States security apparatus is no longer capable of operating in the shadows. The government has determined that there is a new leaker releasing inside information to the press.

The post-Snowden leak that prompted the government’s announcement was The Intercept’s story on the U.S. government’s terrorist watch list, which claimed that more than 40 percent of the 680,000 people on the list have “no recognized terrorist group affiliation.” (According to CNN, U.S. officials familiar with the situation say the claim is incorrect, and is based on a misreading of the documents.)

The more cautious among you may believe that using Tor will keep your Web browsing safe from prying eyes, but think again: a study has revealed that merely visiting the Tor Web site can cause you to be flagged for NSA surveillance. In retrospect, perhaps it shouldn’t be a surprise, given that Tor was developed in part by the U.S. military.

So be aware: there’s always someone watching you. But fear not, privacy lovers, since “Weird Al” Yankovic has a simple, inexpensive solution: aluminum foil (which has the side benefit of keeping your sandwich nice and fresh). OK, maybe a tinfoil hat isn’t a proper solution, but if you’ve been following along this far, you deserve a laugh — make sure to watch the video all the way through.


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Comments about Keeping Up with the Snoops 6: A Game of Chairs
(Comments are closed.)

Josh Centers  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2014-08-11 12:43
An earlier version of this story reported that China has banned Apple's MacBooks and iPads from purchase with government funds. The Chinese government has refuted that claim:
Brian Steere  2014-08-12 07:04
Whenever there is a new arena of conflict there are opportunities to drop one's rivals in shit.
Vendettas and power agendas use whatever means are available.
And maybe - just maybe, shit just happens.
Are there back doors in any or all of our tech? Maybe. I rely on the hacker to discover or leak what cannot be utterly hidden. Most of what Snowden revealed was already known but not in the public eye.
But splicing into everywhere possible is clearly the aim from cables to protocols to routers to 'fronts' for protection or resistance.
It is not my aim. But I can see that seed desire to control as a false sense of self and so I can unsubscribe by not using it.
Brian Steere  2014-08-12 02:55
The article purports to be serious and then brings in the tin foil hat (link doesn't work for me). The tin foil hat has a place for imaginary threats taken seriously - but has been misused as an invalidator to the uncovering of clear evidence of a lack of integrity and of corruption of service, duty or office. As coercion usurps communication and the lie usurps truth it becomes clear there are 'moneylenders' in the template. Those who would intervene between you and your true Life in order to have power over others for themselves alone.
This template definition is ubiquitous as a contagion of fear in personal and collective consciousness (culture) which operates a 'botnet' of directed perceived reality and hence our reaction.
I recommend clearing out corruption in our own thinking templates - our own self-definition and core self-beliefs, so as to regain consciousness of true choice and indeed to live such life as consciousness responsibility rather than as a conditioned persona.
Ian Orchard  2014-08-12 03:01
"40 percent of the 680,000 people on the list have no terrorist affiliation"....what appalling nonsense! It's nearer 80 percent, surely?
Given the growing intrusion by Spooks around the world, perhaps we should all append a block of random characters to all communications, to tie up processor cycles trying to decypher the indecypherable. Not suggesting for a moment that the powers-that-be would dream of intercepting private messages. Only the metadata.....
VFvT-IswD-jleH-JTCR-Dk1E-xPB2-0d2D-q0Tf hQ8I-gKhn-ORJW-ohZ7-1FIJ-CmC8-oebf-4sz5 MxEE-40Ef-vklj-76Hw-YshF-7QSC-dEIX-25eC ibsu-Gsx0-CbzX-nNZh-q80i-mjJF-FITS-CfnN
Brian Steere  2014-08-12 06:34
cat and mouse evolves ever more complex stratagems. I don't suggest there isn't a place for finding defence against the offensive - but I feel inclined to note Jesus' saying; "Give unto Caesar what is due unto Caesar and give unto God what is due unto God". Even the phrase means nothing to Caesar but everything to one whose allegiances have become confused or 'phished' by clever thinking.
Speaking truth to power is withdrawing fuel to the mentality of conflicted personae.
Or play on in the script of conflicted personae as if it could be won...
Addressing the issues beneath the smokescreens of conflict is a personal honesty that few are as yet willing. But when the smokescreens raise more fear than they conceal, there will be more willingness to re-evaluate Everything.
What Is communication, relationship, self and world?
When the template is corrupt, it's time to realign. Those who were to serve the temple have forgot their calling. It isn't reality breaking down, it is our model.
Brian Steere  2014-08-12 06:53
Oh - and anything or anyone that can be conceived as threat to the 'order' that is imposed for the 'Good of All - or the Good of the Nation or the Good of those few who feel to salvage themselves from a chaos they cannot control or escape without denying their humanity by aligning with the power of terror to 'make the world' in its image.... becomes the terrorist.
Perhaps the slogan 'we are all Palestinians now' is increasingly apt.
When fear is placed upon our altar all that we see is shadowed with what must be denied to 'protect' our 'existence' at the other's expense.
'Kill or be killed' is the politic of power struggle - but is it true?
Those in power make sure we believe it - or do we only give power to those who reflect back to us our own sense of self-distracted independent fantasy power?

I don't think content is that important to snoops so much as meta info - who with and when and where. They can bring up a file and read whatever they choose - or put it there like WMDs.