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News & Opinion

The piece below is by Laurie Penny in The Guardian.  

The US can lock up hackers, but it can't crush their spirit
Jeremy Hammond is just the the latest to be targeted in a global witchhunt against the brightest minds of a generation

Why is the US sending some of its best young minds to jail? On Friday Jeremy Hammond, a 28-year-old digital activist from Chicago, will learn how many years he is to serve for participating in the 2011 hack of the private security firm Stratfor. "I believe in the power of the truth," said Hammond, pleading guilty to helping liberate millions of emails from the company, which is paid by large corporations to spy on activists around the world. "I did this because I believe people have a right to know what governments and corporations are doing behind closed doors. I did what I believe is right."

Like the others who took part in the Stratfor hack, Hammond wasn't out for money, and he didn't get any. Nonetheless, he has spent the past 18 months in prison, including extended periods in solitary confinement, and now faces a 10-year prison sentence. Hammond is the latest target of a global witchhunt against hackers, whistleblowers and anyone who seeks to release private information in the public interest.

The witchhunt is being led by the US government, but its targets are international: Lauri Love, an activist from Suffolk, was arrested in Britain last month and may face extradition on charges of hacking into US government networks and a possible decade in a US jail. The legislation used to single out and lock up these people is the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, a flexible law that allows US courts to impose almost indefinite sentences against any crime committed with a computer, down to simple violation of terms of service.

The tweet below is from Kim Dotcom and is one of many where he shows support for whistleblowers.  He's also a target of the US government and is living in New Zealand, fighting extradition on charges of criminal copyright infringement.  You know one of the most interesting things about Kim Dotcom? When you read his bio on Wikipedia it's really hard not to think about his crimes in relation to the crimes of the 1% in the U.S., the people who have been unofficially declared "too big to jail" or who otherwise belong to that class of privileged people in our two-tiered justice system who get away with murder, figuratively and probably literally too in some cases.  

It's also hard not to think about the hackers who the U.S. pays on the black market for the security holes ("exploits") they find and the NSA's "cybersecurity" hackers (who admit that they focus more on attacks than defense) use to do "quantum inserts" breaking into private corporate networks and private computers, who create and unleash malware that tampers with legal nuclear centrifuges abroad and cause that same Stuxnet malware to be released into the internet proper where it can dangerously tamper with nuclear operations all over the world.  Those hackers break the same computer fraud laws and profit from their crimes but instead of prosecuting them, our government pays them.  

It's hard not to think about how the intelligence agencies allied with the mafia decades ago and maybe still does today. It's hard not to think about CIA involvement in drug trafficking.  It's hard not to think about all the crimes, and that's not even considering the arena of torture, assassination and war crimes.  It's funny how living under and knowing more and more about the corruption changes your view of these things.  Kim Dotcom's big mistake, apparently, was in not donating huge amounts of money to political campaigns or working with the intelligence community or hell, buying a bank.  The entertainment industry in the U.S. has him on their target list and their "make an example of him" list though, so maybe that will never be an option for him.  

Computer security and privacy journalist Declan McCullagh notes that the average time served for murder is less than 8 years.

During yesterday's sentencing hearing, Jeremy Hammond put into his statement and Jacob Appelbaum later released a list of the hacking targets the FBI gave to "Sabu", the informant from Anonymous who they turned and used to get to Hammond and others.  The FBI told him to urge the Anons to hack into these targets, many of them foreign governments.   I wonder why they chose those targets and also wonder how those governments reacted to such news.  You'd think that in operations like this they would set up shell companies and servers and get their informants to target those, where no harm could be done.  If it's such and egregious crime and harmful to others, why would the FBI tell Anon's hackers to hack actual foreign governments or other organizations as part of their sting operations?  Did they consider it a "twofer" where they could nab their target hackers and then take the spoils for themselves?  When you look at the list of FBI suggested targets, it seems quite possible that was the case.  Heck, maybe they got the target list from NSA's Cyber Command because they were having trouble hacking into those targets themselves.

The judge (whose spouse is a Stratfor client) said that part of Hammond's prepared statement was redacted.  This Ars Technica article lists some of them and includes a link to the unredacted version of Hammond's statement that was supplied by Appelbaum.  In our national security state, I am reluctant to open the pastebin link.  But eventually people will excerpt parts of the list in articles, tweets, etc.  

Hammond supporters publish alleged list of foreign targets that FBI had him hack
List includes gov't sites from Turkey, Iran, Brazil, Slovenia, and more.

During the sentencing hearing of convicted hacker Jeremy Hammond on Friday, the young Chicagoan began to read from his prepared statement, saying that he had been directed to hack various foreign government websites by Anonymous leader turned FBI informant Sabu.

In court, Hammond said that “these intrusions, all of which were suggested by Sabu while cooperating with the FBI, affected thousands of domain names and consisted largely of foreign government websites, including those of Turkey, Iran—” before the judge cut him off and said that the list of targets was to be redacted.
If Hammond’s supposed allegations are true, it would suggest that the FBI was directing foreign attacks through Sabu. The FBI did not immediately respond to Ars’ request for comment.

Wikileaks says they are now going to release the rest of the Stratfor emails.

The Sparrow Project published Hammond's prepared statement and redacted the names of the FBI targets, so this

Sentenced to 10 Years in Prison, Jeremy Hammond Uses Allocution to Give Consequential Statement Highlighting Global Criminal Exploits by FBI Handlers

The acts of civil disobedience and direct action that I am being sentenced for today are in line with the principles of community and equality that have guided my life. I hacked into dozens of high profile corporations and government institutions, understanding very clearly that what I was doing was against the law, and that my actions could land me back in federal prison. But I felt that I had an obligation to use my skills to expose and confront injustice—and to bring the truth to light.

Could I have achieved the same goals through legal means? I have tried everything from voting petitions to peaceful protest and have found that those in power do not want the truth to be exposed. When we speak truth to power we are ignored at best and brutally suppressed at worst. We are confronting a power structure that does not respect its own system of checks and balances, never mind the rights of it’s own citizens or the international community.

My introduction to politics was when George W. Bush stole the Presidential election in 2000, then took advantage of the waves of racism and patriotism after 9/11 to launch unprovoked imperialist wars against Iraq and Afghanistan. I took to the streets in protest naively believing our voices would be heard in Washington and we could stop the war. Instead, we were labeled as traitors, beaten, and arrested.

I have been arrested for numerous acts of civil disobedience on the streets of Chicago, but it wasn’t until 2005 that I used my computer skills to break the law in political protest. I was arrested by the FBI for hacking into the computer systems of a right-wing, pro-war group called Protest Warrior, an organization that sold racist t-shirts on their website and harassed anti-war groups. I was charged under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, and the “intended loss” in my case was arbitrarily calculated by multiplying the 5000 credit cards in Protest Warrior’s database by $500, resulting in a total of $2.5 million.My sentencing guidelines were calculated on the basis of this “loss,” even though not a single credit card was used or distributed – by me or anyone else. I was sentenced to two years in prison.

I was especially interested in the work of the hackers of LulzSec who were breaking into some significant targets and becoming increasingly political. Around this time, I first started talking to Sabu, who was very open about the hacks he supposedly committed, and was encouraging hackers to unite and attack major government and corporate systems under the banner of Anti Security. But very early in my involvement, the other Lulzsec hackers were arrested, leaving me to break into systems and write press releases. Later, I would learn that Sabu had been the first one arrested, and that the entire time I was talking to him he was an FBI informant.Anonymous was also involved in the early stages of Occupy Wall Street. I was regularly participating on the streets as part of Occupy Chicago and was very excited to see a worldwide mass movement against the injustices of capitalism and racism. In several short months, the “Occupations” came to an end, closed by police crackdowns and mass arrests of protestors who were kicked out of their own public parks. The repression of Anonymous and the Occupy Movement set the tone for Antisec in the following months – the majority of our hacks against police targets were in retaliation for the arrests of our comrades.I targeted law enforcement systems because of the racism and inequality with which the criminal law is enforced. I targeted the manufacturers and distributors of military and police equipment who profit from weaponry used to advance U.S. political and economic interests abroad and to repress people at home. I targeted information security firms because they work in secret to protect government and corporate interests at the expense of individual rights, undermining and discrediting activists, journalists and other truth seekers, and spreading disinformation.I had never even heard of Stratfor until Sabu brought it to my attention. Sabu was encouraging people to invade systems, and helping to strategize and facilitate attacks. He even provided me with vulnerabilities of targets passed on by other hackers, so it came as a great surprise when I learned that Sabu had been working with the FBI the entire time.

Chris Hedges and Alexa O'Brien after the Hammond sentencing hearing.

No one could have predicted...

It's already been demonstrated that massive surveillance is bad for diplomacy.  And so the concrete evidence of yet another way in which NSA is bad for America begins.  NSA is bad for business.  And all the while, the one thing it's supposed to be good for and the thing constantly used to justify this subversion of the Constitution and democracy itself and this massive amount of money spent (nevermind the hypocrisy of doing that while obsessing about debt and while 80% of Americans are in or on the verge of poverty), keeping us safe, has not been demonstrated at all.

We already know that the CIA pays AT&T millions for our personal information.  Will the taxpayers have to subsidize tech companies to keep them in the game too in yet another way that we pay through the nose to be spied on and have our privacy and democracy demolished?    That could lead to a sort of nationalization of tech companies, couldn't it?  But that would be socialism, wouldn't it?!  My, what a pickle we're in. And somehow I don't think the tech companies would care to trade the beloved emerging markets for government subsidies in the long term.  So here we have yet another way in which the neocons, neoliberals and the 1% are wrecking one of the few areas in which the US still dominates and in essence, wrecking the country.

I don't have a lot of sympathy for the tech companies in this.  If they couldn't see this coming then they don't have a very good grasp on history. And if they could have banded together to fight this.  Together, they have that kind of power.  They still can.  But right now, the kind of denial shown by Cisco execs in pubic anyway, doesn't look very promising. I'm willing to bet that the private conversations are quite different. But wait, is there any such thing as a private conversation anymore?  Not unless the high tech wizards have their own networks or resort to old low tech methods of communication.  What pickle of irony.

So what's it going to be Cisco? Google?

Now all that being said, go read the last few paragraphs of this article, particularly the last one where they say that this is not going to let up, that more and more information is going to come out.  Are these tech scions going to pressure the government to shut them up?  Would they go as far as to take matters into their own hands in this respect somehow?  Prior to that they talk about how trust that took years to build has been shattered.  So shutting up the journalists won't help with that. Still, I think this is a very dangerous time. Not that it wasn't dangerous before.  Will they try to crush the stories or will they push back against the intelligence and war machine and whoever else is under the covers and wants the surveillance state to thrive, like perhaps the banking industry and the oil industry?

Wolf Richter: NSA Spying Crushes US Tech Companies in Emerging Markets (“An Industry Phenomenon,” Says Cisco’s Chambers)

Yves here. One amusing theme in this post is how the NSA is Cisco’s Lord Voldemort, the one who must not be named….
Cisco CEO John Chambers had a euphemism for it during the first quarter earnings call: the “challenging political dynamics in that country,” that country being China. But then there was India and others, including Russia where NSA leaker Edward Snowden is holed up, and where sales outright collapsed.


It was in between the lines everywhere, but never once did Chambers, or anyone else on his team, mouth the acronym NSA. It was off limits. And that’s exactly how another tech giant, IBM, had dealt with its own China revenue fiasco.


When an analyst pushed on that point, Chambers began to dance around it, tried to minimize it, blaming neither the revelations nor the NSA itself. He never even mentioned the NSA – though the analyst had named it. He did admit that “it” had “an impact in China,” something “we’re all aware of.” But Russia and the rest? Quasi denial. “It” had a “fairly nominal” impact on the total emerging markets, he said.

Rob Lloyd, President of Development and Sales, further tried to obscure and illuminate it: “So it’s not having material impact, but it’s certainly causing people to stop and then rethink decisions. And that is, I think, reflected in our results.” And those results in Russia were beyond abysmal!

“I’ve never seen that fast a move in emerging markets,” Chambers said.

U.S. Air Force asked to help in missing drone search

The unmanned aircraft took off from Wheeler Sack Army Airfield at Fort Drum in northern New York and crashed early Tuesday afternoon in eastern Lake Ontario. The area where it crashed is about 19 kilometres from the lake's eastern shore and 56 kilometres from Fort Drum, home to the Army's 10th Mountain Division.
The drone is used by the 174th to train Air Force pilots who use it on surveillance and attack missions globally. There were no missiles or other armaments aboard the 11-metre-long drone, said Col. Greg Semmel, commander of the 174th.

A spokeswoman for General Atomics, which makes the Reaper, says a new drone with a basic package of sensors costs $10 million to $12 million US.

Semmel said that the unit's drone flights have been suspended. No decision had been made on when they would resume, he said.

Check this out.  Orwellian.
Justice is reviewing criminal cases that used surveillance evidence gathered under FISA

“Unless information that has not come to my attention is presented to me, what I have indicated in my testimony before Congress is that any journalist who’s engaged in true journalistic activities is not going to be prosecuted by this Justice Department,” Holder said.

“I certainly don’t agree with what Greenwald has done,” Holder said. “In some ways, he blurs the line between advocate and journalist. But on the basis of what I know now, I’m not sure there is a basis for prosecution of Greenwald.”

Greenwald said he welcomed the statement but remains cautious.

“That this question is even on people’s minds is a rather grim reflection of the Obama administration’s record on press freedoms,” he said in an e-mail. “It is a positive step that the Attorney General expressly recognizes that journalism is not and should not be a crime in the United States, but given this administration’s poor record on press freedoms, I’ll consult with my counsel on whether one can or should rely on such caveat-riddled oral assertions about the government’s intentions.”

Glenn linked to a good Digby post about that article et al.


Stop Watching Us.

The revelations about the National Security Agency's surveillance apparatus, if true, represent a stunning abuse of our basic rights. We demand the U.S. Congress reveal the full extent of the NSA's spying programs.

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