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Since it's the weekend, I'm going to add some stories and articles that I collected this week but didn't have time to add to What's Happenin' during the week, or things that were longer pieces or so important that I think it's worth including them again.

Shane Harris providing another piece of the domestic surveillance puzzle: The FBI's Data Intercept Technology Unit (DITU), based in Quantico, and part of their Operational Technology Division (OTD). whose mission is to track terrorists inside the U.S. It's a three-page article, a must read.  Harris says that when Google and other tech companies denied participating in an NSA surveillance program that might technically have been true because this FBI unit is the main group that they deal with.  They hire technology experts with general and proprietary knowledge from telecom companies and, no doubt, all the major tech companies too.  They are also tasked with keeping the telecom and tech companies in line, making sure they are doing everything the government has told them to do.  Enforcers.

This article puts Barack Obama in another very uncomfortable situation regarding his "we're not reading your email" statements on national television because one of the things this FBI unit is doing is developing and installing "port readers" which grab entire emails and strip out the meta data (the definition of what is meta data and what isn't is still apparently under dispute). The port readers have access to the entire email during that time, including the content. The FBI claims that they don't analyze or seize the content, and therefore it's legal under the PATRIOT Act without a warrant.  

The other issue that we need to understand more about is minimization procedures where the identity of the person who owns the emails and phone lines is kept separately from the meta data so that any analysis does not involve identity unless a warrant is obtained. In this article, in the last few paragraphs, Shane Harris' anonymous "former law enforcement official" source talks about that. Marcy Wheeler has been writing about the minimization procedures issue for at least a few years now.  The source says, and is distressed that there have been reports that NSA has not been following their own minimization procedures. Harris refers to his own article from August in this section of the article.  I need to review this issue myself so that I can explain it better.  The minimization procedures can get complicated.  The source also notes that both Mueller and Holder should have told Congress in hearings about this FBI unit and how it works with the NSA.  

This also, perhaps, explains why Keith Alexander and others in the intelligence community are so worked up about the NSA taking all the heat for domestic surveillance.  And it makes Comey's appointment all the more interesting, given that he was involved in the infamous Ashcroft hospital incident.

So if I'm understanding this properly, the FBI tech is sitting on email provider systems grabbing every email and bulk collecting and supposedly only taking meta data, creating a massive data base with information about every email everyone sends, just like the massive telephony meta data stores.  Another dragnet.  The article says that some providers are resisting.  In court? FISA court? It's interesting that these things happen in courts and we never know about it. Why so secret?  If our government is so confident that snooping on every email we ever send, and it's legal under the PATRIOT Act and no warrant is necessary, then why does the dragnet have to be secret? Why are Americans not allowed to know about this supposedly perfectly legal activity?

Meet the Spies Doing the NSA's Dirty Work
This obscure FBI unit does the domestic surveillance that no other intelligence agency can touch.

Recently, the DITU has helped construct data-filtering software that the FBI wants telecom carriers and Internet service providers to install on their networks so that the government can collect large volumes of data about emails and Internet traffic.

The software, known as a port reader, makes copies of emails as they flow through a network. Then, in practically an instant, the port reader dissects them, removing only the metadata that has been approved by a court.

The FBI has built metadata collection systems before. In the late 1990s, it deployed the Carnivore system, which the DITU helped manage, to pull header information out of emails. But the FBI today is after much more than just traditional metadata -- who sent a message and who received it. The FBI wants as many as 13 individual fields of information, according to the industry representative. The data include the route a message took over a network, Internet protocol addresses, and port numbers, which are used to handle different kinds of incoming and outgoing communications. Those last two pieces of information can reveal where a computer is physically located -- perhaps along with its user -- as well as what types of applications and operating system it's running. That information could be useful for government hackers who want to install spyware on a suspect's computer -- a secret task that the DITU also helps carry out.
[...]
The FBI's pursuit of Internet metadata bears striking similarities to the NSA's efforts to obtain the same information. After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the agency began collecting the information under a secret order signed by President George W. Bush. Documents that were declassified Nov. 18 by Barack Obama's administration show that the agency ran afoul of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court after it discovered that the NSA was collecting more metadata than the court had allowed. The NSA abandoned the Internet metadata collection program in 2011, according to administration officials.

But the FBI has been moving ahead with its own efforts, collecting more metadata than it has in the past. It's not clear how many companies have installed the port reader, but at least two firms are pushing back, arguing that because it captures an entire email, including content, the government needs a warrant to get the information. The government counters that the emails are only copied for a fraction of a second and that no content is passed along to the government, only metadata. The port reader is designed also to collect information about the size of communications packets and traffic flows, which can help analysts better understand how communications are moving on a network. It's unclear whether this data is considered metadata or content; it appears to fall within a legal gray zone, experts said.
[...]

In addition to Carnivore, the DITU helped develop early FBI Internet surveillance tools with names like CoolMiner, Packeteer, and Phiple Troenix. One former law enforcement official said the DITU helped build the FBI's Magic Lantern keystroke logging system, a device that could be implanted on a computer and clandestinely record what its user typed. The system was devised to spy on criminals who had encrypted their communications. It was part of a broader surveillance program known as Cyber Knight.
[...]
But having the DITU act as a conduit provides a useful public relations benefit: Technology companies can claim -- correctly -- that they do not provide any information about their customers directly to the NSA, because they give it to the DITU, which in turn passes it to the NSA.

[Emphasis added]

This is an important, under the radar story by Colum Lynch at The Cable blog over at ForeignPolicy.com which is a subscription site but allows 8 free articles per month if you register.  They've provided the leaked document the article in Scribd format which I've embedded at the end of the article but I'm not sure if the embed will work at dkos, so here is a link to the PDF as well, stored in the document cloud at the moment anyway and hopefully still there if you'd like to read it.
Exclusive: Inside America's Plan to Kill Online Privacy Rights Everywhere

The United States and its key intelligence allies are quietly working behind the scenes to kneecap a mounting movement in the United Nations to promote a universal human right to online privacy, according to diplomatic sources and an internal American government document obtained by The Cable.

The diplomatic battle is playing out in an obscure U.N. General Assembly committee that is considering a proposal by Brazil and Germany to place constraints on unchecked internet surveillance by the National Security Agency and other foreign intelligence services. American representatives have made it clear that they won't tolerate such checks on their global surveillance network. The stakes are high, particularly in Washington -- which is seeking to contain an international backlash against NSA spying -- and in Brasilia, where Brazilian President Dilma Roussef is personally involved in monitoring the U.N. negotiations.

The Brazilian and German initiative seeks to apply the right to privacy, which is enshrined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to online communications. Their proposal, first revealed by The Cable, affirms a "right to privacy that is not to be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with their privacy, family, home, or correspondence." It notes that while public safety may "justify the gathering and protection of certain sensitive information," nations "must ensure full compliance" with international human rights laws. A final version the text is scheduled to be presented to U.N. members on Wednesday evening and the resolution is expected to be adopted next week.

[...]

  Right to Privacy in the Digital Age Red Lines

And the effort apparently failed, but still newsworthy..
UN surveillance resolution goes ahead despite attempts to dilute language
Failed attempt by US, UK and Australia shows increased isolation of 'Five-Eyes' nations amid international controversy

Diplomats involved in the negotations have told the Guardian that the US was reluctant to be seen as leading the opposition publicly and instead orchestrated from the sidelines, leaving Australia in the forefront.
[...]
The co-sponsors of the draft resolution, Brazil and Germany, made several concessions, diluting some of the language to appease the US, Britain and Australia but keeping intact the bulk of the original version.

Crucially, the draft retains language which says the right to privacy should apply no matter the citizenship of the individual. US citizens currently have greater protections from NSA surveillance than foreign nationals.

The final draft agreed on Wednesday after more than a week of negotiation says the UN general assembly is “deeply concerned at the negative impact that surveillance and/or interception of communications, including extraterritorial surveillance and/or interception of communications, as well as the collection of personal data, in particular when carried out on a mass scale, may have on the exercise and enjoyment of human rights”.

David Dayen. Thank FSM. May his noodly appendage make help Warren make this happen.  Oh, and one of the things driving this is the doubts about whether Dodd-Frank would prevent the same thing from happening all over again.  You know, a lot of us have been saying that since before Dodd-Frank became law, and ever since.  Whatever.  Oh, and look, another one of those pesky coalitions that the 1% really doesn't like.  They love to talk about bipartisanship but when real bipartisanship happens, down boy! Down! They're just fringe!  Fringy fringe!  
Financial Reform Is About to Catch a Second Wind
And Elizabeth Warren is ready to ride it

Financial reformers seeking new rules beyond the range of the Dodd-Frank law haven’t had much to cheer about this year. The chances of Congress passing new regulations—OK, passing anything—look bleak, and the Obama Administration wants to simply finish implementing the last set of reforms. But reformers are playing a longer game, biding their time until the conditions are ripe for a dam burst. That could happen sooner than you think. High-profile champions for reform are gradually bending regulators to their will, and a pile-up of big bank abuses have eroded Wall Street’s reputation in Washington. Most importantly, a new report detailing the extraordinary largesse granted banks during the financial crisis, and questioning whether Dodd-Frank would prevent a rerun, could set off a fresh spark.

An unlikely bipartisan duo, Senators Sherrod Brown and David Vitter, have tried all year to focus attention in Congress on ending “too big to fail,” the perception that large financial institutions will inevitably receive government bailouts if they run into trouble. This allows banks to take on outsized risks with implicit government support, and receive a de facto subsidy, with lower borrowing costs than their smaller competitors, because investors believe a backstopped institution will always pay them back. Brown and Vitter introduced legislation earlier this year to significantly raise capital requirements, which they say will reduce reliance on bailouts by forcing banks to pay for their own losses.

But the report still contains some explosive material. It details how banks received trillions of dollars in capital injections, emergency lending and debt guarantees during the financial crisis, offered with more favorable terms than they could have found in the private market, and secured by junk collateral that non-government lenders would never accept. Some debt guarantees given by government agencies to banks were up to 10 percent cheaper than private alternatives, saving the banks billions of dollars. Banks with over $50 billion in assets used the crisis-era programs nearly twice as much as their smaller counterparts. Outside of the broadly available emergency programs, JPMorgan Chase received a $30 billion loan from the New York Federal Reserve (then run by Timothy Geithner) for its purchase of Bear Stearns, and both Citigroup and Bank of America received special direct assistance of $20 billion each. According to a summary released by Brown and Vitter, those three banks, the U.S.’s largest, would have been insolvent without the government support provided during the crisis. Since the biggest banks are even bigger today (the report states that the nation’s four largest banks are $2 trillion larger than they were in 2007), it’s hard to believe that similar support wouldn’t be granted if needed.

Pepe Escobar.
Digging in: Why US won’t leave Afghanistan

All about pivoting to Asia
[...]
The drone war will continue, with the Pentagon and the CIA using these Afghan bases to attack Pashtuns in Pakistan’s tribal areas. Not to mention that these US bases, to be fully operational, need unrestricted access to the Pakistani transit routes from the Khyber Pass and the Quetta-to-Kandahar corridor. This means Islamabad keeps profiting from the scam by collecting hefty fees in US dollars.

No one knows yet how the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) will respond to this. Not only Russia and China – who are adamantly opposed to US bases in Afghanistan – but also Iran and India, SCO observers and two countries that can sway Afghanistan away from the Taliban in a non-military way.

We just need to picture, for instance, a practically inevitable future development; Washington deciding to deploy the US missile defense system in Afghanistan (it already happened in Turkey). Russia and China already see that the US may have lost the economic race for Central Asia – as China clinches deal after deal in the context of expanding its New Silk Road(s) grand strategy. What’s left for Washington is – guess what – bits and pieces of the same old Pentagon Full Spectrum Dominance doctrine, as in military bases to ‘monitor’ both China and Russia very close to their borders.

What’s certain is that both Russia and China – not to mention Iran – all see this Operation Occupy Afghanistan Forever for what it is; yet another (military) chapter of the American ‘pivoting to Asia’.

It looks like this is going to happen today. There are headlines saying "imminent".  
Kerry joins nuclear talks as Iran, powers push for breakthrough

(Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and foreign ministers of five other world powers joined talks on Iran's contested nuclear program on Saturday with the two sides edging towards a breakthrough to ease a dangerous standoff.

The Chinese, Russian, French, British and German foreign ministers - Wang Yi, Sergei Lavrov, Laurent Fabius, William Hague and Guido Westerwelle - all pulled up their sleeves to try to seal an interim deal under which Iran would curb uranium enrichment in exchange for some relief from sanctions.

Hague and Westerwelle, however, both cautioned that a preliminary accord to turn the page on years of confrontation with the Islamic Republic was not yet guaranteed and that there was much work to do to bridge remaining differences.


Did This Low-Profile British Diplomat Just Save The Iran Talks?

GENEVA - Secretary of State John Kerry is on his way to Geneva, raising hopes that a historic nuclear pact with Iran could be signed as early as Saturday. If a deal materializes, it will mark a personal and professional triumph for Kerry, of course. But it will also be one for a low-profile British diplomat who shuns the press and had long been derided as a lightweight.

Lady Catherine Ashton, the European Union's top diplomat, has spent much of the week locked in painstaking negotiations with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif. An unassuming former member of the British House of Lords, Ashton got her job four years ago because of a byzantine political dispute involving former British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Here in Geneva, she's been on center stage. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov swept into the Intercontinental Hotel Friday night and had a brief meeting with Zarif, making him the first senior official from the so-called P5+1 countries to talk to the Iranian foreign minister in two days. Wendy Sherman, the chief American negotiator, didn't meet with Zarif Thursday or Friday, and it wasn't clear when she would next sit down with him. That's left the talks almost solely in Ashton's hands, and it seems increasingly likely that she will succeed in cobbling together a deal.
[...]
The success of her efforts won't be known until Kerry and the other foreign ministers formally sign an interim agreement with Zarif that would temporarily halt, or slow, Iran's nuclear program while giving Tehran access to roughly $7 billion in frozen assets. Western diplomats cautioned that the deal could still fall through -- as they did two weeks ago -- but it's highly doubtful that Kerry would be traveling to Geneva if an agreement wasn't extremely close to being finalized.

I was floored by this article.  I haven't jumped on the Rip Obamacare bandwagon, but this article just freaking floored me and I really won't be holding back after reading this.  The Congressional offices cited here are Democrats'.  Read this article.

There's a loophole for exempting Congressional staff from having to use the exchanges, a difference between "official staff" and "unofficial staff" and they're jumping through hoops to get their staffs classified as "unofficial staff" so they can have the federal health insurance rather than have to use the Obamacare program. They're even considering firing and rehiring staff to get this designation changed, especially for older workers who now realize they are going to have to pay a lot more and there's concern about not being able to retain staff.  I guess the job market on Capitol Hill is so good that they can easily leave and get another job, part of the money flowing like crazy boom that has been DC while most of the rest of the country is in recession and depression. And out of the other side of their mouths they're talking about how strongly they support Obamacare.  

Older aides see O-Care costs eat checks

“I am asking for a solution now though because I will lose staff in my office because of this snafu,” Ta wrote in his email.  

“I mentioned to payroll and House [administration] that it was unfair for our offices to make this designation without allowing our staff the ability [to] actually go on the [marketplace] to compare rates.”

Asked about the email, Ta said that the office is “not trying to blame anybody," especially the White House.

The frustration, he explained, is that his office and others are dissatisfied that lawmakers and staff are being treated differently from other federal employees.

“We’re strong, strong supporters of the [Affordable Care Act],” said Moore’s press secretary, Staci Cox.



Action



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.



Blog Posts and Tweets of Interest


The Evening Blues
Transgender Day of Remembrance, 2013
Afghanistan, let's just get the hell out



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Earth, Wind, and Fire - Reasons

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