Category Archives: Science & Technology

Mini-Nukes and Mosquito-like Robot Weapons Being Primed for Future Warfare

Jeff Daniel reports for CNBC:

A mosquito used for Zika research.Several countries are developing nanoweapons that could unleash attacks using mini-nuclear bombs and insect-like lethal robots.

While it may be the stuff of science fiction today, the advancement of nanotechnology in the coming years will make it a bigger threat to humanity than conventional nuclear weapons, according to an expert. The U.S., Russia and China are believed to be investing billions on nanoweapons research.

“Nanobots are the real concern about wiping out humanity because they can be weapons of mass destruction,” said Louis Del Monte, a Minnesota-based physicist and futurist. He’s the author of a just released book entitled “Nanoweapons: A Growing Threat To Humanity.”

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Louise Mensch Op-Ed Sparks Feud At The New York Times

Steven Perlberg reports for BuzzFeed:

A civil war between news and opinion has broken out at the New York Times.

In a Times op-ed posted online Friday, Louise Mensch, a writer and former member of the UK Parliament, gives her suggestion for what questions the House Intelligence Committee should ask as it holds hearings on Russia’s influence in the US election. Mensch offers Times readers reason to trust her expertise: “In November, I broke the story that a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court had issued a warrant that enabled the F.B.I. to examine communications between ‘U.S. persons’ in the Trump campaign relating to Russia-linked banks,” she writes.

On Twitter, Times reporters lashed out.

“Please note that the NYT newsroom disagrees,” national security reporter Charlie Savage tweeted. Savage highlighted from his report this month knocking down the FISA claim: “To date, reporters for The New York Times with demonstrated sources in that world have been unable to corroborate that the court issued any such order.”

The core of the dispute is whether the FISA court granted a warrant, which the Times and Washington Post have not reported, though the BBC and McClatchy have. The Guardian reported about a June FISA request but stopped short at confirming the supposed October one was granted.

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How Russia and WikiLeaks Became Allies Against the West

Matthew Kupfer writes for The Moscow Times:

[…] If Russia has ties with WikiLeaks today, that certainly wasn’t the case seven years ago, says Mika Velikovsky, a Russian journalist who worked extensively with WikiLeaks and interviewed Assange three times.

While working for the magazine Russian Reporter, WikiLeaks’ main partner in Russia, Velikovsky received packets of U.S. diplomatic cables from Shamir, sorted through the documents and published articles based upon them. He also worked on the 2012 leak of emails from the intelligence company Stratfor and collaborated with WikiLeaks on the 2013 documentary film Mediastan.

In 2010, Velikovsky defended WikiLeaks on Russian state television’s political talk shows — programs that often reflect the positions of the Kremlin. There, he clashed with pro-Kremlin experts who claimed that WikiLeaks was the anti-Russian project of American spies.

“At the time, it seemed the authorities were worried about WikiLeaks and didn’t know what it was,” he says. “So the Russian mainstream media was very anti-WikiLeaks.”

Then, in 2012, Julian Assange got a show on RT, a Russian state-funded propaganda channel. The development came amid a worldwide financial blockade of WikiLeaks, when the organization desperately needed money. Velikovsky thinks Assange’s appearance on RT marked WikiLeaks’ transformation from a threat to an ally in the eyes of the Russian authorities.

However, he suggests that WikiLeaks’ seeming alliance with Russia stems from Assange’s own personal predicament. Hiding in the Ecuadorian Embassy for over 4 years has robbed Assange of “a lot of the joy [of life] that you and I have,” Velikovsky says. “If someone did that to us, it would be very personal.”

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Why Does WikiLeaks Keep Publishing U.S. State Secrets? Private Contractors

Tim Shorrock, author of Spies for Hire, writes for The Washington Post:

Image result for Why does WikiLeaks keep publishing U.S. state secrets? Private contractorsWhen WikiLeaks released more than 8,000 files about the CIA’s global hacking programs this month, it dropped a tantalizing clue: The leak came from private contractors. Federal investigators quickly confirmed this, calling contractors the likeliest sources. As a result of the breach, WikiLeaks editor Julian Assange said, the CIA had “lost control of its entire cyberweapons arsenal.”

Intelligence insiders were dismayed. Agencies “take a chance with contractors” because “they may not have the same loyalty” as officers employed by the government, former CIA director Leon Panetta lamented to NBC.

But this is a liability built into our system that intelligence officials have long known about and done nothing to correct. As I first reported in 2007, some 70 cents of every intelligence dollar is allocated to the private sector. And the relentless pace of mergers and acquisitions in the spies-for-hire business has left five corporations in control of about 80 percent of the 45,000 contractors employed in U.S. intelligence. The threat from unreliable employees in this multibillion-dollar industry is only getting worse.

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Sir Tim Berners-Lee: ‘Fake News’ One of Three Challenges Stopping Web From Serving Humanity

Freddy Mayhew reports for Press Gazette:

Inventor of the World Wide Web Sir Tim Berners-Lee has pointed to the spread of “fake news” as one of three challenges stopping his creation from being “a tool which serves all of humanity”.

The exchange of personal data for free content and a lack of transparency around political advertising were also highlighted as areas of concern for the computer scientist.

In an open letter on the 28th anniversary of his original proposal for the World Wide Web, Berners-Lee set out a five-year plan to tackle these three “complex problems”.

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Valut 7: John Kiriakou and James Bamford on What the Wikileaks Dump Tells Us

Thom Hartmann speaks to former CIA analyst and whistleblower John Kiriakou and journalist James Bamford, author of Body of Secrets and The Shadow Factory, about the recent Wikileaks ‘Vault 7’ dump and what it reveals about hacking and surveillance techniques used by the CIA. (The Big Picture)

Snowden Calls Trove of Alleged CIA Hacking Tools Published by Wikileaks a ‘Big Deal’

Nika Knight reports for Common Dreams:

WikiLeaks on Tuesday released a trove of purported CIA documents hailed by security expert Jessalyn Radack as “in same category as [the] biggest leaks of classified info by [whistleblowers] Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden.”

Indeed, Snowden himself described the leak as “genuinely a big deal” on Twitter. “Looks authentic,” the National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower added. The New York Times also described the documents’ authenticity as “likely.”

The Times went on to describe the bombshell revelations included in the trove of documents:

Among other disclosures that, if confirmed, would rock the technology world, the WikiLeaks release said that the CIA and allied intelligence services had managed to bypass encryption on popular phone and messaging services such as Signal, WhatsApp, and Telegram. According to the statement from WikiLeaks, government hackers can penetrate Android phones and collect “audio and message traffic before encryption is applied.”

Tuesday’s release of documents comprise part one of a series, WikiLeaks wrote in a press statement. This first installment, titled “Year Zero,” contains “8,761 documents and files from an isolated, high-security network situated inside the CIA’s Center for Cyber Intelligence in Langley, Va.,” according to WikiLeaks.

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WikiLeaks Releases Docs Detailing Mass CIA Hacking

Jason Ditz reports for Antiwar:

Newly released by WikiLeaks today is a collection of CIA documents referred to as “Vault 7,” detailing the CIA’s hacking and surveillance technology development. The current release spans “Year 0” of the program, with several more years of documents expected to be released.

Officially called “Weeping Angel,” the program sought 0-day exploits in myriad technology, including not just computers and routers, but things like smartphones and even Smart TVs, with documents showing the CIA could make a Samsung-branded TV go into a “fake-off” mode, where it would appear to be turned off, but its microphone was active and the CIA could listen in to everything happening.

The same was true of the phones targeted, with the CIA having what is said to be a large cache of exploits against both Apple and Android-based phones, exploits they carefully kept guarded from the manufacturers of the phones so that the flaws were never properly repaired. The phone breaches were focused in part on having an OS-level exploit that would render security features in encrypted applications useless,

Also among the efforts, the CIA was trying to hack into cars, with an eye toward gaining remote control over cars anywhere in the world, leading to speculation that the cars would be made to “assassinate” the drivers in an undetectable manner.

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How the Feds Could Have Listened to Trump’s Phone Calls

Cory Bennett reports for Politico:

13_donald_trump_10_gty_1160 (2).jpg[…] There are still many ways in which information from Trump Tower phone calls could end up in the hands of intelligence agents or law enforcement officials — even without any knowledge on Obama’s part.

First, they may have come upon Trump Tower phone calls if a targeted foreign agent was on the other end of the line — this method comes from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, or FISA court. Or Trump Tower digital chatter might have shown up while authorities dug through the vast quantities of data hoovered up via more sweeping foreign surveillance programs.

Second, the FBI could also have asked for a so-called “pen register” or “trap and trace device,” which record only the parties involved in a phone call. These requests have a lower bar for approval.

While it’s unknown whether any of these scenarios occurred, it’s “very likely that the people in the Obama administration had access to the communication of senior Trump officials in the run-up to the election, because they have very, very broad authority,” said Cindy Cohn, executive director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which has advocated for revising surveillance laws.

And given the ongoing FBI-led investigation into potential ties between Trump’s associates and Russian officials, it’s plausible that law enforcement officials and intelligence agencies had an interest in — or simply came across — the communications in Trump Tower, specialists said. The government is also investigating an alleged Russian plot to use cyberattacks and disinformation to help Trump win.

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Peter Thiel: Donald Trump’s ‘Shadow President’ in Silicon Valley

Eliana Johnson reports for Politico:

170224_peter_thiel_trump_gty_1160.jpg[…] “Once Election Day came and went, Peter Thiel was a major force in the transition,” said a senior Trump campaign aide. “When you have offices and you bring staff with you and you attend all the meetings, then you have a lot of power.” At the Presidio, the old Army fort in San Francisco where Thiel’s investment firms are housed, many of his employees have taken to calling him “the shadow president.”

The notion is not entirely absurd. If Steve Bannon, the president’s chief strategist, is one ideological pillar of the Trump White House, Thiel, operating from outside the administration, is the other. Bannon’s ideology is a sort of populist nationalism, while Thiel’s is tech-centric: He believes progress is dependent on a revolution in technology that has been largely stymied by government regulation.

Thiel is a contrarian by nature, and his support for Trump was a signature long-shot bet that is paying big dividends in terms of access to and influence on the new administration.

Trump’s surprise victory in November also gave Thiel a renewed faith in the possibilities of politics, and he has worked around the clock to push friends and associates into positions that will give them sway over science and technology policy, an area he believes has been routinely neglected under previous administrations.

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How Uber Deceives the Authorities Worldwide

Mike Isaac reports for The New York Times:

Image result for How Uber Deceives the Authorities WorldwideUber has for years engaged in a worldwide program to deceive the authorities in markets where its low-cost ride-hailing service was resisted by law enforcement or, in some instances, had been banned.

The program, involving a tool called Greyball, uses data collected from the Uber app and other techniques to identify and circumvent officials who were trying to clamp down on the ride-hailing service. Uber used these methods to evade the authorities in cities like Boston, Paris and Las Vegas, and in countries like Australia, China and South Korea.

Greyball was part of a program called VTOS, short for “violation of terms of service,” which Uber created to root out people it thought were using or targeting its service improperly. The program, including Greyball, began as early as 2014 and remains in use, predominantly outside the United States. Greyball was approved by Uber’s legal team.

Greyball and the VTOS program were described to The New York Times by four current and former Uber employees, who also provided documents. The four spoke on the condition of anonymity because the tools and their use are confidential and because of fear of retaliation by Uber.

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Bees Are Even Smarter Than We Realized

Annalee Newitz reports for Arstechnia:

You can now add bees to the rarefied list of tool-using animals, which already includes primates, crows, octopods, otters, porpoises, and more. A fascinating set of experiments has revealed that bees can be taught to use tools, even though they don’t use them in the wild.

Queen Mary University of London biologist Olli J. Loukola and his colleagues wanted to find out more about how bee intelligence works. Previous experiments with the insects have shown that they can count, communicate with each other using “waggle dances” that reveal the direction of food, and pull strings to get access to food. Loukola’s new tool use test showed that not only are bees good with tools, but they can also extemporize to use them more effectively.

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Most Scientists ‘Can’t Replicate Studies by Their Peers’

Tom Feilden reports for BBC News:

Test tubesScience is facing a “reproducibility crisis” where more than two-thirds of researchers have tried and failed to reproduce another scientist’s experiments, research suggests.

This is frustrating clinicians and drug developers who want solid foundations of pre-clinical research to build upon.

From his lab at the University of Virginia’s Centre for Open Science, immunologist Dr Tim Errington runs The Reproducibility Project, which attempted to repeat the findings reported in five landmark cancer studies.

“The idea here is to take a bunch of experiments and to try and do the exact same thing to see if we can get the same results.”

You could be forgiven for thinking that should be easy. Experiments are supposed to be replicable.

The authors should have done it themselves before publication, and all you have to do is read the methods section in the paper and follow the instructions.

Sadly nothing, it seems, could be further from the truth.

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How Peter Thiel and Alex Karp’s Palantir Helped the NSA Spy on the Whole World

Sam Biddle reports for The Intercept:

Image result for Thiel and KarpDonald Trump has inherited the most powerful machine for spying ever devised. How this petty, vengeful man might wield and expand the sprawling American spy apparatus, already vulnerable to abuse, is disturbing enough on its own. But the outlook is even worse considering Trump’s vast preference for private sector expertise and new strategic friendship with Silicon Valley billionaire investor Peter Thiel, whose controversial (and opaque) company Palantir has long sought to sell governments an unmatched power to sift and exploit information of any kind. Thiel represents a perfect nexus of government clout with the kind of corporate swagger Trump loves. The Intercept can now reveal that Palantir has worked for years to boost the global dragnet of the NSA and its international partners, and was in fact co-created with American spies. 

Peter Thiel became one of the American political mainstream’s most notorious figures in 2016 (when it emerged he was bankrolling a lawsuit against Gawker Media, my former employer) even before he won a direct line to the White House. Now he brings to his role as presidential adviser decades of experience as kingly investor and token nonliberal on Facebook’s board of directors, a Rolodex of software luminaries, and a decidedly Trumpian devotion to controversy and contrarianism. But perhaps the most appealing asset Thiel can offer our bewildered new president will be Palantir Technologies, which Thiel founded with Alex Karp and Joe Lonsdale in 2004.

Palantir has never masked its ambitions, in particular the desire to sell its services to the U.S. government — the CIA itself was an early investor in the startup through In-Q-Tel, the agency’s venture capital branch. But Palantir refuses to discuss or even name its government clientele, despite landing “at least $1.2 billion” in federal contracts since 2009, according to an August 2016 report in Politico. The company was last valued at $20 billion and is expected to pursue an IPO in the near future. In a 2012 interview with TechCrunch, while boasting of ties to the intelligence community, Karp said nondisclosure contracts prevent him from speaking about Palantir’s government work.

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Lean Out: The deafening post-November silence of Sheryl Sandberg

Sarah Lacy writes for Pando:

[…] The press didn’t make Sandberg into a feminist tech hero, she did. There was no pressure or precedent for female tech leaders to identify so heavily with women’s issues. And that’s why she struck such a chord with so many women. Finally a woman in power was saying all the things we all felt. It was particularly meaningful to me that she openly talked about motherhood– the joys, the challenges, and the strength of it.

This matters because Sandberg is easily the most senior woman in tech, and the most respected despite not being a founder or a CEO. According to First Round’s 2016 State of Startups, Sandberg was the most cited female answer to what tech leader people admire most. She got 1% of overall responses, compared to 6% for Mark Zuckerberg and 5% for Steve Jobs. She got 5% of the write-ins from female respondents. No other female leader came close.

Is that brand, that admiration solely because she is the COO of the only major super unicorn of the social networking era, and one of a few companies bucking to be the first $1 trillion market cap super duper unicorn? Maybe. But my hunch is her positioning as the flawed and vulnerable and yet commanding and respected woman a top that company, a woman who helps lift up other women, has played a massive role in people’s esteem for her.

So having voluntarily taken on this cause– and let’s face it, benefitted from that it in many ways– Sandberg must be well positioned to be a leader in this precise moment of feminist consciousness, right?

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Who’s Paying for the UK Government’s ‘Free’ Smart Meters?

Afshin Rattansi speaks to Chris Choi, ITN’s Consumer Editor for ITV News, about why Theresa May wants the UK to spend £11 billion on so-called ‘free’ smart meters. (Going Underground)

Wikipedia just ruled the Daily Mail to be an unreliable source

Thomas G. Clark writes for Another Angry Voice:

Image result for daily mail wikipediaTo the untrained eye the Daily Mail may appear to be a newspaper, but it’s no such thing. It’s an extreme-right propaganda empire that has been owned and operated by the tax-dodging billionaire Harmsworth family for generations.

I’m sure we can all think of examples that demonstrate that the Daily Mail is savagely right-wing propaganda rag: Their support for Hitler and Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists in the 1930s; their homophobic rants; their smearing of dead war heroes; their constant anti-immigrant hatemongering; their support for extreme-right candidates on the continent; their blaming a murder victim for their own death; their habit of mocking the gullibility of their own readers; their support for Theresa May’s effort to scrap parliamentary sovereignty and turn herself into an all-powerful autocrat who can make and repeal laws as they please.

Interestingly Wikipedia have cottoned on to what an incredibly dodgy extreme-right propaganda empire the Daily Mail is, and after deliberation, the consensus amongst the community of Wikipedia editors is that the Daily Mail is an unreliable source that should no longer be used as a reference (unless absolutely necessary).

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Silicon Valley Super-Rich Head south to Escape from a Global Apocalypse

Hayden Donnell reports for The Guardian:

Image result for Global Apocalypse new zealandAt the Republican party convention in Cleveland last July, Trump donor Peter Thiel declared himself ‘“most of all, proud to be an American”. So it came as something of a surprise for New Zealanders to discover that the PayPal co-founder and Facebook board member had become an honorary Kiwi – joining a growing band of wealthy Americans seeking a haven from a possible global apocalypse.

Thiel was recently revealed to have bought a £4.5m lakeside property near the New Zealand town of Wanaka in 2015. When New Zealand Herald reporter Matt Nippert asked why Thiel had been allowed to buy land that appears to fit the classification of “sensitive” without permission from the country’s Overseas Investment Office, he was told it wasn’t necessary – Thiel was already a citizen.

The revelation was met with confusion. By the time of his appearance at the Republican convention, Thiel had already bought 193 hectares of pristine South Island land using his rights as a Kiwi. Politicians asked why a billionaire most famous for adamantly supporting Donald Trump and bankrolling the lawsuits that bankrupted Gawker Media had been allowed not only to buy land in New Zealand, but to make the country part of his future and identity. Winston Peters, leader of the New Zealand First party, accused the National government of “selling citizenship” to foreigners.

Thiel, who retains his American citizenship, in fact became a joint US-New Zealand citizen in 2011 and has described the country as “Utopia”, investing heavily in business start-ups.

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Black Ops Advertising: Interview with Mara Einstein

Black Ops Advertising, Mara Einstein

Jeff Schechtman recently spoke with Mara Einstein, professor, independent marketing consultant and the author of a new book titled: Black Ops Advertising: Native Ads, Content, Marketing, and the Covert World of the Digital Sell. (Who What Why)

LISTEN TO OR DOWNLOAD THE INTERVIEW…

New Cyber Czar Rudy Giuliani’s Website Full of Security Flaws

Tim Johnson reports for McClatchy:

[…] The Trump transition office announced Thursday morning that Giuliani, part of a core group of Republican Trump loyalists during the campaign, had been tapped to “lend expertise to cybersecurity efforts.” The announcement didn’t offer many details about how Giuliani would fulfill his role, noting simply that hacks are rampant.

“Cyber intrusion is the fastest growing crime in the United States and much of the world,” the statement said.

The announcement prompted a few programmers to conduct their own free website analysis of giulianipartners.com. Their verdict? Pathetic. Sad.

Indeed, some may have tried their hand at a little mischief. “Service temporarily unavailable,” flashed the screen when one visitor sought to browse there in the afternoon.

“Seems Rudy may need a cybersecurity chief for himself,” tweeted Jeremiah Grossman, whose profile said he is chief of security strategy for SentinelOne, a cybersecurity company.

Others came to Giuliani’s defense.

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Obama Expands Surveillance Powers on His Way Out

Kate Tummarello reports for the Electronic Frontier Foundation:

With mere days left before President-elect Donald Trump takes the White House, President Barack Obama’s administration just finalized rules to make it easier for the nation’s intelligence agencies to share unfiltered information about innocent people.

New rules issued by the Obama administration under Executive Order 12333 will let the NSA—which collects information under that authority with little oversight, transparency, or concern for privacy—share the raw streams of communications it intercepts directly with agencies including the FBI, the DEA, and the Department of Homeland Security, according to a report today by the New York Times.

That’s a huge and troubling shift in the way those intelligence agencies receive information collected by the NSA. Domestic agencies like the FBI are subject to more privacy protections, including warrant requirements. Previously, the NSA shared data with these agencies only after it had screened the data, filtering out unnecessary personal information, including about innocent people whose communications were swept up the NSA’s massive surveillance operations.

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Rudy Giuliani Is an Absurd Choice to Defend the U.S. From Hackers

Trevor Timm writes for The Guardian:

Related imageAt Donald Trump’s now-notorious press conference on Tuesday, lost amidst his threats to news organizations and denunciations of his enemies, the president-elect claimed he would soon assemble “some of the greatest computer minds anywhere in the world” to tackle the US government’s cybersecurity problem. On Thursday, he went the opposite route instead and hired Rudy Giuliani.

Giuliani, Trump election surrogate and the disgraced former mayor of New York, is apparently going to head up Trump’s efforts to coordinate “cybersecurity” issues between the federal government and the private sector, the transition team announced Tuesday. But what does Giuliani, last seen on the campaign trail claiming the president can break whatever law he likes in a time of war, know about cybersecurity? From the look and sound of it, not much.

Giuliani does head a consulting firm in New York called Giuliani Partners that supposedly focuses on cybersecurity, but Vice’s Motherboard reported yesterday, it’s tough to tell what they actually do, and it’s even tougher to tell what Giuliani does for them, besides being the face of the operation while saying outrageous things on television.

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Facing Possible Threats Under Trump, Internet Archive to Build Server in Canada

Amy Goodman and Nermeen Shaikh speaks to Brewster Kahle, the founder of the Internet Archive, which has announced that it will be moving a copy of its archive to Canada in the wake of Trump winning the 2016 election. The archive is one of the world’s largest public digital libraries. Part of the site includes the Wayback Machine, which preserves old websites, allowing researchers to access pages deleted by politicians and others. Laurie Allen of #DataRefuge Project also briefly joins the discussion to talk about climate change. (Democracy Now!)

Remembering Vera Rubin: The Trailblazing Astrophysicist Who Confirmed the Existence of Dark Matter and Paved the Way for Modern Women in Science

Maria Popova writes for Brain Pickings:

Vera Rubin as an undergraduate at Vassar, 1940sIn his insightful reflection on the crucial difference between talent and genius, Schopenhauer likened talent to a marksman who hits a target others cannot hit, and genius to a marksman who hits a target others cannot see. Among humanity’s rare genius-seers was pioneering astrophysicist Vera Rubin (July 23, 1928–December 25, 2016) — a coruscating intellect animated by a sinewy tenacity, who overcame towering cultural odds by the sheer force of her unbridled curiosity and rigorous devotion to science. In confirming the existence of dark matter, Rubin revolutionized our understanding of the universe, paved the way for modern women in science, and recalibrated the stilted norms of her profession.

Rubin fell in love with the night sky as a young girl, but knew no astronomer, living or dead, to hold as a role model. Eventually, she came upon a children’s book about 19th-century trailblazer Maria Mitchell — America’s first professional female astronomer and the first woman admitted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences — whose story reframed Rubin’s landscape of possibility and emboldened her to pursue stargazing as a vocation rather than a hobby. “It never occurred to me that I couldn’t be an astronomer,” she told Alan Lightman many years later in their wonderful 1990 conversation.

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Those Times the NSA Hacked America’s Allies

Juan Cole writes for Informed Comment:

Image result for NSA Hacked America’s AlliesThe hysteria about Russian hacking of the Democratic National Committee and the Republican National Committee servers and the phishing scam run on Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager, John Podesta, is short on evidence and high in self-righteousness. Much of the report issued Friday was old boilerplate about the Russia Today cable channel, which proves nothing.

My complaint is that American television news reports all this as if it is The First Time in History Anyone has Acted like This. But the head of the Republican Party in the early 1970s hired burglars to do the same thing– break into the Watergate building and get access to DNC documents in hopes of throwing an election. Dick Nixon even ordered a second break-in. And it took a long time for Republican members of Congress to come around to the idea that a crime had been committed; if it hadn’t been for the Supreme Court, Nixon might have served out his term.

In the past decade and a half, the US National Security Agency has been deployed for hacking purposes not, as the cover story would have it, for counter-terrorism (there isn’t much evidence that they’re any good at that), but to gain political advantage over allies.

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The Washington Post Is Richly Rewarded for False News About Russia Threat While Public Is Deceived

Glenn Greenwald writes for The Intercept:

In the past six weeks, the Washington Post published two blockbuster stories about the Russian threat that went viral: one on how Russia is behind a massive explosion of “fake news,” the other on how it invaded the U.S. electric grid. Both articles were fundamentally false. Each now bears a humiliating editor’s note grudgingly acknowledging that the core claims of the story were fiction: The first note was posted a full two weeks later to the top of the original article; the other was buried the following day at the bottom.

The second story on the electric grid turned out to be far worse than I realized when I wrote about it on Saturday, when it became clear that there was no “penetration of the U.S. electricity grid” as the Post had claimed. In addition to the editor’s note, the Russia-hacked-our-electric-grid story now has a full-scale retraction in the form of a separate article admitting that “the incident is not linked to any Russian government effort to target or hack the utility” and there may not even have been malware at all on this laptop.

But while these debacles are embarrassing for the paper, they are also richly rewarding. That’s because journalists — including those at the Post — aggressively hype and promote the original, sensationalistic false stories, ensuring that they go viral, generating massive traffic for the Post (the paper’s executive editor, Marty Baron, recently boasted about how profitable the paper has become).

After spreading the falsehoods far and wide, raising fear levels and manipulating U.S. political discourse in the process (both Russia stories were widely hyped on cable news), journalists who spread the false claims subsequently note the retraction or corrections only in the most muted way possible, and often not at all. As a result, only a tiny fraction of people who were exposed to the original false story end up learning of the retractions.

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Privacy Advocates Warn of Potential Surveillance Through Listening Devices Like Amazon Echo

Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez speak to Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, about the murder case revolving around James Andrew Bates and the police warrant that seeks to obtain data from his Amazon Echo. (Democracy Now!)

The Right Has Learned to Love Trolling

Ben Shapiro writes for National Review:

Image result for The Right Has Learned to Love TrollingOn New Year’s Eve, our president-elect unleashed a tweet in honor of the coming year: “Happy New Year to all, including to my many enemies and those who have fought me and lost so badly they just don’t know what to do. Love!”

His most ardent followers thrill to this display of full-on juvenile testosterone. They thrill at what they approvingly call “trolling” by the “madman.” They tweet pictures of Pepe the Frog jubilantly, figuratively slapping each other on the back over the audacity of their Big Man on Campus.

This is the “new conservatism”: Elicit a reaction.

There’s no follow-up. There’s no design. And truth is unimportant. The new “conservatism” promoted by Trump and his most ardent imitators is a teenage slapfight with no general purpose other than to deliberately offend, thereby making yourself appear more powerful. Remember when Trump said that Ted Cruz’s father was involved in JFK’s murder? That was trolling. And when Cruz responded, Trump’s followers laughed, called Trump a “madman,” and suggested that Cruz was a weakling for letting such things get under his skin.

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Should The American Public Be Thankful For Russian ‘Interference’?

Michael Tracey argues for Medium:

[…] If the state-sponsored Russian hackers did something truly malignant, like messing with election results, then yes — that’d be a severe breach and warrant substantial retaliation. But as it stands, the sinister Russians are accused of illuminating American voters as to the activities of the country’s most powerful political actors. The revelations made via WikiLeaks shined a light on all manner of fraud, deceit, and malfeasance. Would it have been better had voters not received access to this information? Who did it harm, other than a small group of political functionaries like Podesta and Wasserman-Schultz? Didn’t the American polity actually profit as a result of these hacks, given that they were provided important information about a presidential candidate that would have been otherwise suppressed?

When people use the word “interfered” to characterize what the Russian government is supposed to have done here, they give whole matter a needlessly nefarious gloss. “Russian interference in the election” connotes some kind of elaborate, intensive subversion plot. But that’s not what happened at all — voters weren’t harmed as a result of this “interference.” They were benefitted.

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Fake News: Russian Hacking of US Electricity Grid Never Took Place as Claimed by the Washington Post

Agamoni Ghosh reports for the International Business Times:

A news report last week had claimed that Russia-based hackers had successfully penetrated the US electricity grid through a facility in Vermont. But, such a thing never really happened as the alleged malware code that was thought to be injected into the grid system was only present on a single laptop that has no connection to the grid.

The report published by the Washington Post has been discarded as being misleading and false and the company has issued a note saying their key claim in the story was false.

“An earlier version of this story incorrectly said that Russian hackers had penetrated the US electric grid. Authorities say there is no indication of that so far. The computer at Burlington Electric that was hacked was not attached to the grid,” said an editor’s note on the copy.

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