Thursday, January 26, 2006

Does what we believe about Al Qaeda help Al Qaeda?

If you don't read Schneier on Security, you probably don't know what security is. Bruce
Schneier, founder and CTO of
Counterpane Internet Security, Inc., is an internationally renowned security technologist and author. If you want to know how security really works, turn to Schneier. His book ‘Beyond Fear’ is an indispensable resource for understanding safety, crime and both Corporate and National security.

I was going through my rss feeds when I came across this.

Science & Technology at Scientific Murdercide -- Science unravels the myth of suicide bombers:
“The belief that suicide bombers are poor, uneducated, disaffected or disturbed is contradicted by science. Marc Sageman, a forensic psychiatrist at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, found in a study of 400 Al Qaeda members that three quarters of his sample came from the upper or middle class. Moreover, he noted, 'the vast majority--90 percent--came from caring, intact families. Sixty-three percent had gone to college, as compared with the 5-6 percent that's usual for the third world. These are the best and brightest of their societies in many ways.' Nor were they sans employment and familial duties. 'Far from having no family or job responsibilities, 73 percent were married and the vast majority had children.... Three quarters were professionals or semiprofessionals. They are engineers, architects and civil engineers, mostly scientists. Very few humanities are represented, and quite surprisingly very few had any background in religion.' ”

Liberty Increases Security

From the Scientific American essay "Murdercide: Science unravels the myth of suicide bombers":

Another method [of reducing terrorism], says Princeton University economist Alan B. Krueger, is to increase the civil liberties of the countries that breed terrorist groups. In an analysis of State Department data on terrorism, Krueger discovered that "countries like Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, which have spawned relatively many terrorists, are economically well off yet lacking in civil liberties. Poor countries with a tradition of protecting civil liberties are unlikely to spawn suicide terrorists. Evidently, the freedom to assemble and protest peacefully without interference from the government goes a long way to providing an alternative to terrorism." Let freedom ring.

Found on John Quarterman's blog.

Posted on January 18, 2006 at 01:33 PM

But hold on, here's more…

From his CryptoGram Newsletter, ,


Two stories that shamelessly hype computer crime:
Beware the Four Horsemen of the Information Apocalypse: terrorists, drug dealers, kidnappers, and child pornographers. Seems like you can scare the public into allowing the government to do anything with those four.

Microsoft received a Common Criteria (CC) EAL 4+ certification for Windows, demonstrating how weak such a certification really is:

After FBI agents expressed frustration that the Office of Intelligence Policy and Review wasn't approving their orders under Section 215 of the Patriot Act, procedural changes were made allowing the FBI to bypass that office.
Remember, the issue here is not whether or not the FBI can engage in counterterrorism. The issue is the erosion of judicial oversight -- the only check we have on police power. And this power grab is dangerous regardless of which party is in the White House at the moment.

Meanwhile, the U.S. military is spying on Americans. Specifically, the Department of Defense is collecting data on legal and peaceful war protesters, in violation of U.S. law.

There's a lot more, and an incredible opportunity to have a real position in the debate about rights, security and Presidential power.

So ask yourself, does what we believe about security make us secure?

Does curtailing our liberties preserve our liberty?

Does ‘L’État c’est Moi’ (I am the State), seem all too familiar. Louis the fourteenth also said, ‘It's legal, because I wish it .’

Ask yourself, which novel we're living in:
1984? Is war peace? Ignorance, Strength? Is our Freedom becoming Slavery?
1984 by George Orwell: Chapter 1

Or are we in the ‘Wizard of Oz?’
Shall we pay attention to the man behind the curtain?

Does the Presidency have clothes?
Then why do they offer up fig leaves?/

Monday, January 23, 2006

In Google vs Government, It's Not About Child Porn

"It's interesting to see how many news sources mistakenly report that the current government vs Google case is about child porn. It's not. If anything, it's about children looking at pornography - i.e. webmasters not ensuring their sites are sufficiently blocking minors from viewing harmful content. Or more specifically, it's about a proposed law requiring those sites to restrict access to minors, the Child Online Protection Act, which just didn't get through in the past, and which the Bush administration now wants to revive (and for that reason, asked different search engines to hand over search logs and indexed URLs to prove the law is needed).

I wrote to the author of the original article at the Mercury News while preparing and editing my first blog post on this, realizing this isn't about child porn - indeed the error is quick to make, and I was confused too at first - but the Merc's error was never corrected. From there, it spread like wildfire into blogs and mainstream news sources alike.… "

Privacy experts condemn Google subpoena

Right-to-privacy groups said Friday that an attempt by the Bush administration to force Google to turn over a broad range of materials from its databases has set a dangerous precedent that should worry all Americans.

"This is the camel's nose under the tent for using search engines and all kinds of data aggregators as surveillance tools," said Jim Harper of the libertarian Cato Institute who also runs, an Internet privacy database.

The Bush administration is already under fire from a number of rights groups over security measures it has taken since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on America, including pursuing checks on library records and eavesdropping on some telephone calls.

In court papers filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in San Jose, Calif., the Justice Department stated that Google had refused to comply with a subpoena issued last year for 1 million random Web addresses from Google's databases as well as records of all searches entered on Google during any one-week period.

The government said it needed the information to prepare its case to revive the 1998 Child Online Protection Act, which the Supreme Court blocked from taking effect two years ago.

The law prohibited Internet companies from knowingly making available obscene or pornographic material to minors. The Supreme Court said there were potential constitutional problems with the law and sent the case back to a lower court for consideration. It is expected to be heard later this year.

The Justice Department said Friday that America Online, Yahoo and Microsoft had all complied with similar requests.…
Posted by David Berlind @ 4:26 am

eWeek has a story about how Microsoft has unequivocally stated that no personal data was handed over during a recent DOJ inquiry:

The Microsoft admission, in a recent blog by MSN Search Dev & Test General Manager Ken Moss, assures MSN search users that "absolutely no personal data" changed hands. ….In the blog, Moss said Microsoft gave the DOJ a random sample of pages from the MSN search index, which is what MSN Search customers plumb during their search inquiries…..More controversially, Microsoft also provided "some aggregated query logs that listed queries and how often they occurred." Put another way, it's a look at the key words MSN search customers entered over an extended period of time.

To some extent, it's reassuring that Microsoft didn't hand over anything personally identifiable. On the other hand, the major issue here (as I noted the other day) is the way the DOJ is raiding databases outside of the context of any specific instance of wrongdoing. It's not searching for the smoking gun in a particular crime. At best, it's doing the equivalent of a door to door search in hopes of discovering that a crime may have been committed — not the typical sort of evidence that the authorities are supposed to be going after. The more I think about it, the more I wonder what choice the DOJ would have but to go back to the search engines for more data — this time, personally identifiable data — if it sees something in doesn't like.

We use the Net under the assumption that the Feds aren't trolling the databases of search engines and ISPs that reflect our collective online behavior in hopes of finding a haystack with a needle in it.…

The other chilling effect of the DOJ vs. Google

Posted by David Berlind @ 10:12 am

Regarding my two earlier blogs (Phone calls, e-mails and now search data. Where will Bush stop and Microsoft: No personal data went to DOJ) I just got this super-long email from someone that started with this sentence:

Google created their own problem by collecting this information in the first place.

So, let's think this through. You're an entrepreneur looking to start a business and you realize that one of the keys to your success is to keep certain information in a database. But then you realize that if you do, the Feds might issue you a warrant for its contents. Then you realize that the incident could become a headline in the news .. the sort of publicity (if you give in) that could hurt your business. So, you decide not to keep that database and in the process, may be selling yourself short of the complete opportunity that stands before you. Sounds like a chilling effect to me…

Here's my opinion.

It's vulgar, but, probably accurate. The Justice department is like a teenage boy who says, 'All I want to do is touch it. You'll still be a virgin.' But we know that teenage boys don't know how or when to stop. Soon we'll be hearing, ' It won't get you pregnant.' Then, 'Can I just put it in?'

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Is The President's Signature Worth The Paper It's Written On?

The Imperial Presidency at Work - New York Times:
"you cannot deal in good faith with a White House that does not act in good faith"

‘Mr. Bush made a grand show of inviting Mr. McCain into the Oval Office last month to announce his support for a bill to require humane treatment of detainees at Guantánamo Bay and other prisons run by the American military and intelligence agencies. He seemed to have managed to get Vice President Dick Cheney to stop trying to kill the proposed Congressional ban on torture of prisoners.

The White House also endorsed a bargain between Mr. Levin and Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, which tempered somewhat a noxious proposal by Mr. Graham to deny a court hearing to anyone the president declares to be an "unlawful enemy combatant." The bargain with Mr. Levin removed language that stripped away cases already before the courts, which would have been an egregious usurpation of power by one branch of government, and it made clear that those cases should remain in the courts.

Mr. Bush, however, seems to see no limit to his imperial presidency. First, he issued a constitutionally ludicrous "signing statement" on the McCain bill. The message: Whatever Congress intended the law to say, he intended to ignore it on the pretext the commander in chief is above the law. That twisted reasoning is what led to the legalized torture policies, not to mention the domestic spying program.

Then Mr. Bush went after the judiciary, scrapping the Levin-Graham bargain. The solicitor general informed the Supreme Court last week that it no longer had jurisdiction over detainee cases. It said the court should drop an existing case in which a Yemeni national is challenging the military tribunals invented by Mr. Bush's morally challenged lawyers after 9/11. The administration is seeking to eliminate all other lawsuits filed by some of the approximately 500 men at Gitmo, the vast majority of whom have not been shown to pose any threat.

Both of the offensive theories at work here - that a president's intent in signing a bill trumps the intent of Congress in writing it, and that a president can claim power without restriction or supervision by the courts or Congress - are pet theories of Judge Samuel Alito, the man Mr. Bush chose to tilt the Supreme Court to the right.’

I didn't notice many questions about these theories in the committee hearings. Maybe they're telepaths and don't need to verbalize these things. I do know one thing, while pro-choice and pro-life debate abortion, the bill of rights is being crumpled up and urinated on.

One of my favorite authors, Ursula K. LeGuin in ‘The Left Hand of Darkness’ wrote, “There is nothing as perfectly useless as the right answer to the wrong question.”

Boy have we been hearing the wrong questions from all sides and all parties.

What does it take to get these people to do their jobs? Alito is, like me, 55 years old. At the least, the next 30 years of our liberty is at stake. Yet here we are judging candidates for the Supreme Court on how well they duck and dodge issues. How many points does he get for not remembering anything about an organisation important enough to put on his employment application.

How many for obfuscating the meaning of the Constitution.

Who gets to yell out ‘Bingo!’?

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Playing ‘Dodge Judge’ or Why Call Them Hearings When Nobody's Listening

“With uncharacteristic understatement, Justice Scalia observed that "the members of this court have disagreed regarding the scope of Congress's 'prophylactic' enforcement powers under Section 5 of the 14th Amendment." That bland phrase was a shorthand for a raging debate that this new opinion did not even try to resolve.

The underlying question is what the 14th Amendment's Section 5 means in granting Congress the "power to enforce, by appropriate legislation" the guarantees of due process and equal protection that the amendment provides.

While stripping the states of the constitutional immunity that they would otherwise enjoy is an agreed-upon aspect of Section 5 "enforcement," the question remains whether Congress is limited to permitting suits for actual constitutional violations, or whether it may go further and authorize a broader category of lawsuits that seek to deter future violations.”

“WASHINGTON, Jan. 10 - The Supreme Court, in its first federalism decision since John G. Roberts Jr. became chief justice, ruled Tuesday that Congress acted within its constitutional authority when it stripped states of immunity from some suits for damages by disabled prison inmates.

The unanimous opinion, written by Justice Antonin Scalia, overturned a 2004 ruling by the federal appeals court in Atlanta, which held that Georgia was entitled to sovereign immunity from a lawsuit brought by a paraplegic prison inmate under the Americans With Disabilities Act.

Justice Scalia said that at least to the extent that the inmate's claims indicated that prison officials had violated not only the statute but the Constitution itself, the suit could proceed. The inmate, Tony Goodman, says that prison officials have grossly neglected his needs for mobility and personal hygiene, and that his dependence on a wheelchair has left him excluded from the law library and recreational opportunities.

The decision left very significant questions unanswered, most notably the fate of a disability lawsuit that demonstrates violations of the statute but not of any constitutional provision.

Title II of the disability act, at issue in the case, bans discrimination on the basis of disability in the "services, programs, or activities" offered by state and local governments.

Without doubt, the unanimity and brevity of Justice Scalia's opinion, at only eight pages, papered over deep divisions that have been apparent on the court during years of contention over the boundaries between federal authority and state prerogatives. Two years ago, for example, the court split 5 to 4 in permitting a lawsuit against Tennessee under Title II of the disabilities act for the state's failure to make county courthouses accessible to people with disabilities.…”

While the Senators and Judge tap dance around abortion rights, a fundamental and clear constitutional question is left unasked. Why a man who would sit on the Supreme court of the United States ever had a problem with ‘one man one vote’ or the power of congress to enforce that right.

Section 5 of the 14th amendment is well over a hundred years old, and it's a lot clearer on the rights of incdividuals and the power of congress than the inferences that are central to ‘a woman's right to choose.’

Undertandably, the Senators would rather deal with sex and religion than the real taboo topic, race.

So Alito, somehow, can't remember being part of a group he was proud to list on his employment application. Alito never questioned one white man, one vote. No one seriously questioned it in the twentieth century, until it started to apply to racial minorities. Like many others he opposed and was vanquished. Phrases like free, white and twenty0ne, lost their meaning, and people like Alito felt robbed. In fact, they were the robbers.

When robbers associate, expect more robbery.…

Monday, January 09, 2006

Annoyance isn't against the law, but, wait, it is now! | Rational rants |

Annoyance isn't against the law, but, wait, it is now! Rational rants
“Posted by Mitch Ratcliffe @ 10:15 am

Declan McCullagh catches a ridiculous new change to federal telecommunications laws: It is now illegal, after President Bush signed H.R. 3402, the "Violence Against Women and Department of Justice Reauthorization Act of 2005," to harrass someone by posting an anonymous comment on their blog.

This is a law open to incredible abuse both by companies and politicians who want to silence critics. ”

Section 113 of the bill has been amended and rewritten in such a way as to “rewrite this part of the Communications Act of 1934 to read: (B) makes a telephone call, whether or not conversation ensues, without disclosing his identity and with intent to annoy, abuse, threaten, or harass any person at the called number and; (C) makes or causes the telephone of another repeatedly or continuously to ring, with intent to harass any person at the called number ((C) in the case of subparagraph (C) of subsection (a)(1), includes any device or software that can be used to originate telecommunications or other types of communications that are transmitted, in whole or in part, by the Internet (as such term is defined in section 1104 of the Internet Tax Freedom Act (47 U.S.C. 151 note)).’

That makes "annoying" someone via comments posted on a blog or Web site a crime punishable by fines of up to $50,000 and/or imprisonment for up to six months. ”

It's time to ask why last minute amendments reducing our freedoms are constantly being added to laws that have completely different puposes.

It's time to stop listening to what this administration says and only pay attentiion to what it does.

A nibble here, an amendment there, a rider to an appropriations bill, text slipped in in House Senate conference, and a President becomes Emperor.

It's all to similar to the way a crtain Reichschancellor became Fuhrer, one law at a time.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

The Wiretappers That Couldn't Shoot Straight - New York Times

The Wiretappers That Couldn't Shoot Straight - New York Times:

"the White House's over-the-top outrage about the Times scoop is a smokescreen contrived to cover up something else is only confirmed by Dick Cheney's disingenuousness. In last week's oration at a right-wing think tank, he defended warrant-free wiretapping by saying it could have prevented the 9/11 attacks. Really? Not with this administration in charge. On 9/10 the N.S.A. (lawfully) intercepted messages in Arabic saying, 'The match is about to begin,' and, 'Tomorrow is zero hour.' You know the rest. Like all the chatter our government picked up during the president's excellent brush-clearing Crawford vacation of 2001, it was relegated to mañana; the N.S.A. didn't rouse itself to translate those warnings until 9/12."

“If the Bush administration did indeed eavesdrop on American journalists and political opponents (Ms. Amanpour's husband, Jamie Rubin, was a foreign policy adviser to the Kerry campaign), it's déjà Watergate all over again. But even now we can see that there's another, simpler - and distinctly Bushian - motive at play here, hiding in plain sight.

That motive is not, as many liberals would have it, a simple ideological crusade to gut the Bill of Rights. Real conservatives, after all, are opposed to Big Brother; even the staunch Bush ally Grover Norquist has criticized the N.S.A.'s overreaching. The highest priority for the Karl Rove-driven presidency is instead to preserve its own power at all costs. With this gang, political victory and the propaganda needed to secure it always trump principles, even conservative principles, let alone the truth. Whenever the White House most vociferously attacks the press, you can be sure its No. 1 motive is to deflect attention from embarrassing revelations about its incompetence and failures.

That's why Paul Wolfowitz, in a 2004 remark for which he later apologized, dismissed reporting on the raging insurgency in Iraq as "rumors" he attributed to a Baghdad press corps too "afraid to travel." That's also why the White House tried in May to blame lethal anti-American riots in Afghanistan and Pakistan on a single erroneous Newsweek item about Koran desecration - as if 200-odd words in an American magazine could take the fall for the indelible photos from Abu Ghraib.

Such is the blame-shifting game Mr. Cheney was up to last week. By dragging 9/11 into his defense of possibly unconstitutional bugging, he was hoping to rewrite history to absolve the White House of its bungling. And no wonder. He knows all too well that the timing of Mr. Bush's signing of the secret executive order to initiate the desperate tactic of warrant-free N.S.A. eavesdropping - early 2002, according to Mr. Risen's new book, "State of War" - is nothing if not a giant arrow pointing to one of the administration's most catastrophic failures. It was only weeks earlier, in December 2001, that we had our best crack at nailing Osama bin Laden in Tora Bora and blew it.

What went down that fateful December is recalled in particularly gripping fashion in a just published book, "Jawbreaker," which, like Mr. Risen's book, is rising on the best-seller list at an inopportune moment for this White House. "Jawbreaker" is the self-told story of a veteran clandestine officer, Gary Berntsen, who was the pivotal C.I.A. field commander in the hunt for bin Laden. Mr. Berntsen is a fervent Bush loyalist, but his honest account doesn't do the president any favors. "We needed U.S. soldiers on the ground!" he writes, to "block a possible Al Qaeda escape into Afghanistan!" But his request to Centcom for 800 Army Rangers to do the job went unheeded.

We don't know whether the Bush order relaxing legal controls on the N.S.A. was in part a Hail Mary pass to help compensate for that disaster. Either way, all the subsequent wiretaps in the world have not brought bin Laden back dead or alive. Though the White House says that its warrantless surveillance has saved lives by stopping other terrorists since then, Mr. Bush has exaggerated victories against Al Qaeda as often as he has the battle-readiness of Iraqi troops. After he claimed in an October speech that America and its allies had foiled 10 Qaeda plots since 9/11, USA Today reported that "at least" 6 of the 10 had been preliminary ideas for attacks rather than actual planned attacks.

The louder the reports of failures on this president's watch, the louder he tries to drown them out by boasting that he has done everything "within the law" to keep America safe and by implying that his critics are unpatriotic, if not outright treasonous. Mr. Bush certainly has good reason to pump up the volume now. In early December the former 9/11 commissioners gave the federal government a report card riddled with D's and F's on terrorism preparedness.

The front line of defense against terrorism is supposed to be the three-year-old, $40-billion-a-year Homeland Security Department, but news of its ineptitude, cronyism and no-bid contracts has only grown since Katrina. The Washington Post reported that one Transportation Security Administration contract worth up to $463 million had gone to a brand-new company that (coincidentally, we're told) contributed $122,000 to a powerful Republican congressman, Harold Rogers of Kentucky. An independent audit by the department's own inspector general, largely unnoticed during Christmas week, found everything from FEMA to border control in some form of disarray.

Yet even as this damning report was released, the president forced cronies into top jobs in immigration enforcement and state and local preparedness with recess appointments that bypassed Congressional approval. Last week the department had the brilliance to leave Las Vegas off its 2006 list of 35 "high threat" urban areas - no doubt because Mohammed Atta was so well behaved there when plotting the 9/11 attacks.

THE warrantless eavesdropping is more of the same incompetence.… ”

The real questions are: "Are we still free?" , "Is the United States still a Democracy?", "If not, can we make it one again?"

Do we accept unlimited executive power in a war that, like the war on drugs, can never, ever, end?

While no one was watching the watchers, Caesar crossed the Tiber and his war powers became his permanent powers. Caesar was stopped, but the republic, imperfect as it was, died too.

Our representatives routinely pass laws they haven't read. Like the executive they've become accustomed to, and their leadership also prefers to operate in the dark.

Where there is no sight, there can be no oversight.
con·cept: January 2006