Spitfire List Web site and blog of anti-fascist researcher and radio personality Dave Emory.

For The Record  

FTR #852 “Think Different”–The Foxes Aren’t Guarding the Henhouse, They ARE the Henhouse: Update on the Adventures of Eddie the Friendly Spook

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This program was recorded in one, 60-minute segment.

Dylann Roof flies the colors

Ron Paul

Introduction: Further developing an ad campaign by Silicon Valley icon Apple, we explore the vast gulf between the manufactured public perception of the intelligence operation fronted for by Eddie the Friendly Spook (Snowden.) (Past discussion of the intelligence officers, Nazis, and libertarian/technocratic fascists comprising the cast of characters and institutions comprising the operational landscape of “L’Affaire Snowden,” is in previous shows and posts about this event. We can’t begin to encapsulate the material here.)

Beginning with discussion of the Charleston shooting, we note Ron Paul’s establishment of a template for the Trayvon Martin shooting (one of the apparent influences on Dylann Roof. Advocating such behavior in his newsletter, Paul generated legal and ideological gravitas for the type of “lone wolf/leaderless resistance stratagem embodied in the Charleston massacre.

For years, Glenn Greenwald did legal work that, in effect, ran interference for the “leaderless resistance” strategy that was so much in evidence in Charleston.

Recent news has offered up a grimly instructive juxtaposition. As Glenn Greenwald and his associates in the Snowden “op” continue to bask in the glow of professional awards granted them, Dylann Roof has put into action the type of behavior advocated by Greenwald’s legal clients.

(A big supporter of George W. Bush in the early part of the last decade, Greenwald became an attorney for, and a fellow-traveler of, some of the most murderous Nazis in the country.)

As we have seen in FTR #754 and several posts, Greenwald defended Matthew Hale against solicitation of murder charges. Greenwald ran interference for the “leaderless resistance strategy.” In particular, Greenwald provided apposite legal assistance for the National Alliance.

Leaderless resistance is an operational doctrine through which individual Nazis and white supremacists perform acts of violence against their perceived enemies, individually, or in very small groups. Acting in accordance with doctrine espoused by luminaries and leaders in their movement, they avoid infiltration by law enforcement by virtue of their “lone wolf” operational strategy.

What Roof [allegedly] did is pre­cisely the sort of thing advo­cated by the “Lead­er­less Resis­tance” strategy.

The advo­cates of this sort of thing, such as Cit­i­zen Greenwald’s client The National Alliance (pub­lisher of  The Turner Diaries,” which pro­vided the oper­a­tional tem­plate for David Lane’s associates The Order) have been shielded (to an extent) from civil suits hold­ing them to account for their mur­der­ous advo­cacy.

National Alliance’s books are specifically intended as instructional vehicles. Hunteis dedicated to convicted murderer Joseph Paul Franklin and was specifically designed as a “How To” manual for lone-wolf, white supremacist killers like Roof.

Note, also, that the “fourteen words” of Order member David Lane are the inspiration for “Combat 14,” the paramilitary wing of the Ukrainian fascist group Svoboda, one of the OUN/B heirs that came to power as a result of the Maidan coup of 2014. Lane drove the getaway car when “The Order”–explicitly inspired by “The Turner Diaries”–murdered Denver talk show host Alan Berg.

The “fourteen words” were also an influence on Roof.

We should note that what Greenwald did is NOT a ques­tion of out­law­ing free speech, as he implied. When the ACLU defended the Amer­i­can Nazi Party in their attempt to march in Skokie, Illi­nois (a Chicago sub­urb with a sizable Jew­ish pop­u­la­tion), it did so on the grounds of con­sti­tu­tion­ally pro­tected free speech.

Pre-Greenwald, advo­cat­ing vio­lence along the lines of what National Van­guard Books (the NA’s pub­lish­ing arm) does was(and is) still legal.

How­ever, IF some­one was advo­cat­ing vio­lence against minori­ties, “racial ene­mies,” etc. and some­one can be demon­strated to have acted on the basis of such exhor­ta­tions, the author of the exhor­ta­tion to vio­lence could be held respon­si­ble for the con­se­quences of their actions.

The con­se­quences can result in large legal damages.

This is sound law. It doesn’t say you can’t say such things, how­ever if you do, and that causes harm or death to oth­ers, you ARE RESPONSIBLE.

If some­one leaves a rake on their prop­erty with the teeth fac­ing upward and some­one steps on it and is injured, the prop­erty owner bears civil lia­bil­ity for their actions.

That is the legal prin­ci­ple under which the National Ali­iance, et al were being sued.

In connection with “L’Affaire Snowden,” we noted that in the background of The Peachfuzz Fascist (Snowden), one finds elements that advocate slavery, including the League of the South and other elements of the neo-Confederate movement, which apparently inspired Dylann Roof.

Snowden was an admirer of Ron Paul, to whose campaign he contributed and whose views he parrots. Ron Paul is inextricably linked with the neo-Confederate movement. Jack Hunter–a former head of the League of the South and a current aide to his son Rand Paul–was the chief blogger for Ron Paul’s 2012 Presidential campaign.

Bruce Fein, the top legal counsel for Paul’s 2012 campaign was the first attorney for Eddie the Friendly Spook and is the attorney for the Snowden family.

In a 1992 edition of his newsletter, Snowden’s political idol Ron Paul advocated that whites arm themselves and shoot black men. In so doing, he helped to set the template for George Zimmerman’s shooting of Trayvon Martin. That killing appears to have been a major influence on Dylan Roof.

We note the presence at a student libertarian conference of both Ron Paul and Edward Snowden (being skyped in).

The group is very close to Peter Thiel, Palanthir, the Koch Brothers, the Prince of Liechtenstein and Fox News personalities, among others.

Most of the program notes developments in Big Tech’s Brave New World which, in the absence of appropriate regulatory oversight and appropriate security, may have terrifying consequences.

Program Highlights Include: The development of high-quality (and possibly illegal) facial recognition technology  by Microsoft and Facebook, among others; a number of stories about the possibility of hacking into the electronics of, and possibly hijacking or sabotaging, a jet airliner, using a smartphone; new technology being developed by Apple to permit the monitoring of vital signs and other critical, intimate health information; nanotechnology being developed by Google permitting the introduction of microelectronics into the bloodstream to monitor for signs of cancer or heart disease; Google’s efforts, along with those of the Koch Brothers and Facebook, to fund institutions trying to destroy the Affordable Care Act; potentially catastrophic consequences of criminal technocrats abusing the emerging wonders being developed by Big Tech; review of the concept of technocratic fascism as considered in the context of the above developments.

1a. Recent news has offered up a grimly instructive juxtaposition. As Glenn Greenwald and his associates in the Snowden “op” continue to bask in the glow of professional awards granted them, Dylann Roof has put into action the type of behavior advocated by Greenwald’s legal clients.

A  big supporter of George W. Bush in the early part of the last decade, Greenwald became an attorney for, and a fellow-traveler of, some of the most murderous Nazis in the country.)

As we have seen in FTR #754 and several posts, Greenwald defended Matthew Hale against solicitation of murder charges. Greenwald ran interference for the “leaderless resistance strategy.” In particular, Greenwald provided apposite legal assistance for the National Alliance.

“Bal­ti­more & The Walk­ing Dead” by Mark Ames; Pando Daily; 5/1/2015.

. . . . So when Rand Paul went on Laura Ingraham’s radio pro­gram to blame Bal­ti­more on black cul­ture and val­ues and “lack of fathers,” the lib­er­tar­ian whom Time called “the most inter­est­ing man in pol­i­tics” was merely rehash­ing 25-year-old main­stream Repub­l­i­crat big­otries, the very same big­oted, wrong assump­tions that led to all the dis­as­trous poli­cies we’re now pay­ing for today.

Which brings me to the Lib­er­tar­i­ans of 1992.

After Fer­gu­son exploded last year, Lib­er­tar­i­ans posi­tioned them­selves as the only polit­i­cal force that had no blood on their hands, the only polit­i­cal force that was “prin­ci­pled” enough through­out the past few decades to offer the right analy­ses — and the right solu­tions — to the prob­lems faced by peo­ple now ris­ing up in Baltimore.

In 1992, the most famous lib­er­tar­ian of all, Ron Paul, was still between Con­gres­sional stints when [the riots in] Los Ange­les erupted, but he did run a prof­itable lib­er­tar­ian newslet­ter, “The Ron Paul Polit­i­cal Report,” to keep his ideas alive. Shortly after the LA riots, Ron Paul put out a “Spe­cial Issue on Racial Ter­ror­ism”offer­ing his lib­er­tar­ian analy­sis of what he termed black “terrorism”:

“The crim­i­nals who ter­ror­ize our cities—in riots and on every non-riot day—are not exclu­sively young black males, but they largely are. As chil­dren, they are trained to hate whites, to believe that white oppres­sion is respon­si­ble for all black ills, to ‘fight the power,’ to steal and loot as much money from the white enemy as pos­si­ble.

“The cause of the riots is plain: bar­barism. If the bar­bar­ians can­not loot suf­fi­ciently through legal chan­nels (i.e., the riots being the welfare-state minus the middle-man), they resort to ille­gal ones, to ter­ror­ism. Trou­ble is, few seem will­ing to stop them. The cops have been handcuffed. . . .

. . . .“We are con­stantly told that it is evil to be afraid of black men, but it is hardly irra­tional. Black men com­mit mur­ders, rapes, rob­beries, mug­gings, and bur­glar­ies all out of pro­por­tion to their num­bers.”

“I think we can safely assume that 95% of the black males in [major U.S. cities] are semi-criminal or entirely crim­i­nal.”A few months later, in Octo­ber 1992, Dr. Paul explained how he taught his own family—presumably includ­ing his favorite son, Rand Paul—how to defend them­selves and even mur­der what Dr. Paul called “hip-hop” car­jack­ers, “the urban youth who play unsus­pect­ing whites like pianos”:

“What can you do? More and more Amer­i­cans are car­ry­ing a gun in the car. An ex-cop I know advises that if you have to use a gun on a youth, you should leave the scene imme­di­ately, dis­pos­ing of the wiped off gun as soon as pos­si­ble. Such a gun can­not, of course, be reg­is­tered to you, but one bought pri­vately (through the clas­si­fieds, for example.).

Beyond that, the Lib­er­tar­ian Party’s polit­i­cal solu­tion to African-American poverty and injus­tice was to abol­ish all wel­fare pro­grams, pub­lic schools, and anti-discrimination laws like the Civil Rights Act. This was the solu­tion pro­moted by an up-and-coming lib­er­tar­ian, Jacob Hornberger—who this week co-hosted an event with RON PAUL and GLENN GREENWALD. Horn­berger believes that 19th cen­tury ante­bel­lum slave-era Amer­ica was “the freest soci­ety in his­tory”. . . 

1b. Tthe Students For Liberty is a libertarian group funded by the Koch brothers and with the Prince of Liechtenstein on its advisory board. Peter Thiel is closely connected to this organization.

“Snowden Praised for Fighting Government Surveillance by Group that LOVES Corporate Surveillance” by Mark Ames; Pando Daily; 2/20/2015.

. . . . All of which makes it slightly shocking to discover the identity of another recent winner of Students For Liberty’s big award: Peter Thiel, the founder of one of the NSA’s biggest contractors, Palantir Technologies. If a government is trying to dig through private records and aggregate a dossier, Palantir is the companythey call. . . .

. . . . So what exactly is “Students For Liberty”? According to its website, “Students For Liberty has grown into the largest libertarian student organization in the world, with over 800 student leaders supporting over 1,350 student groups representing over 100,000 students on all inhabited continents.”

Like most of the libertarian nomenklatura, this group gets most of its money from the Koch brothers. Google, another corporation which has worked closely with the US government, recently joined the list of big corporate sponsors. SFL’s Board of Advisors includes such heroes of freedom as “His Serene Highness Prince von Liechtenstein” — whose royal family rules over an exclusive offshore banking tax haven favored by global billionaires who think Switzerland is too transparent. . . .

Indeed, Thiel’s presence was everywhere at the Students For Liberty schmoozer this year, even if the man himself was absent. After Snowden’s skyped appearance, libertarian celebrity Ron Paul took the stage with longtime Cato Institute board director and FoxNews truther Andrew Napolitano. Ron Paul’s 2012 campaign for president — supported by Snowden and Greenwald — was almost entirely funded by Peter Thiel.

The following night, Students For Liberty featured Ron Paul’s stubby heir, Sen. Rand Paul — whose run for president in 2016 is being funded by Thiel’s co-founder at Palantir, Joe Lonsdale, who serves on Rand Paul’s finance team and co-hosted Silicon Valley fundraisers.

In 2011, Palantir sponsored the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Pioneer Awards, whose illustrious list of winners includes Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras, the Tor Project, and EFF co-founder Mitch Kapor as well as EFF Fellow Cory Doctorow. . . .

2.  About Dylann Roof’s manifesto, noting the references to the fourteen words and the apparent influence of the Trayvon Martin shooting on the development of the shooter’s ideological and operational orientation.

“Charleston Suspect Dylan Roof’s Manifesto Discovered Online” by Jason Sickles, Liz Goodwin and Michael Walsh; Yahoo News; 6/20/2015.

A website surfaced Saturday featuring a racist and rambling manifesto and dozens of photos of accused Charleston church shooter Dylann Roof posing with white supremacy symbols and the Confederate flag.

Roof, 21, remains jailed on nine counts of murder for allegedly opening fire in the historically African-American Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church on Wednesday.

Who authored the manifesto or posted the images is not officially known. But through online registration records, Yahoo News confirmed the website’s domain, lastrhodesian.com, was started by a Dylann Roof of Eastover, S.C. on Feb. 9. The street address used is the same that Roof has given authorities since he was captured in Shelby, N.C. on Thursday. Of Feb. 10, the registration information was purposely obscured.

The webpage traces its author’s path toward strong beliefs in white supremacy and says the moment of “awakening” was the race debate ignited after the shooting of black teen Trayvon Martin. The rambling text ends with the author’s statement that it’s time to take the beliefs expressed, “to the real world.”

“I have no choice. I am not in the position to, alone, go into the ghetto and fight. I chose Charleston because it is most historic city in my state, and at one time had the highest ratio of blacks to Whites in the country. We have no skinheads, no real KKK, no one doing anything but talking on the internet.
Well someone has to have the bravery to take it to the real world, and I guess that has to be me,” it reads.

While they are rare, retired FBI profiler Mary Ellen O’Toole said killer manifestos are all about “the writings of a very narcissistic, arrogant individual.”

“They feel this need to tell the world how they were wronged,” O’Toole said. “It’s like they have to shove our nose into why they are entitled into what it is they are going to do.”

O’Toole, who has seen hundreds of manifestos during her career studying killers, read the document posted to Roof’s website at the request of Yahoo News.

While not vouching for it’s authenticity, O’Toole described it as shallow and likely plagiarized.

“The themes don’t indicate that this person is spending a lot of time to do research,” said O’Toole, who now directs the Forensic Science Program at George Mason University.

The 2,444-word manifesto jumps from topic to topic addressing, among other things, patriotism, blacks, Jews, Hispanics and Asians.

“He’s trying to weave like a quilt of those themes that he went out in search of,” O’Toole said. “Which tells me that whoever the author is had preexisting opinions and ideas … and then you go to the Internet to get a little bit of this and a little bit of that to fuel what you already believe and already think.”

The New York Times, reports that according to web server logs, the manifesto was last modified at 4:44 p.m. ET on Wednesday, about four hours before the Charleston shootings.

“Unfortunately at the time of writing I am in a great hurry and some of my best thoughts, actually many of them have been to be left out and lost forever. But I believe enough great White minds are out there already. Please forgive any typos, I didnt have time to check it.”

Benjamin Crump, attorney for Trayvon Martin’s family and a leading national voice in civil rights issues, said he was troubled to learn the manifesto mentioned Martin case.

“Regardless of how this demented, racist individual attempts to shift the focus of his murderous actions, we will remain steadfast in our defense of the voiceless around this country,” Crump said in a statement. “They need it now more than ever. My thoughts and prayers remain with the victims of this terrible tragedy and the Charleston community.”

Dozens of images posted to the site show Roof in historic locations like a Confederate soldier cemetery and a slave burial ground.

In one image, the suspected gunman is posed on the beach wearing the same clothes he is seen wearing on surveillance footage as he entered the chruch on Wednesday. It was not immediately clear if this image was taken the same day as the shooting, but if so, it would show that Roof took time to visit the beach, scratch the racist symbol 1488 in the sand and photograph himself before allegedly traveling to Charleston.

The symbol 1488, shown in Roof’s photos, is a number that has been adopted by white supremacists, according to the SouthernPoverty Law Center’s Racist Skinhead Glossary.

The “88” refers to H, the eighth letter of the alphabet and is a symbol for “Heil Hitler.” The “14” refers to a 14-word slogan popularized by David Lane, a white supremacist serving a 190-year sentence in the murder of a Jewish talk show host. The slogain is: “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children.”

The manifesto website was first discovered by two Twitter users – Emma Quangel and Henry Krinkle — who used a Reverse Whois search on domaintools.com to find the site registered under Roof’s name.

Quangel, who identifies as a Communist, tweeted that it is her “solemn duty and obligation to hate and fight racism with every inch of [her] being!”

The site’s title is a reference to an unrecognized state in Africa, in a region that is now Zimbabwe, during the 1960s and ’70s that was controlled by a white minority.

White supremacists have idealized this era and the Rhodesian flag has been used as a racist symbol.

One of the first photos circulated of Roof shows the 21-yare-old suspect wearing a jacket adorned with flag patches for both Apartheid-era South Africa and Rhodesia.

Also included in the trove of images on the site are photos of a Glock .45-caliber pistol, which has been identified as the same type of gun that was used in the shooting. Roof reportedly purchased the weapon in April for his 21st birthday with money give to him as a gift by his father.

Some of the pictures were taken at the Sankofa Burial Grounds for slaves on the McLeod Plantation in Charleston.

Others appear to have been taken at the Boone Hall plantation in Mt Pleasant, S.C., and the Museum and Library of Confederate History in Greenville, S.C.

The author of the manifesto said that he did not grow up in a racist home or environment. Roof’s family broke their silence Friday by releasing a statement extending their sympathies victims’ families.

“Words cannot express our shock, grief, and disbelief as to what happened that night,” it reads.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of those killed this week. We have all been touched by the moving words from the victims’ families offering God’s forgiveness and love in the face of such horrible suffering.”

3a. Front and center in the neo-Confederate movement is the League of the South, an organization with ties to both Ron and Rand Paul.

“Charleston Shoot­ing Sus­pect Left Racist Man­i­festo on Web site, Author­i­ties Say” by Lenny Bern­stein, Sari Hor­witz and Peter Holley; The Wash­ing­ton Post; 6/20/2015.

. . . . . Pat Hines, the South Car­olina state chair­man of the League of the South, an orga­ni­za­tion that wants South­ern states to secede from the United States, said Roof did not appear to belong to any white suprema­cist groups and could have been indoc­tri­nated on the Internet. . . .

4. Imag­ine a world where per­son­al­ized ads based on your browsing/purchasing his­tory don’t sim­ply show up on the web pages you’re read­ing, but actu­ally show up on a bill­board with facial recog­ni­tion tech­nol­ogy. Sound good? Hope­fully it does, because Microsoft has already patented the idea.

Facebook–with Peter Thiel as its largest stockholder–is already using facial recognition technology.

“Facial Recog­ni­tion Tech­nol­ogy Is Every­where. It May not Be Legal.” by Ben Sobel; Wash­ing­ton Post; 6/11/2015.

Ben Sobel is a researcher and incom­ing Google Pol­icy Fel­low at the Cen­ter on Pri­vacy & Tech­nol­ogy at George­town Law.

Being anony­mous in pub­lic might be a thing of the past. Facial recog­ni­tion tech­nol­ogy is already being deployed to let brick-and-mortar stores scan the face of every shop­per, iden­tify return­ing cus­tomers and offer them indi­vid­u­al­ized pric­ing — or find “pre-identified shoplifters” and “known liti­gious indi­vid­u­als.” Microsoft has patented a bill­board that iden­ti­fies you as you walk by and serves ads per­son­al­ized to your pur­chase his­tory. An app called NameTag claims it can iden­tify peo­ple on the street just by look­ing at them through Google Glass.

Pri­vacy advo­cates and rep­re­sen­ta­tives from com­pa­nies like Face­book and Google are meet­ing in Wash­ing­ton on Thurs­day to try to set rules for how com­pa­nies should use this pow­er­ful tech­nol­ogy. They may be for­get­ting that a good deal of it could already be illegal.

There are no fed­eral laws that specif­i­cally gov­ern the use of facial recog­ni­tion tech­nol­ogy. But while few peo­ple know it, and even fewer are talk­ing about it, both Illi­nois and Texas have laws against using such tech­nol­ogy to iden­tify peo­ple with­out their informed con­sent. That means that one out of every eight Amer­i­cans cur­rently has a legal right to bio­met­ric privacy.

The Illi­nois law is fac­ing the most pub­lic test to date of what its pro­tec­tions mean for facial recog­ni­tion tech­nol­ogy. A law­suit filed in Illi­nois trial court in April alleges Face­book vio­lates the state’s Bio­met­ric Infor­ma­tion Pri­vacy Act by tak­ing users’ faceprints “with­out even inform­ing its users — let alone obtain­ing their informed writ­ten con­sent.” This suit, Licata v. Face­bookcould reshape Facebook’s prac­tices for get­ting user con­sent, and may even influ­ence the expan­sion of facial recog­ni­tion technology.

How common—and how accurate—is facial recog­ni­tion technology?

You may not be walk­ing by ads that address you by name, but odds are that your facial geom­e­try is already being ana­lyzed reg­u­larly. Law enforce­ment agen­cies deploy facial recog­ni­tion tech­nol­ogy in pub­lic and can iden­tify some­one by search­ing a bio­met­ric data­base that con­tains infor­ma­tion on as many as one-third of Amer­i­cans.

Com­pa­nies like Face­book and Google rou­tinely col­lect facial recog­ni­tion data from their users, too. (Facebook’s sys­tem is on by default; Google’s only works if you opt in to it.) Their tech­nol­ogy may be even more accu­rate than the government’s. Google’s FaceNet algo­rithm can iden­tify faces with 99.63 per­cent accu­racy. Facebook’s algo­rithm, Deep­Face, gets a 97.25 per­cent rat­ing. The FBI, on the other hand, has roughly85 per­cent accu­racy in iden­ti­fy­ing poten­tial matches—though, admit­tedly, the pho­tographs it han­dles may be harder to ana­lyze than those used by the social net­works.

Face­book and Google use facial recog­ni­tion to detect when a user appears in a pho­to­graph and to sug­gest that he or she be tagged. Face­book calls this “Tag Sug­ges­tions” and explains it as fol­lows: “We cur­rently use facial recog­ni­tion soft­ware that uses an algo­rithm to cal­cu­late a unique num­ber (“tem­plate”) based on someone’s facial features…This tem­plate is based on your pro­file pic­tures and pho­tos you’ve been tagged in on Face­book.” Once it has built this tem­plate, Tag Sug­ges­tions ana­lyzes pho­tos uploaded by your friends to see if your face appears in them. If its algo­rithm detects your face, Face­book can encour­age the uploader to tag you.

With the boom in per­son­al­ized adver­tis­ing tech­nol­ogy, a facial recog­ni­tion data­base of its users is likely very, very valu­able to Face­book. The com­pany hasn’t dis­closed the size of its faceprint repos­i­tory, but it does acknowl­edge that it has more than 250 bil­lion user-uploaded pho­tos — with 350 mil­lion more uploaded every day. The direc­tor of engi­neer­ing at Facebook’s AI research lab recently sug­gested that this infor­ma­tion was “the biggest human dataset in the world.”

Eager to extract that value, Face­book signed users up by default when it intro­duced Tag Sug­ges­tions in 2011. This meant that Face­book cal­cu­lated faceprints for every user who didn’t take the steps to opt out. The Tag Sug­ges­tions roll­out prompted Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) to worry that “Face­book may have cre­ated the world’s largest pri­vately held data base of faceprints— with­out the explicit con­sent of its users.” Tag Sug­ges­tions was more con­tro­ver­sial in Europe, where Face­book com­mit­ted to stop using facial iden­ti­fi­ca­tion tech­nol­ogy after Euro­pean reg­u­la­tors complained.

The intro­duc­tion of Tag Sug­ges­tions is what’s at issue in the Illi­nois law­suit. In Illi­nois, com­pa­nies have to inform users when­ever bio­met­ric infor­ma­tion is being col­lected, explain the pur­pose of the col­lec­tion and dis­close how long they’ll keep the data. Once informed, users must pro­vide “writ­ten release” that they con­sent to the data col­lec­tion. Only after receiv­ing this writ­ten con­sent may com­pa­nies obtain bio­met­ric infor­ma­tion, includ­ing scans of facial geometry.

Face­book declined to com­ment on the law­suit and has not filed a writ­ten response in court.

It’s unclear whether today’s par­a­digm for con­sent — click­ing a “Sign Up” but­ton that attests you’ve read and agreed to a lengthy pri­vacy pol­icy — ful­fills the require­ments writ­ten into the Illi­nois law. It’s also unclear whether the statute will cover the Tag Sug­ges­tions data that Face­book derives from pho­tographs. If the law does apply, Face­book could be on the hook for sig­nif­i­cant finan­cial penal­ties. This case is one of the first appli­ca­tions of the Illi­nois law to facial recog­ni­tion, and it will set a hugely impor­tant prece­dent for con­sumer privacy.

Why bio­met­ric pri­vacy laws?

Bio­met­ric infor­ma­tion like face geom­e­try is high-stakes data because it encodes phys­i­cal prop­er­ties that are immutable, or at least very hard to con­ceal. More­over, unlike other bio­met­rics, faceprints are easy to col­lect remotely and sur­rep­ti­tiously by stak­ing out a pub­lic place with a decent cam­era.

On the other hand, the Illi­nois law was gal­va­nized by a few high-profile inci­dents of in-state col­lec­tion of fin­ger­print data. Most notably, a com­pany called Pay By Touch had installed machines in super­mar­kets across Illi­nois that allowed cus­tomers to pay by a fin­ger­print scan, which was linked to their bank and credit card infor­ma­tion. Pay By Touch sub­se­quently went bank­rupt, and its liq­ui­da­tion prompted con­cerns about what might hap­pen to its data­base of bio­met­ric infor­ma­tion. James Ferg-Cadima, a for­mer attor­ney with the ACLU of Illi­nois who worked on draft­ing and lob­by­ing for the BIPA, told me that “the orig­i­nal vision of the bill was tied to the spe­cific issue that was pre­sent­ing itself across Illi­nois, and that was the deploy­ing of thumbprint technologies…”

“Oddly enough,” Ferg-Cadima added, “this was a bill where there was lit­tle voice from the pri­vate busi­ness sec­tor.” This cor­po­rate indif­fer­ence might be a thing of the past. Tech com­pa­nies of all stripes have grown more and more inter­ested in bio­met­rics. They’ve become more polit­i­cally pow­er­ful, too: For instance, Facebook’s fed­eral lob­by­ing expen­di­tures grew from $207,878 in 2009 to $9,340,000 in 2014.

Test­ing the Illi­nois law

The cru­cial ques­tion here is whether the Illi­nois and Texas laws can be applied to today’s most com­mon uses of bio­met­ric iden­ti­fiers. What real-world busi­ness prac­tices would meet the stan­dard of informed con­sent that Illi­nois law requires for bio­met­ric data collection?

When asked about the pri­vacy law cited in the Licata case, Jay Edel­son, the man­ag­ing part­ner of the firm rep­re­sent­ing the plain­tiff, said, “The key thing to under­stand is that almost all pri­vacy statutes are really con­sent statutes.” The law­suit stands to deter­mine pre­cisely what kind of con­sent the Illi­nois law demands.

If the court finds that Face­book can be sued for vio­lat­ing the Illi­nois bio­met­rics law, and that its opt-out con­sent frame­work for Tag Sug­ges­tions vio­lated the law, it may upend the prac­tices of one of the world’s largest Inter­net com­pa­nies, one that is pos­si­bly the sin­gle largest user of com­mer­cial facial recog­ni­tion tech­nology. And if the law­suit fails for one rea­son or another, it would empha­size that reg­u­la­tion of facial recog­ni­tion needs to take place on a fed­eral level if it is to hap­pen at all. Either way, there’s a chance this law­suit will end up shap­ing the future of facial recog­ni­tion technology.

5. Want to earn a mil­lion free miles from United Air­lines? You can do it. Just find a vul­ner­a­bil­ity that allows you to remotely exe­cute code on the flight sys­tems. Unless the vul­ner­a­bil­ity involves hack­ing in through the onboard enter­tain­ment sys­tems. That will get a much crap­pier reward in the form of a crim­i­nal inves­ti­ga­tion:

“United Will Reward Peo­ple Who Flag Secu­rity Flaws—Sort Of” by Kim Zetter; Wired; 5/14/2015.

United Air­lines announced this week that it’s launch­ing a bug bounty pro­gram invit­ing researchers to report bugs in its web­sites, apps and online portals.

The announce­ment comes weeks after the air­line kicked a secu­rity researcher off of one of its flights for tweet­ing about vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties in the Wi-Fi and enter­tain­ment net­works of cer­tain mod­els of United planes made by Boe­ing and Airbus.

It’s believed to be the first bounty pro­gram offered by an air­line. But curi­ously, United’s announce­ment doesn’t invite researchers to sub­mit the most cru­cial vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties researchers could find—those dis­cov­ered in onboard com­puter net­works, such as the Wi-Fi and enter­tain­ment sys­tems. In fact, the bounty pro­gram specif­i­cally excludes “bugs on onboard Wi-Fi, enter­tain­ment sys­tems or avion­ics” and United notes that “[a]ny test­ing on air­craft or air­craft sys­tems such as inflight enter­tain­ment or inflight Wi-Fi” could result in a crim­i­nal investigation.

“At United, we take your safety, secu­rity and pri­vacy seri­ously. We uti­lize best prac­tices and are con­fi­dent that our sys­tems are secure,” United’s announce­ment reads.

Researchers who report vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties in the airline’s web sites or apps, how­ever, will be rewarded. how much cash will they receive? None. Instead United will pay out in mileage points. The awards range from 50,000 points for cross-site script­ing bugs to 1 mil­lion for high-severity vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties that could allow an attacker to con­duct remote-code exe­cu­tion on a United sys­tem. For com­par­i­son, most bug bounty pro­grams offered by com­pa­nies like Google, Microsoft and Face­book pay researchers cash rang­ing from $1,500 to more than $200,000, depend­ing on the type and sever­ity of the vulnerability.

The Recent Flap That Prompted the Bounty Program

Last month, we wrote exten­sively about secu­rity researcher Chris Roberts, who was detained by FBI agents in New York and later banned from a United flight. Roberts was fly­ing a United Air­lines Boe­ing 737–800 from Chicago to Syra­cuse when news broke of a gov­ern­ment report describ­ing poten­tial secu­rity holes in Boe­ing and Air­bus planes. The report from the Gov­ern­ment Account­abil­ity Office noted that secu­rity issues with pas­sen­ger Wi-Fi net­works on sev­eral mod­els of air­craft could allow hack­ers to access crit­i­cal avion­ics sys­tems and hijack the flight controls.

Roberts, a respected cyber­se­cu­rity pro­fes­sional with One World Labs had been research­ing the secu­rity of air­line onboard net­works since 2009 and had reported vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties to Boe­ing and Air­bus, to lit­tle effect. In response to the GAO report, he sent out a tweet from the air say­ing, “Find myself on a 737/800, lets see Box-IFE-ICE-SATCOM,? Shall we start play­ing with EICAS mes­sages? ‘PASS OXYGEN ON’ Any­one?.” He punc­tu­ated the tweet with a smi­ley face.

His tweet about the Engine Indi­ca­tor Crew Alert Sys­tem, or EICAS, was a ref­er­ence to research he’d done years ago on vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties in inflight info­tain­ment networks—vulnerabilities that could allow an attacker to access cabin con­trols and deploy a plane’s oxy­gen masks.

When Roberts landed in Syra­cuse, he was met by two FBI agents and two Syra­cuse police offi­cers who seized his com­puter and other elec­tron­ics and detained him for an inter­ro­ga­tion that lasted sev­eral hours. When Roberts attempted to board another United flight to San Fran­cisco days later, he was barred by the air­line and had to book a flight with Southwest.

Although Roberts says he did not explore the United net­works dur­ing his flight to Syra­cuse, he had pre­vi­ously admit­ted to the FBI months ear­lier dur­ing a sep­a­rate inter­view that in past flights he had indeed explored onboard net­works of planes while he was inflight.

Fol­low­ing his inter­ro­ga­tion in Syra­cuse, the FBI and TSA issued a warn­ing to all air­lines to be on the look­out for pas­sen­gers attempt­ing to hack into onboard net­works through Wi-Fi or the media sys­tems below air­plane seats.

6. Yes, fly­ing the friendly skies just got friend­lier for air­line IT secu­rity experts. Unless, of course, those air­line secu­rity experts jok­ingly tweet about how they might shut the oxy­gen off and then tell the feds about how they’ve pre­vi­ously taken con­trol of planes via the enter­tain­ment sys­tems:

“Feds Say That Banned Researcher Com­man­deered a Plane” by Kim Zetter; Wired; 5/15/2015.

A secu­rity researcher kicked off a United Air­lines flight last month after tweet­ing about secu­rity vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties in its sys­tem had pre­vi­ously taken con­trol of an air­plane and caused it to briefly fly side­ways, accord­ing to an appli­ca­tion for a search war­rant filed by an FBI agent.

Chris Roberts, a secu­rity researcher with One World Labs, told the FBI agent dur­ing an inter­view in Feb­ru­ary that he had hacked the in-flight enter­tain­ment sys­tem, or IFE, on an air­plane and over­wrote code on the plane’s Thrust Man­age­ment Com­puter while aboard the flight. He was able to issue a climb com­mand and make the plane briefly change course, the doc­u­ment states.

“He stated that he thereby caused one of the air­plane engines to climb result­ing in a lat­eral or side­ways move­ment of the plane dur­ing one of these flights,” FBI Spe­cial Agent Mark Hur­ley wrote in his war­rant appli­ca­tion (.pdf). “He also stated that he used Vor­tex soft­ware after comprising/exploiting or ‘hack­ing’ the airplane’s net­works. He used the soft­ware to mon­i­tor traf­fic from the cock­pit system.”

Hur­ley filed the search war­rant appli­ca­tion last month after Roberts was removed from a United Air­lines flight from Chicago to Syra­cuse, New York, because he pub­lished a face­tious tweet sug­gest­ing he might hack into the plane’s net­work. Upon land­ing in Syra­cuse, two FBI agents and two local police offi­cers escorted him from the plane and inter­ro­gated him for sev­eral hours. They also seized two lap­top com­put­ers and sev­eral hard dri­ves and USB sticks. Although the agents did not have a war­rant when they seized the devices, they told Roberts a war­rant was pending.

A media out­let in Canada obtained the appli­ca­tion for the war­rant today and pub­lished it online.

The infor­ma­tion out­lined in the war­rant appli­ca­tion reveals a far more seri­ous sit­u­a­tion than Roberts has pre­vi­ously disclosed.

Roberts had pre­vi­ously told WIRED that he caused a plane to climb dur­ing a sim­u­lated test on a vir­tual envi­ron­ment he and a col­league cre­ated, but he insisted then that he had not inter­fered with the oper­a­tion of a plane while in flight.

He told WIRED that he did access in-flight net­works about 15 times dur­ing var­i­ous flights but had not done any­thing beyond explore the net­works and observe data traf­fic cross­ing them. Accord­ing to the FBI affi­davit, how­ever, when he men­tioned this to agents last Feb­ru­ary he told them that he also had briefly com­man­deered a plane dur­ing one of those flights.

He told the FBI that the period in which he accessed the in-flight net­works more than a dozen times occurred between 2011 and 2014. The affi­davit, how­ever, does not indi­cate exactly which flight he allegedly caused to turn to fly to the side.

He obtained phys­i­cal access to the net­works through the Seat Elec­tronic Box, or SEB. These are installed two to a row, on each side of the aisle under pas­sen­ger seats, on cer­tain planes. After remov­ing the cover to the SEB by “wig­gling and Squeez­ing the box,” Roberts told agents he attached a Cat6 eth­er­net cable, with a mod­i­fied con­nec­tor, to the box and to his lap­top and then used default IDs and pass­words to gain access to the inflight enter­tain­ment sys­tem. Once on that net­work, he was able to gain access to other sys­tems on the planes.

Reac­tion in the secu­rity com­mu­nity to the new rev­e­la­tions in the affi­davit have been harsh. Although Roberts hasn’t been charged yet with any crime, and there are ques­tions about whether his actions really did cause the plane to list to the side or he sim­ply thought they did, a num­ber of secu­rity researchers have expressed shock that he attempted to tam­per with a plane dur­ing a flight.

“I find it really hard to believe but if that is the case he deserves going to jail,” wrote Jaime Blasco, direc­tor of Alien­Vault Labs in a tweet.

Alex Sta­mos, chief infor­ma­tion secu­rity offi­cer of Yahoo, wrote in a tweet, “You can­not pro­mote the (true) idea that secu­rity research ben­e­fits human­ity while defend­ing research that endan­gered hun­dreds of innocents.” …

Roberts, reached by phone after the FBI doc­u­ment was made pub­lic, told WIRED that he had already seen it last month but wasn’t expect­ing it to go pub­lic today.

“My biggest con­cern is obvi­ously with the mul­ti­ple con­ver­sa­tions that I had with the author­i­ties,” he said. “I’m obvi­ously con­cerned those were held behind closed doors and appar­ently they’re no longer behind closed doors.”

Although he wouldn’t respond directly to ques­tions about whether he had hacked that pre­vi­ous flight men­tioned in the affi­davit, he said the para­graph in the FBI doc­u­ment dis­cussing this is out of context.

“That para­graph that’s in there is one para­graph out of a lot of dis­cus­sions, so there is con­text that is obvi­ously miss­ing which obvi­ously I can’t say any­thing about,” he said. “It would appear from what I’ve seen that the fed­eral guys took one para­graph out of a lot of dis­cus­sions and a lot of meet­ings and notes and just chose that one as opposed to plenty of others.”

His­tory of Research­ing Planes

Roberts began inves­ti­gat­ing avi­a­tion secu­rity about six years ago after he and a research col­league got hold of pub­licly avail­able flight man­u­als and wiring dia­grams for var­i­ous planes. The doc­u­ments showed how inflight enter­tain­ment sys­tems one some planes were con­nected to the pas­sen­ger satel­lite phone net­work, which included func­tions for oper­at­ing some cabin con­trol sys­tems. These sys­tems were in turn con­nected to the plane avion­ics sys­tems. They built a test lab using demo soft­ware obtained from info­tain­ment ven­dors and oth­ers in order to explore what they could to the networks.

In 2010, Roberts gave a pre­sen­ta­tion about hack­ing planes and cars at the BSides secu­rity con­fer­ence in Las Vegas. Another pre­sen­ta­tion fol­lowed two years later. He also spoke directly to air­plane man­u­fac­tur­ers about the prob­lems with their sys­tems. “We had con­ver­sa­tions with two main air­plane builders as well as with two of the top providers of info­tain­ment sys­tems and it never went any­where,” he told WIRED last month.

Last Feb­ru­ary, the FBI in Den­ver, where Roberts is based, requested a meet­ing. They dis­cussed his research for an hour, and returned a cou­ple weeks later for a dis­cus­sion that lasted sev­eral more hours. They wanted to know what was pos­si­ble and what exactly he and his col­league had done. Roberts dis­closed that he and his col­league had sniffed the data traf­fic on more than a dozen flights after con­nect­ing their lap­tops to the info­tain­ment networks.

“We researched fur­ther than that,” he told WIRED last month. “We were within the fuel bal­anc­ing sys­tem and the thrust con­trol sys­tem. We watched the pack­ets and data going across the net­work to see where it was going.”

Even­tu­ally, Roberts and his research part­ner deter­mined that it would take a con­vo­luted set of hacks to seri­ously sub­vert an avion­ics sys­tem, but they believed it could be done. He insisted to WIRED last month, how­ever, that they did not “mess around with that except on sim­u­la­tion sys­tems.” In sim­u­la­tions, for exam­ple, Roberts said they were able to turn the engine con­trols from cruise to climb, “which def­i­nitely had the desired effect on the system—the plane sped up and the nose of the air­plane went up.”

Today he would not respond to ques­tions about the new alle­ga­tions from the FBI that he also messed with the sys­tems dur­ing a real flight.

The Tweet Heard Round the World

Roberts never heard from the FBI again after that Feb­ru­ary visit. His recent trou­bles began after he sent out a Tweet on April 15 while aboard a United Air­lines flight from Den­ver to ChicagoAfter news broke about a report from the Gov­ern­ment Account­abil­ity Office reveal­ing that pas­sen­ger Wi-Fi net­works on some Boe­ing and Air­bus planes could allow an attacker to gain access to avion­ics sys­tems and com­man­deer a flight, Roberts pub­lished a Tweet that said, “Find myself on a 737/800, lets see Box-IFE-ICE-SATCOM,? Shall we start play­ing with EICAS mes­sages? ‘PASS OXYGEN ON’ Any­one?” He punc­tu­ated the tweet with a smi­ley face.

The tweet was meant as a sar­cas­tic joke; a ref­er­ence to how he had tried for years to get Boe­ing and Air­bus to heed warn­ings about secu­rity issues with their pas­sen­ger com­mu­ni­ca­tions sys­tems. His tweet about the Engine Indi­ca­tor Crew Alert Sys­tem, or EICAS, was a ref­er­ence to research he’d done years ago on vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties in inflight info­tain­ment net­works, vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties that could allow an attacker to access cabin con­trols and deploy a plane’s oxy­gen masks.

In response to his tweet, some­one else tweeted to him “…aaaaaand you’re in jail. :)”

Roberts responded with, “There IS a dis­tinct pos­si­bil­ity that the course of action laid out above would land me in an orange suite [sic] rather quickly :)”

When an employee with United Air­lines’ Cyber Secu­rity Intel­li­gence Depart­ment became aware of the tweet, he con­tacted the FBI and told agents that Roberts would be on a sec­ond flight going from Chicago to Syra­cuse. Although the par­tic­u­lar plane Roberts was on at the time the agents seized him in New York was not equipped with an inflight enter­tain­ment sys­tem like the kind he had pre­vi­ously told the FBI he had hacked, the plane he had flown ear­lier from Den­ver to Chicago did have the same system.

When an FBI agent later exam­ined that Denver-to-Chicago plane after it landed in another city the same day, he found that the SEBs under the seats where Roberts had been sit­ting “showed signs of tam­per­ing,” accord­ing to the affi­davit. Roberts had been sit­ting in seat 3A and the SEB under 2A, the seat in front of him, “was damaged.”

“The outer cover of the box was open approx­i­mately 1/2 inch and one of the retain­ing screws was not seated and was exposed,” FBI Spe­cial Agent Hur­ley wrote in his affidavit.

Dur­ing the inter­ro­ga­tion in Syra­cuse, Roberts told the agents that he had not com­pro­mised the net­work on the United flight from Den­ver to Chicago. He advised them, how­ever, that he was car­ry­ing thumb dri­ves con­tain­ing mal­ware to com­pro­mise networks—malware that he told them was “nasty.” Also on his lap­top were schemat­ics for the wiring sys­tems of a num­ber of air­plane mod­els. All of this would be stan­dard, how­ever, for a secu­rity researcher who con­ducts penetration-testing and research for a living.

Nonethe­less, based on all of the infor­ma­tion that agents had gleaned from their pre­vi­ous inter­view with Roberts in Feb­ru­ary as well as the Tweets he’d sent out that day and the appar­ent signs of tam­per­ing on the United flight, the FBI believed that Roberts “had the abil­ity and the will­ing­ness to use the equip­ment then with him to access or attempt to access the IFE and pos­si­bly the flight con­trol sys­tems on any air­craft equipped with an IFE sys­tems, and that it would endan­ger pub­lic safety to allow him to leave the Syra­cuse air­port that evening with that equipment.”

When asked by WIRED if he ever con­nected his lap­top to the SEB on his flight from Den­ver to Chicago, Roberts said, “Nope I did not. That I’m happy to say and I’ll stand from the top of the tallest tower and yell that one.”

He also ques­tions the FBI’s assess­ment that the boxes showed signs of tampering.

“Those boxes are under­neath the seats. How many peo­ple shove lug­gage and all sorts of things under there?,” he said. “I’d be inter­ested if they looked at the boxes under all the other seats and if they looked like they had been tam­pered. How many of them are bro­ken and cracked or have scuff marks? How many of those do the air­lines replace because peo­ple shove things under there?”

He obtained phys­i­cal access to the net­works through the Seat Elec­tronic Box, or SEB. These are installed two to a row, on each side of the aisle under pas­sen­ger seats, on cer­tain planes. After remov­ing the cover to the SEB by “wig­gling and Squeez­ing the box,” Roberts told agents he attached a Cat6 eth­er­net cable, with a mod­i­fied con­nec­tor, to the box and to his lap­top and then used default IDs and pass­words to gain access to the inflight enter­tain­ment sys­tem. Once on that net­work, he was able to gain access to other sys­tems on the planes.

7. Here’s a reminder that we’ve been hear­ing sto­ries from secu­rity researchers about hack­ing into planes via their enter­tain­ment sys­tems for a few years now:

“Hacker Says Phone App Could Hijack Plane” by Doug Gross; CNN; 4/12/2013.

Could this be the dead­liest smart­phone app ever?

A Ger­man secu­rity con­sul­tant, who’s also a com­mer­cial pilot, has demon­strated tools he says could be used to hijack an air­plane remotely, using just an Android phone.

Speak­ing at the Hack in the Box secu­rity sum­mit in Ams­ter­dam, Nether­lands, Hugo Teso said Wednes­day that he spent three years devel­op­ing SIMON, a frame­work of mali­cious code that could be used to attack and exploit air­line secu­rity soft­ware, and an Android app to run it that he calls PlaneSploit.

Using a flight sim­u­la­tor, Teso showed off the abil­ity to change the speed, alti­tude and direc­tion of a vir­tual air­plane by send­ing radio sig­nals to its flight-management sys­tem. Cur­rent secu­rity sys­tems don’t have strong enough authen­ti­ca­tion meth­ods to make sure the com­mands are com­ing from a legit­i­mate source, he said.

“You can use this sys­tem to mod­ify approx­i­mately every­thing related to the nav­i­ga­tion of the plane,” Teso told Forbesafter his pre­sen­ta­tion. “That includes a lot of nasty things.”

He told the crowd that the tools also could be used to do things like change what’s on a pilot’s dis­play screen or turn off the lights in the cock­pit. With the Android app he cre­ated, he said, he could remotely con­trol a plane by sim­ply tap­ping pre­loaded com­mands like “Please Go Here” and the omi­nous “Visit Ground.”

The Fed­eral Avi­a­tion Admin­is­tra­tion said it is aware of Teso’s claims, but said the hack­ing tech­nique does not pose a threat on real flights because it does not work on cer­ti­fied flight hardware.

“The described tech­nique can­not engage or con­trol the aircraft’s autopi­lot sys­tem using the (Flight Man­age­ment Sys­tem) or pre­vent a pilot from over­rid­ing the autopi­lot,” the FAA said. “There­fore, a hacker can­not obtain ‘full con­trol of an air­craft’ as the tech­nol­ogy con­sul­tant has claimed.”

Teso says he devel­oped SIMON in a way that makes it work only in vir­tual envi­ron­ments, not on actual aircraft.

But the risk is there, some experts say.

“His test­ing lab­o­ra­tory con­sists of a series of soft­ware and hard­ware prod­ucts, but the con­nec­tion and com­mu­ni­ca­tion meth­ods, as well as ways of exploita­tion, are absolutely the same as they would be in an actual real-world sce­nario,” ana­lysts at Help Net Secu­rity wrote in a blog post.

Teso told the crowd that he used flight-management hard­ware that he bought on eBay and pub­licly avail­able flight-simulator soft­ware that con­tains at least some of the same com­puter cod­ing as real flight software.

Ana­lyst Gra­ham Clu­ley of Sophos Secu­rity said it’s unclear how dev­as­tat­ing Teso’s find would be if unleashed on an air­plane in flight.

“No one else has had an oppor­tu­nity to test this researcher’s claims as he has, thank­fully, kept secret details of the vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties he was able to exploit,” Clu­ley said. “We are also told that he has informed the rel­e­vant bod­ies, so steps can be taken to patch any secu­rity holes before some­one with more mali­cious intent has an oppor­tu­nity to exploit them.”

..

Teso isn’t the first so-called “white hat” hacker to expose what appear to be holes in air-traffic security.

Last year, at the Black Hat secu­rity con­fer­ence in Las Vegas, com­puter sci­en­tist Andrei Costin dis­cussed weak­nesses he said he found in a new U.S. air-traffic secu­rity sys­tem set to roll out next year. The flaws he found weren’t instantly cat­a­strophic, he said, but could be used to track pri­vate air­planes, inter­cept mes­sages and jam com­mu­ni­ca­tions between planes and air-traffic control.

8. Experts dispute Roberts’s claims.

“Experts: Plane Hack through Info­tain­ment Box Seems Unlikely” by Eliz­a­beth Weise; USA Today; 5/18/2015.

Com­puter and avi­a­tion experts say it seems unlikely a Denver-based cyber-security researcher was able to com­pro­mise a jet’s con­trols via its in-flight enter­tain­ment sys­tem, mak­ing it bank briefly to one side.

The claims of One World Labs founder Chris Roberts have been the sub­ject of much spec­u­la­tion after it was reported Fri­day that he told FBI agents he’d been able to hack into a flight he was on and cause it to turn side­ways by manip­u­lat­ing the engine con­trols from his computer.

Those sys­tems are sep­a­rate, said Jef­frey Price, an avi­a­tion secu­rity expert and avi­a­tion pro­fes­sor at Met­ro­pol­i­tan State Uni­ver­sity in Denver.

“From what all the air­craft man­u­fac­tur­ers have been telling us, the in-flight enter­tain­ment sys­tem is a dif­fer­ent sys­tem from the soft­ware that con­trols the avion­ics, flight con­trols and nav­i­ga­tion sys­tems of the plane,” he said.

Fed­eral law enforce­ment offi­cials say they are assess­ing Roberts’ claims but so far have no cred­i­ble infor­ma­tion to sug­gest an airplane’s flight con­trol sys­tem can be accessed or manip­u­lated from its in-flight enter­tain­ment system.

Secu­rity experts say they can’t imag­ine the air­lines and FAA aren’t aware if Roberts was in fact able to ille­gally access planes con­trol sys­tems “15 to 20 times,” as he told FBI agents when he spoke with them ear­lier this year.

“Pilots know what’s hap­pen­ing with their planes from the small­est main­te­nance issue up to any­thing seri­ous,” said Rob Sad­owski, direc­tor of mar­ket­ing for RSA, the world’s largest com­puter secu­rity conference.

“We all know that from sit­ting on planes when they tell us, ‘We can’t get the door light to go on, so we’re not tak­ing off,’” he said.

Roberts is well known and respected in the secu­rity indus­try and speaks at mul­ti­ple con­fer­ences on var­i­ous secu­rity top­ics, includ­ing air­craft secu­rity, said Sad­owski. Roberts spoke at the most recent RSA con­fer­ence in March.

How­ever, he doesn’t think it’s likely Roberts was actu­ally able to get from the plane’s in-flight enter­tain­ment net­work to its flight con­trol systems.

“As some­one in the indus­try who looks at the design of sys­tems like this, I would find it very hard to believe that these sys­tems were not iso­lated,” he said.

Some secu­rity experts worry that that may not always be true.

Price report  that a report issued by the Gov­ern­ment Account­abil­ity Office in Jan­u­ary described pos­si­ble prob­lems as the Fed­eral Avi­a­tion Admin­is­tra­tion moves from the cur­rent radar-based air traf­fic con­trol sys­tem to one that is based on satel­lite nav­i­ga­tion and automation.

“While it’s doubt­ful whether this guy could have accessed any­thing really impor­tant by hack­ing the in-flight enter­tain­ment sys­tem, it’s likely that he will be able to do so in the near future,” Price said.

Most of the com­puter experts con­tacted also noted they spend a lot of time fly­ing, and hope no one would put an air­plane at risk sim­ply to show they could.

“I want to believe that if I saw any­one onboard any plane that I was trav­el­ing on try and plug any­thing into the plane that didn’t look like it was sup­posed to be there, I would be the first per­son not just alert­ing the crew but likely jump­ing up and tack­ling the per­son,” said Brian Ford, with secu­rity firm Lancope.


The Fed­eral Avi­a­tion Admin­is­tra­tion said it is aware of Teso’s claims, but said the hack­ing tech­nique does not pose a threat on real flights because it does not work on cer­ti­fied flight hardware.

“The described tech­nique can­not engage or con­trol the aircraft’s autopi­lot sys­tem using the (Flight Man­age­ment Sys­tem) or pre­vent a pilot from over­rid­ing the autopi­lot,” the FAA said. “There­fore, a hacker can­not obtain ‘full con­trol of an air­craft’ as the tech­nol­ogy con­sul­tant has claimed.“

9. Apple is developing a body-monitoring app that, like the Google technology discussed above, will open up new vistas for the maintenance of health and, as theorized in the article below, new vistas for malefactors to disrupt or kill those they dislike.

 “Apple’s Upcoming Health App Is the Start of Something Huge” by Ryan Tate; Wired; 3/17/2014.

 Apple is poised to launch a body-monitoring app known as Healthbook, tracking everything from sleep to nutrition to exercise to vital signs.

That’s the word from 9-to-5 Mac, which published a detailed look at the app on Monday, and as described, this project could prove to be a tipping point for mobile healthcare — a computing sector that has long been on the brink of explosive popularity without actually breaking through.

According to the 9-to-5 Mac rundown, Apple Healthbook is an incredibly broad undertaking. It’s designed to track your blood sugar, heart rate, breathing rate, weight, hydration, and physical movements. It even tracks health tests. Pundits are already speculating that it will be a key selling point for Apple’s forthcoming iOS 8 mobile operating system or its long-rumored “iWatch” smartwatch or both. We know that Apple has hired fitness guru Jay Blahnik and various engineers with medical sensor experience, which would indicate the company is preparing some sort of wearable health monitoring device.

Health and fitness apps have become increasingly prevalent in recent years. One company, Azumio, now offers 40 health monitoring and fitness apps for the Apple iPhone alone. PayPal co-founder Max Levchin is pushing Glow, an app designed to help couples get pregnant. And HealthTap provides a clever and carefully curated medical question-and-answer system that brokers online sessions with doctors. Systems like these can significantly reduce healthcare costs, and many health providers are interested in subsidizing their deployment and use.

Apple Healthbook may compete with existing healthcare apps, but it also could help them flourish. As 9-to-5 Mac points out, it could serve as a unified interface to health and fitness apps in the same way that Apple’s Passbook app helps you juggle airline boarding passes, tickets, and gift cards from a wide range of apps. And as noted by venture capitalist MG Siegler, Healthbook could encourage Apple to build more bridges between its devices and third-party sensors, making it easier to find, say, a high-end heart-rate monitor that works with your iPhone. . . .

10a. Apple is not the only tech firm working on stunning medical advances. Exemplifying the Brave New World of Big Tech in medecine, Google (an internet company, remember) is developing nanotechnology that can monitor a customer’s biology for signs of heart disease and cancer.

“Google Is Developing a Cancer and Heart Attack Detecting Pill” by Samuel Gibbs; The Guardian; 10/29/2014.

 Google is working on a nanoparticle pill that could identify cancers, heart attacks and other diseases before they become a problem.

The pill would contain magnetic particles approximately 10,000 times smaller than the width of a human hair. These tiny particles will have antibodies or proteins attached to them that detect the presence of “biomarker” molecules inside the body that indicate diseases such as cancer or an imminent heart attack.

“Essentially the idea is simple; you just swallow a pill with the nano particles, which are decorated with antibodies or molecules that detect other molecules,” explained Andrew Conrad, head of life sciences inside the Google’s “moonshot” X research lab to WSJD Live conference in California Tuesday. “They course through your body and because the cores of these particles are magnetic, you can call them somewhere and ask them what they saw.”

Conrad explained that the particles would be analogous to sending thousands of doctors down into the population of a large city to monitor what is going on with individuals, describing current medical techniques as having one doctor fly over the city it in a helicopter trying to see what’s causing issues with individual people.

“If you look at your wrist you can see these superficial veins – just by putting a magnet there you can trap [the nanoparticles],” Conrad said explaining that a wrist-worn device like a smartwatch could be used to read what the particles have detected on their trip through the blood stream.

“We ask them: Hey, what did you see? Did you find cancer? Did you see something that looks like a fragile plaque for a heart attack? Did you see too much sodium?” said Conrad.

The system known as the “nanoparticle platform” is Google’s latest venture into the lucrative health market, which is worth around 10% of the economy of developed nations. More than £100bn a year is spent on the National Health Service in Britain. . . .

10b. Contemplating the Brave New World of mobile/digital/internet-related super technology of the type being developed by Google (and Apple, as we see below), we should never lose sight of the socio/political viewpoint of Google. The Competitive Enterprise Institute was a major force behind the recent King vs. Burwell case–the most recent (overturned) challenge to the Affordable Care Act.

While folks like Michael Greve, for­mer long­time chair­man of the Com­pet­i­tive Enter­prise Insti­tute (CEI) and a leader of the group push­ing the King vs Bur­well law­suit(with the CEI’s help and fund­ing), may have failed in their attempts to deprive health­care to mil­lions of low-income Amer­i­cans after the Supreme Court’s rul­ing this week, it’s worth not­ing that Google is among the funders of the CEI, along with the Koch Brothers.
“Google Is Help­ing to Fund the Group that’s Try­ing to kill Oba­macare in the Supreme Court” by Mark Ames; Pando Daily; 3/18/2015.

The Obama admin­is­tra­tion said on Mon­day that 16.4 mil­lion unin­sured peo­ple had gained health cov­er­age since major pro­vi­sions of the Afford­able Care Act began to take effect in 2010, dri­ving the largest reduc­tion in the num­ber of unin­sured in about 40 years

— NY Times

Accord­ing to the lat­est gov­ern­ment fig­ures, 16.4 mil­lion pre­vi­ously unin­sured Amer­i­cans now ben­e­fit from health­care cov­er­age thanks to Oba­macare, includ­ing large gains for blacks and Lati­nos. Con­ser­v­a­tive crit­ics have yet to come up with a coher­ent response beyond “so what!”— how­ever you look at it, that’s a lot of Amer­i­cans who won’t be left bleed­ing in the dirt if they get sick.

Still, as we know, Oba­macare is still under attack — just one pend­ing Supreme Court rul­ing away from being almost com­pletely dis­man­tled, a deci­sion that could put mil­lions back in the ranks of the unin­sured. What’s less well known is that the think tank push­ing for the death of Oba­macare is partly funded by… Google.

Ear­lier this month, the New York Times reportedon this “obscure think tank” — the Com­pet­i­tive Enter­prise Insti­tute(CEI) — and its cen­tral role in try­ing to kill Oba­macare:

In the orbit of Wash­ing­ton think tanks, the Com­pet­i­tive Enter­prise Insti­tuteis an obscure name with a mod­est bud­get that belies its polit­i­cal con­nec­tions to con­ser­v­a­tive titans like the Koch brothers.

But the insti­tute, a lib­er­tar­ian research group, enjoyed a coming-out of sorts on Wednes­day, as the law­suit that it orga­nized and bankrolled — chal­leng­ing the Afford­able Care Act — was heard by the Supreme Court. The case has the poten­tial to end fed­eral insur­ance sub­si­diesfor some 7.5 mil­lion peo­ple in 34 states.

But, while the Times did men­tion that the CEI is largely bankrolled by the Koch broth­ers, it didn’t dig into some of the group’s smaller fun­ders. Fun­ders includ­ing Sil­i­con Val­ley giants like Google and Face­book. Could there be a clearer antithe­sis to the val­ley mantra of “Don’t Be Evil” than an orga­ni­za­tion which exists to deny 7.5m peo­ple access to basic health insurance?

11. Illustrating the perils of the Brave New World tech has ushered in–and why we strongly support the NSA (warts and all), we offer up the [largely suppressed] fact that one Vietnamese criminal syndicate obtained the personal information of two thirds of the American people. The information is contained in the recent book Future Crimes, by Marc Goodman.

Godman suggests that, in the future, hackers could interfere with internet-connected medical devices to kill people from afar. That is particularly haunting in light of the technological developments in medical high tech being brought into existence by Google and Apple.

Be sure to read the entire article, using the link below.

“Cops and Hackers” by Hannah Kuchler; Financial Times; 2/15/2015; p. 7. 

. . . . In Future Games, Goodman spills out story after story about technology has been used for illegal ends, from the Vietnamese gang that was able to buy the personal data of two-thirds of all Americans to a suspected Chinese state-sponsored attack  in which confidential aircraft designs were stolen from the US military. His predictions are often depressingly plausible. Today, for examle, we have Cryptolocker software that encrypts data on computers until the user pays a ransom in bitcoin; tomorrow, Goodman suggests, the same tactic could be used on a connected home with a smart door lock to prevent a resident returning–or, worse still, on an internet-connected medical device such as a pacemaker that could be tampered with to kill someone from afar. . . .

12. The program concludes with an crystallization of a very important concept discussed by David Golumbia in Uncomputing.org. Obviously, the interests described below are not concerned with democratic political ideals in any size, shape, form or manner. The underlying despair inherent in such views reminds us of Oswald Spengler’s Decline of the West–a text that was fundamental to the development of fascist ideology. (We discuss the Spengler text is our interviews with Kevin Coogan.) The Spengler text was a major influence on Francis Parker Yockey, among others.

“Tor, Tech­noc­racy, Democracy” by David Golum­bia; Uncomputing.org; 4/23/2015.

“Such tech­no­cratic beliefs are wide­spread in our world today, espe­cially in the enclaves of dig­i­tal enthu­si­asts, whether or not they are part of the giant corporate-digital leviathanHack­ers (“civic,” “eth­i­cal,” “white” and “black” hat alike), hack­tivists, Wik­iLeaks fans [and Julian Assange et al–D. E.], Anony­mous “mem­bers,” even Edward Snow­den him­self walk hand-in-hand with Face­book and Google in telling us that coders don’t just have good things to con­tribute to the polit­i­cal world, but that the polit­i­cal world is theirs to do with what they want, and the rest of us should stay out of it: the polit­i­cal world is bro­ken, they appear to think (rightly, at least in part), and the solu­tion to that, they think (wrongly, at least for the most part), is for pro­gram­mers to take polit­i­cal mat­ters into their own hands. . . First, [Tor co-creator] Din­gle­dine claimed that Tor must be sup­ported because it fol­lows directly from a fun­da­men­tal “right to pri­vacy.” Yet when pressed—and not that hard—he admits that what he means by “right to pri­vacy” is not what any human rights body or “par­tic­u­lar legal regime” has meant by it. Instead of talk­ing about how human rights are pro­tected, he asserts that human rights are nat­ural rights and that these nat­ural rights cre­ate nat­ural law that is prop­erly enforced by enti­ties above and out­side of demo­c­ra­tic poli­tiesWhere the UN’s Uni­ver­sal Dec­la­ra­tion on Human Rights of 1948 is very clear that states and bod­ies like the UN to which states belong are the exclu­sive guar­an­tors of human rights, what­ever the ori­gin of those rights, Din­gle­dine asserts that a small group of soft­ware devel­op­ers can assign to them­selves that role, and that mem­bers of demo­c­ra­tic poli­ties have no choice but to accept them hav­ing that role. . . Fur­ther, it is hard not to notice that the appeal to nat­ural rights is today most often asso­ci­ated with the polit­i­cal right, for a vari­ety of rea­sons (ur-neocon Leo Strauss was one of the most promi­nent 20th cen­tury pro­po­nents of these views). We aren’t sup­posed to endorse Tor because we endorse the right: it’s sup­posed to be above the left/right dis­tinc­tion. But it isn’t. . . .

 

 

 

 

Discussion

8 comments for “FTR #852 “Think Different”–The Foxes Aren’t Guarding the Henhouse, They ARE the Henhouse: Update on the Adventures of Eddie the Friendly Spook”

  1. Mark Ames just published a huge new piece over at Pando about the massive number of prominent individuals paid off or simply intimidated by the tobacco industry for the past 60+ years. It’s a massive list and let’s just say that Matthew Hale isn’t Glenn Greenwald’s only controversial client. But Greenwald is far from the only prominent individual that’s been directly or indirectly sucking at the teat of big tobacco. Again, it’s a massive list:

    Pando Daily
    Shillers for killers

    Revealed: How the tobacco industry paid journalists, scientists, activists and lawyers to cover up the most deadly crime in human history.

    Mark Ames
    July 7, 2015

    “Objective No. 5: To prove that the cigarette has been brought to trial by lynch law, engineered and fostered by uninformed and irresponsible people and organizations in order to induce and incite fear.”

    —“Project Truth,” Brown & Williamson

    If you want an unvarnished, raw peek at the pig trough of corruption and sleaze, it’s all there in the 88 million-plus pages of once-secret tobacco industry documents, online and searchable in the University of California at San Francisco’s online tobacco library.

    In my last article, I gave some background on both the tobacco industry’s deadly conspiracy against humanity and on UCSF’s new 3.0 version of its online searchable tobacco documents library.

    Now it’s time to look at some of the accessories to the greatest crime in human history, which killed 100 million people last century and with one billion expected to die this century from smoking. Every one of those deaths preventable.

    To rack up this many human kills for so many tens of billions of dollars in profits over so many decades and not wind up in prison, the tobacco industry has had to pay off an incredible number of people and institutions over the years.

    As the documents show (some embedded below), many of those people were paid under the table to better confuse, deceive, and continue plundering the public. Those covert tobacco shills are easily the worst and most offensive, because they commit fraud on a public that trusts them.

    But even those whose financial relationships with Big Tobacco are above-board, such as tobacco-hired corporate law firms, have been denounced in judicial court decisions as accessories to RICO racketeering laws—essentially mob lawyers, co-conspirators in the greatest organized mass murder-for-profit in human history.

    In this article, I’m going to name names. Some are surprising; some shocking; others downright horrifying.

    Let’s start with my colleagues in the media and journalism.

    Malcolm Gladwell & the Third Party Advocates

    >
    “The best PR ends up looking like news,” brags one public relations executive. “You never know when a PR agency is being effective; you’ll just find your views slowly shifting.”

    —Trust Us, We’re Experts

    Three years ago, my colleague Yasha Levine discovered Malcolm Gladwell’s name on a secret Philip Morris document from the mid-1990s listing its top “Third Party” advocates—meaning advocates who Philip Morris believes can be relied upon to promote its agenda, while the public thinks they’re getting honest disinterested information.

    In the marketing world, “third party advocates” are considered by far the most effective mediums for pushing out corporate messages—especially for a controversial and unpopular client like a tobacco giant. The idea is simple—use someone else, whom the public considers independent, to trojan horse your message. In plain words, as a former PR executive at Porter Novelli explained Third Party advocacy:

    “Put your words in someone else’s mouth.”

    In other words, fraud.

    Gladwell had been trained at a tobacco-funded right-wing group called the “National Journalism Center”—whose other alumni include Ann Coulter, Fox’s Greg Gutfeld, Tim Carney, and Debbie Schlussel. A confidential Philip Morris memo describes its relationship with the National Journalism Center’s alumni:

    >
    “As a direct result of our support we have been able to work with alumni of this program…. about 15 years worth of journalists at print and visual media throughout the country….to get across our side of the story….which has resulted in numerous pieces consistent with our point of view.” [ellipses original—M.A.]

    An example of Gladwell aligning with Philip Morris messaging: A Washington Post story in 1990, “Not Smoking Could Be Hazardous To Pension System,” in which Gladwell essentially rehashed a 1987 industry study carried out by a Philip Morris-backed think tank, the National Bureau of Economic Research (Levine discovered a copy of this same 1987 study in the files of a top Philip Morris communications executive, Victor Han). Gladwell concludes his contrarian attack on smoking regulations by quoting another undisclosed “third party advocate” on the tobacco industry’s payroll, Gio Gori, whom Gladwell represents as a disinterested “economist” rather than a paid tobacco industry pitchman.

    Other media names on Philip Morris’ third party “message development” list reads like a who’s who of 1990s conservative pundits: Fred Barnes and Mort Kondracke (two-fifths of the original McLaughlin Group), Bill Kristol (whose magazine, Weekly Standard, was owned by Rupert Murdoch, a Philip Morris board director), Bob Novak, Mona Charen, and George W. Bush press spokesman Tony Snow; pollster Scott Rasmussen; funnymen PJ O’Rourke and Dave Barry (whose “humorous” columns appear in the files of RJ Reynolds, Philip Morris, and the Tobacco Institute); and even magician Penn Jillette.

    (Update: Dave Barry tells Pando that he is mystified as to why his name appears on Philip Morris’ third party list. He writes: “I’m stunned to see this; everything I ever wrote about the tobacco industry in general, and Philip Morris in particular, was negative. I detest the tobacco indusry and I certainly was never paid by it, or colluded with it.”)

    There are numerous covert tobacco spokesmen in Phillip Morris’ secret files, from Milton Friedman and Murray Rothbard to just about everyone associated with the CATO Institute, from its president and executive vice president down—and Reason magazine, including three editors: Bob Poole, Jacob Sullum and Virginia Postrel. The libertarians’ covert role in pushing tobacco propaganda is of course less surprising—UCSF’s tobacco investigators discovered that the Tea Party was created by an alliance between Big Tobacco and Koch brothers’ oil money.

    Of all the tobacco industry media cutouts of the 1990s, the one who did them the biggest solid was Betsy McCaughey, whose 1994 articles in the New Republic blasting Clinton’s health care reforms won the National Magazine Award, and are credited with killing HillaryCare. Later, after the damage was done and thousands went to their graves early from lack of access to health care, McCaughey’s reporting was exposed by James Fallows and others as a complete fraud, forcing the New Republic to officially apologizef f to its readers.

    McCaughey, it turns out, was on Philip Morris’ “Third Party Message Development Contact List” identified as a “senior fellow” at the tobacco-funded Manhattan Institute. Another document reveals how Philip Morris secretly edited and guided McCaughey’s articles for the New Republic:

    >
    Worked off-the-record with Manhattan [Institute] and writer Betsy McCaughey as part of the input to the three-part expose in The New Republic on what the Clinton plan means to you. The first part detailed specifics of the plan. The second part, to be published imminently, will focus on the impact the Clinton bill will have on cities. She will explore why medical education will decline, why teaching hospitals will be driven out of business, why regional health alliances will shift the cost of caring for the poor off the federal budget onto the backs of urban workers and their employers, and why discontinuing Medicaid and enrolling the disadvantaged in HMO’s will fail.

    The tobacco industry covertly led the fight against HillaryCare in 1994, in part because the law would hike cigarette taxes to help pay for expanding health care coverage. If you’re already killing close to half a million Americans a year with tobacco, what’s another 50,000 or so extra deaths per year from lack of medical coverage?

    Going back to the early 1950s, when the tobacco company heads met in secret in the Plaza Hotel in Manhattan to plot their conspiracy to fight science they knew had proven tobacco’s deadly effects, they set up a front group which came to be known as the Tobacco Institute, and paid PR giant Hill & Knowlton to secretly run it. In its first year of operation, Hill & Knowlton memos detailed how they started changing magazine articles. One memo reads:

    “Advance knowledge was obtained of a story on smoking by Bob Considine for Cosmopolitan magazine. Information was supplied resulting in seven revisions and five qualifying additions to the story which was already in type.”

    Hill & Knowlton also “contacted” a writer for TRUE magazine, Donald Cooley, as he prepared an article on smoking. Contacting him “entailed conferences with the author to work on factual revisions.”

    Eventually, with the tobacco industry’s direct help, Cooley and TRUE issued a 48-page pro-smoking booklet, “Smoke Without Fear,” which had 350,000 copies distributed by the tobacco industry to journalists and others around the country. The booklet begins:

    IF you are a man or woman who smokes, relax and enjoy it. If you have tried to give up smoking a dozen times and failed, quit trying. If you have guilty feelings that you are weak-willed, immoral, and suicidal, begin anew to smoke with peace of mind.

    They also succeeded in suppressing anti-tobacco journalism, in part by using intelligence gathered from their huge web of media contacts about upcoming articles. A 1954 Hill & Knowlton report boasts of having taken a nationwide informal survey on “articles planned on the smoking controversy,” articles which they were able to lean on:

    “Twenty magazines of nation-wide circulation were working on pieces and contact was established with authors and editors. Such regular checking continues as a standard practice, requiring numerous contacts weekly.”

    They were especially effective in snuffing out any negative journalism on the new television medium. An early 1950s memo reads:

    “One negatively aimed program (WNBT) which was being scheduled on the cigarette controversy was postponed after discussion of [Tobacco Institute] facts.”

    “Another TV program (ABC-TV, Martin Agronsky), which did deal with the cigarette controversy, ended on a favorable note after conferences with producers and presentation of facts.”

    And it’s not just the mainstream press that rolled over for tobacco propaganda. An article in the New Times, a 70s New Journalism glossy, attacked the American Cancer Society and National Cancer Institute as “the cancer establishment” and a “self-perpetuating bureaucracy” beholden to Big Medicine against alternative cancer therapies— “a network of vigilantes prepared to pounce on anyone who promotes a cancer therapy that runs against their substantial prejudices and profits.”

    The American Cancer Society was a leader in the fight to expose cigarettes as mass-killing devices. But the article, written by Ruth Rosenbaum, avoided any mention of tobacco. It was considered maverick enough by the left-alt press that, even years later, it was included in a Project Censored Top 20 Censored stories compilation put out two decades later, in 1997. Stanford history professor Robert Proctor, author of “Golden Holocaust,” explains what was wrong with this story:

    Rosenbaum was fêted as a lefty maverick, but a search of the tobacco industry’s archives reveals a more sinister story.

    Rosenbaum wrote her article with the help of Hill & Knowlton, the industry’s public relations firm; she was also a personal friend of Fred Panzer at the Tobacco Institute and he, too, helped her with it. None of this was known to Jensen when he celebrated Rosenbaum’s review for his Project Censored—nor, apparently, the fact that her articles had earned her invitations to work for the industry in litigation.

    Science

    “[O]ur medical/scientific witnesses will say whatever we want them to say.”

    —Gabriel DiMarco, RJ Reynolds vice president for research

    One of the first things the tobacco cartel chiefs agreed to in 1953 when they secretly met to coordinate their anti-science strategies was to set up a fraudulent-science front called the Tobacco Industry Research Committee, later renamed the Council on Tobacco Research (CTR).

    Secret tobacco industry memos describe it as a “front” and a “shield.” The front group wound up funding an enormous amount of medical research supposedly into links between tobacco and cancer, and cancer in general. The purpose was to steer cancer research away from outside causes like smoking, to focus instead on micro-level biochemical mechanisms — for example, how some genes are turned on or off during carcinogenesis. This way, science gets diverted, bought off, corrupted, and flooded with biases.

    You can see this same strategy at work with the powerful Koch brothers’ large donations to cancer research at Sloan-Kettering — the purpose is not just PR, but also to control the direction of the research, which invariably will lead away from causes like pollution from petrochemicals produced by the Kochs, and into other areas of research. (Sloan-Kettering was funded by tobacco companies from the 1950s through the 1970s; its director, Frank Horsfall, said he believed cigarettes got “undue blame” for cancer.)

    This science front group set up something called “Special Projects”—hatchet jobs for pay, using scholars to assassinate the credibility of other scholars’ work.

    Columbia University statistician George Saiger was paid $10,873 in 1966 (about $80,000 today) just to testify before Congress denying any link between cigarettes and cancer. The former chairman of Stanford’s Dept of Statistics, Ingram Olkin, was paid $12,000 in 1976 ($50,000 today) to undermine a National Heart Institute report linking smoking to heart disease. A Lorillard memo approving Olkin’s payment demanded that he use “considerations other than practical scientific merit.”

    In all, between 1966 and 1990, the tobacco companies paid out more than $18 million into the secret “special projects” funds to scholars at top name institutions— Alvan Feinstein from Yale, Carl Seltzer from Harvard, and the president of the College of American Pathologists, Victor Buhler. At least 30 of these special projects shills testified before Congress or in courts without ever revealing their covert financial ties to the tobacco industry.

    Civil Libertarians

    “The most prominent and valuable of our constitutional ad ban allies is the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).”

    —Tobacco Institute, 1987

    “If John Gotti wanted to give $10,000, we would take it.”

    Ira Glasser, ACLU executive director

    In 1987, as the federal and state governments were taking up new laws banning cigarette ads, the tobacco industry began secretly pumping hundreds of thousands of dollars into the ACLU’s coffers. The tobacco industry spends an estimated $13 billion a year marketing its products—and as we’ve since learned, the companies poured much of their efforts into hooking those most vulnerable to becoming addicts until death—young teenagers, minorities, women, the poor, mentally ill, homeless, drug addicts (see: RJ Reynolds’ “Project Scum”) and so on. Big Tobacco’s strategy was to frighten the public with the ol’ First Amendment slippery slope fallacy: today it might be banning tobacco ads, tomorrow you’ll be banned and rounded up into FEMA concentration camps.

    To make this argument seem credible, they enlisted the ACLU as their “third party advocate.” Before the tobacco funding began, the ACLU did not lobby against cigarette advertising bans; nor did it push for “smokers’ rights” in the workplace, against laws banning smoking indoors. After the money started pouring in, the ACLU began aggressively lobbying to block laws banning cigarette ads on “First Amendment” grounds. And as soon as science definitively proved that secondhand smoke causes cancer and other diseases—killing 50,000 Americans a year—the ACLU set up a special project, “ACLU Workplace Rights Project,” to fight against laws banning indoor smoking.

    The project was secretly fully funded by Philip Morris and RJR Reynolds. The ACLU also set up a tobacco industry lobby front called the National Task Force on Civil Liberties in the Workplace to help Big Tobacco keep profiting off the deaths of tens of thousands of people victimized by indoor smokers.

    In an ACLU fundraising proposal to be “shared with RJR contacts,” the head of the ACLU’s National Task Force on Civil Liberties in the Workplace emphasized the group’s value as a third party advocate in fighting new indoor smoking laws—or as the ACLU called them, “Lifestyle Discrimination Laws”:

    The ACLU could make a much larger contribution to the fight against lifestyle discrimination. The assets we would bring to this effort include:

    Credibility — The ACLU is universally known to stand on principle. Even our staunchest opponents have never charged us with acting out of self-interest. This could be extremely valuable.

    In that same memo, the ACLU executive warned that democracy and freedom were at stake in defending the big tobacco companies from laws banning indoor smoking:

    “If this trend continues, smokers will soon encounter discrimination comparable to that experienced by racial minorities and women.”

    In 1993, former Washington Post reporter Morton Mintz exposed the dirty deal between the ACLU and Big Tobacco in a report backed by the American Heart Association and the American Cancer Society. The ACLU responded by sending their Director of Media Relations, Phil Gutis, to Mintz’s press conference (joined by Ralph Nader) on his ACLU-Tobacco exposé. The ACLU man took notes and reported back to his ACLU bosses:

    “[Mintz] is a retired nut with too much time on his hands and a bug up his ass about cigarettes… The fallout on this thing should be relatively minor as long as we can dodge as many press calls as possible while getting our side of the story out to the majors.”

    The head of the ACLU at the time, Ira Glasser, went on the offensive attacking Mintz. (Glasser later led the ACLU’s support for the Citizens United decision—and, completely unrelated of course, the ACLU reportedly took $20 million from the Koch brothers, the biggest beneficiaries of the Citizens United case.)

    Not everyone was happy with Glasser’s sleazy sellouts. The head of the ACLU’s powerful (and far more righteous) Southern California chapter, Ramona Ripston, complained to Glasser about the ethics of taking tobacco company money and lobbying for their “rights,” comparing it to the ACLU taking money from a company that marketed toys harmful to children and then defending the company’s “constitutional right” to advertise and market the deadly products. Glasser waited six months before responding in a frothing six-page single-spaced memo, telling Ripston,

    “I am disturbed about the demonization of companies like Philip Morris.”

    Much of what we know about the ACLU’s covert relationship came from Mintz’s investigations, and from leaks from a disgusted former ACLU employee named John Fahs, author of, “Cigarette Confidential.” Fahs calls the ACLU’s Big Tobacco tie-up a “conflict of interest unparalleled in the history of the modern civil rights movement,” and sums it up:

    “The work the ACLU has undertaken on behalf of cigarette manufacturers has been undertaken in direct exchange for funding—a quid pro quo arrangement in direct conflict with the institution’s status as a government-subsidized, tax-exempt, nonprofit institution. To wit, the ACLU has successfully mounted an ambitious nationwide legislative lobbying campaign on behalf of cigarette companies in the areas of employment protections for smokers, freedom of speech protections for unrestricted cigarette advertisements, national health care reform legislation favoring smokers over nonsmokers, and protection of smokers’ rights in parental custody cases of asthmatic children.”

    The tobacco library reveals other civil liberties and privacy groups offering their services to Big Tobacco. In 1994, an RJ Reynolds marketing director wrote to the head of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Jerry Berman, sending him a list of topics they hoped to discuss about protecting tobacco advertising on the Internet. Topics included:

    * What will the sysop’s liability be for online services relative to minors and tobacco/alcoholic beverage commercial messages?

    * Will commercial messages delivered via online services/interactive media systems fall under FCC regulations, which prohibit alcoholic beverage and tobacco advertising? Or, will they fall under the protection of the Bill of Rights like print?

    Five months later, at the end of 1994, the EFF’s executive director wrote RJ Reynolds’s direct marketing manager, Peter Michaelson, a proposal soliciting tobacco money to fund an EFF project that would protect Big Tobacco’s online marketing, under the guise of First Amendment protections and Internet Freedom. Titled “Project on the First Amendment and Content Regulation in New Interactive Media,” the EFF’s director explained that they opposed government regulations on online speech—such as “commercial tobacco advertising”—because in the Internet age, the user has control over content, and can therefore self-regulate to avoid smoking ads. The EFF called for using “content blocking” technologies, rather than “intrusive” government regulations.

    The EFF head then laid out the strategy:

    A. Phase I White Paper “New First Amendment Parameters for Content-Based Regulation in Interactive Media.”

    During the first six months of 1995, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the new public policy group under my direction, the Center for Democracy and Technology, will prepare a White Paper…

    [The] paper will outline a regulatory model for non-mass media interactive services which (a) permits interactive service providers to transmit, without liability, all lawful content, commercial or non-commercial, provided that they (b) clearly identify the nature of the programming (adult, tobacco sponsored, general viewing, etc) and provide subscribers user-friendly means for making viewer choices for themselves and their children.”

    In “Phase III: Public Education and Consensus Building,” the EFF proposed working with “civil liberties groups” as well as Newt Gingrich’s “Progress and Freedom Foundation”—heavily supported by Big Tobacco groups—to host meetings between the EFF, “the Cato Institute, Heritage Foundation, Citizens for a Sound Economy…”

    Finally, the EFF head said it would cost $350,000 running “1 and ½ policy staff in 1995” to lobby against regulating tobacco content on the Internet, one-third of that coming from ISPs, and “100,000 for 1995 (payable in December 1994 if possible) and possibly an additional $25,000 later in the year” from RJ Reynolds. At the end of the letter, Berman suggests another possibility if RJ Reynolds finds this plan too complicated:

    “We are also prepared to pursue a legal test of this alternative approach to regulation. For example, if MARC [RJR’s direct marketers] or RJR decided to put one or another sponsored on-line service up on the Internet or via America-on-Line or other on-line service, the white paper could become the basis of a legal brief challenging the constitutionality of any governmental effort to block the programming on the basis of current advertising bans in electronic media. . . . We have not budgeted for this alternative at this point.”

    By 2005, Internet accounted for 14% of cigarette sales, through hundreds of sites. Not only have the cigarette companies been able to avoid sales taxes and thus starve states of revenues needed to treat cigarette-induced health epidemics, but a 2003 study published in JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) found that children as young as eleven were able to get cigarettes through the Internet 90 percent of the times they tried.

    It all sounds so awfully familiar—civil libertarian groups clutching the Constitution, sounding the alarm on behalf of causes that somehow seem to benefit huge commercial interests, all in the name of freedom and liberty…

    Whistleblowers, lawyers & Glenn Greenwald

    “We learned of a tobacco insider who might know the whole story—who could tell us whether or not the tobacco industry has been leveling with the public. That executive was formerly a highly placed executive with a tobacco company. But we cannot broadcast what critical information about tobacco, addiction, and public health he might be able to offer… if we were to broadcast an interview with him, CBS could be faced with a multibillion dollar lawsuit. The fact is we are not even allowed to mention his name, or the name of the company he worked for. And of course, we cannot show you his face.”

    “60 Minutes” on tobacco whistleblower Jeffrey Wigand

    “The threats just scared me to death. I mean, they’re intimidating.”

    —Jeffrey Wigand

    This is the age of the whistleblower, the leaker of secrets for the public good: Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning, WikiLeaks… While their leaks have helped expose illegal government surveillance and (in the case of Manning) possible US collusion in war crimes in Iraq, Jeffrey Wigand, called “60 Minutes Most Famous Whistleblower,”helped expose a conspiracy that killed 100 million people in the 20th century, and will kill one billion people, mostly from the developing world, where the tobacco companies now focus their marketing efforts. There is no war, no weapon, no man made death machine that comes close to cigarettes in terms of kills.

    We know about it now, thanks in part to whistleblowers like Wigand and a paralegal named Merrell Williams. But if the tobacco industry lawyers had their way, their names and the information they exposed would likely still be secret.

    Jeffrey Wigand, a top executive at Brown & Williamson, was finally persuaded by 60 Minutes producers to go public with what he knew about how tobacco companies knowingly spiked their cigarettes to hook smokers for life. Agreeing to blow the whistle cost Wigand his upper-middle class life—his wife left him, he and his family came under such severe threats and harassment that CBS had to hire a coterie of former Secret Service agents to protect him round-the-clock, and he wound up going from top executive living in a mansion, to working as a public high school chemistry teacher.

    And the worst of it was—when it came time to air his secrets, Wigand was censored from the 60 Minutes show due to threats of multibillion dollar lawsuits..

    Wigand’s name could not be mentioned in the broadcast; his face could not be shown. Perhaps even more chilling and bizarre is what happened to the other big tobacco whistleblower of the early 1990s, Merrell Williams, a paralegal at a tobacco law firm who was so appalled by what he read, he leaked thousands of pages of documents that eventually wound up with UCSF’s Stan Glantz, who now runs the digital tobacco documents library.

    In 1996, a judge in Merrell Williams’ home state of Kentucky put a gag order on the whistleblower, legally barring him from talking not just to 60 Minutes and other media, but, under threat of jail, from talking about the leaked tobacco documents to his own lawyer.

    You can watch the famous episode of 60 Minutes showing how these whistleblowers were gagged—by the power of private governments that are tobacco giants. Recall that the annual revenues of the top five tobacco companies are larger than the GDP of about 80% of the countries in the world. That is power—private government power.

    Here is some of the transcript of Mike Wallace sitting before a gagged Merrell Williams and his lawyer:

    WALLACE: You want to tell me anything, Mr. Williams, about these documents?

    [CUT TO: Williams shown keeping his mouth shut and staring ahead]

    WILLIAMS’ LAWYER: He cannot. He’s prohibited from making any public statements about the documents, or his employment, or anything he learned during his employment, or anything he learned as a result of what he learned from the employment.

    WALLACE: What would happen to him if he talked to me now about those documents?

    LAWYER: He very well could go to jail for six months.

    WALLACE: Say this again?

    LAWYER: There is presently pending a motion by Brown & Williamson to hold Merrell in criminal contempt. And even under that circumstance, I’m still not allowed to talk to my client. [Merrell Williams shifts uncomfortably in his seat, sighs, but keeps quiet.]

    WALLACE: I don’t understand—you’re not allowed to talk to your client? You’re sitting with your client right now.

    LAWYER: Uh-huh.

    WALLACE: And you’re not permitted, despite the fact that you represent him?

    LAWYER: Oh I can ask him about the Reds and what he thought of the World Series and things like that.

    WALLACE: But you cannot—

    LAWYER: About the guts of the case. About the documents. What did you do? Why did you do it? It’s been our position that if Jeffrey Dahmer killed and ate people—

    WALLACE: Killed and ate people—the serial killer?

    LAWYER: Correct. And he had counsel. Complete access. Adrich Ames had sold our country’s national security secrets—he had counsel. The lesson to be learned here is that you can kill and eat people, you can sell national security stuff, and you’re entitled to counsel. But if you take Brown & Williamson’s documents, your rights are suspended.

    Add to that: Even Chelsea Manning has counsel; even Daniel Ellsberg had counsel; even Edward Snowden would be granted counsel.

    It’s hard to comprehend how 60 Minutes was so intimidated, after decades of fearlessly taking on the power of everything from “The CIA’s Cocaine” to mass foreclosure fraud to accusing the Vietnam War’s top commander, General Westmoreland, of lying about enemy troop strength to keep the war going. How not even the US military, CIA or the mortgage industry power could intimidate 60 Minutes into censorship the way Big Tobacco could.

    Frontline followed up the 60 Minutes tobacco shocker with its own investigation, “Smoke In the Eye” (available online). Host Daniel Schorr—who himself had been dragged before Congress for leaking the suppressed 1976 Pike Committee report on US intelligence agency abuses—interviewed Wallace about the whistleblower gag, and how Wallace was cowed by the most fearsome threat he’d ever faced as a journalist:

    >
    DANIEL SCHORR: Mike Wallace was forced to admit he was gagging his own whistle-blower on orders…. Wallace would later admit he had never encountered anything quite like this.

    MIKE WALLACE: Never before. Never before. From time to time, corporations will make their displeasure known to the honchos at CBS News, but we’re always protected from it. In this particular case, it was the CBS lawyers who told us that if were we to go ahead, there was a good possibility that the Brown & Williamson Tobacco corporation would sue and sue for perhaps $10 billion, $15 billion.

    The reason Wallace and “60 Minutes” had to take the threat seriously was because ABC-TV news had just been forced to settle a $10 billion lawsuit filed by Philip Morris over an investigative story accusing them of spiking cigarettes to hook smokers. ABC was right, of course—but the tobacco giant’s power-lawyers managed to break ABC-TV, right or wrong, forcing them to issue a hugely humiliating (and damaging) public apology in the middle of a Monday Night Football game — an apology that Philip Morris then reprinted in newspaper ads all across the country. As part of the settlement, ABC-TV news also agreed to cover the $15 million legal bill.

    A lot of people probably forgot that broadcast TV investigative journalism once actually took on power—private power, government power. Investigative reporting by TV broadcast news really grew big in the 1970s during the Watergate and CIA scandals, and was largely snuffed by the end of the 1990s after a number of expensive, deadly lawsuits—by powerful corporations, our private governments.

    And there’s no doubt that the Philip Morris lawsuit, litigated by the power law firm Wachtell Lipton against ABC-TV, broke the back of adversarial TV investigative journalism. And with huge consequences. Thanks to Wachtell Lipton’s threats, ABC canceled what would have been the next tobacco exposé—calling out, for the first time on TV, the huge shift in Philip Morris’ and other tobacco companies’ marketing strategies to focus on selling to poorer, more vulnerable markets in the developing world. The public was never shown that episode; and since then, smoking rates have soared to catastrophic levels, as marketing and sales in developing countries continues thanks to the lobbying help of the US Chamber of Commerce.

    Between 2005 and 2030, about 176 million people will die from smoking—77 percent of them in developing countries, a massive reversal from a few decades earlier. In Russia, smoking rates for men and women tripled in just 15 years from 1985 to 2000—to two-thirds of men and one-third of women. In Mexico— where the richest man in the world (and New York Times owner) Carlos Slim aligned his cigarette empire with Philip Morris—60,000 people die a year from cigarettes. Compare tobacco’s legal death toll with the war on illegal drugs’ death toll—a total of 60,000 killed in the six worst years, 2006-2012. In other words, it took six years for the drug war in Mexico to kill as many as legal tobacco kills every year. That drug war is tapering off, while tobacco’s legal death toll is set to soar.

    The ABC-TV exposé in 1994 on how the tobacco companies were ramping up sales and marketing to vulnerable developing countries was never shown. ABC-TV got a box full of secret Brown & Williamson files leaked by whistleblower Merrell Williams shortly after airing their first controversial show. But thanks to the Philip Morris lawsuit filed by Wachtell Lipton, ABC-TV’s lawyers panicked and immediately seized all the leaked files from their journalists, seized the copies of those leaked files, seized and impounded their reporters’ hard drives, and prohibited their reporters from talking about “the single most important pieces of paper in the history of tobacco versus public health.”

    When Frontline’s Daniel Schorr asked one of the ABC-TV reporters, Walt Bogdanich, if it was true that ABC had the Brown & Williamson leaks—and scoop—long before anyone else, Bogdanich, a Pulitzer Prize winner, answered:

    “Well, there’s a lot I’d like to say about that topic. Unfortunately, I can’t. My company has taken the position that no one is to speak about this and since I work for the company, I’ve got to respect that.”

    That was in 1996, meaning Bogdanich was still gagged more than two years after receiving the leaks.

    So it was thanks to Wachtell Lipton’s vicious and aggressive lawsuit on behalf of Philip Morris that TV journalism was kneecapped, that 60 Minutes was too frightened to take on tobacco, that a mass American audience never learned of Big Tobacco’s plans to bring their mass-murder business to the more vulnerable regions of the developing world—and that the biggest whistleblowers of the 1990s were gagged from showing their face or having their name mentioned on the most popular TV show in America . . . even managing to gag a whistleblower from talking to his own attorney, under threat of prison.

    And this is where whistleblower-irony becomes so dense, it collapses on itself: Because one of Wachtell Lipton’s young associates working on the Philip Morris lawsuit against ABC-TV was a lawyer by the name of…. Glenn Greenwald.

    We know Greenwald worked at Wachtell Lipton’s New York office at the time of Wachtell’s lawsuit because Greenwald himself has talked about working for Wachtell, beginning in 1993 as a summer associate, then joining out of law school in 1994, and staying on until the end of 1995.

    But, of course, that isn’t necessarily evidence of hypocrisy. Perhaps Greenwald had no idea that the law firm he chose to work for was representing Philip Morris in the most talked about case of 1994. That even though his own boss, Henry Wachtell, was a regular on national TV news defending their tobacco clients, he was still oblivious. Greenwald perhaps didn’t watch television.

    Or read newspapers?

    As the Wall Street Journal reported at the time in an article titled “More Young Lawyers Want To Just Say No to Tobacco Industry”:

    Unpopular clients have always posed problems for lawyers, but the tobacco industry’s need for litigators is rising to unprecedented levels just as antismoking sentiment, particularly among young lawyers, is reaching a crescendo. As a result, more firms are finding that tobacco work can cause problems ranging from conflicts with other clients to difficulty in hiring. […]

    Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz is one example. The firm, which previously worked for tobacco companies only on corporate matters and securities litigation, recently took the job of representing Philip Morris in a high-profile libel lawsuit against Capital Cities/ABC. The New York law firm is now handling the No. 1 cigarette maker’s lawsuit seeking to prevent Massachusetts from trying to recoup the costs of smoking-related illnesses.

    It’s reasonable to assume Greenwald—ever the diligent researcher—must have joined Wachtell fully aware that they were helping gag whistleblowers and threatening journalists: Greenwald says that he chose to work for Wachtell in 1994 after being recruited by over a dozen top law firms. But of course that doesn’t necessarily mean he worked on the specific Philip Morris case.

    Except that a billing ledger discovered in the tobacco library shows Greenwald’s name in a Wachtell Lipton bill to Philip Morris….

    Other Wachtell Lipton memos show Greenwald’s name prominently displayed on the letterhead in aggressive, threatening letters against ABC-TV, against whistleblower Jeffrey Wigand, and against whistleblower Merrell Williams…

    One Wachtell letter to ABC’s lawyers with Greenwald’s name up top, dated December 14, 1995, warns that Wigand’s testimony in a Mississippi tobacco trial is “in direct defiance of a Kentucky Court order”— and demands that ABC turn over their source’s private testimony to Wachtell Lipton. The purpose of course is to threaten Wigand and ABC and thus to muzzle them.

    Greenwald’s name appears on the Wachtell Lipton letterhead of threatening legal letter after letter—targeting ABC-TV and tobacco whistleblowers . While it would be a stretch to say that Greenwald’s name appearing on the letterhead of so many Wachtell Philip Morris legal threats means Greenwald was working on that case right up through late 1995, one would have to stretch much further to believe that Greenwald was completely unaware of what his own law firm was doing in the most famous legal case in the country — a case he worked on.

    The question isn’t that young Glenn Greenwald was a named player in the lawsuits which destroyed broadcast TV journalism and gagged the most consequential whistleblowers in history; the question is, why has he never said peep about Wigand and Merrell Williams? Greenwald styles himself as the most fearless outspoken defender of whistleblowers today—and yet he has absolutely nothing to say about the most famous whistleblowers of the 1990s, a case he worked on from the other side.

    The same can’t be said for other young lawyers from his law firm: In 1992, a year before Greenwald first joined Wachtell, a young junior associate named David Murphy wrote a memo to his superiors calling out what he saw as his law firm’s complicity in criminal fraud. Directed to Henry Wachtell himself, the April 28, 1992 memorandum refers to Lorillard attorneys’ request to secretly funnel $40,000 in slush fund money to a Georgetown pathologist “to keep him happy.” Murphy, the junior associate a couple years above Greenwald, writes,

    In my overcautious view, the Jensen issue raises a larger question — whether “CTR Special Projects” funds . . . were used to purchase favorable judicial or legislative testimony, thereby perpetrating a fraud on the public. Admittedly, this notion of fraud was unknown to the common law, but if we assume the other side of the looking glass . . . perhaps it is cause for concern.

    Please advise.

    So that was a horribly depressing stain on human history.

    In related news…

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | July 8, 2015, 5:51 pm
  2. Pando’s Paul Carr has been reporting from the libertarian “FreedomFest” conference that’s going on in Las Vegas. In his latest FreedomFest installment, we get a closer peek at the individual, publisher Jeffrey Tucker, that created what Carr described as his most terrifying moment. Let’s just say Big Tech probably doesn’t share Carr’s terror about Tucker’s views on technology and regulations, although they should probably be a little concerned about almost everything else he says:

    Pando Daily
    Imagine if the “Uber is a good start” guy turned out to be a crazy racist homophobe

    Or don’t, because he is
    By Paul Carr
    , written on July 16, 2015

    Earlier this week, I described the most terrifying moment of my visit to the FreedomFest libertarian conference.

    It came during a panel about “hacking the state” where a publisher named Jeffrey Tucker described his vision for a world where technology has disrupted away all regulations and laws. Uber, argued Tucker, was a good “first step” down that road, but was held back by Travis Kalanick’s insistence on regulating the behavior of his drivers.

    Tucker also said that the only victims he felt sorry for were those who had been jailed for creating libertarian trading platforms for drugs and other illegal products and services:

    “I cry about… my friend [Silk Road founder] Ross Ulbricht…. There is so much injustice in the world… If any of you want to minister to prisoners, now is a good time.”


    As I wrote, Tucker came across as a fully-fledged sociopath; someone who would see the world burn and call it progress. I suggested that Tucker represents a new breed of modern tech-savvy libertarians, the old racist guard of libertarians having withered away.

    It turns out I was wrong. Not about Tucker being a fucking nut — in fact, as you’ll see, he’s far more crazy than I could possibly have imagined — but rather about him being a new breed.

    In fact, Tucker allegedly had a starring role in the most vile, most racist, most infamous episode in the previous incarnation of libertarianism: Ron Paul’s racist newsletters.

    You’ll likely already know the newsletters I’m referring to. They were sent to Ron Paul supporters in the early 90s and, as the New Republic put it:

    What they reveal are decades worth of obsession with conspiracies, sympathy for the right-wing militia movement, and deeply held bigotry against blacks, Jews, and gays. In short, they suggest that Ron Paul is not the plain-speaking antiwar activist his supporters believe they are backing–but rather a member in good standing of some of the oldest and ugliest traditions in American politics.

    Mark Ames has a classic example here on Pando, in which African Americans were described as “terrorists,” “animals” and worse:

    I think we can safely assume that 95% of the black males in [major U.S. cities] are semi-criminal or entirely criminal…

    What can you do? More and more Americans are carrying a gun in the car. An ex-cop I know advises that if you have to use a gun on a youth, you should leave the scene immediately, disposing of the wiped off gun as soon as possible. Such a gun cannot, of course, be registered to you, but one bought privately (through the classifieds, for example.).

    I frankly don’t know what to make of such advice; but even in my little town of Lake Jackson, Texas, I’ve urged everyone in my family to know how to use a gun in self defense. For the animals are coming.

    When the newsletters came to light during Ron Paul’s last unsuccessful presidential run, the libertarian hero was quick to insist that he hadn’t actually written the words attributed to him. Instead, he and his defenders said, the newsletters were mostly written by unnamed ghosts on his staff.

    According to none other than Reason Magazine — the house publication of modern libertarianism — one of those ghosts was… Jeff[rey] Tucker:

    Timothy Wirkman Virkkala, formerly the managing editor of the libertarian magazine Liberty, told Reason that the names behind the Political Report were widely known in his magazine’s offices as well, because Liberty’s late editor-in-chief, Bill Bradford, had discussed the newsletters with the principals, and then with his staff.

    “I understood that Burton S. Blumert was the moneybags that got all this started, that he was the publisher,” Virkkala said. “Lew Rockwell, editor and chief writer; Jeff Tucker, assistant, probably a writer; Murray Rothbard, cheering from the sidelines, probably ghosting now and then.” (Virkkala has offered his own reaction to the controversy at his Web site.) Blumert,Paul’s 1988 campaign chairman and a private supporter this year, did not respond to a request for an interview; Rothbard died in 1995. We reached Tucker, now editorial vice president of Rockwell’s Mises.org, at his office, and were told: “I just really am not going to make a statement, I’m sorry. I’ll take all responsibility for being the editor of Mises.org, OK?”

    It gets worse. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, Tucker is a full-on neo-Confederate:

    Both [Lew] Rockwell [the other alleged author of the racist Ron Paul newsletters] and institute research director Jeffrey Tucker are listed on the racist League of the South’s Web page as founding members — and both men deny their membership. Tucker has written for League publications, and many League members have taught at the institute’s seminars and given presentations at its conferences.

    If Tucker denies his membership then, of course, we have to take him at his word. Hopefully Tucker was able to clear up the misunderstanding when he co-hosted a session at the Young Americans for Liberty conference with former League of the South chairman (and Ron Paul staffer) Jack “Southern Avenger” Hunter.

    Meanwhile there’s no shortage of writing that we know for certain was produced by Jeffrey Tucker, because he actually had the, uh, courage to put his name on it.

    For example, this essay about hate crime against gay Americans called “The Love That Never Shuts Up” in which he argued that gay people should not be protected by anti-hate crime laws:

    [I]ncluding gays among those protected by hate-crime laws is a way of granting a statutory privilege that non-gays do not enjoy. It codifies the experience of victimhood and provides an aura of sanctity that the present political culture grants to official victims. A law that presumes that gays are constantly threatened with violence makes them martyrs to a cause even before they experience martyrdom.

    And that’s just the stuff readily available online. If the Ron Paul newsletters taught us anything — and, boy, did they — it’s that to find the really dark, disgusting shit you have to look back to before the Internet taught people like Tucker that you’re smarter not to put some things in writing.

    Take, for example, the 1995 “Letter From Alabama” (embedded below) in which Tucker expressed dismay that fifteen year old black children are ineligible for the death penalty:

    Apparently, it’s considered too sensitive a subject when a black boy (who is too young to be eligible for the death penalty) kills three older white women. People might get upset. Three days after the triple murder, even the local newspaper stopped reporting the details.

    Receiving extensive coverage instead, thanks to roving reporters from the Associated Press, were the latest goings on in Wedowee, Alabama. A former high school principal accused of being impolite to a mixed-race girl was hired for an administrative job by the school district, over the objections of outsiders demanding ever more minority “rights.”

    Or the follow-up article, a year later, in which Tucker was still furious that the boy — who, he apparently had since discovered was in fact fourteen – was still alive:

    The jurors who tried the 14-year-old black boy who shot and killed three wid- ows last year, one of them my own dear neighbor, found him guilty and gave him several life terms. By law, he got the maximum. He is too young for the death penalty. It is beyond me. If you are old enough to murder, you are old enough to pay the ultimate price.

    Still, absent the electric chair or perhaps the noose, Tucker, who you will remember calls himself a “Chief Liberty Officer” and told the audience at FreedomFest that “I cry a little bit about the prisoners” has another idea for punishing the poor and the black: A return to chain gangs.

    Instead of lounging around prison, criminals clean up the roads, linked with thick and unbreakable cords. It keeps the highways clean, provides proximate social restitution, and the humiliating sight itself deters future criminals. What’s wrong with that? Right on cue, liberals denounced it as cruel, reactionary, unworkable, and all the rest. But according to real people in Alabama, serious crime deserves a swift and serious response.

    Meet the new libertarians. Literally the same as the old.

    “It came during a panel about “hacking the state” where a publisher named Jeffrey Tucker described his vision for a world where technology has disrupted away all regulations and laws. Uber, argued Tucker, was a good “first step” down that road, but was held back by Travis Kalanick’s insistence on regulating the behavior of his drivers.”

    That’s right, Uber, a company that Peter Thiel characterized as “the most ethically challenged company in Silicon Valley”, is a good “first step”, but needs to stop regulating the behavior’s of its drivers. At all, apparently.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | July 17, 2015, 2:50 pm
  3. Check out JP Morgan’s latest gimmick for convincing regulators that JP Morgan is actually capable of internally policing itself (thus avoiding more drastic regulatory measures). It’s an interesting hybrid approach: on the one hand, it sort of follows the WikiLeaks theory of thwarting wrongdoing by setting up dedicated whistling-blowing hotlines for employees to anonymously leave tips about wrongdoing. On the other hand, there’s the fancy new ‘Minority Report’-style AI that will sift through all employee communications and attempt to predict and/or infer bad behavior:

    Bloomber Business
    JPMorgan Algorithm Knows You’re a Rogue Employee Before You Do

    by Hugh Son
    April 7, 2015 — 11:00 PM CDT

    Wall Street traders are already threatened by computers that can do their jobs faster and cheaper. Now the humans of finance have something else to worry about: Algorithms that make sure they behave.

    JPMorgan Chase & Co., which has racked up more than $36 billion in legal bills since the financial crisis, is rolling out a program to identify rogue employees before they go astray, according to Sally Dewar, head of regulatory affairs for Europe, who’s overseeing the effort. Dozens of inputs, including whether workers skip compliance classes, violate personal trading rules or breach market-risk limits, will be fed into the software.

    “It’s very difficult for a business head to take what could be hundreds of data points and start to draw any themes about a particular desk or trader,” Dewar, 46, said last month in an interview. “The idea is to refine those data points to help predict patterns of behavior.”

    JPMorgan’s surveillance program, which is being tested in the trading business and will spread throughout the global investment-banking and asset-management divisions by 2016, offers a glimpse into Wall Street’s future. An industry reeling from billions of dollars in fines for the actions of employees who rigged markets, cheated clients and aided criminals is turning to technology to police itself better. Failure to do so will provide ammunition for those pushing to separate trading operations from retail banks.

    Surveillance Unit

    At New York-based JPMorgan, the world’s biggest investment bank by revenue, the push comes after government probes into fraudulent mortgage-bond sales, the $6.2 billion London Whale trading loss, services provided to Ponzi-scheme operator Bernard Madoff and the rigging of currency and energy markets.

    The company has hired 2,500 compliance workers and spent $730 million over the past three years to improve operations. Job postings show it is building a surveillance unit to monitor electronic and telephone communication in the investment bank.

    E-mails, chats and telephone transcripts can be analyzed electronically to determine if employees are trying to collude or conceal intentions, said Tim Estes, chief executive officer of Digital Reasoning Systems Inc.

    “We’re taking technology that was built for counter-terrorism and using it against human language, because that’s where intentions are shown,” said Estes, whose company counts Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Credit Suisse Group AG as clients and investors, but not JPMorgan. “If you want to be proactive, you have to get people before they act.”

    ‘Slippery Slope’

    Automated surveillance is necessary for Wall Street firms because billions of e-mails flow through each bank annually, overwhelming the ability of people to monitor them, according to Estes. Still, technology that predicts behavior, as in the 2002 science-fiction movie “Minority Report,” in which Tom Cruise plays a Precrime officer who hunts down murder suspects before they can act, raises ethical questions.

    “What they’re trying to do is forecast human behavior,” said Mark Williams, a former Federal Reserve bank examiner who’s now a lecturer at Boston University’s Questrom School of Business. “Policing intentions can be a slippery slope. Do people get a scarlet letter for something they have yet to do?”

    Care will be taken to strike the right balance in monitoring employees at JPMorgan, said Dewar, a former U.K. regulator. She’s responsible for helping executives at the investment bank implement the new controls, while Chief Control Officer Shannon Warren has oversight of the firm-wide effort.

    The bank wouldn’t describe all of the inputs being used for its predictive program, which specific business it’s being tested on, or what steps will be taken if concerns are raised about an employee.

    Legal Bills

    A February memo from executives including Chief Operating Officer Matt Zames urged employees to flag compliance concerns to managers and reminded them that scandals hurt bonuses for everyone. Dedicated whistle-blower phone lines and e-mail addresses were created for workers to raise issues anonymously.

    “The problem we saw last year in FX and the other unacceptable events have implications beyond just a one-time fine,” according to the memo, a copy of which was obtained by Bloomberg News. “They damage our reputation.”

    New technology is half of a two-pronged effort to reduce legal bills. The other part involves a review of the firm’s culture — reaching into every business and appointing more than 300 leaders in the investment bank — to fix areas where lapses could occur, Dewar said. Training sessions use real JPMorgan incidents as examples so the lessons hit home, she said.

    ‘Confidence Level’

    The program was hinted at in a report published in December on the bank’s website, “How We Do Business,” signed by CEO Jamie Dimon. It outlines ways the firm is improving compliance, including starting a global communications surveillance program.

    “We recognized that enhancing market conduct would require using multiple preventive and detective levers in a coordinated way,” JPMorgan said in the report.

    Meeting the company’s financial targets depends on reducing legal bills. The investment bank’s return on equity will rise to 13 percent from last year’s 10 percent largely by cutting legal and other expenses, according to a February presentation.

    Thousands of investment bank and asset-management employees will be subject to the new predictive monitoring, said Dewar, who spent about a decade at the U.K.’s Financial Services Authority before joining JPMorgan in London in 2011.

    The combination of new surveillance methods and an improved culture should lower the bank’s future legal bills, Williams said. Still, even Dewar acknowledges that the human element involves risks that can’t be eliminated.

    Welcome to your corporate compliance future: total communication surveillance by your employer. And don’t think JP Morgan or the rest of Wall Street is going to casually give up on this idea. These systems probably aren’t cheap, but if they can prevent regulators anxious to avoid another “London Whale” scandal from doing something like separating retail banking from investment banking, they’ll be worth every last penny:


    JPMorgan’s surveillance program, which is being tested in the trading business and will spread throughout the global investment-banking and asset-management divisions by 2016, offers a glimpse into Wall Street’s future. An industry reeling from billions of dollars in fines for the actions of employees who rigged markets, cheated clients and aided criminals is turning to technology to police itself better. Failure to do so will provide ammunition for those pushing to separate trading operations from retail banks.

    Who needs Big Government to regulate the Big Banks when you can have Big Bank Brother do it for you? That’s apparently the future!

    And it’s hard to see how this trend is going to stop at banks, especially if industries discover that they can avoid regulatory oversight by promising to turn themselves into privates-sector spy-mongers using the software from the same firms that are servicing the intelligence community. Good times are ahead. Good times for companies like Palantir:

    The Wall Street Journal
    Spy Software Gets a Second Life on Wall Street
    A wave of companies with ties to the intelligence community is winning over the world of finance

    By Bradley Hope
    August 2, 2015

    FRANKLIN, Tenn.—Spies are infiltrating Wall Street.

    A wave of companies with ties to the intelligence community is winning over the world of finance, with banks and hedge funds putting the firms’ terrorist-tracking tools to work rooting out employee misconduct before it leads to fines or worse.

    “Both Wall Street and the intelligence world want the same thing: to find unknown unknowns in the data,” said Roger Hockenberry, the former chief technology officer of the Central Intelligence Agency’s clandestine services and now a partner at the consulting firm Cognitio Corp. in Washington.

    “Financial firms aren’t looking for terrorists, but good customers and attempts at fraud,” he said.

    The CIA gave many of these companies their big break: After the terror attacks of September 2001, a private-equity arm of the CIA known as In-Q-Tel began seeding companies that could help it sift through vast repositories of data to quickly identify threats. Those skills have become more valuable on Wall Street as firms try to keep up with rogue traders in increasingly complex and rapidly moving markets.

    Of 101 companies publicly seeded by In-Q-Tel, 33 have taken on Wall Street clients in recent years, according to a review by The Wall Street Journal. A spokeswoman for In-Q-Tel declined to comment.

    Other companies in this field include Palantir Technologies Inc., which helps government and Wall Street clients analyze their data; Recorded Future Inc., which monitors the Internet for coalescing cybersecurity threats and other events; and Domino Data Labs Inc., which provides the plumbing for firms to do data analytics.

    Palantir raised $450 million last week at a valuation of about $20 billion. Since 2009, it has received more than $215 million in contracts with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Defense Department and the Department of Homeland Security, according to USAspending.gov, a federal site that publishes government contracts. The company, which got its start working for intelligence agencies, now says more than 60% of its business comes from commercial clients, particularly on Wall Street.

    Another firm, a small technology company in Tennessee called Digital Reasoning Systems Inc., has counted Swiss bank UBS Group AG and New York hedge-fund firm Point72 Asset Management LLP as customers of data-combing software the U.S. government has been using to track down enemies of the state. A fund managed by Credit Suisse Asset Management is an investor.

    Tim Estes founded the firm that became Digital Reasoning in 2000 during his last year of college at the University of Virginia, where he studied philosophy.

    Conceived as a company specializing in “machine learning,” a branch of computer science dealing with programs that can learn from data and make better predictions, Digital Reasoning struggled during its first couple of years.

    But one day in 2002, Mr. Estes landed a meeting at a nearby Army base. He demonstrated an early version of the software product that came to be known as Synthesys, showing how the company’s systems could read vast amounts of text and extract patterns and links not apparent to the human eye.

    That led to a pilot project and an initial government contract in 2004. The system became embedded in Army systems and was used in the field in Afghanistan, according to Digital Reasoning.

    An In-Q-Tel investment in 2011 precipitated an even bigger mandate for Digital Reasoning from a wider swath of agencies, including the CIA.

    Located in a glassy office block on the outskirts of Franklin, Tenn., the firm’s staff of about 100 includes more than 30 employees with top-secret security clearance. Former Wall Street researchers and young technologists shuffle in and out of conference rooms named after locations from the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy.

    “We see ourselves as the Darwinian outcome of billions of dollars of intelligence spending post-9/11,” says Mr. Estes, 36 years old.

    Digital Reasoning’s government work is classified but Mr. Estes said it involves things like “figuring out the aliases of certain people that were very hard to find in the data.”

    Last year, Digital Reasoning raised $24 million from a group of banks led by Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Credit Suisse. So far, it has publicized contracts to assist the compliance teams of UBS and Point72, the $11 billion firm run by Steven A. Cohen that was formerly known as SAC Capital.

    Point72 uses systems from Digital Reasoning in conjunction with those from Palantir to monitor roughly one million emails, instant messages and other electronic communications every week, according to Vincent Tortorella, the firm’s chief compliance and surveillance officer.

    Systems from the two companies help “read, flag and risk-score emails,” which are then reviewed by a compliance group comprised of former employees of the CIA, FBI, Department of Homeland Security and the Securities and Exchange Commission, he said.

    Mr. Cohen’s firm has been caught in regulators’ cross hairs in recent years for issues related to its oversight of employees. In 2013, SAC agreed to plead guilty to insider-trading charges, pay $1.8 billion in fines and stop managing money for outside clients. Mr. Cohen is still awaiting the outcome of a civil case for failure to supervise employees later found guilty of insider trading.

    UBS, Credit Suisse and Goldman Sachs declined to comment.

    In pitching prospective clients, Digital Reasoning often shows a demonstration of how its system responded when it was fed 500,000 emails related to the Enron scandal made available by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

    After being “taught” some key concepts about compliance, the Synthesys program identified dozens of suspicious emails in which participants were using language that suggested attempts to conceal or destroy information. In some instances the program detected a lack of “business confidence,” which in the Enron case was primarily related to accounting practices.

    The Synthesys system reads all the text files in a database, capturing metadata and creating links between people and institutions. Words are given sentiment scores to help detect emotion. The end result is an application that can be used to look at the data from many perspectives.

    With training, the system can identify situations in which people are using code words for something nefarious, said Matthew Russell, the firm’s chief technology officer and a former intelligence officer in the U.S. Air Force.

    For example, an extremist group might refer to bombs as wedding cakes and bombings as weddings. In finance, the system might look for “gift-giving” language, such as a discussion of seats at a sporting event or other event. The software might also monitor for attempts to conceal information, phrases that seem to be pressuring someone to do something or expressions of anger. Some institutions search for words or phrases that show a lack of confidence around a decision, which could suggest they are wading into gray area.

    Digital Reasoning is already in discussions with financial clients about the next phase of analysis after compliance solutions: increasing revenue.

    Remember folks: in the future, people that refer to wedding cakes or sporting events, use expressions or anger, or seem to lack confidence around a decision are the kinds of people that are just going to cause trouble:


    With training, the system can identify situations in which people are using code words for something nefarious, said Matthew Russell, the firm’s chief technology officer and a former intelligence officer in the U.S. Air Force.

    For example, an extremist group might refer to bombs as wedding cakes and bombings as weddings. In finance, the system might look for “gift-giving” language, such as a discussion of seats at a sporting event or other event. The software might also monitor for attempts to conceal information, phrases that seem to be pressuring someone to do something or expressions of anger. Some institutions search for words or phrases that show a lack of confidence around a decision, which could suggest they are wading into gray area.

    Keep in mind that there’s also nothing preventing companies from applying these systems to old, stored emails retroactively, and that means even people working at companies that don’t employ Minority-Report system yet can’t assume that the email’s they’re writing today aren’t going to be scanned by Skynet next tomorrow. Or ten years from now.

    So when you’re using email at the office, just imagine what it would fell like if you were an unfeeling corporate robot incapable of expressing anything other than the details related to your immediate work and channel that feeling. That’s probably your safest bet going forward although there are other options.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | August 4, 2015, 5:51 pm
  4. Checkout Facebook’s new patent. It’s for a service that will let banks scan your Facebook friends for the purpose of assessing our credit quality. For instance, Facebook might set up a service where banks can take the average of the credit ratings for all of the people in your social network, and if that average doesn’t meet a minimum credit score, your loan application is denied. And that’s not just some random application of Facebook’s new patent. No, the system of using the average credit scores of your social network to deny you loans is explicitly part of the patent:

    mic.com
    tech.mic

    Facebook’s New Plan: Help Banks Figure Out How Poor You Are So They Can Deny You Loans

    By Jack Smith IV
    August 05, 2015

    If you and your Facebook friends are poor, good luck getting approved for a loan.

    Facebook has registered a patent for a system that would let banks and lenders screen your social network before deciding whether or not you’re approved for a loan. If your Facebook friends’ average credit scores don’t make the cut, the bank can reject you. The patent is worded in clear, terrifying language that speaks for itself:

    When an individual applies for a loan, the lender examines the credit ratings of members of the individual’s social network who are connected to the individual through authorized nodes. If the average credit rating of these members is at least a minimum credit score, the lender continues to process the loan application. Otherwise, the loan application is rejected.

    It’s very literally guilt by association, allowing banks and lenders to profile you by the status of your loved ones.

    Though a credit score isn’t necessarily a reflection of your wealth, it can serve as a rough guideline for who has a reliable, managed income and who has had to lean on credit in trying times. A line of credit is sometimes a lifeline, either for starting a new business or escaping a temporary hardship.

    Profiling people for being in social circles where low credit scores are likely could cut off someone’s chances of finding financial relief. In effect, it’s a device that isolates the poor and keeps them poor.

    A bold new era for discrimination: In the United States, it’s illegal to deny someone a loan based on traditional identifiers like race or gender — the kinds of things people usually use to discriminate. But these laws were made before Facebook was able to peer into your social graph and learn when, where and how long you’ve known your friends and acquaintances.

    The fitness-tracking tech company Fitbit said in 2014 that the fastest growing part of their business is helping employers monitor the health of their employees. Once insurers show interest in this information, you can bet they’ll be making a few rejections of their own. And if a group insurance plan that affects every employee depends on measurable, real-time data for the fitness of its employees, how will that affect the hiring process?

    And if you don’t like it, just find richer friends.

    Yes, if you don’t like having your loan or insurance applications denied because of the credit quality if your friends, just find richer friends! And don’t worry if you can’t find any. There are plenty of tools available that should be able to help you find that social network you need to succeed. Or, rather, find that social network you’re going need even more than you already need to succeed.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | August 6, 2015, 5:13 pm
  5. It’s long been hard to view Google as something other than a privatized version of an “alphabet agency”. Really hard.

    This isn’t going to make it any easier:

    The New York Times
    Google Is Reorganizing Under a New Company Called Alphabet

    By CONOR DOUGHERTY
    AUG. 10, 2015

    SAN FRANCISCO — Google was born as a company that did Internet search. Over time, it has broadened its interests into everything from drones to pharmaceuticals to venture capital.

    Now Google is changing its corporate structure to reflect that it has essentially become a holding company with a disparate collection of businesses.

    Larry Page, co-founder and chief executive of Google, said in a blog post on Monday that he was creating a new company named Alphabet that he would run along with Sergey Brin, the other co-founder of Google.

    Alphabet is to act as a parent entity, with several other companies operating under the structure. The biggest among them would be Google. In addition, Alphabet is to house other businesses such as Nest, the smart thermostat maker, and Calico, a company focused on longevity, among others.

    “For Sergey and me this is a very exciting new chapter in the life of Google — the birth of Alphabet,” wrote Mr. Page in the blog post. “We liked the name Alphabet because it means a collection of letters that represent language, one of humanity’s most important innovations, and is the core of how we index with Google search.”

    For Mr. Page, the decision to shake up Google’s structure is driven by the desire to reinvigorate the company with an entrepreneurial culture and to give operating divisions more leeway to make their own decisions. The structure is reminiscent of that of Berkshire Hathaway, Warren E. Buffett’s industrial empire, a giant conglomerate that includes railroads and Fruit of the Loom underwear.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | August 10, 2015, 5:17 pm
  6. Check out the group headlining the 2016 “International Students for Liberty” conference:

    isfl.org
    Pussy Riot to Headline ISFLC16
    by
    Casey Given

    Students For Liberty (SFL) is pleased to announce that Nadezhda Tolokonnikova from the Russian protest punk band Pussy Riot will be headlining the 9th International Students For Liberty Conference (ISFLC16) on Friday night. She and a bandmate will kick off the largest annual gathering of libertarian students with a talk and Q&A session.

    Pussy Riot’s anti-authoritarian stunts have gained international attention and the Kremlin’s ire in recent years. Tolokonnikova was famously arrested in 2012 after performing a song critical of Vladimir Putin in a Moscow cathedral. She was released in December 2013 after nearly two years in detention. Only two months later, Tolokonnikova was famously attacked with whips by Cossack militia members at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | December 3, 2015, 1:31 pm
  7. This was pretty inevitable, and increasingly moot, but it’s worth noting that facial recognition software is getting rolled out at US airports:

    FCW

    CBP tests facial recognition tech at major U.S. airport

    By Mark Rockwell
    Jun 13, 2016

    A few months after completing a biometric exit trial at two big U.S. airports, Customs and Border Protection has begun another test at the busiest airport in the country to see how facial recognition tech can work with existing agency IT systems.

    The trial, which began June 13 at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, will test how CBP’s systems can work with facial comparison technology to process images of travelers leaving the U.S. CBP said the test would be very specific, testing passengers between 14 and 79 years old, leaving the airport on a single daily flight to Japan. The trial is set to last until Sept. 30.

    The test comes as Congress has hounded DHS to implement biometric exit-tracking capabilities. At a Senate hearing in January, lawmakers queried DHS officials about why a biometric system that gathers information from departing foreign nationals to check against criminal and terrorist watchlists and criminal databases wasn’t in place. The 9/11 Commission recommended such a national biometric exit system back in 2004.

    During the Atlanta trial, travelers will present their boarding passes while a digital photo is taken. The process is designed to take fewer than three seconds and avoid slowing down the boarding process.

    “The test comes as Congress has hounded DHS to implement biometric exit-tracking capabilities. At a Senate hearing in January, lawmakers queried DHS officials about why a biometric system that gathers information from departing foreign nationals to check against criminal and terrorist watchlists and criminal databases wasn’t in place. The 9/11 Commission recommended such a national biometric exit system back in 2004.”

    While this is just a test, it’s pretty clear that it’s just a matter of time before we this kind of technology at every international airport in the US. And perhaps every international airport internationally, like in Germany:

    Reuters

    German minister wants facial recognition systems at airports, train stations

    Sun Aug 21, 2016 5:38am EDT

    Germany’s Interior Minister wants to introduce facial recognition software at train stations and airports to help identify terror suspects following two Islamist attacks in the country last month.

    Speaking to the Bild am Sonntag newspaper, Thomas de Maiziere said internet software was able to determine whether persons shown in photographs were celebrities or politicians.

    “I would like to use this kind of facial recognition technology in video cameras at airports and train stations. Then, if a suspect appears and is recognized, it will show up in the system,” he told the paper.

    He said a similar system was already being tested for unattended luggage, which the camera reports after a certain number of minutes.

    Other countries are also looking at such technology, but Germans have traditionally been skeptical of surveillance due to abuses by the Stasi secret police in East Germany and the Gestapo under the Nazis.

    Germans are on edge after jihadist militant group Islamic State claimed two attacks in July, one on a train near Wuerzburg and one at a music festival in Ansbach, in which asylum-seekers injured 20 people.

    As a result, organizers of the world’s biggest beer festival, Munich’s Oktoberfest, have raised security, including banning rucksacks, introducing security checks at all entrances and erecting fencing.

    De Maiziere said a ban on rucksacks at large-scale events could also be useful, adding that it would be up to on-site security officials to take that decision.

    “Other countries are also looking at such technology, but Germans have traditionally been skeptical of surveillance due to abuses by the Stasi secret police in East Germany and the Gestapo under the Nazis.”

    Yeah, considering the German government is trying to brand the nation as the global leader in personal data-privacy and the general history of surveillance state abuses, it’s going to be a little ironic if Germany begins leading the way in Europe for automated facial recognition technologies. Although, as the article below notes, Germany probably isn’t going to be implementing facial recognition technology on its own since the potential anti-terror utility of a single nation implementing a real-time facial recognition system is rather limited without a global database of possible terror suspect. Sharing facial recognition databases between nations is also required to really make the system work:

    Reuters

    Tech could help secure public spaces, if Europe wants more surveillance

    By Paul Sandle and Francesco Guarascio | LONDON/BRUSSELS
    Thu Mar 24, 2016 1:00pm EDT

    Facial recognition software, scanners that detect weapons and cameras that spot nervous people are some of the technologies that could be used more widely to secure public places, but some would require greater acceptance of surveillance in Europe.

    The deadly attacks in Brussels on Tuesday highlighted the vulnerability of Europe’s airports and transport systems.

    European Union officials, grappling with the conundrum of how to increase security while retaining the openness of society, have convened meetings to discuss aviation and land transport security.

    Their goal is to be able to monitor passengers unobtrusively while minimizing additional hold ups that create crowds, which can themselves become new targets.

    Experts say technology cannot solve the problem on its own, but techniques such as facial recognition able to pick out known suspects can help if Europeans decide they want more surveillance.

    Technology security expert and academic Pierluigi Paganini said if properly applied, facial recognition technology could have alerted security forces to the bombers at Brussels airport.

    “For the technology to be effective, it is however necessary to have several cameras operating, especially, in the case of an airport, at the transit zones,” he said.

    Paul Murphy from IndigoVision, a British company which specializes in video security systems, said a typical system could require 2,000 cameras and powerful computer servers.

    “Only in the last two years has it become affordable and reliable,” he said. “The cost has been prohibitive until recently and also the technology wasn’t quite good enough.”

    Such systems have been installed at Israel’s Ben Gurion International, major hubs in the Middle East and an airport in South America, he said.

    But the technology was still not as good as a human, he said, and it could be hampered by simple measures like donning headwear. At least one of the bombers in Brussels was wearing a hat.

    Recognizing a suspect in real time is far harder than identifying a suspect after an incident.

    “Comparing all of those faces (in a crowd) against a database is a enormously difficult task,” said Kevin Riordan, UK director of checkpoint solutions at British airport scanner maker Smiths. “Looking for a particular face in a crowd is easier.”

    Real-time identification requires the suspect to be known to authorities and present in the database used by the airport.

    Elke Oberg of German software group Cognitec said the availability of data to be matched with images taken by cameras was a problem.

    “For this, it is obvious that security agencies should share more information, in compatible formats, which is rarely the case at the moment,” she said.

    “Paul Murphy from IndigoVision, a British company which specializes in video security systems, said a typical system could require 2,000 cameras and powerful computer servers.”

    That’s a lot of cameras. Smile! But don’t smile too nervously. And for this system to work, lots and lots of images of all possible suspects, from a variety of angles, will need to be shared between national security agencies and made available to the servers doing the real-time image recognition analysis. That’s a lot of data.

    So it’s basically just a matter of time before a really, really big collectively maintained database of images of just about everyone who travels anywhere becomes a standard tool for securing public and private spaces. Although, maybe not everyone. Because as the following 2014 Suddeutsche Zeitung report on the BND’s plans for upgrading its biometric identification capabilities points out, there is one big problem that a global facial recognition database creates for spy agencies: Now all their undercover agents can be biometrically identified and have their covers blown, which is why the BND isn’t just investing in facial recognition and other biometric technologies. It’s also investing in image manipulation technology in order to thwart the automated biometrics to protect the identity of its agents (Translated via Google):

    Suddeutsche Zeitung

    Foreign intelligence service
    BND wants to investigate social networks live
    31 to May 2014, 14:20

    The Federal Intelligence Service will continue to investigate social networks like Twitter and Facebook, even while the users are active. When establishing its plans, the BND makes for information of SZ, NDR and WDR, the arguments of the US intelligence community as its own.

    By John Goetz, Hans Leyendecker and Frederik Obermaier

    The Federal Intelligence Service (BND) will continue the social networks can investigate in “real time” and digital upgrade. This is evident from several confidential documents of the German foreign intelligence service, the present Süddeutsche Zeitun g, the NDR and WDR.

    The project is internally under the title “real-time analysis of streaming data” and is part of a so-called “Strategic Initiative technique” (SIT). The cost of the program, which will initially run until 2020, is estimated by the BND total to around 300 million euros. The Bundestag will in the coming weeks approve this sum.

    Already this year, the foreign intelligence service wants to improve his technique in order to evaluate Blogs, forums and portals such as Flickr, Facebook and Twitter can systematically. There messages, images and other data between the members to be replaced. By scrutinizing one could be as explain intelligence officers, provide a more accurate picture of the situation abroad. The service was to the Bundeswehr University in Munich a study on “Automated monitoring of internet content” in order.

    Friends intelligence services were methodically much further

    The service will be upgraded in five areas: In addition to the Internet monitoring mobile devices for capturing measurement data to be acquired from missile tests, in addition, the service will in future increasingly connection data, called metadata spy. currently working mainly US intelligence with the controversial mass storage of such data.

    The German foreign intelligence pointed talking to parliamentarians that friendly intelligence services from abroad methodically much further than had the BND, in particular the American service NSA and British intelligence agency GCHQ. If will not soon upgraded strategic digital, the BND threatened still behind the Italian and a return to the Spanish secret service.

    Until 2019, the BND will invest 4.5 million euros to upgrade biometrics in the field. On the basis of, for example, fingerprints and iris scans the BND wants to identify targets. The image recognition is to be automated. Biometrics makes the service even problems. Agents who have traveled under her real name abroad and of which there are biometric data can not travel under assumed name next time, because the biometric data remain the same. In order to protect its own people, the service will therefore buy software for image manipulation.

    “Until 2019, the BND will invest 4.5 million euros to upgrade biometrics in the field. On the basis of, for example, fingerprints and iris scans the BND wants to identify targets. The image recognition is to be automated. Biometrics makes the service even problems. Agents who have traveled under her real name abroad and of which there are biometric data can not travel under assumed name next time, because the biometric data remain the same. In order to protect its own people, the service will therefore buy software for image manipulation.

    Yep, in the future, the automated real-time biometric systems will also include special options for somehow introducing whatever disinformation is required to prevent undercover agents from accidentally getting flagged by showing up as two different people. It’s an example of the kind of fascinating surveillance-state headaches that could be emerging: the more spying becomes automated, the greater the chances spies accidentally get identified by their own surveillance infrastructure or some other nation’s automated spy system.

    How exactly this gets worked out between nations is going to be an interesting question but it also highlights another fascinating dynamic that’s emerging in the post-Snowden era of widescale public concern over digital spying: One of the main arguments we often hear these days is that spy agencies should basically just stop spying digitally and instead go back to relying primarily on human spies and fill in the HumInt gap. Ok, that could happen. It might ironically encourage the creation of a Stasi-like human spy network, but could happen. But if that does happen and we really do see a big refocus on human intelligence going forward, it’s going to be very interesting to see what spy agencies do to prevent all their human spies from being identified by facial recognition software (whether its their real id or undercover id) and having that biometric data shared with other security agencies all over the globe. Especially given all the private sector facial recognition databases that are popping up everywhere. Ironically, surveillance states could make spying a lot harder to do. At least some types of spying.

    So if you’re a young plastic surgeon trying to decide where to locate your practice, have you considered Williamsburg, Virginia? You should. It’s a community with a lot of growth potential for your services.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | August 24, 2016, 6:31 pm
  8. Here’s a story with keeping in mind as advanced surveillance and artificial intelligence technology becomes more and more potentially useful for an authoritarian state: It turns out that about half of American adults have photos stored in a facial recognition database that the FBI has been quietly creating since 2010. And while that’s not particularly surprising, it turns out the FBI did this without informing the public with in five years which is, somewhat ironically, against the law. Also, the system misidentifies people about 15 percent of the time. And it misidentifies black people more than whites, so the misidentification rate is presumably much higher than 15 percent for blacks. So, yeah, it looks like the FBI’s secret facial recognition technology is kind of racist *surprise*:

    The Guardian

    Facial recognition database used by FBI is out of control, House committee hears

    Database contains photos of half of US adults without consent, and algorithm is wrong nearly 15% of time and is more likely to misidentify black people

    Olivia Solon in San Francisco

    Monday 27 March 2017 06.00 EDT
    Last modified on Monday 27 March 2017 13.09 EDT

    Approximately half of adult Americans’ photographs are stored in facial recognition databases that can be accessed by the FBI, without their knowledge or consent, in the hunt for suspected criminals. About 80% of photos in the FBI’s network are non-criminal entries, including pictures from driver’s licenses and passports. The algorithms used to identify matches are inaccurate about 15% of the time, and are more likely to misidentify black people than white people.

    These are just some of the damning facts presented at last week’s House oversight committee hearing, where politicians and privacy campaigners criticized the FBI and called for stricter regulation of facial recognition technology at a time when it is creeping into law enforcement and business.

    “Facial recognition technology is a powerful tool law enforcement can use to protect people, their property, our borders, and our nation,” said the committee chair, Jason Chaffetz, adding that in the private sector it can be used to protect financial transactions and prevent fraud or identity theft.

    “But it can also be used by bad actors to harass or stalk individuals. It can be used in a way that chills free speech and free association by targeting people attending certain political meetings, protests, churches, or other types of places in the public.”

    Furthermore, the rise of real-time face recognition technology that allows surveillance and body cameras to scan the faces of people walking down the street was, according to Chaffetz, “most concerning”.

    “For those reasons and others, we must conduct proper oversight of this emerging technology,” he said.

    “No federal law controls this technology, no court decision limits it. This technology is not under control,” said Alvaro Bedoya, executive director of the center on privacy and technology at Georgetown Law.

    The FBI first launched its advanced biometric database, Next Generation Identification, in 2010, augmenting the old fingerprint database with further capabilities including facial recognition. The bureau did not inform the public about its newfound capabilities nor did it publish a privacy impact assessment, required by law, for five years.

    Unlike with the collection of fingerprints and DNA, which is done following an arrest, photos of innocent civilians are being collected proactively. The FBI made arrangements with 18 different states to gain access to their databases of driver’s license photos.

    “I’m frankly appalled,” said Paul Mitchell, a congressman for Michigan. “I wasn’t informed when my driver’s license was renewed my photograph was going to be in a repository that could be searched by law enforcement across the country.”

    Last year, the US government accountability office (GAO) analyzed the FBI’s use of facial recognition technology and found it to be lacking in accountability, accuracy and oversight, and made recommendations of how to address the problem.

    A key concern was how the FBI measured the accuracy of its system, particularly the fact that it does not test for false positives nor for racial bias.

    “It doesn’t know how often the system incorrectly identifies the wrong subject,” explained the GAO’s Diana Maurer. “Innocent people could bear the burden of being falsely accused, including the implication of having federal investigators turn up at their home or business.”

    Inaccurate matching disproportionately affects people of color, according to studies. Not only are algorithms less accurate at identifying black faces, but African Americans are disproportionately subjected to police facial recognition.

    “If you are black, you are more likely to be subjected to this technology, and the technology is more likely to be wrong,” said Elijah Cummings, a congressman for Maryland, who called for the FBI to test its technology for racial bias – something the FBI claims is unnecessary because the system is “race-blind”.

    “This response is very troubling. Rather than conducting testing that would show whether or not these concerns have merit, the FBI chooses to ignore growing evidence that the technology has a disproportionate impact on African Americans,” Cummings said.

    Kimberly Del Greco, the FBI’s deputy assistant director of criminal justice information, said that the FBI’s facial recognition system had “enhanced the ability to solve crime” and emphasized that the system was not used to positively identify suspects, but to generate “investigative leads”.

    Even the companies that develop facial recognition technology believe it needs to be more tightly controlled. Brian Brackeen, CEO of Kairos, told the Guardian he was “not comfortable” with the lack of regulation. Kairos helps movie studios and ad agencies study the emotional response to their content and provides facial recognition in theme parks to allow people to find and buy photos of themselves.

    Brackeen said that the algorithms used in the commercial space are “five years ahead” of what the FBI is doing, and are much more accurate.

    “There has got to be privacy protections for the individual,” he said.

    “Inaccurate matching disproportionately affects people of color, according to studies. Not only are algorithms less accurate at identifying black faces, but African Americans are disproportionately subjected to police facial recognition.”

    A racist FBI facial recognition system. Imagine that. And to make matters worse, the system doesn’t appear to have undergone any internal checks to see if this was going to be an issue in the first place:


    A key concern was how the FBI measured the accuracy of its system, particularly the fact that it does not test for false positives nor for racial bias.

    “It doesn’t know how often the system incorrectly identifies the wrong subject,” explained the GAO’s Diana Maurer. “Innocent people could bear the burden of being falsely accused, including the implication of having federal investigators turn up at their home or business.”

    So the FBI has a racist facial recognition system that doesn’t even realize it’s racist in part because it never even bothered to examine its baseline assumptions and didn’t even question whether or not it could be racist in the first place. Of course.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | March 29, 2017, 3:10 pm

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