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

Dave Emory’s entire life­time of work is avail­able on a flash dri­ve that can be obtained here. The new dri­ve is a 32-giga­byte dri­ve that is cur­rent as of the pro­grams and arti­cles post­ed by 12/19/2014. The new dri­ve (avail­able for a tax-deductible con­tri­bu­tion of $65.00 or more) con­tains FTR #850.  (The pre­vi­ous flash dri­ve was cur­rent through the end of May of 2012 and con­tained FTR #748.)

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

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. . . .






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.


    “[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:


    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

    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:

    Pussy Riot to Head­line ISFLC16
    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:


    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:


    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:


    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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