Category Archives: Press

NSA PRISM, Writs of Assistance, Rattlesnakes, and the Fourth Amendment

British Crown dragnets of information against smuggling led to the U.S. Fourth Amendment, and U.S. defense against those dragnets was the origin of the Gadsden rattlesnake flag. Those colonial Writs of Assistance were much like that FISA court order for Verizon call logs and the NSA PRISM wide-range domestic communications dragnet, while Senators Feinstein and Chambliss act like the colonial royal governors who issued those Writs.

The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Senators Feinstein and Chambliss admit there is no probable cause, and no particular description of the place to be searched or the persons or things to be seized.

The Fourth Amendment was proposed because of things very like that FISA court order to Verizon back in colonial times, namely writs of assistance to stop smuggling:

In 1760, governor [Francis] Bernard of Massachusetts authorized the use by revenue officers of writs of assistance. Writs of assistance were Continue reading

Senators Feinstein and Chambliss shuffle their feet about FISA

Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) lamely tried to defend the Verizon call log wiretapping, which they full well know is actually part of a dragnet of all U.S. communications. Ed O’Keefe wrote for the Washingtohn Post yesterday, Transcript: Dianne Feinstein, Saxby Chambliss explain, defend NSA phone records program,

Dianne Feinstein:

As far as I know, this is the exact three month renewal of what has been the case for the past seven years. This renewal is carried out by the FISA Court under the business records section of the Patriot Act. Therefore, it is lawful.

It has been briefed to Congress and the letters that we have distributed — and you’ll note on the dates, this is prior to the Patriot Act amendments coming before the body, each of those. As you know, this is just Continue reading

NSA domestic spying: we stopped it in 1977 and we can stop it again

After seven years or more, it’s good people are finally noticing the NSA spying program: now maybe enough people will do something about it like we did in 1977.

Don’t believe it’s just limited to who calls who: since at least 2005, AT&T (and most likely all the other telcos) has been sending all telecommunications to NSA. This stuff started after 9/11 and was legalized by the FISA Amendments Act of 2008. Before 9/11 NSA respected a rigorous wall between it and domestic spying. Time to put that wall back up. Bruce Schneier wrote 29 December 2005, Project Shamrock,

Decades before 9/11, and the subsequent Bush order that directed the NSA to eavesdrop on every phone call, e-mail message, and who-knows-what-else going into or out of the United States, U.S. citizens included, they did the same thing with telegrams. It was called Project Shamrock, and anyone who thinks this is new legal and technological terrain should read up on that program.

Project SHAMROCK…was an espionage exercise that involved the accumulation of all telegraphic data entering into or exiting from the United States. The Armed Forces Security Agency (AFSA) and its successor NSA were given direct access to daily microfilm copies of all incoming, outgoing, and transiting telegraphs via the Western Union and its associates RCA and ITT. Operation Shamrock lasted well into the 1960s when computerized operations (HARVEST) made it possible to search for keywords rather than read through all communications.

Project SHAMROCK became so successful that in 1966 Continue reading

Eyes on their lobbyists’ bank accounts

The plutocrats and their bought politicians don’t care about Internet free trade, but we should.

Scott Bradner almost gets it about the opposition to net neutrality in Eyes in their ankles: The congressional view of network neutrality:

If you work at a company that uses the Internet to sell to customers or to buy from suppliers you should care about the net neutrality discussion.
You should, but you probably don’t have the money to buy some politicians to do something about it, and unfortunately the biggest companies do, and they’re busy doing just that: Continue reading

Duopoly Cons Congress Members

73 Democratic members of Congress signed a letter drafted by telco and cableco lobbyists against net neutrality. Save the Internet has sufficiently fisked it. My favorite point is that when AT&T was required as a condition of acquiring Bellsouth in 2006 to abide by net neutrality, it increased its infrastructure investments. As soon as that two year requirement was up, so were the investments. (And they didn’t even honor all the requirements, such as a low-end $10/month service.)

The simple fact is that net neutrality was the condition under which the Internet grew to be what it is today, which is the last bastion of free speech and a free press in much of the world, especially in the United States. The only reason net neutrality is an issue is that the duopoly (telcos and cablecos) succeeded in their regulatory capture of the FCC during Kevin Martin’s term as chairman and did away with much it. The U.S. used to have among the fastest Internet speeds in the world. Since the duopoly got their way, the U.S. has fallen far behind dozens of other countries in connection speeds, availability, and update. While the U.S. NTIA claimed at least one user per ZIP code counted as real service.

We can let the telcos and cablecos continue to turn the Internet into cable TV, as they have said they want to do. Under the conditions they want, we never would have had the world wide web, google, YouTube, flickr, facebook, etc.

And left to their plan, the duopoly will continue cherry-picking densely-populated areas and leaving rural areas, such as south Georgia, where I live, to sink or swim. Most of the white area in the Georgia map never had anybody even try a speed test. Most of the rest of south Georgia had really slow access. Which maybe wouldn’t be a problem if we had competitive newspapers (we don’t) or competing TV stations (we don’t). Or if we didn’t need to publish public information like health care details online, as Sanford Bishop (D GA-02) says he plans to do. How many people in his district can even get to it? How many won’t because their link is too slow? How many could but won’t because it costs too much?

John Barrow (D GA-12) has a fancy flashy home page that most people in his district probably can’t get to. Yet he signed the letter against net neutrality.

I prefer an open Internet. How about you?

Why did the 73 Democrats sign the letter? Could it have to do with the duopoly making massive campaign contributions to the same Democrats and holding fancy parties for them?

The same lobbyists are after Republican members of Congress next.

Call your member of Congress and insist on giving the FCC power to enforce net neutrality rules.


Iran and U.S. Media Irrevelance

whereismyvote.jpg Blogger Interrupted spells out the pretty much complete failure of the U.S. news media, especially cable news, to cover what’s going on in Iran, which is at least of a scale with the Tienanmen Square protests that made CNN’s name 20 years ago.
No obstacle was enough to stop the coverage. Even when China cut off CNN from Beijing, CNN reported repeatedly that they were cut off. BECAUSE IT IS NEWS WHEN A NEWS ORGANIZATION IS SHUT DOWN. When tanks hit the streets in Moscow in 1991, cameras were there, regardless of safety concerns, in one of the most closed societies on earth at the time, as the outcome was in grave doubt. Reporters risked their lives.
At least one news organization has been shut down, El Arabiya. Plus cell phone service is out and facebook, youtube, Voice of America, and BBC World Service are being blocked or jammed in Iran.

There are news organizations covering all this, most notably the BBC. But if you really want to know what’s going on you have to turn to twitter or bloggers like Andrew Sullivan.

The biggest problem with the decline of the traditional news media is the accompanying decline in real reporting. Yet how hard could it be to report that the official election statistics are preposterous, the Iranian state’s own election monitors say the election had problems, and the opposition (which apparently actually won) is very organized and is planning demonstrations today and a general strike Tuesday?

If the traditional media can’t cover something as obvious as this, what good is it?


Sterling: Samizdat Quality Quality Oligarch Press

bruce-sterling.jpg Bruce Sterling,, who has studied and practiced paper and online media his en tire career, and who also traveled to the USSR and then to Russia, says Prof. Clemons hasn’t imagined the worst:
(((Well, no — the “worst” would be that the publishers keep grinding out product, only it’s evil propaganda entirely subsidized by ultrawealthy moguls who have made themselves the only public source of news and culture. In other words, the commercial press collapses and it’s replaced by a classically fascist press. (Likely run on bailout money.) THAT’s the worst — with the possible exception of a furious proletarian upheaval that forces everyone to read grimy, poorly-printed copies of PRAVDA.)))
It would be easy to see a path from where we are now (half of U.S. media is owned by only five companies that actively suppress stories they don’t want to hear and promote stupid ones they do want) to Bruce’s scenario.

Clemons: Advertising Doomed Online, Too

clemons_eric.jpg U. Penn. professor Eric K. Clemons, who researches strategic and competitive information technology, writes:
The expected drop in internet advertising revenues this year was neither unpredictable nor unpredicted, nor was it caused solely by the general recession and the decline in retail sales. Internet advertising will rapidly lose its value and its impact, for reasons that can easily be understood. Traditional advertising simply cannot be carried over to the internet, replacing full-page ads on the back of The New York Times or 30-second spots on the Super Bowl broadcast with pop-ups, banners, click-throughs on side bars. This might be a subject where considerable disagreement is possible, if indeed, pushed ads were still working in traditional media. Mostly they have failed. One newspaper after another is going out of business across the United States, and the ad revenues of traditional print media, even of highly respected magazines, is declining. The ultimate failure of broadcast media advertising is likewise becoming clear.
So a newspaper that wants to survive needs to find a way to do it without depending on traditional broadcast advertising.

Selling Out Has Its Party: AT&T Fetes Blue Dogs

2793874065_fd20bc4453.jpg Glenn Greenwald has video of attendees refusing to say who they were or why they were there or what the party was for:
Amazingly, not a single one of the 25-30 people we tried to interview would speak to us about who they were, how they got invited, what the party’s purpose was, why they were attending, etc. One attendee said he was with an “energy company,” and the other confessed she was affiliated with a “trade association,” but that was the full extent of their willingness to describe themselves or this event. It was as though they knew they’re part of a filthy and deeply corrupt process and were ashamed of — or at least eager to conceal — their involvement in it. After just a few minutes, the private security teams demanded that we leave, and when we refused and continued to stand in front trying to interview the reticent attendees, the Denver Police forced us to move further and further away until finally we were unable to approach any more of the arriving guests.

AT&T thanks the Blue Dog Democrats with a lavish party, Glenn Greenwald, Salon, Monday Aug. 25, 2008 11:15 EDT (updated below (with video added) – Update II) Thursday, Aug 28, 2008

The video includes Denver police repeatedly asking accredited press to move away from a public sidewalk.

At another party, an ABC News reporter was arrested while “attempting to take pictures on a public sidewalk of Democratic senators and VIP donors leaving a private meeting at the Brown Palace Hotel.”

Parties like this are part of the lobbying revolving door that makes the U.S. look like a banana republic. I’m picking on Democrats, here, but at least 75% of Senate Democrats (including Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden, but not Barack Obama) voted against the recent bad FISA bill. A much higher percentage of Republicans voted for it.

If he were alive today, Robert Burns would say:

‘We are bought and sold for telecom gold’
Such a parcel of rogues in a nation!


Viral Viral: Pretending to Cheat Worked Better Than Cheating for Avril Lavigne Fans

Photo: Arista Records
Avril Lavigne fans push their girl's video to #1 on YouTube by pretending to cheat:
On June 19th, the Avril Lavigne fansite Avril Bandaids launched a “Girlfriend” YouTube Viewer (It’s now been retired) with the intention of making “Girlfriend” the #1 YouTube video of all time. The url that hosted the viewer reloaded the video every 15 seconds. The theory was that Avril fans could load up that url, let it run, and Avril would get the top video spot in no time.

Well, Entertainment Tonight, Perez Hilton,, The Globe and Mail, The Sydney Morning Herald, and many others picked up the story and started crying “foul.” How dare this hardcore group choose the number one YouTube video for us!? How dare they! And that’s where this story gets good.

There was no foul. YouTube caps it’s views per specific IP at 200 per day. (That may sound like a lot, but it’s not enough for a small legion of hardcore fans to make a dent in a number approacing 100,000,000.) There was no way they could game YouTube in the way they were purporting; and they knew it all along.

“Girlfriend” Video Tops YouTube With Viral Viral Marketing (not a typo), by Wade,, 20th August 2008

So they leveraged their leverage by provoking media outrage, causing millions of people to watch the video to see what it's about, and now causing a third wave of blog posts, thus producing still more views.

Now that's clever.

Not the sort of thing you'll ever see come out of telcos or cablecos, either.