A tiny revelation from James Bamford's compelling new profile of Edward Snowden in Wired: One day an intelligence officer told him that TAO—a division of NSA hackers—had attempted in 2012 to remotely install an exploit in one of the core routers at a major Internet service provider in Syria, which was in the midst of a prolonged civil war. This would have given the NSA access to email and other Internet traffic from much of the country. But something went wrong, and the router was bricked instead—rendered totally inoperable. The failure of this router caused Syria to suddenly lose all connection to the Internet—although the public didn't know [...]
In Inherent Vice, a perhaps minor novel by Thomas Pynchon, that great chronicler of history at an angle, the pothead detective Doc Sportello frequently runs into, and gets help from, some science geeks—proto-nerds who use a semi-privatized version of ARPANET to help Sportello get info on the various people he’s hazily tracking.
These are seemingly throwaway characters, just a few minor notes in the typical Pynchonian symphony of bizarre names and tangled plot strands and sinister conspiracies. But they are more than that. They are the prophets of our modern world, where everything is connected, and where not only can anyone with the right access track everyone else, [...]
• "We don't know a lot about how the government spies on us, but we know some things. We know the FBI has issued tens of thousands of ultra-secret National Security Letters to collect all sorts of data on people—we believe on millions of people—and has been abusing them to spy on cloud-computer users. We know it can collect a wide array of personal data from the Internet without a warrant. We also know that the FBI has been intercepting cell-phone data, all but voice content, for the past 20 years without a warrant, and can use the microphone on some powered-off cell phones as a room bug—presumably only with [...]
"My copy came with CONFIDENTIAL stamped on every page and a nondisclosure agreement that expires today." Thus arrived the new book by Glenn Greenwald, the most unrelenting man on the planet, on the doorsteps of reviewers.
The book, No Place to Hide, does a few things: It recounts how Greenwald and Laura Poitras met Edward Snowden in Hong Kong to begin the process of exposing the National Security Agency's mass surveillance programs; it provides mix of familiar and fresh details—to the public, anyway, having been squirreled away by Greenwald for nearly a year—about those programs; and it excoriates "the establishment media" for their complicity with [...]
It is no longer appropriate for search to be under the thumb of private industry. It's a critical part of the national infrastructure. So if I were a real pinko, I'd be advocating for the nationalization of Google, à la Chavez—but I'm not a real pinko. Besides, the American people have already bought and paid for an ideal alternative to Google. That's right: we have the means in hand to create a public, ad-free, totally fair and reasonably transparent search engine with a legal mandate to operate in the public interest, and most of the work is already done. We have also a huge staff of engineers to conclude what [...]
If you're one of the ten people on the Internet who haven't read the new Wired cover story that went online last night, you probably should join the rest. It describes how, beginning in 2001, when warrantless wiretapping by the NSA began, they started with recording "320 million calls a day." Which we began to learn about in 2005. Oh, do you already feel bad about the way the materials for your iPhone are gathered? Well, feel worse! Because AT&T provides the government secret access to your billing records. (So does Verizon.) And now the government is building the computing and storage infrastructure to really start analyzing [...]
You are being tracked. Besides comprehensive government spying, there are hundreds of data brokers compiling and selling information about you: Phone records, texts, phone location, computer location, web history, social networking use, background checks, credit history and now even entrance to some retail stores, with facial recognition linking you to your online data.
Julia Angwin, a reporter for ProPublica who was on a Pulitzer-winning team [...]
1. "Song for Edward Snowden" by Joe Fox. Best line: "Braaaave, or stupid? Braaaave, or stupid?"
2. "You Can't Slip A Chip Into My Brain, NSA" by (the perfectly named) Grant William Brad Gerver. Best line: uh, "You Can't Slip A Chip Into My Brain, NSA"?
3. "Prism" by David Rovics. Best line: "One government came down and burned in repetition of this fact / the next government passed the Freedom of Information Act."