Earlier this week, we wrote about the accusations that the CIA was spying on Senate staffers on the Senate Intelligence Committee as they were working on a massive $40 million, 6,300-page report condemning the CIA's torture program. The DOJ is apparently already investigating if the CIA violated computer hacking laws in spying on the Senate Intelligence Committee computers. The issue revolved around a draft of an internal review by the CIA, which apparently corroborates many of the Senate report's findings -- but which the CIA did not hand over to the Senate. This internal report not only supports the Senate report's findings, but also shows that the CIA has been lying in response to questions about the terror program.
In response to all of this, it appears that the CIA is attempting, weakly, to spin this as being the Senate staffers' fault, arguing that the real breach was the fact that the Senate staffers somehow broke the rules in obtaining that internal review. CIA boss John Brennan's statement hints at the fact that he thinks the real problem was with the way the staffers acted, suggesting that an investigation would fault "the legislative" branch (the Senate) rather than the executive (the CIA).
In his statement on Wednesday Brennan hit back in unusually strong terms. “I am deeply dismayed that some members of the Senate have decided to make spurious allegations about CIA actions that are wholly unsupported by the facts,” Brennan said.A further report detailed what he's talking about. Reporters at McClatchy have revealed that the Senate staffers working on this came across the document, printed it out, and simply walked out of the CIA and over to the Senate with it, and the CIA is furious about that. Then, in a moment of pure stupidity, the CIA appears to have confronted the Senate Intelligence Committee about all of this... directly revealing that they were spying on the Committee staffers.
“I am very confident that the appropriate authorities reviewing this matter will determine where wrongdoing, if any, occurred in either the executive branch or legislative branch,” Brennan continued, raising a suggestion that the Senate committee itself might have acted improperly.
Several months after the CIA submitted its official response to the committee report, aides discovered in the database of top-secret documents at CIA headquarters a draft of an internal review ordered by former CIA Director Leon Panetta of the materials released to the panel, said the knowledgeable person.There are many more details in the McClatchy report, which I highly recommend reading. And, yes, perhaps there's an argument that Senate staffers weren't supposed to take such documents, but the CIA trying to spin this by saying it was those staffers who were engaged in "wrongdoing" is almost certainly going to fall flat with Congress. After all, the intelligence committee is charged with oversight of the CIA, not the other way around. "You stole the documents we were hiding from you which proved we were lying, so we spied on you to find out how you did that" is not, exactly, the kind of argument that too many people are going to find compelling.
They determined that it showed that the CIA leadership disputed report findings that they knew were corroborated by the so-called Panetta review, said the knowledgeable person.
The aides printed the material, walked out of CIA headquarters with it and took it to Capitol Hill, said the knowledgeable person.
“All this goes back to what is the technical structure here,” said the U.S. official who confirmed the unauthorized removal. “If I was a Senate staffer and I was given access to documents on the system, I would have a laptop that’s cleared. I would be allowed to look at these documents. But with these sorts of things, there’s generally an agreement that you can’t download or take them.”
The CIA discovered the security breach and brought it to the committee’s attention in January, leading to a determination that the agency recorded the staffers’ use of the computers in the high-security research room, and then confirmed the breach by reviewing the usage data, said the knowledgeable person.
Still, the latest is that the CIA has successfully convinced the DOJ to have the FBI kick off an investigation of the Senate staffers, rather than of the CIA breaking the law and spying on their overseers.
Friday, March 07, 2014
CIA: We Only Spied On Senate Intelligence Committee Because They Took Classified Documents That Prove We're Liars. [Link]
From Salon comes an article called “Why I can’t stand white belly dancers,” with the subtitle “Whether they know it or not, white women who practice belly dance are engaging in appropriation.” A sample:Women I have confronted about this have said, “But I have been dancing for 15 years! This is something I have built a huge community on.” These women are more interested in their investment in belly dancing than in questioning and examining how their appropriation of the art causes others harm. To them, I can only say, I’m sure there are people who have been unwittingly racist for 15 years. It’s not too late. Find another form of self-expression. Make sure you’re not appropriating someone else’s.Appropriation — the horror! People treating artistic genres as if they were great ideas that are part of the common stock of humanity, available for all humanity to use, rather than the exclusive property of some particular race or ethnic group. What atrocity will the culturally insensitive appropriators think of next? East Asian cellists? Swedish chess players? The Japanese putting on Shakespeare? Jews playing Christians’ Christian music, such as Mozart’s masses? Arriviste Jewish physicists using work done for centuries by Christians? Russian Jews writing about Anglo-American law? Indians writing computer programs, using languages and concepts pioneered by Americans and Europeans? Japanese companies selling the most delicious custard cream puffs? Shame, shame, shame.But, wait: Maybe — and I know this is a radical thought — artists, whether high or low, should be able to work in whatever artistic fields they want to work in. Maybe they should even be able to work in those fields regardless of their skin color or the place from which their ancestors came.Maybe telling people that they can’t work in some field because they have the wrong color or ancestry would be … rats, I don’t know what to call it. If only there were an adjective that could be used to mean “telling people that they mustn’t do something, because of their race or ethnic origin.”As to the blackface analogy that the article offers, the objection to blackface is that it originated as mockery of blacks, and is generally understood as continuation of such mockery. When white woman are “dressed in Orientalist garb with eye makeup caked on for full kohl effect and glittery accessories” — or for that matter, when people who aren’t of European extraction wear traditionally European formal clothing to play classical music, or non-European ballet dancers dress in European costumes — they aren’t trying to mock or belittle the group whose garb they are using. Rather, they are doing what performers have done throughout history: dressing the part.
I bet we'll start seeing hoodies with this soon for protesters. [Link]
On Hackaday, Shenzhen demonstrates some proof-of-concept"taser-proof clothing" created by adding carbon fiber to the clothes' lining. The carbon fiber textile can be procured in avariety of forms, including upholstery fabric (58" wide, $19.50/yard) and peel-and-stick 50cm tape rolls. Shenzhen claims this will work even if the taser's prongs get to the wearer's body: "Electric current flows through the carbon tape and not through the human body. Always. Even if the taser's needle pierced the skin."
Wasn't that the entire point of this slow motion train wreck? [Link]
I'm pretty sure that they aren't capturing that information because they don't want to know how bad the enrollments are.ObamaCare isn’t achieving its primary goal of extending coverage to the uninsured, according to a new study.The survey released Thursday by the McKinsey & Co. consulting firm found that only 27 percent of people who have selected a plan on the new exchanges didn’t previously have coverage.
The Obama administration says 4 million people have selected a plan since the exchanges launched on Oct. 1, but has not said how many of them already had an insurance plan.
At a healthcare industry conference on Thursday, Gary Cohen, a top official at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), said it’s not something the administration has the ability to track.
“That's not a data point that we are really collecting in any sort of systematic way," Cohen said, according to The National Journal.
A CMS official told The Hill that it’s an important measurement that the agency hopes to be able to report on in the future.
“We are a looking at a range of data sources to determine how many marketplace enrollees previously had coverage,” the official said. “The marketplace application asks applicants only if they are looking to apply for coverage, not whether the consumer currently has coverage. Previous insurance coverage is an important metric, and we hope to have additional information in the future.”
Still, the 4 million ObamaCare enrollees are a small fraction of those who may have obtained coverage for the first time.
The administration said earlier this month that almost 9 million people had signed up for Medicaid since Oct. 1, but it's also unclear there how many of them are newly insured.
A recent analysis by Avalere Health, a Washington-based healthcare consulting firm, estimated that 2.4 million to 3.5 million of the enrollees may be receiving Medicaid.
Figures released by the administration have often painted incomplete picture of the healthcare law's progress. It reported enrollment figures that included people who have selected a plan but not completed the process by making their first premium payment. Critics have warned that the administration’s numbers are inflated because not everyone who selects a plan will complete the final step to obtain coverage.
Thursday, March 06, 2014
Canadian adult channels are not airing enough local made content. [Link]
For failing to broadcast sufficient levels of Canadian-made pornography — and failing to close-caption said pornography properly — a trio of Toronto-based erotica channels has earned a reprimand from the Canadian Radio-television & Telecommunications Commission.Wednesday, the CRTC issued a broadcast notice saying AOV Adult Movie Channel, XXX Action Clips and the gay-oriented Maleflixxx were all failing to reach the required 35% threshold for Canadian content.Based on a 24-hour broadcast schedule, that translates to about 8.5 hours of Canadian erotica a day.The notice was issued as a result of Channel Zero’s efforts to renew licences for all three erotica channels. The regulator will review the “instances of apparent non-compliance” at an April 28 hearing in Gatineau, Que.The channels’ parent company, Toronto-based Channel Zero, did not respond toNational Post requests for comment.In previous filings to the CRTC, however, the company has claimed its deficit of Canadian erotica was simply a clerical error.In a 2012 note to regulators, Jennifer Chen, a Channel Zero vice-president, wrote, “The non-compliance is a result of an error, on our part.”Admittedly, Channel Zero had only been missing the CanCon threshold by minutes of erotica a day.“The programming strategy has been adjusted accordingly in light of this information,” wrote Ms. Chen.CRTC regulators also reprimanded Channel Zero for failing to provide sufficient close-captioning.In 2012, Channel Zero replied, “We appreciate and respect the importance of providing closed captioning for our viewers, as a means of making our programming accessible to the hearing impaired.”Under standard CRTC policy, Canadian channels must also cater to the blind by offering “Audio Description,” a service in which narrators describe “graphics that appear on the screen.”When previously pressed on this point by regulators, Channel Zero replied, “We currently do not air any programming that would require Audio Description.”
Wednesday, March 05, 2014
I didn't think it was possible - but it is. [Link]
Using my psychic powers, I sense that anyone using this will end up in the spam folder.Email is broken because it’s far easier to send someone a message that creates work for them than it is for them to do that work. So you can quickly make the lives of people worse, at little cost to yourself.Today, not responding to email is implicitly stating that your note was not important enough to warrant a response. That’s appropriate! Not everything everyone thinks or says merits a response. What we want in life is less, not more email, right?Yet a startup called Rebump has found a way to make email even worse. How is that possible, you ask.? Well, Rebump is a service that automatically re-pings people — via email, of course — that haven’t answered your original message. It will keep doing so until you get a response.Note that this implies that your initial email was both worth reading, and worth replying to. In reality most email fails both tests. So, Rebump is essentially a brilliantly passive aggressive way to force people into responding to you, or the flood of notes will not fucking stop.
Keith Alexander Supports Law To Gag Press So He Can Get His Preferred Online Surveillance Bill Passed. [Link]
He's flat out admitting -- as many have noted -- that his pet cybersecurity bills are dead right now because of all of the Snowden leaks, showing just how abusive the NSA has been. And his answer to that is not to fix the NSA, but to pass bills to stifle the free press from reporting on NSA efforts, which he then thinks will allow the government to pass legislation like CISPA.Tar and feathers are too good for him.
As the report in the Guardian notes, no one seems to have any idea what this "media leaks legislation" is going to entail, as nothing has yet been proposed, and there haven't even been any real rumors of anything until now. However, with James Clapper recently referring to reporters asaccomplices, and Rep. Mike Rogers making the out-of-left-field argument that reporters who are covering Snowden are thieves who traffic in stolen government property, you can connect a few dots and guess at what's coming down the pike.
Alexander's own comments seem to similarly suggest that reporters "have no standing" to report on these issues, because they're not insiders, using the Miranda detention as a launching pad:
“Recently, what came out with the justices in the United Kingdom … they looked at what happened on Miranda and other things, and they said it’s interesting: journalists have no standing when it comes to national security issues. They don’t know how to weigh the fact of what they’re giving out and saying, is it in the nation’s interest to divulge this,”Still, a bill to stifle investigative reporting is going to face stiff opposition, and even bringing up such a concept suggests that Alexander still has no clue what current public perception is like concerning the NSA's surveillance activities. Just the fact that he's suggesting a bill to silence a free press, and he specifically admits he wants to do so in order to get his troubling surveillance bill approved, shows the depths of Alexander's thinking on these issues. A free press? Not important. More power for the NSA to spy on everyone? That's the priority.
Tuesday, March 04, 2014
Getting out of a DUI arrest is a perk from having a relative be a cop. [Link]
Just think how often this abuse of power happened before cell phone cameras.
Every little "you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours" abuse of power tarnishes the reputation of all cops.
Just think how often this abuse of power happened before cell phone cameras.
SLATE: Why Obama Got Russia Wrong (and Romney Got It Right). “So you see the politics—they reveal Obama as the player of a cheap trick.”Do tell. And do remember the lefty, and general media (but I repeat myself) mockery with which his statement was greeted.Related, also from TNR: Enough With the Cliches Already: Obama’s vapid rhetoric on Russia is accomplishing nothing.
It is Accepted Wisdom™ that:U.S. intelligence told Bush that Saddam tried to buy yellowcake in Niger. Bush claiming to believe that, and repeating it to the American people, was a lie.And at the same time:U.S. intelligence told Obama that Russia would not invade Ukraine. You can’t blame Obama for believing U.S. intelligence.
5-year-olds and calculus. [Link]
Finding an appropriate path hinges on appreciating an often-overlooked fact—that “the complexity of the idea and the difficulty of doing it are separate, independent dimensions,” she says. “Unfortunately a lot of what little children are offered is simple but hard—primitive ideas that are hard for humans to implement,” because they readily tax the limits of working memory, attention, precision and other cognitive functions. Examples of activities that fall into the “simple but hard” quadrant: Building a trench with a spoon (a military punishment that involves many small, repetitive tasks, akin to doing 100 two-digit addition problems on a typical worksheet, as Droujkova points out), or memorizing multiplication tables as individual facts rather than patterns.Far better, she says, to start by creating rich and social mathematical experiences that are complex (allowing them to be taken in many different directions) yet easy (making them conducive to immediate play). Activities that fall into this quadrant: building a house with LEGO blocks, doing origami or snowflake cut-outs, or using a pretend “function box” that transforms objects (and can also be used in combination with a second machine to compose functions, or backwards to invert a function, and so on).“You can take any branch of mathematics and find things that are both complex and easy in it,” Droujkova says. “My quest, with several colleagues around the world, is to take the treasure of mathematics and find the accessible ways into all of it.”She started with algebra and calculus, because they’re “pattern-drafter tools, designer tools, maker tools—they support cool free play.” So “Moebius Noodles” includes activities such as making fractals (to foster an appreciation of the ideas of recursion and infinitesimals) and “mirror books” (mirrors that are taped to each other like the covers of a book and can be angled in different ways around an object to introduce the concepts of infinity and transformations). (Another book in this genre is “Calculus by and for Young People,” by Don Cohen.)“It’s not the subject of calculus as formally taught in college,” Droujkova notes. “But before we get there, we want to have hands-on, grounded, metaphoric play. At the free play level, you are learning in a very fundamental way—you really own your concept, mentally, physically, emotionally, culturally.” This approach “gives you deep roots, so the canopy of the high abstraction does not wither. What is learned without play is qualitatively different. It helps with test taking and mundane exercises, but it does nothing for logical thinking and problem solving. These things are separate, and you can’t get here from there.”She doesn’t expect children to be able to solve formal equations at age five, but that’s okay. “There are levels of understanding,” she says. “You don’t want to shackle people into a formal understanding too early.” After the informal level comes the level where students discuss ideas and notice patterns. Then comes the formal level, where students can use abstract words, graphs, and formulas. But ideally, a playful aspect is retained along the entire journey. “This is what mathematicians do—they play with abstract ideas, but they still play.”
Lego thinks about letting customers print their own blocks. [Link]
With the toy industry stagnating due to competition from digital games, Lego is among the companies looking at 3D printing as a potential fix. The Danish plastic brick manufacturer told The Financial Times that it is considering “what potential opportunities there are for consumers.” Legos are very easy to print on home 3D printers (in fact, some people are already printing them). 3D printing also opens up the opportunity for highly customized shapes, which could expand what people are able to make. But Lego isn’t considering 3D printing bricks itself; it’s more about printing them efficiently, and currently prints about 2,000 bricks a second.
Friday, February 28, 2014
How about we only collect phone data on terrorists? [Link]
In what may be NSA boss Keith Alexander's final appearance before Congress before retiring in a few weeks, he appeared to (for the first time publicly) acknowledge that perhaps they don't need to track everyone and could, instead, try just watching the phone records of suspected terrorists. He acts as if this is a brand new idea. Seriously:
One option that Alexander called feasible involves sharing what amounts to a watch list of suspected terrorists’ phone numbers with phone companies. The companies would search for links to other numbers, returning that data to the government.Of course, as others have pointed out, you don't need "a precedent" for that -- we have it already. It's called a pen register and has been widely used by law enforcement for a decade, and there's a whole law discussing how it can be used.
He said if the government could work out a system in which it could share those “terrorist selectors” in a classified manner, “it sets the case in precedent” for sharing classified threat data with industry for cybersecurity purposes.
Alexander said that there were "pros and cons" to that particular approach, but that's a pretty big shift from the man whose mantra has long been "collect it all." Also, all this may not matter at all since Alexander is about to be out of the job -- so perhaps it's just in his final moments as NSA boss that he finally admits what plenty of people have been saying all along: there's simply no justifiable explanation for the NSA collecting information on just about everyone.
The deal to expedite was no deal. [Link]
If you are thinking, 'those teabaggers are getting what they deserve', and that this is the new normal for how things should be done, then when a Republican is in the White House, you do not get to complain about it, hypocrite.
Drink up. [Link]
The idea that Medieval people drank beer or wine to avoid drinking bad water is so established that even some very serious scholars see no reason to document or defend it; they simply repeat it as a settled truth. In fact, if no one ever documents the idea, it is for a very simple reason: it's not true.Not only are there specific – and very casual – mentions of people drinking water all through the Medieval era, but there seems to be no evidence that they thought of it as unhealthy except when (as today) it overtly appeared so. Doctors had slightly more nuanced views, but certainly neither recommended against drinking water in general nor using alcohol to avoid it.Paolo Squatriti is a rare writer (in Water and Society in Early Medieval Italy, AD 400-1000) to look at this question. He writes of both Italy and Gaul:Once they had ascertained that it was pure (clear, without odor, and cold) people in postclassical Italy did, in the end, drink water. Willingness to drink water was expressed in late antiquity by writers as dissimilar as Paulinus of Nola, Sidonius Apollinaris, and Peter Chrysologus, who all extolled the cup of water.In Misconceptions About the Middle Ages, Stephen Harris and Bryon L. Grigsby write: "The myth of constant beer drinking is also false; water was available to drink in many forms (rivers, rain water, melted snow) and was often used to dilute wine." Steven Solomon's Water: The Epic Struggle for Wealth, Power, and Civilization examines uses of water, including for drinking, going back to Sumeria.Otherwise, modern examinations of the issue are rare. In the period itself, however, there are numerous, and always uncritical, mentions of people drinking water. When Fortunatus (sixth c.) says that Radegund drank water mixed with honey, there is no suggestion at all that the water itself might be dangerous.Gregory of Tours (sixth c.) writes that when one man "arrived at a village by the road, he went into a small habitation and asked there for water." He even favorably mentions a pond – that is, still water – as a source of drink: "In the middle is a large pond with water that is very agreeable to drink". And in one tale a merchant uses river water from the Saone to dilute wine. Gregory also tells of a crowd finding the marks where a hermit had knelt to drink water from the river. St. Lupicin is said to have drunk the water of a local stream. When a child restored to life miraculously speaks, he tells his mother "Run quickly and bring me a cup of water."When Gregory mentions miraculous cures using water associated with a holy figure, the water has more power because of that association, but he never implies that it would have been undrinkable otherwise: "Since then a great number of the sick, after having drunk water or wine into which this gem had been plunged, were immediately restored to health.”; "Water left there by the rains is sought by the sick, who recover their health when they have drunk it.”; "Often the possessed, the feverish and other sick people recover their health in drinking water from this well".It was not unusual in speaking of the devout or the saintly to say that they drank mainly water. Gregory says of a boy who received religious training that he became "so abstemious that he ate barley instead of wheat, drank water instead of wine, used an ass instead of a horse, and wore the meanest garments." Patroclus, a hermit in Bourges, drank only water “a little sweetened with honey” Other writers share similar incidents. St. Paul Aurelian dipped his bread in water. A life of St. Clothilde tells how she brought a cup of spring water for builders at Les Andelys (only to have it changed to wine).
Thursday, February 27, 2014
From hope to reality. [Link]
In The Nation, Karen Greenberg discerns 5 Commandments Obama proclaimed when he came into office in 2009. (I know, to characterize Obama's principles as "Commandments" is to put him in the role of God, but this is The Nation, and there's no self-awareness about gazing upon Obama as a God, only disappointment that he wasn't enough of a God.)These 15, ::crash::, 10, 10 Commandments.
Thou shalt not torture.Based on what Obama has done, Greenberg offers a rewrite:
Thou shalt not keep Guantánamo open.
Thou shalt not keep secrets unnecessarily.
Thou shalt not wage war without limits.
Thou shalt not live above the law.
Thou shalt not torture (but thou shalt leave the door open to the future use of torture).
Thou shalt detain forever.
Thou shalt live by limitless secrecy.
Thou shalt wage war everywhere and forever.
Thou shalt not punish those who have done bad things in the name of the national security state.
Listen to the NSA's Inspector General. [Link]
What's more troubling is how Ellard views the press. Ellard calls the journalists Snowden gave documents to "agents," showing that he (and other national security insiders) view the world through espionage-tinted glasses. Journalists are now "agents," supposedly acting at the behest of their "handler," Edward Snowden. It's a smear thinly disguised as SIGINT shop talk -- a small-minded attempt to portray reporting leaks as a dark and nasty business.
What makes all of this more remarkable than the normal NSA defensive efforts is the fact that Ellard was Snowden's "proper channel."
Ellard has been the NSA’s inspector general since 2007. In this capacity he has not spoken in a public forum before so that made what he said additionally significant. Had Snowden made the decision to report his concerns through approved NSA channels it would have been through Ellard’s office.
The route Snowden supposedly should have taken runs right through Ellard's office. And what Ellard would have given him in exchange for his concerns was a recitation of the NSA's talking points.
Ellard was asked what he would have done if Snowden had come to him with complaints. Had this happened, Ellard says would have said something like, “Hey, listen, fifteen federal judges have certified this program is okay.” (He was referring to the NSA phone records collection program.)This offer to explain the (alleged) constitutionality of the program may have meant something if Ellard had made this statement at any point before June 2013. Delivering it now -- with all the inside information that's been uncovered since then -- is remarkably tone deaf. It shows that NSA officials still have no idea how to approach potential whistleblowers. Those in that position actually still think delivering stale talking points will somehow dissuade someone who's truly shocked by the vast power and reach of the agency.
If you think this statement indicates Ellard's incredibly out of touch with the reality of the situation, the next assurance effort he offers removes all doubt.
“Perhaps it’s the case that we could have shown, we could have explained to Mr. Snowden his misperceptions, his lack of understanding of what we do. If not, I would have made the Senate and House Intelligence Committees open to him. Given the reaction of by some members of that committee, he would have found a welcome audience."Really? Mike Rogers? Dutch Ruppersberger? Dianne Feinstein? This is the "welcome audience" Snowden would have faced. They, like Ellard, would have rubbed his boyish head and told him not to worry about all these lawful programs he simply didn't "understand." And then they would have sent him on his way. (And, most likely, reported him to his superiors and redundantly suggested Ellard open an internal investigation.)
The "proper channels" wouldn't have given Snowden anything other than a swift ride to the "EXIT" door and some threats about just how much of a living hell the NSA would make his life if he passed any of his knowledge on to the general public. Ellard's attitude towards Snowden shows how much hostility awaits those who find themselves unable to be good NSA company men/women. Following proper channels means being greeted with condescension, cliches and a lifetime of suspicion.