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Hey Dude! Here is a real awesome thing that you might like! Found it on eBay. It runs off batteries, so that's D.C. Don't plug it in! It costs $9.15 but since the seller is in Germany, it says €7.04. I hope you'll agree it'll be worth it.


America - the gift that keeps on giving

In a move that will surprise absolutely nobody, earlier in the week the American government decided that the spying activity was all okay. Specifically, the Privacy and Civil Liberty Oversight Board stated that "The Board recognizes the considerable value that the Section 702 program provides in the government’s efforts to combat terrorism and gather foreign intelligence, and finds that at its core, the program is sound."; however as always there are no specifics of any "act of terror" that was actually sucessfully combatted by the rampant spookery. Although this mass data collection of foreign citizens and (quite likely) a lot of Americans (who are supposed to be protected from the spying), it utterly failed to prevent the Boston Marathon bomb, and every time there is (yet another) school shooting and reporters dig up the inevitable incoherent ranting on videos and blogs posted beforehand, I can't help but think that the spy agencies have failed yet again.
Granted, with the situation in Israel and the Norks, not to mention the cock-up of EPIC proportions in the country formerly known as Iraq, the list of countries and idealisms that might want to attack the United States (not to mention much of Europe) must be growing daily.
You try explaining that to a parent who has just lost a child to a crazy asshole with a gun. You'd think "going to school" would be safe, right? I suspect for many Americans, the level of "terror" that they encounter every day is nothing to do with religion and faraway lands. Sure, Al Qaeda may try to attack again, but in the meantime the murder rate - poverty, drugs, crossfire in gangs wars, school shootings, overzealous police, the list goes on and on. It would perhaps be illuminating to find some Americans who are able to give honest answers and ask them to rate what they fear most - a bunch of fundamentalists on the other side of the planet, or their neighbours. Or even, maybe, their own government.

The EFF (a digital rights group), said in reply that "This ignores the fact that the government is collecting and searching through the content of millions of emails, social networking posts, and other Internet communications, steps that occur before the PCLOB analysis starts.".


I'm going to look at this from two angles. The first, a legal angle:
It is all very well and nice the American government ruling that American spy agencies can routinely spy on the rest of the world, including hacking and coercing foreign telecoms providers to provide information. I assume, from this, that all warrants against Gary McKinnon will be dropped. I assume also, from this, that it is now to be considered acceptable for foreigners to hack America and spy on Americans. What's good for the Goose.....
Obviously, if I tried to hack the NSA, they'd moan, whinge, and start screaming about extradition. In this case, I assume that foreign countries can request extradition of persons of danger located in the US. By "persons of danger", I mean anybody compromising systems and security important to the government of said foreign country.

Next, one of the many revelations is in a regular data sharing arrangement between the NSA and GCHQ. If this is substantiated, I trust that those involved on the GCHQ said will be arrested on a charge of treason. Sharing information with international agencies about specific threats is one thing - I would certainly hope that all of the agencies of the various countries are taking ISIS seriously. However to engage in regular sharing of data of citizens with the organisations of a foreign power? It might do to remember, as British citizens, who your allegiance is to.


Now for the second angle. The only viable reason that all of these communications are being collected from everybody everywhere is to use as a potential weapon later. For example, if a certain specific action is needed from a happily married 45 year old with a family, the guys that wear sunglasses indoors can make the request and say "or else" while dangling a copy of something really embarrassing, like his short affair with the (underage) babysitter while his wife was in hospital giving birth.

I say this because I would imagine that even if the entire population of America was involved in looking at the world's messages, there is so much that could fall through the cracks. Computer scanning can do a lot of the pre-processing, but there are many ways to hide a message in plain sight.
Consider the message at the top of this article. That wasn't placed there by accident. It is somebody referring to something they found on eBay that they wanted to share with a friend, right? If you are looking at everybody's messages, you will need extraordinary amounts of processing power to try to discern what is a potential threat and what is mindless blather - especially given that 99.9% of the crap posted to the Internet is indeed mindless blather. Look at any comment ever posted to YouTube. Look at this blog posting. Look at... hell, pick a site at random...

However, if the spookery was more targetted and paid attention to people known to have connections to terrorist organisations or sympathetic to them - one might consider the aforementioned message in the context of "something posted by a terrorist". Then it might look at little more like this:

Hey Dude! Here is a real awesome thing that you might like! Found it on eBay. It runs off batteries, so that's D.C. Don't plug it in! It costs $9.15 but since the seller is in Germany, it says €7.04. I hope you'll agree it'll be worth it.
Perhaps that is a type of device, a location, a time, and a date? Whether this is a benign message or a coded message would depend upon who is sending it, and without having some of that knowledge in the background... I rather fear the spooks will suffer from an inability to see the forest for the trees.


Of course, by writing this I have no doubt raised a few flags somewhere. Gee. Once upon a time you had to be a subversive or some other sort of weirdo. Still, I won't welcome some low-ranking backroom spook to read though all the rubbish on my website looking for...whatever. Instead, I would much rather they go... you know... catch the bad guys and then blow their brains across the walls with a Desert Eagle. Something useful.

I should point out that I actually wrote this a couple of days ago, but given that my example message would imply something unpleasant happening in Washington DC on the 4th of July (which is, as you should all know, the day America saves planet Earth from an alien invasion by uploading some malware...), I figured it might be smarter to post this afterwards.



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Gavin Wraith, 6th July 2014, 19:44
A propos the Boston Marathan Bombing outrage see omber_slip_by_u_s_intelligence/ 
Apparently somebody who evidently knew something of Russian must have read out Tsirnaev's name to somebody who did not, who was entering names on a computer, so that they entered 'Tsirnayev'. As a result of this error he was not detained at JFK airport in January 2012, because to a computer 'Tsirnaev' does not equal 'Tsirnayev'. 
Translating from foreign languages and writing systems is a minefield for computers and those who rely on them. 
The innocent are threatened and the guilty escape. 
Keley-Ann, 7th July 2014, 12:01
Are you planning to update your Eurovision bits at all? Always loved reading along so it's a shame that it's tailed off in recent years :( (although I can understand it takes time)

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