Interesting: Stop Comparing the #NSA to #1984 (and…

Interesting: Stop Comparing the #NSA to #1984 (and Start Comparing It to #PhilipKDick) | The Atlantic #surveillance ow.ly/vD2Xa

Senator Dianne Feinstein accuses CIA of spying on and intimidating staff

Dianne Feinstein is outraged by the CIA spying on the Senate Intelligence Committee because of a torture probe

Senator Dianne Feinstein of the Senate Intelligence Committee recently accused the CIA of intimidating Senate staff over investigations of CIA involvement in torture.

Her outrage about the alleged violations of privacy and unconstitutional spying on Senate staff is nonetheless a bit surprising. Mind you, throughout the revelations of the Snowden leaks about NSA surveillance of U.S. citizens, not to speak of everybody else on the planet, Feinstein has been one of the chief defenders of the NSA, never seeing anything wrong with the apparent blanket surveillance, or “full take,” as the spooks like to call it.

Here is a clip from progressive news show The Young Turks with a montage of Feinstein’s pro-NSA statements:

But now that the spying hits closer to home, this time by the CIA against the Senate Intelligence Committee, surveillance is all of a sudden an outrage.

Here is a clip from DemocracyNow!:

I smell hypocrisy.

Read more:

Dianne Feinstein’s CIA charge scrambles Senate.” (Burgess Everett and Manu Raju, POLITICO.com, 2014/03/11)  http://ow.ly/uwOlD

The NSA , The CIA, And The GCHQ Spy On Computer Games

The NSA , the CIA, and the GCHQ spy on computer games

"IM IN UR MMORPG, READING UR CHATZ" - Ceiling Cat aka NSA, CIA, GCHQ
“IM IN UR MMORPG, READING UR CHATZ” – Ceiling Cat aka NSA, CIA, GCHQ

As ProPublica reports, the American NSA and CIA, and the British GCHQ, or more specifically, private contractors working for them, have run programs looking for the communications of terrorists and criminals in Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Games (MMORPG) such as World of Warcraft or Second Life. This new revelation comes from recently released leaks from Edward Snowden.

No terrorists found

But despite high costs paid to these private contractors, no case of terrorist activity has been discovered.

The whole scenario sounds as if it were lifted straight out of an episode of “Twenty-Four” or “Sleeper Cell.” It seems like an interesting idea, even though I doubt (based on pure speculation) that terrorist masterminds would communicate over insecure (read unencrypted) channels such as a game chat.

Slaying orks for national security?

It might also just be a brilliant excuse to play WoW at work for highly-paid security contractors. Who knows. But apparently, private security firms have long been lobbying the intelligence agencies for contracts in this line of work by playing up the threat from terrorism in video games.

A personal note on MMORPGing versus studying

I personally have never really gotten into MMORPGs like World of Warcraft, most of all because when these games became hugely popular, I was in the middle of my university studies. I suspected that if I committed my time to these obviously addictive games, this might seriously sabotage my academic education. So I decided to forgo the WoW phenomenon for the time being. Now I know that not only did that ‘abstinence’ probably save me a lot of juvenile, sexually-laden verbal insults, but also some spies listening to my (boring) chatter.

Read, hear, and see more:

[Podcast] Unfilter 78 “NSA Wargames.” (Jupiter Broadcasting, 2013/12/12) – “[T]he latest [NSA leaks] detail the infiltration of online gaming communities to conduct massive surveillance of gamers.” Plus speculations by a famous FBI officer about Snowden being a double agent for Russia.

Spies’ Dragnet Reaches a Playing Field of Elves and Trolls.” (Mark Mazzetti and Justin Elliott, New York Times, 2013/12/10)

Spooks of Warcraft: how the NSA infiltrated gamespace.” (Cory Doctorow, Boing Boing, 2013/12/09)

World of Spycraft: NSA and CIA Spied in Online Games.” (Justin Elliott and Mark Mazetti, ProPublica, 2013/12/10)

Xbox Live among game services targeted by US and UK spy agencies.” (James Ball, Guardian, 2013/12/10)

auf deutsch:

Geheimdienste: Sie hassen unsere Freiheit.” (Sascha Lobo, SPIEGEL ONLINE, 10.12.2013) – Interessanter Punkt von Sascha Lobo: Der Satz “Sie hassen unsere Freiheit” aus einer Rede von George W. Bush nach dem 11. September 2001 trifft nicht nur auf islamistische Terroristen zu, sondern auch ganz besonders auf die totalitären Überwachungspläne der Geheimdienste.

World of Spycraft: NSA hunts Terrorists in MMORPGs.” (Nerdcore, 09.12.2013)

NSA Spies On Pornography Consumption To Discredit Islamists

NSA Spies On Pornography Consumption To Discredit Islamists

Telecommunications equipment in one corner of a small data center. Contributed and licensed under the GFDL by the photographer, Gregory Maxwell. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Datacenter-telecom.jpg
Telecommunications equipment in one corner of a small data center. Contributed and licensed under the GFDL by the photographer, Gregory Maxwell. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Datacenter-telecom.jpg

According to a report by the Huffington Post, the Snowden leaks reveal that the NSA attempts to gather data about the pornography consumption habits of radical Islamists. This information is then used as kompromat in order to discredit these actors inside their respective communities.

According to the article, this is seen as a rather benign way of derailing radicalization efforts.

Still, it makes one wonder whether Islamic extremists are the only target of this strategy. My guess is that it is not. I speculate that the whole point of the NSA’s mass surveillance is to gather compromising materials on everybody, just in case.

And the article mentions a historical precedent in this regard, coming from another intelligence agency: the FBI, especially under J. Edgar Hoover. It is noteworthy that by no means were only actual threats to society at the receiving end of this kind of surveillance, but also legitimate emancipatory projects, such as the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s.

While the NSA’s blanket mass surveillance is a scandal in itself, the potential for repressive action against legitimate democratic forces in society should alert everybody.

While I do not have the slightest bit of sympathy for the religious radicalizers that are discussed in the leaked document, the trajectory of a panoptic state that potentially knows every intimate detail of its citizens’ private lives is undeniably anti-democratic in spirit.

Read more:

Top-Secret Document Reveals NSA Spied On Porn Habits As Part Of Plan To Discredit ‘Radicalizers’.” (Adriana Usero and Ryan J. Reilly, Huffington Post, 2013/11/26)

 

FBI-Driven Government Task Force Proposal Aims To Fine Tech Companies For Not Wiretapping

Provide wiretapping capabilities to hand over your (customers’) data to the FBI or be fined, Google and Facebook

The Washington Post reports on a government task proposal that aims to punish tech companies for not providing wiretapping capabilities for law enforcement officials. The FBI, which is the driving force behind this push for more more surveillance, justifies its demands with the need to counter  a “going dark” problem, a “gap between authority and capability” in regards to online surveillance. The FBI mentions not just terrorism, as might seem likely briefly after the Boston Marathon Bombing, but also transnational narcotrafficking and child prostitution.

If successful, this initiative would not only concern Internet giants such as Google or Facebook, but potentially any tech company that collects user data. And that includes practically any new free-to-use online service.

This initiative by the FBI takes place in the context of a much larger secretive push towards extensive online surveillance (see below).

Read more:

Proposal seeks to fine tech companies for noncompliance with wiretap orders.” (Ellen Nakashima, Washington Post, 2013/04/29)

U.S. gives big, secret push to Internet surveillance.” (, CNET, 2013/04/24)

Auf deutsch:

Internetüberwachung in den USA: Strafen für Unternehmen, die keine Daten liefern?” (, Netzpolitik.org, 30.04.2013)

USA: Mit geheimen Anweisungen das Internet überwachen.” (, Netzpolitik.org, 26.04.2013)