Tuesday, December 28, 2010

"Executive Decision": how much power does an administration really need to protect national security?; more on Wikileaks

The Washington Post ran a controversial editorial on Dec. 22, “Executive Decisions”, about whether a president’s decision to target an American enemy abroad needs judicial review. The link is here.

The case specifically involved “Anwar al-Aulaqi, the U.S.-born Yemeni cleric and al-Qaeda operative”.

It is true that apparently this relates only to actions taken overseas. Perhaps it could apply here if law and order broke down domestically because of some kind of massive incident. Then the idea is frightening, but so would be the circumstances that it would take to lead to it.

However, Jonathan Manes and Pardiss Kebriaei, a legal fellow with the ACLU and a staff attorney for the Center for Constitutional Rights, have an LTE today in the Post raising constitutional concerns.

The CCR has signed on to an important document online, “An open letter to US officials regarding free expression in the wake of the Wikileaks controversy,” pdf document here.  CCR has a short article about House Judiciary Committee hearings on the issue Dec 22 here.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

US uses "blacklist" to coerce European countries into passing "3 strikes" laws on copyright infringement

Gwen Hinze has a major story for Electronic Frontier Foundation, “Not-so-gentle persuasion: U.S. bullies Spain into proposed website-blocking law”, link here.

The article links to a Spanish story about a 2009 law which would require ISP’s to enforce a “three strikes” policy on those accused of copyright infringement, link (“The Peace”) here (Spanish). 

Apparently the "El Pais" story is based on cables provided by WikiLeaks, which supports the notion that most of the cables leaked by Assange's minions are really about coverups that have little or nothing to do with national security for anyone.

The “Special 301 Report” lists countries thought to be permissive with copyright infringement and especially movie and music piracy. It seems to be politically motivated from contributions by huge media interests.

In the US, the “three strikes” rule has been politically unpalatable, and instead Congress will be considering COICA (see the “Bill Boushka” blog).

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

"Russia Now" reports on Russian internal passports; China has an issue, too

A paid supplement Dec 15 in the Washington Post, “Russia Now”, has an article by Darina Shevchemko, “Internal passports: ‘Without registration, you’re a nobody’; No more Mr. Nobody: The government will ease the registration process for Russians whose lives are often hampered by resulting red tape.” The internal passports, separate from regular ones, are left over from the Stalin years but still affect people who have moved to the big cities on their own for work. Online, the supplement pulls up a different article at The Washington Post, “A Traveler’s Road to Enlightenment” by Frederick Bernas, link here.

The insert also has a brief about Leonid Parfyonov “speaking out” for journalists’ freedom.

China also has an issue with internal passports, as shown in this CIA archive video.

Russian relief map attribution link on Wikipedia here.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Students in Britain protest tripling of college tuitions, making them more like those of the US

Prince Charles (the film "Harmony") and a companion in a Rolls Royce sedan were subjected to a paintball attack by student protesters, as the British Parliament considered (and apparently passed) tripling the college tuition for students up to $15000 a year, as well as other big austerity cuts in social services.

Prime Minister David Cameron had his college education free. So, it seems, "like isn't fair", 

In the United States, students are more used to the idea of debt (today), but not in Britain.

Wikipedia attribution link for London picture here.

Monday, December 6, 2010

So Wikileaks is "aiding and abetting": It's getting silly out there; also, leaks on UFO's, Chinese hacking, Russian instability

CBS News has a story saying that the government fears that Wikileaks is making infrastructure node points marks for terrorism; some are not well protected and might give people “ideas”. I’ve personally always found this kind of thinking rather infantile. Vital infrastructures should be well protected, and not left with weaknesses that are “secrets in plain sight”. (Remember the “bump keys” fiasco a few years ago?)

The link for the CBS story, by David Martin, is here.

I remember similar concerns being expressed about many website shortly after 9/11. Over time, the panic died down.

CNET reports (and EFF disseminated on Twitter) that MasterCard has pulled the plug on contributions to Wikileaks, here.  For now, Wikileaks can be reached by changing the TLD to “.ch”. (No, I won’t give the direct link. Figure it out. It isn’t hard.)

CNET also reports that Assange has said that some of the leaked cables refer to UFO’s (see my TV blog Dec. 2 regarding Dick Cheney’s elliptical comments.)

But James Glanz and John Markoff of the New York Times have a disturbing story (Sunday Dec. 5) “Vast hacking by a China fearful of the Web”, discussing 2009 cables recently published by Wikileaks, link here.  The Chinese are worried that “the Web cannot be controlled.”

The NYTimes has also dicussed leaks dealing with serious instability in Russia.

It seems as though the fearmongering in Congress and among politicians over Assange is totally out of control.

Why is the government so careless that secrets get out so quickly?  Even as information is share among various departments and agencies, why isn't it secured?  How classified is this info, really, if everybody could see it?  Same question about other countries.  Don't information classfication systems in the workplace (TS, SCI, crypto, etc) work at all?

Update: Dec 7

George Washington University (where I got my BA in Math in 1966) has advised students not to cite Wikileaks in academic work, not because of any university objection on academic integrity grounds, but because a documented record of a student's having knowingly accessed classified information could jeopardize a security clearance at a job in the future, link here.

Dec. 9

See my main "BillBoushka" blog. Are people who comment on Wikileaks documents online risking getting security clearances? Also, today, MasterCard, Visa and PayPal had DOS outages, now resolved.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Wikileaks is getting stomped as a "nuisance"

Well, it looks like Wikileaks is in for a lot of trouble. Its domain registrar in the US pulled its registration, and both Paypal and Amazon have kicked it out. As of this evening, the site was still not up anywhere, although some of its YouTube videos still work.

Companies were giving “promotion of illegal activity” or TOS violations and particularly “nuisance” (attracting denial-of-service attacks, although that sounds like giving in to bullying) as the reason for cutting the cord.

It will be hard for Assange to put the site up somewhere and not leave footprints (deadending, like someone who “goes up”), leading to his extradition.  I still share some of Assange's spirit, to be the guy who said "I told you so."

Still, prosecuting him the US looks like a very dubious idea.

The federal government has told employees not to look at Wikileaks documents even at home if they don't have clearance.  I can understand banning looking at it at work, but thinking you can police what employees view at home is just plain silly -- or dangerous, too.

First picture: that's a Radio Shack mug shot of me, not Assange.  Second picture: Ballston Common, Arlington VA.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Prosecuting Julian Assange could open a hornet's nest for journalists (with no "Lizbeth")

There are rumors that the Obama Administration will try to prosecute Julian Assange under the Espionage Act of 1917 source)  and Findlaw here), as with this Washington Post story by Ellen Nakashima and Jerry Markon. Nov. 30, here. Jeffrey Smith (CIA counsel in 1995 and 1996) has argued in the Post the same day “Prosecute Wikileaks, then reform our espionage laws”.

Justin Elliot has an article on Salon indicating that prosecution of Assange would set an extremely dangerous precedent. The link is (website url) here (in the Salon "War Room").

Theoretically, journalists and bloggers could be held responsible for publishing or maybe even linking to leaked information, even though until now this has almost never happened. Congress is likely to think about the responsibilities of journalists and bloggers when revising espionage laws, however.

I have personally received about four tips, shared them all with law enforcement, and disclosed only two (the bizarre 2002 hack on one of my web pages dealing with nuclear threats, and a bizarre email about oil fields in Nigeria, Aug. 2008).

This morning on C-SPAN, Candice Miller R-MI ) told the House of Representatives that Wikileaks should be shut down. Ironically, she mentioned the shutdown of 82 websites Nov. 29 for selling counterfeit goods and for intentional copyright infringement.