daveschroeder writes: Adam Klein writes in Lawfare: The Intercept's "Drone Papers" leaker "believes the public has a right to know how the U.S. government decides to assassinate people." Maybe so — or maybe public safety and the need for secrecy trump the public's curiosity. Unfortunately, the leaker has unilaterally decided for all of us. One person with a thumb drive again trumps the democratic process.
Tant pis; the "Drone Papers" are out there (the name suggests a massive archive; in fact, there are only four documents, one of which is a shorter version of another). So what do they tell us about how the U.S. Government is targeting terrorist leaders in Somalia and Yemen for drone strikes — or, as The Intercept would have it, "decid[ing] how to assassinate people"? Unsurprisingly, The Intercept is out to convict; its focus is on the "shortcomings and flaws" of the program, as supposedly exemplified by its ingenuous account of the life and death of al Qaeda commander Bilal el-Berjawi.
But the documents themselves are hardly as damning as the breathless tone of the reporting suggests. In fact, for those concerned about oversight and accountability in the targeting process for AUMF-based strikes, the documents should reassure rather than unsettle. The overall impression is of thorough, individualized review, at the highest levels of government, that meaningfully constrains those developing and carrying out these operations.
These slides do not suggest operators run amok, "assassinat[ing]" targets with little forethought or oversight. To the contrary, the "Drone Papers" suggest that these operations go forward only after a deliberate, individualized process. They confirm that senior political decisionmakers, including the President, review and approve each individual operation. And they reveal that operators view this review process as a significant constraint.
There may be other flaws in the program, as the accompanying articles urge — unintended victims, truncated intelligence collection, a preference for killing over capturing. But if the concern is the process for approving these strikes — "how the U.S. Government decides to assassinate people" — then the Drone Papers should reassure rather than alarm.
daveschroeder writes: "After over 296 days in space, nearly 123 million miles traveled, Space Shuttle Endeavour (OV-105) is making its final journey — on the streets of Los Angeles. The last Space Shuttle to be built, the contract for Endeavour was awarded on July 31, 1987. Endeavour first launched on May 7, 1992, launched for the last time on May 16, 2011, and landed for the final time on June 1, 2011. Endeavour then took to the skies aboard the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (SCA), completing the final ferry flight and the final flight of any kind in the Space Shuttle Program era with an aerial grand tour of southern California escorted by two NASA Dryden Flight Research Center F/A-18 aircraft on September 21, 2012. This morning around 1:30AM Pacific Time, Endeavour began another journey, this one on the ground. All Space Shuttles have traveled via road from Air Force Plant 42 in Palmdale, CA, to Edwards Air Force Base, but this time a Space Shuttle is taking to the streets of Los Angeles for the journey from Los Angeles International Airport to its final home at the California Science Center. Getting the shuttle through LA surface streets is a mammoth logistical challenge as it lumbers along at 2 mph to the cheers of onlookers. Watching Endeavour make the journey is a sight to be seen! Thank you, Endeavour!"
daveschroeder writes: Max Fisher writes in The Atlantic: "The corporate research firm has branded itself as a CIA-like "global intelligence" firm, but only Julian Assange and some over-paying clients are fooled. [...] The group's reputation among foreign policy writers, analysts, and practitioners is poor; they are considered a punchline more often than a source of valuable information or insight. [...] So why do Wikileaks and their hacker source Anonymous seem to consider Stratfor, which appears to do little more than combine banal corporate research with media-style freelance researcher arrangements, to be a cross between CIA and Illuminati? The answer is probably a combination of naivete and desperation.
daveschroeder writes: In the wake of previous coverage alleging that Apple, Nokia, RIM, and others have provided Indian government with backdoors into their mobile handsets — which itself spawned a US investigation and questions about handset security — it turns out the memo which ignited the controversy is probably a fake designed to draw attention to the "Lords of Dharmaraja." According to Reuters, "Military and cyber-security experts in India say the hackers may have created the purported military intelligence memo simply to draw attention to their work, or to taint relations between close allies India and the United States." Apple has already denied providing access to the Indian government.
das writes: "A Wisconsin student recently ordered a new Dell laptop, planning to enroll in online courses at a local community college. However, she ordered her laptop with the Ubuntu Linux option. When she realized that it wouldn't ship with Windows, she called back Dell, which said there was still time to change her order. But she claims that Dell discouraged her, saying that "Ubuntu was great, college students loved it, it was compatible with everything I needed." So her computer arrived with Ubuntu. Then she realized that her Windows-only "Verizon High-Speed Internet CD" wouldn't load (no software needs to be loaded to use Verizon DSL), and unable to install Microsoft Office, a requirement for her online courses (the laptop shops with OpenOffice, fully compatible with Microsoft Office), she dropped out of the fall and spring semesters. This article — which prompted a firestorm of criticism — may be humorous, but it raises a bigger question about the acceptance of Linux. This computer, with Ubuntu, would handle everything she needs easily — email, web, and Microsoft Office-compatible documents. But when the perception is that Windows and its trappings are mandatory, how can that be reasonably countered?"
daveschroeder writes: "George Washington University has today released a three volume history of its activities during the Cold War. Written by agency historian Thomas R. Johnson, the 1000-page report, "Cryptology during the Cold War, 1945-1989", details some of the agency's successes and failures, its conflict with other intelligence agencies, and the questionable legal ground on which early American cryptologists worked. The report remained classified for years, until Johnson mentioned it to Matthew Aid, an intelligence historian, at an intelligence conference. Aid and the George Washington University's National Security Archive joined forces to obtain the report — intended for internal agency consumption only — from the NSA. Two years later, an abstract and the three current volumes of the report are now available via the George Washington University National Security Archive in PDF format. Aid, a National Security Archive visiting fellow Matthew and author of the forthcoming history "The Secret Sentry: The Top Secret History of the National Security Agency", says Johnson's study shows "refreshing openness and honesty, acknowledging both the NSA's impressive successes and abject failures during the Cold War." A fourth volume remains classified."
daveschroeder writes: "The Iranian government might block private access to the Internet for the general legislative election on March 14, two Iranian news outlets reported Monday. In 2006, the authorities banned download speeds on private computers faster than 128 kilobytes per second. The government also uses sophisticated filtering equipment to block hundreds of Web sites and blogs that it considers religiously or politically inappropriate. Many bloggers have been jailed in the past years, and dozens of Web sites have been shut down. It would appear that Iran's own government is more a threat to the nation's internet connectivity than the fragility of the undersea cable network. (Slashdot readers may recall assertions, dismissed by undersea cable experts, that the cable cuts were a deliberate attempt to sever Iran's connectivity, which, contrary to popular belief, also never happened.)"
daveschroeder writes: "Today Apple issued a statement which says, "Apple has discovered that many of the unauthorized iPhone unlocking programs available on the Internet cause irreparable damage to the iPhone's software, which will likely result in the modified iPhone becoming permanently inoperable when a future Apple-supplied iPhone software update is installed." This does not include "hacking" the phone to install third party applications or ringtones, only unlocking the phone. This is because unlocking changes the baseband radio firmware, which is expected to be updated along with the next iPhone update to address other issues. Apple adds, "This has nothing to do with proactively disabling a phone that is unlocked or hacked. It's unfortunate that some of these programs have caused damage to the iPhone software, but Apple cannot be responsible for...those consequences." While unlocking a phone is legal for an end user under a current DMCA exemption, the vendor is under no obligation to guarantee the phone will remain as such when official software updates are applied; many users of unlocked handsets simply never update the phone, but the iPhone is in a different category. It is likely that since the current unlocking mechanisms use a broader buffer overflow condition, this will also be fixed in the next software update.
Note to editors: the already-submitted story in the firehose is remarkably incorrect (has NOTHING to do with "hacking", just unlocking), so please don't accept it."
Dave Schroeder writes: "On the heels of the recent story about iPhones flooding the wireless LAN at Duke, it has been determined that it wasn't iPhones at all. Duke has issued a statement explaining that the issue was a Cisco-based network issue, for which Cisco has provided a fix. MacDailyNews has more coverage and commentary, asking, "So, does Duke University owe Apple recompense for hundreds of damaging articles that blamed Apple's iPhone for Duke's Cisco problem?""
daveschroeder writes: "Apple and AT&T today announced service plans for iPhone, 4 days before its release in the US at 6pm local time on Friday, June 29. The plans are $59.99/mo for 450 minutes, $79.99 for 900 minutes, and $99.99 for 1350 minutes, and all include unlimited data, 200 SMS messages, rollover minutes, and unlimited mobile-to-mobile calling. Any other standard AT&T service plan may also be used. A two year service plan is required, with a $175 cancellation fee if terminated early. In addition, activations are done via iTunes, so only the hardware is purchased in the store. Interestingly, activation of a contract via iTunes is required to enable the iPod/syncing functionality of the phone as well. (It will remain to be seen whether there are workarounds for this for those who only want the iPod functionality of iPhone, and whether the iPhone is easily unlockable for those who wish to try it on alternate carriers, and so on.)"