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Government

Edward Snowden At Comic-Con: 'I Live a Surprisingly Free Life' (theguardian.com) 52

An anonymous reader writes from a report via The Guardian: Director Oliver Stone talked to whistleblower Edward Snowden in front of an audience at a question and answer session on Thursday evening. He compared Snowden's anxiety over his own appearance in his Snowden biopic film "Snowden" to that of Donald Trump, who was cut from one of his films six years before. Snowden replied: "I'd like to avoid that association." At the event, Snowden did also shed some light on his personal life, years after his revelation of the NSA's secret surveillance of the American public's internet activity resulted in criminal charges under the Espionage Act that led to his exile in Russia. "I can confirm that I am not living in a box," Snowden said. "I actually live a surprisingly free life. This was not the most likely outcome. I didn't actually expect to make it out of Hawaii. I thought it was incredibly risky. I had a lot of advantages in doing what I did; I worked for the CIA on the human intelligence side, I worked for the NSA on the signals intelligence side, and I taught counterintelligence. This is not something that's covered that well in the media. I was about as well placed as anybody could be, and I still thought I was going to get rolled up at the airport and that there were going to be knocks on the doors of the journalists." When asked what he thought about Gordon-Levitt's performance in the film where he plays Edward Snowden, Snowden responded: "This is one of the things that's kind of crazy and surreal about this kind of experience: I don't think anybody looks forward to having a movie made about themselves, especially someone who is a privacy advocate. Some of my family members have said, 'He sounds just like you!' I can't hear it myself but if he can pass the family test he's doing all right." Snowden agreed to participate on the film because he thought it could raise awareness in ways his own advocacy could not. Snowden was also in the news recently for developing a way for potentially imperiled smartphone users to monitor whether their devices are making any potentially compromising radio transmissions.
Privacy

Edward Snowden's New Research Aims To Keep Smartphones From Betraying Their Owners (theintercept.com) 106

Smartphones become indispensable tools for journalists, human right workers, and activists in war-torn regions. But at the same time, as Intercept points out, they become especially potent tracking devices that can put users in mortal danger by leaking their location. To address the problem, NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden and hardware hacker Andrew "Bunnie" Huang have been developing a way for potentially imperiled smartphone users to monitor whether their devices are making any potentially compromising radio transmissions. "We have to ensure that journalists can investigate and find the truth, even in areas where governments prefer they don't," Snowden told Intercept. "It's basically to make the phone work for you, how you want it, when you want it, but only when." Snowden and Huang presented their findings in a talk at MIT Media Lab's Forbidden Research event Thursday, and published a detailed paper. From the Intercept article: Snowden and Huang have been researching if it's possible to use a smartphone in such an offline manner without leaking its location, starting with the assumption that "a phone can and will be compromised." [...] The research is necessary in part because most common way to try and silence a phone's radio -- turning on airplane mode -- can't be relied on to squelch your phone's radio traffic. Fortunately, a smartphone can be made to lie about the state of its radios. The article adds: According to their post, the goal is to "provide field-ready tools that enable a reporter to observe and investigate the status of the phone's radios directly and independently of the phone's native hardware." In other words, they want to build an entirely separate tiny computer that users can attach to a smartphone to alert them if it's being dishonest about its radio emissions. Snowden and Haung are calling this device an "introspection engine" because it will inspect the inner-workings of the phone. The device will be contained inside a battery case, looking similar to a smartphone with an extra bulky battery, except with its own screen to update the user on the status of the radios. Plans are for the device to also be able to sound an audible alarm and possibly to also come equipped with a "kill switch" that can shut off power to the phone if any radio signals are detected.Wired has a detailed report on this, too.
The Courts

President Obama Should Pardon Edward Snowden Before Leaving Office (theverge.com) 383

An anonymous reader writes from a report via The Verge: Ever since Edward Snowden set in motion the most powerful public act of whistleblowing in U.S. history, he has been living in exile in Russia from the United States. An article in this week's New York Magazine looks at how Snowden may have a narrow window of opportunity where President Obama could pardon him before he leaves office. Presumably, once he leaves office, the chances of Snowden being pardoned by Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump are miniscule. Obama has said nothing in the past few years to suggest he's interested in pardoning Snowden. Not only would it contradict his national security policy, but it will severely alienate the intelligence community for many years to come. With that said, anyone who values a free and secure internet believes pardoning Snowden would be the right thing to do. The Verge reports: "[Snowden] faces charges under the Espionage Act, which makes no distinction between delivering classified files to journalists and delivering the same files to a foreign power. For the first 80 years of its life, it was used almost entirely to prosecute spies. The president has prosecuted more whistleblowers under the Espionage Act than all president before him combined. His Justice Department has vastly expanded the scope of the law, turning it from a weapon against the nation's enemies to one that's pointed against its own citizens. The result will be less scrutiny of the nation's most powerful agencies, and fewer forces to keep them in check. With Snowden's push for clemency, the president has a chance to complicate that legacy and begin to undo it. It's the last chance we'll have."
Youtube

Trent Reznor: YouTube Is Built On the Back Of Stolen Content (theguardian.com) 428

An anonymous reader writes: Singer and record producer Trent Reznor has become the latest artist to attack Google's video service YouTube. "I find YouTube's business to be very disingenuous. It is built on the backs of free, stolen content and that's how they got that big," said Reznor in an interview with Billboard. Reznor was not speaking purely as an artist, however. He is also chief creative officer at Apple Music, the streaming service launched by Apple in 2015, which is one of the key rivals to YouTube in the digital music world. "I think any free-tiered service is not fair. It's making their numbers and getting them a big IPO and it is built on the back of my work and that of my peers. That's how I feel about it. Strongly," said Reznor, widening his criticism to other rivals like Spotify in the process.
Democrats

Assange: Wikileaks Will Publish 'Enough Evidence' To Indict Hillary Clinton (rt.com) 742

An anonymous reader writes from a report via RT: Julian Assange says Wikileaks will have "a very big year" as it will publish enough new information about Hillary Clinton to indict her. In an ITV interview about the Democratic presidential candidate, Assange said, "We have emails relating to Hillary Clinton which are pending publication." As it stands, about 32,000 emails from Clinton's private server have been leaked by Wikileaks. Assange has yet to comment on how many new emails will be released or when they will be published. While he thinks there will be enough to indict Clinton, he doesn't think it will happen under Attorney General Loretta Lynch. He does think "the FBI can push for concessions from the new Clinton government in exchange for its lack of indictment." Specifically, Assange revealed the leaked emails show that she overrode the Pentagon's reluctance to overthrow sovereign Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, and that "they predicted the post-war outcome would be what it is, which is ISIS taking over the country." Clinton's email controversy came to light in 2013 after a hacker named Guccifer breached her personal server.
Democrats

Julian Assange: Google is 'Directly Engaged' In Hillary Clinton's Campaign (infowars.com) 477

An anonymous reader writes from a report via Infowars: Speaking to the "New Era of Journalism: Farewell to Mainstream" symposium, Wikileaks founder Julian Assange stated Google is "directly engaged" with the presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton. Assange said, "The chairman of Google, Eric Schmidt, set up a company to run the digital component of Hillary Clinton's campaign." As reported by Quartz in late 2015, an under-the-radar startup known as "The Groundwork" was funded by Schmidt "to ensure that Clinton has the engineering talent needed to win the election." Assange went on to say that "[...] once Hillary Clinton becomes president, those people in Google, like Jared Cohen, will be placed into positions around the new Clinton presidency." Controlling the majority of the world's smart phones, Assange adds, raises even more serious concerns in light of the company's growing and monopolistic influence. "Google controls 80 percent of the smart phone market through its control of Android and if you control the device itself -- that people use to read -- then anything that they connect to through that device you have control over as well. [...] Google has gotten into bed with the Obama administration in a very significant way," Assange stated. "It is the company that visits the White House more than any other -- averaged once per week in the last 4 years."
Government

NSA Releases New Snowden Documents (vice.com) 155

An anonymous reader writes: Hundreds of internal NSA documents have been declassified and released to VICE in response to their FOIA lawsuit. They're now sharing them all online, calling it "an extraordinary behind-the-scenes look at the efforts by the NSA, the White House, and US Senator Dianne Feinstein to discredit Snowden [that] call into question aspects of the U.S. government's long-running narrative about Snowden's time at the NSA." The documents officially confirm that Snowden had also worked with the CIA, and show a vigorous internal discussion about how to respond to Snowden's leaks that apparently led the NSA to erroneously assert that Snowden hadn't voiced his objections about the surveillance of U.S. citizens within the NSA before going public.

Living in Russia now, Snowden himself refused to comment on the new releases, with his attorney saying Snowden "believes the NSA is still playing games with selective releases, and [he] therefore chooses not to participate in this effort. He doesn't trust that the intelligence community will operate in good faith."

The EFF is also marking the three-year anniversary of Snowden's leaks, saying they led directly to the first legislation curtailing the NSA's power in over 30 years and changed the way the world perceives government surveillance. Snowden was inspired in part by a desire to keep the internet free, saying in 2014 that "I remember what the Internet was like before it was being watched, and there's never been anything in the history of man that's like it."
Government

Eric Holder Says Snowden Performed 'Public Service' (cnn.com) 168

An anonymous reader writes from a report via CNN: Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder says Edward Snowden performed a "public service" by triggering a debate over surveillance techniques, but still must pay a penalty for illegally leaking a trove of classified intelligence documents. "We can certainly argue about the way in which Snowden did what he did, but I think that he actually performed a public service by raising the debate that we engaged in and by the changes that we made," Holder told David Axelrod on "The Axe Files," a podcast produced by CNN and the University of Chicago Institute of Politics. "Now I would say that doing what he did -- and the way he did it -- was inappropriate and illegal," Holder added. "I think that he's got to make a decision. He's broken the law in my view. He needs to get lawyers, come on back, and decide, see what he wants to do: Go to trial, try to cut a deal. I think there has to be a consequence for what he has done." "But," Holder emphasized, "I think in deciding what an appropriate sentence should be, I think a judge could take into account the usefulness of having had that national debate." You can listen to the podcast with Eric Holder here.
Government

How the Pentagon Punished NSA Whistleblowers (theguardian.com) 134

10 years before Edward Snowden's leak, an earlier whistle-blower on NSA spying "was fired, arrested at dawn by gun-wielding FBI agents, stripped of his security clearance, charged with crimes that could have sent him to prison for the rest of his life, and all but ruined financially and professionally," according to a new article in The Guardian. "The only job he could find afterwards was working in an Apple store in suburban Washington, where he remains today... The supreme irony? In their zeal to punish Drake, these Pentagon officials unwittingly taught Snowden how to evade their clutches when the 29-year-old NSA contract employee blew the whistle himself."

But today The Guardian reveals a new story about John Crane, a senior official at the Department of Defense "who fought to provide fair treatment for whistleblowers such as Thomas Drake -- until Crane himself was forced out of his job and became a whistleblower as well..." Crane told me how senior Defense Department officials repeatedly broke the law to persecute whistleblower Thomas Drake. First, he alleged, they revealed Drake's identity to the Justice Department; then they withheld (and perhaps destroyed) evidence after Drake was indicted; finally, they lied about all this to a federal judge...

Crane's failed battle to protect earlier whistleblowers should now make it very clear that Snowden had good reasons to go public with his revelations... if [Crane's] allegations are confirmed in court, they could put current and former senior Pentagon officials in jail. (Official investigations are quietly under way.)

Meanwhile, George Maschke writes: In a presentation to a group of Texas law students, a polygraph examiner for the U.S. Department of Defense revealed that in the aftermath of Edward Snowden's revelations, the number of polygraphs conducted annually by the department tripled (to over 120,000). Morris also conceded that mental countermeasures to the polygraph are a "tough thing."
United States

Civil Liberties Expert Argues Snowden Was Wrong (usnews.com) 209

An anonymous reader writes that in 2014, Geoffrey Stone was given access to America's national security apparatus as a member of the President's Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies. Last week Stone, a staunch civil liberties supporter, moderated a live discussion with Edward Snowden from Russia, and this week he actually praised the NSA in a follow-up interview: "The more I worked with the NSA, the more respect I had for them as far as staying within the bounds of what they were authorized to do. And they were careful and had a high degree of integrity... I came to the view that [the programs] were well intentioned, that they were designed in fact to collect information for the purpose of ferreting out potential terrorist plots both in the U.S. and around the world and that was their design and purpose...

"I don't doubt that Snowden was courageous and did what he did for what he thought were good reasons. But I think he was unduly arrogant, didn't understand the limitations of his own knowledge and basically decided to usurp the authority of a democracy."

Meanwhile, a new documentary about Julian Assange opened at the Cannes film festival this week, revisiting how Wikileaks warned Apple that iTunes could be used as a backdoor for spies to infiltrate computers and phones.
Google

Don't Use Google Allo (vice.com) 127

At its developer conference on Wednesday, Google announced Allo, a chatbot-enabled messaging app. The app offers a range of interesting features such as the ability to quickly doodle on an image and get prompt responses. Additionally, it is the "first Google" product to offer end-to-end encryption, though that is not turned on by default. If you're concerned about privacy, you will probably still want to avoid Allo, says the publication. From the report: Allo's big innovation is "Google Assistant," a Siri competitor that will give personalized suggestions and answers to your questions on Allo as well as on the newly announced Google Home, which is a competitor to Amazon's Echo. On Allo, Google Assistant will learn how you talk to certain friends and offer suggested replies to make responding easier. Let that sink in for a moment: The selling point of this app is that Google will read your messages, for your convenience. Google would be insane to not offer some version of end-to-end encryption in a chat app in 2016, when all of its biggest competitors have it enabled by default. Allo uses the Signal Protocol for its encryption, which is good. But as with all other Google products, Allo will work much better if you let Google into your life. Google is banking on the idea that you won't want to enable Incognito Mode, and thus won't enable encryption.Edward Snowden also chimed in on the matter. He said, "Google's decision to disable end-to-end encryption by default in its new Allo chat app is dangerous, and makes it unsafe. Avoid it for now."
Government

The Intercept Releases First Batch Of New Docs Leaked By Snowden (theintercept.com) 55

executioner quotes a report from The Intercept: The Intercept's first SIDtoday release comprises 166 articles, including all articles published between March 31, 2003, when SIDtoday began, and June 30, 2003, plus installments of all article series begun during this period through the end of the year. Major topics include the National Security Agency's role in interrogations, the Iraq War, the war on terror, new leadership in the Signals Intelligence Directorate, and new, popular uses of the internet and of mobile computing devices. You can download this batch directly here, or download the documents via Github.
Government

Snowden: 'Governments Can Reduce Our Dignity To That Of Tagged Animals' (theguardian.com) 110

An anonymous reader writes: NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden writes a report on The Guardian explaining why leaking information about wrongdoing is a vital act of resistance. "One of the challenges of being a whistleblower is living with the knowledge that people continue to sit, just as you did, at those desks, in that unit, throughout the agency; who see what you saw and comply in silence, without resistance or complaint," Snowden writes. "They learn to live not just with untruths but with unnecessary untruths, dangerous untruths, corrosive untruths. It is a double tragedy: what begins as a survival strategy ends with the compromise of the human being it sought to preserve and the diminishing of the democracy meant to justify the sacrifice." He goes on to explain the importance and significance of leaks, how not all leaks are alike, nor are their makers, and how our connected devices come into play in the post-9/11 period. Snowden writes, "By preying on the modern necessity to stay connected, governments can reduce our dignity to something like that of tagged animals, the primary difference being that we paid for the tags and they are in our pockets."
Encryption

Without Encryption, Everything Stops, Says Snowden (thehill.com) 144

An anonymous reader writes about Snowden's appearance on a debate with CNN's Fareed Zakaria: Edward Snowden defended the importance of encryption, calling it the "backbone of computer security." He said, "Encryption saves lives. Encryption protects property. Without it, our economy stops. Our government stops. Everything stops. Our intelligence agencies say computer security is a bigger problem than terrorism, than crime, than anything else," he noted. "[...] Lawful access to any device or communication cannot be provided to anybody without fatally compromising the security of everybody."
Government

Supreme Court Gives FBI More Hacking Power (theintercept.com) 174

An anonymous reader cites an article on The Intercept (edited and condensed): The Supreme Court on Thursday approved changes that would make it easier for the FBI to hack into computers, many of them belonging to victims of cybercrime. The changes, which will take immediate effect in December unless Congress adopts competing legislation, would allow the FBI go hunting for anyone browsing the Internet anonymously in the U.S. with a single warrant. Previously, under the federal rules on criminal procedures, a magistrate judge couldn't approve a warrant request to search a computer remotely if the investigator didn't know where the computer was -- because it might be outside his or her jurisdiction. The rule change would allow a magistrate judge to issue a warrant to search or seize an electronic device if the target is using anonymity software like Tor."Unbelievable," said Edward Snowden. "FBI sneaks radical expansion of power through courts, avoiding public debate." Ahmed Ghappour, a visiting professor at University of California Hastings Law School, has described it as "possibly the broadest expansion of extraterritorial surveillance power since the FBI's inception."

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