TBR News June 23, 2016

Jun 23 2016

The Voice of the White House

Washington, D.C. June 23, 2016:

The Second Coming

by W.B. Yeats

Turning and turning in the widening gyre

The falcon cannot hear the falconer;

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere

The ceremony of innocence is drowned;

The best lack all conviction, while the worst

Are full of passionate intensity.

“Mr. Yeats is prophetic .

Overcrowding, depletion of natural resources, changing weather patterns, rising sea levels all are contributing to a growing mood of frustration and violence.

It will not get better and will certainly get worse.

And to this we can add, in this country at least, massive unemployment.

This now stands at 25%, far worse than at the height of the Depression (14%) This is not talked about in the media but then, the media lies like a rug.

The media ignores the fact that the sea levels on the East Coast are rising far faster than was thought five years ago.

The press ignores this because they are told to.

Millions will be displaced and the government does not have the money to assist them so the subject is ignored and someone else, in the future, can cope with it”


The Müller Washington Journals   1948-1951

At the beginning of December, 1948, a German national arrived in Washington, D.C. to take up an important position with the newly-formed CIA. He was a specialist on almost every aspect of Soviet intelligence and had actively fought them, both in his native Bavaria where he was head of the political police in Munich and later in Berlin as head of Amt IV of the State Security Office, also known as the Gestapo.

His name was Heinrich Müller.

Even as a young man, Heini Müller had kept daily journals of his activities, journals that covered his military service as a pilot in the Imperial German air arm and an apprentice policeman in Munich. He continued these journals throughout the war and while employed by the top CIA leadership in Washington, continued his daily notations.

This work is a translation of his complete journals from December of 1948 through September of 1951.

When Heinrich Müller was hired by the CIA¹s station chief in Bern, Switzerland, James Kronthal in 1948, he had misgivings about working for his former enemies but pragmatism and the lure of large amounts of money won him over to what he considered to be merely an extension of his life-work against the agents of the Comintern. What he discovered after living and working in official Washington for four years was that the nation¹s capital was, in truth, what he once humorously claimed sounded like a cross between a zoo and a lunatic asylum. His journals, in addition to personal letters, various reports and other personal material, give a very clear, but not particularly flattering, view of the inmates of both the zoo and the asylum.

Müller moved, albeit very carefully, in the rarefied atmosphere of senior policy personnel, military leaders, heads of various intelligence agencies and the White House itself. He was a very observant, quick-witted person who took copious notes of what he saw. This was not a departure from his earlier habits because Heinrich Müller had always kept a journal, even when he was a lowly Bavarian police officer, and his comments about personalities and events in the Third Reich are just as pungent and entertaining as the ones he made while in America.

The reason for publishing this phase of his eventful life is that so many agencies in the United States and their supporters do not want to believe that a man of Müller¹s position could ever have been employed by their country in general or their agency in specific.

Thursday, 25. January, 1951.

I got in the post today, a small packet from Viktor that is both horrifying and very funny. It is a three-page document from the Pentagon, covered all over with various official secret stamps, and it deals with “Soviet military intentions” against the Western powers. It is two years old and I know for a fact that at least some of this is the result of the romance novels prepared by Gehlen for his American bosses, namely the CIA and the Army.

I am going to put this down here because I have to give the original back to Viktor so he in turn can put it back in the Pentagon files. If anyone had told me in 1948 that a KGB agent, who is always welcome in my house, is supplying me with secret U.S. military documents, I would have had him committed to a lunatic asylum or shot.

Here is what we have, somewhat shortened but all intact:

In the event of war breaking out in Europe between the Soviet Union and the Western Powers (i.e. the United States…England is nothing and the rest of Europe is a gigantic poor farm) these are the Soviet goals:

  1. A military campaign against Western Europe to include Italy but not Spain or Portugal with the goal of capture of the Atlantic coast by a lightening strike as well as to secure control of the Mediterranean;
  2. A massive air attack against England;
  3. An attack launched simultaneously against Turkey, Greece, the Middle East oil producing areas and the vital Suez Canal;
  4. In the Far East, an attack on China, South Korea and air and naval strikes against U.S. naval and air bases in the Pacific and Alaska.
  5. Limited air attacks against the United States mainland and Canada and attacks against the naval bases in the Puget Sound (Washington state) area;
  6. Coordinated naval and air attacks against British-American shipping and communications lines;
  7. Partisan activity and sabotage launched against British-American areas of interest throughout the world;
  8. An attack on Scandinavian countries and Pakistan (an American ally);
  9. Should the campaign in Western Europe prove successful, a massive coordinated land, sea and air attack against Great Britain;
  10. The Soviet Union must keep reserve forces ready and not commit all of their units to action.

This, then, is the purported Soviet plan to attack the West. It is, without doubt, a complete fiction, designed to terrify Congressmen and the wealthy. Both Viktor and I know, as does the Pentagon, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the President and even the error- prone CIA, that this is impossible. The Soviet military has been quickly disbanded after the war, Soviet economy is in ruins and could under no circumstances support such a huge and ambitious undertaking and, quite frankly, Josef Stalin is not insane.

Still, by his aggressive behavior over what he sees as treachery and betrayal on the part of his former allies, Stalin has played right into the hands of the war party here.

The Berlin blockade was only a test of strength and not a prelude to attack.

When Truman called Stalin’s bluff, he backed down. Cruel and savage though Stalin can be, he is by no means a fool.

Even to attempt such a global undertaking would result in immediate and terrible American reprisals, in the form of atomic weapons. And also, from what I know, even more terrible germ warfare. Stalin knows this and would never undertake such foolishness. Fortunately, I am not called upon to comment upon this idiocy. My forte is communist infiltration and subversion and on that subject, I can say that the Soviets are certainly very active here. They don’t need to be active in England because they already have more agents in that country than in Moscow central!

My fear, and Viktor’s as well, is that some lunatic here, like MacArthur, will actually do something that Stalin will have to respond to. M. wants atomic bombs for his own use in Korea and God alone knows what he would do with them. I know Truman will not give them to him but M. has his staff friends pressuring the President.

I do not know what the future will be nor what it will have to say about Truman. I suspect they will be unkind to him when comparing him to Roosevelt but I will say here that America can be very thankful that Truman is President and not Roosevelt and especially, not Wallace! If Truman does not run again or runs and is defeated, the question will be, who is the next to follow? Taft and Eisenhower are the leading names.

Taft is not much of anything but Eisenhower will be nothing but trouble for world peace. Assholes like Dulles will get into power at once and that man, and his dearest friend Wisner are indeed capable of anything. Stalin needs to have great patience in dealing with these people, believe me.

This is not because I have become pro-Stalin in my middle age but I have lived through one horrible, ideological war that destroyed most of Europe and I really do not want to see another such manic eruption in my lifetime, or in my children’s either.


The Cro Magon: The First Modern Man

by Harry von Johnston, PhD

It was formerly thought by paleontologists that the so-called Neanderthal morphed into Cro-Magnon, and that Cro-Magnon was the progenitor of human beings as we know them today. However, there are serious problems with the assumptions about when modern human types actually appeared on Earth.

Even if we take the evolving scientific view of the present day, we find that Cro-Magnon man was something altogether different from other anatomically modern humans.

Over and over again we read in scientific studies that Cro-Magnon man was just an “anatomically modern human”.

The Cro-Magnons lived in Europe between 35,000 and 10,000 years ago. They are virtually identical to modern man, being tall and muscular and slightly more robust than most modern humans.”

In point of fact, the Cro-Magnon man was, compared to the other “anatomically modern humans” around him, practically a superman. They were skilled hunters, toolmakers and artists famous for the cave art at places such as Lascaux, Chauvet, and Altamira. They had a high cranium, a broad and upright face, and cranial capacity “about the same as modern humans” but less than that of Neanderthals. The males were as tall as 6 feet.

They appeared in Europe in the upper Pleistocene, about 40,000 years ago and their geographic origin is still unknown.

Their skeletal remains show a few small differences from modern humans. Of course, the “out of Africa” theory advocates suggest that Cro-Magnon came from Sub Saharan Africa and a temperate climate and that, “they would eventually adapt to all extremes of heat and cold”. In this way, the “slight differences” between Cro-Magnon and other forms of anatomically modern humans can be explained away as an adaptation to cold.

But, as we will see, this idea doesn’t hold water.

Cro-Magnon’s tools are described as the Aurignacian technology, characterized by bone and antler tools, such as spear tips (the first) and harpoons. They also used animal traps, and bow and arrow. They invented shafts and handles for their knives, securing their blades with bitumen, a kind of tar, as long as 40 thousand years ago. Other improvements included the invention of the atlatl, a large bone or piece of wood with a hooked groove used for adding distance and speed to spears.

They also invented more sophisticated spear points, such as those that detach after striking and cause greater damage to prey. The Cro-Magnon type man was also the “originator” of such abstract concepts as “time”. They marked time by lunar phases, recording them with marks on a piece of bone, antler or stone. Some of these “calendars” contained a record of as many as 24 lunations.

In the relatively recent past, tool industries diversified.

The Gravettian industry (25 to 15 thousand years ago), characterized by ivory tools such as backed blades, is associated with mammoth hunters. One type of brief industry was Solutrean, occurring from 18 to 15 thousand years ago and limited to Southwest France and Spain. It is characterized by unique and finely crafted “laurel leaf” blades, made with a pressure technique requiring a great skill.

Some suggest that the Solutrean culture migrated to North America around 12,000 thousand years ago.

Cro-Magnon people lived in tents and other man-made shelters in groups of several families. They were nomadic hunter-gatherers and had elaborate rituals for hunting, birth and death. Multiple burials are common in the areas where they were found. What is most interesting is that from 35 to 10 thousand years ago, there was no differentiation by sex or age in burials.

They included special grave goods, as opposed to everyday, utilitarian objects, suggesting a very increased ritualization of death and burial.

They were the first confirmed to have domesticated animals, starting by about 15 thousand years ago (though ancient sapiens may have domesticated the dog as much as 200 thousand years ago).

They were the first to leave extensive works of art, such as cave paintings and carved figures of animals and pregnant women. Huge caves lavishly decorated with murals depicting animals of the time were at first rejected as fake for being too sophisticated. Then they were dismissed as being primitive, categorized as hunting, fertility or other types of sympathetic magic.

Re-evaluations have put these great works of art in a more prominent place in art history.

They show evidence of motifs, of following their own stylistic tradition, of “impressionist” like style, perspective, and innovative use of the natural relief in the caves. Also possible, considering the new concepts of time reckoning practiced by Cro-Magnon, are abstract representations of the passage of time, such as spring plants in bloom, or pregnant bison that might represent summer.

At Lascaux, France, are the famous caves of upper Paleolithic cave art, dated to 17 thousand years ago, and even older, in some cases, by many thousands of years!

What seems to be the truth of the matter is simply that the modern humans of the Levant were “different” from the Cro-Magnon types that “appeared” in Europe. Try as they would, there is simply was no way to prove that Cro-Magnon evolved in Africa or the Levant and then moved to Europe.

But then, how to explain what happened in any reasonable terms?

What the archaeological record seems to show is that in Europe, after millennia of almost no progress at all, even in the few areas where modern man has been found, suddenly human culture seems to take off like an explosion with the appearance of Cro-Magnon man.

Not only does culture explode, but also new ways of doing things, new styles and innovations that were utterly unknown in the period immediately preceding them, suddenly appear, only to disappear again like an outdated fad. From Spain to the Urals, sites list the developments of sewing needles, barbed projectiles, fishhooks, ropes, meat drying racks, temperature controlled hearths, and complex dwellings.

The most amazing part of all of it is the art. Art suddenly springs onto the landscape, fully formed, with no period of gradual development; no signs of childish attempts preceding it. A piece of ivory carved 32,000 years ago is as realistic as anything turned out by the most accomplished carver of the present day.

The Upper Paleolithic signals the most fundamental change in human behavior that the archaeological record may ever reveal. The only explanation for this tremendous change is that a new kind of human appeared on the earth’s stage.

When we consider the difficulties of such an event, in terms of “evolution”, we find that this presents a huge difficulty in our understanding.

First of all, we still have the problem of a 60,000-year time lag between the appearance of the sub-Saharan modern type man who was on the scene with no “improvements” in his technology for that length of time.

If Cro-Magnon evolved in Africa, why isn’t there a continuous record of incremental developments?

By the same reasoning, if he evolved only after crossing the Mediterranean to Europe, why isn’t there a continuous record of incremental developments?

The most effective and popular way that science deals with this crisis is to ignore it, to deny it, or to seek to twist the facts to fit the theory.

Many archaeologists continue to account for the cultural events of the Upper Paleolithic by tying them to the emergence of a more modern, intellectually superior form of human being from Africa. They propose a “second biological event” to explain this, never mind that it left no tracks in any skeletal shape.

Nowadays, the idea is to suggest that the other “modern men” of sub-Saharan Africa were not really fully modern. They were “near-modern”. Thus, Africa is preserved as the origin of all mankind, and the only thing necessary was a breakthrough in the African lineage, a “neurological event” that allowed this “new man” to develop all these new cultural behaviors overnight, so to say. What this amounts to is saying that the explosion of culture in the Upper Paleolithic times did not happen earlier because other modern men didn’t have the brains to make it happen.

Unfortunately, the support for this idea amounts only to circular logic. What’s more, it seems that if it were a “neurological event”, it would start in a small place and spread outward.

But what seems to have happened is that art exploded in a lot of places at once: from Spain to the Ural mountains in Russia! And in fact, the Middle East is the last place where art appears.

The earliest known Aurignacian sites are in the Balkans, and they are dated to around 43,000 years ago. Three thousand years later, the Aurignacian craze is all over Europe.

Note that the Neanderthals did not have art. What’s more, there was essentially no change in their stone tools for 100,000 years.

Some people suggest that the impetus for culture was the sudden development of speech. But that idea doesn’t hold much water either. If we were to look at some of the aboriginal societies of Australia and New Guinea, they are certainly Neanderthal like in their stone tools. But they think and communicate in languages that are as rich as ours, and they construct myths, stories and cosmologies with these languages. They just don’t seem to be much interested in technology.

There is another very strange thing about this explosion of homo intellectualis technologicus: it seems to have sort of “lost its steam” around 12,000 years ago.

We have already noted the pottery making of the Jomon. Even more startling is the fact that twenty-six thousand years ago the residents of Dolni Vestonice were firing ceramics in kilns. But you don’t read that in archaeology textbooks. In the standard teachings, the emergence of ceramics is linked to the functional use of pottery which supposedly did not appear until the agricultural revolution in the Neolithic period some 12,000 years after the kilns at Dolni were last used.

This brings us to another curious thing about Neanderthal man: he never seemed to go anywhere. He always made his tools out of what was locally available, and he never seemed to travel at all. What was made where it was made, stayed there. Nobody traded or shared among the Neanderthal groups.

But it seems that right from the beginning, Cro-Magnon man was traveling and sharing and exchanging not only goods, but technology.

If there was a better form of stone somewhere else, the word seemed to get around, and everybody had some of it. Distinctive flints from southern Poland are found at Dolni Vestonice, a hundred miles to the south. Slovakian radiolarite of red, yellow and olive is found a hundred miles to the east. Later in the Upper Paleolithic period, the famous “chocolate flint” of southern Poland is found over a radius of two hundred and fifty miles.

Naturally, these rocks didn’t walk around on their own. Human legs carried them. And that leads us to our next little problem with Cro-Magnon man: You see, his legs were too long.

One of the sacred laws of evolutionary biology is called “Allen’s Rule”.

This rule posits that legs, arms, ears, and other body extremities should be shorter in mammals that live in cold climates, and longer in mammals of the same period who live where it is hot. This is because having short arms and legs conserves heat. This is supposed to explain why Eskimos and Laplanders have short legs. It also is supposed to explain why Bantu people are leaner, and the Maasai are extremely long and lean in their tropical open country.

The only people who seem to be mocking Allen’s rule are Cro-Magnon.

They just refused to adapt. They all have much longer legs than they ought to. Of course, this is pounced upon as proof that they came from Africa. The only problem with this is that it is hard to imagine people from a warm climate migrating to a cold one by choice. Then, on top of that, to remain long-limbed for over a thousand generations? Keep in mind that, during that time, the thermometer kept going down and, at the glacial maximum, 18,000 years ago, it was like the North Pole in northern Europe!

So how come they didn’t adapt?

By whatever means they arrived in Europe, we ought to take note of the fact that their presence there may be related to the fact that Europe and other nearby locations are literally blanketed with megaliths. Indeed, it may be so that the megaliths came long after the appearance of Cro-Magnon man, but the connection ought not to be discarded without some consideration.

We have still another problem here, and it has to do with dating. Analyzing mitochondrial DNA data to reconstruct the demographic prehistory of Homo Sapiens reveals statistical evidence of explosive growth around 50,000 to 60,000 years ago. Is there a connection between this DNA evidence and the appearance of Cro-Magnon man?

If so, it would mean that the DNA is dated to twice the age that archaeology confirms.

Instead of assuming that the archaeological dates are correct, perhaps we ought to ask the question: could something be wrong with the dating? From a morphological point of view as well as judging by their industry and art, these highly evolved humans who coexisted with Neanderthal man represent a mutation so enormous and sudden as to be absurd in the context of evolutionary theory.

One could exhaustively describe the endless books and papers that seek to explain it away; to account for it, to marginalize it, and even ignore it. But at the end of it all, the fundamental problem still remains: a new kind of man appeared on the planet, seemingly from nowhere, and he was smart, artistic, and however he got here, he landed in a lot of places simultaneously.

What do all of these factors, taken together, suggest?

Well, any farmer can figure that one out: it suggests hybridization. But that would imply somebody doing the hybridizing. Further, we might wish to make note of the range of this culture that suddenly dropped in on Europe: from Spain (and a small region of North Africa) to the Ural Mountains that are at the border of Central Asia.

The steppes of Central Asia, just north of Turkmenia, are a difficult environment for agriculture. Goats and sheep and cattle bones are found there that date to about 4000 BC. Later, the camel and horse came into use. These cultures spoke Indo-European languages and their members are believed to have been Caucasoid.

There have been many theories that the Caucasoid nomads of the Central Asian steppes migrated to Europe.

But, as we have seen, the initial migration may have been from West to East. The archaeological record is uncertain, and therefore the migrations of the Indo-Europeans (for so we may most assuredly call them) from the Asian steppes are no longer as clear in the minds of scholars as they once were. The migrations into India and Pakistan, however, do seem to have some firmer foundation.

The Cro-Magnon were the first early modern humans (early Homo sapiens sapiens) of the European Upper Paleolithic. The earliest known remains of Cro-Magnon-like humans are radiocarbon dated to 35,000 years before present.

Cro-Magnons were robustly built and powerful. The body was generally heavy and solid with a strong musculature. The forehead was straight, with slight browridges and a tall forehead. Cro-Magnons were the first humans (genus Homo) to have a prominent chin. The brain capacity was about 1,600 cubic centimetres (98 cu in), larger than the average for modern humans.

66 million dead trees in California could fuel ‘catastrophic’ wildfires, officials say

Trees are dying at an ‘unprecedented’ rate due to drought, warmer weather and a bark beetle epidemic, prompting the US agriculture secretary’s warning

June 22, 2016


Fresno, California-The number of trees in California’s Sierra Nevada forests killed by drought, a bark beetle epidemic and warmer temperatures has dramatically increased since last year, raising fears that they will fuel catastrophic wildfires and endanger people’s lives, officials said on Wednesday.

Since 2010, an estimated 66 million trees have died in a six-county region of the central and southern Sierra hardest hit by the epidemic, the US Forest Service said.

Officials flying over the region captured images of dead patches that have turned a rust-colored red. The mortality from Tuolumne to Kern counties has increased by 65% since the last count announced in October, which found 40m dead trees.

California is in the fifth year of a historic drought, which officials say has deprived trees of water, making them more vulnerable to attack from beetles.

Governor Jerry Brown in October declared an emergency, forming a taskforce charged with finding ways to remove the trees that threaten motorists and mountain communities.

These efforts have hit obstacles, slowing the tree removal as California enters a potentially explosive wildfire season.

Brown pushed for burning the trees at biomass plants to generate electricity, sending them to lumber mills or burning them in large incinerators, removing potential fuel for wildfires.

The US agriculture secretary, Tom Vilsack, who oversees the Forest Service, said disaster awaits if more money is not invested in managing forests in California and across the country. He urged Congress to act.

“Tree die-offs of this magnitude are unprecedented and increase the risk of catastrophic wildfires that puts property and lives at risk,” he said in a statement. “We must fund wildfire suppression like other natural disasters in the country.”The Forest Service has committed $32m to California’s epidemic, and the state budgeted $11m for the California department of forestry and fire protection to buy tree removal equipment and to grant local communities money for their own work.

So far, the Forest Service says it has cut down 77,000 trees that pose the greatest risk to people, along roads and near communities and campgrounds. Crews from Cal Fire and Pacific Gas and Electric Co also are at work using chainsaws and wood chippers to remove dangerous trees.

Kathryn Phillips, director of the Sierra Club California, said the die-off from drought should signal to policymakers the urgency of curbing pollution that contributes to climate change.

“This is a warning to all of us,” she said. “We need to cut our air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions more. We’re on the right path, but we need to accelerate our effort.”

Battle of the Secure Messaging Apps: How Signal Beats WhatsApp

June 22,2016

by Micah Lee

The Intercept

This spring, text messages got a lot more private. In April, the world’s most popular messaging service, WhatsApp, announced it would use end-to-end encryption by default for all users, making it virtually impossible for anyone to intercept private WhatsApp conversations, even if they work at Facebook, which owns WhatsApp, or at the world’s most powerful electronic spying agency, the NSA. Then in May, tech giant Google announced a brand new messaging app called Allo that also supports end-to-end encryption.

Making the news even better from a privacy standpoint is that both WhatsApp and Allo use a widely respected secure-messaging protocol from Open Whisper Systems, the San Francisco-based maker of the messaging app Signal.

To recap, there are now at least three different instant-message services that implement robust encryption: WhatsApp, Signal, and Allo. How is someone who cares about their privacy and security to choose between them?

In this article, I’m going to compare WhatsApp, Signal, and Allo from a privacy perspective.

While all three apps use the same secure-messaging protocol, they differ on exactly what information is encrypted, what metadata is collected, and what, precisely, is stored in the cloud — and therefore available, in theory at least, to government snoops and wily hackers.

In the end, I’m going to advocate you use Signal whenever you can — which actually may not end up being as often as you would like.

What’s up, WhatsApp?

With more than 1 billion users, WhatsApp is the world’s most popular messaging app. Which is why it was huge news among encryption advocates when the company a year and a half ago announced a partnership with Open Whisper Systems to integrate the Signal protocol into its product. The rollout was gradual, starting only on the Android version of WhatsApp and only for one-on-one text communication, but by this past April, WhatsApp was able to announce it was using the Signal protocol to encrypt all messages, including multimedia messages and group chats, for all users, including those on iOS, by default.

So if a government demands the content of WhatsApp messages, as in a recent case in Brazil, WhatsApp can’t hand it over — the messages are encrypted and WhatsApp does not have the key.

But it’s important to keep in mind that, even with the Signal protocol in place, WhatsApp’s servers can still see messages that users send through the service. They can’t see what’s inside the messages, but they can see who is sending a message to whom and when. And according to the WhatsApp privacy policy, the company reserves the right to record this information, otherwise known as message metadata, and give it to governments:

WhatsApp may retain date and time stamp information associated with successfully delivered messages and the mobile phone numbers involved in the messages, as well as any other information which WhatsApp is legally compelled to collect.

A WhatsApp spokesperson told the Committee to Protect Journalists, “WhatsApp does not maintain transaction logs in the normal course of providing its service.” However, the company makes no promises and could easily record and hand over metadata in response to a government request without violating its own policy.

When you first set up WhatsApp, you’re encouraged, but not required, to share your phone’s contact list with the app. This helps the WhatsApp service connect you with other users quickly and easily. A WhatsApp spokesperson confirmed to me that the company retains contact list data, which means that WhatsApp could also hand over your contact list in response to a government request.

Finally, online backups are a gaping hole in the security of WhatsApp messages. End-to-end encryption only refers to how messages are encrypted when they’re sent over the internet, not while they’re stored on your phone. Once messages are on your phone, they rely on your phone’s built-in encryption to keep them safe (which is why it’s important to use a strong passcode). If you choose to back up your phone to the cloud — such as to your Google account if you’re an Android user or your iCloud account if you’re an iPhone user — then you’re handing the content of your messages to your backup service provider.

By default, WhatsApp stores its messages in a way that allows them to be backed up to the cloud by iOS or Android. WhatsApp does let you remove your chats from these cloud backups if you go out of your way to do so, which I recommend you do, if you use WhatsApp to discuss anything sensitive.

Allo, World

The first thing to understand about Google’s forthcoming Allo app is that, by default, Google will be able to read all of your Allo messages. If you want end-to-end encryption via the Signal protocol, you need to switch to an “incognito mode” within the app, which will be secure but include fewer features.

It’s 2016. We should be moving toward a future where the conversations we have on our phones are private, but Allo’s lack of default encryption is clinging to the past. Google releasing a new messaging app without default end-to-end encryption is like Tesla announcing a brand new model that only lets you use the airbags when you’ve disabled the entertainment system. As NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden put it, Allo’s defaults are “dangerous” and “unsafe.”

On the other hand, Google is trying something brand new, applying so-called machine learning techniques directly to your conversations. Allo hooks into an artificial intelligence called Google Assistant, which will read all of your messages and offer suggested responses, in your own slang, that it thinks you would likely write yourself. It also brings Google search directly into your conversations — you and your friends could, for example, search for a restaurant, pick one out, and make a reservation without having to leave the app.

Allo’s machine learning features prevent Google from turning on end-to-end encryption for all messages, since Google needs to be able to ingest the content of messages for the machine learning to work, a Google spokesperson told me. The spokesperson also said Google isn’t ready, until Allo is released later this summer, to make any promises about where user data will be stored or for how long.

The technology behind Allo looks very cool, but it’s moving in the wrong direction with regard to privacy. If privacy is important to you, you should use a messaging app that encrypts messages by default instead.

Along with Allo, Google is also releasing a new video calling app called Duo. Unlike Allo, all video calls in Duo will be end-to-end encrypted by default. Google isn’t releasing details — how the encryption works, if it’s possible for users to independently verify that it’s secure, or if metadata of the calls will be retained on Google’s servers — until it’s publicly released.

Allo and Duo will both be covered under Google’s privacy policy. Unfortunately, this policy doesn’t break out details about specific Google products.

Signal in the Noise

The first thing that sets Signal apart from WhatsApp and Allo is that it is open source. The app’s code is freely available for experts to inspect for flaws or back doors in its security. Another thing that makes Signal unique is its business model: There is none. In stark contrast to Facebook and Google, which make their money selling ads, Open Whisper Systems is entirely supported by grants and donations. With no advertising to target, the company intentionally stores as little user data as possible.

Like WhatsApp, all messages sent over Signal are end-to-end encrypted, and Open Whisper Systems doesn’t have the keys to decrypt them. What about message metadata, your phone’s contact list, and cloud backups?

Signal’s privacy policy is short and concise. Unlike WhatsApp, Signal doesn’t store any message metadata. Cryptographer and Open Whisper Systems founder Moxie Marlinspike told me that the closest piece of information to metadata that the Signal server stores is the last time each user connected to the server, and the precision of this information is reduced to the day, rather than the hour, minute, and second.

Signal users must share their contact list with the app in order to find other users — in WhatsApp, this is optional but recommended. But Signal doesn’t directly send your contact list to the server. Instead, it uses what’s known as a cryptographic hash function to obfuscate phone numbers before sending them to the server. (It also truncates the hashed phone numbers, if we’re being precise about things.) The server responds with the contacts that you have in common and then immediately discards the query, according to Marlinspike.

If you back up your phone to your Google or iCloud account, Signal doesn’t include any of your messages in this backup. WhatsApp’s gaping backup issue simply doesn’t exist with Signal, and there’s no risk of accidentally handing over your private messages to any third-party company.

Of course, this also means there’s no way to back up your Signal data to the cloud — a feature that some users find useful. If you lose your phone and restore a new one from backup, you simply lose all of your chat history. The Android version of Signal lets users locally export and import app data, for example if you’re switching to a new phone but still have your old one, but the iOS version of Signal does not support this.

In short, if a government demands that Open Whisper Systems hand over the content or metadata of a Signal message or a user’s contact list, it has nothing to hand over. And that government will have just as little luck requesting backups of Signal messages from Google or Apple.

From a user privacy perspective, Signal is the clear winner, but it’s not without its downsides.

Compared to WhatsApp’s 1 billion users, Signal’s user base is minuscule. Marlinspike said that they don’t publish statistics about how many users they have, but Android’s Google Play store reports that Signal has been downloaded between 1 and 5 million times. The iPhone App Store does not publish this data.

This means that if you install the Signal app, chances are you’ll have to convince your friends, family, and colleagues to install it as well before you can benefit from Signal’s top-grade privacy protection. If you install WhatsApp, chances are a lot of your contacts are already using it, and you can begin having encrypted conversations with minimal effort.

Signal also has fewer features and gets improved at a slower pace than its corporate competitors. For example, an early version of Signal Desktop has been available since the end of 2015, but it’s only available for Android users — iPhone support has not yet been developed, and it’s unclear when it will be finished. WhatsApp has a desktop version that works regardless of the type of phone you use.

Marlinspike told me that Open Whisper Systems has three full-time staff: two software developers and one person who handles user support and project management. With such incredibly limited resources, it’s surprising that they’ve accomplished as much as they have.


From the FAS Project on Government Secrecy

Volume 2016, Issue No. 53

June 22, 2016


U.S. aid to foreign countries and populations takes many forms in support of a range of objectives, from strategic to humanitarian. A newly updated report from the Congressional Research Service illuminates the structure of U.S. foreign aid, and traces the evolution of U.S. spending abroad.

“Adjusted for inflation, annual foreign assistance funding over the past decade was the highest it has been since the Marshall Plan in the years immediately following World War II,” CRS reported.

“Aid objectives include promoting economic growth and reducing poverty, improving governance, addressing population growth, expanding access to basic education and health care, protecting the environment, promoting stability in conflictive regions, protecting human rights, promoting trade, curbing weapons proliferation, strengthening allies, and addressing drug production and trafficking.”

The CRS report provides authoritative data on (or reliable estimates of) foreign aid over time. “Data presented in the report are the most current, consistent, and reliable figures available, usually covering the period through FY2015.” One thing the report does not do is attempt to assess the efficacy of U.S. foreign aid in meeting its declared objectives.

See Foreign Aid: An Introduction to U.S. Programs and Policy, updated June 17, 2016.

Other new or updated reports from the Congressional Research Service include the following.

The United Kingdom and the European Union: Stay or Go?, CRS Insight, updated June 20, 2016

The First Responder Network (FirstNet) and Next-Generation Communications for Public Safety: Issues for Congress, updated June 17, 2016

China Naval Modernization: Implications for U.S. Navy Capabilities — Background and Issues for Congress, updated June 17, 2016

Navy Lasers, Railgun, and Hypervelocity Projectile: Background and Issues for Congress, updated June 17, 2016

State Sponsors of Acts of International Terrorism–Legislative Parameters: In Brief, updated June 17, 2016

FY2017 Defense Appropriations Fact Sheet: Selected Highlights of H.R. 5293 and S. 3000, June 17, 2016

What’s RICO?, CRS Legal Sidebar, June 20, 2016

Financial Services and General Government (FSGG) FY2017 Appropriations: Overview, June 20, 2016

Spending and Tax Expenditures: Distinctions and Major Programs, June 17, 2016

The Appointment Process for U.S. Circuit and District Court Nominations: An Overview, updated June 17, 2016

“The greatest menace to freedom is an inert people” who are incapable of understanding or defending their own interests, wrote Justice Louis D. Brandeis in a 1927 concurring opinion (in Whitney v. California).

For Brandeis, the antidote to such inertness is self-education, writes Jeffrey Rosen in his fine new book “Louis D. Brandeis: American Prophet” (Yale University Press, 2016).

Brandeis “believed passionately that citizens have a duty to educate themselves so that they are capable of self-government, both personal and political, and of defending their liberties against overreaching corporate and federal power,” Rosen writes.

There are many ways for individuals to pursue such self-education. But on matters of public policy, CRS reports are particularly helpful because of their painstakingly non-partisan character and their often rich factual content.

The longstanding dispute over whether Congress should authorize direct public access to CRS reports was reported most recently in “Should Congressional Research Service Reports Be Kept Secret?” by Charles S. Clark, Government Executive, June 20.

Senate rejects measure to give FBI more access to Americans’ digital data 

The Obama administration-supported measure would have allowed the FBI vast access to internet metadata without a warrant using a nonjudicial subpoena

June 212, 2016

by Spencer Ackerman

The Guardian

New York-The Senate has rejected loosening restrictions on the FBI’s ability to collect Americans’ digital data, defeating for the time being a legislative move privacy advocates denounced as a cynical exploitation of the Orlando mass shooting.

The Obama administration-supported measure, a priority for the bureau before the 12 June massacre at an LGBT nightclub, would have allowed the FBI vast access to internet metadata, including messaging logs, account logins, browser histories and email records, all without a warrant, by using a kind of nonjudicial subpoena known as a national security letter.

The FBI already has the authority to collect that data, under the 2001 Patriot Act, but only with a judge’s approval, prompting Senator Ron Wyden, a Democrat from Oregon, to blast the measure for helping the FBI avoid “paperwork”. Tech firms and civil libertarians said in a letter to senators opposing the proposal that the data “would paint an incredibly intimate picture of an individual’s life”.

The measure’s advocates, Republicans John McCain of Arizona and Richard Burr of North Carolina, won over a majority of their colleagues during a Wednesday vote. But they failed, 58 to 38, to add it to a Senate bill, thanks to parliamentary rules which require 60 votes to advance it, and vowed to pass it on a repeat attempt.

Once defeat loomed, the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, filed a legislative maneuver to bring the measure back, probably before the 11 July recess.

Burr and McCain argued that the weakened restrictions are necessary to catch the next Omar Mateen, the Orlando nightclub shooter who exhibited few signs of radicalization before the attack, even though they acknowledged the powers the measure sought might not have stopped last week’s mass killing in Florida.

“Right now, there are unfortunately young people in this country that are self-radicalized, and what vehicle is doing the self-radicalization? It’s the internet. We’re not asking for content here, we’re asking for usage,” McCain said on the Senate floor.

“I don’t know if this attack could have been prevented or not, but I know attacks can be prevented,” McCain added.

“We’re either gonna fight terrorism and prosecute criminals or we’re not going to do it,” Burr said on the Senate floor.

But Burr said Wyden was “100% correct” that expanded warrantless access to online records would have stopped neither the Orlando nor last December’s San Bernardino attacks: “I hope there’s no legislation that’s about a single incident. It’s about a framework of tools for law enforcement.”

Wyden responded: “What we’re talking about today is not making the country safer but threatening our liberty.” He added that the 2015 USA Freedom Act, which modified the Patriot Act, provided the FBI with emergency powers to briefly collect online metadata before receiving a judge’s approval.

Tech companies, privacy campaigners and FBI veterans considered the measure both dubiously connected to the circumstances of Orlando and a questionable model for finding the next Mateen.

Mateen’s behavior, online as well as physical, does not seem to have changed markedly in advance of the slaughter of 49 people in Orlando earlier this month. Relatives and friends have described him as consistently bellicose, and investigators are examining whether his allegedly repressed homosexuality spurred a crisis that drove him to both claim fealty to the Islamic State militant group and commit the nightclub assault.

The FBI had interviewed Mateen on three prior occasions in 2013 and 2014 regarding terrorism suspicions and ultimately found no basis for considering him a threat or pursuing an investigation.

The legislative push reflects a post-9/11 pattern to “exploit a tragedy” for expanded investigative powers, said Michael German, a former FBI counter-terrorism special agent.

“This is unfortunately a typical pattern that we’ve seen: rather than waiting for an opportunity to review the FBI’s counter-terrorism methodology, policymakers, members of Congress and the administration leap to do something without regard to whether that something will be helpful or harmful to future efforts. Over and over again, when someone acts out, the FBI has already investigated them, so clearly the FBI has all the authority they need,” German said.

“In all these cases, they tend to be powers the FBI has already been seeking, [and] exploit a tragedy to obtain.”

The FBI director, James Comey, testified in February to the Senate intelligence committee Burr chairs that expanded warrantless access to so-called electronic communication transaction records were a legislative priority for the bureau. A similar authority is contained within the annual intelligence authorization bill that Burr co-authored, another indication that the argument over the loosened restrictions has not ended.

Still, the parliamentary loss in the Senate is rare for the bureau. It comes amid a high-profile failure related to the San Bernardino attacks, where the FBI lost a battle to compel Apple to write a version of its mobile operating system with weaker security protections.

The tech giant Yahoo recently revealed that when the FBI sought warrantless access to much of data the amendment permits, the justice department in 2008 found that judicial authorization was required.

A coalition of civil-liberties groups and tech firms, including Facebook, Google and Foursquare, urged defeat of the amendment in a 16 June letter, warning that data collected by national security letters is stored “indefinitely, [and] used to gain access to private information in cases that were not relevant to an FBI investigation”.

State of democracy ‘under threat’ in Turkey – PACE

June 22, 2016


A clampdown on media freedom, erosion of the rule of law and human rights violations in an anti-terror operation in Kurdish areas threaten the functioning of democratic institutions in Turkey, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe warns

The European MPs voiced their concerns during a debate on the state of democracy in Turkey on Wednesday.

In a resolution, based on the post-monitoring report by co-rapporteurs Ingebjørg Godskesen and Nataša Vuckovic, PACE stated that it “regrets that peace talks to address the Kurdish issue collapsed in summer 2015, putting at stake the process of enlarging the cultural and linguistic rights of the Kurdish community.”

The MPs acknowledged Turkey’s right to fight terrorism, but stressed that “security operations must be carried out in line with international law.”

“The right balance between security and individual liberties must be found in Turkey,” they said, according to the PACE website.

The assembly said it’s concerned by the recent decision to strip a large number of Turkish parliament members, apparently targeting pro-Kurdish MPs, suggesting that the move “could damage parliamentary life and undermine the healthy political environment that Turkey needs to face today’s challenges.”

A clampdown on the media by the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was also addressed by PACE.

“Changes in ownership of media companies serving business interests over the past years were motivated by, and have resulted in, significant political influence on the media,” the resolution read, adding that “domestic and foreign investigative journalism should be conducted on all topics, and in all regions.”

The blockage of over 100,000 websites and Twitter takedown requests by the government were labeled by PACE as a “highly disproportionate measure, which impedes the public’s right to have access to, and to be provided with, information on the internet, and negatively impacts media pluralism and free expression.”

The European MPs also urged Ankara to amend it legislation to fit the European Convention on Human Rights and drop such penal code articles as “Insulting the President of Republic” and “Degrading the Turkish Nation.”

The Turkish authorities were also advised to refrain from unduly interfering in the judiciary and challenging the rule of law.

PACE promised to closely monitor the situation in Turkey, which it still called a “strategic partner for Europe.”


As quietly as possible, the government is renewing its assault on your privacy

Having failed to secure an anti-encryption bill, the FBI and justice department are now engaged in a multi-pronged attack on all sorts of other privacy rights

June 22, 2016

by Trevor Timm

The Guardian

With their dangerous crusade for an anti-encryption bill in Congress all but dead (for now), the FBI and US justice department are now engaged in a multi-pronged attack on all sorts of other privacy rights – this time, with much less public scrutiny.

A report from the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office harshly criticized the FBI last week for its little discussed but frequently used facial recognition database and called on the bureau to implement myriad privacy and safety protections. It turns out the database has far more photos than anyone thought – 411.9m to be exact – and the vast majority are not mugshots of criminals, but driver’s license photos from over a dozen states and passport photos of millions of completely innocent people. The feds searched it over 36,000 times from 2011 to 2015 (no court order needed) while also apparently having no idea how accurate it is.

Worse, the FBI wants its hundreds of millions of facial recognition photos – along with its entire biometric database that includes fingerprints and DNA profiles – to be exempt from important Privacy Act protections. As the Intercept reported two weeks ago: “Specifically, the FBI’s proposal would exempt the database from the provisions in the Privacy Act that require federal agencies to share with individuals the information they collect about them and that give people the legal right to determine the accuracy and fairness of how their personal information is collected and used.”

In Congress, Senate Republicans are pushing for a vote this week on controversial new warrantless surveillance measures that would let the FBI use unconstitutional National Security Letters to get email records and internet browsing history from countless US citizens – without going to a judge or court at all. The Senate leadership is bringing the measure up to vote by invoking the Orlando attack, despite the fact that we know the FBI had no problem surveilling the Orlando killer when he was previously investigated. It is a blatant attempt to exploit the tragedy in order to gain powers the FBI has long asked for (powers, by the way, the FBI is already reportedly using, despite the justice department telling them it’s basically illegal).

The justice department, meanwhile, is busy attempting to implement a new rule for the court system that would make it much easier for the FBI to hack into computers worldwide – including those of hacking victims. Using the obscure process for amending the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, the department has convinced the courts that they should be able to get one warrant to potentially hack thousands of computers, and shouldn’t have to comply with the normal rules involving getting the court order in the jurisdiction where the crime occurred.

As the Electronic Frontier Foundation has noted, “this is a recipe for disaster,” and it is being done by circumventing the normal democratic process. Several organizations (including Freedom of the Press Foundation, the organization I work for) have called on Congress to put a stop to it.

Also in the courts, the justice department has continued to argue that the US government doesn’t need a warrant to gather the cell phone location information of Americans – even though that type of information can give authorities your precise whereabouts 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The justice department convinced the fourth circuit court of appeals last month to overturn its previous ruling that police need a probable cause warrant to get such information. The court agreed with the justice department that cellphone users don’t have a “reasonable expectation of privacy” around their location, even though it is some of the most intimate information that exists, giving law enforcement officials a detailed picture of your life that even your close friends and family may not know.

Last year, the FBI director disingenuously tried to claim that the pendulum “has swung too far” in the way of privacy, despite the fact that the agency has virtually unprecedented access to all sorts of information on Americans. If it wasn’t clear before, it should be now: they plan on using any means necessary to further erode the rights of hundreds of millions of citizens in their crusade against privacy.

Congress stops traveling to Turkey after ethics probes, political turmoil

June 21, 2016

by Fernanda Crescente and Paul Singer


WASHINGTON — Members of Congress have abandoned privately funded trips to Turkey, once a favorite destination for such junkets, after investigations by House ethics panels and USA TODAY indicated many of these trips had been illegally funded.

No lawmakers have accepted a privately sponsored trip to Turkey since May 2015, with the exception of one congressman who made an August trip sponsored by a Norwegian group, according to data complied by the Clerk of the House.

That wasn’t always the case. In 2011, more than 100 members of Congress and their staff accepted private trips from different non-profit groups. But an ethics investigation last year revealed evidence that a Turkish religious movement was hiding the true source of funding for many trips provided to lawmakers and their staff. That probe, by the Office of Congressional Ethics, was leaked to The Washington Post in May 2015. USA TODAY later found about 200 congressional trips that appeared to have been improperly funded.

The Turkish Coalition of America used to be a frequent sponsor of congressional travel to Turkey. Though the organization is not associated with the Islamic movement that sponsored the improper trips, the coalition has not sponsored any congressional travel in the past year. Louette Ragusa, executive assistant at the Turkish Coalition of America, said a combination of factors led to cuts in travel. “With the events going on in Turkey and also being election year, our organization has decided to hold back on trips,” she said.

Prior election years have not seen the same drop. In 2012, the organization sponsored 30 trips to Turkey.

Fatih Oke, press counselor at the Turkish Embassy, said that while congressional trips have declined, official congressional travel — paid for by Congress — has increased, ruling out the idea lawmakers may be trying to distance themselves from Turkey. “Many of these visits have allowed members of Congress to have meetings with Turkish leaders,” Oke said.

USA TODAY found government-sponsored trips reported by Congress dipped from 110 in 2013 to 92 in 2015.

Campaign Legal Center Policy Director Meredith McGehee said the ethics investigation could have contributed to cutbacks. “That scrutiny has certainly created some hesitation there,” she said. “It generated a ton of bad press, and appropriately so.”

Craig Holman, government affairs lobbyist at Public Citizen, agreed.  “The fact these organizations were sponsoring 100 members of Congress and then suddenly dropping to zero would raise red flags that the organizations themselves or their funders are not supposed to be sponsoring these kinds of trips,” Holman said.

The drop in travel could also be attributed to increasing tensions between the United States and Turkey, said Jock Friedly, founder and president of LegiStorm, an organization that discloses Congress’s financial information. “In the past, you could count on many trips happening each year, so the fact we haven’t had any in the past year is pretty striking,” Friedly said.

U.S. lawmakers have been critical of Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s crackdown on political opponents, which has included shuttering major national media outlets. When Erdogan visited Washington in March, Congress was out of session and lawmakers did not come back to town to meet with him — even members of the congressional Caucus on U.S.-Turkish Relations.

Turkey blocks German delegation airbase trip over Armenian genocide row

Turkey has blocked a high-level German delegation from visiting troops at an airbase taking part in the US-led mission against “Islamic State.” The spat appears to be over Germany’s Armenia genocide resolution.

June 23, 2016


Turkey has denied permission for a senior German defense official and several members of parliament to visit Incirlik airbase in July, a spokesperson from the German defense ministry said Wednesday, as tensions mount between the NATO allies.

Germany has about 250 troops, six Tornado reconnaissance planes and a refueling aircraft at the airbase in southern Turkey as part of the international coalition fighting the so-called “Islamic State” in Syria.

Ralf Brauksiepe, the undersecretary for defense, planned to visit German troops in July with a parliamentary delegation, but has so far been blocked due to tensions between Berlin and Ankara over a Bundestag resolution earlier this month calling the 1915 massacre of Armenians a genocide.

“The Turkish authorities at the moment are not approving the travel plans,” a German defense ministry spokesperson said, confirming a report in news magazine “Der Spiegel.”

“There is no written statement on the reason,” he said, adding the delegation still hoped to visit.

“Der Spiegel” reported that permission was denied in retaliation for the Armenian genocide vote. Turkey denies that the death of up to 1.5 million Armenians in the last days of the Ottoman Empire amounts to genocide.


Ties between Turkey and Germany were already strained before the genocide vote, in particular over President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s crackdown on the press and human rights abuses tied to ongoing military operations against Kurdish rebels.

The Armenian genocide resolution passed on June 3 by the German Bundestag was followed by a war of words between Ankara and Berlin.

In a speech, Erdogan said Turkish-German members of the Bundestag should have “blood tests” to see “what kind of Turks they are.”

At the same time, Chancellor Angela Merkel has pinned Europe’s hopes for a resolution to the migration crisis on an EU deal with Turkey. The deal would see Turkey take back migrants and crackdown on boats crossing to Greece in exchange for aid, visa-free travel for Turkish citizens and the acceleration of Ankara’s stalled EU membership talks.

Franz Josef Jung, a member of Merkel’s conservatives and former defense minister, described Turkey’s decision to block the Incirlik delegation as “absurd.”

“Our soldiers are there together with NATO. They are there also protecting Turkey,” he told the German newspaper “Mitteldeutsche Zeitung” on Thursday.



No responses yet

Leave a Reply