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TBR News November 24, 2019

Nov 23 2019

The Voice of the White House
Washington, D.C. November 23, 2019:“Working in the White House as a junior staffer is an interesting experience.
When I was younger, I worked as a summer-time job in a clinic for people who had moderate to severe mental problems and the current work closely, at times, echos the earlier one.
I am not an intimate of the President but I have encountered him from time to time and I daily see manifestations of his growing psychological problems.
He insults people, uses foul language, is frantic to see his name mentioned on main-line television and pays absolutely no attention to any advice from his staff that runs counter to his strange ideas.
He lies like a rug to everyone, eats like a hog, makes lewd remarks to female staffers and flies into rages if anyone dares to contradict him.
It is becoming more and more evident to even the least intelligent American voter that Trump is vicious, corrupt and amoral. He has stated often that even if he loses the election in 2020, he will not leave the White House. I have news for Donald but this is not the place to discuss it.
Commentary for November 24:” Times do change and, as it is said, we must change with them but this is often painful and destructive to achieve. The economic scene in America today is a horrible mess. America was once a great world power because she was a producing country but now she is a consuming country. Millions of jobs have been shipped overseas and there are now over 95 million (!) Americans out of work. The number of homeless are growing daily but the business-friendly state and federal governments are doing absolutely nothing for the impoverished and the homeless. Trump is interested in feeding his bloated ego and stuffing his pockets with bribe money and doing nothing for the growing army of the newly-poor because he has absolutely no compassion for anyone but himself. I told someone the other day that early in the morning I sat on my deck drinking coffee and listening. For what, they asked. I replied that I was listening for the sound of the hoofbeats of the Man on the White Horse who was surely coming. They missed the point and went on to talk about some electronic gadget they had just purchased. It is known inside the Beltway that Facebook and other social media are under the control of government investigative agencies and designed solely to let these agencies spy on any American that they wished. This save agents shoeleather walking around neighborhoods asking questions about someone they consider a possible suspect. They are not looking for bank robbers but people who might rebel against an increasingly remote government. They all remember the growing, and potentially very dangerous, anti-government movements of the Vietnam war period and are determined to stifle it quickly wherever found. If a tea kettle full of water is boiling, it it not a good idea to clamp a lid on the pot. Why? Without any question, the lid will blow off.”

The Table of Contents
• Read Sacha Baron Cohen’s scathing attack on Facebook in full: ‘greatest propaganda machine in history’
• How the NSA & FBI made Facebook the perfect mass surveillance tool
• FBI pressures Internet providers to install surveillance software
• Secret program gives NSA, FBI backdoor access to Apple, Google, Facebook, Microsoft data
• The FBI and Google
• Warren Reflects on the Borderlands and Two Years of Government Persecution
• The Season of Evil


Read Sacha Baron Cohen’s scathing attack on Facebook in full: ‘greatest propaganda machine in history’
In a speech, the actor argued that Facebook would have run ads by Hitler. Here are his remarks in full
November 22, 2019
by Sacha Baron Cohen
The Guardian
In a speech last night at the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), the actor and comedian Sacha Baron Cohen attacked Facebook and other social media platforms for enabling the proliferation of hate speech and misinformation.
The speech was striking in its sincerity – Baron Cohen appeared as himself, rather than “in character” as one of his satirical personas – and its blistering tone.
Describing Facebook as “the greatest propaganda machine in history”, Baron Cohen argued that the company, which does not vet political ads for truthfulness, would have allowed Hitler to run propaganda on its platform.
Here is the full transcript, from his prepared remarks:
Thank you, ADL, for this recognition and your work in fighting racism, hate and bigotry. And to be clear, when I say “racism, hate and bigotry” I’m not referring to the names of Stephen Miller’s Labradoodles.
Now, I realize that some of you may be thinking, what the hell is a comedian doing speaking at a conference like this! I certainly am. I’ve spent most of the past two decades in character. In fact, this is the first time that I have ever stood up and given a speech as my least popular character, Sacha Baron Cohen. And I have to confess, it is terrifying.
I realize that my presence here may also be unexpected for another reason. At times, some critics have said my comedy risks reinforcing old stereotypes.The truth is, I’ve been passionate about challenging bigotry and intolerance throughout my life. As a teenager in the UK, I marched against the fascist National Front and to abolish apartheid. As an undergraduate, I traveled around America and wrote my thesis about the civil rights movement, with the help of the archives of the ADL. And as a comedian, I’ve tried to use my characters to get people to let down their guard and reveal what they actually believe, including their own prejudice.
Now, I’m not going to claim that everything I’ve done has been for a higher purpose. Yes, some of my comedy, OK probably half my comedy, has been absolutely juvenile and the other half completely puerile. I admit, there was nothing particularly enlightening about me – as Borat from Kazakhstan, the first fake news journalist – running through a conference of mortgage brokers when I was completely naked.
But when Borat was able to get an entire bar in Arizona to sing “Throw the Jew down the well,” it did reveal people’s indifference to antisemitism. When – as Bruno, the gay fashion reporter from Austria – I started kissing a man in a cage fight in Arkansas, nearly starting a riot, it showed the violent potential of homophobia. And when – disguised as an ultra-woke developer – I proposed building a mosque in one rural community, prompting a resident to proudly admit, “I am racist, against Muslims” – it showed the acceptance of Islamophobia.
That’s why I appreciate the opportunity to be here with you. Today around the world, demagogues appeal to our worst instincts. Conspiracy theories once confined to the fringe are going mainstream. It’s as if the Age of Reason – the era of evidential argument – is ending, and now knowledge is delegitimized and scientific consensus is dismissed. Democracy, which depends on shared truths, is in retreat, and autocracy, which depends on shared lies, is on the march. Hate crimes are surging, as are murderous attacks on religious and ethnic minorities.
What do all these dangerous trends have in common? I’m just a comedian and an actor, not a scholar. But one thing is pretty clear to me. All this hate and violence is being facilitated by a handful of internet companies that amount to the greatest propaganda machine in history.
The greatest propaganda machine in history.
Think about it. Facebook, YouTube and Google, Twitter and others – they reach billions of people. The algorithms these platforms depend on deliberately amplify the type of content that keeps users engaged – stories that appeal to our baser instincts and that trigger outrage and fear. It’s why YouTube recommended videos by the conspiracist Alex Jones billions of times. It’s why fake news outperforms real news, because studies show that lies spread faster than truth. And it’s no surprise that the greatest propaganda machine in history has spread the oldest conspiracy theory in history – the lie that Jews are somehow dangerous. As one headline put it, “Just Think What Goebbels Could Have Done with Facebook.”
On the internet, everything can appear equally legitimate. Breitbart resembles the BBC. The fictitious Protocols of the Elders of Zion look as valid as an ADL report. And the rantings of a lunatic seem as credible as the findings of a Nobel prize winner. We have lost, it seems, a shared sense of the basic facts upon which democracy depends.
When I, as the wannabe gangsta Ali G, asked the astronaut Buzz Aldrin “what woz it like to walk on de sun?” the joke worked, because we, the audience, shared the same facts. If you believe the moon landing was a hoax, the joke was not funny.
When Borat got that bar in Arizona to agree that “Jews control everybody’s money and never give it back,” the joke worked because the audience shared the fact that the depiction of Jews as miserly is a conspiracy theory originating in the Middle Ages.
But when, thanks to social media, conspiracies take hold, it’s easier for hate groups to recruit, easier for foreign intelligence agencies to interfere in our elections, and easier for a country like Myanmar to commit genocide against the Rohingya.
It’s actually quite shocking how easy it is to turn conspiracy thinking into violence. In my last show Who is America?, I found an educated, normal guy who had held down a good job, but who, on social media, repeated many of the conspiracy theories that President Trump, using Twitter, has spread more than 1,700 times to his 67 million followers. The president even tweeted that he was considering designating Antifa – anti-fascists who march against the far right – as a terror organization.
So, disguised as an Israel anti-terrorism expert, Colonel Erran Morad, I told my interviewee that, at the Women’s March in San Francisco, Antifa were plotting to put hormones into babies’ diapers in order to “make them transgender”. And he believed it.
I instructed him to plant small devices on three innocent people at the march and explained that when he pushed a button, he’d trigger an explosion that would kill them all. They weren’t real explosives, of course, but he thought they were. I wanted to see – would he actually do it?
The answer was yes. He pushed the button and thought he had actually killed three human beings. Voltaire was right: “Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities.” And social media lets authoritarians push absurdities to billions of people.
In their defense, these social media companies have taken some steps to reduce hate and conspiracies on their platforms, but these steps have been mostly superficial.
I’m speaking up today because I believe that our pluralistic democracies are on a precipice and that the next 12 months, and the role of social media, could be determinant. British voters will go to the polls while online conspiracists promote the despicable theory of “great replacement” that white Christians are being deliberately replaced by Muslim immigrants. Americans will vote for president while trolls and bots perpetuate the disgusting lie of a “Hispanic invasion”. And after years of YouTube videos calling climate change a “hoax”, the United States is on track, a year from now, to formally withdraw from the Paris accords. A sewer of bigotry and vile conspiracy theories that threatens democracy and our planet – this cannot possibly be what the creators of the internet had in mind.
I believe it’s time for a fundamental rethink of social media and how it spreads hate, conspiracies and lies. Last month, however, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook delivered a major speech that, not surprisingly, warned against new laws and regulations on companies like his. Well, some of these arguments are simply absurd. Let’s count the ways.
First, Zuckerberg tried to portray this whole issue as “choices … around free expression”. That is ludicrous. This is not about limiting anyone’s free speech. This is about giving people, including some of the most reprehensible people on earth, the biggest platform in history to reach a third of the planet. Freedom of speech is not freedom of reach. Sadly, there will always be racists, misogynists, antisemites and child abusers. But I think we could all agree that we should not be giving bigots and pedophiles a free platform to amplify their views and target their victims.
Second, Zuckerberg claimed that new limits on what’s posted on social media would be to “pull back on free expression”. This is utter nonsense. The first amendment says that “Congress shall make no law” abridging freedom of speech, however, this does not apply to private businesses like Facebook. We’re not asking these companies to determine the boundaries of free speech across society. We just want them to be responsible on their platforms.
If a neo-Nazi comes goose-stepping into a restaurant and starts threatening other customers and saying he wants kill Jews, would the owner of the restaurant be required to serve him an elegant eight-course meal? Of course not! The restaurant owner has every legal right and a moral obligation to kick the Nazi out, and so do these internet companies.
Third, Zuckerberg seemed to equate regulation of companies like his to the actions of “the most repressive societies”. Incredible. This, from one of the six people who decide what information so much of the world sees. Zuckerberg at Facebook, Sundar Pichai at Google, at its parent company Alphabet, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Brin’s ex-sister-in-law, Susan Wojcicki at YouTube and Jack Dorsey at Twitter.
The Silicon Six – all billionaires, all Americans – who care more about boosting their share price than about protecting democracy. This is ideological imperialism – six unelected individuals in Silicon Valley imposing their vision on the rest of the world, unaccountable to any government and acting like they’re above the reach of law. It’s like we’re living in the Roman Empire, and Mark Zuckerberg is Caesar. At least that would explain his haircut.
Here’s an idea. Instead of letting the Silicon Six decide the fate of the world, let our elected representatives, voted for by the people, of every democracy in the world, have at least some say.
Fourth, Zuckerberg speaks of welcoming a “diversity of ideas”, and last year he gave us an example. He said that he found posts denying the Holocaust “deeply offensive”, but he didn’t think Facebook should take them down “because I think there are things that different people get wrong”. At this very moment, there are still Holocaust deniers on Facebook, and Google still takes you to the most repulsive Holocaust denial sites with a simple click. One of the heads of Google once told me, incredibly, that these sites just show “both sides” of the issue. This is madness.
To quote Edward R Murrow, one “cannot accept that there are, on every story, two equal and logical sides to an argument”. We have millions of pieces of evidence for the Holocaust – it is an historical fact. And denying it is not some random opinion. Those who deny the Holocaust aim to encourage another one.
Still, Zuckerberg says that “people should decide what is credible, not tech companies.” But at a time when two-thirds of millennials say they haven’t even heard of Auschwitz, how are they supposed to know what’s “credible”? How are they supposed to know that the lie is a lie?
There is such a thing as objective truth. Facts do exist. And if these internet companies really want to make a difference, they should hire enough monitors to actually monitor, work closely with groups like the ADL, insist on facts and purge these lies and conspiracies from their platforms.
Fifth, when discussing the difficulty of removing content, Zuckerberg asked “where do you draw the line?” Yes, drawing the line can be difficult. But here’s what he’s really saying: removing more of these lies and conspiracies is just too expensive.
These are the richest companies in the world, and they have the best engineers in the world. They could fix these problems if they wanted to. Twitter could deploy an algorithm to remove more white supremacist hate speech, but they reportedly haven’t because it would eject some very prominent politicians from their platform. Maybe that’s not a bad thing! The truth is, these companies won’t fundamentally change because their entire business model relies on generating more engagement, and nothing generates more engagement than lies, fear and outrage.
It’s time to finally call these companies what they really are – the largest publishers in history. And here’s an idea for them: abide by basic standards and practices just like newspapers, magazines and TV news do every day. We have standards and practices in television and the movies; there are certain things we cannot say or do. In England, I was told that Ali G could not curse when he appeared before 9pm. Here in the US, the Motion Picture Association of America regulates and rates what we see. I’ve had scenes in my movies cut or reduced to abide by those standards. If there are standards and practices for what cinemas and television channels can show, then surely companies that publish material to billions of people should have to abide by basic standards and practices too.
Take the issue of political ads. Fortunately, Twitter finally banned them, and Google is making changes, too. But if you pay them, Facebook will run any “political” ad you want, even if it’s a lie. And they’ll even help you micro-target those lies to their users for maximum effect. Under this twisted logic, if Facebook were around in the 1930s, it would have allowed Hitler to post 30-second ads on his “solution” to the “Jewish problem”. So here’s a good standard and practice: Facebook, start factchecking political ads before you run them, stop micro-targeted lies immediately, and when the ads are false, give back the money and don’t publish them.
Here’s another good practice: slow down. Every single post doesn’t need to be published immediately. Oscar Wilde once said that “we live in an age when unnecessary things are our only necessities.” But is having every thought or video posted instantly online, even if it is racist or criminal or murderous, really a necessity? Of course not!
The shooter who massacred Muslims in New Zealand live-streamed his atrocity on Facebook where it then spread across the internet and was viewed likely millions of times. It was a snuff film, brought to you by social media. Why can’t we have more of a delay so this trauma-inducing filth can be caught and stopped before it’s posted in the first place?
Finally, Zuckerberg said that social media companies should “live up to their responsibilities”, but he’s totally silent about what should happen when they don’t. By now it’s pretty clear, they cannot be trusted to regulate themselves. As with the Industrial Revolution, it’s time for regulation and legislation to curb the greed of these hi-tech robber barons.
In every other industry, a company can be held liable when their product is defective. When engines explode or seatbelts malfunction, car companies recall tens of thousands of vehicles, at a cost of billions of dollars. It only seems fair to say to Facebook, YouTube and Twitter: your product is defective, you are obliged to fix it, no matter how much it costs and no matter how many moderators you need to employ.
In every other industry, you can be sued for the harm you cause. Publishers can be sued for libel, people can be sued for defamation. I’ve been sued many times! I’m being sued right now by someone whose name I won’t mention because he might sue me again! But social media companies are largely protected from liability for the content their users post – no matter how indecent it is – by Section 230 of, get ready for it, the Communications Decency Act. Absurd!
Fortunately, internet companies can now be held responsible for pedophiles who use their sites to target children. I say, let’s also hold these companies responsible for those who use their sites to advocate for the mass murder of children because of their race or religion. And maybe fines are not enough. Maybe it’s time to tell Mark Zuckerberg and the CEOs of these companies: you already allowed one foreign power to interfere in our elections, you already facilitated one genocide in Myanmar, do it again and you go to jail.
In the end, it all comes down to what kind of world we want. In his speech, Zuckerberg said that one of his main goals is to “uphold as wide a definition of freedom of expression as possible”. Yet our freedoms are not only an end in themselves, they’re also the means to another end – as you say here in the US, the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. But today these rights are threatened by hate, conspiracies and lies.
Allow me to leave you with a suggestion for a different aim for society. The ultimate aim of society should be to make sure that people are not targeted, not harassed and not murdered because of who they are, where they come from, who they love or how they pray.
If we make that our aim – if we prioritize truth over lies, tolerance over prejudice, empathy over indifference and experts over ignoramuses – then maybe, just maybe, we can stop the greatest propaganda machine in history, we can save democracy, we can still have a place for free speech and free expression, and, most importantly, my jokes will still work.
Thank you all very much.

How the NSA & FBI made Facebook the perfect mass surveillance tool
by Harrison Weber

The National Security Agency and the FBI teamed up in October 2010 to develop techniques for turning Facebook into a surveillance tool.
Documents released alongside security journalist Glenn Greenwald’s new book, “No Place To Hide,” reveal the NSA and FBI partnership, in which the two agencies developed techniques for exploiting Facebook chats, capturing private photos, collecting IP addresses, and gathering private profile data.
According to the study, the agencies’ goal for such collection was to capture “a very rich source of information on targets,” including “personal details, ‘pattern of life,’ connections to associates, [and] media.”
NSA documents make painfully clear how the agencies collected information “by exploiting inherent weaknesses in Facebook’s security model” through its use of the popular Akamai content delivery network. The NSA describes its methods as “assumed authentication,” and “security through obscurity.”
Two months ago, following a series of Facebook-related NSA spying leaks, Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg stated in a blog post that he’s “confused and frustrated by the repeated reports of the behavior of the U.S. government.”
According to a report by The Intercept, the above slides do not reveal the NSA’s Facebook surveillance program in full. The report states that the NSA also “disguises itself as a fake Facebook server” to perform “man-in-the-middle” and “man-on-the-side” attacks and spread malware
As we wrote at the time, the “NSA’s Facebook targeting is reportedly a response to the declining success of other malware injection techniques. Previous techniques included the use of “spam emails that trick targets into clicking a malicious link.”
Following the report, released in March, Zuckerberg said, “When our engineers work tirelessly to improve security, we imagine we’re protecting you against criminals, not our own government.”
Zuckerberg claimed he disapproved of the NSA’s actions and said that he’d spoken to president Barack Obama by phone to “express [his] frustration over the damage the government is creating for all of our future.”

FBI pressures Internet providers to install surveillance software
The FBI has developed custom “port reader” software to intercept Internet metadata in real time. And, in some cases, it wants to force Internet providers to use the software.
by Declan McCullagh

The U.S. government is quietly pressuring telecommunications providers to install eavesdropping technology deep inside companies’ internal networks to facilitate surveillance efforts.
FBI officials have been sparring with carriers, a process that has on occasion included threats of contempt of court, in a bid to deploy government-provided software capable of intercepting and analyzing entire communications streams. The FBI’s legal position during these discussions is that the software’s real-time interception of metadata is authorized under the Patriot Act.
Attempts by the FBI to install what it internally refers to as “port reader” software, which have not been previously disclosed, were described to CNET in interviews over the last few weeks. One former government official said the software used to be known internally as the “harvesting program.”
Carriers are “extra-cautious” and are resisting installation of the FBI’s port reader software, an industry participant in the discussions said, in part because of the privacy and security risks of unknown surveillance technology operating on an sensitive internal network.
It’s “an interception device by definition,” said the industry participant, who spoke on condition of anonymity because court proceedings are sealed. “If magistrates knew more, they would approve less.” It’s unclear whether any carriers have installed port readers, and at least one is actively opposing the installation.
In a statement from a spokesman, the FBI said it has the legal authority to use alternate methods to collect Internet metadata, including source and destination IP addresses: “In circumstances where a provider is unable to comply with a court order utilizing its own technical solution(s), law enforcement may offer to provide technical assistance to meet the obligation of the court order.”
AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, Comcast, and Sprint declined to comment. A government source familiar with the port reader software said it is not used on an industry-wide basis, and only in situations where carriers’ own wiretap compliance technology is insufficient to provide agents with what they are seeking.
For criminal investigations, police are generally required to obtain a wiretap order from a judge to intercept the contents of real-time communication streams, including e-mail bodies, Facebook messages, or streaming video. Similar procedures exist for intelligence investigations under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which has received intense scrutiny after Edward Snowden’s disclosures about the National Security Agency’s PRISM database.
There’s a significant exception to both sets of laws: large quantities of metadata can be intercepted in real time through a so-called pen register and trap and trace order with minimal judicial review or oversight. That metadata includes IP addresses, e-mail addresses, identities of Facebook correspondents, Web sites visited, and possibly Internet search terms as well.
“The statute hasn’t caught up with the realties of electronic communication,” says Colleen Boothby, a partner at the Washington, D.C. firm of Levine, Blaszak, Block & Boothby who represents technology companies and industry associations. Judges are not always in a position, Boothby said, to understand how technology has outpaced the law.
Judges have concluded in the past that they have virtually no ability to deny pen register and trap and trace requests. “The court under the Act seemingly provides nothing more than a rubber stamp,” wrote a federal magistrate judge in Florida, referring to the pen register law. A federal appeals court has ruled that the “judicial role in approving use of trap and trace devices is ministerial in nature.”
A little-noticed section of the Patriot Act that added one word — “process” — to existing law authorized the FBI to implant its own surveillance technology on carriers’ networks. It was in part an effort to put the bureau’s Carnivore device, which also had a pen register mode, on a firmer legal footing.

Secret program gives NSA, FBI backdoor access to Apple, Google, Facebook, Microsoft data
Program provides government with direct access to email, messages, browser history, more
by Dan Seifert
The Verge
The US National Security Agency and Federal Bureau of Investigation have been harvesting data such as audio, video, photographs, emails, and documents from the internal servers of nine major technology companies, according to a leaked 41-slide security presentation obtained by The Washington Post and The Guardian. According to The Washington Post, the program’s slides were provided by a “career intelligence officer” that had “firsthand experience with these systems, and horror at their capabilities,” and wished to expose the program’s “gross intrusion on privacy.”
The program, codenamed PRISM, is considered highly classified and has never been made public before. The list of companies involved are the who’s who of Silicon Valley: Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, and Apple. Dropbox, though not yet an official part of the program, is said to be joining it soon. These companies have all willingly participated in the program, says the Post.
According to the leaked presentation, the program has been in action since 2007, and is considered the biggest contributor to the daily briefings given to the president, providing data in 1,477 articles last year alone. Allegedly, nearly one in seven intelligence reports from the NSA contains data from the PRISM program. The NSA has the ability to pull any sort of data it likes from these companies, but it claims that it does not try to collect it all. The PRISM program goes above and beyond the existing laws that state companies must comply with government requests for data, as it gives the NSA direct access to each company’s servers — essentially letting the NSA do as it pleases. The program was initiated to overcome what the NSA saw as constraints within the existing FISA warrant program that did not allow the agency to make use of the “home-field advantage” provided by having most of the internet’s biggest companies on US soil.
The who’s who of Silicon Valley are involved in the NSA’s PRISM program
Microsoft was the first company to bow to the government’s wishes and join the PRISM program in 2007, while Apple held out for five years before agreeing. Though Google and Facebook are a part of PRISM, Twitter has not yet joined. Apparently, the only members of Congress that knew about PRISM’s existence were bound by oath not to speak of it publicly. In a statement provided to both The Washington Post and The Guardian, Google denied that the government had any sort of backdoor access to its systems:
Google cares deeply about the security of our users’ data. We disclose user data to the government in accordance with the law, and we review all such requests carefully. From time to time, people allege that we have created a government ‘backdoor’ into our systems, but Google does not have a ‘backdoor’ for the government to access private user data.
The training documents for the program reveal that the NSA collects a large amount of data on the American public through the PRISM program. For example, if a specific target is investigated using PRISM, that target’s complete inbox and outbox are swept, in addition to anyone who is connected to it. This high level of access was initially given to the NSA by President Bush and was later renewed in 2012 by President Obama.
This report follows the news from earlier this week of the NSA’s involvement in collecting call data and records from Verizon in another massive surveillance partnership.
The director of National Intelligence issued a statement, aiming to clear up “inaccuracies” in reporting on the PRISM program. The DNI argues that only people outside of the United States have been targeted, and that the program “does not allow” the targeting of citizens or others within US borders. “This program was recently reauthorized by Congress after extensive hearings and debate,” said the official, adding that, “information collected under this program is among the most important and valuable intelligence information we collect, and is used to protect our nation from a wide variety of threats.”
The word “target” takes on special significance given what has been reported by former NSA codebreaker William Binney and others. The Stellar Wind program, for which Binney claims to have contributed much of the base code, is said to compile massive amounts of internet traffic, which can then be queried at a later time. According to USSID 18, a top-secret NSA manual of definitions and legal directives, an “intercept” only occurs when the database is queried — when someone actually reads the text on a screen.
The Washington Post has backtracked slightly on its original story. Attempting to explain the disparity between its findings and the statements given by the companies involved, it says:
It is possible that the conflict between the PRISM slides and the company spokesmen is the result of imprecision on the part of the NSA author. In another classified report obtained by The Post, the arrangement is described as allowing “collection managers [to send] content tasking instructions directly to equipment installed at company-controlled locations,” rather than directly to company servers.

The FBI and Google
November 23, 2019
by Mike Hunt
It is not general knowledge that the FBI has an on-going agreement with Google whereby the FBI sends them a subject and anyone who seeks information on this subject, via Google, is automatically reported to the FBI. It is known in the trade that the FBI wholly-owns Internet 2 and has had a working agreement with Zuckerberg for many years.
Emails addressed overseas are automatically intercepted by NSA, copied and filed for possible future use. The FBI has tried on numerous occasions to break into the secret, underground Internet but the latter has been so tightly compartmented and guarded that they have been unsuccessful.
It is rumored that pranksters have prepared fake material, knowing that the NSA and FBI can intercept it. Some of this material has caused, and is causing, spastic colon in the snoopers.
One joker sends pages of letters and numbers in five figure groups, overseas to various Russian, Iranian and other Arabic addresses. And inserted in the “coded text” they put the name of a very secret operation. That they do not know anything about this operation is immaterial.
When the spies see this, someone will recognize the importance of the operation and all hell breaks loose in officialdom.
Here is an invented example of this mischief:
Ki87h jm29d qibox s98co ‘Operation Scrotum’ inwcr etc.
Since this is not a code, frantic efforts to break it only causes migraine headaches in some and spastic colon in others.
And yet others laugh.
But janitors who have to mop up the floors after hours are far from amused.

Warren Reflects on the Borderlands and Two Years of Government Persecution
November 23, 2019
by Ryan Devereaux
The Intercept
Scott Warren has lived with a cloud hanging over his head for nearly two years. The 37-year-old geographer was arrested in January 2018, accused of giving two young men from Central America food, water, and a place to sleep over the course of three days. The pair had crossed one of the deadliest stretches of the U.S.-Mexico border without authorization. They arrived at a humanitarian aid station in the unincorporated town of Ajo, Arizona, where Warren lives and works, with nothing but the clothes on their backs. Warren welcomed them inside and examined the blisters on their feet. He told them that he could provide care, but he could not shield them from law enforcement. That was not his role.
Border Patrol agents descended days later. Warren was arrested along with the two young men. He was charged with two counts of harboring and one count of conspiracy and faced up to 20 years in prison. The government’s first attempt at locking him away ended in a mistrial over the summer. Federal prosecutors at the U.S. attorney’s office of Arizona decided to give it another try, dropping the conspiracy charge and focusing on the harboring counts. Their second attempt collapsed entirely on Wednesday, when after just two hours of deliberations a jury of Warren’s peers returned a verdict of not guilty.
An overjoyed crowd of family, friends, and supporters met Warren as he stepped out of the federal courthouse in Tucson. He read a brief statement, sent his love to those who have stood by his side, and acknowledged those who continue to provide humanitarian aid in the desert. He accepted many hugs. Warren understood and appreciated the outpouring of support and solidarity, but as he left the courthouse, he felt unsure about how he, personally, should feel. The uncertainty lingered when he woke up the next morning and it was still there when we met that night.
“It’s just so weird and so intense, still,” he told me.
That Scott Warren still feels shaken by what he’s been through should not come as a surprise. His acquittal does not erase the fact that, for nearly two years, the U.S. Department of Justice tried to send him to prison for his efforts to end death and suffering in the Sonoran Desert. Not only did the federal government choose to retry him after a hung jury split eight to four in his favor, but it assigned the No. 2 prosecutor in Arizona, Glenn McCormick, to the case. On Wednesday, as the two sides laid out their closing arguments, U.S. Attorney for Arizona Michael Bailey, who was appointed by President Donald Trump, made a surprise appearance in the courtroom. Hands clasped behind his back, Bailey stood in the back of the room as Assistant U.S. Attorney Nathaniel Walters made the case for incarcerating Warren.
Warren’s natural impulse is to care. Following his acquittal, that instinct extended to the people who had tried to send him to prison. “It’s hard because they were prepared to do great violence,” he explained.
In addition to the threat of incarceration directed at Warren, Walters and his co-counsel, Anna Wright, had spent the two trials using smiling selfies taken by Kristian Perez Villanueva and José Arnaldo Sacaria-Godoy, the two young men Warren was arrested with, as evidence that they were never in need of care. “They are cooking, laughing, hanging out with other people, taking shirtless selfies,” Walters said in his closing statement. “It’s almost as if they’re on vacation.” The government also enlisted the migrants as material witnesses in its case against Warren, then, after they gave depositions, deported them to the countries they had fled from. “They dehumanized them and paraded those pictures out,” Warren said. “That all caused harm.”
“So that part, I can’t just be like, ‘No harm no foul’ — because that’s what was at stake,” Warren explained. At the same time, he noted, he felt a stir of compassion for the government’s lawyers. It’s not that he had wanted them to win, but he did want to understand how they had become so committed to his prosecution. “It’s like, ‘What is going on for them?’” Warren said. “It seemed like they felt deeply dejected and I don’t want to take care of them, but also, what happened that it was like that?”
“These are people that we’re in an adversarial relationship with,” Warren said — but it was a relationship nonetheless. The prosecutors across the courtroom were human beings and, after nearly two years, he couldn’t help but feel for them. “I just don’t even know what to do with that,” he said. “I don’t even know.”
At the heart of Warren’s case were questions of perception. For Border Patrol Agent John Marquez, the man who began the investigation that led to Warren’s arrest, the mountains in Arizona’s west desert are “large terrain features” in his “area of responsibility” that facilitate the illicit movement of goods and people. The landscape is not an intricate ecosystem of human and non-human inhabitants with a complex history stretching back thousands of years — which is how Warren and others see it.
When Marquez looked up a college newspaper article about a man named Scott Warren who took students into the desert, he did not see a story about a highly educated border expert introducing students to the complicated region. He saw a guy who was bringing young people into what he viewed as a dangerous place, a quasi-war zone reserved for him and his colleagues, where they chased people down and the general public was not welcome.
These were the datapoints and the worldview Marquez and his partner, Brendan Burns, described to the jury in Warren’s case. They were also the datapoints and worldview embraced by Walters, Wright, and other top officials at the U.S. attorney’s office. It is why, when Marquez and Burns looked through their spotting scope while doing “covert surveillance” on January 17, 2018, and saw Warren speaking to two young men who they assumed were undocumented, they concluded that he was committing a crime. Warren was gesturing north — thus he must have been giving the suspected migrants directions to evade the Border Patrol and further their illegal entry. The prosecutors drew similar conclusions when reviewing the notes Warren took documenting the blisters, chest pain, and sickness the migrants described when they got to Ajo. This wasn’t evidence of humanitarian aid being rendered, they argued, it was evidence of a cover-up in action.
The line between humanitarian aid and illegally harboring a person is criminal intent. The prosecutors needed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Warren’s intention was not to provide humanitarian aid to Perez Villanueva and Sacaria-Godoy, but rather to violate the law. The problem for the government, in this trial and the last, was that Warren was as legally careful and philosophically committed to providing humanitarian aid as anyone could be.
The west desert of Arizona is more than just a place where Border Patrol agents chase migrants. It is also a place where migrants die in staggering numbers. For the past six years, Warren and a community of committed humanitarian volunteers have been working to address that crisis, dropping jugs of water on migrant trails, recovering the remains of those who have perished, and rescuing those who have survived.
When he stood outside with the two migrants and gestured north, Warren told the jury, he was providing orientation. He was pointing out a pair of distinctive mountains. The only highway for miles around ran between them. If the two young men needed to rescue themselves, that’s where they would need to go. And if they found themselves to the outside of either mountain, they would stray into an active bombing range and some of the deadliest patches of desert in Arizona.
The work he and others do in the borderlands, Warren explained, is the same thing that groups like the International Red Cross do in conflict zones around the world. It is the neutral provision of aid in the midst of a humanitarian crisis, and it is legal. Despite spending nearly two years on the case, despite gathering data from Perez Villanueva’s and Warren’s cellphones — producing 14,000 pages of records — the government failed to prove Warren had done anything less than what he described.
“We came to this decision because the prosecution just didn’t present enough evidence to find Scott guilty,” Teyonna Gallardo, a 24-year-old member of the jury, told me. For Gallardo, a Tucson resident, the government’s case was never convincing. “I was ‘not guilty’ the entire time,” she said. “He seemed like a humanitarian that was just trying to help. He seemed very kind and not like he was trying to harbor somebody or do anything illegal at all.”
Ricardo, a second member of the jury, who asked that his last name not be used, said it was important to make one thing clear: The jury’s decision was based on the government’s failures to make its case and nothing else — it was not, notably, a case of jury nullification, where there is a moralistic finding of innocence when the jury believes the crime was committed. “There was just too much of a lack of evidence to convict,” Ricardo said. “What we were looking at itself was: the evidence that was listed, the evidence that was not listed. Evidence that was there. Evidence that was not there.” It all came down to one thing. “I think we can all agree, it was the intent,” he said. “That was the main focus. That was where there was not enough evidence to be able to say beyond a reasonable doubt that Dr. Warren was guilty.”
Ricardo was standing outside the courthouse as he explained the reasoning behind the jury’s verdict. Kelly, a third juror standing nearby, who also asked that her last name not be used, agreed that the government had failed to prove that it was Warren’s intent to break the law, rather than to provide humanitarian aid. “I think we all agreed,” she said, “what he and these people do is fantastic.”
“We had to look at what we thought was in his heart and in his head,” she said. “That’s what it came down to.”
Cause for Hope
Sitting in his office the day after the acquittal, Warren’s lead defense attorney, Greg Kuykendall, picked up a copy of the Arizona Daily Star. Warren’s victory was front-page news. Kuykendall read aloud from a statement that Bailey, the U.S. attorney, had given to the press. The statement said, “And we won’t distinguish between whether somebody is trafficking or harboring for money or whether they’re doing it out of, you know, what I would say is a misguided sense of social justice or belief in open borders or whatever.”
Kuykendall’s co-counsel, Amy Knight, was disturbed by the prosecutor’s words. “The word ‘misguided’ — that’s a value judgment, not a legal judgment,” she said. “If you’re doing it out of a sense of social justice, then you don’t intend to violate the law.”
“They still don’t understand what the law is,” Kuykendall replied. “That’s the fundamental problem. They don’t like the law, so they’re just saying, ‘Well, that’s not the law,’ even though the jury instructions are just crystal clear that’s the law.”
The defense attorney opened the folder of documents and filings in Warren’s case on his computer. There were more than 400 of them. If there was that much material on the defense side, I noted, it seemed reasonable to assume an equal level of investment on the government’s side. “It’s a shocking amount of resources,” Kuykendall said. “And we don’t have a clue about all of their investigative expenses. I mean, they investigated a shit pile of things that we’ll never know about.”
For Kuykendall and Knight, representing Warren was an experience far removed from their normal work as federal death penalty defense lawyers. “I’ve never before represented somebody who was publicly beloved,” Knight said. “The vast majority of our clients are reviled, and I’ve never been in a courtroom where anybody was there except for the family of a victim, and maybe the family of a defendant. But I’ve never had a case where there are supporters and that’s just a very, very different experience.” The pair both saw Warren’s trial as its own kind of life or death case, one with uniquely significant implications. “I’ve also not had cases where the consequence of winning is actually to provide hope to a whole lot of people,” Kuykendall said. “I’ve won a lot of cases, but they’ve had a very limited ripple effect, if you will. But this one makes it really viable to keep resisting.”
Perhaps the most significant beacon of hope to emerge from Warren’s appearance in court was not his felony acquittal, but a second decision read from the bench this week by U.S. District Judge Raner Collins.
Warren was one of nine volunteers with the faith-based humanitarian group No More Deaths to receive federal misdemeanor charges for leaving food, water, and other humanitarian aid supplies on protected public lands and trespassing by driving on restricted roads in 2017. Kuykendall and Knight invoked the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in his defense, arguing that the provision of humanitarian aid was a central tenant of Warren’s deeply held spiritual beliefs. The misdemeanor trial was held earlier this year, but Collins refrained from delivering his decision until Warren’ felony case concluded. After reading Warren’s not guilty verdict Wednesday, Collins did just that.
The government had proven its case on both counts, Collins told the court. But in the case of the provision of humanitarian aid, he ruled that the religious freedom defense was a success. Kuykendall and Knight believe there could be grounds for a religious freedom appeal on the trespassing charge, but the victory they did achieve was an unexpected and truly significant win. “I think it’s a much bigger deal than it’s getting credit for right now because it’s in the shadow of the felony charges,” Knight said. “But I think it’s actually more groundbreaking and unexpected than the felony acquittal.”
Katherine Franke, a law professor at Columbia, where she is faculty director of the Law, Rights, and Religion Project, agreed. “Oh, it’s enormous,” she told me. Franke has been following Warren’s case closely, filing motions on his behalf based on her expertise in the intersection of law and religion.
On day one of Warren’s trial, Franke and her colleagues Elizabeth Reiner Platt, Kira Shepherd, and Lilia Hadjiivanova published a sweeping report illustrating how the federal government has routinely sided with right-wing or conservative causes in religious freedom cases. “The federal judiciary has been treating religious liberty claims, RFRA claims of progressive social activists, very differently than when those faith-based claims are being made by conservative evangelicals,” Franke said.
Collins’s decision in Warren’s case signaled a repudiation of that trend, Franke went on to say. “Not only is the verdict a kind of indictment of the federal government’s immigration policy, but it’s also an indictment of the way they’re protecting religious liberty,” she added. “I have to say, I am delighted because the other RFRA claims that have been raised in the last several years by progressive social activists have been rejected completely by federal judges. So, this is the first one we’ve seen where the judge has positively analyzed a RFRA claim in favor of the defendant, and it’s quite remarkable.”
“The Totality of What’s Happening”
In describing how he got involved in humanitarian aid work, Warren told the jury that, when he moved to Ajo in 2013, he was already well aware of the problem of migrants dying in the desert. After all, his doctorate is in the social geographic history of the Arizona borderlands. But, as Warren explained, there is a difference between knowing an issue intellectually and living with it.
Warren has now had a similar experience with the American criminal justice system. When he looks at stories in the news, the cases of Trump administration associates facing prison time, for example, and he sees people cheering prosecutions and incarceration, he feels something different.
“I can empathize with being a defendant and knowing what that’s like,” Warren said. “You have the power of the state crashing down on you.”
Since 2000, the Pima County medical examiner’s office has tallied the deaths of roughly 3,000 migrants who tried and failed to cross the Sonoran Desert. This was the context Warren and his legal team sought to provide for the jurors in his case; that his efforts to combat a pattern of death and disappearance was the reason he appeared before them. “Our work has been basically education,” Warren said. “I was really proud of that theme.”
If there’s anything Warren has learned both as an academic and a humanitarian aid volunteer, it’s that simplistic, one-dimensional pictures fail to capture the complexity of the borderlands. “You have this place, this complicated place — you can look at it from many different angles,” he explained. What you cannot do, he argued, is reduce it to a single lens and forsake all others, which is what the Border Patrol and the U.S. attorney’s office attempted to do in his case.
“They’re really frustrated because they have this laser focus on this one aspect of it and they’re like, ‘Why are people not understanding what we’re saying?’” Warren said. “It’s just not the totality of what’s happening.”
Warren lingered on the government’s vision of life in the Arizona desert and the dueling explanations for why he experienced what he did. “Do they have a complex view of it and understand that there is a crisis on the border?” he asked. “People are dying, going missing, and local people are responding to it. Do they understand that it’s complicated but make a choice for the hope of winning to not acknowledge any of that?” he said. “Or do they really not understand that piece at all?”
“I probably will never really know.”

The Season of Evil
by Gregory Douglas

This is in essence a work of fiction, but the usual disclaimers notwithstanding, many of the horrific incidents related herein are based entirely on factual occurrences.
None of the characters or the events in this telling are invented and at the same time, none are real. And certainly, none of the participants could be considered by any stretch of the imagination to be either noble, self-sacrificing, honest, pure of motive or in any way socially acceptable to anything other than a hungry crocodile, a professional politician or a tax collector.
In fact, the main characters are complex, very often unpleasant, destructive and occasionally, very entertaining.
To those who would say that the majority of humanity has nothing in common with the characters depicted herein, the response is that mirrors only depict the ugly, evil and deformed things that peer into them
There are no heroes here, only different shapes and degrees of villains and if there is a moral to this tale it might well be found in a sentence by Jonathan Swift, a brilliant and misanthropic Irish cleric who wrote in his ‘Gulliver’s Travels,”
“I cannot but conclude the bulk of your natives to be the most odious race of little pernicious vermin that Nature ever suffered to crawl upon the surface of the earth.”
Swift was often unkind in his observations but certainly not inaccurate.

Frienze, Italy
July 2018-August 2019
                                      Chapter 7

“The Valley Gardens” was a huge, sprawling apartment complex that catered to unmarried whites who were gainfully employed as secretaries, very junior account executives, wealthy students who did not enjoy the collegiate beer parties, politically correct free condoms, unisex lavatories and politically incorrect gang rapes in college dormitories and a large number of fat and desperate singles of both sexes who banked on fallouts from the weekend drinking parties that resulted in half-dressed people passing out in the landscape, under cars and behind hedges. Very often, the comatose could be partially revived and dragged into apartments for various moments of truth. Occasionally, drunken tenants or their guests fell into one of the two pools and drowned but as long as the bodies were removed before noon the next day, there was no lack of swimmers.
Occasionally, the victims settled to the bottoms of the pools and were generally ignored or eventually reported to the manager and removed later in the day when the aquatic sports had ended.
Chuck had rented an apartment there because the frenetic activity around him lent him a protective anonymity saving for the occasions when Jello-thighed women tried to grope him in the laundry room or attempted to lure him into their apartments to revive dead parakeets. There was no point in attempting to avoid them by pretending to be gay because then he would have been the target of a large gay contingent that were either into extensive body building or wearing women’s clothing and garish wigs. None of the latter looked much like women and were generally despised by the tanned and muscular weight freaks who spent most of their time strutting around the pool, well-oiled and wearing minuscule swimming briefs stuffed with potatoes or small ears of corn.
As they carried the best part of the Winrod stock through a broken metal gate and into one of the pool-graced courtyards, a very overweight girl that looked like a beached whale waved at them.
“Hi Tim! Are you moving in or out?”
“In,” said Chuck as he increased his pace towards the second floor deck.
“Oh. Tammi is going to have a party tonight. We’re celebrating Olga’s divorce from Randy. Do you want to come? I’ve baked some brownies.”
Without answering, Chuck thrust his key into the lock and shoved the door open. It was peeling and bore the boot marks of the previous tenant who had been locked out by his girlfriend while she was practicing the mattress polka with a pre-med student.
The brownie baker had turned her attention to a computer programmer who managed to get into his car before he could be pinned against something.
Chuck’s apartment was furnished, badly, and the air-conditioning was only marginally keeping up with the valley heat.
“Who is Tim?” said Lars as he carefully lowered his treasures on a rickety coffee table.
“That’s me. Or rather my late cousin. Timothy O’Rourke to be really exact. A useless dope addict from South Bend who managed to die out in the desert after being thrown out of a car when he stiffed a dealer. I have his ID and he looks like me. I mean he used to look like me. He looks like a Halloween mask these days. I had to claim the remains, as they called the maggot receptacle, and I tried to make a few bucks by selling him to medical science but in his condition, medical science didn’t want him. Maybe a dog food place could have taken him but I didn’t have time so I left him for the county to worry about. I did get his papers, however and that’s why Bloato calls me ‘Tim.’ She’s been trying to fellate me for three months now. As fat as she is, that’s about all she can do. You know, Lars, I wonder how fat people make babies.”
“With one of those things my Grandma used to baste turkeys with?”
“Probably. How much fun can that be? Never mind, I stopped thinking about things like that a long time ago. Now, shall we have a nice inventory?”
Wearing a pair of white cotton gloves, Chuck made small heaps of rings, watches, bracelets, gold coins, pendants and money clips on the worn mauve living room carpet.
As all of the cases had the Winrod logo stamped in gold on the inside of the lid, he made a separate pile of these.
A small calculator was brought into use.
“Very nice, Lars, very nice. A really good day’s work for us. I calculate we have a retail value of $450,000 here with a wholesale price of about $200 thousand plus. That ought to hold us for a few weeks but I see it as seed money, not something to live off of.”
Eric or Lars was transfixed.
“I had no idea, Chuck, they made such a markup. What are we going to do now?”
“Well, you can go downstairs and let Laura munch on your crank for a while or we can decide where we want to go. I mean you are aware that the Winrod game is over, aren’t you? Their house is a mess and we took all their nice pieces. Of course the insurance companies will have to pay but somehow I doubt if either Art or Estelle will have the heart to stay in business.”
Lars picked up a diamond-studded Rolex and tried it on.
“Hey, hey, don’t do that. If you want a watch, get a cheaper one. If the cops see that one, they’ll find drugs in your pocket and keep the watch.”
“You don’t think the store will open again?”
“Not likely you jar head. Now, as I see it, we wait for a few days and then take off for some other area. We hang around just to make sure we aren’t wanted and then off we go to sell the stuff. I am planning to throw them off by leaving the empty cases where they’ll do the most good. Do you want a beer? I have some cold cuts and potato salad in the fridge if you want any.”
And they munched on stale sandwiches while watching an old copy of Andy Warhol’s ‘Bad’ on the VCR. When they came to the part where a woman threw her crying baby out of a high-rise apartment window, Lars began to squeak with laughter.
“Sick, sick, Lars. I told you you’d love it.”
“But the women are so old, Chuck. You don’t have…”
“No I don’t and it’s a felony to have tapes like you desire. Have another beer and we can discuss the future. Do you want to go home tonight? If you want, you can sleep on the couch.”
The nightly news was filled with the police raid on the Winrod establishment but, as usual, there was no mention of the mobile shooting gallery on the freeway. There were many shots of the newly-boarded up windows and comments from scarcely literate fellow businessmen and finally, on the eleven o’clock news, the pair learned that Art was in intensive care as a result of a massive heart attack suffered when he opened his front door. Nothing was said about his wife or the dog but Chuck wondered if a mini-tidal wave had swept them into the storm drains instead of Art.
Lars snored heavily and Chuck had to stick toilet paper in his ears to drown out the noise.

This is also an e-book, available from Amazon:

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