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First POST: Nihilists

BY Micah L. Sifry | Thursday, August 8 2013

NSA + DEA + IRS = ??

  • Could the Internal Revenue Service be investigating Americans using NSA surveillance data laundered through a secretive US Drug Enforcement Agency program? That question is on a number of minds in the wake of yesterday's story from Reuters, which says that "Special Operations Division of the DEA funnels information from overseas NSA intercepts, domestic wiretaps, informants and a large DEA database of telephone records to authorities nationwide to help them launch criminal investigations of Americans." Reuters notes that, "The DEA phone database is distinct from a NSA database disclosed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden," but that hasn't stopped Republicans like Senator Rand Paul and Rep Mike Rogers, the chair of the House Intelligence Committee, from starting to ask questions. ACLU privacy researcher Chris Soghoian responded in a tweet: "We just need evidence showing the NSA helped the IRS to spy on tea party activists to get a 2013 Church Committee."

  • Meanwhile, the Times frontpages a report detailing how the NSA justifies searching the contents of Americans' email and text messages if they communicate with foreigners of interest to the agency.

  • Michael Hayden, the former director of the NSA and CIA, doesn't have a high opinion of hackers or transparency activists, speculating before a Washington audience Tuesday that they will conduct cyber-terror attacks on the US "…if and when our government grabs Edward Snowden, and brings him back here to the United States for trial." He referred to them as "nihilists, anarchists, activists, Lulzsec, Anonymous, twentysomethings who haven't talked to the opposite sex in five or six years."

  • Rep. John Lewis, an icon of the civil rights movement, told the Guardian he sees Edward Snowden as acting in the spirit of Thoreau and Gandhi. "If you believe something that is not right, something is unjust, and you are willing to defy customs, traditions, bad laws, then you have a conscience. You have a right to defy those laws and be willing to pay the price."

  • Actor Matt Damon, who has campaigned for Barack Obama, thinks he may know why the President has defended the NSA's surveillance programs. ""I think it's tough for guys who weren't in the military," he told The Guardian. "One, their manhood is kind of challenged on some level, I imagine, and they allow themselves to get bullied. And two, they're just politically afraid of either looking soft or looking incompetent, so they overcompensate."

  • Other domestic news from around the web

  • Yesterday, I mistakenly referred to TV executive Jeff Zucker of CNN (not NBC, anymore), whose son was on the advisory board of Waywire, Cory Booker's video aggregation start-up profiled by the New York Times. And it's "was"--Andrew Zucker resigned from Waywire yesterday afternoon. And The New York Times editorial board, having already endorsed Booker in next week's primary, calls today for better disclosure of his "financial arrangements."

  • Organizing for America says it is sticking to a pledge it made to avoid partisan races, <denying a report in Politico that it was looking for ways to throw its support behind Michelle Nunn, a Democratic primary candidate for the US Senate from Georgia.

  • Erik Telford, the founder of RightOnline, says Republican party leaders need to do more to cultivate friendly working relationships with conservative online activists, pointing to Democratic attendance at this year's Netroots Nation as an example.

  • Former FCC Chair Julius Genachowski and his former Chief of Staff Zachary Katz offer a few suggestions to cities and states grappling with the rise of the "sharing economy."

  • Talk about sousveillance, or watching from below: This DC undercover cop, who is alleged to have been routinely infiltrating local activist groups, appears to have been undone by her own use of social media.

  • Telling stories with data department: Where People Don't Vote, a beautiful new interactive graphic from WNYC's data-mongerers.

  • A draft version of the City of Oakland's proposed Open Data policy has been posted on Google Docs for your commenting pleasure.

  • International news

  • As Samantha Power, the behind-the-scenes author of Obama's Open Government Partnership while she was on his National Security Council staff, takes the reins as US Ambassador to the United Nations, a Canadian anti-genocide activist has written an eloquent contemplation of the challenges and limits of getting nation-states to act according to a "moralpolitik." The title says it all: "Why Samantha Power Will Break Our Hearts."

  • Amnesty International has released stunning composite satellite images showing what it calls "massive human rights violations" against the population of Aleppo, Syria. Working in collaboration with the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Amnesty collected images between September 2012 and May 2013, finding hundreds of newly damaged or destroyed buildings, including the Great Mosque of Aleppo and the Souq al-Madina. The group has also confirmed the devastation with a local visit to Aleppo by a senior staffer last month. One year ago, Amnesty had released earlier satellite imagery warning of a pending escalation of the Syrian conflict around Aleppo.

  • Richard Falkvinge, the founder of Sweden's Pirate Party, has written a book, Swarmwise, describing his experience building the Pirate movement. Naturally, it is available as a PDF for free sharing. (h/t MobLab)

  • Greenpeace Argentina explains how it garnered 1.5 million fans on Facebook.

  • The UN's Global Pulse team, which is working to harness big data for development, gets a nice write-up in The New York Times.

  • Next month, nearly 200,000 schoolchildren in Turkmenistan will be given Lenovo netbook computers, part of the country's slow emergence from technological isolation under its president Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov. Until 2007, the country was ruled by dictator Saparmurat Niyazov, who AFP's Anton Lomov reports, had a "deep suspicion of cyberspace." No word yet on whether these children will have any assistance in learning how to use their new toys, or if they will be hacking Android in a few months (as kids in rural Ethiopia supposedly did with tablets supplied by One Laptop Per Child). Nor can we confirm if American presidential candidates will be quizzed on the spelling or pronunciation of Berdymukahmedov's name in the forthcoming 2016 presidential debates, but hope springs eternal.

  • Fun!

  • Here's an advance peek at the schedule-in-formation for the Drones & Aerial Robotics Conference (DARC), being curated by our friend and colleague Christopher Wong, and taking place Oct 11-12 at NYU. Best panel title so far: "Do Drones Dream of Electric Sheep?"

  • Odds are, if you are reading this, you are one of the 1800 people in Andy Carvin's Facebook social network--or you know many of the people who are. So take a look at this nifty map he's built analyzing, in some detail, the different sectors of his social and professional lives. Carvin is a bridged and a weaver, so he covers a lot of ground, from internet policy and DC activists to news media pros and Arab Spring troublemakers.