Colin Powell Email Files

September 25th, 2016

DCLeaks.com posted on September 14, 2016, a set of emails to and from Colin Luther Powell.

From the homepage for those leaked emails:

Colin Luther Powell is an American statesman and a retired four-star general in the United States Army. He was the 65th United States Secretary of State, serving under U.S. President George W. Bush from 2001 to 2005, the first African American to serve in that position. During his military career, Powell also served as National Security Advisor (1987–1989), as Commander of the U.S. Army Forces Command (1989) and as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (1989–1993), holding the latter position during the Persian Gulf War. Born in Harlem as the son of Jamaican immigrants, Powell was the first, and so far the only, African American to serve on the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the first of two consecutive black office-holders to serve as U.S. Secretary of State.

The leaked emails start in June of 2014 and end in August of 2016.

Access to the emails is by browsing and/or full text searching.

Try your luck at finding Powell’s comments on Hillary Clinton or former Vice-President Cheney. Searching one chunk of emails at a time.

I appreciate and admire DCLeaks for taking the lead in posting this and similar materials. And I hope they continue to do so in the future.

However, the access offered reduces a good leak to a random trickle.

This series will use the Colin Powell emails to demonstrate better leaking practices.

Coming Monday, September 26, 2016 – Bulk Access to the Colin Powell Emails.

What are we allowed to say? [Criticism]

September 24th, 2016

What are we allowed to say? by David Bromwich.

From the post:

Free speech is an aberration – it is best to begin by admitting that. In most societies throughout history and in all societies some of the time, censorship has been the means by which a ruling group or a visible majority cleanses the channels of communication to ensure that certain conventional practices will go on operating undisturbed. It is not only traditional cultures that see the point of taboos on speech and expressive action. Even in societies where faith in progress is part of a common creed, censorship is often taken to be a necessary means to effect improvements that will convey a better life to all. Violent threats like the fatwa on Salman Rushdie and violent acts like the assassinations at Charlie Hebdo remind us that a militant religion is a dangerous carrier of the demand for the purification of words and images. Meanwhile, since the fall of Soviet communism, liberal bureaucrats in the North Atlantic democracies have kept busy constructing speech codes and guidelines on civility to soften the impact of unpleasant ideas. Is there a connection between the two?

Probably an inbred trait of human nature renders the attraction of censorship perennial. Most people (the highly literate are among the worst) believe that what is good for them will be good for others. Besides, a regime of censorship must claim to derive its authority from settled knowledge and not opinion. Once enforcement and exclusion have done their work, this assumption becomes almost irresistible; and it is relied on to produce a fortunate and economical result: self-censorship. We stay out of trouble by gagging ourselves. Among the few motives that may strengthen the power of resistance is the consciousness of having been deeply wrong oneself, either regarding some abstract question or in personal or public life. Another motive of resistance occasionally pitches in: a radical, quasi-physical horror of seeing people coerce other people without having to supply reasons. For better or worse, this second motive is likely to be mixed with misanthropy.

As far back as one can trace the vicissitudes of public speech and its suppression, the case for censorship seems to have begun in the need for strictures against blasphemy. The introductory chapter of Blasphemy, by the great American legal scholar Leonard Levy, covers ‘the Jewish trial of Jesus’; it is followed in close succession, in Levy’s account, by the Christian invention of the concept of heresy and the persecution of the Socinian and Arminian heretics and later of the Ranters, Antinomians and early Quakers. After an uncertain interval of state prosecutions and compromises in the 19th century, Levy’s history closes at the threshold of a second Enlightenment in the mid-20th: the endorsement by the North Atlantic democracies of a regime of almost unrestricted freedom of speech and expression.
… (emphasis in original)

Bromwich’s essay runs some twenty pages in print so refresh your coffee before starting!

It is a “must” read but not without problems.

The focus on Charlie Hebdo and The Satanic Verses, gives readers a “safe context” in which to consider the issue of “free speech.”

The widespread censorship of “jihadist” speech, which for the most part passes unnoticed and without even a cursory node towards “free speech” is a more current and confrontational example.

Does Bromwich use safe examples to “stay out of trouble by gagging [himself]?”

Hundreds of thousands have been silenced by Western tech companies. Yet in an essay on freedom of speech, they don’t merit a single mention.

The failure to mention the largest current example of anti-freedom of speech in a freedom of speech essay, should disturb every attentive reader.

Disturb them to ask: What of freedom of speech today? Not as a dry and desiccated abstraction but freedom of speech in the streets.

Where is the freedom of speech to incite others to action? Freedom of speech to oppose corrupt governments? Freedom of speech to advocate harsh measures against criminal oppressors?

The invocation of Milton and Mill provides a groundwork for confrontation of government urged if not required censorship but the opportunity is wasted on the vagaries of academic politics.

Freedom of speech is important on college campuses but people are dying where freedom of speech is being denied. To showcase the former over the latter is a form of censorship itself.

If the question is censorship, as Milton and Mill would agree, the answer is no. (full stop)

PS: For those who raise the bugaboo of child pornography, there are laws against the sexual abuse of children, laws that raise no freedom of speech issues.

Possession of child pornography is attacked because it gives the appearance of meaningful action, while allowing the cash flow from its production and distribution to continue unimpeded.

Police use-of-force data is finally coming to light (Evidence Based Citizen Safety)

September 24th, 2016

Police use-of-force data is finally coming to light by Megan Rose Dickey.

From the post:

Discouraging:


Since 2011, less than 3% of the country’s 18,000 state and local police agencies have reported information about police-involved shootings of citizens. That’s because there’s no mandatory federal requirement to do so. There is, however, a mandate in California (Assembly Bill 71) for all police departments to report their use of force incidents that happened after Jan. 1, 2016 by Jan. 1, 2017.

Winds of Data Change:


With URSUS, California police departments can use the open-source platform to collect and report use-of-force data, in the cases of serious injuries, to the CA DOJ. Back in February, the CA DOJ unveiled a revamped version of the OpenJustice platform featuring data around arrest rates, deaths in custody, arrest-related deaths and law enforcement officers assaulted on the job.

Unlike the first version of OpenJustice, the current platform makes it possible to break down data by specific law enforcement agencies. As URSUS collects data about police use-of-force, OpenJustice will publish that information in its database starting early next year.

Here’s an overview of how the system works:

Evidence Based Citizen Safety


In the analysis, Campaign Zero found that only 21 of the 91 police departments reviewed explicitly prohibit officers from using chokeholds. Even more, the average police department reviewed has only adopted three of the eight policies identified that could prevent unnecessary civilian deaths. Not one of the police departments reviewed has implemented all eight.

police-policies-460

According to Campaign Zero’s analysis, if the police departments reviewed were to implement all eight of the use-of-force restrictions, there would be a 54% reduction in killings for the average police department.

With the CA DOJ’s new police use-of-force data system, plus initiatives driven by non-profit organizations and the media, we’re definitely moving in the right direction when it comes to transparency around policing. But if we want real change, the rest of the country’s law enforcement agencies are going to need to get on board. If the PRIDE Act passes, police departments nationwide will not only have to make their use-of-force policies publicly available, but also have to report police use-of-force incidents that result in deaths of civilians. But while the government is stepping up its game around policing data, there is still a need for a community-driven initiatives that track police killings of civilians.

Greater transparency around policing leads to fewer civilian deaths (those folks the police are sworn to serve) and can lead to greater trust/cooperation between the police and the communities they serve. Which means better police work and less danger/stress for police officers.

That’s a win-win situation.

But it starts with data transparency for police activities.

How transparent is your local police department?

Waiting for it to be required by law delays better service to the community and better policing.

Is that a goal of your local police department? You might better ask.

XQuery Working Group (Vanderbilt)

September 24th, 2016

XQuery Working Group – Learn XQuery in the Company of Digital Humanists and Digital Scientists

From the webpage:

We meet from 3:00 to 4:30 p.m. on most Fridays in 800FA of the Central Library. Newcomers are always welcome! Check the schedule below for details about topics. Also see our Github repository for code samples. Contact Cliff Anderson with any questions or see the FAQs below.

Good thing we are all mindful of the distinction W3C XML Query Working Group and XQuery Working Group (Vanderbilt).

Otherwise, you might need a topic map to sort out casual references. ;-)

Even if you can’t attend meetings in person, support this project by Cliff Anderson.

Stress-Free #SkippingTheDebate Parties

September 24th, 2016

Unlike the hackers only show in Snow Crash, the first presidential debate of 2016 is projected to make a record number of viewers dumber.

Well, to be fair, Stephen Battaglio, reports:


Millions of viewers are also expected to watch online as many websites and social media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter, will offer free video streaming of the event.

“This one seems to have aroused the greatest attention and more debate-before-the-debate than any of them,” said Newton Minow, vice chairman of the Commission on Presidential Debates, whose involvement goes back to the the first historic televised showdown between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon in 1960.

The reason viewing levels may skyrocket? Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, cites the unpredictability of Trump, whose appearances in the Republican primary debates set audience records on four different cable networks over the past year.

“It’s the same reason why this election is different than all other elections,” Sabato said. “People will tune in to see the car crash. Trump’s gotten a big audience from the beginning because you knew you’d either see a fender bender or a fatality. This is the big stage and the first one-on-one debate he’s done.”

Rather than watch a moderator and the candidates indulge in the fiction that any substantive discussion of national or international issues can occur in ninety minutes, hold a #SkippingTheDebate party!

Here’s how:

  1. Invite your friends over for a #SkippingTheDebate Party
  2. Have ball game like snacks and drinks
  3. Have a minimum of 5 back issues of Mad Magazine for each guest
  4. Distribute the Mad magazines, after 10 minute reading intervals, each guest may share their favorite comment or observation, discuss and repeat

Unlike debate watching parties, your guests will be amused, have more quips in their quivers, have enjoyed each others company, and most importantly, they will not be dumber for the experience.

I do have data to demonstrate that Mad Magazine is the right choice for your #SkippingTheDebate party:

trump-460

hillary-460

Mad didn’t quite capture the dried apricot complexion of Trump and Hillary looks, well, younger, but even Mad can be kind.

Avoid FBI Demands – Make Your Product Easily Crackable

September 23rd, 2016

Joshua Kopstein reports that Apple has discovered a way to dodge future requests for assistance from the FBI.

Make backups of the iOS 10 easily crackable.

From iOS 10 Has a ‘Severe’ Security Flaw, Says iPhone-Cracking Company:

Apple has introduced a “severe” flaw in its newly-released iOS 10 operating system that leaves backup data vulnerable to password-cracking tools, according to researchers at a smartphone forensics company that specializes in unlocking iPhones.

In a blog post published Friday by Elcomsoft, a Russian company that makes software to help law enforcement agencies access data from mobile devices, researcher Oleg Afonin showed that changes in the way local backup files are protected in iOS 10 has left backups dramatically more susceptible to password-cracking attempts than those produced by previous versions of Apple’s operating system.

Specifically, the company found that iOS 10 backups saved locally to a computer via iTunes allow password-cracking tools to try different password combinations at a rate of 6,000,000 attempts per second, more than 40 times faster than with backups created by iOS 9. Elcomsoft says this is due to Apple implementing a weaker password verification method than the one protecting backup data in previous versions. That means that cops and tech-savvy criminals could much more quickly and easily gain access to data from locally-stored iOS 10 backups than those produced by older versions.

After the NSA sat on a Cisco vulnerability for a decade or so, you have to wonder about the motives of Elcomsoft for quick disclosure.

Perhaps they wanted to take away an easy win from their potential competitors?

In any event, be aware that your iOS 10 has a vulnerability the size of a Mack truck.

Got any Russian readers, that’s roughly the equivalent to:

russian-truck-460

While looking for this image, I saw a number of impressive Russian trucks!

14 free digital tools that any newsroom can use

September 23rd, 2016

14 free digital tools that any newsroom can use by Sara Olstad.

From the post:

ICFJ’s Knight Fellows are global media innovators who foster news innovation and experimentation to deepen coverage, expand news delivery and better engage citizens. As part of their work, they’ve created tools that they are eager to share with journalists worldwide.

Their projects range from Push, a mobile app for news organizations that don’t have the time, money or resources to build their own, to Salama, a tool that assesses a reporter’s risk and recommends ways to stay safe. These tools and others developed by Knight Fellows can help news organizations everywhere find stories in complex datasets, better distribute their content and keep their journalists safe from online and physical security threats.

As part of the 2016 Online News Association conference, try out these 14 digital tools that any newsroom can use. If you adopt any of these tools or lead any new projects inspired by them, tweet about it to @ICFJKnight.

I was mis-led by the presentation of the “14 free digital tools.”

The box where African Network of Centers for Investigative Reporting (ANCIR) and Aleph appear has a scroll marker on the right hand side.

I’m not sure why I missed it or why the embedding of a scrolling box is considered good page design.

But the tools themselves merit your attention.

Enjoy!

Tor 0.2.8.8 is released, with important fixes

September 23rd, 2016

Tor 0.2.8.8 is released, with important fixes

Source available today, packages over the next week.

Privacy is an active, not passive stance.

Steps to take:

  1. Upgrade your Tor software.
  2. Help someone upgrade their Tor software.
  3. Introduce one new person to Tor.

If you take those steps with every upgrade, Tor will spread more quickly.

I have this vision of James Clapper (Director of National Intelligence), waking up in a cold sweat as darkness spreads across a visualization of the Internet in real time.

Just a vision but an entertaining one.

5 lessons on the craft of journalism from Longform podcast

September 23rd, 2016

5 lessons on the craft of journalism from Longform podcast by Joe Freeman.

From the post:

AT FIRST I WAS RELUCTANT to dive into the Longform podcast, a series of interviews with nonfiction writers and journalists that recently produced its 200th episode. The reasons for my wariness were petty. What sane freelancer wants to listen to highly successful writers and editors droning on about their awards and awesome careers? Not this guy! But about a year ago, I succumbed, and quickly became a thankful convert. The more I listened, the more I realized that the show, started in 2012 on the website Longform.org and produced in collaboration with The Atavist, was a veritable goldmine of information. It’s almost as if the top baseball players in the country sat down every week and casually explained how to hit home runs.

Whether they meant to or not, the podcast’s creators and interviewers—Aaron Lammer, Max Linsky, and Evan Ratliff—have produced a free master class on narrative reporting, with practitioners sharing tips and advice about the craft and, crucially, the business. As a journalist, I’ve learned a lot listening to the podcast, but a few consistent themes emerge that I have distilled into five takeaways from specific interviews.

(emphasis in original)

I’m impressed with Joe’s five takeaways but as I sit here repackaging leaked data, there is one common characteristic I would emphasize:

They all involve writing!

That is the actual production of content.

Not plans for content.

Not models for content.

Not abstractions for content.

Content.

Not to worry, I intend to keep my tools/theory edge but in addition to adding Longform podcast to my listening list, I’m going to try to produce more data content as well.

I started off with that intention using XQuery at the start of this year, a theme that is likely to re-appear in the near future.

Enjoy!

Are You A Closet Book Burner? Google Crowdsources Censorship!

September 23rd, 2016

YouTube is cleaning up and it wants your help! by Lisa Vaas.

From the post:

Google is well aware that the hair-raising comments of YouTube users have turned the service into a fright fest.

It’s tried to drain the swamp. In February 2015, for example, it created a kid-safe app that would keep things like, oh, say, racist/anti-Semitic/homophobic comments or zombies from scaring the bejeezus out of young YouTubers.

Now, Google’s trying something new: it’s soliciting “YouTube Heroes” to don their mental hazmat suits and dive in to do some cleanup.

You work hard to make YouTube better for everyone… and like all heroes, you deserve a place to call home.

Google has renamed the firemen of Fahrenheit 451 to YouTube Heroes.

Positive names cannot change the fact that censors by any name, are in fact just that, censors.

Google has taken censorship to a new level in soliciting the participation of the close-minded, the intolerant, the bigoted, the fearful, etc., from across the reach of the Internet, to censor YouTube.

Google does own YouTube and if it wants to turn it into a pasty gray pot of safe gruel, it certainly can do so.

As censors flood into YouTube, free thinkers, explorers, users who prefer new ideas over pablum, need to flood out of YouTube.

Ad revenue needs to fall as this ill-advised campaign, “come be a YouTube censor” succeeds.

Only falling ad revenue will stop this foray into the folly of censorship by Google.

First steps:

  1. Don’t post videos to Google.
  2. Avoid watching videos on Google as much as possible.
  3. Urge other to not post/use YouTube.
  4. Post videos to other venues.
  5. Speak out against YouTube censorship.
  6. Urge YouTube authors to post/repost elsewhere

“Safe place” means a place safe from content control at the whim and caprice of governments, corporations and even other individuals.

What’s so hard to “get” about that?

Hacker-Proof Code Confirmed [Can Liability Be Far Behind?]

September 22nd, 2016

Hacker-Proof Code Confirmed by Kevin Hartnett.

From the post:

In the summer of 2015 a team of hackers attempted to take control of an unmanned military helicopter known as Little Bird. The helicopter, which is similar to the piloted version long-favored for U.S. special operations missions, was stationed at a Boeing facility in Arizona. The hackers had a head start: At the time they began the operation, they already had access to one part of the drone’s computer system. From there, all they needed to do was hack into Little Bird’s onboard flight-control computer, and the drone was theirs.

When the project started, a “Red Team” of hackers could have taken over the helicopter almost as easily as it could break into your home Wi-Fi. But in the intervening months, engineers from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) had implemented a new kind of security mechanism — a software system that couldn’t be commandeered. Key parts of Little Bird’s computer system were unhackable with existing technology, its code as trustworthy as a mathematical proof. Even though the Red Team was given six weeks with the drone and more access to its computing network than genuine bad actors could ever expect to attain, they failed to crack Little Bird’s defenses.

“They were not able to break out and disrupt the operation in any way,” said Kathleen Fisher, a professor of computer science at Tufts University and the founding program manager of the High-Assurance Cyber Military Systems (HACMS) project. “That result made all of DARPA stand up and say, oh my goodness, we can actually use this technology in systems we care about.”

Reducing the verification requirement to a manageable size appears to be the key to DARPA’s success.

That is rather than verification of the entire program, only critical parts, such as excluding hackers, need to be verified.

If this spreads, failure to formally verify critical parts of software would be a natural place to begin imposing liability for poorly written code.

PS: Would formal proof of data integration be a value-add?

Cisco Hunting Report – ISAKMP – 859,233 Vulnerable IPs

September 22nd, 2016

The Vulnerable ISAKMP Scanning Project, courtesy of ShadowServer reports:

This scan is looking for devices that contain a vulnerability in their IKEv1 packet processing code that could allow an unauthenticated, remote attacker to retrieve memory contents, which could lead to the disclosure of confidential information. More information on this issue can be found on Cisco’s site at: https://tools.cisco.com/security/center/content/CiscoSecurityAdvisory/cisco-sa-20160916-ikev1.

The goal of this project is to identify the vulnerable systems and report them back to the network owners for remediation.

Statistics on current run

859,233 distinct IPs have responded as vulnerable to our ISAKMP probe.

(emphasis in the original)

If visuals help:

isakmp_north_america_current-460

isakmp_europe_current-460

I trust your map reading skills are sufficient to conclude that ISAKMP vulnerabilities aren’t common in Iceland and northern Finland. There are more fertile areas for exploration.

iceland-finland-460

You can see other land masses or all vulnerable devices.

Is anyone selling ISAKMP scan data?

That would be valuable intell.

Imagine converting it into domain names so c-suite types could cross-check reassurances from their IT departments.

Apache Lucene 6.2.1 and Apache Solr 6.2.1 Available [Presidential Data Leaks]

September 22nd, 2016

Lucene can be downloaded from http://www.apache.org/dyn/closer.lua/lucene/java/6.2.1

Solr can be downloaded from http://www.apache.org/dyn/closer.lua/lucene/solr/6.2.1

If you aren’t using Lucene/Solr 6.2, here’s your chance to grab the latest bug fixes as well!

Data leaks will accelerate as the US presidential election draws to a close.

What’s your favorite tool for analysis and delivery of data dumps?

Enjoy!

Google Allo – Goodbye!

September 22nd, 2016

Google Allo: Don’t use it, says Edward Snowden by Liam Tung.

From the post:

Google’s Allo messaging app and its Assistant bot have finally arrived, but Allo has been slammed for reneging on a promise that it would, by default, make it more difficult to spy on.

Because of the missing privacy feature, NSA-contractor-turned-whistleblower Edward Snowden’s first take of Allo after yesterday’s US launch is that it’s just a honeypot for surveillance.

The main complaints are that security is off by default and that chat logs are stored until deleted by users.

Google made a conscious choice on both of those features.

Now is your opportunity to make a conscious choice about Allo. Goodbye!

Don’t be mis-led into thinking end-to-end encryption ends the danger from preserving chat logs.

Intelligence agencies have long argued knowing who calls who is more important than the content of phone calls. Same is true for chats.

Google has chosen a side other than consumers, that’s enough to avoid it whenever possible.

What Makes A Liar Lie? (Clapper Lying About The Russians)

September 21st, 2016

US intel head suggests Russia behind DNC hacks, says Moscow tried to affect elections in past

From the post:

The US director of national intelligence has suggested Russia is behind the recent hack that saw Democratic National Committee (DNC) records dumped online. The leak undermined the Democrats’ reputation ahead of November’s presidential election.

“It’s probably not real, real clear whether there’s influence in terms of an outcome [of the upcoming elections] – or what I worry about more, frankly – is just the sowing the seeds of doubt, where doubt is cast on the whole [election] process,” James Clapper said on Tuesday evening at an event hosted by the Washington Post, as cited by the Wall Street Journal.

Furthermore, the intelligence chief said Russia and its predecessor the USSR had been adhering to similar practices targeting the US since the 1960s.

“There’s a tradition in Russia of interfering with elections, their own and others.

“[…] It shouldn’t come as a big shock to people. I think it’s more dramatic maybe because now they have the cyber tools,” Clapper is cited as saying.

The comments come in contrast to Clapper’s earlier statements regarding Russia’s alleged connection to the hacking operation, which is believed to have been conducted over more than a year. In July, shortly after the documents had been leaked, he urged an end to the “reactionary mode” of blaming the leak on Russia.
… (emphasis in original)

Do you wonder why Clapper shifted from avoiding a “reactionary mode” of blaming Russia to not only blaming Russia, but claiming a history of Russian interference with United States elections?

I don’t have an email or recorded phone conversation smoking gun, but here’s one possible explanation:

From FiveThirtyEight as of today:

fivethirtyeight-21september2016-460

My prediction: The closer the odds become from FiveThirtyEight, the more frantic and far-fetched the lies from James Clapper will become.

Another DNC leak or two (real ones, not the discarded hard drive kind), and Clapper will be warning of Russian influence in county government and school board elections.

PS: If you don’t think Clapper is intentionally lying, when will you break the story his accounts have lost all connection to a reality shared by others?

Reducing Your “Competition”

September 21st, 2016

Good security practices are a must, whether you live in the Cisco universe or the more mundane realm of drug pushing.

Case in point: Photos On Dark Web Reveal Geo-locations Of 229 Drug Dealers — Here’s How by Swati Khandelwal.

From the post:

It’s a Fact! No matter how smart the criminals are, they always leave some trace behind.

Two Harvard students have unmasked around 229 drug and weapon dealers with the help of pictures taken by criminals and used in advertisements placed on dark web markets.

Do you know each image contains a range of additional hidden data stored within it that can be a treasure to the investigators fighting criminals?

Whatever services you are offering on the Dark Web, here’s an opportunity to reduce the amount of competition you are facing.

Perhaps even a reward from CrimeStoppers, although you need to price shop against your local organization for the better deal.

Failure to scrub Exchangeable Image File Format (EXIF) data lies at the heart of this technique.

See Swati’s post for more details on this “hack.”

Do your civic duty to reduce crime (your competitors) and be rewarded in the process.

Who says cybersecurity can’t be a profit center? ;-)

Tails [Whatever The Presidential Race Outcome]

September 20th, 2016

Tails – theamnesicincognitolivesystem

From the about page:

Tails is a live system that aims to preserve your privacy and anonymity. It helps you to use the Internet anonymously and circumvent censorship almost anywhere you go and on any computer but leaving no trace unless you ask it to explicitly.

Whatever your prediction for the US 2016 presidential election, Hairy Thunderer or Cosmic Muffin, you are going to need Tails

For free speech and/or privacy in 2017, get Tails.

It really is that simple.

Betraying Snowden:… [Cynical, but not odd]

September 20th, 2016

Betraying Snowden: There’s a special place in journalism hell for The Washington Post editorial board by Daniel Denvir.

From the post:

There is a special place in journalism hell reserved for The Washington Post editorial board now that it has called on President Barack Obama to not pardon National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden.

As Glenn Greenwald wrote, it’s an odd move for a news publication, “which owes its sources duties of protection, and which — by virtue of accepting the source’s materials and then publishing them — implicitly declares the source’s information to be in the public interest.” Notably, the Post decided to “inexcusably omit . . . that it was not Edward Snowden, but the top editors of the Washington Post who decided to make these programs public,” as Greenwald added.

The Post’s peculiar justification is as follows: While the board grudgingly conceded that reporters, thanks to Snowden, revealed that the NSA’s collection of domestic telephone metadata — which “was a stretch, if not an outright violation, of federal surveillance law” — it condemns him for revealing “a separate overseas NSA Internet-monitoring program, PRISM, that was both clearly legal and not clearly threatening to privacy.”

Washington Post opposition to a pardon for Edward Snowden isn’t odd at all.

Which story generates more PR for the Washington Post:

  1. The Washington Post, having won a Pulitzer prize due to Edward Snowden, joins a crowd calling for his pardon?
  2. The Washington Post, having won a Pulitzer prize due to Edward Snowden, opposes his being pardoned?

It’s not hard to guess which one generates more ad-views and therefore the potential for click-throughs.

I have no problems with the disclosure of PRISM, save for Snowden having to break his word as a contractor to keep his client’s secrets, well, secret.

No one could be unaware that the NSA engages in illegal and immoral activity on a daily basis before agreeing to be employed by them.

Although Snowden has done no worse than his former NSA employers, it illustrates why I have no trust in government agencies.

If they are willing to lie for what they consider to be “good” reasons to you, then they are most certainly willing to lie to me.

Once it is established that an agency, take the NSA for example, has lied on multiple occasions, on what basis would you trust them to be telling the truth today?

Their assurance, “we’re not lying this time?” That seems rather tenuous.

Same rule should apply to contractors who lie to or betray their clients.

NSA: Being Found Beats Searching, Every Time

September 20th, 2016

Equation Group Firewall Operations Catalogue by Mustafa Al-Bassam.

From the post:

This week someone auctioning hacking tools obtained from the NSA-based hacking group “Equation Group” released a dump of around 250 megabytes of “free” files for proof alongside the auction.

The dump contains a set of exploits, implants and tools for hacking firewalls (“Firewall Operations”). This post aims to be a comprehensive list of all the tools contained or referenced in the dump.

Mustafa’s post is a great illustration of why “being found beats searching, every time.”

Think of the cycles you would have to spend to duplicate this list. Multiple that by the number of people interested in this list. Assuming their time is not valueless, do you start to see the value-add of Mustafa’s post?

Mustafa found each of these items in the data dump and then preserved his finding for the use of others.

It’s not a very big step beyond this preservation to the creation of a container for each of these items, enabling the preservation of other material found on them or related to them.

Search is a starting place and not a destination.

Unless you enjoy repeating the same finding process over and over again.

Your call.

Stopping Terrorism: Thieves 2, Security Forces 0

September 19th, 2016

Murray Weiss, Nicholas Rizzi, Trevor Kapp and Aidan Gardiner document in Thieves Helped Crack the Chelsea Bombing Case, Sources Say how common street thieves thwarted terrorist attacks in New York City and New Jersey.

Albeit inadvertently, thieves prevented a second explosion in Chelsea and multiple explosion in New Jersey.

See Thieves Helped Crack the Chelsea Bombing Case, Sources Say for the full story.

Great illustration the surveillance state can track people down, after they have committed a crime. Not good at stopping people before they commit a crime.

So why are we spending $billions on a surveillance state, that is out performed by street thieves?

Reward any thief discovering a terrorist bomb and turning it in with:

get-out-jail-2-460

Good for life, non-violent crimes only.

Given the track record of security forces in the United States, a far better investment.

Hackers May Fake Documents, Congress Publishes False Ones

September 19th, 2016

I pointed out in Lions, Tigers, and Lies! Oh My! that Bruce Schneier‘s concerns over the potential for hackers faking documents to be leaked pales beside the mis-information distributed by government.

Executive Summary of Review of the Unauthorized Disclosures of Former National Security Agency Contractor Edward Snowden (their title, not mine), is a case in point.

Barton Gellman in The House Intelligence Committee’s Terrible, Horrible, Very Bad Snowden Report leaves no doubt the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) report is a sack of lies.

Not mistakes, not exaggerations, not simply misleading, but actual, factual lies.

For example:


Since I’m on record claiming the report is dishonest, let’s skip straight to the fourth section. That’s the one that describes Snowden as “a serial exaggerator and fabricator,” with “a pattern of intentional lying.” Here is the evidence adduced for that finding, in its entirety.

“He claimed to have obtained a high school degree equivalent when in fact he never did.”

I do not know how the committee could get this one wrong in good faith. According to the official Maryland State Department of Education test report, which I have reviewed, Snowden sat for the high school equivalency test on May 4, 2004. He needed a score of 2250 to pass. He scored 3550. His Diploma No. 269403 was dated June 2, 2004, the same month he would have graduated had he returned to Arundel High School after losing his sophomore year to mononucleosis. In the interim, he took courses at Anne Arundel Community College.

See Gellman’s post for more examples.

All twenty-two members of the HPSCI signed the report. To save you time in the future, here’s a listing of the members of Congress who agreed to report these lies:

Republicans

Democrats

I sorted each group in to alphabetical order. The original listings were in an order that no doubt makes sense to fellow rodents but not to the casual reader.

That’s twenty-two members of Congress who are willing to distribute known falsehoods.

Does anyone have an equivalent list of hackers?

Congress.gov Corrects Clinton-Impeachment Search Results

September 19th, 2016

After posting Congress.gov Search Alert: “…previous total of 261 to the new total of 0.” [Solved] yesterday, pointing out that a change from http:// to https:// altered a search result for Clinton w/in 5 words impeachment, I got an email this morning:

congress-gov-correction-460

I appreciate the update and correction for saved searches, but my point about remote data changing without notice to you remains valid.

I’m still waiting for word on bulk downloads from both Wikileaks and DC Leaks.

Why leak information vital to public discussion and then limit access to search?

Exotic Functional Data Structures: Hitchhiker Trees

September 18th, 2016

Description:

Functional data structures are awesome–they’re the foundation of many functional programming languages, allowing us to express complex logic immutably and efficiently. There is one unfortunate limitation: these data structures must fit on the heap, limiting their lifetime to that of the process. Several years ago, Datomic appeared as the first functional database that addresses these limitations. However, there hasn’t been much activity in the realm of scalable (gigabytes to terabytes) functional data structures.

In this talk, we’ll first review some of the fundamental principles of functional data structures, particularly trees. Next, we’ll review what a B tree is and why it’s better than other trees for storage. Then, we’ll learn about a cool variant of a B tree called a fractal tree, how it can be made functional, and why it has phenomenal performance. Finally, we’ll unify these concepts to understand the Hitchhiker tree, an open-source functionally persistent fractal tree. We’ll also briefly look at an example API for using Hitchhiker trees that allows your application’s state to be stored off-heap, in the spirit of the 2014 paper “Fast Database Restarts at Facebook”.

David Greenberg (profile)

Hitchhiker Trees (GitHub)

Fast Database Restarts at Facebook by Aakash Goel, Bhuwan Chopra, Ciprian Gerea, Dhrúv Mátáni, Josh Metzler, Fahim Ul Haq, Janet Wiener.

You could have searched for all the information I have included, but isn’t it more convenient to have it “already found?”

Introducing arxiv-sanity

September 18th, 2016

Only a small part of Arxiv appears at: http://www.arxiv-sanity.com/ but it is enough to show the feasibility of this approach.

What captures my interest is the potential to substitute/extend the program to use other similarity measures.

Bearing in mind that searching is only the first step towards the acquisition and preservation of knowledge.

PS: I first saw this in a tweet by Data Science Renee.

Congress.gov Search Alert: “…previous total of 261 to the new total of 0.” [Solved]

September 18th, 2016

Odd message from the Congress.org search alert this AM:

congress-alert-460

Here’s the search I created back in June, 2016:

congress-alert-search-460

My probably inaccurate recall at the moment was I was searching for some quote from the impeachment of Bill Clinton and was too lazy to specify a term of congress, hence:

all congresses – searching for Clinton within five words, impeachment

Fairly trivial search that produced 261 “hits.”

I set the search alert more to explore the search options than any expectation of different future results.

Imagine my surprise to find that all congresses – searching for Clinton within five words, impeachment performed today, results in 0 “hits.”

Suspecting some internal changes to the search interface, I re-entered the search today and got 0 “hits.”

Other saved searches with radically different search results as of today?

This is not, repeat not, the result of some elaborate conspiracy to assist Secretary Clinton in her bid for the presidency.

I do think something fundamental has gone wrong with searching at Congress.gov and it needs to be fixed.

This is an illustration of why Wikileaks, DC Leaks and other data sites should provide easy to access downloads in bulk of their materials.

Providing search interfaces to document collections is a public service, but document collections or access to them can change in ways not transparent to search users. Such as demonstrated by the CIA removing documents previously delivered to the Senate.

Petition Wikileaks, DC Leaks and other data sites for easy bulk downloads.

That will ensure the “evidence” will not shift under your feet and the availability of more sophisticated means of analysis than brute-force search.


Update: The changing from http:// to https:// by the congress.gov site, trashed my save query and using http:// to re-perform the same search.

Using https:// returns the same 261 search results.

What your experience with other saved searches at congress.gov?

Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) 2

September 17th, 2016

Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) 2: W3C Candidate Recommendation 15 September 2016

Abstract:

This specification defines the features and syntax for Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) Version 2. SVG is a language based on XML for describing two-dimensional vector and mixed vector/raster graphics. SVG content is stylable, scalable to different display resolutions, and can be viewed stand-alone, mixed with HTML content, or embedded using XML namespaces within other XML languages. SVG also supports dynamic changes; script can be used to create interactive documents, and animations can be performed using declarative animation features or by using script.

Comments:

Comments on this Candidate Recommendation are welcome. Comments can be sent to www-svg@w3.org, the public email list for issues related to vector graphics on the Web. This list is archived and senders must agree to have their message publicly archived from their first posting. To subscribe send an email to www-svg-request@w3.org with the word subscribe in the subject line.

W3C publishes a Candidate Recommendation to indicate that the document is believed to be stable and to encourage implementation by the developer community. This Candidate Recommendation is expected to advance to Proposed Recommendation no earlier than 15 July 2017, but we encourage early review, and requests for normative changes after 15 November 2016 may be deferred to SVG 3.

15 November 2016 will be here sooner than you realize. Read and comment early and often.

Enjoy!

Introducing OpenType Variable Fonts

September 17th, 2016

Introducing OpenType Variable Fonts by John Hudson.

From the post:

Version 1.8 of the OpenType font format specification introduces an extensive new technology, affecting almost every area of the format. An OpenType variable font is one in which the equivalent of multiple individual fonts can be compactly packaged within a single font file. This is done by defining variations within the font, which constitute a single- or multi-axis design space within which many font instances can be interpolated. A variable font is a single font file that behaves like multiple fonts.

There are numerous benefits to this technology. A variable font is a single binary with greatly-reduced comparable file size and, hence, smaller disc footprint and webfont bandwidth. This means more efficient packaging of embedded fonts, and faster delivery and loading of webfonts. The potential for dynamic selection of custom instances within the variations design space — or design-variations space, to use its technical name — opens exciting prospects for fine tuning the typographic palette, and for new kinds of responsive typography that can adapt to best present dynamic content to a reader’s device, screen orientation, or even reading distance.

The technology behind variable fonts is officially called OpenType Font Variations. It has been jointly developed by Microsoft, Google, Apple, and Adobe, in an unprecedented collaborative effort also involving technical experts from font foundries and font tool developers. In addition to specifying the font format additions and revisions, the working group has also committed to the goal of interoperable implementation, defining expected behaviours and test suites for software displaying variable fonts. This should be welcome news to font developers and users, who have often struggled with incompatible implementations of earlier aspects of OpenType that were left to the interpretation of individual software companies.

OpenType Font Variations builds on the model established in Apple’s TrueType GX variations in the mid-1990s, but has fully integrated that model into all aspects of the OpenType format, including OpenType Layout, and is available to both TrueType and Compact Font Format (CFF) flavours of OpenType. This has meant not only the addition of numerous tables to the format, but also revision of many existing tables; these changes are summarised in an appendix to this article, which is intended as an introduction and technological summary, primarily for font makers and font tool developers. The full technical specification for OpenType Font Variations is incorporated into the OpenType specification version 1.8.

John Hudson developed the remarkable SBL BibLit, SBL Greek and SBL Hebrew fonts for biblical studies.

An illustration from John’s post:

variable-opentype-font-460

Figure 1. Normalised design space of a 3-axis variable font.
[Typeface: Kepler, an Adobe Original designed by Robert Slimbach.]

Looking forward to the SBL transitioning its biblical studies font set to this new font technology.

Lions, Tigers, and Lies! Oh My!

September 17th, 2016

How Long Until Hackers Start Faking Leaked Documents? by Bruce Schneier.

Bruce writes:


No one is talking about this, but everyone needs to be alert to the possibility. Sooner or later, the hackers who steal an organization’s data are going to make changes in them before they release them. If these forgeries aren’t questioned, the situations of those being hacked could be made worse, or erroneous conclusions could be drawn from the documents. When someone says that a document they have been accused of writing is forged, their arguments at least should be heard.

Really?

Governments, the United States Government in particular, leak false information and documents as a matter of normal business practice. Not to mention corporations and special interest groups that pay for false research (think Harvard, sugar studies) to be published.

In case you missed it, read Inside the fight to reveal the CIA’s torture secrets. In depth analysis of how the CIA not only lied, but destroyed evidence, spied on the U.S. Senate and otherwise misbehaved during an investigation into its torture practices.

That’s just one example. One could fill a multi-volume series with the lies, false documents and fabrications of the current and immediately previous U.S. President.

The argument torturers were “doing their duty to protect the country” and so merit a pass on accountability I recommend to any future political assassins. See how that plays out in a court of law. Hint: Crimes are crimes whatever your delusional understanding of “the greater good.”

The easier rule is:

Consider all documents/statements as false unless and until:

  1. You are satisfied of the truth of the document/statement, or
  2. It is to your advantage to treat the document/statement as true.

That covers situations like “fact free” accusations of cyber hacking against the Russians, North Koreans and/or Chinese by the U.S. government.

No “evidence” has been offered for any of those allegations, only vaguely worded rumors circulated among “experts” who are also government contractors. You can imagine the credibility I assign to such sources.

Probably happenstance but such contractors could be telling the truth. Unfortunately, in the absence of any real evidence, only the self-interested in such “truths” or the extremely credulous, crack-pipe users for example, would credit such statements.

How Mapmakers Make Mountains Rise Off the Page

September 17th, 2016

How Mapmakers Make Mountains Rise Off the Page by Greg Miller.

From the post:

The world’s most beautiful places are rarely flat. From the soaring peaks of the Himalaya to the vast chasm of the Grand Canyon, many of the most stunning sites on Earth extend in all three dimensions. This poses a problem for mapmakers, who typically only have two dimensions to work with.

Fortunately, cartographers have some clever techniques for creating the illusion of depth, many of them developed by trial and error in the days before computers. The best examples of this work use a combination of art and science to evoke a sense of standing on a mountain peak or looking out an airplane window.

One of the oldest surviving maps, scratched onto an earthenware plate in Mesopotamia more than 4,000 years ago, depicts mountains as a series of little domes. It’s an effective symbol, still used today in schoolchildren’s drawings and a smartphone emoji, but it’s hardly an accurate representation of terrain. Over the subsequent centuries, mapmakers made mostly subtle improvements, varying the size and shape of their mountains, for example, to indicate that some were bigger than others.

But cartography became much more sophisticated during the Renaissance. Topographic surveys were done for the first time with compasses, measuring chains, and other instruments, resulting in accurate measurements of height. And mapmakers developed new methods for depicting terrain. One method, called hachuring, used lines to indicate the direction and steepness of a slope. You can see a later example of this in the 1807 map below of the Mexican volcano Pico de Orizaba. Cartographers today refer (somewhat dismissively) to mountains depicted this way as “woolly caterpillars.”

Stunning illusions of depth on maps, creating depth illusions in 2 dimensions (think computer monitors), history of map making techniques, are all reasons to read this post.

What seals it for me is that the quest for the “best” depth illusion continues. It’s not a “solved” problem. (No spoiler, see the post.)

Physical topography to one side, how are you going to bring “depth” to your topic map?

Some resources in a topic map may have great depth and others, unfortunately, may be like Wikipedia articles marked as:

This article has multiple issues.

How do you define and then enable navigation of your topic maps?

How-To Discover Pay-to-Play Appointment Pricing

September 16th, 2016

You have seen one or more variations on:

This Is How Much It ‘Costs’ To Get An Ambassadorship: Guccifer 2.0 Leaks DNC ‘Pay-To-Play’ Donor List

DNC Leak Exposes Pay to Play Politics, How the Clinton’s REALLY Feel About Obama

CORRUPTION! Obama caught up in Pay for Play Scandal, sold every job within his power to sell.

You may be wondering why CNN, the New York Time and the Washington Post aren’t all over this story?

While selling public offices surprises some authors, whose names I omitted out of courtesy to their families, selling offices is a regularized activity in the United States.

So regularized that immediately following each presidential election, the Government Printing Office publishes the United States Government Policy and Supporting Positions 2012 (Plum Book) that lists the 9,000 odd positions that are subject to presidential appointment.

From the description of the 2012 edition:

Every four years, just after the Presidential election, “United States Government Policy and Supporting Positions” is published. It is commonly known as the “Plum Book” and is alternately published between the House and Senate.

The Plum Book is a listing of over 9,000 civil service leadership and support positions (filled and vacant) in the Legislative and Executive branches of the Federal Government that may be subject to noncompetitive appointments, or in other words by direct appointment.

These “plum” positions include agency heads and their immediate subordinates, policy executives and advisors, and aides who report to these officials. Many positions have duties which support Administration policies and programs. The people holding these positions usually have a close and confidential relationship with the agency head or other key officials.

Even though the 2012 “plum” book is currently on sale for $19.00 (usual price is $38.00), given that a new one will appear later this year, consider using the free online version at: Plum Book 2012.

plum-book-2012-460

The online interface is nothing to brag on. You have to select filters and then find to obtain further information on positions. Very poor UI.

However, if under title you select “Chief of Mission, Monaco” and then select “find,” the resulting screen looks something like this:

monaco-chief-01-460

To your far right there is a small arrow that if selected, takes you to the details:

monaco-chief-02-460

If you were teaching a high school civics class, the question would be:

How much did Charles Rivkin have to donate to obtain the position of Chief of Mission, Monaco?

FYI, the CIA World FactBook gives this brief description for Monaco:

Monaco, bordering France on the Mediterranean coast, is a popular resort, attracting tourists to its casino and pleasant climate. The principality also is a banking center and has successfully sought to diversify into services and small, high-value-added, nonpolluting industries.

Unlike the unhappy writers that started this post, you would point the class to: Transaction Query By Individual Contributor at the Federal Election Commission site.

Entering the name Rivkin, Charles and select “Get Listing.”

Rivkin’s contributions are broken into categories and helpfully summed to assist you in finding the total.

Contributions to All Other Political Committees Except Joint Fundraising Committees – $72399.00

Joint Fundraising Contributions – $22300.00

Recipient of Joint Fundraiser Contributions – $36052.00

Caution: There is an anomalous Rivkin in that last category, contributing $40 to Donald Trump. For present discussions, I would subtract that from the grand total of:

$130,711 to be the Chief of Mission, Monaco.

Realize that this was not a lump sum payment but a steady stream of contributions starting in the year 2000.

Using the Transaction Query By Individual Contributor resource, you can correct stories that claim:

Jane Hartley paid DNC $605,000 and then was nominated by Obama to serve concurrently as the U.S. Ambassador to the French Republic and the Principality of Monaco.

jane-hartley

(from: This Is How Much It ‘Costs’ To Get An Ambassadorship: Guccifer 2.0 Leaks DNC ‘Pay-To-Play’ Donor List)

If you run the FEC search you will find:

Contributions to Super PACs, Hybrid PACs and Historical Soft Money Party Accounts – $5000.00

Contributions to All Other Political Committees Except Joint Fundraising Committees – $516609.71

Joint Fundraising Contributions – $116000.00

Grand total: $637,609.71.

So, $637,609.71, not $605,000.00 but also as a series of contributions starting in 1997, not one lump sum.

You don’t have to search discarded hard drives to get pay-to-play appointment pricing. It’s all a matter of public record.

PS: I’m not sure how accurate or complete Nominations & Appointments (White House) may be, but its an easier starting place for current appointees than the online Plum book.

PPS: Estimated pricing for “Plum” book positions could be made more transparent. Not a freebie. Let me know if you are interested.