Category Archives: Surveillance

Assange Lashes Out: “Hypocritical Motherf*ckers… Remember How I Exposed Your Secret Deal With The Saudis”, by Tyler Durden

As Julian Assanges notes, it’s revolting that Great Britain touted its “free and independent media” to the UN. From Tyler Durden at

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange lashed out at the UK government over Twitter on Friday after Britain’s official UN account (UK Mission to the United Nations) tweeted “A free and independent media fulfils a vital role in holding the powerful to account and giving a voice to the powerless,” with a link to a puff piece waxing eloquent over the UK’s commitment to free speech.

Assange – apparently not included in the UK’s definition of “free and independent media” (facing arrest and detention should he leave the Embassy), fired off a stunning reply – claiming that the UK’s has spent roughly twice as much spying on him as it has on their entire international human rights program.

“And that is exactly why you have detained me without charge for eight years in violation of two UN rulings and spent over 20 million pounds spying on me you hypocritical mother fuckers. Your entire international human rights programme is £10.6m you pathetic frauds.”

Assange then followed up with “Remember how I exposed your secret deal to put Saudi Arabia on the Human Rights Council?” referring to a 2015 vote-trading deal in which the UK approached Saudi Arabia in secret, promising it a seat on the UN Human Rights Council in exchange for council support.

Assange, 46, remains confined in the Ecuadorian embassy in London following a failed appeal of his arrest warrant for skipping bail to enter the embassy in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden over allegations of sexual assault (which Sweden has dropped).

The UN, meanwhile, has twice ruled that Assange’s detention is unlawful. Despite this, the judge in his most recent appeal – Emma Arbuthnot, who said “I find arrest is a proportionate response even though Mr Assange has restricted his own freedom for a number of years.” Judge Arbuthnot’s impartiality in the Assange matter has been called into question, while her husband and ex-Conservative MP, Baron James Arbuthnot, is listed as the director of a security company along with the former head of MI6. Not exactly friends of WikiLeaks.

To continue reading: Assange Lashes Out: “Hypocritical Motherf*ckers… Remember How I Exposed Your Secret Deal With The Saudis”


So, Best Buy’s Geek Squad Are Basically Snitches for the FBI, by Kevin Gosztola

If you’ve got anything incriminating on your hard disk and its broken, don’t take it to Best Buy’s Geek Squad to get it fixed. From Kevin Gosztola at

Throughout the past ten years, the FBI has at varying points in time maintained a particularly close relationship with Best Buy officials and used the company’s Geek Squad employees as informants. But the FBI refuses to confirm or deny key information about how the agency may potentially circumvent computer owners’ Fourth Amendment rights.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) obtained a handful of documents in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit filed in February of last year. EFF says they show the relationship between the FBI and Geek Squad employees is much “cozier” than they thought.

Nevertheless, the documents released were previously highlighted in a Washington Post report in April 2017. They were covered in the context of a child pornography case brought against a doctor named Mark Rettenmaier, and revelations led EFF to file a FOIA request for records.

The defense called attention in court filings to cooperation between the Louisville Division of the FBI and the Geek Squad as it tried to convince a judge to suppress evidence found on Rettenmaier’s hard drive. Attorneys referenced a memo on a “Cyber Working Group” meeting held at the Brooks, Kentucky, repair facility on September 9, 2008, which EFF obtained.

“The Louisville Division [of the FBI] has maintained close liaison with the Geek Squad management in an effort to glean case initiations and to support the division’s computer intrusion and cyber crime programs,” the memo states.

The memo acknowledges how the facility is “the principal repair location for all Best Buy computers east of the Rocky Mountains.”

“Computers taken to local Best Buy retail outlets west of the Rocky Mountains are sent to a repair facility in Chino, California. The Brooks facility is Best Buy’s largest facility, and it handles approximately five times the repair and recovery work than the Chino facility.” The facility “repairs and conducts data recovery on thousands of computers every day.”

In court filings, the defense mentioned there were “eight FBI informants at Geek Squad City” from 2007 to 2012. Multiple employees received payments ranging from $500-1000 for work as informants.

To continue reading: So, Best Buy’s Geek Squad Are Basically Snitches for the FBI

Facebook’s ‘Secret’ File on You Is Bigger Than You Think — Here’s How to View It, by Jake Anderson

It’s staggering how much information Facebook has about most of us. From Jake Anderson at via

Facebook’s user data gathering prowess has been common knowledge for some time now, but one journalist’s impromptu experiment suggests it is even more ubiquitous and pervasive than previously believed. Nick Whigham, a reporter for the New Zealand Herald, decided to test out a feature on Facebook that allows users to download a ‘secret’ file showing how much personal history the company has gathered about them. What he discovered is that Facebook not only has disturbingly vast consumer profiles on all 1.4 billion daily users but also tracks the internet movement and personalities of people who don’t even log into the website.

A large part of Facebook’s business model is selling the information it collects about users to advertisers. It’s free to us because we’re the product. Its algorithms track your posts, likes, shares, and preferences, of course, but they also track your overall Internet activity — the websites you go to, your operating system, your IP address, and comments you happen to leave on random forums — via social media plugins and cookies on third-party websites. Even if you’re not logged into Facebook, your browsing behavior is tracked by secret trackers called Pixels, which are embedded on over 10,000 websites. Sorry, social media Luddites — even if you’ve never used Facebook, your online activity is tracked everytime you merely visit a website that contains Facebook ads and trackers.

Whigham downloaded his Facebook files and was stunned by the specificity of the information. The 500MB zip files contained 105 biometric facial recognition files, photo metadata that includes where and when the photo was taken, his entire iPhone contact list with names and numbers, old tenancy agreements, photo scans of broadband bills, bank transfer screenshots, and, naturally, the entire archive of his Messenger chat logs.

Whigham urges people to download their file so they can see the extent to which their privacy is being violated by what he calls “surveillance capitalism.”

How do its algorithms aggregate so much personal information? There are 98 data points Facebook uses to size you up, and some of them may stun you. They range from the square footage of your home to whether or not you’re an early adopter of technology. They also look for “users who are interested in the Olympics, fall football, cricket, or Ramadan.”

To continue reading: Facebook’s ‘Secret’ File on You Is Bigger Than You Think — Here’s How to View It

Tor Project “Almost 100% Funded By The US Government”: FOIA, by Tyler Durden

A supposed bastion of privacy from the prying eyes of the government may not be all that all. From Tyler Durden at

The Tor Project – a private nonprofit known as the “NSA-proof” gateway to the “dark web,” turns out to be almost “100% funded by the US government” according to documents obtained by investigative journalist and author Yasha Levine.

The Tor browser, launched in 2001, utilizes so-called “onion routing” technology developed by the US Navy in 1998 to provide anonymity over computer networks.

In a recent blog post, Levine details how he was able to obtain roughly 2,500 pages of correspondence via FOIA requests while performing research for a book. The documents include strategy, contract, budgets and status updates between the Tor project and its primary source of funding; a CIA spinoff known as the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), which “oversees America’s foreign broadcasting operations like Radio Free Asia and Radio Free Europe.”

By following the money, I discovered that Tor was not a grassroots. I was able to show that despite its indie radical cred and claims to help its users protect themselves from government surveillance online, Tor was almost 100% funded by three U.S. National Security agencies: the Navy, the State Department and the BBG. Following the money revealed that Tor was not a grassroots outfit, but a military contractor with its own government contractor number. In other words: it was a privatized extension of the very same government that it claimed to be fighting.

The documents conclusively showed that Tor is not independent at all. The organization did not have free reign to do whatever it wanted, but was kept on a very short leash and bound by contracts with strict contractual obligations. It was also required to file detailed monthly status reports that gave the U.S. government a clear picture of what Tor employees were developing, where they went and who they saw. Yasha Levine

To continue reading: Tor Project “Almost 100% Funded By The US Government”: FOIA

What’s Going Down in China is Very Dangerous – Part 1, by Michael Krieger

China’s government is tightening the screws. Sooner or later, that’s what governments do. The government’s financial situation must be worse than generally believed. From Michael Krieger at

I’m sure all of you are aware of the dramatic power play pulled off over the weekend by China’s Communist Party to eliminate term limits for both the president and vice president. Prior to the move, Chinese leaders have stuck to two five-year terms since the presidency of Jiang Zemin (1993-2003), but that’s about to change as wannabe emperor Xi Jinping positions himself as indefinite ruler of the increasingly totalitarian superstate.

While the weekend announcement was illuminating enough, I found the panicked reactions by Chinese authorities in the immediate aftermath far more telling. The country’s propagandists took censorship to such an embarrassing level in attempts to portray the decision as widely popular amongst the masses, it merely served to betray that opposite might be true.

China Digital Times compiled a fascinating list of words and terms banned from being posted or searched on Weibo. Here’s just a sample of some I found particularly interesting.

  • The Emperor’s Dream (皇帝梦) — The title of a 1947 animated puppet film.
  • Disney (迪士尼) — See also “Winnie the Pooh,” below.
  • personality cult (个人崇拜) — Read more about the image-crafting campaign that has been steadily cultivated by state media over Xi’s first term.
  • Brave New World (美丽新世界) — See also “1984,” below.
  • my emperor (吾皇)
  • Yuan Shikai (袁世凯) — Influential warlord during the late Qing Dynasty, Yuan became the first formal president of the newly established Republic of China in 1912. In 1915, he briefly re-established China as a Confucian monarchy.
  • Hongxian (洪憲) — Reign title of the short-lived, re-established monarchy led by Yuan Shikai, who declared himself the Hongxian Emperor. After much popular disapproval and rebellion, Yuan formally abandoned the empire after 83 days as emperor.
  • Animal Farm (动物庄园)
  • N — While the letter “N” was temporarily blocked from being posted, as of 14:27 PST on February 26, it was no longer banned. At Language Log, Victor Mair speculates that this term was blocked “probably out of fear on the part of the government that “N” = “nterms in office”, where possibly n > 2.”
  • emigrate (移民) — Following the news, Baidu searches for the word reportedly saw a massive spike.
  • disagree (不同意)
  • Xi Zedong (习泽东)
  • incapable ruler (昏君)
  • 1984
  • Winnie the Pooh (小熊维尼) — Images of Winnie the Pooh have been used to mock Xi Jinpingsince as early as 2013. The animated bear continues to be sensitive in China. users shared a post from Disney’s official account that showed Pooh hugging a large pot of honey along with the caption “find the thing you love and stick with it.”
  • I oppose (我反对)
  • long live the emperor (吾皇万岁)

The full list is far more extensive and ridiculous, but the key point is that such a pathetic and panicked response from government censors highlights government insecurity, not strength.

To continue reading: What’s Going Down in China is Very Dangerous – Part 1

Trump Administration to Test Biometric Program to Scan Faces of Drivers and Passengers in Vehicles, by Derrick Broze

You knew all this cutting edge, high tech surveillance wasn’t going to remain confined to authoritarian states like China. Instead it’s come to the authoritarian state USA. From Derrick Broze at

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection is preparing to launch a pilot program to scan the faces of drivers and passengers at Anzalduas Port near McAllen, Texas.

On Thursday the U.S. Customs and Border Protection announced plans for a new pilot program that will test out biometric facial recognition technology as part of an effort to identify fugitives or terror suspects. The Austin-American Statesman reported on the announcement:

Thanks to quantum leaps in facial recognition technology, especially over the past year, the future is arriving sooner than most Americans realize. As early as this summer, CBP will set up a pilot program to digitally scan the faces of drivers and passengers — while they are in moving vehicles — at the busy Anzalduas Port of Entry outside of McAllen, the agency announced Thursday.

The Texas-Mexico border is being used as the testing grounds for the technology. The results of the pilot program will be used to help roll out a national program along the entire southern and northern borders. The Statesman notes that the Department of Energy hired researchers at Tennessee’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory to help overcome the difficulties of using facial recognition technology on moving vehicles. The researchers developed a method for combating window tinting and sun glare which can make a vehicle’s windows impenetrable to cameras. The facial recognition technology being developed for the pilot program will be capable of identifying the driver, front passengers, and the passengers riding in the back.

The CBP currently operates facial recognition exit programs at almost a dozen international airports in the United States. Colleen Manaher, the CBP’s executive director of planning, program analysis and evaluation, told the Statesman that travelers have been accepting of the technology and noted that “we can thank the Apples and the Googles for that.”

To continue reading: Trump Administration to Test Biometric Program to Scan Faces of Drivers and Passengers in Vehicles

It Can Happen Here, by Andrew P. Napolitano

As Andrew P. Napolitano notes: “The surveillance state is now here.” From Napolitano at

We remain embroiled in a debate over the nature and extent of our own government’s spying on us. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which was enacted in 1978 as a response to the unlawful government spying of the Watergate era, was a lawful means for the government to engage in foreign surveillance on U.S. soil, but it has morphed into unchecked government spying on ordinary Americans.

The journey that domestic spying has taken in 40 years has been one long steady march of massive increase in size and scope. The federal government now employs more than 60,000 people to spy on all Americans, including the White House, the Pentagon, the federal courts and one another. As well, the National Security Agency and the intelligence arm of the FBI have 24/7 access to the computers of all telecoms and computer service providers in the U.S. And certain politicians have access to whatever the NSA and the FBI possess.

Last week, we witnessed a new turn as politicians engaged in cherry-picking snippets from classified raw intelligence data that support their political cases — pro-Trump and anti-Trump.

Raw intelligence data consists of digital versions of telephone conversations and copies of text messages, emails and other communications, as well as fiber-optic internet traffic (legal, medical and banking records, for example) and secret testimony and briefings intended only for the eyes and ears of those who possess a security clearance.

The surveillance state is now here.

The Republican members of the House Intelligence Committee fired the first salvo by releasing a memo derived from classified raw intelligence, which they claimed would show a conspiracy in the Obama Department of Justice, including the FBI, to spy on Donald Trump’s campaign and pass along the fruits of that spying to the Democrats. The issue they chose to highlight is the DOJ application to a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court judge for surveillance on Carter Page, a former foreign policy adviser to candidate Trump who once boasted that he also advised the Kremlin.

To continue reading: It Can Happen Here