Month: January 2008
The End of Privacy
The following article was originally published on Truthdig (truthdig.com)
By Elliot Cohen
Amid the controversy brewing in the Senate over Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) reform, the Bush administration appears to have changed its strategy and is devising a bold new plan that would strip away FISA protections in favor of a system of wholesale government monitoring of every American’s Internet activities. Now the national director of intelligence is predicting a disastrous cyber-terrorist attack on the U.S. if this scheme isn’t instituted.
It is no secret that the Bush administration has already been spying on the e-mail, voice-over-IP, and other Internet exchanges between American citizens since as early as and possibly earlier than Sept. 11, 2001. The National Security Agency has set up shop in the hubs of major telecom corporations, notably AT&T, installing equipment that makes copies of the contents of all Internet traffic, routing it to a government database and then using natural language parsing technology to sift through and analyze the data using undisclosed search criteria. It has done this without judicial oversight and obviously without the consent of the millions of Americans under surveillance. Given any rational interpretation of the Fourth Amendment, its mass spying operation is illegal and unconstitutional.
But now the administration wants to make these illegal activities legal. And why is that? According to National Director of Intelligence Mike McConnell, who is now drafting the proposal, an attack on a single U.S. bank by the 9/11 terrorists would have had a far more serious impact on the U.S. economy than the destruction of the Twin Towers. “My prediction is that we’re going to screw around with this until something horrendous happens,” said McConnell. So the way to prevent this from happening, he claims, is to give the government the power to spy at will on the content of all e-mails, file transfers and Web searches.
Electronic Intifada (news, commentary, analysis, and reference materials about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from a Palestinian perspective)
This interview originally ran on The Monitor in September 2007.
Privatization of US military functions has continued to grow. Nearly as many people have been under corporate hire as under military hire to conduct the US war in Iraq. Some of the money goes to companies like Blackwater (which was also quite visible patrolling New Orleans after Katrina). Blackwater is a secretive army of private mercenaries that operates with virtually no government oversight, and outside normal military constraints.
— Investigative reporter DAVE LINDORFF on the proposed economic stimulus, & more
Monitor co-host Pokey Anderson will talk with AMAAD RIVERA about a new report he co-authored.
— “Two million additional homes are expected to foreclose in the coming year.”
— “People of color are more than three times more likely to have subprime loans: high-cost loans account for 55% of loans to Blacks, but only 17% of loans to Whites.”
— “We estimate the total loss of wealth for people of color to be between $164 billion and $213 billion for subprime loans taken during the past eight years. We believe this represents the greatest loss of wealth for people of color in modern US history.”
“Foreclosed: State of the Dream 2008”
By Amaad Rivera, Brenda Cotto-Escalera, Anisha Desai,
Jeannette Huezo, and Dedrick Muhammad
United for a Fair Economy
United for a Fair Economy — www.faireconomy.org
“Let America be American Again: Racial Wealth Equity”
December 18, 2007
by Amaad Rivera
“It was found that the top richest 10% of the world’s population owns 85% of the world’s wealth in a report released in December of 2006 by the Helsinki-based World Institute for Development Economics Research of the United Nations University. In the United States alone, the top 10% owns approximately 76% of all wealth.”
“We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.” — Louis Brandeis, Supreme Court Justice (1916-1939)
Dave has been working as a journalist for 34 years. A regular columnist for CounterPunch, he also writes frequently for Extra! and Salon magazine, as well as for Businessweek, The Nation and Treasury&Risk Magazine. He has also written for Rolling Stone, Mother Jones, and other publications.
In the late 1970s, he ran the Los Angeles Daily News bureau covering Los Angeles County government, and in the mid-’90s, spent several years as a correspondent in Hong Kong and China for Businessweek.
Dave Lindorff’s latest book, coauthored with Barbara Olshanshky, is “The Case for Impeachment: The Legal Argument for Removing President George W. Bush from Office (St. Martin’s Press, May 2006).
A two-time Fulbright Scholar, Dave is a graduate of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, and has a B.A. in Chinese from Wesleyan. In October 2004, he was awarded a coveted “Most Censored Story of 2003” award by Project Censored. Dave is also an accomplished folk musician (guitar, vocals and saw). He lives outside Philadelphia.
“The Case for Impeachment:
The Legal Argument for Removing President George W. Bush from Office” (coauthored with Barbara Olshanshky)
“This Can’t Be Happening! Resisting the Disintegration of American Democracy”
“Killing Time: An Investigation into the Death Penalty Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal”
“The Government is Scaring Us To Death”
January 15, 2008
QUOTE: “The New York Times, in its science section today, reports that a new study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry has found that while the risk to Americans of dying at the hands of a terrorist was roughly equal to the chance of “drowning in a toilet,” the risk of cardiovascular disease among people who are frightened about the threat of terrorism is 300-500% higher than for people who are not worried.”
“Stimulate This: Why the Talk of Economic Stimulus Will Remain Talk”
by Danny Schechter
Friday, January 18, 2008
By Peter S. Goodman and Louise Story
January 20, 2008
New York Times
Who Counts in New Hampshire?
And, are Diebold memory cards forgetful?
Pokey Anderson interviews Dori Smith
Aired January 13, 2008
KPFT Radio, Houston
In this interview, Dori Smith of WHUS looks at aspects of voting system security. Both her state of Connecticut and New Hampshire contract with the same vendor, LHS Associates. LHS sells, maintains, and provides memory cards (the electronic equivalent of the ballot box) for the Diebold optical scanners used in these states, as well as in Massachusetts, Vermont and Maine.
Dori asks NH Deputy Attorney Jim Kennedy about the practice of switching defective memory cards out of optical scan machines on Election Day, during elections.
NH Deputy Attorney Jim Kennedy: “That’s not what’s done in the state of New Hampshire. Actually by state and federal law we’re required to retain the actual memory card that’s used in the election and so to interchange a memory card I think would be odd.”
However, Dori’s interviews with NH election clerks tell a different story.
She also has discovered that failure rates on the Diebold optical scan memory cards approached 1 in 10 in some Florida counties. And, in Connecticut, a professor at University of Connecticut has discovered that a number of the cards have “junk data” on them.
READ THE TRANSCRIPT at http://www.votersunite.org/info/WhoCountsNH.asp
“There’s an avalanche of neuroscience to support that (physical) exercise is good for the brain,” says Dr. John Ratey.
Tonight, Monitor co-host Mark Bebawi asks Dr. Ratey about findings in his brand new book, “Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain.” The book explains how to beat stress, lift your mood, fight memory loss, sharpen your intellect, and function better than ever — simply by elevating your heart rate and breaking a sweat.
New research has found that brain cell production can occur throughout life, even as we advance into old age. Exercise can help generate these new brain cells. In addition, exercise strengthens the connections between those cells (synaptic plasticity), providing more mental agility and actually allowing the brain to stay young even as the body ages.
In a journey through our mental circuits, Dr. Ratey will examine the mind-body connection, presenting startling research to prove that exercise is our best defense against everything from depression to ADD to addiction to aggression to menopause to Alzheimer’s. He also cites the revolutionary fitness program in Naperville, Illinois, which has put this school district of 19,000 kids first in the world of science test scores.
Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain
by John J. Ratey, MD and Eric Hagerman
The Republican side had reporting anomalies:”Two hand count towns reported ‘zero’ votes for candidate Ron Paul to the media, even though they did have votes for him. The town of Sutton reported zero, but had 31 votes; the town of Greenville reported zero, but had 25 votes,” writes Bev Harris [“Red Flags over New Hampshire,” 1-12-08, BlackBoxVoting.org].
Yet in the corporate media, important questions are going unasked: Could the NH primary election tallies be wrong, rather than the polls?
A second intriguing question they’ve not asked is, Who has access to the voting machines in New Hampshire?
A third question has been raised by Bev Harris. Who prints the paper ballots in NH, and were there extra ballots printed?
A fourth question is, should election training, programming, troubleshooting, and more be controlled by companies rather than election officials?
A fifth question has been answered: Would there ever be criminal behavior in elections in New Hampshire? Two top people in the chain of Republican command were convicted for phone-jamming in a tight Senate race there in 2002: former executive director of the NH Republican Party Chuck McGee, and James Tobin, the former regional director for both the RNC and the National Republican Senatorial Committee. After a $6 million defense of Tobin and the GOP, paid for by the GOP, his conviction was recently remanded on appeal. Still, there’s been no explanation of the phone records introduced at Tobin’s trial showing he made two dozen calls to the White House political office within three days around Election Day 2002, as the phone-jamming operation was finalized, carried out and abruptly shut down. [http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/n/a/2007/03/21/national/a151832D16.DTL]
Pokey Anderson’s guest tonight is Dori Smith, who has been investigating election systems for over a year. Her new article up at BradBlog today investigates the New Hampshire primary and problems with voting machines. Her home state of Connecticut has just started using the same machines, Diebold (now called Premier) AccuVote Optical Scan machines. Dori’s 2006 and 2007 investigation has resulted in an investigation into violations of Connecticut voting regulations which is ongoing. She produces a wide-ranging weekly radio show, Talk Nation Radio (http://talknationradio.com), at WHUS in Connecticut, and also has produced for Pacifica.
Dori has looked into the little-known private vendor that supplies, programs and repairs voting equipment in New England; LHS Associates. LHS provides Diebold optical scan machines in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, Maine, and over 80% of New Hampshire. LHS has unfettered access to voting machines before elections. Sometimes, LHS even replaces memory cards DURING an election. Memory cards are the crucial brains of the scanning/counting machine.
It was a Diebold optical scan machine that Harri Hursti famously hacked without even entering the room, using a programmed memory card, in front of Leon County, Florida election official Ion Sancho. Both Hursti and Sancho have been on The Monitor; Hursti told us that there is an executable program in the memory card, and that “once you change that program, you can do a lot of other stuff. … Since that same program will report your totals when you close the polls, once you control the program, the totals will be exactly what you want them to be. ” A memory card can be preloaded with votes or negative votes that could change the outcome. It could be programmed to credit one candidate for another’s votes, or countless other tricks. (See the Hursti hack at http://youtube.com/watch?v=J36Jfkxd1vA )
In a recorded interview with Dori Smith in 2006, LHS’s director of Sales and Marketing Ken Hajjar admitted that LHS routinely replaces voting machines, and the crucial memory cards, during elections.
Though such replacements go against strict laws in Connecticut, Ken Hajjar told her, “I mean, I don’t pay attention to every little law. It’s just, it’s up to the Registrars. All we are is a support organization on Election Day.” He described keeping three memory cards in the trunk of his car during elections and, in the event they had to be used, he argued, the chain of custody issues wouldn’t matter since, “once you run the [pre-election] test deck through, you’re golden.”
“We would have a whole bunch of machines in the trunk in the car and we hope the phone doesn’t ring, but if it does somebody tells us where to go, we replace the machine and then we go on our merry way,” said Hajjar. Hajjar has recently been discovered to have a 1990 conviction for narcotics trafficking.
Dori recently spoke with Town Clerk Linda Hartson of Exeter, NH. In Exeter at least, a memory card failure on Election Day could very well result in a switch being made by LHS.
Dori Smith: Let’s say the back up would fail what would they do?
Exeter, NH Town Clerk Hartson: LHS provides back up memory cards. But if a memory card failure were to occur during the election the vendor would arrive with another memory card. This is from LHS that I’m getting them and they are providing the back up. If they bring you another one, you just put it in. There’s no problem.
Smith: And it wouldn’t be a problem if that happened during the election?
Hartson: Nope nope nope nope. Because you could run the report off the machine and then just put in the new memory card and it would keep on going. That’s my understanding.
“Diebold Voting Machine Failures Found Across State During New Hampshire Primary:
Election Officials Confirm that Employees from LHS Associates, Diebold’s Sole Programmer, Vendor, and Service Provider in NH,
Were Allowed to Access Vulnerable Optical-Scan Systems Throughout Election Day”
January 12, 2008
by Dori Smith
“Diebold Optical-Scan Failures Reported in Florida May be Affecting Connecticut As Well:
Faulty Memory Card Connectors, Undisclosed by the Company or the EAC, Discovered in Recent Election”
November 20, 2007
by Dori Smith
Talk Nation Radio — http://talknationradio.com
Election Defense Alliance
Privacy International, a UK privacy group, and the U.S.-based Electronic Privacy Information Center have put together a world map of surveillance societies, rating various nations for their civil liberties records. Both the U.S. and the UK are colored black for “endemic surveillance,” as are Thailand, Taiwan, Singapore, Russia, China and Malaysia.
Full Story here
According to Dr. Cohen, the FISA bill due to be reconsidered soon is “a brainchild of Dick Cheney that insulates telecommunications companies from both retroactive (past) and prospective (future) civil and criminal liability for assisting the government in illegally spying on the American people.”
They’ll also look at how the secretive federal program to mine and store massive amounts of private electronic data could have an effect on elections, both in spying on political opponents, and intercepting electronic vote transmissions.
This is a continuation of the discussion with Dr. Cohen on the Monitor on December 23.
His new book is The Last Days of Democracy: How Big Media and Power-hungry Government Are Turning America into a Dictatorship.
Dr. Cohen is a media ethicist and critic, and has written extensively on the media and other areas of applied ethics. He was the 2006 first-place recipient of the Project Censored Award for a Buzzflash article (“Web of Deceit: How Internet Freedom Got the Federal Ax, and Why Corporate News Censored the Story”). He is the director of the Institute of Critical Thinking, the editor-in-chief of the International Journal of Applied Philosophy, and ethics editor for Free Inquiry magazine. He got his Ph.D. from Brown University, and lives in Florida.
“Senate Debates Cheney FISA Bill: Eight Urgent Reasons to Defeat It”
by Elliot D. Cohen
December 17, 2007
The Last Days of Democracy: How Big Media and Power-hungry Government
Are Turning America into a Dictatorship
edited by Elliot D. Cohen and Bruce W. Fraser (May 2007)
News Incorporated: Corporate Media Ownership And Its Threat To Democracy
by Elliot D. Cohen, editor (Hardcover – Feb 2005)
239,000 Democrats turned out, double the turnout of four years ago (69% of the total)
108,000 Republicans turned out (31% of the total)
Barack Obama – 38 percent 93,952
John Edwards – 30 percent 74,377
Hillary Clinton – 29 percent 73,666
Mike Huckabee – 34 percent 38,605
Mitt Romney – 25 percent 28,367