- Fascism – You Really Think it Will Be This Obvious?
- White House Proposal Would Ease FBI Access to Records of Internet Activity
- 2010 Q2 NPMSRP National Police Misconduct Statistical Report
- The Tax Tsunami on the Horizon
- Video: Asch Conformity Experiment – Turning People Into Sheeple
- Manufacturing Dissent
- Google, CIA Invest in ‘Future’ of Web Monitoring
- Seven People Have Been Entrusted With The Keys To The Internet
Posted: 29 Jul 2010 10:18 PM PDT
Posted: 29 Jul 2010 08:29 PM PDT
From The Washington Post
The Obama administration is seeking to make it easier for the FBI to compel companies to turn over records of an individual’s Internet activity without a court order if agents deem the information relevant to a terrorism or intelligence investigation.
The administration wants to add just four words — “electronic communication transactional records” — to a list of items that the law says the FBI may demand without a judge’s approval. Government lawyers say this category of information includes the addresses to which an Internet user sends e-mail; the times and dates e-mail was sent and received; and possibly a user’s browser history. It does not include, the lawyers hasten to point out, the “content” of e-mail or other Internet communication.
But what officials portray as a technical clarification designed to remedy a legal ambiguity strikes industry lawyers and privacy advocates as an expansion of the power the government wields through so-called national security letters. These missives, which can be issued by an FBI field office on its own authority, require the recipient to provide the requested information and to keep the request secret. They are the mechanism the government would use to obtain the electronic records.
Stewart A. Baker, a former senior Bush administration Homeland Security official, said the proposed change would broaden the bureau’s authority. “It’ll be faster and easier to get the data,” said Baker, who practices national security and surveillance law. “And for some Internet providers, it’ll mean giving a lot more information to the FBI in response to an NSL.”
Many Internet service providers have resisted the government’s demands to turn over electronic records, arguing that surveillance law as written does not allow them to do so, industry lawyers say. One senior administration government official, who would discuss the proposed change only on condition of anonymity, countered that “most” Internet or e-mail providers do turn over such data.
To critics, the move is another example of an administration retreating from campaign pledges to enhance civil liberties in relation to national security. The proposal is “incredibly bold, given the amount of electronic data the government is already getting,” said Michelle Richardson, American Civil Liberties Union legislative counsel.
The critics say its effect would be to greatly expand the amount and type of personal data the government can obtain without a court order. “You’re bringing a big category of data — records reflecting who someone is communicating with in the digital world, Web browsing history and potentially location information — outside of judicial review,” said Michael Sussmann, a Justice Department lawyer under President Bill Clinton who now represents Internet and other firms.
The use of the national security letters to obtain personal data on Americans has prompted concern. The Justice Department issued 192,500 national security letters from 2003 to 2006, according to a 2008 inspector general report, which did not indicate how many were demands for Internet records. A 2007 IG report found numerous possible violations of FBI regulations, including the issuance of NSLs without having an approved investigation to justify the request. In two cases, the report found, agents used NSLs to request content information “not permitted by the [surveillance] statute.”
One issue with both the proposal and the current law is that the phrase “electronic communication transactional records” is not defined anywhere in statute. “Our biggest concern is that an expanded NSL power might be used to obtain Internet search queries and Web histories detailing every Web site visited and every file downloaded,” said Kevin Bankston, a senior staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which has sued AT&T for assisting the Bush administration’s warrantless surveillance program.
He said he does not object to the government obtaining access to electronic records, provided it has a judge’s approval.
Senior administration officials said the proposal was prompted by a desire to overcome concerns and resistance from Internet and other companies that the existing statute did not allow them to provide such data without a court-approved order. “The statute as written causes confusion and the potential for unnecessary litigation,” Justice Department spokesman Dean Boyd said. “This clarification will not allow the government to obtain or collect new categories of information, but it seeks to clarify what Congress intended when the statute was amended in 1993.”
The administration has asked Congress to amend the statute, the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, in the fiscal year that begins in October.
Administration officials noted that the act specifies in one clause that Internet and other companies have a duty to provide electronic communication transactional records to the FBI in response to a national security letter.
But the next clause specifies only four categories of basic subscriber data that the FBI may seek: name, address, length of service and toll billing records. There is no reference to electronic communication transactional records.
Same as phone records?
The officials said the transactional information at issue, which does not include Internet search queries, is the functional equivalent of telephone toll billing records, which the FBI can obtain without court authorization. Learning the e-mail addresses to which an Internet user sends messages, they said, is no different than obtaining a list of numbers called by a telephone user.
Obtaining such records with an NSL, as opposed to a court order, “allows us to intercede in plots earlier than we would if our hands were tied and we were unable to get this data in a way that was quick and efficient,” the senior administration official said.
But the value of such data is the reason a court should approve its disclosure, said Greg Nojeim, senior counsel at the Center for Democracy and Technology. “It’s much more sensitive than the other information, like name, address and telephone number, that the FBI gets with national security letters,” he said. “It shows associational information protected by the First Amendment and is much less public than things like where you live.”
A Nov. 5, 2008, opinion from the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, whose opinions are binding on the executive branch, made clear that the four categories of basic subscriber information the FBI may obtain with an NSL were “exhaustive.”
This opinion, said Sussmann, the former Clinton administration lawyer, caused many companies to reevaluate the scope of what could be provided in response to an NSL. “The OLC opinion removed the ambiguity,” he said. “Providers now are limited to the four corners of what the opinion says they can give out. Those who give more do so at their own risk.”
Marc Zwillinger, an attorney for Internet companies, said some providers are not giving the FBI more than the four categories specified. He added that with the rise of social networking, the government’s move could open a significant amount of Internet activity to government surveillance without judicial authorization. “A Facebook friend request — is that like a phone call or an e-mail? Is that something they would sweep in under an NSL? They certainly aren’t getting that now.”
Posted: 29 Jul 2010 05:54 PM PDT
From Injustice Everywhere
The National Police Misconduct Statistics and Reporting Project (NPMSRP) was started in March of 2009 as a method of recording and analyzing police misconduct in the United States through the utilization of news media reports to generate statistical and trending information about police misconduct in the United States.
As part of this project, credible reported incidents of misconduct are aggregated into a publicly available news feed and then added into an off-line database where duplicate entries and updates are removed and remaining unique stories are categorized for the statistical information which is presented in this report.
While the use of news reports to generate statistical data may seem strange, keep in mind that police departments do not normally release any detailed information about disciplinary matters, and sometimes they don’t release any information at all. The use of court records by themselves would only garner information about misconduct cases that were successfully prosecuted and would miss confidential settlements and cases of misconduct that were not prosecuted but did result in internal disciplinary action. Therefore, the use of media reports, while not perfect, represents the most efficient method of data gathering available at this time.
It should also be noted that the use of media reports acts as a filter that limits the number of outwardly questionable allegations of misconduct, but that this may also increase risks of under-reporting due to laws that limit the amount of information law enforcement agencies report to the press. Therefore, if anything, the resulting statistics we publish should be considered as a low-end estimate of the current rate of police misconduct in the United States and for any locality we cite.
Additionally, In order to allow for accurate comparisons between this project’s statistics and the US DOJ/FBI Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) statistics, it should be noted that this project utilizes the same methodology federal government uses to generate crime rate statistics by way of a hierarchical reporting system that only records the most serious allegation when more than one allegation is associated with an singular alleged incident of misconduct. It should also be noted that both the federal government crime statistics and the NPMSRP statistical reports are based on a combination of alleged and confirmed activity, not just convictions.
The following statistical report is based on information gathered during the first half of 2010. The data used to create this statistical report is available for public viewing in the database section of this site. From January 2010 through June 2010 there were:
By projecting this month’s NPMSRP totals out to one year, the following comparisons can be made between the reported police misconduct allegation rate and the reported 2008 general crime rate* as published by the FBI and DOJ for 2008 (*please note that both the NPMSRP police misconduct rates and the FBI/DOJ UCR general crime rate statistics are reported incidents, not convictions):
When examining misconduct reports by type, excessive force incidents were most common at 23.3% of all reports. Officer-involved sexual misconduct complaints were the second most reported at 10.6% and financial crime reports came in third at 7.5% of all reports.
Of the Excessive Force incidents, physical excessive force (punching, kicking, batons, and other physical force) incidents were most common at 62% of all excessive force reports, followed by firearm-related reports at 13%, taser-related incidents at 11%, and mixed (combination of physical and taser or physical and chemical) reports at 10%.
13% of excessive force reports involved fatalities and, of those fatalities, most were caused by firearms (60%) then followed by physical force (23%) then taser-related fatalities (17%). It should be noted that these fatalities are only excessive or unnecessary use of force related fatalities, not the total number of firearm or taser-related fatalities that may have occurred within this period of time.
When examining reports by last reported status, 45% were in the allegation, investigation, or litigation stage while 24% resulted in criminal charges, 12% were internally disciplined, 10% resulted in criminal convictions, and 8% involved financial settlements or judgments.
When looking at the more general view, 22.4% of reports outlined some sort of negative consequence for the officer and/or department involved including some sort of disciplinary finding (9.7%) or criminal conviction/plead (10.1%).
State by State Statistics
The following statistics only count state, city, and county law enforcement agencies. The statistical rates are based on the NPMSRP statistics and employment data provided by the 2008 US DOJ/FBI UCR.
The first map in this series displays the Police Misconduct Rate (PMR), which is the number of law enforcement officers per 100,000 law enforcement officers per state associated with reports of police misconduct within the time period:
The projected annual average national police misconduct rate is estimated to be 970.57 per 100,000 police officers. In 2008, which is the most recent employment data we have, there were an estimated 712,360 state and local law enforcement officers employed in the US for an average of 1 officer for every 231.5 people.
The following map shows the number of reports tracked per state in the first half of 2010:
The following table shows how the states rank for police misconduct rates based on calculating the rate of misconduct per 100,000 officers in each state based on officers involved in reports over the sample period of January-June 2010 (p/100k) and a projected PMR which takes that number and projects it at a constant rate over a 1 year period (p/100k Proj) for comparison with that national annual PMR:
*note: West Virginia state statistics are based on an estimated law enforcement population since they do not provide statistical information to the federal government.
Local Law Enforcement Agency Ratings
All local population and law enforcement agency employment numbers are supplied by the FBI/DOJ UCR program’s 2008 report, which is the most current data available, and statistical information is generated by utilizing those numbers along with current misconduct data gathered through the NPMSRP.
Please note that, since this project utilizes data about law enforcement agencies as supplied by the FBI/DOJ Uniform Crime Reporting program, not all local law enforcement agencies are included in this report. Notably, among the missing agencies are all agencies in West Virginia and other individual agencies such as Columbus Ohio, which do not participate in the UCR program.
Law Enforcement Agencies Employing 1000+ Officers
The following are the top 20 local law enforcement agencies by 6-month police misconduct rates that employ over 1000 law enforcement officers:
Law Enforcement Agencies Employing 500-999 Officers
The following are the top 20 local law enforcement agencies by current 3-month police misconduct rates that employ 500 to 999 law enforcement officers:
Law Enforcement Agencies Employing 100-499 Officers
The following are the top 20 local law enforcement agencies by police misconduct rates that employ 100 to 499 law enforcement officers:
Law Enforcement Agencies Employing 50-99 Officers
The following are the top 20 local law enforcement agencies by police misconduct rates that employ 50 to 99 law enforcement officers:
The following chart displays the number of officers associated with police misconduct reports per month. Please note that this is unfiltered reports so the possibility of duplicate or updates being reported twice does exist, though the number of these are minimal:
*Note: The dip in December was due to the project being shut down for half a month due to a lack of funding.
The following chart displays the trending data by type according to the most prevalent types of misconduct:
Finally, the following chart displays the current projected by-state misconduct rates along with the 2009 misconduct rates:
About This Report
Accountability – Incidents involving evidence of police misconduct cover-ups, lack of investigations, allegations of lax disciplinary response to sustained allegations, and other activities that involve accountability policies or processes.
Animal Cruelty – Acts of violence resulting in harm to animals both on and off duty that may include unnecessary shooting incidents, inappropriate training of K9 units, or other such activities.
Assault – Unwarranted violence occurring while off-duty
Brutality – Unwarranted or excessive hysical violence occurring while on-duty
Civil Rights – Violations of general civil liberties that would be ruled unconstitutional yet not covered by other categories. For example, excessive force would be a violation of constitutionally protected rights, but is already covered in the Brutality class. However, complaints of warrantless eavesdropping or illegal disruptions of lawful protests would be deemed civil rights violations.
Sexual Misconduct- Sex related incidents including rape, sexual assault, harassment, coercion, prostitution, sex on duty, incest, and molestation.
Theft – includes robbery, theft, shoplifting, fraud, extortion, and bribery
Shooting – gun-related incidents both on and off-duty, including self-harm
Color of Law – incidents that involve misuse of authority such as bribery or extortion by threat of arrest
Perjury – includes false testimony, dishonesty during investigations, falsified charging papers, and falsified warrants.
Investigation – Second stage of a misconduct complaint, can be an internal investigation, criminal investigation, external investigation, or a DOJ/FBI civil rights investigation.
Lawsuits – Civil complaints filed in court, generally requires more evidence than a simple allegation, but still within the realm of allegations.
Charges – Criminal complaints filed in court, generally requires more evidence than a simple allegation, but still within the realm of allegations.
Trials – Criminal trials in court, requires enough evidence to establish probable cause, higher threshold than civil litigation or criminal charges, but still allegations.
Judgments – These are rulings that support a civil litigation complaint but also include settlement agreements that are typically, officially, said to not be admissions of guilt. Should be considered a confirmed case of misconduct.
Disciplinary – Results of investigations that confirm misconduct complaints but do not result in termination of employment.
Firings – Results of investigations that confirm misconduct severe enough to warrant termination of employment.
Convictions – Results of criminal trials that confirm allegations serious enough to warrant criminal charges. These include both rulings and guilty pleas.
This information has been gathered here because nobody else is gathering it and the national government has not gathered it for several years. Keep in mind that geographical distribution of misconduct reports can be representative of concentrations of corruption or permissive attitudes towards abusive police policies or can be indications of more open information sharing between police agencies and local media along with departmental efforts to reduce misconduct by actively engaging problematic officers. There is no real way to determine which is the case since there is no independent monitoring and investigation into allegations of police misconduct.
In generally, monthly reports do not provide as accurate a depiction of the overall extent of police misconduct in the US as do quarterly and yearly reports as there is a fair amount of fluctuation between incident types and rates month by month. Therefore, monthly reports should only be considered as the state of police misconduct in that month itself while the longer-term reports paint a more comprehensive and accurate picture of police misconduct in the US.
As always, I appreciate any recommendations, advice, requests, and general comments.
Posted: 29 Jul 2010 04:35 PM PDT
Many voters are looking forward to 2011, hoping a new Congress will put the country back on the right track. But unless something’s done soon, the new year will also come with a raft of tax hikes — including a return of the death tax — that will be real killers.
Through the end of this year, the federal estate tax rate is zero — thanks to the package of broad-based tax cuts that President Bush pushed through to get the economy going earlier in the decade.
But as of midnight Dec. 31, the death tax returns — at a rate of 55% on estates of $1 million or more. The effect this will have on hospital life-support systems is already a matter of conjecture.
Resurrection of the death tax, however, isn’t the only tax problem that will be ushered in Jan. 1. Many other cuts from the Bush administration are set to disappear and a new set of taxes will materialize. And it’s not just the rich who will pay.
The lowest bracket for the personal income tax, for instance, moves up 50% — to 15% from 10%. The next lowest bracket — 25% — will rise to 28%, and the old 28% bracket will be 31%. At the higher end, the 33% bracket is pushed to 36% and the 35% bracket becomes 39.6%.
But the damage doesn’t stop there.
The marriage penalty also makes a comeback, and the capital gains tax will jump 33% — to 20% from 15%. The tax on dividends will go all the way from 15% to 39.6% — a 164% increase.
Both the cap-gains and dividend taxes will go up further in 2013 as the health care reform adds a 3.8% Medicare levy for individuals making more than $200,000 a year and joint filers making more than $250,000. Other tax hikes include: halving the child tax credit to $500 from $1,000 and fixing the standard deduction for couples at the same level as it is for single filers.
Letting the Bush cuts expire will cost taxpayers $115 billion next year alone, according to the Congressional Budget Office, and $2.6 trillion through 2020.
But even more tax headaches lie ahead. This “second wave” of hikes, as Americans for Tax Reform puts it, are designed to pay for ObamaCare and include:
The Medicine Cabinet Tax. Americans, says ATR, “will no longer be able to use health savings account, flexible spending account, or health reimbursement pretax dollars to purchase nonprescription, over-the-counter medicines (except insulin).”
The HSA Withdrawal Tax Hike. “This provision of ObamaCare,” according to ATR, “increases the additional tax on nonmedical early withdrawals from an HSA from 10% to 20%, disadvantaging them relative to IRAs and other tax-advantaged accounts, which remain at 10%.”
Brand Name Drug Tax. Makers and importers of brand-name drugs will be liable for a tax of $2.5 billion in 2011. The tax goes to $3 billion a year from 2012 to 2016, then $3.5 billion in 2017 and $4.2 billion in 2018. Beginning in 2019 it falls to $2.8 billion and stays there. And who pays the new drug tax? Patients, in the form of higher prices.
Economic Substance Doctrine. ATR reports that “The IRS is now empowered to disallow perfectly legal tax deductions and maneuvers merely because it judges that the deduction or action lacks ‘economic substance.’”
A third and final (for now) wave, says ATR, consists of the alternative minimum tax’s widening net, tax hikes on employers and the loss of deductions for tuition:
• The Tax Policy Center, no right-wing group, says that the failure to index the AMT will subject 28.5 million families to the tax when they file next year, up from 4 million this year.
• “Small businesses can normally expense (rather than slowly deduct, or ‘depreciate’) equipment purchases up to $250,000,” says ATR. “This will be cut all the way down to $25,000. Larger businesses can expense half of their purchases of equipment. In January of 2011, all of it will have to be ‘depreciated.’”
• According to ATR, there are “literally scores of tax hikes on business that will take place,” plus the loss of some tax credits. The research and experimentation tax credit will be the biggest loss, “but there are many, many others. Combining high marginal tax rates with the loss of this tax relief will cost jobs.”
• The deduction for tuition and fees will no longer be available and there will be limits placed on education tax credits. Teachers won’t be able to deduct their classroom expenses and employer-provided educational aid will be restricted. Thousands of families will no longer be allowed to deduct student loan interest.
Then there’s the tax on Americans who decline to buy health care insurance (the tax the administration initially said wasn’t a tax but now argues in court that it is) plus a 3.8% Medicare tax beginning in 2013 on profits made in real estate transactions by wealthier Americans.
Not all Americans may fully realize what’s in store come Jan. 1. But they should have a pretty good idea by the mid-term elections, and members of Congress might take note of our latest IBD/TIPP Poll (summarized above).
Fifty-one percent of respondents favored making the Bush cuts permanent vs. 28% who didn’t. Republicans were more than 4 to 1 and Independents more than 2 to 1 in favor. Only Democrats were opposed, but only by 40%-38%.
The cuts also proved popular among all income groups — despite the Democrats’ oft-heard assertion that Bush merely provided “tax breaks for the wealthy.” Fact is, Bush cut taxes for everyone who paid them, and the cuts helped the nation recover from a recession and the worst stock-market crash since 1929.
Maybe, just maybe, Americans remember that — and will not forget come Nov. 2.
Posted: 29 Jul 2010 08:50 AM PDT
Posted: 29 Jul 2010 08:11 AM PDT
In one of my very favorite movies, Morpheus explained that phenomena like deja vu resulted from glitches in the Matrix.
Every society in history, since the rise of class domination (and of states as its instruments), has had a cultural reproduction apparatus. The purpose is to process newborn human beings into the kind of “human resources” a given system needs to continue on a stable basis: people who accept the prevailing system of power as normal, and who dismiss fundamental challenges to the system of power as “radical” or “extremist.”
But the Matrix we live in has its own glitches: internal contradictions built into the system’s own propaganda, which act as stumbling blocks and regularly cause ideological “defects” in the human resources being processed by the system.
This is unavoidable. What the system does cannot be reconciled with what it says. What it says this week cannot be reconciled with what it said last week. And sometimes people notice, and put two and two together. Every time that happens, the cultural reproduction appratus has generated another defect that could potentially bring the system down. I’m writing this because I’m one of those defects. Maybe someday you’ll be one too, if you’re not already.
The nature of the system means such glitches are bound to occur quite frequently. The “free market” rhetoric we regularly hear from the right wing of the ruling class directly contradicts the observed reality that the dominant players in the corporate plutocracy are the world’s biggest welfare queens. The “putting people first” rhetoric of the ruling class’s left wing, likewise, runs up against the observed reality that the main actual function of the regulatory state (despite the “Progressive” Upton Sinclair marketing) is to enforce the artificial scarcity rents and subsidies that the corporate plutocracy depends on.
The system relies heavily on the legitimizing ideology that rewards go to hard work, that wealth is the reward for superior performance in the market, that people should pull their own weight. But that ideology doesn’t hold up very well in a perceived reality characterized by Halliburton and Blackwater, by the RIAA/MPAA and Microsoft, or by Boeing and McDonnell-Douglass. When the vast majority of the big corporate interests are turtles on fenceposts, who got where they were with government protections or taxpayer subsidies, all that Horatio Alger crap just don’t cut it.
And it also helps that the people formulating the propaganda are just so pathetically stupid.
Did you ever see “Reefer Madness”? It’s quite a howler, particularly under the proper herbally-induced conditions. And most of the state’s heavy-handed behavioral control propaganda is just more Reefer Madnesses in the making.
Consider the PSA, directed at schoolkids, telling them to “Be Cool. Don’t Do Drugs.” How do they think the average teenager’s going to react? “Well, golly gee — I used to think smoking weed was fun — but if a bunch of middle-aged, white men in suits sitting around a conference table somewhere on Madison Avenue say it’s not cool, I guess I was wrong!” All my life I’ve just assumed that anything said in a PSA was a lie unless proven otherwise, and immediately responded to those “Did you know….” posters by saying “No — and I still don’t.”
Or how about those mandatory “anti-songlifting” classes they teach in school — for anyone with even a minimum level of critical thinking skills, it’s just something else to make fun of like the cult followers of Reefer Madness. Most of those kids have accepted file-sharing as normal for most of their lives, and can see with their own eyes the obscene amounts of money raked in by the record companies — very little of which goes to the actual artists. Just how stupid does the RIAA think people are? Most people instinctively gag at having something so heavy-handed and lame shoved down their throats.
The simple fact of the matter is, human beings are thinking beings. Some are more gullible than others. But most people will tend to be skeptical when something is forced down their throats. And when an authority figure behind a desk attempts to indoctrinate people with some form of propaganda, there’s a serious danger that the person of at least average intelligence will stop to ask what’s in it for the people who are pushing it on him.
The cultural reproduction apparatus of the state and the class interests controlling it is intended, in Noam Chomsky’s words, to manufacture consent. But often as not, it inadvertently manufactures dissent.
Posted: 29 Jul 2010 07:17 AM PDT
The investment arms of the CIA and Google are both backing a company that monitors the web in real time — and says it uses that information to predict the future.
The company is called Recorded Future, and it scours tens of thousands of websites, blogs and Twitter accounts to find the relationships between people, organizations, actions and incidents — both present and still-to-come. In a white paper, the company says its temporal analytics engine “goes beyond search” by “looking at the ‘invisible links’ between documents that talk about the same, or related, entities and events.”
The idea is to figure out for each incident who was involved, where it happened and when it might go down. Recorded Future then plots that chatter, showing online “momentum” for any given event.
“The cool thing is, you can actually predict the curve, in many cases,” says company CEO Christopher Ahlberg, a former Swedish Army Ranger with a PhD in computer science.
Which naturally makes the 16-person Cambridge, Massachusetts, firm attractive to Google Ventures, the search giant’s investment division, and to In-Q-Tel, which handles similar duties for the CIA and the wider intelligence community.
It’s not the very first time Google has done business with America’s spy agencies. Long before it reportedly enlisted the help of the National Security Agency to secure its networks, Google sold equipment to the secret signals-intelligence group. In-Q-Tel backed the mapping firm Keyhole, which was bought by Google in 2004 — and then became the backbone for Google Earth.
This appears to be the first time, however, that the intelligence community and Google have funded the same startup, at the same time. No one is accusing Google of directly collaborating with the CIA. But the investments are bound to be fodder for critics of Google, who already see the search giant as overly cozy with the U.S. government, and worry that the company is starting to forget its “don’t be evil” mantra.
America’s spy services have become increasingly interested in mining “open source intelligence” — information that’s publicly available, but often hidden in the daily avalanche of TV shows, newspaper articles, blog posts, online videos and radio reports.
“Secret information isn’t always the brass ring in our profession,” then CIA-director General Michael Hayden told a conference in 2008. “In fact, there’s a real satisfaction in solving a problem or answering a tough question with information that someone was dumb enough to leave out in the open.”
U.S. spy agencies, through In-Q-Tel, have invested in a number of firms to help them better find that information. Visible Technologies crawls over half a million web 2.0 sites a day, scraping more than a million posts and conversations taking place on blogs, YouTube, Twitter and Amazon. Attensity applies the rules of grammar to the so-called “unstructured text” of the web to make it more easily digestible by government databases. Keyhole (now Google Earth) is a staple of the targeting cells in military-intelligence units.
Recorded Future strips from web pages the people, places and activities they mention. The company examines when and where these events happened (“spatial and temporal analysis”) and the tone of the document (“sentiment analysis”). Then it applies some artificial-intelligence algorithms to tease out connections between the players. Recorded Future maintains an index with more than 100 million events, hosted on Amazon.com servers. The analysis, however, is on the living web.
“We’re right there as it happens,” Ahlberg told Danger Room as he clicked through a demonstration. “We can assemble actual real-time dossiers on people.”
Recorded Future certainly has the potential to spot events and trends early. Take the case of Hezbollah’s long-range missiles. On March 21, Israeli President Shimon Peres leveled the allegation that the terror group had Scud-like weapons. Scouring Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah’s past statements, Recorded Future found corroborating evidence from a month prior that appeared to back up Peres’ accusations.
That’s one of several hypothetical cases Recorded Future runs in its blog devoted to intelligence analysis. But it’s safe to assume that the company already has at least one spy agency’s attention. In-Q-Tel doesn’t make investments in firms without an “end customer” ready to test out that company’s products.
Both Google Ventures and In-Q-Tel made their investments in 2009, shortly after the company was founded. The exact amounts weren’t disclosed, but were under $10 million each. Google’s investment came to light earlier this year online. In-Q-Tel, which often announces its new holdings in press releases, quietly uploaded a brief mention of its investment a few weeks ago.
Both In-Q-Tel and Google Ventures have seats on Recorded Future’s board. Ahlberg says those board members have been “very helpful,” providing business and technology advice, as well as introducing him to potential customers. Both organizations, it’s safe to say, will profit handsomely if Recorded Future is ever sold or taken public. Ahlberg’s last company, the corporate intelligence firm Spotfire, was acquired in 2007 for $195 million in cash.
Google Ventures did not return requests to comment for this article. In-Q-Tel Chief of Staff Lisbeth Poulos e-mailed a one-line statement: “We are pleased that Recorded Future is now part of IQT’s portfolio of innovative startup companies who support the mission of the U.S. Intelligence Community.”
Just because Google and In-Q-Tel have both invested in Recorded Future doesn’t mean Google is suddenly in bed with the government. Of course, to Google’s critics — including conservative legal groups, and Republican congressmen — the Obama Administration and the Mountain View, California, company slipped between the sheets a long time ago.
Google CEO Eric Schmidt hosted a town hall at company headquarters in the early days of Obama’s presidential campaign. Senior White House officials like economic chief Larry Summers give speeches at the New America Foundation, the left-of-center think tank chaired by Schmidt. Former Google public policy chief Andrew McLaughlin is now the White House’s deputy CTO, and was publicly (if mildly) reprimanded by the administration for continuing to hash out issues with his former colleagues.
In some corners, the scrutiny of the company’s political ties have dovetailed with concerns about how Google collects and uses its enormous storehouse of search data, e-mail, maps and online documents. Google, as we all know, keeps a titanic amount of information about every aspect of our online lives. Customers largely have trusted the company so far, because of the quality of their products, and because of Google’s pledges not to misuse the information still ring true to many.
But unease has been growing. Thirty seven state Attorneys General are demanding answers from the company after Google hoovered up 600 gigabytes of data from open Wi-Fi networks as it snapped pictures for its Street View project. (The company swears the incident was an accident.)
“Assurances from the likes of Google that the company can be trusted to respect consumers’ privacy because its corporate motto is ‘don’t be evil’ have been shown by recent events such as the ‘Wi-Spy’ debacle to be unwarranted,” long-time corporate gadfly John M. Simpson told a Congressional hearing in a prepared statement. Any business dealings with the CIA’s investment arm are unlikely to make critics like him more comfortable.
But Steven Aftergood, a critical observer of the intelligence community from his perch at the Federation of American Scientists, isn’t worried about the Recorded Future deal. Yet.
“To me, whether this is troublesome or not depends on the degree of transparency involved. If everything is aboveboard — from contracts to deliverables — I don’t see a problem with it,” he told Danger Room by e-mail. “But if there are blank spots in the record, then they will be filled with public skepticism or worse, both here and abroad, and not without reason.”
Posted: 28 Jul 2010 11:38 PM PDT
These smart cards are the actual keys to the Internet. There are seven of them and they hold the power to restarting the world wide web “in the event of a catastrophic event.”
The basic idea is that in the event of an Internet catastrophe, the DNSSEC (domain name system security) could be damaged or compromised and we’d be left without a way to verify if a URL is pointing to the correct website. That’s when the holders of these smart cards would be called into action:
A minimum of five people is needed because each of the smart cards contains only a fraction of the recovery key necessary to set things right again. This means that no single person will hold all the power to resetting our little cyber world. [BBC via PopSci]