by Mike Masnick
Fri, Jun 7th 2013 12:40pm
by Mike Masnick
Wed, Jun 5th 2013 12:25am
from the not-a-good-idea dept
... on the subject of openness, I have no problem saying what we are doing and what we want to achieve and, when not speaking in public, how I want to achieve this. But you are all politicians. So you should know – and I think you do know – that you cannot negotiate openly. You do not do that in your parties either; you do not do that in your constituencies. You need to focus – and yes, of course we have to report on what we are doing, explaining why we are doing things and why we are making some concessions; we will have to make concessions in the course of these negotiations. But you need a certain degree of confidentiality in negotiations. You also need it because your counterpart is asking for it; if not, you cannot negotiate.Of course, MEPs weren't asking to let Parliament negotiate the deal, just for some transparency in what was being negotiated in the public's name. De Gucht's answer is misleading. Plenty of international agreements are negotiated with significantly greater transparency than what happened in ACTA, what's happening now with TPP and what's likely with TAFTA/TTIP. Governments can and should reveal the basic things they are negotiating for, to allow for some level of public comment. But that's not what happens. Things are negotiated in secret, in backrooms, with the help of industry lobbyists, and at the end we're given a "take it or leave it" document, which then (in most cases) is rammed through with little debate. It's the opposite of democracy.
It is interesting that it seems that there is a copy of one of the drafts of the negotiating mandate. So what? It is a draft. The Presidency has, of course, to make sure that they come to an agreement within the Council, so they put forward possible ways to get out of any difficulties that we have to deal with. Immediately, very vocal Members of this Parliament say that this is a scandal and that we are traitors and cannot be trusted. Of course you can trust me, because in the end you can say ‘No’. You have done so in the past. You said ‘No’ to ACTA: I am still not convinced that it was the right choice, but you decided to do so and that was how it was. You have the final word.
But a parliament is not created to negotiate. It is not its job. I think I have been in a parliament for a longer time than most of you –25 years. Maybe there are some who have been in a parliament as long – Mr Brok has already left, but he has certainly been in a parliament for more than 25 years – but not very many. I have never sought to negotiate an agreement from within a parliament because it simply does not work.
What you have to do – and you do it in an eloquent way – is indicate the important points that you want to mention, that you want me to look at and which you will question me about. You will scrutinise me and in the end will vote against me if I do not do that. But a parliament cannot negotiate, because a parliament only exists as a body when it votes. Outside of voting you take up individual positions. You cannot negotiate with 20, 30 or 50 different positions. That is not possible. You need to negotiate on the basis of a mandate, and then, of course, you have to demonstrate that you have been following your mandate.
Of course, ACTA showed that the public can rise up and take a stand against this, and Engstrom points out that if they did it for ACTA, they can do it again:
The positive thing about the whole ACTA affair was that there are now hundreds of thousands of European citizens who have, at least once, been demonstrating on the streets of various European cities against the trade agreement. There are lots of citizens now who take an interest in these agreements.It appears that De Gucht has decided not to re-think this, and to take the position that the ACTA response was an aberration. I'm sure that will play well with all the people who fought against ACTA.
This is a very positive thing, but by insisting on the same kind of secrecy – only handing out secret documents to the members of the INTA Committee – the Commission is setting itself up for the same kind of failure. I would urge you to re-think this and become transparent.
Mon, Mar 4th 2013 12:51pm
from the building-a-martyr dept
Image source: CC BY 2.0
It's the fact that the point behind the mask was solidarity against oppression that made Dubai's move to outlaw the masks so misguided. But they are no longer the only nation to do so. Bahrain has now banned the import of the masks, trying desperately to stave off a 2-years running protest movement. The ban came from the country's commerce department, because apparently they don't think that masks can be made by their citizens. As The Independent noted:
Sadly, though, it is but a mask. And the thing about a masks is, you can print them, paint them or draw them yourself. Unless the minister plans to ban all such activity it seems an action as futile as the real Guy Fawkes's.Not so much futile, in my opinion, as mega-back-firing. Bahrain has now perfectly exemplified an oppressive government by taking action against the symbol of resistance to that oppression. If they thought the masks bred solidarity, I'm guessing they haven't seen anything yet.
by Tim Cushing
Tue, Jan 29th 2013 4:03pm
from the also-does-stuff-with-Asteroids-and-the-Konami-code-because-it-can dept
The action began Friday night when Anonymous took down the U.S. Sentencing Commission website, demanding reform of the justice system and threatening to expose a large number of files "secured" from the website. A very long statement of purpose accompanied this hack, beginning with these paragraphs.
Citizens of the world,Anonymous calls this takedown a "symbolic gesture," aimed at the home of federal sentencing guidelines, which it calls out for advancing "cruel and unusual" punishment, a clear violation of the 8th amendment. The collective also claims it has compromised several other government sites and obtained sensitive files, which it will start releasing to the press in "heavily redacted" form, unless its demands are met.
Anonymous has observed for some time now the trajectory of justice in the United States with growing concern. We have marked the departure of this system from the noble ideals in which it was born and enshrined. We have seen the erosion of due process, the dilution of constitutional rights, the usurpation of the rightful authority of courts by the "discretion" of prosecutors. We have seen how the law is wielded less and less to uphold justice, and more and more to exercise control, authority and power in the interests of oppression or personal gain.
We have been watching, and waiting.
Two weeks ago today, a line was crossed. Two weeks ago today, Aaron Swartz was killed. Killed because he faced an impossible choice. Killed because he was forced into playing a game he could not win -- a twisted and distorted perversion of justice -- a game where the only winning move was not to play.
However, in order for there to be a peaceful resolution to this crisis, certain things need to happen. There must be reform of outdated and poorly-envisioned legislation, written to be so broadly applied as to make a felony crime out of violation of terms of service, creating in effect vast swathes of crimes, and allowing for selective punishment. There must be reform of mandatory minimum sentencing. There must be a return to proportionality of punishment with respect to actual harm caused, and consideration of motive and mens rea. The inalienable right to a presumption of innocence and the recourse to trial and possibility of exoneration must be returned to its sacred status, and not gambled away by pre-trial bargaining in the face of overwhelming sentences, unaffordable justice and disfavourable odds. Laws must be upheld unselectively, and not used as a weapon of government to make examples of those it deems threatening to its power.Threats or no threats, the government took the USSC site offline and restored it to working order by Saturday... at which point it was hacked a second time by Anonymous. This time the hackers weren't screwing around. Instead of a simple vandalization, the entire site was turned into an interactive game of Asteroids.
The U.S. Sentencing Commission website has been hacked again and a code distributed by Anonymous "Operation Last Resort" turns ussc.gov into a playable video game.
Visitors enter the code, and then the website that sets guidelines for sentencing in United States Federal courts becomes "Asteroids."
Shooting away at the ussc.gov webpage reveals an image of Anonymous. The trademark Anonymous "Guy Fawkes" face is comprised of white text saying, "We do not forgive. We do not forget."
The code that turned the site "interactive" is very familiar to gamers.
Will these takedowns have any noticeable effect on those Anonymous is trying to reach? Most likely, no. Hacking a government website just makes it easier for those prosecuting hackers to make their case. Stewart Baker at The Volokh Conspiracy suggests that these actions do more harm than good to the collective's stated aim.
The exploit is probably counterproductive too. Apart from turning those who want reform of computer crime law into the allies of lawbreakers, Anonymous has substantively hurt the case for amending the CFAA. Heavy criminal penalties are entirely appropriate for people who hack a Supreme Court Justice’s account and disclose personal secrets. But it’s not easy to redraft the CFAA so it reflects the difference between Swartz and the Anonymous hackers, at least not without relying on precisely the prosecutorial discretion that the Swartz prosecutors misused.In his take, Scott Greenfield at Simple Justice takes issue with Baker's statement regarding the enthusiasm level of the courts.
Finally, I wonder if this incident won’t affect the Supreme Court’s approach to cybercrime issues. As Frank Rizzo once said, a conservative is a liberal who’s been mugged. If that’s true, every time Anonymous mugs one of the Justices in cyberspace, it could be making the Court just a little less enthusiastic about limiting the tools the government uses to deter computer crime
Not that any of the justices have shown much enthusiasm up to now, but the alternative to bad isn't necessarily good. Things can always get worse.While Baker argues that Anonymous makes things that much tougher for justice reform, Greenfield argues that hacking the USSC is especially pointless, considering how irrelevant the Sentencing Commission is at this point in time.
The first indication that Anonymous made a left turn when it should have made a right was when it picked the United States Sentencing Commission website to show its might. Nobody noticed, because, well, nobody cares about the USSC anymore.Yes, Anonymous is correct in its observation that the so-called "justice system" in the US is a corrupt and bloated entity, prone to abusing its power and control. But the USSC isn't the problem, not because it's the "good guys," but because the damage it can do is easily outweighed by the public's keen interest in sabotaging its own freedoms.
Had this happened a generation ago, it might have meant something. Yesterday, it likely evoked a chuckle and a face palm. Post Booker and some actual crack reforms, it was a big nothing.
So you guys can hack an outlier agency that has drifted into relative irrelevance. Got it. Have a nice day. The USSC is symbolic of nothing other than government bloat. The guidelines don't enable prosecutors to cheat citizens of their constitutionally guaranteed rights. Citizens do that to each other. We do it each time we elect a legislator who calls for tougher laws. We do it each time we demand the creation of a new crime because of the tragic death of a child. We do it whenever we elevate safety over freedom. And that's what Americans do...As much as we sometimes want an entity like Anonymous to strike back at wrongdoers, the likelihood of this action (especially this one) resulting in any positive change remains near zero. Doubly frustrating is the fact that going through the "proper channels" to effect change has the same low odds. The hope here is that this action keeps the focus on the questionable methods and bad laws that resulted in the prosecution Aaron Swartz's and many others.
By taking out the USSC website, you disturbed nothing while annoying the government. When the head of the FBI cybersecurity squad gets done laughing, he's going to find someone else to prosecute. It may not be one of you, but it will be someone, or more likely, a whole gang of people with computers. And they have guns. Pissing them off over nothing isn't effective. It's just begging for retaliation, and the government has no sense of humor (or irony).
Considering there are many politicians (and many private contractors) that badly want their worst cyberwar fears to be true, this recent bout of hacktivism may give them all the ammo they want to push damaging legislation through while placing a badly needed CFAA update on the back burner.
by Tim Cushing
Thu, Dec 6th 2012 10:49am
from the for-all-the-tough-talk,-the-skin-is-surprisingly-thin dept
On September 16, 29-year-old “Essam” and a group of friends blanketed lower Manhattan with posters designed to look like official New York Police Department signage. “Drones: Protection When You Least Expect It,” read the slogan below simple ideograms of families running from unmanned aerial vehicles. Essam and his team disguised themselves as employees of the outdoor advertising firm Van Wagner, which manages the advertising space on bus stations and kiosks throughout the city. All told, they swapped out about 100 ads.
“We see this trend throughout history of military technology always coming to the civilian world,” the Army veteran told Animal New York. He says his goal is for the conversation about domestic police use of drones “to reach a mainstream level where we are talking about this at the dinner table.”
Needless to say, the PD was highly unamused. Its "weeks-long manhunt" for the artist finally culminated in an arrest... and a handful of trumped up charges.
Essam Attia, 29, was hit with 56 counts of criminal possession of a forged instrument, grand larceny possession of stolen property and weapons possession after allegedly having an unloaded .22-caliber revolver under his bed at his Manhattan apartment when he was arrested early Wednesday.Attia hoped to generate some awareness and kickstart discussion about the increasing prevalence of law enforcement drone usage. Unfortunately, it looks as though the NYPD is only interested in providing its narrative, one that is free from criticism or transparency. It also seems to be particularly bad at actual "police work." Essam signed many of the posters with his artist signature ("ESSAM") and participated in a barely-anonymous interview and yet it took a "weeks-long manhunt" to track him dow.
He posted bail, which was set at $10,000 bond or $2,500 cash, and is due back in Manhattan Criminal Court on Dec. 3.
Calling his lookalike posters "forged" is stretching the truth to fit a hefty criminal charge, one that appears to have been levied solely out of spite. Perhaps if Essam had just placed his posters over the NYPD's, he wouldn't also be facing the grand larceny charge, but that's just quibbling over theoretical outcomes. The larger issue is the First Amendment. No one ever guaranteed free speech without consequences, but it does seem like this pursuit of an artist who honestly did nothing more than make more New Yorkers more aware of their PD's tactics has very little to do with bringing a criminal to justice, and everything to do with harshly shutting down criticism in order to deter further critiques of the NYPD.
Wed, Oct 3rd 2012 7:55pm
from the but-still-no-youtube dept
Regardless of whether or not the block on Gmail was intentional, the obstruction to one of the world’s most popular email services resulted in many complaints from Iran officials. Legislator Hossein Garousi reportedly threatened to summon Iran’s telecommunications minister Reza Taqipour for parliamentary questioning if the service was not unblocked.
Iran continues to block any site or network that expresses “anti-government views,” including sites like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, which helped rally citizens and circularize the massive protests following the questionable re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.Now, the blocking of such sites probably doesn't shock any of us anymore. It's unfortunate, but they're doing it. Hell, Iran has previously announced plans to build their very own internet. The good news is that Iranian citizens aren't simply rolling over at their government's heavy-handed censorship of the internet. They know how to use technology to get around the filters too.
Even though YouTube was previously blocked in Iran before the film was released and Gmail access was barred, Reuters reports on the ability of Iranian citizens to “circumvent Internet restrictions” using virtual private network (VPN) software, which makes it appear as if the computer accessing the content is located in another country.So best of luck to you, Iranian government, because you're going to need it if you think that suppressing thought and the freedom to access an unfettered internet is going to work out for you in the long term. At least you can rest easy knowing that your citizens can't play online roleplaying games. We've got that covered from our end.
by Mike Masnick
Thu, Sep 6th 2012 3:27am
from the but-of-course dept
About a month ago, the upper house of the Japanese legislature passed ACTA, as the first step in ratifying it. Some had thought that ACTA might stall out as a minor issue while other political turmoil went on, but it appears that Japan's ruling party has decided to push forward with the ratification. Last week, the Foreign Affairs Committee within the legislature tried to push through ACTA without allowing any discussion from opposing politicians -- which caused a ruckus, leading to a slight delay. However, after a few days, the committee passed it anyway. The ruling party then sought to do something similar, rushing it through a full vote, which appears to have just happened, resulting in ACTA's approval with effectively no real debate. In fact, it was mostly a non-story in Japan. It wasn't covered by the press and most politicians were basically silent about it.
This is fairly incredible, given the widespread protests we saw towards ACTA in Europe and a rapidly growing protest movement in Japan. Still, the protestors admit that ACTA just hasn't caught on as an issue in Japan like it has elsewhere. That's unfortunate for a variety of reasons, but they're hoping to change that with a protest on September 9th.
Of course, there's a question of how useful is it to ratify ACTA when many of the other negotiating parties (mainly the EU countries) don't seem likely to follow through and ratify the document in its current form. One report I heard out of Japan suggested that the ruling party there recognizes that ratifying ACTA is mostly symbolic at this point, but that it needed to be done to "save face" for the negotiators. Of course, if they really wanted to "save face," perhaps they shouldn't have negotiated for absolutely awful limits on how copyright can be reformed, while pushing for greater enforcement without necessary safety valves against abuse. Either way, the whole thing definitely has all of the appearances of ACTA being rammed through by political interests who don't want any debate on such a topic.
by Mike Masnick
Tue, Aug 28th 2012 2:57pm
Twitter To Appeals Court: Just Because Some Tweets Are Public Doesn't Mean Our Users Have No Privacy
from the good-for-them dept
Unfortunately, the NY court didn't buy it, and told Twitter to hand over the info. It ignored many of the bigger questions, and basically just says that since Harris tweeted publicly, there is no issue here. But that ignores a few things: (1) not all of the info sought was just what he tweeted and (2) not all of the tweets are available publicly.
Harris has appealed, and it's good to see that Twitter is also appealing, arguing that the court made some significant mistakes. The company basically reiterates its earlier argument that Harris has standing to quash the order, and also some reasonable privacy protection in some of the content sought.
Twitter respectfully submits that its users have standing on three separate and independent grounds to move to quash subpoenas directed to Twitter for their records. First, Twitter’s users have standing under New York law because Twitter’s Terms of Service have long established that users have a proprietary interest in their records. Twitter users own their Tweets and should have the right to fight invalid government requests. Second, Twitter’s users have standing under § 2704(b) of the federal SCA, which provides that a user who receives notice of a subpoena for their account records “may file a motion to quash such subpoena . . . in the appropriate . . . State court.” 18 U.S.C. § 2704(b). Finally, Twitter’s users have standing based on a long line of precedent establishing that individuals whose constitutional rights are implicated by a government subpoena to a third party can challenge the request. Accordingly, the Court should find that Twitter’s users have standing on any one, or all, of these bases.Seems pretty simple and straightforward, though the courts haven't bought this argument yet. Hopefully the appeals court is a bit more enlightened and/or informed.
Defendant’s Tweets are also protected by the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and art. I, § 12 of the New York Constitution because the government admits that it cannot publicly access them, thus establishing that Defendant maintains a reasonable expectation of privacy in these communications.
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Aug 17th 2012 8:47am
from the pussy-riot-in-jail dept
Either way, the verdict is unfortunate in many ways. We talk about free speech issues all the time around here, and we recognize that other countries don't always view freedom of speech as being as central or as important as the US does. That said, the whole idea that a band would end up in jail over political speech should be distressing and problematic to anyone with a developed sense of "right" and "wrong." Some will say this isn't surprising, or that this is the way that some countries operate, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't still be offended by the decision on principle.
by Mike Masnick
Tue, Jul 24th 2012 4:27pm