by Mike Masnick
Fri, Aug 2nd 2013 7:39pm
by Mike Masnick
Thu, Aug 1st 2013 12:31pm
from the there's-no-punishment dept
But here's the thing: given Clapper's admitted lying combined with the complete lack of any direct consequences for doing so, there's simply no reason at all to take anything that Clapper or Alexander says at face value. Alexander, especially, has been trying to go on a charm offensive to convince people that the press reports are exaggerated. He even "cursed" during his speech at Black Hat, and then pretended that it was by accident, and asked that it not be mentioned, trying to show how "honest" he was being. But all the charm in the world can't overcome the simple fact that everyone knows that there appear to be no direct consequences for lying. Even if we want to believe him, it's pretty difficult.
If the administration really wants to convince us that the surveillance programs are above board, it seems that keeping on an admitted liar to both Congress and the American public as the "face" of such programs isn't a particularly intelligent idea. It just makes people that much less likely to believe anything that Clapper, Alexander or others say about the program in their attempts to defend it.
NSA 'Leaks' Own Documents Before Senate Committee Grilling; Inadvertently Reveals Its Previous Lies To Congress
from the charge-the-NSA-with-espionage!-the-terrorists-have-our-number-now,-etc.! dept
Perhaps spurred on by the success of the Snowden leaks, the NSA has made its own "me too" effort and declassified a few documents ahead of Senate Judiciary Committee hearing dealing with bulk records collection and FISA oversight.
Given the choice, I'm sure we'd all rather read the unredacted versions of these documents, like those supplied by Ed Snowden, but all the same, it's refreshing to see an intelligence agency being forced into some minimal transparency.
What the NSA revealed isn't necessarily a surprise, but there are a few (perhaps unintentional) aspects of the declassified documents that are worth noting.
The first notable aspect, one that simply can't be ignored, is the statement from James Clapper's office that accompanied the unveiling.
A statement issued by Clapper’s office said he “has determined that the release of these documents is in the public interest.”So, when Clapper releases documents, it's in the "public's interest." When Snowden does it, it's espionage that does "grave and serious damage to national security."
Granted, the NSA's releases are heavily redacted (for security!), but if all that's being sought is so-called "business records/metadata" that have no expectation of privacy, what difference does it make who breaks the news and how much they expose? It's all above board and, according to the DNI's general counsel, everyone affected already knows they have no "expectation of privacy" in terms of the data collected. If we follow that logic, there's no reason these documents should ever have been classified. After all, it's pretty much the NSA/FBI equivalent of a FOIA request -- all public records, all available without a warrant.
Next up: the timing. The NSA released these documents "moments" before the hearing began. This makes the move look like nothing more than throwing the public (and some pesky representatives) a bone so that it can claim to be actively participating in openness, transparency, the "debate," or whatever when the grilling starts. Sen. Franken took note of the disingenuousness of the selective, last-minute document dump.
Some senators were perturbed that the government waited until moments before the hearing to release the FISA court order and two other documents about the National Security Agency’s bulk collection programs. They suggested that the timing did not give them the opportunity to prepare adequately to question the witnesses about the documents.Third: the released documents reinforce the NSA's expansive definition of the word "relevant." In its dictionary, "relevant" means pretty much anything it can collect, store and "interrogate" at its convenience. This is certainly not limited to metadata.
“Ad hoc transparency doesn’t engender trust,” Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) complained during Wednesday’s hearing.
[FISA Judge Roger] Vinson's order also accepted a key legal claim of the government: that the bulk, ongoing collection of millions of Americans' phone data was relevant to ongoing terrorism and espionage cases, the standard spelled out under Section 215 of the Patriot Act.In a technical sense, the NSA is right: surveillance isn't occurring during the collection. The problem is that the collection is open to search by both agents and algorithms with very little concern given towards the non-relevant data being swept up by these court orders. This logic was pounced on by Sen. Mike Lee.
"It can be things that will lead you to things you need," Cole said, arguing that the actual surveillance occurs not when NSA collects the phone records but when NSA analysts sift through it.
"I assure you as a recovering lawyer myself there is no context in civil discovery or otherwise to take in information from each and every American who owns a telephone," senator Mike Lee (Republican, Utah) said. Leahy questioned the "limits under this theory" and wondered why they permit NSA to also collect firearms records, bookmarked Internet searches, medical records or credit card information.Jameel Jaffer of the ACLU also took a swing at Vinson and Cole's rationalization:
Jameel Jaffer, the deputy legal director of the ACLU, criticized Vinson's reasoning. "Saying that the metadata of all Americans' phone calls, including ones that haven't happened yet, are 'relevant' to an investigation stretches that word beyond any meaning," Jaffer told the Guardian.Yes, even future events are "relevant" to terrorist investigations, whether or not they actually occur, or show up during the actual "surveillance" process of interrogating the data haul.
Finally, and this is probably the most important revelation, the documents show definitively that the NSA has lied to Congress about its activities, as noted by Ron Wyden.
“The newly declassified briefing documents released today show that the executive branch repeatedly made inaccurate statements to Congress about the value and effectiveness of the bulk email records collection program that was carried out under the USA PATRIOT Act until 2011. These statements had the effect of misleading members of Congress about the usefulness of this program.Wyden goes on to point out that this "unique" and "important" bulk email collection program was so desperately needed that the NSA shut it down in 2011 for "lack of operational value," as has now been publicly confirmed. Wyden goes on to question the effectiveness of its still-ongoing "bulk collection" program.
The briefing documents that were provided to Congress in December 2009 and February 2011 clearly stated that both the bulk email records and bulk phone records collection programs were “unique in that they can produce intelligence not otherwise available to NSA.” The 2009 briefing document went on to state that the two programs “provide a vital capability to the Intelligence Community,” and the 2011 briefing document stated that they provided “an important capability.”
This experience demonstrated that intelligence agencies’ assessments of the usefulness of particular collection programs – even significant ones – are not always accurate. In particular, I continue to be skeptical of claims that the ongoing bulk phone records collection program provides the government with any unique value, as I have not yet seen any evidence to support this claim.This again lends more credence to the theory that the NSA is collecting data because it can, not because it's relevant, no matter whose definition you're using. And there's no way the NSA can skirt the fact that its grudging nod to transparency is a direct result of Snowden's leaks, no matter how Clapper and his office try to spin it. The last thing the NSA cares about is the interests of the public.
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Jun 10th 2013 12:23am
from the whoops dept
While it is not reasonably possible to identify the number of people located in the United States whose communications may have been reviewed...An NSA spokesperson also said that it was not possible to figure that out:
Judith Emmel, an NSA spokeswoman, told the Guardian in a response to the latest disclosures: "NSA has consistently reported – including to Congress – that we do not have the ability to determine with certainty the identity or location of all communicants within a given communication. That remains the case."But, as Greenwald reveals, the NSA appears to have a program, called Boundless Informant (quite a name, huh) that does exactly that.
by Glyn Moody
Mon, Feb 4th 2013 5:40am
Bayer Fights India's Compulsory Licensing Of Cancer Drug By Claiming It Spent $2.5 Billion Developing It
from the ORLY? dept
Back in March last year, the Indian government announced that it was granting its first compulsory license, for the anti-cancer drug marketed as Nexavar, whose $70,000 per year price-tag put it out of reach of practically everyone in India. Nexavar's manufacturer, the German pharmaceutical giant Bayer, naturally appealed against that decision, and the hearing before the India Intellectual Property Appeals Board (IPAB) has now begun. Jamie Love has provided a useful report on the proceedings; here's his summary of what's at stake:
The outcome of this trial, which focuses on the cancer drug Nexavar, is a matter of first impression for the IPAB, and is expected to set precedents on a wide range of issues, including the permissible grounds for granting compulsory licenses, the relationship between the India patent law and the TRIPS Agreement, and the setting of terms and conditions for the compulsory license, including the royalty rates.
Clearly, then, this is a crucially important battle for both sides, and Bayer has started throwing around some huge R&D numbers in an attempt to convince the IPAB that it should be allowed to retain its monopoly in India to recoup those costs:
Bayer presented a January 9, 2013 affidavit from Harold Dinter which made the claim that from 1999 to 2005 Bayer had spent "2 billion euros (approximately US$ 2.5 billion) in the identification and development of anti-cancer molecules leading to the successful approval of Nexavar in 2005." Dinter did not provide detailed support for the numbers, but said they were based upon Bayer's general R&D outlays for anti-cancer drugs, including but not limited to Nexavar, and that the estimate was supported by a new December 2012 study by Jorge Mestre-Ferrandiz, Jon Sussex and Adrian Towse, published by the Office of Health Economics (OHE). Despite its name, the OHE is not part of the government, but rather a largely industry funded private consulting firm. The study itself was paid for by AztraZeneca. Dinter and Bayer's lawyer also made extensive reference to the work of Joseph DiMasi, an academic who is also a drug company consultant.
In other words, it's the usual "don't worry about the details, just take our word for it" lack of transparency that characterizes the entire pharma industry. But this $2.5 billion is insanely high, even for an industry that regularly inflates the outlay on drug development by an order of magnitude. As well as the generic implausibility of such a high figure, Love cites a number of specific reasons why it's extremely unlikely. You can read the details in his post, but here's a key section:
Bayer's partner in the development of Nexavar is Onyx Pharmaceuticals. Onyx published annual estimates of its R&D spending on Nexavar.
Bayer paid for all research from 1994 to 1999 ($26.1 million), and this included research on several compounds in addition to the one now marketed as sorafenib/Nexavar. From 2000 onward, Bayer and Onyx split the R&D costs 50:50, and Onyx's share of the R&D costs were $134.8 million. The outlays on the entire R&D program that lead to the 2005 approval of Nexavar for Kidney cancer were $26.1 + (134.8 x 2) = $295.7 million. Of the $295.7 million, only a fraction was spent on the development of Nexavar for kidney cancer, and some of that benefited from a 50 percent tax credit under the US Orphan Drug Act.
To the put the entire $295.7 million into perspective, ignoring the tax credits, that represents a little more than one quarter of the current global sales for sorafenib/Nexavar, a product that will maintain its monopoly in most markets through 2020.
$295.7 [million] is also just 11.8 percent of the $2.5 billion estimate that Bayer wants the IPAB to accept as its R&D costs.
No wonder that Bayer was unwilling to explain how it arrived at that extraordinary figure. But it's hard to see how the pharma company expects to win this case citing numbers that are basically an insult to the intelligence of India's experts.
Tue, Oct 30th 2012 12:04am
from the to-lie-or-not-to-lie dept
Andy Smith, an internet security chief at the Cabinet Office, said people should only give accurate details to trusted sites such as government ones. "When you put information on the internet do not use your real name, your real date of birth," he told a Parliament and the Internet Conference in Portcullis House, Westminster. "When you are putting information on social networking sites don't put real combinations of information, because it can be used against you."It apparently didn't occur to Smith that internet users might also be afraid of their own governments, but it would't seem to be a controversial opinion that citizens using government sites should probably be giving accurate information. His remarks were focused on what he called "trustworthy" sites versus those users were unsure of, which makes the idea rather benign. Despite social media sites and other sites, like YouTube, encouraging the use of accurate user information, one would think that inputting a fake name or fake birthday would't have much of an impact overall. In addition to perhaps providing some low-level defense against fraudsters, as is Smith's focus, anonymity is an important component of free speech.
Not so fast, says MP and all-around hand-wringer, Helen Goodman. That false data used to keep away the fraudsters? It's that kind of thing that promotes criminal behavior.
His advice was described by Labour MP Helen Goodman as "totally outrageous". She told BBC News: "This is the kind of behaviour that, in the end, promotes crime. It is exactly what we don't want. We want more security online. It's anonymity which facilitates cyber-bullying, the abuse of children. I was genuinely shocked that a public official could say such a thing."That is, to put it bluntly, ridiculous. There is a rather wide swath of false or inaccurate data on social media sites. People concerned about the aforementioned fraudsters. People concerned with data mining by the sites they're visiting. Parody social media accounts. None of that "promotes crime". And, while anonymity may embolden some folks that want to engage in bullying (let's do away with the "cyber" prefix please; bullying is bullying), are any us of really ready to say that the benefits of anonymous speech, whether online or elsewhere, should be undone for the sake of a "for-the-children" argument? This is, of course, not to say that I am unsympathetic to the plight of children being bullied. But that situation is not a catch-all rebuttal against free speech.
In the end, it's important to divorce policy from arguments that are essentially an appeal to emotion. I'd probably consider the absolute need for fake data due to fraudsters a bit on the paranoid side, but an attack on anonymity that boils down to a "for the children" quote is wholly unconvincing.
by Mike Masnick
Thu, Feb 16th 2012 12:02pm
from the wanna-run-that-one-by-people-again? dept
Well, Taylor Hackford, the head of the Directors Guild of America, apparently has a different opinion on all that. He went on the Pat Morrison radio show to go off on a wild rant about how everyone against SOPA/PIPA were duped via lies from companies like Google who want to protect all their profits. What was amazing was the number of blatantly false statements Hackford made in making his argument. Beyond the fact that he ignored tons of very legitimate concerns from engineers, online security experts and First Amendment scholars who clearly were not "duped," he also makes a bunch of statements that don't pass the laugh test.
For example, he repeatedly claimed that the movie industry employs two million people -- and he mocked the tech industry for not employing many people at all (and implying that they mostly employ people outside the country). According to the Congressional Research Service, the movie industry actually employs 374,000 people. Further research showed that jobs in actual film and movie production have been growing. Meanwhile, a recent study showed that just the Facebook apps economy alone created nearly 500,000 jobs. That second number may be exaggerated somewhat, but comparing how many jobs the movie industry has created with how many the internet industry has created isn't going to make Hackford look very good.
Then there was the specific attack on Wikipedia, where he first said that Wikipedia was a "stalking horse" (and he suggests an unidentified "they" convinced Wikipedia to shut down). Then he says that by shutting down:
"They robbed the public of important information in order to make their point"The "they" is still not identified, but a good way to demonize opponents is to take away any identifying marks, so it's this mysterious "they." But, seriously? Robbed the public? This from an industry which has repeatedly pushed for extensions to copyright term -- something that actually does take away content that the public was supposed to have a legal right to? I recognize that Hollywood has trouble understanding what "robbed" actually means, but Wikipedia blocking access didn't rob anyone of anything. But, if we're going to go with Hackford's claim that withholding content from the public is theft, then, as Derek Kerton suggests, doesn't that mean that the movie release windows that Hackford and his buddies in Hollywood rely on are "robbing the public"? After all, it's withholding information -- and it happens for a lot longer than the one day that Wikipedia went dark (and for which there were easy workarounds).
Of course, even more ironic was that while Morrison's show is nominally a "call-in" show... people who called in were told that Mr. Hackford was not allowing any calls during his segment. Instead, people were left to comment on the radio show's website... where the vast, vast majority of folks were quick to pick apart Hackford's ridiculous claims and ask the station why it didn't have anyone expressing a counterpoint.
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Jan 16th 2012 11:01am
from the how-are-those-corn-farmers,-rick? dept
Second, Cotton gets pretty angry about the "disinformation" around the bills, and insists that the bills "would not effect a single site in the United States." This is false. As we've explained repeatedly, while the targets of the legislation are sites with foreign domain names, the entire remedies section is about US sites -- meaning that they will have significant compliance costs, and potential liability under these laws. Furthermore, the anti-circumvention provisions of the bill are not limited to just foreign sites. Alexis pushed back on the anti-circumvention point, and Cotton claimed that Alexis was "simply wrong." But he's not. Cotton is "simply wrong" here again. Cotton claims that we should debate what's in the bill, and he should try reading the bill. In fact, Alexis has said that Cotton admitted after they were off the air that he was correct that the anti-circumvention provisions were not limited to just foreign sites. But that doesn't do any good for those who saw the segment but don't know the specifics.
Next, he claims it's totally wrong that a small amount of "legitimate activity would be threatened by this legislation." To be fair, Cotton and his buddies already got the power to take down tons of "legitimate activity" with the last copyright expansion bill they passed a few years ago, the ProIP bill. Either way, he's still wrong. Tons of legitimate content can and will be put at risk under these bills. We've already seen that companies -- including NBCUniversal -- have wrongly declared publicly that certain sites are "rogue" sites, despite the fact that they have tons of legitimate content. If you believe that Cotton and NBCUniversal will suddenly get better at finding sites that really only deal in infringement going forward, you haven't paid much attention over the last decade or so. Under existing law, we're already seeing legitimate websites taken down, and legitimate speech infringed upon. Hell, even the one prominent legal scholar who agrees with Cotton, Floyd Abrams, has admitted that protected speech would be censored under the bill.
Next, Cotton claims that the internet is "lawless" and that this whole thing is really a policy debate about how we finally put laws on the internet. This is, to put it mildly, insane. As Alexis points out in response, there are tons of laws that apply to the internet, and directly apply and are used every day to deal with infringing activity. To pretend otherwise is ridiculous. In fact, as Alexis notes, the DMCA is regularly abused by copyright holders to go way beyond what the law is supposed to allow.
Towards the end, Cotton claims that when a court in the Netherlands ordered The Pirate Bay blocked in that country, traffic to the site dropped by 80%. That's a flat out lie. I mean, ridiculously false. First off, considering that the legal fight over that has continued for years, and the court only ordered ISPs in the Netherlands to actually block The Pirate Bay... five days ago -- and gave them 10 days to comply -- I'm curious as to how he knows how much impact such a court order has had (er... will have) on traffic to The Pirate Bay. Separately, in every other place that has ordered such a block, traffic to TPB has actually gone up, not down, because the court order to block tends to give the site more attention. Just to make sure, I asked someone in the Netherlands if TPB was blocked for them, and he sent me the following screenshot showing that it's totally accessible (though, they're warning about the new ruling!). Either way, Cotton was flat out, 100%, totally lying about these "stats" from the Netherlands. No such block has occurred.
by Mike Masnick
Wed, Sep 28th 2011 8:36am
from the but-after-the-conviction dept
The problem? It took a year and a half, but investigators finally realized that some of the incident was caught on police video... and it showed that London's window was shut at the time she claimed Green threw a bottle and that bottle hit her head. Even worse, London repeated that story under oath in court as part of what got Green convicted. Cook County prosecutors have now dropped the conviction and have apparently filed charges against London instead.
It's stories like these that, once again, remind people why it should be encouraged to film police -- and why honest police shouldn't have a problem with it.
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Jun 10th 2011 9:27am
from the sounds-like-a-movie dept
And that's where the case turned strange.
After holding him for four days, federal prosecutors have dropped all charges against David. Amazingly, he provided them with a sworn affidavit that he'd had notarized before all of the incriminating messages were sent to "Studebaker," a letter saying that he believed his wife was behind the account and was trying to "tamper" with his life:
I received a friend request from a one Jessica Studebaker. From the start of that friend request, I was under suspicion that it was not a real person, but my ex-wife or someone she knows. I am talking to this 'person' on Facebook via messages through the Facebook mail system. I am lying to this person in extent to gain positive proof that it is indeed my ex-wife trying to again tamper in my life. Anything said in the chat to her from me cannot be held as truth and I am chatting to this person in attempts to prove to my court that my ex-wife will not leave my personal life alone.... The lies that I am placing in this chat is for her to bring such up in court on the 8th day of June, 2011. I need proof what my ex-wife has been doing.... In no way do I have plans to leave with my children or do any harm to Angela Dawn Voelkert or anyone else....Federal officials checked with the person who notarized the letter, confirming that it was indeed written and signed prior to the messages actually being sent... and realized that they had no case at all.
So how long until the movie rights to this story are sold?