• Tag Archives surveillance
  • Vault 7 Confirms, You’re Right to Be Paranoid

    Vault 7 Confirms, You’re Right to Be Paranoid

    On March 7, the transparency/disclosure activists at Wikileaks began releasing a series of documents titled “Vault 7.” According to the New York Times, Vault 7 consists of “thousands of pages describing sophisticated software tools and techniques used by the [US Central Intelligence Agency] to break into smartphones, computers and even Internet-connected televisions.”

    Stranger Than Fiction


    If the documents are authentic — and WikiLeaks has a sterling reputation when it comes to document authenticity — every paranoid thriller you’ve ever watched or read was too timid in describing a hypothetical Surveillance State. Even the telescreens and random audio bugs of George Orwell’s 1984 don’t come close to the reality of the CIA’s surveillance operations.

    In theory, the CIA doesn’t spy on Americans in America. In fact, digital traffic pays no heed to national borders, and the tools and tactics described have almost certainly been made available to, or independently developed by, other US surveillance agencies, not to mention foreign governments and non-government actors.

    Bottom line: You should accept the possibility that for the last several years anything you’ve done on, or in the presence of, a device that can connect to the Internet was observed, monitored, and archived as accessible data.

    Paranoid? Yes. But the paranoia is justified.

    Even if “they”  — the CIA, the NSA, the FBI, some random group of credit card thieves or voyeurs or whatever — aren’t out to get you in particular, they consider your personal privacy a technical obstacle to overcome, not a value to respect.

    All the Skeletons

    If you’ve got nothing to hide you’ve got nothing to fear? Everyone has something to hide. Somewhere, sometime, you’ve said or done something you regret or wouldn’t want the world to know. And you probably said or did it within a few feet of your smartphone, your laptop, or your Internet-connected television. Maybe nobody was listening or watching. Or maybe someone was. The only plausible conclusion from the Vault 7 disclosures is that you should assume the latter.

    Vault 7 confirms that as a State entity, the CIA answers to philosopher Anthony de Jasay’s description of the State as such. Just as a firm acts to maximize profits, the State and its arms act to maximize their own discretionary power. Even if it doesn’t do some particular thing, it requires the option, the ability to do that thing. It seeks omnipotence.

    The abuses of our privacy implied by the WikiLeaks dump aren’t an aberration. They’re the norm. They’re what government does.

    Reprinted from Libertarian Institute.


    Thomas Knapp

    Thomas L. Knapp, aka KN@PPSTER, is Director and Senior News Analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism and publisher of Rational Review News Digest. He lives and works in north central Florida.

    This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.


  • Why We’re Being Watched

    Why We’re Being Watched

    Wikileaks has just published over 8,000 files they say were leaked from the CIA, explaining how the CIA developed the capacity to spy on you through your phone, your computer, and even your television. And Wikileaks’s Julian Assange claims these “Vault 7” documents are just one percent of all the CIA documents they have.

    The media will be combing through these for weeks or months, so now is a perfect moment for us to reconsider the role of privacy, transparency, and limited government in a free society.

    We’ve put together a quick list of the six best Learn Liberty resources on government spying and whistleblowing to help inform this discussion.



    1. War Is Why We’re Being Watched

    Why is the US government spying on its citizens in the first place? Professor Abby Hall Blanco says that expansive state snooping at home is actually the result of America’s military interventionism abroad:

    2. Is Privacy the Price of Security?

    Yes, you may think, the government is snooping on us, but it’s doing that to keep us safe!

    That’s the most common justification for sweeping and intrusive surveillance, so we held a debate between two experts to get right to the heart of it. Moderated by TK Coleman, this debate between Professor Ronald Sievert and Cindy Cohn, the Executive Director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, was inspired in part by the revelations about NSA surveillance leaked by Edward Snowden in June 2013.

    3. Freedom Requires Whistleblowers

    People are already drawing parallels between the Snowden leaks and the Vault 7 revelations. If the leaks are indeed coming from a Snowden-like whistleblower, that will once again raise the issue of government prosecution of people who reveal classified information to the public.

    Professor James Otteson argues that a free society requires a transparent government, and whistleblowers play a key role in creating that accountability. Otteson also sounds a warning that should resonate with many Americans today:

    Maybe you’re not concerned about the invasions of privacy that the federal government agencies are engaging in because you think, “Well, I haven’t done anything wrong. What do I have to fear?” Maybe you think, “I like and support this president. I voted for him.”

    But what about the next president?  The powers that we let the government have under one president are the same powers that the next president will have too.

    What if the next president is one you don’t support? He, too, will have all the power that you were willing to give the president you now support.”

    4. Encryption Is a Human Rights Issue

    Documents from Vault 7 suggest that the CIA has been so stymied by encrypted-messaging apps, such as Signal and Whatsapp, that it has resorted to taking over entire smartphones to read messages before they are sent.

    That turns out to be a costly, targeted, and time-consuming business that doesn’t allow for mass data collection. But for decades, government officials have tried to require tech companies to give the government a backdoor into their encryption. In “Encryption Is a Human Rights Issue,” Amul Kalia argues that protecting encryption from government is essential to our safety and freedom.

    5. The Police Know Where You Live

    It turns out that it’s not just spy agencies that have access to detailed information about your life. Ordinary police officers have it, too, and they often face little supervision or accountability. As Cassie Whalen explains, “Across the United States, police officers abuse their access to confidential databases to look up information on neighbors, love interests, politicians, and others who had no connection to a criminal investigation.”

    Surveillance is a serious issue at every level of government.

    6. Understanding NSA Surveillance

    If you’re ready to take your learning to the next level, check out our complete video course on mass government surveillance with Professor Elizabeth Foley. In it, you’ll learn what you need to know to make sense of the NSA scandal in particular and mass surveillance in general.

    Reprinted from Learn Liberty.


    Kelly Wright

    Kelly Wright is an Online Programs Coordinator at the Institute for Humane Studies.

    This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.


  • New CIA Director Mike Pompeo Sparks Privacy Concerns

    The U.S. Senate confirmed Kansas Republican Rep. Mike Pompeo to be the Director of the CIA late on Monday over concerns from several congressional Democrats, who warned that putting Pompeo at the head of the intelligence agency would threaten civil liberties.


    In an impassioned floor speech, Sen. Bernie Sanders called it “vital to have a head of the CIA who will stand up for our constitution, stand up for privacy rights.” He continued, “Unfortunately, in my view, Mr. Pompeo is not that individual.”

    As we said late last year, we have concerns that many of President Donald Trump’s nominees, including Pompeo, will undermine digital rights and civil liberties, and those concerns persist.

    Specifically, Pompeo sponsored legislation that would have reinstated the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of Americans’ telephone metadata—an invasive program that civil liberties and privacy advocates fought to curtail by enacting the USA FREEDOM Act.

    We also noted troubling op-eds written by Pompeo. In one piece in late 2015, Pompeo criticized Republican presidential candidates who were supposedly “weak” on national security and intelligence collection. “Less intelligence capacity equals less safety,” he wrote.

    In another op-ed a few weeks later, Pompeo criticized lawmakers for “blunting [the intelligence community’s] surveillance powers” and called for “a fundamental upgrade to America’s surveillance capabilities.”

    Critics on the Senate floor—including Sens. Ron Wyden, Patrick Leahy and Bernie Sanders—honed in on the latter op-ed, which also recommended restarting the metadata collection that was curtailed under USA FREEDOM Act and “combining it with publicly available financial and lifestyle information into a comprehensive, searchable database.” Pompeo continued, “Legal and bureaucratic impediments to surveillance should be removed.”

    While Pompeo’s defenders argued that an effective intelligence agency should be utilizing publicly available information posted to social media, Wyden—who fought for delay to give the Senate more time to consider Pompeo’s nomination—drew a sharp distinction between seeking out social media information related to a known intelligence target and creating the database Pompeo has envisioned.

    “It is something else entirely to create a giant government database of everyone’s social media postings and to match that up with everyone’s phone records,” Wyden said, calling the idea “a vast database on innocent Americans.”

    Wyden also criticized Pompeo for skirting questions from lawmakers about what kinds of information would end up in the database, including whether the database would include information held by data brokers, the third-party companies that build profiles of internet users. He criticized Pompeo for being unwilling to “articulate the boundaries of what is a very extreme proposal.”

    EFF thanks all 32 Senators who voted against Pompeo and his expansive vision of government surveillance. We were especially pleased by the “no” vote from our new home-state Sen. Kamala Harris of California.

    EFF and other civil liberties advocates will work hard to hold Pompeo accountable as CIA Director and block any attempts by him or anyone else to broaden the intrusive government surveillance powers that threaten our basic privacy rights.

    Source: New CIA Director Mike Pompeo Sparks Privacy Concerns | Electronic Frontier Foundation