Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Total Information Awareness lives on...

The Total Information Awareness system is a truly scary program which existed for some time inside DARPA, the U.S.A Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. It's general attributes were to create an ubiquitous spying program that could track and data mine vast swaths of information and supposedly through intelligent data mining techniques detect terrorist threats before they become real threats. To do so requires pulling together a wide range of data such as phone calls, emails, credit cards, etc, and looking for patterns you define as dangerous.

e.g. If the intelligence people had known to look for 20 cash purchases of one way airline tickets to people with middle eastern names, then the 9/11 attacks could have been avoided. I heard that observation in October 2001 but since then we've learned the government knew about the 9/11 plans and failed to do anything with that knowledge.

It's obviously threatening us individual citizens with living under a big brother police state where the government knows everything we're doing all in the name of heading off supposed threats before they happen. In 2002 when the program became public there was a big uproar and the congress passed some resolution banning parts of the TIA project. But parts of the project have lived on, in secrecy, under different names.

There had been a string of disclosures over the years since. Unfortunately the revelation of this story has been spread out enough to keep most from connecting the dots. Since the Obama inauguration in Jan 20, 2009 a former NSA intelligence analyst, Russell Tice, has been in the news whistleblowing about the program.

TIA Lives On and Total Information Awareness Lives On Inside the National Security Agency and Massive privacy violation by U.S. government are articles from 2006 going over revelations of a massive NSA program to track phone calls and at the time they promised they were only tracking people with terrorist connections.

Department of Homeland Security Wants to Spy on Americans (May 2008) goes over a proposed expansion of information sharing between military intelligence services and state and local law enforcement agencies. There have historically been barriers blocking routine information sharing between military and police. I believe one reason for such a block is the risk of forming a police state. The military's job is to protect the country against enemies whereas the role of police agencies is to keep the peace. The two have different agendas and methods and mind-sets, and if you focus the military on the citizens there is a risk that the citizens become the enemy. The proposed expansion of information sharing is said, by this article, to be illegal and unconstitutional. It was proposed during the Bush Administration.

NSA Whistleblower: Wiretaps Were Combined with Credit Card Records of U.S. Citizens NSA whistleblower Russell Tice was on Keith Olbermann's Countdown (MSNBC) program with revelations that the National Security Agency spied on individual U.S. journalists, entire U.S. news agencies as well as "tens of thousands" of other Americans. This revelation claimed the illegal wiretap program was greatly expanded from the claims made when it was first revealed back in 2005-6. Back then it was claimed they only wiretapped international calls and only when there were connections with terrorists. Tice is claiming there was no such limit, that they wiretapped a much broader set of people including a wide ranging set of journalists.

Countdown: Whistleblower exposes spying on Americans

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Ars technica: NSA whistleblower says journos were targeted Did the credit card companies provide transaction records of Americans? Whistleblower Levels Shocking Allegations at Bush's Spying Programs

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Friday, January 16, 2009

VISIBUILDING and other advanced technologies


An article about some advanced technologies being developed. The most interesting to me is VISIBUILDING which is a kind of mechanized clairvoyance that allows soldiers to look through walls and see enemies.

The VisiBuilding program will address a pressing need in urban warfare: seeing inside buildings. Our troops are increasingly being deployed in urban areas, where they no longer have the benefit of dominance in surveillance and reconnaissance once the adversary retreats indoors.

Another program recently launched at DARPA is 'Harnessing Infrastructure for Building Reconnaissance' (HIBR), a capability that translates VisiBuilding into practical terms: DARPA believes that 'opportunistic sensing' could be a practical approach to 'guess' such interior structure, using exterior observations.


Saturday, January 10, 2009

Environmentalism 2.0


Karl Burkart of gave this lecture at ECREA, the European conference on media & communications research. It explores the possibility that the internet may (somewhat ironically) have the solution for our greatest environmental challenge -- disconnection from both our positive and negative impacts on nature

Environmentalism 2.0

View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: environmentalism 2.0)


Monday, January 5, 2009

Confronting Climate Change A Strategy for U.S. Foreign Policy


Against the backdrop of increasing attention to energy and climate change in the presidential campaigns, recent failure of the Senate to advance the Lieberman-Warner climate bill, and preparations for this summer’s G8 summit, a CFR-sponsored Independent Task Force recommends an overhaul of U.S. domestic and foreign policy to confront the challenge.

Chaired by former New York governor George E. Pataki and former Iowa governor Thomas J. Vilsack, the Task Force says that the United States must leverage ambitious, comprehensive, and equitable action at home to advance an effective policy abroad. It lays out a U.S. negotiating strategy for a global climate accord, outlining what the United States should be willing to offer and what it should expect others, including the rapidly emerging economies, to do in return.

The Task Force cautions, however, that a comprehensive post-Kyoto climate deal will not be easy to conclude, noting: “Even as the United States pursues ambitious and mandatory policies at home, it should not sign on to an emissions cap as part of any global deal that does not include strong commitments to actions from the major emerging economies.”

Even with an agreement, the Task Force concludes that “ensuring that the biggest emitters meet their commitments would still be a monumental task.” It thus recommends creating a Partnership for Climate Cooperation that would focus the world’s largest emitters, including India and China, on implementing aggressive emissions reductions. The partnership would complement efforts in the United Nations to get a global treaty.

The Task Force urges policymakers to not ignore the important economic challenges involved in reducing emissions, noting that near-term costs “matter because they affect the livelihood of Americans.” It argues, though, that a “properly designed and executed domestic policy ... can avoid unacceptable shocks or disruptions and smooth the transition to a low-carbon economy.” It also says that climate policy “presents opportunities to strengthen important parts of the economy and create jobs, to rebuild U.S. partnerships and alliances, and to bolster energy security.”

The Task Force, Confronting Climate Change: A Strategy for U.S. Foreign Policy, is directed by David M. Rubenstein Senior Fellow for Energy and Environment Michael A. Levi and advised by Adjunct Senior Fellow David G. Victor. It comprises a coalition of twenty-nine prominent individuals from business, the environmental community, industry, labor, and academia and includes prominent officials from the Bush and Clinton administrations who have long been on opposing sides of the climate change debate.


Building a North American Community


North America is vulnerable on several fronts: the region faces terrorist and criminal security threats, increased economic competition from abroad, and uneven economic development at home. In response to these challenges, a trinational, Independent Task Force on the Future of North America has developed a roadmap to promote North American security and advance the well-being of citizens of all three countries.

When the leaders of Canada, Mexico, and the United States met in Texas recently they underscored the deep ties and shared principles of the three countries. The Council-sponsored Task Force applauds the announced “Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America,” but proposes a more ambitious vision of a new community by 2010 and specific recommendations on how to achieve it.