The NSA’s SKYNET program may be killing thousands of innocent people

“Ridiculously optimistic” machine learning algorithm is “completely bullshit,” says expert.

In 2014, the former director of both the CIA and NSA proclaimed that “we kill people based on metadata.” Now, a new examination of previously published Snowden documents suggests that many of those people may have been innocent.

Last year, The Intercept published documents detailing the NSA’s SKYNET programme. According to the documents, SKYNET engages in mass surveillance of Pakistan’s mobile phone network, and then uses a machine learning algorithm on the cellular network metadata of 55 million people to try and rate each person’s likelihood of being a terrorist.

Patrick Ball—a data scientist and the director of research at the Human Rights Data Analysis Group—who has previously given expert testimony before war crimes tribunals, described the NSA’s methods as “ridiculously optimistic” and “completely bullshit.” A flaw in how the NSA trains SKYNET’s machine learning algorithm to analyse cellular metadata, Ball told Ars, makes the results scientifically unsound.

Somewhere between 2,500 and 4,000 people have been killed by drone strikes in Pakistan since 2004, and most of them were classified by the US government as “extremists,” the Bureau of Investigative Journalism reported. Based on the classification date of “20070108” on one of the SKYNET slide decks (which themselves appear to date from 2011 and 2012), the machine learning program may have been in development as early as 2007.

In the years that have followed, thousands of innocent people in Pakistan may have been mislabelled as terrorists by that “scientifically unsound” algorithm, possibly resulting in their untimely demise.

http://arstechnica.co.uk/security/2016/02/the-nsas-skynet-program-may-be-killing-thousands-of-innocent-people/ Continue reading

Trump Is Right About 9/11

Donald Trump utters plenty of ugly untruths: that undocumented Mexican immigrants are “rapists,” that Syrian refugees are committing “all sorts of attacks” in Germany and represent a “Trojan Horse” for ISIS. But he tells ugly truths too: that “when you give [politicians money], they do whatever the hell you want them to do.” And that “the Middle East would be safer” if Saddam Hussein and Muammer Qaddafi were still in power.

His latest ugly truth came during a Bloomberg TV interview last Friday, when he said George W. Bush deserves responsibility for the fact that “the World Trade Center came down during his time.” Politicians and journalists erupted in indignation. Jeb Bush called Trump’s comments “pathetic.” Ben Carson dubbed them “ridiculous.”

Former Bush flack Ari Fleischer called Trump a 9/11 “truther.” Even Stephanie Ruhle, the Bloomberg anchor who asked the question, cried, “Hold on, you can’t blame George Bush for that.”

Oh yes, you can. There’s no way of knowing for sure if Bush could have stopped the September 11 attacks. But that’s not the right question. The right question is: Did Bush do everything he could reasonably have to stop them, given what he knew at the time? And he didn’t. It’s not even close.

http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/10/did-george-w-bush-do-all-he-could-to-prevent-911/411175/

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US Marshals arresting people for not paying their federal student loans

Seven U.S. Marshals armed with automatic weapons arrested a Texas man for not paying a $1,500 student loan from three decades ago, he claims.

Paul Aker said he was surprised at his Houston home on Thursday by seven people in combat gear.

“They grabbed me, they threw me down,” the 48-year-old Aker told the Daily News on Tuesday. “Local PD is just standing there.”

Aker said he didn’t receive any notice or warning about the loan, which he received in 1987 at Prairie View A&M University.

The U.S. Marshals said later in court that they had the firepower because Aker had a gun, but he disputes that.

“But you were already at my door,” he said. “It was because they knew I was a registered gun owner.

http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/u-s-marshals-arresting-people-not-paying-student-loans-article-1.2533153

http://www.fox26houston.com/news/local-news/92232732-story Continue reading

US Marshals arresting people for not paying their federal student loans

Seven U.S. Marshals armed with automatic weapons arrested a Texas man for not paying a $1,500 student loan from three decades ago, he claims.

Paul Aker said he was surprised at his Houston home on Thursday by seven people in combat gear.

“They grabbed me, they threw me down,” the 48-year-old Aker told the Daily News on Tuesday. “Local PD is just standing there.”

Aker said he didn’t receive any notice or warning about the loan, which he received in 1987 at Prairie View A&M University.

The U.S. Marshals said later in court that they had the firepower because Aker had a gun, but he disputes that.

“But you were already at my door,” he said. “It was because they knew I was a registered gun owner.

http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/u-s-marshals-arresting-people-not-paying-student-loans-article-1.2533153

http://www.fox26houston.com/news/local-news/92232732-story Continue reading

These emails show how upset NSA spies were with the ‘Enemy of the State’ film

Employees at the secretive National Security Agency were not too happy about the 1998 blockbuster film “Enemy of the State” that starred Will Smith.

That shouldn’t come as a surprise — the spy agency was portrayed as the villain — but now BuzzFeed News has obtained internal emails that prove it.

“I saw a preview for the new movie ‘Enemy of the State’ and to my surprise found out that NSA were the ‘bad guys’ in it,” wrote one NSA employee in a question to the agency’s public affairs team.

Directed by Tony Scott, the film was highly critical of NSA. The plot began with agency operatives murdering a congressman opposed to a surveillance bill — which was caught on tape — setting off a cat-and-mouse game between attorney Robert Dean (played by Will Smith) and agents trying to pursue him.

The film depicted the agency as having vast technical know-how and incredible surveillance capabilities (many of which were later confirmed by the Edward Snowden leaks). Once he saw the film, then-NSA Director Lt. Gen Michael Hayden saw a PR nightmare, telling CNN in 2001: “I made the judgment that we couldn’t survive with the popular impression of this agency being formed by the last Will Smith movie.”

http://www.techinsider.io/nsa-enemy-of-the-state-2016-1 Continue reading

Fifth of GCHQ intelligence comes from hacking

A fifth of GCHQ intelligence comes from hacking in to phones and computers, the agency has revealed, as it won a human rights victory over its once secret technique.

The spy agency admitted last year that it regularly hacks electronic devices – known as equipment interference – to gather data on suspects.

It was forced to defend the power before the Investigatory Powers Tribunal after a civil liberty group and Internet companies claimed it breached human rights laws.

But the panel, which hears challenges against the security and intelligence agencies, ruled the methods were lawful.

In submissions to the hearing, it emerged that in 2013 around 20 per cent of GCHQ’s intelligence reports contained information derived from hacking.

The tactic, also known as computer network exploitation, allows authorities to interfere with electronic devices such as smartphones, tablets and PCs in order to obtain data.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/defence/12154733/Fifth-of-GCHQ-intelligence-comes-from-hacking.html
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Guide to the Presidential Candidates’ National Security Positions

This version includes Hillary Clinton, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Bernie Sanders, and Donald Trump. As the field shifts over the coming weeks, we may add or remove candidates from this list. We’ll also be periodically updating the information about the candidates’ positions as they wind their way through primary season and move into the general election.

This guide features sources for each summary and, whenever possible, cites official government websites or the candidates’ websites. In our research, we relied on their own statements and records rather than commentary on the candidates’ positions.

Many of the issues covered by this guide are incredibly complex — deserving of far more than just one or two sentences in a press release or campaign sound bite. As we do in our posts, events, and other projects, we will do our best to ensure we present their positions fairly and with nuance.

https://www.justsecurity.org/29318/presidential-candidates-national-security-positions/ Continue reading