In a wholly unexpected move, the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office on June 28 dismissed murder charges against Bill Richards, who spent 23 years behind bars for the brutal murder of his wife, Pamela. Richards has vociferously maintained that he is innocent of the August 10, 1993, strangulation and bludgeoning murder of his wife on the couple’s property in California’s High Desert. The Richards case is controversial and has been long considered a wrongful conviction based on the discredited junk science of bite mark analysis.
“I feel great,” Richards told The Intercept, after the dismissal. “It’s like a weight has been lifted off of my shoulders – more like off my heart.”
Prosecutors tried three times to convict Richards — two trials ended in a hung jury and a third ended in a mistrial during jury selection — before calling to the witness stand during Richards’ fourth trial in 1997 a renown forensic dentist, Dr. Norman “Skip” Sperber, to testify that a lesion on the top of Pamela’s hand was a bite mark and a clear match to Richards’ allegedly unique lower dentition. Richards was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison.
Sperber recanted his testimony during a 2008 pretrial hearing, saying that there was no science to back up his assertions at trial; after the hearing, Judge Brian McCarville concluded that the evidence before him pointed “unerringly” to Richards’ innocence. In a unanimous opinion delivered late last month, the California Supreme Court finally vacated Richards’ conviction, noting that without Sperber’s testimony the state’s case was weak at best, and that the false bite-mark evidence had likely impacted the outcome of Richards’ trial.
Despite those court rulings, as of mid-June the DA’s office had indicated to Richards’ attorneys with the California Innocence Project that it would try Richards again, for a fifth time. Although the public affairs officer for elected DA Michael Ramos insisted in a series of emails to The Intercept that no decision had been made about whether the office would again prosecute Richards, a CIP lawyer confirmed that the case had been set for trial beginning in mid-July. And on June 21, the DA’s office argued, unsuccessfully, that Richards should remain behind bars; instead, he was released that day on a personal bond.
The dismissal came just two days before a planned pretrial hearing where the CIP was set to argue that there is insufficient evidence to try the case again, that the decision to retry Richards was a vindictive one, and that the case should be dismissed “in the interests of justice.”
The Tuesday morning hearing at the courthouse in Victorville lasted just minutes, with prosecutor Michael Risley — the same prosecutor who tried Richards in 1997 — announcing that Ramos’ office had determined that the charges should be dismissed, but with the caveat that they could eventually be refiled. Richards’ lawyers said Risley indicated that the case needed further investigation, but in an email exchange the DA’s public affairs officer, Christopher Lee, declined to elaborate on whether his office would seek to reopen the case with an eye toward identifying other possible suspects or whether the office is still convinced that Richards is guilty. Instead, Lee provided only a basic statement, confirming that the case had been dismissed and writing, “no final decision has been made at this time as to whether or not we plan on refiling the case. We are currently re-evaluating the defense’s new evidence,” he continued. “Once we have completed our review we will determine the appropriate course of action.”
During the 2008 hearing during which Sperber recanted, Richards’ attorneys also brought forward newly developed evidence revealing the DNA profile of an unknown male on a paving stone and a cinder block used to crush Pamela’s skull. DNA evidence was also extracted from a nearly inch-long hair retrieved from under one of Pamela’s fingernails. Additionally, the lawyers presented expert testimony that a blue tuft of fiber that a crime scene analyst in 1997 said was consistent with the fibers of a blue work shirt Richards was wearing the night he found his murdered wife, was likely planted or the result of evidence contamination.
Given everything, Richards’ attorneys feel confident that Tuesday’s dismissal of charges will bring to a close Richards’ more than two decades long criminal justice nightmare. “Today went as good as it can go,” said Justin Brooks, director and co-founder of the CIP. “I’m confident this is the end. The case was very thin when we first took it on, then we knocked out every aspect of the case along the way. The Supreme Court reversed it; a judge in a habeas hearing reversed it. So, I’m pretty confident this is the end of the line for this case.”
Richards, now 66, is determined to put together a new and rewarding life, and is eager to finally get proper treatment for chronic prostrate cancer that was poorly treated in prison. But he is also saddened by the realization that the murder of his wife will likely go unsolved, her murderer unpunished. “That’s the biggest problem right there,” he said. “I’ll go to my grave regretting that we’ll never know who did this — or how many other people he’s done it to. I’ll take that pain to my deathbed.”
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The post After 23 Years and Four Trials, Prosecutors Finally Dismiss Charges Against Bill Richards appeared first on The Intercept.
As my colleague Glenn Greenwald argues, it is too simple to suggest that last week’s rejection of the European Union by more than half of the British electorate, like Donald Trump’s victory in the Republican primary, can be explained by dismissing the voters as racists.
In both countries, and across the Western world, xenophobic bigots who pin the blame on foreigners, and promise to restore prosperity by walling us off into ethnic-nationalist enclaves, have grown in prominence only after decades of failure by the traditional parties of left and right to find solutions for the suffering caused by the globalization.
At the same time, however, it seems clear that the rhetoric of the referendum campaign in Britain, like Trump’s demonization of Mexican and Muslim immigrants, has emboldened the white supremacist fringe in ways too dangerous to ignore.
As the British historian Victoria Stiles observed, the referendum result, which has been followed by a 57 percent spike in reported hate crimes, seems to have encouraged the kind of public displays of racism in Britain that make physical assaults more likely.
The worry being that peer confirmation / peer approval is a crucial factor in violence against minority groups.
— Victoria Stiles (@ViolettaCrisis) June 25, 2016
To look at just one of those cases, the racist taunting of a black man on a tram in Manchester on Wednesday caught on video, is to get a visceral sense of how real the potential for violence has become.
How, exactly, to confront such intolerance and keep it from spreading, is now an urgent question on both sides of the Atlantic. Two very different answers were proposed over the weekend by anti-racist activists in California and the north of England.
There was a spasm on violence on Sunday in Sacramento, where at least ten people were injured when a handful of American neo-Nazis, who describe themselves as white nationalists, attempted to rally on the steps of the State Capitol, only to be attacked by a larger number of anti-fascist activists hurling insults and rocks.
— ABC News (@ABC) June 26, 2016
— Dave Id (@DaveId) June 26, 2016
Video posted online by reporters and activists showed street fights between white supremacists from the Traditionalist Worker Party, a neo-Nazi group that called the rally, and black-clad protesters from Anti-Fascist Action Sacramento and By Any Means Necessary, or BAMN, a coalition dedicated to taking “militant, direct action” to defend affirmative action, integration and immigrant rights.
— Frances Wang (@ABC10Frances) June 26, 2016
At least ten people were treated for stab wounds, cuts and bruises after the white nationalists were struck with pieces of concrete and then retreated — attacking protesters with clubs, knives and fists as they fled.
— Bradley Allen (@BradleySA) June 26, 2016
After the melee, Yvette Felarca, a national organizer with BAMN — who was seen on video cursing at and punching one of the white nationalists — told the ABC News affiliate in Sacramento, “to us, there’s no free speech for fascists; they do not have the right to organize for genocide.”
— Frances Wang (@ABC10Frances) June 26, 2016
“The Nazis and the fascists are dangerous,” she added, “they need to be stopped and shut down by any means necessary. We can’t just ignore them, because then they grow. They hold these rallies not to just talk to each other but trying to recruit — but today they looked as weak as they are. They had to run hiding and we want to make sure that happens…. if they try to show their faces publicly again.”
#ANTIFA aren't fighting Nazis for fun.
We saw what happened when Nazis organized in Europe, and unlike liberals, we learned from the past.
— benny • ??? (@bendykoval) June 27, 2016
In their online call for supporters to help “shut down the Nazi rally,” Antifa Sacramento noted that the founder of the Traditionalist Worker Party is Matthew Heimbach, one of the most outspoken Trump supporters in the white supremacist community.
Heimbach attracted national attention in March, when he was caught on camera shoving and screaming at a young black protester during a Trump rally in Louisville.
Leader of Neo-Nazi group involved in Sacramento stabbings is a Trump supporter who assaulted a black woman at rally. pic.twitter.com/TYxfswBHBN
— D (@Delo_Taylor) June 26, 2016
The same day, he explained his support for Trump in a video interview with the Louisville Courier-Journal. “I like Donald Trump because he’s the only person that’s speaking to white working class interests,” Heimbach said, wearing one of Trump’s “Make America Great Again” baseball caps. “He’s the only candidate who’s standing up for us.”
“When his first comments came out about immigration, I was excited but a little wary,” Heimbach added, “but then when he doubled down… he’s been entirely consistent in defending and putting America first, putting our people first, that’s why I had to get behind him.”
Heimbach himself is not shy about tracing the roots of his white nationalist ideology to the Nazis. His YouTube channel features video of a speech he gave at a white supremacist retreat in Bakersfield, California last year, illustrated with images of a Nuremberg rally and marches by contemporary neo-Nazi groups in Europe. “We are in a global struggle: nationalism around the world is on the rise, the battle of the 21st century is going to be a war between nationalism and globalism” Heimbach said in that address. “No matter who you are around the world, if you’re fighting for your national identity, your enemy is the international Jew.”
Unsurprisingly, Heimbach was thrilled by the British vote to exit the European Union, which he made clear on Twitter, sharing images of Oswald Mosley, who lead the British Union of Fascists in the 1930s, and of a “degenerate” at London’s Pride parade who told Britain’s Channel 4 News he was disappointed by the result.
— Matthew Heimbach (@MatthewHeimbach) June 24, 2016
— Matthew Heimbach (@MatthewHeimbach) June 26, 2016
Heimbach was also quite pleased with the chaos in Sacramento on Sunday, writing on his website that he had called it “to make a statement about the precarious situation our race is in,” after “witnessing the brutal assaults these cowards, drug addicts, illegal immigrants and criminals committed in orchestrated pogroms by Zionist agitated colored people against elderly people, women, children, and even the disabled at Donald Trump events.”
In this context, it is interesting to look at the very different why British anti-fascists responded to a similar rally in the city of Newcastle on Saturday staged by white nationalists from fringe groups like the English Defense League and the National Front.
My home town of Newcastle. This afternoon. I feel like I am back in the 1980s. pic.twitter.com/8THD1xsn1N
— David Olusoga (@DavidOlusoga) June 25, 2016
— James Koranyi (@jtkoranyi) June 25, 2016
— thom_raindog (@thom_raindog) June 25, 2016
Embarrassing as fuck working in Newcastle & having to see pathetic EDL marches carrying banners "refugees not welcome" get a proper hobby
— Siobhan Appleby. (@siobhannx) June 25, 2016
While several observers took the EDL march as a celebration of the referendum result, it seems important to note that it was planned well in advance of the political campaign, as was the robust counter-demonstration by anti-racist activists who vastly outnumbered the white supremacists.
While the activists in Newcastle have the same goal as their counterparts in Sacramento, to demoralize and embarrass the racists, their tactics were strikingly different: they met the marchers with non-violence and hurled not rocks but derision at them.
— Amy Spires (@AmySpires_) June 25, 2016
— Nick Hall (@Nickyhall5) June 25, 2016
— Jon Proctor (@J_Proctor23) June 25, 2016
EDL demo in Newcastle. About a dozen. Outnumbered 10 to 1 by opponents waving "refugees welcome here" banners pic.twitter.com/Iw3Aaovw7s
— Matthew Cooke (@SafeEng) June 25, 2016
As video of the confrontation between the two groups posted online shows, the anti-racists in Newcastle mocked the white nationalists with chants like one that suggested they had to be kidding if they thought they represented a master race. “Super race? You’re having a laugh! Super race? You’re having a laugh!” they chanted, and then, simply, “Boring! Boring!”
Anti racism protest in Newcastle. EDL scum just turned up. pic.twitter.com/QjgbobkIDq
— Bryan (@dhcp_) June 25, 2016
As images of the rally and the counter-demonstration circulated widely over the weekend, Laura Pidcock, a local councillor in neighboring Northumberland argued that the photographs, including one taken by her, had been mistaken for evidence of an uptick in racism in “post-Brexit Britain.”
“Just to be clear, the far-right have a history of street activity in Newcastle, they are always opposed and always out-numbered,” Pidcock wrote. “These ideas and attitudes have not just appeared since the referendum.”
“We must be careful,” she added, in terms that might make interesting reading for activists in Sacramento, “not to add to their sense of ‘victory,’ but respond to them in countering their ideas and joining together on the streets to demoralize their movement.”
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Im spannungsgeladenen Verhältnis zu Russland plädiert die EU-Außenbeauftragte Federica Mogherini für eine Mischung aus Kooperation und Härte. „Die EU und Russland sind voneinander abhängig“, schreibt Mogherini in einem Strategiepapier für den EU-Gipfel, das der Nachrichtenagentur dpa vorliegt. „Wenn unsere Interessen sich überschneiden“, sollten beide Seiten zusammenarbeiten.
Im Ukraine-Konflikt müsse die EU hingegen hart bleiben. „Wir werden weder Russlands illegale Annexion der Krim anerkennen noch die Destabilisierung der Ostukraine hinnehmen“, schreibt Mogherini in ihrer „Globalen Strategie“. Die EU werde sich für das Recht ihrer östlichen Nachbarstaaten einsetzen, selbst über ihre Haltung zur EU zu entscheiden.
Die EU-Staats- und Regierungschefs beraten an diesem Dienstag
Nach monatelangen „Normalisierungsgesprächen“ haben Israel und die Türkei am Dienstag ein Versöhnungsabkommen unterzeichnet. Der Generaldirektor des israelischen Außenministeriums, Dore Gold, signierte den Vertrag in Jerusalem. Der Staatssekretär des türkischen Außenministeriums, Feridun Sinirlioglu, habe das Abkommen mit Israel am Dienstag in Ankara unterschrieben, berichtete die staatliche Nachrichtenagentur Anadolu unter Berufung auf diplomatische Kreise. Das türkische Parlament müsse die Vereinbarung noch bestätigen.
Die am Montag verkündete Vereinbarung beendet sechs Jahre Eiszeit zwischen den ehemaligen Bündnispartnern. Sie sieht die Rückkehr der Botschafter und eine umfassende Normalisierung der Beziehungen vor.
Julien Assange ist seit über vier Jahren in der Botschaft Ecuadors in London gefangen. Grund für ein weltweites Event, um freies Geleit für Assange und mehr Schutz für Whistleblower zu fordern. –
Von FLO OSRAINIK, 28. Juni 2016 –Seit vier Jahren sitzt Julien Assange in der Botschaft Ecuadors in London fest. Er befürchtet eine Auslieferung an die Vereinigten Staaten, Ecuador gewährte ihm Botschaftsasyl. Foto: Snabberjack/UK
Unter dem Titel First they came for Assange fanden am 19. Juni 2016 in mehreren Städten – darunter Athen, Belgrad, Berlin, Brüssel, Madrid,
he message arrived at night and consisted of three words: “Good evening sir!”
The sender was a hacker who had written a series of provocative memos at the National Security Agency. His secret memos had explained — with an earthy use of slang and emojis that was unusual for an operative of the largest eavesdropping organization in the world — how the NSA breaks into the digital accounts of people who manage computer networks, and how it tries to unmask people who use Tor to browse the web anonymously. Outlining some of the NSA’s most sensitive activities, the memos were leaked by Edward Snowden, and I had written about a few of them for The Intercept.
There is no Miss Manners for exchanging pleasantries with a man the government has trained to be the digital equivalent of a Navy SEAL. Though I had initiated the contact, I was wary of how he might respond. The hacker had publicly expressed a visceral dislike for Snowden and had accused The Intercept of jeopardizing lives by publishing classified information. One of his memos outlined the ways the NSA reroutes (or “shapes”) the internet traffic of entire countries, and another memo was titled “I Hunt Sysadmins.” I felt sure he could hack anyone’s computer, including mine.
Good evening sir!
he only NSA workers the agency has permitted me to talk with are the ones in its public affairs office who tell me I cannot talk with anyone else. Thanks to the documents leaked by Snowden, however, I have been able to write about a few characters at the NSA.
There was, for instance, a novelist-turned-linguist who penned an ethics column for the NSA’s in-house newsletter, and there was a mid-level manager who wrote an often zany advice column called “Ask Zelda!” But their classified writings, while revealing, could not tell me everything I wanted to know about the mindset of the men and women who spy on the world for the U.S. government.
I got lucky with the hacker, because he recently left the agency for the cybersecurity industry; it would be his choice to talk, not the NSA’s. Fortunately, speaking out is his second nature. While working for the NSA, he had publicly written about his religious beliefs, and he was active on social media. So I replied to his greeting and we began an exchange of cordial messages. He agreed to a video chat that turned into a three-hour discussion sprawling from the ethics of surveillance to the downsides of home improvements and the difficulty of securing your laptop. “I suppose why I talk is partially a personal compulsion to not necessarily reconcile two sides or different viewpoints but to just try to be honest about the way things are,” he told me. “Does that make sense?”
The hacker was at his home, wearing a dark hoodie that bore the name of one of his favorite heavy metal bands, Lamb of God. I agreed not to use his name in my story, so I’ll just refer to him as the Lamb. I could see a dime-store bubble-gum machine behind him, a cat-scratching tree, and attractive wood beams in the ceiling. But his home was not a tranquil place. Workmen were doing renovations, so the noise of a buzz saw and hammering intruded, his wife called him on the phone, and I could hear the sound of barking. “Sorry, my cats are taunting my dog,” he said, and later the animal in question, a black-and-white pit bull, jumped onto his lap and licked his face.
The Lamb wore a T-shirt under his hoodie and florid tattoos on his arms and smiled when I said, mostly in jest, that his unruly black beard made him look like a member of the Taliban, though without a turban. He looked very hacker, not very government.
When most of us think of hackers, we probably don’t think of government hackers. It might even seem odd that hackers would want to work for the NSA — and that the NSA would want to employ them. But the NSA employs legions of hackers, as do other agencies, including the FBI, CIA, DEA, DHS, and Department of Defense. Additionally, there are large numbers of hackers in the corporate world, working for military contractors like Booz Allen, SAIC, and Palantir. The reason is elegantly simple: You cannot hack the world without hackers.
n popular shows and movies such as “Mr. Robot” and “The Matrix,” hackers tend to be presented as unshaven geeks loosely connected to collectives like Anonymous, or to Romanian crime syndicates that steal credit cards by the millions, or they are teenagers who don’t realize their online mischief will get them into a boatload of trouble when Mom finds out.
The stereotypes differ in many ways but share a trait: They are transgressive anti-authoritarians with low regard for social norms and laws. You would not expect these people to work for The Man, but they do, in droves. If you could poll every hacker in the U.S. and ask whether they practice their trade in dark basements or on official payrolls, a large number would likely admit to having pension plans. Who knows, it could be the majority.
This may qualify as one of the quietest triumphs for the U.S. government since 9/11: It has co-opted the skills and ideals of a group of outsiders whose anti-establishment tilt was expressed two decades ago by Matt Damon during a famous scene in Good Will Hunting. Damon, playing a math genius being recruited by the NSA, launches into a scathing riff about the agency serving the interests of government and corporate evil rather than ordinary people. Sure, he could break a code for the NSA and reveal the location of a rebel group in North Africa or the Middle East, but the result would be a U.S. bombing attack in which “1,500 people that I never met, never had a problem with, get killed.” He turns down the offer.
In recent years, two developments have helped make hacking for the government a lot more attractive than hacking for yourself. First, the Department of Justice has cracked down on freelance hacking, whether it be altruistic or malignant. If the DOJ doesn’t like the way you hack, you are going to jail. Meanwhile, hackers have been warmly invited to deploy their transgressive impulses in service to the homeland, because the NSA and other federal agencies have turned themselves into licensed hives of breaking into other people’s computers. For many, it’s a techno sandbox of irresistible delights, according to Gabriella Coleman, a professor at McGill University who studies hackers. “The NSA is a very exciting place for hackers because you have unlimited resources, you have some of the best talent in the world, whether it’s cryptographers or mathematicians or hackers,” she said. “It is just too intellectually exciting not to go there.”
Revealingly, one of the documents leaked by Snowden and published by The Intercept last year was a classified interview with a top NSA hacker (not the Lamb) who exulted that his job was awesome because “we do things that you can’t do anywhere else in the country … at least not legally. We are gainfully employed to hack computers owned by al-Qa’ida!” Asked about the kind of people he works with at the NSA, he replied, “Hackers, geeks, nerds … There’s an annual event for hackers in Las Vegas called DEF CON, and many of us attend. When there, we feel as though we are among our bretheren! [sic] We all have a similar mindset of wanting to tear things apart, to dig in, to see how things work.”
In 2012, Gen. Keith Alexander, the NSA director at the time, even attended DEF CON wearing blue jeans and a black T-shirt that bore the logo of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, an anti-surveillance organization that is beloved by hackers and other good citizens of the world. To coincide with Alexander’s visit, the NSA had created a special webpage to recruit the hackers at DEF CON. “If you have a few, shall we say, indiscretions in your past, don’t be alarmed,” the webpage stated. “You shouldn’t automatically assume you won’t be hired.” Alexander’s personal pitch was even more direct: “In this room right here is the talent we need.”
If you are willing to become a patriot hacker, Uncle Sam wants you.
s a teenager, the Lamb was a devout Christian who attended church two or three times a week, yet he also participated in online forums for Satanists and atheists. He wanted to learn what others believed and why they believed it, and he wanted to hear their responses to questions he raised. If his beliefs could not withstand challenges from opposing ones, they might not be worth keeping.
“As a Christian, I believe the Bible, and one of the things it says is if you seek the truth, you should find it,” he told me. “If I started to come across facts that contradicted what I believed and contradicted the way that I thought about things, I had to be open to confronting them and determining how I would integrate them into my life and my thought system.”
Before he became a hacker, the Lamb had the restless spirit of one. After high school, he attended a Christian university for a year but dropped out and joined the military as a linguist. He was assigned to the NSA, and although he told me his computer skills were modest at the time, he was intrigued by the mysteries inside the machines. “I started doing some basic computer training, like ‘Oh, here’s how computers talk to each other and network’ and that sort of stuff,” he said. “I enjoyed that far more than trying to maintain a language that I rarely used.”
He devoured books on computers and experimented on his own time, using an application called Wireshark to see how network data was moving to and from his own computer. He picked up a bit of programming knowledge, and he asked agency veterans for tips. As he wrote in one of his memos, “If you want to learn crazy new things … why not walk around NSA, find people in offices that do things you find interesting, and talk to them about how they do what they do.”
Like Snowden, he did not need a formal education to succeed. Snowden, after all, dropped out of high school and mastered computers through self-education. As an NSA contractor, he rose to a position that gave him access to broad swaths of the agency’s networks. While Snowden was a systems administrator, the Lamb became an expert in network analysis and was well-versed in the crucial trick of shaping traffic from one place to another — for instance, sending it from an ISP in a foreign country to an NSA server.
The Lamb’s work was important, but his memos are remarkably irreverent, even cocky. I’ve read a fair number of NSA documents, and not one contains as much hacker and internet lingo as his; he used words like “skillz” and “internetz” and “ZOMG!” and phrases like “pwn the network” and “Dude! Map all the networks!!!” Some of what he wrote is just cheerily impudent, like the opening line of one memo: “Happy Friday my esteemed and valued intelligence Community colleagues!” Another memo began, “Welcome back, comrade!”
While poking gentle fun at the government hackers he worked with, the Lamb dismissed the amateur hackers on the outside. He identified himself and his highly trained colleagues at the NSA as a breed apart — a superior breed, much in the way that soldiers look down on weekend paintballers. Perhaps this shouldn’t be altogether surprising, because arrogance is one of the unfortunate hallmarks of the male-dominated hacker culture. At the NSA, this hubris can perhaps serve as an ethical lubricant that eases the task of hacking other people: They are not as special as you are, they do not have the magical powers you possess, they are targets first and humans second.
As the Lamb wrote in one of his memos, “When I first went to Blackhat/Defcon, it was with the wide-eyed anticipation of ‘I’m going to go listen to all of the talks that I can, soak up all of the information possible, and become a supar-1337-haxxor.’ What a let-down of an experience that was. You find the most interesting topics and briefings, wait in lines to get a seat, and find yourself straining your ears to listen to someone that has basically nothing new to say. Most of the talks get hyped up exponentially past any amount of substance they actually provide.”
hen I asked the Lamb where he was in the hierarchy of hackers at the NSA, he just smiled and said, “I got to the point where more people would ask me questions than I asked other people questions.” He would not delve into the classified specifics of his job — he despises Snowden for leaking classified information — but I knew a lot through his memos.
Although network analysis, the Lamb’s area of expertise, is interesting from a technical perspective, he was one step removed from the most challenging and menacing type of government hacking — executing finely tuned attacks that infiltrate individual computers. Nonetheless, he offered this characterization of his NSA work: “They were just ridiculously cool projects that I’ll never forget.” One of the quandaries of technology is that “cool” does not necessarily mean “ethical.” Surveillance tools that are regarded as breakthroughs can be used to spy on innocent people as well as terrorists. This is a key part of the debate on the NSA, the concern that its formidable powers are being used, or can be used, to undermine privacy, freedom, and democracy.
The Lamb’s memos on cool ways to hunt sysadmins triggered a strong reaction when I wrote about them in 2014 with my colleague Ryan Gallagher. The memos explained how the NSA tracks down the email and Facebook accounts of systems administrators who oversee computer networks. After plundering their accounts, the NSA can impersonate the admins to get into their computer networks and pilfer the data flowing through them. As the Lamb wrote, “sys admins generally are not my end target. My end target is the extremist/terrorist or government official that happens to be using the network … who better to target than the person that already has the ‘keys to the kingdom’?”
Another of his NSA memos, “Network Shaping 101,” used Yemen as a theoretical case study for secretly redirecting the entirety of a country’s internet traffic to NSA servers. The presentation, consisting of a PowerPoint slideshow, was offbeat at times, with a reference to throwing confetti in the air when a hack worked and jokey lines like, “The following section could also be renamed the ‘I’m pulling my hair out in the fetal position while screaming “Why didn’t it work?!”‘ section.” The Lamb also scribbled a hand-drawn diagram about network shaping that included a smiley face in the middle next to the phrase, “YEAH!!! MAKE DATA HAPPEN!” The diagram and slideshow were both classified as top secret.
His memos are boastful, even cackling. At the end of one of the sysadmin memos, the Lamb wrote, “Current mood: scheming,” and at the end of another, “Current mood: devious.” He also listed “juche-licious” as one of his moods, ironically referring to the official ideology of North Korea. Another memo he wrote, “Tracking Targets Through Proxies & Anonymizers,” impishly noted that the use of identity-obscuring tools like Tor “generally makes for sad analysts” in the intelligence community; this was followed by a sad face emoji. The tone of his classified writing was consistent with some of his social media posts — the Lamb’s attitude, in public as well as in private, was often outspoken and brash.
What if the shoe was on the other foot, however? When I wrote about the sysadmin memos in 2014, I wondered how their author would feel if someone used the same devious rationale to hack his computer and his life. Nearly two years later, I had the chance to find out.
“If I turn the tables on you,” I asked the Lamb, “and say, OK, you’re a target for all kinds of people for all kinds of reasons, how do you feel about being a target and that kind of justification being used to justify getting all of your credentials and the keys to your kingdom?’
The Lamb smiled. “There is no real safe, sacred ground on the internet,” he replied. “Whatever you do on the internet is an attack surface of some sort and is just something that you live with. Any time that I do something on the internet, yeah, that is on the back of my mind. Anyone from a script kiddie to some random hacker to some other foreign intelligence service, each with their different capabilities — what could they be doing to me?”
He seemed to be putting the blame for NSA attacks on the victims — if they were too dimwitted to protect themselves from hunters like him, it was their fault. “People don’t want to think about being targets on the internet, in spite of the fact that at this point in the game, everybody is,” he added. “Every country spies.”
He was dead serious, no smiles any longer. “As much as we’d like to say we will all beat our swords into plowshares and become a peaceful people, it’s not going to happen,” he continued. “Intelligence agencies around the world are being asked questions by their governments, and government officials don’t want to hear, ‘That’s hard to solve.’ They just say, ‘Can you solve this and can you get me the intel I’m asking for?’ Which is nation agnostic, whether that’s the NSA, the FSB, the PLA or whoever.”
The Lamb’s political ideology evoked the cold-blooded realpolitik of Henry Kissinger. There is the idyllic digital world we would like to live in, there is the dog-eat-dog digital world we actually live in — and the Lamb, as I understood it, was intensely focused on winning in the latter.
“You know, the situation is what it is,” he said. “There are protocols that were designed years ago before anybody had any care about security, because when they were developed, nobody was foreseeing that they would be taken advantage of. … A lot of people on the internet seem to approach the problem [with the attitude of] ‘I’m just going to walk naked outside of my house and hope that nobody looks at me.’ From a security perspective, is that a good way to go about thinking? No, horrible … There are good ways to be more secure on the internet. But do most people use Tor? No. Do most people use Signal? No. Do most people use insecure things that most people can hack? Yes. Is that a bash against the intelligence community that people use stuff that’s easily exploitable? That’s a hard argument for me to make.”
But it wasn’t a hard argument for me to make, so I tried. Back in the 1990s, in the early days of the web, the uses and hopes for the internet were thought to be joyous and non-commercial. The web would let us talk to one another and would decentralize power and revolutionize the world in good ways. Those were the years when the Lamb spent hours and hours in chatrooms with Satanists and atheists — just the sort of connect-us-to-each-other activity that made everyone so excited about the future. At the time, few people thought the internet would become, as Bruce Schneier describes it, a surveillance platform. So I asked whether the Lamb felt conflicted, as Snowden did, working for an organization that turned the web further and further away from its original potential as a global platform for speaking and thinking freely.
He responded by noting that he is, by nature, a defiant type and attracted to hard problems. That’s how, without a lot of formal instruction, he became an NSA hacker — he was curious about how computers worked and he wanted to figure them out. “Technically challenging things are just inherently interesting to me,” he said. “If you tell me, ‘This can’t be done,’ I’m going to try and find a way to do it.”
I mentioned that lots of people, including Snowden, are now working on the problem of how to make the internet more secure, yet he seemed to do the opposite at the NSA by trying to find ways to track and identify people who use Tor and other anonymizers. Would he consider working on the other side of things? He wouldn’t rule it out, he said, but dismally suggested the game was over as far as having a liberating and safe internet, because our laptops and smartphones will betray us no matter what we do with them.
“There’s the old adage that the only secure computer is one that is turned off, buried in a box ten feet underground, and never turned on,” he said. “From a user perspective, someone trying to find holes by day and then just live on the internet by night, there’s the expectation [that] if somebody wants to have access to your computer bad enough, they’re going to get it. Whether that’s an intelligence agency or a cybercrimes syndicate, whoever that is, it’s probably going to happen.”
he Lamb was comfortable with the side he joined in the surveillance wars, and this sets him apart from the most common stereotypes of the men and women who devote their lives to spying on others.
Spies who do nothing but eavesdrop, slipping into computers and conversations without a trace, have a reputation in popular culture of being troubled in ways that conventional spies are not. Think of Gene Hackman in The Conversation, or Ulrich Mühe in The Lives of Others — these surveillers are haunted, as it seems they should be. Conventional spies are seen as journeying into hostile lands and committing heroic or devious acts; they are men and women of action, not thought. But the people who watch, listen, or hack are not as distracted by danger or adrenaline. They mostly labor in tranquility, in temperature-controlled offices without windows, risking bodily harm no worse than carpal tunnel syndrome, and they have an abundance of time to think about the lurking that is their occupation and the people on whom they practice it.
I have a bias against the watchers, I suppose. I have been concerned about the bureaucracies of surveillance since the 1980s, when I was a student in the Soviet Union and felt like hunted prey. The telephone in the dreary lobby of my dormitory on the banks of the Neva River in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) was assumed to be bugged, and if the KGB’s devices weren’t working, the dezhurnaya who sat nearby was sure to be listening. This was my anti-surveillance Rosebud, I guess. When I visited Russian friends, I stayed silent as I walked in their ill-lit stairwells, so that the accent of my Russian would not give away the fact a foreigner was visiting them. The walls had ears. This was one of the great contrasts between the Soviet Union and America, where I could speak to my friends without worrying about the government listening.
The Soviet Union is long gone, but in 2016 we live under the specter of far more surveillance than anything the KGB could have dreamed of with its rudimentary bugs and fearful informers. Not just government surveillance — law enforcement can easily obtain our phone and internet records with a warrant from the nearly always compliant courts — but corporate surveillance, too. It’s not just Google and Facebook that might know more details about our lives and friends than the KGB could have imagined in its most feverish dreams of information dominance, but even Zipcar and Amazon.
There are precautions one can take, and I did that with the Lamb. When we had our video chat, I used a computer that had been wiped clean of everything except its operating system and essential applications. Afterward, it was wiped clean again. My concern was that the Lamb might use the session to obtain data from or about the computer I was using; there are a lot of things he might have tried, if he was in a scheming mood. At the end of our three hours together, I mentioned to him that I had taken these precautions—and he approved.
“That’s fair,” he said. “I’m glad you have that appreciation. … From a perspective of a journalist who has access to classified information, it would be remiss to think you’re not a target of foreign intelligence services.”
He was telling me the U.S. government should be the least of my worries. He was trying to help me.
Documents published with this article:
- Tracking Targets Through Proxies & Anonymizers
- Network Shaping 101
- Shaping Diagram
- I Hunt Sys Admins (first published in 2014)
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The post He Was a Hacker for the NSA and He Was Willing to Talk. I Was Willing to Listen. appeared first on The Intercept.
Seit Sommer 2015 führt der türkische Präsident Erdogan Krieg gegen die kurdische Bevölkerung. Beinahe täglich massakriert die türkische Armee ZivilistInnen und zerstört ganze Wohngebiete. Mit dieser Strategie möchte Erdogan seine Alleinherrschaft weiter ausbauen und eine Präsidialdiktatur errichten.
Am Samstag, den 25. Juni 2016, versammelten sich kurdische und linke Aktivistinnen zu einer gemeinsamen Kundgebung auf dem Rotebühlplatz in Stuttgart – organisiert durch die Initiative Kurdistan Solidarität Stuttgart. Thematisiert wurden der Krieg Erdogans gegen die kurdische Selbstverwaltung, die Repressionsschläge gegen kurdische und linke AktivistInnen und das Wiedererstarken türkischer Faschisten hier in Deutschland.
Die seit den Anschlägen vom 11. September 2001 international als terroristisch geächtete Organisation Abu Sayyaf steigt offiziell zur südostasiatischen Dependence des „Islamischen Staates“ auf -
Von RAINER WERNING, 28. Juni 2016 -IS-Kämpfer Mohd Rafi Udin aus dem malaysischen Bundesstaat Negri Sembilan ruft in einem Video zur Stärkung der neuen IS-Provinz im Süden der Philippinen auf. Anschließend wird er gemeinsam mit Gesinnungsgenossen drei syrische Soldaten exekutieren.
Nach Monaten gezielter Vorbereitung ist es offensichtlich dem „Islamischen Staat“ unter Führung des selbsternannten Kalifen Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi gelungen, sein Einflussgebiet auf
The chief executive of the largest private prison company in America reassured investors earlier this month that with either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton in the White House, his firm will be “just fine.” Damon Hininger, the chief executive of Corrections Corporation of America, was speaking at the REITWeek investor forum.
Private prisons have received a great deal of criticism this election cycle, first with Bernie Sanders campaigning to end for-profit incarceration, followed by Clinton taking up a similar pledge.
After The Intercept revealed that the Clinton campaign had received campaign donations from private prison lobbyists, a number of activist groups confronted Clinton, leading her to announce that she would no longer accept the money and later declaring that “we should end private prisons and private detention centers.”
But Corrections Corporation is apparently not concerned. Asked about prospects under Trump or Clinton, Hininger argued that his company has prospered through political turnover by taking advantage of the government’s quest for lower costs.
“I would say that being around 30 years and being in operation in many, many states, and also doing work with the federal government going back to the 1980s, where you had Clinton White House, you had a Bush White House, you had Obama White House, we’ve done very, very well,” Hininger said.
“If we continue to do a good job on the quality, and with that, we can demonstrate savings both on capital voids, but also cost savings in our services, then I think we’ll be just fine,” he said.
“I think about the next President, whoever that is, if it’s Hillary Clinton or if it’s Donald Trump, there’s be going to be so many things that he or she are going to have to deal with next year or next administration, both nationally and internationally, that I think having a view on our business, our industry is going to be really, really low on the priority list,” Hininger said.
Listen to his June 8 comments below:
Corrections Corporation was founded in 1983 by the former chair of the Tennessee Republican Party, who leveraged his political ties to win a number of government contracts to operate prison and immigrant detention facilities. The company has used its political influence to shape its rapid growth. Corrections Corporation used a third party advocacy group, the American Legislative Exchange Council, to lobby for “three strikes” and “truth-in-sentencing” laws that fueled the growth of prison populations, as well as for privatization laws that handed control of federal and state prison facilities to private operators. In recent years, the company’s lobbyists played a role in promoting state laws that encourage local police to arrest undocumented immigrants.
The firm, which brought in $1.7 billion in revenue for the last fiscal year, has succeeded financially through aggressive cost-cutting measures. But critics say Corrections Corporation has endangered both prison guards and inmates by under staffing and failing to train employees, leading to multiple incidents of rape and killings at CCA-run prisons.
Corrections Corporation is receiving renewed attention this week as Mother Jones publishes a 35,000-word investigation of a CCA-operated prison in Louisiana. Reporter Shane Bauer spent four months working as a prison guard at the facility, documenting systematic neglect of medical care and rampant violence. Robert Scott, an inmate in the prison, lost fingers and limbs to gangrene after the prison largely ignored his requests for serious treatment. Bauer, who worked at $9 an hour with little formal training, found that the company failed to report multiple stabbings to the state government, despite laws that require documentation of such incidents.
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DNC Platform Leaves Door Open for No-Fly Zone in Syria, Refuses to Call for End to Israeli Occupation
The Democratic National Committee’s Platform Drafting Committee quashed efforts by the Bernie Sanders campaign last week to insert language in the platform opposing a U.S.-led no-fly zone in Syria and calling for an end Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories.
The deliberations, which took place in St. Louis last week as part of a multi-step process to write the party’s nonbinding platform, represent a tilt to a more hawkish direction for Democrats under presumptive nominee Hillary Clinton. The final platform will not be written until the convention in Philadelphia next month – a process that could possibly open it to votes from a much wider pool of delegates on the floor.
Arab American Institute President Jim Zogby, a Sanders appointee to the platform committee, explained that he was introducing an amendment that would, in part, read: “To this end, the Democratic Party does not support direct U.S. military intervention against the Assad regime, including the imposition of no-fly zones or safe zones.”
This is also the current position of President Barack Obama, who while bombing ISIS units in Syria has rejected direct strikes against the Syrian government, saying that “we have learned over the last 10, 12, 13 years is that unless we can get the parties on the ground to agree to live together in some fashion, then no amount of U.S. military engagement will solve the problem.”
Zogby’s amendment faced opposition from a number of Clinton appointees to the committee. “I don’t think we should define such decisions for the future president,” said Wendy Sherman, a former senior State Department official. “I strongly urge that we oppose this amendment.”
Former California Democratic Congressman Howard Berman, another Clinton appointee, also joined in opposition. “I don’t think the platform looking at, and if it makes sense, pursuing that option,” he said of the no-fly zone.
In the face of this opposition, Zogby withdrew the amendment.
Sanders’s team also introduced an amendment to the draft platform’s text on Israel and Palestine. The amendment affirmed U.S. support for Israel and the two-state solution, but also asked for the deletion of language condemning the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions campaign and affirming an “undivided” Jerusalem.
The amendment also called for giving Palestinians “an end to occupation and illegal settlements so that they may live in independence, sovereignty, and dignity,” as well as rebuilding Gaza.
“We have an opportunity here to send a message to the world … that America hears the cries of both sides. That America wants to actually move people towards a real peace.” Zogby said, explaining that Sanders was personally involved in the writing of this amendment.
“It is an occupation, occupation is evil,” academic Cornel West, a Sanders appointee, retorted, insisting that the Sanders camp only wanted both sides to be treated equally.
The Sanders campaign, however, did not ask for references to Palestinian terrorism or delegitimizing Israel to be deleted.
Philanthropist Bonnie Schaefer, who was appointed to the committee by the DNC, protested the language. “As a Jew, as a gay Jew, a Zionist, Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East as we all know. The only place in the Middle East where I can walk down the street with my wife, hand in hand, and not be afraid,” she said.
Shortly before it was voted on, Zogby made one final plea.
“You can go and walk down the street of Tel Aviv holding the hand of your wife. I can’t get in the airport without seven hours of harassment because I’m of Arab descent,” Zogby said, addressing Schaefer’s comments. “The treatment of people of Arab descent just going there is discriminatory, the people who live there suffer horrific discrimination. We have to be able to call it what it is. It’s an occupation that humiliates people.”
The amendment was voted down five to eight. Only Sanders’s appointees voted for it.
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Im Westen der Ex-Sowjetrepublik Ukraine hat das jährliche US-geführte Militärmanöver „Rapid Trident“ („Schneller Dreizack“) begonnen. Bis zum 8. Juli üben rund 1800 Soldaten aus vierzehn Staaten einschließlich des Gastlandes mit schwerer Kriegstechnik, wie Präsidialamtssprecher Andrej Lyssenko am Montag in Kiew mitteilte. Mit insgesamt vierhundert Soldaten stellen die USA und Kanada den größten Teil ausländischer Truppenkontingente.
Für die Ukraine nehmen vor allem erfahrene Kämpfer aus dem Kriegsgebiet im Osten teil, teilte die prowestliche Führung in Kiew mit. Die Ostukraine wird von einem bewaffneten Konflikt zwischen Regierungseinheiten und rechtsradikalen Milizen auf der einen und prorussischen Aufständischen auf der anderen Seite erschüttert.
Im größten Flächenstaat
Nach Moskauer Angaben hat sich der türkische Präsident Recep Ayyip Erdoğan für den Abschuss eines russischen Kampfflugzeugs entschuldigt. Erdoğan habe an den russischen Präsidenten Wladimir Putin geschrieben, dass der Abschuss keine Absicht gewesen sei. Das sagte Kremlsprecher Dmitri Peskow am Montag in Moskau. In der Türkei kündigte die Regierung eine eigene Erklärung an. Die türkische Luftwaffe hatte im vergangenen November ein russisches Kampflugzeug Suchoi Su-24 abgeschossen, das aus Syrien angeblich kurz in den Luftraum der Türkei eingedrungen war. Ein Pilot kam ums Leben. Danach hatte Russland die Beziehungen zur Türkei weitgehend eingefroren. Präsident Erdoğan sowie der damalige türkische Außenminister
Mit dem Wahlsieg der Konservativen in Spanien brechen für die linken kommunalen „Regierungen des Wandels“ noch härtere Zeiten an –
VON CARMELA NEGRETE, 27. Juni 2016 –
Die Wahlen am Sonntag in Spanien haben gezeigt, dass das Schüren von Ängsten vor einer möglichen Regierungsbeteiligung von Podemos ihre Wirkung auf das Wahlvolk nicht verfehlt hat. Bürgerliche Medien beschworen venezolanische Verhältnisse im Fall eines Wahlsieges der Linkspartei herauf. Auch die aktuelle Debatte um den Brexit und eine generelle Angst vor Veränderung haben wohl viele Spanier – entgegen den anderslautenden Umfragen im Vorfeld der Wahlen – davon abgehalten, ihr Kreuz
Hillary Clinton gave a big speech in Raleigh on her plans for the economy on June 22. It was full of Bernie Sanders-like rhetoric about “outrageous behavior” by business and Wall Street.
But it also included a dog whistle that only huge multinational corporations would hear, telling them that she plans to deliver on one of their greatest dreams and slash their longterm taxes by hundreds of billions of dollars.
Here’s what Clinton said:
Let’s break through the dysfunction in Washington to make the biggest investment in new, good-paying jobs since World War II. … In my first 100 days as president, I will work with both parties to pass a comprehensive plan to create the next generation of good-paying jobs. Now, the heart of my plan will be the biggest investment in American infrastructure in decades, including establishing an infrastructure bank that will bring private sector dollars off the sidelines and put them to work here.
An infrastructure bank to rebuild America’s tattered infrastructure is a reasonable idea, and was also proposed by Barack Obama when he was running for president in 2008. Certainly America’s tattered roads, bridges and sewers desperately need an upgrade.
The question is where the money for it would come from. Republicans would never let it be paid for with borrowed money, and in 2011 they blocked a proposal by Obama to fund it with a surtax of 0.7 percent on incomes over $1 million.
But last year, behind the scenes, Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., quietly tried to lay the groundwork for a classic Washington, D.C., bipartisan solution — i.e., the kind of deal that both parties’ big donors adore and regular Americans would despise, if they ever heard about it.
Under U.S. law, multinational corporations based here theoretically must pay taxes on their profits earned anywhere around the world at a rate of 35 percent. However, they don’t have to pay U.S. taxes on overseas profits until they repatriate the money back to the U.S.
This creates incentives for U.S. multinationals to use financial engineering to appear to earn their profits in low-tax countries — for instance, Apple’s tiny Irish subsidiary is bizarrely profitable — and then leave the money overseas.
Congress granted corporations a tax holiday in 2004 that let them bring back their profits at a tax rate of about 5 percent, or one-seventh of what the normal tax law required. Clinton, then a senator from New York, voted for it, as did Schumer.
The incentives haven’t changed since then, so profits held overseas by U.S. multinationals have accumulated again and have now reached an incredible $2.4 trillion. That’s about 65 percent of the 2015 federal budget and 13 percent of the entire U.S. economy. If U.S. multinationals had to pay the statutory tax rate on that, they’d owe the government about $695 billion.
The prospective Ryan-Schumer deal doesn’t have many details. But it would change the law so that profits earned by U.S. multinationals overseas, including the $2.4 trillion overseas now, would be taxed whether or not they were brought back to the U.S. — while also radically reducing the tax rate on those overseas profits. This would essentially make the 2004 tax holiday permanent. That’s why Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., has called such plans “a giant wet kiss for the tax dodgers.”
In the short run, both Trump’s plan and the Ryan-Schumer framework would provide a burst of tax revenue from the money collected on the $2.4 trillion currently overseas. In the long run they would significantly reduce U.S. taxes on multinationals. They would also, if they instituted lower tax rates for overseas profits than for those earned in the U.S., provide an even greater incentive for big corporations to use accounting shenanigans to appear to “earn” profits in other countries.
But how do we know this is what Clinton was talking about?
According to her platform, she will pay for increased infrastructure spending via some unspecified “business tax reform.” Despite promises back in December that she “will have more to say on her vision” about business tax reform, she’s been curiously silent.
However, when she met with the New York Daily News editorial board in April, she explained that the source of the infrastructure money “may be repatriation.”
Then there’s her statement this week that her infrastructure bank would “will bring private sector dollars off the sidelines and put them to work here.” That phrase — bringing corporate money “off the sidelines” — is a favorite of both Democratic and Republican elites to describe slashing the tax rate on overseas profits. For instance, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., used it in a Wall Street Journal op-ed, as did economists writing for the New America Foundation, a liberal think tank.
That’s why Clinton can honestly predict that she will “break through the dysfunction in Washington” and “work with both parties.” Both parties want to deliver a massive tax cut to their huge corporate patrons.
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