Review (Guest): THE WATCHERS–The Rise of America’s Surveillance State

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FIVE STARS The People We Pay to Look Over Our Shoulders

By Shane Harris

At this very moment analysts at the National Security Agency some 30 miles north of the White House are monitoring countless flashpoints of data — cellphone calls to “hot” numbers, an e-mail message on a suspicious server, an oddly worded tweet — as they carom around the globe like pinballs in cyberspace.

The snippets of information could conceivably lead them to Anwar al-Awlaki, a fugitive cleric in Yemen whose fiery sermons have inspired violent jihadists. Or to the next would-be underwear bomber. Or, much more likely in the needle-in-a-haystack world of cyber detection, it might lead to nothing at all — at least nothing of any consequence in determining Al Qaeda’s next target.

This is the world of modern eavesdropping, or signals intelligence, as its adherents call it, and for many years it operated in the shadows. “The Puzzle Palace,” the 1983 best seller by James Bamford that remains the benchmark study of the N.S.A., first pulled back the curtain to provide a glint of unwanted sunlight on the place. And the years after the Sept. 11 attacks — a period in which the surveillance agencies’ muscular new role would lead to secret wiretapping programs inside the United States, expansive data-mining operations and more — gave rise to public scrutiny that made the place a veritable greenhouse of exposure.

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Feb 24

Journal: Cyber-Security or Cyber-Scam? Plus Short List of Links to Reviews and Books on Hacking 101

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Full Story Online

Full Story Online

COVER STORY: The Cyberwar Plan  It’s not just a defensive game; cyber-security includes attack plans too, and the U.S. has already used some of them successfully.

by Shane Harris Saturday, Nov. 14, 2009

Full Story Online

Full Story Online

14 tech firms form cybersecurity alliance for government Lockheed Martin, top suppliers launch initiative for government market

By Wyatt Kash  Nov 12, 2009

Phi Beta Iota: It is a scam, big time.  The U.S. does not have–outside of our small number of colleagues in Hackers on Planet Earth and the Silicon Valley Hackers/THINK Conference–the brainpower and cummulative skills to fill the Potemkin Center, much less staff a capability with global reach.

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Nov 15

Worth a Look: The Cato Institute on Intelligence

Categories: Worth A Look
CATO on Intelligence List

CATO on Intelligence List

We have not featured “think tanks” on this web site because all of them, with one exception, are ideologically biased and financially-beholden to one of the two parties that monopolize power and exclude both the majority of Americans from an honest electoral process, and the majority of objective experts from the policy and budget dailog.

The CATO Institute appears to be an exception.  Below are a few of their generally dated but still relevant pronouncements on the subject of intelligence as decision support.

Why Spy? The Uses and Misuses of Intelligence Stanley Kober (1996)

Building Leverage in the Long War, Jim Harris (2002)

Intelligence Failures Now and Then, Christopher Preble (2004)

Enemies of Intelligence (Book Review), Justin Logan (2007)

Real Intelligence Failures, Richard W. Rahn (2008)

The Need for Judicial Oversight of Domestic Intelligence Gathering, Timothy Lee (2008)

Mike German on ‘Intelligence’ Reports, Jim Harper (2009)

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Oct 14

Journal: Weaponizing Web 2.0

Washington Post Full Story

Washington Post Full Story

By Brian Krebs

July 29, 2009; 3:15 PM ET

The Washington Post

Imagine simply visiting a Web forum and finding that doing so forced your browser to post an embarrassing Twitter message to all of your contacts, or caused you to admit a stranger to your online social network. Now consider the same dynamic being used to move money out of your online auction account or delete the contents of your e-mail inbox.

. . . . . . .

The problem with the token-based security approach, as researchers prior to Hamiel and Moyer have noted, is that it works only if the attacker doesn’t have access to that random string of data as well.

To take the Alice and Bob on the forum example a step further, consider what happens when Alice views a forum posting by Bob that includes a link to an off-site image hosted at a site controlled by Bob. That image, when loaded by Alice’s browser, will automatically send Bob’s site a referrer URL that includes the full token that is unique to Alice’s browser session with that forum. Armed with the referring URL’s token, Bob can then respond to the image request from Alice’s browser with a request to silently take action on that forum in Alice’s name.

. . . . . . .

Moyer said one way to prevent this attack is commonly used on banking Web sites involves what’s known as a nonce, which is essentially a random, one-time-use-only number that is appended to a URL each time a visitor loads a page on that site. He noted that one reason most sites don’t adopt this approach is that it requires far more computational and Web server capacity, which can drive up costs — particularly for high-traffic sites.

DefCon White Paper

DefCon White Paper

+++++++Phi Beta Iota Editorial Comment+++++++

In 1990-1991 Winn Schwartau testified to Congress.  They ignored him the way they ignored Peak Oil testimony in 1974-1975.  In 1995 Robert Steele organized three top experts, Schwartau, Jim A from NSA, and Bill Caelii, and submitted a cross-walk of crystal clear recommendations adding up to $1 billion a year to Marty Harris, responsible for the security of the National Information Infrastructure (NII).  Today the US Government is about to waste $12 billion a year helping NSA further its own agenda while ignoring the root needs of the American people for trusted electromagnetic services.  The federal government is so busy attacking other people it is neglecting the people that created the federal government as a service of common concern.  The gap between those exercising public power and those who elected them and pay them has grown cataclysmic.  Public intelligence in the public interest is one way to help the Republic heal.

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Jul 30

Review DVD: Copying Beethoven

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DVD Copying Beethhoven

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Ed Harris Reigns, Diane Kruger Blooms

October 8, 2007

Ed Harris, Diane Kruger

This is such an extraordinary movie that I watched it twice and then ordered it from Amazon as a permanent part of my library.

Ed Harris moves into the very top ranks of male actors. He is nothing less than brilliant, an Oscar on steroids. Diane Kruger is utterly lovely and talented and surely a rising star of great importance and nuance.

The music is devastatingly perfect, there is so much life in this movie that I am inspired.

“The vibrations are God’s breath. Music is God’s message.”

Totally, utterly, wonderful in every respect.

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Oct 8

Review: Understanding Weatherfax

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WeatherfaxReally great book, part of the whole picture,

May 16, 2007

Mike Harris

I bought this book in preparation for an advanced mariner’s meteorology course, and could not have made this comment without having first gained that higher level of knowledge.

This is a suberb book. It provides superb information about the weather fax, including an excellent and easily portable manual for the various symbols. It has two areas for improvement:

1) It sticks to the two-dimensional depiction of weather that is common to the average person. Although there are a couple of illustrations showing altitude, the author could easily have put in a few pages on the rotation of the earth, the 500 mb level, and how weather on the surface cannot be understood without underestanding what is happening at the 18,000 level. As my instructor put it, the high-level troughs are the chicken that hatches the surface level (scrambled) egg.

2) It does not make the connection, at least that I could see, between the vital importance of making your own observations at 00 and 12 Zulu, so that when you finally receive the weather fax six or seven hours later, you can compare reality with what was provided. This also applies to forecasts–you can keep them, compare your own observations as the time passes, and get a sense of the difference.

Add the above, and read “Mariner’s Guide to the 500-Millibar Chart” by Joe Stenkiewicz and Lee Chesneau, and Google for <Lee Chesneau> to find his web site, and you’ll have all you need to move to the better three-dimensional interactive viewing of weather and weather charts.

I also recommend The Weather Wizard’s Cloud Book: A Unique Way to Predict the Weather Accurately and Easily by Reading the Clouds

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May 16

Review: Hannibal Rising

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Amazon Page

Amazon Page

More than Satisfies, Ignore the Nit-Pickers,

January 23, 2007
Thomas Harris
Having read “Silence of the Lambs” first, and then the other two books by this author, I was skeptical but interested when I saw this book at an airport. It is excellent. Having fully engaged me with his earlier books, I was absolutely delighted to have this book fully occupy my flight from Denver to Dulles. It is carefully crafted and completely credible.

Future readers will benefit from being able to read the Hannibal series from start to finish. I am quite eager to see the author craft a book in which Hannibal takes on Wall Street and selectively culls the herd of greedy lying cheats that manage the Enron clones so proud of “exploding the client” (see my review of Michael Lewis’ “Liar’s Poker” and also “Confessions of an Economic Hit Man,” as well as “Cheating Culture” and “The Manufacture of Evil.”

Although I normally do not read or review fiction, this author has joined John Le Carre (the George Smiley series) and is one of handful of “must read” authors of fiction that is to my personal taste as a former spy and infantry officer.

This author has found his niche. Hannibal must live and love and kill with elegance. Bring on the next one!!!

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Jan 23