Category Archives: Mass Surveillance

Future Of Work Includes Holograms, Smart Glasses, AI, And Robots

As Technocrats transform every segment and function of society, work will be transformed through 5G by tethering devices, AI, robotics and what’s left of actual human connections. If this isn’t the future you want, now is the time to decide how to survive it. — Technocracy News & Trends Editor Patrick Wood

By Danielle Abril via MSN

The future of how we work will, in a few years, include smart glasses that transport workers into augmented or virtual reality environments, communicating with your co-workers via a hologram from anywhere in the world or relying on robots powered by artificial intelligence to help run manufacturing operations.

That’s the direction technology is headed, says Cristiano Amon, president and CEO of wireless chip firm Qualcomm. Amon, who started at Qualcomm 27 years ago as an engineer, rose through the ranks to take the top job at the San Diego-based company on June 30. Since becoming CEO, he has been working to diversify Qualcomm’s business from focusing primarily on chips for mobile phones to those used in self-driving cars, A.I.-enabled manufacturing machines and more powerful and battery-efficient laptops. He says Qualcomm’s biggest challenge now is the semiconductor industry not having enough supply to meet demand and hiring talented workers.

“Everything is becoming intelligent,” Amon said in a recent interview with The Washington Post. “We’ve been focused on providing all of the chips that go into all of those smart devices, whether it is a robot in manufacturing, whether it is a drone for agriculture, whether it’s a point of sale when in retail.”

The majority of Qualcomm’s growth is still being driven by chips for mobile phones. In the first quarter, the company reported net income of $3.4 billion on revenue of $10.71 billion, 56 percent of which came from the mobile chip business. But Amon highlighted the growth of other chip sets for connected devices, which increased nearly the same percentage as mobile chips.

Given that Qualcomm chips power many of the devices we use, we sat down with Amon to discuss how he sees technology transforming the way we will work in the future. The following interview has been edited for clarity.

‘Flexible’ workplace

Q: You announced last year that Qualcomm would implement a ‘flexible’ workplace. What does that look like now?

A: We are going to get everyone back to the office in about a couple of weeks, but different geographies may have already started. Employees wanted to keep the best of work from home, but also at the same time maintain the key elements of our culture like collaboration. People can work from home around three days in a week. Two days in a week, people are going to go into the office and every organization is going to pick one day of those two that everybody’s going to get back together at the same time.

Q: What does the future of work look like over time?

A: We think the next-generation PC for work from anywhere is going to be different and connected with 5G. We’re making improvements for augmented reality and virtual reality, as we think about a metaverse, to connect people in the office to people who are not in the office.

Q: What is the biggest technological barrier right now to making hybrid work more efficient?

A: High-performance connectivity is a very big one, especially because what we learned is work from anywhere requires high-quality video. We as a society just finally embraced video telephony as the killer application. We also need high-performance connectivity so you cannot only access information but collaborate with others. Having long battery life so you can actually do that from the cloud will also be important.

Tech at work

Q: What can tech companies like Qualcomm do to make the hybrid work transition easier for workers?

A: We have the ability to build on what we learned during the pandemic. The importance of video collaboration, for example, why not make that a hologram? More important is how can we build technology that allows people to remain productive wherever they are, not only having access to devices and in the cloud but having the ability to do that at a very high speed.

Video calls can be a pain for hybrid offices. Tech companies say relief is coming.

Q: How will developments in 5G change the way workers in different industries do their jobs in the future?

A: The role of 5G is very broad. 5G is the easiest way to have all your data in the cloud so everybody can access it remotely and protect all that data. 5G is changing manufacturing as you connect 5G to robots. They are now driven via the cloud, the data goes to the cloud, and you apply artificial intelligence to improve the data. 5G is changing retail, building indoor navigation systems. At many retail stores you can make an order online and somebody will handpick your product. How they navigate the store and locate everything [through in-store navigation systems requires 5G connectivity].

Q: For office workers, how will 5G change the devices needed for the future of work?

A: It’s already changing. At Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, we announced together with Lenovo the very first ThinkPad laptop for the future of work. It is 5G-connected, and it is a laptop for the enterprise [workforce] with 28 hours of battery life. So that’s how we see the industry already adapting and building devices that are going to be needed for this work-from-anywhere environment.

Read full story here…

Biden Admin Compiling Database Of Religious Objectors To Vaccine Within Obscure Agency

An obscure agency within the Biden administration, the Pretrial Services Agency, announced an Orwellian tracking scheme on Tuesday that could serve as a model for the entire US government to collect the names and “personal religious information” of federal employees who make “religious accommodation requests for religious exception from the federally mandated vaccination requirement,” according to the Daily Signal.

“The primary purpose of the secured electronic file repository is to collect, maintain, use, and—to the extent appropriate and necessary—disseminate employee religious exception request information collected by the Agency in the context of the federally mandated COVID-19 vaccination requirement,” according to the Federal Register.

The announcement does not explain why the agency needs to create this list except to say that it will “assist the Agency in the collecting, storing, dissemination, and disposal of employee religious exemption request information collected and maintained by the Agency.” In other words, the list will help the agency make a list.

The announcement also does not say what the agency will do with this information after it has decided an employee’s religious accommodation request.

And neither does the announcement explain why the Biden administration chose to test this policy in an agency with a majority-black staff, who are both more religious and less vaccinated than other groups. So much for the president’s commitment to “racial equity.” -Daily Signal

The Signal suggests that the Biden administration is using the tiny agency as a test bed for deploying the database across the entire US government – noting that the announcement was relegated to an obscure group and given just 30 days for public comment.

Meanwhile, the US government has treated religious exemptions as a joke.

Take the Department of Defense, for example—which has failed to grant a single religious exemption on behalf of any service members requesting one for the federal vaccine mandate. A group of Navy SEALS was recently successful in its federal lawsuit against the Biden administration on claims that its conscience rights under the First Amendment and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act were violated.

From the outset of his administration, Biden voiced support for passage of the patently faith-hostile Equality Act—a bill that would gut the Religious Freedom Restoration Act entirely when it intersects with LGBTQ+ protections and entitlements in public accommodations.

The president also swiftly revoked the Mexico City policy that had been reinstated by former President Donald Trump, thereby ensuring that religious Americans would be forced to fund abortions overseas by way of their tax dollars, despite their religious objections to the act. -Daily Signal

German Anti-Cartel Agency Targets Google, Warns Amazon, Apple, and Facebook They Could Be Next

Jack Davis, The Western Journal
January 8th, 2022

The German government’s antitrust office has announced that Google meets its standard for regulation, a step toward possible action against the Big Tech giant.

“The Federal Cartel Office can now tackle concrete forms of behavior that harm competition,” office president Andreas Mundt said, according to Reuters. “We have already started looking more intensively at Google’s processing of personal data and the topic of Google News Showcase.”

The decision means that over the next five years, Germany can investigate Alphabet Inc., Google’s parent company.

The website TechCrunch called the action “as significant as it is unexpected.”

Germany’s FCO said in a release that “Google is of paramount significance for competition across markets.”

“The company has an economic position of power which gives rise to a scope of action across markets that is insufficiently controlled by competition,” the agency said.

Mundt said Google is not alone.

“We are vigorously conducting other proceedings against Amazon, Apple and Meta, formerly Facebook,” he said.

A Google spokesperson said the company has done nothing wrong.

“We are confident that we comply with the rules and, to the extent that changes are necessary, we will continue to work constructively with the FCO to find solutions that enable people and businesses in Germany to continue to use our products,” the spokesperson said.

The FCO began probing Google’s use of personal information in May, followed in June by looking at the selection of news offered in its Google News Showcase.

Germany’s move comes as French officials fined Facebook and Google more than 200 million euros, about $226 million, saying the companies made it too difficult to avoid being tracked online, according to The Hill.

The two tech giants “offer a button allowing the user to immediately accept cookies,” but they do not provide an option to “easily refuse the deposit of these cookies,” a data privacy watchdog announced in fining Google 150 million euros and Facebook 60 million euros.

“Several clicks are required to refuse all cookies, against a single one to accept them,” the group said.

“The restricted committee considered that this process affects the freedom of consent: since, on the Internet, the user expects to be able to quickly consult a website, the fact that they cannot refuse the cookies as easily as they can accept them influences their choice in favor of consent,” it added.

In Europe, websites must ask users before tracking them, according to The Associated Press.

Facebook, Google, and Snapchat Are Bypassing Apple’s APP Tracking Transparency and Still Collecting Data on Users

Downloading “free” apps onto devices more often than not allows app providers to collect personal data on users.  Of course, companies that manufacture and sell devices tend to collect personal data on users too (see 12345).  Having access to this data allows companies and providers to analyze users’ habits and preferences so they can market additional products and services to them.  They can also sell users’ data to 3rd parties.  This practice is sometimes referred to as “Surveillance Capitalism.” 

 As more customers are becoming aware of this, more want to be able to “opt-out” of privacy-invasive data collection.  Companies aren’t necessarily making this easy though.  Recently Verizon was exposed for automatically enrolling its customers into a new program that scans users’ browser histories.  Facebook, Google, and Snapchat are now also being exposed for continuing to collect data on without users’ knowledge or consent.

From Apple Insider:


Snap, Facebook using loopholes to bypass App Tracking Transparency

AppleInsider is supported by its audience and may earn commission as an Amazon Associate and affiliate partner on qualifying purchases. These affiliate partnerships do not influence our editorial content.

A new report is bringing to light additional details on how platforms like Facebook and Snap are working around Apple’s App Tracking Transparency feature to collect data.

Following a recent report that Snap and Facebook were skirting App Tracking Transparency (ATT) using a loophole in the feature’s guidelines, The Information on Friday detailed the quiet workarounds that the social media platforms were using.

More specifically, the companies are using a loophole in ATT guidelines to continue collecting aggregated user data. This is because the guidelines bar tracking users and linking “user or device data” between different apps I services, but they don’t specifically define “linking.”

As a result, even though nearly 80% of iOS have opted out of cross-platform tracking, app developers are taking advantage of the “wiggle room” to share data that could be leveraged to identify users later. Snap, for example, is using a workaround that it has dubbed “Advanced Conversions” to receive detailed data from advertising companies about the activities of individual iOS users.

The Information claims that the data allows Snap to gauge ad efficiency, even if a user has asked an app not to send that data to Snap. Although this data — which includes whether a user saw an ad and what they did on an app afterward — is encrypted, Snap can reportedly analyze the results and deliver ad efficiency information to advertisers.

Despite the fact that this is technically tracking users, Snap doesn’t believe that it’s violating App Tracking Transparency.

According to The Information, both Facebook and Google are using similar methods to glean data on iOS users. Facebook didn’t respond to a request for comment from the outlet, while Google said it uses iOS user data in a way that it believes is compliant with Apple’s guidelines.

Apple has previously warned developers and advertisers from attempting to bypass ATT, stating that companies must comply with the feature’s guidelines or risk expulsion from the App Store.

In a statement, Apple said that its ATT feature has “received strong support from privacy advocates and regulators.” It added that “a user’s data belongs to them and they should get to decide whether to share their data and with whom.”


SOURCES:

https://appleinsider.com/articles/21/12/10/snap-facebook-using-loopholes-to-bypass-app-tracking-transparency

Facebook, Google, and Snapchat Are Bypassing Apple’s APP Tracking Transparency and Still Collecting Data on Users

Verizon Is Automatically Enrolling Customers into a New Program That Scans Users’ Browser Histories

By B.N. Frank
December 11th, 2021

Tech and telecom companies tend to sell products that are privacy-invasive (see 1, 2, 3, 4, 5).  Collecting personal data on customers can be very lucrative.  It allows companies to analyze the data and market additional products and services to customers.  They can also sell the data to 3rd parties.  This business practice is sometimes referred to as “Surveillance Capitalism.” As more customers are becoming aware of this, there is a growing demand to be able to “opt-out” of privacy-invasive programs.  However, Verizon isn’t going to make it so easy for theirs.

From Ars Technica:


Verizon overrides users’ opt-out preferences in push to collect browsing history

Verizon renamed scanning program and enrolled customers who previously opted out.

Verizon is automatically enrolling customers in a new version of a program that scans mobile users’ browser histories—even when those same users previously opted out of the program when it had a different name.

The carrier announced changes to its “Verizon Selects” program along with a new name a few days ago. “Verizon Custom Experience Plus is the new name of our Verizon Selects program,” Verizon said in an FAQ. Verizon is ignoring the previous opt-out preferences for at least some customers by enrolling them in “Custom Experience,” which collects browser and app-usage history but doesn’t use device location data and other personal information collected in “Custom Experience Plus.”

Verizon says it does not sell the information collected in either version of Custom Experience and that the program “no longer supports third party advertising.” But Verizon does share the data with “service providers who work for us” and says it uses the data to “personalize our communications with you, give you more relevant product and service recommendations, and develop plans, services, and offers that are more appealing to you. For example, if we think you like music, we could present you with a Verizon offer that includes music content or provide you with a choice related to a concert in our Verizon Up reward program.”

How to opt out (again)

Privacy-conscious users will likely want to opt out using the instructions provided by Verizon or in this article. To opt out, go to your Verizon account privacy preferences page. Scroll down a bit and you’ll see options to “Manage Settings” for both Custom Experience and Custom Experience Plus. You can also try this link to go directly to the Custom Experience settings, or you can select “Manage privacy settings” in the “My Verizon” mobile app.

In either the website or the mobile app, the options to manage settings will let you opt in to or out of the two versions of the Custom Experience program. You can also delete any browsing and location data history that Verizon previously collected by clicking “Reset.” Additionally, account owners can use the Verizon website to block Custom Experience enrollment for specific phone lines.

Verizon customers have good reason to be wary of the carrier’s privacy practices. The Federal Communications Commission last year found that “Verizon apparently disclosed its customers’ location information, without their consent, to a third party who was not authorized to receive it.” The commission proposed a fine of $48 million. In 2016, Verizon agreed to pay a $1.35 million fine for inserting “supercookie” identifiers into customers’ mobile Internet traffic without users’ knowledge or consent.

In 2017, then-President Donald Trump and the Republican-controlled Congress blocked implementation of FCC privacy rules that would have required home-Internet and mobile broadband providers to get consumers’ opt-in consent before using, sharing, or selling browser history, app usage history, and other private information.

Opted out? “You will still be included”

Verizon has been sending emails to customers notifying them about the program changes. There are different versions of the email, one of which states that Verizon is ignoring previous opt-out preferences in cases where people “recently opted out.” That email, which was forwarded to Ars by a Verizon customer named Jordan Hirsch, says:

As a Verizon Selects participant, you will automatically be included in the Custom Experience Plus and Custom Experience programs.

If you recently opted out of participating in Verizon Selects, you will still be included in the Custom Experience program unless you opt-out.

Hirsch also tweeted a screenshot of the email he received from Verizon. The Verizon email Hirsch received did not state a specific time frame for the “recently opted out” phrase. We contacted Verizon today and asked for that detail and asked why Verizon is enrolling people who previously opted out of the same program before the program’s name was changed. We’ll update this article if we get any answers.

The Verizon FAQ does not include the “recently opted out” language and instead makes it sound like all customers may be enrolled in Custom Experience (the non-Plus version) regardless of previous opt-out status:

You will be part of the Custom Experience program unless you opt-out. You can opt-out using the privacy preferences page on the My Verizon site or the privacy setting page within the My Verizon app.

You must opt-in to the Custom Experience Plus program to be a part of it unless you are already participating in Verizon Selects. Verizon Selects participants will automatically be included in the renamed program.

I am also a Verizon customer and got a notification email from the company today. Although I am 99.9 percent sure I opted out of Verizon Selects years ago, the email I received said, “You’re in control: You will be part of Custom Experience unless you opt-out.”

Browsing, location data, and call records

What information does the newly renamed program collect? Both versions of Custom Experience use “information about the websites you visit and the apps you use on your mobile device to help us determine your interests, such as ‘sports lover’ or ‘outdoor enthusiast,’” the Verizon FAQ says. “We use only the first part of the web addresses (URLs) you visit (the part that includes the top level domain and subdomain of the URL); we do not use information past the first ‘/’ or ‘?’ in the URL. For example, we would be able to infer you are interested in ‘news’ if you visit a news-related website, but we wouldn’t know what news article you read.”

Custom Experience Plus uses all of the above plus “Device location information we obtain from the Verizon network and from Verizon apps you have permitted to collect location for these purposes; Information about your Verizon FiOS services; and Customer Proprietary Network Information (CPNI), including information about the phone numbers you call or that call you and the times you receive these calls. It also includes information about the quantity, type, destination, location, and amount of use of your Verizon telecommunications and interconnected Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services and related billing information.”

Although general call data is collected, “The programs do not use what you or others say during calls or the content of your emails or texts with other people,” Verizon says. “Custom Experience Plus does use call detail records including the phone numbers you call and those that call you, and the times and durations of the calls.”

Verizon says it tries to avoid collecting sensitive browsing and location information:

We make efforts to eliminate the use of websites that may be sensitive in nature; for example, we employ filters that are designed to exclude websites related to adult content, health conditions, sexual orientation, and others. We also make efforts to eliminate the use of location information about sensitive points of interest in these same areas.

The “make efforts” phrasing suggests that these filters will fail to prevent collection of sensitive data in some cases. Verizon also says that if you opt-in to Custom Experience Plus, you will automatically be included in Verizon’s Business and Marketing Insights program.

Verizon says it shares data collected in Custom Experience with service providers:

We do not share information that identifies you outside of Verizon as part of these programs other than with service providers who work for us. These service providers are required to use the information only for the purposes Verizon defines and not for their own or others’ marketing or advertising purposes. They are also required to protect the information. We do not sell information we use in these programs to others for them to use for their own advertising.

Verizon said it “keep[s] information about the websites you visit for no more than 6 months. We keep location and CPNI information we use for these programs for approximately one year. We regularly refresh the interest categories we develop as part of the Custom Experience programs (e.g., ‘coffee lover’ or ‘sports enthusiast’) and keep them as long as you are participating in the programs or until you reset your line.”

Chrome Users Beware: Manifest V3 is Deceitful and Threatening

Daly Barnett
December 10th, 2021

EDITORS NOTE: If you are still using chrome, don’t.

Manifest V3, Google Chrome’s soon-to-be definitive basket of changes to the world of web browser extensions, has been framed by its authors as “a step in the direction of privacy, security, and performance.” But we think these changes are a raw deal for users.  We’ve said that since Manifest V3 was announced, and continue to say so as its implementation is now imminent. Like FLoC and Privacy Sandbox before it, Manifest V3 is another example of the inherent conflict of interest that comes from Google controlling both the dominant web browser and one of the largest internet advertising networks.

Manifest V3, or Mv3 for short, is outright harmful to privacy efforts. It will restrict the capabilities of web extensions—especially those that are designed to monitor, modify, and compute alongside the conversation your browser has with the websites you visit. Under the new specifications, extensions like these– like some privacy-protective tracker blockers– will have greatly reduced capabilities. Google’s efforts to limit that access is concerning, especially considering that Google has trackers installed on 75% of the top one million websites.

It’s also doubtful Mv3 will do much for security. Firefox maintains the largest extension market that’s not based on Chrome, and the company has said it will adopt Mv3 in the interest of cross-browser compatibility. Yet, at the 2020 AdBlocker Dev Summit, Firefox’s Add-On Operations Manager said about the extensions security review process: “For malicious add-ons, we feel that for Firefox it has been at a manageable level….since the add-ons are mostly interested in grabbing bad data, they can still do that with the current webRequest API that is not blocking.” In plain English, this means that when a malicious extension sneaks through the security review process, it is usually interested in simply observing the conversation between your browser and whatever websites you visit. The malicious activity happens elsewhere after the data has already been read. A more thorough review process could improve security, but Chrome hasn’t said they’ll do that. Instead, their solution is to restrict capabilities for all extensions.

As for Chrome’s other justification for Mv3– performance– a 2020 study by researchers at Princeton and the University of Chicago revealed that privacy extensions, the very ones that will be hindered by Mv3, actually improve browser performance.

The development specifications of web browser extensions may seem in the weeds, but the broader implications should matter to all internet citizens: it’s another step towards Google defining how we get to live online. Considering that Google has been the world’s largest advertising company for years now, these new limitations are paternalistic and downright creepy.

But don’t just take our words for it. Here are some thoughts from technologists, privacy advocates, and extension developers who share our concern over Manifest V3:

“A web browser is supposed to act on behalf of the user and respect the user’s interests. Unfortunately, Chrome now has a track record as a Google agent, not a user agent. It is the only major web browser that lacks meaningful privacy protections by default, shoves users toward linking activity with a Google Account, and implements invasive new advertising capabilities. Google’s latest changes will break Chrome privacy extensions, despite academic research demonstrating that no change is necessary. These user-hostile decisions are all directly attributable to Google’s surveillance business model and enabled by its dominance of the desktop browser market.”

  • Jonathan Mayer, Princeton University

“Manifest V3 positions Chrome as the all-powerful arbiter of what software lives and what dies, shattering the ideal of a diverse array of extensions serving the legitimate preferences and values of equally diverse users. In 2017, when Google banned AdNauseam from the Chrome store, it summarily cut off tens of thousands of users from data they had accumulated, and deprived them of a free and open-source extension to counter online profiling and manipulation. In hindsight, AdNauseam was the canary in the coal mine, as Mv3 is now poised to cut off users from a range of invaluable privacy tools (including ad blockers) that thousands if not millions rely on. A browser that plays favorites to advance its owners’ interests effectively chokes out innovative, independent developers, while shrinking the options for individuals to shape their online experiences.”

  • Helen Nissenbaum and Daniel Howe (creators of AdNauseam and TrackMeNot)

“Manifest V3 is a detrimental step back for internet privacy.”

“Nearly all browser extensions as you know them today will be affected in some way: the more lucky ones will ‘only’ experience problems, some will get crippled, and some will literally cease to exist.”

  • Andrey Meshkov, AdGuard company blog

Mainstream US Reporters Silent about Being Spied on by Apparent CIA Contractor That Targeted Assange

MAX BLUMENTHAL
SEPTEMBER 18, 2020

Despite being spied on and having their privacy invaded by the UC Global firm that targeted Assange, reporters from major US news outlets have said nothing in protest. Meanwhile, new evidence of that firm’s CIA links has emerged.

A Spanish security firm apparently contracted by US intelligence to carry out a campaign of black operations against Julian Assange and his associates spied on several US reporters including Ellen Nakashima, the top national security reporter of the Washington Post, and Lowell Bergman, a New York Times and PBS veteran.

To date, Nakashima and her employers at the Washington Post have said nothing about the flagrant assault on their constitutional rights by UC Global, the security company in charge of Ecuadorian embassy in London, which seemingly operated under the watch of the CIA’s then-director, Mike Pompeo. PBS, the New York Times, and other mainstream US outlets have also remained silent about the US government intrusion into reporters’ personal devices and private records.

The Grayzone has learned that several correspondents from a major US newspaper rebuffed appeals by Wikileaks to report on the illegal spying campaign by UC Global, privately justifying the contractor’s actions on national security grounds.

UC Global spied on numerous journalists with the aim of sending their information to US intelligence through an FTP server placed at the company headquarters and through hand-delivered hard drives.

Nearly all of those reporters have so far ignored or refused invitations to join a criminal complaint to be filed in Spanish court by Stefania Maurizi, an Italian journalist whose devices were invaded and compromised during a visit to Assange.

Proof of UC Global’s illegal spying campaign and the firm’s relationship with the CIA emerged following the September 2019 arrest of the company’s CEO, David Morales. Spanish police had enacted a secret operation called “Operation Tabanco” under a criminal case managed by the same National Court that orchestrated the arrest of former Chilean military dictator Augusto Pinochet years before.

Morales was charged in October 2019 by the Spanish court with violating the privacy of Assange and abusing his attorney-client privileges, as well as money laundering and bribery. A mercenary former Spanish special forces officer, Morales also stood accused of illegal weapons possession after two guns with the serial numbers filed off were found during a search of his property.

The documents and testimony revealed in court have exposed shocking details of UC Global’s campaign against Assange, his lawyers, friends, and reporters. Evidence of crimes ranging from spying to robberies to kidnapping and even a proposed plot to eliminate Assange by poisoning has emerged from the ongoing trial.

In an investigation for The Grayzone this May, this reporter detailed how the Las Vegas Sands corporation of Trump mega-donor Sheldon Adelson functioned as an apparent liaison between UC Global and Pompeo’s CIA, presumably contracting the former on behalf of the latter. It was the second time Adelson’s company had been identified as a CIA asset. (The first was in 2010, when a private intelligence report sponsored by gambling competitors alleged that his casino in Macau was sending footage of Chinese officials gambling so they could be blackmailed into serving as CIA informants).

The story placed the Trump organization at the center of a global campaign of surveillance and sabotage that ruthlessly targeted journalists, including Assange and virtually every reporter he came into contact with since 2017.

For the past four years, the Washington press corps has howled about Trump’s angry browbeating of the White House press pool, treating his resentful outbursts as a grave threat to press freedom. At the same time, it has reacted with a collective shrug to revelations that a firm that was, by all indications, contracted by the Trump administration’s CIA to destroy Assange had spied on prominent American national security reporters.

More revealingly, some of the reporters who had their personal information and notes stolen by UC Global, the apparent CIA contractor, have not said a word about it.

Maurizi, the Italian reporter who is filing a lawsuit against UC Global and serving as a witness in the current case before the Spanish judge, told this reporter she was stunned by the mainstream US media’s passive attitude. “Imagine if Putin had done anything like this. Just imagine what a scandal this would be,” she remarked to the Grayzone. “It would be a giant scandal all around the world. But instead, [US media] is saying nothing.”

Randy Credico, a comedian, social justice activist, and longtime advocate for Assange’s freedom, also attempted to generate media interest in the spying scandal when he learned that UC Global had snooped on him in the embassy. “I went to everybody, I went to MSNBC, to the Wall Street Journal, CNN, to journalists I knew, and I couldn’t get anyone interested,” Credico complained to The Grayzone.

“The agency of the stars and stripes wants to see us”

In his first public address as CIA director, Mike Pompeo branded Assange’s Wikileaks as “a non-state hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors like Russia” and  outlined a “long term” campaign of counter-measures against the crusading media organization. At the time, Assange was trapped in the Ecuadorian embassy in London and hosting regular visits there from his legal team, friends, and an array of reporters.

Throughout 2017, UC Global’s Morales traveled frequently from Spain to the US to orchestrate the campaign against Assange. At several points, he issued spying directives from inside the Venetian hotel belonging to Adelson’s Sands. He boasted to his employees that he was working for “the dark side,” and referred to the forces that had contracted his services as his “American friends.”

“Sometimes, when I insistently asked him who his ‘American friends’ were, on some occasions David Morales answered that they were ‘the US intelligence,’” a former UC Global business partner testified before the Spanish court.

During a January 2017 visit to Adelson’s Las Vegas-based Venetian hotel, Morales and an employee exchanged several texts on Telegram about an important trial run for UC Global’s new client. “I want you to be alert because according to what they tell me they may be controlling us so that everything that is confidential so make it encrypted,” Morales said.

“Everything is related to the London issue…” he continued, making reference to the Ecuadorian embassy that housed Assange. “Those who control [it] are the friends of the USA.”

In May 2017, Telegram messages by Morales show him making further references to his apparent work for the US government: “I am on a subject in which I foresee that they are going to start monitoring us…” he remarked to an employee. “How are we protected for that?” After his worker outlined UC Global’s systems, Morales replied that he did not expect any problems “for those who want to see us.”

“We can do that if the agency of the stars and stripes wants to see us,” the UC Global CEO continued.

“I imagined I was going to go there,” the employee replied.

That July, Morales was in Miami, on a mission to provide “the agency of the stars and stripes” with a budget for the hidden microphones UC Global planned to place inside the CCTV system at the Ecuadorian embassy in London.

In his Telegram chats, Morales responded with Trump badges to several messages from a UC Global employee – a seeming reference to the US administration that had contracted his services.As this reporter revealed in May, Morales not only oversaw the secret installation of microphones in the embassy’s CCTV system and hidden microphones under a fire extinguisher in its conference room, he attempted to establish a feed to a separate, exterior storage server managed from the US, doing his best to keep the operation hidden from Ecuador’s intelligence services. He referred to the entity on the receiving end of the CCTV footage and audio as “the American client.”

In a December 2017 email sent from Adelson’s Venetian hotel, Morales ordered his employees at the embassy to inform him if any visitors “carry mobile phones, pen drives, computers, or any electronic equipment,” and to “make sure the protocol is maintained and they leave their electronics at the entrance.”

By this point, UC Global’s spying dragnet had ensnared practicaly everyone who entered the embassy to visit Assange. Among the most prominent victims was then-US Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, who was allegedly dispatched by Trump in August 2017 to offer a presidential pardon in exchange for Assange providing concrete evidence the Russian government did not hack the DNC’s email server. Assange, who has never revealed a source, refused the offer.

Pamela Anderson, the Canadian-American actress and close friend of Assange, had her email hacked into by UC Global when a guard took advantage of a moment when she left the room to photograph a Gmail password she had written on a notepad. UC Global not only spied on Assange’s legal team, violating attorney-client privilege, it hounded Stella Morris, a member of the Wikileaks legal team who became Assange’s romantic partner, hatching a failed plot to steal her infant son’s diapers from a trash bin in a bid to obtain his DNA and prove his genetic link to Assange.

In December 2017, UC Global learned that Assange and his legal team were formulating a plan for him to exit the embassy under the protections granted to diplomats under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations. Morales ordered his employees to act aggressively to sabotage it, demanding copies of all video recordings, presumably for delivery to US intelligence.

Ellen Nakashima, a national security reporter for the Washington Post, visited the Ecuadorian embassy to interview Assange on December 15. According to notes by a UC Global guard named Jose Antonio Torre, Nakashima arrived with Souad Mekhennet, a colleague at the Post who was not allowed inside because she did not have her passport. The two reporters were working on a profile of Andy Müller-Maguhn, a German cyber expert and one of Assange’s closest confidants, who escorted them to London. (UC Global employees photographed the contents of Müller-Maguhn’s backpack and the secret number inside his encrypted phone.)

When Nakashima entered the meeting with Assange, Torre held her voice recorder and cellphone. He recounted in notes to Morales how he removed the battery from the phone, then photographed her device.

Those notes contained a remarkable admission: as Nakashima left the embassy, Torre said, “I tried to keep her tape recorder but the woman remembered it at the exit.”

Notes by UC Global employee “Jose Antonio” detailing Ellen Nakashima’s visit and his attempt to steal the Washington Post reporter’s voice recorder

In her January 17, 2018 report on her visit to the embassy, Nakashima made reference to a warning by Assange about spy cameras and his use of a white noise machine to foil hidden surveillance devices like the hidden microphone that was later revealed under the fire extinguisher in the room. The Washington Post reporter made no mention, however, of the UC Global guard’s attempt to pocket her voice recorder.

Nakashima did not respond to a request for comment sent to her publicly listed Washington Post email by The Grayzone.

She was not the only reporter illegally snooped on by UC Global spies posing as embassy guards. Lowell Bergman, the award-winning investigative reporter and New York Times and PBS veteran, had his phone opened and SIM card removed without his permission by a UC Global employee when he met with Assange on October 6, 2017.

Journalist Lowell Bergman’s phone (above) was opened and photographed by a UC Global employee without his permission.

The Grayzone obtained footage and audio of Bergman’s meeting with Assange that was captured by UC Global’s spy cameras and likely delivered to the CIA.

Left: A UC Global spy pats Lowell Bergman down at the entrance to Ecuador’s embassy in London. Right: Footage secretly recorded by UC Global of Bergman’s meeting with Assange.

Intercept senior correspondent Glenn Greenwald and his husband, David Miranda, were secretly videotaped by UC Global spies, during a September 16, 2017 meeting with Assange.

While Greenwald was in the conference room with Assange, a UC Global employee opened his passport and photographed a visa showing he had visited Russia, a flagrant violation of his privacy carried out under orders from Morales. (The Grayzone has viewed a UC Global photograph taken of Greenwald’s visa that was sent to company headquarters).

UC Global footage of Greenwald and Miranda’s meeting with Assange, who is seen in the upper right-hand corner activating a white noise machine.

Over two years later, when Greenwald learned of the violation of his constitutional rights, he protested on Twitter, “This is the US Government/CIA spying on its own citizens, including our phones, with no warrants.”

Unlike Greenwald, Bergman has said nothing in public about being spied on by an alleged CIA contractor. However, he has agreed to serve as a witness in the trial of UC Global’s Morales, according to a member of Wikileaks’ legal team. He did not respond to an emailed request for comment.

US reporters justify CIA spying on Assange

Throughout 2019 and during the first several months of this year, Wikileaks and its allies worked phone lines and raced across timezones to generate media interest in the CIA spying scandal they had uncovered through the Spanish prosecution of UC Global’s Morales.

Correspondents from a major US newspaper were presented with detailed evidence of UC Global spying on Assange and his associates, and documentation of the firm’s relationship with the CIA and Sheldon Adelson, a Wikileaks source told The Grayzone.

Not only were the reporters initially uninterested in the spying scandal, the Wikileaks source said one correspondent justified the CIA’s surveillance on national security grounds. “He said, well, that’s what an intelligence service is supposed to,” the source recalled, describing the experience as “crazy.”

In December 2019, the New York Times covered the CIA operation against Assange in a single article by Raphael Minder. Framing the case in terms of “conflicting interpretations,” Minder claimed “it remains unclear whether it was the Americans who were behind bugging the embassy.”

Omitted in Minder’s article were all the obvious signs of UC Global’s collaboration with US intelligence, from Morales’ comment that “the agency of the stars and stripes will see us” to witness testimony that explicitly stated the company had been contracted by the CIA.

“The New York Times was basically saying there was no evidence that US intelligence was involved,” Maurizi commented to The Grayzone. “What do they want? A text message from the CIA saying, ‘we did it?’”

One reporter’s lonely fight for justice

Maurizi was among the reporters who produced the most critical coverage of the political persecution of Assange and Wikileaks over the years. While reporting for Italy’s La RepuBblica, Maurizi visited Assange frequently at the Ecuadorian embassy. When she met him there in December 2017, UC Global guards invaded her personal devices after seizing them at the entrance of the diplomatic facility.

“They took my two telephones, one which was encrypted; my iPod, and many USB sticks,” Maurizi told The Grayzone this May. “There was no way to get my backpack back. The guard told me, ‘Don’t worry, everything will be fine, no one will access your materials or open your backpack.’ I was very suspicious. I wasn’t even allowed to bring a pen inside to take notes.”

The reporter learned later that UC Global employees photographed the unique International Mobile Equipment Identity number and the SIM card number inside the her phone. This seemed to be what they needed to hack into the device.

Maurizi later found that calls, emails, and texts from her editors, then at the Italian daily La Repubblica, were failing to go through. “No one could explain this disruption,” Maurizi said. “I wonder if it had anything to do with these espionage activities. To this day I cannot say.”Stefania Maurizi UC Global

UC Global photo of journalist Stefania Maurizi’s mobile phone

Maurizi plans to file a criminal complaint against UC Global in Spain’s National Court this October on behalf of journalists victimized by the security firm. So far, she has been unable to find any reporters willing to sign on to her complaint.

She said she asked the Washington Post’s Nakashima to join, but never received a reply. Bergman, for his part, told her he was not interested in participating.

“I couldn’t get anybody interested” in the CIA spying on US journalists

Like Maurizi, Randy Credico was spied on by UC Global during a visit to Assange at the Ecuadorian embassy. When he learned his meeting had been secretly videotaped, he embarked on a frenetic campaign to generate media coverage of the violation of his constitutional rights by the CIA.

Credico is a comedian, award-winning criminal justice reformer, and advocate for Assange’s freedom who emerged as a player in the Russiagate saga when Robert Mueller’s investigative team called him as a witness.

After being falsely accused of serving as a “backchannel” between Wikileaks and former Trump advisor Roger Stone, Credico made numerous high-profile appearances on MSNBC and CNN, and rubbed shoulders with Beltway media honchos as a guest at the White House Press Correspondents Dinner.

Credico told The Grayzone he attempted to convince his contacts in mainstream media to cover the UC Global-CIA spying scandal. But in every instance, he was met with a cold shoulder.

“I went to everybody,” he recalled. “I went to MSNBC, to the Wall Street Journal, CNN, to journalists I knew, and I couldn’t get anyone interested. I mean, all these reporters hate Trump, and here you had Pompeo and Sheldon Adelson, the guy who finances Trump, breaking the law. You would think this would be a big deal to these lean forward progressives. And they haven’t said shit. It’s appalling that they haven’t come forward and said something about this.”

To be sure, CNN Español published a lengthy December 2019 report on the UC Global spying ring. But it relied heavily on the perspective of the firm’s disgraced former CEO, Morales. “No, I am not a double agent and it is absurd [to say] that I traveled to the US to personally hand over information to the CIA,” Morales claimed to CNN.

The article was co-authored by Arturo Torres, a right-wing Ecuadorian journalist who was hostile to both Assange and his country’s leftist former president, Raphael Correa. His work has been sponsored by Transparency International, a supposed anti-corruption NGO funded by the US State Department and British government.

Months earlier, in June 2019, CNN’s Torres used material illegally gathered by UC Global to publish a malicious attack on Assange asserting that “there was ‘no doubt that there is evidence’ that Assange had ties to Russian intelligence agencies.”

The article provided no such evidence, however, while falsely claiming that UC Global’s surveillance reports were “compiled for the Ecuadorian government” – not the CIA.

In reality, UC Global’s Morales was desperate to elude Ecuador’s SENAIN intelligence agency, instructing his employees in an email from Adelson’s Venetian hotel, “Nobody can know about my trips, mainly my trips to the USA, because SENAIN is onto us.”

Washington Post owners “look forward to a successful relationship with the CIA”

The hysteria triggered by Trump’s victory in 2016 goes a long way toward explaining US mainstream media’s hostility towards Assange. Immediately after conceding defeat, Hillary Clinton blamed “Russian Wikileaks,” deepening the hostility among partisan Democrats toward a dissident journalist then-Vice President Joseph Biden had already branded as a “high-tech terrorist.” Mainstream US media followed in lockstep.

On April 11, 2019, the day Assange was arrested by British police in the Ecuadorian embassy, the New York Times editorial board celebrated with two cheers: “The [Trump] administration has begun well by charging Mr. Assange with an indisputable crime.”

The Washington Post editorial board was more enthused by the publisher’s arrest, proclaiming, “Mr. Assange’s case could conclude as a victory for the rule of law, not the defeat for civil liberties of which his defenders mistakenly warn.” The Post even demanded Assange’s extradition to the US, hoping that he could be coerced into becoming a “cooperating witness” and potentially provide information about “Russian intelligence’s efforts to undermine democracy in the West.”

While the loathing of Assange in Trump-era Washington helps explain mainstream media’s shunning of the jailed journalist, the increasingly cozy relationship papers like the New York Times and Washington Post enjoy with the US intelligence apparatus offers a more substantial basis for understanding the media’s silence on the UC Global scandal.

Throughout the Trump-Russia investigation and the various intrigues that comprised Russiagate, the legacy publications of US media fed audiences with an endless stream of stories based on “high confidence” assessments and often dubious narratives furnished by anonymous US intelligence agents. In the Trump era, the corporate news media became a de facto bulletin board for the intelligence apparatus. The New York Times even admitted it sent a June 2019 story on US cyber-attacks against Russia’s electric grid to the government for approval before publishing.

The Washington Post, where Nakashima covers national security issues, is owned by the big tech corporation, Amazon. In 2014, Amazon signed a $600 million contract with the CIA to host its cloud server. “We look forward to a successful relationship with the CIA,” Amazon declared in an official statement. Four years later, Amazon was awarded a $10 billion contract from the Pentagon to oversee its Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure program.

Notably, when Nakashima sought a meeting inside the Ecuadorian embassy in 2017, her request form listed her company not as the Washington Post, but as Amazon.

While Assange’s lawyers fought his extradition in a London courtroom this September 15, Nakashima was live-tweeting coverage of ThreatCon 2020, a conference of top US intelligence officials and private spies gathered on a private island off the coast of Georgia. Her colleague, Washington Post assistant editor David Ignatius, and New York Times national security correspondent David Sanger, participated directly in the exclusive spook-fest. Among the sponsors of the conference was InQTel, the CIA-sponsored research and development firm.

This September, the US Department of Justice issued a letter to the Spanish judge overseeing the UC Global trial that obstructed any possibility of cooperation. Like much of the US media, the government in Washington wants nothing to do with the devastating evidence tumbling out of a courtroom in Madrid.

JUDGE RULES SPYING PROGRAM REVEALED BY SNOWDEN WAS ILLEGAL, USELESS AGAINST TERRORISTS

John Vibes, September 3rd 2020

This week, a federal appeals court ruled that the NSA’s controversial spying program was illegal – the same program Edward Snowden released details about to journalists in 2013. The landmark ruling even added that the spying program may have been unconstitutional.

The court’s ruling was written by Judge Marsha Berzon, who decided that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, didn’t allow for the bulk collection of phone users’ call records, as the US government claimed at the time.

“The metadata collection exceeded the scope of Congress’s authorization,” she wrote in her ruling.

The main problem is that FISA did not allow for bulk collection, only targeted collection of known suspects. The law “required the government to make a showing of relevance to a particular authorized investigation before collecting the records,” according to Berzon.

Judge Berzon went on to say that there is no evidence that the spying program actually did anything to prevent a single case of terrorism, and that US officials misled the public about the program’s effectiveness.

“To the extent the public statements of government officials created a contrary impression, that impression is inconsistent with the contents of the classified record,” she wrote.

The NSA claims that they have since canceled the spying programs in question, but many privacy advocates suspect that they are still engaged in very similar activities, if not more invasive spying now that the technology has advanced.

On Wednesday, Edward Snowden posted about the ruling, saying that, “I never imagined that I would live to see our courts condemn the NSA’s activities as unlawful and in the same ruling credit me for exposing them. And yet that day has arrived.”

ACLU senior staff attorney Patrick Toomey called Wednesday’s ruling a victory for privacy rights.

“The decision also recognizes that when the government seeks to prosecute a person, it must give notice of the secret surveillance it used to gather its evidence. This protection is a vital one given the proliferation of novel spying tools the government uses today,” Toomey said, according to CNet.

It is not clear what implications this could have for Snowden’s criminal charges or his possible return to the US, but this certainly can’t hurt his case.

Snowden is still facing criminal charges under the Espionage Act. He is currently living in exile in Russia, where he got stuck and remained while attempting to evade US authorities after the now-infamous leak.

Last year, Snowden published an eye-opening memoir about his time in the intelligence community and his decision to tell the world about the massive surveillance state that had been created by the United States government. The book, called “Permanent Record,” quickly rose to the top of the charts as soon as it was released, but as expected, the United States government was not very happy that it was being published.

On the day that the book was released, the US government filed a lawsuit against Snowden, claiming that he violated non-disclosure agreements that he signed with both the CIA and NSA when he was employed with the agencies.

The information contained in the book must not be too sensitive at this point, because the lawsuit is not seeking to block publication of the book, but is looking to intercept all of the money that is made from the sales.

Police Are Buying Your Data From Private Companies To Avoid Getting A Warrant

John Vibes,
August 19th, 2020

It is now pretty much common knowledge that everything we do online and on our smartphones is being tracked and cataloged by various government agencies and international corporations, but there are a lot of people who take comfort in the fact that their information is being stored with trusted entities, and that authorities would not be able to spy on them personally without a warrant.

However, warrants for surveillance are not very difficult to obtain, and in some cases, law enforcement agencies have been caught purchasing social media information from data companies to avoid going through the courts.

A company called Babel Street has millions of dollars worth of contracts with US law enforcement agencies for their surveillance product called “Locate X” which allows police to draw a digital fence around an address or area, pinpoint mobile devices that were within that area, and see where else those devices have traveled, going back months, according to Protocol.

Babel is not the only company providing data to law enforcement either, it appears that different agencies and local police departments are purchasing large troves of data that they would not be able to obtain legally otherwise, and using it for their investigations. According to the Wall Street Journal, border and immigration agents have been purchasing data from a company called Venntel Inc.

Police are not allowed to use most of the information that they obtain through these companies in court, but it is often used as a shortcut when narrowing down suspects.

The companies are currently being investigated by US Senator Ron Wyden, who has promised to introduce legislation to prevent law enforcement from buying data that they would otherwise need a warrant to obtain.

In a statement to MotherBoard, Wyden said, “It is clear that multiple federal agencies have turned to purchasing Americans’ data to buy their way around Americans’ Fourth Amendment Rights. I’m drafting legislation to close this loophole, and ensure the Fourth Amendment isn’t for sale.”