The Eastmoreland Neighborhood Association in Portland, Oregon, just recently purchased a $1,500 DJI Phantom 2 Vision drone.
The association named the drone “Flying Monkey 1”.
The purpose of the drone is to monitor a nearby rail yard and a few local construction site, making sure the sites adhere to environmental standards that the group feel are a low priority for the city.
“We’ve had an interest in keeping a better eye on them,”
said the neighborhood association’s president, Robert McCullough.
For a while now, residents in this neighborhood have been in a battle with the Union Pacific Railroad, who they feel has been the overwhelming cause of local noise and air pollution.
Residents have already established an emissions monitoring station, but wanted to take it a step further by monitoring the actual operations of these projects first hand. McCullough added,
“How else do you actually see what’s going on inside these places?”
Now McCullough and other enthusiastic residents are excited, feeling that the situation may finally be closer to being under control and have hopes the pollution will stop.
The eye-in-the-sky treatment won’t stop with the rail yard and construction sites. McCullough has eyes set on monitoring a few local developing areas that also might be breaking environmental standards.
Below is a video detailing the DJI Phantom 2 Vision drone
The NSA is in the midst of a heated court battle, facing a lawsuit that challenges their use of mass surveillance tactics.
The lawsuit, Jewel v. NSA, was brought by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) on behalf of a number of ATT customers who had cell phone data collected by the NSA without their knowledge.
To strengthen their case, the EFF filed a number of requests with the court to prevent the NSA from destroying any data of the data they had collected in the event that it might be a valuable piece of evidence.
On three separate occasions, U.S. District Court Judge Jeffrey White has ordered the NSA to stop deleting data, but they continued to do so anyways.
In fact, it was only an accidental e-mail sent from the Department of Justice to the EFF that revealed that the NSA was still deleting potential evidence.
That was in early June. Now, the NSA has made another attempt to alter the official record of things.
After a recent hearing, the NSA contacted Judge White, telling him that they believed one of their lawyers had mistakenly divulged confidential information. Then, they actually asked the judge to delete any parts of the official court transcripts that they considered to be classified without alerting the public, the plaintiffs, or their lawyers.
Judge White dismissed the suggestion. Instead, he contacted the EFF to inform them of the NSA’s request. The EFF lawyers asked White to reject the request and to unseal all of the documents behind the NSA’s attempts to edit the official court transcripts.
White then allowed the NSA to review the transcript, adding however that he would,
“…hold [the NSA] to a very high standard and would not allow [them] to manufacture a misleading transcript by hiding the fact of any redactions.”
After reviewing the transcript, the NSA concluded that no confidential information had been divulged by their lawyer (or, more likely, that redacting anything at this point would be a PR nightmare).
Commenting on the whole event, representatives from the EFF said,
”The incident speaks volumes about the dangers of allowing the government free rein to claim secrecy in court proceedings and otherwise.”
The NSA’s image took a major hit when Edward Snowden revealed to the world the vast scope of their surveillance programs.
The scandal centered around the NSA’s collection of “metadata”, which includes things like when and where calls or texts are coming from, as well as other passive information like where in a computer network certain data is coming from.
Many people thought the public was overreacting. I heard more than a few people saying something along the lines of, “It’s not like they’re recording my actual conversations.”
Well, apparently they are.
William Binney was a career NSA employee. He was a leading code-breaker against the Soviet Union during the Cold War and was a high-level agent with the NSA when he left in disgust following the drastic increase in surveillance after 9/11.
Last Thursday (July 5), he spoke at a conference organized by the Center for Investigative Journalism in London. In his speech, he claimed that NSA surveillance is actually much more personal than just metadata collection:
“At least 80% of fibre-optic cables globally go via the US… This is no accident and allows the US to view all communication coming in. At least 80% of all audio calls, not just metadata, are recorded and stored in the US. The NSA lies about what it stores.”
Binney praised the courage and work of Edward Snowden, and expressed optimism about recent Supreme Court decisions that have made it illegal for officers to go through your smartphone without a warrant. But he didn’t mince his words when he said,
“The ultimate goal of the NSA is total population control.”
The most recent leaks from Snowden showed that the vast majority of the communications intercepted by the NSA are composed of Americans with no connection to extremism.
Of 160,000 individual intercepts given to the Washington Post by Snowden, nearly 90% were communications of bystanders who weren’t even NSA targets.
“The NSA is mass-collecting on everyone, and it’s said to be about terrorism but inside the US it has stopped zero attacks,”
Binney said at his appearance in London. He also pointed out that despite its vast surveillance capabilities and resources, the NSA was unable to foresee both the Russian intervention in Ukraine and he rise of ISIS in the middle east.
If you weren’t aware, the NSA is facing a bunch of lawsuits over their overzealous surveillance programs, which were revealed last summer by Edward Snowden.
One of these lawsuits, Jewel v. NSA, was actually filed before the revelations. The class-action lawsuit, filed on behalf of novelist Carolyn Jewel and a number of other ATT customers, challenges the constitutionality of the NSA programs which were collecting data on American’s telephone and internet activity.
As part of the lawsuit, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (who represents the plaintiffs) filed a number of motions to prevent the NSA from destroying data that the EFF planned to use as evidence.
This past Friday, during a hearing over the issue, NSA Deputy Director Richard Ledgett argued that holding on to the info would be too burdensome for the NSA, saying,
“A requirement to preserve all data acquired under section 702 presents significant operational problems, only one of which is that the NSA may have to shut down all systems and databases that contain Section 702 information.”
Ledgett continued by arguing that the complexity of the NSA’s surveillance programs meant that efforts by the NSA to preserve their own data might not even work. Not surprisingly, he also tried to get his way using scare tactics, saying that trying to preserve the data would cause,
“an immediate, specific, and harmful impact on the national security of the United States.”
The EFF was surprised by Ledgett’s argument, since the NSA had already been ordered to preserve the data back in 2009. On top of that, a second restraining order was filed in March to prevent destruction of data.
Either way, the EFF’s legal advisor, Cindy Cohn, isn’t buying Ledgett’s arguments. In a recent interview she had this to say about the concerns he raised:
“To me, it demonstrates that once the government has custody of this information even they can’t keep track of it anymore even for purposes of what they don’t want to destroy… With the huge amounts of data that they’re gathering it’s not surprising to me that it’s difficult to keep track– that’s why I think it’s so dangerous for them to be collecting all this data en masse.”
The EFF has said that there is “no doubt” that the NSA has already destroyed some of the information they requested for the lawsuit, but the actual amount data that has been destroyed thus far is unclear.
Read the full story from The Washington Post here.
When you think of drones, you probably think of covert military strikes or black ops surveillance. Some of you might even think of Amazon’s drone delivery system:
So it comes as a surprise to most people hearing that the Federal Aviation Administration approved the first commercial use of drones to none other than oil mega-giant British Petroleum, better known as BP.
The drone, designed by California-based drone manufacturer AeroVironment, made its first commercial flight in Alaska this past Sunday (6/8/2014).
The drone is a Puma-AE (All Environment) model, which is actually one of the most widely-used models in the U.S. military. It measures five feet long and has a 9-foot wingspan.
AeroVironment agreed to a five-year contract with BP. Though the drone will do some 3D-mapping and wildlife monitoring (as well as the occasional search-and-rescue mission), its main purpose will be to patrol hundreds of miles of oil pipelines in Alaska.
One of the main reasons that the FAA gave BP approval for the drone is that it will be flying predominantly over uninhabited wilderness; using drones in urban areas raises many more questions about safety and privacy.
Despite the fact that the National Transportation Safety Board actually ruled in March that the FAA had no jurisdiction to regulate small autonomous and remote-controlled aircraft, this approval suggests that the FAA intends to do just that.
Just last month, the House gutted the FREEDOM Act, which was put in place after the Snowden revelations to prevent mass cellular surveillance of American citizens in the future.
Internet and privacy activists alike have grown tired of the government’s empty promises about protecting internet privacy. So they decided to launch a campaign to take the issue out of Washington’s hands and put into the hands of the public.
The campaign, known as #ResetTheNet, was initiated by Fight for the Future, and encourages websites and individuals to start using encryption to protect their data. It kicks off today on the one year anniversary of the Edward Snowden revelations of NSA surveillance last year.
Hundreds of websites and other organizations are participating, including Reddit, Imgur, Mozilla, Greenpeace and Amnesty International. Google, who initially refrained from joining, has now endorsed the campaign, and added that they will be, “releasing email encryption tools and data, and supporting real surveillance reform.”
The goal is to not only educate people about encryption but to actually provide them with the online resources to begin encrypting their own information. The campaign’s splash page, which is displayed on many of the participating sites, includes lists of good encryption software and tips for both computers and mobile devices.
While encryption definitely makes your data significantly more secure, it is not completely impervious- the NSA has whole departments dedicated to cracking encrypted info.
However, organizers of the campaign believe that if encryption starts to become fairly common, the government simply will not have the resources to be trying to break through everyone’s encryption, forcing them to give up on mass internet surveillance.
Yesterday, Edward Snowden issued a statement with his support for the campaign. He ended it like this:
BONUS: The battle for net neutrality is also being waged right now. After approving a “fast-track” plan which would allow large corporations to pay for preferred real estate (ie. more visibility) on the internet, the FCC invited the public to comment for 120 days before they make their final decision.
Comedian and political satirist John Oliver used his new HBO series, Last Week Tonight, to explain what net neutrality is, why it’s so important, and how the major cable companies pushing to make it happen are screwing the consumer.
Oliver urged all of the internet trolls to take advantage of the FCC invitation to comment, saying,
“…for once in your lives, focus your indiscriminate rage in a useful direction.”
The massive comment volume following the airing of Oliver’s show crashed the FCC website for a while.
We’ve been experiencing technical difficulties with our comment system due to heavy traffic. We’re working to resolve these issues quickly.
In their article, The Intercept admitted that the documents named another country as also being monitored under this extremely invasive program, but chose not to release the identity of the country because they worried that the revelation would almost certainly cause deaths.
Despite their worries, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange vowed that his organization would reveal the identity of the mystery country. Yesterday, he delivered on his promise:
I must say I don’t think many people will be shocked to hear that the NSA has Afghanistan under heavy surveillance. Personally, I think the surveillance in the Bahamas is much more odd and unwarranted.
However, I do understand why The Intercept and Edward Snowden were worried about revealing Afghanistan. It’s highly likely that this revelation will be used to help fuel anti-American sentiment in the already unstable country. Whether or not that leads to violence remains to be seen.