Sunday, September 06, 2015

PNN - The Trump-ette Echoes

PNN 9/6/15

Brook Hines
Thorne Dreyer
Prof Wendy Lynn Lee
Katie Singer 

1. The administrative law judge just issued a final ruling that the amended Sewer Chapter in our comp plan IS IN COMPLIANCE with state law.
It's a big win for the river.
No more package plants!
No 10,000 gpd septic tanks"
Martin County will again have the best rules in the state for preventing new development on septic tanks from polluting our waterways.
Thanks to all of you who helped.
You might want to thank Commissioners Heard, SWcott and Fielding for their support in adopting AND defending the amendment.

2. The Government's Hypocrisy on Hacked Information
By John Kiriakou, Reader Supported News
01 September 15

ike many Americans, I’ve been amused over the past couple of weeks by news of the Ashley Madison hack. I frankly don’t care if I know anybody who had signed up on the adultery website, and I’ve not looked at any of the several websites that claim to allow people to be able to search the site’s members. It’s none of my business who is cheating on his or her spouse, it doesn’t affect me in any way, and I have more important things to worry about.
One thing does bother me, though. It actually bothers me very much. And that is the government’s hypocrisy when it comes to hacked information. Legally, hacked information is stolen property. I was working on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee staff when Chelsea Manning leaked thousands of classified cables to Wikileaks. Within days, Senate staffers received instructions that we were not to access Wikileaks from a Senate computer. The information had been stolen, our security officers said, so we were to leave it alone. Don’t search it, read it, or even look at it.
Indeed, when State Department whistleblower Peter van Buren wrote a post on his personal blog that included a link to a document on Wikileaks, the State Department sought to have him prosecuted. Van Buren was also stripped of his security clearance and banned from State Department headquarters. The State Department investigators’ case was simply that the Wikileaks information was stolen, and so Van Buren had committed a crime. (He was finally vindicated and allowed to retire.)
So why is the Ashley Madison information being treated differently? For example, Fox News reported that Defense Secretary Ashton Carter “confirmed the Pentagon was looking into the list of people who used military email addresses.” Carter went on to say that “the [uniformed] services are looking into it [Pentagon employees using Ashley Madison] as well they should be.” It seems to me that what the secretary is suggesting is that his investigators are in possession of stolen property and that they are using it freely. That’s a crime.
Similarly, investigators at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) are questioning employees who signed up for Ashley Madison using a DHS email. That was a stupid thing to do, certainly, but DHS investigators don’t have any legal right to even look at the hacked Ashley Madison data, let alone to use it in an investigation. Again, possession of stolen property is a crime.
A friend of mine is a security investigator in a major federal department. She told me last week that her department’s leadership has ordered her to interview every employee who signed up for Ashley Madison using a department email account. This has caused her several problems. First, she acknowledges the fact that she is now in possession of stolen property. If the FBI wanted to target her, they could. (And take it from my own first-hand experience – if the FBI wants to get you, they’re going to get you.)
Second, she has found that many of the email addresses were used by people other than their owners. For example, let’s say some sap wants to create an Ashley Madison account. He has no intention of actually cheating, but he wants to peruse the listings. He’s a voyeur. So he registers on the site. When the site asks for an email address, he types one in that he saw on a business card – yours – that he may have found on the ground, on the internet, on Facebook, wherever. You’ve never heard of Ashley Madison, but now your work email is associated with it. Still, the point is that the government doesn’t have the legal right to question you about this, when the information they’re using is stolen in the first place.
If the government is going to be consistent, it can do two things, in my view. It can either drop all of these witch-hunt investigations into federal employees with Ashley Madison accounts right now, or it can release from prison immediately a federal inmate named Barrett Brown.
Never heard of Barrett Brown? Brown is a federal prisoner doing more than five years on a whole bunch of trumped-up charges. The feds accused Brown of being associated with the hacker group Anonymous. That’s not a crime, so the FBI arrested him for allegedly threatening an FBI agent in a YouTube video. I watched that video. The “threat” was akin to the Vietnam War protestor who was arrested for threatening to vomit on President Johnson. It made me want to reach out to the aggrieved FBI agent and tell him to “grow up.”
Anyway, after Brown was locked up pending trial, for the safety of the public, of course, the Justice Department added another dozen felony charges stemming from an email Brown sent with a link to data that had been hacked from the Stratfor private intelligence analysis firm. He didn’t steal the data. He just emailed a link to it. Brown ended up taking a plea offer and is currently serving 63 months in prison.
That leads us back to the intrepid investigators in the Pentagon, the Department of Homeland Security, and elsewhere. They’re breaking the law. They should stop doing that. And if they’re not going to stop doing that, the courts should toss Barrett Brown’s sentence. Of course, consistency and fairness are not something our government is known for. I won’t hold my breath.
Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News.
John Kiriakou is an associate fellow with the Institute for Policy Studies. He is a former CIA counterterrorism officer and a former senior investigator with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

3. Court: We Can't Rule on NSA Bulk Data Collection Because We Don't Know Whose Data Was Collected
By Jenna McLaughlin, The Intercept
30 August 15

n Friday, an appeals court overturned a U.S. District Court decision last May that had declared that the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of Americans’ phone records was beyond the authorization of the law. The three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit kicked the matter back to the lower court for additional deliberation.
The decision did not declare the NSA’s program, which was revealed by whistleblower Edward Snowden in 2013, to have been legal or constitutional. Rather, it focused on a technicality: a majority opinion that the plaintiffs in the case could not actually prove that the metadata program swept up their own phone records. Therefore, the plaintiffs, the court declared, did not have standing to sue.
“Plaintiffs claim to suffer injury from government collection of records from their telecommunications provider relating to their calls. But plaintiffs are subscribers of Verizon Wireless, not of Verizon Business Network Services, Inc.—the sole provider that the government has acknowledged targeting for bulk collection,” wrote Judge Stephen F. Williams.
“Today’s ruling is merely a procedural decision,” said Alexander Abdo, the American Civil Liberties Union attorney who argued against the program at the U.S. District Court. “Only one appeals court has weighed in on the merits of the program, and it ruled the government’s collection of Americans’ call records was not only unlawful but ‘unprecedented and unwarranted.’”
Despite Friday’s decision, the bulk collection program will end later this year in accordance with the USA Freedom Act, passed by Congress in June.
The NSA previously argued that its massive collection of telephony metadata was legal because the records met the legal standard of being “relevant to an authorized investigation.”
In the May decision, Judge Gerald E. Lynch described the government’s interpretation of the word “relevant” as “extremely generous” and “unprecedented and unwarranted,” saying that the program had serious constitutional concerns and was ultimately illegal. However, the court did not order the program’s closure, because Congress was due to debate on the USA Freedom Act within a month’s time.
The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance court granted the NSA an extension through November to shutter the program, a provision which was included in the USA Freedom Act. After that the NSA will no longer be able to hoover up phone metadata without a warrant.
Therefore, the overturned ruling declaring the program illegal doesn’t have much practical effect.
But according to some civil liberties experts, it does say a lot about the power of the NSA to avoid scrutiny. Julian Sanchez, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, called the ruling “a potent illustration of how excessive secrecy and stringent standing requirements effectively immunize intelligence programs from meaningful, adversarial constitutional review.”
Dorsey & Witney lawyer Robert Cattanach, a former trial attorney for the Department of Justice, points out that it will be practically impossible to force the NSA to disclose whether or not it did sweep up the plaintiff’s data. “The Government is almost certain to deny any access to the specifics of a classified program through discovery, creating the likelihood of a standoff between the plaintiffs and the government, with the court left to rule based on conjecture about what really happened,” he wrote in a statement sent to The Intercept.
Circuit Court Judge Janice Rogers Brown summarized the problem facing the court: “Excessive secrecy limits needed criticism and debate. Effective secrecy ensures the perpetuation of our institutions.”
So the decision did not necessarily indicate the NSA won, as media outlets today were quick to proclaim. It simply challenged a specific assertion, that the plaintiffs’ own metadata was collected — a matter of fact that will likely never be known for sure.
4.  Fracking Literature Handouts
Penn State University is requiring all incoming freshmen to read the pro-fracking book, The Boom: How Fracking Ignited the American Energy Revolution and Changed the World , by Russell Gold for its Penn State Reads program. Some students will win cash prizes for the essays they submit on what they've learned. Gold will then spend a couple of days on campus in October, meeting with students and lecturing.

At a time when other universities are divesting of fossil fuels, Penn State is glorifying an extractive technology that is contributing to climate change and harming Pennsylvanians and our environment in the process. 

Will you join me in telling Penn State to scrap The Boom from its reading program and break its ties to the fossil fuel industry for good by signing and sharing my petition?

Hundreds of you have already signed and shared my petition. Thank you!  

I'm working with some Penn State alumni to draft a sign-on letter to accompany the petition. If you studied at Penn State and would like to sign the letter when it's finalized or participate in a call-in day or other action we may consider, please email me at

5. NationalTEPCO begins pumping up groundwater before dumping in ocean

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- The operator of the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant on Thursday began pumping up groundwater from wells around the reactor buildings as part of its plan to dump it into the ocean after treatment.
The plan is aimed at curbing the amount of toxic water buildup at the complex. Tokyo Electric Power Co. says radiation levels in the groundwater are much lower than in the highly toxic water being pooled inside the reactor buildings, adding it will discharge it only after confirming it does not contain radioactive materials exceeding the legally allowable limit.
Even so, fishermen in Fukushima Prefecture had long opposed the plan amid concerns over pollution of the ocean and marine products. They approved it last week on condition that the government and TEPCO continue paying compensation to them for as long as the nuclear crisis continues to cause damage to their business, among other requirements.
TEPCO now plans to dump some 4,000 tons of already-decontaminated groundwater, which was pumped up on a trial basis last year, in mid-September in the first such release.
The amount of radioactive water at the plant is increasing every day, as some 300 tons per day of groundwater is seeping into the reactor buildings and mixing with highly radioactive water generated in the process of cooling the reactors that suffered meltdowns in the 2011 nuclear disaster.
With the latest plan to cope with toxic water buildup, TEPCO and the government expects the amount of groundwater flowing into the reactor buildings to be halved.
TEPCO has been struggling to resolve the problem of toxic water buildup for more than four years, with radiation leakages into the environment still occurring frequently.
The company is also behind schedule on a project to build a huge underground ice wall, another key measure to prevent radioactive water from further increasing at the site.
Tens of thousands of people gathered outside the Japanese parliament building on Sunday, August 30 to reject plans put forth by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe that would see an aggressive expansion of the nation’s armed forces despite a long-standing constitutional mandate for a “defense only” military posture.

The enormous crowd, estimated by organizers as more than 120,000 people, is opposing a set of bills moving through the country’s legislature which would allow the country’s military to engage in overseas fighting and ratchet up spending on new weapons systems.

Despite loud public protest against the plan, Abe has continued to defend the plan. Demonstrators carried banners reading “Peace Not War” and “Abe, Quit!”

As the Asahi Shimbum reports:

In one of the largest postwar demonstrations in Japan, tens of thousands of protesters swarmed in front of the Diet building in Tokyo on Aug. 30 to oppose the Abe administration’s contentious security legislation. Following a wave of weekly protests near the Diet building in recent months, rally organizers had worked to mobilize 100,000 participants from across the nation.

Amid the gloomy and rainy weather, protesters held up placards and banners and chanted slogans against the legislation, which is being pushed through the Diet. A huge banner hanging from dozens of balloons read: “Abe, Quit!”

Opponents blasted the security bills on concerns that they would drag Japan into unwanted conflicts overseas.

Organized by a union of three different anti-war citizens’ groups, the Japan Times reports Sunday’s rally was arguably the most massive in a string of similar protests in recent months.

The Times spoke with several people in the massive crowd who rejected Abe’s arguments that Japan must return to a war footing more than half a century after the carnage that resulted from the Second World War:

Yamada, who at 5 years old witnessed the Great Tokyo Air Raid in 1945, said he was still haunted by the horrifying scene in which his neighbors in the Ryogoku area of northeast Tokyo jumped into the Sumida River in a desperate bid to escape the deadly blast and ensuing inferno.

“With the advance of technologies (over the past seven decades), war is likely to be more deadly than it used to be,” Yamada said. “In this age of nuclear weapons, you will never know how massive a death toll is going to be. The danger is far bigger than before. “We should never let it happen again,” he added.

A 38-year-old mother, who only gave her first name, Naoko, said she was worried about possible consequences of the bills that her children would have to face.

The bills, which she said ran counter to the pacifist policies Japan has adhered to over the past 70 years, could see her children embroiled in wars.

“Instead of enacting such pro-war bills, I want Japan to exert leadership roles in facilitating world peace as has done (since World War II),” she said.

Translator Hiromi Miyasaka, 49, said she resented the way the government was trying to steamroll the bills into enactment despite widespread public concerns.

“The way the government brushes aside public worries . . . it’s as though Japan is slipping back into its pre-World War II state,” she said.
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