Apathetic Americans, the CIA, and the Surveillance State

You may remember that earlier this March, Wikileaks released their latest cache of government documents, called Vault 7. There were many revelations that came out of the release, which I covered here.

One of the leaks from Vault 7 had to do with the CIA and the Amazon Echo, the popular voice activated home and personal assistant. Wikileaks discovered that the CIA is capable of independently taking over the microphone feature of the Echo to listen and record your conversations. Even more creepy is that the CIA has also developed a “fake off” setting to allow them to spy on you even while you think your device is off.

Many of the more skeptical among us were already wary of devices like the Amazon Echo. While technologically advanced and potentially very useful, Amazon’s Echo and similar devices, which utilize the Alexa voice assistant, amount to little more than a giant, active microphone in your house. What the Vault 7 release proved is that the CIA is both willing and capable to manipulate consumer technology to engage in mass warrantless spying.

Fast forward four months to July 11th. It’s Amazon Prime Day, an annual cyber-shopping day where Amazon lowers prices on thousands of items site wide.

Care to take a guess as to the bestselling items on Amazon Prime Day? According to The Street, the top three items sold were: the Amazon Echo, the Amazon Echo Dot (a smaller version of the Echo), and the Fire 7 Tablet (which has built-in Alexa capabilities). Over 12% of American households currently have an Echo device.

Not even four months after Wikileaks released classified documents proving that the CIA can access, listen, and record your private conversations through the Amazon Echo, the top three bestselling items on Amazon Prime Day were all equipped with Echo technology.

The collective apathy of the American public toward their 4th amendment right to be free from unreasonable, warrantless spying is disheartening, to say the least. We know that the government has been collecting massive amounts of cell phone data and now they are using devices like the Amazon Echo, Samsung TV’s, and others  to undermine individual privacy and erode the 4th Amendment.

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Chelsea Manning Released From Prison

U.S. Army private Chelsea Manning, who was sentenced to 35 years in prison for leaking classified military and government documents to Wikileaks in 2010, has been released after serving seven years at Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas. Her sentence was commuted by then President Obama in January.

Manning, who before the incarceration identified as Bradley Manning, announced during her prison sentence she was transgender and changed her name to Chelsea. She later complained about a lack of medical attention for her gender dysmorphia and twice attempted suicide behind bars.

Manning’s ordeal began in 2010 when she, as a junior intelligence analyst, began to see the immoral and unethical way in which the United States were prosecuting wars in the middle east, including multiple attacks on Iraqi civilians and the inhumane torture and lack of due process for detainees at Guantanamo Bay.

Per the LA Times:

“Manning was a 22-year-old junior intelligence analyst at a base outside Baghdad in early 2010 when she began to illegally copy U.S. military field reports from Iraq and Afghanistan, battlefield videos and diplomatic cables from classified computer accounts.

She later acknowledged leaking more than 700,000 documents and other materials to the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks.”

In a statement  read by her attorney after the conviction, Manning made clear the purpose of her leak:

“It was not until I was in Iraq and reading secret military reports on a daily basis that I started to question the morality of what we were doing.  It was at this time I realized in our efforts to meet this risk posed to us by the enemy, we have forgotten our humanity.  We consciously elected to devalue human life both in Iraq and Afghanistan.  When we engaged those that we perceived were the enemy, we sometimes killed innocent civilians.  Whenever we killed innocent civilians, instead of accepting responsibility for our conduct, we elected to hide behind the veil of national security and classified information in order to avoid any public accountability.”

The 35-year sentence is the largest that had ever been handed to a whistleblower in the U.S. Her seven years served is also the longest ever by anyone charged of similar crimes. None of this dissuades her critics, though, who believe Manning should be forced to serve out the remainder of her sentence due to the severity of her crimes. Many charge that she didn’t have the authority to release the documents and should instead have used normal military channels to air her concerns.

This criticism is so naive it borders on ridiculous. If the chain of command is complicit in the attacks and cover ups, as was made abundantly clear, how could a whistleblower possibly hope to effect change via normal channels?

After her release, Manning made this statement to ABC News, hopeful for the future:

“I appreciate the wonderful support that I have received from so many people across the world over these past years. As I rebuild my life, I remind myself not to relive the past. The past will always affect me and I will keep that in mind while remembering that how it played out is only my starting point, not my final destination.”

Hillary Clinton on Election Loss; Blames Russians, FBI, and Misogyny

Last year’s presidential election, which saw underdog Donald Trump defeat overwhelming favorite Hillary Clinton, was unique for multiple reasons. We saw the two most unpopular presidential candidates in history against each other, one being the first woman nominated by a major party. It was also only the fifth time the popular vote winner lost in the electoral college. Another factor adding to the unique nature of the race was the overwhelming underdog status of Trump. Virtually no pundits or prognosticators gave Trump even a puncher’s chance of winning. Huffington Post gave Hillary a 98.2% chance of winning the election. Renowned election statistician Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight, came under fire from other pollsters by giving Clinton only a 71.4% chance of winning, even to the point of being accused of “putting his thumb on the scales” in favor of Trump.

Then came election day.

In the aftermath of Trump’s shocking, albeit wide, electoral college win, many on the left were sent looking for answers as to how Clinton could have possibly lost. It is common for political parties to write a post-mortem in the aftermath of an election. These write ups, which often come from both sides, include statistical and demographical information, reasons for successes and failures, and an action plan moving forward. In other words, an election post mortem is a common ‘ex post facto’ organizational memo.

In the months following the election, we’ve heard a handful of reasons for Clinton’s loss, including: misogynistic voters, Russian spying and influence, Wikileaks revelations regarding the unflattering practices of the DNC, and FBI Director James Comey’s announcement about reopening the investigation into Clinton’s private email server, among others. The one place Democrats and the left seem to be placing no blame whatsoever is with Hillary Clinton herself. This is not universally true, as there have been some on the left willing to lay the blame at the feet of Clinton, but these are a clear minority.

Earlier today, while speaking at a Women for Women International event, Hillary Clinton made no bones about who, or what, was to blame for her stunning loss to Trump and, in case you were wondering, it isn’t her.

Per the Washington Post:

While Clinton said she takes “absolute personal responsibility” for losing to Trump, she did not assign any blame to her strategy or staff. Nor did she point to her own weaknesses as a candidate or the struggles by her and her team to understand the angry mood of key parts of the electorate.

Instead, Clinton said a range of external forces were responsible for her surprise defeat. She said she was a victim of misogyny and unfair treatment by the news media. And she said she was confident that she was on track to winning the election until two things reversed her momentum: the release of campaign chairman John Podesta’s emails, which were allegedly stolen by Russian hackers, and Comey’s Oct. 28 letter to Congress that he had reopened the bureau’s investigation into her use of a private email server.

More than three months of personal introspection by walking in the woods and Hillary Clinton still sees her election loss as no fault of her own. She may pay lip service to taking “absolute personal responsibility”, but in reality, she blames her election loss entirely on Russian boogeymen, Wikileaks, misogyny, and the FBI.

The problem is that Russian agent interference doesn’t explain why Clinton refused to step foot in the state of Wisconsin during the campaign. Also, blaming Wikileaks and the FBI for revealing that the DNC unfairly stacked the deck for Clinton against her popular primary challenger Bernie Sanders and the potential illegality of housing a private email server as Secretary of State, respectively, looks terrible. It’s like finding incriminating evidence of your spouse’s infidelity on their phone and being yelled at for looking at the phone in the first place. No apologies for the actual infidelity or wrongdoing, just manipulation and blame shifting. Perhaps that is a fitting election post-mortem for Hillary Clinton, after all.

Big Brother is Watching You

Wikileaks released their latest in a series of confidential documents leaked from sources within the CIA. This latest leak, Vault 7, is being called a “treasure trove” that contains several thousand documents outlining the terrifying variety of ways the American government, via the CIA, is spying on American citizens.

Here are some of the most important takeaways:

  • The CIA created malware that they can install on electronic devices to bypass the encryption settings on mobile devices. This allows them to control the microphone and camera settings, as well as access the data.
  • The CIA developed a program that is meant to mask their hacking tools and make their work mirror that of other countries. (Remember how the DNC hacks during the election “looked” like the Russians did it?)
  • The CIA is fully capable of taking over the mic and camera settings on Amazon Echo devices, as well as Samsung Smart TV’s. They’ve even developed a “fake off” setting that allows them to spy even when the device is “off”.
  • If controlling your TV and electronic devices isn’t scary enough, the CIA can also hack your car’s computer, allowing for all kinds of new assassinations that look like car crashes.
  • The CIA paid tech companies to leave small holes in the security of devices to allow for easy access, which also allows hackers of all kinds to access your devices, not just the CIA.
  • The kicker: all of these tools have been compromised and are potentially being used by foreign hacking organizations and governments.

The entire collection can be viewed here.

This leaked information proves what many of us have been saying all along. The CIA is a criminal organization within a much larger criminal organization: the US government. The laws put in place to protect the privacy of citizens are routinely ignored, abused, and broken as the State takes greater control of our lives.

Those of us that have been pointing this out for years and have been ridiculed as conspiracy theorists are finally receiving vindication through these leaks. The question remains: will enough Americans stand up to this Big Brother State and demand liberty?