NSA Installing Spyware on Laptops

Is this real life or a generic Hollywood thriller about
secretive, all-powerful governments? A new report based on leaked
NSA documents details how the agency intercepts laptops
purchased online, re-routes them to secret warehouses, and installs
spyware.

The report comes from Der Spiegel, one
of Germany’s largest news weeklies. According to the
paper
:

If a target person, agency or company orders a new computer or
related accessories, for example, TAO [a division of the NSA
responsible for hacking] can divert the shipping delivery to its
own secret workshops. The NSA calls this method interdiction. At
these so-called “load stations,” agents carefully open the package
in order to load malware onto the electronics, or even install
hardware components that can provide backdoor access for the
intelligence agencies. All subsequent steps can then be conducted
from the comfort of a remote computer.

The division tasked with installing spyware – Tailored Access
Operations (TAO) – allegedly works in conjunction with the CIA and
FBI to locate and ultimately spy on targets.

It is still unclear exactly who the agency is spying
on: the NSA documents
don’t provide information
on the scope of the program or who is
subject to being targeted.  In an interview with Der
Spiegel,
NSA officials issued a statement claiming that TAO’s
“work is centered on computer network exploitation in support of
foreign intelligence collection.” However, given the NSA’s history
of dishonesty regarding its domestic surveillance, it could be
premature to assume that the agency is only installing spyware on
foreign targets’ devices.

One document revealed that these operations rank among the
agency’s “most productive.”

These revelations come in light of a security expert’s
presentation to German computer scientists on how easily the NSA

could hack into iPhones
and turn it into a spying device. He
called it “wrist-slittingly depressing.”

NSA officials did not respond to specific questions about the
agency’s practices or mission.

Earlier this week, the
ACLU sued for details
on the NSA’s surveillance activities and
what protections it affords to Americans. 

from Hit & Run http://reason.com/blog/2013/12/31/nsa-installing-spyware-on-laptops
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Judge Upholds New York Gun Controls, Except for Crazy Rule on Gun Rounds

What are you complaining about? You can still have muskets, right?A federal judge ruled today
that the
hastily-written-and-passed gun control laws
pushed through in
New York as a response to the Sandy Hook Elementary School
shootings are, for the most part, legal. Happy New Year, Second
Amendment supporters in the Empire State!
From the Associated Press
:

A federal judge on Tuesday upheld most of New York’s new gun
control law, rejecting arguments that its bans on large-capacity
magazines and the sale of some semi-automatic rifles violate Second
Amendment rights.

Judge William Skretny in Buffalo concluded those provisions are
constitutional because they’re related to achieving an “important
governmental interest” in public safety. Those two features make
guns more lethal, he wrote, citing testimony submitted in
the case.

The law “applies only to a subset of firearms with
characteristics New York state has determined to be particularly
dangerous and unnecessary for self-defense,” Skretny wrote. “It
does not totally disarm New York’s citizens, and it does not
meaningfully jeopardize their right to self-defense.”

Skretny upheld the ban on magazines that hold more than 10
bullets, but he struck down a restriction on gun owners loading
more than seven bullets in legal 10-round magazines. He said that
appears to be “an arbitrary number.”

Those who have followed the passage of this law, like Reason’s
Jacob Sullum, know that that this “arbitrary number” exists because
Gov. Mario Cuomo tried to establish a
maximum magazine limit of seven bullets
, without realizing that
seven-bullet magazines are nearly non-existent. So instead he
created this silly rule that gun-owners can only put seven bullets
in their 10-round magazines.

Follow this story and more at Reason
24/7
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from Hit & Run http://reason.com/blog/2013/12/31/judge-upholds-new-york-gun-controls-exce
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Walgreens Offers Free Drugs to Ease Pain of Obamacare, Drone Strike Deaths Calculated, The War on Flutes: P.M. Links

  • Does Obamacare cover self-medicating? Not even during the holidays?Drugstore Walgreens has
    announced that it will provide
    one month’s prescription
    of drugs, free, to customers who have
    signed up for Obamacare but have been screwed over by the system
    and still don’t have an identification number. They should be sure
    to include a good mood stabilizer.
  • By putting together numbers from different studies and
    estimates, the Council on Foreign Relations believes more than
    3,500 people have been
    killed by U.S. drone strikes
    , more than 450 of which were
    civilians.
  • The ACLU has filed another suit in connection with the National
    Security Agency’s snooping, this one to
    get information about the executive order
    that governs
    surveillance abroad that occasionally sweeps up information about
    American citizens.
  • In addition to its serious data breach issues, Target has
    apparently
    failed to properly activate thousands of holiday gift cards
    . At
    this point their public relations folks are probably calling the
    White House for advice.
  • A flute player had all of his bamboo instruments, 11 of them,

    destroyed by customs officials
    at JFK airport in New York City.
    He says customs told him they were all “agricultural products.”
    (Hat tip to Popehat)
  • We must expand the war on drugs!
    Even the dolphins are getting high
    ! (Hat tip: everybody on the
    entire Internet)

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from Hit & Run http://reason.com/blog/2013/12/31/walgreens-offers-free-drugs-to-ease-pain
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Bill de Blasio Has to Pay NYC a $9 Registration Fee to Become Mayor, But What About the Unrequired Inaugurations?

don't call him warrenNew York City’s mayor has to pay a $9
registration fee when filing his oath of office form, a
bureaucratic procedure the city’s other elected officials also have
to complete, a fact highlighted by the Wall Street
Journal
, which also notes that in 2001 the fee was only 15
cents, the amount it had been for a century.  The
Journal
reports
:

From a legal standpoint, the signing of the form, the
payment of the $9 fee and the signature in the official register
are the only requirements for Mr. [Bill] de Blasio to assume the
powers of the mayor at 12 a.m. Wednesday.

For ceremonial purposes, Mr. de Blasio plans to recite the oath of
office at two different points on Wednesday. The first is scheduled
to take place at Mr. de Blasio’s home in Park Slope at 12:01 a.m.,
with Attorney General Eric Schneiderman officiating. That event is
considered private for family and other special invitees, but will
be streamed live on the web at nyc.gov.

A private event streamed live for the world to see is an apt
encapsulation of the way de Blasio has been able to capitalize
politically on his private life. When de Blasio’s adult daughter
announced last week she had a substance abuse problem, in a video
produced by the de Blasio campaign, Chris Smith
explained in New York
:

Yet packaging and releasing the news after De Blasio
has been safely elected, on Christmas Eve, when many civilians and
much of the media is otherwise occupied, muffles the immediate
headlines — though it will stoke questions about how De Blasio can
make his family such a prominent part of his political life and
demand privacy at the same time… When I asked De Blasio, not along
ago, about whether it was dangerous to turn his wife and kids into
media figures, he answered serenely but emphatically. “You have to
understand, our family is different in the way we think about
things,” he said, describing how his politics and his family were
so intertwined as to be inseparable. “This is who we are, this is
how we live, this is how we’ll always live.”

The “public” inaugural ceremony to be held at noon tomorrow at
City Hall, meanwhile, will have Bill Clinton swearing in de Blasio
in an event the mayor-elect
promised
would be “for all New Yorkers.” The Journal
doesn’t specify whether that ceremony is taxpayer-funded, though
it’s safe to assume that at the very least the security-related
expenditures will be, and that the $9 fee won’t come close to
covering them.

from Hit & Run http://reason.com/blog/2013/12/31/bill-de-blasio-has-to-pay-nyc-a-9-regist
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J.D. Tuccille on the Year Defiance of the State Became Cool

Aaron SwartzFor
some high-profile people who publicly told the government to go to
hell, 2013 was, personally, a bit rough. Information freedom
activist Aaron Swartz took his own life under threat of a brutal
prison sentence. Revealer of inconvenient government secrets
Bradley/Chelsea Manning actually ended up in prison. And
surveillance whistleblower Edward Snowden went into exile in Russia
to escape what promised to be a “fair” trial followed by a
first-class hanging. But tough consequences aren’t unusual for
people who defy the state. What was different and encouraging,
writes J.D, Tuccille, was how many people rallied behind Swartz,
Manning, Snowden, and other rebels, explicitly siding with them
over the government, in opposition to the powers-that-be.

View this article.

from Hit & Run http://reason.com/blog/2013/12/31/jd-tuccille-on-the-year-defiance-of-the
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Florida Judge Rules Drug Testing Welfare Recipients Unconstitutional: Nothing So Immediate About Government Interest in Drug Free Recipients That Warrants Suspending Fourth Amendment

what if the government just made everyone do it? ok then?A district court judge in
Florida granted summary judgment for the plaintiff in a case
challenging the constitutionality of a law requiring welfare
recipients to submit to drug testing. The law was in effect for
four months after being passed in 2011, before being temporarily
suspended by a court order. During that time only 2.6 percent of
recipients tested positive for drugs, most commonly marijuana,

according to the Miami Herald blog
, which also cites a
1998 study that found welfare recipients in the state had a lower
rate of drug use than the general population. The crux of the legal
case against the drug testing, via the Herald:

But in the Dec. 31 ruling, the court agreed with the
11th Circuit’s conclusion that “There is nothing so special or
immediate about the government’s interest in ensuring that TANF
recipients are drug free so as to warrant suspension of the Fourth
Amendment. The only known and shared characteristic of the
individuals who would be subjected to Florida’s mandatory drug
testing program is that they are financially needy families with
children. Yet, there is nothing inherent in the condition of being
impoverished that supports the conclusion that there is a concrete
danger that impoverished individuals are prone to drug use or that
should drug use occur, that the lives of TANF recipients are
fraught with such risks of injury to others that even a momentary
lapse of attention can have disastrous consequences.”

You can peruse the whole ruling
here
.

More Reason on drug
testing
and on the Fourth
Amendment

from Hit & Run http://reason.com/blog/2013/12/31/florida-judge-rules-drug-testing-welfare
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Will the Government Test Drones in Your State?

The Federal Aviation Adminstration
(FAA) announced that Alaska, Nevada, New York, North Dakota, Texas,
and Virginia will serve as test sites for drone planes, and some
sites will be operational within 180 days. While we have good reason
to be wary of the government’s military and surveillance drones
clouding our skies, there’s no need to
blast
these particular drones out of the sky. The FAA tests
will focus not on building better bombs, but better commerce.

Twenty-five states applied to be drone testing locations, likely
enticed by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems
International’s (AUVSI) study that speculates within the “first
three years of integration more than 70,000 jobs will be created in
the United States with an economic impact of more than $13.6
billion.”

How did the agency make their pick of those six states? The
Associated Press (AP) states that “the designation as a test site
doesn’t come with a financial award from the government,” and

explains
:

In choosing Alaska, the FAA cited a diverse set of test site
locations in seven climatic zones. New York’s site at Griffiss
International Airport will look into integrating drones into the
congested northeast airspace. And Nevada offered proximity to
military aircraft from several bases, [FAA Administrator Michael]
Huerta said.

The extent that lobbying influenced the selection of the sites
was unclear.

[…]

The testing will determine whether drones can detect and avoid
aircraft and other obstacles, and if they can operate safety when
contact is lost with operators.

In 2012, Congress gave the agency three years to
integrate
“civil unmanned aircraft systems into international
airspace.” Currently, the vast majority of drones flying over
American skies are government operated, though the FAA has begun to
permit commercial use on “a case-by-case basis,” according
to CNN.

The Washington Times
warns
that bureaucratic sluggishness has already set plans for
widespread private use “more than a year behind schedule” and
further delays “could put the brakes on the drone revolution and
the economic benefits it would bring.” Brendan Schulman, who works
as special counsel within the drone industry told the
Times:

What we’ve experienced the past several years is a lot of
regulatory delay. In the meantime, other countries have moved ahead
with permitting and embracing commercial use. Countries
like Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom
already have a framework for commercial use of drones. That’s where
you’ll see companies going to do the work. That’s where you see
investment dollars going.

Although the FAA assures that
individuals’ privacy will not be compromised by these tests, some
have still not warmed up to the idea of more drones in America’s
skies. “Someday drones will be commonplace in U.S. skies and,
before that happens, it’s imperative that Congress enact strong,
nationwide privacy rules,” ACLU attorney Catherine Crump told the
AP.

from Hit & Run http://reason.com/blog/2013/12/31/will-the-government-test-drones-in-your
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Final Three Uighur Prisoners Released From Guantanamo Bay

The final three Uighur prisoners have been
freed from the prison at Guantanamo Bay, a move that has been
described by the Pentagon as a
“significant milestone.”

The men had been detained for over a decade, despite the fact
that military assessments found that they had
no ties
to Al Qaeda or the Taliban. Although a federal judge
ruled that the men had been unlawfully detained in 2008 their
release was delayed because of what
The Washington Post
described as “repeated legal
wrangling and attempts to find a country willing to accept them.”
Slovakia has accepted the men, and the Slovakian
interior minister
has said that they are not terror suspects.
According to the BBC, the U.S.
does not “repatriate Uighur detainees to China because of the risk
they could be mistreated.”

The BBC notes that there are still 155 prisoners at Guantanamo
Bay, a reduction from over 750.

While he was a presidential candidate then-Senator Obama

promised
that he would close the prison at Guantanamo Bay when
he became president. However, as ABC’s
Matt Negrin
explained back in July, Obama has faced opposition
to closing the prison in Congress, another reminder that promises
are easier to make than they are to keep:

Obama has run into plenty of opposition in Congress. Lawmakers
passed a bill preventing federal money from being used to transfer
Guantanamo prisoners to the United States. Obama signed that bill
into law, even as he issued a statement that disapproved of it. The
provision was part of a bigger military bill that Obama said was
too important not to sign.

Republicans, in particular, say that Guantanamo must stay open
to keep terrorists there.

Last week, Obama
signed
the NDAA for FY 2014, which included the easing of
restrictions on transferring detainees into custody abroad. The ban
on transferring Guantanamo Bay detainees to the U.S. is still in
place.

In
a statement
on the signing of the bill Obama said:

The continued operation of the facility weakens our national
security by draining resources, damaging our relationships with key
allies and partners and emboldening violent extremists.

For the past several years, the Congress has enacted unwarranted
and burdensome restrictions that have impeded my ability to
transfer detainees from Guantanamo. Earlier this year I again
called upon the Congress to lift these restrictions and, in this
bill, the Congress has taken a positive step in that direction.

and:

The detention facility at Guantanamo continues to impose
significant costs on the American people.

More from Reason.com on Guantanamo Bay here.

from Hit & Run http://reason.com/blog/2013/12/31/final-three-uighur-prisoners-released-fr
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Take a Grain of Salt With Those "Long" Connecticut Gun Registration Lines

AR-15Connecticut news outlets report long lines as the
deadline looms for state residents to undergo the registration
process that will magically render their firearms and
standard-capacity magazines legal, in contrast to those evil,
forbidden, yet identical, guns and mags that remain unregistered
after the turn of the year. Thousands of registrations have been
recorded, yet whether that counts as substantial compliance with
the law depends on something that’s unknowable: how many objects
subject to the law are in the state. As I’ve written before,
however, defiance of such laws is the historical norm.

According to
NBC Connecticut
:

Long lines extended again from Connecticut State Police
headquarters in Middletown Tuesday morning as gun owners raced to
comply with new gun laws that go into effect on Jan. 1.

New gun laws were enacted after the tragic shooting at Sandy
Hook Elementary School in Newtown in December 2012 that took the
lives of 20 first graders and six staff members. Tuesday is the
year-end deadline for gun owners to register certain assault
weapons as well as high-capacity magazines. …

As of Christmas, 25,000 people had registered assault weapons
and 17,000 registered high-capacity magazines, Malloy said Monday.
That number is sure to rise after hundreds of people waited in line
on the final two days of 2013, rushing to meet the deadline.

25,000 registered “assault weapons” with hundreds more to go?
But Governor Andrew Cuomo in (much larger) neighboring New York
estimates the number of similar weapons in his state at
one million
, while a widely ignored 1991 ban in New Jersey on
the arbitrarily defined category of weapons was estimated to apply
to
100,000-300,000 such guns
, before the
politics-fueled buying frenzies
of the last two
decades
.

I’m willing to bet that 25,000 registered assault weapons
represents a minority of the firearms that are legally required to
be registered under the law. Considering that the vast majority of
“assault weapons” use magazines restricted under the new law, and
that most people purchase multiple magazines for their rifles,
17,000 registrations in that category should be seen as wildly
underwhelming.

That shouldn’t be surprising at all, since
defiance of registration laws, let alone confiscations, is the
historical norm
in the United States, Australia, Canada,
France, Germany … Politicians made that particular bed by being
repeatedly untrustworthy,
abusing registration records
to seize recorded weapons, or
otherwise letting even tolerable governments degenerate into the
sort of regimes that make you wish you had a gun.

In a white paper on the results of gun control efforts around
the world,
Gun Control and the Reduction of the Number of Arms
,
Franz Csaszar, a professor of criminology at the University of
Vienna, Austria, wrote, “non-compliance with harsher gun laws is a
common event.” He estimated that Germans registered 3.2 million of
17-20 million affected weapons when registration was implemented in
that country in 1972. Austrians, he says, registered perhaps a
quarter to a third of weapons subject to a similar law in 1996.

When California imposed “assault weapon” registration in 1990,
The New York Times
reported
“only about 7,000 weapons of an estimated 300,000 in
private hands in the state have been registered” at the time the
grace period came to a close.

So take those “long lines” in Connecticut with a grain of salt.
Government officials are capable of turning a dinner party into an
extended, bureaucratic ordeal. But they can’t make compliance with
intrusive and repressive laws seem like a goood idea.

from Hit & Run http://reason.com/blog/2013/12/31/take-a-grain-of-salt-with-those-long-con
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Take a Grain of Salt With Those “Long” Connecticut Gun Registration Lines

AR-15Connecticut news outlets report long lines as the
deadline looms for state residents to undergo the registration
process that will magically render their firearms and
standard-capacity magazines legal, in contrast to those evil,
forbidden, yet identical, guns and mags that remain unregistered
after the turn of the year. Thousands of registrations have been
recorded, yet whether that counts as substantial compliance with
the law depends on something that’s unknowable: how many objects
subject to the law are in the state. As I’ve written before,
however, defiance of such laws is the historical norm.

According to
NBC Connecticut
:

Long lines extended again from Connecticut State Police
headquarters in Middletown Tuesday morning as gun owners raced to
comply with new gun laws that go into effect on Jan. 1.

New gun laws were enacted after the tragic shooting at Sandy
Hook Elementary School in Newtown in December 2012 that took the
lives of 20 first graders and six staff members. Tuesday is the
year-end deadline for gun owners to register certain assault
weapons as well as high-capacity magazines. …

As of Christmas, 25,000 people had registered assault weapons
and 17,000 registered high-capacity magazines, Malloy said Monday.
That number is sure to rise after hundreds of people waited in line
on the final two days of 2013, rushing to meet the deadline.

25,000 registered “assault weapons” with hundreds more to go?
But Governor Andrew Cuomo in (much larger) neighboring New York
estimates the number of similar weapons in his state at
one million
, while a widely ignored 1991 ban in New Jersey on
the arbitrarily defined category of weapons was estimated to apply
to
100,000-300,000 such guns
, before the
politics-fueled buying frenzies
of the last two
decades
.

I’m willing to bet that 25,000 registered assault weapons
represents a minority of the firearms that are legally required to
be registered under the law. Considering that the vast majority of
“assault weapons” use magazines restricted under the new law, and
that most people purchase multiple magazines for their rifles,
17,000 registrations in that category should be seen as wildly
underwhelming.

That shouldn’t be surprising at all, since
defiance of registration laws, let alone confiscations, is the
historical norm
in the United States, Australia, Canada,
France, Germany … Politicians made that particular bed by being
repeatedly untrustworthy,
abusing registration records
to seize recorded weapons, or
otherwise letting even tolerable governments degenerate into the
sort of regimes that make you wish you had a gun.

In a white paper on the results of gun control efforts around
the world,
Gun Control and the Reduction of the Number of Arms
,
Franz Csaszar, a professor of criminology at the University of
Vienna, Austria, wrote, “non-compliance with harsher gun laws is a
common event.” He estimated that Germans registered 3.2 million of
17-20 million affected weapons when registration was implemented in
that country in 1972. Austrians, he says, registered perhaps a
quarter to a third of weapons subject to a similar law in 1996.

When California imposed “assault weapon” registration in 1990,
The New York Times
reported
“only about 7,000 weapons of an estimated 300,000 in
private hands in the state have been registered” at the time the
grace period came to a close.

So take those “long lines” in Connecticut with a grain of salt.
Government officials are capable of turning a dinner party into an
extended, bureaucratic ordeal. But they can’t make compliance with
intrusive and repressive laws seem like a goood idea.

from Hit & Run http://reason.com/blog/2013/12/31/take-a-grain-of-salt-with-those-long-con
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