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Stupid Patent of the Month: Trolls Go After Sex Toy Manufacturers - Fri, 31/07/2015 - 02:00

Recently, a company called Tzu Technologies, LLC began suing makers of sex toys for infringement of U.S. Patent No. 6,368,268. This resulted in more than a few news stories (and probably a few snickers as well). But the case also shows how our broken patent system is preventing innovation in many spaces, including those we don’t traditionally think about. Looking closely at the patent, and specifically at what Tzu Technologies actually claims to own, it is clear that this patent, regardless of its exciting subject matter, deserves to be called stupid.

Tzu Technologies’ patent, titled “Method and Device for Interactive Virtual Control of Sexual Aids Using Digital Computer Networks” is a patent related to “teledildonics.” Essentially, computer controlled sex toys.

Tzu Technologies recently sued (login req.) a bunch of small startups in the sex toy space, claiming they infringed this patent. Comingle, for example and according to their website, is a four-person team that is developing open-source sex technology. Also sued was Kickstarter, presumably for allowing another defendant, Holland Haptics, to raise money for their product the “Freeble.”   

As this 1993 Chicago Tribune article shows, the idea of remotely stimulating a partner was nothing new in 1998 (the year the application for the patent was filed). Nor was it unknown how to do it. Howard Stern (in)famously engaged in some of his own teledildonics in the 1980s, that was later reenacted [NSFW] in his 1997 movie “Private Parts.”

Given this history, you might expect that, in 1998, patent applicants would need to come up with some new and non-obvious way of using a computer to control a sex toy. But like many patents that we have labeled “Stupid,” that’s not what happened. Or at least, that’s not what the inventors claimed.

Below is claim 8 of the patent, which Tzu Technologies seems to be asserting. This claim is ridiculously broad. Annotations, in bold, have been added to show just how broadly it can be read:

8. A stimulation system comprising:

[a] a hand-operable input device [a microphone] for generating a command signal [electrical signal] in response to an input [sound wave] received from a first user;

[b] a first user interface [the radio broadcast system] connected to said input device [the microphone], said first user interface generating a control signal [radio waves] based upon the command signal [electrical signal];

[c] a second user interface [a radio] remotely located from said first user interface [the radio broadcast system], said second user interface receiving the control signal [the radio waves]; and,

[d] a stimulation device [a stereo speaker] receiving the control signal [the radio waves] from said second user interface [the radio], said stimulation device imparting stimulation to a second user in response to the control signal [you get the idea].

Perhaps the Patent Office should have given Howard Stern a patent, given that the patent explicitly suggests that the “input device” can be a microphone.

Ultimately, claim 8 of this patent is nothing more than the idea of teledildonics, dressed up in “input devices” “signals” and “interfaces.” That’s what makes this patent, and these lawsuits, so frustrating. There was nothing novel, nonobvious, or even patentable about this claim. It never should have issued. Doing it with a computer (literally) does not make something patentable.

More and more, everyday items are incorporating software and networking technology. Unfortunately, that means more and more everyday items are at risk of being said to infringe overbroad, vague patents that never should have issued. As this patent shows, the problems with the patent system have the potential to impact many diverse fields, and until we find a way for small companies to quickly and efficiently shut down these patent trolls, we will continue to hurt innovators who are merely trying to make life more interesting.


Related Issues: PatentsPatent TrollsInnovation
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Israel Declares War on Palestinian Hunger Strikers - Thu, 30/07/2015 - 22:27
Israel Declares War on Palestinian Hunger Strikers
by Stephen Lendman
Israel’s hardline Knesset approved legislation authorizing force-feeding Palestinian hunger strikers for justice.
Racist Internal Security Minister Gilad Erdan said "(a)longside attempts to boycott and delegitimize Israel, hunger strikes of terrorists in prisons have become a means to threaten Israel."
Cabinet members approved the practice weeks earlier. It’s torture by other means. It causes extreme pain and suffering. A previous article described the procedure as follows:
Tubes are forced painfully through their noses and throats to their stomachs. It's done abrasively. It draws blood. 
Liquid nutrients are pumped into their stomachs. No sedatives or anesthesia are given. The procedure is administered twice daily. If vomiting occurs, the procedure is repeated.
Tubes are generally reused. They're covered in blood and stomach bile. At US torture prisons they're passed from one inmate to another. Israel likely intends the same procedure.
The World Medical Association (WMA) is the preeminent international group in the field of medical ethics and practice. 
It condemns force-feeding, saying it violates fundamental medical ethics. When accompanied by "threats, coercion, force, and use of physical restraints, (it's) considered inhuman and degrading treatment."
It blatantly violates Geneva's Common Article 3 and other human rights laws prohibiting cruel, humiliating and degrading treatment. 
Palestinian Minister of Prisoners Affairs, Issa Qaraqe, said “(t)he approval of such a law shows racism and brutality in the Israeli government. (It) believes that it is above the law by approving laws against the Geneva convention and international humanitarian law." 
Arab-Israeli MK Ahmed Tibi said that hunger strikes are a non-violent attempt for "legal and political achievements. It is the only thing Palestinian prisoners feel can be done in Israeli prisons.”
A statement from other Arab MKs bashed “a law to torture Palestinian prisoners, aimed at uprooting their legitimate struggle.”
The Israeli Medical Association (IMA) called the measure “damaging and unnecessary.” Its members will “continue to act according to medical ethics, which prohibit doctors from participating in torturing prisoners.” It stressed force feeding is “tantamount to torture.”
Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (PHR-I) called the new law “shameful.” It reveals the “anti-democratic face” of Knesset extremism. It promised continued opposition to the measure and “support (for) anyone…refus(ing) to obey” it.
The Palestinian prisoner support group Addameer said the new law provides “legal cover” to torture prisoners. It’ll facilitate “kill(ing) more Palestinian hunger strikers.” Five others died earlier from the practice despite no law at the time authorizing it. 
A Knesset press statement said prison officials must use “all means at their disposal” to persuade inmates to eat before resorting to force feeding.
IMA and PHR-I may petition Israel’s High Court to declare the new measure in violation of fundamental international human rights law.
Most Palestinian hunger strikers are held administratively uncharged and untried - one of many draconian Israeli practices. They can be held indefinitely with no chance for justice - or if released are often rearrested and again imprisoned unjustly.
At any time, hundreds of Palestinians guilty of no crimes are persecuted this way. Haaretz editors addressed the practice headlining “Israel must stop draconian detentions without trial,” saying:
Israel doubled the number of administrative detainees since last summer’s Gaza war. “It reflects excessive, illicit use of a means intended only for rare, aberrant cases.”
At most, it should be “temporary, specific and limited” - never standard practice affecting hundreds of Palestinians unjustly.
It’s extrajudicial “without the guarantees, evidence and standards that the legal system requires.”
“The wholesale use of detention without trial is a severe breach of the right to liberty, one of the core rights of (Israel’s) Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty. The state must restrict this measure to especially grievous and rare cases and stop its current practice immediately.”
Most Palestinian hunger strikers are administrative detainees held without charge or trial because they committed no crimes. No evidence proves any. Refusing food is their only way to resist a draconian practice.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
Visit his blog site at 
Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs. 

Irresponsibly Bashing Russia Veto Against Establishing Kangaroo MH17 Tribunal - Thu, 30/07/2015 - 19:55
Irresponsibly Bashing Russia Veto Against Establishing Kangaroo MH17 Tribunal
by Stephen Lendman
Neither Russia nor Donbass freedom fighters had anything to do with downing MH17. Not a shred evidence suggests it. 
Plenty points to Washington and Ukraine culpability. They had clear means, motive and opportunity - the key determinants for initiating a criminal proceeding. They and partnered nations want Moscow and rebels blamed for their crime.
The Obama administration conspired with Malaysia, the Netherlands, Belgium, Australia and Ukraine for unprecedented Security Council authorization for a tribunal to absolve culpable parties responsible for the incident and declare innocent ones guilty by accusation - a kangaroo process to be US manipulated and controlled to assure the outcome Washington wants.
Russia acted responsibly - vetoing what never should have been proposed in the first place - a thinly veiled scheme to avoid justice.
Eleven nations voted “yes” (America, Britain, France, Chad, Chile, Jordan, Lithuania, Malaysia, New Zealand, Nigeria and Spain). Three abstained (China, Venezuela and Angola). 
Russia’s veto defeated the draft resolution. Envoy Vitaly Churkin criticized its backers for submitting a measure with no chance for passage - rejecting compromise language Moscow proposed.
“(P)olitical purposes were more important for them than practical objectives,” Churkin said. Russia rejected the proposal because “UNSC resolution 2166 didn’t qualify the Boeing tragedy as a threat to international peace and security.”
How can it “now suddenly become one.” No precedent exists for establishing an international tribunal to hold culpable parties accountable for a transportation catastrophe, he stressed. Nor should the Security Council be involved in these type matters.
Common sense, logic and precedent didn’t deter Russia bashing by other SC members. Malaysian Transport Minister Liow Tiong Lai said Moscow’s veto sends a “dangerous message of impunity to the perpetrator of this heinous crime.”
Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop bashed Moscow saying “the anticipated excuses and obfuscation by the Russian Federation should be treated with the utmost disdain.”
“The exercise of the veto today is an affront to the memory of the 298 victims of MH17 and their families and friends.”
Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders said “I find it incomprehensible that a member of the Security Council obstructs justice.”
Kiev’s illegitimate foreign minister Pavlo Klimkin ludicrously said “(t)here is no reason to oppose (the proposal) unless you are a perpetrator.”
Neocon UN envoy Samantha Power’s comments didn’t surprise, saying:
“By vetoing this resolution, Russia has tried to deny justice to the 298 victims on that plane, and deny their families a chance to hold accountable those responsible.” 
“Russia has callously disregarded the public outcry in the grieving nations, the appeals of the families affected. It is tragic that Russia has used the privilege entrusted to it in order to advance international peace and security in order to frustrate international peace and security.”
She promised continued Washington efforts to blame Russia for US/Kiev criminality. She ignored how often America vetoes SC resolutions to hold Israel responsible for the highest of high crimes.
Media scoundrels bashed Russia irresponsibly. The New York Times said Moscow “(i)nfuriated nations that lost citizens…”
The Washington Post ran an AP article full of Russia bashing quotes. A Russian Foreign Ministry statement said:
“Russia will continue making the most energetic efforts on rendering all possible assistance to investigating the air crash.” It rejects politicizing the MH17 incident supported by Washington and 10 other SC members.
It urged adopting a constructive framework for determining culpable parties and holding them responsible.
“This is exactly what (unanimously adopted Resolution 2166) proposed by Russia…was aimed at - to broadly employ UN mechanisms for soonest completion of full, transparent and trustworthy international investigation of the crash and subsequently search for the most appropriate format of legal proceedings,” Russia’s Foreign Ministry said.
”Only the full implementation of Resolution 2166 will (enable) finding those guilty and bring them to justice.”
“Russia condemns the destruction of Malaysian plane MH17 by unidentified persons and once again expresses deepest condolences to the relatives of all passengers and crew members that became victims of this horrible tragedy.”
Ten SC members ignored Russia’s responsible proposal. “Instead of that, they preferred to hastily submit for voting in the Security Council their own version with establishing an international tribunal without discussing any other options.”
“Our persistent explanations about inexpedience and counter-productiveness of such step, that had no precedents in the past, before the ongoing investigation into circumstances of the air crash is complete, were not taken into account.”
Washington and complicit partners intend exploiting Russia’s veto irresponsibly - another stick to justify maintaining lawless sanctions, US-led NATO troop deployments near its borders and continued vilification for baseless reasons. Imperialism works this way.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
Visit his blog site at 
Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs. 

EFF and ACLU Win Review of Automated License Plate Reader Case - Thu, 30/07/2015 - 10:05

The California Supreme Court today granted our petition to review the lawsuit filed by EFF and the ACLU of Southern California that seeks to shine a light on the collection of license plate data by the Los Angeles Police and Sheriff’s Departments. This comes just two days after we filed our latest brief with the court, arguing the highest court should review an earlier, troubling court decision that ruled license plate data could be withheld as “records of law enforcement investigations.” Today’s development gives us a chance to convince the state’s highest court to overturn that ruling and force the police agencies to turn over the data so the privacy risks of this mass data collection can be scrutinized.

The lawsuit, originally filed in 2013, asked for a week’s work of data collected from automated license plate readers (ALPRs) that are mounted on patrol cars and at fixed locations around the city and county of Los Angeles. These cameras capture images of license plates and include the time, date, and location where the vehicle was photographed, potentially creating a detailed picture of a driver’s movements throughout the area. As with all location data, this is particularly sensitive information, which can disclose things like what medical clinic you visit, where you worship, and what kind of political meetings you attend, as well as where your friends and family live. And the law enforcement agencies gather this information on about three million vehicles in Los Angeles each and every week—which means a staggering number of people are affected.

EFF and the ACLU have argued that the public needs to know more about this giant program, and a week’s worth of data would be a good start. But earlier court decisions sided with the police and sheriff’s departments, allowing the records to be hidden away with the excuse that they are “investigative records.” This sets the stage for a dangerous new standard, where police can use automated license plate cameras to collect data on millions of law-abiding individuals—but those same individuals can’t access the very information collected on them. And the implications spread beyond cars and license plate cameras. The lower court ruling could apply to data collected by other forms of surveillance systems, like body cameras and dash cameras and drones—information the public needs to see to assure police accountability.

We’re pleased the California Supreme Court is going to take up these important questions and review this case. Sophisticated surveillance technology like ALPRs should not be used without any oversight.

Related Issues: PrivacyLocational PrivacyTransparencyRelated Cases: Automated License Plate Readers (ALPR)
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Volunteer with Us: EFF Seeks Volunteers for Tech Projects Translations - Thu, 30/07/2015 - 08:20

EFF recognizes that, as an international organization, it’s important to offer translated content in order to reach a global audience. While we offer localized content in some capacity—like the translations you'll find over at the Surveillance Self-Defense project—our ultimate goal is to make more of our most widely-used content, tools and resources available in multiple languages. That’s why we’re recruiting passionate volunteers from all over the world to help us translate EFF web content and tech projects. We’re kicking things off by requesting translations for the HTTPS Everywhere site,1 the Secure Messaging Scorecard, and eventually the Privacy Badger site.

We hope these projects will allow us to build a solid network of volunteer translators, at which point we’ll explore translating other EFF content. To get involved, check out our current translation requests on GitHub. EFF publishes translation requests as XML Localisation Interchange File Format (XLIFF) files. For a list of XLIFF editor software, visit Wikipedia. When working on a translation, you can save the XLIFF file and submit your translation as a pull request on this git repository. Alternatively, you can send the XLIFF file directly to .

Be sure to check back frequently as we hope to add more translation opportunities for volunteers in the future. We’d like to thank those of you who have already inquired about and supported translations at EFF—we couldn’t do this without you.

1 Note, if you would like to help translate the HTTPS Everywhere browser extension itself into another language, you can do that through Transifex.

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US Wants Enhanced UN Peacekeeping Operations Serving Its Interests - Thu, 30/07/2015 - 04:35
US wants Enhanced UN Peacekeeping Operations Serving Its Interests
by Stephen Lendman
So-called Blue Helmets don’t operate as officially mandated - “help(ing) countries torn by conflict create conditions for sustainable peace.”
Their deployments aren’t benevolent. They don’t restore order, maintain peace or provide for the needs of local populations. Nor do they build confidence, enforce power sharing agreements, provide electoral support, aid reconstruction, uphold the rule of law, or help efforts toward economic and social development.
They’re imperial enforcers. They do more harm than good. They serve monied interests, not popular ones. Their mission isn’t peacekeeping. It’s control in service to dominant imperial powers at the expense of people they’re supposed to protect.
Their record is deplorable - a history of civil and human rights abuses, rape and other sex crimes, corruption, drugs trafficking, smuggling and overall failure to achieve announced mission objectives.
UN peacekeeping operations began in May 1948 - UNTSO the first mission to monitor peace after Israel’s so-called War of Independence. 
The operation remains ongoing. Peace was never achieved. So-called peacekeepers play no active role in what’s ongoing. The mission reflects 67 years of total failure. 
IDF forces rampage at will. UNTSO does nothing to intervene responsibly - nor do top UN officials condemn what they tacitly support through silence.
US Joint Chiefs Chairman General Martin Dempsey wants increased “peacekeeping” efforts - more countries contributing more forces in more places to be deployable more quickly to serve US interests globally.
On July 28, Dempsey addressed a meeting on UN peacekeeping at New York’s 69th Regiment Armory. He duplicitously cited the UN Charter’s founding mandate to help “save succeeding generations from the scourge of war.”
No nation throughout its entire history did more to subvert it than America - including every year since the UN’s establishment, more than ever now, notably during Dempsey’s tenure as Joint Chiefs chairman. He’s a warrior, not peacemaker. He’s paid to wage war, not peace.
Dempsey wants more nations actively involved in serving US interests worldwide. He wants them “provid(ing) rapid response forces for emerging crises” - meaning wherever Washington can get other nations to do its dirty work, to enforce its imperial aims at the expense of exploited and abused local populations.
He named three core objectives, saying:
“First, the United Nations needs to generate contributions (greater funding) to mitigate equipment shortfalls, significant equipment shortfalls. Enduring gaps in equipment platforms continue to undermine our efforts in ongoing missions around the world.”
“Second, the United Nations requires commitments from member nations to provide rapid response forces for emerging crises. The rapid deployment of units within 30, 60, or 90 days - for a finite period - can help resolve developing crises, prevent expanded conflict and in the process save more innocent lives.”
“And third, the UN seeks more highly skilled personnel, both police and military, to staff future missions and backfill units transitioning from contingency operations.” 
“(W)e need the capability not just to begin a peacekeeping mission, but to sustain it over time. And experienced personnel add critical skills and tremendous value towards improving peacekeeping operations on the ground.”
Around two-thirds of UN member states contribute around 100,000 Blue Helmets globally, according to world body authorities.
Dempsey wants more Blue Helmet muscle serving America’s imperial agenda - proxy foot soldiers enforcing its interests at the expense of exploited populations worldwide.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
Visit his blog site at 
Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs. 

Russia to Veto UN Resolution for US-Controlled MH17 Tribunal - Thu, 30/07/2015 - 03:26
Russia to Veto UN Resolution for US-Controlled MH17 Tribunal 
by Stephen Lendman
A veto may have been cast when this article is read. Moscow opposes a US proposed rigged process - suppressing evidence of its culpability and Kiev’s in downing MH17, pointing fingers the wrong way, a longstanding imperial practice.
The whole world SHOULD know neither Russia or Donbass freedom fighters downed MH17, killing all passengers and crew members aboard during flight over Southeastern Ukraine’s war zone. Accusations otherwise are tiresome Big Lies. They wore thin long ago.
Kiev and Washington bear full responsibility for what happened - a thinly veiled scheme to wrongfully blame Russia and Donbass for their criminality. 
Moscow’s UN envoy Vitaly Churkin called Washington’s scheme to establish an MH17 tribunal it controls for supposedly holding responsible parties accountable “a grandiose political show” with no legitimacy whatever.
On Friday, Security Council members will shortly (or perhaps already) vote(d) up or down on establishing a so-called MH17 international tribunal as this is written - drafted by Malaysia on behalf of its government, Australia, Belgium, the Netherlands and Ukraine, together conspiring in coverup, the whole process manipulated by Washington to blame the wrong parties for what happened and absolve culpable ones.
Moscow opposes an attempt to establish a rigged process. It may have already vetoed the resolution if enough other SC members don’t vote “no.” 
Vitaly Churkin said “(w)e will vote against it. I have no doubt (of) that. If the (draft) resolution gets nine or more (“yes”) votes, (there) will be a veto” from Russia. "If it gets less than nine votes,” Moscow will vote “no” without using veto power.
It’s entirely out of line to consider the MH17 incident a “threat to international peace and security” - the wrongheaded language Washington demands.
“No international tribunals have been established before in accordance with UN Charter Chapter VII on civilian plane crashes,” Churkin explained.
The draft resolution doesn’t mention one specifically. It calls for “bring(ing) to justice all those guilty in the air crash.” It requires “cooperat(ion) (from all countries) until the international investigation is completed.”
A Kremlin press release said Putin “confirmed Moscow’s position on (the) inexpediency of establishing an international tribunal remains unchanged. (M)any questions still remain to (be answered), including (about) collected evidence and denying Russia access to (a) significant part in the process.” 
“The Russian side stressed readiness for close cooperation with the aim of finding causes and circumstances of this tragedy.”
Putin explained the importance of fully implementing Security Council Resolution 2166 - calling for a full and comprehensive investigation of what happened.
He “noted that the draft resolution put forward by Russia is aimed at coordinating with the tasks outlined in Resolution 2166. Regret was expressed in connection with the fact that countries calling for establishing an international tribunal on Malaysia Airlines plane crash, did not support this compromise draft.”
Washington rejected Moscow’s alternative resolution calling for more investigatory transparency - instead of secrecy maintained and excluding Russia from access to information collected.
The Kremlin criticized Ban Ki-moon for not appointing a special representative to investigate the incident - one of many services he performs for the imperial interests he represents.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
Visit his blog site at 
Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs. 

NSA Tries to Blame Privacy Advocates for Keeping Americans' Telephone Records - Thu, 30/07/2015 - 03:19

USA Freedom requires the NSA to stop collecting our telephone records.  An open question when the law passed was what should happen to the mountain of records the NSA has already collected. Will the records be destroyed? Will the NSA keep them? Will it be able to keep using them?

Earlier this week, the NSA announced that it was going to move the stored records out of active use in November, with a three month period when its employees check them for "data integrity"  reasons. It noted, however, that it would not be destroying the records until resolution of the various court cases where the government is under a court order to preserve evidence.  Three of those cases are EFF's: Jewel v. NSA, First Unitarian Church of Los Angeles v. NSA and Smith v. Obama.  The implication is that the privacy advocates are the reason that these records aren't being destroyed. 

Not so. 

We have offered to the NSA, in multiple court filings, to enter into a plan under which they can destroy many of the records (maybe not all, but certainly most of them).  The NSA just needs to admit that our clients’ telephone records were included in the mass collection and for how long. Alternatively, they could state on the record that none of our clients' records were ever included in the NSA's telephone records collection, something that seems inconceivable (we do know what that word means) given that Jewel v. NSA is a class action on behalf of all telephone customers of AT&T.

The government has flatly refused and instead wants to have it both ways: the NSA continues claim that we don’t have proof that our clients' records were included, and so don’t have standing to sue, while at the same time seeking to destroy the very evidence that can most clearly prove it. 

Here’s one place we mentioned it, but it was raised by us throughout a long fight about preservation in March-July, 2014, after we learned that the government was petitioning the secret FISA Court to destroy some of the telephone records:

Plaintiffs need the phone records and other material that they claim has been unlawfully collected preserved so that they can oppose the Government’s claim that Plaintiffs’ lack standing because they merely speculate that their information has been collected and, to a lesser extent, to prove the size of their monetary damages. This evidence preservation dispute can be avoided by a simple stipulation: an admission that Plaintiffs’ telephone records have been collected and for how long. Once the fact of collection and the relevant time periods are settled, the records themselves need not be preserved.

So we want the NSA to destroy the records and we've given them a clear path. The NSA just doesn’t want to take it.

What the NSA appears to want instead is to paint privacy advocates like EFF as the reason that hundreds of millions of telephone records aren’t being destroyed. But if the NSA would just admit that they did indeed collect the telephone records of these plaintiffs along with millions of other Americans, instead of still hiding behind legal game playing like their standing arguments, we could move forward with a reasonable destruction plan for these records.

Related Issues: NSA SpyingPATRIOT ActRelated Cases: Smith v. ObamaJewel v. NSAFirst Unitarian Church of Los Angeles v. NSA
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Is Canada Set to Cave on Copyright Term Extension in the TPP? - Thu, 30/07/2015 - 02:32

The following is a guest post from Michael Geist, law professor at the University of Ottawa where he holds the Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-commerce Law.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations have attracted considerable attention in Canada in recent weeks as the political consequences of dismantling agricultural protections loom large with a national elections scheduled for the fall. Much of the case for caving on those issues focuses on concerns that failing to join the TPP will leave Canada out of a major trading block. Yet the reality is that Canada already has free trade agreements with nearly half of the TPP countries, including the U.S., Mexico, Chile, Peru, and South Korea. Moreover, Canada has engaged in free trade agreement negotiations with Japan and Singapore.

Free trade agreements with the likes of Brunei and Malaysia might provide some modest benefits to Canadian businesses, but Canadian trade interests are already well-covered within much of the TPP community. Indeed, the costs of the TPP are a steep price to pay given the incremental gains that come from free trade access to a handful of additional countries.

This is particularly true for an issue that in recent months has fallen off the public's radar screen: copyright.

Reports last year from Wikileaks showed that Canada was the strongest opponent to TPP intellectual property demands from the United States, signalling its opposition to a proposal 56 times, more than any other country. The strongest opposition came in the patents, enforcement, trademarks, and copyright sections.

Why oppose so many U.S. demands?

Simply put, the U.S. wants Canada to eviscerate many of the recent reforms found in copyright and counterfeiting legislation. These demands focus on enhanced criminal liability for copyright infringement, eliminating the Canadian approach to Internet service provider liability, extending the term of copyright protection, and expanding patent protection. Canadian negotiators have thus far resisted many of the proposed changes, offering alternatives that are compatible with current domestic law.

An extension to the term of copyright would be particularly problematic, coming on the heels of an extension in the copyright term for sound recordings due to behind-the-scenes lobbying by the music industry. The sound recording term extension came without any public discussion or consultation, despite the fact that other studies have found that retroactive extension does not lead to increased creation and that the optimal term length should enable performers and record labels to recoup their investment, not extend into near-unlimited terms to the detriment of the public. For Canadian consumers, the extension could cost millions of dollars as works that were scheduled to come into the public domain will now remain locked down for decades.

The same is true should Canada extend the term of copyright for all works as part of the TPP. The term of copyright in Canada is presently life of the author plus an additional 50 years, a term that meets the international standard set by the Berne Convention. The issue of extending the term of copyright was discussed during the 2009 national copyright consultation, but the Canadian government wisely decided against it. Further, the European Union initially demanded that Canada extend the term of copyright in the Canada-EU Trade Agreement, but that too was effectively rebuffed.

From a policy perspective, there is no credible evidence that term extension will do anything other than leave Canadians with 20 years of no new works entering the public domain. Indeed, many economists have examined the issue and concluded that extending the term simply does not create an additional incentive for new creativity. Moreover, studies in other countries that have extended term have concluded that it ultimately costs consumers as additional royalties are sent out of the country. Given the potential to make works more readily accessible to new generations once they enter the public domain, extending the term of copyright as potentially required by the TPP would have a dramatic negative effect on access to Canadian literature and history.

Some have speculated that a possible TPP agreement comes at the worst possible time politically since the deal will likely mandate major changes in the Canadian economy just as politicians are campaigning for re-election. Yet that is precisely why this may be the best time to put the issues squarely on the table. With the Conservatives, NDP, and Liberals battling for votes, now is the time to demand answers on where the parties stand on the TPP intellectual property provisions.

To date, each has offered carefully crafted, largely evasive answers on their general views of the TPP. Comments about "acting in the best interests of Canadians" or refraining from comment until the final deal is disclosed, is not good enough. As politicians go door-to-door in search of votes, it is time to ask all candidates and political parties about their views on specific TPP issues including copyright term extension, patent reforms, and intellectual property enforcement.

On our TPP's Copyright Trap page we link to more articles about how the threat of copyright term extension under the TPP impacts users around the world.

Related Issues: InternationalTrans-Pacific Partnership AgreementTPP's Copyright Trap
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Israel Bombs Syria During Large-Scale War Games - Wed, 29/07/2015 - 23:34
Israel Bombs Syria During Large-Scale War Games
by Stephen Lendman
Israel is a warrior state - a nation at all times mobilized for war with hundreds of thousands of reservists ready to supplement active duty forces on short notice.
On July 27, three days of large-scale drills began - “testing the (IDF’s) ability to rapidly transition from routine activities to an emergency war footing,” according to the Jerusalem Post.
Hundreds of thousands of reservists got “mock telephone messages” requesting confirmation of receipt. Thousands of others were called up or are on alert to report for duty on command if ordered.
An IDF source said “(t)his is one of the largest reservist telephone call-ups we’ve had in an exercise. We want to ensure that the system is well-oiled and working.”
Northern and Southern commands will test responses to attacks from Syria, Lebanon and Gaza. Why when Israel’s only threats are ones it invents. 
It hasn’t been attacked since the 1973 Yom Kippur War. No imminent danger exists now. Large-scale war games intimidate  neighbors. 
Along with other methods Israel uses (practically from the cradle to the grave), it manipulates public sentiment to accept militarism and belligerence as part of daily life - in lieu of a society prioritizing social, economic and political justice for all its citizens and residents, one opposed to occupying another people’s land.
On July 29, Israel again bombed Syria lawlessly. It’s done it half a dozen or more previous times since Obama launched premeditated proxy aggression in March 2011 - besides other times earlier.
Whether Wednesday’s strike was part of Israel’s emergency readiness testing, IDF commanders will have to explain. Perhaps it’s part of Turkey joining Obama’s air war on Syrian targets. Ankara claiming its striking Islamic State forces is a pretext to attack Syrian and Iraqi Kurds.
On Wednesday, an Israeli drone struck a car in Hader, Syria (in Quneitra governorate) near Israel’s border - reportedly killing two Hezbollah members and three others supporting Syria’s liberating struggle against US-enlisted Islamic State and other takfiri terrorists, imported from scores of countries.
Hader is a largely Druze village - located along the Golan ceasefire line. An IDF spokesperson declined comment.
Lebanon Al-Manar television reported “two members of Syria’s National Defense Forces were killed when an Israeli drone targeted their car at the entrance of Hader in Quneitra province.”
In mid-June, takfiri terrorists surrounded Hader following clashes with loyalist forces. On Tuesday, Syria’s military killed members of what it called a terrorist group in southern Quneitra province.
Islamic State field commander Abu Umar al-Shishani was reported killed - so far unconfirmed. Earlier reports of his death proved false. Whether true now isn’t clear.
In his last Sunday address to officials and members of public organizations, vocational syndicates, as well as industrial, trade, agriculture and tourism groups, Assad vowed to defend Syria’s homeland.
Defeating terrorism, restoring peace and stability are his top priorities. State institutions continue providing whatever help they can despite ongoing conflict requiring maximum use of national resources for homeland defense and liberation.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
Visit his blog site at 
Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs. 

Another US Jail Cell Death Sentence - Wed, 29/07/2015 - 20:28
Another US Jail Cell Death Sentence
by Stephen Lendman
When police in America want someone eliminated, they’re as good as dead. Thirty-seven-year-old Black woman Ralkina Jones is another killer cop victim. 
She was “perfectly fine” the day before her death, according to her sister, Renee Ashford. Last Saturday, she and other family members visited her. “She didn't complain of nothing, saying she was hurting or anything,” Ashford said.
She “would want us to find out why. You can’t just tell me one minute I seen my sister, then the next day she’s dead. That don’t even make sense. And it’s just, ‘I can’t help you. I can’t tell you.’ Like, no. That’s un-human.”
“She was a go-getter…She was the person who held us together.” Cleveland Heights Jail Facility authorities said her body was found “during a routine jail check of prisoners.”
“Squad personnel were unable to locate any vital signs, and it was determined by CHFD paramedics that Ms Jones was deceased.”
According to police, the Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner is investigating her death. An autopsy completed Monday “revealed no suspicious injuries,” he claimed. 
“The exact cause of death will be determined by the medical examiner pending further studies.” On Friday, Jones was arrested “on charges of felonious assault, domestic violence and child endangerment” - following an alleged confrontation with her  former husband.
Cleveland police said she “was being treated for several medical conditions that were documented during her intake process and she administered her prescribed medication as directed.”
On Saturday, she was taken briefly to a local hospital to check on possible blood pressure and blood sugar abnormalities. After her vital signs were determined normal, she was returned to her cell. Her vitals were last recorded as normal at 12:45AM Sunday morning. Police said they continued monitoring her overnight to check if she was OK.
Yet she was found dead in her cell at 7:30AM under suspicious circumstances. How could a young woman perish hours after being medically determined healthy - another case wreaking of foul play!
Cleveland police shot and killed her uncle, Craig Bickerstaff, in 2003 after an alleged struggle. Family members received $22,500 after suing the city. They’re left with unanswered questions about both deaths.
Given epidemic levels of cops in America killing nonthreatening Blacks, judge for yourself the cause of Jones’ death. 
When a 37-year-old woman pronounced healthy suddenly turns up dead in police custody, the stench of foul play is overwhelming.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
Visit his blog site at 
Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs. 

Week of Action Opposing CISA: Over 400,000 Faxes Sent At Halfway Point - Wed, 29/07/2015 - 16:55

We're halfway through our Week of Action opposing the privacy-invasive "cybersecurity" bill CISA. This is the fifth time in as many years that Congress is trying to pass an information-sharing bill. The Week of Action aims to stop a rumored vote on the bill before Congress leaves for a 5-week vacation on August 7. We're only three days in and over 400,000 faxes have been sent to the Senate opposing CISA. Join us now in the Week of Action.

Today we'll be hosting a Reddit AMA starting at 10am ET/7am PT diving deeper into why this zombie bill must be stopped. 

CISA Must be Stopped 

CISA is a "cybersecurity" bill aimed at granting companies immunity for sharing information about "cybersecurity threats"—which could include personal information—with the government. Unfortunately, the bill's broad immunity clausesvague definitions, and aggressive spying powers combine to make the bill a surveillance bill in disguise. The provisions are ripe for abuse and allow for companies to share completely unrelated personal information directly with intelligence agencies like the NSA.

What's worse is that CISA isn’t likely to improve users' computer security. The bill's sponsors—Senators Richard Burr and Dianne Feinstein— are painting the bill as a way to stop corporate and government data breaches. But many of the breaches they point to are due to unencrypted files, poor computer architecture, un-updated servers, and employees (or contractors) who clicked malware links.  Information sharing won't cure these failings. 

The bill also includes a countermeasures provision that creates additional dangers for everyday users. The provision authorizes companies to launch "defensive measures" protecting any "information system" (defined as either hardware or software) from any perceived threat, including threats from "anomalous patterns of communications." The standard grants wide latitude for potentially egregious attacks against unwitting users who don’t know their machines are part of a botnet. While the bill prohibits measures that cause “substantial harm,” we don’t know what “substantial” means—leaving open the possibility that companies will launch countermeasures causing significant (but not “substantial”) harm.

All of the information being shared and collected is kept away from public scrutiny because the bill contains exemptions to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Combined with the broad legal immunity, the FOIA exemptions ensure the public is kept in the dark about what companies are sharing and how the law is operating. 

The Week of Action 

That's why we're asking you to join us in our Week of Action to stop CISA. Here’s how to help:

  1. Visit the Stop Cyber Spying coalition website where you can email and fax your Senators and tell them to vote no on CISA.
  2. Use a new tool developed by Fight for the Future to fax your lawmakers from the Internet. We want to make sure they get the message.
  3. Check out our AMA on Reddit on Wednesday July 29 at 10am ET/7am PT with EFF, Access, Fight for the Future, and the ACLU and let your friends know about it.
  4. Help us spread the word. After you’ve taken action, tweet out why CISA must be stopped with the hashtag #StopCISA. Use the hashtag #FaxBigBrother if you want to automatically send a fax to your Senator opposing CISA. If you have a blog, join us by publishing a blog post this week about why you oppose CISA, and help us spread the word about the action tools at For detailed analysis you can check out this blog post and this chart.

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EFF and ACLU of Southern California Urge California Supreme Court to Grant Review in Automated License Plate Reader Case - Wed, 29/07/2015 - 14:29

EFF and the ACLU of Southern California urged the California Supreme Court in San Francisco to review our lawsuit seeking access to a week’s worth of automated license plate data collected by the Los Angeles Police and Sheriff’s Departments. The California Court of Appeal last spring sided with the agencies and ruled that these data—gathered on about three million vehicles in Los Angeles every week—could be withheld as “records of law enforcement investigations.”

This case has significant precedential impact, setting a troubling standard allowing police to keep these records and details of its surveillance of ordinary, law-abiding citizens from ever being scrutinized. The appeals court ruling may apply not only to records collected with license plate cameras, but to data collected using other forms of automatic and indiscriminate surveillance systems, from body cameras and dash cameras to public surveillance cameras and drones. Without access to these records, we can’t ensure police accountability.

Our case started in 2012 when we submitted public records requests to the Los Angeles law enforcement agencies asking for data collected by the hundreds of Automated License Plate Recognition (ALPR) cameras mounted on patrol cars and at fixed locations around the city and county of Los Angeles. ALPRs automatically take a picture of all license plates that come into view and record the time, date, and location where the vehicle was photographed. Because the agencies store the data for two to five years, they have been able to collect a massive amount of sensitive location-based information on mostly innocent Los Angeles residents—likely as many as a half billion data points.

When the agencies refused to turn over the data, we partnered with the ACLU of Southern California—which had filed its own ALPR-related requests—to file suit in Los Angeles Superior Court. We argued the public needed access to the data to learn more about this government-funded program and to properly assess the scope of the privacy risk inherent in such a massive data collection system.

The agencies refused to turn over the records, claiming they could withhold the millions of license plate data points as “records of law enforcement investigations,” which are exempt from public review under the California Public Records Act. Incredibly, they argued that all drivers in Los Angeles are under criminal investigation at all times—whether or not the police suspect them of being involved in any criminal activity. The ACLU has estimated that as many as 99.8% of the vehicles photographed by ALPR cameras are never linked to any ongoing criminal investigation or vehicle registration issue—these drivers are innocent. Unfortunately, both the trial court and the court of appeal in Los Angeles agreed with the agencies.

No case in California has ever before held that this kind of automatic, indiscriminate and untargeted collection of data on the public by the police constitutes an “investigation”—or that data collected through this kind of surveillance regime are “records” of a police investigation. And such a ruling appears contrary to the California Constitution, which not only mandates that the public has a constitutional right to government records but also requires that statutes and other authorities, such as the law involved in our case, “shall be broadly construed if they further the people’s right of access, and narrowly construed if they limit the right of access.”

Law enforcement organizations have already cited the court of appeal’s opinion in another case, trying to prevent public access to patrol car dash camera videos of a fatal police shooting. And law enforcement agencies, both in California and across the U.S. are trying to prevent the public from accessing footage collected with body cameras. It would be ironic if video from cameras adopted to increase transparency and police accountability could be kept from the public. If the Court of Appeal’s decision in our case is allowed to stand, it could do just that.

We hope the California Supreme Court will recognize the importance of this case, grant review, and reverse the lower court ruling to shine a light on this massive surveillance program. We expect to hear from the court in the next few weeks.

Litigation Documents

California Court of Appeal Opinion in License Plate Reader Case

EFF & ACLU of Southern California Petition for California Supreme Court Review

Exhibits in support of EFF & ACLU's Petition to the California Supreme Court

Los Angeles Agencies' Answer to California Supreme Court Petition for review

EFF & ACLU's Reply in Support of Petition for California Supreme Court Review

Exhibit in support of EFF/ACLU Reply in California Supreme Court

An amazing group of amici filed letters in support of our petition with the California Supreme Court:

First Amendment Project Amicus Letter in support of EFF/ACLU Petition for California Supreme Court Review

On behalf of:

Northern California Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists

EPIC Amicus Letter in support of EFF/ACLU Petition for California Supreme Court Review

Reporters Committee Amicus Letter in support of EFF/ACLU Petition for California Supreme Court Review

On behalf of:

-  Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

-  Californians Aware

-  California Newspaper Publishers Association

-  Los Angeles Times Communications

-  McClatchy Company

Media Organizations and Michael Robertson Amicus Letter in support of EFF/ACLU Petition for California Supreme Court Review

On behalf of:

-  Sacramento Valley Mirror

-  Lake County News

-  Ferndale Enterprise,

-  People's Vanguard of Davis

-  Woodland Record

-  Rio Dell Times

-  LION Publishing Group

-  Michael Robertson (petitioner in Robertson v. the San Diego Regional Planning Agency (SANDAG), another case seeking access to ALPR data)

Related Issues: PrivacyLocational PrivacyTransparencyRelated Cases: Automated License Plate Readers (ALPR)
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Secret TPP Talks Continue at a Luxury Hotel in Hawaii as the Deal Grows More Controversial - Wed, 29/07/2015 - 10:54

Trade ministers are meeting behind closed-doors at the Westin Resort and Spa in Maui this week to finalize the terms of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). This is the first formal round of talks since the U.S. passed the controversial Fast Track trade legislation in June, which has given U.S. negotiators a renewed sense of determination as they continue to push TPP's corporate-driven mandate on intellectual property and digital regulations. The U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) seeks to wrap up talks by the end of the week. According to recent reports, the U.S. is still pushing for copyright terms of life plus 70 years, excessive financial damages for infringements, and a host of other provisions that will undermine the public interest.

Offcials claim that a final deal could emerge the next few days, but this round of talks has been steeped in controversy. A report from last week revealed how the amount of corporate lobbying money spent on influencing trade policy surged in the last few months. Health organizations have sounded the alarm over patent provisions that would make make medicines more expensive and inaccessible for millions of people. The USTR continues to demand those expansive patent provisions, but it can no longer do so quietly.

At the same time, we worry that the TPP may be trumping concerns about human trafficking and slavery. The final Fast Track legislation included a provision prohibiting trade agreements with countries that have failed to take real action to prevent such practices. For years, the US has challenged Malaysia (among others) for failing to do just that.  But Malaysia is also a party to the TPP. We can't help but wonder whether the White House pressured the State Department to modify Malaysia's ranking and therefore clear the way for the TPP to go on the Fast Track to ratification.

As the negotiations march ahead in Hawaii, public interest representatives are working hard to get the worst provisions out of the TPP. The USTR continues to exclude them. According to one civil society representative, the USTR organized a special briefing for U.S. stakeholders, but only invited industry groups to attend. Despite this continued disregard for public interest concerns, together we are continuing to mount an offensive against the deal's destructive intellectual property provisions.

In addition to our ongoing work to show how the TPP undermines users rights, our main focus is on getting excessive copyright terms thrown out of the final deal. That's why we've created a petition urging the U.S. Copyright Office to affirm its call for sensible copyright term reforms and urge the USTR to strongly reconsider its proposal in the TPP that would lock the U.S. to its current, lengthy copyright terms.

If you're in the U.S. take action by signing our petition now.

Related Issues: Fair Use and Intellectual Property: Defending the BalanceTrade Agreements and Digital RightsTrans-Pacific Partnership AgreementTPP's Copyright Trap
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Ethiopia Promises Reform, But Has a Long Way To Go on Civil Liberties - Wed, 29/07/2015 - 08:27

Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn praised the value of the press in his remarks after a state visit with Barack Obama, saying "as far as Ethiopia is concerned, we need journalists.” But almost in the same breath, he called for limits on free expression, suggesting Ethiopia’s domestic journalists work with violent terrorist groups

His comments are reflective of the country’s long-established record of human rights abuse and violation of the right to free expression in Ethiopia, including the prosecution and arrest of journalists on terrorism charges, the issuing of criminal charges for pursuing Internet security training, and the use of invasive spyware to surveil individuals they allege are associated with opposition political groups. 

When US President Barack Obama announced his state visit to Ethiopia this week, the first by a sitting President, things boded well for the possibility of change: US Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communication Ben Rhodes promised human rights would be squarely on the agenda, saying “We’ve seen too much intimidation, and even imprisonment of journalists, and the need for a viable space for civil society and political opposition in the country.” Ethiopia also took promising steps by releasing five members of the Zone 9 blogging collective along with journalist Reeyot Alemu in the weeks leading up to the visit.

But Desalegn’s remarks reveal the country still has a long way to go to improve its record on civil liberties. Though Obama referred to the government as “democratically elected,” Ethiopia is currently ranked 142 on Reporters Without Borders’ World Press Freedom Index, and “Not Free” on Freedom House’s 2015 Freedom in the World, Freedom of the Press and 2014 Freedom of the Net reports.

Obama himself emphasized in the press conference the need for democratic reform in Ethiopia, particularly around the issue of free expression: “In a global economy that’s increasingly driven by technology and the Internet, continued growth in Ethiopia depends on the free flow of information and open exchanges of ideas. I believe that when all voices are being heard, when people know that they’re included in the political process, that makes a country stronger and more successful and more innovative. So we discussed steps that Ethiopia can take to show progress on promoting good governance, protecting human rights, fundamental freedoms, and strengthening democracy.”

Prime Minister Desalegn asserted Ethiopia plans to reform, saying “My government has expressed its commitment to deepen the democratic process already underway in the country, and work towards the respect of human rights and improving governance.”

To bolster its position, there are several things the Ethiopian government can do right away to improve its human rights record:

  • Immediately free all journalists in prison, including the remaining Zone 9 bloggers, and relieve them of all charges for the “crime” of reporting the news.
  • End the prosecution of individuals for pursuing security training and using encryption technologies, and free Zelalem Workagegnehu, Yonatan Wolde, Abraham Solomon, and Bahiru Degu.
  • Cease and desist from using invasive surveillance technologies like FinFisher and Hacking Team’s Remote Control System to spy on Ethiopian journalists, diaspora, and opposition groups.

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Stop CISA Week of Action: EFF Joins Over 60 Organizations and Companies Opposing CISA - Wed, 29/07/2015 - 05:41

EFF joined over 68 security experts, tech companies, and civil society organizations urging President Obama to threaten to veto the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA, S. 754) as part of our Week of Action opposing CISA.

This broad coalition strongly opposes CISA because it threatens privacy and civil liberties and may even undermine Internet security. As the letter states:

CISA fails to protect users’ personal information. It allows vast amounts of personal data to be shared with the government, even that which is not necessary to identify or respond to a cybersecurity threat. This is because CISA permits companies to leave personal and identifying information in indicators it shares with the government.

In 2013, the Obama Administration first stated its opposition to CISPA and its intention to veto it because the legislation failed to “preserve Americans’ privacy, data confidentiality, and civil liberties and recognize the civilian nature of cyberspace.” The following year the Administration again voiced strong opposition to CISPA.

This newest letter urges President Obama to veto CISA as its privacy-invasive provisions are similar to CISPA.

The letter concludes:

CISA fails to address many of the concerns raised about preceding information sharing bills that the Administration opposed, and it threatens to undermine privacy and civil liberties, and increase cybersurveillance. We strongly oppose CISA and we urge you to again defend privacy and civil liberties by voicing your opposition and your intention to veto it.

The Week of Action

 Join us in our Week of Action to stop CISA. Here’s how to help:

  1. Visit the Stop Cyber Spying coalition website where you can email and fax your Senators and tell them to vote no on CISA.
  2. Use a new tool developed by Fight for the Future to fax your lawmakers from the Internet. We want to make sure they get the message.
  3. Check out our AMA on Reddit on Wednesday July 29 at 10am ET/7am PT with EFF, Access, Fight for the Future, and the ACLU and let your friends know about it.
  4. Help us spread the word. After you’ve taken action, tweet out why CISA must be stopped with the hashtag #StopCISA. Use the hashtag #FaxBigBrother if you want to automatically send a fax to your Senator opposing CISA. If you have a blog, join us by publishing a blog post this week about why you oppose CISA, and help us spread the word about the action tools at For detailed analysis you can check out this blog post and this chart.

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Illegitimate Show Trial Sentences Gaddafi's Son to Death - Wed, 29/07/2015 - 05:02
Illegitimate Show Trial Sentences Gaddafi’s Son to Death
by Stephen Lendman
In 2007, candidate Obama said “(t)he president does not have the power under the Constitution to unilaterally authorize a military attack in a situation that does not involve stopping an actual or imminent threat to the nation.”
Straightaway after entering office, he expanded drone attacks against Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen. He increased troop strength in Afghanistan after pledging to end war by yearend 2009.
US-led NATO aggression on Libya followed. Obama lied claiming Gaddafi “attack(ed) his (own) people. (So) we took…swift steps…to answer his aggression.”
A litany of Big Lies followed. “Innocent people were targeted for killing,” Obama blustered. “Hospital and ambulances were attacked.”
“Journalists were arrested, sexually assaulted and killed…Water for hundreds of thousands of people…was shut off. Cities and towns were shelled. Mosques were destroyed.” 
“Gaddafi declared he would show no mercy to his own people” - willful Obama deception. He tried justifying the unjustifiable, adding “I authorized military action to stop the killing and enforce UN Security Council Resolution 1973.”
International law is clear. Nations may not attack others except in self-defense - and only if UN Security Council authorized.
America wasn’t attacked, nor other NATO countries. Gaddafi threatened no one, including his own people. The longer war raged, the more popular he became. Libyans rallied around him for safety and security - hoping he’d be able to restore peace and stability.
At war’s end, he was brutally sodomized and murdered in cold blood. On November 19, 2011, his son Saif was arrested trying to flee Libya to safety, held captive by Zintan rebels, tortured, until tried in absentia in Tripoli and convicted by kangaroo tribunal proceedings affording him no chance for justice.
He was declared guilty by accusation - sentenced to death by firing squad along with eight other former Gaddafi officials, including former intelligence chief Abdullah Senussi, and two former prime ministers, al-Baghdadi and Abuzaid Dorda.
A total of 32 defendants were tried - 23 got lesser sentences and fines. Attorney John Jones represented Saif. “It was clearly a show trial” for all defendants, he said. “It was basically a trial by militia” lasting two days - conducted by an illegitimate Islamist regime controlling Tripoli after ousting the US-installed one operating from Tobruk.
“Lawyers were intimidated,” said Jones. “The judges were intimated. Lawyers had to leave the case.” Controlled proceedings excluded the right to a proper defense. Only two intimidated witnesses for Saif were allowed. No evidence against him was presented.
Prosecutors relied solely on torture extracted information - what no legitimate tribunal permits. Transitional Justice and Rule of Law Division of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) human rights director Claudio Cordone said:
“Concerns over the trial include the fact that several defendants were absent for a number of sessions. The evidence of criminal conduct was largely attributed to the defendants in general, with little effort to establish individual criminal responsibility.”
“(I)t is particularly worrisome that the court handed down nine death sentences. International standards require that death sentences may only be imposed after proceedings that meet the highest level of respect for fair trial standards. The United Nations opposes the imposition of the death penalty as a matter of principle.”
Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ravina Shamdasani, added:
“We had closely monitored the detention and trial and found that international fair trial standards had failed to be met. Among the key shortcomings is the failure to establish individual criminal responsibility in relation to specific crimes.”
Other serious issues included lack of access to lawyers, torture and other forms of ill treatment, as well as illegitimate trials conducted in absentia.
An UNSMIL press release said “(d)uring their pre-trial detention defendants were denied access to lawyers and family for prolonged periods, and some reported that they were beaten or otherwise ill-treated, but UNSMIL is not aware of any investigation into these allegations.”
“Many defendants were not represented by a lawyer during the pre-trial process, which deprived them of a crucial opportunity to establish their defence. Defence lawyers said they faced challenges in meeting their clients privately or accessing the full case file, and some said they received threats.” 
“They were constrained by the court to two or three witnesses per defendant and some said that witnesses were reluctant to appear in court due to fears about their safety. The court did not respond to defence counsel requests to examine prosecution witnesses.”
US-led NATO turned Africa’s most developed country into a cauldron of endless violence, deprivation and despair.
Tens of thousands were murdered in cold blood. Multiples more were injured and/or displaced. Violence, instability, insecurity and chaos reflect daily life. No end in sight looms. Millions of Libyans live in constant fear. 
Obama bears full responsibility for raping, ravaging, destroying, and plundering a nation threatening no others. Anarchical charnel house conditions replaced it. 
Dystopian harshness persists. Libya is a failed state. Central authority is absent. Public services aren’t provided. Corruption and criminality are rampant. Conditions are in free fall. Human misery is extreme. 
Libya is one of many high crimes on Obama’s rap sheet. Perhaps he plans Libya 2.0 for Syria, Iran, Lebanon and Yemen. Longstanding US/Israeli plans to redraw the Middle East map suggest it.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
Visit his blog site at 
Listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network.

It airs three times weekly: live on Sundays at 1PM Central time plus two prerecorded archived programs. 

Public Interest Groups and Over a Thousand Users Call on the Copyright Office to Affirm Its Call for Sensible Copyright Policy - Wed, 29/07/2015 - 05:00

Under the copyright term extensions we've seen in leaked drafts of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the quarter of a billion people living in six of the negotiating countries could lose access to 20 years of the public domain. This proposal conflicts not just with common sense, but with the suggestions from the United States Register of Copyrights that the U.S. policymakers should address the downsides of exceedingly long terms. We've sounded the alarm on that issue through a campaign highlighting TPP's Copyright Trap.

Just a few days into this campaign, over a thousand members of the EFF community have signed a petition urging the U.S. Copyright Office to affirm its call for sensible copyright term reforms, which can only happen if countries are not restricted by ill-considered international agreements. You can add your voice to that chorus today:

Meanwhile, we are not alone in demanding trade negotiators reject copyright language that doesn't reflect the public interest. In the last week, both Public Knowledge and Knowledge Ecology International have published letters about trade policy. Public Knowledge's letter to the United States Trade Representative (USTR) calls for robust copyright exceptions and limitations and an agreement that doesn't harm the public domain:

Limitations and exceptions to intellectual property rights are absolutely critical to a functioning marketplace. The digital revolution has ushered in an era of ubiquitous content. Even without actively seeking out knowledge properties, the average American is constantly being exposed to—and interacting with—copyrighted and patented goods. Overbroad intellectual property protections create a minefield of liability through which no consumer, no matter how savvy, can reasonably be expected to navigate.

KEI's letter, addressed to the members of the Copyright Office, the Patent and Trademark Office, and the White House's Office of Science and Technology Policy, calls on those specialized agencies to flag specific problems with the agreement text:

Unlike the general public, your voice really matters in this negotiation. If the TPP ends up making all of the mistakes that we have identified in this letter, do not let it be because none of you mobilized your own agencies to educate the USTR about U.S. copyright law, took a stand on the copyright term issue, or did anything to protect the flexibility of a future Congress to fix the orphan works issue.

We hope that domestic agencies in all TPP countries push back, and that negotiators listen. As the latest round of TPP meetings take place in Maui, the trade representatives had better be paying attention to the growing calls of the public.

Our TPP's Copyright Trap campaign links to more articles about how the threat of copyright term extension under the TPP impacts users around the world.

Related Issues: TPP's Copyright Trap
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Another Jail Cell Murder in America - Wed, 29/07/2015 - 04:39
Another Jail Cell Murder in America
by Stephen Lendman
While family, friends, civil rights activists and good people everywhere mourn Sandra Bland’s death at the hands of Waller County, TX killer cops, Native American Rexdale Henry’s likely murder in Neshoba County, Mississippi jail needs more nationwide attention.
Family spokesman John Steele said he was found dead on July 14. As of July 27, results of two autopsies aren’t known. He was allegedly arrested for nonpayment of traffic fines.
A Neshoba County Justice Court clerk said records showed they totaled $2,677. He could have paid some not yet indicated, she explained. Possibly the recorded total included late fees or other charges.
Steele called Henry an activist community member for Native American rights and equal justice, an announced candidate for the Choctaw Tribal Council days before his arrest on July 9. 
“He was a great family man and just tried to help his people, the Choctaw tribe. He had a closeness with everyone in the community,” Steele explained.
Police said they found him dead around 10:00AM July 14. He was seen alive 30 minutes earlier with no signs of ill health reported. Like Sandra Bland, his case wreaks of foul play - likely cold-blooded murder, perhaps for supporting Native American rights in a community against them.
The Mississippi Bureau of Investigation (MBI) is examining his case. Cause of death from a state conducted autopsy will likely exclude murder as cause of death.
Anonymous donors paid for his body to be flown to Florida for an independent forensic pathologist’s evaluation. Results so far aren’t known.
Law Professor Janis McDonald said “(a)t a time when the nation is focused on the terrible circumstances of the brutal death of Sandra Bland, it is critical to expose the many ways in which black Americans, Native Americans and other minorities are being arrested for minor charges and end up dead in jail cells.”
The day before Henry’s arrest, a Stonewall, MS cop pulled African-American Jonathan Sanders from a horse, then choked him to death with a flashlight, according to witnesses.
Before dying, he was heard pleading “(l)et me go. I can’t breathe.” Police chief Michael Street lied claiming otherwise - saying there was no flashlight. No shots were fired. “There were no weapons, and he was not dragged off a horse.”
Sanders was a horse trainer, unarmed threatening no one. The MBI is investigating his case. No cause of death so far was released.
Steele said once results of Henry’s independent autopsy are available, they’ll be made public.
A longstanding race war in America rages against people of color - victimized by multiple forms of injustice, including killer cop homicides called deaths by suicides or natural causes.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at 
His new book as editor and contributor is titled "Flashpoint in Ukraine: US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III."
Visit his blog site at 
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The Crypto Wars Have Gone Global - Wed, 29/07/2015 - 04:28

Recently, Congress heard testimony about whether or not backdoors should be introduced into encryption technologies, a technically problematic proposal that would fundamentally weaken the security of the Internet, according to a recent report written by eleven of the world’s leading cryptographers. But while Congress is reliving these debates from the nineties (we hear they’re in these days), the Crypto Wars are very much alive and well in other parts of the world.

The United Kingdom, Netherlands and Australia have gone farther than the proposals put forward by the FBI by introducing new regulations that seek to weaken and place limits on the development and use of encryption. These efforts, made ostensibly to protect citizens against terrorism, are likely to have severe economic, political and social consequences for these nations and their citizens, while doing little to protect their security.

According to the cryptographers’ report, encryption in fact has a critical role to play in national security by protecting citizens against malicious threats. The harm to the public that can be presented by lax digital security has been illustrated a number of times over recent months: data breaches such as the hack of the Office of Personnel Management compromised the personal information of tens of millions of Americans, while weak or flawed cryptography led to vulnerabilities such as Logjam and FREAK that compromised the transport layer security protocols used to secure network connections worldwide. Encryption is not only essential to protecting free expression in the digital age—it's also a critical part of national security.

This is what makes law enforcement claims that encryption prevents them from pursuing criminals and terrorists so concerning, especially when it’s not backed up by evidence. Testimony by Manhattan’s DA before the Senate Judiciary Committee revealed that the office had encountered 74 iPhones whose full-disk encryption had hindered an investigation, or less than 0.1% of all cases, as EFF’s Nadia Kayyali notes. As Bruce Schneier put it recently in an interview, “[David] Cameron is unlikely to demand that cars redesign their engines so as to limit their speeds to 60 kph so bank robbers can’t get away so fast. But he doesn’t understand the comparable trade-offs in his proposed legislation."

United Kingdom

Cameron has said there should be no “means of communication” which “we cannot read” in the United Kingdom, which has been interpreted by some media outlets as a proposal to ban the use of encryption in the UK.

No legislation has been made available publicly yet, and a spokesperson for the prime minister backed off such claims in recent days, so the exact form of implementation remains to be seen. But to entertain the hypothetical, the consequences of such a move would be quite significant: not only would UK citizens be banned from using secure software and UK companies be banned from producing it, but any sort of free and open source software would be banned, due to an inability to police whether encryption had been introduced in any of the code.

A ban would likely mean, as Cory Doctorow notes, that many companies would have to relocate or completely revamp their servers as operating systems like GNU/Linux and BSD use free and open source code. Popular messaging applications including iMessage and WhatsApp would be banned for their use of encryption. Moreover, anyone entering the UK with a phone or computer from outside of the UK would have to conform to UK standards or have their devices seized at the border.

But the likely proposal, that Cameron will seek to mandate technology companies provide backdoor access to UK law enforcement, is already having a negative impact on UK businesses. A number of technology firms, including Ghost, and Eris Industries, have moved out of the UK over concerns they will be forced to introduce backdoors in their encryption technologies. Leading technology companies including Apple and Google have also expressed trepidation at the UK’s planned expansion of its state power over their products.

The consequences for users’ privacy are even worse. Parliament is expected to revive the Draft Communications Data Bill, commonly known as the Snoopers’ Charter, in its next session. The bill would require Internet service providers to maintain records of users’ communications and would change authorization procedures to allow senior law enforcement officers to give monthly authorizations for bulk collection rather than requiring individual requests for the collection of data.

In combination with a mandate for backdoored encryption, this would mean a dramatic expansion of the UK’s capacity to surveil the communications and metadata of its citizens even as the state diminishes those citizens’ capacity to protect themselves from harm.

The Netherlands

The Netherlands is similarly considering legislation that would combine an expansion in surveillance powers with limits on cryptography in a slightly different form, through the capacity to compel decryption of data. It recently launched public consultation on a proposed update to the Intelligence & Security Act of 2002 which expands the country’s surveillance capabilities to include non-specific interception. In combination with intelligence services’ existing authority to compel anyone to decrypt stored data and communications either by handing over keys or by providing the decrypted data, citizens of the Netherlands face significant incursions on their privacy.

Mandating end-users decrypt their data is in many ways problematic, particularly because it reverses the presumption of guilt. If the user doesn’t have the private key or passphrase to access the decrypted data, there is no way for them to prove this is the case—and they could face felony or misdemeanor charges for their failure to comply.

But the mandate to decrypt also includes other parties, including intermediaries and online service providers, which would introduce another complicated twist. According to analysis of the bill by Matthijs Koot, this provision is written in such a way as to facilitate bulk interception of encrypted communications where mandated by a Minister. The existing law already grants legal room for the use of hacking, which could be used in order to obtain the information necessary to decrypt data, or using third party agents or informants in order to obtain this information, for example by intercepting someone’s keys in order to decrypt their data—all of which would present greater challenges to protecting user privacy.

There’s still time for these provisions to be amended in response to public comments. The Dutch Review Committee on the Intelligence & Security Services has already raised a number of important questions about the bill, including whether the expansion of interception powers will be effective and necessary, how the privacy of innocent citizens should be protected and what the minimum requirements of oversight should be. We’re hopeful that critique will also come from within Parliament, given that Dutch representatives opposed similar measures when proposed by the Council of Europe in January, according to EDRi. But the proposal of such measures is indicative of a range of challenges to encryption broader than UK and US-proposed backdoors.


Recently passed revisions of Australia’s Defence Trade Controls Act may likewise have a deleterious effect on the development and use of encryption technologies. The DTCA is a permitting regime that regulates trade in military technologies and dual-use technologies, including encryption. The newest list of these technologies introduces the risk of overbreadth by setting an extremely low bar for what forms of encryption classify under this regime—regulating not only encryption software itself, but the systems, electronics and encryption used to implement, develop, produce and test it.

All it takes is for such an ambiguously-written regulation to be re-interpreted or over-enforced, and a country with an apparently positive approach to strong encryption could quickly morph into a state that silences or even prosecutes its own security researchers. While such regulations exist on the statute books, statements by politicians declaring their intent to prevent the privacy of encryption contribute to this climate of uncertainty, without any need for a new law.

In this case, the planned introduction of criminal provisions to the Defence Trade Controls Act has raised serious questions about the safety of distributing or even teaching encryption among researchers. Daniel Mathews, a lecturer at Monash University, is concerned that the specifications are so imprecise that “the only cryptography not covered by the DGSL is cryptography so weak that it would be imprudent to use."

Moreover, they risk being interpreted in such a way as to make the teaching of cryptography and even other areas of mathematics illegal without obtaining a permit. The EFF recently signed on to a letter from members of the International Association for Cryptologic Research expressing concern over the law, saying it “subjects many ordinary teaching and research activities to unclear, potentially severe, export controls." The amendments to the Act were passed in April and will come into effect next year.

The Danger of Setting New Norms

The unintended consequence of these efforts to provide law enforcement unfettered access to communications for users’ privacy and the security of the Internet far exceeds the benefits that would be gained.

Even with amendments, the regularity with which these debates occur presents a risk that they begin to set the norm: given the geopolitical weight of the nations in which they’re being considered there’s potential that such proposals could set precedent for other nations to follow suit. And as EFF lawyer Nate Cardozo noted in a panel at the recent Crypto Summit, even more dangerous is the potential for silent capitulation by technology companies regardless of whether there’s a law on the books.

Already, FBI Director James Comey praised the UK’s proposal for being “a little bit ahead of us” on encryption policy in his testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee, suggesting such policy measures are progressive rather than outdated and ill-informed. It’s time to leave the Crypto Wars behind, and treat encryption as a part of national security rather than a threat to it.

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