Friday, April 6, 2012

Is The NSA Spying On American Citizens?

Just a few days ago, the proverbial feces hit the fan. Wired Magazine, in a stellar piece of investigative reporting, revealed a treasure-trove of information regarding the NSA's new Utah spy center, and the agency's secretive agreements with shadowy firms to spy on US Citizens. Uh-huh. That's right. We should all be concerned.

The story hit hard, and spread. TV News reports from small local stations all the way to national news programs highlighted the story. The US Army General responsible for the NSA felt compelled to go public with a denial. Of course, it didn't hurt that concerned congressional representative started asking direct questions. Read the Wired article. And read the General's denials here. Take note that he says quite specifically: We don't do we have sub-contracted that task out to trusted foreign allies like Israel and Singapore.that here. "Here" is the operative word. I submit that means the agency does not spy on US Citizens from US territory. Thus, the "here." In fact, there is evidence that

There are many who are quite skeptical about the General's denials. After all, it's not like the NSA has a long record of honesty when addressing Congress or the American public. It's a spy thing. So we have to rely on the judgments of others in that regard. Read what ComputerWorld had to say about the denials in this article.

Now, read about how we've outsourced the invasion of our privacy to foreign firms in this BUSINESS INSIDER article.

The Author is connected to this story, in a peripheral sort of way. During the 80's I had a chance to meet and chat with Admiral John Poindexter, the US Governments uber-geek programmer, and the conceptual architect of the TIAA (Total Information Awarness & Analysis) program that was deemed so unconstitutional by Congress that they de-funded it and sent it away. Problem is, it never really disappeared. It just went underground. I first wrote about my conversation with the Admiral years ago in THIS POST.

So you can see that in addition to Israeli firms, Singapore is also involved. Investigations reveal that THIS MAN is part of the Singaporean effort. He's an old associate of Poindexter's by the way. You remember Poindexter's TIAA, well in Singapore it's called RAHS: Risk Assessment Horizon Scanning. Snowden is an integral part of a firm called Cognitive Edge that is the architect of RAHS. From the firm's website, this vague but tantalizing description of the program.

The RAHS system is a strategic risk assessment and analysis tool, which aims to provide early alerts on potential threats to national security by building a network that links various independent government agencies throughout the Singapore government. Through the RAHS project, the government aims to identify early indicators of change, detect signals and analyze potential threat patterns which otherwise would have gone unnoticed.

Finally, here's a video piece from Amy Goodman's Democracy Today covering the story.

Update:  This just in. Stratfor emails reveal secret, widespread TrapWire surveillance system powered by Abraxas technology. Abraxas founder Richard “Hollis” Helms said his signature product“can collect information about people and vehicles that is more accurate than facial recognition, draw patterns, and do threat assessments of areas that may be under observation from terrorists.” He calls it “a proprietary technology designed to protect critical national infrastructure from a terrorist attack by detecting the pre-attack activities of the terrorist and enabling law enforcement to investigate and engage the terrorist long before an attack is executed,” and that, “The beauty of it is that we can protect an infinite number of facilities just as efficiently as we can one and we push information out to local law authorities automatically.”  The author has nothing against predictive analytics or the notion of horizon-scanning for threat detection. However I personally hold the belief that these kinds of culture-impacting decisions should be taken with full public involvement, discussion and debate. I'm not seeing that happening in this case.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Hiromi Uehara - A Musical Wonder

Recently, I've been listening a lot to Hiromi Uehara and her band. The jazz world has a new piano master, and she's really a lot of fun. Born in Japan in 1979, Uehara began her musical education at age 6 and was first introduced to jazz at age eight.  She had an opportunity to meet and perform with Chick Corea at 17, then moved to Boston to attend the prestigious Berklee College of Music. There, she met colleagues and made friends that still play with her now.  And play she does. Lots of high-profile concert appearances these days, complimented by a ton of international exposure. So what's the story with this young woman? What's the buzz all about? Just listen.

And this, with her mentor Chick Corea...