NEWS2U Articles & Comments
Critical Reporting

Friday, September 27, 2013

30K cops, others can access Ohio driver’s license database with no oversight 

By Travis Gettys
Raw Story
September 23, 201

Ohio allows thousands of police officers and court employees to access driver’s license images online without oversight, by far the nation’s most permissive system.
A recent Cincinnati Enquirer/Gannett Ohio investigation found the state permits 30,000 law enforcement officers and others to search the image database, which Attorney General Mike DeWine admitted last month had been uploaded in June without telling the public or reviewing security protocols.
The Republican attorney general said similar technology was used by law enforcement in more than half the U.S., but the Enquirer’s report showed the technology is far more limited elsewhere.
For example, in neighboring Kentucky, a facial recognition search can be run by only 34 people – three in the driver’s license bureau and 31 in the state police.
The newspaper’s review found 38 states and the District of Columbia used systems that could match a photograph with a driver’s license picture, but those systems were launched and controlled by the driver’s license bureau.
Those systems were operated primarily to prevent duplicate or fraudulent identity cards.
Twelve states, including California, do not use facial recognition software.

Another 12 states, including New York, use the software but do not permit law enforcement to access the technology.
In Ohio, police officers have performed at least 2,600 searches since June 2 using the new database, which scans driver’s license photos and police mug shots and compares them to any image, including those from surveillance cameras.
Anyone with access to Ohio’s database could identify and acquire personal information, such as home addresses and Social Security numbers, for any person they wanted.
DeWine said he was satisfied the system had “adequate” safeguards in place, including threat of prosecution, to prevent misuse.
But the ACLU has called for DeWine to “pull the plug” on the system until “meaningful, documented rules” were put in place to keep the information secure and protect privacy.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Internet Society Responds to Reports of the U.S. Government’s Circumvention of Encryption Technology

Internet Society
Sept 9, 2013

 The Internet Society is alarmed by continuing reports alleging systematic United States government efforts to circumvent Internet security mechanisms. The Internet Society President and CEO, Lynn St. Amour, said, “If true, these reports describe government programmes that undermine the technical foundations of the Internet and are a fundamental threat to the Internet’s economic, innovative, and social potential. Any systematic, state-level attack on Internet security and privacy is a rejection of the global, collaborative fabric that has enabled the Internet's growth to extend beyond the interests of any one country.

The Internet Society believes that global interoperability and openness of the Internet are pre-requisites for confidence in online interaction, they unlock the Internet as a forum for economic and social progress, and they are founded on basic assumptions of trust. We are deeply concerned that these principles are being eroded and that users' legitimate expectations of online security are being treated with contempt.

As the institutional home of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), we believe that open and transparent processes are essential for security standardization, and result in better outcomes than any alternative approach. For example, protocols developed by the IETF are open for all to see, inspect, and verify, as are the open and inclusive processes by which they are specified.

IETF Chairman Jari Arkko has strongly reiterated the IETF’s commitment to improving security in the Internet, and to seeking ways of improving security protocols in light of these new revelations and security threats. “The IETF has a long-standing commitment to openness and transparency in developing security protocols for the Internet, and sees this as critical to confidence in their use and implementation.

To read more, visit:

However, the open development of robust technical specifications is just one link in the chain. Security standards must be properly implemented and used. This is a wake-up call for technology developers and adopters alike, to reexamine what we can do to ensure that all links in the chain are equally strong. This is key to helping restore public trust and confidence in the Internet.

The Internet has tremendous potential for economic and social good, but unless all stakeholders trust the Internet as a safe place for business, social interaction, academic enquiry, and self-expression, those economic and social benefits are put at risk. To fulfill its potential, the Internet must be underpinned by the right combination of technology, operational processes, legislation, policy, and governance. The recent reports suggest that U.S. Government programmes have systematically undermined some or all of those measures, and that is why we view the revelations with such grave concern.

With this mind, we issue these calls to action for the global community:

  • To every citizen of the Internet: let your government representatives know that, even in matters of national security, you expect privacy, rule of law, and due process in any handling of your data.

Security is a collective responsibility that involves multiple stakeholders. In this regard, we call on:

  • Those involved in technology research and development: use the openness of standards processes like the IETF to challenge assumptions about security specifications.

  • Those who implement the technology and standards for Internet security: uphold that responsibility in your work, and be mindful of the damage caused by loss of trust.

  • Those who develop products and services that depend on a trusted Internet: secure your own services, and be intolerant of insecurity in the infrastructure on which you depend.

  • To every Internet user: ensure you are well informed about good practice in online security, and act on that information. Take responsibility for your own security.

At the Internet Society, we remain committed to advancing work in areas such as browser security, privacy settings, and digital footprint awareness in order to help users understand and manage their privacy and security. The citizens of the Internet deserve a global and open platform for communication, built on solid foundations of security and privacy.

About the Internet Society

The Internet Society is the trusted independent source for Internet information and thought leadership from around the world. With its principled vision and substantial technological foundation, the Internet Society promotes open dialogue on Internet policy, technology, and future development among users, companies, governments, and other organizations. Working with its members and Chapters around the world, the Internet Society enables the continued evolution and growth of the Internet for everyone.
For more information, visit

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Sunday, September 01, 2013

Here we go again!

Obama and American exceptionalism 
Last night's Libya speech again highlighted Obama's belief in American exceptionalism. Is that a good thing? 

By Glenn Greenwald 
Mar 29, 2011
Numerous commentators have observed that President Obama’s Libya speech last night rested on an affirmation of American “exceptionalism.” That conviction, they contend, was expressed by Obama’s appeal to “America’s responsibility as a leader” and by this claim: “some nations may be able to turn a blind eye to atrocities in other countries. The United States of America is different.”
Steve Benen proclaimed that Obama’s speech should put an end to the debate over whether he believes in America’s exceptionalism: “the president wasn’t subtle — the United States isn’t like other countries; ours is a country with unique power, responsibilities, and moral obligations.” 
Andrew Sullivan observed that exceptionalism was “the core message of the President’s speech” and that “he clearly believes in that exceptionalism – and now will live with its onerous responsibilities.” 
Mark Kleiman announced that last night’s speech exposed “one of the stupidest of right-wing talking points about Obama . . . that he somehow disbelieves in the exceptional nature of the American project” (though Kleiman also bizarrely equates that accusation with “the lie that Barack Obama does not love his country” — as though you can’t love your country if you don’t believe in its exceptionalism).
Adam Serwer wrote: “After Obama’s speech last night. . . anyone who alleges the president doesn’t believe [in exceptionalism] deserves to be laughed out of town.”  
And the most enthusiastic praise for Obama’s speech came from Bill Kristol in The Weekly Standard, who gushed that with this speech, “President Obama had rejoined — or joined — the historical American foreign policy mainstream” and “the president was unapologetic, freedom-agenda-embracing, and didn’t shrink from defending the use of force or from appealing to American values and interests.
It’s long been obvious that Obama deeply believes in American exceptionalism, and I agree entirely with these commentators who say that last night’s speech left no doubt about that conviction (not because he says he believes it in a speech, but because his actions reflect that belief). 

But what none of them say — other than Kristol — is whether they believe this to be a good thing. 

Does the U.S. indeed occupy a special place in the world, entitling and even obligating us to undertake actions that no other country is entitled or obligated to undertake? And, if so, what is the source of these entitlements and obligations? Is it merely our superior military power, or is there something else that has vested us with this perch of exceptionalism?
That the U.S. is exceptional is not, of course, some sort of unusual or marginal belief in American political culture. Quite the contrary: those who reject it are the ones who find themselves in the minority. 
 Beginning almost immediately after 9/11, George W. Bush frequently asserted that America was “called” — by whom he didn’t say — “to defend freedom.” A Gallup poll from late last year found that 80% of Americans believe their country “has a unique character that makes it the greatest country in the world.” 
There are very few political propositions which can command 80% support; that this one does shows just how much American exceptionalism is solidified as political orthodoxy in the United States.
The pervasiveness of this exceptionalism isn’t really surprising. It’s a common human desire to believe that one is special, unique, better than all others. Few people aspire to ordinariness. We view the world — physically and mentally — from our own personal perspective, and are inherently situated at the center of it. As tribal beings, we naturally believe that our customs and the beliefs with which we were inculcated from childhood are superior to Theirs. 
Personally, I’ve never understood how the following thought doesn’t obliterate — or at least severely dilute — the conviction of one’s exceptionalism:
The probability that I happened to be born in the greatest country on Earth — or, even more so, the greatest country ever to exist on Earth in all of human history — is minute. Isn’t it far more likely that I believe this because I was taught to, rather than because it’s true?
But the desire to believe something is a powerful force, and this belief is thus extremely widespread.  Still, it’s not a particularly appealing trait for an individual to run around hailing themselves “the greatest in the world,” so it becomes perfectly acceptable — mandatory even — to nationalize this sentiment: “my country, the United States, is the greatest country in the world,” and thus — to use Benen’s description of Obama’s mindset — “the United States isn’t like other countries; ours is a country with unique power, responsibilities, and moral obligations” (This is not a question of whether one finds things to admire in America; just as one can appreciate one’s own strengths without believing one is The Greatest in the World, one can appreciate attributes of American political life — its domestic protections of free speech and press rights, its relatively integrated racial and ethnic diversity, its class mobility (as evidenced by two of the last three Presidents), its social progress — without believing it to be The Greatest).
Exceptionalism can, of course, take different forms and result in different consequences. Notwithstanding Kristol’s ecstacy over Obama’s speech, Serwer insists that Obama’s version of exceptionalism is different than the American Right’s:
Conservatives seem to believe that American Exceptionalism justifies America doing whatever it wants in the world. By contrast, Obama — at least rhetorically — emphasizes that being exceptional is a standard to meet, not a license for America to capriciously enforce its will upon others. Where conservatives sometimes refuse to acknowledge that there are limits to American power, Obama acknowledged: “The United States will not be able to dictate the pace and scope of this change. Only the people of the region can do that.”
That overstates the difference. The reality is that Bush never really acted alone; his attack on Iraq was joined by an international coalition larger than the one participating in Obama’s war humanitarian intervention in Libya, and the last time I checked, 
Obama had no multilateral coalition or U.N. approval for his relentless drone attacks in Pakistan or covert bombings in Yemen. Stephen Walt argues, persuasively I think, that the only real difference between neocons and liberal interventionists is that the latter insist on legitimizing their wars through the U.N. while the former don’t care to. 
But let’s grant that there are some meaningful differences in how the Democratic and GOP versions of exceptionalism manifest.
The fact remains that declaring yourself special, superior and/or exceptional — and believing that to be true, and, especially, acting on that belief — has serious consequences. 
It can (and usually does) mean that the same standards of judgment aren’t applied to your acts as are applied to everyone else’s (when you do X, it’s justified, but when they do, it isn’t). 
It means that you’re entitled (or obligated) to do things that nobody else is entitled or obligated to do (does anyone doubt that the self-perceived superiority and self-arrogated entitlements of Wall Street tycoons is what lead them to believe they can act without constraints?). 
It means that no matter how many bad things you do in the world, it doesn’t ever reflect on who you are, because you’re inherently exceptional and thus driven by good motives. And it probably means — at least as it expresses itself in the American form — that you’ll find yourself in a posture of endless war, because your “unique power, responsibilities, and moral obligations” will always find causes and justifications for new conflicts.
It’s a nice political point on the President’s behalf to insist that he has proven his belief in American exceptionalism. That insulates him from a political vulnerability (i.e., from the perception that he rejects a widely held view), which is nice if politically defending the President is an important goal for you. 
But the harder — and far more important — question is whether this American exceptionalism that you attribute to him is actually true, whether it’s well-grounded, and whether it should serve as a premise for our actions in the world.