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How to Keep the NSA Out of Your Computer

How to Keep the NSA Out of Your Computer
John Hersey Editor's note: Clive Thompson answered readers' questions about this article on Reddit on Aug. 28. Click here to view the conversation. JOSEPH BONICIOLI mostly uses the same internet you and I do. He pays a service provider a monthly fee to get him online. But to talk to his friends and neighbors in Athens, Greece, he's also got something much weirder and more interesting: a private, parallel internet. He and his fellow Athenians built it. Indeed, the mesh has become a major social hub. The Athenians aren't alone. THE INTERNET may seem amorphous, but it's at heart pretty physical. Meshes evolved to tackle this problem. "When people see the price they get from the mesh, they're like, 'Ten bucks a month? In some ways, a community mesh resembles a food co-op. In other cases, meshes are run like tiny local businesses. As activism has become increasingly reliant on social networking, repressive regimes have responded by cutting off internet access. Even voice calls can be meshed.


P2P-Urbanism: Backed by Evidence After decades of central planning that ignored local conditions and the complex needs of final users, and then tried to do away with the commons for monetary reasons, people have forgotten the principal geometrical, human-scaled patterns that generated our most successful urban spaces throughout history. There has been an important loss of the shared knowledge that once let people build humane environments without much in the way of formal planning. The general form of urbanism implemented during the 20th century and the beginning of our own 21st century was large-scale, centrally planned development.

The N.S.A. and Its Targets: Lavabit Shuts Down Not every suspension-of-service notice for an e-mail company comes with a link to a legal-defense fund. Ladar Levison, the owner and operator of Lavabit, whose clients, reportedly, have included Edward Snowden, made it sound today as though he could use the help. “I have been forced to make a difficult decision: to become complicit in crimes against the American people or walk away from nearly ten years of hard work by shutting down Lavabit,” Levison wrote in a note posted on his site. As Kevin Poulsen and others have pointed out, our collective experience has prepared us to guess what is going on here: Levison got either a national-security letter “or a full blown search or eavesdropping warrant.” In the weeks since the Guardian and Washington Post first began publishing stories with Snowden’s documents, the picture of the National Security Agency’s domestic-surveillance practices that’s come together is different from the one most everyone held before we’d ever heard Snowden’s name.

FBI Push Local Police Secrecy over Massive Cell Phone Sweeps Melissa MeltonActivist Post While the mass surveillance scandal surrounding the NSA and its various partners has continued to command national headlines, sparking debate and quiet mumblings about the pervasive extent of spying, less attention has been paid to the equally controversial but less known use of mass surveillance data sweeps by local law enforcement across the country. In part, this is due to restricted information about the extent of this surveillance activity. According to the Associated Press, the Obama Administration has been actively advising police departments to refuse disclosure about certain cell phone surveillance technologies, including the widely used “StingRay” device, even in routine state records requests.

They Know Much More Than You Think by James Bamford The headquarters of the National Security Agency, Fort Meade, Maryland In mid-May, Edward Snowden, an American in his late twenties, walked through the onyx entrance of the Mira Hotel on Nathan Road in Hong Kong and checked in. He was pulling a small black travel bag and had a number of laptop cases draped over his shoulders. Inside those cases were four computers packed with some of his country’s most closely held secrets. Within days of Snowden’s documents appearing in The Guardian and The Washington Post , revealing several of the National Security Agency’s extensive domestic surveillance programs, bookstores reported a sudden spike in the sales of George Orwell’s classic dystopian novel 1984 . On, the book made the “Movers & Shakers” list and skyrocketed 6,021 percent in a single day.

Transition Towns: Initiatives of Transformation In 2006, when Rob Hopkins moved from Ireland to the small English town of Totnes with his family and co-founded the first Transition Town Initiative in the world with some friends, he surely never imagined what he was starting. Six years on, there are more than 500 “official” Transition Town initiatives in more than 38 countries, and several thousand more are in the process of formation in many cities, towns and regions across the world. The model of Transition transcends cultural barriers and languages, and works very well on all levels in between the regional and the personal.

Living In The Shadow Of an Intrusive, Expensive, and Ineffective Surveillance Blimp By Kristen Anderson The US government is increasingly using war technology and equipment not on the battlefield, but on domestic soil to thwart various threats. From the militarization of our police forces across the nation to an increase in the purchase of tanks, drones, and blimps. Military contractors and supplies have a deep reach in the federal government and when military spending lags due to relative international peace, they turn to domestic surveillance and supposed protection against missiles or enemy aircraft. For several months, residents of Maryland have noticed an unmanned blimp floating above their cities and counties. The Army choreographed the sophisticated launch of the football field sized blimp from Aberdeen Proving Grounds.

Sensitive Handheld Signal Jammer of CDMA / GSM / DCS / PHS / WiFi / 3G The killer of mobile phones or smartphones! Specially designed for shielding of CDMA / GSM / DCS / PHS / WiFi / 3G signals with different brands, the handheld jammer can cut off the cellular phones' signals with large effective coverage and flexible control. Install the four antennas and turn on the mobile signal jammer, you can adjust the intensity of isolation manually. Although a common handheld device, the jammer can be made use of building jamming, or square jamming and so on. Signal jammer is widely to be used in many occasions such as entrance, adult college entrance examination, self-examination and various tertiary institutions; party and government organs, and all kinds of small, medium and large conference rooms, concert halls, theaters; detection centers, brigades, small, medium and large prison; gas stations, oil depots, oil fields, filling stations and other inflammable and explosive places. Features

When companies break the law and people pay: The scary lesson of the Google Bus Ever since Rebecca Solnit took to the London Review of Books to ruminate on the meaning of the private chartered buses that transport tech industry workers around the San Francisco Bay Area (she called them, among other things, “the spaceships on which our alien overlords have landed to rule us,”) the Google Bus has become the go-to symbol for discord in Silicon Valley. First a Google Bus piñata was smashed to pieces at a rally in San Francisco’s Mission district last May. Then protesters drove a fake Google Bus in the annual Pride Parade with props linking the shuttles to gentrification, eviction and displacement. By December, when activists blockaded an actual Google bus on the street, the city and media were primed for the street theater stunt heard round the world. The Google Bus (I use the term, as most Bay Area residents do, to refer generally to private buses chartered by employers, including Facebook, Genentech, Apple, Yahoo and others) means something different to everyone.

The NSA’s phone-call database: A defense of mass surveillance Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters You can also listen to William Saletan read this piece. Will Saletan writes about politics, science, technology, and other stuff for Slate. He’s the author of Bearing Right. Investigation Reveals DEA Flying Surveillance Planes in US Using Fake Companies By Derrick Broze A report from the North Star Post has revealed the existence of a fleet of surveillance aircraft operated by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) that has been flying over various locations within the United States, as well as foreign destinations (the North Star Post is the publication started by journalist Sam Richards, who originally broke the story about the Federal Bureau of Investigations operating similar surveillance flights). According to the North Star Post, the DEA does not obtain warrants for surveillance of public locations within the United States or in “foreign environments.” The Post reports: Although Stramm would not confirm the number of aircraft that make up the fleet, The Post’s investigation identified 92 aircraft as of 2011. According to an Office of the Inspector General (OIG) report, the FY2010 budget for DEA aviation operations was $47.6 million.

Big Brother alert: Cameras in the cable box to monitor TV viewers It hardly gets more Orwellian than this. New technology would allow cable companies to peer directly into television watchers’ homes and monitor viewing habits and reactions to product advertisements. The technology would come via the cable box, and at least one lawmaker on Capitol Hill is standing in opposition. Mass. Public Safety and Wall Street Issue Number Two: Crowds and Clouds Compstat and the Real Time Crime Center are at the epicenter of Bloomberg’s New York. Emmanuel Didier explores how they are turning public safety into a commodity for Wall Street.