December 2, 2016

Fifteen staff members who worked on a well-known bipartisan intelligence watchdog committee wrote to President Barack Obama and Attorney General Loretta Lynch on Monday requesting the administration negotiate a plea agreement with former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

�There is no question that Edward Snowden�s disclosures led to public awareness which stimulated reform,� wrote the staffers who served on the U.S. Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operation with Respect to Intelligence Activities � called the Church Committee, after its chairman, Idaho Sen. Frank Church.

�Whether or not these clear benefits to the country merit a pardon, they surely do counsel for leniency,� the authors continued.

Frederick, or �Fritz� Schwarz, Jr., the Church Committee�s chief counsel who now heads up policy and legal advocacy organization the Brennan Center for Justice, penned the letter alongside the committee�s staff director, William Green Miller, and 13 other co-signers.

Schwarz, who published a book last year on the allure of government secrecy called Democracy in the Dark, says he has been captivated by Snowden since the former National Security Agency contractor first made his disclosures. �I�ve known many whistleblowers starting when I was chief counsel of the Church Committee, and they�re often praise worthy � but [Snowden] seemed straightforward and genuine,� he said during a phone interview with The Intercept.

In the 1970s, the Church Committee conducted an unprecedented investigation that uncovered abuses by the intelligence community and led to reforms. Schwarz recalled, during a recorded interview with the Brennan Center�s Michael German, being involved in the first and �most comprehensive� investigation into the intelligence community, which was aimed at being �open and rigorous� � challenging senators who willfully turned a blind eye to the nation�s spies and their misdeeds.

The climate at the time, wracked with scandals like Watergate and leaks like the Pentagon Papers, �led to a pent up interest in what the secret government had been doing,� he said.

The committee uncovered the NSA�s practice of retaining copies of telegrams sent overseas, the CIA�s experimentation with hallucinogenic drugs and use of domestic surveillance, and the FBI�s widely discredited program under J. Edgar Hoover, called COINTELPRO, involving the monitoring of constitutionally protected activities.

Yet that climate of support for reform and investigation has changed, the authors argued. �The government has all but stopped making bipartisan reforms,� they wrote, arguing that this has left whistleblowers to take matters into their own hands.

Snowden, who provided a massive trove of documents about the government�s worldwide surveillance regime to journalists in 2013, served as the spark to inspire lawmakers to reach across the aisle and amend the Patriot Act, ending the bulk collection metadata program in the summer of 2015, they wrote. And, his revelations uncovered the extent of overseas spying, which the Church Committee staffers note led President Obama to promise stronger privacy protections for foreigners.

If Snowden hadn�t come forward, Americans might never have known about the abuses taking place, the authors argue. �We know first hand that lack of disclosure can cause just as many, if not more, harms to the nation than disclosure,� they wrote. �When intelligence agencies operate in the dark, they often have gone too far in trampling on the legitimate rights of law-abiding Americans and damaging our reputation internationally.�

They also noted that the government has been lenient towards senior national security officials who have been involved in divulging secrets, like former CIA Director David Petraeus, who provided classified information to his biographer, with whom he was having an affair, and pled guilty to a simple misdemeanor.

Petraeus is now reportedly being considered for a role in President-elect Donald Trump�s administration.

�In all these cases, recognition of the public service the individuals had provided weighed against strict enforcement of the law, to come to a fair and just result,� the authors wrote.

Meanwhile, the harsh treatment of other whistleblowers, like Thomas Drake and Chelsea Manning, may have inspired Snowden to take the route he did, they suggest.

The authors directly challenged several assertions made by the House Intelligence Committee in a short unclassified excerpt of its investigation into Snowden�s motivations and actions, which concluded in September. The full contents of the House�s investigation remain classified, though the committee has submitted it for declassification and publication.

Notably, the former Church Committee staffers did not advocate for a pardon, something President Obama has rejected as a possibility. Instead, they urged the government to consider offering Snowden a deal.

�Under current law, the only way to weigh the public benefits of Snowden�s leaks and account for his aim to help America is for the government to mitigate the charges through settlement discussions,� they concluded.

�I felt a flat pardon as opposed to what we call for, a negotiation with leniency, was very unlikely to happen,� Schwarz explained.

When asked if the current political climate might stifle further reform, given the incoming administration and President-elect Donald Trump�s known volatility, Schwarz was diplomatic: �I think we need to be eternally watchful.�
November 30, 2016 FBI to gain expanded hacking powers as Senate effort to block fails

A last-ditch effort in the Senate to block or delay rule changes that would expand the U.S. government’s hacking powers failed Wednesday, despite concerns the changes would jeopardize the privacy rights of innocent Americans and risk possible abuse by the incoming administration of President-elect Donald Trump.

Democratic Senator Ron Wyden attempted three times to delay the changes, which will take effect on Thursday and allow U.S. judges will be able to issue search warrants that give the FBI the authority to remotely access computers in any jurisdiction, potentially even overseas. His efforts were blocked by Senator John Cornyn of Texas, the Senate’s second-ranking Republican.

The changes will allow judges to issue warrants in cases when a suspect uses anonymizing technology to conceal the location of his or her computer or for an investigation into a network of hacked or infected computers, such as a botnet.

Magistrate judges can currently only order searches within the jurisdiction of their court, which is typically limited to a few counties.

In a speech from the Senate floor, Wyden said that the changes to Rule 41 of the federal rules of criminal procedure amounted to one of the biggest mistakes in surveillance policy in years.”

The government will have unprecedented authority to hack into Americans’ personal phones, computers and other devices,” Wyden said.

He added that such authority, which was approved by the Supreme Court in a private vote earlier this year, but was not subject to congressional approval, was especially troubling in the hands of an administration of President-elect Trump, a Republican who has openly said he wants the power to hack his political opponents the same way Russia does.”

Democratic Senator Chris Coons of Delaware and Republican Senator Steve Daines of Montana also delivered speeches voicing opposition to the rule changes.

The U.S. Justice Department has pushed for the changes to the federal rules of criminal procedure for years, arguing they are procedural in nature and the criminal code needed to be modernized for the digital age.

In an effort to address concerns, U.S. Assistant Attorney General Leslie Caldwell wrote a blog post this week arguing that the benefits given to authorities from the rule changes outweighed any potential for unintended harm.”

The possibility of such harm must be balanced against the very real and ongoing harms perpetrated by criminals - such as hackers, who continue to harm the security and invade the privacy of Americans through an ongoing botnet, or pedophiles who openly and brazenly discuss their plans to sexually assault children,” Caldwell wrote. A handful of judges in recent months had dismissed evidence brought as part of a sweeping FBI child pornography sting, saying the search warrants used to hack suspects’ computers exceeded their jurisdiction.

The new rules are expected to make such searches generally valid.

Blocking the changes would have required legislation to pass both houses of Congress, then be signed into law by the president.
Other than the fact that we need Libertarians in the Senate so that they could vote with those trying to block this, I don't think Obama or Trump would sign that if it passed.
November 26, 2016 Reddit�s CEO edited comments on a pro-Trump thread and everyone should care

Reddit CEO Steve Huffman has publicly admitted to editing comments on the pro-Donald Trump subreddit r/the_donald in a move he has described as �trolling the trolls�. Huffman � who goes by �spez� on Reddit � deleted comments from the pro-Trump community on the site, and also altered comments that insulted him. He replaced comments reading �fuck u/spez� with those of the users who moderate the thread. This meant the criticism directed towards him appeared to be attacking the thread�s own moderators.

Users of r/the_donald had taken to insulting Huffman this week after he removed the subreddit r/pizzagate � a place for people to go to share updates on the conspiracy theory that a Washington pizzeria is a front for a child abuse ring led by Hillary Clinton. �It does get old getting called a pedophile constantly,� Huffman wrote to explain why he moderated the comments.

�I messed with the �fuck u/spez� comments, replacing �spez� with r/the_donald mods for about an hour,� he wrote. �As the CEO, I shouldn�t play such games, and it�s all fixed now. Our community team is pretty pissed at me, so I most assuredly won�t do this again.�

Yet although this might seem like a small and temporary lapse in judgement, the implications are huge.

Normally when a comment is edited on Reddit � by a user or a moderator � a small asterisk will appear after the time stamp to indicate that it has been changed. In this instance, no such asterisk appeared, meaning Huffman ostensibly has the ability to edit comments without a trace. This is crucial because two months ago, a Redditor was taken to court for comments he left on the site. Huffman�s editing powers could clearly be abused to cause trouble for individuals.

Beyond this, however, Huffman chose the wrong Reddit community to anger. Those on r/the_donald are already deeply convinced by conspiracies, and, in a way, Huffman has now validated their claims. It is not yet clear how they will retaliate or whether Donald Trump, who did an AMA (Ask Me Anything) on the subreddit earlier this year, will comment.

Should the users of r/the_donald leave the site, however, the implications could be huge. Since many right-wing users were blocked from Twitter, they have flocked to the social network Gab � which is currently closed off to new members. The ability to see what Trump supporters are planning � most recently, on 4Chan, they are attempting to hijack the TIME Person of the Year in favour of Julian Assange � is important, and it is a worrying to see the censorship of those we disagree with rendering them invisible, and therefore increasing their potential impact.

It is also not yet apparent how Reddit as a whole will move forward from this, but many Redditors appear to have already lost faith in the site and its CEO. �This legitimately should result in him being fired,� wrote ItsMeCaptainMurphy to the tune of � at the time of writing � 203 upvotes. �If it doesn’t then we know reddit as a whole is no longer trustworthy and should abandon ship.�

This kind of censorship is wrong no matter which side you’re on politically. I agree that the Reddit CEO should be fired and replaced with someone who won’t modify user’s comments to fit their own political views.

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November 26, 2016 Block hate speech From the site:

This is a Twitter that blocks hate speech.

If a Tweet contains hate speech, it’s caught by algorithms, and the tweet doesn’t go through. You can’t abuse others under the guise of freedom of speech

This isn’t what I personally look for in a Twitter alternative, but that’s just me. What I’d look for is something like, (and don’t get me started about who’s there,) is something like because right now they aren’t censoring anyone from anywhere. If someone’s threatening violence against someone, I think that’s the only way they should be able to be censored.

Twitter socialmedia webservices
November 26, 2016 Upload an OPML file from your RSS reader, and share the list of feeds. I’ve been wantings something like this ever since Toluu went down!

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November 26, 2016

Daily Bible Reading�- Daily encouragement and prayer from God’s Word These are the daily readings from the American Bible society. I’ve been wanting something like this for a while, (a service that would send me short readings without stories/commentary attached.) Our church does something called Bible Journaling,” which means that you take what you’ve learned from your readings each day and write it down. I tried to start this with their plan about 3 years ago, but got behind as I couldn’t remember to go to the site each day. Now, with a service that sends me completely random readings like this, (not 3-4 chapters on a schedule,) I’ll be able to try again. I found that starting with 3-4 chapters was too much at first, because I’d pick about 3-5 verses and would write what I felt God was teaching me.

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