• Politicizing intelligenceDHS Intelligence Official Says He Was Pressured to Stop Providing Assessments of Russia’s Threat to U.S. Election

    Brian Murphy, the former head of DHS’s intelligence and analysis unit, said in a whistle-blower complaint  made public on Wednesday that he was pressured by acting DHS secretary Chad Wolf to stop providing intelligence assessments on the threat of Russian interference in the upcoming U.S. election. In his complaint, Murphy also says that acting DHS secretary Kenneth Cuccinelli directed agency analysts to downplay threats from violent white supremacy to make the threat “appear less severe,” and include information on violent “left-wing” groups and antifa. Murphy says that Wolf and Cuccinelli — both Trump appointees not yet confirmed by the Senate — appeared to want to shape DHS’s public announcements so they accord with the president’s language and political interests, even if modifying the department’s public announcements in this way contradicted the department’s own intelligence analysis.

  • SurveillanceNSA’s Post-9/11 Mass Surveillance Program, Exposed by Snowden, Illegal: Court

    The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has ruled that the National Security Agency (NSA) intelligence’s surveillance program exposed by whistleblower Edward Snowden was unlawful, and possibly unconstitutional. Critics of the program say that in addition to violating privacy rights, the program’s was ineffective: Billions of phone calls and email messages were collected and scanned over the years, but only a handful of terrorism suspects were seized, and even fewer were convicted.

  • School surveillanceSchools’ Facial Recognition Technology Problematic, Should Be Banned: Experts

    Facial recognition technology should be banned for use in schools, according to a new study. The research reveals inaccuracy, racial inequity, and increased surveillance are the touchstones of a flawed technology.

  • AIArtificial Intelligence Is a Totalitarian’s Dream – Here’s How to Take Power Back

    By Simon McCarthy-Jones

    Individualistic Western societies are built on the idea that no one knows our thoughts, desires or joys better than we do. And so we put ourselves, rather than the government, in charge of our lives. We tend to agree with the philosopher Immanuel Kant’s claim that no one has the right to force their idea of the good life on us. Artificial intelligence (AI) will change this.

  • PrivacyConsumers Consider Third-Party Use of Personal Location Data as Privacy Violations

    The National Security Agency issued a warning to its employees 4 August that cellphone location data could pose a national security risk. But how do consumers feel about their location data being tracked and sold? New research yielded surprising results.

  • ARGUMENT: Disturbing overreachI Ran the DHS Intelligence Unit. Its Reports on Journalists are Concerning.

    The intelligence arm of the Department of Homeland Security, known as the Office of Intelligence and Analysis (DHS I&A), has been the subject of extensive criticism recently, first for questionable intelligence support to law enforcement in Portland, Oregon, and then for its deeply problematic intelligence reports naming U.S. journalists reporting on I&A’s own actions. Gen. Francis X. Taylor (USAF, retd), who served as under-secretary of intelligence and analysis at the Department of Homeland Security from 2014 to January 2017, writes that the investigation of the mistakes DHS I&A made in Portland and in reporting on journalists “should focus not only on personnel on the ground, but—more importantly—on those who demanded that the intelligence agency depart from its guidelines,” and he adds that “it is important to distinguish between the danger of I&A acting beyond its authority and the value that the office can provide when it works well.”

  • ARGUMENT: Sidelining DHS watchdogsHow the DHS Intelligence Unit Sidelined the Watchdogs

    Several months ago, the leadership of the Office of Intelligence and Analysis asked DHS’s second-in-command, Ken Cuccinelli, to limit a department watchdog from regularly reviewing the intelligence products it produces and distributes. Cuccinelli signed off on the move, according to two sources familiar with the situation, which constrained the role of the department’s Office of Civil Rights and Civil Liberties in approving the intelligence office’s work. Benjamin Wittes writes that “It is no wonder, under these circumstances, that there has been a rash of cases in which the office [DHS I&A] seems to have collected and disseminated “intelligence” on absurd subjects (including but not limited to me).”

  • ARGUMENT: Malevolence & incompetenceWhat if J. Edgar Hoover Had Been a Moron?

    Benjamin Wittes, founder and co-editor of Lawfare, writes that it was on the ninth day of the Trump presidency, when writing in response to the new president’s new travel ban executive order, that he coined the phrase “malevolence tempered by incompetence.” But he never imagined in doing so that the phrase might aptly describe the Trump administration’s behavior toward him personally. In his detailed article, Wittes looks at both the incompetence, “which is simple and easy to understand and genuinely amusing,” and then the malevolence beneath it—”which is more complicated and is not amusing at all.”

  • ARGUMENT: Domestic surveillanceDHS Authorizes Domestic Surveillance to Protect Statues and Monuments

    You might not imagine that the U.S. intelligence community would have much stake in local protests over monuments and statues, Steve Vladeck and Benjamin Wittes write, but you’d be wrong. An unclassified DHS memo, provided to Lawfare, makes clear that the authorized intelligence activity by DHS personnel covers significantly more than protecting federal personnel or facilities. It appears to also include planned vandalism of Confederate (and other historical) monuments and statues, whether federally owned or not. “[W]e do not accept that graffiti and vandalism are remotely comparable threats to the homeland [as attacks on federal buildings] — or that they justify this kind of federal response even if, in the right circumstances, such activity would technically constitute a federal crime,” Vladeck and Wittes conclude.

  • SurveillanceEFF Launches Searchable Database of Police Use of Surveillance Technologies

    The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), in partnership with the Reynolds School of Journalism at the University of Nevada, Reno, the other day launched what the EFF describes as “the largest-ever collection of searchable data on police use of surveillance technologies,” created as a tool for the public to learn about facial recognition, drones, license plate readers, and other devices law enforcement agencies are acquiring to spy on our communities.

  • SurveillanceLarge-Scale Facial Recognition Is Incompatible with a Free Society

    By Seth Lazar, Claire Benn, and Mario Günther

    In the U.S., tireless opposition to state use of facial recognition algorithms has recently won some victories. Outside the U.S., however, the tide is heading in the other direction. To decide whether to expand or limit the use of facial recognition technology, nations will need to answer fundamental questions about the kind of people, and the kind of society, they want to be. Face surveillance is based on morally compromised research, violates our rights, is harmful, and exacerbates structural injustice, both when it works and when it fails. Its adoption harms individuals, and makes our society as a whole more unjust, and less free. A moratorium on its use is the least we should demand.

  • PrivacyPrivacy Risks of Home Security Cameras

    Researchers have used data from a major home Internet Protocol (IP) security camera provider to evaluate potential privacy risks for users. The researchers found that the traffic generated by the cameras could be monitored by attackers and used to predict when a house is occupied or not.

  • SurveillanceCoronavirus opens door to company surveillance of workers

    Employers are rushing to use digital tracking technology to reduce virus transmission in the workplace. Mohana Ravindranath writes in Politico that privacy experts worry that businesses will start using their newfound surveillance capabilities for purposes far beyond public health. The data could be used to evaluate workers’ productivity, see which colleagues are holding meetings or even flag an employee who unexpectedly ducks out of the office during work hours.

  • PrivacyHow Much Control Would People Be Willing to Grant to a Personal Privacy Assistant?

    CyLab’s Jessica Colnago believes that in the future, the simple act of walking down the street is going to be a little weird. “You know how every time you enter a website, and it says: ‘We use cookies. Do you consent?’ Imagine that same thing walking down the street, but for a light pole, or a surveillance camera, or an energy sensor on a house,” Colnago says.

  • SurveillanceYes, Big Brother IS Watching: Russian Schools Installing Surveillance Systems Called “Orwell”

    By Matthew Luxmoore

    You might think governments seeking digital oversight of their citizens would avoid invoking the author who coined the phrase “Big Brother is watching you” and implanted the nightmare of total state surveillance in the imaginations of millions of readers. Think again, because Russian officials appear to disagree. In the first phase of the project, the “total surveillance” system will be installed in 43,000 schools across Russia.