Trump and team WERE under government surveillance

eyes-490608_640President Trump has claimed that the Obama administration bugged his Trump Tower offices.  That accusation has been mostly dismissed.

But now it turns out that President-elect Trump and his transition team WERE surveilled.

House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes (R-California) said that he has seen copies of reports “unmasking” the members of Trump’s transition team and their activities.  This material was widely-circulated in the White House and in the Intelligence community.

Nunes says he believes the material was gathered legally, although information gleaned “incidentally” in the course of other investigations is supposed to be redacted.  Nunes says the information gathered did not involve Russia connections.
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Did the government wiretap Trump Tower?

8989863112_944c59f608_z (1)President Trump tweeted an accusation that President Obama wire-tapped his Trump Tower headquarters before the election.

Obama representatives denied the claim, but left open the possibility that there might have been a legal wiretap in connection with the Russia investigations.  See this.  Now Trump is demanding an investigation.

Everyone is calling for the evidence.  The source may be a story from the conservative webzine Heat Street published back in November the day before the election, citing two counter-intelligence sources that the FBI had obtained a legal warrant to wiretap Trump offices, including the candidate himself.  This was part of an investigation of Russian ties to the Trump campaign.

That story is excerpted and linked after the jump.

If it happened, bugging the opposing party’s presidential  candidate during the election campaign would indeed be an abuse of power of Watergate proportions.

But what if it was a legal warrant issued by a judge who saw strong evidence of illegal collusion with the Russians?

What if the Watergate burglars had a warrant and broke into the Democratic National Committee office because President Nixon suspected George McGovern of collusion with the Soviets?  Would that justify their interference in the presidential election?  I don’t think so.

So is it “Towergate” or just more “Russiagate”?

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Now that we are so connected, government surveillance is easy

Whether you think whistleblower Edward Snowden is a traitor or a hero, he makes some good points about just how EASY government surveillance is now in the age of the smartphone. [Read more…]

Cell phones the police can’t tap into

You can set up a passcode to protect the information on your cell phone.  But the manufacturers can still unlock that information if given a court order, giving police and other government agencies access to people’s private data.  But Apple has announced that the new operating system for iPhones, iOS 8, will not give the company access to passcode-protected phones, making it technologically impossible to comply with snooping requests.  Android is following suit.

What do you think of this?  Is it a commendable blow for personal privacy against government surveillance?  Or is it an abdication of responsibility to help authorities fight crime?

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Are spies manipulating your Facebook polls?

According to new revelations from Edward Snowden, a British spy agency is manipulating online polls, inflates YouTube numbers, directs online traffic, and manipulates the web in other ways for propaganda purposes. [Read more…]

Our monitors want software that detects sarcasm

The Secret Service is in the market for software that can detect sarcasm. That way the government agencies that monitor what you say on the internet will be able to tell whether you are joking if you threaten the president or if you really mean it.

Two points of interest here:  The government is really serious about monitoring Facebook, Twitter, and other internet media, doing continual automated monitoring of anything that might be construed as threatening statements.  Note how this could be both used and abused.

There is also the technical problem of a software program being able to detect language that does not mean exactly what it says.  How can a mechanized process determine the possible meanings and intentions of a statement such as “I’m going to kill him!”  Attention to context, of course, would help.  (Note to government monitors of this blog:  The statement before the previous sentence is for illustrative purposes only.)  But there is not always clear context.  “Artificial intelligence” can only take us so far in emulating the human mind, since intelligence is only one of many faculties of the mind, which also include imagination, the will, emotion, as well as complicated uses such as play, humor, fiction, and self-expression. [Read more…]