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July 7, 2015 / 20 Tammuz, 5775
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Posts Tagged ‘Edward Snowden’

The Internet’s Mussar

Wednesday, May 7th, 2014

An associate professor of sociology at Princeton University, Janet Vertesi, recently made news when she publicized her nine-month long efforts to keep her pregnancy entirely secret from marketers. She fastidiously kept all mention off of social media and made all pregnancy-related purchases with cash rather than credit cards. In today’s age, that was quite a feat. She even used an anonymizing web browsing service so her identifying IP address would not register her expecting interests. She had learned the Internet’s ethics lesson, its mussar.

Edward Snowden is the infamous computer consultant who revealed countless documents from the NSA’s clandestine surveillance program. Currently an international fugitive residing in Russia beyond the reach of US extradition, Snowden continues to leak confidential information about the vast extent of technological spying. Story after story, headline after headline, he throws the Internet’s mussar lesson at us so hard that we can only ignore it through the unbearable force of inertia. Yet sometimes we must remind ourselves of the obvious.

I take no position on the political and legal implications of Snowden’s revelations. Whether he violated the law or the NSA did, or both; whether he was right to tell the world about these activities or he jeopardized national security by doing so; whether the US government should pursue him with the full power of its robust law enforcement capabilities or should let him be. These are all questions for debate by people with greater expertise than I possess.

But I have learned one lesson from the ongoing spectacle, what I call the Internet’s mussar.

Someone is watching. Whenever you use technology, your activity is registered in a database that will be mined for information. Hopefully, your data will only be used for marketing purposes. Unwanted e-mail is no more than a nuisance. However, in theory, someone with enough access and expertise can piece together your activity and interests. Every time you cross a bridge and pay with EZ-Pass, your travel can be tracked. When you got on a bus or train and pay by card, your movements are registered. Whenever you buy anything electronically or even just view a website, your interests are recorded. All this data is maintained. Someone is watching.

I am not encouraging paranoia. The likelihood of someone piecing this data together in anything other than an innocuous way is low. I doubt the average citizen has much to worry about. However, criminals should be wary. When you commit a crime, your past activity can be dug up and analyzed. This is the Internet’s mussar.

As Rabbi Yochanan Ben Zakkai lay on his deathbed, some of his students asked for his blessing (Berachos 28b). He said to them: “May your fear of Heaven be like your fear of other people.” Surprised, they asked him why it should not be greater. He replied, “If only. When a person sins, he is only concerned that no one see him.”

Our Creator, our Father and Judge, is often hard to see in this world. In our busy routines we neglect anything that is not immediately apparent. But we are embarrassed in front of our boss, our spouse, our neighbors, whom we see every day. If only we could channel that same embarrassment to God, we would be much better people and much better Jews. We would act properly whenever in His presence, which is all times and places.

If we can learn to fear the surveillance of the Internet, we can learn to fear God’s constant watching. I remember my first online purchase. I quickly checked to make sure my credit card was charged properly and monitored my account regularly to ensure the information was not stolen and misused. A year later, I was so used to buying online that I didn’t think twice about it. I had lost my fear of the Internet through habit.

As recent news reports rekindle our interest in protecting our personal data, as we become more aware of our electronic activity, we remember to fear even what is not immediately apparent. If only we could channel that same amount of care to our religious activity.

Fear of Heaven does not mean social paralysis. It means being careful to do what is right, to treat others properly, to fulfill our obligations without cutting corners. The unexamined life is often said to be not worth living. Perhaps social media was created to uphold that sad, lonely worldview. Judaism teaches that every life, created by the Almighty and endowed with His image, is worth living. However, the un-self-examined life is destined for disappointment, failing to live up to its full potential due to dulling force of habit. Fear of God should inspire us, keep us on our toes, make sure we are always careful to do our best.

Just as maintaining our cyber-security requires constant vigilance, keeping our religious standards always demands constant care. Someone is always watching our electronic activity. Some One – a kind and caring but demanding God – is always watching our every move and thought.

Obama Should Free Pollard Immediately

Sunday, November 3rd, 2013

As Obama permits himself to spy on longtime US allies, instead of focusing all of his energies on surveillance of the Iranian nuclear program and the human rights abuses occurring in Syria as we speak, Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard remains in prison for committing less grievous sins.

According to Edward Snowden, the United States has spied not only on German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the Mexican government, and tens of millions of French citizens, but also on the Israel Defense Forces, Jerusalem Online reported. In other words, instead of the US government putting 100 percent of its energies into spying on Iran’s nuclear facilities and engaging in the surveillance of the human rights abuses occurring in Syria as we speak, the US government permitted itself to be sidetracked by ease-dropping on US allies. Meanwhile, as the US government spied on friendly countries, Obama to date refuses to pardon Jonathan Pollard for committing lesser sins.

Given this, as a dual Israeli-American citizen, I demand the immediate release of Jonathan Pollard as compensation for the US government’s unethical behavior. A government that spies on long-time US allies cannot justifiably continue to punish a man for doing the same thing at a significantly lower level. Between 1983 and 1984, Jonathan Pollard, a civilian naval intelligence analyst, discovered classified information related to Iranian, Syrian, Libyan and Iraqi nuclear, biological and chemical warfare capabilities that was crucial to Israel’s security. This information was legally supposed to be passed onto Israel via the 1983 Memorandum of Understanding between the United States and Israel, yet Pollard’s superiors refused to pass it onwards. For this reason, Pollard decided to act alone and relayed the information to Israel.

In 1985, the U.S. government discovered Pollard’s actions. At the request of both the Israeli and American governments, Pollard entered into a plea bargain agreement. He cooperated fully with the prosecution and was never convicted of harming the United States, compromising American agents or committing treason (which is legally defined as spying for an enemy state). Pollard was merely charged with passing on classified information to an allied country on one occasion.

Even though the average sentence for spying for an allied country is merely several years, Pollard was given life imprisonment. For example, Abdul Khader Helmy, who spied for Egypt, served only four years in prison after passing on information that assisted Iraq with improving the accuracy of their ballistic missiles. Michael Schwartz, who spied for Saudi Arabia, never served a day in prison out of consideration for Saudi sensitivities. He was merely reprimanded and given a dishonorable discharge. There are many such examples.

Given all of these facts, Pollard should be released regardless. However, in the wake of the US spying on 35 different world leaders and on the Israel Defense Forces, it would be hypocritical for the United States not to free him immediately at this stage. Unlike the information that Pollard passed onto Israel, which was supposed to be passed onto Israel any ways, the United States never under any agreement received authorization to access the information they obtained on the Israel Defense Forces and Israeli weapons systems. If some of this information gets leaked to countries that the United States has diplomatic relations with but not Israel, it could greatly jeopardize Israeli national security.

In recent times, the U.S. administration has been known to speak on matters without Israel’s authorization, such as confessing that the recent raid on a Syrian Air Force base near Latakia was orchestrated by Israel when the IDF was silent on the matter. The least that the United States could do in return for jeopardizing Israeli national security is to free Jonathan Pollard immediately! If they don’t do so, I call upon the Israeli government to end this charade of a peace process that has only one aim in mind: to appease the pride of an American administration that has zero respect for Israeli sovereignty.

Snowden Leak: NSA Gave Israel Data on US Citizens

Wednesday, September 11th, 2013

The National Security Agency provides raw data to Israeli intelligence services, according to a secret document leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

A memorandum of understanding between the NSA and the Israeli Signals Intelligence Unit (ISNU), leaked by Edward Snowden to the London Guardian, states that the NSA will provide data to the ISNU without first reviewing the documents to remove sensitive information.

The process of removing U.S. residents’ personal information is called “minimization.” According to the report, the information provided to Israeli intelligence could include phone and email records of U.S. citizens.

The leaked document states that the information “includes, but is not limited to, unevaluated and unminimized transcripts, gists, facsimiles, telex, voice and Digital Network Intelligence (DNI) metadata and content.”

‘Snowden Leak Reveals Hamas, Hezbollah Try to Infiltrate CIA

Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013

Approximately 20 percent of applicants for work at the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) were affiliated with Hamas, Hezbollah and Al Qaeda, according to a document released by Edward Snowden, who worked for the National Security Agency (NSA) before fleeing the United States.

The document said the applicants had “significant terrorist and/or hostile intelligence connections and the NSA         launched at least 4,000 investigations of suspected staff members.

 

US Counterintelligence Targets Israel, Secret Budget Reveals

Friday, August 30th, 2013

U.S. spy agencies target their counterintelligence operations on Israel along with Iran and China, among other countries, a budget summary for the secret National Intelligence Program reveals.

The $52.6 billion “black budget” for fiscal 2013 for the 16 U.S. spy agencies was obtained by The Washington Post from former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, the newspaper reported Thursday.

The budget summary, formally known as the Congressional Budget Justification for the National Intelligence Program, revealed that counterintelligence operations “are strategically focused against [the] priority targets of China, Russia, Iran, Cuba and Israel,” according to The Washington Post.

Snowden, who has been granted temporary asylum in Russia, was a former technical contractor for the National Security Agency and employee of the Central Intelligence Agency who revealed the existence of mass surveillance programs by the United States and Britain against their own citizens and citizens of other countries.

The budget summary also revealed that the CIA and NSA became more aggressive in efforts to hack into the computer networks of other countries to steal information or to sabotage the computer systems of enemy countries.

It also showed that the NSA planned to investigate at least 4,000 personnel with high security clearance suspected of compromising sensitive information. In addition, terrorism is shown in the budget to be considered the most serious threat to U.S. national security.

Who Deleted an NSA Thread from a UFO Online Discussion?

Monday, August 26th, 2013

A thread in which posters explored the National Security Agency, Edward Snowden and similar subjects just up and disappeared without any explanation last Saturday at UFO Casebook, an online discussion forum, the Orlando Paranormal Examiner reports. The thread, containing more than 500 entries and an estimated 3,700 page views, was restored later, on Sunday afternoon, but website moderators and administrators could not explain why the discussion thread of highly sensitive issues was temporarily deleted.

“No one associated with the forum removed the thread,” UFO Casebook administrator B.J. Booth informed the OP Examiner on Sunday, adding: “We are trying to find out what happened.”

Booth tends to blame the strange disappearance on a server glitch, a common malfunction on Internet message boards and publishing sites, but considering the context of the removed discussion, and the fact that some forum members had become seriously invested in the thread, there is increased suspicion in the ranks regarding an intervention from big brother, the American intelligence community.

“This thread was not deleted by anyone,” an administrator from Conforums insisted, “but for some reason, and I can’t fathom how it happened, it ‘dropped’ out.”

 

 

Obama’s Friday Press Conf: Threats, Emb. Closures Insignificant

Saturday, August 10th, 2013

Before leaving on a nine-day vacation to Martha’s Vineyard, U.S. President Barack Obama held a 53-minute long press conference on Friday, August 9.

The president spent his entire introductory remarks in his first solo press conference since late April, on proposed changes to the government’s surveillance laws.

The four specific steps he laid out were ones intended to mollify outrage both from the American people and U.S. allies to issues of eavesdropping and other forms of privacy invasion raised in the wake of damaging security leaks by Edward Snowden about secret U.S. government mass surveillance programs to the press.

Those four steps include amending the relevant portion of the Patriot Act, provide oversight to the judges who are tasked with authorizing the specific surveillance programs, increasing transparency regarding the different programs, including creating a website “hub” which will allow U.S. citizens and our allies to better understand the programs, and creating an outside panel of experts to review the entire enterprise to ensure that the U.S. government can maintain the trust of the people and our allies.  This review panel will be required to submit an initial report in 60 days and a final report by the end of the calendar year.

While he remained even-keeled throughout most of his ten minute presentation, the president allowed himself a few jabs at countries who have been harshly critical of the U.S. in the wake of the Snowden leaks.

It’s true we have significant capabilities. What’s also true is we show a restraint that many governments around the world don’t even think to do, refuse to show. That includes, by the way, some of America’s most vocal critics. We shouldn’t forget the difference between the ability of our government to collect information online, under strict guidelines and for narrow purposes, and the willingness of some other governments to throw their own citizens in prison for what they say online.

The president concluded his prepared remarks by praising domestic critics of the surveillance programs, going so far as saying, “our critics are also our patriots.”  But in responding to one of the reporters called on who queried how far this magnanimous position extended, the president made crystal clear, “No, I don’t think Mr. Snowden was a patriot.”

Of the questions asked by reporters of the president, the majority dealt with some aspect of the Snowden/Russian relations/surveillance review issues, two dealt with healthcare, one was about the next Federal Reserve chairman, one was on immigration reform, one was whether the U.S. is going to capture and punish the people who attacked the U.S. outpost in Benghazi, and one was whether al Qaeda has actually been “decimated.”

In other words, it apparently was of only minor significance that an unprecedented shuttering of the official face, presence and voice of America across a vast swath of the globe was of merely minor significance to the entire White House press corps as well as to the president of the United States.  No one asked – or was permitted to ask – what exactly led to the closure of the government buildings or when they were expected to re-open.

However, after the press conference ended, the State Department issued a statement that 18 of the 19 embassies and consulates which have been closed for a week will reopen on Sunday or Monday.  The U.S. Embassy in Sanaa, Yemen, will remain closed, and almost all U.S. government personnel were ordered to leave Yemen last Tuesday because of the potential for terrorist attacks from al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. In addition, the U.S. embassy in Lahore, Pakistan, “which closed yesterday due to a separate credible threat to that facility, will also remain closed.”

You’d think there would have been more of a focus on the real, ongoing terrorist threats to the United States than on, say, who will be the next Federal Reserve chairman or even on immigration reform, neither one of which threatens to murder, maim and savage Americans in the immediate future.

 

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/obamas-friday-press-conf-threats-emb-closures-insignificant/2013/08/10/

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