Tag Archive: government


The National Security Agency has lost the political support it needs to maintain its controversial Internet and phone dragnet spying operation. Yesterday, July 24th, the House of Representatives nearly ratified the most brazen amendment to completely cut off funds for any broad NSA spying program (failing 205-217). With more time to build grassroots momentum and craft a less brute-force law curtailing NSA spy powers, the next bill will likely have enough support to win the day.

With only a few days to prepare, Representative Justin Amash managed to gain traction for an amendment to the defense appropriations bill that would deny the NSA the ability to use funds toward programs that broadly spied on Americans. The surprise was that a majority of Democrats bucked their own leader, President Obama, in support of the Amendment, 111-83.

Just seen how close the Amash amendment vote was (217-205). Amazing shift in momentum on NSA surveillance among lawmakers.

James Ball (@jamesrbuk) July 25, 2013

Since the revelation that the NSA was collecting phone records and Internet browsing behavior en masse, supporters of the the Domestic spying program have worried that the laws would not be renewed. Specifically, the NSA gets its legal authority from section 215 of the 9/11-era Patriot Act.

Section 215 expires at the end of 2015,” Patriot Act author Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, told his colleagues during a Congressional hearing this month. “Unless you realize you’ve got a problem, that is not going to be renewed. There are not the votes in the House of Representatives to renew Section 215 . In other words, come 2015, Congress will be unlikely to renew the law that permits the NSA’s controversial program.

Over the past month, there have been a few laws proposed to limit the NSA’s ability to spy on Americans. Representative Steve Cohen’s FISA Accountability Act, for instance, would require both Congress and the Supreme Court justices to appoint new judges to the court that approves NSA spying request (FISA), rather than give conservative Chief Justice John Roberts the authority to appoint them himself. The FISA Court approves nearly every single NSA spying request, and this would, in theory, appoint judges who are more 4th-Amendment friendly (currently, there are 10 Republican judges and 1 Democrat, according to Wonkblog).

Unfortunately for NSA critics, none of the proposals came up to a full vote, so House members never had to declare whether they were for or against the status quo.

Now, we have definitive evidence that nearly half Democrats and Republicans support a radical reduction in NSA surveillance capabilities. A much greater percentage probably agree that there should be some change.

At the very least, it’s unlikely that the legal basis of the NSA dragnet will make it past the Patriot Act’s 2015 renewal date. In anticipation of this loss, the intelligence agencies will likely have to find some kind of compromise that will pass congress, rather than risk losing all of their powers.

Those who voted against Amash’s amendment today should be very (very) worried about the angry mobs they will face back home. The American populace has a particular talent for making life difficult for members when they hold town halls. Below is a video of the some of the angry town halls that House members faced during the 2009 health-care debate:

Yesterday, we published a list of representatives who voted down Amash’s amendment. Expect these representatives to feel the heat. The momentum is on the side of change, which means that NSA’s golden age of spying will likely be coming to an end.

zynga poker

Zynga is giving up what many investors had hoped might be its trump card: a real-money gaming business in the U.S. The company, which has been testing out real-money casino games in the U.K., said it won’t be pursuing a U.S. license after all in its second quarter earnings report today.

Sources tell us this is a decision to focus and not spread the company too thinly between real-money gaming, diversifying onto mobile and maintaining a core on Facebook. If it weren’t for the political and legal complexities of opening up real-money gaming in state after state, the business could have been interesting for Zynga, especially considering how long Zynga Poker has dominated both on the Facebook platform and on iOS and Android. None of Zynga’s social casino games, which use virtual currency, are affected by this. Shares declined 13 percent in after-hours to $3.02.

In the release today, Zynga said:

Zynga believes its biggest opportunity is to focus on free to play social games. While the Company continues to evaluate its real money gaming products in the United Kingdom test, Zynga is making the focused choice not to pursue a license for real money gaming in the United States. Zynga will continue to evaluate all of its priorities against the growing market opportunity in free, social gaming, including social casino offerings.

Zynga has long been exploring real-money gaming. It partnered with operator Bwin.Party to offer titles in the U.K. Then last November, the company took its first steps toward real-money gaming in the U.S. by applying for a “preliminary finding of suitability” from the Nevada Gaming Control Board.

It’s not that this option is forever off the table. It’s just that the company is in the middle of a significant platform transition now, and real-money games – which would probably only be available to players in Nevada at first anyways – could be distracting.

The National Security Agency ended a program used to spy on German Chancellor Angela Merkel and a number of other world leaders after an internal Obama administration review started this summer revealed to the White House the existence of the operations, U.S. officials said.

Officials said the internal review turned up NSA monitoring of some 35 world leaders, in the U.S. government’s first public acknowledgment that the U.S. government tapped the phones of world leaders.

Read the rest of this post on the original site

2013-07-22 11.55.23-edited

British Prime Minister David Cameron has proposed the democratized world’s most aggressive anti-porn laws. Unfortunately, in order to restrict access to something as ubiquitous as porn, he’ll likely have to block most of the Internet.

To protect “children and their innocence,” Cameron has proposed new regulations that will filter online porn by default and completely exclude blacklisted terms from search engines. While details are still scant, all new Wi-Fi routers will automatically filter porn, and millions of existing Internet users will have to opt-in through some type of online consent form to access adult material.

Various Internet and child-protection groups have argued that the ban will not disrupt the secret file-sharing networks of pedophiles, or the cultural factors that enable the worst forms of illicit pornography. But the most glaring issue is just how broad censors must be to completely block out something as ubiquitous as porn.

As a happy accident, my Mac broke this week, and I only have access to a stripped-down Safari Internet browser in Apple’s recovery mode. By default, Apple’s strictest parental controls were enabled, and I’ve found myself blocked off from most of the Internet. Here are a few things I can’t search for on Bing.

BLOCKED: “Child Pornography Prevention Programs”
BLOCKED: “Rick Santorum”
BLOCKED: “Weiner Sex Scandal”
BLOCKED: “TechCrunch.com”
BLOCKED: “Dick Costolo” (CEO of Twitter)
BLOCKED: “Jefferson sex with slaves”
BLOCKED: “Tumblr’s porn problem”
BLOCKED: “Sexual reconstructive surgery”
BLOCKED: “How to tell my boyfriend I don’t want to have sex”
BLOCKED: “How to put on a condom”
BLOCKED: “Pussy Riot”
BLOCKED: “Adult Film Industry and expansion of broadband”

Yep, that’s right, Apple blocks this website probably because we occasionally use curse words and have written about sexual issues. It also blocks out Russia’s fiery dissidents, Pussy Riot, scrubs America’s unsavory history, and would effectively block anyone from learning about the CEO of Twitter or a handful of candidates for higher office.

Cameron seems aware of the problem and has hinted at a solution that prompts users for safer alternatives. A query like “child sex” would prompt a pop-up like “Did you mean child sex education?”

The problem with this approach is that the world isn’t PG-13. Politics, business, and personal health regularly intersect with adult issues. The (very) savvy engineers at Apple have already discovered that you have to apply a tourniquet to the First Amendment to effectively block children from seeing naughty pictures.

In fact, I couldn’t even search for the story about Cameron wanting to block porn. I only accessed it because it was on the front page of Google News. Under Cameron’s Internet, I’ll have great difficulty reading about his own policies after it fades from the front pages.

Even if citizens feel comfortable opting in to a porn-friendly Internet in their own homes, they’d still be blocked from airport Wi-Fi, city Wi-Fi and public libraries.

I’m sympathetic to Cameron’s concerns. Porn is not society’s proudest creation. But this has to be the dumbest Internet policy I’ve ever heard of. And I read about this stuff for a living.

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