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Edward Snowden is campaigning against the worlds largest …

American whistleblower and former Central Intelligence Agency employee Edward Snowden has joined the campaign against Aadhaar, Indias 12-digit unique identification number programme that has been under fire for its security and privacy systems.

On Sunday, Jan. 21, Snowden backed KC Verma, former head of Indias external intelligence agency, the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), who had written about his experiences with Aadhaar. Snowden retweeted the article published in The Wire saying the act of organisations such as banks and telcos forcing individuals to produce their Aadhaar numbers should be criminalized.

Snowdens voice against the Aadhaar programme has been growing louder ever since he first made a reference to the scheme on Jan. 04 after tech journalist Zack Whittaker tweeted a Buzzfeed News piece on the alleged security breach of the Aadhaar database.

A couple of days later, he spoke up on Twitter against the state-run Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) filing a first information report (FIR) against a journalist with The Tribune newspaper who wrote about security breaches of the Aadhaar database. The journalist, Rachna Khaira, described in an article how she paid just Rs500 ($7.84) to buy Aadhaar data from an anonymous seller over WhatsApp.

Snowden, currently under temporary asylum in Russia, also retweeted a statement posted on Twitter by the editor-in-chief of The Tribune.

In addition to openly pointing out flaws in the Aadhaar system, Snowden has also spent time retweeting multiple complaints from Indians about their experiences with Aadhaar.

For months now, Aadhaar has been under attack due to privacy concerns and criticisms of the flawed implementation of the programme, forcing the UIDAI to step up its security processes by introducing new features such as a Virtual ID to authenticate and verify the Aadhaar numbers. Ever since 2015, there have been a number of purported data breaches, including duplication of cards and fraudulent bank transactions made using leaked biometric data.

Meanwhile, the implementation of the Aadhaar scheme is currently being evaluated by a five-member bench in the supreme court of India, led by chief justice Dipak Misra. The perusal follows multiple petitions filed in the courts over the security and privacy being maintained by the UIDAI. This includes a case filed by a womens rights activist claiming that linking Aadhaar data to mobile phone numbers violates privacy, and another filed by a group of bank employees stating they dont have the wherewithal to provide Aadhaar-related services.

The hearing comes four months after the supreme court ruled that privacy is a fundamental right of all Indians, which immediately put a cloud over the aggressive linking of Aadhaar with other schemes and programmes under the Narendra Modi government.

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Edward Snowden is campaigning against the worlds largest …

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January 24, 2018   Posted in: Edward Snowden  Comments Closed

Edward Snowden calls for public release of FISA abuses memo …

Former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden said the bill to reauthorize Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act would never have passed through both chambers of Congress if a memo Republicans claim has revelations about U.S. government surveillance abuses was released prior to the vote.

As such, Snowden called on President Trump to veto the legislation giving six more years of life to the key counterterrorism surveillance tool.

“Officials confirm there’s a secret report showing abuses of spy law Congress voted to reauthorize this week. If this memo had been known prior to the vote, FISA reauth [sic] would have failed,” Snowden tweeted early Friday. “These abuses must be made public, and @realDonaldTrump should send the bill back with a veto.”

If Trump does not veto the bill and sent it back to Congress for “reform,” Snowden said, “this is nothing but politics.”

Trump, however, announced on Twitter Friday afternoon that he signed the bill.

Following the successful House vote, the Senate just barely advanced legislation on Tuesday to reauthorize Section 702 of FISA despite demands from Republicans and Democrats for more privacy protections for U.S. citizens a cause espoused by Snowden.

Last week, before the FISA reauthorization bill’s passage in Congress, Trump claimed in a tweet the Obama administration used the controversial surveillance tool to justify the “unmasking” of members of his campaign who were caught up in the surveillance of foreign nationals. However, Trump backed off his critique of the surveillance law in a tweet later that morning, one that reflected his administration’s support for the reauthorization of the measure.

The FISA memo was released internally to House members only on Thursday. Since it’s release a number of Republican lawmakers have rallied for its release to the general public, in some cases using a “ReleaseTheMemo” hashtag on social media. The effort has gone viral on social media, and appears to has gotten a sizable boost from Twitter accounts linked to Russian influence efforts.

Snowden was asked if he was “planting his flag” for House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, who last month was cleared by the ethics panel on allegations that he mishandled classified information by giving it to the Trump White House while accusing the Obama administration of “unmasking” the identities associates of Trump.

“Of course not,” Snowden replied, adding, “but when the chairman of House Intel (HPSCI) claims there’s documented evidence of serious surveillance abuses, it matters. If true, the citizens must see the proof. If false, it establishes HPSCI lies and has no credibility.”

“Either outcome benefits the public,” Snowden added.

Snowden was granted asylum in Russia back in 2013 after he leaked secret information from the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs and has been there ever since.

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Edward Snowden calls for public release of FISA abuses memo …

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January 23, 2018   Posted in: Edward Snowden  Comments Closed

House votes to renew FISA surveillance laws revealed by …

The House of Representatives passed a bill Thursday to renew US spy powers first revealed by Edward Snowden in 2013.

The US House of Representatives gave a boost to the government’s surveillance powers.

Lawmakers voted 256-164on Thursday to extend NSA programs that collect communications over the internet for national security purposes.

The law that authorized the surveillance programs is set to expire on Jan. 19.

That law, Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act, was passed in 2008. Under it, a court that hears secret national security matters decides whether to let the National Security Agency collect emails, documents and other internet communications in government surveillance programs known as Prism and Upstream.

The Prism program collects communications from internet services directly. The Upstream program collects data as it travels across the internet. The programs target people outside the US, but do collect the communications of Americans who communicate with the targets of spies overseas.

Details of those programs became public in 2013 when former NSA contractor Edward Snowden revealed them to journalists, who published stories in the Guardian and The Washington Post. After those disclosures, the government declassified information about the programs and began publishing annual transparency reports about the use of the surveillance tools.

The original deadline to renew the surveillance powers passed on Dec. 31 without a debate on the floor of either house on potential reforms. Congress voted to extend the programs temporarily until Jan. 19. The Senate must also now vote to renew the powers before the programs can be extended further.

US intelligence agencies have pressed lawmakers to preserve the programs. In a letter to Congress signed by US Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the heads of the NSA, FBI, Central Intelligence Agency, officials said losing the authority to run these surveillance programs would put the country’s national security in danger. “Section 702 has been instrumental in preventing attacks on the homeland and removing terrorists from the battlefield,” the letter said.

The biggest sticking point for privacy advocates, including the ACLU, has been a policy allowing the FBI to bypass getting a warrant before accessing emails and other communications of Americans collected by the NSA under these programs.

An amendment that would have required the FBI to obtain a warrant to access information in the NSA’s database failed in the House on Thursday. The bill extending the surveillance programs does require the FBI to get a warrant by arguing they have probable cause to search the NSA’s database in open investigations that don’t involve national security or terrorism. That requirement doesn’t extend to open FBI investigations of terrorism and national security cases.

Demand Progress, a civil-liberties focused advocacy group, condemned the House for voting down the amendment. “By failing to close the backdoor search loophole in this bill, which exposes millions of innocent Americans to warrantless government surveillance, members of Congress have ceded incredible domestic spying powers to the executive branch,” the organization said in a statement.

In debate on the amendment, Rep. Bob Goodlatte, a Republican from Virginia, argued that putting in place the warrant requirement would hinder the FBI’s efforts to prevent terrorism attacks in the US.

“This amendment, plain and simple, would disable 702, our most important national security tool,” he said.

His arguments echoed concerns that requiring a warrant even in cases directly related to national security — rather than other types of criminal investigations — would put up dangerous barriers to communication between US intelligence agencies. After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the intelligence community came under scrutiny for failing to share information with each other about the alleged perpetrators before the attacks.

In December, Snowden chimed in on what he and privacy advocates call a “back door” given to other intelligence agencies. He joined ACLU lawyers to answer questions on a Reddit “Ask Me Anything” forum and highlighted the issue of incidentally collected emails and other communications.

“These ‘incidentally collected’ communications of Americans can then be kept and searched at any time, without a warrant. Does that sound right to you?” Snowden said.

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January 18, 2018   Posted in: Edward Snowden  Comments Closed

Edward Snowden: the whistleblower behind the NSA surveillance …

The individual responsible for one of the most significant leaks in US political history is Edward Snowden, a 29-year-old former technical assistant for the CIA and current employee of the defence contractor Booz Allen Hamilton. Snowden has been working at the National Security Agency for the last four years as an employee of various outside contractors, including Booz Allen and Dell.

The Guardian, after several days of interviews, is revealing his identity at his request. From the moment he decided to disclose numerous top-secret documents to the public, he was determined not to opt for the protection of anonymity. “I have no intention of hiding who I am because I know I have done nothing wrong,” he said.

Snowden will go down in history as one of America’s most consequential whistleblowers, alongside Daniel Ellsberg and Bradley Manning. He is responsible for handing over material from one of the world’s most secretive organisations the NSA.

In a note accompanying the first set of documents he provided, he wrote: “I understand that I will be made to suffer for my actions,” but “I will be satisfied if the federation of secret law, unequal pardon and irresistible executive powers that rule the world that I love are revealed even for an instant.”

Despite his determination to be publicly unveiled, he repeatedly insisted that he wants to avoid the media spotlight. “I don’t want public attention because I don’t want the story to be about me. I want it to be about what the US government is doing.”

He does not fear the consequences of going public, he said, only that doing so will distract attention from the issues raised by his disclosures. “I know the media likes to personalise political debates, and I know the government will demonise me.”

Despite these fears, he remained hopeful his outing will not divert attention from the substance of his disclosures. “I really want the focus to be on these documents and the debate which I hope this will trigger among citizens around the globe about what kind of world we want to live in.” He added: “My sole motive is to inform the public as to that which is done in their name and that which is done against them.”

He has had “a very comfortable life” that included a salary of roughly $200,000, a girlfriend with whom he shared a home in Hawaii, a stable career, and a family he loves. “I’m willing to sacrifice all of that because I can’t in good conscience allow the US government to destroy privacy, internet freedom and basic liberties for people around the world with this massive surveillance machine they’re secretly building.”

Three weeks ago, Snowden made final preparations that resulted in last week’s series of blockbuster news stories. At the NSA office in Hawaii where he was working, he copied the last set of documents he intended to disclose.

He then advised his NSA supervisor that he needed to be away from work for “a couple of weeks” in order to receive treatment for epilepsy, a condition he learned he suffers from after a series of seizures last year.

As he packed his bags, he told his girlfriend that he had to be away for a few weeks, though he said he was vague about the reason. “That is not an uncommon occurrence for someone who has spent the last decade working in the intelligence world.”

On May 20, he boarded a flight to Hong Kong, where he has remained ever since. He chose the city because “they have a spirited commitment to free speech and the right of political dissent”, and because he believed that it was one of the few places in the world that both could and would resist the dictates of the US government.

In the three weeks since he arrived, he has been ensconced in a hotel room. “I’ve left the room maybe a total of three times during my entire stay,” he said. It is a plush hotel and, what with eating meals in his room too, he has run up big bills.

He is deeply worried about being spied on. He lines the door of his hotel room with pillows to prevent eavesdropping. He puts a large red hood over his head and laptop when entering his passwords to prevent any hidden cameras from detecting them.

Though that may sound like paranoia to some, Snowden has good reason for such fears. He worked in the US intelligence world for almost a decade. He knows that the biggest and most secretive surveillance organisation in America, the NSA, along with the most powerful government on the planet, is looking for him.

Since the disclosures began to emerge, he has watched television and monitored the internet, hearing all the threats and vows of prosecution emanating from Washington.

And he knows only too well the sophisticated technology available to them and how easy it will be for them to find him. The NSA police and other law enforcement officers have twice visited his home in Hawaii and already contacted his girlfriend, though he believes that may have been prompted by his absence from work, and not because of suspicions of any connection to the leaks.

“All my options are bad,” he said. The US could begin extradition proceedings against him, a potentially problematic, lengthy and unpredictable course for Washington. Or the Chinese government might whisk him away for questioning, viewing him as a useful source of information. Or he might end up being grabbed and bundled into a plane bound for US territory.

“Yes, I could be rendered by the CIA. I could have people come after me. Or any of the third-party partners. They work closely with a number of other nations. Or they could pay off the Triads. Any of their agents or assets,” he said.

“We have got a CIA station just up the road the consulate here in Hong Kong and I am sure they are going to be busy for the next week. And that is a concern I will live with for the rest of my life, however long that happens to be.”

Having watched the Obama administration prosecute whistleblowers at a historically unprecedented rate, he fully expects the US government to attempt to use all its weight to punish him. “I am not afraid,” he said calmly, “because this is the choice I’ve made.”

He predicts the government will launch an investigation and “say I have broken the Espionage Act and helped our enemies, but that can be used against anyone who points out how massive and invasive the system has become”.

The only time he became emotional during the many hours of interviews was when he pondered the impact his choices would have on his family, many of whom work for the US government. “The only thing I fear is the harmful effects on my family, who I won’t be able to help any more. That’s what keeps me up at night,” he said, his eyes welling up with tears.

Snowden did not always believe the US government posed a threat to his political values. He was brought up originally in Elizabeth City, North Carolina. His family moved later to Maryland, near the NSA headquarters in Fort Meade.

By his own admission, he was not a stellar student. In order to get the credits necessary to obtain a high school diploma, he attended a community college in Maryland, studying computing, but never completed the coursework. (He later obtained his GED.)

In 2003, he enlisted in the US army and began a training program to join the Special Forces. Invoking the same principles that he now cites to justify his leaks, he said: “I wanted to fight in the Iraq war because I felt like I had an obligation as a human being to help free people from oppression”.

He recounted how his beliefs about the war’s purpose were quickly dispelled. “Most of the people training us seemed pumped up about killing Arabs, not helping anyone,” he said. After he broke both his legs in a training accident, he was discharged.

After that, he got his first job in an NSA facility, working as a security guard for one of the agency’s covert facilities at the University of Maryland. From there, he went to the CIA, where he worked on IT security. His understanding of the internet and his talent for computer programming enabled him to rise fairly quickly for someone who lacked even a high school diploma.

By 2007, the CIA stationed him with diplomatic cover in Geneva, Switzerland. His responsibility for maintaining computer network security meant he had clearance to access a wide array of classified documents.

That access, along with the almost three years he spent around CIA officers, led him to begin seriously questioning the rightness of what he saw.

He described as formative an incident in which he claimed CIA operatives were attempting to recruit a Swiss banker to obtain secret banking information. Snowden said they achieved this by purposely getting the banker drunk and encouraging him to drive home in his car. When the banker was arrested for drunk driving, the undercover agent seeking to befriend him offered to help, and a bond was formed that led to successful recruitment.

“Much of what I saw in Geneva really disillusioned me about how my government functions and what its impact is in the world,” he says. “I realised that I was part of something that was doing far more harm than good.”

He said it was during his CIA stint in Geneva that he thought for the first time about exposing government secrets. But, at the time, he chose not to for two reasons.

First, he said: “Most of the secrets the CIA has are about people, not machines and systems, so I didn’t feel comfortable with disclosures that I thought could endanger anyone”. Secondly, the election of Barack Obama in 2008 gave him hope that there would be real reforms, rendering disclosures unnecessary.

He left the CIA in 2009 in order to take his first job working for a private contractor that assigned him to a functioning NSA facility, stationed on a military base in Japan. It was then, he said, that he “watched as Obama advanced the very policies that I thought would be reined in”, and as a result, “I got hardened.”

The primary lesson from this experience was that “you can’t wait around for someone else to act. I had been looking for leaders, but I realised that leadership is about being the first to act.”

Over the next three years, he learned just how all-consuming the NSA’s surveillance activities were, claiming “they are intent on making every conversation and every form of behaviour in the world known to them”.

He described how he once viewed the internet as “the most important invention in all of human history”. As an adolescent, he spent days at a time “speaking to people with all sorts of views that I would never have encountered on my own”.

But he believed that the value of the internet, along with basic privacy, is being rapidly destroyed by ubiquitous surveillance. “I don’t see myself as a hero,” he said, “because what I’m doing is self-interested: I don’t want to live in a world where there’s no privacy and therefore no room for intellectual exploration and creativity.”

Once he reached the conclusion that the NSA’s surveillance net would soon be irrevocable, he said it was just a matter of time before he chose to act. “What they’re doing” poses “an existential threat to democracy”, he said.

As strong as those beliefs are, there still remains the question: why did he do it? Giving up his freedom and a privileged lifestyle? “There are more important things than money. If I were motivated by money, I could have sold these documents to any number of countries and gotten very rich.”

For him, it is a matter of principle. “The government has granted itself power it is not entitled to. There is no public oversight. The result is people like myself have the latitude to go further than they are allowed to,” he said.

His allegiance to internet freedom is reflected in the stickers on his laptop: “I support Online Rights: Electronic Frontier Foundation,” reads one. Another hails the online organisation offering anonymity, the Tor Project.

Asked by reporters to establish his authenticity to ensure he is not some fantasist, he laid bare, without hesitation, his personal details, from his social security number to his CIA ID and his expired diplomatic passport. There is no shiftiness. Ask him about anything in his personal life and he will answer.

He is quiet, smart, easy-going and self-effacing. A master on computers, he seemed happiest when talking about the technical side of surveillance, at a level of detail comprehensible probably only to fellow communication specialists. But he showed intense passion when talking about the value of privacy and how he felt it was being steadily eroded by the behaviour of the intelligence services.

His manner was calm and relaxed but he has been understandably twitchy since he went into hiding, waiting for the knock on the hotel door. A fire alarm goes off. “That has not happened before,” he said, betraying anxiety wondering if was real, a test or a CIA ploy to get him out onto the street.

Strewn about the side of his bed are his suitcase, a plate with the remains of room-service breakfast, and a copy of Angler, the biography of former vice-president Dick Cheney.

Ever since last week’s news stories began to appear in the Guardian, Snowden has vigilantly watched TV and read the internet to see the effects of his choices. He seemed satisfied that the debate he longed to provoke was finally taking place.

He lay, propped up against pillows, watching CNN’s Wolf Blitzer ask a discussion panel about government intrusion if they had any idea who the leaker was. From 8,000 miles away, the leaker looked on impassively, not even indulging in a wry smile.

Snowden said that he admires both Ellsberg and Manning, but argues that there is one important distinction between himself and the army private, whose trial coincidentally began the week Snowden’s leaks began to make news.

“I carefully evaluated every single document I disclosed to ensure that each was legitimately in the public interest,” he said. “There are all sorts of documents that would have made a big impact that I didn’t turn over, because harming people isn’t my goal. Transparency is.”

He purposely chose, he said, to give the documents to journalists whose judgment he trusted about what should be public and what should remain concealed.

As for his future, he is vague. He hoped the publicity the leaks have generated will offer him some protection, making it “harder for them to get dirty”.

He views his best hope as the possibility of asylum, with Iceland with its reputation of a champion of internet freedom at the top of his list. He knows that may prove a wish unfulfilled.

But after the intense political controversy he has already created with just the first week’s haul of stories, “I feel satisfied that this was all worth it. I have no regrets.”

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Edward Snowden Interview – NBC News

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NBC Chief White House Correspondent and Political director Chuck Todd breaks down new polling conducted before and after Brian Williams exclusive interview with Edward Snowden and whether or not Snowdens appearance changed any minds.

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An excerpt from former NSA contractor Edward Snowdens exclusive interview with Brian Williams.

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Edward Snowden Interview – NBC News

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On the trail of Edward Snowden – variety.com

From the Kennedy Assassination to Edward Snowden, Edward Jay Epstein has built a career out of challenging the conventional wisdom. The author of several seminal works of investigative journalism is the subject of an arresting new documentary, Hall of Mirrors, which premiered at the New York Film Festival this month. It is looking for distribution. The film marks the directing debut of sisters Ena and Ines Talakic, and serves as both a retrospective of Epsteins fascinating career and a memorial to a type of reporting that has largely fallen out of favor in an era of clickbait headlines.

Hes just someone who asks basic questions and gets full access to the most incredible people, said Ines Talakic. He takes his time and he digs deep.

Thats been a hallmark of Epsteins career. As an undergraduate at Cornell he managed to speak to nearly every member of the Warren Commission save for Chief Justice Earl Warren. His resulting book, 1966s Inquest: The Warren Commission and the Establishment of Truth, pulled back the curtain on a shoddy investigation into Lee Harvey Oswalds motives and methods at a time when the consensus view was the government has left no stone unturned. A long line of Kennedy conspiracy theories can be traced back to the questions Inquest raised.

I like learning, said Epstein. I spend years investigating something and over that time you really become an expert.

Armed with a deep-seeded curiosity, Epstein spent the rest of his career tackling thorny subjects. He wrote one of the early works of media criticism, News From Nowhere, after spending four months in the newsroom of NBC, and an additional two months in those of CBS and ABC. Later works such as The Rise and Fall of Diamonds, a look at the cartels behind the precious gems, and Dossier: The Secret History of Armand Hammer, a biography of the monomaniacal and ethically shady chairman of the Occidental Petroleum Company, were also deeply researched.

But its not just unscrupulous moguls and political conspiracies. Epstein has also written lucidly about Hollywood. Hes had a particular fascination and fluidity with the movie business economic underpinnings and colorful accounting project. Perhaps it was an earlier failed attempt to produce a film version of the Illiad that interested him in Tinseltown. The 81-year old writers next project will look at digital disruption and its impact on the film industry.

The Talakic sisters met Epstein at a party hosted by Nouriel Roubini, the noted economist, and eventually convinced the writer that he would be a good subject for a documentary. They then spent more than four years getting an up close and personal look at Epsteins methods and archives.

Ed is fascinating because you realize that he is really a part of history through all of his investigations, said Ena Talakic. We found it interesting that someone who just asks basic questions can end up getting full access to people and can convince them to talk to him.

Over the course of the film, the Talakic sisters follow Epstein as he heads to Hawaii, Hong Kong, and Russia, re-tracing the route that Snowden took as he decided to reveal the inner workings of Americas intelligence gathering operation, and later was forced to seek asylum from Vladimir Putin.

To prove his point that Snowden might have been a spy, Epstein tracked down former neighbors, co-workers, and members of the KGB. The book that emerged from the months of reporting, How America Lost Its Secrets, elicited some heated criticism, particularly from journalists such as Glenn Grenwald and Barton Gellman, who broke the initial Snowden pieces.

How America Lost Its Secrets debuted in January of 2017. Epstein wonders if the book and its claims about Russias designs on Snowden wouldnt have been more warmly received if it came out a few months later, when Russia was a hot topic. After all, the Kremlin is in the headlines for trying to manipulate the U.S. presidential election, and Putins ambitions to influence Western politics have become clearer.

Its hard to pretend now that it didnt matter that Snowden went to Russia, said Epstein. The view of Russia at the time was benign. Now its demonic.

Hall of Mirrors is very much a celebration of a life well lived and a body of investigative work that has helped shape popular perceptions of government, culture, and commerce. Theres something sad about it, however. Its a reminder that the kind of reporting that Epstein does research intensive, meticulous, and wide ranging is fading. The journalism that is replacing it looks flimsy by comparison.

There are fewer and fewer outlets for investigative reporting, said Ines Talakic. Most people arent able to spend the same type of time. People are under so much pressure to rush stories.

Epsteins career and writings are a reminder that great reporting shouldnt be rushed. It takes time to discover the truth.

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New York Film Festival Sets Documentary Lineup – Deadline

The New York Film Festival has unveiled the roster of its Spotlight on Documentary section for this years fest, which runs September 28-October 15. Filmmakers in the lineup include Alex Gibney, Abel Ferrara and Nancy Buirski, with subjects ranging from Joan Didion and Jane Goodall to Arthur Miller and U.S. immigration to the global refugee crisis.

Two of the docus premiering the lineup the Griffin Dunne-directed Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold and the Gay Talese-centered Voyeur have been set up at Netflix and will bow later this year.

The 55th annual festival run by the Film Society of Lincoln Center opens this year with Richard Linklaters Last Flag Flying and closes with Woody Allens Wonder Wheel. Todd Haynes Wonderstruck has a gala slot.

Heres the full Spotlight on Documentary lineup:

Arthur Miller: Writer Dir. Rebecca Miller, USA, 2017, 98m Rebecca Millers film is a portrait of her father, his times and insights, built around impromptu interviews shot over many years in the family home. This celebration of the great American playwright is quite different from what the public has ever seen. It is a close consideration of a singular life shadowed by the tragedies of the Red Scare and the death of Marilyn Monroe; a bracing look at success and failure in the public eye; an honest accounting of human frailty; a tribute to one artist by another. Arthur Miller: Writer invites you to see how one of Americas sharpest social commentators formed his ideologies, how his life reflected his work, and, even in some small part, shaped the culture of our country in the twentieth century. An HBO Documentary Films release.

BOOM FOR REAL: The Late Teenage Years of Jean-Michel Basquiat Dir. Sara Driver, USA, 2017, 79m U.S. Premiere Sara Drivers documentary is both a celebration of and elegy for the downtown New York art/music/film/performance world of the late 1970s and early 80s, through which Jean-Michel Basquiat shot like a rocket. Weaving Basquiats life and artistic progress in and out of her rich, living tapestry of this endlessly cross-fertilizing scene, Driver has created an urgent recollection of freedom and the aesthetic of poverty. Graffiti meets gestural painting, hip hop infects rock and roll and visa versa, heroin comes and never quite goes, night swallows day, and everybody looms as large as they feel like looming on the crumbling streets of the Lower East Side.

Cielo Dir. Alison McAlpine, Canada/Chile, 2017, 74m World Premiere The first feature from Alison McAlpine, director of the beautiful 2008 nonfiction ghost story short Second Sight, is a dialogue with the heavensin this case, the heavens above the Andes and the Atacama Desert in northern Chile, where the sky is more urgent than the land. McAlpine keeps the vast galaxies above and beyond in a delicate balance with the earthbound world of people, gently alighting on the desert- and mountain-dwelling astronomers, fishermen, miners, and cowboys who live their lives with reverence and awe for the skies. Cielo itself is an act of reverence and awe, and its sense of wonder ranges from the intimate and human to the vast and inhuman.

Did You Wonder Who Fired the Gun? Dir. Travis Wilkerson, USA, 2017, 90m How is it that some people escape the racism and misogyny in which they are raised, and some cling to it as their reason to exist? For 20 years, Travis Wilkerson has been making films that interrogate the malevolent effects of capitalism on the American Dream. Here he turns his sights on his own family and the small town of Dothan, Alabama, where his white supremacist great-great grandfather S.E. Branch once shot and killed Bill Spann, an African-American man. Branch was arrested but never charged with the crime. The life of his victim has been all but obliterated from memory and public record. This isnt a white savior story. This is a white nightmare story, says the filmmaker, who refuses to let himself or anyone else off the hook.

El mar la mar Dir. Joshua Bonnetta & J.P. Sniadecki, USA, 2017, 94m The first collaboration between film and sound artist Bonnetta and filmmaker/anthropologist Sniadecki (The Iron Ministry, NYFF52) is a lyrical and highly topical film in which the Sonoran Desert, among the deadliest routes taken by those crossing from Mexico to the United States, is depicted a place of dramatic beauty and merciless danger. Haunting 16mm images of the unforgiving landscape and the human traces within it are supplemented with an intricate soundtrack of interwoven sounds and oral testimonies. Urgent yet never didactic, El mar la mar allows this symbolically fraught terrain to take shape in vivid sensory detail, and in so doing, suggests new possibilities for the political documentary. A Cinema Guild release.

Filmworker Dir. Tony Zierra, USA, 2017, 94m Leon Vitali was a name in English television and movies when Stanley Kubrick cast him as Lord Bullingdon in Barry Lyndon, but after his acclaimed performance the young actor surrendered his career in the spotlight to become Kubricks loyal right-hand man. For the next two decades, Vitali was Kubricks factotum, never not on call, for whom no task was too small. Along the way, Vitalis personal life suffered, he drifted from his children, and his health deteriorated as he gave everything to his work. Filmworker is of obvious interest to anyone who cares about Kubrick, but it is also a fascinating portrait of awe-inspired devotion burning all the way down to the wick.

Hall of Mirrors Dir. Ena Talakic and Ines Talakic, USA, 2017, 87m World Premiere In this lively documentary portrait, the great nonpartisan investigative reporter Edward Jay Epstein, still going strong at 81, takes us through his most notable articles and books, including close looks at the findings of the Warren Commission, the structure of the diamond industry, the strange career of Armand Hammer, and the inner workings of big-time journalism itself. These are interwoven with an in-progress investigation into the circumstances around Edward Snowdens 2013 leak of classified documents, resulting in Epsteins recently published, controversial book How America Lost Its Secrets: Edward Snowden, the Man and the Theft. One of the last of his generation of journalists, the energetic, articulate, and boyish Epstein is a truly fascinating character.

Jane Dir. Brett Morgen, USA, 2017, 90m U.S. Premiere In 1960, Dr. Louis Leakey arranged for a young English woman with a deep love of animals to go to Gombe Stream National Park near Lake Tangyanika. The Dutch photographer and filmmaker Hugo van Lawick was sent to document Jane Goodalls first establishment of contact with the chimpanzee population, resulting in the enormously popular Miss Goodall and the Wild Chimpanzees, the second film ever produced by National Geographic. One hundred hours of Lawicks original footage was rediscovered in 2014. From that material, Brett Morgen (Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck) has created a vibrant film experience, giving new life to the experiences of this remarkable woman and the wild in which she found a home. A National Geographic Documentary Films release.

Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold Dir. Griffin Dunne, USA, 2017, 92m World Premiere Griffin Dunnes years-in-the-making documentary portrait of his aunt Joan Didion moves with the spirit of her uncannily lucid writing: the film simultaneously expands and zeroes in, covering a vast stretch of turbulent cultural history with elegance and candor, and grounded in the illuminating presence and words of Didion herself. This is most certainly a film about lossthe loss of a solid American center, the personal losses of a husband and a childbut Didion describes everything she sees and experiences so attentively, so fully, and so bravely that she transforms the very worst of life into occasions for understanding. A Netflix release.

No Stone Unturned Dir. Alex Gibney, Northern Ireland/USA, 2017, 111m World Premiere Investigative documentary filmmaker Alex Gibneybest known for 2008s Oscar-winning Taxi to the Dark Side, Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, and at least a dozen othersturns his sights on the 1994 Loughinisland massacre, a cold case that remains an open wound in the Irish peace process. The families of the victimswho were murdered while watching the World Cup in their local pubwere promised justice, but 20 years later they still didnt know who killed their loved ones. Gibney uncovers a web of secrecy, lies, and corruption that so often results when the powerful insist they are acting for the greater good.

Piazza Vittorio Dir. Abel Ferrara, Italy/USA 2017, 69m North American Premiere Abel Ferraras new documentary is a vivid mosaic/portrait of Romes biggest public square, Piazza Vittorio, built in the 19th century around the ruins of the 3rd century Trofei di Mario. The Piazza is now truly a crossroad of the modern world: it offers a perfect microcosm of the changes in the west brought by immigration and forced displacement. Ferrara, now a resident of Rome himself, talks with African musicians and restaurant workers, Chinese barkeeps and relocated eastern Europeans, homeless men and women, artists, members of the right wing movement CasaPound Italia, filmmaker Matteo Garrone, actor Willem Dafoe, and others, all with varying opinions about the vast changes theyre seeing in their neighborhood and world.

The Rape of Recy Taylor Dir. Nancy Buirski, USA, 2017, 90m North American Premiere On the night of September 3, 1944, a young African-American mother from Abbeville, Alabama, named Recy Taylor was walking home from church with two friends when she was abducted by seven white men, driven away and dragged into the woods, raped by six of the men, and left to make her way home. Against formidable odds and endless threats to her life andthe lives of her family members, Taylor bravely spoke up and pressed charges. Nancy Buirskis passionate documentary shines a light on a case that became a turning point in the early Civil Rights Movement, and on the many formidable womenincluding Rosa Parkswho brought the movement to life.

Sea Sorrow Dir. Vanessa Redgrave, UK, 2017, 72m Vanessa Redgraves debut as a documentary filmmaker is a plea for a compassionate western response to the refugee crisis and a condemnation of the vitriolic inhumanity of current right wing and conservative politicians. Redgrave juxtaposes our horrifying present of inadequate refugee quotas and humanitarian disasters (like last years clearing of the Calais migrant camp) with the refugee crises of WWII and its aftermath, recalled with archival footage, contemporary news reports and personal testimonyincluding an interview with the eloquent Labor politician Lord Dubs, who was one of the children rescued by the Kindertransport. Sea Sorrow reaches further back in time to Shakespeare, not only for its title but also to further remind us that we are once more repeating the history that we have yet to learn.

A Skin So Soft Denis Ct, Canada/Switzerland/France, 2017, 94m U.S. Premiere Studiously observing the world of male bodybuilding, Denis Cts A Skin So Soft (Ta peau si lisse) crafts a multifaceted portrait of six latter-day Adonises through the lens of their everyday lives: extreme diets, training regimens, family relationships, and friendships within the community. Capturing the physical brawn and emotional complexity of its subjects with wit and tenderness, this companion piece to Cotes singular animal study Bestiaire (2012) is a self-reflexive rumination on the long tradition of filming the human body that also advances a fascinating perspective on contemporary masculinity.

Speak Up Dir. Stphane de Freitas, co-directed by Ladj Ly, France, 2017, 99m North American Premiere Each year at the University of Saint-Denis in the suburbs of Paris, the Eloquentia competition takes place to determine the best orator in the class. Speak Up ( voix haute La Force de la Parole) follows the students, who come from a variety of family backgrounds and academic disciplines, as they prepare for the competition while coached by public-speaking professionals like lawyers and slam poets. Through the subtle and intriguing mechanics of rhetoric, these young people both reveal and discover themselves, and it is impossible not to be moved by the personal stories that surface in their verbal jousts, from the death of a Syrian nightingale to a fathers Chuck Norrisinspired approach to his battle with cancer. Without sentimentality, Speak Up proves how the art of speech is key to universal understanding, social ascension, and personal revelation.

The Venerable W. Dir. Barbet Schroeder, France/Switzerland, 2017, 100m The Islamophobic Burmese monk known as The Venerable Wirathu has led hundreds of thousands of his Buddhist followers in a hate-fueled, violent campaign of ethnic cleansing, in which the countrys tiny minority of Muslims were driven from their homes and businesses and penned in refugee camps on the Myanmar border. Barbet Schroders portrait of this man again proves, along with his General Idi Amin Dada (1974) and Terrors Advocate (2007), that the director is a brilliant interviewer, allowing power-hungry fascists to damn themselves with their own testimony. His confrontation with Wirathua figure whose existence contradicts the popular belief that Buddhism is the most peaceful and tolerant major religionis revelatory and horrifying. A release from Les Films du Losange.

Preceded by: What Are You Up to, Barbet Schroeder? (2017, 13m), in which the director traces the path that led him to Myanmar, a center of Theravada Buddhism, where racial hatred was mutating into genocide.

Voyeur Myles Kane and Josh Koury, USA, 2017, 96m World Premiere Gerald Foos bought a motel in Colorado in the 1960s, furnished the room with louvered vents that allowed him to spy on his guests, and kept a journal of their sexual encountersamong other things. As writer Gay Talese, who had known Foos for more than three decades, came close to the publication of his book The Voyeurs Motel (preceded by an excerpt in The New Yorker), factual discrepancies in Fooss account emerged, and documentarians Kane and Koury were on hand to record some wild encounters between the veteran New York journalist and his enigmatic subject. A Netflix release.

Three Music Films by Mathieu Amalric Cest presque au bout du monde (France, 2015, 16m) Zorn (2010-2017) (France, 2017, 54m) Music Is Music (France, 2017, 21m) These three movies from Mathieu Amalric are musicals, from the inside out: they move with the mental and physical energies of John Zorn, the wildly prolific and protean composer/performer/bandleader/record label founder/club owner and all-around grand spirit of New York downtown music; and via the great Canadian-born soprano/conductor/champion of modern classical music Barbara Hannigan. Amalrics Zorn film began as a European TV commission that was quickly abandoned in favor of something more intimate: an ongoing dialogue between two friends that will always be a work-in-progress. The two shorter pieces that bracket the Zorn feature Hannigan nurturing music into being with breath, sound, and spirit. Taken together, the three films make for one thrilling, intimate musical-gestural-cinematic ride.

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New York Film Festival Sets Documentary Lineup – Deadline

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August 23, 2017   Posted in: Edward Snowden  Comments Closed

Librem 13 laptop review: physical security for the paranoid – The Verge

Every time I’ve used a Linux computer at least, a Linux computer that’s not hidden behind the sheen of Chrome or Android it’s been the exact same story: nothing ever works right the first time. So I was both excited and a little scared when I was offered a Librem 13 laptop from Purism. The $1,399 ($1,537 as tested) Librem 13 runs PureOS out of the box, Purism’s security-focused version of Linux. That means all the initial hurdles of getting Linux running on a system were solved for me. I wouldn’t have to worry about whether or not my Wi-Fi chipset was supported, or installing the right graphics drivers. All I have to do is just use the dang thing.

So, how did it turn out? Not great.

The Librem 13 is a minimalistic-looking laptop with a slightly old Core i5 6200U Skylake processor; a cheap keyboard; a low-quality, 13.3-inch, 1080p matte screen; and a bad multitouch touchpad. On the plus side, the shell is completely void of branding, and you can actually open up the computer to swap RAM and storage, with support for both SATA and NVMe M.2 drives, and regular 2.5-inch drives. This customizability is rare in this MacBook Air-ish form factor, and I really appreciate it.

The biggest standout about the Librem 13’s hardware are two physical switches on the hinge, one to disable the webcam and microphone, and another to disable Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. These hardware “kill switches” are a privacy nut’s dream. Think of Edward Snowden’s famous request for reporters to put their devices in a fridge to block radio signals, or Mark Zuckerberg’s placement of tape on his webcam.

The laptop also runs on the Coreboot firmware, instead of the Intel Management Engine, which is another big plus to security.

I’ll be honest with you: it’s all probably overkill for me. Good or bad, I just don’t worry very much about privacy and security outside of good password hygiene. But I can totally imagine someone in a more sensitive line of work than me, or a few more things to be paranoid about, buying this laptop specifically for these reasons.

It’s only in recent years that touchpads on Windows computers have become tolerable to me. The Librem 13’s touchpad is not tolerable. Outside of the fact that the surface is less pleasing to use than the glass of my MacBook’s touchpad, cursor movement actually feels laggy when I’m using the touchpad, and I don’t know whether the hardware or software is to blame. I don’t love the keyboard, either. It feels soft and imprecise to me, but this is more of a taste issue and I’ve definitely gotten better on it over time. Also, one time the L key stopped working and I had to reboot to get it back. Not sure who to blame there.

The bigger problem is Linux. Out of the box, the Debian-based OS looks great, and I find it very intuitive and user-friendly. It’s running a fairly clean install of Gnome 3 for a GUI, and I’m a fan. You can hit the “Purism Key” (a rebadged Windows key) to pull up the Activities Overview, where you can access a dock, switch between windows and desktops, and if you start typing you can search among available apps on the system, which is my preferred method of launching apps, akin to using Spotlight on a Mac.

But while PureOS includes a GUI App Store of sorts, called “Software,” I ended up installing most of the applications I actually care about through the command line. I’m pretty comfortable with “sudo apt-get install” at this point, but using dpkg to install a .deb file and then using apt-get to install its dependencies (I’m 94 percent sure that’s what I’m doing, at least) is not exactly what I’d call “user friendly.”

At this point I have most of my must-have apps on this computer. Simplenote, Visual Studio Code, Chromium, and Slack. I tried and failed to install Spotify, so I’m just listening to music in the browser. My system is perfectly configured at this point for me to do my actual job of writing for the internet, my hobbies of JavaScript and Rust development, and my actual full-time occupation of watching YouTube videos and Twitch streams. I installed the Unity game engine after half an hour of command line toil, so I can’t even say I’m missing out on that. The big thing Linux lacks for me is access to Adobe Premiere and After Effects, but nobody is perfect.

No! Okay, so I’m pleased with how relatively easy it is to use a preinstalled Linux system compared to installing it myself. But Linux is still a chore compared to Windows and Mac, and basically requires a familiarity with the command line to do anything interesting. Also, a lot of what I’m doing on this thing would work just as well or better on ChromeOS.

But also I’m just too frustrated by this hardware. The battery life is fine, but not great. Sometimes the computer doesnt sleep when I close it, so then it dies. The matte black design looked great for five seconds before it was covered in my sweaty fingerprints. And. This. Touchpad. Is. Driving. Me. Bonkers. For instance, the default configuration is for a two-finger click to emulate a middle click, which by convention on Linux is mapped to copy and paste. And I can’t figure it out how to fix it. And for some reason moving the mouse with my index finger and clicking with my thumb counts as a two-finger click. And I hate it. But I’m almost done with the review so I’m not going to dig deep into some .conf file to solve the problem. I get to walk away.

Oh, and at the office I keep getting pop-over notifications about different network printers being discovered, which I cant figure out how to turn off without disabling all notifications. So thats fun.

If you care deeply about the ethical and privacy stance that this hardware and software combination represents, I must admit that your options are limited, and that this laptop may very well be your best option.

But for everyone else, this computer is not nearly worth the $1,399 plus price tag. If Linux is that important to you, there’s much nicer hardware available for a much lower price. If Linux isn’t a big draw, then I have no idea why you’d consider this over a Surface Laptop or a MacBook.

And before you ask: yes, I do feel like a bad person for saying mean things about this computer. To me, Linux represents everything that’s worth rooting for in the technology world, a free and open source operating system that’s not tied to serving the interests of a specific corporation. And the open hardware movement has an opportunity to make safer, more customizable, and more bespoke computers than big companies can be bothered to build. I want to live in a world where I can buy a good computer that I enjoy without having to give AppleGoogleMicrosoft my money or all my personal data. This Librem 13 feels like the Early Access version of that future, and apparently I can’t be bothered to deal with the trade-offs. Which makes me part of the problem, and I’m sorry for that.

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Librem 13 laptop review: physical security for the paranoid – The Verge

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August 23, 2017   Posted in: Edward Snowden  Comments Closed

Edward Snowden Will Make an Appearance at the Free Library – Philadelphia magazine

Virtually, at least.

Edward Snowden is (kind of) coming the Free Library next month.

The whistleblower and former CIA employee will appear via live closed-circuit video link which is sort of like a high-security version of Skype or FaceTime. Hell remain somewhere in Russia, where hes sought asylum since 2013, the yearhe was charged with espionage forleaking classified National Security Agency information.

The event will be held at 7:30 p.m. on Sept. 11th. Snowden will speak with investigative journalistJeremy Scahill, co-founder of online news journal The Intercept,who will appear in person.

According to the event description, Snowden and Scahill will discuss the surveillance state and whistleblowers in a one-of-a-kind interview.

Tickets for the librarys auditorium cost $35. Those interested in watching alive broadcastof the event in a separate room at the library can get tickets for $15.

Follow @ClaireSasko on Twitter.

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Edward Snowden Will Make an Appearance at the Free Library – Philadelphia magazine

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August 22, 2017   Posted in: Edward Snowden  Comments Closed

Edward Snowden is campaigning against the worlds largest …

American whistleblower and former Central Intelligence Agency employee Edward Snowden has joined the campaign against Aadhaar, Indias 12-digit unique identification number programme that has been under fire for its security and privacy systems. On Sunday, Jan. 21, Snowden backed KC Verma, former head of Indias external intelligence agency, the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), who had written about his experiences with Aadhaar. Snowden retweeted the article published in The Wire saying the act of organisations such as banks and telcos forcing individuals to produce their Aadhaar numbers should be criminalized. Snowdens voice against the Aadhaar programme has been growing louder ever since he first made a reference to the scheme on Jan. 04 after tech journalist Zack Whittaker tweeted a Buzzfeed News piece on the alleged security breach of the Aadhaar database. A couple of days later, he spoke up on Twitter against the state-run Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) filing a first information report (FIR) against a journalist with The Tribune newspaper who wrote about security breaches of the Aadhaar database. The journalist, Rachna Khaira, described in an article how she paid just Rs500 ($7.84) to buy Aadhaar data from an anonymous seller over WhatsApp. Snowden, currently under temporary asylum in Russia, also retweeted a statement posted on Twitter by the editor-in-chief of The Tribune. In addition to openly pointing out flaws in the Aadhaar system, Snowden has also spent time retweeting multiple complaints from Indians about their experiences with Aadhaar. For months now, Aadhaar has been under attack due to privacy concerns and criticisms of the flawed implementation of the programme, forcing the UIDAI to step up its security processes by introducing new features such as a Virtual ID to authenticate and verify the Aadhaar numbers. Ever since 2015, there have been a number of purported data breaches, including duplication of cards and fraudulent bank transactions made using leaked biometric data. Meanwhile, the implementation of the Aadhaar scheme is currently being evaluated by a five-member bench in the supreme court of India, led by chief justice Dipak Misra. The perusal follows multiple petitions filed in the courts over the security and privacy being maintained by the UIDAI. This includes a case filed by a womens rights activist claiming that linking Aadhaar data to mobile phone numbers violates privacy, and another filed by a group of bank employees stating they dont have the wherewithal to provide Aadhaar-related services. The hearing comes four months after the supreme court ruled that privacy is a fundamental right of all Indians, which immediately put a cloud over the aggressive linking of Aadhaar with other schemes and programmes under the Narendra Modi government.

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January 24, 2018   Posted in: Edward Snowden  Comments Closed

Edward Snowden calls for public release of FISA abuses memo …

Former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden said the bill to reauthorize Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act would never have passed through both chambers of Congress if a memo Republicans claim has revelations about U.S. government surveillance abuses was released prior to the vote. As such, Snowden called on President Trump to veto the legislation giving six more years of life to the key counterterrorism surveillance tool. “Officials confirm there’s a secret report showing abuses of spy law Congress voted to reauthorize this week. If this memo had been known prior to the vote, FISA reauth [sic] would have failed,” Snowden tweeted early Friday. “These abuses must be made public, and @realDonaldTrump should send the bill back with a veto.” If Trump does not veto the bill and sent it back to Congress for “reform,” Snowden said, “this is nothing but politics.” Trump, however, announced on Twitter Friday afternoon that he signed the bill. Following the successful House vote, the Senate just barely advanced legislation on Tuesday to reauthorize Section 702 of FISA despite demands from Republicans and Democrats for more privacy protections for U.S. citizens a cause espoused by Snowden. Last week, before the FISA reauthorization bill’s passage in Congress, Trump claimed in a tweet the Obama administration used the controversial surveillance tool to justify the “unmasking” of members of his campaign who were caught up in the surveillance of foreign nationals. However, Trump backed off his critique of the surveillance law in a tweet later that morning, one that reflected his administration’s support for the reauthorization of the measure. The FISA memo was released internally to House members only on Thursday. Since it’s release a number of Republican lawmakers have rallied for its release to the general public, in some cases using a “ReleaseTheMemo” hashtag on social media. The effort has gone viral on social media, and appears to has gotten a sizable boost from Twitter accounts linked to Russian influence efforts. Snowden was asked if he was “planting his flag” for House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, who last month was cleared by the ethics panel on allegations that he mishandled classified information by giving it to the Trump White House while accusing the Obama administration of “unmasking” the identities associates of Trump. “Of course not,” Snowden replied, adding, “but when the chairman of House Intel (HPSCI) claims there’s documented evidence of serious surveillance abuses, it matters. If true, the citizens must see the proof. If false, it establishes HPSCI lies and has no credibility.” “Either outcome benefits the public,” Snowden added. Snowden was granted asylum in Russia back in 2013 after he leaked secret information from the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs and has been there ever since.

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January 23, 2018   Posted in: Edward Snowden  Comments Closed

House votes to renew FISA surveillance laws revealed by …

The House of Representatives passed a bill Thursday to renew US spy powers first revealed by Edward Snowden in 2013. The US House of Representatives gave a boost to the government’s surveillance powers. Lawmakers voted 256-164on Thursday to extend NSA programs that collect communications over the internet for national security purposes. The law that authorized the surveillance programs is set to expire on Jan. 19. That law, Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act, was passed in 2008. Under it, a court that hears secret national security matters decides whether to let the National Security Agency collect emails, documents and other internet communications in government surveillance programs known as Prism and Upstream. The Prism program collects communications from internet services directly. The Upstream program collects data as it travels across the internet. The programs target people outside the US, but do collect the communications of Americans who communicate with the targets of spies overseas. Details of those programs became public in 2013 when former NSA contractor Edward Snowden revealed them to journalists, who published stories in the Guardian and The Washington Post. After those disclosures, the government declassified information about the programs and began publishing annual transparency reports about the use of the surveillance tools. The original deadline to renew the surveillance powers passed on Dec. 31 without a debate on the floor of either house on potential reforms. Congress voted to extend the programs temporarily until Jan. 19. The Senate must also now vote to renew the powers before the programs can be extended further. US intelligence agencies have pressed lawmakers to preserve the programs. In a letter to Congress signed by US Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the heads of the NSA, FBI, Central Intelligence Agency, officials said losing the authority to run these surveillance programs would put the country’s national security in danger. “Section 702 has been instrumental in preventing attacks on the homeland and removing terrorists from the battlefield,” the letter said. The biggest sticking point for privacy advocates, including the ACLU, has been a policy allowing the FBI to bypass getting a warrant before accessing emails and other communications of Americans collected by the NSA under these programs. An amendment that would have required the FBI to obtain a warrant to access information in the NSA’s database failed in the House on Thursday. The bill extending the surveillance programs does require the FBI to get a warrant by arguing they have probable cause to search the NSA’s database in open investigations that don’t involve national security or terrorism. That requirement doesn’t extend to open FBI investigations of terrorism and national security cases. Demand Progress, a civil-liberties focused advocacy group, condemned the House for voting down the amendment. “By failing to close the backdoor search loophole in this bill, which exposes millions of innocent Americans to warrantless government surveillance, members of Congress have ceded incredible domestic spying powers to the executive branch,” the organization said in a statement. In debate on the amendment, Rep. Bob Goodlatte, a Republican from Virginia, argued that putting in place the warrant requirement would hinder the FBI’s efforts to prevent terrorism attacks in the US. “This amendment, plain and simple, would disable 702, our most important national security tool,” he said. His arguments echoed concerns that requiring a warrant even in cases directly related to national security — rather than other types of criminal investigations — would put up dangerous barriers to communication between US intelligence agencies. After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the intelligence community came under scrutiny for failing to share information with each other about the alleged perpetrators before the attacks. In December, Snowden chimed in on what he and privacy advocates call a “back door” given to other intelligence agencies. He joined ACLU lawyers to answer questions on a Reddit “Ask Me Anything” forum and highlighted the issue of incidentally collected emails and other communications. “These ‘incidentally collected’ communications of Americans can then be kept and searched at any time, without a warrant. Does that sound right to you?” Snowden said. Technically Incorrect: Bringing you a fresh and irreverent take on tech. Special Reports:CNET’s in-depth features in one place.

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January 18, 2018   Posted in: Edward Snowden  Comments Closed

Edward Snowden: the whistleblower behind the NSA surveillance …

The individual responsible for one of the most significant leaks in US political history is Edward Snowden, a 29-year-old former technical assistant for the CIA and current employee of the defence contractor Booz Allen Hamilton. Snowden has been working at the National Security Agency for the last four years as an employee of various outside contractors, including Booz Allen and Dell. The Guardian, after several days of interviews, is revealing his identity at his request. From the moment he decided to disclose numerous top-secret documents to the public, he was determined not to opt for the protection of anonymity. “I have no intention of hiding who I am because I know I have done nothing wrong,” he said. Snowden will go down in history as one of America’s most consequential whistleblowers, alongside Daniel Ellsberg and Bradley Manning. He is responsible for handing over material from one of the world’s most secretive organisations the NSA. In a note accompanying the first set of documents he provided, he wrote: “I understand that I will be made to suffer for my actions,” but “I will be satisfied if the federation of secret law, unequal pardon and irresistible executive powers that rule the world that I love are revealed even for an instant.” Despite his determination to be publicly unveiled, he repeatedly insisted that he wants to avoid the media spotlight. “I don’t want public attention because I don’t want the story to be about me. I want it to be about what the US government is doing.” He does not fear the consequences of going public, he said, only that doing so will distract attention from the issues raised by his disclosures. “I know the media likes to personalise political debates, and I know the government will demonise me.” Despite these fears, he remained hopeful his outing will not divert attention from the substance of his disclosures. “I really want the focus to be on these documents and the debate which I hope this will trigger among citizens around the globe about what kind of world we want to live in.” He added: “My sole motive is to inform the public as to that which is done in their name and that which is done against them.” He has had “a very comfortable life” that included a salary of roughly $200,000, a girlfriend with whom he shared a home in Hawaii, a stable career, and a family he loves. “I’m willing to sacrifice all of that because I can’t in good conscience allow the US government to destroy privacy, internet freedom and basic liberties for people around the world with this massive surveillance machine they’re secretly building.” Three weeks ago, Snowden made final preparations that resulted in last week’s series of blockbuster news stories. At the NSA office in Hawaii where he was working, he copied the last set of documents he intended to disclose. He then advised his NSA supervisor that he needed to be away from work for “a couple of weeks” in order to receive treatment for epilepsy, a condition he learned he suffers from after a series of seizures last year. As he packed his bags, he told his girlfriend that he had to be away for a few weeks, though he said he was vague about the reason. “That is not an uncommon occurrence for someone who has spent the last decade working in the intelligence world.” On May 20, he boarded a flight to Hong Kong, where he has remained ever since. He chose the city because “they have a spirited commitment to free speech and the right of political dissent”, and because he believed that it was one of the few places in the world that both could and would resist the dictates of the US government. In the three weeks since he arrived, he has been ensconced in a hotel room. “I’ve left the room maybe a total of three times during my entire stay,” he said. It is a plush hotel and, what with eating meals in his room too, he has run up big bills. He is deeply worried about being spied on. He lines the door of his hotel room with pillows to prevent eavesdropping. He puts a large red hood over his head and laptop when entering his passwords to prevent any hidden cameras from detecting them. Though that may sound like paranoia to some, Snowden has good reason for such fears. He worked in the US intelligence world for almost a decade. He knows that the biggest and most secretive surveillance organisation in America, the NSA, along with the most powerful government on the planet, is looking for him. Since the disclosures began to emerge, he has watched television and monitored the internet, hearing all the threats and vows of prosecution emanating from Washington. And he knows only too well the sophisticated technology available to them and how easy it will be for them to find him. The NSA police and other law enforcement officers have twice visited his home in Hawaii and already contacted his girlfriend, though he believes that may have been prompted by his absence from work, and not because of suspicions of any connection to the leaks. “All my options are bad,” he said. The US could begin extradition proceedings against him, a potentially problematic, lengthy and unpredictable course for Washington. Or the Chinese government might whisk him away for questioning, viewing him as a useful source of information. Or he might end up being grabbed and bundled into a plane bound for US territory. “Yes, I could be rendered by the CIA. I could have people come after me. Or any of the third-party partners. They work closely with a number of other nations. Or they could pay off the Triads. Any of their agents or assets,” he said. “We have got a CIA station just up the road the consulate here in Hong Kong and I am sure they are going to be busy for the next week. And that is a concern I will live with for the rest of my life, however long that happens to be.” Having watched the Obama administration prosecute whistleblowers at a historically unprecedented rate, he fully expects the US government to attempt to use all its weight to punish him. “I am not afraid,” he said calmly, “because this is the choice I’ve made.” He predicts the government will launch an investigation and “say I have broken the Espionage Act and helped our enemies, but that can be used against anyone who points out how massive and invasive the system has become”. The only time he became emotional during the many hours of interviews was when he pondered the impact his choices would have on his family, many of whom work for the US government. “The only thing I fear is the harmful effects on my family, who I won’t be able to help any more. That’s what keeps me up at night,” he said, his eyes welling up with tears. Snowden did not always believe the US government posed a threat to his political values. He was brought up originally in Elizabeth City, North Carolina. His family moved later to Maryland, near the NSA headquarters in Fort Meade. By his own admission, he was not a stellar student. In order to get the credits necessary to obtain a high school diploma, he attended a community college in Maryland, studying computing, but never completed the coursework. (He later obtained his GED.) In 2003, he enlisted in the US army and began a training program to join the Special Forces. Invoking the same principles that he now cites to justify his leaks, he said: “I wanted to fight in the Iraq war because I felt like I had an obligation as a human being to help free people from oppression”. He recounted how his beliefs about the war’s purpose were quickly dispelled. “Most of the people training us seemed pumped up about killing Arabs, not helping anyone,” he said. After he broke both his legs in a training accident, he was discharged. After that, he got his first job in an NSA facility, working as a security guard for one of the agency’s covert facilities at the University of Maryland. From there, he went to the CIA, where he worked on IT security. His understanding of the internet and his talent for computer programming enabled him to rise fairly quickly for someone who lacked even a high school diploma. By 2007, the CIA stationed him with diplomatic cover in Geneva, Switzerland. His responsibility for maintaining computer network security meant he had clearance to access a wide array of classified documents. That access, along with the almost three years he spent around CIA officers, led him to begin seriously questioning the rightness of what he saw. He described as formative an incident in which he claimed CIA operatives were attempting to recruit a Swiss banker to obtain secret banking information. Snowden said they achieved this by purposely getting the banker drunk and encouraging him to drive home in his car. When the banker was arrested for drunk driving, the undercover agent seeking to befriend him offered to help, and a bond was formed that led to successful recruitment. “Much of what I saw in Geneva really disillusioned me about how my government functions and what its impact is in the world,” he says. “I realised that I was part of something that was doing far more harm than good.” He said it was during his CIA stint in Geneva that he thought for the first time about exposing government secrets. But, at the time, he chose not to for two reasons. First, he said: “Most of the secrets the CIA has are about people, not machines and systems, so I didn’t feel comfortable with disclosures that I thought could endanger anyone”. Secondly, the election of Barack Obama in 2008 gave him hope that there would be real reforms, rendering disclosures unnecessary. He left the CIA in 2009 in order to take his first job working for a private contractor that assigned him to a functioning NSA facility, stationed on a military base in Japan. It was then, he said, that he “watched as Obama advanced the very policies that I thought would be reined in”, and as a result, “I got hardened.” The primary lesson from this experience was that “you can’t wait around for someone else to act. I had been looking for leaders, but I realised that leadership is about being the first to act.” Over the next three years, he learned just how all-consuming the NSA’s surveillance activities were, claiming “they are intent on making every conversation and every form of behaviour in the world known to them”. He described how he once viewed the internet as “the most important invention in all of human history”. As an adolescent, he spent days at a time “speaking to people with all sorts of views that I would never have encountered on my own”. But he believed that the value of the internet, along with basic privacy, is being rapidly destroyed by ubiquitous surveillance. “I don’t see myself as a hero,” he said, “because what I’m doing is self-interested: I don’t want to live in a world where there’s no privacy and therefore no room for intellectual exploration and creativity.” Once he reached the conclusion that the NSA’s surveillance net would soon be irrevocable, he said it was just a matter of time before he chose to act. “What they’re doing” poses “an existential threat to democracy”, he said. As strong as those beliefs are, there still remains the question: why did he do it? Giving up his freedom and a privileged lifestyle? “There are more important things than money. If I were motivated by money, I could have sold these documents to any number of countries and gotten very rich.” For him, it is a matter of principle. “The government has granted itself power it is not entitled to. There is no public oversight. The result is people like myself have the latitude to go further than they are allowed to,” he said. His allegiance to internet freedom is reflected in the stickers on his laptop: “I support Online Rights: Electronic Frontier Foundation,” reads one. Another hails the online organisation offering anonymity, the Tor Project. Asked by reporters to establish his authenticity to ensure he is not some fantasist, he laid bare, without hesitation, his personal details, from his social security number to his CIA ID and his expired diplomatic passport. There is no shiftiness. Ask him about anything in his personal life and he will answer. He is quiet, smart, easy-going and self-effacing. A master on computers, he seemed happiest when talking about the technical side of surveillance, at a level of detail comprehensible probably only to fellow communication specialists. But he showed intense passion when talking about the value of privacy and how he felt it was being steadily eroded by the behaviour of the intelligence services. His manner was calm and relaxed but he has been understandably twitchy since he went into hiding, waiting for the knock on the hotel door. A fire alarm goes off. “That has not happened before,” he said, betraying anxiety wondering if was real, a test or a CIA ploy to get him out onto the street. Strewn about the side of his bed are his suitcase, a plate with the remains of room-service breakfast, and a copy of Angler, the biography of former vice-president Dick Cheney. Ever since last week’s news stories began to appear in the Guardian, Snowden has vigilantly watched TV and read the internet to see the effects of his choices. He seemed satisfied that the debate he longed to provoke was finally taking place. He lay, propped up against pillows, watching CNN’s Wolf Blitzer ask a discussion panel about government intrusion if they had any idea who the leaker was. From 8,000 miles away, the leaker looked on impassively, not even indulging in a wry smile. Snowden said that he admires both Ellsberg and Manning, but argues that there is one important distinction between himself and the army private, whose trial coincidentally began the week Snowden’s leaks began to make news. “I carefully evaluated every single document I disclosed to ensure that each was legitimately in the public interest,” he said. “There are all sorts of documents that would have made a big impact that I didn’t turn over, because harming people isn’t my goal. Transparency is.” He purposely chose, he said, to give the documents to journalists whose judgment he trusted about what should be public and what should remain concealed. As for his future, he is vague. He hoped the publicity the leaks have generated will offer him some protection, making it “harder for them to get dirty”. He views his best hope as the possibility of asylum, with Iceland with its reputation of a champion of internet freedom at the top of his list. He knows that may prove a wish unfulfilled. But after the intense political controversy he has already created with just the first week’s haul of stories, “I feel satisfied that this was all worth it. I have no regrets.”

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October 19, 2017   Posted in: Edward Snowden  Comments Closed

Edward Snowden Interview – NBC News

Video NBC Chief White House Correspondent and Political director Chuck Todd breaks down new polling conducted before and after Brian Williams exclusive interview with Edward Snowden and whether or not Snowdens appearance changed any minds. Video An excerpt from former NSA contractor Edward Snowdens exclusive interview with Brian Williams.

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October 19, 2017   Posted in: Edward Snowden  Comments Closed

On the trail of Edward Snowden – variety.com

From the Kennedy Assassination to Edward Snowden, Edward Jay Epstein has built a career out of challenging the conventional wisdom. The author of several seminal works of investigative journalism is the subject of an arresting new documentary, Hall of Mirrors, which premiered at the New York Film Festival this month. It is looking for distribution. The film marks the directing debut of sisters Ena and Ines Talakic, and serves as both a retrospective of Epsteins fascinating career and a memorial to a type of reporting that has largely fallen out of favor in an era of clickbait headlines. Hes just someone who asks basic questions and gets full access to the most incredible people, said Ines Talakic. He takes his time and he digs deep. Thats been a hallmark of Epsteins career. As an undergraduate at Cornell he managed to speak to nearly every member of the Warren Commission save for Chief Justice Earl Warren. His resulting book, 1966s Inquest: The Warren Commission and the Establishment of Truth, pulled back the curtain on a shoddy investigation into Lee Harvey Oswalds motives and methods at a time when the consensus view was the government has left no stone unturned. A long line of Kennedy conspiracy theories can be traced back to the questions Inquest raised. I like learning, said Epstein. I spend years investigating something and over that time you really become an expert. Armed with a deep-seeded curiosity, Epstein spent the rest of his career tackling thorny subjects. He wrote one of the early works of media criticism, News From Nowhere, after spending four months in the newsroom of NBC, and an additional two months in those of CBS and ABC. Later works such as The Rise and Fall of Diamonds, a look at the cartels behind the precious gems, and Dossier: The Secret History of Armand Hammer, a biography of the monomaniacal and ethically shady chairman of the Occidental Petroleum Company, were also deeply researched. But its not just unscrupulous moguls and political conspiracies. Epstein has also written lucidly about Hollywood. Hes had a particular fascination and fluidity with the movie business economic underpinnings and colorful accounting project. Perhaps it was an earlier failed attempt to produce a film version of the Illiad that interested him in Tinseltown. The 81-year old writers next project will look at digital disruption and its impact on the film industry. The Talakic sisters met Epstein at a party hosted by Nouriel Roubini, the noted economist, and eventually convinced the writer that he would be a good subject for a documentary. They then spent more than four years getting an up close and personal look at Epsteins methods and archives. Ed is fascinating because you realize that he is really a part of history through all of his investigations, said Ena Talakic. We found it interesting that someone who just asks basic questions can end up getting full access to people and can convince them to talk to him. Over the course of the film, the Talakic sisters follow Epstein as he heads to Hawaii, Hong Kong, and Russia, re-tracing the route that Snowden took as he decided to reveal the inner workings of Americas intelligence gathering operation, and later was forced to seek asylum from Vladimir Putin. To prove his point that Snowden might have been a spy, Epstein tracked down former neighbors, co-workers, and members of the KGB. The book that emerged from the months of reporting, How America Lost Its Secrets, elicited some heated criticism, particularly from journalists such as Glenn Grenwald and Barton Gellman, who broke the initial Snowden pieces. How America Lost Its Secrets debuted in January of 2017. Epstein wonders if the book and its claims about Russias designs on Snowden wouldnt have been more warmly received if it came out a few months later, when Russia was a hot topic. After all, the Kremlin is in the headlines for trying to manipulate the U.S. presidential election, and Putins ambitions to influence Western politics have become clearer. Its hard to pretend now that it didnt matter that Snowden went to Russia, said Epstein. The view of Russia at the time was benign. Now its demonic. Hall of Mirrors is very much a celebration of a life well lived and a body of investigative work that has helped shape popular perceptions of government, culture, and commerce. Theres something sad about it, however. Its a reminder that the kind of reporting that Epstein does research intensive, meticulous, and wide ranging is fading. The journalism that is replacing it looks flimsy by comparison. There are fewer and fewer outlets for investigative reporting, said Ines Talakic. Most people arent able to spend the same type of time. People are under so much pressure to rush stories. Epsteins career and writings are a reminder that great reporting shouldnt be rushed. It takes time to discover the truth.

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October 17, 2017   Posted in: Edward Snowden  Comments Closed

New York Film Festival Sets Documentary Lineup – Deadline

The New York Film Festival has unveiled the roster of its Spotlight on Documentary section for this years fest, which runs September 28-October 15. Filmmakers in the lineup include Alex Gibney, Abel Ferrara and Nancy Buirski, with subjects ranging from Joan Didion and Jane Goodall to Arthur Miller and U.S. immigration to the global refugee crisis. Two of the docus premiering the lineup the Griffin Dunne-directed Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold and the Gay Talese-centered Voyeur have been set up at Netflix and will bow later this year. The 55th annual festival run by the Film Society of Lincoln Center opens this year with Richard Linklaters Last Flag Flying and closes with Woody Allens Wonder Wheel. Todd Haynes Wonderstruck has a gala slot. Heres the full Spotlight on Documentary lineup: Arthur Miller: Writer Dir. Rebecca Miller, USA, 2017, 98m Rebecca Millers film is a portrait of her father, his times and insights, built around impromptu interviews shot over many years in the family home. This celebration of the great American playwright is quite different from what the public has ever seen. It is a close consideration of a singular life shadowed by the tragedies of the Red Scare and the death of Marilyn Monroe; a bracing look at success and failure in the public eye; an honest accounting of human frailty; a tribute to one artist by another. Arthur Miller: Writer invites you to see how one of Americas sharpest social commentators formed his ideologies, how his life reflected his work, and, even in some small part, shaped the culture of our country in the twentieth century. An HBO Documentary Films release. BOOM FOR REAL: The Late Teenage Years of Jean-Michel Basquiat Dir. Sara Driver, USA, 2017, 79m U.S. Premiere Sara Drivers documentary is both a celebration of and elegy for the downtown New York art/music/film/performance world of the late 1970s and early 80s, through which Jean-Michel Basquiat shot like a rocket. Weaving Basquiats life and artistic progress in and out of her rich, living tapestry of this endlessly cross-fertilizing scene, Driver has created an urgent recollection of freedom and the aesthetic of poverty. Graffiti meets gestural painting, hip hop infects rock and roll and visa versa, heroin comes and never quite goes, night swallows day, and everybody looms as large as they feel like looming on the crumbling streets of the Lower East Side. Cielo Dir. Alison McAlpine, Canada/Chile, 2017, 74m World Premiere The first feature from Alison McAlpine, director of the beautiful 2008 nonfiction ghost story short Second Sight, is a dialogue with the heavensin this case, the heavens above the Andes and the Atacama Desert in northern Chile, where the sky is more urgent than the land. McAlpine keeps the vast galaxies above and beyond in a delicate balance with the earthbound world of people, gently alighting on the desert- and mountain-dwelling astronomers, fishermen, miners, and cowboys who live their lives with reverence and awe for the skies. Cielo itself is an act of reverence and awe, and its sense of wonder ranges from the intimate and human to the vast and inhuman. Did You Wonder Who Fired the Gun? Dir. Travis Wilkerson, USA, 2017, 90m How is it that some people escape the racism and misogyny in which they are raised, and some cling to it as their reason to exist? For 20 years, Travis Wilkerson has been making films that interrogate the malevolent effects of capitalism on the American Dream. Here he turns his sights on his own family and the small town of Dothan, Alabama, where his white supremacist great-great grandfather S.E. Branch once shot and killed Bill Spann, an African-American man. Branch was arrested but never charged with the crime. The life of his victim has been all but obliterated from memory and public record. This isnt a white savior story. This is a white nightmare story, says the filmmaker, who refuses to let himself or anyone else off the hook. El mar la mar Dir. Joshua Bonnetta & J.P. Sniadecki, USA, 2017, 94m The first collaboration between film and sound artist Bonnetta and filmmaker/anthropologist Sniadecki (The Iron Ministry, NYFF52) is a lyrical and highly topical film in which the Sonoran Desert, among the deadliest routes taken by those crossing from Mexico to the United States, is depicted a place of dramatic beauty and merciless danger. Haunting 16mm images of the unforgiving landscape and the human traces within it are supplemented with an intricate soundtrack of interwoven sounds and oral testimonies. Urgent yet never didactic, El mar la mar allows this symbolically fraught terrain to take shape in vivid sensory detail, and in so doing, suggests new possibilities for the political documentary. A Cinema Guild release. Filmworker Dir. Tony Zierra, USA, 2017, 94m Leon Vitali was a name in English television and movies when Stanley Kubrick cast him as Lord Bullingdon in Barry Lyndon, but after his acclaimed performance the young actor surrendered his career in the spotlight to become Kubricks loyal right-hand man. For the next two decades, Vitali was Kubricks factotum, never not on call, for whom no task was too small. Along the way, Vitalis personal life suffered, he drifted from his children, and his health deteriorated as he gave everything to his work. Filmworker is of obvious interest to anyone who cares about Kubrick, but it is also a fascinating portrait of awe-inspired devotion burning all the way down to the wick. Hall of Mirrors Dir. Ena Talakic and Ines Talakic, USA, 2017, 87m World Premiere In this lively documentary portrait, the great nonpartisan investigative reporter Edward Jay Epstein, still going strong at 81, takes us through his most notable articles and books, including close looks at the findings of the Warren Commission, the structure of the diamond industry, the strange career of Armand Hammer, and the inner workings of big-time journalism itself. These are interwoven with an in-progress investigation into the circumstances around Edward Snowdens 2013 leak of classified documents, resulting in Epsteins recently published, controversial book How America Lost Its Secrets: Edward Snowden, the Man and the Theft. One of the last of his generation of journalists, the energetic, articulate, and boyish Epstein is a truly fascinating character. Jane Dir. Brett Morgen, USA, 2017, 90m U.S. Premiere In 1960, Dr. Louis Leakey arranged for a young English woman with a deep love of animals to go to Gombe Stream National Park near Lake Tangyanika. The Dutch photographer and filmmaker Hugo van Lawick was sent to document Jane Goodalls first establishment of contact with the chimpanzee population, resulting in the enormously popular Miss Goodall and the Wild Chimpanzees, the second film ever produced by National Geographic. One hundred hours of Lawicks original footage was rediscovered in 2014. From that material, Brett Morgen (Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck) has created a vibrant film experience, giving new life to the experiences of this remarkable woman and the wild in which she found a home. A National Geographic Documentary Films release. Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold Dir. Griffin Dunne, USA, 2017, 92m World Premiere Griffin Dunnes years-in-the-making documentary portrait of his aunt Joan Didion moves with the spirit of her uncannily lucid writing: the film simultaneously expands and zeroes in, covering a vast stretch of turbulent cultural history with elegance and candor, and grounded in the illuminating presence and words of Didion herself. This is most certainly a film about lossthe loss of a solid American center, the personal losses of a husband and a childbut Didion describes everything she sees and experiences so attentively, so fully, and so bravely that she transforms the very worst of life into occasions for understanding. A Netflix release. No Stone Unturned Dir. Alex Gibney, Northern Ireland/USA, 2017, 111m World Premiere Investigative documentary filmmaker Alex Gibneybest known for 2008s Oscar-winning Taxi to the Dark Side, Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, and at least a dozen othersturns his sights on the 1994 Loughinisland massacre, a cold case that remains an open wound in the Irish peace process. The families of the victimswho were murdered while watching the World Cup in their local pubwere promised justice, but 20 years later they still didnt know who killed their loved ones. Gibney uncovers a web of secrecy, lies, and corruption that so often results when the powerful insist they are acting for the greater good. Piazza Vittorio Dir. Abel Ferrara, Italy/USA 2017, 69m North American Premiere Abel Ferraras new documentary is a vivid mosaic/portrait of Romes biggest public square, Piazza Vittorio, built in the 19th century around the ruins of the 3rd century Trofei di Mario. The Piazza is now truly a crossroad of the modern world: it offers a perfect microcosm of the changes in the west brought by immigration and forced displacement. Ferrara, now a resident of Rome himself, talks with African musicians and restaurant workers, Chinese barkeeps and relocated eastern Europeans, homeless men and women, artists, members of the right wing movement CasaPound Italia, filmmaker Matteo Garrone, actor Willem Dafoe, and others, all with varying opinions about the vast changes theyre seeing in their neighborhood and world. The Rape of Recy Taylor Dir. Nancy Buirski, USA, 2017, 90m North American Premiere On the night of September 3, 1944, a young African-American mother from Abbeville, Alabama, named Recy Taylor was walking home from church with two friends when she was abducted by seven white men, driven away and dragged into the woods, raped by six of the men, and left to make her way home. Against formidable odds and endless threats to her life andthe lives of her family members, Taylor bravely spoke up and pressed charges. Nancy Buirskis passionate documentary shines a light on a case that became a turning point in the early Civil Rights Movement, and on the many formidable womenincluding Rosa Parkswho brought the movement to life. Sea Sorrow Dir. Vanessa Redgrave, UK, 2017, 72m Vanessa Redgraves debut as a documentary filmmaker is a plea for a compassionate western response to the refugee crisis and a condemnation of the vitriolic inhumanity of current right wing and conservative politicians. Redgrave juxtaposes our horrifying present of inadequate refugee quotas and humanitarian disasters (like last years clearing of the Calais migrant camp) with the refugee crises of WWII and its aftermath, recalled with archival footage, contemporary news reports and personal testimonyincluding an interview with the eloquent Labor politician Lord Dubs, who was one of the children rescued by the Kindertransport. Sea Sorrow reaches further back in time to Shakespeare, not only for its title but also to further remind us that we are once more repeating the history that we have yet to learn. A Skin So Soft Denis Ct, Canada/Switzerland/France, 2017, 94m U.S. Premiere Studiously observing the world of male bodybuilding, Denis Cts A Skin So Soft (Ta peau si lisse) crafts a multifaceted portrait of six latter-day Adonises through the lens of their everyday lives: extreme diets, training regimens, family relationships, and friendships within the community. Capturing the physical brawn and emotional complexity of its subjects with wit and tenderness, this companion piece to Cotes singular animal study Bestiaire (2012) is a self-reflexive rumination on the long tradition of filming the human body that also advances a fascinating perspective on contemporary masculinity. Speak Up Dir. Stphane de Freitas, co-directed by Ladj Ly, France, 2017, 99m North American Premiere Each year at the University of Saint-Denis in the suburbs of Paris, the Eloquentia competition takes place to determine the best orator in the class. Speak Up ( voix haute La Force de la Parole) follows the students, who come from a variety of family backgrounds and academic disciplines, as they prepare for the competition while coached by public-speaking professionals like lawyers and slam poets. Through the subtle and intriguing mechanics of rhetoric, these young people both reveal and discover themselves, and it is impossible not to be moved by the personal stories that surface in their verbal jousts, from the death of a Syrian nightingale to a fathers Chuck Norrisinspired approach to his battle with cancer. Without sentimentality, Speak Up proves how the art of speech is key to universal understanding, social ascension, and personal revelation. The Venerable W. Dir. Barbet Schroeder, France/Switzerland, 2017, 100m The Islamophobic Burmese monk known as The Venerable Wirathu has led hundreds of thousands of his Buddhist followers in a hate-fueled, violent campaign of ethnic cleansing, in which the countrys tiny minority of Muslims were driven from their homes and businesses and penned in refugee camps on the Myanmar border. Barbet Schroders portrait of this man again proves, along with his General Idi Amin Dada (1974) and Terrors Advocate (2007), that the director is a brilliant interviewer, allowing power-hungry fascists to damn themselves with their own testimony. His confrontation with Wirathua figure whose existence contradicts the popular belief that Buddhism is the most peaceful and tolerant major religionis revelatory and horrifying. A release from Les Films du Losange. Preceded by: What Are You Up to, Barbet Schroeder? (2017, 13m), in which the director traces the path that led him to Myanmar, a center of Theravada Buddhism, where racial hatred was mutating into genocide. Voyeur Myles Kane and Josh Koury, USA, 2017, 96m World Premiere Gerald Foos bought a motel in Colorado in the 1960s, furnished the room with louvered vents that allowed him to spy on his guests, and kept a journal of their sexual encountersamong other things. As writer Gay Talese, who had known Foos for more than three decades, came close to the publication of his book The Voyeurs Motel (preceded by an excerpt in The New Yorker), factual discrepancies in Fooss account emerged, and documentarians Kane and Koury were on hand to record some wild encounters between the veteran New York journalist and his enigmatic subject. A Netflix release. Three Music Films by Mathieu Amalric Cest presque au bout du monde (France, 2015, 16m) Zorn (2010-2017) (France, 2017, 54m) Music Is Music (France, 2017, 21m) These three movies from Mathieu Amalric are musicals, from the inside out: they move with the mental and physical energies of John Zorn, the wildly prolific and protean composer/performer/bandleader/record label founder/club owner and all-around grand spirit of New York downtown music; and via the great Canadian-born soprano/conductor/champion of modern classical music Barbara Hannigan. Amalrics Zorn film began as a European TV commission that was quickly abandoned in favor of something more intimate: an ongoing dialogue between two friends that will always be a work-in-progress. The two shorter pieces that bracket the Zorn feature Hannigan nurturing music into being with breath, sound, and spirit. Taken together, the three films make for one thrilling, intimate musical-gestural-cinematic ride.

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August 23, 2017   Posted in: Edward Snowden  Comments Closed

Librem 13 laptop review: physical security for the paranoid – The Verge

Every time I’ve used a Linux computer at least, a Linux computer that’s not hidden behind the sheen of Chrome or Android it’s been the exact same story: nothing ever works right the first time. So I was both excited and a little scared when I was offered a Librem 13 laptop from Purism. The $1,399 ($1,537 as tested) Librem 13 runs PureOS out of the box, Purism’s security-focused version of Linux. That means all the initial hurdles of getting Linux running on a system were solved for me. I wouldn’t have to worry about whether or not my Wi-Fi chipset was supported, or installing the right graphics drivers. All I have to do is just use the dang thing. So, how did it turn out? Not great. The Librem 13 is a minimalistic-looking laptop with a slightly old Core i5 6200U Skylake processor; a cheap keyboard; a low-quality, 13.3-inch, 1080p matte screen; and a bad multitouch touchpad. On the plus side, the shell is completely void of branding, and you can actually open up the computer to swap RAM and storage, with support for both SATA and NVMe M.2 drives, and regular 2.5-inch drives. This customizability is rare in this MacBook Air-ish form factor, and I really appreciate it. The biggest standout about the Librem 13’s hardware are two physical switches on the hinge, one to disable the webcam and microphone, and another to disable Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. These hardware “kill switches” are a privacy nut’s dream. Think of Edward Snowden’s famous request for reporters to put their devices in a fridge to block radio signals, or Mark Zuckerberg’s placement of tape on his webcam. The laptop also runs on the Coreboot firmware, instead of the Intel Management Engine, which is another big plus to security. I’ll be honest with you: it’s all probably overkill for me. Good or bad, I just don’t worry very much about privacy and security outside of good password hygiene. But I can totally imagine someone in a more sensitive line of work than me, or a few more things to be paranoid about, buying this laptop specifically for these reasons. It’s only in recent years that touchpads on Windows computers have become tolerable to me. The Librem 13’s touchpad is not tolerable. Outside of the fact that the surface is less pleasing to use than the glass of my MacBook’s touchpad, cursor movement actually feels laggy when I’m using the touchpad, and I don’t know whether the hardware or software is to blame. I don’t love the keyboard, either. It feels soft and imprecise to me, but this is more of a taste issue and I’ve definitely gotten better on it over time. Also, one time the L key stopped working and I had to reboot to get it back. Not sure who to blame there. The bigger problem is Linux. Out of the box, the Debian-based OS looks great, and I find it very intuitive and user-friendly. It’s running a fairly clean install of Gnome 3 for a GUI, and I’m a fan. You can hit the “Purism Key” (a rebadged Windows key) to pull up the Activities Overview, where you can access a dock, switch between windows and desktops, and if you start typing you can search among available apps on the system, which is my preferred method of launching apps, akin to using Spotlight on a Mac. But while PureOS includes a GUI App Store of sorts, called “Software,” I ended up installing most of the applications I actually care about through the command line. I’m pretty comfortable with “sudo apt-get install” at this point, but using dpkg to install a .deb file and then using apt-get to install its dependencies (I’m 94 percent sure that’s what I’m doing, at least) is not exactly what I’d call “user friendly.” At this point I have most of my must-have apps on this computer. Simplenote, Visual Studio Code, Chromium, and Slack. I tried and failed to install Spotify, so I’m just listening to music in the browser. My system is perfectly configured at this point for me to do my actual job of writing for the internet, my hobbies of JavaScript and Rust development, and my actual full-time occupation of watching YouTube videos and Twitch streams. I installed the Unity game engine after half an hour of command line toil, so I can’t even say I’m missing out on that. The big thing Linux lacks for me is access to Adobe Premiere and After Effects, but nobody is perfect. No! Okay, so I’m pleased with how relatively easy it is to use a preinstalled Linux system compared to installing it myself. But Linux is still a chore compared to Windows and Mac, and basically requires a familiarity with the command line to do anything interesting. Also, a lot of what I’m doing on this thing would work just as well or better on ChromeOS. But also I’m just too frustrated by this hardware. The battery life is fine, but not great. Sometimes the computer doesnt sleep when I close it, so then it dies. The matte black design looked great for five seconds before it was covered in my sweaty fingerprints. And. This. Touchpad. Is. Driving. Me. Bonkers. For instance, the default configuration is for a two-finger click to emulate a middle click, which by convention on Linux is mapped to copy and paste. And I can’t figure it out how to fix it. And for some reason moving the mouse with my index finger and clicking with my thumb counts as a two-finger click. And I hate it. But I’m almost done with the review so I’m not going to dig deep into some .conf file to solve the problem. I get to walk away. Oh, and at the office I keep getting pop-over notifications about different network printers being discovered, which I cant figure out how to turn off without disabling all notifications. So thats fun. If you care deeply about the ethical and privacy stance that this hardware and software combination represents, I must admit that your options are limited, and that this laptop may very well be your best option. But for everyone else, this computer is not nearly worth the $1,399 plus price tag. If Linux is that important to you, there’s much nicer hardware available for a much lower price. If Linux isn’t a big draw, then I have no idea why you’d consider this over a Surface Laptop or a MacBook. And before you ask: yes, I do feel like a bad person for saying mean things about this computer. To me, Linux represents everything that’s worth rooting for in the technology world, a free and open source operating system that’s not tied to serving the interests of a specific corporation. And the open hardware movement has an opportunity to make safer, more customizable, and more bespoke computers than big companies can be bothered to build. I want to live in a world where I can buy a good computer that I enjoy without having to give AppleGoogleMicrosoft my money or all my personal data. This Librem 13 feels like the Early Access version of that future, and apparently I can’t be bothered to deal with the trade-offs. Which makes me part of the problem, and I’m sorry for that.

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August 23, 2017   Posted in: Edward Snowden  Comments Closed

Edward Snowden Will Make an Appearance at the Free Library – Philadelphia magazine

Virtually, at least. Edward Snowden is (kind of) coming the Free Library next month. The whistleblower and former CIA employee will appear via live closed-circuit video link which is sort of like a high-security version of Skype or FaceTime. Hell remain somewhere in Russia, where hes sought asylum since 2013, the yearhe was charged with espionage forleaking classified National Security Agency information. The event will be held at 7:30 p.m. on Sept. 11th. Snowden will speak with investigative journalistJeremy Scahill, co-founder of online news journal The Intercept,who will appear in person. According to the event description, Snowden and Scahill will discuss the surveillance state and whistleblowers in a one-of-a-kind interview. Tickets for the librarys auditorium cost $35. Those interested in watching alive broadcastof the event in a separate room at the library can get tickets for $15. Follow @ClaireSasko on Twitter. Be respectful of our online community and contribute to an engaging conversation. We reserve the right to ban impersonators and remove comments that contain personal attacks, threats, or profanity, or are flat-out offensive. By posting here, you are permitting Philadelphia magazine and Metro Corp. to edit and republish your comment in all media.

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August 22, 2017   Posted in: Edward Snowden  Comments Closed


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