Bradley Manning charged with ‘aiding the enemy’

March 3, 2011 by admin  
Filed under Featured Stories, US News, World News

By Agence France-Presse
Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011 — 7:34 pm

WASHINGTON – The US military on Wednesday unveiled new charges against the soldier suspected of passing a trove of secret government documents to WikiLeaks, accusing him of “aiding the enemy.”

US Army authorities announced 22 additional charges against Private Bradley Manning, including the serious offense of “aiding the enemy,” which carries a potential death sentence.

But military prosecutors do not plan to seek the death penalty if Manning is convicted and instead the 23-year-old soldier would face possible life in prison, the army said in a statement.

“The new charges more accurately reflect the broad scope of the crimes” that Manning is accused of committing, said Captain John Haberland, spokesman for the military district of Washington.

The US military had already announced 12 charges against Manning in July, accusing him of violating federal criminal and military law.

The Pentagon has yet to explicitly link him to the WikiLeaks website but suspicion has focused on Manning, who worked as a low-ranking army intelligence analyst in Iraq and reportedly boasted of communicating with the website.

US and Western officials have condemned WikiLeaks for publishing hundreds of thousands of sensitive military documents and diplomatic cables over the past several months.

The charges, following a seven-month investigation, included “wrongfully causing intelligence to be published on the Internet knowing that it will be accessed by the enemy,” theft of public records, transmitting defense information, fraud related to computers, the army statement said.

The WikiLeaks website has yet to disclose its source for the massive trove of secret documents, but suspicion has focused on Manning, who worked as a low-ranking army intelligence analyst in Iraq.

A trial date has yet to be set for Manning and the army said Wednesday that proceedings have been delayed since July 12, 2010 pending the outcome of an inquiry into the soldier’s “mental capacity” requested by defense lawyers, the army statement said.

Manning remained detained at a brig at the Marine Corps base in Quantico, Virginia, south of Washington, and was informed of the charges earlier Wednesday, it said.

Manning’s supporters and lawyers have complained about the conditions of his solitary confinement, saying the “maximum security” regime is inhumane and unnecessary.

The Internet Kill Switch – One Of The Favorite New Tools Of Tyrannical Governments All Over The Globe

By Michael Snyder – BLN Contributing Writer

 

This past week was a perfect example of how the “Internet kill switch” is rapidly becoming one of the favorite new tools of tyrannical governments all over the globe. Once upon a time, the Internet was a bastion of liberty and freedom, but now nation after nation is cracking down on it. In fact, legislation has been introduced once again in Congress that would give the president of the United States an “Internet kill switch” that he would be able to use in the event of war or emergency. Of course there would be a whole lot of wiggle room in determining what actually constitutes a true “emergency”. The members of Congress that are pushing this “Internet kill switch” bill want the U.S. to become more like China in this regard. In China, the Internet is highly controlled, highly regulated and highly censored. In fact, China has shut down the Internet in entire regions when they have felt it necessary. So what Egypt did in shutting down the Internet this past week is not unprecedented – but it was quite shocking.

Organizers of the protests in Egypt had been using the #Jan25 hashtag on Twitter and had been communicating with each other via Facebook, and so the Mubarak regime thought that they could significantly derail the protest movement by shutting down the Internet.

It has been widely reported that approximately 88 percent of the Internet in Egypt was shut down at one point.  Jim Cowie, the chief technology officer of an Internet monitoring firm known as Renesys, described on his blog just how complete and total this Internet shutdown in Egypt actually was….

“Every Egyptian provider, every business, bank, Internet cafe, website, school, embassy, and government office that relied on the big four Egyptian ISPs for their Internet connectivity is now cut off from the rest of the world.”

So how was this all done?  How could such a large section of the Internet be taken offline so rapidly?  Well, a recent article on MSNBC described how it works….

According to David Clark, an MIT computer scientist whose research focuses on Internet architecture and development, a government’s ability to control the Internet depends on its control of Internet Service Providers (ISPs), the private sector companies that grant Internet access to customers.

“ISPs have direct control of the Internet, so what happens in any country depends on the control that the state has over those ISPs,” Clark told Life’s Little Mysteries in an e-mail. “Some countries regulate the ISPs much more heavily. China has in the past ‘turned off’ the Internet in various regions.”

Whenever the subject of Internet censorship comes up, China always seems to be involved in the conversation.  China has more Internet users than anyone else in the world, but they also have the tightest controls.

The Chinese government is absolutely obsessed with “maintaining order” and it has shown that it will go to extreme lengths to quell dissent.

For example, the government of China cut off the entire Xinjiang region from the Internet for nearly a year after civil unrest erupted there in 2009.

The Chinese government is so sensitive to political dissent that they even began censoring the word “Egypt” on a number of micro-blogging websites this past week.

A recent article posted on Raw Story explained what happened….

On the sina.com and sohu.com sites, the Chinese equivalents of Twitter, which is censored in China, a query with the word “Egypt” returned the response: “According to the laws in force, the results of your search cannot be given.”

Isn’t that bizarre?

Nothing like that would ever happen in the United States, right?

Well, don’t be so sure.

Last year, U.S. Senator Joe Lieberman made the following statement to CNN’s Candy Crowley….

“Right now China, the government, can disconnect parts of its Internet in case of war and we need to have that here too.”

That statement should chill you to your bones.

U.S. Senator Joe Lieberman wants Chinese-style Internet censorship to come to the United States.

In fact, as mentioned above, legislation that would give the president of the United States an “Internet kill switch” has been introduced in the Senate once again, and in fact it has already been approved by a Senate panel.

The legislation has bipartisan support, and it is being pushed this time by Maine Senator Susan Collins, who is a ranking member on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

This bill, S.3480, is entitled “The Protecting Cyberspace As A National Asset Act of 2010“.  It would create a brand new government agency (as if we needed more of those) known as the National Center for Cybersecurity and Communications.

This new agency would be given extraordinary power over the Internet – including the power to completely shut down the Internet for 30 days.

Collins insists that this new law is necessary because it would enable us to protect the Internet against “cyber threats” before they could cause serious damage.

While that may sound good on paper, the reality is that giving the government an “Internet kill switch” would create opportunities for tremendous government abuse.

Wired recently ran an article that detailed some of these concerns….

A congressional white paper (.pdf) on the measure said the proposal prohibits the government from targeting websites for censorship “based solely on activities protected by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.”

Oddly, that’s exactly the same language in the Patriot Act used to test whether the government can wiretap or investigate a person based on their political beliefs or statements.

Of course we all know how that turned out.

It has been revealed time after time after time that the U.S. government has been investigating large numbers of people based on their political beliefs.

The Internet is a great way for people to express and share their political thoughts and ideas, but it is also providing a way for governments around the world to watch and track dissenters.

For example, major news websites in China now require users to register their true identities before they are able to leave any comments.  This enables the government to be able to identify (and potentially deal with) anyone that does not express the “right” views.

In the same manner, the Obama administration is now proposing the introduction of a “universal Internet ID” for Americans.  The program is being touted as “voluntary”, but how long do you think it would be before a whole host of government agencies started to use these universal Internet IDs to watch, monitor, track and control the Internet activities of tens of millions of Americans?

The following is a video news report from CBS News about these new universal Internet IDs….

So where does all of this Internet censorship end?

Well, the truth is that it is only going to get tighter and tighter as the years go by.

Eventually you will probably need a government-issued license to put up websites such as this one, and in fact someday you will probably need a government-issued license before you can even log on to the Internet.

So enjoy this era of relatively unlimited Internet freedom while you can, because it is rapidly coming to an end.  Tyrannical governments all over the globe are realizing that in order to maintain “control” they must place a much tighter grip on the flow of information on the Internet.

If you live in the United States or another nation where there is still at least a limited amount of liberty and freedom, it is going to be important to let your representatives know that you do not want Internet censorship and you certainly do not want any sort of an Internet kill switch.

Liberties and freedoms are incredibly precious, and once they are taken away they are very difficult to get back.

When Egypt turned off the internet

January 28, 2011 by admin  
Filed under Cyber/Space Control, World News

Egypt goes off the digital map as authorities unplug the country entirely from the internet ahead of protests.
Last Modified: 28 Jan 2011 09:12 GMT
Twitter confirmed on Tuesday that its service was being blocked in Egypt, and Facebook reported problems [EPA]

About a half-hour past midnight on Friday in Egypt, the internet went dead.

Almost simultaneously, the handful of companies that pipe the internet into and out of Egypt went dark as protesters were gearing up for a fresh round of demonstrations calling for the end of president Hosni Mubarak’s nearly 30-year rule, experts said.

Egypt has apparently done what many technologists thought was unthinkable for any country with a major internet economy: It unplugged itself entirely from the internet to try and silence dissent.

Experts say it is unlikely that what has happened in Egypt could happen in the United States because the US has numerous internet providers and ways of connecting to the internet. Co-ordinating a simultaneous shutdown would be a massive undertaking.

“It can’t happen here”

“It can’t happen here,” said Jim Cowie, the chief technology officer and a co-founder of Renesys, a network security firm in Manchester, New Hampshire, that studies internet disruptions.

“How many people would you have to call to shut down the US internet? Hundreds, thousands maybe? We have enough internet here that we can have our own internet. If you cut it off, that leads to a philosophical question: Who got cut off from the internet, us or the rest of the world?”

In fact, there are few countries anywhere with all their central internet connections in one place or so few places that they can be severed at the same time. But the idea of a single “kill switch” to turn the internet on and off has seduced some American lawmakers, who have pushed for the power to shutter the internet in a national emergency.

The internet blackout in Egypt shows that a country with strong control over its internet providers apparently can force all of them to pull their plugs at once, something that Cowie called “almost entirely unprecedented in internet history.”

The outage sets the stage for blowback from the international community and investors. It also sets a precedent for other countries grappling with paralysing political protests, though censoring the Internet and tampering with traffic to quash protests is nothing new.

Disrupted services

China has long restricted what its people can see online and received renewed scrutiny for the practice when internet search leader Google Inc. proclaimed a year ago that it would stop censoring its search results in China.

In 2009, Iran disrupted I=internet service to try to curb protests over disputed elections. And two years before that, Burma’s internet was crippled when military leaders apparently took the drastic step of physically disconnecting primary communications links in major cities, a tactic that was foiled by activists armed with cell phones and satellite links.

Computer experts say what sets Egypt’s action apart is that the entire country was disconnected in an apparently co-ordinated effort, and that all manner of devices are affected, from mobile phones to laptops. It seems, though, that satellite phones would not be affected.

“Iran never took down any significant portion of their Internet connection, they knew their economy and the markets are dependent on Internet activity,” Cowie said.

When countries are merely blocking certain sites, like Twitter or Facebook, where protesters are co-ordinating demonstrations, as apparently happened at first in Egypt, protesters can use “proxy” computers to circumvent the government censors. The proxies “anonymise” traffic and bounce it to computers in other countries that send it along to the restricted sites.

But when there is no internet at all, proxies can’t work and online communication grinds to a halt.

Renesys’ network sensors showed that Egypt’s four primary internet providers, Link Egypt, Vodafone/Raya, Telecom Egypt, Etisalat Misr, and all went dark at 12:34am. Those companies shuttle all internet traffic into and out of Egypt, though many people get their service through additional local providers with different names.

Italy-based Seabone said no internet traffic was going into or out of Egypt after 12:30am local time.

Country disappeared

“There’s no way around this with a proxy,” Cowie said. “There is literally no route. It’s as if the entire country disappeared. You can tell I’m still kind of stunned.”

The technical act of turning off the internet can be fairly straightforward. It likely requires only a simple change to the instructions for the companies’ networking equipment.

Craig Labovitz, chief scientist for Arbor Networks, a Chelmsford, Massachusetts, security company, said that in countries such as Egypt, with a centralised government and a relatively small number of fibre-optic cables and other ways for the internet to get piped in the companies that own the technologies are typically under strict licenses from the government.

“It’s probably a phone call that goes out to half a dozen folks who enter a line on a router configuration file and hit return,” Labovitz said. “It’s like programming your TiVo, you have things that are set up and you delete one. It’s not high-level programming.”

Twitter confirmed on Tuesday that its service was being blocked in Egypt, and Facebook reported problems.

“Iran went through the same pattern,”Labovitz said. “Initially there was some level of filtering, and as things deteriorated, the plug was pulled. It looks like Egypt might be following a similar pattern.”

The ease with which Egypt cut itself also means the country can control where the outages are targeted, experts said. So its military facilities, for example, can stay online while the Internet vanishes for everybody else.

Experts said it was too early to tell which, if any, facilities still have connections in Egypt.

Cowie said his firm is investigating clues that a small number of small networks might still be available.

Meanwhile, a programme Renesys uses that displays the percentage of each country that is connected to the internet was showing a figure that he was still struggling to believe. Zero.

Source:
Associated Press

Military ready for war in cyberspace

Published on 11-03-2010

Source: Reuters

The military’s new Cyber Command, responsible for shielding 15,000 military computer networks from intruders, has become fully operational, the Defense Department said on Wednesday.

More than 100 foreign intelligence organizations are trying to break into U.S. networks, Deputy Defense Secretary William Lynn wrote in the September/October issue of the journal Foreign Affairs. Some already have the capacity to disrupt U.S. information infrastructure, he said.

Gates ordered the new unit’s creation in June 2009 to address the growing threat of cyber-attack.

It consolidates offensive and defensive operations under Army General Keith Alexander, who also heads the National Security Agency, the Defense Department’s intelligence arm that protects national security information and intercepts foreign communications.

“Cyberspace is essential to our way of life and U.S. Cyber Command synchronizes our efforts in the defense of (Defense Department) networks,” Alexander said in the Pentagon announcement.

Lynn declared the unit, based at Fort Meade, Maryland, fully up and running in a memorandum dated October 31, said Colonel Rivers Johnson, a Cyber Command spokesman.

The new unit began work in May, establishing a joint operations center and transitioning personnel and functions from the old structures.

It is part of the Offutt Air Force, Nebraska-based Strategic Command, the organization responsible for U.S. nuclear and space operations as well as information warfare and global military intelligence.

12.08.2009 Banned by the Catholic Church

If you go to this link and listen to it 3 times in a row…. you tell me why the church banned this ghost band?

http://margaretnoble.net/blog/banned-by-the-catholic-church/

Please leave your comments on the original page… and wait to see what happens….guess what the church was scared off???

lets see who posts the right answer before October 31 2010

USE THE FORCE LUKE

12.08.2009
Banned by the Catholic Church
Categories: Sound Oddities

800px-Shepard_Tones_spectrum_linear_scale

Sound Clip: Shepard Tone by Roger Shepard

This is a classic sound oddity and illusion. Or is it? There are some corrections to this post with much discussion, see below and follow the trail of comments to clarify the inaccuracies.

Originally posted:

“It is rumored to be called the “devil’s tone” by the Catholic church. The Shepard tone is a sound consisting of a superposition of sine waves separated by octaves. When played with the base pitch of the tone moving upwards or downwards, it is referred to as the
Shepard Scale. This creates an auditory illusion that continually ascends or descends in pitch, yet which ultimately seems to get no higher or lower.”

shepard_tone2

Corrections here and below in comments from Brent Williams:

“Hi Margaret.

“Baned by the Catholic Church“, about a Shepard-Risset Glissando. This post contained links to certain webpages, but when the post went up (even before it was moderated) the links were missing. Just in case you want to put them up for your readers, here they are:

The original source page for this sound file is here . It is in French.

You can find the Wiki source page here . This contains a little more info on the sound. This is where I confirmed that the sound is a minor chord of synchronised Shepard-Risset glissandi.

Read about Diana Deutsch here . She is currently a Professor at UCSD.

All the best, and please continue with your excellent website.

Brent Williams”
Categories: Sound Oddities -

Start Slide Show with PicLens Lite PicLens

White House cybersecurity policy would require internet users to use identity tokens

Source: Financial Times

The White House set out a sweeping strategy to make online transactions more secure on Friday. The move is the most ambitious initiative to emerge from a cybersecurity policy intended to blunt the growing menace of online crime.

Howard Schmidt, president Barack Obama’s cybersecurity co-ordinator, who took up his duties in early 2010, released the strategy paper after 12 months of discussions led by the National Security Council and involving scores of private sector groups, critical infrastructure owners and privacy advocates.

The strategy seeks the creation of a system for identity management that would allow citizens to use additional authentication techniques, such as physical tokens or modules on mobile phones, to verify who they are before buying things online or accessing such sensitive information as health or banking records.

A set of standards would let multiple vendors offer authentication services, while people whose identities have been verified would be able to move from website to website without resubmitting information.

Privacy protections would require companies involved to limit their collection and dissemination of personal data, for example confirming that a consumer is over 21 without passing along the person’s birth date.

The government would take the lead by establishing the standards and subscribing to authentication services.

Internet companies and government agencies have long supported the idea of multipurpose identification systems, but adoption has foundered in part because of limited incentives for participation. As a result, a bank will have one set of protocols for establishing a client’s identity, while a state agency and hospital have others.

The matter has taken on increased urgency as more valuable data pours online and malicious software grows more sophisticated. Industry estimates for the theft of intellectual property and online fraud run as high as $1,000bn annually.

Congressional and private sector support will be critical for the new effort.

“This is a vision and you need that, but they’re going to need to work with Congress and get government agencies to test out different pieces of this,” said Aris Schwartz, vice-president of the Center for Democracy and Technology. Congress would need to fund test programmes and, perhaps, approve tax incentives.

It has been hard to formulate legislation because internet security issues intrude into so many political areas. But Harry Reid, Senate majority leader, recently urged committee chairmen to harmonise pending bills for cybersecurity overhauls, making it likely new laws will emerge from Congress this year.

Read Full Article Here…

Pentagon calls for ‘Office of Strategic Deception’

January 28, 2010 by admin  
Filed under Featured Stories, US News, World News

By Sahil Kapur
Wednesday, January 27th, 2010 — 9:47 am

WASHINGTON — Remember the Pentagon Office of Special Plans that helped collect dubious intelligence that led to the war in Iraq? Or the program where the Pentagon secretly briefed military analysts to promote the Iraq war?

Meet the would-be Office of Strategic Deception.

In a little-noticed report earlier this month, the Defense Department’s powerful Defense Science Board recommended creation of an entity designed solely for “strategic deception” against US adversaries.

“Specifically,” the report reads (pdf), “we recommend that the Secretary [of Defense] task both the Under Secretaries of Defense for Policy and Intelligence, and the Joint Staff, working with the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, to create a tiger team to lay out courses of action and a way ahead for establishing a standing strategic surprise/deception entity. Once the initial work has been completed, all parts of the interagency should be brought into this effort.”

“Strategic deception has in the past provided the United States with significant advantages that translated into operational and tactical success,” it continues. “Successful deception also minimizes U.S. vulnerabilities, while simultaneously setting conditions to surprise adversaries.”

Deception is a common war-time tactic nations use to gain a leg up on their enemies, but as Wired notes, the Pentagon apparently believes the United States must begin engaging in strategic tricks even before it wages war against another country.

“Deception cannot succeed in wartime without developing theory and doctrine in peacetime,” the DSB report reads. “In order to mitigate or impart surprise, the United States should [initiate] deception planning and action prior to the need for military operations.”

And such attempts at strategic trickery must occur at virtually every stage in the United States’ dealings with other nations, the Pentagon’s science board says.

“Denial and deception efforts will be included from the onset, factors into both intelligence and response research and development activities at every stage, including war gaming.”

The DSB report was first flagged by InsideDefense.com.

In 2003, New Yorker reporter Seymour Hersh highlighted the Office of Special Plans, a closely guarded cabal that did an end-run around the Pentagon to collect purported intelligence suggesting that Saddam Hussein had ties to al Qaeda and weapons of mass destruction.

“They call themselves, self-mockingly, the Cabal—a small cluster of policy advisers and analysts now based in the Pentagon’s Office of Special Plans,” Hersh wrote. “In the past year, according to former and present Bush Administration officials, their operation, which was conceived by Paul Wolfowitz, the Deputy Secretary of Defense, has brought about a crucial change of direction in the American intelligence community. These advisers and analysts, who began their work in the days after September 11, 2001, have produced a skein of intelligence reviews that have helped to shape public opinion and American policy toward Iraq. They relied on data gathered by other intelligence agencies and also on information provided by the Iraqi National Congress, or I.N.C., the exile group headed by Ahmad Chalabi.

“According to the Pentagon adviser, Special Plans was created in order to find evidence of what Wolfowitz and his boss, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, believed to be true—that Saddam Hussein had close ties to Al Qaeda, and that Iraq had an enormous arsenal of chemical, biological, and possibly even nuclear weapons that threatened the region and, potentially, the United States,” Hersh added.

Late last year, Raw Story’s Brad Jacobson revealed evidence that directly tied the activities undertaken in the military analyst program under President George W. Bush — where analysts were briefed to promote the Iraq war — to an official US military document’s definition of psychological operations. Such propaganda that is only supposed to be directed toward foreign audiences.

Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman, who remains a spokesman for the Pentagon today, told Raw Story the program was intended only to “inform.”

Whitman said he stood by an earlier statement in which he averred “the intent and purpose of the [program] is nothing other than an earnest attempt to inform the American public.”

Obama Appoints Former Bush Advisor as ‘Cyber Czar’

December 23, 2009 by admin  
Filed under Cyber/Space Control, Featured Stories

Nearly a year after taking office, US President Barack Obama named Howard Schmidt, a former Bush administration adviser and Microsoft executive, as his cybsersecurity coordinator on Tuesday.

“Howard will have the important responsibility of orchestrating the many important cybersecurity activities across the government,” said John Brennan, Obama’s assistant for homeland security and counterterrorism.

Obama’s appointment of a White House “cyber czar” came 11 months after he was sworn in as president and seven months after he vowed to defend the United States against mounting espionage and hacker attacks to US government and private computer networks.

No single US agency is currently charged with ensuring government cybersecurity efforts and lawmakers had been calling for the creation of a powerful cybersecurity adviser reporting directly to the president.

Cybersecurity was subject to fierce turf battles under the previous administration between the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the super-secret electronic surveillance National Security Agency (NSA).

Brennan said Schmidt “will have regular access to the president and serve as a key member of his National Security Staff.

“He will also work closely with his economic team to ensure that our cybersecurity efforts keep the nation secure and prosperous,” he added in a statement.

Schmidt, a cyber adviser to former president George W. Bush, currently heads the non-profit Information Security Forum.

In his new capacity, he will report to the National Security Council at the White House, coordinating the federal government’s cybsersecurity policy for both military and civilian agencies.

An Air Force and FBI veteran, Schmidt also previously served as chief security officer at software titan Microsoft and online retail giant eBay.

Citing his four decades of experience in government, business and law enforcement, Brennan called Schmidt “one of the world’s leading authorities on computer security.”

“Protecting the Internet is critical to our national security, public safety and our personal privacy and civil liberties,” he said.

The nomination comes as the Pentagon launches a new cyber command unit and the Department of Homeland Security seeks to boost the protection of civilian networks.

In October, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced her department had received the green light to hire up to 1,000 cybersecurity experts over the next three years.

In a video message on the White House blog, Schmidt said Obama had charged him with “developing a new comprehensive strategy to secure American networks” and “ensuring an organized unified response to future cyber incidents.”

In October, Obama declared the country’s digital infrastructure to be a “strategic national asset” and said “protecting this infrastructure is a national security priority.”

Schmidt’s appointment comes as gangs of cybercriminals, foreign intelligence services — reportedly including China and Russia — industrial spies and hackers increasingly prey on US networks, according to various studies.

A US congressional panel warned in November 2008 that China had developed a sophisticated cyber warfare program and stepped up its capacity to penetrate US computer networks to extract sensitive information.

Google has turned into Big Brother

The Debut of Chrome, Google’s New Browser, May Have Been Quiet for a Reason

COLUMN
By MICHAEL S. MALONE

Sept. 5, 2008 —

While we’re transfixed by the presidential election, in the world of high tech another duel between two well-funded, take-no-quarter candidates has just emerged & and in the long run the impact on our daily lives may be nearly as great — and perhaps even sinister.

As you probably heard, on Monday — that is, on a national holiday, when business announcements are almost never made — Google rolled out Chrome, its new Web browser.

Why the odd timing? Hard to say. Google surely knows that just about anything it does these days is going to cause a news frenzy — and especially when it’s announcing its first thrust into a huge new market.

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So, perhaps it hoped to temper this coverage to a degree, and drag it out for several days. Or perhaps Google was unsure about the product itself, and didn’t want to overhype it — and then face a potential backlash. Or, maybe Google just didn’t think Chrome was that important, saw a window between the two political conventions and rushed it out.

Google’s official explanation is that the Labor Day release of Chrome was an accident, and the Terms of Use attached to that product were simply a cut-and-paste from other Google products. We will leave it to the reader to decide if these are viable explanations from a multi-billion company regarding one of its biggest new products in years — and, if true, what it says about Google’s competence in handling some of your most sensitive information.

Well, now that Chrome is out and being field-tested by reviewers, I think we can rule out the second and the third scenarios. That leaves the first. But why would a company that knows it has a solid and newsworthy product on its hands intentionally dampen media coverage of it?

The answer, I think, was that it was a long-term strategic decision to make Chrome look almost like an afterthought. And I think that decision was made at the highest levels of Google, perhaps by CEO Eric Schmidt.

Why? Because Google’s ambitions are bigger than most of us have ever imagined, and the company is now rich enough, and powerful enough, to execute them — even if it means the short-term sacrifice of a major new revenue source.

One more thing: If Google pulls off this strategy, it will be the most valuable company on the planet. It will also be the scariest & and we should start worrying about that right now.

First, a little background. Google sits at the confluence of two historic Silicon Valley philosophical streams.

One, which comes from Sergey Brinn and Larry Page, the two founders, reaches back all of the way to the early days of computing and continues forward through the world of gamers, hackers, Apple and the Web 2.0 generation. It is essentially utopian in its belief that technology — especially the Web — will bring about a better world (hence, Google’s “Don’t Be Evil” motto).

It also has absolutist (some would even say totalitarian) tendencies, in that it also believes that the empiricism of science and technology supersedes messy human institutions. It is proudly amoral, which is why it can celebrate hackers — or for that matter, Steve Jobs — as heroes, as long as they remain innovators.

Taking on Google: About Schmidt

The second stream is embodied in a single figure, Eric Schmidt. Schmidt is perhaps the smartest person I know — and one of the few people in tech history (Andy Grove is another, and the comparison is telling) who has ever successfully made the leap from being a corporate chief scientist to Fortune 500 CEO.

But the trip wasn’t easy.

Twice, Schmidt watched all of his efforts come to nothing in the face of devastating assaults by Bill Gates and Microsoft. The first time, at Sun Microsystems, Schmidt was all but helpless to do anything; the second time, at Novell, where he was CEO, he had to take the blame.

In those days, everyone in Silicon Valley was obsessed with Microsoft. It seemed an unstoppable force that would slowly crush one market after another until it had rolled up the entire tech world. Most companies and entrepreneurs either hunkered down and tried to ride out the storm, or simply ran way — finding market niches where Microsoft was unlikely to follow.

But three Valleyites, each of them a genius of one type or another, and each of them already burned by Microsoft, set out on their own to figure out how to beat Gates.

The first was Larry Ellison, whose company Oracle was nearly as big as Microsoft. Ruthless and insanely competitive, Ellison tried and failed to draw users off their PCs and onto a theoretical “network computer,” failed and then embarked on an acquisition campaign that essentially encased his customer base behind impenetrable walls.

The second was Marc Andreessen, who had to watch his beloved Netscape be crushed by Gates’ borderline illegal attack with Internet Explorer, quietly withdrew upstream from Microsoft and went into the “tool” business, devising new ways for users to use the Internet without Microsoft.

But neither went so far, with such success, as Schmidt. He spent years figuring out how to beat Microsoft — and when he was given Google, he knew he now had the perfect club. Microsoft still took most of the world’s users to the Internet, but once they got there, Google owned them. The Web was all about searching for information — and because Google’s search service was free, billions of users happily took Google up on the offer.

That might have been enough. Google is now one of the world’s most valuable and influential companies. Much of the planet’s population passes through its simple and friendly portals every day, and in the process it has snatched up a sizable chunk of the advertising money out there. Meanwhile, no one talks much about Microsoft these days.

It would seem that Schmidt has had his revenge, and the techno-utopians of the world have been vindicated. But if you think that means the battle is over, don’t kid yourself.

Did Google Lie?

If anything, the dreams of both have just begun to unfold. Schmidt seems no longer content to defeat Microsoft, but to become it — and more. Moreover, he’s got the army of brilliant, amoral young foot soldiers to do the job.

Remember, for these young techno-utopians, technology trumps all, even privacy. We saw a glimpse of that earlier this year when Facebook, that seemingly benign social network for young people, quietly implemented Beacon, which tracked users’ purchases and then notified their friends in hopes of influencing their future purchases. Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg professed surprise at the massive backlash against Beacon and shut it down — but left the door opened for future surveillance programs.

But nowhere is the power to apply technology for its own sake more available than at Google. And despite the company’s motto, and childlike logo and home page, this is the real driving force behind the company. And the long-term goal of this applied technology? Google has already said it: to manage all of the world’s information.

Five years ago, this seemed harmless enough, even welcome. The Web is a huge, messy place — so what’s wrong with having some help navigating through it? But as Google has grown larger, and after it has taken over the big, general stuff (the Web) and begun focusing on the smaller, more specialized stuff (libraries, personal records, search patterns) that we begin to understand what “all” means … and what Google is willing to do to get it.

For example, a couple weeks ago, in a barely noticed blog entry, reporter Clint Boulton of Computerworld recounted a conversation he’d had with a Google insider who admitted that whatever the company was saying publicly — and to Congress — about user privacy, it was indeed tracking not just user search trails, but also their identities — so-called “Deep Packet Inspection.” The entry drew few readers, and no comments, but it did attract attention from one source: A senior Google executive called the magazine to get it to back off the story.

Even if true, had Google lied to Congress about user privacy? Probably not — at least not in the way that Google had carefully phrased its words.

Then there is Google’s odd acquiescence to the demands by authoritarian regimes around the world, especially China, to censor its search operations in those countries. These actions, inexplicable at the time, only become clear when one assumes that Google’s real business now is not providing a service to its users, but in owning the world’s data.

And that brings us back to Chrome. Why so low key an introduction? And why suddenly turn on a solid partnership with browser provider Mozilla? The answer, I think, has two parts.

Google: From Microsoft Killer to Big Brother?

First, Google believes that Chrome could be its Microsoft killer. Not only does it have the potential to beat MS Explorer but, fulfilling Ellison’s old dream, it could be a way to let users easily download applications from the Web — and thus circumvent Microsoft’s lock on Office, even Windows, the very core of its business.

But a second reason is more sinister. Only a few people have noticed that, until recently, in the Terms of Service for signing up for Chrome, Google demands “perpetual, irrevocable, world-wide, royalty free and non-exclusive” license to any materials users create with the browser. (Google on Thursday announced that it was rescinding the clause.)

And that’s only part of the story: An earlier reviewer of Chrome, Andrew Cheung of TGDaily, has noted that the browser almost seems to work “too well.” For example, Cheung found that with a few keystrokes, Chrome will go into an online banking site and find account numbers, balances and transaction activity. Cheung suggests that it is a security flaw in the product. I’m not so sure.

Microsoft only wanted all of our money. Increasingly, it seems that Google wants all of our data. In running away from the evil empire, have we now instead rushed into the arms of Big Brother?

Murdoch: “The current days of the internet will soon be over”

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Rupert Murdoch: Internet Will Soon Be Over 070509top

Billionaire media mogul Rupert Murdoch gave a strange response when asked about plans for mainstream news websites to charge for content, declaring, “The current days of the internet will soon be over.”

He was making reference to the fact that corporate media websites cannot continue to survive under their current failing business model.

The establishment media is dying and advertising revenue has plummeted as people turn to blogs and the alternative media for their news in an environment of corporate lies and spin.

This has forced sectors of the corporate media to charge the dwindling number of loyal readers they have left for news content, a practice which is set to become widespread according to Murdoch. This will only send more people over to the alternative media as the old organs of de facto state-controlled propaganda wither and die.

“Asked whether he envisaged fees at his British papers such as the Times, the Sunday Times, the Sun and the News of the World, (Murdoch) replied: “We’re absolutely looking at that,” reports the Guardian. “Taking questions on a conference call with reporters and analysts, he said that moves could begin “within the next 12 months‚” adding: “The current days of the internet will soon be over.

Murdoch’s newspapers and TV networks, which include Fox News and the Asian Star Network, have seen profits plummet from $216m to just $7m year-on-year. MySpace.com is also floundering despite a recent move to replace the company’s entire management staff.

It was all but over for the Boston Globe this week, following a threat to close the 137-year-old publication after net losses of $85 million this year alone. Only a last minute cost-cutting agreement on behalf of its owner, The New York Times Company, and The Boston Newspaper Guild, saved the newspaper.

But it’s not just establishment newspapers that are struggling to survive – social networking websites like Twitter and corporate online video giant You Tube are also deep in the red. Apparently, paying out millions in server fees for half the population of the planet to watch clips of cute puppies isn’t a sustainable business model.

This is why You Tube is being forced to pursue lucrative partnerships with giant production studios and broadcasters, at the expense of user generated content which has been relegated to a sub-section of its website, taking the “You” out of You Tube altogether. Content that may be deemed harmful to You Tube’s corporate agenda and its multi-million dollar partnership deals, like The Alex Jones Channel, is being systematically erased from You Tube’s website under the pretext of flimsy copyright infringement claims.

The jig is up for the corporate media. If they continue to allow free access to their content they will go out of business because there’s not enough advertising revenue coming in, whereas if they charge for content they will lose a huge chunk of their audience and their influence in shaping the news agenda will wane completely.

This is the price the corporate media has paid for lying, spinning and obfuscating on behalf of the virulently corrupt power elite and expecting the population to eat it up without question.

The corporate media monopoly has terminal cancer and they are losing their power, which is why they are aggressively supporting moves to phase out the old Internet altogether and replace it with “Internet 2,” a highly regulated and controlled electronic Berlin wall, where alternative voices will be silenced and giant corporate propaganda organs will dominate once again.

This what Murdoch is really getting at when he assures us that, “The Internet will soon be over” and it’s down to us to stop that agenda from being realized.

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