Today, the FBI becomes the enemy of every computer user and every IT security professional worldwide

by Rick Falkvinge

Today December 1, the United States FBI is granted new powers to intrude into any computer anywhere on the globe, instantly changing the FBI from a random law enforcement agency to a global adversary. Law enforcement agencies are expected to be met with open arms and treated as good guys. There’s not going to be any good guy treatment of the FBI here, and for good reason.

The U.S. FBI has been sort of a random law enforcement agency somewhere on the planet doing physical law enforcement work, kind of like the Bundespolizei in Germany would appear to an American, or the way the Policía Federal Argentina would appear to a European. Today, the FBI becomes a global adversary and enemy to every security-conscious computer user and to every IT security professional, similar to how the mass surveillance agencies are treated. The FBI has requested, and been granted, the lawful power (in the US) to intrude into any computer in the entire world. In 95% of the world, this makes the FBI no different from a Russian or Chinese criminal intruder, and it will be treated in the same way by people defending their systems; defending their homes.

This has happened under the boring legislative name of “changes to Rule 41”, and is (as always!) presented as nothing of particular interest. This is an old trick: when you want sweeping broad new powers without accountability, don’t call it “sweeping broad new power without accountability”, but cloud it in a name so boring it will interest absolutely nobody. (This lawmaker trick was skillfully observed by John Oliver, who said we shouldn’t call the peer-to-peerness of the Internet a boring term like “net neutrality”, but the more to-the-point “preventing cable company fuckery”.)

These “changes to Rule 41” put a lot of people in the FBI’s crosshairs. As usual, most people think new powers for law enforcement can only target criminals – as in actual, violent criminals. This would be the reasonable course of action, but not so in this case, not so at all. Techdirt points out that anybody using encryption, or anybody trying to hide their identity or location, can be presumed to be engaged in crime (having a “guilty mind”, or mens rea in Legalese Latin) and therefore be a valid target.

[read more here]

In Secret Vote, House Republicans Make it Easier for Big Business to Buy Them Off by Killing Office of Congressional Ethics

by Scott Creighton

UPDATE: An avalanche of bad press on this move has forced the House republicans to backtrack on the plan.

The vote took place in secret, by anonymous ballot and behind closed doors, so it’s not possible to know which representatives approved of the measure.” Huffington Post

In a secret vote held by republicans in the House of Representative late yesterday, the Office of Congressional Ethics has been essentially neutered, giving the swamp critters a lot more leeway when it comes to committing crimes during their tenure. The new congress takes office today. The vote was 119-74.

Hillary Clinton should be proud of their proactive approach as it mirrors her own efforts at skirting potential accountability issues.

“The surprising vote came on the eve of the start of a new session of Congress, where emboldened Republicans are ready to push an ambitious agenda on everything from health care to infrastructure, issues that will be the subject of intense lobbying from corporate interests. The House Republicans’ move would take away both power and independence from an investigative body, and give lawmakers more control over internal inquiries.” Boston Globe

How ironic is it that the first act of the new congress is to kill off the office with the word “ethics” in it’s name?

Continue reading