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US Government Wants to Ban Encryption in the Name of Protecting Children

Social media companies may soon be forced to allow backdoor government access to encrypted information.

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Ban Encryption

(TMU) — In the name of protecting the children, U.S. lawmakers and the Department of Justice want to ban end-to-end encryption, opening Internet users to a host of attacks on their privacy by not only the government but also malicious hackers.

Attorney General William Barr is claiming he wants to protect the children but his former law firm, Kirkland & Ellis, protected Jeffrey Epstein—one of the most serial child sex traffickers. And it turns out Barr’s own father, Donald Barr, was the headmaster of an elite New York City school that hired college dropout Epstein to teach math and physics.

Last week, Barr expressed at the White House Summit on Human Trafficking that encryption was aiding human traffickers. He said:

We live in a digital age, and like everyone else, human traffickers are relying increasingly on digital communication and the Internet … and more and more, the evidence we rely on to detect and to deal with these predators is digital evidence,” Barr said. “However, increasingly, this evidence is being encrypted.

We all recognize that encryption is important in the commercial world to protect consumers like us from cybercriminals, but now, we’re seeing military-grade encryption being marketed on consumer products like cellphones and social media platforms and messaging services, and that means that we cannot get access to this data.

We just can’t have chatrooms and websites that are involved in grooming children victims or selling trafficked women — sites that are impenetrable to law enforcement—and we have to do something about this.”

Barr has previously said that technology companies using end-to-end advanced encryption and other security measures are effectively turning devices into “law-free zones.”

As we use encryption to improve cybersecurity, we must ensure that we retain society’s ability to gain lawful access to data and communications when needed to respond to criminal activity,” Barr said in his keynote address at the International Conference on Cybersecurity at Fordham University Law School in Manhattan.

The ACLU has stated strongly that Barr doesn’t understand the benefits of encryption and that they outweigh the negatives of its use.

Encryption reliably protects consumers’ sensitive data,” Brett Max Kaufman, a senior staff lawyer in the Center for Democracy at the American Civil Liberties Union said. He added, “There is no way to give the F.B.I. access to encrypted communications without giving the same access to every government on the planet. Technology providers should continue to make their products as safe as possible and resist pressure from all governments to undermine the security of the tools they offer.”

Now Congress is seeking to ban companies from using end-to-end encryption and impose penalties for businesses that use it. Barr, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and Sen. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) are targeting encryption with a new draft bill called the “Eliminating Abusive and Rampant Neglect of Interactive Technologies (or EARN IT) Act.” The act would modify the Communications Decency Act’s Section 230 to make companies liable in state criminal cases and civil lawsuits over child abuse and exploitation if they don’t follow practices set by a national commission according to Engadget.

That commission would be known as the “National Commission on Online Child Exploitation Prevention,” would be comprised of 15 people, and led by the Attorney General who just so happens to be Barr himself. This new government organization would also include the Chairman of the Federal Trade Commission, the Secretary of Homeland Security, and 12 others handpicked by members of Congress. The Commission would be tasked with recommending “best practices for providers of interactive computer services regarding the prevention of online child exploitation conduct.”

Riana Pfefferkorn, a member of the Stanford Law School’s Center for Internet and Society, wrote in a blog post that the bill threatens the constitutional rights of online communication platforms and their users in a solid evaluation of the bill. Pfefferkorn explained:

While the EARN IT Act is ostensibly aimed at Section 230, it’s actually a sneaky way of affecting [encryption laws] without directly amending it. This bill has a number of extremely serious problems, too many to fit into one blog post. It is potentially unconstitutional under the First, Fourth, and Fifth Amendments, for one thing.”

If passed the law would also require companies like Telegram to allow backdoor government access to encrypted information which would also provide a “golden key” vulnerability for malicious hackers—something that Barr doesn’t appear to understand.

The EFF wrote:

Throughout his term as Attorney General, William Barr has frequently and vocally demanded “lawful access” to encrypted communications, ignoring the bedrock technical consensus that it is impossible to build a backdoor that is only available to law enforcement. Barr is far from the first administration official to make impossible demands of encryption providers: he joins a long history of government officials from both parties demanding that encryption providers compromise their users’ security.”

Even government officials in the FBI and DOJ aren’t convinced Barr is doing the right thing by seeking to ban encryption, according to the Wall Street Journal.

In 2018, the FBI lied and inflated the number of encrypted phones it said were connected to ongoing criminal investigations. The Bureau incorrectly stated time and time again that 7,800 phones were blocked from investigators. The Washington Post later reported that those figures were more like 1,000 to 2,000. The FBI blamed a “programming error” for the discrepancy.

Modern law provides enough legal means making EARN IT an unnecessary escalation on Section 230 which protects small companies more than the big giants. Currently, if an Internet company finds that an individual or group is using its platform to distribute child sexual abuse material, federal law already requires them to provide that information to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and to cooperate with law enforcement investigations.

By Aaron Kesel | Creative Commons | TheMindUnleashed.com

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Chinese and Indian Troops in Fresh Clashes as Border Tensions Heat Up

Elias Marat

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Chinese and Indian troops have reportedly engaged in a clash last week in a disputed area that resulted in “many” injuries on both sides, according to media reports originating in India.

“Indian, Chinese troops in new border brawl, injuries on both sides,” stated AFP. According to Indian media, some 20 Chinese soldiers sustained injuries during the clash while four on the Indian side were injured.

The incident, which is said to have taken place in the north Sikkim region last Wednesday, would be the latest in a string of clashes in the contested border region. Both India and China claim large swathes of the territory.

The alleged incident comes months after around 20 Indian soldiers died in a similar clash in the Ladakh region last June when a Chinese patrol sought to enter Indian-controlled territory. China did not confirm at the time that it suffered fatalities in the clash, which involve fists and wooden clubs.

India’s Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar admitted last month that the relations between the two Asian giants remain “significantly damaged” by the events of last year.

Last Wednesday’s incident also did not involve an exchange of fire, although reports have claimed that the two sides came to blows using sticks and stones.

India’s army claims that the “minor” incident has since been resolved, saying that there “was a minor face-off at Naku La area of North Sikkim on 20 January 2021 and the same was resolved by local commanders as per established protocols,” reports the BBC. The Indian Army also urged media to not overplay the significance of the event.

The Times of India has characterized the incident as a “physical brawl,” with one source claiming that the altercation unfolded after a PLA intrusion, and that the clash was defused after both sides called in reinforcements.

However, Chinese state media has roundly dismissed the reports as fake news, citing an absence of reports by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in its front line patrol logs, according to the Global Times.

The Foreign Ministry of the People’s Republic of China also has said that it has “no information on the incident,” with foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian saying that Chinese troops “dedicated themselves to safeguarding the peace and tranquility” of the border region.  “China urges India to work in the same direction,” he added.

The reported incidents come amid ongoing military-level talks between the Asian neighbors, although such dialogue surrounding the border has been constant.

Troops have persisted in facing each other across various flashpoints strewn across the massive contested border, with many observers seeing the exchanges as simply unavoidable given the fluidity of the situation and failure of both sides to settle their territorial disputes.

Both sides agree that it remains essential that the two nuclear-armed neighbors avoid an escalation of hostilities, but tensions have remained high between China and India.

New Delhi has cast suspicion on China’s growing diplomatic and economic clout in the region, which has come through major investment schemes touted by Beijing as key to developing the South Asian region.

The Hindu nationalist government of India has banned some 200 Chinese apps made by its tech giants while also blocking trade deals with Chinese companies. China, in turn, has warned that India will pay a significant economic cost if the dispute continues.

At the heart of ongoing tensions is the Line of Actual Control (LAC), the 2,100-mile (3,379 km) de facto border dividing the two states. Both countries have a range of disagreements about the most basic facts concerning the border, which is largely a result of clashes that have roiled the region since the 19th century, when colonial powers – including a Britain that controlled much of South Asia as a colonial power – fought one another to wrest land from a weakened China. Since both countries gained independence in the mid-20th century, the two have had severe conflicts of interests regarding control of the region and their shared border.

The LAC itself is the result of the Sino-Indian border war of 1962, which resulted in a humiliating defeat for India at the hands of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA). Since then, there has been intermittent fighting in the region that has claimed the lives of hundreds of soldiers on both sides. In 1996, the two agreed to bar the use of guns and explosives at the LOC.

Early in January, the outgoing administration of U.S. President Trump declassified its 2018 Indo-Pacific strategy that was originally meant to be secret for three decades. The release of the strategy, which envisioned a U.S.-led alliance militarily and diplomatically backing India as a “counterbalance to China,” greatly embarrassed New Delhi as a transparent attempt to to box in Biden’s approach to China.

However, it remains uncertain that the Biden administration, which is also preoccupied by foreign policy challenges vis-à-vis Beijing, will offer the same level of support to New Delhi or follow the same strategy as the Trump administration did. It is equally unclear whether India’s own military and economic capabilities can meet its ambition to challenge the growing power of China.

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“I Never Thought I’d Live to See This Day”: The Beginning of the End for Nuclear Weapons

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Today is the day the United Nation’s Treaty on Nuclear Weapons goes into effect. It’s the long planned but seemingly impossible day millions — if not billions — of people have waited for since Hiroshima Day, August 6, 1945.

Today, the U.N. treaty declares that the manufacture, possession, use or threat to use nuclear weapons is illegal under international law, 75 years after their development and first use. Actions, events, vigils and celebrations will be held around the nation and the globe to mark this historic moment.

Even though I’ve spent most of my life working for the abolition of nuclear weapons, I never thought I’d live to see this day. The most striking test of faith came in none other than Oslo, Norway, where my friend, actor Martin Sheen, and I were invited to be the keynote speakers at the launch of something called “The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons,” or ICAN, which went on to the win the Nobel Peace Prize.

I have been arrested dozens of times for nonviolent civil disobedience actions against nuclear weapons, including at the White House, the Pentagon, several Trident submarine bases, the SAC command base near Omaha, Nebraska, the Nevada Test Site and Livermore Labs. Since 2003, I have led the annual Hiroshima Day peace vigil outside the national nuclear weapons labs in Los Alamos, New Mexico. I had been planning with friends a major anti-nuclear vigil, rally and conference near Los Alamos, New Mexico to mark the 75thanniversary of Hiroshima, but instead, we held a powerful virtual online conference seen by thousands that featured Dr. Ira Helfand, co-founder of the Nobel Prize-winning Physicians for Social Responsibility and one of the leaders of ICAN.

On Dec. 7, 1993, with Philip Berrigan and two friends, I walked on to the Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in Goldsboro, North Carolina, right through the middle of national war games, up to one of the nuclear-capable F15 fighter bombers and hammered on it, to fulfill Isaiah’s prophecy that some day people would “beat swords into plowshares and study war no more.” For that act, I faced 20 years in prison, was convicted on several felony counts, spent nine months in a tiny cell, several years under house arrest and continued to be heavily monitored by the government. My friends, Dan and Phil Berrigan, who launched the Plowshares movement dreamed of this day. Other friends sit in prisons across the nation today for their recent actions.

But this was something else. This was a first for me. We had been brought to Oslo by the Norwegian government. We stood before some 900 people that Saturday night, March 1, 2013, at the civic forum, which preceded the global gathering of representatives from over 132 nations. (Of course, the United States refused to attend.) The formal meeting would start Monday morning. As far as we could tell, there had never been such a conference before in history.

Martin began his talk by thanking ICAN for their work to build a global abolition movement, and encouraged everyone to keep at it. He read aloud their general call for nuclear-armed states to completely eliminate nuclear weapons—and a treaty banning any state from developing them.  

For the next 48 hours we spoke non-stop, in workshops, to the press, to small groups and large groups. We were given a private tour of the Nobel Peace Prize museum, attended a reception with the Norwegian Parliament and met many members and politicians whom we urged to carry on their initiative for the abolition of nuclear weapons, including Norway’s foreign minister, the Vice President of Parliament, and the Mayor of Oslo.

It was there at that reception that we met Dr. Ira Helfand, who told us that—for the first time in four decades—he felt hopeful about nuclear disarmament. There has never been such an important gathering in history, he said with a smile.

At one point during the ICAN conference, a teenage student asked to speak privately with me. He confided that he was one of the survivors of the massacre a year and a half before, when an insane shooter killed 78 children during their summer camp on an island in a large lake not far from Oslo. My new friend told me how he dodged the bullets and swam far out into the lake and barely survived. He wanted to talk with me about nonviolence and forgiveness. I encouraged him on his journey of healing toward a deeper peace, but was profoundly moved by his connection between the summer camp massacre and the global massacre that can be unleashed through nuclear weapons. He saw now what most people refuse to see. And he was determined to do his part to prevent a global massacre of children.

All of these experiences were so touching and inspiring, but there was something even more powerful afoot. From the moment we landed in Oslo, as we met various dignitaries and longtime anti-nuclear leaders from around the globe, we heard the same statement over and over again: We are going to abolish nuclear weapons.

After a while, Martin and I looked at one another and thought to ourselves: something’s not right with these people. Sure, we do what we can, of course, but we’re not going to live to see the abolition of nuclear weapons. Our new friends were drinking the Kool-Aid.

But we didn’t know who we were dealing with, nor did we yet understand the faith and hope that undergirds lasting global change movements. These were the same people who organized the global campaign to outlaw landmines in 1997. These were the same people who organized the global campaign to ban cluster bombs in 2008. Now, they were telling us calmly, they were setting their sights on nuclear weapons. They intended to use the same tried and true strategy to slowly plot their end. This was going to work. No doubt about it.

All we have to do is get 50 nations to sign a U.N. treaty banning nuclear weapons, they said; then we can slowly chip away at every other nation in the world, until all that are left of the nine nuclear weapons nations who will eventually be shamed into dismantling their weapons and signing the United Nations’ Treaty. It was a no-brainer.

“Well, good luck with that,” we said.

And here we are. Today, the treaty goes into effect. Today is the beginning of the end of nuclear weapons.

For my friends and me, this is a day we never quite believed we would see.

“Right now, the treaty does not legally apply to the United States,” said Ken Mayers of Veterans for Peace New Mexico, “because we have not signed or ratified it. But that does not mean we will not be feeling the moral force of the treaty. All nuclear weapons, including the thousands in the U.S. stockpile, have been declared unlawful by the international community.”

Mayers and others will keep vigil today near the labs in Los Alamos, New Mexico, calling for an end to weapons development. Similar vigils will be held across the United States today with banners hung outside nuclear weapons production sites declaring “Nuclear Weapons Are Illegal!”

“The treaty is a turning point,” said Joni Arends, of Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety. “On the one hand, it is the end of a long process to outlaw nuclear weapons. On the other hand, it is just the beginning of a new movement to confront nuclear weapons states and demand they lift the dark shadow of nuclear annihilation that has loomed over the world for the last 75 years.”

“The U.S. was among the last major countries to abolish slavery but did so in the end,” said Jay Coghlan of Nuclear Watch New Mexico. “To modify Dr. King’s famous quote: ‘The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards [the] justice’ of abolishing nuclear weapons. This ban treaty is the beginning of that end and should be celebrated as such.”

Every time we have journeyed up to Los Alamos over the years, we offered the same, simple message: Nuclear weapons have totally failed us. They don’t make us safer; they can’t protest us; they don’t provide jobs; they don’t make us more secure; they’re sinful, immoral and inhuman. They bankrupt us, economically and spiritually.

According to the Doomsday Clock, we are in greater danger now than ever. A limited nuclear war between India and Pakistan is very possible; an all-out nuclear war would end life as we know it. If we spent billions instead on teaching and building nonviolent civilian-based defense systems and nonviolent conflict resolution programs around the world, to be orchestrated by the United Nations, we could make war itself obsolete.

The work of ICAN and the United Nations to get 50 nations to outlaw nuclear weapons and build a process toward their elimination is one of the most exciting, hopeful—if widely ignored—movements in the world today.

Just before Christmas, Dr. Helfand called me. He continues to work morning to night in a Massachusetts clinic treating COVID patients, but he wanted to talk about the treaty. “How can we push Americans to demand that the United States sign the treaty and dismantle our arsenal,” he asked me? “How can we mobilize the movement to make President Biden and the U.S. Congress do the right thing?”

That’s the question. We talked about various efforts we could make, and agreed to do what we could. “The responsibility lies with us,” he said. “We were the first to use nuclear weapons; we must be the ones to end them once and for all.”

A few days later, he sent me an email with the gist of our message. In addition to climate change, the nearly 14,000 nuclear weapons in the world pose an existential threat to humanity. The threat of nuclear war has never been greater, with tensions rising between the United States, Russia and China. Even a limited nuclear war could kill hundreds of millions, and bring about a global famine that would put billions of people at risk. A larger war could kill the vast majority of humanity.

“This is not the future that must be,” Dr. Helfand wrote me. “Nuclear weapons are not a force of nature. They are little machines that we have built with our own hands, and we know how to take them apart. Nations around the world have come together in the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. It is time for us to move back from the brink and eliminate nuclear weapons before they eliminate us.”

And so, the day has come when that long dreamed of future has become a real possibility. Our task is to make the possible probable, and then actual. Time to get back to work. We need to call President Biden and Congress, write letters to the editor, mobilize the movement, tell the nation: Let’s abolish nuclear weapons now, once and forever, and use the billions of dollars we spend on these weapons to vaccinate everyone, rebuild our nation, protect the environment, abolish war and poverty, and welcome a new culture of peace and nonviolence.

As I learned in Oslo, anything is possible if you believe.

Republished from CommonDreams.org under Creative Commons

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33 Missing Children Recovered During Human Trafficking Operation

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A large human trafficking investigation in Southern California involving multiple law enforcement agencies successfully recovered 33 missing children during a recent operation. 

The FBI announced the conclusion of the investigation this week, and disclosed that there are currently over 1,800 investigations involving missing and exploited children. The investigation was called “Operation Lost Angels” and began on January 11th as a part of Human Trafficking Awareness Month.

While few details were revealed about the cases, the FBI said that at least 8 of the children had been sexually exploited. The agency noted that there has been an increase in child trafficking cases in recent years.

According to a statement from the FBI, “It is not uncommon for victims who are rescued to return to commercial sex trafficking either voluntarily or by force, fraud or coercion. This harmful cycle highlights the challenges victims face and those faced by law enforcement when attempting to keep victims from returning to an abusive situation. Victims may not self-identify as being trafficked or may not even realize they’re being trafficked.”

Assistant FBI Director Kristi K. Johnson told FOX 11 Los Angeles that, “The FBI considers human trafficking modern-day slavery, and the minors engaged in commercial sex trafficking are considered victims. While this operation surged resources over a limited period of time with great success, the FBI and our partners investigate child sex trafficking every day of the year and around the clock.”

Statements from investigators also noted that some of the children needed multiple interventions after returning to whoever was exploiting them. Investigations into numerous suspects have been opened and one suspected human trafficker has been arrested. The FBI also noted that not all of the children were victims of trafficking, for example, one of the children was kidnapped by their parent during a custody battle.

The FBI announced that they made 473 human trafficking arrests last year and initiated 664 investigations across the country.

This is just one of many similar operations that have taken place across the state, and the entire country in recent years.

Over the past five years, the US Marshal Service (USMS) has recovered missing children in 75% of the cases it has received. And of those recovered, 72% were recovered within 7 days. Since 2005, the USMS has recovered more than 2,000 missing children.

Late last year, a massive law enforcement operation in Ohio called Operation Autumn Hope resulted in the arrest of 179 people under suspicion of human trafficking, and the rescue of 109 victims, 45 of whom were missing children. Some victims were as young as 14 or 15 years old.

Another effort, called Operation Stolen Innocence, concluded in Tallahassee, Florida, in November, with the arrest of 170 people.

Investigators are urging victims and people who are aware of victims to speak out. Victims and witnesses can report information to the Human Trafficking Hotline by calling 1-888-373-7888.

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