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Meme – Wikipedia

Posted: October 19, 2016 at 4:12 am

A meme ( MEEM)[1] is “an idea, behavior, or style that spreads from person to person within a culture”.[2] A meme acts as a unit for carrying cultural ideas, symbols, or practices that can be transmitted from one mind to another through writing, speech, gestures, rituals, or other imitable phenomena with a mimicked theme. Supporters of the concept regard memes as cultural analogues to genes in that they self-replicate, mutate, and respond to selective pressures.[3]

Proponents theorize that memes are a viral phenomenon that may evolve by natural selection in a manner analogous to that of biological evolution. Memes do this through the processes of variation, mutation, competition, and inheritance, each of which influences a meme’s reproductive success. Memes spread through the behavior that they generate in their hosts. Memes that propagate less prolifically may become extinct, while others may survive, spread, and (for better or for worse) mutate. Memes that replicate most effectively enjoy more success, and some may replicate effectively even when they prove to be detrimental to the welfare of their hosts.[4]

A field of study called memetics[5] arose in the 1990s to explore the concepts and transmission of memes in terms of an evolutionary model. Criticism from a variety of fronts has challenged the notion that academic study can examine memes empirically. However, developments in neuroimaging may make empirical study possible.[6] Some commentators in the social sciences question the idea that one can meaningfully categorize culture in terms of discrete units, and are especially critical of the biological nature of the theory’s underpinnings.[7] Others have argued that this use of the term is the result of a misunderstanding of the original proposal.[8]

The word meme originated with Richard Dawkins’ 1976 book The Selfish Gene. Dawkins’s own position is somewhat ambiguous: he welcomed N. K. Humphrey’s suggestion that “memes should be considered as living structures, not just metaphorically”[9] and proposed to regard memes as “physically residing in the brain”.[10] Later, he argued that his original intentions, presumably before his approval of Humphrey’s opinion, had been simpler.[11] At the New Directors’ Showcase 2013 in Cannes, Dawkins’ opinion on memetics was deliberately ambiguous.[12]

The word meme is a shortening (modeled on gene) of mimeme (from Ancient Greek pronounced[mmma] mmma, “imitated thing”, from mimeisthai, “to imitate”, from mimos, “mime”)[13] coined by British evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins in The Selfish Gene (1976)[1][14] as a concept for discussion of evolutionary principles in explaining the spread of ideas and cultural phenomena. Examples of memes given in the book included melodies, catchphrases, fashion, and the technology of building arches.[15]Kenneth Pike coined the related term emic and etic, generalizing the linguistic idea of phoneme, morpheme and tagmeme (as set out by Leonard Bloomfield), characterizing them as insider view and outside view of behaviour and extending the concept into a tagmemic theory of human behaviour (culminating in Language in Relation to a Unified Theory of the Structure of Human Behaviour, 1954).

The word meme originated with Richard Dawkins’ 1976 book The Selfish Gene. Dawkins cites as inspiration the work of geneticist L. L. Cavalli-Sforza, anthropologist F. T. Cloak[16] and ethologist J. M. Cullen.[17] Dawkins wrote that evolution depended not on the particular chemical basis of genetics, but only on the existence of a self-replicating unit of transmissionin the case of biological evolution, the gene. For Dawkins, the meme exemplified another self-replicating unit with potential significance in explaining human behavior and cultural evolution. Although Dawkins invented the term ‘meme’ and developed meme theory, the possibility that ideas were subject to the same pressures of evolution as were biological attributes was discussed in Darwin’s time. T. H. Huxley claimed that ‘The struggle for existence holds as much in the intellectual as in the physical world. A theory is a species of thinking, and its right to exist is coextensive with its power of resisting extinction by its rivals.'[18]

Dawkins used the term to refer to any cultural entity that an observer might consider a replicator. He hypothesized that one could view many cultural entities as replicators, and pointed to melodies, fashions and learned skills as examples. Memes generally replicate through exposure to humans, who have evolved as efficient copiers of information and behavior. Because humans do not always copy memes perfectly, and because they may refine, combine or otherwise modify them with other memes to create new memes, they can change over time. Dawkins likened the process by which memes survive and change through the evolution of culture to the natural selection of genes in biological evolution.[15]

Dawkins defined the meme as a unit of cultural transmission, or a unit of imitation and replication, but later definitions would vary. The lack of a consistent, rigorous, and precise understanding of what typically makes up one unit of cultural transmission remains a problem in debates about memetics.[20] In contrast, the concept of genetics gained concrete evidence with the discovery of the biological functions of DNA. Meme transmission requires a physical medium, such as photons, sound waves, touch, taste or smell because memes can be transmitted only through the senses.

Dawkins noted that in a society with culture a person need not have descendants to remain influential in the actions of individuals thousands of years after their death:

But if you contribute to the world’s culture, if you have a good idea…it may live on, intact, long after your genes have dissolved in the common pool. Socrates may or may not have a gene or two alive in the world today, as G.C. Williams has remarked, but who cares? The meme-complexes of Socrates, Leonardo, Copernicus and Marconi are still going strong.[21]

Memes, analogously to genes, vary in their aptitude to replicate; successful memes remain and spread, whereas unfit ones stall and are forgotten. Thus memes that prove more effective at replicating and surviving are selected in the meme pool.

Memes first need retention. The longer a meme stays in its hosts, the higher its chances of propagation are. When a host uses a meme, the meme’s life is extended.[22] The reuse of the neural space hosting a certain meme’s copy to host different memes is the greatest threat to that meme’s copy.[23]

A meme which increases the longevity of its hosts will generally survive longer. On the contrary, a meme which shortens the longevity of its hosts will tend to disappear faster. However, as hosts are mortal, retention is not sufficient to perpetuate a meme in the long term; memes also need transmission.

Life-forms can transmit information both vertically (from parent to child, via replication of genes) and horizontally (through viruses and other means). Memes can replicate vertically or horizontally within a single biological generation. They may also lie dormant for long periods of time.

Memes reproduce by copying from a nervous system to another one, either by communication or imitation. Imitation often involves the copying of an observed behavior of another individual. Communication may be direct or indirect, where memes transmit from one individual to another through a copy recorded in an inanimate source, such as a book or a musical score. Adam McNamara has suggested that memes can be thereby classified as either internal or external memes (i-memes or e-memes).[6]

Some commentators have likened the transmission of memes to the spread of contagions.[24] Social contagions such as fads, hysteria, copycat crime, and copycat suicide exemplify memes seen as the contagious imitation of ideas. Observers distinguish the contagious imitation of memes from instinctively contagious phenomena such as yawning and laughing, which they consider innate (rather than socially learned) behaviors.[25]

Aaron Lynch described seven general patterns of meme transmission, or “thought contagion”:[26]

Dawkins initially defined meme as a noun that “conveys the idea of a unit of cultural transmission, or a unit of imitation”.[15] John S. Wilkins retained the notion of meme as a kernel of cultural imitation while emphasizing the meme’s evolutionary aspect, defining the meme as “the least unit of sociocultural information relative to a selection process that has favorable or unfavorable selection bias that exceeds its endogenous tendency to change”.[27] The meme as a unit provides a convenient means of discussing “a piece of thought copied from person to person”, regardless of whether that thought contains others inside it, or forms part of a larger meme. A meme could consist of a single word, or a meme could consist of the entire speech in which that word first occurred. This forms an analogy to the idea of a gene as a single unit of self-replicating information found on the self-replicating chromosome.

While the identification of memes as “units” conveys their nature to replicate as discrete, indivisible entities, it does not imply that thoughts somehow become quantized or that “atomic” ideas exist that cannot be dissected into smaller pieces. A meme has no given size. Susan Blackmore writes that melodies from Beethoven’s symphonies are commonly used to illustrate the difficulty involved in delimiting memes as discrete units. She notes that while the first four notes of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony (listen(helpinfo)) form a meme widely replicated as an independent unit, one can regard the entire symphony as a single meme as well.[20]

The inability to pin an idea or cultural feature to quantifiable key units is widely acknowledged as a problem for memetics. It has been argued however that the traces of memetic processing can be quantified utilizing neuroimaging techniques which measure changes in the connectivity profiles between brain regions.”[6] Blackmore meets such criticism by stating that memes compare with genes in this respect: that while a gene has no particular size, nor can we ascribe every phenotypic feature directly to a particular gene, it has value because it encapsulates that key unit of inherited expression subject to evolutionary pressures. To illustrate, she notes evolution selects for the gene for features such as eye color; it does not select for the individual nucleotide in a strand of DNA. Memes play a comparable role in understanding the evolution of imitated behaviors.[20]

The 1981 book Genes, Mind, and Culture: The Coevolutionary Process by Charles J. Lumsden and E. O. Wilson proposed the theory that genes and culture co-evolve, and that the fundamental biological units of culture must correspond to neuronal networks that function as nodes of semantic memory. They coined their own word, “culturgen”, which did not catch on. Coauthor Wilson later acknowledged the term meme as the best label for the fundamental unit of cultural inheritance in his 1998 book Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge, which elaborates upon the fundamental role of memes in unifying the natural and social sciences.[28]

Dawkins noted the three conditions that must exist for evolution to occur:[29]

Dawkins emphasizes that the process of evolution naturally occurs whenever these conditions co-exist, and that evolution does not apply only to organic elements such as genes. He regards memes as also having the properties necessary for evolution, and thus sees meme evolution as not simply analogous to genetic evolution, but as a real phenomenon subject to the laws of natural selection. Dawkins noted that as various ideas pass from one generation to the next, they may either enhance or detract from the survival of the people who obtain those ideas, or influence the survival of the ideas themselves. For example, a certain culture may develop unique designs and methods of tool-making that give it a competitive advantage over another culture. Each tool-design thus acts somewhat similarly to a biological gene in that some populations have it and others do not, and the meme’s function directly affects the presence of the design in future generations. In keeping with the thesis that in evolution one can regard organisms simply as suitable “hosts” for reproducing genes, Dawkins argues that one can view people as “hosts” for replicating memes. Consequently, a successful meme may or may not need to provide any benefit to its host.[29]

Unlike genetic evolution, memetic evolution can show both Darwinian and Lamarckian traits. Cultural memes will have the characteristic of Lamarckian inheritance when a host aspires to replicate the given meme through inference rather than by exactly copying it. Take for example the case of the transmission of a simple skill such as hammering a nail, a skill that a learner imitates from watching a demonstration without necessarily imitating every discrete movement modeled by the teacher in the demonstration, stroke for stroke.[30]Susan Blackmore distinguishes the difference between the two modes of inheritance in the evolution of memes, characterizing the Darwinian mode as “copying the instructions” and the Lamarckian as “copying the product.”[20]

Clusters of memes, or memeplexes (also known as meme complexes or as memecomplexes), such as cultural or political doctrines and systems, may also play a part in the acceptance of new memes. Memeplexes comprise groups of memes that replicate together and coadapt.[20] Memes that fit within a successful memeplex may gain acceptance by “piggybacking” on the success of the memeplex. As an example, John D. Gottsch discusses the transmission, mutation and selection of religious memeplexes and the theistic memes contained.[31] Theistic memes discussed include the “prohibition of aberrant sexual practices such as incest, adultery, homosexuality, bestiality, castration, and religious prostitution”, which may have increased vertical transmission of the parent religious memeplex. Similar memes are thereby included in the majority of religious memeplexes, and harden over time; they become an “inviolable canon” or set of dogmas, eventually finding their way into secular law. This could also be referred to as the propagation of a taboo.

The discipline of memetics, which dates from the mid-1980s, provides an approach to evolutionary models of cultural information transfer based on the concept of the meme. Memeticists have proposed that just as memes function analogously to genes, memetics functions analogously to genetics. Memetics attempts to apply conventional scientific methods (such as those used in population genetics and epidemiology) to explain existing patterns and transmission of cultural ideas.

Principal criticisms of memetics include the claim that memetics ignores established advances in other fields of cultural study, such as sociology, cultural anthropology, cognitive psychology, and social psychology. Questions remain whether or not the meme concept counts as a validly disprovable scientific theory. This view regards memetics as a theory in its infancy: a protoscience to proponents, or a pseudoscience to some detractors.

An objection to the study of the evolution of memes in genetic terms (although not to the existence of memes) involves a perceived gap in the gene/meme analogy: the cumulative evolution of genes depends on biological selection-pressures neither too great nor too small in relation to mutation-rates. There seems no reason to think that the same balance will exist in the selection pressures on memes.[32]

Luis Benitez-Bribiesca M.D., a critic of memetics, calls the theory a “pseudoscientific dogma” and “a dangerous idea that poses a threat to the serious study of consciousness and cultural evolution”. As a factual criticism, Benitez-Bribiesca points to the lack of a “code script” for memes (analogous to the DNA of genes), and to the excessive instability of the meme mutation mechanism (that of an idea going from one brain to another), which would lead to a low replication accuracy and a high mutation rate, rendering the evolutionary process chaotic.[33]

British political philosopher John Gray has characterized Dawkins’ memetic theory of religion as “nonsense” and “not even a theory… the latest in a succession of ill-judged Darwinian metaphors”, comparable to Intelligent Design in its value as a science.[34]

Another critique comes from semiotic theorists such as Deacon[35] and Kull.[36] This view regards the concept of “meme” as a primitivized concept of “sign”. The meme is thus described in memetics as a sign lacking a triadic nature. Semioticians can regard a meme as a “degenerate” sign, which includes only its ability of being copied. Accordingly, in the broadest sense, the objects of copying are memes, whereas the objects of translation and interpretation are signs.[clarification needed]

Fracchia and Lewontin regard memetics as reductionist and inadequate.[37] Evolutionary biologist Ernst Mayr disapproved of Dawkins’ gene-based view and usage of the term “meme”, asserting it to be an “unnecessary synonym” for “concept”, reasoning that concepts are not restricted to an individual or a generation, may persist for long periods of time, and may evolve.[38]

Opinions differ as to how best to apply the concept of memes within a “proper” disciplinary framework. One view sees memes as providing a useful philosophical perspective with which to examine cultural evolution. Proponents of this view (such as Susan Blackmore and Daniel Dennett) argue that considering cultural developments from a meme’s-eye viewas if memes themselves respond to pressure to maximise their own replication and survivalcan lead to useful insights and yield valuable predictions into how culture develops over time. Others such as Bruce Edmonds and Robert Aunger have focused on the need to provide an empirical grounding for memetics to become a useful and respected scientific discipline.[39][40]

A third approach, described by Joseph Poulshock, as “radical memetics” seeks to place memes at the centre of a materialistic theory of mind and of personal identity.[41]

Prominent researchers in evolutionary psychology and anthropology, including Scott Atran, Dan Sperber, Pascal Boyer, John Tooby and others, argue the possibility of incompatibility between modularity of mind and memetics.[citation needed] In their view, minds structure certain communicable aspects of the ideas produced, and these communicable aspects generally trigger or elicit ideas in other minds through inference (to relatively rich structures generated from often low-fidelity input) and not high-fidelity replication or imitation. Atran discusses communication involving religious beliefs as a case in point. In one set of experiments he asked religious people to write down on a piece of paper the meanings of the Ten Commandments. Despite the subjects’ own expectations of consensus, interpretations of the commandments showed wide ranges of variation, with little evidence of consensus. In another experiment, subjects with autism and subjects without autism interpreted ideological and religious sayings (for example, “Let a thousand flowers bloom” or “To everything there is a season”). People with autism showed a significant tendency to closely paraphrase and repeat content from the original statement (for example: “Don’t cut flowers before they bloom”). Controls tended to infer a wider range of cultural meanings with little replicated content (for example: “Go with the flow” or “Everyone should have equal opportunity”). Only the subjects with autismwho lack the degree of inferential capacity normally associated with aspects of theory of mindcame close to functioning as “meme machines”.[42]

In his book The Robot’s Rebellion, Stanovich uses the memes and memeplex concepts to describe a program of cognitive reform that he refers to as a “rebellion”. Specifically, Stanovich argues that the use of memes as a descriptor for cultural units is beneficial because it serves to emphasize transmission and acquisition properties that parallel the study of epidemiology. These properties make salient the sometimes parasitic nature of acquired memes, and as a result individuals should be motivated to reflectively acquire memes using what he calls a “Neurathian bootstrap” process.[43]

Although social scientists such as Max Weber sought to understand and explain religion in terms of a cultural attribute, Richard Dawkins called for a re-analysis of religion in terms of the evolution of self-replicating ideas apart from any resulting biological advantages they might bestow.

As an enthusiastic Darwinian, I have been dissatisfied with explanations that my fellow-enthusiasts have offered for human behaviour. They have tried to look for ‘biological advantages’ in various attributes of human civilization. For instance, tribal religion has been seen as a mechanism for solidifying group identity, valuable for a pack-hunting species whose individuals rely on cooperation to catch large and fast prey. Frequently the evolutionary preconception in terms of which such theories are framed is implicitly group-selectionist, but it is possible to rephrase the theories in terms of orthodox gene selection.

He argued that the role of key replicator in cultural evolution belongs not to genes, but to memes replicating thought from person to person by means of imitation. These replicators respond to selective pressures that may or may not affect biological reproduction or survival.[15]

In her book The Meme Machine, Susan Blackmore regards religions as particularly tenacious memes. Many of the features common to the most widely practiced religions provide built-in advantages in an evolutionary context, she writes. For example, religions that preach of the value of faith over evidence from everyday experience or reason inoculate societies against many of the most basic tools people commonly use to evaluate their ideas. By linking altruism with religious affiliation, religious memes can proliferate more quickly because people perceive that they can reap societal as well as personal rewards. The longevity of religious memes improves with their documentation in revered religious texts.[20]

Aaron Lynch attributed the robustness of religious memes in human culture to the fact that such memes incorporate multiple modes of meme transmission. Religious memes pass down the generations from parent to child and across a single generation through the meme-exchange of proselytism. Most people will hold the religion taught them by their parents throughout their life. Many religions feature adversarial elements, punishing apostasy, for instance, or demonizing infidels. In Thought Contagion Lynch identifies the memes of transmission in Christianity as especially powerful in scope. Believers view the conversion of non-believers both as a religious duty and as an act of altruism. The promise of heaven to believers and threat of hell to non-believers provide a strong incentive for members to retain their belief. Lynch asserts that belief in the Crucifixion of Jesus in Christianity amplifies each of its other replication advantages through the indebtedness believers have to their Savior for sacrifice on the cross. The image of the crucifixion recurs in religious sacraments, and the proliferation of symbols of the cross in homes and churches potently reinforces the wide array of Christian memes.[26]

Although religious memes have proliferated in human cultures, the modern scientific community has been relatively resistant to religious belief. Robertson (2007) [44] reasoned that if evolution is accelerated in conditions of propagative difficulty,[45] then we would expect to encounter variations of religious memes, established in general populations, addressed to scientific communities. Using a memetic approach, Robertson deconstructed two attempts to privilege religiously held spirituality in scientific discourse. Advantages of a memetic approach as compared to more traditional “modernization” and “supply side” theses in understanding the evolution and propagation of religion were explored.

In Cultural Software: A Theory of Ideology, Jack Balkin argued that memetic processes can explain many of the most familiar features of ideological thought. His theory of “cultural software” maintained that memes form narratives, social networks, metaphoric and metonymic models, and a variety of different mental structures. Balkin maintains that the same structures used to generate ideas about free speech or free markets also serve to generate racistic beliefs. To Balkin, whether memes become harmful or maladaptive depends on the environmental context in which they exist rather than in any special source or manner to their origination. Balkin describes racist beliefs as “fantasy” memes that become harmful or unjust “ideologies” when diverse peoples come together, as through trade or competition.[46]

In A Theory of Architecture, Nikos Salingaros speaks of memes as “freely propagating clusters of information” which can be beneficial or harmful. He contrasts memes to patterns and true knowledge, characterizing memes as “greatly simplified versions of patterns” and as “unreasoned matching to some visual or mnemonic prototype”.[47] Taking reference to Dawkins, Salingaros emphasizes that they can be transmitted due to their own communicative properties, that “the simpler they are, the faster they can proliferate”, and that the most successful memes “come with a great psychological appeal”.[48]

Architectural memes, according to Salingaros, can have destructive power. “Images portrayed in architectural magazines representing buildings that could not possibly accommodate everyday uses become fixed in our memory, so we reproduce them unconsciously.”[49] He lists various architectural memes that circulated since the 1920s and which, in his view, have led to contemporary architecture becoming quite decoupled from human needs. They lack connection and meaning, thereby preventing “the creation of true connections necessary to our understanding of the world”. He sees them as no different from antipatterns in software design as solutions that are false but are re-utilized nonetheless.[50]

An “Internet meme” is a concept that spreads rapidly from person to person via the Internet, largely through Internet-based E-mailing, blogs, forums, imageboards like 4chan, social networking sites like Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, instant messaging, and video hosting services like YouTube and Twitch.tv.[51]

In 2013 Richard Dawkins characterized an Internet meme as one deliberately altered by human creativity, distinguished from Dawkins’s original idea involving mutation by random change and a form of Darwinian selection.[52]

One technique of meme mapping represents the evolution and transmission of a meme across time and space.[53] Such a meme map uses a figure-8 diagram (an analemma) to map the gestation (in the lower loop), birth (at the choke point), and development (in the upper loop) of the selected meme. Such meme maps are nonscalar, with time mapped onto the y-axis and space onto the x-axis transect. One can read the temporal progression of the mapped meme from south to north on such a meme map. Paull has published a worked example using the “organics meme” (as in organic agriculture).[53]

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National Security Agency – Wikipedia

Posted: at 4:09 am

Not to be confused with NASA. National Security Agency

Seal of the National Security Agency

Flag of the National Security Agency

The National Security Agency (NSA) is an intelligence organization of the United States government, responsible for global monitoring, collection, and processing of information and data for foreign intelligence and counterintelligence purposes, a discipline known as signals intelligence (SIGINT). NSA is concurrently charged with protection of U.S. government communications and information systems against penetration and network warfare.[8][9] Although many of NSA’s programs rely on “passive” electronic collection, the agency is authorized to accomplish its mission through active clandestine means,[10] among which are physically bugging electronic systems[11] and allegedly engaging in sabotage through subversive software.[12][13] Moreover, NSA maintains physical presence in a large number of countries across the globe, where its Special Collection Service (SCS) inserts eavesdropping devices in difficult-to-reach places. SCS collection tactics allegedly encompass “close surveillance, burglary, wiretapping, breaking and entering”.[14][15]

Unlike the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), both of which specialize primarily in foreign human espionage, NSA does not unilaterally conduct human-source intelligence gathering, despite often being portrayed so in popular culture. Instead, NSA is entrusted with assistance to and coordination of SIGINT elements at other government organizations, which are prevented by law from engaging in such activities without the approval of the NSA via the Defense Secretary.[16] As part of these streamlining responsibilities, the agency has a co-located organization called the Central Security Service (CSS), which was created to facilitate cooperation between NSA and other U.S. military cryptanalysis components. Additionally, the NSA Director simultaneously serves as the Commander of the United States Cyber Command and as Chief of the Central Security Service.

Originating as a unit to decipher coded communications in World War II, it was officially formed as the NSA by President Harry S. Truman in 1952. Since then, it has become one of the largest U.S. intelligence organizations in terms of personnel and budget,[6][17] operating as part of the Department of Defense and simultaneously reporting to the Director of National Intelligence.

NSA surveillance has been a matter of political controversy on several occasions, such as its spying on anti-Vietnam war leaders or economic espionage. In 2013, the extent of some of the NSA’s secret surveillance programs was revealed to the public by Edward Snowden. According to the leaked documents, the NSA intercepts the communications of over a billion people worldwide, many of whom are American citizens, and tracks the movement of hundreds of millions of people using cellphones. Internationally, research has pointed to the NSA’s ability to surveil the domestic Internet traffic of foreign countries through “boomerang routing”.[18]

The origins of the National Security Agency can be traced back to April 28, 1917, three weeks after the U.S. Congress declared war on Germany in World War I. A code and cipher decryption unit was established as the Cable and Telegraph Section which was also known as the Cipher Bureau. It was headquartered in Washington, D.C. and was part of the war effort under the executive branch without direct Congressional authorization. During the course of the war it was relocated in the army’s organizational chart several times. On July 5, 1917, Herbert O. Yardley was assigned to head the unit. At that point, the unit consisted of Yardley and two civilian clerks. It absorbed the navy’s cryptoanalysis functions in July 1918. World War I ended on November 11, 1918, and MI-8 moved to New York City on May 20, 1919, where it continued intelligence activities as the Code Compilation Company under the direction of Yardley.[19][20]

MI-8 also operated the so-called “Black Chamber”.[22] The Black Chamber was located on East 37th Street in Manhattan. Its purpose was to crack the communications codes of foreign governments. Jointly supported by the State Department and the War Department, the chamber persuaded Western Union, the largest U.S. telegram company, to allow government officials to monitor private communications passing through the company’s wires.[23]

Other “Black Chambers” were also found in Europe. They were established by the French and British governments to read the letters of targeted individuals, employing a variety of techniques to surreptitiously open, copy, and reseal correspondence before forwarding it to unsuspecting recipients.[24]

Despite the American Black Chamber’s initial successes, it was shut down in 1929 by U.S. Secretary of State Henry L. Stimson, who defended his decision by stating: “Gentlemen do not read each other’s mail”.[21]

During World War II, the Signal Security Agency (SSA) was created to intercept and decipher the communications of the Axis powers.[25] When the war ended, the SSA was reorganized as the Army Security Agency (ASA), and it was placed under the leadership of the Director of Military Intelligence.[25]

On May 20, 1949, all cryptologic activities were centralized under a national organization called the Armed Forces Security Agency (AFSA).[25] This organization was originally established within the U.S. Department of Defense under the command of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.[26] The AFSA was tasked to direct Department of Defense communications and electronic intelligence activities, except those of U.S. military intelligence units.[26] However, the AFSA was unable to centralize communications intelligence and failed to coordinate with civilian agencies that shared its interests such as the Department of State, Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).[26] In December 1951, President Harry S. Truman ordered a panel to investigate how AFSA had failed to achieve its goals. The results of the investigation led to improvements and its redesignation as the National Security Agency.[27]

The agency was formally established by Truman in a memorandum of October 24, 1952, that revised National Security Council Intelligence Directive (NSCID) 9.[28] Since President Truman’s memo was a classified document,[28] the existence of the NSA was not known to the public at that time. Due to its ultra-secrecy the U.S. intelligence community referred to the NSA as “No Such Agency”.[29]

In the 1960s, the NSA played a key role in expanding America’s commitment to the Vietnam War by providing evidence of a North Vietnamese attack on the American destroyer USSMaddox during the Gulf of Tonkin incident.[30]

A secret operation, code-named “MINARET”, was set up by the NSA to monitor the phone communications of Senators Frank Church and Howard Baker, as well as major civil rights leaders, including Martin Luther King, Jr., and prominent U.S. journalists and athletes who criticized the Vietnam War.[31] However, the project turned out to be controversial, and an internal review by the NSA concluded that its Minaret program was “disreputable if not outright illegal”.[31]

In the aftermath of the Watergate scandal, a congressional hearing in 1975 led by Sen. Frank Church[32] revealed that the NSA, in collaboration with Britain’s SIGINT intelligence agency Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), had routinely intercepted the international communications of prominent anti-Vietnam war leaders such as Jane Fonda and Dr. Benjamin Spock.[33] Following the resignation of President Richard Nixon, there were several investigations of suspected misuse of FBI, CIA and NSA facilities.[34] Senator Frank Church uncovered previously unknown activity,[34] such as a CIA plot (ordered by the administration of President John F. Kennedy) to assassinate Fidel Castro.[35] The investigation also uncovered NSA’s wiretaps on targeted American citizens.[36]

After the Church Committee hearings, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 was passed into law. This was designed to limit the practice of mass surveillance in the United States.[34]

In 1986, the NSA intercepted the communications of the Libyan government during the immediate aftermath of the Berlin discotheque bombing. The White House asserted that the NSA interception had provided “irrefutable” evidence that Libya was behind the bombing, which U.S. President Ronald Reagan cited as a justification for the 1986 United States bombing of Libya.[37][38]

In 1999, a multi-year investigation by the European Parliament highlighted the NSA’s role in economic espionage in a report entitled ‘Development of Surveillance Technology and Risk of Abuse of Economic Information’.[39] That year, the NSA founded the NSA Hall of Honor, a memorial at the National Cryptologic Museum in Fort Meade, Maryland.[40] The memorial is a, “tribute to the pioneers and heroes who have made significant and long-lasting contributions to American cryptology”.[40] NSA employees must be retired for more than fifteen years to qualify for the memorial.[40]

NSA’s infrastructure deteriorated in the 1990s as defense budget cuts resulted in maintenance deferrals. On January 24, 2000, NSA headquarters suffered a total network outage for three days caused by an overloaded network. Incoming traffic was successfully stored on agency servers, but it could not be directed and processed. The agency carried out emergency repairs at a cost of $3 million to get the system running again. (Some incoming traffic was also directed instead to Britain’s GCHQ for the time being.) Director Michael Hayden called the outage a “wake-up call” for the need to invest in the agency’s infrastructure.[41]

In the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, the NSA created new IT systems to deal with the flood of information from new technologies like the Internet and cellphones. ThinThread contained advanced data mining capabilities. It also had a “privacy mechanism”; surveillance was stored encrypted; decryption required a warrant. The research done under this program may have contributed to the technology used in later systems. ThinThread was cancelled when Michael Hayden chose Trailblazer, which did not include ThinThread’s privacy system.[43]

Trailblazer Project ramped up in 2002. SAIC, Boeing, CSC, IBM, and Litton worked on it. Some NSA whistleblowers complained internally about major problems surrounding Trailblazer. This led to investigations by Congress and the NSA and DoD Inspectors General. The project was cancelled in early 2004; it was late, over budget, and didn’t do what it was supposed to do. The government then raided the whistleblowers’ houses. One of them, Thomas Drake, was charged with violating 18 U.S.C.793(e) in 2010 in an unusual use of espionage law. He and his defenders claim that he was actually being persecuted for challenging the Trailblazer Project. In 2011, all ten original charges against Drake were dropped.[44][45]

Turbulence started in 2005. It was developed in small, inexpensive “test” pieces, rather than one grand plan like Trailblazer. It also included offensive cyber-warfare capabilities, like injecting malware into remote computers. Congress criticized Turbulence in 2007 for having similar bureaucratic problems as Trailblazer.[45] It was to be a realization of information processing at higher speeds in cyberspace.[46]

The massive extent of the NSA’s spying, both foreign and domestic, was revealed to the public in a series of detailed disclosures of internal NSA documents beginning in June 2013. Most of the disclosures were leaked by former NSA contractor, Edward Snowden.

It was revealed that the NSA intercepts telephone and Internet communications of over a billion people worldwide, seeking information on terrorism as well as foreign politics, economics[47] and “commercial secrets”.[48] In a declassified document it was revealed that 17,835 phone lines were on an improperly permitted “alert list” from 2006 to 2009 in breach of compliance, which tagged these phone lines for daily monitoring.[49][50][51] Eleven percent of these monitored phone lines met the agency’s legal standard for “reasonably articulable suspicion” (RAS).[49][52]

A dedicated unit of the NSA locates targets for the CIA for extrajudicial assassination in the Middle East.[53] The NSA has also spied extensively on the European Union, the United Nations and numerous governments including allies and trading partners in Europe, South America and Asia.[54][55]

The NSA tracks the locations of hundreds of millions of cellphones per day, allowing them to map people’s movements and relationships in detail.[56] It reportedly has access to all communications made via Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Yahoo, YouTube, AOL, Skype, Apple and Paltalk,[57] and collects hundreds of millions of contact lists from personal email and instant messaging accounts each year.[58] It has also managed to weaken much of the encryption used on the Internet (by collaborating with, coercing or otherwise infiltrating numerous technology companies), so that the majority of Internet privacy is now vulnerable to the NSA and other attackers.[59][60]

Domestically, the NSA collects and stores metadata records of phone calls,[61] including over 120 million US Verizon subscribers,[62] as well as Internet communications,[57] relying on a secret interpretation of the Patriot Act whereby the entirety of US communications may be considered “relevant” to a terrorism investigation if it is expected that even a tiny minority may relate to terrorism.[63] The NSA supplies foreign intercepts to the DEA, IRS and other law enforcement agencies, who use these to initiate criminal investigations. Federal agents are then instructed to “recreate” the investigative trail via parallel construction.[64]

The NSA also spies on influential Muslims to obtain information that could be used to discredit them, such as their use of pornography. The targets, both domestic and abroad, are not suspected of any crime but hold religious or political views deemed “radical” by the NSA.[65]

Although NSAs surveillance activities are controversial, government agencies and private enterprises have common needs, and sometimes cooperate at subtle and complex technical levels. Big data is becoming more advantageous, justifying the cost of required computer hardware, and social media lead the trend. The interests of NSA and Silicon Valley began to converge as advances in computer storage technology drastically reduced the costs of storing enormous amounts of data and at the same time the value of the data for use in consumer marketing began to rise. On the other hand, social media sites are growing as voluntary data mining operations on a scale that rivals or exceeds anything the government could attempt on its own.[66]

According to a report in The Washington Post in July 2014, relying on information provided by Snowden, 90% of those placed under surveillance in the U.S. are ordinary Americans, and are not the intended targets. The newspaper said it had examined documents including emails, text messages, and online accounts that support the claim.[67]

Despite President Obama’s claims that these programs have congressional oversight, members of Congress were unaware of the existence of these NSA programs or the secret interpretation of the Patriot Act, and have consistently been denied access to basic information about them.[68] Obama has also claimed that there are legal checks in place to prevent inappropriate access of data and that there have been no examples of abuse;[69] however, the secret FISC court charged with regulating the NSA’s activities is, according to its chief judge, incapable of investigating or verifying how often the NSA breaks even its own secret rules.[70] It has since been reported that the NSA violated its own rules on data access thousands of times a year, many of these violations involving large-scale data interceptions;[71] and that NSA officers have even used data intercepts to spy on love interests.[72] The NSA has “generally disregarded the special rules for disseminating United States person information” by illegally sharing its intercepts with other law enforcement agencies.[73] A March 2009 opinion of the FISC court, released by court order, states that protocols restricting data queries had been “so frequently and systemically violated that it can be fairly said that this critical element of the overall … regime has never functioned effectively.”[74][75] In 2011 the same court noted that the “volume and nature” of the NSA’s bulk foreign Internet intercepts was “fundamentally different from what the court had been led to believe”.[73] Email contact lists (including those of US citizens) are collected at numerous foreign locations to work around the illegality of doing so on US soil.[58]

Legal opinions on the NSA’s bulk collection program have differed. In mid-December 2013, U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon ruled that the “almost-Orwellian” program likely violates the Constitution, and wrote, “I cannot imagine a more ‘indiscriminate’ and ‘arbitrary invasion’ than this systematic and high-tech collection and retention of personal data on virtually every single citizen for purposes of querying and analyzing it without prior judicial approval. Surely, such a program infringes on ‘that degree of privacy’ that the Founders enshrined in the Fourth Amendment. Indeed, I have little doubt that the author of our Constitution, James Madison, who cautioned us to beware ‘the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power,’ would be aghast.”[76]

Later that month, U.S. District Judge William Pauley ruled that the NSA’s collection of telephone records is legal and valuable in the fight against terrorism. In his opinion, he wrote, “a bulk telephony metadata collection program [is] a wide net that could find and isolate gossamer contacts among suspected terrorists in an ocean of seemingly disconnected data” and noted that a similar collection of data prior to 9/11 might have prevented the attack.[77]

An October 2014 United Nations report condemned mass surveillance by the United States and other countries as violating multiple international treaties and conventions that guarantee core privacy rights.[78]

On March 20, 2013 the Director of National Intelligence, Lieutenant General James Clapper, testified before Congress that the NSA does not wittingly collect any kind of data on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans, but he retracted this in June after details of the PRISM program were published, and stated instead that meta-data of phone and Internet traffic are collected, but no actual message contents.[79] This was corroborated by the NSA Director, General Keith Alexander, before it was revealed that the XKeyscore program collects the contents of millions of emails from US citizens without warrant, as well as “nearly everything a user does on the Internet”. Alexander later admitted that “content” is collected, but stated that it is simply stored and never analyzed or searched unless there is “a nexus to al-Qaida or other terrorist groups”.[69]

Regarding the necessity of these NSA programs, Alexander stated on June 27 that the NSA’s bulk phone and Internet intercepts had been instrumental in preventing 54 terrorist “events”, including 13 in the US, and in all but one of these cases had provided the initial tip to “unravel the threat stream”.[80] On July 31 NSA Deputy Director John Inglis conceded to the Senate that these intercepts had not been vital in stopping any terrorist attacks, but were “close” to vital in identifying and convicting four San Diego men for sending US$8,930 to Al-Shabaab, a militia that conducts terrorism in Somalia.[81][82][83]

The U.S. government has aggressively sought to dismiss and challenge Fourth Amendment cases raised against it, and has granted retroactive immunity to ISPs and telecoms participating in domestic surveillance.[84][85] The U.S. military has acknowledged blocking access to parts of The Guardian website for thousands of defense personnel across the country,[86][87] and blocking the entire Guardian website for personnel stationed throughout Afghanistan, the Middle East, and South Asia.[88]

The NSA is led by the Director of the National Security Agency (DIRNSA), who also serves as Chief of the Central Security Service (CHCSS) and Commander of the United States Cyber Command (USCYBERCOM) and is the highest-ranking military official of these organizations. He is assisted by a Deputy Director, who is the highest-ranking civilian within the NSA/CSS.

NSA also has an Inspector General, head of the Office of the Inspector General (OIG), a General Counsel, head of the Office of the General Counsel (OGC) and a Director of Compliance, who is head of the Office of the Director of Compliance (ODOC).[89]

Unlike other intelligence organizations such as CIA or DIA, NSA has always been particularly reticent concerning its internal organizational structure.

As of the mid-1990s, the National Security Agency was organized into five Directorates:

Each of these directorates consisted of several groups or elements, designated by a letter. There were for example the A Group, which was responsible for all SIGINT operations against the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, and G Group, which was responsible for SIGINT related to all non-communist countries. These groups were divided in units designated by an additional number, like unit A5 for breaking Soviet codes, and G6, being the office for the Middle East, North Africa, Cuba, Central and South America.[91][92]

As of 2013[update], NSA has about a dozen directorates, which are designated by a letter, although not all of them are publicly known. The directorates are divided in divisions and units starting with the letter of the parent directorate, followed by a number for the division, the sub-unit or a sub-sub-unit.

The main elements of the organizational structure of the NSA are:[93]

In the year 2000, a leadership team was formed, consisting of the Director, the Deputy Director and the Directors of the Signals Intelligence (SID), the Information Assurance (IAD) and the Technical Directorate (TD). The chiefs of other main NSA divisions became associate directors of the senior leadership team.[101]

After president George W. Bush initiated the President’s Surveillance Program (PSP) in 2001, the NSA created a 24-hour Metadata Analysis Center (MAC), followed in 2004 by the Advanced Analysis Division (AAD), with the mission of analyzing content, Internet metadata and telephone metadata. Both units were part of the Signals Intelligence Directorate.[102]

A 2016 proposal would combine the Signals Intelligence Directorate with the Information Assurance Directorate into a Directorate of Operations.[103]

The NSA maintains at least two watch centers:

The number of NSA employees is officially classified[4] but there are several sources providing estimates. In 1961, NSA had 59,000 military and civilian employees, which grew to 93,067 in 1969, of which 19,300 worked at the headquarters at Fort Meade. In the early 1980s NSA had roughly 50,000 military and civilian personnel. By 1989 this number had grown again to 75,000, of which 25,000 worked at the NSA headquarters. Between 1990 and 1995 the NSA’s budget and workforce were cut by one third, which led to a substantial loss of experience.[106]

In 2012, the NSA said more than 30,000 employees worked at Fort Meade and other facilities.[2] In 2012, John C. Inglis, the deputy director, said that the total number of NSA employees is “somewhere between 37,000 and one billion” as a joke,[4] and stated that the agency is “probably the biggest employer of introverts.”[4] In 2013 Der Spiegel stated that the NSA had 40,000 employees.[5] More widely, it has been described as the world’s largest single employer of mathematicians.[107] Some NSA employees form part of the workforce of the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), the agency that provides the NSA with satellite signals intelligence.

As of 2013 about 1,000 system administrators work for the NSA.[108]

The NSA received criticism early on in 1960 after two agents had defected to the Soviet Union. Investigations by the House Un-American Activities Committee and a special subcommittee of the United States House Committee on Armed Services revealed severe cases of ignorance in personnel security regulations, prompting the former personnel director and the director of security to step down and leading to the adoption of stricter security practices.[109] Nonetheless, security breaches reoccurred only a year later when in an issue of Izvestia of July 23, 1963, a former NSA employee published several cryptologic secrets.

The very same day, an NSA clerk-messenger committed suicide as ongoing investigations disclosed that he had sold secret information to the Soviets on a regular basis. The reluctance of Congressional houses to look into these affairs had prompted a journalist to write, “If a similar series of tragic blunders occurred in any ordinary agency of Government an aroused public would insist that those responsible be officially censured, demoted, or fired.” David Kahn criticized the NSA’s tactics of concealing its doings as smug and the Congress’ blind faith in the agency’s right-doing as shortsighted, and pointed out the necessity of surveillance by the Congress to prevent abuse of power.[109]

Edward Snowden’s leaking of the existence of PRISM in 2013 caused the NSA to institute a “two-man rule”, where two system administrators are required to be present when one accesses certain sensitive information.[108] Snowden claims he suggested such a rule in 2009.[110]

The NSA conducts polygraph tests of employees. For new employees, the tests are meant to discover enemy spies who are applying to the NSA and to uncover any information that could make an applicant pliant to coercion.[111] As part of the latter, historically EPQs or “embarrassing personal questions” about sexual behavior had been included in the NSA polygraph.[111] The NSA also conducts five-year periodic reinvestigation polygraphs of employees, focusing on counterintelligence programs. In addition the NSA conducts periodic polygraph investigations in order to find spies and leakers; those who refuse to take them may receive “termination of employment”, according to a 1982 memorandum from the director of the NSA.[112]

There are also “special access examination” polygraphs for employees who wish to work in highly sensitive areas, and those polygraphs cover counterintelligence questions and some questions about behavior.[112] NSA’s brochure states that the average test length is between two and four hours.[113] A 1983 report of the Office of Technology Assessment stated that “It appears that the NSA [National Security Agency] (and possibly CIA) use the polygraph not to determine deception or truthfulness per se, but as a technique of interrogation to encourage admissions.”[114] Sometimes applicants in the polygraph process confess to committing felonies such as murder, rape, and selling of illegal drugs. Between 1974 and 1979, of the 20,511 job applicants who took polygraph tests, 695 (3.4%) confessed to previous felony crimes; almost all of those crimes had been undetected.[111]

In 2010 the NSA produced a video explaining its polygraph process.[115] The video, ten minutes long, is titled “The Truth About the Polygraph” and was posted to the Web site of the Defense Security Service. Jeff Stein of The Washington Post said that the video portrays “various applicants, or actors playing them it’s not clear describing everything bad they had heard about the test, the implication being that none of it is true.”[116] AntiPolygraph.org argues that the NSA-produced video omits some information about the polygraph process; it produced a video responding to the NSA video.[115] George Maschke, the founder of the Web site, accused the NSA polygraph video of being “Orwellian”.[116]

After Edward Snowden revealed his identity in 2013, the NSA began requiring polygraphing of employees once per quarter.[117]

The number of exemptions from legal requirements has been criticized. When in 1964 the Congress was hearing a bill giving the director of the NSA the power to fire at will any employee,The Washington Post wrote: “This is the very definition of arbitrariness. It means that an employee could be discharged and disgraced on the basis of anonymous allegations without the slightest opportunity to defend himself.” Yet, the bill was accepted by an overwhelming majority.[109]

The heraldic insignia of NSA consists of an eagle inside a circle, grasping a key in its talons.[118] The eagle represents the agency’s national mission.[118] Its breast features a shield with bands of red and white, taken from the Great Seal of the United States and representing Congress.[118] The key is taken from the emblem of Saint Peter and represents security.[118]

When the NSA was created, the agency had no emblem and used that of the Department of Defense.[119] The agency adopted its first of two emblems in 1963.[119] The current NSA insignia has been in use since 1965, when then-Director, LTG Marshall S. Carter (USA) ordered the creation of a device to represent the agency.[120]

The NSA’s flag consists of the agency’s seal on a light blue background.

Crews associated with NSA missions have been involved in a number of dangerous and deadly situations.[121] The USS Liberty incident in 1967 and USS Pueblo incident in 1968 are examples of the losses endured during the Cold War.[121]

The National Security Agency/Central Security Service Cryptologic Memorial honors and remembers the fallen personnel, both military and civilian, of these intelligence missions.[122] It is made of black granite, and has 171 names carved into it, as of 2013[update] .[122] It is located at NSA headquarters. A tradition of declassifying the stories of the fallen was begun in 2001.[122]

NSANet stands for National Security Agency Network and is the official NSA intranet.[123] It is a classified network,[124] for information up to the level of TS/SCI[125] to support the use and sharing of intelligence data between NSA and the signals intelligence agencies of the four other nations of the Five Eyes partnership. The management of NSANet has been delegated to the Central Security Service Texas (CSSTEXAS).[126]

NSANet is a highly secured computer network consisting of fiber-optic and satellite communication channels which are almost completely separated from the public Internet. The network allows NSA personnel and civilian and military intelligence analysts anywhere in the world to have access to the agency’s systems and databases. This access is tightly controlled and monitored. For example, every keystroke is logged, activities are audited at random and downloading and printing of documents from NSANet are recorded.[127]

In 1998, NSANet, along with NIPRNET and SIPRNET, had “significant problems with poor search capabilities, unorganized data and old information”.[128] In 2004, the network was reported to have used over twenty commercial off-the-shelf operating systems.[129] Some universities that do highly sensitive research are allowed to connect to it.[130]

The thousands of Top Secret internal NSA documents that were taken by Edward Snowden in 2013 were stored in “a file-sharing location on the NSA’s intranet site” so they could easily be read online by NSA personnel. Everyone with a TS/SCI-clearance had access to these documents and as a system administrator, Snowden was responsible for moving accidentally misplaced highly sensitive documents to more secure storage locations.[131]

The DoD Computer Security Center was founded in 1981 and renamed the National Computer Security Center (NCSC) in 1985. NCSC was responsible for computer security throughout the federal government.[132] NCSC was part of NSA,[133] and during the late 1980s and the 1990s, NSA and NCSC published Trusted Computer System Evaluation Criteria in a six-foot high Rainbow Series of books that detailed trusted computing and network platform specifications.[134] The Rainbow books were replaced by the Common Criteria, however, in the early 2000s.[134]

On July 18, 2013, Greenwald said that Snowden held “detailed blueprints of how the NSA does what they do”, thereby sparking fresh controversy.[135]

Headquarters for the National Security Agency is located at 39632N 764617W / 39.10889N 76.77139W / 39.10889; -76.77139 in Fort George G. Meade, Maryland, although it is separate from other compounds and agencies that are based within this same military installation. Ft. Meade is about 20mi (32km) southwest of Baltimore,[136] and 25mi (40km) northeast of Washington, DC.[137] The NSA has its own exit off Maryland Route 295 South labeled “NSA Employees Only”.[138][139] The exit may only be used by people with the proper clearances, and security vehicles parked along the road guard the entrance.[140]

NSA is the largest employer in the U.S. state of Maryland, and two-thirds of its personnel work at Ft. Meade.[141] Built on 350 acres (140ha; 0.55sqmi)[142] of Ft. Meade’s 5,000 acres (2,000ha; 7.8sqmi),[143] the site has 1,300 buildings and an estimated 18,000 parking spaces.[137][144]

The main NSA headquarters and operations building is what James Bamford, author of Body of Secrets, describes as “a modern boxy structure” that appears similar to “any stylish office building.”[145] The building is covered with one-way dark glass, which is lined with copper shielding in order to prevent espionage by trapping in signals and sounds.[145] It contains 3,000,000 square feet (280,000m2), or more than 68 acres (28ha), of floor space; Bamford said that the U.S. Capitol “could easily fit inside it four times over.”[145]

The facility has over 100 watchposts,[146] one of them being the visitor control center, a two-story area that serves as the entrance.[145] At the entrance, a white pentagonal structure,[147] visitor badges are issued to visitors and security clearances of employees are checked.[148] The visitor center includes a painting of the NSA seal.[147]

The OPS2A building, the tallest building in the NSA complex and the location of much of the agency’s operations directorate, is accessible from the visitor center. Bamford described it as a “dark glass Rubik’s Cube”.[149] The facility’s “red corridor” houses non-security operations such as concessions and the drug store. The name refers to the “red badge” which is worn by someone without a security clearance. The NSA headquarters includes a cafeteria, a credit union, ticket counters for airlines and entertainment, a barbershop, and a bank.[147] NSA headquarters has its own post office, fire department, and police force.[150][151][152]

The employees at the NSA headquarters reside in various places in the Baltimore-Washington area, including Annapolis, Baltimore, and Columbia in Maryland and the District of Columbia, including the Georgetown community.[153]

Following a major power outage in 2000, in 2003 and in follow-ups through 2007, The Baltimore Sun reported that the NSA was at risk of electrical overload because of insufficient internal electrical infrastructure at Fort Meade to support the amount of equipment being installed. This problem was apparently recognized in the 1990s but not made a priority, and “now the agency’s ability to keep its operations going is threatened.”[154]

Baltimore Gas & Electric (BGE, now Constellation Energy) provided NSA with 65 to 75 megawatts at Ft. Meade in 2007, and expected that an increase of 10 to 15 megawatts would be needed later that year.[155] In 2011, NSA at Ft. Meade was Maryland’s largest consumer of power.[141] In 2007, as BGE’s largest customer, NSA bought as much electricity as Annapolis, the capital city of Maryland.[154]

One estimate put the potential for power consumption by the new Utah Data Center at US$40million per year.[156]

When the agency was established, its headquarters and cryptographic center were in the Naval Security Station in Washington, D.C. The COMINT functions were located in Arlington Hall in Northern Virginia, which served as the headquarters of the U.S. Army’s cryptographic operations.[157] Because the Soviet Union had detonated a nuclear bomb and because the facilities were crowded, the federal government wanted to move several agencies, including the AFSA/NSA. A planning committee considered Fort Knox, but Fort Meade, Maryland, was ultimately chosen as NSA headquarters because it was far enough away from Washington, D.C. in case of a nuclear strike and was close enough so its employees would not have to move their families.[158]

Construction of additional buildings began after the agency occupied buildings at Ft. Meade in the late 1950s, which they soon outgrew.[158] In 1963 the new headquarters building, nine stories tall, opened. NSA workers referred to the building as the “Headquarters Building” and since the NSA management occupied the top floor, workers used “Ninth Floor” to refer to their leaders.[159] COMSEC remained in Washington, D.C., until its new building was completed in 1968.[158] In September 1986, the Operations 2A and 2B buildings, both copper-shielded to prevent eavesdropping, opened with a dedication by President Ronald Reagan.[160] The four NSA buildings became known as the “Big Four.”[160] The NSA director moved to 2B when it opened.[160]

On March 30, 2015, shortly before 9am, a stolen sports utility vehicle approached an NSA police vehicle blocking the road near the gate of Fort Meade, after it was told to leave the area. NSA officers fired on the SUV, killing the 27-year-old driver, Ricky Hall (a transgender person also known as Mya), and seriously injuring his 20-year-old male passenger. An NSA officer’s arm was injured when Hall subsequently crashed into his vehicle.[161][162]

The two, dressed in women’s clothing after a night of partying at a motel with the man they’d stolen the SUV from that morning, “attempted to drive a vehicle into the National Security Agency portion of the installation without authorization”, according to an NSA statement.[163] FBI spokeswoman Amy Thoreson said the incident is not believed to be related to terrorism.[164] In June 2015 the FBI closed its investigation into the incident and federal prosecutors have declined to bring charges against anyone involved.[165]

An anonymous police official told The Washington Post, “This was not a deliberate attempt to breach the security of NSA. This was not a planned attack.” The two are believed to have made a wrong turn off the highway, while fleeing from the motel after stealing the vehicle. A small amount of cocaine was found in the SUV. A local CBS reporter initially said a gun was found,[166] but her later revision does not.[167] Dozens of journalists were corralled into a parking lot blocks away from the scene, and were barred from photographing the area.[168]

In 1995, The Baltimore Sun reported that the NSA is the owner of the single largest group of supercomputers.[169]

NSA held a groundbreaking ceremony at Ft. Meade in May 2013 for its High Performance Computing Center 2, expected to open in 2016.[170] Called Site M, the center has a 150 megawatt power substation, 14 administrative buildings and 10 parking garages.[150] It cost $3.2billion and covers 227 acres (92ha; 0.355sqmi).[150] The center is 1,800,000 square feet (17ha; 0.065sqmi)[150] and initially uses 60 megawatts of electricity.[171]

Increments II and III are expected to be completed by 2030, and would quadruple the space, covering 5,800,000 square feet (54ha; 0.21sqmi) with 60 buildings and 40 parking garages.[150]Defense contractors are also establishing or expanding cybersecurity facilities near the NSA and around the Washington metropolitan area.[150]

As of 2012, NSA collected intelligence from four geostationary satellites.[156] Satellite receivers were at Roaring Creek Station in Catawissa, Pennsylvania and Salt Creek Station in Arbuckle, California.[156] It operated ten to twenty taps on U.S. telecom switches. NSA had installations in several U.S. states and from them observed intercepts from Europe, the Middle East, North Africa, Latin America, and Asia.[156]

NSA had facilities at Friendship Annex (FANX) in Linthicum, Maryland, which is a 20 to 25-minute drive from Ft. Meade;[172] the Aerospace Data Facility at Buckley Air Force Base in Aurora outside Denver, Colorado; NSA Texas in the Texas Cryptology Center at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas; NSA Georgia at Fort Gordon in Augusta, Georgia; NSA Hawaii in Honolulu; the Multiprogram Research Facility in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, and elsewhere.[153][156]

On January 6, 2011 a groundbreaking ceremony was held to begin construction on NSA’s first Comprehensive National Cyber-security Initiative (CNCI) Data Center, known as the “Utah Data Center” for short. The $1.5B data center is being built at Camp Williams, Utah, located 25 miles (40km) south of Salt Lake City, and will help support the agency’s National Cyber-security Initiative.[173] It is expected to be operational by September 2013.[156]

In 2009, to protect its assets and to access more electricity, NSA sought to decentralize and expand its existing facilities in Ft. Meade and Menwith Hill,[174] the latter expansion expected to be completed by 2015.[175]

The Yakima Herald-Republic cited Bamford, saying that many of NSA’s bases for its Echelon program were a legacy system, using outdated, 1990s technology.[176] In 2004, NSA closed its operations at Bad Aibling Station (Field Station 81) in Bad Aibling, Germany.[177] In 2012, NSA began to move some of its operations at Yakima Research Station, Yakima Training Center, in Washington state to Colorado, planning to leave Yakima closed.[178] As of 2013, NSA also intended to close operations at Sugar Grove, West Virginia.[176]

Following the signing in 19461956[179] of the UKUSA Agreement between the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, who then cooperated on signals intelligence and ECHELON,[180] NSA stations were built at GCHQ Bude in Morwenstow, United Kingdom; Geraldton, Pine Gap and Shoal Bay, Australia; Leitrim and Ottawa, Canada; Misawa, Japan; and Waihopai and Tangimoana,[181] New Zealand.[182]

NSA operates RAF Menwith Hill in North Yorkshire, United Kingdom, which was, according to BBC News in 2007, the largest electronic monitoring station in the world.[183] Planned in 1954, and opened in 1960, the base covered 562 acres (227ha; 0.878sqmi) in 1999.[184]

The agency’s European Cryptologic Center (ECC), with 240 employees in 2011, is headquartered at a US military compound in Griesheim, near Frankfurt in Germany. A 2011 NSA report indicates that the ECC is responsible for the “largest analysis and productivity in Europe” and focusses on various priorities, including Africa, Europe, the Middle East and counterterrorism operations.[185]

In 2013, a new Consolidated Intelligence Center, also to be used by NSA, is being built at the headquarters of the United States Army Europe in Wiesbaden, Germany.[186] NSA’s partnership with Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), the German foreign intelligence service, was confirmed by BND president Gerhard Schindler.[186]

Thailand is a “3rd party partner” of the NSA along with nine other nations.[187] These are non-English-speaking countries that have made security agreements for the exchange of SIGINT raw material and end product reports.

Thailand is the site of at least two US SIGINT collection stations. One is at the US Embassy in Bangkok, a joint NSA-CIA Special Collection Service (SCS) unit. It presumably eavesdrops on foreign embassies, governmental communications, and other targets of opportunity.[188]

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Casino Gambling Web | Best Online Gambling News and Casinos …

Posted: October 13, 2016 at 5:36 am

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The goal of Casino Gambling Web is to provide each of our visitors with an insider’s view of every aspect of the gambling world. We have over 30 feeds releasing news to more than 30 specific gaming related categories in order to achieve our important goal of keeping you well updated and informed.

The main sections of our site are broken up into 5 broad areas of gambling news. The first area of news we cover is about issues concerning brick and mortar casinos like those found in Atlantic City, Las Vegas, the Gulf Coast Region, and well, now the rest of the USA. The second area of gambling news we cover concerns itself with the Internet casino community. We also have reporters who cover the international poker community and also the world of sports gambling. And finally, we cover news about the law when it effects any part of the gambling community; such legal news could include information on updates to the UIGEA, or issues surrounding gambling petitions to repeal that law, or information and stories related to new poker laws that are constantly being debated in state congresses.

We go well beyond simply reporting the news. We get involved with the news and sometimes we even become the news. We pride ourselves on providing follow up coverage to individual news stories. We had reporters in Washington D.C. on the infamous night when the internet gambling ban was passed by a now proven to be corrupt, former senator Bill Frist led congress, and we have staff constantly digging to get important details to American citizens. We had reporters at the World Series of Poker in Las Vegas when Jamie Gold won his ring and changed the online gambling world, and we have representatives playing in the tournament each and every year.

It is our pleasure and proud duty to serve as a reliable source of gambling news and quality online casino reviews for all of the international gaming community. Please take a few moments to look around our site and discover why we, and most other insiders of the industry, have considered CGW the #1 Top Casino Gambling News eporting Organization since 2002.

The United States changed internet gambling when they passed the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA), so now when searching for top online casinos you must focus your energies on finding post-UIGEA information as opposed to pre-UIGEA information. Before the law passed you could find reliable info on most gambling portals across the internet. Most of those portals simply advertised casinos and gambling sites that were tested and approved by eCogra, and in general you would be hard pressed to find an online casino that had a bad reputation. However, now that these gambling sites were forced out of the US they may be changing how they run their business. That is why it important to get your information from reliable sources who have been following the industry and keeping up with which companies have remained honorable. So good luck and happy hunting!

The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA), in short, states that anything that may be illegal on a state level is now also illegal on a federal level. However, the day after Christmas in 2011, President Barrack Obama’s administration delivered what the online gaming industry will view forever as a great big beautifully wrapped present. The government released a statement declaring that the 1961 Federal Wire Act only covers sports betting. What this means for the industry on an international level is still unknown, but what it means in the USA is that states can begin running online poker sites and selling lottery tickets to its citizens within its borders. The EU and WTO will surely have some analysis and we will keep you updated as this situation unfolds. Be sure to check with state laws before you start to gamble online.

The UK was the first high-power territory to legalize and regulate gambling online with a law passed in 2007. They allow all forms of betting but have strict requirements on advertisers. They first attracted offshore companies to come on land, which gave the gambling companies who complied the appearance of legitamacy. However, high taxes forced many who originally came to land, back out to sea and the battle forever rages on, but on a whole, the industry regulations have proven greatly successful and have since served as a model for other gaming enlightened countries around the world.

Since then, many European countries have regulated the industry, breaking up long term monopolies, sometimes even breaking up government backed empires, finally allowing competition – and the industry across the globe (outside of the USA) is thriving with rave reviews, even from those who are most interested in protecting the innocent and vulnerable members of society.

We strive to provide our visitors with the most valuable information about problem gambling and addiction in society. We have an entire section of our site dedicated to news about the subject. When a state or territory implements new technology to safeguard itself from allowing problem gamblers to proliferate, we will report it to you. If there is a new story that reveals some positive or negative information about gambling as it is related to addiction, we will report it to you. And if you think you have a problem with gambling right now, please visit Gamblers Anonymous if you feel you have a gambling problem.

In order to get all the information you need about this industry it is important to visit Wiki’s Online Gambling page. It provides an unbiased view of the current state of the Internet gambling industry. If you are interested in learning about other issues you may also enjoy visiting the National Council on Problem Gambling, a righteous company whose sole purpose is to help protect and support problem gamblers. They have a lot of great resources for anyone interested in learning more.

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NSA Leak Mystery Not Solved With Arrest of Hal Martin – NBC News

Posted: October 8, 2016 at 10:22 pm

The National Security Agency (NSA) headquarters in Fort Meade, Maryland. Handout / Getty Images

Nearly all NSA hacking tools are on the internet, the official said, if you know where to look. “We hide in the noise,” he said. The theory, he added, is that a government hacker left his tools in a place where others could find them — for example, on a non-NSA server.

The current and former officials say the leaks in question include a suite of NSA hacking tools put up for sale in August by a group identifying itself as the Shadow Brokers. Snowden himself tweeted in August that Russia may have had a hand in that disclosure.

The investigation into the leaks led the FBI to Martin, who had been taking home classified documents for many years, officials say. His motives have not been established.

Whether or not he distributed the material he allegedly took, the Martin case raises enormous questions–and is provoking internal soul searching–about security at the nation’s digital spy agency, current and former officials say.

The former senior official told NBC News there were debates at NSA over the years about how far to go in monitoring employees and contractors, and the decision often went in the direction of respecting the privacy of employees.

For example, the former official said, officials opted not to track every time an employee entered and left the building to determine whereabouts.

“You can’t have too much Big Brother,” a current intelligence official said, without noting the irony that he was speaking about an agency criticized for snooping on innocent Americans.

In hindsight, the former official said, the NSA should have done more on security and counterintelligence. At the same time, the current official said, there is broad recognition that the likelihood of leaks and unauthorized disclosures has risen significantly in a world where trust in institutions is plummeting.

Many new security procedures were implemented after the Snowden leaks, but those procedures somehow didn’t immediately snare Martin. One official cautioned, however, that he may have taken most of the classified material home before the Snowden affair.

Not every keystroke by every NSA employee is monitored, officials said, and nor is every person searched every day when leaving the facility. Thumb drives and other portable devices are largely prohibited but there are many exceptions for many reasons. Employees who are deployed can take classified laptops with them.

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Articles about Space Travel – latimes

Posted: October 6, 2016 at 2:56 pm


November 26, 2013 | By Shan Li

Virgin Galactic, the company aimed at taking tourists to space, is accepting the digital currency bitcoin as payment for future space travel. Richard Branson, the British billionaire who founded the futuristic company, called bitcoin “a brilliantly conceived idea” that has “really captured the imagination recently. ” “All of our future astronauts are pioneers in their own right,” Branson wrote in a blog post titled “Bitcoins in space. ” “This is one more way to be forward-looking.


November 2, 2013 | By James S. Fell

Col. Chris Hadfield, who until recently was commander of the International Space Station, has a workout regimen that is out of this world. Sorry. Couldn’t resist. Hadfield’s new book, “An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth,” goes into detail about what it takes to be in shape for space travel. What kind of shape do you need to be in to qualify for the space program? To qualify to live on the space station, you have to pass the hardest physical exam in the world. There has to be a high lack of a probability of a problem, whether it’s your appendix or an injury.


October 6, 2013 | By Jane Engle

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – I was inept at moonwalking. My rocket was a dud. And I crashed the space shuttle. Fortunately, I was just an astronaut wannabe and not the real deal. But it’s as close as this middle-aged space geek is going to get. That geekiness, inspired by IMAX documentaries on space and news coverage of NASA’s final shuttle launch in 2011, was what brought me to Adult Space Academy. The trip was a gift from my wife. The three-day program is among more than a dozen versions of Space Camp, which the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville created more than 30 years ago to give visitors a taste of what it’s like to train as an astronaut.


October 3, 2013 | By Scott Collins

NBC is hoping to get a space-travel reality show off the ground this time. The network is teaming up with producer Mark Burnett and billionaire Richard Branson to make “Space Race,” a competition series that would send the winner up in SpaceShipTwo, a commercial space-travel service from Branson’s Virgin Galactic. The series could offer Virgin a key opportunity to plug its services. FULL COVERAGE: Fall TV preview 2013 “Virgin Galactic’s mission is to democratize space, eventually making commercial space travel affordable and accessible to all,” Branson wrote in a statement.


September 4, 2013 | By Geoffrey Mohan

A lemur that hibernates is strange and cute enough. But studying its lethargic state may provide a clue to sending humans on long-distance space travel or healing the ravages of heart attacks, stroke and head trauma, according to researchers at Duke University. The western fat-tailed dwarf lemur, a pocket-sized nocturnal primate native to Madagascar, is the closest genetic cousin of humans to hibernate for long periods, a discovery made by a German research team in 2004. The revelation that primates hibernated led to a happy coincidence at Duke, which happens to have a lemur center and a sleep laboratory.


June 21, 2013 | By Joe Flint

A new distribution platform is emerging and no one knows what to make of it. The established players are wary of it and see it as more foe than friend. Others are afraid of losing their shirt by investing in it. Sound familiar? But this isn’t the Internet. This was cable television in the early 1980s. Back then there were only a handful of networks and few were talking about 500 channels full of original content. “It was an unproven business, investors were not convinced that cable programming was a good investment,” said John Hendricks, founder of Discovery Communications.

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How to: Use Tor on Mac OS X | Surveillance Self-Defense

Posted: September 25, 2016 at 7:19 am

What is Tor?

Tor is a volunteer-run service that provides both privacy and anonymity online by masking who you are and where you are connecting. The service also protects you from the Tor network itself.

For people who might need occasional anonymity and privacy when accessing websites, Tor Browser provides a quick and easy way to use the Tor network.

The easiest way to use the Tor network is to use the Tor Browser Bundle, which combines a web browser, the Tor software, and other helpful software that will give you a way of more securely accessing the web.

The Tor Browser works just like other web browsers, except that it sends your communications through Tor, making it harder for people who are monitoring you to know exactly what you’re doing online, and harder for people monitoring the sites you use to know where you’re connecting from. Keep in mind that only activities you do inside of Tor Browser itself will be anonymized. Having Tor Browser installed on your computer does not make things you do on the same computer using other software (such as your regular web browser) anonymous.

Open a browser like Mozilla Firefox or Safari and type: https://www.torproject.org/download/download-easy.html.en in the URL bar. If you are using a search engine to look for the Tor Browser Bundle, make sure that the URL is correct.

Click the big purple download button to get the installation program for Tor Browser Bundle.

The website will have detected your operating system and you’ll get the correct file for OS X. If this fails you can click the link to the side of the purple button to download to the correct version.

If you are using Safari, the Tor Browser Bundle will start to download. In Firefox you will be asked whether you wish to open or save the file. It is always best to save the file, so click the Save button. This example shows Tor Browser Bundle Version 4.0.8, which was the most current version at the time this guide was published. There may be a more recent version available for download by the time you read this.

After the download is complete, you might get an option to open the folder where the file was downloaded to. The default location is the Downloads folder. Double-click on the file Torbrowser-4.0.8-osx32_en-US.dmg

A window will open asking you to install Tor Browser Bundle by dragging it to your applications folder. You may do so now.

Tor Browser is now installed in your applications folder.

To open Tor Browser for the first time, locate it in the finder or in launchpad on newer versions of OS X.

After clicking on the Tor Browser icon, a window will open with a warning about the origin of the software. You should always take these warnings seriously and make sure you trust the software you want to install and that you got an authentic copy from the official site over a secure connection. Since you know what you want, and you know where to get the software, and the download was from the Tor Project’s secure HTTPS site, click Open.

The first time Tor Browser starts, you’ll get a window that allows you to modify some settings if necessary. You might have to come back and change some configuration settings, but go ahead and connect to the Tor network by clicking the Connect button.

After clicking Connect, a new window will open with a green bar that will get longer as the Tor software starts up.

The first time Tor Browser starts it might take a bit longer than usual; within a few minutes Tor Browser should be ready and a web browser will open congratulating you.

You can verify that you are connected to the Tor network by visiting check.torproject.org. If you are connected the website it will say Congratulations. This browser is configured to use Tor.

Browsing with Tor is different in some ways from the normal browsing experience. We recommended reading the tipsfor properly browsing with Tor and retaining your anonymity.

You are now ready to browse the internet anonymously with Tor.

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7 Things You Should Know About Tor | Electronic Frontier …

Posted: at 7:19 am

Updated: July 1st at 6:30PM to add information about traffic correlation attacks.

We posted last week about the Tor Challengeand why everyone should use Tor. Since we started our Tor Challenge two weeks ago we have signed up over 1000 new Tor relays. But it appears that there are still some popular misconceptions about Tor. We would like to take this opportunity to dispel some of these common myths and misconceptions.

One of the many things that we learned from the NSA leaks is that Tor still works. According to the NSA “Tor Stinks”slides revealed by the Guardian last year, the NSA is still not able to completely circumvent the anonymity provided by Tor. They have been able to compromise certain Tor users in specific situations. Historically this has been done by finding an exploit for the Tor Browser Bundle or by exploiting a user that has misconfigured Tor. The FBIpossibly in conjunction with the NSAwas able to find one serious exploit for Firefox that lead to the takedown of Freedom Hosting and exploit of its users. Firefox was patched quickly, and no major exploits for Firefox affecting Tor users appear to have been foundsince. As the Tor developers noted in 2004, if someone is actively monitoring both your network traffic and the network traffic of the Internet service you’re communicating with, Tor can’t prevent them from deducing that you’re talking to that service. Its design does assume that at least one side of the connection isn’t being monitored by whomever you’re trying to stay private from.

We can conclude from this that Tor has probably not been broken at a cryptographic level. The best attacks on Tor are side-channel attacks on browser bugs or user misconfiguration and traffic correlation attacks.

One of the most common misconceptions we hear is that Tor is only used by criminals and pedophiles. This is simply not true! There are many types of people that use Tor. Activists use it to circumvent censorship and provide anonymity. The military uses it for secure communications and planning. Families use Tor to protect their children and preserve their privacy. Journalists use it to do research on stories and communicate securely with sources. The Tor Project website has an excellent explanation of why Tor doesn’t help criminals very much. To paraphrase: Criminals can already do bad things since they will break laws they have much better tools at their disposal than what Tor offers, such as botnets made with malware, stolen devices, identity theft, etc. In fact using Tor may help you protect yourself against some of these tactics that criminals use such as identity theft or online stalking.

You are not helping criminals by using Tor any more than you are helping criminals by using the Internet.

Another common opinion that we hear is that Tor was created by the military and so it must have a military backdoor. There is no backdoor in the Tor software. It is true that initial development of Tor was funded by the US Navy. However, it has been audited by several very smart cryptographers and security professionals who have confirmed that there is no backdoor. Tor is open source, so any programmer can take a look at the code and verify that there is nothing fishy going on. It is worked on by a team of activists who are extremely dedicated to privacy and anonymity.

As far as EFF is aware, no one in the US has been sued or prosecuted for running a Tor relay. Furthermore we do not believe that running a Tor relay is illegal under US law. This is, of course, no guarantee that you won’t be contacted by law enforcement, especially if you are running an exit relay. However EFF believes this fact so strongly that we are running our own Tor relay. You can find out more about the legalities of running a Tor relay at the Tor Challenge Legal FAQ. However, if you are going to use Tor for criminal activity (which the Tor project asks that you not do) you can create more problems for yourself if you get prosecuted. Criminal activity also brings more scrutiny on to Tor making it worse for the public as a whole.

You might think that because it is privacy software Tor must be hard to use. This is simply not true. The easiest way to get started with Tor is to download the Tor Browser Bundle. This is a browser that comes pre-configured to use Tor in a secure manner. It is easy to use and is all you need to start browsing with Tor. Another easy way to use Tor is with Tails. Tails is a live operating system that runs on a DVD or thumb drive. Tails routes your entire Internet connection through Tor. And when you shut it down, Tails forgets everything that was done while it was running.

It is true that Tor is slower than a regular Internet connection. However, the Tor developers have been doing a lot of hard work to make the Tor network faster. And it is faster today than ever before. One of the best things that can be done to speed up the Tor network is to create more relays. If you would like to contribute to making the Tor network faster, you can check out our Tor Challenge

Tor is not perfect; you can destroy your own anonymity with Tor if you use it incorrectly. That’s why it is important to always use Tor Browser Bundle or Tails and make sure that you keep your software up to date. It is also important to remember that if you log into services like Google and Facebook over Tor, those services will still be able to see your communications within their systems. Additionally Tor users should be mindful of the fact that an adversary who can see both sides of their connection may be able to perform a statistical analysis to confirm that the traffic belongs to you.

Tor is some of the strongest anonymity software that exists. We think that it is important to dispel misconceptions about it so that the public can be more informed and confident in its usefulness. There are many great reasons to use Tor and very few reasons not to. So get started with Tor, and take back your privacy online.

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A History of Cryonics – BEN BEST

Posted: September 22, 2016 at 7:51 pm

by Ben Best

Robert Ettinger is widely regarded as the “father of cryonics” (although he often said that he would rather be the grandson). Mr.Ettinger earned a Purple Heart in World WarII as a result of injury to his leg by an artillery shell. He subsequently became a college physics teacher after earning two Master’s Degrees from Wayne State University. (He has often been erroneously called “Doctor” and “Professor”.) Robert Ettinger was cryopreserved at the Cryonics Institute in July2011 at the age of92. See The Cryonics Institute’s 106th Patient Robert Ettinger for details.

A lifelong science fiction buff, Ettinger conceived the idea of cryonics upon reading a story called The Jameson Satellite in the July 1931 issue of Amazing Stories magazine. In 1948 Ettinger published a short story having a cryonics theme titled The Pentultimate Trump. In 1962 he self-published THE PROSPECT OF IMMORTALITY, a non-fictional book explaining in detail the methods and rationale for cryonics. He mailed the book to 200 people listed in WHO’S WHO IN AMERICA. Also in 1962, Evan Cooper independently self-published IMMORTALITY:PHYSICALLY, SCIENTIFICALLY, NOW, which is also a book advocating cryonics. In 1964 Isaac Asimov assured Doubleday that (although socially undesirable, in his opinion) cryonics is based on reasonable scientific assumptions. This allowed THE PROSPECT OF IMMORTALITY to be printed and distributed by a major publisher. The word “cryonics” had not been invented yet, but the concept was clearly established.

In December, 1963 Evan Cooper founded the world’s first cryonics organization, the Life Extension Society, intended to create a network of cryonics groups throughout the world. Cooper eventually became discouraged, however, and he dropped his cryonics-promoting activities to pursue his interest in sailing. His life was ended by being lost at sea. Cooper’s networking had not been in vain, however, because people who had become acquainted through his efforts formed cryonics organizations in northern and southern California as well as in New York.

In 1965 a New York industrial designer named Karl Werner coined the word “cryonics”. That same year Saul Kent, Curtis Henderson and Werner founded the Cryonics Society of New York. Werner soon drifted away from cryonics and became involved in Scientology, but Kent and Henderson remained devoted to cryonics. In 1966 the Cryonics Society of Michigan and the Cryonics Society of California were founded. Unlike the other two organizations, the Cryonics Society of Michigan was an educational and social group which had no intention to actually cryopreserve people and it exists today under the name Immortalist Society.

A TV repairman named Robert Nelson was the driving force behind the Cryonics Society of California. On January12, 1967 Nelson froze a psychology professor named James Bedford. Bedford was injected with multiple shots of DMSO, and a thumper was applied in an attempt to circulate the DMSO with chest compressions. Nelson recounted the story in his book WE FROZE THE FIRST MAN. Bedford’s wife and son took Bedford’s body from Nelson after six days and the family kept Dr.Bedford in cryogenic care until 1982 when he was transferred to Alcor. Of 17cryonics patients cryopreserved in the period between 1967 and 1973, only Bedford remains in liquid nitrogen.

In 1974 Curtis Henderson, who had been maintaining three cryonics patients for the Cryonics Society of New York, was told by the New York Department of Public Health that he must close down his cryonics facility immediately or be fined $1,000per day. The three cryonics patients were returned to their families.

In 1979 an attorney for relatives of one of the Cryonics Society of California patients led journalists to the Chatsworth, California cemetery where they entered the vault where the patients were being stored. None of the nine “cryonics patients” were being maintained in liquid nitrogen, and all were badly decomposed. Nelson and the funeral director in charge were both sued. The funeral director could pay (through his liability insurance), but Nelson had no money. Nelson had taken most of the patients as charity cases or on a “pay-as-you-go” basis where payments had not been continued. The Chatsworth Disaster is the greatest catastrophe in the history of cryonics.

In 1969 the Bay Area Cryonics Society(BACS) was founded by two physicians, with the assistance of others, notably Edgar Swank. BACS (which later changed its name to the American Cryonics Society) is now the cryonics organization with the longest continuous history in offering cryonics services. In 1972 Trans Time was founded as a for-profit perfusion service-provider for BACS. Both BACS and Alcor intended to store patients in New York, but in 1974 Trans Time was forced to create its own cryostorage facility due to the closure of the storage facility in New York. Until the 1980s all BACS and Alcor patients were stored in liquid nitrogen at Trans Time.

In 1977 Trans Time was contacted by a UCLA cardiothoracic surgeon and medical researcher named Jerry Leaf, who responded to an advertisement Trans Time had placed in REASON magazine. In 1978 Leaf created a company called Cryovita devoted to doing cryonics research and to providing perfusion services for both Alcor and Trans Time.

By the 1980s acrimony between Trans Time and BACS caused the organizations to disassociate. BACS was renamed the American Cryonics Society (ACS) in 1985. Jim Yount (who joined BACS in 1972 and became a Governor two years later) and Edgar Swank have been the principal activists in ACS into the 21st century.

For 26 years from the time of its inception until 1998 the President of Trans Time was Art Quaife. The name “Trans Time” was inspired by Trans World Airlines, which was then a very prominent airline. Also active in Trans Time was Paul Segall, a man who had been an active member of the Cryonics Society of New York. Segall obtained a PhD from the University of California at Berkeley, studying the life-extending effects of tryptophan deprivation. He wrote a book on life extension (which included a section on cryonics) entitled LIVING LONGER, GROWING YOUNGER. He founded a BioTech company called BioTime, which sells blood replacement products. In 2003 Segall deanimated due to an aortic hemorrhage. He was straight-frozen because his Trans Time associates didn’t think he could be perfused. The only other cryonics patients at Trans Time are two brains, which includes the brain of Luna Wilson, the murdered teenage daughter of Robert Anton Wilson. When Michael West (who is on the Alcor Scientific Advisory Board) became BioTime CEO, the company shifted its emphasis to stem cells.

Aside from Trans Time, the other four cryonics organizations in the world which are storing human patients in liquid nitrogen are the Alcor Life Extension Foundation (founded in 1972 by Fred and Linda Chamberlain), the Cryonics Institute (founded in 1976 by Robert Ettinger), KrioRus (located near Moscow in Russia, founded in 2006), and Oregon Cryonics (incorporated by former CI Director Jordan Sparks, and beginning service in May 2014).

Fred and Linda Chamberlain had been extremely active in the Cryonics Society of California until 1971 when they became distrustful of Robert Nelson because of (among other reasons) Nelson’s refusal to allow them to see where the organization’s patients were being stored. In 1972 the Chamberlains founded Alcor, named after a star in the Big Dipper used in ancient times as a test of visual acuity. Alcor’s first cryonics patient was Fred Chamberlain’s father who, in 1976, became the world’s first “neuro” (head-only) cryonics patient. (Two-thirds of Alcor patients are currently “neuros”). Trans Time provided cryostorage for Alcor until Alcor acquired its own storage capability in 1982.

After 1976 the Chamberlains encouraged others to run Alcor, beginning with a Los Angeles physician, who became Alcor President. The Chamberlains moved to Lake Tahoe, Nevada where they engaged in rental as well as property management and held annual Life Extension Festivals until 1986. They had to pay hefty legal fees to avoid being dragged into the Chatsworth lawsuits, a fact that increased their dislike of Robert Nelson. In 1997 they returned to Alcor when Fred became President and Linda was placed in charge of delivering cryonics service. Fred and Linda started two companies (Cells4Life and BioTransport) associated with Alcor, assuming responsibility for all unsecured debt of those companies. Financial disaster and an acrimonious dispute with Alcor management led to Fred and Linda leaving Alcor in 2001, filing for bankruptcy and temporarily joining the Cryonics Institute. They returned to Alcor in 2011, and Fred became an Alcor patient in 2012.

Saul Kent, one of the founders of the Cryonics Society of New York, became one of Alcor’s strongest supporters. He was a close associate of Pearson & Shaw, authors of the 1982 best-selling book LIFE EXTENSION. Pearson & Shaw were flooded with mail as a result of their many media appearances, and they gave the mail to Saul Kent. Kent used that mail to create a mailing list for a new mail-order business he created for selling supplements: the Life Extension Foundation(LEF). Millions of dollars earned from LEF have not only helped build Alcor, but have created and supported a company doing cryobiological research (21st Century Medicine), a company doing anti-ischemia research (Critical Care Research), and a company developing the means to apply the research to standby and transport cryonics procedures (Suspended Animation, Inc).

In December1987 Kent brought his terminally ill mother (Dora Kent) into the Alcor facility where she deanimated. The body (without the head) was given to the local coroner (Dora Kent was a “neuro”). The coroner issued a death certificate which gave death as due to natural causes. Barbiturate had been given to Dora Kent after legal death to slow brain metabolism. The coroner’s office did not understand that circulation was artificially restarted after legal death, which distributed the barbiturate throughout the body.

After the autopsy, the coroner’s office changed the cause of death on the death certificate to homicide. In January1988 Alcor was raided by coroner’s deputies, a SWAT team, and UCLA police. The Alcor staff was taken to the police station in handcuffs and the Alcor facility was ransacked, with computers and records being seized. The coroner’s office wanted to seize Dora Kent’s head for autopsy, but the head had been removed from the Alcor facility and taken to a location that was never disclosed. Alcor later sued for false arrest and for illegal seizures, winning both court cases. (See Dora Kent: Questions and Answers)

Growth in Alcor membership was fairly slow and linear until the mid-1980s, following which there was a sharp increase in growth. Ironically, publicity surrounding the Dora Kent case is often cited as one of the reasons for the growth acceleration. Another reason often cited is the 1986 publication of ENGINES OF CREATION, a seminal book about nanotechnology which contained an entire chapter devoted to cryonics (the possibility that nanomachines could repair freezing damage). Hypothermic dog experiments associated with cryonics were also publicized in the mid-1980s. In the late 1980s Alcor Member Dick Clair who was dying of AIDS fought in court for the legal right to practice cryonics in California (a battle that was ultimately won). But the Cryonics Institute did not experience a growth spurt until the advent of the internet in the 1990s. The American Cryonics Society does not publish membership statistics.

Robert Ettinger, Saul Kent and Mike Darwin are arguably the three individuals who had the most powerful impact on the early history of cryonics. Having experimented with the effects of cold on organisms from the time he was a child, Darwin learned of cryonics at the Indiana State Science Fair in 1968. He was able to spend summers at the Cryonics Society of New York (living with Curtis Henderson). Darwin was given the responsibility of perfusing cryonics patients at the age of 17 in recognition of his technical skills.

Born “Michael Federowicz”, Mike chose to use his high school nickname “Darwin” as a cryonics surname when he began his career as a kidney dialysis technician. He had been given his nickname as a result of being known at school for arguing for evolution, against creationism. He is widely known in cryonics as “Mike Darwin”, although his legal surname remains Federowicz.

Not long after Alcor was founded, Darwin moved to California at the invitation of Fred and Linda Chamberlain. He spent a year as the world’s first full-time dedicated cryonics researcher until funding ran out. Returning to Indiana, Darwin (along with Steve Bridge) created a new cryonics organization that accumulated considerable equipment and technical capability.

In 1981 Darwin moved back to California, largely because of his desire to work with Jerry Leaf. In 1982 the Indiana organization merged with Alcor, and in 1983 Darwin was made President of Alcor. In California Darwin, Leaf and biochemist Hugh Hixon (who has considerable engineering skill) developed a blood substitute capable of sustaining life in dogs for at least 4hours at or below 9C . Leaf and Darwin had some nasty confrontations with members of the Society for Cryobiology over that organization’s 1985 refusal to publish their research. The Society for Cryobiology adopted a bylaw that prohibited cryonicists from belonging to the organization. Mike Darwin later wrote a summary of the conflicts between cryonicists and cryobiologists under the title Cold War. Similar experiments were done by Paul Segall and his associates, which generated a great deal of favorable media exposure for cryonics.

In 1988 Carlos Mondragon replaced Mike Darwin as Alcor President because Mondragon proved to be more capable of handling the stresses of the Dora Kent case. Darwin had vast medical knowledge (especially as it applies to cryonics), and possessed exceptional technical skills. He was a prolific and lucid writer much of the material in the Alcor website library was written by Mike Darwin. Darwin worked as Alcor’s Research Director from 1988 to 1992, during which time he developed a Transport Technician course in which he trained Alcor Members in the technical skills required to deliver the initial phases of cryonics service.

For undisclosed reasons, Darwin left Alcor in 1992, much to the distress of many Alcor Members who regarded Mike Darwin as by far the person in the world most capable of delivering competent cryonics technical service. In 1993 a new cryonics organization called CryoCare Foundation was created, largely so that people could benefit from Darwin’s technical skills. Another strongly disputed matter was the proposed move of Alcor from California to Arizona (implemented in February 1994).

About50 Alcor Members left Alcor to join and form CryoCare. Darwin delivered standby, transport and perfusion services as a subcontractor to CryoCare and the American Cryonics Society (ACS). Cryostorage services were contracted to CryoCare and ACS by Paul Wakfer. Darwin’s company was called BioPreservation and Wakfer’s company was called CryoSpan. Eventually, serious personality conflicts developed between Darwin and Wakfer. In 1999 Darwin stopped providing service to CryoCare and Wakfer turned CryoSpan over to Saul Kent. Kent then refused to accept additional cryonics patients at CryoSpan, and was determined to end CryoSpan in a way that would not harm the cryonics patients being stored there.

I (Ben Best) had been CryoCare Secretary, and became President of CryoCare in 1999 in an attempt to arrange alternate service providers for CryoCare. The Cryonics Institute agreed to provide cryostorage. Various contractors were found to provide the other services, but eventually CryoCare could not be sustained. In 2003 I became President of the Cryonics Institute. I assisted with the moving of CryoSpan’s two CryoCare patients to Alcor and CryoSpan’s ten ACS patients to the Cryonics Institute. In 2012 I resigned as President of the Cryonics Institute, and began working for the Life Extension Foundation. Dennis Kowalski became the new CI President.

Mike Darwin continued to work as a researcher at Saul Kent’s company Critical Care Research (CCR) until 2001. Darwin’s most notable accomplishment at CCR was his role in developing methods to sustain dogs without neurological damage following 17minutes of warm ischemia. Undisclosed conflicts with CCR management caused Darwin to leave CCR in 2001. He worked briefly with Alcor and Suspended Animation, and later did consulting work for the Cryonics Institute. But for the most part Darwin has been distanced from cryonics organizations.

The history of the Cryonics Institute (CI) has been less tumultuous than that of Alcor. CI has had primarily two Presidents: Robert Ettinger from April1976 to September2003, and Ben Best to June2012. (Andrea Foote was briefly President in 1994, but soon became ill with ovarian cancer.) Robert Ettinger decided to build fiberglass cryostats rather than buy dewars because CI’s Detroit facility was too small for dewars. Robert Ettinger’s mother became the first patient of the Cryonics Institute when she deanimated in 1977. She was placed in dry ice for about ten years until CI began using liquid nitrogen in 1987 (the same year that Robert Ettinger’s first wife became CI’s second patient). In 1994 CI acquired the Erfurt-Runkel Building in Clinton Township (a suburb northeast of Detroit) for about $300,000. This is roughly the same amount of money as had been bequeathed to CI by CI Member Jack Erfurt (who had deanimated in 1992). Erfurt’s wife (Andrea Foote who deanimated in 1995) also bequeathed $300,000 to CI. Andy Zawacki, nephew of Connie Ettinger (wife of Robert Ettinger’s son David), built a ten-person cryostat in the new facility. Fourteen patients were moved from the old Detroit facility to the new Cryonics Institute facility. Andy Zawacki is a man of many talents. He has been a CI employee since January1985 (when he was 19years old), handling office work (mostly Member sign-ups and contracts), building maintenance and equipment fabrication, but also patient perfusion and cool-down.

Throughout most of the history of cryonics glycerol has been the cryoprotectant used to perfuse cryonics patients. Glycerol reduces, but does not eliminate, ice formation. In the late 1990s research conducted at 21st Century Medicine and at UCLA under the direction of 21st Century Medicine confirmed that ice formation in brain tissue could be completely eliminated by a judiciously chosen vitrification mixture of cryoprotectants. In 2001 Alcor began vitrification perfusion of cryonics patients with a cryoprotectant mixture called B2C, and not long thereafter adopted a better mixture called M22. At the Cryonics Institute a vitrification mixture called CI-VM-1 was developed by CI staff cryobiologist Dr.Yuri Pichugin (who was employed at CI from 2001 to 2007). The first CI cryonics patient was vitrified in 2005.

In 2002 Alcor cryopreserved baseball legend Ted Williams. Two of the Williams children attested that their father wanted to be cryopreserved, but a third child protested bitterly. Journalists at Sports Illustrated wrote a sensationalistic expose of Alcor based on information supplied to them by Alcor employee Larry Johnson, who had surreptitiously tape-recorded many conversations in the facility. The ensuing media circus led to some nasty moves by politicians to incapacitate cryonics organizations. In Arizona, state representative Bob Stump attempted to put Alcor under the control of the Funeral Board. The Arizona Funeral Board Director told the New York Times “These companies need to be regulated or deregulated out of business”. Alcor fought hard, and in 2004 the legislation was withdrawn. Alcor hired a full-time lobbyist to watch after their interests in the Arizona legislature. Although the Cryonics Institute had not been involved in the Ted Williams case, the State of Michigan placed the organization under a “Cease and Desist” order for six months, ultimately classifying and regulating the Cryonics Institute as a cemetery in 2004. In the spirit of de-regulation, the new Republican Michigan government removed the cemetary designation for CI in 2012.

In 2002 Suspended Animation, Inc(SA) was created to do research on improved delivery of cryonics services, and to provide those services to other cryonics organizations. In 2003 SA perfused a cryonics patient for the American Cryonics Society, and the patient was stored at the Cryonics Institute. Alcor has long offered standby and transport services to its Members as an integral part of Membership, but the Cryonics Institute (CI) had not done so. In 2005 the CI Board of Directors approved contracts with SA which would allow CI Members the option of receiving SA standby and transport if they so chose. Several years later, all Alcor standby cases in the continental United States outside of Arizona were handled by SA, and SA COO Catherine Baldwin became an Alcor Director. Alcor has continued to do standby and stabilization in Arizona. Any Alcor Member who is diagnosed as being terminally ill with a prognosis of less than 90 days of life will be reimbursed $10,000 for moving to a hospice in the Phoenix, Arizona area. By 2014, over160 of the roughly 550CI Members who had arrangements for cryopreservation services from CI had opted to also have Standby, Stabilization and Transport(SST) from SA.

A Norwegian ACS Member named Trygve Bauge brought his deceased grandfather to the United States and stored the body at Trans Time from 1990 to 1993. Bauge then transported his grandfather to Nederland, Colorado in dry ice with the intention of starting his own cryonics company. But Bauge was deported back to Norway and the story of his grandfather created a media circus. The town outlawed cryonics, but had to “grandfather the grandfather” who has remained there on dry ice. After a “cooling-off period” locals turned the publicity to their advantage by creating an annual Frozen Dead Guy Days festival which features coffin races, snow sculptures, etc. Many cryonicists insist that dry ice is not cold enough for long-term cryopreservation and that the Nederland festival is negative publicity for cryonics.

After several years of management turnover at Alcor, money was donated to find a lasting President. In January 2011, Max More was selected as the new President and CEO of Alcor. In July 2011 Robert Ettinger was cryopreseved at CI after a standby organized by his son and daughter-in-law. In July 2012 Ben Best ended his 9-year service as CI President and CEO by going to work for the Life Extension Foundation as Director of Research Oversight. The Life Extension Foundation is the major source of cryonics-related research, including funding for 21st Century Medicine, Suspended Animation, Inc., and Advanced Neural Biosciences, and funds many anti-aging research projects as well. Dennis Kowalski became the new CI President. Ben Best retired as CI Director in September 2014.

In January 2011 CI shipped its vitrification solution (CI-VM-1) to the United Kingdom so that European cryonics patients could be vitrified before shipping in dry ice to the United States. This procedure was applied to the wife of UK cryonicist Alan Sinclair in May 2013. In the summer of 2014 Alcor began offering this “field vitrication” service to its members in Canada and overseas.

In 2006 the first cryonics organization to offer cryonics services outside of the United States was created in Russia. KrioRus has a facility in a Moscow suburb where many cryonics patients are being stored in liquid nitrogen. In 2014 Oregon Cryonics (created by former CI Director Jordan Sparks) began providing neuro(head or brain)-only services at low cost for cryopreservation and chemical preservation.

(For details on the current status of the different cryonics organizations, see Comparing Procedures and Policies.)

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The Libertarian Ticket: Johnson and Weld – CBS News

Posted: September 20, 2016 at 7:18 pm

The following is a script from The Libertarian Ticket which aired on Sept. 18, 2016. Steve Kroft is the correspondent. L. Franklin Devine and Maria Gavrilovic, producers.

When you look at your presidential ballot in November, somewhere below the Democratic and Republican lines you will find the Libertarian Party and the Green Party, but for many voters this year they might as well read none of the above.

In a race that features the most unpopular Democratic and Republican party choices in memory, they are the two alternatives to Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump and for the first time in 16 years third parties could well determine the outcome of the election. Right now, of the two alternatives, the Libertarian Party has the most support and is the only one on the ballot in all 50 states. The ticket of Gary Johnson and Bill Weld is currently favored by about eight or nine percent of the electorate even though 70 percent of the voters dont know who Johnson and Weld are. We thought it was time to give you a primer.

Libertarian presidential candidateGary Johnson and his running mate, Bill Weld

CBS News

If you dont recognize them, the tall guy on the left is vice presidential candidate Bill Weld. The shorter one is former New Mexico governor and presidential nominee Gary Johnson. Right now they can stroll through a park unmolested by the press and the public. Their rallies usually attract only a few hundred people but they can still make some noise and are not without enthusiastic support.

[Rally: Gary Gary Gary. Bill Weld: The next president of the United States, Gary Johnson. Gary Johnson: You rock. You rock.]

Steve Kroft: Why are you doing this?

Gary Johnson: I think that we would do a really good job.

Play Video

Mitt Romney wished for it, so Steve Kroft asked-why isn’t Bill Weld at the top of the Libertarian ticket?

Bill Weld: I feel its something of a patriotic duty given how the election season is unfolding. We feel a responsibility to offer the country sort of a sober, sensible alternative.

[Gary Johnson: Has life in this country ever been better?]

They are no political neophytes. Each one won two terms as Republican governors in heavily Democratic states.

Play Video

On 60 Minutes in 2000, Gary Johnson explained his unconventional thoughts on drug policy –and why he thought using marijuana was “cool”

Steve Kroft: Do you really think you have a chance to win?

Gary Johnson: Neither of us would be doing this if we didnt think that that was a possibility.

Steve Kroft: Let me be a little skeptical here. I mean, right now the people–

Bill Weld: We expected no less.

Steve Kroft: Right. Right. Yeah. The people that do this for a living, to try and do polling, and public opinion surveys and make odds– some of the most prominent experts put your chances at about less than one percent, less than one percent.

Play Video

The Libertarian candidates have a plan that embraces immigration-so what do they think of Donald Trump’s plan?

Gary Johnson: I think that Donald Trump started out that way. And I wouldve given him that– I wouldve given him that percentage at the very start. But as crazy as this election season is, I think it could be the ultimate crazy and that is is that the two of us actually do get elected.

Steve Kroft: Right. And how does that happen?

Gary Johnson: Well presidential debates– a third alternative, 70 percent of America doesnt even know who we are. And yet we exist. I think theres a lot of opportunity here. And theres still a lot of time left.

[Bill Weld: –we are in a way breaking a glass ceiling–]

Theyre hoping to get a place in at least one of the presidential debates but right now they dont meet the threshold of 15 percent in the national polls.

Steve Kroft: Are you running against a two-party system?

Gary Johnson: Absolutely.

Bill Weld: Absolutely.

Gary Johnson: And Iand I do believe this is going to be the demise of the Republican Party.

Steve Kroft: So you see yourself as a protest vote?

Gary Johnson: No way. I think, a conciliatory vote. Look this is how we wanna come together.

Bill Weld: It happens, Steve, if people do think for themselves and focus on the choices available because the polling shows that nationally people do tend to agree with our approach. As Gary sometimes says, youre a libertarian. You just dont know it yet.

[Libertarian Party Convention: Lets bring back liberty.]

Play Video

Gary Johnson tells Steve Kroft why he believes marijuana use shouldn’t be a crime-and why changing policy is a matter of when, not if

The Libertarians were founded 45 years ago as an off-shoot of the Republicans. They tend to be fiscally conservative and social liberals who want the federal government out of their pockets, out of their schools, out of their computers, and out of their bedrooms.

[Supporter: So the hats are 25.]

They support the right to bear arms, even assault weapons. But they also believe women have the right to an abortion, gays have the right to marry, and adults the right to smoke pot.

[Supporter: Anybody looking for a bumper sticker?]

They oppose almost every federal program not mentioned specifically in the Constitution, including Social Security and Medicare and the regulatory agencies.

Play Video

The Libertarian candidate tells Steve Kroft how he plans to combat the terrorist organization, though he thinks there’s a bigger threat

Steve Kroft: Youre making yourself seem like mainstream candidates. But in fact, you know, your positions and the positions of the party arent mainstream, you know. Phasing out Medicare, youre for doing away with private health insurance– as a way to bring down medical costs. Youre talking about abolishing the IRS and imposing a 29 percent or 28 percent sales tax, essentially a sales tax. You call it a consumption tax. Talk about eliminating the Department of Homeland Security. I mean, these arent exactly mainstream opinion.

Gary Johnson: Well what you can count on the two of us to provide is consistency. Were going to always be consistent in looking for lower taxes. And much of what you cite is the Libertarian platform which, you know, we are the Libertarian nominees for president and vice president. But were not looking to eliminate Medicare. We do believe in a safety net. But there has to be reforms for Medicaid and Medicare and Social Security. And if were going to put our heads in the sand, if we say were going to do nothing in any of these areas, its a fiscal cliff.

Bill Weld: And nobody can tell me that no changes are necessary in Washington. Those bozos think that unless the appropriation of every single account goes up five percent, they call that a cut. Well, thats not how we approached our state budgets. And thats not what we would do in Washington either.

Steve Kroft: Do you think most people want to do away with the Department of Homeland Security?

Gary Johnson: Yeah, I do. I do. I think theres a real skepticism. I mean, really, we have the FBI. Wha– why another agency? I mean– and all these Homeland Security cars driving around these days, what are they doing?

Bill Weld: There are functions that youd have to retain and make sure they were attended to. But therere some who remind me of the, you know, muddled bureaucracy in Washington that nobody can quite tell you why theyre essential. And thats where I would go hunting.

They also want to abolish the Departments of Education, Commerce and Housing and Urban Development. They want to cut the Defense Budget by around 20 percent and get American troops out of Korea.

As theyve said, they dont agree with their party on everything — sometimes they dont even agree with each other.

Gary Johnson earned a fortune in construction before making his political name as the first governor ever to advocate the legalization of marijuana, and until earlier this year was CEO of a marijuana branding company.

Steve Kroft: Until recently, you were a consumer

Gary Johnson: Thats correct

Steve Kroft: –of marijuana.

Gary Johnson: One of 100 million Americans who have consumed marijuana. I am guilty. The unforgivable in life, hypocrisy, saying one thing and doing anothertelling the truth– I hope more than anything, Im credited here with telling the truth.

Steve Kroft: But youre not using marijuana now?

Gary Johnson: Im not.

[Bill Weld: running on the Libertarian ticket. Live free or die, baby, you know what they say.]

Former Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld is a card-carrying member of the Eastern Establishment, whose libertarian bonafides are still questioned by the true believers. Until his nomination in May he was a member of the nearly-extinct political species known as moderate Republicans.

Steve Kroft: You werent a Libertarian until a couple of months ago.

Bill Weld: Well, I considered myself a small L Libertarian since the 1970s. And people called me the Libertarian Republican.

They run a frugal low-key campaign in jeans and sneakers and keep a very loose schedule that can change by the hourly. When we were with them, their version of a presidential limousine was a rented red Toyota.

Steve Kroft: Do you have a motorcade?

Bill Weld: No. We dont have a motorcade.

Steve Kroft: You stop for red lights?

Gary Johnson: We do stop for red lights.

Steve Kroft: Do you have a campaign plane?

Bill Weld: We dont have a campaign plane.

Gary Johnson: No. No. We dont.

Bill Weld: We do fly commercial.

Steve Kroft: Do you have a campaign headquarters?

Bill Weld: Yes.

Gary Johnson: Yes. We do. But its– but if you went to the campaign headquarters, you wouldnt find anybody there because this is– you know, this is social media.

[Gary Johnson: Come on, get selfie, get selfie ready!]

They have a big presence on the Internet and claim to have 50 million followers — most of them young people. Johnson and Weld are good friends and say they plan to run a co-presidency sharing the same staff. On the campaign they often stay at each others homes.

Theyve tried everything to get more attention in hopes their campaign would go viral. And 10 days ago it did.

MSNBC/MORNING JOE clip /Willie Geist: Governor good to have you with us.

But it was the wrong kind when Johnson was unable to identify Aleppo as the center of the humanitarian crisis in Syria.

MSNBC/MORNING JOE clip /Mike Barnicle: Aleppo.

MSNBC/MORNING JOE clip/Governor Gary Johnson: And what is Aleppo?

MSNBC/MORNING JOE clip /Mike Barnicle: Youre kidding.

MSNBC/MORNING JOE clip/Governor Gary Johnson: No.

Steve Kroft: Youve been on the front page a lot this month. You made a big splash. And it was a belly flop. Were talking about Aleppo here. Tell me about Aleppo. I mean, how did that happen?

Gary Johnson: Well, the– I– I blame no one but myself. I understand the underlying policy.

Steve Kroft: People have said,This guysnot qualified to be president. I mean, did– how do react to that?

Gary Johnson: Well– that– that I am human. I have a filter. And it starts with honesty. It starts with the truth. It starts with transparency– and would serve as president– in that capacity. When I was asked the question, the first thing that came into my mind was this is an acronym– ALEPPO– American– l–

Steve Kroft: Did it sound familiar to you?

Gary Johnson: Well, it didnt or I think I..but, but look I do not, in any way, want to make an excuse for myself. You know, so many people have said, Look, 90 percent of America doesnt know ALEPPO. Well, 90 percent of America is not running for president of the United States, no excuse. No excuse.

Bill Weld: But at the– at the end of the day, this is just my view, is Aleppo is a very important place name. But its a place name. Does that mean theyre disqualified from running for president? I mean, youd have very few people at the debates if that sort of thing was a disqualify– disqualification to run.

Gary Johnson: Thanks, Bill. But nonetheless, look, we are running for president and vice president.

Steve Kroft: Youre acknowledging that your candidacy has some flaws.

Gary Johnson: As do all candidacies. But I think–

Steve Kroft: But nobody– I– I– Im trying to remember a presidential candidate admitting that.

Gary Johnson: Well, that is the difference here. Thats what youre going to buy into is is that it will be transparent. And theres no quicker way to fix mistakes than actually acknowledging them in the first place.

Steve Kroft: Do you have foreign policy advisers?

Gary Johnson: Well, certainly.

Steve Kroft: Do you have military strategists?

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The Libertarian Ticket: Johnson and Weld – CBS News

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The bizarre world of bitcoin mining finds a new home in …

Posted: September 14, 2016 at 1:09 am

Inside a metal shed in the Tibetan highlands of western China, thousands of microprocessors flank narrow corridors, generating a constant hum and stifling waves of heat.

Outside, the sky is clear and blue, with a mountain peak looming at the top of a narrow wooded valley. A flock of goats ambles idly past a pile of discarded foam packaging. Inside, though, tranquility is transformed into clamor. Red, blue and green lights constantly flash; cooling water trickles down the walls, and large ventilation fans thrum as they struggle to shift the hot air produced by all this concentrated computing power.

This is a bitcoin mine, the engine room of the worlds leading digital currency. The microprocessors here approve and record all the transactions that keep the bitcoin system running. They also compete to solve complex mathematical problems and are rewarded with bitcoins: Thats a way of putting fresh digital currency into circulation and incentivizing more people to set up mining operations.

Bitcoin began as a utopian, libertarian dream, a decentralized currency outside the control of governments, a system that gives its users the anonymity of cash and the instant, global power of email. This was a system built not just for convenience, but also for those who cant bring themselves to trust the global financial system, created by a programmer whose identity remains a mystery.

Across Tibet, China is busy pulling mineral resources out of the ground; there is even a gold mine close by. But here in Kongyu, most of the mining is virtual. It is here because of extremely cheap hydropower, cheap wages and perhaps because Chinese entrepreneurs have a knack for the business.

[Chinas scary lesson to the world: Censoring the Internet works]

For a while, bitcoin was effectively kidnapped by drug dealers, becoming the anonymous payment backbone of the Silk Road, a black market in illegal drugs that flourished on the dark Net until the FBI closed that market down in 2013.

Today it is an industry that is starting to come of age, but whose center of gravity has shifted to China, and away from utopian dreamers toward venture capitalists.

When bitcoin was invented, the people dedicated to it were mostly crypto-punks and libertarians, said Eric Mu, the chief marketing officer with HaoBTC, which operates the bitcoin mine in this township in Chinas western Sichuan province. Now they are more like bankers and lawyers who see opportunities in the industry. And as they join, the industry is changing.

In this case, changing also means moving to China.

Today, mines run by Chinese companies account for about 70percent of the worlds bitcoin processing power, its factories produce the cheapest microprocessors to run these mines, and its exchanges account for about 70percent of the worlds bitcoin trade.

It is increasingly big business. Altogether there around more than 15 million bitcoin in existence: Each is worth $615 at current prices, with a market capitalization of $9.2 billion.

For some, Chinese domination of an industry once controlled by libertarian crypto-punks is a rich irony. For others, it is a more practical threat: Chinese miners, some argued, have been standing in the way of reforms needed to speed up transaction speeds on bitcoins fast-expanding network of users.

But those concerns might be overblown.

Some people in the Western world were painting Chinese miners with too broad a brush, said Emin Gn Sirer, a computer science professor at Cornell University. Its not the case that all Chinese miners are part of the same enterprise or are colluding.

But Sirer identifies one risk with the concentration of mining power here: If the Chinese government wanted, it could in theory crack down on miners and force them to block certain bitcoin accounts.

They would not be able to usurp funds, but they could stop the motion of funds, he said, describing exactly the sort of government control bitcoin was supposed to guard against.

These are concerns that have parallels with the way China is using its digital market power to reshape the Internet and influence the global debate about censorship and surveillance.

But here, in the mountains of Sichuan, it is hard to see much evidence of a Chinese plot to bring bitcoin to heel.

The Chinese government has employed a fairly light touch. Although it banned banks from taking part in bitcoin trading in 2013, it left ordinary people free to buy and trade the crypto-currency, and miners free to operate.

[Internet activists are finding ways around Chinas Great Firewall]

The industry is run by a disparate mix of investors and dreamers and is manned by electricians and IT experts. There are people like Ryan Xu, an infectiously enthusiastic Chinese-born Australian who first became interested in libertarian economics while working as a reactor operator in a nuclear power plant. He now describes himself as both a utopian and a venture capitalist.

We need to foresee the next five or 10 years, he said in a wide-ranging conversation over dinner in the western city of Kangding. All the governments are printing money and diluting peoples wealth. Is that justice or robbery? The financial system also keeps crashing every five or 10 years. I think thats an illness in the monetary system and it needs a cure.

He says he is not sure bitcoin is the answer, but it is at least an experiment that might work.

So why China?

Running microprocessors sucks electricity. Competition is intense, and profit margins are narrow: Xu has moved his mines around the world in search of the cheapest power, from Iceland to Georgia, and then to Washington state, from the coal fields of Chinas northern Inner Mongolia province and now to the mountains of Sichuan.

His latest mine is still under construction, between a hydroelectric power plant and the concrete shell of a disused power transmission station, between Kongyu and the city of Kangding.

As Chinas economy boomed, private companies set up hydroelectric plants in western Sichuan; then, as the economy slowed, they found themselves unable to sell to the national grid, elbowed out of the market by more politically powerful state-owned firms.

It took a lot of money to build the plants, but it doesnt cost that much to maintain them, said HaoBTCs Mu. So it makes sense for them to sell the power to anyone willing to buy, even at a low rate.

Maintenance staffers are cheaper here than in the West. Mu says his company employs 10 people at three mines in the mountains, paying them around 6,000 yuan ($900) a month, a decent salary for this part of the world. HaoBTC runs one other mine in Sichuan and one farther west in Xinjiang, with more than 11,000 machines, earning more than 80 bitcoin a day a daily income stream worth more than $745,000.

[These viral selfie apps with 1 billion downloads are shaping Chinas start-up culture]

But it is not only Chinese entrepreneurs who have taken to bitcoin. Deprived of good investment opportunities at home, and burned by a volatile stock market, a growing number of Chinese people have begun speculating and investing in bitcoin.

Bobby Lee, a former Silicon Valley engineer who founded Chinas first bitcoin exchange, BTCC, attributes it partly to a natural instinct to buy and sell.

If you look at Las Vegas or Macau or casinos worldwide, how come most of the clientele are of Asian descent, or Chinese specifically? he asked. It has to do with some cultural instinct. Chinese people like to gamble.

Yet as bitcoin matures, it is also experiencing some significant growing pains.

Bitcoin is virtual money that cuts out banks and credit card companies, and has gotten more popular recently. Here’s what you need to know about the original cryptocurrency. (Davin Coburn/The Washington Post)

On Aug. 2, the Bitfinex exchange in Hong Kong was forced to admit that hackers had stolen nearly 120,000 bitcoin worth $72million from customers accounts. That news caused the bitcoin price to fall by more than 20 percent and underlined the safety concerns that many ordinary people feel about owning digital money.

At the same time, the system is showing signs of overloading. Bitcoins current technology can process only around three digital transactions a second minuscule compared with the roughly 24,000 transactions per second that Visa can manage.

Delays in processing transactions have grown, as have transaction fees, and the industry has become deeply divided about how to reform the system to solve the problem.

Jeff Garzik, a leading bitcoin developer based in Atlanta, argues that a technological fix is in the pipeline that soon will allow bitcoin to process tens of thousands of transactions a second.

I think that with new technologies coming down the pipeline, it can scale up to everyone buying their coffee with bitcoin in the entire world, he said. It really can be the first really good substitute for physical in-your-hand cash.

Like Sirer, he isnt too worried about the current concentration of mining power in China, partly because the market is so dynamic and the dominant players change every year.

Its much easier to challenge the dominant players in this space because market entry is so easy, he said. If the Chinese miners suddenly power off their rigs, within 24 hours well see the emergence of another competitor.

Here in the mountains, miners while away their free time playing mah-jongg or poker, smoking cigarettes or surfing on their smartphones. Site manager Guo Hua used to run a small camera-repair shop and still likes fiddling around with machines. Marketing manager Mu, who spends only a few weeks of the year here, likes to translate books in his free time or run to the nearest town to buy cigarettes for his colleagues. Sometimes he hikes into the mountains, toward a remote Tibetan village or a looming peak, a welcome change of change of pace from Beijing and its polluted air.

And all the time, the microprocessors keep on running.

Australian entrepreneur Craig Wright has come forward as the mysterious creator behind the virtual currency Bitcoin. Here’s a look at what we know about the creator’s pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto, Bitcoin’s history and Wright’s claims. (Jenny Starrs/The Washington Post)

Xu Yangjingjing contributed to this report.

Read more:

America wants to believe China cant innovate. Tech tells a different story.

The Internet was supposed to foster democracy. China has different ideas.

Todays coverage from Post correspondents around the world

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The bizarre world of bitcoin mining finds a new home in …

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