Category Archives: Surveillance

Senate Torture Report

The Senate Intelligence Committee released a report today which says the Central Intelligence Agency routinely misled the White House and Congress about the information it obtained from detention and interrogation of terrorism suspects, and its methods were more brutal than the C.I.A. acknowledged either to Bush administration officials or to the public.

John Kerry Vietnam veteran giving testimony back in the day before Fulbright committee

John Kerry giving testimony before Fulbright committee in 1971

Dianne Feinstein speaking

Dianne Feinstein – head of Senate Intelligence Committee

When people read about these torture techniques, are we surprised, shocked or angry about these techniques? When you read about water boarding, hitting someone or some other physical discomfort such as sleep deprivation, does this give rise to your deep-seated concerns of how the CIA / military conduct themselves? How should they treat enemy combatants?

Koresh compound, Waco TX, April 19, 1993

Koresh compound, Waco TX, April 19, 1993

How many of these distinguished and inquiring people such as Feinstein, Kerry, etc. were upset about the conduct of the siege at Waco Texas?* Men, women and children were bombarded 24 x 7 with loud music and animal slaughter screams through huge speaker systems mounted to vehicles surrounding the compound. They launched tear gas attacks against these people. They drove large armored vehicles through the walls of their buildings, jeopardizing the safety of women & children. They ultimately burned the place down with the result of 74 men, women and children who died in the inferno. They could have completely avoided the confrontation if the BATF or FBI grabbed David Koresh while he was in town. Where were these Democrats to be heard when this happened? President Clinton authorized Attorney General Janet Reno to do this without regard to the safety of those innocents within.

What about the men and women who have gone into Special Operations Forces, such as Rangers, Seals, or pilots trained for combat? I can tell you from personal experience as a Marine recruit, we were punched, kicked, worked to exhaustion and sleep deprived. It was part of the training. Marine pilots (officers) during the Viet Nam era were trained by Marine enlisted and run through all kinds of hell if captured during war simulations. Oliver North says he was water boarded many times during his training and I’m quite sure that wasn’t unique to him just like my experience wasn’t isolated to only me.

What does the public think? If they understand the nature of guerrilla warfare, they should know it takes some nasty tactics to obtain information from these committed zealots. Capturing enemy combatants means you’re going to interrogate them for extended periods and offering them coffee or tea along with a cookie isn’t going to get any worthwhile information. For these various politicians to act indignant, and say tactics such as sleep deprivation, water boarding doesn’t work, they are either extremely ignorant or are just trying to misinform the American public for their own self advancement.Truth? what difference does it make according to Hillary Clinton

“I full well realize that politics is a rough and tumble business, but politics should not be reduced to lobbing partisan hand grenades. Politics is not war. Terrorism is.”
― Pat Roberts

Spies & former spies are countering the claims made by the Senate report.

* After the BATF and FBI learned that the American Justice Federation had released a press release stating that the use of military troops against United States citizens violated federal law, specifically, the Posse Comitatus act, the BATF released a cover story, claiming that the tanks were “really” not Army, they were national guard, and had been brought in under the “Drug interdiction act” because they had heard there was a “methamphetamine lab” — three weeks after the FBI had already publicly announced there was never any question whatsoever of drug involvement.

The Senate Intelligence Committee: the definition of an oxymoron?

Microsoft Windows Upgrade – End of Product Life

Windows XP end of product life 8 April 2014

Microsoft announced it will provide updates to anti-malware signatures & Windows XP engine until 14 July 2015

I’m strongly suggesting that if you’re running Microsoft Windows XP, you need to upgrade before the cutoff of all XP support. Of course you’re welcome to just keep using Windows XP, but you do so at your own risk, and Microsoft won’t be there to cast you a line when you start drowning in exploits.

The upgrade to Windows 7 or 8 is recommend, but you must back up all of your documents and pictures. This needs to be understood for anyone doing an upgrade. All of your programs will be overwritten. You can’t upgrade directly from XP to 7 or 8, you have to do what’s called a clean install. That means you need your original program disks for things like Microsoft Office and other programs you routinely wish to use.

Shameless self promotion moment: If you want to discuss this further with a professional, contact me on your requirements and how much it will cost.

Personally, I have chosen to not follow the Microsoft Windows path anymore. I’m using Linux. It’s free and for me it’s a better tool. I prefer Mint Linux. You can use all of your documents written in Microsoft Office, get all of your email and display, print and edit your photos using Linux. Of course, just like upgrading to a newer version of Windows, you must back up all important files off your fixed disk drive. Most people will be able to use Linux about as quickly as changing from XP to Windows 7. Windows 8 is a steeper learning curve for most people. Ubuntu Linux incorporated the tiles look even before Windows 8, but I don’t like them except for on tablets and phones.

If you are running graphic intensive games, be sure you find out if there’s a Linux version before you settle on Linux. For many people, this can cause them to stick with Windows. There is no iTunes for Linux, though there are other options for playing your music. Now is the time to make sure you have your music in MP3 format. Make sure it is backed up. If wi-fi is important to you, make sure it works with the Linux distro(s) you try. Make sure you can print to your printer. If you have unique hardware attached to your PC, make sure it works with your chosen Linux distribution. For that matter, make sure there is a Windows 7 driver for it before investing in that operating system.

* Remember with Linux you can download a Linux distribution for free of your own choosing and burn it to a thumb drive or a DVD. Try it before you actually install it and see if it will support your hardware and special needs.

Before you start the upgrade, do these three things.
  1. Run the Windows 7 upgrade adviser. It will let you know if your computer can handle any version of Windows 7.
  2. Check the Windows 7 compatibility center. This is different from the upgrade adviser. It will tell you if you need to update your drivers or apps to make them work in 7.
  3. Make a copy of your hard drive, just in case things go wrong. (you can use this free tool for backup – Macrium Reflect

Here are some important links for you if you need or desire to upgrade your computer.

Of course you may go out and buy a new computer with Windows 8 already installed, but as someone who has routinely worked to provide support and upgraded computers for others, I’ve found people very satisfied using Linux.

There are two reasons not to trust Microsoft and Windows. Number one reason is that it is proprietary software. This means no one outside of the company can see the source code so there may be numerous back-doors in Windows for the NSA to easily link and gather information from your computer(s). There is no way to verify even if Microsoft says there are none, as it’s closed source. There are reports which say Microsoft was the first company to comply with the NSA.

Second reason is that Linux is open source, no one can hide ‘secret’ code as it will be immediately spotted by developers. Since it’s being developed by the open source community, there is no single company which complies with spy agencies for profit. I hold a reserved attitude toward Chrome because Google has shown they’re cooperative with many NSA requests, which leads me to believe there are openings in Chrome OS for the NSA to gain access to your computer remotely.

my linux desktop

A sample of my Linux desktop

If I want to upgrade to Linux, what are the system hardware requirements?

  • 700 MHz processor (AMD or Intel CPU; a faster clock rate is better)
  • 512 MB RAM (system memory; more is better)
  • 5 GB of hard-drive space (or USB stick, memory card or external drive – see Live CD for an alternative approach)
  • VGA capable of 1024×768 screen resolution
  • Either a CD/DVD drive or a USB port for the installer media
  • Internet access

If you have an old or low specification computer, want to get the most out of your hardware, use a medium-lightweight desktop system such as Xubuntu or Lubuntu. (see this link for more information)

Note about graphics — Visual effects are turned on by default if you have a GPU (graphics card or integrated chipset) which is supported. Supported GPU manufacturers:

ATI (some may require the proprietary Fglrx driver)
Intel (i915 or better, except GMA 500, aka “Poulsbo”)
NVidia (using their proprietary driver)

If you are an avid gamer, Windows XP wasn’t a good choice in the first place. Linux SteamOS may be the ticket for gamers. Here’s a link on comparing 4 Linux distros using the new Intel mini-desktop PC. If you use Quicken you may have a more significant hurdle. There are Linux equivalent programs available however they aren’t a duplicate program. Those who are familiar can set your desktop or laptop up to use Virtual Box or Wine. Contact an IT Professional for assistance if required.



Does history repeat itself — or is that just something people say?

Kerry  & ObamaAre there lessons that can be learned from history or is this just a saying to get people to study a dull subject?

First off, history isn’t dull, at least I don’t think so. Second, context is important and without enough accurate information, this is probably the most difficult task. Let’s use Rome in the context of ancient history of Britain for comparison.

And the barbarians from beyond the Rhine, ravaging everything at their pleasure, put both the Britons and some of the Gauls to the necessity of making defection from the Roman empire, and of setting up for themselves, no longer obeying Roman laws. The Britons therefore took up arms, and engaged in many dangerous enterprises for their own protection, until they had freed their cities from the barbarians who besieged them.” – Zosimus

Conquered for vanity, half-heartedly Romanized and eventually abandoned to its fate, Roman Britain represents a fascinating microcosm of the rise and fall of an empire.” – BBC History, Roman Britain, 43 – 410 AD

The Romans had been severely beaten in the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest by rebellious German tribesmen in 9 AD. After several Roman leaders had come and gone, Claudius determined he needed to look strong and decisive, so he decided a quick victory somewhere was the right choice. That choice came down hard on Briton.

streams & forests

Ancient Briton – a land of water, bogs, mists & forests.

When first attempted a century before, the battles were indecisive. The mystery island of painted and tattooed people weren’t exactly push overs and the land of mist and forest remained in native hands. A Claudian invasion force was to go in strong and claim the land for Rome. They battled their way in, but Wales took decades to capitulate and the Scots never gave in, reaching the high water mark of the Roman empire at what is now called the Moray Firth in 84 AD. The east of Briton exploded in 60-61 AD. Bitterness against Roman oppression had driven Boudicca, queen of the Iceni tribe, into a revolt that came close to expelling the invaders.

Roman frontiers were under attack elsewhere. Reinforcements were needed so a phased withdrawal became necessary in Briton. The Roman army created a fortified line stretching from Newcastle-upon-Tyne to Carlisle on the Solway. This became a 73 mile fortified line known as Hadrian’s Wall which was constructed in 120s and 130s AD. North of that fortification were the barbarians, while south lay civilization.

Roman ruins UK

Roman foundation military outpost UK

Civilization was more than just words, it meant straight paved roads, towns and villages, linked trading routes, public use facilities, none of which were available to those north of that line. For 350 years of Roman occupation, the army remained in control. Craftsmen and traders grew up around the forts, sustained by army contracts and soldiers’ pay. Local farms supplied grain, meat, leather, wool, beer, and other essentials but it wasn’t anything as glamorous or robust as Rome itself.

The local culture changed and became more Romanized, dropping the blue war paint for ’empire fashion’. It was good business for all to participate because the skirmishes and conflicts among the locals were suppressed by the occupying army. Town houses and country villas were in, stone or mud hill forts were out. Painters, potters, mosaic layers and musicians found work among the landed gentry. Imports from Spain, Rhineland and Pompeii filled the shops.

Over the centuries, the extended conquests and paying remote overlords to cooperate along with conscripts from conquered armies took its toll on the empire. New luxuries became scarcity as taxes increased along with conscripted (immigrant) labor. Rome’s enemies were getting stronger, especially the Germans and Goths, who threatened the Rhine and Danube frontiers.

By the mid-third century AD, the great boom was over, and more money was required for defense. Defensive structures with observers (surveillance) sprang up around towns. Inside the cities, a slow decline had begun. Old mansions were in decline as well as many public services. Many towns were becoming over-run with weeds and boarded up structures.

Eviction notice for people living in tents

Eviction notice for people living in tents

In the later years of decline, political leaders became more dictatorial and ruthless, aiming to centralize and streamline administration, passing new laws and revenue schemes. All of this was set in place to bolster the decline and give the public the impression that everything was being carefully managed. The state found religion (Christianity) and attempted to disseminate this to the masses, however new government policy generated little enthusiasm. Society became apathetic, civic spirit dwindled, the towns and villas continued to decline.

earth mound fortification Cadbury-Hill

earth mound fortification Cadbury-Hill

Numerous hostile invasions began – by Anglo-Saxons in the south-east, Irish in the west, and Pict’s in the north. New coastal fortifications were built to meet the threat, but the troops were stretched too thin to hold the line.

Then, when the homeland itself was under attack, more troops were withdrawn from the outposts of the empire. Britain soon found itself like other occupied territory, on their own. Towns and villas became abandoned. No clear message was given to the occupiers. Over a generation, the remnant were cast adrift to fend for themselves.

Army pay ceased to arrive. The soldiers were left to make independent decisions, living off the land as farmers, make a living as outlaws, mercenaries, or laborers. The Roman élite lost whatever residual control they still retained over the land and the people.

Britain began a new age outside the empire, defined by geography separate from the continent, no government tax collectors and landlords, and no services. An age of turmoil and uncertainty in which new leadership and alliances were forged. It took several centuries and a multitude of invasions to settle a land previously gentrified which had become unruly and dissolute.

Perhaps, you’re like me and see many parallels between this surge and decline in Roman empire to the United States. Maybe you think there’s little to compare as we are modern and they were ancient. Things change and this isn’t quite the same as the conditions which we live in. Remember, these changes occurred slowly over the centuries. Generation after generation came and went without a lot of significant societal upheaval  — until near the fall.

Eagle with stretched wings symbolizing the  authority of the Roman empire

Eagle with stretched wings symbolizing the authority of the Roman empire