Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Iranian Nuclear Program: Rhetoric and Reality

By Micah Zenko
February 17, 2012 
Courtesy Of "The Council On Foreign Relations"

Reading the professional punditry in Washington or the rhetorical nuclear and military pronouncements from Tehran, one would assume that Iran is very close to acquiring a nuclear weapon—and that the United States and Iran are on the brink of war.
In the United States, serious thinkers have offered articles that make “The Case for Military Action in Iran,” advocate for “Why Obama Should Take Out Iran’s Nuclear Program,” and assert it is “Time to Attack Iran.” Earlier this week, a more extreme version of the Iran-war-determinism meme was penned by Thomas P.M. Barnett, chief analyst at Wikistrat, an organization that refers to itself as “the world’s first Massively Multiplayer Online Consultancy.” In an op-ed entitled, “The New Rules: The Coming War with Iran,” Barnett wrote:
“Israel and America will soon go to war with Iran—for as many times as it takes. In each instance, our proximate goal will be to kick the nuclear ‘can’ as far down the road as possible, but our ultimate goal will be regime change…Nothing is going to stop this war dynamic from unfolding…nothing. So get ready for war with Iran. Because once Assad is gone, that is what comes next.”
In Tehran, meanwhile, claims are made weekly about the supposed indigenous development of nuclear fuel rods, killer drones, next-generation centrifuges, and long-range missiles. Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad dons a white lab coat, points at some new technological innovation, or walks amidst a uranium-enrichment centrifuge cascade (which itself is under IAEA comprehensive safeguards). Elsewhere, ballistic missiles are rolled through Tehran like a homecoming parade for threat projections. Or, the possible mock-up of the downed U.S. RQ-170 Sentinel drone is prominently displayed next to uniformed men who run their hands over its radar-reflective skin.
These supposedly groundbreaking “threats” from Tehran are then elevated by the Western media, rewarding the Iranian regime with the strategic communications coup that it so desperately seeks.
Outside of the threat industries in Washington and Tehran, however, are the professional analysts of the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC), who provide assessments of foreign policy and national security issues for policymakers. Yesterday, two senior members of the IC testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee: Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and Lieutenant General Ronald Burgess, chief of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA). Over the course of two-plus hours, the officials made four statements that provided a much-needed clarifying perspective amidst all the hyperventilating by the media.
  • Clapper: “We believe the decision [to pursue a nuclear weapon] would be made by the supreme leader himself, and he would base that on a cost-benefit analysis.” Iran does not want “a nuclear weapon at any price.”
  • Sen. Carl Levin: “Is it your implication that it will take more than a year for Iran to build a bomb?” Clapper: “Yes, sir.”
  • Burgess: “The [DIA] assesses Iran is unlikely to initiate or intentionally provoke a conflict.”
  • Burgess: “To the best of our knowledge, Israel has not decided to attack Iran.”
In other words, according to the heads of the IC and DIA: 
1) against all odds, the supposedly “mad Mullahs” of Tehran are endowed with the capacity for rational human thought, and thus there might be diplomatic or economic inducements that could compel an agreement on outstanding questions regarding the nuclear program; 
2) the United States has at least a year; 
3) Iran is not looking to start a war with the United States; and 
4) Israel has not yet decided to undertake a preemptive war with Iran.
NOTE: The below video was not part of the above article. 

Top US General: "Iran A Rational Actor", But Is US One?

Goering Was Right On War

By Jacob G. Hornberger 
Wednesday, February 15, 2012 
Courtesy Of "The Future Of Freedom Foundation"

Nazi leader Hermann Goering once stated:
Naturally the common people don’t want war; neither in Russia, nor in England, nor in America, nor in Germany. That is understood. But after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.
Who can deny that Goering was right, especially in countries where people have been inculcated with a mindset of deference to authority and blind trust in public officials?

Consider the 2003 invasion of Iraq. All that U.S. officials had to do was tell the American people that Saddam Hussein was about to attack the United States with nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons. Fancy colored charts were used to buttress the point. References were made to mushroom clouds.

U.S. officials knew full well the effect such images that would have on the minds of the American people. 

Never mind that there was never any evidence that such an attack was about to occur. Americans trusted their public officials. The common feeling was that U.S. officials had access to information that the American people didn’t have and that “national security” required that such information be kept secret from the American people.

It never occurred to many people that their public officials might be lying to them. People just deferred to authority, just as they had been taught to do since the first grade in the government-approved schools their parents were required to send them to. They ended up supporting the war on Iraq, a war that killed and maimed thousands of American soldiers and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi people, none of whom had anything to do with the 9/11 attacks on America.

What happened when U.S. officials failed to produce those infamous Iraqi WMDs that they had used to scare the American people into supporting their invasion of Iraq? They simply shifted gears and began emphasizing their alternative basis for invading the country — to altruistically help the Iraqi people achieve democracy. 

Continuing to defer to authority and to place their deep and abiding trust in their public officials, many Americans went with the flow.

Hardly anyone noticed or cared that there was no upward limit placed on the number of Iraqis who could be killed in the altruistic process of helping them to achieve democracy. And never mind, of course, that U.S. officials had already contributed to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children with more than 11 years of brutal sanctions. In fact, the goal of the sanctions had been to oust Saddam Hussein from power and replace him with a U.S.-approved ruler, a goal that the 2003 invasion, not so coincidentally, finally achieved.

The situation was really no different in principle some 50 years ago, when U.S. officials announced that North Vietnamese gunboats had attacked U.S. vessels in the Gulf of Tonkin. Back then, the deference-to-authority mindset among the American people and their propensity to blindly trust their public officials were more pronounced than they would be in 2003. Believing that U.S. officials, especially those in the Pentagon, would never lie to them, the members of Congress overwhelmingly enacted the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which launched a foreign war that ended up killing and maiming hundreds of thousands of U.S. and Vietnamese soldiers and civilians.

Of course, as everyone now knows, they did lie about the attack. It never happened, and U.S. officials, including President Johnson and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, knew it hadn’t happened. But that was the way they got the American people behind their war effort — by making them falsely believe that America had been attacked several thousands of miles away from American shores and that U.S. troops were defending America by invading South Vietnam.

And now the same thing is happening with Iran. All sorts of scares over WMDs and mushroom clouds are once again being inserted into the minds of the American people. Meanwhile, U.S. officials continue to tighten an economic noose around Iran — the same noose they tightened around Iraq for 11 years, knowing that the tighter the sanctions, the greater the likelihood that the Iranian people, including Iranian children, will begin suffering and dying, as they did in Iraq.

Will the Iranian regime passively accept the horrific effects of the sanctions, as Saddam Hussein did, notwithstanding the annual deaths of tens of thousands of Iraqi children? Or will it retaliate against the sanctions with a military strike, say, at the Straits of Hormuz?

If they retaliate with force, we know what the response of U.S. officials will be:
We’ve been attacked! We’re innocent! We were just minding our own business with sanctions, embargoes, assassinations, UN resolutions, and surrounding Iran with U.S. troops. We had no intent of effecting regime change in Iran, as we did in Iran in 1953 and as we did with Iraq in 2003 after our deadly sanctions had failed to oust Saddam from power.
But now that our nation has been attacked thousands of miles away from our nation’s shores, we have no choice but to once again defend our nation by bombing Iran and killing any number of Iranians, which will also altruistically help them achieve another regime change, similar to when we installed the Shah of Iran’s dictatorship into power after we ousted Iran’s democratically elected prime minister from office in 1953.
Meanwhile, many Americans are falling for it again, just as they did in 1964 and 2003. As Goering suggested, when it comes to war deference to authority and blind trust in public officials is, unfortunately, a universal phenomenon.

Jacob Hornberger is founder and president of the Future of Freedom Foundation.

How Violence Protects The State

'Violence Is The Modus Operandi Of The State. To Build A Free Society, We Will Have To Use Different Means.' 

By Stephanie Van Hook 
Published on Friday, February 17, 2012 
Courtesy Of "Common Dreams"

On April 4, 1967, exactly one year before Martin Luther King Jr. was murdered, he spoke passionately in a sermon at Riverside Church in New York about the war in Vietnam. In this gripping speech about the hypocrisy of bringing democracy through napalm and the audacity of fostering a brotherhood through war and killing, he made a daring confession: “I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today —my own government.”
The most significant social movement in the US in the coming months will be the Occupy movement, as it returns in some numbers to the street. As the Occupy movement grows more polarized between strategies in light of its upcoming spring activities, it might do well to reflect on the logic of Dr. King’s brave statement. Contrary to what Peter Gelderloos and others have claimed, it is violence and the stasis of a dysfunctional system of oppression that protects the state, not nonviolence. How does violence protect the state? Do a few general internet searches on the Occupy movement in images to see how that movement is visually narrated (not to mention how it feels to see the portrayed reduction of a promising national movement into a series of police confrontations).
“I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today —my own government.”
- Martin Luther King Jr.
Examining these images with some detachment, we might wonder how this civil war with police began. This examination might also give us some clues about the general population’s confusion about “what Occupy wants,” and the US citizenry’s preference for political candidates who do not create violence on the streets—even if those elected officials ultimately maintain systems of greater violence within our society and between it and other nations. If the choice is between unruly demonstrations and elections, Occupy risks becoming a reason to turn to politics as usual.
Paradoxically, while the public will be fascinated by police/Occupy confrontations, and while the media will mock activists’ lack of moral character and strength for accepting violence as an effective strategy, it will only make the way safer and clearer for greater state violence to be perpetrated in the name of national security. Who knows, we may be pulled into a new war with Iran in the coming year —what better way to stifle a movement: delegitimize it (through violence), and then unite us against a common enemy!
Violence in opposition to the State relieves the State and the citizenry of any guilt for a brutal response to all protesters—and it refocuses from the nominal issue to the issue of violence by protesters. Thus any violence by protesters serves the state well (just ask anyone employed by the government who has hired an agent provocateur). It is a weapon of mass distraction. Stop worrying about the uptick in home foreclosures, the dead being shipped back from Afghanistan, and the new increases in the Pentagon’s proposed budget—look at the violent window-breakers from Occupy who threaten us all!
Just a few weeks ago, I was in dialogue with an official from the Pentagon’s weapons acquisitions team. In his final assessment (the conversation was about the present year’s National Defense Authorization Act and our Metta Center advocacy of alternatives to killing), our organization’s proposal of a nonviolent policy—a new U.S. policy of deep reconciliation to combat terrorism— “creates guilt, which is not good.” In other words, by repressing guilt, we can continue killing people.
Keep in mind that soldiers are committing suicide in higher numbers than ever before, and therefore we should pay attention to what this guilt is telling us. This mindset of denial echoed by the Pentagon official, integral to waging war, is rooted in a belief about ourselves as separate from one another—in other words, that we should be able to kill one another without remorse, which is the supreme superstition of a violent system. On the level of the Occupy movement, we might formulate it as a principle: activists cannot harm the actors of the State without harming our movement. The more we fight against the police, the more we allowing ourselves to be seen as accepting violent tactics, the stronger we make the system we want to change, the deeper that system digs in its heels. The more we entertain the use of violence, or even create occasions where it can break out, the more violence is justified. Why? Because as Max Weber’s definition of the State suggests, it "upholds the claim to the monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force in the enforcement of its order." Violence is the modus operandi of the State. To build a free society, we will have to use different means.
Nonviolence is not just protest, it is not simply occupying space and it is not just about adversarial confrontations; it’s about our humanity. Erica Chenoweth and Maria Stephanbrilliantly document the power of civil resistance when it uses nonviolence as its means to replace leaders. We should read their work and others, but we should not be afraid of going deeper either; more than changing a certain regime at this time, we need to transform a culture.
In short, in order to delegitimize a violent system, we have to delegitimize violence. This change requires us to adopt a principle about human beings and human dignity: we will not use violence against others because we want to create a vibrant culture, a merciful culture, a generous culture because we as human beings have the potential to nurture these qualities within ourselves and each other. We will not degrade human dignity because it is not worthy of ourselves as people; let this be the motivation for our long-term struggle. The power of the violent State system would stand much less chance against a movement committed to this nonviolent, compassionate spirit of unity.

The Creeping Militarization Of American Society

By Christopher J. Coyne & Abigail R. Hall 
Published: 1:41 PM 02/20/2012 
Updated: 1:45 PM 02/20/2012 
Courtesy of "The Daily Caller"

Earlier this month, Congress passed House Resolution 658, the “Federal Aviation Administration Air Transportation Modernization and Safety Improvement Act,” which President Obama is expected to sign. One of the over 1,000 sections of H.R. 658 authorizes domestic use of aerial spy drones by the U.S. government.
This is but the latest case of the increased militarization of U.S. police forces. Other examples abound. Under Program 1033, the U.S. military provided police with over $500 million in military equipment in 2011, more than double the amount allocated by the government a year before. Small town police forces have been equipped with SWAT gear and automatic weapons. State and local law enforcement are receiving training akin to that expected in the armed forces.
Such activities fuel an ongoing debate regarding their implication for civil liberties. But H.R. 658 and these other examples also draw attention to a broader point. They lead us to wonder about government constraints, particularly during and after times of crisis.
The Founding Fathers understood the “paradox of power” — the need to simultaneously empower government and constrain its ability to use that power to violate the rights of citizens. They addressed this paradox by creating checks and balances that would, in principle, constrain the activities of government. One of the most important checks, noted the Founders, were vigilant citizens who monitored the activities of their government.
But sometimes, citizens are not so careful to check their government. There are instances which work to loosen the restraints on government. One of the greatest threats is the onset of crises. A crisis event induces citizens to call for government to do something and do it quickly. The demand to act swiftly results in an aggressive government response absent public debate and scrutiny. This leads to increases in both the scale and scope of government activities, many of which persist well after the crisis has ended.
This logic helps to explain the increased militarization of U.S. domestic police forces, which began with the onset of the War on Drugs in the 1980s. This militarization accelerated in the wake of September 11th, as federal dollars flowed through the Department of Homeland Security to local police forces in the name of fighting terrorism. Under this broad umbrella, domestic police have justified the acquisition of military technologies and equipment, ranging from assault rifles and armored cars to tactical training, and soon drones.
There is reason to expect such expansions in the reach of government power to continue. As the threat of terrorism remains a focal point of elected officials, government is able to justify a myriad of expenditures and policies that may reduce the rights of its citizens, like the new stipulations in H.R. 658.
American citizens have reason to be concerned about their civil liberties. It is immensely important, however, that citizens recognize the broader process through which the government expands its powers. Only then may these powers be checked. American citizens would be wise to heed the words of Patrick Henry: “The Constitution is not an instrument for the government to restrain the people, it is an instrument for the people to restrain the government.”
Christopher J. Coyne is the F.A. Harper Professor of Economics at George Mason University. Abigail R. Hall is a Mercatus Graduate Fellow, Department of Economics at George Mason University.

A Brave People Never Become Slaves

Posted by guest blogger "Sayf Maslul"

"This century of ours has been marked most conspicuously by cowardice of the people everywhere.

It was by our cowardice that we were betrayed into the hands of corrupt men who promised to make life 'safe' for us and devoid of hazard, and robbed the adventurousness by which the spirits of men are strengthened. 

It was by our Poltroonery that we lost our liberties. 

It was by our fears that we almost died. 

A brave people never become slaves."

[Taylor Caldwell,"The Devil's Advocate"(1952) -- pgs. 332 -- 338]

7 Signs We're Living In The Post-Privacy Era

By Helen A.S. Popkin 
January 3, 2012 
Courtesy Of "MSNBC"

Whether by corporate subterfuge, government decree, hacker invasion and our own ambivalence, our digital rights have never faced more peril than they will in 2012. Here's a look at the most egregious losses in privacy — the ways in which the stage was set — during this past year.
Facebook's meaningless settlement with the FTCEverything about Facebook is designed to make it easy for people to reveal things about themselves. Nothing about Facebook's FTC settlement in November — and a spin-heavy mea culpa from CEO Mark Zuckerberg and/or his media consultant — changes that.
According to the FTC complaint, Facebook "deceived consumers by telling them they could keep their information on Facebook private, and then repeatedly allowing it to be shared and made public."
As we reported on the FTC settlement, Facebook is now barred "from making any further deceptive privacy claims." It also requires "that the company get consumer's approval before it changes the way it sharestheir data, and requires that it obtain periodic assessments of its privacy practices by independent, third-party auditors for the next 20 years."
The settlement does not require that Facebook restore the privacy settings it rolled back in 2009, which led to the FTC investigation. Much of your information is still widely available to the public — as well as to Facebook's business partners — by default. If you want more privacy, you need to "opt out," otherwise your info is out there for anyone to see.
Meanwhile, the much celebrated Facebook Timeline — which rolled out to most users in December — may prove to be the ultimate Trojan horse,  soliciting users to add personal information and life details that occured before Facebook even existed. All the better for direct marketers to sell you stuff, my dear.
Now, the Electronic Privacy Information Center questions whether the rollout of the much celebrated Facebook Timeline conforms to the FTC settlement, sending a letter to the FTC, stating that, "with Timeline, Facebook has once again taken control over the user's data from the user and has now made information that was essentially archived and inaccessible widely available without the consent of the user."
SOPA vs. your right to Internet accessThe obsessive concern among free speech activists and the technorati over the Stop Online Piracy Act and similar Internet blackball bills went mainstream following the recent "Dump Go Daddy" campaign.
The anti-piracy bill, which the U.S. House Judiciary Committee is set to review next year, makes the streaming of unauthorized content a felony. Which is all well and good, but as the EFF warns, the bill's "vague language would create devastating new tools for silencing legitimate speech all around the Web."
"Netizens angered by the initial support of Web hosting giant Go Daddy for a controversial online piracy bill voted with their 'domain' — moving tens of thousands of website names to other Internet domain registrars in a coordinated day of online protest,"'s Miranda Leitsinger recently reported in Technolog. Go Daddy stopped its havering, making a solid statement opposing SOPA, and in doing so, joining other anti-SOPA corporations such as Google, Facebook and Wikipedia.
"All of the sudden there really is a lot of mainstream attention … we're seeing a lot of people waking up to these issues and taking a firm stance," Parker Higgins, an EFF activist, told Technolog. "It is an important issue and it's one that really affects the future of the Internet."
Why such a strong anti-SOPA turnout? Despite its authority in the U.S., SOPA has international ramifications. Websites that run afoul could be de-indexed by search engines, blocked by Internet service providers, and blackballed by payment processors such as Visa or PayPal as court-ordered by the U.S. Attorney General.
Here's a worst-case scenario free speech supporters say is entirely possible: Proxy servers such as those that aided Arab Spring by allowing protesters to share information on social media are also used to stream pirated content such as movies and music. Shut down the proxy server for a SOPA violation — such as aiding copyright violations — and the voices of protest could be muffled as well.
Given the success of the Go Daddy boycott, odds are SOPA won't pass — sooner or later however, a similar bill will. What we're seeing here is the first, clumsy attempt at inevitable regulation. Call that cynicism if you will, but as the history of radio and TV reveal, such is the fate of all new forms of major media.
Yeah, your cellphone is pretty much stalking you"Locationgate" — the kerfuffle following researchers' discovery that Apple iPhones send user locations back to Apple via unencrypted files — seems like small potatoes compared to a discovery made later in the year, but it was a harbinger of the many phone-related privacy threats ahead.
In April, Steve Jobs hotly denied during Locationgate that Apple tracked anyone, but in an email declared that Google's Android sure did. Google countered with an official statement that "location sharing on Android is opt-in by the user. We provide users with notice and control over the collection."
Apple's passive collection of user data was eventually declared to be "a bug," and it was revealed that the company never shared any of the info anyway.
Congress invited both companies to explain themselves, but as'sBob Sullivan pointed out in Red Tape Chronicles:
If you sensed from Apple — and Apple sympathizers — a bit of, "everyone does this, why is this such a big deal?” that's because they're right. It's true that location information greatly helps their network function. Anyone who's ever turned on a GPS and waited five minutes for the gadget to get a "fix" can appreciate the enhancement Apple was implementing. Plenty of other companies do collect and use detailed location information about us. Many will tell you they “anonymize” the information, they have strict policies about how it is used and stored, that they always get users’ permission before collecting it, that  they secure it, yadda, yadda, yadda. The Apple incident shows that location information is toxic, and the consequences of its collection can be very hard to control.
The bigger privacy scare came in November. Researcher Trevor Eckhart announced that he'd discovered that Carrier IQ — a cell phone diagnostics software company — didn't just track user location, but keystrokes as well (including, yes, passwords). As the case made headlines, it was revealed that Carrier IQ is, or may be, installed in handsets sold by AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile, from brands including Apple, HTC and Samsung. Verizon Wireless is the only company that says it never installed the software.
The organization also reverse engineered the software to find out just what was going on. ExtremeTech's Sebastian Anthony broke down the process:
There are three parts to a Carrier IQ installation on your phone: The program itself, which captures your keystrokes and other "metrics"; a configuration file, which varies from handset to handset and carrier to carrier; and a database that stores your actions until it can be transmitted to the carrier. Now, the Carrier IQ program is a binary application and fairly hard to reverse engineer, and the database sounds like it's stored in RAM and thus hard to obtain — but the configuration profile … well, it turns out that that is very easy to crack.
On Dec. 1, Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) — who earlier this year launched the Location Privacy Protection Act — requested that Carrier IQ "explain exactly what the software records, whether it is transmitted to Carrier IQ or any third party, and whether the data is protected against security threats that could risk the safety and privacy of American consumers."
For all the sneaky stuff our smartphones do, we increasingly have the opportunity to be complicit in our own e-stalking, aptly noted by Gawker's Ryan Tate.
The predicted Facebook phoneGoogle Wallet and the fact that Apple recently obtained a number of patents, "including one that would turnthe device into a key to your home," present more ways we will voluntarily allow three major tech companies to track or locations, our financial info, our correspondences, our contacts and even open our front door. At the same time.
Some judges are cool with cops accessing your cell phone"In January 2011, the California Supreme Court ruled in People v. Diaz (PDF), that the police were authorized to search any person's cellphone, without a warrant, after they had been arrested under the narrow 'search incident to arrest' exception to the Fourth Amendment, that permits a brief search in the area immediately around a person for the purposes of officer safety and protection of evidence from immediate destruction," the EFF reports.
Since the beginning of the year, we've seen a disturbing trend throughout the United States in which police officers apprehend the telephones of bystanders.
"A high-school student who used her cellphone to take video of police on a city bus was arrested by police and taken into custody after she refused to turn her cellphone off," Technolog reported of a Newark, N.J. incident in May. "Police later released her, but not before they erased the video on the teen's phone."
A police shooting of a man in Miami Beach on Memorial Day was terrifying, but when it was over, officers turned their attention to a man filming the violent scene with his cellphone. They demanded the device, smashed it and probably thought that was that; no video anymore. It was not: Narces Benoit had had the presence of mind to pull the phone's memory card with the video on it from his cellphone and put the card in his mouth.
"Now, people are carrying years of email correspondence, text and instant messages, bank and financial records, personal photos, calendars, websites they've visited, places they've visited, even the books they read," the EFF points out. "So, with all the mobile computing smartphones are capable of, it comes as no surprise that law enforcement wants to get their hands on the digital goodies. And unfortunately, in 2011 courts gave them the ammunition to do so."
Oh yeah, and the Feds want to know what you're up to, tooIn December, a Carrier IQ senior executive said that the FBI approached the company about using its technology but was rebuffed, Associated Press reported. "The disclosure came one day after FBI Director Robert Mueller assured Congress that agents 'neither sought nor obtained any information from the company, Carrier IQ."
Meanwhile"several court decisions in recent months have sent mixed messages about the legality of GPS and cellphone tracking by the government, and the issue has just landed in the U.S. Supreme Court," Security News Daily reported in November.
In August, a federal judge in New York ruled that police would need a warrant to track an individual using cellular-tower triangulation. In early October, a different federal judge, this one in Washington, D.C., ruled that police did not need a warrant to use same method to track the cellphone of an armed-robbery suspect in an ongoing case. And just last week, a third federal judge,  this one in Houston, ruled that a warrant was necessary.
When it comes to location, there's also the matter of the feds attaching GPS devices directly to your car. "Cases of surprised citizens finding government GPS units on their car aren't everyday occurrences, but they are happening,Technolog reported in November.
"In March, an Egyptian-American college student filed suit against the FBI for secretly putting a GPS tracking device on his car. Yasir Afifi, a California native who said he had and has nothing to hide, said a mechanic doing an oil change on his car found the device between his car's right rear wheel and exhaust."
In November, Wired's Threat Level reported a "Hispanic American who lives in San Jose at the home of his girlfriend’s parents," found not one, but twohidden GPS devices on his Volvo.
And if you're not being tracked directly on your vehicle, perhaps it's from above. The New York Times reported in December:
The American Civil Liberties Union on Thursday warned of the prospect of "routine aerial surveillance of American life" and called for new regulations to govern the use of unmanned aerial systems, or drones, over American skies.
Know what else the ACLU ain't happy about? That National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) President Barack Obama signed on Dec. 31 — the one that allows the indefinite military detention without trial of American citizens. "The statute is particularly dangerous because it has no temporal or geographic limitations, and can be used by this and future presidents to militarily detain people captured far from any battlefield,"  Anthony D. Romero, ACLU executive director, said in a statement.
Even if you don't leave your house, there's always the Internet. As we mentioned earlier, a quick review of the EFF's growing gallery of evidencerevealing social media monitoring by various U.S. government agencies only goes to show: There are no secrets among "friends."
Don't forget the hackers! While the Matrix-like intrigue of Operation AntiSec  —  the distributed denial of service attacks (DDoS) against banks, corporations and the government — made for a more exciting read, individuals still have more to fear from far more malicious cybercrime.
In April, a company called Epsilon released a statement reporting an unauthorized entry in its clients' customer database. Though nobody had really heard of this company, it turns out, most Internet-active Americans were affected one way or another. See, Epsilon is an electronic direct marketing outfit that sends 40 billion emails annually and counts over 2,500 clients, including 7 of the Fortune 10, as well as the New York Times.
For the most part, only emails were exposed — no passwords or other personal information.
That was a mild relief, yet not a breach to be taken lightly, as Technolog noted at the time. Following the breach, customers of any of Epsilon's clients needed to be wary of spam, that could take the form of fake emails that appear to be from a trusted company, tempting you to click.
Scammers use hijacked email addresses to create email based on your interests or email that appears to be from your bank or other company you know and trust. Clicking the malicious link within an email can hijack your computer and turn it into a spam bot without your knowledge or worse, install malware that can record your passwords and credit card info.
During the past year or so, similar user or employee database hackings were reported on Gawker Media's blog network, Sony's PlayStation Network (and other related services), the Citigroup bank, defense contractor Lockheed Martin, military consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton — even the Hershey chocolate company, among others.
Also, we're jerksIn November, an inexcusable number of media outlets found it super awesome that Andy Boyle, a newsroom web developer for the Boston Globe, live-tweeted the ugly details of a young couple's argument in Burger King.
As David Pell pointed out best, "The fight was loud enough for Boyle and other patrons to overhear. The fighting couple was certainly aware of that. They chose to argue in public. They, in effect, gave up their right to privacy among those at the restaurant. But should they have assumed their fight would be broadcast on Twitter and eventually featured on ABC News?"
But in an act similar to say — a journalist emailing crime scene photos to friends for giggles with no thought to the victims — Boyle also tweeted a photo of the couple. Mainstream media outlets ran the photo as well.
Pell, one of the shamefully few to call shenanigans on this incident, goes on to write:
In that Burger King, Andy Boyle thought he was listening to the disintegration of a couple's marriage. He was really hearing the crumbling of his own ethics and self-restraint. We can't stand by and let an alliance between technology and poor judgment disintegrate all decency, and turn every human exchange into another tawdry and destructive episode on a never-ending social media highlight reel.
If our disgust with this kind of secondhand sharing is widespread enough, maybe there's still a chance such invasions of privacy will be the exception and not the rule. But I wouldn't bet on it.
As 2012 moves forward, we may not have much control over our own privacy, but we can at least control what we do with the privacy of others.