AcTVism film trailer

The AcTV­ism Munich media col­lect­ive is releas­ing a film on 19th April fea­tur­ing Noam Chom­sky, The Real News Net­work’s Paul Jay and  myself.

Filmed last Janu­ary, we dis­cussed the old and new media, act­iv­ism, and much more.

Here’s the trailer:

AcTV­ism Trailer — Chom­sky, Machon and Jay from Annie Machon on Vimeo.

No encryption? How very rude.

First pub­lished on RT Op-Edge.

It struck me today that when I email a new con­tact I now reflex­ively check to see if they are using PGP encryp­tion.  A hap­pily sur­pris­ing num­ber are doing so these days, but most people would prob­ably con­sider my circle of friends and acquaint­ance to be eclectic at the very least, if not down­right eccent­ric, but then that’s prob­ably why I like them.

There are still alarm­ing num­bers who are not using PGP though, par­tic­u­larly in journ­al­ist circles, and I have to admit that when this hap­pens I do feel a tad miffed, as if some basic mod­ern cour­tesy is being breached.

It’s not that I even expect every­body to use encryp­tion — yet — it’s just that I prefer to have the option to use it and be able to have the pri­vacy of my own com­mu­nic­a­tions at least con­sidered. After all I am old enough to remem­ber the era of let­ter writ­ing, and I always favoured a sealed envel­ope to a postcard.

And before you all leap on me with cries of “using only PGP is no guar­an­tee of secur­ity.…” I do know that you need a suite of tools to have a fight­ing chance of real pri­vacy in this NSA-saturated age: open source soft­ware, PGP, TOR, Tails, OTR, old hard­ware, you name it.  But I do think the wide-spread adop­tion of PGP sets a good example and gets more people think­ing about these wider issues.  Per­haps more of us should insist on it before com­mu­nic­at­ing further.

Why is this in my mind at the moment?  Well, I am cur­rently work­ing with an old friend, Simon Dav­ies, the founder of Pri­vacy Inter­na­tional and the Big Brother Awards. He cut his first PGP key in 2000, but then left it to wither on the vine. As we are in the pro­cess of set­ting up a new pri­vacy ini­ti­at­ive called Code Red (more of which next week) it seemed imper­at­ive for him to set a good example and “start using” again.

Any­way, with the help of one of the god­fath­ers of the Ber­lin crypto­parties, I am happy to report that the father of the pri­vacy move­ment can now ensure your pri­vacy if you wish to com­mu­nic­ate with him.

I am proud to say that my aware­ness of PGP goes back even fur­ther.  The first time I heard of the concept was in 1998 while I was liv­ing in hid­ing in a remote French farm­house in cent­ral France, on the run from MI5, with my then part­ner, David Shayler.

Our only means of com­mu­nic­a­tion with the out­side world was a com­puter and a dial-up con­nec­tion and David went on a steep learn­ing curve in all things geek to ensure a degree of pri­vacy.  He helped build his own web­site (sub­sequently hacked, pre­sum­ably by GCHQ or the NSA as it was a soph­ist­ic­ated attack by the stand­ards of the day) and also installed the newly-available PGP. People com­plain now of the dif­fi­culties of installing encryp­tion, but way back then it was the equi­val­ent of scal­ing Mount Everest after a few light strolls in the park to limber up.  But he man­aged it.

Now, of course, it is rel­at­ively easy, espe­cially if you take the time to attend a Crypto­party — and there will be inev­it­ably be one hap­pen­ing near you some place soon.

Crypto­parties began in late 2012 on the ini­ti­at­ive of Asher Wolf in Aus­tralia.  The concept spread rap­idly, and after Snowden went pub­lic in May 2013, accel­er­ated glob­ally. Indeed, there have been vari­ous reports about the “Snowden Effect”.  Only last week there was an art­icle in the Guard­ian news­pa­per say­ing that 72% of Brit­ish adults are now con­cerned about online pri­vacy. I hope the 72% are tak­ing advant­age of these geek gatherings.

The US-based comedian, John Oliver, also recently aired an inter­view with Edward Snowden.  While this was slightly pain­ful view­ing for any whis­tleblower — Oliver had done a vox pop in New York that he showed to Snowden, where most inter­viewees seemed unaware of him and uncar­ing about pri­vacy — there was a per­cept­ible shift of opin­ion when the issue of, shall we say, pic­tures of a sens­it­ive nature were being intercepted.

Offi­cially this spy pro­gramme is called Optic Nerve, an issue that many of us have been dis­cuss­ing to some effect over the last year.  In the Oliver inter­view this trans­mog­ri­fied into “the dick pic pro­gramme”.  Well, whatever gets the mes­sage out there effect­ively.… and it did.

We all have things we prefer to keep private — be it dick pics, bank accounts, going to the loo, talk­ing to our doc­tor, our sex lives, or even just talk­ing about fam­ily gos­sip over the phone.  This is not about hav­ing any­thing to hide, but most of us do have an innate sense of pri­vacy around our per­sonal issues and deal­ings and this is all now lost to us, as Edward Snowden has laid bare.

As I have also said before, there are wider soci­etal implic­a­tions too — if we feel we are being watched in what we watch, read, say, write, organ­ise, and con­duct our rela­tion­ships, then we start to self-censor.  And this is indeed already another of the quan­ti­fied Snowden effects. This is dele­ter­i­ous to the free flow of inform­a­tion and the cor­rect func­tion­ing of demo­cratic soci­et­ies.  This is pre­cisely why the right to pri­vacy is one of the core prin­ciples in the 1948 Uni­ver­sal Declar­a­tion of Human Rights.

Les­sons had then been learned from the Nazi book burn­ings and the Gestapo spy state, and pri­vacy was recog­nised as a pre-requisite of open demo­cracy. Yet now we see senior and sup­posedly well-informed US politi­cians call­ing for the mod­ern equi­val­ent of book burn­ings and fail­ing to rein in the global abuses of the NSA.

How quickly the les­sons of his­tory can be for­got­ten and how care­lessly we can cast aside the hard-won rights of our ancestors.

Edward Snowden, at great per­sonal risk, gave us the neces­sary inform­a­tion to for­mu­late a push back. At the very least we can have enough respect for the sac­ri­fices he made and for the rights of our fel­low human beings to take basic steps to pro­tect both our own and their privacy.

So please start using open source encryp­tion at the very least. It would be rude not to.

Whistleblower panel discussion at Logan Symposium

Here is a panel dis­cus­sion I did about whis­tleblow­ing at the Logan Sym­posium in Lon­don last Novem­ber. With me on the panel are Eileen Chubb, a UK health care whis­tleblower who runs Com­pas­sion in Care and is cam­paign­ing for Edna’s Law, and Bea Edwards of the US Gov­ern­ment Account­ab­il­ity Pro­ject.  With thanks to @newsPeekers for film­ing this.

news­Peek­sLIVE whis­tleblower inter­view from Annie Machon on Vimeo.

Sam Adams Award for Integrity in Intelligence, Berlin 2015

Last week in Ber­lin the 2015 Sam Adams Award for Integ­rity in Intel­li­gence was presen­ted to the former Tech­nical Dir­ector of the NSA, whis­tleblower and tire­less pri­vacy advoc­ate, Wil­liam Bin­ney.

A 36-year intel­li­gence agency vet­eran, Bill Bin­ney resigned from the NSA in 2001 and became a whis­tleblower after dis­cov­er­ing that ele­ments of a data-monitoring pro­gramme he had helped develop were being used to spy on Amer­ic­ans.  He explained that he “could not stay after the NSA began pur­pose­fully viol­at­ing the Constitution”.

Bill remains tire­less, pledging to spend the remainder of his years speak­ing out across the world and work­ing to reform the gross gov­ern­mental illeg­al­ity and stu­pid­ity of inter­cept­ing tril­lions and tril­lions of com­mu­nic­a­tions of inno­cent people’s phone calls, emails and other forms of data. Bill states “it’s viol­ated everyone’s rights. It can be used to spy on the whole world.”

The Sam Adams Asso­ci­ates decided to hold the cere­mony in Ber­lin as it is cur­rently a global hub for privacy-minded indi­vidu­als — journ­al­ists, film-makers, tech­no­lo­gists, whis­tleblowers and campaigners.

Binney_at_BundestagHis­tory has made Ger­many much more sens­it­ive to the need for basic rights, such as pri­vacy, than many other soi dis­ant west­ern demo­cra­cies, and the dis­clos­ures of Edward Snowden, includ­ing the col­lu­sion of Ger­man intel­li­gence agen­cies with the NSA as well as the bug­ging of Chan­cel­lor Angela Merkel’s mobile phone, have caused out­rage across the country.

Plus, only last year Bill Bin­ney was invited to give evid­ence to the Ger­man Bundestag’s NSA Inquiry Commission.

SAA_Photo_Berlin_2015Whis­tleblowers, former intel­li­gence officers, mil­it­ary officers, dip­lo­mats and law­yers flew in from around the world to hon­our Bill Bin­ney. The Sam Adams Asso­ci­ates attend­ing the event were Ray McGov­ern (CIA), Todd Pierce (US mil­it­ary law­yer), Coleen Row­ley (FBI), Eliza­beth Mur­ray (US national intel­li­gence coun­cil), Craig Mur­ray (UK ambas­sador), Kath­er­ine Gun (GCHQ), Tom Drake (NSA), Jes­selyn Radack (US DoJ), David MacMi­chael (CIA), and myself (MI5).

We were also pleased that Edward Snowden was able to join us via live link to give a  power­ful speech hon­our­ing Bill Binney.

So, here is the film of a won­der­fully touch­ing cere­mony, and con­grat­u­la­tions to Bill Bin­ney for the cour­age he has already demon­strated and con­tin­ues to dis­play:

Sam Adams Award Ber­lin 2015 from Annie Machon on Vimeo.

And here we have the text of the award cita­tion to Bill Binney:

The Sam Adams Asso­ci­ates for Integ­rity in Intelligence

Presents its INTEGRITY AWARD for 2015 to:

Wil­liam Binney

Know all ye by these presents that Wil­liam Bin­ney is hereby honored with the tra­di­tional Sam Adams Corner-Brightener Can­dle­stick Holder, in sym­bolic recog­ni­tion of Mr. Binney’s cour­age in shin­ing light into dark places.

Bill Bin­ney rep­res­ents the pat­ri­otic side of a duel between two unequal adversar­ies: an exceed­ingly power­ful and ruth­less state and Bill, an offi­cial who would not break his sol­emn oath to defend its Con­sti­tu­tion.  Like Tom Drake and Ed Snowden, he was determ­ined to pre­serve his integ­rity, his pri­vacy, and his per­sonal honor.

On both sides of the Atlantic we hear the man­tra: “After 9÷11÷2001 EVERYTHING CHANGED;” just like “everything changed” after the burn­ing of the Reich­stag on 2÷27÷1933.  That event led many Ger­mans into what the writer Sebastian Haffner called “sheep­ish sub­missive­ness” — with dis­astrous consequences.

As a young Ger­man law­yer in Ber­lin at the time, Haffner wrote in his diary one day after the Reich­stag fire that Ger­mans had suffered a nervous break­down.  “No one saw any­thing out of the ordin­ary in the fact that, from now on, one’s tele­phone would be tapped, one’s let­ters opened, and one’s desk might be broken into.”

What was miss­ing, wrote Haffner, was “a solid inner ker­nel that can­not be shaken by external pres­sures and forces, some­thing noble and steely, a reserve of pride, prin­ciple, and dig­nity to be drawn on in the hour or trial.”

We are grate­ful that these traits were NOT miss­ing in Bill Bin­ney.  Nor were they miss­ing in Edward Snowden, whose pat­ri­otic risk-taking opened the way for Bill and his col­leagues to expose the collect-it-all fan­at­ics and the dam­age they do to pri­vacy everywhere.

What Ed Snowden called “turn­key tyranny” can still be pre­ven­ted.  But this can only hap­pen, if pat­ri­ots like Bill Bin­ney can jolt enough people out of “sheep­ish sub­missive­ness.” Goethe under­stood this 200 years ago when he warned, “No one is more a slave than he who thinks him­self free, but is not.”

“Niemand ist mehr Sklave, als der sich für frei hält, ohne es zu sein*.

Presen­ted this 22nd day of Janu­ary 2015 in Ber­lin by admirers of the example set by the late CIA ana­lyst, Sam Adams.

And finally, here are some extra inter­views from the night with Bill Bin­ney, Tom Drake, Jes­selyn Radack, and Coleen Row­ley:

With thanks to Ber­lin Moscow on Unter den Linden and the Dreger Group for host­ing the event, to pro­fes­sional pho­to­grapher Johanna Hul­lar for all her great pic­tures of the ceremony.

Turkish TV Interview

Here’s the first half of a long inter­view I did last month for the invest­ig­at­ive news pro­gramme in Tur­key, Yaz Boz, dis­cuss­ing all things whis­tleblower and tech secur­ity:

Yaz Boz — Turk­ish news Inter­view from Annie Machon on Vimeo.

Swedish SVT TV Interview, November 2014

Here’s an inter­view I did while at the excel­lent Inter­net­dagarna con­fer­ence in Stock­holm last month.  It cov­ers all things whis­tleblower, going on the run, and spy account­ab­il­ity:

Inter­view on Swedish SVT TV, Novem­ber 2014 from Annie Machon on Vimeo.

Privacy as Innovation Interview

A recent inter­view I gave while in Stock­holm to the Pri­vacy as Innov­a­tion project:

privacy_innovation

Keynote at Internetdagarna, Stockholm, November 2014

Here is my key­note speech at the recent Inter­net­dagarna (Inter­net Days) con­fer­ence in Stock­holm, Sweden, dis­cuss­ing all things whis­tleblower, spy, sur­veil­lance, pri­vacy and TTIP:

internetdagarna

The Ottawa Shootings — my RT interview

Yes­ter­day I was asked to do an inter­view on RT in the imme­di­ate after­math of the Ott­awa shoot­ings. As I said, there needs to be a full forensic invest­ig­a­tion, and I would hope that the gov­ern­ment does not use this ter­rible crime as a pre­text for yet fur­ther erosion of con­sti­tu­tional rights and civil liber­ties. Calm heads and the rule of law need to prevail.

ottowa

Interview with George Galloway

Here is my recent inter­view with Brit­ish MP George Gal­lo­way on his RT show, “Sputnik”.

george_galloway.cleaned

Turkey and the German spy scandal — RT

Inform­a­tion has emerged recently that the Ger­man spy agency, the BND, has been caught out bug­ging Hil­lary Clin­ton, John Kerry, and now the Turk­ish government.

Today I did an inter­view on RT on the sub­ject.  Intriguingly, it appears this inform­a­tion was part of the cache of doc­u­ments an alleged mole in the BND sold to his US spymasters.

So what is really going on here?

wo_privacy_cant_have_free_democracy

RT Breaking the Set — interview about spies with Abby Martin

Here’s my inter­view from yes­ter­day on RT’s excel­lent Break­ing the Set show with host, Abby Mar­tin.  We dis­cussed all things spy, sur­veil­lance, Snowden, over­sight, and pri­vacy.  A fun and lively inter­view!  Thanks, Abby.

uk_spies_controlling_past_present_future

German politician wants return to typewriters to evade US surveillance

A com­ment piece from last week on RT about Ger­man politi­cians want­ing to go back to paper-based com­mu­nic­a­tions to evade the US spy panopticon:

de_govt_touts_typewriters

And here is the full text of the inter­view I gave on RT Op Edge:

Both type­writer and strong encryp­tion is going to slow down com­mu­nic­a­tion, but uphold­ing a basic demo­cratic right of pri­vacy seems to be more import­ant, former MI5 agent Annie Machon told RT.

Amid the American-German espi­on­age scan­dal, Ger­man politi­cians are con­sid­er­ing going back to old-fashioned manual type­writers for con­fid­en­tial doc­u­ments in order to pro­tect national secrets from Amer­ican NSA surveillance.

RT: Why would Ger­many think of using type­writers as a secur­ity measure?

Annie Machon: What I find inter­est­ing is that we have a situ­ation where even our demo­crat­ic­ally elec­ted rep­res­ent­at­ives have to think deeply and ser­i­ously about how to pro­tect the pri­vacy of their com­mu­nic­a­tions, par­tic­u­larly when the invest­ig­a­tion of the very sub­ject of inva­sion of the pri­vacy of the cit­izens, which is what the Bundestag at the moment is doing in Ger­many, try­ing to hold hear­ings to work out what exactly the NSA has been doing, which might be con­tra­ven­ing the con­sti­tu­tion of Ger­many. It is very dif­fi­cult now but it is still pos­sible to pro­tect your elec­tronic com­mu­nic­a­tions, but I think this announce­ment, this sort of state­ment by the Bundestag rep­res­ent­at­ive about going back to type­writers is inter­est­ing. It just makes a very strong point that we all need to be aware of the fact that we can be spied on at any time.

RT: Do you think every­one would fol­low Germany’s example?

AM: I think more and more people are con­cerned about their pri­vacy because of the Edward Snowden dis­clos­ures. He has done the world a huge ser­vice with great per­sonal cost, expos­ing the pred­a­tions of the US Intel­li­gence agen­cies and the NSA par­tic­u­larly, as well as a num­ber of European agen­cies. In the past all coun­tries spied on each other because they wanted to gain advant­age over other coun­tries, not neces­sar­ily their enemies, just an advant­age eco­nom­ic­ally or polit­ic­ally. How­ever, what we are see­ing at the moment is the res­ult of what was the per­fect storm for the USA in the 1990s, it was a per­fect oppor­tun­ity for them, because at that point the Cold War had ended, they were the sole remain­ing super­power on the planet, and pre­cisely at that moment we had the evol­u­tion of the inter­net, a huge tech explo­sion of com­mu­nic­a­tions. They saw the oppor­tun­ity and they went for it. Of course they did because that meant that they could embed whatever they wanted into the infra­struc­ture that the whole world now uses for com­mu­nic­a­tion. Of course they were not going to turn this oppor­tun­ity down, and they haven’t. That is what Edward Snowden disclosed.

So we have the situ­ation now when everything can con­ceiv­ably be hoovered up by the NSA and its vas­sal states in Europe, everything can con­ceiv­ably be stored for ever and be used against cit­izens in the future if the laws change. And everything can con­ceiv­ably be known amongst the private delib­er­a­tions of our parliament’s demo­crat­ic­ally elec­ted rep­res­ent­at­ives. It’s worse than Orwellian.

It would be naïve to think that the US would not take up this oppor­tun­ity, but of course they did, and these are the res­ults we are liv­ing in. It would be lovely to think that we could go back to the era of hav­ing pri­vacy in our lives that our gov­ern­ments would have power to ensure we had it, but in this glob­al­ized world it is very dif­fi­cult to ensure that. One of the things that is little known out of all Snowden’s dis­clos­ures is the fact that it is not just what we send over the inter­net, it is also hard­ware, the com­puters, the tech­no­logy we actu­ally use that can already be com­prom­ised by the NSA. This is one of the things that came out just after Christ­mas last year. So we are liv­ing in a very com­plex world but there are very simple steps we can take, both the gov­ern­ments and the cit­izens, to pro­tect our demo­cratic and our basic right to privacy.

RT:Wouldn’t using type­writers slow things down in terms of com­mu­nic­a­tion? Why not use other, more mod­ern ways of pro­tect­ing communication?

AM: Either going back to using pen paper or type­writer or using very strong encryp­tion is going to slow down one’s com­mu­nic­a­tion, there is no doubt about it. The point is though, what is more import­ant, is it access to the latest celebrity gos­sip on the inter­net or is it actu­ally uphold­ing a basic demo­cratic right of pri­vacy. Because if we don’t have pri­vacy, then we lose our free­dom to com­mu­nic­ate eas­ily and in private, we lose our free­dom to ingest inform­a­tion via video, audio or from read­ing, we can­not plan, we can­not con­duct private per­sonal rela­tion­ships over the inter­net. So what is the price of a little bit of incon­veni­ence when it comes to pro­tect­ing our basic rights? I think that how­ever light-heartedly the Ger­man politi­cian men­tioned using type­writers, when it comes to proper secur­ity issues within gov­ern­ment, he is prob­ably abso­lutely right. Last year there was a report as well, say­ing that some of the Rus­sian secur­ity oper­at­ors were now using type­writers too. We will all have to think about that, and it’s just a jolt­ing wake up call to make us all think about that by stat­ing that the Ger­man gov­ern­ment is now going back to type­writers for cer­tain things.

RT: What kind of solu­tion do you see? Should people rely on their gov­ern­ments for pro­tec­tion of their privacy?

AM: There is a danger that people and the gov­ern­ment will become very para­noid about try­ing to pro­tect against the pred­a­tions of the NSA and its vas­sals in Europe. How­ever, I’m not sure as we as cit­izens can rely on gov­ern­ments to pro­tect our pri­vacy because all gov­ern­ments would want to know what is going on on the inter­net for legit­im­ate reas­ons as well, to try to track down the ille­git­im­ate crim­in­als and ter­ror­ists. But it can be easy for them to hoover up all the per­sonal inform­a­tion and we, as cit­izens, need that have that guar­an­tee of pri­vacy. So one of the things we can do as cit­izens is to take respons­ib­il­ity in our own hands. We can indeed source all tech­no­lo­gies, source com­puters pre-2008 that have not built-in hard­ware back­doors. We can use decent PGP encryp­tion, we can use Tor to hide what we are look­ing at in the inter­net, we can use other encryp­tion meth­od­o­lo­gies to pro­tect our pri­vacy, and we need to. I think it’s a very inter­est­ing cross­roads in our his­tory, both as civil­iz­a­tions, as demo­cracy and as indi­vidu­als, but also how we view the tech­no­logy, how we use it, how we can bet­ter use it to pro­tect our life, so that is going it be an ongo­ing debate. I’m very pleased to see this in Ger­many par­tic­u­larly. The politi­cians seem to be wak­ing up around these issues and want­ing debate these issues because the USA has got away with it for long enough across the West.