Monday, February 27, 2017

February 27, 2017 at 04:39PM

Homeless At Home March 26, 2001 In addition to copies of my medical and financial records, I bring Michael Elliot's book, "Why the Homeless Don't Have Homes and What to Do About It." I skim the list of references and I see names I recognize: Jonathan Kozol; Faulkner; Foucault, and I know I am in good company. I begin my second journey to the Multipurpose Center #54 on Sutphin Boulevard in Jamaica, Queens; I try to prepare myself for the four-to-six hour wait that inevitably lies ahead of me. It is my hope that buried deep within these pages and Elliot’s years of experience and wisdom, I will find some solution to my problem. After my first few days in New York City, I quickly learn that the homeless cannot vote nor can we obtain a library card. Knowledge is power. Information challenges the status quo. Books are my friends. When I browse through Barnes & Noble, I often see titles that catch my eye; and though I know nothing of the content, I am inherently drawn to "Night is Dark and I am Far From Home" (Kozol; 1 98x) and "Tell Them My Name". Today is March 26, 2001. My first journey to Multipurpose Center #54 was January 26, 2001: exactly 2 months ago; After many calls to NYC No-Heat Hotline to complain about the situation, I still have no heat. I have no electricity and no water. My caseworker did not tell me she would be leaving her position with Protective Services for Adults (PSA) and I have not been contacted by any with Health and Human Resources (HRA) since March 5, 2001. On March 7, 2001, I drove my beat-up 1994 Honda Civic over to the emergency room at NYU. By the time I arrived at East 23rd pulled over and asked two officers in the 3rd precinct to please take my car and help me find my way to the ER since my panic was overwhelming and I had lost touch with my senses and felt I was a danger on the roads; I had now lost my sense of direction both in concrete terms and in the abstract vision I had painted of my life. Officer Collins and her partner, Officer Gavin did not laugh at me; they did not tell me I was crazy or delusional. They let me catch my breath and miraculously managed to calm my fears and prepare me for the short trip in the ambulance to the ER. Officer Gavin's wife has four cats. Officer Collins was off duty, yet she stayed with me. In the ER for what seemed like several hours. True to their word, they miraculously got my car out to Long Island where it was placed in a garage safe from the NYC Department of Finance. I hate cops. Always have. Ever since I found out my Daddy was a Fed. But they were an exception to the rule. There is always an exception to the rule. Those who say it cannot be done should not interrupt the person doing it (Chinese proverb) Yesterday I was grateful for the sunny weather and a place to stay. Today it is snowing. Tomorrow I must return to Multipurpose Center #54 to file another application for Public Assistance. The weather may be nice or it may be cold, but night is coming and I am far from home. And I beg of you, tell them my name. Tell them I have a name. And last but not least, tell them who I am. Just me, e @ELyssaD @Chillle /ed70

Sunday, February 26, 2017

The FCC and Congress Must Preserve the Privacy Rights of Broadband Internet Customers! | Center for Digital Democracy

The FCC and Congress Must Preserve the Privacy Rights of Broadband Internet Customers! | Center for Digital Democracy

The FCC and Congress Must Preserve the Privacy Rights of Broadband Internet Customers!

Posted by Yewande Ogunkoya

Written by Katharina Kopp

After a long and fair rulemaking process during most of 2016, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) adopted ground-breaking privacy rules last October protecting the personal information of broadband Internet service customers. Both industry—including powerful phone and cable companies that provide the majority of broadband connections—as well as consumer, civil rights, and privacy groups, had ample opportunity to make their case—which they did. Public-interest and grass-roots organizations used their limited resources to advocate for consumers' basic right to access and use the Internet (via Internet service providers—ISPs) in private, without having their information gathered. Industry and its allies tried to oppose or water down attempts to give their customers meaningful privacy protections. Despite a significant power imbalance between the parties, the process resulted in rules that give consumers and citizens legal rights that many assumed are already theirs to enjoy, but which they, in fact, had been denied until this historic broadband privacy rule making. 

Prior to the Privacy Order, it was not since the 1998 Children's Online Privacy Protection Act that U.S. regulators affirmatively granted consumers meaningful online privacy rights on this scale. While the Federal Trade Commission has played an important role as the lead agency in protecting the privacy and data-security rights of U.S. consumers for a large section of the U.S. economy, it has not enacted any policy that that would restore the power imbalance between consumers and large corporations in our ever-growing commercial surveillance world. The FCC broadband privacy rule, however, aims to provide the public with some fairness and balance to the lopsided relationship between the average individual and data-insatiable powerful ISPs.  

The FCC rules set limits on what Internet service providers may do with the highly sensitive data that they have already collected in the course of providing internet service (a service for which consumers already pay dearly with their pocket books). "Sensitive" information includes precise geo-location, financial information, health information, children's information, social security numbers, web browsing history, app usage history and the content of communications. The most important aspect of the rule requires Internet service providers to obtain an opt-in consent for the use or sharing of such information for purposes other than providing broadband service, such as billing. What this means is that unless you ask me and I give permission, what I do on the Internet is off-limits for ISPs to monetize. 

The final rule emphasized the distinction between sensitive and non-sensitive data. The FCC felt it had to accommodate industry pressure to follow the FTC's framework, which is based on that agency's very limited authority to protect consumer privacy. Advocates and the FCC recognized that the distinction between sensitive and non-sensitive information is less and less meaningful in an age when companies can use data analytics and modeling to infer the most personal traits of an individual without ever collecting "sensitive data." What is particularly noteworthy is that the new FCC rule grappled with the concepts of what kinds of uses and sharing are permissible and which are not. The rule, in fact, makes it clear that it is precisely the unexpected and unrelated or secondary uses of data that a company must first obtain permission to use before it can do so. In other words, each of us has a right to control the collection, use, and exploitation of data about us. 

This important and basic human right was finally made into a legal right with the 2016 FCC Privacy Order. It should stay that way, even with a new leadership at the Commission. The benefits that accrue to each of us individually and as members of a group, as well as to society at large, from this new policy safeguard, are manifold and invaluable to an equitable, just, and fair democracy and marketplace. Without an opt-in, there would be no limitations placed on how ISPs can use the data about us. As we all know too well, the existing individual privacy self-management model in the U.S., which typically offers only an opt-out, has proven to be ineffective in putting limits on corporate data uses and sharing, although the public expresses an increasing opposition to these corporate surveillance practices.  

Not only do the FCC privacy rules affirm the basic individual right to have one's privacy protected and individual autonomy preserved, the requirement to obtain an affirmative consent prior to any secondary uses by ISPs is equally critical in guarding against profiling and group discrimination. The profiling of an individual, or the association of an individual with a class of people, requires very little information about the person who is being profiled. So, the less data collected about others like me, the less likely that I will be profiled. While not perfect, and just a small safeguard in this world of ubiquitous and constant data surveillance, this rule helps to guard us against the classifying and predictive analytics that often represent a biased, discriminatory, and entrenched inequality that incorporate past inequities into decisions about the future.  

Given that the rule identifies information about children as sensitive data, it is also important in protecting the fundamental rights of children to enjoy privacy and freedom from age-inappropriate commercial exploitation. The use of data about us as consumers and citizens during the 2016 elections, moreover, should serve as an important reminder of how pervasive technologies of data surveillance analytics have become. Political campaigns and special interests have unfettered access to commercial data and marketing practices designed to influence how we think, act, and vote, but there are no regulations or corporate practices that aim to curtail these developments'—unless, that is, we hold onto the FCC broadband privacy rule now and build on it in the future.  

Given the ominous start of Ajit Pai to his FCC chairmanship—he has already used his "delegated authority" to undermine important communications rights—we are now facing the very real likelihood that the new chairman will do away with the rule that was adopted by the previous FCC Commission. (CDD recently filed an Opposition to Petitions for a Stay of the Federal Communications Commission's Broadband Privacy Order in response to a filing by a coalition of industry associations and interests.) Similarly, there is a real risk that Congress might repeal the rule via the Congressional Review Act, which would prevent the FCC from revisiting broadband privacy rules at all in the future. But Americans want to have control over their lives and data, and want to be able to make decisions unencumbered by powerful corporate interests. Thus the FCC and Congress must preserve the privacy rights of broadband internet customers!


Written by Katharina Kopp, Deputy Director, Director of Policy for Center for Digital Democracy


FCC proposes new privacy rules for ISPs | TechCrunch

FCC proposes new privacy rules for ISPs | TechCrunch

FCC proposes new privacy rules for ISPs

As widely expected, the FCC has proposed expansive new data privacy rules for broadband providers that, if adopted, could see ISPs required to gain explicit consent from users for using or sharing their data.

Although the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM), adopted by the FCC late last week, seeks to tighten privacy rules it would not require broadband providers to gain explicit opt in customer consent for all purposes — with leeway left for providing the broadband service, marketing the specific service to users, and for certain other specific purposes "consistent with customer expectations", such as public safety contacts.

ISPs would also still be able to share customer data for marketing other comms-related services and with any affiliates providing these services — provided broadband customers have not opted out of receiving this type of marketing missive.

However all other uses of customer data by ISPs would require explicit opt in consent from users under the proposals.

The FCC said the aim is to implement the privacy requirements of Section 222 of the Communications Act for broadband ISPs, with chairman Tom Wheeler arguing that tighter privacy rules are necessary because of the visibility ISPs have into users' online activity.

In a statement, Wheeler said the proposal is aimed at giving consumers "the tools we need to make informed decisions about how our ISPs use and share our data, and confidence that ISPs are keeping their customers' data secure".

Unlike with Internet services consumers cannot easily swap to another broadband provider or choose not to use an ISP at all, he noted.

"Our ISPs handle all of our network traffic. That means an ISP has a broad view of all of its customers' unencrypted online activity — when we are online, the websites we visit, and the apps we use. If we have mobile devices… our providers can track our physical location throughout the day in real time. Even when data is encrypted, our broadband providers can piece together significant amounts of information about us — including private information such as a chronic medical condition or financial problems — based on our online activity," said Wheeler.


In January a group of U.S. privacy and consumer rights groups called on the FCC to tighten privacy rules for ISPs, arguing that ISPs have increasingly been using the same big data analytics/tracking techniques as Internet ad platform giants like Google — posing massive risks to user privacy.

As you'd expect, broadband providers are opposed to the proposals. Commenting in a blog post after the NPRM was published last week, Comcast's SVP for public policy, David L. Cohen, wrote: "The proposed rules will not provide meaningful consumer Internet privacy protections, and will block ISPs from bringing new competition to the online advertising market that could benefit consumers."

Cohen added that the NPRM is "inexplicably targeted to block ISPs… from entering and competing as disruptors and upstarts in the online advertising marketplace", noting the latter is "dominated by edge providers and other non-ISPs".

But Wheeler couched it as "narrowly focused" on ISPs because personal data gathered by ISPs is done so as a function of providing broadband connectivity — rather than because a consumer chooses to visit a website or use a particular online service.

"This proposal does not prohibit ISPs from using and sharing customer data — it simply proposes that the ISP first obtain customers' express permission before doing so," Wheeler added.

The FCC proposal was approved by a 3-2 Democratic majority, with Republican commissioners dubbing it corporate favoritism, according to NPR. The next steps in the FCC's process will be a period of public consultation before a final vote to set new rules.


Can I sell my American citizenship on eBay?

Can I sell my American citizenship on eBay? 

Pretty sure no one would notice if I left the US for quite some time if ever. 

I could totally swing this.  I have total shut in potential.  

All I need to do is designate a fiduciary (easy peasy) and keep crying about Comcast and my Smart TV!! 

Hmmmm...  need to speak to my brother who went to Canada and see how that worked out. 

It makes financial sense and probably a good investment in future if I can find a post doc or a research fellowship to examine our system of care Vs NHS or Canadian Health Care System. 

Maybe now is a good time to do that research project I was forced to put on hold because life happens...

My wheels are a turning!! 


Americans Renouncing Citizenship at Record High

It all goes back to the Civil War.

The number of Americans renouncing their citizenship rose to a new record of 5,411 last year, up 26 percent from 2015, according to the latest government data.


It all goes back to the Civil War, and to a tax meant to deter potential draft dodgers from leaving the U.S. Today, the goal is to make sure that all of the income of U.S. citizens, whether they live and work in the U.S. or not, is reported to the Internal Revenue Service.

The rules got trickier in 2010, when, in an effort to cut down on tax evasion, the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (fabulously, Fatca, for short) was passed into law. It basically said foreign institutions holding assets for U.S. citizens had to report the accounts or withhold a 30 percent tax on them if the information wasn't provided. That led some foreign banks to shy away from opening accounts for expats.

Since Fatca came into being, annual totals for Americans renouncing citizenship have reached their four highest historic levels, as shown in the chart below from Andrew Mitchel LLC and its International Tax Blog.

Source: U.S. Treasury Department via Andrew Mitchel LLC

Among the names on the 2016 list of those bidding adieu to the U.S. and its tax code was the U.K.'s foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, who was born in New York. Boldface names from years past (some really past) include the torch song master Josephine Baker, the actor Yul Brynner, the great soprano Maria Callas, businessmen Kenneth and Robert Dart, investor Mark Mobius, and Eduardo Saverin, a co-founder of Facebook.

2016 Fourth Quarter Published Expatriates – New Annual Record

Today the Treasury Department published the names of individuals who renounced their U.S. citizenship or terminated their long-term U.S. residency ("expatriated") during the fourth quarter of 2016.

The number of published expatriates for the quarter was 2,365, bringing the total number of published expatriates in 2016 to 5,411.  The total for the year breaks last year's record number of 4,279 published expatriates.  The number of expatriates for 2016 is a 26% increase over 2015 and a 58% increase over 2014 (3,415).  For a discussion of how the IRS compiles the data, see these posts: missing namessource of data.

The escalation of offshore penalties over the last 20 years is likely contributing to the increased incidence of expatriation.

We have created two graphs which reflect the latest expatriation data. The graph above is based solely on IRS data and shows the number of published expatriates per year since 1998. The graph below shows data going back to 1962 by incorporating State Department data.  For the source of the State Department data, see this post.

Interestingly, Boris Johnson, the UK Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (and former Mayor of London), appears to be on the list.  Also, Alexander Friedrich Antonius Johannes Von Hohenzollern, also known as Alexander, Hereditary Prince of Hohenzollern appears to be on the list.

For our prior coverage of expatriation, see all posts tagged Expatriation.



Severe poverty affects brain size, researchers fin

Severe poverty affects brain size, researchers find
Study explains poor performance in school, expert says.
A six-year study by researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison has added to the mounting evidence that growing up in severe poverty affects how children's brains develop, potentially putting them at a lifelong disadvantage.

The study — which combined the expertise of neuroscientists and economists — found that the parts of the brain tied to academic performance were 8 percent to 10 percent smaller for children who grow up in very poor households.

It was based on a relatively large sample of predominantly white children whose mothers were much more educated than the general population. And the results show a biological link between growing up in extreme poverty and how well children do academically.

"The significance of the study is providing a hard physical link between the experience of growing up in poverty and how well children do on cognitive tests," said Barbara "Bobbi" Wolfe, an economist at UW-Madison and one of the co-authors of the study.

The study, published in JAMA Pediatrics, builds on animal studies and other research suggesting that poverty affects the parts of the brain tied to self-control, attention, planning and other traits important for success in school and life.

The children often receive less nurturing from parents and live in environments characterized by increased stress from crowded housing, instability, poor nutrition, limited stimulation and more exposure to violence.

That children who grow up in poverty do less well in school is well documented. But studies increasingly show that at least part of that overall poor performance stems from how their brains grow and work.

The UW study estimated that as much as 20 percent of the gap in test scores could be explained by slower development of two parts of the brain: the frontal lobe and the temporal lobe.

The frontal lobe is important for controlling attention, inhibition, emotions and complex learning. The temporal lobe is important for memory and language comprehension, such as identifying and attaching meaning to words.

Both areas of the brain develop through adolescence.

"It provides a brain-based explanation for why children living in poverty are not performing academically as well," said Joan Luby, a professor of child psychiatry and director of the Early Emotional Development Program at Washington University School of Medicine. Luby was not involved in the study.

The UW-Madison study was led by Wolfe and Seth Pollak, a professor of psychology and director of the Child Emotion Lab.


Saturday, February 25, 2017

Trump Intensifies His Attacks on Journalists and Condemns F.B.I. ‘Leakers’ - The New York Times

Trump Intensifies His Attacks on Journalists and Condemns F.B.I. 'Leakers' - The New York Times
Some people don't know when to shut the fuck up. 

President Trump and I have that in common. But not much else. 

Trump Intensifies His Attacks on Journalists and Condemns F.B.I. 'Leakers'



WASHINGTON — President Trump turned the power of the White House against the news media on Friday, escalating his attacks on journalists as "the enemy of the people" and berating members of his own F.B.I. as "leakers" who he said were putting the nation at risk.

In a speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference, Mr. Trump criticized as "fake news" organizations that publish anonymously sourced reports that reflect poorly on him. And in a series of Twitter posts, he assailed the F.B.I. as a dangerously porous agency, condemning unauthorized revelations of classified information from within its ranks and calling for an immediate hunt for leakers.

Hours after the speech, as if to demonstrate Mr. Trump's determination to punish reporters whose coverage he dislikes, Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, barred journalists from The New York Times and several other news organizations from attending his daily briefing, a highly unusual breach of relations between the White House and its press corps.

Mr. Trump's barrage against the news media continued well into Friday night. "FAKE NEWS media knowingly doesn't tell the truth," he wrote on Twitter shortly after 10 p.m., singling out The Times and CNN. "A great danger to our country."

The moves underscored the degree to which Mr. Trump and members of his inner circle are eager to use the prerogatives of the presidency to undercut those who scrutinize him, dismissing negative stories as lies and confining press access at the White House to a few chosen news organizations considered friendly. The Trump White House has also vowed new efforts to punish leakers.

Mr. Trump's attacks on the press came as the White House pushed back on a report by CNN on Thursday night that a White House official had asked the F.B.I. to rebut a New York Times article last week detailing contacts between Mr. Trump's associates and Russian intelligence officials. The report asserted that a senior White House official had called top leaders at the F.B.I. to request that they contact reporters to dispute the Times's account.

"The fake news doesn't tell the truth," Mr. Trump said to the delight of the conservatives packed into the main ballroom at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center just south of Washington. "It doesn't represent the people, it doesn't and never will represent the people, and we're going to do something about it."

In the West Wing less than three hours later, the consequences were becoming clear. Mr. Spicer told a handpicked group of reporters in a briefing in his spacious office that the White House would relentlessly counter coverage it considered inaccurate.

"We're going to aggressively push back," he said, according to a recording of the session provided by a reporter who was allowed to attend. "We're just not going to sit back and let, you know, false narratives, false stories, inaccurate facts get out there."

Reporters from The Times, BuzzFeed News, CNN, The Los Angeles Times, Politico, the BBC and The Huffington Post were among those shut out of the briefing. Aides to Mr. Spicer admitted only reporters from a group of news organizations that, the White House said, had been previously confirmed.

Those organizations included Breitbart News, the One America News Network and The Washington Times, all with conservative leanings. Journalists from ABC, CBS, The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg and Fox News also attended.

Reporters from The Associated Press and Time magazine, who were set to be allowed in, chose not to attend the briefing in protest of the White House's actions. The Washington Post did not send a reporter to the session.

"Nothing like this has ever happened at the White House in our long history of covering multiple administrations of different parties," Dean Baquet, the executive editor of The Times, said in a statement. "We strongly protest the exclusion of The New York Times and the other news organizations. Free media access to a transparent government is obviously of crucial national interest."

Marty Baron, the Post's editor, called Mr. Spicer's decision to exclude some news organizations from a scheduled briefing "appalling."

"This is an undemocratic path that the administration is traveling," Mr. Baron said. "There is nothing to be gained from the White House restricting the public's access to information."

The White House played down the drama surrounding Friday's briefing.

"We invited the pool, so everyone was represented," Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the deputy White House press secretary, said in an email Friday afternoon, referring to the small group of reporters on hand at the White House each day to follow the president and send reports to the broader press corps. "We decided to add a couple of additional people beyond the pool. Nothing more than that."

The White House Correspondents' Association, which represents the press corps, also protested the decision. But Jeff Mason, the organization's president, pointed out that the White House had provided near-daily briefings and accepted questions from a variety of news outlets since Mr. Trump took office.

"We're not happy with how things went today," Mr. Mason said in an interview. "But it's important to keep in mind the context of how things have gone up until now." He added: "I don't think that people should rush to judgment to suggest that this is the start of a big crackdown on media access."

Still, the Committee to Protect Journalists, which typically advocates press rights in countries with despotic regimes, issued an alarmed statement on Friday about Mr. Trump's escalating language.

"It is not the job of political leaders to determine how journalists should conduct their work, and sets a terrible example for the rest of the world," said the group's executive director, Joel Simon. "The U.S. should be promoting press freedom and access to information."

Mr. Trump, in his attack on the news media at the conservative gathering, complained at length about the use of anonymous sources in news stories, charging that some reporters were fabricating unnamed sources to level unfair charges against him.

"They shouldn't be allowed to use sources unless they use somebody's name," Mr. Trump said. "Let their name be put out there."

At another point, he said, "A few days ago, I called the fake news the enemy of the people because they have no sources — they just make it up." He added that his "enemy of the people" label applied only to "dishonest" reporters and editors.

Those comments came shortly after his own aides had held a briefing for the White House press pool on the condition of anonymity to deny CNN's story suggesting there had been improper contact between the White House and the F.B.I. regarding the Times article on Russian contacts.

Later, in the briefing from which the Times was excluded, Mr. Spicer said that it was top F.B.I. officials — first Andrew G. McCabe, the deputy director, and later James B. Comey, the director — who approached Reince Priebus, the White House chief of staff, the day after the article appeared to say that it was false.

Mr. Priebus then asked the two F.B.I. officials what they could do to rebut it publicly. They apologized and said they were unable to issue a statement or otherwise comment on the matter, Mr. Spicer said.

"They came to us and said the story is not true. We said, 'Great, could you tell people that?'" Mr. Spicer said, describing the discussions between Mr. Priebus and F.B.I. officials.

The F.B.I. on Friday declined to provide its account of those conversations. On Thursday night an F.B.I. official said that the White House had asked last week for the bureau's help disputing the article, and that senior F.B.I. officials had rejected the request, citing the investigation into Russian efforts to affect the election.

The article reported that current and former American officials said that phone records and intercepted calls showed that members of Mr. Trump's 2016 presidential campaign and other Trump associates had repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election. The intercepts alarmed American intelligence and law enforcement agencies, in part because of the amount of contact that was occurring while Mr. Trump was speaking glowingly about the Russian president, Vladimir V. Putin.

Last week the White House declined to comment on the Times article and referred reporters back to Mr. Spicer's previous assertions that Mr. Trump's campaign had no contact with the Russian government.

Mr. Baquet said on Friday that The Times "had numerous sources confirming this story."

"Attacking it does not make it less true," Mr. Baquet added.

Mr. Spicer's small-group Friday session, known as a gaggle, was scheduled as an off-camera event, less formal than his usual briefings that are carried live on cable news. But past administrations have not selected outlets that can attend such sessions.

Representatives of the barred news organizations made clear that they believed the White House's actions were punitive.

"Apparently this is how they retaliate when you report facts they don't like," CNN said in a statement.

Tensions always emerge between an administration and the reporters who cover it, and it is not unusual for a White House to single out groups of journalists for special briefings outside of the daily on-camera question-and-answer session. The Obama White House was harshly criticized by members of the press corps after it tried to exclude Fox News from interviews with top administration officials.

But press relations in the Trump White House have taken on a tinderbox dynamic, with journalists and press aides highly suspicious of each other's motives.

"The grass is dry on both sides," said Ari Fleischer, who was press secretary to George W. Bush, "so it only takes a very small match to light it on fire."


Pentagon Sees a Threat From Online Muckrakers -

Pentagon Sees a Threat From Online Muckrakers -

Pentagon Sees a Threat From Online Muckrakers

Army Sees Document Web Site as a Potential Threat

To the list of the enemies threatening the security of the United States, the Pentagon has added, a tiny online source of information and documents that governments and corporations around the world would prefer to keep secret.

The Pentagon assessed the danger posed to the Army in a report marked "unauthorized disclosure subject to criminal sanctions." It concluded that " represents a potential force protection, counterintelligence, OPSEC and INFOSEC threat to the U.S. Army" — or, in plain English, a threat to Army operations and information.

WikiLeaks, true to its mission to publish materials that expose secrets of all kinds, published the 2008 Pentagon report about itself on Monday.

Lt. Col. Lee Packnett, an Army spokesman, confirmed that the report was real. Julian Assange, the editor of WikiLeaks, said the concerns the report raised were hypothetical.

"It did not point to anything that has actually happened as a result of the release," Mr. Assange said. "It contains the analyst's best guesses as to how the information could be used to harm the Army but no concrete examples of any real harm being done."

WikiLeaks, a nonprofit organization, has rankled governments and companies around the world with its publication of materials intended to be kept secret. For instance, the Army's report says that in 2008, access to the Web site in the United States was cut off by court order after Bank Julius Baer, a Swiss financial institution, sued it for publishing documents implicating Baer in money laundering, grand larceny and tax evasion. Access was restored after two weeks, when the bank dropped its case.

Governments, including those of North Korea and Thailand, also have tried to prevent access to the site and complained about its release of materials critical of their governments and policies.

The Army's interest in WikiLeaks appears to have been spurred by, among other things, its publication and analysis of classified and unclassified Army documents containing information about military equipment, units, operations and "nearly the entire order of battle" for American forces in Iraq and Afghanistan in April 2007.

WikiLeaks also published an outdated, unclassified copy of the "standard operating procedures" at the military prison in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. WikiLeaks said the document revealed methods by which the military prevented prisoners from meeting with the International Red Cross and the use of "extreme psychological stress" as a means of torture.

The Army's report on WikiLeaks does not say whether WikiLeaks' analysis of that document was accurate. It does charge that some of WikiLeaks's other interpretation of information is flawed but does not say specifically in what way.

The report also airs the Pentagon's concern over some 2,000 pages of documents WikiLeaks released on equipment used by coalition forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Pentagon concluded that such information could be used by foreign intelligence services, terrorist groups and others to identify vulnerabilities, plan attacks and build new devices.

WikiLeaks, which won Amnesty International's new media award in 2009, almost closed this year because it was broke and still operates at less than its full capacity. It relies on donations from humans rights groups, journalists, technology buffs and individuals, and Mr. Assange said it had raised just two-thirds of the $600,000 needed for its budget this year and thus was not publishing everything it had.

Perhaps the most amusing aspect of the Army's report, to Mr. Assange, was its speculation that WikiLeaks is supported by the Central Intelligence Agency. "I only wish they would step forward with a check if that's the case," he said.


licensing -

licensing -

Getting Permission to Use the reddit Trademark

  • Getting Permission to Use the reddit Trademark
  • Personal Use License (gift for yourself or someone else)
  • API client licensing (mobile, web, and desktop applications)
  • Commercial Goods License (you or someone else is selling an item)

The first thing to note is that reddit is an open-source site. Anyone can take reddit's code, anyone can spider reddit's content. We're very open and proud of that fact. We are a business, too. One that both wants to make money and to make the world a better place — which we hope aren't at odds. We have a long history of licensing the reddit alien to redditor-owned businesses and have found the experience can be enriching and rewarding if done right for all parties.

As reddit has grown, we've gotten more inquiries and more interest in creating products that contain the reddit trademark. We have an obligation on two fronts:

  • for anything that bears the reddit brand to be something that enhances the reddit experience — whether that is a knitted blanket or a T-shirt available in our store or web application.
  • for these uses to be documented (the way the law is written in the United States and most other countries, you have to defend your trademark continuously or you lose it.)

There are three licensing arrangements we typically use, and we process each according to a different set of assumptions. The different processes are outlined below, but it is important to note that we don't grant every request we receive — especially commercial ones.

Personal Use License (gift for yourself or someone else)

The personal use license is typically used when someone wants to make an item like a quilt to display in their home or give as a gift to another redditor. They're making one or two at most and no money is changing hands. We're very flexible about these types of requests and love seeing how creative and fun people are.

If you want to use the alien one time for a special gift for someone (or yourself):

  • Email us at with what you want to make and a picture if possible
  • Include your name and address, we typically ask you to sign a "formal-ish" letter confirming that we've given you permission to make something for yourself.

We just want to make sure you're not doing something completely offensive and have a record of the use. :)

API client licensing (mobile, web, and desktop applications)

We require registration for use of our our API. Please see our API terms for more details.

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Hate Crime Is Feared as 2 Indian Engineers Are Shot in Kansas - @splc @resostinghate

Hate Crime Is Feared as 2 Indian Engineers Are Shot in Kansas -
II didn't think it could get any worse. As a white woman who became complacent and apathetic 
enjoying white privilege in my eastern costal elite multicultural community. 

Hate Crimes were for other people. Minorities like Blacks and "other people."

I had no idea I would be the target of vile antisemitism and online harassment and threats by neo Nazis and White Supremacists that would threaten and harass my friends and family. 

To be continued... 

Hate Crime Is Feared as 2 Indian Engineers Are Shot in Kansas

OLATHE, Kan. — "The Jameson guys," as some on the staff at Austins Bar and Grill knew the pair, were on the patio on Wednesday evening. It was hardly unusual: Srinivas Kuchibhotla and Alok Madasani, two immigrants from India, often enjoyed an after-work whiskey at the bar they had adopted as a hangout.

Adam W. Purinton was also there, tossing ethnic slurs at the two men and suggesting they did not belong in the United States, other customers said. Patrons complained, and Mr. Purinton was thrown out.

But a short time later, he came back in a rage and fired on the two men, the authorities said. Mr. Kuchibhotla was killed, and Mr. Madasani was wounded, along with a 24-year-old man who had tried to apprehend the gunman, who fled.

Mr. Purinton, 51, was extradited to Kansas from Missouri on Friday, and he is charged with premeditated first-degree murder and two counts of attempted premeditated first-degree murder.

The attack, which the federal and local authorities are investigating as a possible hate crime, reverberated far beyond both states. It raised new alarms about a climate of hostility toward foreigners in the United States, where President Trump has made clamping down on immigration a central plank of his "America first" agenda. The White House strongly rejected the notion that there might be any connection between the shooting and the new administration's sharp language about immigration.

"People are devastated," said Somil Chandwani, a friend of the two victims who lives in Overland Park, Kan. "I wouldn't say they are angry. They have a sense of insecurity at the moment. People are trying to find answers."

A charging document released on Friday gave no details about the motive for the shooting. Law enforcement officials in Kansas, citing the continuing investigation and judicial ethics standards, said little about the episode.

Still, the F.B.I.'s role in the inquiry suggested that officials had found some evidence that could eventually lead to civil rights charges in connection with the shooting, which occurred around 7:15 p.m. Wednesday.

"He snapped, and this is not his typical self," the suspect's mother, Marsha Purinton, said before declining further comment.

In a brief phone interview on Friday night, Mr. Madasani described the remarks made Wednesday by the man sitting near him and Mr. Kuchibhotla at the restaurant. "He asked us what visa are we currently on and whether we are staying here illegally," Mr. Madasani said. (Both men were educated in the United States and were working here legally.)

"We didn't react," Mr. Madasani said. "People do stupid things all the time. This guy took it to the next level."

Mr. Madasani said he went in to get a manager, and by the time he returned to the patio, the man was being escorted out.

After Mr. Purinton was thrown out, Jeremy Luby, 41, a software developer, said he offered to pick up the tab for the two men, who thanked him during a brief conversation about work and cultural differences.

"It was wrong what happened to them," Mr. Luby said. "I thought it was a nice gesture to say, 'I'm sorry someone was being rude to you like that.'"

After the shooting began, another patron, Ian Grillot, 24, said he tried to count the shots while he hid under a table. Thinking the gunman had run out of ammunition, Mr. Grillot said, he confronted him, only to be shot in the hand and the chest.

"It wasn't right, and I didn't want the gentleman to potentially go after somebody else," Mr. Grillot said in a video released by the hospital where he received treatment. "He did it once. What would stop him from doing it again?"

The shots echoed around the area, and Chris Lacross soon emerged from a store a few doors down to an unimaginable scene: an emergency medical technician performing CPR on a man lying in the doorway of the bar's front patio, where tables and chairs had been flipped over, and someone was shouting that they needed towels.

Another man took off his shirt and applied pressure to the wound of another victim, who was writhing in pain, said Mr. Lacross, who allowed some people to use a store restroom to wash away spattered blood.

Within minutes, an emergency dispatcher, in a transmission archived by the Broadcastify website, told officers, "We're being advised the suspect's name is Adam, and he's a white male wearing a white shirt with military medals."

Adam W. Purinton was charged on Thursday with one count of premeditated first-degree murder and two counts of attempted premeditated first-degree murder.

Henry County Sheriff's Office, via Associated Press

Capt. Sonny Lynch, the deputy chief of police in Clinton, Mo., where Mr. Purinton was arrested at an Applebee's restaurant, said a bartender there called the police after a customer confessed to his involvement in a shooting hours earlier.

"He was talking to her — 'I'm on the run; I'm hiding out from the law' — so she stuck around," Captain Lynch said of the bartender. "She just hung out there talking to the guy until he said, 'I shot those guys, and that's why I'm hiding out from the police.'"

Mr. Purinton was arrested without incident, Captain Lynch said, and invoked his constitutional rights. It was not clear whether he had a lawyer.

Mr. Purinton spent time in the Navy and, according to a website where veterans can list their military records, was deployed aboard the Long Beach, a missile cruiser, from 1988 to 1990. He later worked for the Federal Aviation Administration but left the agency in 2000, a spokeswoman said.

In Johnson County, Kan., at least, he has had few run-ins with law enforcement. Court records showed a limited history: a speeding ticket in 2008, as well as a 1999 drunken-driving charge that was dismissed.

A neighbor, Lisa Puckett, said that Mr. Purinton was frequently intoxicated but that news of a shooting was stunning.

"We always wondered if he might hurt himself, but we didn't think he would hurt someone else," she said.

The dead man, Mr. Kuchibhotla, worked for Garmin, a GPS navigation and communications device company. One of the wounded men, Mr. Madasani, like Mr. Kuchibhotla in his early 30s, also worked for Garmin, according to the Indian government. On Friday, counselors were at the company's campus in Olathe, a hub of South Asian immigrants where 84 languages are spoken in the local school district.

Speaking to reporters on Friday at the Garmin headquarters, Mr. Kuchibhotla's widow, Sunayana Dumala, said she had long been worried by shootings she read about in the newspaper.

"I, especially, I was always concerned, are we doing the right thing of staying in the United States of America?" she said. "But he always assured me that only good things happen to good people."

Now, Ms. Dumala said, she needed "an answer from the government" about what "they're going to do to stop this hate crime."

Mr. Madasani's father, Jagan Mohan Reddy, a government engineer in Hyderabad, India, said his family was in shock. He said he did not know whether he would ask Mr. Madasani, who received a graduate degree from the University of Missouri-Kansas City, and another son living in the United States to leave the country.

"We have to think it over," he said. "My sons are not new to America. They have been staying there for the last 10 to 12 years. This is a new situation, and they are the best judges."

Mr. Madasani, who has been released from the hospital, said he was recovering physically and mentally. "I'm definitely doing much better, but it's not over yet," he said.

On Friday, Mr. Kuchibhotla's killing and the wounding of Mr. Madasani led to a chorus of fury in India, where the attack dominated the news media to such an extent that the top American diplomat in the country was compelled to issue a statement condemning what she described as a "tragic and senseless act."

In Washington, the White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, rejected any link between Mr. Trump's policy agenda and the shooting, which many Indians believed might have been inspired by the president's harsh tone on immigration.

The Justice Department is under pressure to bring federal charges in the case. Moussa Elbayoumy, the board chairman for the Kansas chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said the government should "consider filing hate crime charges in order to send a strong message that violence targeting religious or ethnic minorities will not be tolerated."

On Friday night, a diverse crowd of more than 400 gathered to grieve at First Baptist Church down the street from the bar. They offered their prayers to the Kuchibhotlas and the Madasanis, characterized the shooting as an anomaly in an otherwise peaceful, tolerant suburb and vowed they would not let that change.

"As a community, we are still shocked, devastated, and angry," Mayor Michael Copeland said. "But this is not how this ends. This is not our Olathe."

He added, "One evil act does not divide a united community."

Mr. Purinton was scheduled to appear in court on Monday. Austins, meanwhile, planned to reopen on Saturday.

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The Pentagon is building a ‘self-aware’ killer robot army fueled by social media – INSURGE intelligence – Part 2

The Pentagon is building a 'self-aware' killer robot army fueled by social media – INSURGE intelligence – Medium

The Pentagon is building a 'self-aware' killer robot army fueled by social media

Official US defence and NATO documents confirm that autonomous weapon systems will kill targets, including civilians, based on tweets, blogs and Instagram

Investigative journalist, recovering academic, tracking the Crisis of Civilization

Imagine one of these giant robot dog things being weaponized and chasing you through the jungle because you turned up on a Pentagon kill list after posting angry stuff on social media

by Nafeez Ahmed

This exclusive is published by INSURGE INTELLIGENCE, a crowd-funded investigative journalism project for the global commons

An unclassified 2016 Department of Defense (DoD) document, the Human Systems Roadmap Review, reveals that the US military plans to create artificially intelligent (AI) autonomous weapon systems, which will use predictive social media analytics to make decisions on lethal force with minimal human involvement.

Despite official insistence that humans will retain a "meaningful" degree of control over autonomous weapon systems, this and other Pentagon documents dated from 2015 to 2016 confirm that US military planners are already developing technologies designed to enable swarms of "self-aware" interconnected robots to design and execute kill operations against robot-selected targets.

More alarmingly, the documents show that the DoD believes that within just fifteen years, it will be feasible for mission planning, target selection and the deployment of lethal force to be delegated entirely to autonomous weapon systems in air, land and sea. The Pentagon expects AI threat assessments for these autonomous operations to be derived from massive data sets including blogs, websites, and multimedia posts on social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

The raft of Pentagon documentation flatly contradicts Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work's denial that the DoD is planning to develop killer robots.

In a widely reported March conversation with Washington Post columnist David Ignatius, Work said that this may change as rival powers work to create such technologies:

"We might be going up against a competitor that is more willing to delegate authority to machines than we are, and as that competition unfolds we will have to make decisions on how we best can compete."

But, he insisted, "We will not delegate lethal authority to a machine to make a decision," except for "cyber or electronic warfare."

He lied.

Official US defence and NATO documents dissected by INSURGE intelligence reveal that Western governments are already planning to develop autonomous weapons systems with the capacity to make decisions on lethal force — and that such systems, in the future, are even expected to make decisions on acceptable levels of "collateral damage."

Behind public talks, a secret arms race

Efforts to create autonomous robot killers have evolved over the last decade, but have come to a head this year.

A National Defense Industry Association (NDIA) conference on Ground Robotics Capabilities in March hosted government officials and industry leaders confirming that the Pentagon was developing robot teams that would be able to use lethal force without direction from human operators.

In April, government representatives and international NGOs convened at the United Nations in Geneva to discuss the legal and ethical issues surrounding lethal autonomous weapon systems (LAWS).

That month, the UK government launched a parliamentary inquiry into robotics and AI. And earlier in May, the White House Office of Science and Technology announced a series of public workshops on the wide-ranging social and economic implications of AI.

Prototype Terminator Bots?

Most media outlets have reported the fact that so far, governments have not ruled out the long-term possibility that intelligent robots could be eventually authorized to make decisions to kill human targets autonomously.

But contrary to Robert Work's claim, active research and development efforts to explore this possibility are already underway. The plans can be gleaned from several unclassified Pentagon documents in the public record that have gone unnoticed, until now.

Among them is a document released in February 2016 from the Pentagon's Human Systems Community of Interest (HSCOI).

The document shows not only that the Pentagon is actively creating lethal autonomous weapon systems, but that a crucial component of the decision-making process for such robotic systems will include complex Big Data models, one of whose inputs will be public social media posts.

Robots that kill 'like people'

The HSCOI is a little-known multi-agency research and development network seeded by the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD), which acts as a central hub for a huge plethora of science and technology work across US military and intelligence agencies.

The document is a 53-page presentation prepared by HSCOI chair, Dr. John Tangney, who is Director of the Office of Naval Research's Human and Bioengineered Systems Division. Titled Human Systems Roadmap Review, the slides were presented at the NDIA's Human Systems Conference in February.

The document says that one of the five "building blocks" of the Human Systems program is to "Network-enable, autonomous weapons hardened to operate in a future Cyber/EW [electronic warfare] Environment." This would allow for "cooperative weapon concepts in communications-denied environments."

But then the document goes further, identifying a "focus areas" for science and technology development as "Autonomous Weapons: Systems that can take action, when needed", along with "Architectures for Autonomous Agents and Synthetic Teammates."

The final objective is the establishment of "autonomous control of multiple unmanned systems for military operations."

Such autonomous systems must be capable of selecting and engaging targets by themselves — with human "control" drastically minimized to affirming that the operation remains within the parameters of the Commander's "intent."

The document explicitly asserts that these new autonomous weapon systems should be able to respond to threats without human involvement, but in a way that simulates human behavior and cognition.

The DoD's HSCOI program must "bridge the gap between high fidelity simulations of human cognition in laboratory tasks and complex, dynamic environments."

Referring to the "Mechanisms of Cognitive Processing" of autonomous systems, the document highlights the need for:

"More robust, valid, and integrated mechanisms that enable constructive agents that truly think and act like people."

The Pentagon's ultimate goal is to develop "Autonomous control of multiple weapon systems with fewer personnel" as a "force multiplier."

The new systems must display "highly reliable autonomous cooperative behavior" to allow "agile and robust mission effectiveness across a wide range of situations, and with the many ambiguities associated with the 'fog of war.'"

Resurrecting the human terrain

The HSCOI consists of senior officials from the US Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA); and is overseen by the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Research & Engineering and the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs.

HSCOI's work goes well beyond simply creating autonomous weapons systems. An integral part of this is simultaneously advancing human-machine interfaces and predictive analytics.

The latter includes what a HSCOI brochure for the technology industry, 'Challenges, Opportunities and Future Efforts', describes as creating "models for socially-based threat prediction" as part of "human activity ISR."

This is short-hand for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance of a population in an 'area of interest', by collecting and analyzing data on the behaviors, culture, social structure, networks, relationships, motivation, intent, vulnerabilities, and capabilities of a human group.

The idea, according to the brochure, is to bring together open source data from a wide spectrum, including social media sources, in a single analytical interface that can "display knowledge of beliefs, attitudes and norms that motivate in uncertain environments; use that knowledge to construct courses of action to achieve Commander's intent and minimize unintended consequences; [and] construct models to allow accurate forecasts of predicted events."

The Human Systems Roadmap Review document from February 2016 shows that this area of development is a legacy of the Pentagon's controversial "human terrain" program.

The Human Terrain System (HTS) was a US Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) program established in 2006, which embedded social scientists in the field to augment counterinsurgency operations in theaters like Iraq and Afghanistan.

The idea was to use social scientists and cultural anthropologists to provide the US military actionable insight into local populations to facilitate operations — in other words, to weaponize social science.

The $725 million program was shut down in September 2014 in the wake of growing controversy over its sheer incompetence.

The HSCOI program that replaces it includes social sciences but the greater emphasis is now on combining them with predictive computational models based on Big Data. The brochure puts the projected budget for the new human systems project at $450 million.

The Pentagon's Human Systems Roadmap Review demonstrates that far from being eliminated, the HTS paradigm has been upgraded as part of a wider multi-agency program that involves integrating Big Data analytics with human-machine interfaces, and ultimately autonomous weapon systems.

The new science of social media crystal ball gazing

The 2016 human systems roadmap explains that the Pentagon's "vision" is to use "effective engagement with the dynamic human terrain to make better courses of action and predict human responses to our actions" based on "predictive analytics for multi-source data."

Are those 'soldiers' in the photo human… or are they really humanoid (killer) robots?

In a slide entitled, 'Exploiting Social Data, Dominating Human Terrain, Effective Engagement,' the document provides further detail on the Pentagon's goals:

"Effectively evaluate/engage social influence groups in the op-environment to understand and exploit support, threats, and vulnerabilities throughout the conflict space. Master the new information environment with capability to exploit new data sources rapidly."

The Pentagon wants to draw on massive repositories of open source data that can support "predictive, autonomous analytics to forecast and mitigate human threats and events."

This means not just developing "behavioral models that reveal sociocultural uncertainty and mission risk", but creating "forecast models for novel threats and critical events with 48–72 hour timeframes", and even establishing technology that will use such data to "provide real-time situation awareness."

According to the document, "full spectrum social media analysis" is to play a huge role in this modeling, to support "I/W [irregular warfare], information operations, and strategic communications."

This is broken down further into three core areas:

"Media predictive analytics; Content-based text and video retrieval; Social media exploitation for intel."

The document refers to the use of social media data to forecast future threats and, on this basis, automatically develop recommendations for a "course of action" (CoA).

Under the title 'Weak Signal Analysis & Social Network Analysis for Threat Forecasting', the Pentagon highlights the need to:

"Develop real-time understanding of uncertain context with low-cost tools that are easy to train, reduce analyst workload, and inform COA [course of action] selection/analysis."

In other words, the human input into the development of course of action "selection/analysis" must be increasingly reduced, and replaced with automated predictive analytical models that draw extensively on social media data.

This can even be used to inform soldiers of real-time threats using augmented reality during operations. The document refers to "Social Media Fusion to alert tactical edge Soldiers" and "Person of Interest recognition and associated relations."

The idea is to identify potential targets — 'persons of interest' — and their networks, in real-time, using social media data as 'intelligence.'

Meaningful human control without humans

Both the US and British governments are therefore rapidly attempting to redefine "human control" and "human intent" in the context of autonomous systems.

Among the problems that emerged at the UN meetings in April is the tendency to dilute the parameters that would allow describing an autonomous weapon system as being tied to "meaningful" human control.

A separate Pentagon document dated March 2016 — a set of presentation slides for that month's IEEE Conference on Cognitive Methods in Situation Awareness & Decision Support — insists that DoD policy is to ensure that autonomous systems ultimately operate under human supervision:

"[The] main benefits of autonomous capabilities are to extend and complement human performance, not necessarily provide a direct replacement of humans."

Unfortunately, there is a 'but'.

The March document, Autonomous Horizons: System Autonomy in the Air Force, was authored by Dr. Greg Zacharias, Chief Scientist of the US Air Force. The IEEE conference where it was presented was sponsored by two leading government defense contractors, Lockheed Martin and United Technologies Corporation, among other patrons.

Further passages of the document are revealing:

"Autonomous decisions can lead to high-regret actions, especially in uncertain environments."

In particular, the document observes:

"Some DoD activity, such as force application, will occur in complex, unpredictable, and contested environments. Risk is high."

The solution, supposedly, is to design machines that basically think, learn and problem solve like humans. An autonomous AI system should "be congruent with the way humans parse the problem" and driven by "aiding/automation knowledge management processes along lines of the way humans solve problem [sic]."

A section titled 'AFRL [Air Force Research Laboratory] Roadmap for Autonomy' thus demonstrates how by 2020, the US Air Force envisages "Machine-Assisted Ops compressing the kill chain." The bottom of the slide reads:

"Decisions at the Speed of Computing."

This two-staged "kill chain" is broken down as follows: firstly, "Defensive system mgr [manager] IDs threats & recommends actions"; secondly, "Intelligence analytic system fuses INT [intelligence] data & cues analyst of threats."

In this structure, a lethal autonomous weapon system draws on intelligence data to identify a threat, which an analyst simply "IDs", before recommending "action."

The analyst's role here is simply to authorize the kill, but in reality the essential importance of human control — assessment of the integrity of the kill decision — has been relegated to the end of an entirely automated analytical process, as a mere perfunctionary obligation.

By 2030, the document sees human involvement in this process as being reduced even further to an absolute minimum. While a human operator may be kept "in the loop" (in the document's words) the Pentagon looks forward to a fully autonomous system consisting of:

"Optimized platform operations delivering integrated ISR [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance] and weapon effects."

The goal, in other words, is a single integrated lethal autonomous weapon system combining full spectrum analysis of all data sources with "weapon effects" — that is, target selection and execution.

The document goes to pains to layer this vision with a sense of human oversight being ever-present.

AI "system self-awareness"

Yet an even more blunt assertion of the Pentagon's objective is laid out in a third document, a set of slides titled DoD Autonomy Roadmap presented exactly a year earlier at the NDIA's Defense Tech Expo.

The document authored by Dr. Jon Bornstein, who leads the DoD's Autonomy Community of Interest (ACOI), begins by framing its contents with the caveat: "Neither Warfighter nor machine is truly autonomous."

Yet it goes on to call for machine agents to develop:

"Perception, reasoning, and intelligence allow[ing] for entities to have existence, intent, relationships, and understanding in the battle space relative to a mission."

This will be the foundation for two types of weapon systems: "Human/ Autonomous System Interaction and Collaboration (HASIC)" and "Scalable Teaming of Autonomous Systems (STAS)."

In the near term, machine agents will be able "to evolve behaviors over time based on a complex and ever-changing knowledge base of the battle space… in the context of mission, background knowledge, intent, and sensor information."

However, it is the Pentagon's "far term" vision for machine agents as "self-aware" systems that is particularly disturbing:

"Far Term:
•Ontologies adjusted through common-sense knowledge via intuition.
•Learning approaches based on self-exploration and social interactions.
•Shared cognition
•Behavioral stability through self-modification.
•System self-awareness"

It is in this context of the "self-awareness" of an autonomous weapon system that the document clarifies the need for the system to autonomously develop forward decisions for action, namely:

"Autonomous systems that appropriately use internal model-based/deliberative planning approaches and sensing/perception driven actions/control."

The Pentagon specifically hopes to create what it calls "trusted autonomous systems", that is, machine agents whose behavior and reasoning can be fully understood, and therefore "trusted" by humans:

"Collaboration means there must be an understanding of and confidence in behaviors and decision making across a range of conditions. Agent transparency enables the human to understand what the agent is doing and why."

Once again, this is to facilitate a process by which humans are increasingly removed from the nitty gritty of operations.

In the "Mid Term", there will be "Improved methods for sharing of authority" between humans and machines. In the "Far Term", this will have evolved to a machine system functioning autonomously on the basis of "Awareness of 'commanders intent'" and the "use of indirect feedback mechanisms."

This will finally create the capacity to deploy "Scalable Teaming of Autonomous Systems (STAS)", free of overt human direction, in which multiple machine agents display "shared perception, intent and execution."

Teams of autonomous weapon systems will display "Robust self-organization, adaptation, and collaboration"; "Dynamic adaption, ability to self-organize and dynamically restructure"; and "Agent-to-agent collaboration."

Notice the lack of human collaboration.

The "far term" vision for such "self-aware" autonomous weapon systems is not, as Robert Work claimed, limited to cyber or electronic warfare, but will include:

"Ground Convoys/Air-ground operations"; "Ballistic rate multi-agent operation"; "Smart munitions."

These operations might even take place in tight urban environments — "in close proximity to other manned & unmanned systems including crowded military & civilian areas."

The document admits, though, that the Pentagon's major challenge is to mitigate against unpredictable environments and emergent behavior.

Autonomous systems are "difficult to assure correct behavior in a countless number of environmental conditions" and are "difficult to sufficiently capture and understand all intended and unintended consequences."

Terminator teams, led by humans

The Autonomy roadmap document clearly confirms that the Pentagon's final objective is to delegate the bulk of military operations to autonomous machines, capable of inflicting "Collective Defeat of Hard and Deeply Buried Targets."

One type of machine agent is the "Autonomous Squad Member (Army)", which "Integrates machine semantic understanding, reasoning, and perception into a ground robotic system", and displays:

"Early implementation of a goal reasoning model, Goal-Directed Autonomy (GDA) to provide the robot the ability to self-select new goals when it encounters an unanticipated situation."

Human team members in the squad must be able "to understand an intelligent agent's intent, performance, future plans and reasoning processes."

Another type is described under the header, 'Autonomy for Air Combat Missions Team (AF).'

Such an autonomous air team, the document envisages, "Develops goal-directed reasoning, machine learning and operator interaction techniques to enable management of multiple, team UAVs." This will achieve:

"Autonomous decision and team learning enable the TBM [Tactical Battle Manager] to maximize team effectiveness and survivability."

TBM refers directly to a battle management autonomy software for unmanned aircraft.

The Pentagon still, of course, wants to ensure that there remains a human manual override, which the document describes as enabling a human supervisor "to 'call a play' or manually control the system."

Targeting evil antiwar bloggers

Yet the biggest challenge, nowhere acknowledged in any of the documents, is ensuring that automated AI target selection actually selects real threats, rather than generating or pursuing false positives.

According to the Human Systems roadmap document, the Pentagon has already demonstrated extensive AI analytical capabilities in real-time social media analysis, through a NATO live exercise last year.

During the exercise, Trident Juncture — NATO's largest exercise in a decade — US military personnel "curated over 2M [million] relevant tweets, including information attacks (trolling) and other conflicts in the information space, including 6 months of baseline analysis." They also "curated and analyzed over 20K [i.e. 20,000] tweets and 700 Instagrams during the exercise."

The Pentagon document thus emphasizes that the US Army and Navy can now already "provide real-time situation awareness and automated analytics of social media sources with low manning, at affordable cost", so that military leaders can "rapidly see whole patterns of data flow and critical pieces of data" and therefore "discern actionable information readily."

The primary contributor to the Trident Juncture social media analysis for NATO, which occurred over two weeks from late October to early November 2015, was a team led by information scientist Professor Nitin Agarwal of the University of Arkansas, Little Rock.

Agarwal's project was funded by the US Office of Naval Research, Air Force Research Laboratory and Army Research Office, and conducted in collaboration with NATO's Allied Joint Force Command and NATO Strategic Communications Center of Excellence.

Slides from a conference presentation about the research show that the NATO-backed project attempted to identify a hostile blog network during the exercise containing "anti-NATO and anti-US propaganda."

Among the top seven blogs identified as key nodes for anti-NATO internet traffic were websites run by Andreas Speck, an antiwar activist; War Resisters International (WRI); and Egyptian democracy campaigner Maikel Nabil Sanad — along with some Spanish language anti-militarism sites.

Andreas Speck is a former staffer at WRI, which is an international network of pacifist NGOs with offices and members in the UK, Western Europe and the US. One of its funders is the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust.

The WRI is fundamentally committed to nonviolence, and campaigns against war and militarism in all forms.

Most of the blogs identified by Agarwal's NATO project are affiliated to the WRI, including for instance, WRI's Egyptian affiliate founded by Maikel Nabil, which campaigns against compulsory military service in Egypt. Nabil was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize and even supported by the White House for his conscientious objection to Egyptian military atrocities.

The NATO project urges:

"These 7 blogs need to be further monitored."

The project was touted by Agarwal as a great success: it managed to extract 635 identity markers through metadata from the blog network, including 65 email addresses, 3 "persons", and 67 phone numbers.

This is the same sort of metadata that is routinely used to help identify human targets for drone strikes — the vast majority of whom are not terrorists, but civilians.

Agarwal's conference slides list three Pentagon-funded tools that his team created for this sort of social media analysis: Blogtracker, Scraawl, and Focal Structures Analysis.

Flagging up an Egyptian democracy activist like Maikel Nabil as a hostile entity promoting anti-NATO and anti-US propaganda demonstrates that when such automated AI tools are applied to war theatres in complex environments (think Pakistan, Afghanistan and Yemen), the potential to identify individuals or groups critical of US policy as terrorism threats is all too real.

This case demonstrates how deeply flawed the Pentagon's automation ambitions really are. Even with the final input of independent human expert analysts, entirely peaceful pro-democracy campaigners who oppose war are relegated by NATO to the status of potential national security threats requiring further surveillance.

Compressing the kill chain

It's often assumed that DoD Directive 3000.09 issued in 2012, 'Autonomy in Weapon Systems', limits kill decisions to human operators under the following stipulation in clause 4:

"Autonomous and semi-autonomous weapon systems shall be designed to allow commanders and operators to exercise appropriate levels of human judgment over the use of force."

After several paragraphs underscoring the necessity of target selection and execution being undertaken under the oversight of a human operator, the Directive goes on to open up the possibility of developing autonomous weapon systems without any human oversight, albeit with the specific approval of senior Pentagon officials:

"Autonomous weapon systems may be used to apply non-lethal, non-kinetic force, such as some forms of electronic attack, against materiel targets… Autonomous or semi-autonomous weapon systems intended to be used in a manner that falls outside the policies in subparagraphs 4.c.(1) through 4.c.(3) must be approved by the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy (USD(P)); the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics (USD(AT&L)); and the CJCS before formal development and again before fielding."

Rather than prohibiting the development of lethal autonomous weapon systems, the directive simply consolidates all such developments under the explicit authorization of the Pentagon's top technology chiefs.

Worse, the directive expires on 21st November 2022 — which is around the time such technology is expected to become operational.

Indeed, later that year, Lieutenant Colonel Jeffrey S. Thurnher, a US Army lawyer at the US Naval War College's International Law Department, published a position paper in the National Defense University publication, Joint Force Quarterly.

If these puppies became self-aware, would they be cuter?

He recommended that there were no substantive legal or ethical obstacles to developing fully autonomous killer robots — as long as such systems are designed in such a way as to maintain a semblance of human oversight through "appropriate control measures."

In the conclusions to his paper, titled No One At The Controls: Legal Implications of Fully Autonomous Targeting, Thurnher wrote:

"LARs [lethal autonomous robots] have the unique potential to operate at a tempo faster than humans can possibly achieve and to lethally strike even when communications links have been severed. Autonomous targeting technology will likely proliferate to nations and groups around the world. To prevent being surpassed by rivals, the United States should fully commit itself to harnessing the potential of fully autonomous targeting. The feared legal concerns do not appear to be an impediment to the development or deployment of LARs. Thus, operational commanders should take the lead in making this emerging technology a true force multiplier for the joint force."

Lt. Col. Thurnher went on to become a Legal Advisor for NATO Rapid Deployable Corps in Munster, Germany. In this capacity, he was a contributor to a little-known 2014 official policy guidance document for NATO Allied Command Transformation, Autonomy in Defence Systems.

The NATO document, which aims to provide expert legal advice to government policymakers, sets out a position in which the deployment of autonomous weapon systems for lethal combat — in particular the delegation of targeting and kill decisions to machine agents — is viewed as being perfectly legitimate in principle.

It is the responsibility of specific states, the document concludes, to ensure that autonomous systems operate in compliance with international law in practice — a caveat that also applies for the use of autonomous systems for law-enforcement and self-defence.

In the future, though, the NATO document points to the development of autonomous systems that can "reliably determine when foreseen but unintentional harm to civilians is ethically permissible."

Acknowledging that currently only humans are able to make a "judgement about the ethical permissibility of foreseen but unintentional harm to civilians (collateral damage)", the NATO policy document urges states developing autonomous weapon systems to ensure that eventually they "are able to integrate with collateral damage estimation methodologies" so as to delegate targeting and kill decisions accordingly.

The NATO position is particularly extraordinary given that international law — such as the Geneva Conventions — defines foreseen deaths of civilians caused by a military action as intentional, precisely because they were foreseen yet actioned anyway.

The Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC) identifies such actions as "war crimes", if a justifiable and direct military advantage cannot be demonstrated:

"… making the civilian population or individual civilians, not taking a direct part in hostilities, the object of attack; launching an attack in the knowledge that such attack will cause incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians or damage to civilian objects which would be clearly excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated;… making civilian objects, that is, objects that are not military objectives, the object of attack."

And customary international law recognizes the following acts as war crimes:

"… launching an indiscriminate attack resulting in loss of life or injury to civilians or damage to civilian objects; launching an attack against works or installations containing dangerous forces in the knowledge that such attack will cause excessive incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians or damage to civilian objects."

In other words, NATO's official policy guidance on autonomous weapon systems sanitizes the potential for automated war crimes. The document actually encourages states to eventually develop autonomous weapons capable of inflicting "foreseen but unintentional" harm to civilians in the name of securing a 'legitimate' military advantage.

Yet the NATO document does not stop there. It even goes so far as to argue that policymakers considering the development of autonomous weapon systems for lethal combat should reflect on the possibility that delegating target and kill decisions to machine agents would minimize civilian casualties.

Skynet, anyone?

A new report by Paul Scharre, who led the Pentagon working group that drafted DoD Directive 3000.09 and now heads up the future warfare program at the Center for New American Security in Washington DC, does not mince words about the potentially "catastrophic" risks of relying on autonomous weapon systems.

"With an autonomous weapon," he writes, "the damage potential before a human controller is able to intervene could be far greater…

"In the most extreme case, an autonomous weapon could continue engaging inappropriate targets until it exhausts its magazine, potentially over a wide area. If the failure mode is replicated in other autonomous weapons of the same type, a military could face the disturbing prospect of large numbers of autonomous weapons failing simultaneously, with potentially catastrophic consequences."

Scharre points out that "autonomous weapons pose a novel risk of mass fratricide, with large numbers of weapons turning on friendly forces," due to any number of potential reasons, including "hacking, enemy behavioral manipulation, unexpected interactions with the environment, or simple malfunctions or software errors."

Noting that in the software industry, for every 1,000 lines of code, there are between 15 and 50 errors, Scharre points out that such marginal, routine errors could easily accumulate to create unexpected results that could be missed even by the most stringent testing and validation methods.

The more complex the system, the more difficult it will be to verify and track the system's behavior under all possible conditions: "… the number of potential interactions within the system and with its environment is simply too large."

The documents discussed here show that the Pentagon is going to pains to develop ways to mitigate these risks.

But as Scharre concludes, "these risks cannot be eliminated entirely. Complex tightly coupled systems are inherently vulnerable to 'normal accidents.' The risk of accidents can be reduced, but never can be entirely eliminated."

As the trajectory toward AI autonomy and complexity accelerates, so does the risk that autonomous weapon systems will, eventually, wreak havoc.

Dr Nafeez Ahmed is an investigative journalist, bestselling author and international security scholar. A former Guardian writer, he writes the 'System Shift' column for VICE's Motherboard, and is a weekly columnist for Middle East Eye.

He is the winner of a 2015 Project Censored Award for Outstanding Investigative Journalism for his Guardian work, and was twice selected in the Evening Standard's top 1,000 most globally influential Londoners, in 2014 and 2015.

Nafeez has also written and reported for The Independent, Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, The Scotsman, Foreign Policy, The Atlantic, Quartz, Prospect, New Statesman, Le Monde diplomatique, New Internationalist, The Ecologist, Alternet, Counterpunch, Truthout, among others.

He is a Visiting Research Fellow at the Faculty of Science and Technology at Anglia Ruskin University, where he is researching the link between global systemic crises and civil unrest for Springer Energy Briefs.

Nafeez is the author of A User's Guide to the Crisis of Civilization: And How to Save It (2010), and the scifi thriller novel ZERO POINT, among other books. His work on the root causes and covert operations linked to international terrorism officially contributed to the 9/11 Commission and the 7/7 Coroner's Inquest.

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