Category Archives: Security

JFK Assassinated Weeks After Shifting to Cuba “Accommodation”

There long has been speculation that foreign policy hawks in the US had JFK assassinated for taking a diplomatic approach to Cuba instead of a more militant one. We finally are starting to see official history beginning to emerge from government archives:

…National Security Archive today posted an audio tape of the President and his national security advisor, McGeorge Bundy, discussing the possibility of a secret meeting in Havana with Castro. The tape, dated only seventeen days before Kennedy was shot in Dallas, records a briefing from Bundy on Castro’s invitation to a U.S. official at the United Nations, William Attwood, to come to Havana for secret talks on improving relations with Washington. The tape captures President Kennedy’s approval if official U.S. involvement could be plausibly denied. The possibility of a meeting in Havana evolved from a shift in the President’s thinking on the possibility of what declassified White House records called “an accommodation with Castro” in the aftermath of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Proposals from Bundy’s office in the spring of 1963 called for pursuing “the sweet approach…enticing Castro over to us,” as a potentially more successful policy than CIA covert efforts to overthrow his regime. Top Secret White House memos record Kennedy’s position that “we should start thinking along more flexible lines” and that “the president, himself, is very interested in [the prospect for negotiations].” Castro, too, appeared interested.

Food for thought when looking at the US faith-based revenge assassination doctrine of state actors, as pushed into the news in recent weeks.

Update 19 Jan 2020: Lawfare describes US doctrine in light of leadership who…

…openly targeted a senior official of a sovereign nation-state, carrying out a satisfying act of short-term revenge but undermining its long-term strategic interests…in a destabilizing era of open assassination…a favorite tactic of weak states seeking leverage against strong powers. […] Banning assassination was not just the right thing to do; it was how modern nation-states consolidated their power. […] Democratized digital technologies have enabled weaker states and nonstate actors to more effectively target the United States and its personnel and facilities abroad in ways that were once exclusive to Washington’s arsenal. U.S. policymakers must resist the temptation to use their technological and military prowess to target senior government officials, remembering who is watching and learning from what they do.

I’m Speaking at RSA Conference 2020: “Breaking Bad AI”

Session Code: MLAI-T12
Title: Breaking Bad AI — Closing the Gaps Between Data Security and Science

Date: 02/25/2020
Time: 3:40 PM – 4:30 PM

If you have AI/ML projects and aren’t sure how to validate their safety, this presentation is for you. Don’t let another AI project go forward without security assessments being in the conversation.

Abstract: For years the security industry has discussed the leap into cloud computing as a paradigm shift. Get ready for another leap, as data platforms are rapidly becoming AI/ML development that requires its own new species of safety validations. This presentation, based on years of field tests, provides a quick intro and practical list for security teams to comfortably engage data science projects.

Also I’ll be hosting a “Birds of a Feather” session:

Title: The Internet is Broken: We Need a Solution for Our Data

Date: 02/26/2020
Time: 1:30 PM – 2:20 PM
Room: RSAC Engagement Zone Moscone West 2020 – Table C

Abstract: Will anyone fix the Internet’s growing data ownership/consent crisis? If so, how? Clearly it is past time to reset the balance of power and reignite the true potential of web services, intended for everyone. Our Internet has shifted from its original promise – and it’s time to make a change. Come discuss options and progress with Solid and related standards. Attendance is strictly limited to allow for a small group experience.

Religious Pompeo Rejects Science: New Faith-Based US Assassination Doctrine?

Standard disclaimer: I am not a national security lawyer, always seek professional advice***

Please consider the huge significance to the future of science and scientific inquiry in America when you read the latest headlines:

Pompeo says ‘we don’t know when, we don’t know where’ Soleimani had planned ‘imminent attacks’

This is what radical “end is neigh” evangelical thinking looks like when shoe-horned into modern concepts of self-defense that usually require leaders to accept scientific realities like clock and compass.

I mean any garden-variety dictionary would tell you “imminent” means “happening soon…menacingly near”.

Normally that means we would be talking about soon and near events as detailed and measurable concepts (given centuries if not millennium of technology)…yet the White House claims they “don’t know” how to predict either.

Let me now philosophically break such a faith-based statement from the White House into the three logical parts:

1) “We don’t know when”

The science of measuring time is called horology, which refers to timekeeping and advances in related technology (e.g. clocks and watches).

Saying we know something is “imminent” and yet don’t know when it will happen is a dog-whistle (dare I say a god-whistle) rejection of science; a wide rejection of scientific disciplines from history to physics that predict imminence.

More specifically, physicists are prone to argue things like “time is an arrow” and say deep things like this about looking forward:

We remember the past but we don’t remember the future. There are irreversible processes. There are things that happen, like you turn an egg into an omelet, but you can’t turn an omelet into an egg.

A natural scientist of course would laugh at the example and simply say if a snake or lizard eats an omelet it can lay an egg, thus easily proving how and when an omelet turns into an egg. They probably could even tell you when a new egg is considered imminent after eating an omelet.

It begs the obvious question if science can tell us with great precision and detail when something is going to happen, why is Pompeo declaring he has rejected science with “we don’t know” yet still claim he knows something “imminent”?

2) “We don’t know where”

Speaking of arrows…

The science of measuring space is called cartography, which refers to spacial scale making and advances in related technology (e.g. maps and geographic information systems).

Saying something is “imminent” and yet don’t know where it will happen is a dog-whistle (dare I say a god-whistle) rejection of science; a wide rejection of scientific disciplines from history to physics that predict imminence.

More specifically, I think you can see where I’m going with this…

It begs the obvious question if science can tell us with great precision and detail where something is going to happen, why is Pompeo declaring he has rejected science with “we don’t know” yet still claim he knows something “imminent”?

3) “Imminent attacks”

Pompeo allegedly welcomes “end-times” Evangelical faith as a strategy. When is the end of end-times? It is famously considered by faith-based groups to be “imminent” while also very importantly…unknown when and where.

Conlusion: White House is Waging a War Against Science

I’m reminded of Pompeo’s HR 4432 bill in 2014 (defeated in 2016) dubbed the “Deny Americans the Right-to-Know” or DARK Act.

More than 30 states introduced legislation to require GE labeling in 2013 and 2014, with laws recently passed in Vermont, Connecticut and Maine…

Imagine that, Americans were using science in governance to make it a requirement they know when and where something harmful might come their way.

In response, Pompeo said he wanted people to not use science or know when or where harms would come and instead have faith in the word from on high. To be fair, DARK literally said this:

Preempts any state or local requirement respecting a bioengineered organism intended for a food use or application, or food produced from, containing, or consisting of a bioengineered organism. Sets forth standards for any food label that contains claims that bioengineering was or was not used in the production of the food. Preempts any state and local labeling requirements with respect to bioengineered food. Requires the Secretary to issue regulations setting standards for a natural claim on food labels. Preempts any state or local regulations that are not identical to the requirements of this Act.

Pompeo sponsored America going DARK to make science difficult for harm predictions. You can see he required state and local thought to be identical to what the federal secretary opaquely thought about harms, regardless of science.

People may joke about Communism being dead. Yet it is Pompeo’s brand of un-American top-down centrally-planned dictation of knowledge that reminds me most of a 1980s meme “In Soviet Russia…”.

Today the ad would be more like “in Pompeo America, party imminently knows when and where you are”!

I deserve no credit for pointing this out

In honor of scientific method having citations I am far from being the first to notice a war against science going on with the White House, let alone wider political party attempts.

There are many who deserve credit. Here are only a few examples:

I’m just applying this kind of ongoing reporting to an important area of security like the ethics of self-defense and targeted assassination of foreign state leaders.

The US could have shown deference to scientific thought or methods and gone with a Robert Baer (CIA Middle East field officer) “we assassinate*** because…these reasons” document in the open. Then it would have worked with other states to lay out logical/moral justification claims within inherited (internationally accepted) systems of ethics, and submitted for peer-review.

That could even open up the archives and dialog on the controversial death of the 1961 UN Secretary General, or the controversial death of the 1969 FRELIMO leader (a professor of Syracuse University, New York).

Instead it has Pompeo standing alone and naked in the streets making a god-whistle while wrapped only in the isolationist trope of destroying science because “national security” is declared a higher order than a public’s right to know. As Foreign Policy wrote, probably without meaning any irony, it is the voices of locals that need to be heard on these issues if bad leadership is meant to be ended:

Mistaken support for a terrible political leader is hardly unique to the Middle East.

Terrible political leadership? The concept of “imminence” is before our very eyes being diluted into a religious war cry by a faith-based group in a so called “ok to prey if you pay” system. It is the Evangelical state of being both always and never in danger.

It is the knowledge that His coming is soon that puts a little bit of immediacy into our step and determination into our service.

Or as the New Yorker famously put it…

Bob Mankoff was the cartoon editor of The New Yorker from 1997 to 2017

This tragically diminishes global respect for America as it shockingly improves perception and appeal of faith-based rule by an Ayatollah.

Why would any American willingly do that (again)? The anti-science tactics fundamentally (pun not intended) encourage corrupt over-centralized belief-based systems, which used to be considered the exact opposite of successful public American foreign policy let alone domestic.

The answer to my question may surprise you.

My assessment of science denialists has changed a lot since I started writing my dissertation on anti-science propaganda 5 years ago. I used to think they were stupid and culpable. My position has changed 180 degrees. I now believe these people are victims of sophisticated and well-funded manipulation campaigns that prey on social trust and our necessary reliance on others for knowledge.

And since we’re now obviously talking here about denialists running a war-machine after an assassination of foreign state leader, I’m also reminded of WWI. The current administration has many same hallmarks of “the Kaiser in 1914…who saw his empire first defeated and then dismembered” due to German leadership faith-based mystical belief in “Der Tag”

*** Per my disclaimer at the top, lawyers have recommended listening to Episode 106 of the ABA National Security Today Podcast from yesterday:

Iran and the Law of Armed Conflict with Bill Banks and John Bellinger“.

The first speaker, Bellinger, makes the point that use of terms like assassination and reprisals are to describe illegal acts. Pompeo (if he cares to abide by law) thus has to frame his doctrine as “targeted killing” of a leader of a state that was to prevent some imminent terrorist act (because there is no declaration of war).

Bellinger also brings up a lot of interesting detail on the lack of legal authorization for targeted killing and lack of necessary communication with Congress. At one point he says the American people should be told the exact reason for immediacy. References:

  • Executive Order 13382 and Executive Order 13224
  • War Powers Resolution of 1973

Even against such legal podcast terminology, my point hopefully remains clear. Pompeo is engaging in a particular type of contradictory rhetoric, consistent with other attempts to destroy science, by saying he both does not know and does know something to be true.

To put it simply, the term where means a place has been targeted for a terrorist act and the term when means soon enough to require immediate action. If Pompeo says he didn’t know where or when then in what possible way will an imminent terror attack be proven to be real instead of being faith-based?

This Day in History: American “Free Men of Color” Defeat British in 1815 Battle of New Orleans

There are many, many versions of the January 8, 1815 Battle of New Orleans. None of them, so far, seem to tell the history in a manner that would be most fair to the participants.

Most ignore completely the most important detail:

American forces were made of “free men of color”. Specifically, of the 1,000 Louisiana militia and volunteers in the battle, it was nearly 50% non-white. The U.S. Army even has a print set called “The American Soldier” with a depiction of a the free men of color battalion in action to celebrate this fact.

Battle of New Orleans. Night attack of December 23. The painting shows the Choctaws and a mixed group of Major Daquin’s Battalion of Free Men of Colour. The latter were mostly attired in civilian clothes because they had been organized only for a few weeks. They are led by an officer distinguishable by his sword and red sash. Facing them are members of the British 85th Regiment in red coats with yellow facings and white lace, and members of the British 95th Regiment in green uniforms with black facings and white lace. Source: “The American Soldier.” U.S. Army Center of Military History.

An example of a site that does mention the “men of color” soldiers is the Tennessee Historical Society.

[Jackson] included a large number of both free men of color and enslaved black men in and around the city. To recruit the former, Jackson promised them the same wages and, equally important, the same respect as their white compatriots — a unique opportunity for black and Creole residents living in a Southern city committed to white racial superiority. For those enslaved, he appealed to their desire for freedom.

Take a moment to question the statement New Orleans was “committed to white racial superiority”. Lacking any citation at all, it sounds suspicious to me for a city known to be highly diverse in the 1800s.

Although it is true that New Orleans brutally put down a huge slave revolt in 1811, the free men before and afterwards still were present and exercising their rights up until America started shutting them down.

A good resource on this is the Louisiana Digital Library: Free People of Color collections, which is full of first-person materials as well as insights such as “white soldiers were thought cheaper than Negro slaves” as well as statements like “all the difference between a free man of color and a slave, that there is between a white man and a slave”.

During both Spanish and French rule of the colony of Louisiana the “free men of color” regularly served in militias. So when the U.S. took over New Orleans, it started with an integrated military.

At the time of the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, about 16% of the roughly 8000 people living in New Orleans were free people of color. The first official U.S. census of the Orleans Territory in 1810 counted 7,585 free persons of color, or about 10% of the total population.

Remember how above I mentioned 50% of Jackson’s force from Louisiana was non-white? That’s a huge jump up from being just 10% of the population.

The above quote from the Tennessee History site is followed-up soon after on the same page by another odd statement:

Jackson not only ordered all black troops out of New Orleans at the behest of white residents who were fearful of armed black city-dwellers; he also reneged on his offer to free his enslaved troops and instead, ordered them to return to their slave-owners.

Let me try to untangle this.

First, Jackson saw all men of color as a potential enemy. When Governor Claiborne offered the free men of color as a veteran militia, Jackson responded that arming them and putting them into harms way was a good way to prevent them siding with the British.

The free men of colour…will not remain quiet spectators of the interesting contest. They must be for, or against us — distrust them, and you make them your enemies, place confidence in them, and you engage them by every dear and honorable tie to the interest of the country who extends to them equal rights and privileges with white men.

This probably explains the exceptionally high percentage of free men of color serving, relative to population numbers. It is incredibly tempting to read that letter and think Jackson had in mind at least some advance to equal rights and privileges, however there’s a fundamental problem with such a line of thinking.

When Jackson arrived in New Orleans he declared military (martial) law for the first successful time in United States history. He proclaimed it necessary because “those who are not for us are against us, and will be dealt with accordingly” and then “refused to lift his order instituting martial law for months…”.

A Louisiana State senator expressed unease about the ongoing state of martial law in a March 3 newspaper article; Jackson promptly had the senator arrested. When a U.S. District Court Judge demanded that the senator be charged or released, Jackson not only refused, he ordered the judge jailed before banishing him from the city. (When Jackson eventually lifted martial law, the returned judge proceeded to charge him with contempt and levied a thousand-dollar fine, which the “Hero of New Orleans” paid.)

It is worth considering how martial law was Jackson’s preferred method of rule, completely inverted from his letters he sent that said to “place confidence” in the public would gain their loyalty.

He seemed very keen to convince people he had their best interests in mind while he also demanded they pick a side. Martial law stemmed from his complete lack of trust in allowing freedoms. The key to unlocking Jackson’s true feelings seems to be that his concerns over spies and dissent was related to what he saw as a “largely foreign city” (French and Spanish). Jackson fundamentally distrusted New Orleans residents because they were not white like himself.

In other words, what if martial law was Jackson’s manner of dealing with discomfort and protest from a militia of non-whites he planned to defraud?

Don’t forget the Peninsular War kicking off in 1807 between France and Spain meant that by 1809 Cuba expelled Franco-Haitian and French residents. They became refugees escaping to New Orleans, which doubled the population of the city, and tripled the size of its free people of color population two years before the 1811 slave revolt. Martial law may really have been Jackson’s way of dealing with how to maintain white supremacy.

Dozens of “citizens without charges” were put in jail for weeks, not to mention Americans put in jail on spurious basis such as just being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Jackson even tried (unsuccessfully) to enforce blatant military censorship on local newspapers.

Another line of reasoning is that martial law helped obscure a true casualty rate of the American militias, as well as lack of true threat from the British. Most accounts of American deaths seem low, even though hundreds of the “professional” British soldiers had laid down and played dead rather than fight.

Second, Jackson did not have honest intentions. Of course the freemen were promised equal pay, equal treatment, freedoms and so forth but Jackson appeared to have every interest in bringing non-whites to his side, with no plan of honoring his word to them when he no longer needed them.

In other words, a large U.S. military force of veteran free men of color and slaves was used by Jackson to deliver victory yet his response was to deny those men freedom (as he had promised) at the time of victory and then, as he became U.S. President allegedly in part from the tales of this battle, to strip non-whites in America of their voting rights and perpetuate/expand slavery.

To be fair…while Spanish/French colonial-era slave codes had granted complete rights and equality to a “free man of color” (allowed to be educated, serve in military, own land, business, and even slaves) it was only the March 4, 1812 Louisiana Constitution that removed the right to vote from 2/3 of the people living there. That was long before Jackson would fight a vicious political campaign at the federal level to do them even more harm.

When you think of a battle for “freedom” from British rule, consider the new state’s constitution was so undemocratic and exclusionary, property worth at least $5,000 had to be owned by a white man for him to be a candidate for governor and then he would be chosen by the legislature not voters. So it wasn’t just Jackson trying to build a new aristocratic empire, denying democratic rights to Americans.

However, Jackson was a major influence on the undemocratic and racist direction of America in the mid-1800s. While the British abolished slavery in 1833, not to mention New York in 1827 and Mexico in 1824, America instead was about to be dragged down by Jackson’s seemingly endless thirst to use his authority for enslaving and massacring non-white Americans.

Extensive administrative and diplomatic experience since Washington was a norm for anyone serving as President of America. Jackson found this unnecessary and dismissed critics who pointed to his lack of time in any Cabinet post or even travel abroad. Jackson had poor writing skills in English alone, so studies in advanced topics such as foreign travel and languages seemed out of the question.

The thing Jackson really leveraged was brutality of his plantations and militancy against non-whites. It was in this context the stories told about the Battle of New Orleans under his martial law and strict control of the press worked to his political advantage.

Although stories of valiant brutality (despite the truth being British soldiers laid down and pretended to be dead) stoked his persona as a war hero by 1824, Jackson failed to navigate the process required to become President. Described as a simple “military chieftain” by his opponents, he proved the title accurate as he initiated a vicious campaign against the newly elected President Adams.

A truly barbaric personality, Jackson spent the next years in bitter opposition to everything and anything American government was doing, framing himself as a benevolent dictator. President Adams, who had been duly voted into office in 1824 under the 12th Amendment, was being challenged to lead the country given vicious and underhanded tactics coming from Jackson’s desire to shut the entire government down if he wasn’t the one put in charge.

When Jackson ran again for President in 1828, he framed himself a victim of free press and set about trying to take control of political discourse through disinformation tactics. For example, a famous “coffin handbill” depicted American militia men who had been unjustly ordered executed as six black coffins, suggesting that they had been murdered by Jackson. These basically were accurate criticisms of Jackson’s background.

Jackson was alleged to have “illegally and wantonly shed the blood of his countrymen and fellow soldiers” ordering six militiamen executed on 1815 Feb 21 after a military trial in which they were convicted after leaving camp to return home during their tours of duty. The handbill stresses that the men realized their error and returned to camp voluntarily to resume service but instead were detained and slowly shot dead one-by-one.

While the press fairly pointed out a record of unjust brutality and lawlessness within Jackson’s only claim to fame, his campaign responded by cooking up a series of total falsehoods to target and destroy his opponent’s character. Jackson basically and openly lied in response to the press pointing out how awful Jackson was, all the while calling himself the real victim.

Jackson delighted in this process, even personally contacting papers with guidelines in what was basically an information warfare campaign by a military chieftain to undermine democracy. Once President, Jackson expanded his war on the press, as I’ve written before:

In 1844 former-President Adams won an eight-year long campaign in the House of Representatives and overturned the Jacksonian bans on free speech, but torture and murder by pro-slavery terrorists continued to rise.

Anyway, PBS has posted an excellent explanation of how free men under Jackson suffered greatly, as he pivoted from credit for this battle to lay the foundation for white-nationalist sentiments and stoke racial divisions in America that remain a challenge today.

Before 1800, free African American men had nominal rights of citizenship. In some places they could vote, serve on juries, and work in skilled trades. But as the need to justify slavery grew stronger, and racism started solidifying, free blacks gradually lost the rights that they did have. Through intimidation, changing laws and mob violence, whites claimed racial supremacy, and increasingly denied blacks their citizenship. And in 1857 the Dred Scott decision formally declared that blacks were not citizens of the United States. […] The concepts of ‘black’ and “white” did not arrive with the first Europeans and Africans, but grew on American soil. During Andrew Jackson’s administration, racist ideas took on new meaning. Jackson brought in the “Age of the Common Man.” Under his administration, working class people gained rights they had not before possessed, particularly the right to vote. But the only people who benefited were white men. Blacks, Indians, and women were not included.

Without taking credit away from the free men of color for their role in the Battle of New Orleans, and stoking up its significance for his own political campaigns, Jackson may never have succeeded in his information war to become President, gag abolitionists and perpetuate slavery, precipitating Civil War.

Jackson’s sentiments greatly foreshadowed not only the Trail of Tears and Civil War but also treatment of American blacks who served in much later wars. Most notable perhaps was the 1921 massacre of WWI veterans in Tulsa by the KKK restarted by President Wilson under the America First campaign.

North Carolina Man Convicted for Anti-Muslim Twitter Threats

Source: SPLC Hate Map of North Carolina

A couple months ago I wrote a post about a U.S. judge who ruled that online hate speech is physical harassment and I optimistically thought this would have an impression on people.

More recently a computer science student told me he refused to engineer social media content controls because he thought John Stuart Mill argued for absolutely unlimited speech.

I’m not sure where this crazy interpretation of Mill comes from or how, but it is very wrong (as I wrote back in 2011). That student was not the first to grab onto it.

A bad Mill reference deflated my recent optimism. The famous philosopher very clearly had a harm principle, widely discussed and documented; it really shouldn’t be hard to understand what Mill considered harmful and why he developed a principle to restrict speech.

It is these unfortunate misunderstandings of famous philosophers, let alone ignoring rulings by judges in actual courts, that surely leads to people saying their freedom of speech is some weird absolute.

Then again, maybe yet another U.S. judge can help here. Here’s a new ruling in the “hate state” of North Carolina that using speech for violent threats on Twitter can and will put people in jail.

“Social media allows you to share your views with the world in seconds, but it does not give you the right to threaten violence against others. The FBI stands ready to investigate whenever threatening language crosses the line to a crime,” said Special Agent in Charge Strong. According to filed court documents and evidence presented at trial, on March 13, 2018, Twitter user @DaDUTCHMAN5, later identified as Vandevere, used his social media account to send a message that contained a threat to injure an individual identified in court records as Q.R.

The defendant literally argued that sending a death threat wasn’t a threat because it was a political exchange of views while also not being a political view:

The tweet included a picture of a lynching and read, “VIEW YOUR DESTINY.” Vandevere argued his indictment must be dismissed on First Amendment free speech grounds, claiming the communication in question was not a “true threat.” […] “In 2019, the political arena necessarily includes the public exchange of political views that occurs daily on Twitter and other social media sites,” wrote his attorney, Andrew Banzhoff.

The judge wasn’t impressed by these weak arguments. Obviously telling a stranger their destiny is a lynching is a clear threat, and an exchange of political views is harmed by threats of violence.

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has held that “mere political argument, idle talk or jest” are not true threats, Cogburn noted. “However,” the judge added, “a true threat dressed up in political rhetoric or artistic expression alone does not render it a non-threat.”

What is especially interesting about this case is the victim claimed it was one of many similar threats on Twitter.

“It spikes any time there is (anti-Muslim) rhetoric from the political leadership of this country,” he said. “It’s almost predictable.”

This case therefore also provides credible evidence that federal anti-Muslim rhetoric has been increasing hate crimes, as already documented by researchers.

But what we think is interesting is that Trump’s tweets and hate crime only appear to be correlated after the start of his presidential run. It is also interesting that this correlation seems to be driven by areas with many Twitter users.

The above case is exactly what hate crime researchers have been warning about, given areas with a history of domestic terrorism (lynchings) and certain types of Twitter users:

…40 hate groups active in North Carolina. And many have argued that the 2015 murder of three Muslim students in Chapel Hill was fueled by Islamophobia, though the killer was not charged with a hate crime.

Long-Distance Covert Communications Via Drone Sky Painting

The concept is simple, like looking at constellations of stars as a form of communication: A drone slowly moves in patterns, acting as a light paintbrush on the night sky. A slow exposure camera records its movements as message(s).

This drone flying to its many waypoints would look random to the human eye, yet the camera would be able to reconstruct the message whether it be an image or text. It’s a simple and inexpensive way to communicate covertly over long distances without exposing positions.

Manufacturers like DJI have posted guides, and basic proof-of-concept instructions by photographers have been posted online:

When creating these drone patterns in the sky I use the program Litchi that you can buy for 10 bucks from the app store on Android or Apple. You can use other apps such as Red Way Point or any app that can place waypoints to do this same thing, but I find Litchi has more finesse. The reason it does is that it can connect to Google Earth. […] A tried and true spot is around 900 ft by 600 ft. This is also important because waypoints can’t be too close or the drone won’t fly the pattern (This is only if you are working in a horizontal plane).

Here is an example of their text experiment:

Source: PetaPixel, Russell Klimas

And here’s a video that has been greatly sped up for the human eye to see connected waypoints for an image:

Adding more drones would solve for the waypoint distance issue, such that a swarm could write tight messages and just look like a dance of randomness.

Naturally to really achieve covertness, the messages being painted would be encrypted. Even a substitution cipher would do, and also could help reduce waypoint distance issues.

As a final thought, swarms of machines embedded in the field with visual sensors pointed to the sky could be commanded and controlled by this form of drone sky painting (e.g. a box means stop, an arrow means advance, a circle means retreat). And in reverse (view from above) a low-flying drone or a laser pointed at the ground could assist targeting from higher-flying drones.

This doesn’t necessarily have to be something insidious; temperature numbers painted in the sky at night could change sensors across an agricultural field to start/stop watering or deploy drones equipped for pest management.

The Tragedies of AI May Precipitate an Age of Non-Conformity

Source: MSW@USC Diversity Toolkit: Guide to Discussing Identity, Power and Privilege

We should worry “boundaries” increasingly set by algorithms will mean people may lose authorization to operate outside the “authenticity” boxes they’re placed in by others; denial of identity freedom may require generating more sophisticated forms of non-conformity.

In a couple recent blog posts I point out how an American expansion westward was driven by slavery economics and marked by concentration camps and genocidal campaigns.

Victims of humanitarian disasters in America were in theory offered an “exit” from total annihilation, if they chose to conform entirely by abandoning any freedoms of identity. Expression in speech wasn’t harshly limited, you see, just an “authenticity” of identity.

The Native American people were cruelly forced to operate on soon-to-be industrialized U.S. platforms, which meant sacrifice of self-determination. They were told at gunpoint to dress differently, speak a different language, sing/play/dance to different music, eat different foods, cook different meals, do different work…they were forcibly transformed from private owners to public “users” and every aspect of their identity had to change to conform to the encroaching immoral platform owners.

This has aptly been described as “being spoon-fed out of a bucket of whiteness every day.”

The “longhair” revolution of the 1960s often attributed to white “freak flag” communities, for perspective, was in fact adopted from a Native American movement to reclaim their identity rights.

…the physical cutting of hair is a manifestation of the loss of a loved one, a loss of a relationship, and a loss of a part of self…

You perhaps can see why identity self-determination was so important. Native Americans suffered greatly under U.S. tactics that forced them to conform to “Christian” identity requirements or face starvation (a 1902 Bureau of Indian Affairs “haircut order” required short hair to receive rations).

We unfortunately, despite lessons from the past, see a similar conformance campaign ethic driven by Facebook today. While being implicated in genocide, Facebook has taken a tactic to harshly prosecute people for freedoms of identity instead of clamping down on the speech that actually foments genocide.

Anyone attempting anything less than what platform owners consider “real” or “authentic” is eliminated from the platform. Facebook mistakenly calls this culling of identity freedoms a security measure, which to me reads like someone studied only the imitation game (Turing test) in computer science and skipped history classes.

Meanwhile Facebook does very little or nothing at all to address the real harms caused by the people they judge as authentic.

…we will not send organic content or ads from politicians to our third-party fact-checking partners for review.

It’s like Facebook saying the white supremacist diatribes of user Stanford couldn’t be blocked from facilitating genocide on their platform because he did so from an authentic identity. Only if he had done things like put on a strange coat of feathers and wore long hair, or grew a beard and put on a hat to look like the user Lincoln could he have been de-platformed.

From both a security and history perspective, Facebook has been wrong to blindly repeat the worst mistakes in history and force a dangerous conformity on their self-serving expansionist terms.

Edge cases of true impersonation (an integrity risk, such as stolen valor and authorization fraud) exist and should be stopped. “Deep fakes”, to that end, has been generating a lot of excitement. Yet it mostly begs old questions about whether new low-cost generation of content still should be regulated as art or expression.

People need to consider seriously whether a much greater threat to freedom is the opposite effect, Facebook operating a Kafkaesque identity conformance program of “deep realism” (e.g. already for several years I have met with government regulators concerned about harms to society including national security and the economy).

The risks from identity abuse edge cases of fraud/authorization are far less compared to dangers of militant removal of freedom and creativity of identity on global platforms. One could even argue, for example, the entire concept of the modern cosmopolitan lifestyle made famous in markets like NYC, Paris, London…is the high art of regionally managed platform identity freedom.

An appropriate reaction to centralization power for platform conformity pressures from a genocide-facilitating for-profit company like Facebook perhaps will be a non-conformity revolution.

The best intelligence analysts already know this tactic. Adversaries love conformity because they can predict moves so easily and camouflage isn’t even necessary. A “weird” analyst by comparison becomes a nightmare of any adversary, because prediction of how they will react becomes impossible.

Another appropriate reaction is rotating focus back to harm, which means pushing a standard for filtering by actual risks while letting people express themselves from whatever identity they choose to develop and the communities to which they belong.

Take for just one example the concept of gendered color coding.

Pink is considered by some even to this day a shade of the “warlike” red, as in the British Red Coats. It stems (pun not intended) from Oliver Cromwell’s “New Model Army” adopting distinctive “Tudor Rose” dye as their uniform for war.

This of course was reconsidered around WWI when machine guns and snipers were killing anything identifiable, and military uniforms shifted to more muted tones to impersonate surroundings.

Meanwhile others, particularly in America, somehow came to see pink as their tool for encoding female identity:

“…a kind of early gender coding that worked especially on young girls. The decade of the Fifties was characterized by an ideological emphasis on conformity, and by fashion images that were sharply age- and gender-specific.”

In that sense pink in America really represents strangely planned attempts to make science more anti-social and eliminate women who scored high on social-good measures:

…programming’s shift from a women-friendly occupation to one that is hostile to women. In the 1950s and ‘60s, employers began relying on aptitude tests and personality profiles that weeded out women by prioritizing stereotypically masculine traits and, increasingly, antisocialness.

Even with this history of encoding and sexism it should never be wrong for any gender to associate pink with their identity. There generally is no harm of the color (with rare exceptions, such as war). Compare that to someone wearing an offensive hate speech patch or logo designed to do harm and expand suffering, on the other hand, and you see more logical security control areas.

Facebook’s genocide-facilitating platform is likely coming for your community with its AI, trying to get a lock on all the identities using things like “coding that worked especially on young girls”.

Thus more non-conforming behaviors should develop as fundamental survival tactics. Where can your data live that it will have freedom for identity?

I have long advocated for, and concur with latest research, that we need to assess code as potentially malicious (whether human or machine) and emphasize filters as a useful control for individuals to operate.

Researchers at the University of Cambridge have proposed a software program that treats online “hate speech” like a computer virus.

Scientific anti-pollutant concepts of continuous collection for known harms are a far more sensible approach than those of Facebook (repeating mistakes of American history) pushing to oppress identities through opaquely self-serving and centrally-planned concepts of what they call authenticity.

Stanford = Genocide

A search on the Internet for “Stanford genocide” brings up a long list of references. Some initial hits are these, all very promising:

However, as you scroll down the list, perhaps the most interesting hit of all is this one:

Naming America’s Own Genocide

“Genocide” is a powerful word, but one whose impact has been diminished through overuse. Madley doesn’t use the word carelessly, even though he’s writing about US policy toward American Indians, a subject that often leads people to toss the term around quite loosely. His book does not contend, as more polemical works do, that all Indian policy was genocidal. He concentrates instead on a particular place and time: California from 1846 to 1873. […] Madley argues—and this is the core of his book—that California’s elected officials were in fact “the primary architects of annihilation,” and that they were funded and enabled by the federal government. Together, state and federal officials created what Madley describes as a “killing machine” composed of US soldiers, California militia and volunteers, and slavers and mercenaries (so-called “Indian hunters”) in it for the money.

The San Francisco Chronicle calls this “The moral case for renaming Hastings [and Stanford].

Leland Stanford solicited volunteers for his Civil War-era army campaigns against California Indians and, as governor, signed into law appropriations bills to fund those killing expeditions. He later founded Stanford University in the name of his son, Leland Stanford Jr. Both Hastings and Stanford had made fortunes in real estate. Their ability to acquire land titles was facilitated by the massacre of the rightful claimants, a near-extinction they promoted and funded. As UCLA professor Benjamin Madley wrote in his sobering “An American Genocide,” published in 2016 by none other than Yale University Press, both Stanford and Hastings had “helped to facilitate genocide.”

While all these references may seem to be only in history, don’t forget to also consider how Stanford recently hired someone a year after he allegedly helped to facilitate genocide.

Is renaming possible? It appears to me that the University moving to a better name is not out of the question.

We already know Stanford agreed to remove cartoonish and degrading “Indian” imagery as its mascot. If you read the fine print on the following example it says offensive memorabilia was declared eliminated by making it secret, meaning easily available from the bookstore on request.

Source: The Stanford Daily Archives

In other words Stanford moves quickly when it wants to and uses creative solutions to deal with those uncomfortable with change/progress. The school offers an official timeline explaining how in just two years time they switched to being the Cardinals in 1972.

On November 22, 1970, Stanford American Indian Organization (SAIO) members petition for removal of Stanford’s Indian mascot—both the logo (as a “false image of the American Indian”) and the man, Timm Williams (whose live performances at sporting events were a “mockery of Indian religious practices.”) Native American students position themselves outside the Stanford Stadium at the Big Game against the University of California with banners saying “Indians are people, not mascots.”

SAIO members retell the story a little more broadly. They point out Governor Ronald Reagan’s “Indian staff person” is who voluntarily dressed and danced as a human mascot, and was breaking a promise he made to cease derogatory and demeaning acts:

The big issue with Timm Williams was his mockery of Indian religions. He would dance around in a faux Indian dance at the games. Even though he was a Yurok Indian, he wore the recognizable Plains Indian headdress and clothes to every game. He would make the “woo woo” sound with his hand slapping his mouth. We met with him a month after we got there, and he promised not to do it anymore. Shortly afterward he became the Indian staff person to Gov. Ronald Reagan, who infamously did nothing to understand Indians, most of whom had lost their Indian status when their treaties were terminated in the 1950s. But Timm did it again the next week. That was it for us. The Indian symbol, the caricatured Indians with the big noses, the religious denigration—all of it had to go. It took two years, but we finally got it done.

Governor Reagan fired Williams just months after Stanford changed its mascot.

Outside pressure clearly has worked on Stanford. Also, inside pressure has shown to be effective, as explained by members of the Stanford marching band who transformed it into a protest against a history of exterminating native cultures.

Part of assimilating Indigenous children in boarding schools into American society was handing them European music instruments to play European music. The government thought it would assist with wiping away their traditional musical practices. Marching bands came into play. […] “When it comes to discipline, the Stanford band is zero discipline,” said the Miwok citizen with a laugh and an emphasis on zero. The university’s marching band is “pretty nontraditional. Technically, we’re a scatter band,” Brown said. So they don’t actually march. They run from one formation to the other. What else makes the band nontraditional? No experience is required. It’s zero commitment meaning they welcome beginners to advanced musicians. This can also be current students, alumni or community members. Members hardly wear bucket hats and military-style uniforms. If they do, they can customize it with buttons and pins. Other university bands, like the University of Southern California, hate them. People yell at them and get upset because they’re not traditional.

I write this all in response to those who have asked me what to do after they read history of America and its episodes of genocide, a history that quite frankly historians tend to point out Nazi Germany studied for inspiration.

Let me put it this way. If Germans asked what to do about a university named for someone who committed genocide, what would any American probably tell them to do? Renaming should be an obvious answer here, though Americans seem not to welcome the very step that they enforced on Germany during occupation.

Binding Up the Wounds: An American Soldier in Occupied Germany, 1945-1946, by Leon C. Standifer, p 131

Other states already have figured out how to turn the corner. Take for example Minnesota’s Governor who very clearly came forward and condemned a past Minnesota Governor known for saying the U.S. should exterminate Native Americans.

“I am appalled by Governor Ramsey’s words and by his encouragement of vigilante violence against innocent people; and I repudiate them,” Gov. Mark Dayton said in a statement released Thursday. “The viciousness and violence, which were commonplace 150 years ago in Minnesota, are not accepted or allowed now.” Dayton called for flags to fly at half-staff from sunrise to sunset Friday, declaring it a day of remembrance and reconciliation on the 150th anniversary of the start of the six-week U.S.-Dakota War of 1862. He asked Minnesotans “to remember that dark past; to recognize its continuing harm in the present; and to resolve that we will not let it poison the future.”

We have yet to see California take even basic steps to call out Governor Stanford for who he was and what the Stanford name means to this day — resolve to stop letting it continue poison the future.

In case that reference to Stanford isn’t clear, his gubernatorial candidate acceptance speech of 1859 allegedly was “I prefer free white citizens to any other race”. Then, after becoming Governor of California, in his first speech he wrote clearly white supremacist life goals straight into the official record books:

There can be no doubt but that the presence of numbers among us of a degraded and distinct people must exercise a deleterious influence upon the superior race, and, to a certain extent, repel desirable immigration.

Of course some warn it won’t be easy erasing this genocidal xenophobic white supremacist’s name, while they also ironically point out how Stanford already has been renaming things (again thanks to outside pressures).

California has a racist past. But removing monuments sparks debate about how to reflect an ugly history…Stanford University last month decided to rename three campus references to Father Junipero Serra, who founded the California mission system in the 1700s and whose legacy came under fire for the missions’ treatment of Native Americans.

I’m not saying by any means that Stanford was the only bad guy here, and agree with removing Serra (they replaced his name with…Stanford’s). I’m saying that even Stanford admits the important point of renaming anything that reflects “ugly” treatment of Native Americans.

Stafford Poole, the renowned historian on colonial Latin America, explains at a macro level how Stanford really was a cog in the wider context of U.S. creating California to exterminate Native Americans.

The true villain is James K. Polk, the [1845 to 1849] president who maneuvered the country into an immoral war for which he was opposed by a congressman named Abraham Lincoln.

Poole is of course not only right, his point should be taken to mean the U.S. President who in 1846 invaded Mexi-Cali to eradicate people living there and replace with white settlers…also probably shouldn’t have his name on anything today.

Source: Professor Grace Chee, Los Angeles Community Colleges

Stanford remains however as the more significant targets for renaming due to its heavy use as an honorific badge among scholars not to mention its aspirations to prevent further genocide (see initial links at the top of this blog).

When it renames it likely will have influence on others to follow. After Stanford in 1972 dropped their “Indian” mascot Dartmouth did the same. I imagine someone in future after Stanford gets a better name will petition for places like San Francisco’s rather obscure yet busy Polk Street to be renamed (note “Polk Gulch” bloggers chastise other place names while ignoring their own).

As the SAIO proved to the world in 1970, Stanford University is capable of rapidly evolving away from its ugly past. We’re long past time to reverse the current “Stanford asshole” trend and a renaming would be more than a symbolic way to help. Ask anyone brandishing the Stanford name to explain why they promote genocide if it isn’t in their present or future plans.

Lessons From a New Norm of Internet Shutdowns

Nearly 60K people in London lost Internet access when their Virgin fiber was ripped out by a crew that didn’t check for authorization before drilling
Compare and contrast:

First: “I asked my students to turn in their cell phones and write about living without them

The usual industry and education narrative about cell phones, social media, and digital technology generally is that they build community, foster communication, and increase efficiency, thus improving our lives. Mark Zuckerberg’s recent reformulation of Facebook’s mission statement is typical: the company aims to “give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together.” Without their phones, most of my students initially felt lost, disoriented, frustrated, and even frightened. That seemed to support the industry narrative: look how disconnected and lonely you’ll be without our technology. But after just two weeks, the majority began to think that their cell phones were in fact limiting their relationships with other people, compromising their own lives, and somehow cutting them off from the “real” world.

Second: “Internet shutdowns used to be rare. They’re increasingly becoming the norm in much of the world

David Kaye, the United Nation’s special rapporteur on freedom of opinion and expression, has described the ongoing shutdown as a “communications siege” and “collective punishment without even the allegation of an underlying offense.”

Within security theory we would see this as an authorization dilemma.

In the first story the teacher clearly is an authority over students, although she does admit to asking for their permission before taking away their Internet.

In the second story the government clearly also is an authority over citizens, however that permission step becomes the rub. What if the citizens object to their government?

In either case, it’s interesting to see how the teacher builds a case that Internet removal generates a lot of fear and anxiety at first, before shifting to a realization it may be even more harmful to have it restored.

Self-determination is one issue, obviously needing to be kept in the debate, yet the other much more interesting situation here is that shutdowns could have a positive effect (e.g. especially if Facebook is being used by anyone, as it tends to be the tool of dictatorship, mass atrocities and destruction of self-determination).