Moving Walls 22 –– Watching You, Watching Me: A Photographic Response to Surveillance

What right do governments, corporations, and individuals have to collect and retain information on your daily communications? What tools — both today and in the past — have been used to monitor your activities? What are the immediate and far-­‐reaching effects?

As governments and corporations around the world expand their efforts to track the communications and activities of millions of people, this not only threatens our right to privacy, but also opens the door for information to be collected and used in ways that are repressive, discriminatory, and chill freedom of speech and expression.

It is in this context of massive information gathering that Watching You, Watching Me—the 22nd installment of the Open Society Foundations’ Moving Walls exhibition—explores how photography can be both an instrument of surveillance and a tool to expose and challenge its negative impact. In tackling the inherent difficulty of visualizing something that is meant to be both omnipresent and covert—seemingly everywhere and nowhere at the same time—the artists in this exhibition employ a dynamic range of approaches.

…read more

Moving Walls 22 can be seen at Open Society Foundations – New York from November 4, 2014 – May 8, 2015.

(Photos by Tomas van Houtryve/VII, Mishka Henner, Paolo Cirio, Josh Begley, Mari Bastashevski & Privacy International)

See more images from Moving Walls 22 and our other slideshows on Yahoo News!

The review body for the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) has raised “serious concerns” about how the agency uses private information it obtains from security screenings, in their annual report that was released last week.

The security screenings are a process of obtaining extensive background information on both those hoping to immigrate to Canada and those looking for jobs, which include access to sensetive information. They can require these individuals to consent to invasive interviews covering a wide range of personal information about their lives.

“Our review identified a serious concern that changes CSIS has undertaken with respect to the internal use of information collected for security screening purposes could be in contravention of the Privacy Act,” wrote the Security Intelligence Review Committee in their annual report.

The report raised concerns that information collected by the branch of CSIS responsible for security screenings may be shared internally within the spy agency and used for purposes other than those it was intended for, noting that there was “room for abuse of such information.”

CSIS is required by law to assist in preventing individuals who may pose a threat to Canada from obtaining either status or entry into the country.

But migrants rights activist Syed Hussan believes that the invasive interviews have another purpose, pointing out that “the questions are not always relevant to immigration.” He believes the security screenings are also used as means of gathering intelligence from people who fear being deported if they do not cooperate.

“They get all this information they wouldn’t be able to otherwise access, personal information, family history , political activity, sexual history … people get asked everything,” said Hussan, in a telephone interview.

The lengthy interviews, which can stretch over multiple days, require written legal consent of those being screened. The Security Intelligence Review Committee found that due this information obtained through these screening should in theory be subject to a greater degree of protection under the Privacy Act, than information CSIS obtains on individuals without their knowledge or consent.

The Security Intelligence Review Committee did not disclose how the information obtained from security screenings was shared within CSIS, and to what ends that information was put to use.

“It is unclear where this information ends up,” said Hussan, who worries that the information could be passed along to foreign governments or used for “nefarious” purposes at home. He believes massive amounts of information may be stored by the agency.

The expansive powers granted to CSIS may soon increase. Earlier this week the Conservative government introduced a bill that would grant the agency new powers to spy abroad and greater protection for CSIS informants that will keep them out of the courts.

In response to the review of security screening practices, CSIS informed the Security Intelligence Review Committee that they were conducting a Privacy Risk Assessment that would give the Information and Privacy Commissioner an opportunity to review the matter.

However the Security Intelligence Review Committee wrote that it remained “unclear … if its specific concerns would be addressed in a full and timely manner.”

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I think she’s the sister that she told you about, and that’s the brother they said that she dates, and this is where they meet and you know….


Hey you who loves talking about other brothers and sisters in Islam, please stop. Save your soul.

We all know that Allah Azza Wa Jall prohibited spying on others, but how many of us have done such a thing? We may even have done it unknowingly, Astagfirullah.

What is it that we get from making stories and spying on other people? What is the good that it brings to us to know that the stories that we have discussed with our friends had cause so much grief and humiliation to a brother or a sister in Islam? 

How can one sleep when he or she knows how much damage he or she had done to the reputation of not only his or her friend but for the reputation that Islam has?

Didn’t you know that when someone knows that you are Muslim and you love talking other people, do you think they will say something about you only? No, they will talk about your religion, Islam is placed in a hot seat and people are just waiting for every mistake so they could justify their thoughts about Islam.

And you know what, with every spying and talking and backbiting you do with your friend, wallahi, you are giving them the free ticket to abuse your religion. 

Will take that responsibility? Will you able to do so?

I want us to reflect from two stories that happened during the time of the Sahabah Radiyallahu Anhu, and it goes on the story of how it was forbidden for Muslims to spy or talk ill about each other.

Once, a man came to Abdullah Ibn Mas’ud and told him: “Walid Ibn Uqbah’s beard was dripping wine. [in some narration it was said that his beard was soaked with wine.]

Abdullah Ibn Mas’ud then told him:

"The Prophet Sallallahu Alaihi Wassalaam forbade us from spying, if he reveals it, we will certainly deal with him." 

[And we learnt from the story of Walid that this was indeed a false accusation that people told about him]

Another one was of the case of Abdur Rahman Ibn ‘Awf with ‘Umar Ibn Al Khattab.

They were patrolling Madinah one night and they reached a house where they found a closed door and loud voices inside [disturbing noise];

Umar said: Do you know whose house is this?

Abdur Rahman answered by saying: No.

'Umar then said: This is the house of Rubi’ah Ibn Umayah Ibn Khalaf, and they are now drinking. What do you think we should do?

Abdur Rahman said: I think we have violated Allah’s prohibition. Allah prohibited us from spying, we are now spying.

'Umar then immediately took the advice of Abdur Rahman and they left. 

Look at how the Sahabah were so keen about this spying, the caliph ‘Umar even with his status took the advice of Abdur Rahman because he knew that what he had done was wrong, indeed he was a caliph who took the advices of people and listened to them.

How many of us, when someone tells us, hey do not say that you do not know her or him, would arrogantly defend ourselves and further justify the ill thought by saying more words?

By Allah Azza Wa Jall, if we were this keen on observing our faults, our flaws there would be such a drastic change that will happen, but we are not most of us fail even to accept that we are wrong, but we are so good at pin pointing flaws of other people?

Why? That’s a question that lingers unanswered for so long now.

And we pray that Allah Azza Wa Jall gives us the tawfiq to concentrate on correcting ourselves and not on others. Amin


Stories were taken from:

• Al Mustadrak, Al Hakim, Kitab al Hudud, vo. 4, p. 377-382
• Al Kaba’r, The Chief Sins, Ad Dhahabi

Who is the NSA authorized to spy on?

Not long after it was revealed that the US had spied on German Chancellor Angela Merkel, both Germany and France expressed interest in joining a 5-Eyes-style no-spying agreement with the US, but there is little chance of this happening given the history of post-war political tensions and trade disputes with these countries.

Where there is good journalism, there will be scoops

As of 12:45 pm today, Jeremy Scahill and Ryan Devereaux published a new in-depth piece at The Intercept called "Watch Commander: Barack Obama’s Secret Terrorist-Tracking System, by the Numbers" examining the government’s Terrorist Screening Database, as discovered in classified documents the news outlet obtained. The article breaks down the system piece by piece, with startling observations from classified documents.

The second-highest concentration of people designated as “known or suspected terrorists” by the government is in Dearborn, Mich.—a city of 96,000 that has the largest percentage of Arab-American residents in the country.

Even if you don’t live in Dearborn, you should be concerned. 

…officials don’t need “concrete facts” or “irrefutable evidence” to secretly place someone on the list—only a vague and elastic standard of “reasonable suspicion.

According to information from the documents, during the Obama administration, there are more people in the TIDE (Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment) than ever before (an even bigger system with an even lower bar for making the list), there are 47,000 people on the government’s “No Fly” list, as well as a disproportionate about of suspects on the watchlist based on their assumed terrorist group affiliation (see above pie chart). Which is skewed, because the estimated size of Al-Qaeda in Iraq, for example, is significantly smaller than the amount of people on the AQI watchlist:


If this information doesn’t make you want to put on a tinfoil hat and anti-surveillance coat and go off the grid for a while, on top of all of that, the story itself was scooped by a government agency and handed to the AP. The AP story in question, written by Eileen Sullivan, came out just minutes before the Intercept piece. 

From HuffPo:

The government, it turned out, had “spoiled the scoop,” an informally forbidden practice in the world of journalism. To spoil a scoop, the subject of a story, when asked for comment, tips off a different, typically friendlier outlet in the hopes of diminishing the attention the first outlet would have received. Tuesday’s AP story was much friendlier to the government’s position, explaining the surge of individuals added to the watch list as an ongoing response to a foiled terror plot.

As Hina Shamsi, director of the ACLU’s National Security Project, told The Intercept, 

We’re getting into Minority Report territory when being friends with the wrong person can mean the government puts you in a database and adds DMV photos, iris scans, and face recognition technology to track you secretly and without your knowledge.

TLDNR; We’re probably all on a secret watchlist. And as soon as we find out we are, the government will know we know


Images: Chart via The Intercept ”Who’s on the watchlist?” that breaks down the list by affiliated terrorist group, and screenshot from Ryan Devereaux’s Twitter.

The American Civil Liberties Union obtained a series of internal papers from intelligence agencies including the NSA and Defense Intelligence Agency detailing how integral Reagan’s 1981 order is to the NSA’s current surveillance program. The order broadly allows the government to collect data from any company that is believed to have ties to foreign organizations. It also complicates the path forward for intelligence reforms in Congress.

Previous reports acknowledge the order’s use as a foundation for some of the NSA’s surveillance programs such as gaining backdoor access to tech companies’ data centers. But the new documents, which were released as part of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit the ACLU and other civil liberties advocates filed just before Edward Snowden’s leaks to the media, show Executive Order 12333 is the “primary source” authority when it comes to the NSA’s foreign spy programs.

Wasn’t Reagan the president that said “Government’s first duty is to protect the people, not run their lives?”

"In the past, mail covers were used when you had a reason to suspect someone of a crime," said Mark D. Rasch, a former Justice Department expert on computer crimes. "Now it seems to be, ‘Let’s record everyone’s mail so in the future we might go back and see who you were communicating with.’ Essentially [they’ve] added mail covers on millions of Americans."