Short Film of the Week: “The NSA is Coming to Town”

Short films are incredible and often don’t get the spotlight they deserve. I love them because they’re, well, short: they fit into the cracks of your day when you’re looking for an excuse to procrastinate (while expanding your mind of course). Another plus is that shorts are frequently available online for free. It’s no fun to always profile films that people can’t access unless they live in a major city or have fancy cable.

Shorts are also difficult to make. With limited time to tell the story, the filmmaker has to employ the most efficient use of words and images. Finally, shorts are less expensive to make than feature films. This means that the playing field is more level, giving us opportunities to encounter new and exciting voices.

So each week, I’ll be choosing a great short film to share with you. It seems appropriate to lead off with a holiday themed piece. We’ll begin with the work of the good folks over at the ACLU and their amusing short, The NSA is Coming to Town. This 2-minute piece successfully incorporates Santa and the NSA into one video. Need I say more?

The film also ends with a call to action, which is a smart technique. Sometimes the best education comes through entertainment. Whether you are moved to sign the ACLU’s petition or not, it’s undeniable that this short will make you smile and promptly head over to your computer to make sure your email is encrypted. Enjoy.

Know of a film that you think would make a great “Short of the Week?” Send it to me at

Department of Homeland Stupidity: Fair Use, Parody and Satire vs the Government

The Department of Homeland Security and National Security Agency are using their muscle and copyright law to threaten a novelty store dealer with a lawsuit if he doesn’t stop selling items satirizing the snoopy bureaucracies.

Several offending to the gubmit (but I-am-12 funny to everyone else) hats, tee shirts and coffee mugs sport the words

Department of Homeland Stupidity

and the DHS logo, altered to give the eagle a dunce cap holding a bottle and a pot leaf, while the NSA parody tee shirts use the agency’s logo, altering the slogan to read

Peeping while your sleeping

Below the NSA logo is the slogan

The NSA: The only part of government that actually listens.

Another design bears the NSA’s official seal with the slogan

Spying on You Since 1952

In 2011 the NSA sent cease-and-desist orders to claiming that Dan McCall’s parody images in his Zazzle online store violated laws against the use, mutilation, alteration or impersonation of government seals, so McCall moved the images over to his store which is a redirect from his own website, He updates images based on news stories, and shows a distinct tongue in cheek libertarian attitude, billing his gear as

Freedom Products for Liberty Lovers.

Now McCall is suing the NSA and DHS on constitutional grounds, in Federal Court. In his eight-page lawsuit seeking declaratory judgment, the satirist entrepreneur claims:

use of images of the NSA and DHS seals, whether unaltered but in combination with critical text, or altered in parodic form, did not create any likelihood of confusion about the source or sponsorship of the materials on which they were available to be printed. No reasonable viewer is likely to believe that any of the materials is affiliated with or sponsored by defendants. Nor were the seals affixed to the items to be sold with any fraudulent intent.

McCall further claims that

his images make fair use of the NSA and DHS seals “to identify federal government agencies as the subject of criticism,” and are protected by the First Amendment. And he claims it’s unconstitutional for the government to forbid him from displaying and selling his parodies to “customers who want to display the items to express their own criticisms of NSA and DHS.”

Oddly the TSA has not complained about the image parodying them:




Hat tip:

Edward Snowden: Comic Books and Video Games Inspired, Motivated Whistleblowing

The Advocate’s interview with Glenn Greenwald reveals a lot about the lawyer-turned journalist who broke the Edward Snowden NSA leaks. And in it, Greenwald explains that during a his lengthy interview with Snowden in Hong Kong he learned what inspired and motivated the twenty-something security expert to blow the whistle on the NSA’s surveillance programs:

It wasn’t Hegelian theories on power structures or Ron Paul rhetoric about privacy; it wasn’t Nietzsche’s Genealogy of Morals (Greenwald’s greatest influence) or Jeffersonian notions of government. It was comic books and video  games. “You have good guys who are forced to do difficult but good things,” Snowden said to Greenwald, a bit embarrassed.

Greenwald goes into more, explaining how his husband, David Miranda, opened his eyes to pop culture.

“It’s not a simplistic ideology. David is one of the most complex, intellectually curious, and sophisticated people I’ve ever met, and he’s the one who convinced me that being influenced by the moral dynamics of a comic book or video game is no less noble than being shaped by a novel or a book,” Greenwald reasons. “You can watch The Matrix and take it as an action movie, or you can delve into all its greater existentialist meanings. All of the narratives in these comic books are about these single individuals devoted to justice who have the willingness to be brave, who can defeat even the most powerful edifices of evil.”

Exactly. Comic books, video games, movies, and yes, even TV shows can influence, shape, and mold character and morals. Unfortunately, we don’t know which comic books and video games  affected Snowden. Greenwald didn’t ask!

Paging Dr. Wertham!


Liberals, Religious Right Cursing NSA in Orgiastic Ritual

There’s a weird Top Sekrit location where the left, the middle, the conservatives, and the absolute raving bonkerites meet, dropping their armor and  laying aside all their other conflicts. Lately the meal served at this swingers club is a boiling stew of stupid cooked up by the NSA which has managed unite almost every group from the far right religious fringe to the tree hugging vegans on the left.

Case in point, the video below from Former Navy Chaplain Gordon Klingenschmitt of the ‘Pray In Jesus Name’ website  (and truly, after exploring his website, I’m really glad he’s no longer a military chaplain!):

There is a spirit of  secrecy that is really just lawbreaking in its lawlessness, and they’re doing this all behind the scenes and they’ll send out a public statement, ‘Oh we don’t have a domestic spying program.’ But they voted to fund a domestic spying program, they’re just calling it something else. And we’re exposing that, and really it has its roots in a Satanic evil spirit of violation, of tyranny really…

And then “Dr Chaps” goes on to quote some scripture and pray away the demon of tyranny who is

using the White House occupant, that demonic spirit that is oppressing us…Father, we hope that you will help the president repent, repent of this violation, of his defense now of violating our Fourth Amendment rights.

So on behalf of Americans everywhere: All races, colors and creeds, of all sexualities, all income levels and classes, let us now all come together and send out a rousing thank you to the NSA for uniting us against their snooping policies. Meanwhile, check our Dr Chaps in all his NSA demon bustin’ glory:



What Leon Rosby’s Murdered Dog Means: The NSA, Free Speech, Citizen Reporters and More

Over the last week and a half the interwebs have been engulfed by a state of righteous raaaaage over the shooting of a family pet by a Hawthorne, California police officer. And the response shows why the NSA’s surveillance plans could go horribly wrong and victimize the wrong people.

When the video of Hawthorne Police shooting and killing the dog appeared on YouTube–it now has over 4.5 million hits–Internet denizens went to work compiling information on the police officer involved in order to “dox” him–get his name, address, phone number etc. Except they kinda made some errors. They targeted an officer named Swain. Except Swain was not the  officer who did the shooting, but rather the Hawthorne Police Dept spokesperson.

Armed with incorrect information, the cyber sleuths then found a business in the greater Southern California area called Swain’s. In Glendale. Twenty-four miles away and in a whole other city. Putting two and two together, and getting far <9,000, the self-styled superheroes posted Swain’s Art Supply info and the non-stop hostile phone calls to the business began. It got so bad the business had to go to the media and plead for it to stop.

So how does this fit into PRISM, Echelon, Raptor etc? Well, granted those are computer programs. But computers are programmed by humans. And ultimately the decisions to follow through are made by humans. Humans who can and do make mistakes. And  humans work for the NSA and their contractors, so simple math would say at some point one of them is going to make a mistake.

Meanwhile, Anonymous, who claim to  support free speech, effectively squelched  it by DDOSing the  City of Hawthorne’s website. The city claims because it can’t post the city council agenda, they can’t have a meeting. According to NBC-LA:

The city clerk’s office told NBC4 that the regularly scheduled meeting would be canceled because it is required by the state open meeting law — known as the Brown Act — to publicly post the agenda prior to meeting.

“As you are aware, due to the public maelstrom of emotion caused by the police incident involving the Rottweiler, the city website crashed. The website has been down for nearly one week,” said Mayor Daniel Juarez in an email to NBC4. “The Brown Act requires that city council agendas shall be posted on the ‘local agency’s Internet Web site, if the local agency has one.’”

Of course one could argue that right now, the city doesn’t have a website, so the Brown Act does not apply (and the downed website/we can’t have a meeting thing is pretty convenient for the beleaguered politicians of Hawthorne who would like this to all go away).

And why did this family pet get shot? Because Leon Rosby, who has repeatedly sued the Hawthorn Police Department, was video taping an incident on his street. The police arrested him for obstruction of justice.


Late Night: Some Random Thoughts on Edward Snowden


Hong Kong wanted him gone, and Putin clearly feels Edward Snowden–who celebrated his 30th birthday by placing everyone’s cellphones in the fridge–has outstayed his welcome in the pod hotel at the not-really-Russia airport.

Meanwhile tomorrow we have the potential of DOMA and Prop 8, which is pretty exciting!


We Should Have Listened to Shia LaBeouf About the NSA!


Celebrities talk a lot about stuff–and sometimes about stuff they don’t really know much about. But five years ago, as a guest on Tonight Show with Jay Leno, actor Shia LaBeouf brought up something that seems far more important now than it did then–and maybe we should have paid attention.

LaBeouf was discussing his experiences filming Eagle Eye, a thriller about

a young man and a single mother who are brought together and coerced by an anonymous caller into carrying out a plan by a possible terrorist organization.

The film had an FBI consultant. The consultant, according to LeBeouf,  told him that home alarm monitors could be turned on to monitor households, and that cars could be shutdown using OnStar. And that one in five phone calls were recorded by the government. To prove the point, LaBeouf continued, the FBI consultant played back a call the actor had made two years earlier, before he was associated with the picture,

one of those what are you are wearing type of things.

Okay that is creepy. But wow, they must have gotten really close for the consultant to show him all that spai stuff.

According to IMDBpro, the FBI technical consultant on Eagle Eye was Thomas Knowles. A quick Google search shows that Knowles retired from the FBI in 2006, and in 2009

joined the Board of Directors of Continental Prison Systems, Inc. (Pink Sheets:CPSZ), and its operating division called EZ Card & Kiosk, which provides the “cashless jail” solution to city and county jails around the US. Mr. Knowles, who retired from the FBI in 2006, brings superior organizational, analytical and exceptional decisiveness and problem-solving skills to the company….

In 1985, Mr. Knowles began his FBI career, with assignments in Oklahoma, Los Angeles, Sacramento, Athens, Greece, Kandahar, Afghanistan and the FBI Headquarters Office in Washington, D.C. While with the FBI, Mr. Knowles pursued investigations in violent crime matters such as drugs, kidnappings, bank robberies and organized crime, before transferring to the International Terrorism Division just prior to the first bombing of the World Trade Center Towers in February of 1993. He then continued his work in terrorism matters both living and working assignments in Greece, the Middle East and the former Soviet Republic break-away states, before returning to FBI Headquarters as Chief of the International Operations Section responsible for FBI international offices. He retired from the FBI after managing a joint law enforcement terrorism task force, yet remains actively involved in the fight against both international and domestic terrorists.

Eagle Eye is the only film for which he has been credited as consultant.