Digital Security / Tenant Organizing / #MeToo Hong Kong
This week, we feature three portions.
Lauren Regan of CLDC
First up, we share a chat with Lauren Regan of the Civil Liberties Defense Center, or CLDC, to chat about safer practices around technology for activists, as well as the “reverse search” warrant used by the NYPD with Google to capture info on antifascists and the Proud Boy attackers last year. More at https://cldc.org. An article about tech security and phones that Bursts references is called “Never Turn Off The Phone” [starts 10m 08s]
Palm Beach Tenants Union
Following this, Withers (a new collective member at The Final Straw) shares a chat with Adam and Amy, two organizers with the Palm Beach Tenants Union out of Florida about their work and the sorts of mutual aid disaster work they’ve done with Hurricane Irma and advocating for and organizing with renters in their communities for dignity in housing. More on the Union at https://pbctu.org and more on how you can get involved in mutual aid up at https://mutualaiddisasterrelief.org. There are a number of donation sites around the region to prepare for this Hurricane season, as well as distribute support to Bahamas that you can find by searching social media for DRASL (Dorian Response Autonomous Supply Line), as mentioned on itsgoingdown.org. [starts at 54m 06s]
#MeToo and Updates from Hong Kong
Finally, you’ll hear a conversation with Enid and Rebecca, who feminist activists in Hong Kong about the current state of protests there. Content warning, that segment deals in part with organizing around sexualized assault by police and by protestors. To hear our prior interview with Ahkok on protests in HK, check our website and see the great articles up at crimethinc. Also, the guests talk about the term 自由閪, or “Freedom Cunt” as a re-appropriation of a misogynist insult by police from the protests. [starts at 1hr 15m 51s]
*Correction to the HK conversation: The full name of the IPCC mentioned in regards to the establishment of an independent police inquiry is called the Independent Police Complaints Council. Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam appointed two new committee members to the already existing committee, not independent investigators. However, the IPCC has hired five foreign investigators to participate in examinations, though it must be clarified that the role of the IPCC is observational rather than investigative. The IPCC has no jurisdiction to either call witness nor collect evidence for the independent inquiry called for by citizens.
If you’re listening to the radio version, as usual, we suggest that you check out the podcast version for longer versions of all three chats in this episode as well as Sean Swain’s audio this week. You can hear that at thefinalstrawradio.noblogs.org or via various streaming platforms we publish to, such as youtube, soundcloud, stitcher, pandora and so-on.
A Jailhouse Lawyer Speaks About #PrisonStrike 2018
This week, we feature three segments. First, we’ll feature a statement about recent doxing of a number of anti-racists in the Asheville area by far-right keyboard warriors.
After that, we feature an interview with Dee, an anonymous incarcerated organizer affiliated with Jailhouse Lawyers Speak. In this conversation we ask about the effectiveness of the #August21 2018 Nationwide Prisoner Strike, the push to move prisoners under storm threat as these increase under climate change, repression and changes in response to the strike, mail limitations in PA prisons, standardization of increased security in Ohio, outside support and organizing, critiques of the methods of NPS2018, and more. Check our show notes for links to more info concerning the strike.
If prisoners want to communicate with and/or join JLS, Dee suggests in some words near the end of the show that they reach out to:
And you can find JLS on fedbook or twitter to keep up with their organizing
Hambach Forest Updates
In our final section of the show, you’ll hear a report by audio comrades in Germany about the recent resistance to the destruction of the Hambach Forest by authorities. The clearing of the ancient forest is to create the largest open-pit lignite coal mine in Europe on behalf of the corporation RWE, which sells to Netherlands, Germany & the UK. Lignite has a carbon content of around 60-70%, has a low energy yield, and is responsible for 1/3 of CO2 emissions in Germany. This segment shows up in the November 2018 episode of B(A)DNews, Angry Voices from Around The World from the A-Radio Network, of which we’re a proud member. Keep an eye on our podcast stream and website for a link to this episode coming out in the next couple of days.
Within the last week, over 15 people were doxxed by white supremacists in our community. Here is most of a collective statement released a day or two after the fact by some of those folks:
They’ve targeted more than twenty people they believe are involved in anti-racist organizing in North Carolina. They’ve posted information such as our home addresses, places of work, family members, license plates, social media profiles–whatever information they could find. They seem to be fixating on trans and nonbinary people in particular, and delight in trying to deadname and misgender us whenever possible. Some of us, and some of our family members, have received harassing messages.
They wrote about us like it’s some big secret that we oppose fascism, that we oppose racism, that we oppose all forms of bigotry and oppression. It’s not a secret. We weren’t hiding. We are not ashamed.
This isn’t a plea for sympathy. Our friends and immediate community have been amazing. Rather, this is a message to let you know that if you ever find yourself targeted by neo-Nazis and the far right, you are not alone. None of us need to face this rising tide of fascist scum alone. We have each other.
Robert Bowers, the Pittsburgh Synagogue shooter, actively and publicly chatted with alt-right trolls who had doxxed anti-racist activists. He even discussed violence against anti-racists in our region. This is probably a good time to think seriously about your online security and that of your family members and friends. But staying safe isn’t just a matter of changing your Facebook settings or making your Instagram private. It’s a matter of us showing up for each other. Of us not letting them intimidate us, not letting them isolate us. Not letting them stop us from our work. Especially when the work is stopping fascism.
To read the full statement, you can visit https://ashevillesolidarity.tumblr.com/ , where you can also see a list of bands and businesses which have been included in the current harassment. And of course, there are ways to donate and send support!
For an article about this (released just as our radio show was airing), including a statement by Firestorm Books contextualizing the specific harassment they’ve received, you can visit The Asheville Blade, which you can donate to here! To support Firestorm Books, our local anarchist community space and bookstore, you can join their Community Sustainer’s Program or leave them a positive review on Facebook, Yelp, wherever you can.
Additionally, for a really excellent walk through of how to help prevent this kind of thing happening to you or your crew, you can visit the Smiling Face Collective guide to preventing doxxing. This site can be easily adapted into an interactive workshop, because let’s face it, wiping your presence off the internet is a tedious, upsetting, and grueling process which is designed to wear you down. It’s always better to do this in groups! You can write to us about your experiences with internet hygiene, good, bad, or whatever, at firstname.lastname@example.org
Rural Organizing Against Racism Benefit
For those in the Western NC area, there will be a Fall Fundraiser to benefit rural organizing and resilience on Friday November 30th at 6pm at the Marshall Container Co. which is located at 10 South Main Street, Marshall, NC. The event will center around a cornbread and chili dinner and will include several surprise musical guests!
Support Anti-Fascist Protestors in Philly
And finally, if you are in the position to donate to those injured yesterday fighting the Proud Boys in Philly and elsewhere, you can go to this rally.org page. Remember that if you donate to do so anonymously!
a computer security engineer and an open source software developer. He writes about technical topics like digital and operational security, encryption tools, whistleblowing, and hacking using language that everyone can understand, but without dumbing it down. An avid user of Qubes and Linux, he develops security tools such as OnionShare.”
Micah is kind enough in this conversation to break down the Efail scandal that rocked security-minded folks in mid-May. A weakness in the way that many email clients handled PGP & S/MIME came to light months after it was discovered by a team of security investigators. Micah explains how this encryption works, what was found out, safer approaches to encrypted messaging. We also talk a little about threat modeling and quantum computing.
Send encrypted text messages to Micah using Signal Messenger at (415) 964-1601. Here’s a link to a cool article Micah published at The Intercept about a method of cheaply creating a second signal account, so you can give out a signal # without giving away your personal phone number.
This week, we present an interview that Bursts conducted with the sci-fi and picture book author, technologist and social critic Cory Doctorow. Cory is an editor of the blog BoingBoing, a fellow at the Electronic Frontier Foundation and his most recent book is entitled Walkaway, out from Head of Zeus and TOR books. The novel plays with themes of open source technologies, class society, post-scarcity economics, ecological remediation, drop-out culture and liberatory social models. It was released a few days ago in paperback, along with matching re-issues of his other adult sci-fi novels.
For the hour, they chat about themes from the book, sharing, trans-humanism, imagination and monsters. To find more work by Cory, check out his blog craphound.com. You can also find him on twitter, free writings on Project Gutenberg, his content on archive.org, or his podcast.
Due to technical difficulties, we have no Sean Swain segment this week. We hope this will be remedied next episode.
For a slightly longer version of this episode, make sure to check out the podcast version.
Stay tuned mid-week for a podcast special interview with an anarchist from Indonesia about May Day in Yogyakarta and the repression that has followed. Also, if you haven’t been checking our podcast feed, you’re missing out. We have been regularly releasing extra content mid-week including our 8th Anniversary episode with interviews of hosts of two Channel Zero Network podcasts. You’ll also find two episodes of #Error451, our sometimes-weekly tech security podcast from an anarchist perspective.
If you’re in Asheville this week, consider attending the Another Carolina Anarchist Bookfair benefit show at the Odditorium on Haywood Road on the West Side. The show starts at 9pm, it features the music of Kortriba, Mother Marrow, Lynathrope and a special battle set of the project Fatal Comfort versus the stylings of FUNK JAMz. If you visit the ACAB table, you could be one of the first one of your friends to grab an ACAB2018 poster hot off the presses or ACAB2018 tshirt, both designed by super awesome local artists. Proceeds from the entry, shirts and posters go to pay for the local anarchist bookfair taking place between June 21st and 24th. More info on the bookfair at acab2018.noblogs.org
Also, this Friday Blue Ridge Anarchist Black Cross will be hosting it’s monthly presentation of the short documentary series, TROUBLE, by sub.Media. This month we’ll watch the second episode of two on the topic of gentrification and resistance to it. The film will be 30 minutes and then followed by a discussion with prompt questions suited to the Asheville’s specific brand of problems. The show starts at 6:30 and will last roughly an hour. Invite your friends!
In perfect timing for holiday driving many will be doing in the U.S., we’re releasing episode 3 of Error451, The Final Straw’s occasionally weekly tech security podcast with William Budington. This episode is about GPS navigation on mobile devices and ways to use it without disclosing your information to service providers.
Oh, hand here’s a link to one of those Motherboard chat logs about Mr. Robot.
This is the first standalone episode of Error451, The Final Straw’s occasionally weekly podcast featuring a conversation between Bursts and William Budington about tech, security and safer practices. Upcoming episodes include how to avoid leaking info while using maps on your device and safer practices at borders. If you have other topics you’d like to see covered, drop us a line at email@example.com
In this episode, we have a brief conversation about the idea of burner phones, mobile devices kept insulated from the users personal information and which can just be dumped when no longer useful. We talk about reasons one might use them, approaches to getting them and using them and how to dispose of them after usefulness has ceased.
Hopefully you’ll find this helpful in your endeavors!
First this week, we had the opportunity to speak with Dr Kihana Mariah Ross, who is the daughter in law of Herman Bell, a former member of the Black Panther Party and a political prisoner who is currently clocking 44 years behind bars. We will speak about recent developments in his case, plus some historical context, and actionable items moving forward.
To learn more about Herman Bell and to read some of his writings, you can visit freehermanbell.org. To send him a card – and be aware that his 70th birthday is on January 14th and his upcoming parole hearing is in February 2018 – you can write to him at
Herman Bell 79 C 0262
P.O. Box 700
Wallkill, NY 12589-0700
How Best to use Signal?
In the second segment of today’s episode, we’ll air another conversation with William Budington, a digital security expert and trainer about the Signal end-to-end text encryption app for smart phones and desktops. Signal, produced by WhisperSys, is an easy to use, free means for folks to avoid one type of surveillance in their day to day communication. The ubiquitous, normalized use of encryption shields the purpose of the use, obscuring whether the practice is to shield illegal activity or not. In the conversation we talk about the human failure side of communication, as well as the informational leakage possibilities of the devices we use to engage Signal app. If you really enjoy the pie-baking/Betty Crocker metaphor, don’t despair, it doesn’t end with this segment. Check out more on this topic in our occasional series, Error451.
Stay tuned soon for a conversation with William about burner phones and more. If you have a topic about digital security, devices and programs, surveillance or related topics, leave us a suggestion at firstname.lastname@example.org ! If you want our pgp key, check our website.
Now, it’s my turn for a brief editorial, dear listeners. This is Bursts. I grew up in a part of so-called California known as Sonoma County, lands stolen from the Pomo and the Miwok peoples first by the Spanish, then by Mexico and Russia and then the U.S. I lived there from the mid-1980’s through 2009 and consider it my home in a way I could no other place. The rolling hills, the foggy mornings, the Coastal Live Oak groves, the nasty but 100 year old Eucalyptis groves, the early evening sky that turns a goldish orange into purple, the Manzanita, the people, the ocean breeze coming out from Bodega. These are things that I remember fondly from the deeply damaged yet still beautiful biome I called home for most (and definitely the more formative years) of my life.
This has been a year for spectacular disasters around this hemisphere, with a record 10th hurricane now appearing in the Carribean and southern U.S., 2 major earthquakes rocking Mexico and now the fires in Northern and Southern California. The fires in the north, which I’ve been paying more attention to because they QUITE literally bring home to me a sense of devastation I still haven’t been able to digest from this distance, have been whipped up by winds, a seasonal dryness out of the ordinary and fed by the aftermath of a wet winter that created a ton of easy-to-burn fuels. California has long been racked by fires, but never this many deaths and never have they consumed large parts of cities as they have with Santa Rosa. Thousands of homes have been turned to ash, monuments standing over a hundred years are cinders, human and non-human animals have been killed, damaged and displaced. California is yet another part of the world feeling the first hand effects of anthropogenic climate change, after years of over-taxing it’s water levels with large scale and animal and food agriculture, it’s manicured industrial lawns, the barely regulated weed industry booming, the building of human settlements in the middle of deserts and the idea promoted by high levels of industry and state that as the 6th largest economy in the world it could buy itself climate chaos. Day by day, year by year, this is proven more and more a delusion. But I digress.
I’d like to give a shout out to the brave folks doing search and rescue in my home away from home, the neighbors who look out for each other, that roused each other from sleep to escape the fire storms, who shelter and feed each other. Also to the fire professionals who are working to fight back the fires. An element of this that is under reported, of course, is the fact that over a thousand prisoners of the state of California and it’s included counties, are putting their lives on the line for $1 to $2.56 a day to train and then fight these blazes. That can be compared to the $31.85 an hour of the median hourly wage for non-inmate firefighters. I would like to bring this up because as the climate becomes more chaotic and the ever-tighter squeeze of austerity capitalism turns further and further away from more sustainable and stable incomes like unionized firefighters this continues a nasty trend.
Putting prisoners on the fire lines to fight the blazes, while more deadly for them than other modes of work, arguably offers them a potentially more meaningful and lucrative engagement with community service. This also fuels the profit motive of governments bent on incarcerating mostly poor communities of color, often people with chemical dependencies and neuro-divergencies the state can’t be bothered to treat but to stick them in a concrete and steel cage. More prisoners means more low-pay and expendable firefighters who’s crime was to be born the wrong color or class in the age of mass incarceration. I don’t bring this up to denigrate those risking themselves to save lives and homes, whether a prisoner or not, but to point out that this is not how a community organizes itself for it’s members, this is the logic of capital and thus streams value to the top of the pyramid.
My heart goes out to those who suffer at the hands of these fires. Let’s fight for futures where we are better prepared, where we don’t employ slave labor to fight them, and everyone has what they need to live in true community, which means true accountability to the impact of our survival on the non-human environment with which we share this awesome world.
This week Bursts spoke with William Budington, a digital security expert, about various topics under that heading. We spoke about: encryption for texting, email and mobile devices operating systems; about anonymity on the internet; safer practices with social media; doxxing; and more.
The conversation was ranging and a bit thick at times due to Bursts very specific style of posing questions. Thusly, the notes will be very long with lots of links embedded for further reading on the topic, posted in the Further Reading section below. If there are other topics around security that you’d like to hear discussed on this show, drop us an email at email@example.com and we’ll mull it over. This chat was by no means the end of a conversation. The practices and tools we talked about here are meant to keep you SAFER, but can’t promise your safety. But hopefully some of these words can get more of us to take our digital hygiene more seriously!
Political Prisoner Herman Bell Assaulted
We received this notice after the show aired, but hope that folks read these notes and get this info. Herman Bell is one of the New York 3, the same group of defendants as Jalil Muntaqim, who we featured an interview with in our last episode:
Black Panther Party political prisoner Herman Bell was viciously assaulted by guards at Great Meadow Correctional Facility (Comstock) on September 5, 2017. While being “escorted” by a guard back to his housing unit, a guard struck Herman, age 69, in the face causing his glasses to drop to the floor. This same guard then repeatedly punched Herman about the face, head and body. Responding to a commotion, 5-6 other guards arrived and joined in the assault. One of them was able to knee Herman in the chest causing two cracked ribs. Another guard took out a bottle of mace and sprayed it all over Herman’s face, eyes and mouth.
Herman was then taken to the prison infirmary. X-rays have confirmed fractured ribs. Herman’s left eye is damaged from the mace and blows. He has bruises to his body and is suffering headaches, a sign of a possible concussion.
Herman Bell has now been charged with “assault on staff”. Defying common sense, they allege that Herman, for no apparent reason, slapped the guard escorting him. He did this, they claim, in a location out of the view of all inmates but in the presence of other guards. He is now in the Special Housing Unit (box) at Five Points Correctional Facility where he was transferred after the incident.
Herman Bell has not had a disciplinary violation in over 20 years. He was scheduled to begin a three day family visit with his wife a few days after the incident, their first such visit in over 2 1/2 years. In addition he is to appear before the parole board, for the 8th time, in February 2018.
Herman has, however, been the target of guard harassment due to his political background. Visitors report that guards processing them and in the visiting room comment that they are visiting a “cop killer” or “terrorist”. Some guards have been seen passing around the book “Badge of the Assassin” written by Herman’s prosecutor.
At this time, we are encouraging everyone to take the time to write to Herman or send him a get-well card, so that the authorities know we are paying attention and are concerned for Herman. Stay tuned for updates as we develop this campaign.
Herman Bell #79C0262
Five Points Cor. Fac.
P.O. Box 119
Romulus, N.Y. 14541
2018 Certain Days Calendar
I’d like to quickly announce that the 2018 Certain Days: Freedom For Political Prisoners Calendar has just been posted as ready for pre-order. The calendar is a joint fundraising and educational project between outside organizers in Montreal, Toronto, and New York, in partnership with three political prisoners being held in maximum-security prisons in New York State: David Gilbert, Robert Seth Hayes and Herman Bell. The proceeds from Certain Days 2018 will be divided among these groups: Addameer Prisoners Support and Human Rights Association (Palestine), Release Aging People in Prison (RAPP) and other groups in need. More info on the project and where to sign up is at certaindays.org
For all you artistically minded listeners out there, who would like to see their art worn by people (potentially) all over the world, The Final Straw is looking for tshirt desgins! If you like the show, or love it, or just think it’s ok-ish but like to make designs then this challenge is for you.
We will be accepting submissions until the (end of November), and lest you think this is a one way street, the winner of this challenge will recieve a special prize from each of us (Bursts and William) of a personal and one of a kind mixtape which will include all sorts of audio goodies. Runners up will also get prizes, so never fear there’s no heirarchy here.
Want in?? Just email your submission and any relevant info to firstname.lastname@example.org and keep your ears peeled for the winner announcement.
Show Notes begin in vain
For a starter on COINTELPRO, check out the wikipedia page on the topic.
PGP Enigmail for is an add-on to the Thunderbird email client that makes creating a pgp key set easier.
The Onion Router (TOR) produced this really great package for safer browsing called the Torbrowser package. TAILS is a portable operating system so you can operate a computer and leave less traces Signal is a phone app for end-to-end encryption available for iphones, android phones and desktops.
HTTPSEverywhere is a useful add-on for your web browser
One VPN intro, including links to clients you can use, can be found at riseup
Various other nefarious tech the state and non-state actors may deploy
IMSI catchers, or phone spoofers, include the name-brand Stingray. The ACLU has this little site that allows you to see what law enforcement agencies they know to have (and probably use) them!
In reference to the Automatic License Plate Readers mentioned by William, here’s an article on the subject
In the first half of this week’s show we spoke with Rodney about the upcoming Heartwood Forest Council, one of two yearly meet and greet events by Heartwood. Heartwood “is a regional network that protects forests and supports community activism in the eastern United States through education, advocacy, and citizen empowerment. We are people helping people protect the places they love.
Heartwood was founded in 1991, when concerned citizens from several midwestern states each defending their national forest from logging, mining, roads and ruin, met and began to work together to protect the heartland hardwood forest.”
They’ll be holding their “Strong Roots”, the 27th Forest Council from May 26-29 at Camp Spring Creek, 774 Spring Creek Rd, Bakersville, North Carolina, the heart of the Katuah Bioregion. Info on the event, how to register yourself to attend, what’ll be offered and how to get involved in Heartwood can be found at https://heartwood.org
The second half is an interview conducted by Pinda and aired on episode 192 of Dissident Island Radio, an anarchist podcast out every 2 weeks from London and available at http://dissidentisland.org. In the chat, Pinda spoke with Crossbill, a bird of the Riseup! collective about the recent FBI gag order ordeal and what this means for users of riseup mail and other services.
Stay tuned to our website, social media & podcast feed for a special podcast release of an interview with the Liverpool based anarchist black metal project Dawn Ray’d. In this interview we speak about the inception of the band, the political situation in Liverpool, and the many ways in which anarchism and black metal can inform and augment each other.
This band is just about to embark on a tour of the U.S., organized by the Milwaukee based label Halo of Flies, with dates in Cincinnati, Detroit, Texas, and in Asheville on June 1st at the Odditorium! You can check out their music for free on bandcamp, and keep in touch with tour dates and new releases by visiting their fedbook page.
From the Durham Solidarity Center: “Dozens of southern anti-racist activists organized a counter protest today, May 20, 2017, at a so-called “Confederate Memorial Day” rally organized by the white supremacist organization, ACTBAC (Alamance County Taking Back Alamance County). Three were arrested and given serious charges and high bail – the highest was $15,000. The Alamance County Sheriff is a notorious racist. According to witnesses, Alamance police were seen shaking hands with known Klan members. We need your support to support these anti-racist fighters.”