Archive for August 2010

Measuring Hispanic authenticity, and other quixotic assignments

August 13, 2010

The Reasonable Reporter has an uncle who entered the country by swimming across the Rio Grande, an illegal way in that conferred on several generations of Mexicans the racial slur wetback.  Uncle Richard – not Ricardo – was an American student of Mexican descent, who, in the spirit of his generation, devoted a portion of his college years to exploring his ethnicity. For the border-crossing adventure, he emptied his wallet of identification, traveled into Mexico, and then reentered illegally with a group of Mexican men, in order to write about the experience.

Dangerous? You can call it a stunt, or perhaps an extreme sport of the period. It’s the sworn duty of every young man to cause his mother to fear for his safety.  But  Uncle Rich’s experiment, and others like it, were about the serious work of documenting the authentic ethnic experience. As it happens, many such earnest explorations provided street cred for many academic careers spent describing  the benchmarks of ethnic authenticity. Uncle Rich became Ricardo, and  worked his way to a distinguished post at a large university.

Dad, Uncle Rich, and their siblings were all born in the United States to parents who were more comfortable with Spanish than English.  When the family got together, they spoke Spanish while we, the children, listened.

Notwithstanding that exposure, as adults we can do little more in Spanish than request salsa verde with a perfect accent when we go to the taqueria. We’re among many Mexican-Americans who don’t speak Spanish, even though we had able teachers available 24 hours a day. Blue-eyed mom and Mexican (now Hispanic) dad were thinking primarily of our future professional success when they decided it wasn’t important for us to speak Spanish.  The times they changed before our very eyes, and thanks a whole lot, mom and dad.

A couple of decades later, when the Reasonable Reporter flamed out at an audition for a radio news service in San Francisco, the hiring manager rubbed salt in the wound by offering a shot at a different job that demanded less news experience, but required Spanish fluency. Indeed, Spanish-speaking radio reporters were so hard to come by that management was more flexible in evaluating talent, and – get this – paid triple what the English-speaking reporter would be offered. Alas, two career setbacks in a single day.

Who knew, entering kindergarten just a few years before our grandparents’ culture became a decades-long political science project, that talking like Grandma and her kids talked at the Thanksgiving table would be a resume enhancement if we wanted some day to become news reporters? Or run for office?

And so, it’s been uncomfortable to watch as Hispanic gubernatorial candidate Brian Sandoval is pelted with expectations that he should be a more robust ethnic trailblazer. It’s an apparent article of faith among professional campaign observers  that Hispanic blood somehow obliges him to speak Spanish. He doesn’t.  He’s been examined for evidence of a genuine connection to Hispanic voters — was he glowing with ethnic pride on the speaker’s platform, or was it just 95 degrees in the shade that day?  He doesn’t know what it means to be Hispanic in this country, according to one Hispanic media outlet. What, exactly, does it mean? No elaboration was offered, and it would impossible to overstate the frivolity of the question.

We won’t dissect the politics of racial identity here. It’s been done, and perhaps that’s the point.  It’s been done, and done, and done, until a rather significant segment of the population harbors the prejudice that a Hispanic political candidate  must make Hispanic-ness a conspicuous feature of the campaign. This is nonsense, of course, and so is the gratuitous spotlight on the bilingual ability of the Caucasian opponent, who — no, the irony is not lost — knows how to hablar en espanol. Fluency in a second language is admirable, in the same way that any personal achievement is admirable, and speaking Spanish is a useful tool for a politician, but it’s no more and no less than that.

As for the idea that Hispanics have no business being Republicans. The GOP faithful have answered that recent remark from Harry Reid by arguing that the true aspirations of Hispanics could be better realized if they align with Republicans. All of these generalizations, uttered like so much species analysis in zoology class, might be appropriate if Hispanics were marsupials. But hey everyone — Hispanics are human beings with marvelous analytical capabilities.

Some Hispanics are Democrats, some are Republicans. Wow… what if some Hispanics were driven to reject both political parties, in part because of a persistent tendency among party leaders and advisors to speak about us as if we were not in the room. (See reference to decades-long political science project, above.)

Good God, people, it’s 2010, not 1975.  It is most unseemly, and frankly quite brainless, to run around projecting onto anyone with a Hispanic surname the key ideas from your required three-credit college class in multi-cultural studies, or whatever they’re calling it these days. While Uncle Rich and his generation did some important work, which served positively to change the mainstream understanding of non-Caucasian Americans, it should not serve to freeze us in time, and it should not narrow the lens through which we view candidates, or voters.


Wired: Hacker Lamo now denies possessing classified docs

August 2, 2010

Note added subsequent to post:  The Reasonable Reporter does not have the time, the interest, the expertise, nor the access to cover developing national security stories, and will not post anything further on the Wikileaks debacle, unless it is related to the data center’s information security standards that allowed the leaks to occur in the first place.  What happened to the data once it left the controlled area (which was not actually a controlled area, obviously), is not the focus of this reporter in her capacity as co-host of The CyberJungle.

The two entries below arose out of a press briefing at the DefCon hacker conference that took an unusual turn when the source unexpectedly began to relate his personal involvement with Adrian Lamo, who was instrumental in linking the leaked defense department data to the soldier accused of leaking it.

The Reasonable Reporter posted on Sunday an audio recording of Chet Uber, a cybersecurity researcher who has highly-placed contacts with federal law enforcement and the military, detailing conversations between himself and his friend Lamo, during Lamo’s “crisis of conscience” over whether to turn in soldier Brad Manning, whom he had befriended online.  When reported on Monday that Lamo had qualified his confirmation of Uber’s account, it was necessary to post again, reflecting that information.

At issue here is not the relationship between Lamo and Uber, nor the phone conversation in which Uber encouraged Lamo to “do the right thing.”  Both have been verified by Lamo. It is whether Lamo had actual documents in his possession, which he originally confirmed, according to another press account, and is now denying, claiming a misunderstanding.

In the audio linked below, Uber describes how he helped Lamo over the phone to determine the status of the documents by inspecting them for certain indications that they were top secret. Once he knew those markings were present on the documents, Uber says he advised Lamo to “put them in a bag” and await further instructions.

If the reader is interested, do two things.  1) Listen to the audio of Uber taken on Sunday at DefCon. It is located at the bottom of the original post.  2) Then, for more insight, follow the links below in this post.

Finally, it should be noted that both men are hackers. Lamo is consistently described in the press as “former hacker” Adrian Lamo, although the designation is an odd one, since he works for Uber as a volunteer doing cyberwork that requires the mindset and skill sets  of a hacker.  Uber is a self-described hacker, once a grey-hat but now a white-hat, according to his own press release in which he announced he is seeking more volunteer hackers to work in the same organization.

** original post ** is reporting that former hacker Adrian Lamo has now denied he had classified documents received from accused leaker Bradley Manning.  The story below was posted from DefCon 18 on Sunday, with audio detailing the relationship between Lamo and Chet Uber, the head of a volunteer cybercrime fighting organization which has counted Lamo among its members.  Uber claimed at a DefCon press briefing to have been the person who helped Lamo determine that documents in his possession were top secret, and who persuaded Lamo to turn them over to federal authorities.

IDG News Service reporter Robert McMillan reported on Sunday that he had confirmed Uber’s story with Lamo via email.  Lamo is denying only that he possessed documents, not the other elements of Uber’s story.

Uber had traveled to DefCon to recruit technically advanced volunteers to join the work of  Project Vigilant, which is attribution of cybercrime and terrorism to their perpetrators and funding sources, by analyzing internet traffic.

Notes from DefCon 18, part 2 — “I know what happened with the Wikileaks from Brad Manning because I was there, I’m the one who called the U.S. government.”

August 1, 2010

A press briefing at DefCon 18 in Las Vegas, called to announce a non-governmental effort to fight cybercrime and terrorism, took a surprising turn when the group’s director revealed that he was the person who arranged for former hacker Adrian Lamo to turn over leaked classified military documents to the U.S. government.

Chet Uber, director of Project Vigilant, traveled to DefCon to recruit volunteers for the project from the ranks of DefCon attendees, a rich source of talent for his technically intricate mission — the attribution of crimes to their perpetrators and funding sources, by monitoring internet traffic for “footprints in the digital sand.”

In the course of answering questions from reporters about Vigilant, Uber stopped talking, and then began to discuss his personal involvement with Lamo, whom he described as a personal friend, and who works for Uber as a Viglant volunteer. Uber said he wanted to “right a wrong,” referring to criticism of Lamo in the hacker community since his meeting with federal authorities.

“I know what happened with the Wikileaks from Brad Manning because I was there,   I’m the one who called the  U.S. government.”

In the file below, you can hear Uber’s description of how he persuaded Lamo to meet with the feds, turn over the documents, and reveal everything he knows. The audio file  is six minutes long, and includes Uber’s account of his interactions with Lamo by phone during the meeting, when Lamo called him for encouragement.  You can hear it by clicking on the flash player below, or you can download it from a separate source below.

For more about Chet Uber and the hacker recruitment effort for Project Vigilant, see DefCon conference coverage at The CyberJungle.

You may download the interview here, or stream it here: