The Snowden Conundrum


20-09-19 10:31:00,

Have you ever had the pleasure of dealing with an agent of the Federal government? For example, have you been audited by the IRS? Did you notice what the “Agent” does to gain access to his (or her) computer—by inserting a “Smart ID” into a slot? Did you ask how your personal information is protected from disclosure or theft? What is to prevent the Agent from copying files to a thumb drive and taking them home?

Regarding the Smart ID, the “HSPD-12” is discussed in this publicly available article; please note the following:

HSPD-12, FIPS 201 and the PIV Card

Homeland Security Presidential Directive 12 (HSPD-12), issued by President George W. Bush on August 27, 2004, mandated the establishment of a standard for identification of Federal government employees and contractors. HSPD-12 requires the use of a common identification credential for both logical and physical access to federally controlled facilities and information systems. The Department of Commerce and National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) were tasked with producing a standard for secure and reliable forms of identification. In response, NIST published Federal Information Processing Standard Publication 201 (FIPS 201), Personal Identity Verification (PIV) of Federal Employees and Contractors, issued on February 25, 2005, and a number of special publications that provide more detail on the implementation of the standard.

Both Federal agencies and enterprises have implemented FIPS 201-compliant ID programs and have issued PIV cards. The FIPS 201 PIV card is a smart card with both contact and contactless interfaces that is now being issued to all Federal employees and contractors…

Additional information about FIPS 201 can be found on the Government Identity/Credentialing Resources page, from NIST, and from the Secure Technology Alliance Access Control Council.

If you engage the IRS employee in conversation, remembering the adage you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar, you’ll learn the computer cannot be compromised—all data on the device are encrypted; the only access to it is via the Smart ID. Data can be copied to an external “thumb drive” but everything copied will be encrypted; any file on that thumb drive is only readable by that specific device. Wouldn’t this be true of NSA devices as well? Why does Snowden never discuss dealing with such encryption: how would it be possible?

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The Student Debt Conundrum


22-04-19 06:11:00,

Authored by Laurence Vance via The Future of Freedom Foundation,

Using data from the Federal Reserve, Student Loan Hero — an organization that provides “resources, tools and information” to help “student loan borrowers understand their student loans and make intelligent repayment decisions” — reports that

Among the Class of 2018, 69% of college students took out student loans, and they graduated with an average debt of $29,800, including both private and federal debt. Meanwhile, 14% of their parents took out an average of $35,600 in federal Parent PLUS loans.

Americans owe over $1.56 trillion in student loan debt, spread out among about 45 million borrowers. That’s about $521 billion more than the total U.S. credit card debt.

11.5% of student loans are 90 days or more delinquent or are in default.

Average monthly student loan payment (among those not in deferment): $393.

What makes the statistics even more alarming is that only about 15 percent of student debt is private debt. Most of the money borrowed by students was borrowed from the deep pockets of Uncle Sam.

But it gets even worse.

According to the Final Audit Report of the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Inspector General, “Federal Student Aid: Additional Actions Needed to Mitigate the Risk of Servicer Noncompliance with Requirements for Servicing Federally Held Student Loans,” Federal Student Aid (FSA), the agency within the Department of Education responsible for servicing all federal student loans, has not been doing a very good job:

FSA had not established policies and procedures that provided reasonable assurance that the risk of servicer noncompliance with requirements for servicing federally held student loans was mitigated.

FSA’s oversight activities regularly identified instances of servicers’ not servicing federally held student loans in accordance with Federal requirements.

FSA management rarely used available contract accountability provisions to hold servicers accountable for instances of noncompliance.

FSA did not provide servicers with an incentive to take actions to mitigate the risk of continued servicer noncompliance that could harm students.

FSA employees did not always follow policy when evaluating the quality of servicer representatives’ interactions with borrowers.

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