Fake Cellphone Towers on Planes Used to Target Criminals, but Also Sift Through Thousands of Other Phones
WASHINGTON—Devlin Barrett reports: The Justice Department is scooping up data from thousands of cellphones through fake communications towers deployed on airplanes, a high-tech hunt for criminal suspects that is snagging a large number of innocent Americans, according to people familiar with the operations.
“The program cuts out phone companies as an intermediary in searching for suspects. Rather than asking a company for cell-tower information to help locate a suspect, which law enforcement has criticized as slow and inaccurate, the government can now get that information itself.”
The U.S. Marshals Service program, which became fully functional around 2007, operates Cessna aircraft from at least five metropolitan-area airports, with a flying range covering most of the U.S. population, according to people familiar with the program.
“Similar devices are used by U.S. military and intelligence officials operating in other countries, including in war zones, where they are sometimes used to locate terrorist suspects, according to people familiar with the work. In the U.S., these people said, the technology has been effective in catching suspected drug dealers and killers. They wouldn’t say which suspects were caught through this method.”
Planes are equipped with devices—some known as “dirtboxes” to law-enforcement officials because of the initials of the Boeing Co. unit that produces them—which mimic cell towers of large telecommunications firms and trick cellphones into reporting their unique registration information. Read the rest of this entry »
First Apple and then Google announced that they would use encryption on new phones that wouldn’t permit them to help police execute warrants to examine data on a cell phone or other device.
For City Journal, Judith Miller writes: Law enforcement officials in New York and Washington criticized technology superpowers Google and Apple this week for selling cell phones and other devices that cannot be accessed by the government, warning that such technology jeopardizes public safety.
In his first major policy address, FBI director James B. Comey called on Congress and the Obama administration to counter the expanding use of such devices, which he and other law enforcement officials assert endanger efforts to prevent terrorism and fight crime. Without lawful government access to cell phones and Internet devices, Comey warned, “homicide cases could be stalled, suspects could walk free, and child exploitation victims might not be identified or recovered.”
“Law enforcement officials many legitimate ways to obtain the data stored on our devices. Weakening the security of smartphones and trusted communications infrastructure should not be one of them.”
– Nuala O’Connor, president of the Center for Democracy and Technology
Comey, who became FBI director last year, said that he understood Americans’ “justifiable surprise” at former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden’s revelations about U.S. government surveillance practices. Read the rest of this entry »
The Washington Post reports: Apple said Wednesday night that it is making it impossible for the company to turn over data from most iPhones or iPads to police — even when they have a search warrant — taking a hard new line as tech companies attempt to blunt allegations that they have too readily participated in government efforts to collect user information.
“Unlike our competitors, Apple cannot bypass your passcode and therefore cannot access this data,” Apple said on its Web site. “So it’s not technically feasible for us to respond to government warrants for the extraction of this data from devices in their possession running iOS 8.”
As the new operating system becomes widely deployed over the next several weeks, the number of iPhones and iPads that Apple is capable of breaking into for police will steadily dwindle to the point where only devices several years old — and incapable of running iOS 8 — can be unlocked by Apple.
Apple will still have the ability — and the legal responsibility — to turn over user data stored elsewhere, such as in its iCloud service, which typically includes backups of photos, videos, e-mail communications, music collections and more. Users who want to prevent all forms of police access to their information will have to adjust settings in a way that blocks data from flowing to iCloud. Read the rest of this entry »
Ordinary Internet users, American and non-American alike, far outnumber legally targeted foreigners in the communications intercepted by the National Security Agency from U.S. digital networks, according to a four-month investigation by The Washington Post.
Nine of 10 account holders found in a large cache of intercepted conversations, which former NSA contractor Edward Snowden provided in full to The Post, were not the intended surveillance targets but were caught in a net the agency had cast for somebody else.
The Post reviewed roughly 160,000 intercepted e-mail and instant-message conversations, some of them hundreds of pages long, and 7,900 documents taken from more than 11,000 online accounts.
Many of them were Americans. Nearly half of the surveillance files, a strikingly high proportion, contained names, e-mail addresses or other details that the NSA marked as belonging to U.S. citizens or residents. NSA analysts masked, or “minimized,” more than 65,000 such references to protect Americans’ privacy, but The Post found nearly 900 additional e-mail addresses, unmasked in the files, that could be strongly linked to U.S. citizens or U.S.residents.
The material spans President Obama’s first term, from 2009 to 2012, a period of exponential growth for the NSA’s domestic collection.
The surveillance files highlight a policy dilemma that has been aired only abstractly in public. There are discoveries of considerable intelligence value in the intercepted messages — and collateral harm to privacy on a scale that the Obama administration has not been willing to address.
Among the most valuable contents — which The Post will not describe in detail, to avoid interfering with ongoing operations — are fresh revelations about a secret overseas nuclear project, double-dealing by an ostensible ally, a military calamity that befell an unfriendly power, and the identities of aggressive intruders into U.S. computer networks. Read the rest of this entry »
Investigators found an encrypted communication application hidden on his computer
BERLIN – For the Telegraph, Justin Huggler reports: A suspected double agent under arrest in Germany has been spying for the CIA for two years, German intelligence officials investigating the case now believe.
“All the evidence suggests that he was working for the Americans,” an unnamed senior security official has told Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper.
The country’s top security official has demanded a full American response to German investigations. “I expect everyone now to assist quickly in clearing up the accusations – and quick and clear statements, from the USA too,” Thomas de Maiziere, the Interior minister said.
Germany’s Foreign Ministry summoned the America ambassador on Friday but German authorities have confirmed only that a 31-year-old man is under arrest.
The first indications that investigators believe a confession by the arrested man is true. If the suspicions against him are confirmed, the case could cause grave damage to US-German relations.
Perceived Widespread Corruption in U.S. Government on the Rise, Americans Less Satisfied With Freedom
WASHINGTON, D.C. — For Gallup.com, Jon Clifton reports: Fewer Americans are satisfied with the freedom to choose what they do with their lives compared with seven years ago — dropping 12 percentage points from 91% in 2006 to 79% in 2013. In that same period, the percentage of Americans dissatisfied with the freedom to choose what they do with their lives more than doubled, from 9% to 21%.
Gallup asks people in more than 120 countries each year whether they are satisfied or dissatisfied with the freedom to choose what they do with their lives. In 2006, the U.S. ranked among the highest in the world for people reporting satisfaction with their level of freedom. After seven years and a 12-point decline, the U.S. no longer makes the top quartile worldwide.
Of the countries where Gallup asked residents about satisfaction with their freedom in 2006 and 2013 (108 in total), only 10 countries had declines as large or larger than the decrease seen in the U.S. Read the rest of this entry »
For National Review Online, Joel Gehrke reports: President Obama extended the National Security Agency program until September by convincing a judge to reauthorize the existing program as his administration promises to work with Congress to pass legislation that would circumscribe the bulk collection of American phone records.
“We’re doing something unnecessary and unpredictable here, which might make the public feel better, but would not be good for national security, which is what our job is.”
– Senator Jay Rockefeller (D., W.Va.), a former Intelligence Committee chairman
The request that the program be reauthorized was approved Thursday. “[G]iven the importance of maintaining the capabilities of the Section 215 telephony metadata program, the government has sought a 90-day reauthorization of the existing program, as modified by the changes the president announced earlier this year,” a statement released by the Justice Department and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence revealed late Friday. Read the rest of this entry »
For Washington Free Beacon, Bill Gertz reports: Federal prosecutors recently held discussions with representatives of renegade National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden on a possible deal involving his return to the United States to face charges of stealing more than a million secret NSA documents, according to U.S. officials.
“It remains our position that Mr. Snowden should return to the United States and face the charges filed against him…”
Snowden is currently in Moscow under Russian government protection after fleeing Hawaii, where he worked in NSA’s Kunia facility, for Hong Kong in May 2013. U.S. officials have charged him with stealing an estimated 1.7 million documents from NSA Net and the Joint Worldwide Intelligence Communications System (JWICS) and providing some materials to news outlets.
“…If he does, he will be accorded full due process and protections.”
– D.O.J. Spokesman Marc Raimondi
Discussions on Snowden’s return were held in the past several weeks between prosecutors in the Justice Department’s National Security Division and Plato Cacheris, a long-time Washington defense lawyer who in the past represented several U.S. spies, including some who reached plea bargains rather than go to trial. Read the rest of this entry »
Ex-CIA Agent Bitch-Slaps Snowden’s Spy Fantasies: ‘Computer Technician with a Walter Mitty Complex’…’Lacking Common Sense’Posted: May 31, 2014
Former CIA Agent: Snowden probably in contact with Russia Since 2007
For The Daily Caller, Giuseppe Macri writes: Distinguished former CIA officer and author Robert Baer said on the BBC’s “Today” radio program Thursday morning that ex-NSA contractor Edward Snowden has been in contact with the Russian government for the last seven years.
“He was a systems administrator. When he worked for the CIA in Geneva he was a communicator. That means he sits in an office and relays messages. That’s not a spy.”
“My suspicion is that the Russians were probably in touch with him in Geneva,” Baer said, speculating they first made contact in 2007 while Snowden was stationed in Switzerland with the CIA. “I can’t prove it. But this was such a brilliant operation. And his landing in Moscow just makes old Cold War warriors like me very suspicious.”
“Secondly, the NSA doesn’t have spies overseas. It’s got technicians who sit in American embassies. They are not even analysts.”
Baer also dismissed Snowden’s assertion on his first U.S. television network interview with NBC’s Brian Williams Wednesday that he “was trained as a spy,” and described him as little more than a computer technician with a “Walter Mitty complex” lacking “common sense.” Read the rest of this entry »
— Washington Post (@washingtonpost) May 29, 2014
On Thursday, NSA released the email they said Snowden appeared to be referring to, which the agency says is the only communication from Snowden it could find raising any concerns. It was dated April 8, 2013, three months after Snowden first reached out to journalists anonymously.
WASHINGTON (AP) — Edward Snowden says he repeatedly raised constitutional concerns about National Security Agency surveillance internally, but an NSA search turned up a single email in which Snowden gently asks for “clarification” on a technical legal question about training materials, agency officials said Thursday.
Snowden, a former NSA systems administrator whose leaks have exposed some of the agency’s most sensitive spying operations, called himself a patriot in an interview this week with NBC News‘ Brian Williams. He said he felt he had no choice but to expose what he considered illegal NSA surveillance by leaking secret details to journalists.
NSA officials have said he gained access to some 1.7 million classified documents, though it’s not clear how many he removed from the Hawaii facility where he worked as a contractor.
Asked by Williams whether he first raised his qualms with his bosses, he said, “I reported that there were real problems with the way the NSA was interpreting its legal authorities.” Read the rest of this entry »
[Glenn Greenwald‘s book: No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. Surveillance State is available from Amazon.com]
Greenwald’s partner, David Miranda, posted a pair of photos to Facebook — including a selfie of Greenwald, Snowden, Miranda, and documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras, who was also involved in the early disclosures. Read the rest of this entry »
Big Brother is not only watching, but gathering more power
For The Freeman, Wendy McElroy writes: The modern surveillance state is referred to as an electronic police state because it uses technology to monitor people in order to detect and punish dissent. The authorities exert social control through spying, harsh law enforcement, and by regulating “privileges” such as the ability to travel. But all of this starts with surveillance.
“The stated purpose of fusion centers is to prevent terrorist acts. But, for years, investigations have revealed that the monitoring has been used to exert social control and punish political opposition”
Information is power. Imagine if agents of the State didn’t know where you live. How could it collect property taxes, arrest you, conscript you or your children, or record phone calls? Imagine if the State did not know your finances. How could it snatch your money, garnish your wages, freeze accounts, or confiscate gold? Total information is total power. That’s why the surveillance state views privacy itself as an indication of crime—not as one of violence, but as a crime against the State.
Beyond the NSA
The National Security Agency (NSA) keeps making headlines as the quintessential force behind the American surveillance state. Civil rights advocates should be equally concerned about a quieter but no less insidious manifestation: the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC). Read the rest of this entry »
“One of the most encouraging aspects of the story has been that there has been a complete breakdown in the traditional, standard divisions between left and right or conservative and liberal, Republican and Democrat…”
Glenn Greenwald appeared on Meet the Press, things ended poorly for David Gregory. On Sunday morning, Greenwald appeared on the show for the first time since the contretemps, though NBC put two layers between Greenwald and Gregory, having justice correspondent Pete Williams conduct the interview and fielding the questions from social media.
“…There has been this extremely inspiring bipartisan coalition that has emerged that has demanded that there be constraints imposed on the NSA.”
[Glenn Greenwald‘s book: No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. Surveillance State is available from Amazon.com]
The most pointed question asked how Greenweld reconciled his comparison of NSA leaker Edward Snowden to Pentagon Papers leaker Daniel Ellsberg, given that Ellsberg stayed to face trial while Snowden fled the U.S. and eventually defected to Russia. He quoted Ellsberg’s op-ed arguing that the justice system had become considerably harsher toward whistleblowers. “If Edward Snowden were to go on trial, he would be rendered incommunicado, he would not be released on bail, he couldn’t argue his case to the public,” Greenwald said. Read the rest of this entry »
Edward Snowden‘s massive misappropriations of classified documents from the inner sanctum of U.S. intelligence is mainly presented by the media as a whistleblowing story.
In this narrative—designed by Mr. Snowden himself—he is portrayed as a disgruntled contractor for the National Security Agency, acting alone, who heroically exposed the evils of government surveillance beginning in 2013.
The other way of looking at it—based on the number and nature of documents Mr. Snowden took, and the dates when they were taken—is that...(read more)
UPI 5/8/2014 8:05:23 PM
Testimony from the American whistleblower and former NSA contractor was agreed to by all political parties in the investigative committee, said Martina Renner of the socialist Die Linke party. Since the German government will likely prevent Snowden from attending a hearing, he is expected to be questioned by either a video link, or a visit from a parliamentary delegation to Moscow, his current home. Read the rest of this entry »
Obama’s proposed intelligence reforms fail to safeguard civil liberties
For Reason, Ronald Bailey writes: In January, President Barack Obama made a much-anticipated speech at the Department of Justice outlining proposed reforms of the domestic surveillance programs run by the National Security Agency (NSA). The secretive spy agency has taken a public battering ever since former NSA contractor Edward Snowden began blowing the whistle on its clandestine collection of basically every American’s telephone records.
“We will reform programs and procedures in place to provide greater transparency to our surveillance activities, and fortify the safeguards that protect the privacy of U.S. persons,” the president proclaimed. Unfortunately, Obama’s proposed changes to domestic surveillance programs are not nearly transparent enough, and fail to adequately protect the privacy of Americans.
In January, the federal government’s Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, an independent agency charged by Congress with advising the president on the privacy and civil liberties repercussions relating to fighting terrorism, concluded that the NSA’s domestic surveillance “implicates constitutional concerns under the First and Fourth Amendments, raises serious threats to privacy and civil liberties as a policy matter, and has shown only limited value.” How limited? “We have not identified a single instance involving a threat to the United States in which the telephone records program made a concrete difference in the outcome of a counterterrorism investigation.”
The oversight board recommended that the surveillance program be terminated. In his speech, the president said that he had consulted with the board. Yet he did not heed its advice.
Instead of ending the unconstitutional domestic telecommunications spying program, Obama offered what he insisted were “a series of concrete and substantial reforms.” These include a new executive order on signals intelligence-that is, data connected with private communications-instructing surveillance agencies that “privacy and civil liberties shall be integral considerations.”
The order further admonishes intelligence bureaucrats to make sure their spying actually provides some benefit greater than the embarrassment officials will surely suffer should they be disclosed. This is the “front page test,” or how officials would feel if what they are doing were reported on the front page of a newspaper. If discovery equals discomfort, then maybe they shouldn’t be doing it in the first place. Read the rest of this entry »
“Lenin, whose spirit still infuses the government of Russia had a name for people like Mr. Snowden – ‘useful idiots,’ he said, idealists so-called who served the interests of Lenin’s country,” Will said. “We don’t need to listen to Snowden anymore giving us lectures about the virtues of an open society when he chooses to go to earth in Putin’s Russia…”
“Does Russia intercept, store, or analyze in any way the communications of millions of individuals?”
Snowden also asked if increasing “the effectiveness of intelligence or law enforcement investigations” is justification for placing societies under surveillance.