Obama, Trump and Surveillance
James Freeman reports: Another day brings another series of tweets from President Trump that have his opponents—and even some of his allies—expressing shock and outrage. In one particularly incendiary missive this morning Mr. Trump wrote, “ James Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!” It’s no surprise that Mr. Trump is once again dominating the news via Twitter, but reporters might also want to pay attention to presidential use of a much more powerful set of electronic tools.
Mr. Trump’s political skills have been repeatedly underestimated, including by your humble correspondent. But at the risk of being proven wrong again, the prediction here is that Mr. Trump will fail if he thinks he’s going to prevent the former FBI director from conducting effective media relations. This is Mr. Comey’s core competency.
Democrats expressed shock. “For a president who baselessly accused his predecessor of illegally wiretapping him, that Mr. Trump would suggest that he, himself, may have engaged in such conduct is staggering,” said Representative Adam Schiff of California, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee. “The president should immediately provide any such recordings to Congress or admit, once again, to have made a deliberately misleading — and in this case threatening — statement.”
Mr. Schiff also took to Twitter on Friday to add: “Mr. President, if there are ‘tapes’ relevant to the Comey firing, it’s because you made them and they should be provided to Congress.”
So the ranking Democrat on the House intel committee clearly seems to be concerned about the possibility that a president would record the conversations of a subordinate in the executive branch. Rep. Schiff also spent years in Congress professing to be deeply concerned about government collection of telephone metadata, which did not even include the content of any conversations. So it would clearly follow that if the executive branch were spying on the Congress and a president’s political opposition, Mr. Schiff would be horrified.
Yet Mr. Schiff’s Twitter followers are still awaiting comment on yesterday’s report from a congressional colleague suggesting that’s exactly what happened. Sen. Rand Paul (R., Ky.) appeared on Fox News Thursday afternoon and said that a Senate colleague “confided to me that he was surveilled by the Obama Administration, including his phone calls.” Read the rest of this entry »
“This is a sham, your company isn’t real, your website is fake, the claims you have made are lies, this is a hoax.” Carlson said. “Let me start at the beginning, however, with your name, Dom Tullipso, which is not your real name.
It’s a fake name, we ran you through law enforcement-level background checks and that name does not exist. So let’s start out with the truth. Tell me what your real name is.”
While “Dom” never conceded that anything about Demand Protest was a hoax, he admitted that the group had a change of heart and will be protesting the anti-Trump protesters.
As he seeks a pardon, the NSA thief has told multiple lies about what he stole and his dealings with Russian intelligence.
Edward Jay Epstein writes: Of all the lies that Edward Snowden has told since his massive theft of secrets from the National Security Agency and his journey to Russia via Hong Kong in 2013, none is more provocative than the claim that he never intended to engage in espionage, and was only a “whistleblower” seeking to expose the overreach of NSA’s information gathering. With the clock ticking on Mr. Snowden’s chance of a pardon, now is a good time to review what we have learned about his real mission.
Mr. Snowden’s theft of America’s most closely guarded communication secrets occurred in May 2013, according to the criminal complaint filed against him by federal prosecutors the following month. At the time Mr. Snowden was a 29-year-old technologist working as an analyst-in-training for the consulting firm of Booz AllenHamilton at the regional base of the National Security Agency (NSA) in Oahu, Hawaii. On May 20, only some six weeks after his job there began, he failed to show up for work, emailing his supervisor that he was at the hospital being tested for epilepsy.
This excuse was untrue. Mr. Snowden was not even in Hawaii. He was in Hong Kong. He had flown there with a cache of secret data that he had stolen from the NSA.
This was not the only lie Mr. Snowden told. As became clear during my investigation over the past three years, nearly every element of the narrative Mr. Snowden has provided, which reached its final iteration in Oliver Stone’s 2016 movie, “Snowden,” is demonstrably false.
This narrative began soon after Mr. Snowden arrived in Hong Kong, where he arranged to meet with Laura Poitras, a Berlin-based documentary filmmaker, and Glenn Greenwald, a Brazil-based blogger for the Guardian. Both journalists were longtime critics of NSA surveillance with whom Mr. Snowden (under the alias Citizen Four) had been in contact for four months.
To provide them with scoops discrediting NSA operations, Mr. Snowden culled several thousand documents out of his huge cache of stolen material, including two explosive documents he asked them to use in their initial stories. One was the now-famous secret order from America’s Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court requiring Verizon to turn over to the NSA its billing records for its phone users in the U.S. The other was an NSA slide presentation detailing its ability to intercept communications of non-American users of the internet via a joint program with the FBI code-named Prism.
These documents were published in 2013 on June 5 and 6, followed by a video in which he identified himself as the leaker and a whistleblower.
At the heart of Mr. Snowden’s narrative was his claim that while he may have incidentally “touched” other data in his search of NSA files, he took only documents that exposed the malfeasance of the NSA and gave all of them to journalists.
Yet even as Mr. Snowden’s narrative was taking hold in the public realm, a secret damage assessment done by the NSA and Pentagon told a very different story. According to a unanimous report declassified on Dec. 22 by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, the investigation showed that Mr. Snowden had “removed” (not merely touched) 1.5 million documents. That huge number was based on, among other evidence, electronic logs that recorded the selection, copying and moving of documents.
The number of purloined documents is more than what NSA officials were willing to say in 2013 about the removal of data, possibly because the House committee had the benefit of the Pentagon’s more-extensive investigation. But even just taking into account the material that Mr. Snowden handed over to journalists, the December House report concluded that he compromised “secrets that protect American troops overseas and secrets that provide vital defenses against terrorists and nation-states.” These were, the report said, “merely the tip of the iceberg.”
The Pentagon’s investigation during 2013 and 2014 employed hundreds of military-intelligence officers, working around the clock, to review all 1.5 million documents. Most had nothing to do with domestic surveillance or whistle blowing. They were mainly military secrets, as Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testified before the House Armed Services Committee on March 6, 2014. Read the rest of this entry »
The criminal government leaker with the hero complex is now living in Moscow under a 2013 asylum deal granted after Snowden gave the media troves of classified documents that revealed the extent of the U.S. surveillance state.
“If the Russian or Chinese governments have access to this information, American troops will be at greater risk in any future conflict.”
— Committee report
“Since Snowden’s arrival in Moscow, he has had, and continues to have, contact with Russian intelligence services,” the House Intelligence Committee said in a report on the Snowden leaks released Thursday.
“Most of the material he stole had nothing to do with Americans’ privacy. Its compromise has been of great value to America’s adversaries and those who mean to do America harm.”
— House Intelligence ranking member Adam Schiff
The declassified report, which is heavily redacted, did not offer proof of its serious accusation. It follows the committee’s release in September of an executive summary of the then-classified document.
House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) said in a statement that the report offers “a fuller account of Edward Snowden’s crimes and the reckless disregard he has shown for U.S. national security, including the safety of American servicemen and women.”
The document casts Snowden as a dishonest miscreant and attempts to refute the portrayal of him as a duty-minded whistleblower.
The House panel’s report says there is “no evidence that Snowden took any official effort to express concerns about U.S. intelligence activities … to any oversight officials within the U.S. government, despite numerous avenues for him to do so.”
Snowden and his defenders claim that he feared reprisal and have pointed to numerous instances of the intelligence community retaliating against employees who complain about secret programs. Read the rest of this entry »
Snowden’s ‘Proper Channel’ For Whistleblowing Being Booted From The NSA For Retaliating Against A WhistleblowerPosted: December 18, 2016
Members of the intelligence community and members of its supposed oversight have said the same thing repeatedly over the past few years: oh, we’d love to cut Edward Snowden a break, but he should have taken his complaints up the ladder, rather than outside the country.
As if that would have resulted in anything other than Snowden being cut loose from his job and his security clearance stripped. The NSA’s Inspector General — supposedly part of the agency’s oversight — was even more harsh in his assessment of Snowden’s actions.
During a day-long conference at the Georgetown University Law Center, Dr. George Ellard, the inspector general for the National Security Agency, spoke for the first time about the disclosures made by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.
In addressing the alleged damage caused by Snowden’s disclosures he compared Snowden to Robert Hanssen, a former FBI agent and convicted spy who sold secrets to the Russians.
“Snowden, in contrast, was manic in his thievery, which was exponentially larger than Hanssen’s. Hanssen’s theft was in a sense finite whereas Snowden is open-ended, as his agents decide daily which documents to disclose. Snowden had no background in intelligence and is likely unaware of the significance of the documents he stole,” Ellard suggested.
These are the words of the “proper channel.” Ellard went on to state that had Snowden approached him with his concerns he would have pointed to the series of judicial rubber stamps that backed up the government’s post-9/11 national security assertions as they approved more and more bulk surveillance.
That Inspector General — the official channels, the oversight — is now (mostly) on his way out of the agency for actions undertaken in direct conflict with his position, as reported by the Project for Government Oversight.
[L]ast May, after eight months of inquiry and deliberation, a high-level Intelligence Community panel found that Ellard himself had previously retaliated against an NSA whistleblower, sources tell the Project On Government Oversight. Informed of that finding, NSA’s Director, Admiral Michael Rogers, promptly issued Ellard a notice of proposed termination, although Ellard apparently remains an agency employee while on administrative leave, pending a possible response to his appeal from Secretary of Defense Ash Carter. Read the rest of this entry »
Among the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States’ duties is to determine the national security impact that the foreign takeover of an American industry could have on the U.S. Congress has expressed concern and has asked its investigative arm, the Government Accountability Office, to probe the national security issues associated with the Chinese acquisitions of American entertainment companies.
A one-time commander in China’s Communist Red Army has launched information warfare with an aggressive plan to invest billions in all six major Hollywood studios, a show business trade publication reports, describing the foreign deal as an unprecedented push into the U.S. entertainment sector. The former People’s Liberation Army (PLA) regimental commander, Wang Jianlin, is China’s richest man and he’s aggressively pursuing a big chunk of one of the world’s most influential industries.
“The former People’s Liberation Army regimental commander, Wang Jianlin, is China’s richest man and he’s aggressively pursuing a big chunk of one of the world’s most influential industries.”
A few years ago, Wang doled out $2.6 billion to buy the nation’s largest theater chain, AMC Entertainment, and now he’s taking it a huge step further with the studio deals that will have a huge impact on production. Chinese money has been shaping the movie industry for years, mainstream news reports have revealed, and one major newspaper reported earlier this year that China is expected to become the world’s biggest box office by the end of 2017.
“This may cause Americans to wonder what the U.S. government is doing to counter the information warfare. Specifically, a division of the U.S. Treasury, the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, is responsible for reviewing transactions that could result in control of a U.S. business by foreigners.”
“This has changed how Hollywood behaves in big ways—like the flood of money coming in to co-finance blockbusters, or sequels that get the green light simply because they performed well in China,” the article states.
An industry expert cited in the article says that very few foreign companies have ever successfully cracked the Hollywood code in a big way, but Chinese buyers are getting closer to that goal.
“Wang doled out $2.6 billion to buy the nation’s largest theater chain, AMC Entertainment, and now he’s taking it a huge step further with the studio deals that will have a huge impact on production.”
This may cause Americans to wonder what the U.S. government is doing to counter the information warfare. Specifically, a division of the U.S. Treasury, the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), is responsible for reviewing transactions that could result in control of a U.S. business by foreigners.
“This has changed how Hollywood behaves in big ways—like the flood of money coming in to co-finance blockbusters, or sequels that get the green light simply because they performed well in China.”
Judicial Watch is investigating what this agency is doing to scrutinize the Chinese Communist takeover and is drafting public records requests for the CFIUS and other pertinent agencies.
After all, among the CFIUS’s duties is to determine the national security impact that the foreign takeover of an American industry could have on the U.S. Congress has expressed concern and has asked its investigative arm, the Government Accountability Office (GAO), to probe the national security issues associated with the Chinese acquisitions of American entertainment companies.
“Judicial Watch is investigating what this agency is doing to scrutinize the Chinese Communist takeover and is drafting public records requests for the CFIUS and other pertinent agencies.”
These disturbing revelations come on the heels of an equally alarming Hollywood story Judicial Watch reported illustrating the Obama administration’s hands off policy when it comes to illegal activities in the powerful entertainment industry. It involves a big-screen movie about traitor Edward Snowden, who has been criminally charged by the U.S. government under the Espionage Act. Read the rest of this entry »
Western intelligence bosses recently have become open about stating what they’ve known for years, that Snowden is a Kremlin pawn designed to inflict pain on Russia’s adversaries in the SpyWar.
John R. Schindler writes: The National Security Agency can’t catch a break. Over three years ago, Edward Snowden, an IT contractor for the agency, defected to Moscow with more than a million classified documents. Since then, Snowden’s vast trove has been used to embarrass NSA about the extent of its global espionage reach.
“Significant questions loom over this new scandal. In the first place, what really is The Shadow Brokers? They appear to be a transparent front for Russian intelligence. Indeed, they’re not really hiding that fact, given the broken English they used in their online auction notice asking for bitcoin in exchange for NSA information.”
I’ve been warning from Day One that the Snowden Operation was a Russian propaganda ploy aimed at inflicting pain on NSA, America’s most important spy agency, and its global alliance of espionage partnerships that’s been the backbone of the powerful Western intelligence system since it helped defeat the Nazis and Japan in World War II.
“From his Russian exile, even Snowden admitted on Twitter that this was pretty obviously a Kremlin spy game.”
Western intelligence bosses recently have become open about stating what they’ve known for years, that Snowden is a Kremlin pawn designed to inflict pain on Russia’s adversaries in the SpyWar. There’s no doubt that’s the case, especially since the Kremlin now has admitted that Snowden is their agent.
For more than three years NSA has been subjected to an unprecedented stream of leaks about myriad Top Secret intelligence programs. Although Snowden claimed his motivation was to protect the civil liberties of fellow Americans by exposing secrets, it’s impossible to miss that well over 95 percent of the programs he’s compromised are purely involved with foreign intelligence. The impact of all this on agency morale has been devastating and NSA is in a state of crisis thanks to Snowden.
This week things took a marked turn for the worse, however, with the exposure of highly sensitive NSA hacking tools on the Internet by a murky group calling itself “The Shadow Brokers” which announced it planned to sell programs purloined from the agency. Like clockwork, NSA’s public website crashed and stayed down for almost a full day. Although there’s no indication this was linked to The Shadow Brokers, the optics for NSA were terrible.
First, some explanation is needed of what’s been compromised. The crown jewel here is a 300-megabyte file containing “exploits”—that is, specialized sophisticated cyber tools designed to burrow through firewalls to steal data. What The Shadow Brokers has, which it claims it stole from an alleged NSA front organization termed the Equation Group, appears to be legitimate.
Here we are, three years after Snowden, dealing with the consequences of allowing Russian moles to run amok inside NSA.
These exploits—or at least some of them—appear to come from NSA’s elite office of Tailored Access Operations, which is the agency’s hacking group. Arguably the world’s most proficient cyber-warriors, the shadowy TAO excels at gaining access to the computer systems of foreign adversaries. TAO veterans have confirmed that, from what they’ve seen of what The Shadow Brokers has revealed, they’re bona fide NSA exploits.
This represents a security disaster for an agency that really didn’t need another one. How this happened, given the enormous security that’s placed on all NSA Top Secret computer systems, raises troubling questions about what’s going on, since the agency instituted much more strenuous online security after Snowden’s defection, which revealed how slipshod NSA counterintelligence really was.
However, significant questions loom over this new scandal. In the first place, what really is The Shadow Brokers? They appear to be a transparent front for Russian intelligence. Indeed, they’re not really hiding that fact, given the broken English they used in their online auction notice asking for bitcoin in exchange for NSA information. From his Russian exile, even Snowden admitted on Twitter that this was pretty obviously a Kremlin spy game.
Pro-Russian sources have pointed to the Equation Group as an NSA front for more than a year. In early 2015, Kaspersky Labs, one of the world’s leading cybersecurity firms, announced the discovery of the Equation Group and fingers were quickly pointed at NSA as being the culprit behind those hackers. It should be noted that Kaspersky Labs has a very cozy relationship with the Kremlin and is viewed by most espionage experts in the West as an extended arm of Russian intelligence. The firm’s founder, Eugene Kaspersky, was trained in codes and ciphers by the KGB in the waning days of the Soviet Union, even meeting his first wife at a KGB resort. Read the rest of this entry »
Japan has actually done remarkably well in averting terror attacks and has never been the victim of lethal jihadist violence. Some have praised Japan’s effectiveness in forestalling Islamic violence, proposing it as a model for other nations.
“The most interesting thing in Japan’s approach to Islam is the fact that the Japanese do not feel the need to apologize to Muslims for the negative way in which they relate to Islam.”
In 2010, over a hundred Japanese police files were leaked to the public, which revealed widespread monitoring of Muslims across Japan. The files reportedly showed that the Japanese government was keeping tabs on some 72,000 Japanese residents who hailed from member countries of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.
Tokyo police had also been monitoring places of worship, halal restaurants, and “Islam-related” organizations, according to the documents.
“Along with surveillance, Japanese authorities also apply tight immigration standards. Muslims seeking a working visa or immigration permit, for instance, are subject to detailed scrutiny, which is credited with preventing the sort of terrorist activity that has plagued Europe. “
Soon after, 17 plaintiffs filed a lawsuit saying that their privacy had been violated, and challenging the extensive monitoring of followers of Islam in Japan.
After two appeals, the case made it to Japan’s Supreme Court, which on May 31 concurred with a lower court that awarded the plaintiffs a total of ¥90 million ($880,000) in compensation because the leak violated their privacy.
Nonetheless, the high court dismissed the more general charges of police profiling and invasive surveillance practices, which a lower court had upheld as “necessary and inevitable” to guard against the threat of Islamic terrorism. Read the rest of this entry »
A new study shows people may be censoring themselves without realizing it.
Nafeez Ahmed reports: Thanks largely to whistleblower Edward Snowden’s revelations in 2013, most Americans now realize that the intelligence community monitors and archives all sorts of online behaviors of both foreign nationals and US citizens.
But did you know that the very fact that you know this could have subliminally stopped you from speaking out online on issues you care about?
“What this research shows is that in the presence of surveillance, our country’s most vulnerable voices are unwilling to express their beliefs online.”
Now research suggests that widespread awareness of such mass surveillance could undermine democracy by making citizens fearful of voicing dissenting opinions in public.
A paper published last week in Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly, the flagship peer-reviewed journal of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC), found that “the government’s online surveillance programs may threaten the disclosure of minority views and contribute to the reinforcement of majority opinion.”
The NSA’s “ability to surreptitiously monitor the online activities of US citizens may make online opinion climates especially chilly” and “can contribute to the silencing of minority views that provide the bedrock of democratic discourse,” the researcher found.
The paper is based on responses to an online questionnaire from a random sample of 255 people, selected to mimic basic demographic distributions across the US population.
Participants were asked to answer questions relating to media use, political attitudes, and personality traits. Different subsets of the sample were exposed to different messaging on US government surveillance to test their responses to the same fictional Facebook post about the US decision to continue airstrikes against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
They were then asked about their willingness to express their opinions about this publicly—including how they would respond on Facebook to the post; how strongly they personally supported or opposed continued airstrikes; their perceptions of the views of other Americans; and whether they supported or opposed online surveillance. Read the rest of this entry »
‘It was just a little tap on the head, nothing serious’.
A former spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin who co-founded the Kremlin-backed news outlet RT died in a Washington hotel room of blunt force trauma to the head in November, according the office of D.C.’s medical examiner.
A joint statement from the Washington Office of the Chief Medical Examiner and the Metropolitan Police Department claimed that Lesin, 59, also suffered “blunt force injuries of the neck, torso, upper extremities and lower extremities,” which contributed to his death. Read the rest of this entry »
Fear of Terrorism? Nope. A New Survey Phows 69 percent of Americans Listed “Big Government” as the Biggest Threat the Future of the United States.
According to a Gallup poll released Tuesday, 88 percent of Republicans listed the issue followed by 67 percent of independents and 53 percent of Democrats.
The number is slightly lower than the 2013 results, the last time the question was posed, which stood at 72 percent, but the polling company said the numbers were significantly lower before 1990.
“The large increase in the percentage naming big government as the biggest threat in 2013 may have resulted from the rollout of the Affordable Care Act and Edward Snowden’s revelations about government monitoring of communications.” the poll said in its findings. Read the rest of this entry »
Betsy McCaughey writes: Hillary Clinton chose Minneapolis — with its growing enclave of fundamentalist Muslim refugees — to announce her plan to combat terrorism on Tuesday. That’s like choosing Baskin-Robbins to announce your weight-loss plans.
Clinton offered little more than platitudes like: “We have to do more to address the challenge of radicalization.” Meanwhile, that challenge was right under her nose.
“Clinton saved her scorn for Americans, saying they should be ashamed for demonizing Muslims here. She called for ’empowering Muslim-American communities.’ But which Muslim-Americans is she talking about? Some Muslims are our friends, but others want to kill us. That’s true here — and worldwide.”
The city’s huge Somali refugee population makes it a symbol of the problem, not the solution. Some 30,000 have been placed there by the federal government. Many of them say they would rather live under Islamic religious law — Sharia — than American law, and resist adapting to American ways. Their ideology makes them ripe for jihadization.
“Moderate Muslims here are not a problem. But fundamentalist Muslims pose a high risk. Hillary cheerfully overlooked this distinction.”
Indeed, dozens of young men from this Muslim enclave have left to fight with radical Islamists in Somalia and Syria. “We have a terror recruiting problem in Minnesota,” reports Andy Luger, a federal prosecutor there.
The key to Hillary’s anti-terrorism plan is the empty hope that Muslims in America will self-police. “They are the best positioned to block anything going forward.” Don’t count on it. As the ongoing San Bernardino shooting investigation shows, even Muslims who aren’t stockpiling AK-47s can’t be counted on to report what their family members or acquaintances are doing.
Clinton saved her scorn for Americans, saying they should be ashamed for demonizing Muslims here. She called for “empowering Muslim-American communities.” But which Muslim-Americans is she talking about? Some Muslims are our friends, but others want to kill us. That’s true here — and worldwide.
“A Pew Research report tells us where the danger spots are. A shocking 99 percent of Afghanistan’s Muslims, 91 percent of Iraqi Muslims and 84 percent of Pakistani Muslims identify themselves as fundamentalists who favor Sharia law.”
Clinton took aim at Donald Trump’s proposal to suspend all Muslims from coming to the United States. But Trump’s idea is not as dangerous as Hillary’s insistence that anti-Muslim rhetoric is what incites Muslims to terrorism. That’s delusional.
“Equally jaw-dropping, 39 percent of Afghanistan’s Muslims say they consider violent acts such as suicide bombings always or sometimes justified ‘in defense of Islam.'”
Moderate Muslims here are not a problem. But fundamentalist Muslims pose a high risk. Hillary cheerfully overlooked this distinction. Read the rest of this entry »
What was Hillary Clinton’s biggest lie during the first Democratic debate?
“He broke the laws,” said Clinton. “He could have been a whistleblower, he could have gotten all the protections of being a whistleblower.”
Snowden’s lawyer, Jesselyn Radack of ExposeFacts.org, begs to differ. “For the people out there shouting that Edward Snowden should have gone through proper channels,” she tells Reason TV, “there are not that many channels for national security and intelligence whistleblowers. They are excluded from most avenues available to other whistleblowers.”
More important is the experience of NSA and intelligence whistleblowers who came before Snowden.
“Tom Drake, Bill Binney, Kirk Wiebe, and Ed Loomis DID go through the proper channels,” says Radack. “ALL of them fell under criminal investigations for having done so.” Read the rest of this entry »
Edward Snowden, the world’s most famous whistleblower, has joined Twitter, announcing his presence on the social media platform with a reference to a once ubiquitous Verizon Wireless advertising campaign. In the aftermath of his disclosures, it’s a not so subtle dig at American intelligence collection.
After providing a group of journalists with a trove of classified NSA documents in 2013, Snowden initially tried to stay out of the public eye, maintaining a fairly low profile in Moscow. He granted hardly any interviews and kept himself out of the news in an apparent effort to keep public attention focused on the substance of his disclosures.
Can this man look anymore self-righteous? pic.twitter.com/aSRrKDOxpY
— Christine Sisto (@ChristineSisto) September 29, 2015
But in the last year or so, Snowden has taken on a more public profile, appearing frequently at conferences and granting occasional interviews….(read more)
Source: Foreign Policy
In 20 years, the Web might complete its shift from liberator to oppressor. It’s up to us to prevent that.
“What does it mean for companies to know everything about us, and for computer algorithms to make life and death decisions? Should we worry more about another terrorist attack in New York, or the ability of journalists and human rights workers around the world to keep working? How much free speech does a free society really need?”
For better or for worse, we’ve prioritized things like security, online civility, user interface, and intellectual property interests above freedom and openness. The Internet is less open and more centralized. It’s more regulated. And increasingly it’s less global, and more divided. These trends: centralization, regulation, and globalization are accelerating. And they will define the future of our communications network, unless something dramatic changes.
Twenty years from now,
• You won’t necessarily know anything about the decisions that affect your rights, like whether you get a loan, a job, or if a car runs over you. Things will get decided by data-crunching computer algorithms and no human will really be able to understand why.
• The Internet will become a lot more like TV and a lot less like the global conversation we envisioned 20 years ago.
• Rather than being overturned, existing power structures will be reinforced and replicated, and this will be particularly true for security.
•Internet technology design increasingly facilitates rather than defeats censorship and control.
It doesn’t have to be this way. But to change course, we need to ask some hard questions and make some difficult decisions.
What does it mean for companies to know everything about us, and for computer algorithms to make life and death decisions? Should we worry more about another terrorist attack in New York, or the ability of journalists and human rights workers around the world to keep working? How much free speech does a free society really need?
How can we stop being afraid and start being sensible about risk? Technology has evolved into a Golden Age for Surveillance. Can technology now establish a balance of power between governments and the governed that would guard against social and political oppression? Given that decisions by private companies define individual rights and security, how can we act on that understanding in a way that protects the public interest and doesn’t squelch innovation? Whose responsibility is digital security? What is the future of the Dream of Internet Freedom?
For me, the Dream of Internet Freedom started in 1984 with Steven Levy’s book “Hackers, Heroes of the Computer Revolution.” Levy told the story of old school coders and engineers who believed that all information should be freely accessible. They imagined that computers would empower people to make our own decisions about what was right and wrong. Empowering people depended on the design principle of decentralization. Decentralization was built into the very DNA of the early Internet, smart endpoints, but dumb pipes, that would carry whatever brilliant glories the human mind and heart could create to whomever wanted to listen. Read the rest of this entry »
Better Informed Than Congress: China’s Cyber Spies Reading Emails of Senior Obama Administration Officials Since 2010Posted: August 10, 2015
The email grab — first codenamed ‘Dancing Panda’ by U.S. officials, and then ‘Legion Amethyst’ — was detected in April 2010, according to a top secret NSA briefing from 2014. The intrusion into personal emails was still active at the time of the briefing and, according to the senior official, is still going on.
Robert Windrem reports: China’s cyber spies have accessed the private emails of “many” top Obama administration officials, according to a senior U.S. intelligence official and a top secret document obtained by NBC News, and have been doing so since at least April 2010.
The email grab — first codenamed “Dancing Panda” by U.S. officials, and then “Legion Amethyst” — was detected in April 2010, according to a top secret NSA briefing from 2014. The intrusion into personal emails was still active at the time of the briefing and, according to the senior official, is still going on.
In 2011, Google disclosed that the private gmail accounts of some U.S. officials had been compromised, but the briefing shows that private email accounts from other providers were compromised as well.
The government email accounts assigned to the officials, however, were not hacked because they are more secure, says the senior U.S. intelligence official.
The senior official says the private emails of “all top national security and trade officials” were targeted.
The Chinese also harvested the email address books of targeted officials, according to the document, reconstructing and then “exploiting the(ir) social networks” by sending malware to their friends and colleagues.
The time period overlaps with Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email account while Secretary of State from Jan. 21, 2009 to Feb. 1, 2013. The names and ranks of the officials whose emails were actually grabbed, however, were not disclosed in the NSA briefing nor by the intelligence official. Read the rest of this entry »
Richard Whittle writes: Sweat the small stuff.
That’s the unofficial motto for this year’s edition of the military exercise Black Dart, a two-week test of tactics and technologies to combat hostile drones that begins Monday on the Point Mugu range at Naval Base Ventura County in California.
The military categorizes Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) by size and capability, from Group 5 drones that weigh more than 1,320 pounds and can fly above 18,000 feet like the Reaper, down to Group 1, mini- and micro-drones less than 20 pounds that fly lower than 1,200 feet. Previous Black Darts have covered threats to troops overseas and targets at home posed by drones of all sizes.
But small drones are this year’s focus, said the director of this 14th edition of Black Dart, Air Force Maj. Scott Gregg, because of worrisome incidents since the last exercise.
Gregg cited the quadcopter that a drunk crashed onto the White House lawn in the wee hours of Jan. 26 and sightings of unidentified small drones flying over nuclear reactors in France. In the wake of those events, he said, “Even though we’ve been looking at [the small drone threat], it’s taken on a new sense of urgency.”
Gregg also could have mentioned how, to protest government surveillance, the Pirate Party of Germany flew a small drone right up to the podium as Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke in Dresden two years ago. Or how in Japan last April, a nuclear-energy foe landed a drone carrying radioactive sand on the roof of the prime minister’s residence. And there was a report last week that British officials are worried ISIS may try to bomb festival crowds using small drones.
The United States enjoyed a near-monopoly on armed drones for much of the past 15 years, but with more than 80 countries now buying or building drones of their own, and with terrorist groups such as Hezbollah, Hamas and ISIS known to have used unarmed drones in the Middle East, that advantage has evaporated.
Few countries and no terrorist groups are likely to emulate the complex and costly US system of undersea fiber-optic cables and satellite earth terminals in Europe that allows crews in the United States to fly drones carrying missiles and bombs over Africa, the Middle East and South Asia.
But anyone can buy a Group 1 drone for a couple of hundred dollars and put it to nefarious use. Arm it with plastic explosives, radioactive material, biological or chemical agents, and it can be crashed, kamikaze-style, into a target.
“I’d say for the Department of Homeland Security, it’s one of the biggest concerns,” Gregg said.
The threat isn’t imaginary. Former Northeastern University student Rezwan Ferdaus is now serving 17 years in prison for plotting to pack C-4 plastic explosives into 1/10 scale radio controlled models of F-4 and F-86 fighter jets and fly them into the Capitol and Pentagon. Ferdaus also supplied cellphone detonators for IEDs to people he thought were agents of al Qaeda but turned out to be working for the FBI….(read more)
This year the surrogate threats will include three Group 1 drones — a Hawkeye 400 hexacopter, a Flanker and a Scout II — and one Twin Hawk drone from the Group 2 category (21 to 55 lbs., slower than 250 knots, lower than 3,500 feet). Six Group 3 drones, all of them 13.5-foot wingspan Outlaw G2s made by Griffon Aerospace, also will be targets. Read the rest of this entry »
When the Administration disclosed the OPM hack in early June, they said Chinese hackers had stolen the personal information of up to four million current and former federal employees. The suspicion was that this was another case of hackers (presumably sanctioned by China’s government) stealing data to use in identity theft and financial fraud. Which is bad enough.
Yet in recent days Obama officials have quietly acknowledged to Congress that the hack was far bigger, and far more devastating. It appears OPM was subject to two breaches of its system in mid-to-late 2014, and the hackers appear to have made off with millions of security-clearance background check files.
These include reports on Americans who work for, did work for, or attempted to work for the Administration, the military and intelligence agencies. They even include Congressional staffers who left government—since their files are also sent to OPM.
This means the Chinese now possess sensitive information on everyone from current cabinet officials to U.S. spies. Background checks are specifically done to report personal histories that might put federal employees at risk for blackmail. The Chinese now hold a blackmail instruction manual for millions of targets.
These background checks are also a treasure trove of names, containing sensitive information on an applicant’s spouse, children, extended family, friends, neighbors, employers, landlords. Each of those people is also now a target, and in ways they may not contemplate. In many instances the files contain reports on applicants compiled by federal investigators, and thus may contain information that the applicant isn’t aware of.
Of particular concern are federal contractors and subcontractors, who rarely get the same security training as federal employees, and in some scenarios don’t even know for what agency they are working. These employees are particularly ripe targets for highly sophisticated phishing emails that attempt to elicit sensitive corporate or government information. Read the rest of this entry »
London (AFP) – Britain has been forced to move some of its spies after Russia and China accessed the top-secret raft of documents taken by former US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, British media reported.
“We know Russia and China have access to Snowden’s material and will be going through it for years to come, searching for clues to identify potential targets.”
— Intelligence source, to the Sunday Times
The BBC and the Sunday Times cited senior government and intelligence officials as saying agents had been pulled, with the newspaper saying the move came after Russia was able to decrypt more than one million files.
“It is the case that Russians and Chinese have information. It has meant agents have had to be moved and that knowledge of how we operate has stopped us getting vital information,” a Downing Street source said, according to the newspaper.
“It is the case that Russians and Chinese have information. It has meant agents have had to be moved and that knowledge of how we operate has stopped us getting vital information.”
— Downing Street source
Downing Street told AFP on Sunday that they “don’t comment on intelligence matters” while the Foreign Office said: “We can neither confirm or deny these reports”.
The BBC said on its website, meanwhile, that a government source said the two countries “have information” that spurred intelligence agents being moved, but said there was “no evidence” any spies were harmed.
Snowden fled to Russia after leaking the documents to the press in 2013 to expose the extent of US online surveillance programmes and to protect “privacy and basic liberties”.
The Sunday Times said other government sources claimed China had also accessed the documents, which reveal US and British intelligence techniques, leading to fears that their spies could be identified. Read the rest of this entry »
The final vote divided Senate Republicans, with 23 voting ‘yes’ and 30 voting ‘no,’ and senators seeking re-election in 2016 split on the issue
WASHINGTON (AP) — Congress approved sweeping changes Tuesday to surveillance laws enacted after the Sept. 11 attacks, eliminating the National Security Agency’s disputed bulk phone-records collection program and replacing it with a more restrictive measure to keep the records in phone companies’ hands.
“This is a step in the wrong direction…does not enhance the privacy protections of American citizens. And it surely undermines American security by taking one more tool form our warfighters at exactly the wrong time.”
— Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell
Two days after Congress let the phone-records and several other anti-terror programs expire, the Senate’s 67-32 vote sent the legislation to President Barack Obama, who said he would sign it promptly.
“This legislation will strengthen civil liberty safeguards and provide greater public confidence in these programs,” Obama said in a statement. The bill signing could happen late Tuesday or early Wednesday, but officials said it could take at least several days to restart the collection.
The legislation will revive most of the programs the Senate had allowed to lapse in a dizzying collision of presidential politics and national security policy. But the authorization will undergo major changes, the legacy of agency contractor Edward Snowden‘s explosive revelations two years ago about domestic spying by the government.
“I applaud the Senate for renewing our nation’s foreign intelligence capabilities, and I’m pleased this measure will now head to the president’s desk for his signature.”
— House Speaker John Boehner
In an unusual shifting of alliances, the legislation passed with the support of Obama and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, but over the strong opposition of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. McConnell failed to persuade the Senate to extend the current law unchanged, and came up short in a last-ditch effort Tuesday to amend the House version, as nearly a dozen of his own Republicans abandoned him in a series of votes.
“This is a step in the wrong direction,” a frustrated McConnell said on the Senate floor ahead of the Senate’s final vote to approve the House version, dubbed the USA Freedom Act. He said the legislation “does not enhance the privacy protections of American citizens. And it surely undermines American security by taking one more tool form our warfighters at exactly the wrong time.”
“Power is not a means, it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship.”
— George Orwell
The legislation remakes the most controversial aspect of the USA Patriot Act — the once-secret bulk collection program that allows the National Security Agency to sweep up Americans’ phone records and comb through them for ties to international terrorists. Over six months the NSA would lose the power to collect and store those records, but the government still could gain court orders to obtain data connected to specific numbers from the phone companies, which typically store them for 18 months.
It would also continue other post-9/11 surveillance provisions that lapsed Sunday night, and which are considered more effective than the phone-data collection program. These include the FBI’s authority to gather business records in terrorism and espionage investigations and to more easily eavesdrop on suspects who are discarding cellphones to avoid surveillance.
In order to restart collection of phone records, the Justice Department will need to obtain a new order from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. Read the rest of this entry »
Key Patriot Act provisions will expire at midnight
In addition to the bulk phone collections provision, the two lesser-known Patriot Act provisions that also lapse at midnight were one, so far unused, to helps track “lone wolf” terrorism suspects unconnected to a foreign power; the second allows the government to eavesdrop on suspects who continually discard their cellphones.
The Senate failed Sunday to strike a deal to extend the NSA’s phone surveillance program before the midnight deadline.
Members of the GOP-controlled chamber returned Sunday to Capitol Hill in a last-ditch effort to extend the National Security Agency’s authority to collect Americans’ phone records in bulk to search for terror connections and to authorize two other programs under the post-9/11 Patriot Act.
“Heaven forbid we’ve got a problem where we could have prevented a terrorist attack or apprehended someone who is engaged in dangerous activity, but we didn’t do so simply because of inaction in the Senate.”
— President Obama
The Senate attempted to either pass a House bill that would have altered the collections of the so-called phone call metadata or simply extend the program.
The 100-member chamber passed the first of two procedure hurdles, known as cloture, to proceed with the House bill. The vote was 77 to 17.
“The sky is not going to fall.”
— Anthony Romero, American Civil Liberties Union executive director
But no final action was expected before Sunday’s midnight deadline after Kentucky GOP Sen. Rand Paul served notice that he would assert his prerogatives under Senate rules to delay a final vote for several days.
“The people who argue that the world will come to an end and we will be over by jihadists (by not passing the bill) are using fear,” Paul, a 2016 presidential candidate, said on the Senate floor.
Still, the program is all but certain to be revived in a matter of days, although it also looks certain to be completely overhauled under the House-passed legislation that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell reluctantly blessed in an about-face Sunday evening.
With most senators opposed to extending current law unchanged, even for a short time, McConnell said the House bill was the only option left other than letting the program die off entirely. The Kentucky Republican preferred extending the current law. Read the rest of this entry »
June marks the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta, the ‘Great Charter’ that established the rule of law for the English-speaking world. Its revolutionary impact still resounds today.
Daniel Hannan writes: Eight hundred years ago next month, on a reedy stretch of riverbank in southern England, the most important bargain in the history of the human race was struck. I realize that’s a big claim, but in this case, only superlatives will do. As Lord Denning, the most celebrated modern British jurist put it, Magna Carta was “the greatest constitutional document of all time, the foundation of the freedom of the individual against the arbitrary authority of the despot.”
“We British have, by any measure, been slow to recognize what we have. Americans, by contrast, have always been keenly aware of the document, referring to it respectfully as the Magna Carta. Why? Largely because of who the first Americans were.”
It was at Runnymede, on June 15, 1215, that the idea of the law standing above the government first took contractual form. King John accepted that he would no longer get to make the rules up as he went along. From that acceptance flowed, ultimately, all the rights and freedoms that we now take for granted: uncensored newspapers, security of property, equality before the law, habeas corpus, regular elections, sanctity of contract, jury trials.
[Order Daniel Hannan‘s book “Inventing Freedom: How the English-Speaking Peoples Made the Modern World” from Amazon.com]
Magna Carta is Latin for “Great Charter.” It was so named not because the men who drafted it foresaw its epochal power but because it was long. Yet, almost immediately, the document began to take on a political significance that justified the adjective in every sense. The bishops and barons who had brought King John to the negotiating table understood that rights required an enforcement mechanism. The potency of a charter is not in its parchment but in the authority of its interpretation.
“The whole constitutional history of England is little more than a commentary on Magna Carta.”
— Victorian historian William Stubbs
The constitution of the U.S.S.R., to pluck an example more or less at random, promised all sorts of entitlements: free speech, free worship, free association. But as Soviet citizens learned, paper rights are worthless in the absence of mechanisms to hold rulers to account.
Magna Carta instituted a form of conciliar rule that was to develop directly into the Parliament that meets at Westminster today. As the great Victorian historian William Stubbs put it, “the whole constitutional history of England is little more than a commentary on Magna Carta.”
“As early as 1637, Maryland sought permission to incorporate Magna Carta into its basic law, and the first edition of the Great Charter was published on American soil in 1687 by William Penn.”
And not just England. Indeed, not even England in particular. Magna Carta has always been a bigger deal in the U.S. The meadow where the abominable King John put his royal seal to the parchment lies in my electoral district in the county of Surrey. It went unmarked until 1957, when a memorial stone was finally raised there—by the American Bar Association.
Only now, for the anniversary, is a British monument being erected at the place where freedom was born. After some frantic fundraising by me and a handful of local councilors, a large bronze statue of Queen Elizabeth II will gaze out across the slow, green waters of the Thames, marking 800 years of the Crown’s acceptance of the rule of law. Read the rest of this entry »
In a ruling certain to profoundly shape the ongoing debate over surveillance reform in Congress, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit has ruled that the National Security Agency’s indiscriminate collection of Americans’ telephone calling records exceeds the legal authority granted by the Patriot Act’s controversial section 215, which is set to expire at the end of this month.
Comments Cato scholar Julian Sanchez, “While the court didn’t reach the crucial question of whether the program violates the Fourth Amendment, the ruling gives civil libertarians good reason to hope that a massive and egregious violation of every American’s privacy will finally come to an end.”
- “Second Circuit Declares NSA’s Telephone Dragnet Unlawful,” by Julian Sanchez
- “In Holding NSA Spying Illegal, the Second Circuit Treats Data as Property,” by Jim Harper
ACLU lawsuit argued the data collection should be stopped because it violates Americans’ privacy rights
WASHINGTON — Devlin Barrett and Damian Paletta report: A federal appeals court ruled Thursday the National Security Agency’s controversial collection of millions of Americans’ phone records isn’t authorized by the Patriot Act, as the Bush and Obama administrations have long maintained.
”The text of (Section 215) cannot bear the weight the government asks us to assign to it, and … does not authorize the telephone metadata program.’’
The NSA has used the Patriot Act to justify collecting records of nearly every call made in the U.S. and entering them into a database to search for possible contacts among terrorism suspects.
The scope of the program was revealed when former NSA contractor Edward Snowden leaked documents describing the program, triggering a national debate over the extent of the data collection.
“I am concerned if we throw out some of these programs, now we are at risk. We’re stupid, I got it, in the press, but we shouldn’t put American people at risk.”
— Recently retired NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander
The ruling by the three-judge panel in New York comes at a delicate point in the national debate over government surveillance, as Section 215 of the Patriot Act is due to expire next month and lawmakers are haggling about whether to renew it, modify it, or let it lapse.
The court’s ruling was in response to a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union arguing the data collection should be stopped because it violates Americans’ privacy rights. A lower court judge ruled the program was constitutional, and the civil liberties group appealed, leading to Thursday’s decision.
”The text of (Section 215) cannot bear the weight the government asks us to assign to it, and … does not authorize the telephone metadata program,’’ the court wrote.
The court declined to address the issue of whether the program violates Americans’ rights, because, they found, it was never properly authorized by existing law.
The judges didn’t order the collection to stop, noting that the legislative debate and the looming expiration of Section 215 will force action on the issue one way or another. The judges also note that if Congress decides to approve some version of the phone data collection program in coming days, then the privacy issue could be revisited in court. Read the rest of this entry »
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Kurt Wagner writes: Twitter is officially pulling back the curtain on Periscope, a livestreaming video app that’s been in beta since the company acquired it back in January, reportedly for $100 million.
Periscope streams live audio and video from a user’s smartphone that other people can watch and comment on within the app — the link to the livestream can be shared on Twitter as a way to spread the word and boost the audience.
The free app, which is only available on iOS for now, provides immediate competition to Meerkat, a similar livestreaming app that took off at the South by Southwest Interactive conference in Austin, Texas, earlier his month.
Meerkat, which launched just two weeks before the conference, relies heavily on Twitter’s platform. It uses Twitter login and had used its social graph to help users find people to follow before Twitter cut it off.
Given the relationship between the two products, speculation that Twitter might buy Meerkat made sense, but it bought competitor Periscope instead. Things haven’t been all bad for Meerkat, though. The app has more than 400,000 users, according to CEO Ben Rubin, and it just raised $12 million in a deal that values it at $52 million.
The two apps work in a similar way, but Twitter-owned Periscope is actually more independent from Twitter than Meerkat. Unlike Meerkat, where any Likes and comments are reflected on your Twitter profile, all the engagement on Periscope is kept within the app. Read the rest of this entry »
“I think the ‘conservatarian’ term is not a linguistic trick, it is a substantive attempt to describe a certain coterie on the right,” explains Charles C. W. Cooke, a writer for National Review and author of The Conservatarian Manifesto: Libertarians, Conservatives, and the Fight for the Right’s Future“. “These are the people who say when they are around libertarians they feel conservative, and when they are around conservatives they feel libertarian…(read more)
[Check out Charles C. W. Cooke‘s new book: “The Conservatarian Manifesto: Libertarians, Conservatives, and the Fight for the Right’s Future” at Amazon.com]
The system, referred to as Naval Integrated Fire Control-Counter Air, or NIFC-CA, uses Aegis radar, and airborne sensor and SM-6 missile to find, track and destroy approaching threats such as cruise missiles at ranges well beyond the typical radar horizon, Navy officials said.
Alongside Aegis radar and an SM-6 missile, NIFC-CA uses an E-2D Hawkeye aircraft as an airborne sensor to help relay threat information to the ship from beyond its normal radar range.
“We are looking at alternative airborne sensors,” the executive said.
The idea with a demonstration, sources indicate, would be to use the F-35 as an airborne relay node or sensor in place of the E-2D Hawkeye. This could allow NIFC-CA to operate against an increasingly complex set of targets such as stealthy targets, the Lockheed executive explained. Read the rest of this entry »