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Top-Secret NSA Report Details Russian Hacking Effort Days Before 2016 Election

Matthew Cole, , ,  report: Russian military intelligence executed a cyberattack on at least one U.S. voting software supplier and sent spear-phishing emails to more than 100 local election officials just days before last November’s presidential election, according to a highly classified intelligence report obtained by The Intercept.

The top-secret National Security Agency document, which was provided anonymously to The Intercept and independently authenticated, analyzes intelligence very recently acquired by the agency about a months-long Russian intelligence cyber effort against elements of the U.S. election and voting infrastructure. The report, dated May 5, 2017, is the most detailed U.S. government account of Russian interference in the election that has yet come to light.

While the document provides a rare window into the NSA’s understanding of the mechanics of Russian hacking, it does not show the underlying “raw” intelligence on which the analysis is based.  Read the rest of this entry »

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Hemingway: Did The FBI Use Garbage Opposition Research To Spy On An American?

The FBI spied on a Trump associate. Do they have evidence that Trump colluded with Russians, or was this a rampant abuse of power?

These latest leaks of classified information appear to be in response to Sen. Charles Grassley’s inquiry to FBI Director James Comey on behalf of the Senate Judiciary Committee he chairs. Grassley noted a February 28 Washington Post report, which used anonymous sources to report the FBI had made plans to pay dossier author Christopher Steele to continue investigating Trump before the election.

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Paying an opposition researcher to investigate the Republican nominee for president in the run-up to the election “raises further questions about the FBI’s independence from politics, as well as the Obama administration’s use of law enforcement and intelligence agencies for political ends,” Grassley wrote.

[Read the full story here, at thefederalist.com]

Grassley demanded that the FBI turn over all records relating to the agreement, interviews of Steele, information on any government officials outside the FBI discussing the agreement with Steele, information on how the FBI obtained the dossier, any official reports that used Steele-collected information, any indication the FBI used the information before verifying it, and various other information, including:

9. Has the FBI relied on or otherwise referenced the memos or any information in the memos in seeking a FISA warrant, other search warrant, or any other judicial process? Did the FBI rely on or otherwise reference the memos in relation to any National Security Letters? If so, please include copies of all relevant applications and other documents.

These latest leaks answer that question. And the leaks about what intelligence agencies were doing during the presidential campaign begin to answer questions about whether the U.S. government has hard evidence that the Trump campaign had foreknowledge of Russian meddling and coordinated with Russians about that meddling, or whether there was rampant abuse of power in stripping an innocent U.S. citizen of his right not to be surveilled by his own government. Read the rest of this entry »


Why Nunes’ Obama Spying Revelations Are Such A Big Motherfreakin’ Deal

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House Intel Chief Devin Nunes revealed Obama’s intelligence agencies may have been improperly spreading significant information about Trump’s transition.

Dozens of intelligence reports provided to Nunes by an unnamed whistleblower were floating around during the sensitive transition period following the election, he said. The information collection itself may have technically been legal, but the failure to properly mask the information “alarmed” the California congressman, who notified the White House of the surveillance and dissemination of information on Wednesday afternoon.

[Read the full story here, at The Federalist]

Many of the reporters present didn’t seem to grasp the significance of what Nunes revealed. You can — and should — watch that press conference here.

Nunes began his remarks by reiterating his Monday request that anyone with information on surveillance of Trump or his team come forward. “I also said while there was not a physical wiretap of Trump Tower, I was concerned that other surveillance activities were used against President Trump and his associates.” While Nunes’ earlier refutation of Trump’s wiretap claim received outsize attention by the media, his concern about other surveillance did not.

He then dropped the bombshell: “First, I recently confirmed that on numerous occasions, the intelligence community incidentally collected information about U.S. citizens involved in the Trump transition. Second, details about U.S. persons associated with the incoming administration, details with little or no apparent foreign intelligence value, were widely disseminated in intelligence community reporting. Read the rest of this entry »


Welcome to the Era of Unlimited Government!

obama-and-bush428  writes: It’s a telling coincidence that the latest scandalous revelation about the National Security Agency (NSA) is hitting the front pages just as the enrollment period specified by the Affordable Care Act (ACA, a.k.a. Obamacare) is getting started.

Each of these things underscores different but related aspects of the virtually unlimited state that has ruined the peaceful slumber of libertarian-minded Americans for decades. Whether we’re talking about surveilling citizens without any sort of serious legal oversight or forcing them to participate in economic activity in the name of health care über alles, the answer always seems to favor the growth and power of the state to control more and more aspects of our lives. Is it any wonder that a record-high percentage of Americans think the federal government is too powerful? Read the rest of this entry »


EPIC METAPHOR FAIL: US President Obama compares Healthcare.gov’s ‘glitches’ to an Apple product launch

obama-ipad-briefingDuring President Obama’s live remarks addressing the government shutdown and Obamacare site outages today, the U.S President compared the issues with healthcare.gov to an Apple product launch: Read the rest of this entry »


Court: NSA collected domestic emails, violating the Constitution

By Brendan Sasso and Carlo Muñoz

The Obama administration on Wednesday revealed that the National Security Agency (NSA) improperly collected emails from people in the United States with no connection to terrorism beginning in 2008.

The NSA collected as many as many as 56,000 emails from Americans before the mistake was identified.

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court concluded that the surveillance was unconstitutional after it was notified of it in 2011. In an 86-page opinion that was declassified on Wednesday, the court ordered the NSA to take steps to limit the information it collects and how long it keeps it.

In the opinion, Judge John D. Bates admonished the NSA for a ” substantial misrepresentation” of the scope of its surveillance.

Officials said the surveillance was inadvertent, and insisted that the agency ended it in 2011.

Read the rest of this entry »


Why I Have Nothing to Hide Is the Wrong Way to Think About Surveillance

BY MOXIE MARLINSPIKE

Photo: Dell’s Pics / Flickr

Suddenly, it feels like 2000 again. Back then, surveillance programs like CarnivoreEchelon, and Total Information Awareness helped spark a surge in electronic privacy awareness. Now a decade later, the recent discovery of programs like PRISMBoundless Informant, and FISA orders are catalyzing renewed concern.

The programs of the past can be characterized as “proximate surveillance,” in which the government attempted to use technology to directly monitor communication themselves. The programs of this decade mark the transition to “oblique surveillance,” in which the government more often just goes to the places where information has been accumulating on its own, such as email providers, search engines, social networks, and telecoms.

Apologists will always frame our use of information-gathering services like a mobile phone plan or Gmail as achoice.

Both then and now, privacy advocates have typically come into conflict with a persistent tension, in which many individuals don’t understand why they should be concerned about surveillance if they have nothing to hide. It’s even less clear in the world of “oblique” surveillance, given that apologists will always frame our use of information-gathering services like a mobile phone plan or Gmail as a choice.

We Won’t Always Know When We Have Something To Hide

As James Duane, a professor at Regent Law School and former defense attorney, notes in his excellent lecture on why it is never a good idea to talk to the police:

Estimates of the current size of the body of federal criminal law vary. It has been reported that the Congressional Research Service cannot even count the current number of federal crimes. These laws are scattered in over 50 titles of the United States Code, encompassing roughly 27,000 pages. Worse yet, the statutory code sections often incorporate, by reference, the provisions and sanctions of administrative regulations promulgated by various regulatory agencies under congressional authorization. Estimates of how many such regulations exist are even less well settled, but the ABA thinks there are ”nearly 10,000.”

If the federal government can’t even count how many laws there are, what chance does an individual have of being certain that they are not acting in violation of one of them?

As Supreme Court Justice Breyer elaborates:

The complexity of modern federal criminal law, codified in several thousand sections of the United States Code and the virtually infinite variety of factual circumstances that might trigger an investigation into a possible violation of the law, make it difficult for anyone to know, in advance, just when a particular set of statements might later appear (to a prosecutor) to be relevant to some such investigation.

For instance, did you know that it is a federal crime to be in possession of a lobster under a certain size? It doesn’t matter if you bought it at a grocery store, if someone else gave it to you, if it’s dead or alive, if you found it after it died of natural causes, or even if you killed it while acting in self defense. You can go to jail because of a lobster.

If the federal government had access to every email you’ve ever written and every phone call you’ve ever made, it’s almost certain that they could find something you’ve done which violates a provision in the 27,000 pages of federal statues or 10,000 administrative regulations. You probably do have something to hide, you just don’t know it yet.

Read the rest of this entry »

Whistleblowers NSA warning: Just the tip of the iceberg

The National Security Agency’s collection of phone data from all of Verizon’s U.S. customers is just the “tip of the iceberg,” says a former NSA official who estimates the agency has data on as many as 20 trillion phone calls and emails by U.S. citizens.

William Binney, an award-winning mathematician and noted NSA whistleblower, says the collection dates back to when the super-secret agency began domestic surveillance after the Sept. 11 attacks.

“I believe they’ve been collecting data about all domestic calls since October 2001,” said Mr. Binney, who worked at NSA for more than 30 years. “That’s more than a billion calls a day.”

He called his figures “back of the envelope” estimates, adding that they include emails as well as telephone calls.

Mr. Binney, who left the agency in October 2001, said the data were collected under a highly classified NSA program code-named “Stellar Wind,” which was part of the warrantless domestic wiretapping effort — the Terrorist Surveillance Program — launched on orders from President George W. Bush.

The Terrorist Surveillance Program was revealed by The New York Times in 2005, but officials said it only monitored calls between Americans and suspected terrorists abroad. The Bush administration said it based the program’s legal authority on the president’s powers as commander-in-chief.

Congress subsequently amended the law governing wiretapping by spy agencies — the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) — to provide legislative authority for the program and require supervision by the special secret court the 1978 act established.

Britain’s Guardian newspaper posted online late Wednesday a copy of the “Top Secret” FISA court order directing telecommunications giant Verizon to hand over “metadata” about every call made or received by all of its customers in the United States. Such metadata include the calling and receiving phone numbers, the time of day and length of the call, and the whereabouts of the two parties.

Mr. Binney noted the order’s serial number, which indicates it is the 80th issued by the FISA court so far this year. The court likely has approved similar orders for the other major U.S. telecom providers, he said, “and they have to be renewed every 90 days.”

The order excludes the actual content of communications, such as the sound of voices on the call or the text of an email.

“On its face, the order reprinted in the [Guardian] article does not allow the Government to listen in on anyone’s telephone calls,” a senior U.S. government official said in an email.

Democrats and Republicans on the congressional intelligence committees defended the order Thursday, asserting that the wide-scale collection of such data had enabled authorities to disrupt at least one terrorist attack and noting that a warrant would still be required to access the actual content of calls.

But Stephen B. Wicker, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at Cornell University, said the practical distinction between the metadata of calls and their content is rapidly disappearing because of technological advances, such as GPS features in mobile phones.

“There is a blurring of the line between content and context,” said Mr. Wicker, whose research focuses on privacy issues in wireless information networks.

Read the rest of this entry »


Barack Obamas national security state is now beyond democratic control

The sheer number of scandals exposes Obama’s inner authoritarianism

Those crazy American conspiracy theorists who live up trees with guns and drink their own pee don’t seem quite so crazy anymore. It turns out that a “secret court order” has empowered the US government to collect the phone records of millions of users of Verizon, one of the most popular telephone providers – a massive domestic surveillance programme and a shocking intrusion into the lives of others. For the first time in history, being an AT&T customer doesn’t seem such a bad thing after all.

Of course, it isn’t the first time that a US administration has spied on its own people. The origins of this particular order lie first in the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and then in Section 215 of the Patriot Act, backed by George W Bush and passed by Congress after 9/11. Normally, domestic surveillance only targets suspicious individuals, not the entire population, but in 2006 it was discovered that a similarly wide database of cellular records was being collected from customers of Verizon, AT&T and BellSouth. There was plenty of outrage and plenty of lawsuits, but the National Security Agency never confirmed that the programme had been shut down. It would appear that it’s still in rude health: the latest court order for collecting data runs from April 25 to July 19.

A few observations. First, America is so conscious and proud of its history as a beacon of liberty that it often overlooks the tyranny that occurs on its own shores in the name of safeguarding democracy. The national security state has expanded to the point whereby it now functions outside of democratic control and with clear disregard for the Constitution. What’s especially creepy about this case is that the state felt no legal obligation to tell citizens that it was spying on them – or at least considering it. The result is a disturbing paradox: it’s legal to collect information from companies but illegal for the companies to try to tell their customers about it. It seems that the law prefers to take the side of the state.

Second, you get what you vote for – and both Republicans and Democrats keep on voting for authoritarians. There’s a frustrating hypocrisy that many conservatives applauded the accrual of state power under Bush for the sake of fighting the War on Terror only to scream blue murder about it now that it’s happening under Obama. Likewise, many liberals resented the domestic espionage programme of Bush but have been less vocal about opposing it under Obama. The journalist Martin Bashir has gone to far as to claim that the IRS scandal is a coded attack upon the President’s race, that “IRS” is the new “n word”. Sometimes it feels like Obama could be discovered standing over the body of Sarah Palin with a smoking gun in his hand and liberals would scream “racist!” if anyone called him a murderer. Their capacity for self-delusion knows no bounds.

Finally, totaling every scandal up – IRS, AP phone records, Fox journalists being targeted, the Benghazi mess – this has to be the most furtively authoritarian White House since Nixon’s. We don’t yet have a “smoking email” from Obama ordering all of this, but it can’t be said often enough that there is a correlation between Obama’s “progressive” domestic agenda and the misbehavior of the other agencies governed by his administration – forcing people to buy healthcare even when they can’t afford it, bailing out the banks, war in Libya and the use of drone strikes to kill US citizens. This is exactly what the Tea Party was founded to expose and oppose. All the laughter once directed at the “paranoid” Right now rings hollow.

viaTim Stanley — Telegraph Blogs


Revealed: NSA collecting phone records of millions of Americans daily

Exclusive: Top secret court order requiring Verizon to hand over all call data shows scale of domestic surveillance under Obama

 Read the court order in full herePhone records data

Under the terms of the order, the numbers of both parties on a call are handed over, as is location data and the time and duration of all calls. Photograph: Matt Rourke/AP

The National Security Agency is currently collecting the telephone records of millions of US customers of Verizon, one of America’s largest telecoms providers, under a top secret court order issued in April.

The order, a copy of which has been obtained by the Guardian, requires Verizon on an “ongoing, daily basis” to give the NSA information on all telephone calls in its systems, both within the US and between the US and other countries.

The document shows for the first time that under the Obama administration the communication records of millions of US citizens are being collected indiscriminately and in bulk – regardless of whether they are suspected of any wrongdoing.

The secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (Fisa) granted the order to the FBI on April 25, giving the government unlimited authority to obtain the data for a specified three-month period ending on July 19.

Under the terms of the blanket order, the numbers of both parties on a call are handed over, as is location data, call duration, unique identifiers, and the time and duration of all calls. The contents of the conversation itself are not covered.

The disclosure is likely to reignite longstanding debates in the US over the proper extent of the government’s domestic spying powers.

Under the Bush administration, officials in security agencies had disclosed to reporters the large-scale collection of call records data by the NSA, but this is the first time significant and top-secret documents have revealed the continuation of the practice on a massive scale under President Obama.

The unlimited nature of the records being handed over to the NSA is extremely unusual. Fisa court orders typically direct the production of records pertaining to a specific named target who is suspected of being an agent of a terrorist group or foreign state, or a finite set of individually named targets.

The Guardian approached the National Security Agency, the White House and the Department of Justice for comment in advance of publication on Wednesday. All declined. The agencies were also offered the opportunity to raise specific security concerns regarding the publication of the court order.

The court order expressly bars Verizon from disclosing to the public either the existence of the FBI’s request for its customers’ records, or the court order itself.

Read the rest of this entry »