Fr. Marcel Guarnizo writes: With each passing news day, the scandal deepens around Hillary Clinton’s unauthorized removal of U.S. secrets during her tenure as Secretary of State.
The process of this unauthorized extraction of U.S. secrets by Mrs. Clinton makes one thing impossibly clear. This conspiracy was anything but convenient to Mrs. Clinton. Contrary to what she disingenuously claimed, convenience was most definitely not the reason for her actions. To remove Top Secret information and hundreds of other classified documents from the government’s care, she had to risk jail and even get others to collude in this process.
For nearly eight months, I observe that the most important question is still not being asked of Hillary Clinton and her partisans. Why was Clinton doing this?
As anyone knows it is impossible for Hillary Clinton to end up with a colossal stash of U.S. national secrets on her personal server by accident. She could not simply email herself most of this information. She had to engage others to do that which put them at obvious risk of breaking the espionage act and ending up in jail. It is absurd that the F.B.I. director Comey and several pundits continue to give her a pass on the absolutely bogus and irrational excuse that it was all done for the sake of convenience.
The real question is why was Hillary Clinton doing this? Here is one theory. She was trafficking in U.S. National Security secrets for personal gain, money. She was also making this information available to Bill Clinton and the Clinton foundation people. Their information being extremely valuable to intelligence services and private corporations was being rewarded through contributions to the Clinton foundation. The Clinton foundation essentially was being used to launder payments for influence and information under the guise of a legitimate charitable purpose.
The Clinton National Security Scandal is a more accurate name for what is occurring than the cynical euphemism, “ The Clinton E-mail scandal.” E-mail scandals are a dime a dozen.
Her unprecedented actions are materially no different than the actions of any person (formally charged for espionage), who provides or makes available secrets of the highest caliber to a host of “contributors”.
It matters little, that someone trafficking in U.S. secrets may not have been enlisted formally by a foreign government. Trafficking in U.S. National security secrets is exactly what these notorious spies were doing and in this regard it is becoming apparently clear, that Clinton’s actions are really all that any mole or spy would have to do to sell or profit from revealing U.S. secrets.
Allegedly the Clinton breach also contained names of our human assets and their methods, endangering thus their lives and indeed making available by her actions the most coveted information sought by foreign intelligence services.
Selling Secretes in the Age of Cyber Space
From a philosophical point of view, the essence of spying and treason (trafficking in U.S. National Security secrets), requires that fundamentally two necessary actions take place:
1. The spy or traitor has to accomplish the removal in an unauthorized manner of sensitive information, classified information, or, even graver, top secret information, from its rightful owner, namely the U.S. government. Indeed Clinton had authority to read the information, she had access. But she certainly did not have the authority to remove top secret information and put it on an unsecured server. Or allow others not authorized, access to U.S. National secrets.
Stealing information, or removing the information from its proper owner (The U.S. government) without proper authorization is half of the operation required for a mole to betray secrets.
Most information mercenaries and spies have licit access to the information, but they certainly do not have permission to remove it or make it their own and certainly they are not allowed to put it on an unsecured servers where the enemies of America can come and collect the information. 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 »
Justin Fishel reports: The State Department said today it can’t find Bryan Pagliano’s emails from the time he served as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s senior information technology staffer during her tenure there.
Pagliano would have been required to turn over any official communications from his work account before he left the government. State Department officials say he had an official email account, but that they can’t find any of those records he would have turned over and continue to search for them.
“It’s hard to believe that an IT staffer who set up Hillary Clinton’s reckless email server never sent or received a single work-related email in the four years he worked at the State Department. Such records might shed light on his role in setting up Clinton’s server, and why he was granted immunity by the FBI. But it seems that his emails were either destroyed or never turned over, adding yet another layer to the secrecy surrounding his role.”
— Raj Shah, RNC’s Deputy Communications Director
“The Department has searched for Mr. Pagliano’s email pst file and has not located one that covers the time period of Secretary Clinton’s tenure,” State Department spokesman Elizabeth Trudeau said today, referencing a file format that holds email.
“To be clear, the Department does have records related to Mr. Pagliano and we are working with Congress and [Freedom of Information Act] requesters to provide relevant material. The Department has located a pst from Mr. Pagliano’s recent work at the Department as a contractor, but the files are from after Secretary Clinton left the Department,” Trudeau added.
After this story was posted, Trudeau reached out to ABC News, amending her previous statement to say that despite the absence of his original pst file, some small amount of Pagliano’s email has been recovered, suggesting they were gleaned from other email accounts. Read the rest of this entry »
Nobody knows what the ‘procedures’ are for conducting ‘church investigations’.
Bradford Richardson reports: Government watchdog groups have filed a motion in federal court to compel the IRS to reveal how it determines when to initiate “church investigations” after accusing the tax-collecting agency of “stonewalling” efforts to bring to light its procedures.
“Our country has a long history of religious leaders speaking freely on matters of public discourse. Whether it is Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. leading the charge against segregation, or preachers opposed to the Vietnam War, Americans expect their religious leaders to be able to speak freely to their flock without government oversight.”
— From a 2014 letter to IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, signed by nine members of Congress
The motion, filed jointly Friday by the Alliance Defending Freedom and Judicial Watch, came in response to a legal settlement struck in 2014 with an atheist organization, which said the IRS had “resolved the signature authority issue necessary to initiate church examinations.”
“The IRS is not above the law, and Americans deserve to know the truth about the agency’s secret deals with activists.”
— ADF Legal Counsel Christina Holcomb
“The IRS also has adopted procedures for reviewing, evaluating and determining whether to initiate church investigations,” the Freedom From Religion Foundation said in a press release.
But nobody knows what those “procedures” are for conducting “church investigations,” the watchdog groups said.
“The Obama IRS first ignored the ADF FOIA request and is now stonewalling in federal court. The public has a right to know about any new IRS guidelines for investigating the practice of our basic First Amendment freedoms.”
— Judicial Watch President Tom Litton, in a press release
“The IRS is not above the law, and Americans deserve to know the truth about the agency’s secret deals with activists,” ADF Legal Counsel Christina Holcomb said in a press release. “The IRS has a legal obligation to explain why it is hiding things or else produce documents. Its ongoing refusal to follow the law is absurd, particularly since much of [what] we are asking for is information that the IRS has already provided voluntarily to Freedom From Religion Foundation.”
The IRS began producing documents in July, months after the ADF and Judicial Watch had sued the agency for failing to comply with a Freedom of Information Act request. But even then the agency withheld more than 10,000 of the 16,000 requested documents, and thousands of the released documents were completely redacted, according to the ADF.
“The Obama IRS first ignored the ADF FOIA request and is now stonewalling in federal court,” Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said in a press release. “The public has a right to know about any new IRS guidelines for investigating the practice of our basic First Amendment freedoms.”
The IRS could not be reached for comment by press time. 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 »
The Making of Asian America: A History, by Erika Lee, 528 pages, Simon & Schuster, Nonfiction.
Nicolas Gattig reports: In 1922, a Japanese immigrant to the United States named Takao Ozawa applied for citizenship with the U.S. Supreme Court. Having lived in America for almost 30 years, Ozawa was fluent in English and an active Christian, assuring the court that his skin was “white in color” and that he wished to “return the kindness which our Uncle Sam has extended me.” Still, his appeal was denied — naturalization at the time was exclusive to Caucasians.
“Asian-Americans have experienced both the promise of America as well as the racism of America. As we debate what kind of America we want to be in the 21st century — with concerns about immigration policy, racial equality and our ties to the rest of the world — Asian Americans and their long history in the U.S. can inform on these issues.”
— Author Erika Lee
A recurring theme in Erika Lee’s new book “The Making of Asian America: A History” is the humiliations of immigrant life — the “collective burden” of people who have to keep proving they are worthy. With a keen eye for telling quotes, Lee shows the human dimensions of Asian immigration to the U.S., which now spans 23 different groups and makes up 6 percent of the total population. Incidentally, she tells of a nation expanding its identity, of the inclusion of people once vilified.
From the start, Japanese sojourners feature prominently in this history, as the second largest group of Asian immigrants —the bulk being Chinese — during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Hailing mostly from Okinawa, Kumamoto, Fukuoka and Hiroshima prefectures, they were mainly young men dodging military service or farmers fleeing the taxation of the Meiji Era (1868-1912) government.
The immigrant dream was soon interrupted. The “gentlemen’s agreement” between the U.S. and Japan was signed in 1908, barring all Japanese laborers from entering the U.S. This spurred illegal immigration via Mexico, and in a quirky aside Lee quotes a letter by a stateside contact named Nakagawa, who advised border-crossers laconically: “Some people go to Nogales. But sometimes they are killed by the natives. So you had better not go that way.”
The book reminds us how hedging the “Yellow Peril” was a part of U.S. immigration policy, culminating in 1924, when “immigration from Asia was banned completely, with the establishment of an ‘Asiatic Barred Zone.’”
“There is widespread condemnation. But there is also a lot of amnesia about WWII incarceration, a lot of misinformation and misremembering. So the lesson still needs to be learned by many, and with great urgency.”
Fitting this theme, two whole chapters here are devoted to the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. Following the attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese Imperial Army, the “military necessity” allowed for the U.S. government to round up all persons of Japanese ancestry on the West Coast, without due process or proof of wrongdoing. In fact, the measure was unwarranted: reports by the FBI and other offices showed that second-generation Japanese Americans were “pathetically eager” to show their loyalty to the U.S.
“Since the 1980s, American media have been praising the ‘rise of Asian America,’ pointing to Chinese and Indian Americans who enjoy better schooling and salaries than many whites. Still, it is misleading to speak of a ‘model minority.’ A wildly disparate community, Asian Americans also grapple with lower income and high crime rates.”
More than 120,000 Japanese Americans spent the war in camps, many losing their homes and livelihood. About 5,500 internees renounced their U.S. citizenship — becoming “Native American Aliens” — and some of them were deported to Japan. 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
Sean Davis reports: A review of recently released e-mails shows that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton repeatedly originated and distributed highly classified national security information. Clinton’s classified e-mail missives were not constrained to State Department staff, either. She also sent classified information to Sidney Blumenthal, a former Clinton White House operative banned by the Obama White House.
An analysis by The Federalist of e-mails released by the State Department late Monday shows that scores of e-mails sent by Clinton contained highly confidential national security information from the beginning, even if they weren’t marked by a classification authority until later.
The original date of classification of Hillary’s e-mails can be discerned by noting the declassification dates noted next to redactions in the e-mails. Under a 2009 executive order signed by President Barack Obama, classified material in most circumstances is to be automatically declassified after 10 years. In some instances, that duration may be extended up to 25 years. In certain circumstances, classification authorities may adjust the classification duration based on the nature of the underlying information.
In this July 2010 e-mail, for example, the entirety of Hillary Clinton’s message was redacted prior to its public release under the federal FOIA law. The redactions of the material were provided pursuant to a provision of law protecting national security information. The printed redaction code “1.4(D),” cited next to the redaction and at the top of the document next to the official classification date, pertains to information on “[f]oreign relations or foreign activities of the United States, including confidential sources[.]” At the top of the document, a declassification date of July 1, 2025 is clearly noted:
That declassification date is highly significant because it is precisely 15 years after the date on which the e-mail was sent, rather than the date on which it was marked. Read the rest of this entry »
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 »
The Pentagon and intelligence community are developing war plans and an operations center to fend off Chinese and Russian attacks on U.S.military and government satellites
The ops center, to be opened within six months, will receive data from satellites belonging to all government agencies, Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work said Tuesday at the GEOINT symposium, an annual intelligence conference sponsored by the United States Geospatial Intelligence Foundation.
“We want to be able to establish patterns of life from space. We want to know what the unusual looks like. If, all of a sudden, a lot of cars show up in a parking lot of an adversary’s missile plant, we want to know about it and we want to know about it quickly. If, suddenly, small boats are swarming in the Gulf or pirates are starting to congregate off Aden, we want to know.”
“[W]e are going to develop the tactics, techniques, procedures, rules of the road that would allow us … to fight the architecture and protect it while it’s under attack,” Work said. “The ugly reality that we must now all face is that if an adversary were able to take space away from us, our ability to project decisive power across transoceanic distances and overmatch adversaries in theaters once we get there … would be critically weakened.”
“If Russian soldiers are snapping pictures of themselves in war zones and posting them in social media sites, we want to know exactly where those pictures were taken.”
Work also said that Air Force Secretary Deborah James would soon be named the “principal space advisor” to Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, where she will to provide “independent advice separate from the consensus process of the department.”
Senior officials at the Pentagon and Office of the Director of National Intelligence are still finalizing details of the new center, which will back up the military’s Joint Space Operations Center at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.
The center will help the military and government coordinate their preparations for and responses to any attack, said Lt. Cmdr. Courtney Hillson, a spokeswoman for Work. Read the rest of this entry »
OPM IT Outsourced to Foreigner Contractors, with Root Access, Working from their Home Country. In this Case, Oh Yeah, ChinaPosted: June 17, 2015
Encryption ‘would not have helped’ at OPM, says DHS official: Attackers had valid user credentials and run of network, bypassing security
Sean Gallagher reports: During testimony today in a grueling two-hour hearing before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Office of Personnel Management (OPM) Director Katherine Archuleta claimed that she had recognized huge problems with the agency’s computer security when she assumed her post 18 months ago. But when pressed on why systems had not been protected with encryption prior to the recent discovery of an intrusion that gave attackers access to sensitive data on millions of government employees and government contractors, she said, “It is not feasible to implement on networks that are too old.” She added that the agency is now working to encrypt data within its networks.
But even if the systems had been encrypted, it likely wouldn’t have mattered. Department of Homeland Security Assistant Secretary for Cybersecurity Dr. Andy Ozment testified that encryption would “not have helped in this case” because the attackers had gained valid user credentials to the systems that they attacked—likely through social engineering. And because of the lack of multifactor authentication on these systems, the attackers would have been able to use those credentials at will to access systems from within and potentially even from outside the network.
House Oversight Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) told Archuleta and OPM Chief Information Officer Donna Seymour, “You failed utterly and totally.” He referred to OPM’s own inspector general reports and hammered Seymour in particular for the 11 major systems out of 47 that had not been properly certified as secure—which were not contractor systems but systems operated by OPM’s own IT department. “They were in your office, which is a horrible example to be setting,” Chaffetz told Seymour. In total, 65 percent of OPM’s data was stored on those uncertified systems.
Chaffetz pointed out in his opening statement that for the past eight years, according to OPM’s own Inspector General reports, “OPM’s data security posture was akin to leaving all your doors and windows unlocked and hoping nobody would walk in and take the information.”
When Chaffetz asked Archuleta directly about the number of people who had been affected by the breach of OPM’s systems and whether it included contractor information as well as that of federal employees, Archuleta replied repeatedly, “I would be glad to discuss that in a classified setting.” That was Archuleta’s response to nearly all of the committee members’ questions over the course of the hearing this morning.
At least we found it
Archuleta told the committee that the breach was found only because she had been pushing forward with an aggressive plan to update OPM’s security, centralizing the oversight of IT security under the chief information officer and implementing “numerous tools and capabilities.” She claimed that it was during the process of updating tools that the breach was discovered. “But for the fact that OPM implemented new, more stringent security tools in its environment, we would have never known that malicious activity had previously existed on the network and would not have been able to share that information for the protection of the rest of the federal government,” she read from her prepared statement. 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 »
Forget the White House’s doomsday talk about American intelligence going blind. Thanks to backdoor provisions and alternate collection schemes, U.S. spies will keep on snooping.
“I don’t want us to be in a situation in which for a certain period of time those authorities go away and suddenly we’re dark, and heaven forbid we’ve got a problem where we could’ve prevented a terrorist attack or apprehended someone who was engaged in dangerous activity.”
— President Obama, to reporters on Friday
That argument is highly debatable—at least, in the short term. Not only does the U.S. government have all sorts of other ways to collect the same kind of intelligence outlined in the Patriot Act, but there’s also a little-noticed back door in the act that allows U.S. spy agencies to gather information in pretty much the same ways they did before.
“It does seem to me at least reckless to not allow at least a temporary continuation of the bill while we have this debate. But that’s not the way it’s working, and unfortunately I think it’s part of the presidential campaign, and I think people have to judge it for themselves.”
— Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX)
In other words, there’s a zombie Patriot Act—one that lives on, though the existing version is dead.
On Sunday night, senators voted overwhelmingly to end debate on a measure passed in the House, the USA Freedom Act, which will leave most surveillance authorities in the Patriot Act intact. But some of those powers won’t expire at least until Tuesday and possibly Wednesday. Administration officials had warned that even a momentary interruption posed a grave risk.
“I don’t want us to be in a situation in which for a certain period of time those authorities go away and suddenly we’re dark, and heaven forbid we’ve got a problem where we could’ve prevented a terrorist attack or apprehended someone who was engaged in dangerous activity,” Obama told reporters at the White House on Friday. On Sunday, CIA Director John Brennan said on CBS’s Face the Nation that there’d “been a little too much political grandstanding and crusading for ideological causes that have skewed the debate on this issue,” an apparent reference to Sen. Rand Paul, a Republican presidential candidate, and his promise to force the law to expire, “but these tools are important to American lives.”
They may be. But they are far from the only tools in the counterterrorism arsenal, and though they are no longer law as of Monday, the United States still has plenty of authority to collect intelligence on jihadis and foreign spies.
For starters, there will be what’s left of the Patriot Act itself. Read the rest of this entry »