NSA Leaks

Cow Skull

"Trust Us": The government continues to insist on our trust despite an incontestable track record of deceit and incompetence

© Sodahead
On June 7 Barack Obama made his first public statements about the NSA surveillance programs leaked by the whistleblower Edward Snowden. After justifying the programs as subject to congressional and judicial oversight, he insisted he did not want "to suggest that, you know, you just say 'trust me, we're doing the right thing, we know who the bad guys are.'"

But, he added, "If people can't trust not only the executive branch but also don't trust Congress, and don't trust federal judges, to make sure that we're abiding by the Constitution with due process and rule of law, then we're going to have some problems here."

The problem isn't so much that the American people don't trust their government with unprecedented powers in the realm of national security, but that the government continues to insist on our trust despite an incontestable track record of deceit and incompetence.
Star of David

Israeli role in the U.S. surveillance machine

© Washington Post
A slide from the National Security Agency powerpoint presentation on the PRISM program.
If the Israeli government has indeed ordered its spies "to dig up intelligence" showing links between the supporters of BDS and "terrorists and enemy states" asreported in the February 11, 2014 London Times, it may find that it already has as much information as it needs in its data banks.

As described in the UK Guardian by Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras and Ewen MacAskill, a 2008 document obtained by whistleblower Edward Snowden states that "one of the NSA's biggest threats is actually from friendly intelligence services, like Israel. There are parameters on what NSA shares with them, but the exchange is so robust, we sometimes share more than we intended."

Nevertheless, in the following year the NSA and the Israeli SIGINT National Unit drafted a top-secret memorandum of understanding (MOU) dated March 2009 under which the NSA would provide raw intelligence to Israel, including on American citizens. The MOU requested Israeli intelligence to "destroy upon recognition" communications going to and from "officials of the Executive Branch (including the White House, Cabinet Departments, and independent agencies), the US House of Representatives and Senate (member and staff) and the US Federal Court system (including, but not limited to, the Supreme Court)" as well as communications of civilian and military personnel on official business of government.

It is not clear if the MOU revealed by Snowden was ever implemented. But if it was, Israeli intelligence services might be receiving little data that they don't already possess - including communications of US government officials and Members of Congress.

Snowden to Council of Europe: NSA deliberately snooped on Human Rights groups‏

© Vincent Kessler/Reuters
Edward Snowden speaks via video link with members of the Council of Europe, in Strasbourg.
The US has spied on the staff of prominent human rights organisations, Edward Snowden has told the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, Europe's top human rights body.

Giving evidence via a videolink from Moscow, Snowden said the National Security Agency - for which he worked as a contractor - had deliberately snooped on bodies like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

He told council members: "The NSA has specifically targeted either leaders or staff members in a number of civil and non-governmental organisations ... including domestically within the borders of the United States." Snowden did not reveal which groups the NSA had bugged.
Eye 1

NSA performed warrantless searches on Americans' calls and emails

© Shawn Thew/EPA
Clapper said: 'These queries were performed pursuant to minimization procedures and consistent with the statute and the fourth amendment.'
  • NSA used 'back door' to search Americans' communications
  • Director of national intelligence confirms use of new legal rule
  • Data collected under 'Prism' and 'Upstream' programs
US intelligence chiefs have confirmed that the National Security Agency has used a "back door" in surveillance law to perform warrantless searches on Americans' communications.

The NSA's collection programs are ostensibly targeted at foreigners, but in August the Guardian revealed a secret rule change allowing NSA analysts to search for Americans' details within the databases.

Now, in a letter to Senator Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat on the intelligence committee, the director of national intelligence, James Clapper, has confirmed for the first time the use of this legal authority to search for data related to "US persons".

"There have been queries, using US person identifiers, of communications lawfully acquired to obtain foreign intelligence targeting non-US persons reasonably believed to be located outside the United States," Clapper wrote in the letter, which has been obtained by the Guardian.

"These queries were performed pursuant to minimization procedures approved by the Fisa court and consistent with the statute and the fourth amendment."

Glen Greenwald criticizes NSA for staged leaks

glen greenwald
© AFP Photo / Evaristo Sa
The Guardian's Brazil-based reporter Glenn Greenwald.
Reeling from the leak of classified data, NSA officials have anticipated future leaks by sometimes announcing them to the media preemptively, a minimization tactic according to one of the journalists still holding the intel agency's documents.

Glenn Greenwald, formerly of The Guardian and now of First Look Media, penned a column Monday criticizing both US National Security Agency brass and what he sees as complicit reporters for their role in repeating unverified claims about the intelligence agency.

The outspoken columnist ripped outgoing NSA Director General Keith Alexander, who will be replaced at the top of the agency soon, for trying to prey on the public's emotions.

Comment: For more reading on this subject, check out:
About that 'greatest whistleblower ever': Ellsberg, Snowden, and the Secret Team


NSA-proof internet platform created by MIT researchers

computer researchers
© REUTERS/Brian Snyder

Major online security and data hacks exposing sensitive user information have become commonplace in the digital age thanks to criminals and governments alike, but researchers at MIT think it's time to change that.

"Really, there's no trusting a server," MIT researcher Raluca Popa told MIT Technology Review while describing Mylar - a system capable of building Internet services that keep user data encrypted everywhere at all times, until safely being decrypted on a personal computer.

"You don't notice any difference, but your data gets encrypted using your password inside your browser before it goes to the server," Popa said. "If the government asks the company for your data, the server doesn't have the ability to give unencrypted data."

Mylar software works with the popular Internet building tool Meteor and runs inside of a browser to process and present information, as opposed to traditionally running through an outside server somewhere. It also lets users share data with other users by including an encryption key that can't be picked up by servers or potential third party communications monitors.
Take 2

NSA spying: Zuckerberg says Obama's reform steps are not enough

© Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg
Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive officer of Facebook Inc., right, arrives to the White House for a meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama in Washington, D.C. on March 21, 2014.
Facebook Inc. (FB) Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg left a meeting with President Barack Obama unsatisfied with administration assurances that the government can protect privacy while continuing surveillance.

Zuckerberg and five other Internet and technology executives were invited to the White House yesterday to discuss National Security Agency spying following revelations the NSA may have infected millions of computers globally with malware to advance surveillance.

"While the U.S. government has taken helpful steps to reform its surveillance practices, these are simply not enough," Facebook said in a statement released after the meeting. "People around the globe deserve to know that their information is secure and Facebook will keep urging the U.S. government to be more transparent about its practices and more protective of civil liberties."

Facebook, Google Inc. (GOOG) and Apple Inc. (AAPL) are among the companies that have been pressing the administration to restrain spying following revelations about the extent of NSA surveillance and data collection by fugitive former contractor Edward Snowden. The NSA's global sweep also has drawn protest from other nations, including NATO ally Germany.

Comment: Zuckerberg calls Obama to express 'frustration' over NSA surveillance

Eye 1

The story the Washington Post won't print: covert operations

nsa spying
© Alex Milan Tracy/NurPhoto/Corbis
The data can also be used to study patterns of behaviour to reveal personal information
In the world of spying and social engineering, the punch line you see coming isn't always the real one. It's just a setup for something else.

In many of my articles over the past 13 years, I've been explaining how this works in various covert theaters of operation.

Here's another one.

To set the stage, read these three quotes from a March 18 Washington Post story, "NSA surveillance program reaches 'into the past' to retrieve and replay phone calls":

"The National Security Agency has built a surveillance system capable of recording '100 percent' of a foreign country's telephone calls, enabling the agency to rewind and review conversations as long as a month after they take place."

"The voice interception program, called MYSTIC, began in 2009. Its RETRO tool, short for 'retrospective retrieval,' and related projects reached full capacity against the first target nation in 2011. Planning documents two years later anticipated similar operations elsewhere."
"At the request of US officials, the Washington Post is withholding details that could be used to identify the country where the system is being employed or other countries where its use was envisioned."
Top Secret

More revelations from Edward Snowden: "Some of the most important reporting to be done is yet to come"

© AFP/Beto Barata
A member of the Avaaz online community organization wears a "Snowden" mask in Brasilia, on February 13, 2014.
Former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden emerged from his Russian exile Tuesday in the form of a remotely-controlled robot to promise more sensational revelations about US spying programs.

The fugitive's face appeared on a screen as he maneuvered the wheeled android around a stage at the TED gathering, addressing an audience in Vancouver without ever leaving his secret hideaway.

"There are absolutely more revelations to come," he said. "Some of the most important reporting to be done is yet to come."

Snowden, a former National Security Agency contractor who has been charged in the United States with espionage, dismissed the public debate about whether he is a heroic whistleblower or traitor.

Instead, he used the conference organized by educational non-profit organization TED ("Technology Entertainment Design"), to call for people worldwide to fight for privacy and Internet freedom.

Internet creator Tim Berners-Lee briefly joined Snowden's interview with TED curator Chris Anderson, and came down in the hero camp.

Russia's State Duma passes amendment allowing voters to contest election results

© RIA Novosti / Yakov Andreev
The Russian Lower House has approved an amendment allowing the annulment of election results if voters complain of irregularities.

The bill changing the federal law on the basic guarantees of voters' rights has been presented following last year's ruling of the Constitutional Court confirming that ordinary citizens can contest election results, though only in the constituencies in which they cast their votes.

Previously, the processes of investigating violations at elections could only be started after complaints from candidates or participating parties.

The new bill stipulates that any voter can turn to the courts with complaints over the decisions, actions or inactions of the district elections commissions. The new rule applies to elections to state bodies and to referendums. If a court finds the election results invalid a recount of votes is automatically ordered, but only in the constituency where the proven violations took place.