NSA Leaks

Eye 1

Germany ratchets up counterintelligence measures

© Reuters
Last year Britain's Independent newspaper exposed that Britain's GCHQ had established a "secret listening post" on top of the British Embassy in Berlin. The cylindric structure has since been removed.
Officials in Berlin were long in denial that their closest allies were spying on Germany. Now, ministries are undertaking measures to improve security and counterintelligence. They're anticipating frosty relations with the US for some time to come.

Last Wednesday, German Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière paid a visit to his colleague in the Foreign Ministry, Frank-Walter Steinmeier for a strictly confidential conversation about the currently tense relationship with the United States. Specifically, they planned to address the latest spying revelations and accusations. Before the meeting began, both ministers turned in their mobile phones. Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier has a small side room he uses for this purpose; part of the Foreign Ministry is in the former Nazi Reichsbank and has very thick walls. The room is now used to store smartphones and tablet computers when sensitive discussions take place.

The precaution reflects the significant disquiet and anxiety in Berlin's ministries and in the Chancellery as the summer holidays get underway. Slowly, ministry officials are starting to grapple with the true meaning of "360 degree" counterintelligence. It means defending yourself not just usual suspects like Russia or China. But also against Germany's closest allies, particularly the United States.

A few days ago, Chancellor Merkel reportedly told US President Barack Obama in a telephone conversation that anger over the US spying activities in Berlin's government quarter as well as the recruitment of an informant inside Germany's Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND) foreign intelligence service has in no way subsided. Because Obama apparently expressed little understanding for the commotion in Germany, Merkel is now taking action.

Comment: Coincidence? Edward Snowden announces plans to work on anti-surveillance tech


Edward Snowden: Calling all hackers

Edward Snowden poses for a photo during an interview at an undisclosed location in December 2013 in Moscow, Russia.
Edward Snowden made an impassioned call on Saturday for hackers and technologists to help would-be whistleblowers spill more government secrets.

Speaking via remote Google Hangouts video feed from Russia, Snowden addressed his comments to an audience at this weekend's Hackers on Planet Earth (HOPE) conference at the Pennsylvania Hotel in New York.
Eye 2

Snowden sez British GCHQ worse than the NSA

© Reuters/Kieran Doherty
British intelligence is permitted to go further in surveillance than similar agencies in other Western countries, according to former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, who spoke of GCHQ's lack of oversight in a recent interview to the Guardian.

Snowden believes the powers of the British intelligence are not restricted effectively enough by "law or policy". Despite the UK government publicly claiming that regulations over the spy activity are strict, GCHQ's private documents suggest the opposite is true.

"You've got their own admission in their own documents that 'we've got a much lighter oversight regime than we should have,' full stop," Snowden said. "That's what they're talking about. They enjoy authorities that they really shouldn't be entitled to."

The lack of legal restrictions leads to UK intelligence being able to target more people than is necessary.

"Tempora [GCHQ's internet surveillance program] is really proof ... that GCHQ has much less-strict legal restrictions than other Western government intelligence."

Berlin considering expanding criminal prosecution to include American handlers of German spies

German Minister Heiko Maas
© Reuters / Thomas Peter
German Justice Minister Heiko Maas
Criminal prosecution is likely to be expanded on Americans involved in recruiting and supervising activities of German officials spying for the US intelligence, Germany's Justice Minister Heiko Maas told Welt am Sonntag.

If investigators find a body of evidence that alleged double agents in Germany's federal intelligence service and Defense Ministry have been spying to the benefit of American intelligence, "the investigation would extend on their feasible patrons," Maas declared.

According to Welt am Sonntag, the alleged spymaster is the US citizen Andrew M., a 52-year-old international political consultant, who allegedly received confidential military documents from the Germans.

"The law applies to everyone without discrimination," Maas said, stressing that intelligence security laws apply on friendly states either. "Those who do not abide by the law in this country may have to face criminal prosecution," he said.

"Spying among friends is like breaching a diplomatic dam," Maas said.

"The evidence for espionage activities is very strong," an anonymous security officer closely familiar with the case told the paper. "If I were the federal prosecutor, I would press charges."

An unceasing row of intelligence scandals, that started over a year ago with revelations of former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, who have revealed that the US has been extensively eavesdropping Germans, Chancellor Angela Merkel included, for years now.

Comment: It will be interesting to see how far the German government is willing to go in retaliation over US spying.

Spy vs. spy: Germany may start spying on U.S. after double-agent scandal
No honor among thieves: Germany arrests suspected 'double agent' for working for US
Rift deepening? Germany expels CIA Berlin chief over NSA spying


Snowden: NSA spying revelations means professional confidentiality must be urgently upgraded

© Photograph: Alan Rusbridger for the Guardian
Edward Snowden during his interview with the Guardian in Moscow.
Exclusive: Whistleblower says NSA revelations mean those with duty to protect confidentiality must urgently upgrade security

 - Watch Snowden's interview with the Guardian in Moscow

- Read the full interview with Snowden by Alan Rusbridger and Ewen MacAskill on Friday

The NSA whistleblower, Edward Snowden, has urged lawyers, journalists, doctors, accountants, priests and others with a duty to protect confidentiality to upgrade security in the wake of the spy surveillance revelations.

Snowden said professionals were failing in their obligations to their clients, sources, patients and parishioners in what he described as a new and challenging world.

"What last year's revelations showed us was irrefutable evidence that unencrypted communications on the internet are no longer safe. Any communications should be encrypted by default," he said.

The response of professional bodies has so far been patchy.

Texas now fingerprinting every citizen old enough to drive

The other day at the Texas driver's license center, while paying for my required in-person renewal, the clerk said it was time to take my fingerprints.


Really. Quietly, earlier this year, the Texas Department of Public Safety began requiring full sets of fingerprints from everyone who obtains a new driver's license or photo identification card. This applies to those who come in as required for periodic renewals, but it doesn't apply to mail-in renewals.

The Watchdog won't let this change go unnoticed. Previously, DPS took only a thumbprint.

Until now, if a person never got arrested, most likely his or her fingerprints would never get recorded and placed in a government database.

Some occupations, such as those in law enforcement, the military and medical care, require fingerprints. But under the new system, everybody who has a driver's license - as they cycle through their 12-year in-person renewal requirement - will be fingerprinted. Your grandmother will be fingerprinted, along with your 16-year-old new driver.

Comment: The Texas Department of Public Safety apparently has NO legal authority to do so:
I checked with the original authors and co-sponsors of the 2005 law to learn their legislative intent.

Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples, then a state senator, and U.S. Congressman Pete Gallego, D-Alpine, a former state representative, declined comment to The Watchdog.

Bill co-author Juan M. Escobar, who in 2005 was a state representative from Kingsville, said he recalled the point of his bill was to prevent immigrants living in the U.S. illegally from obtaining a driver's license.

"I think the intent of the bill was to ensure that the individual was the right person that was applying for a driver's license," said Escobar, now county judge in Kleberg County. "The intent was to avoid the privacy issue violation. We'll just do the thumbprint or the index finger. That was my intent."

He added, "If they've gone past the law, there's nothing that gives them that authority."


US military caught manipulating social media, running mass propaganda accounts

Cyber-security task force
It has been common knowledge to anyone paying attention within the alternative news community for years, but once again the media is now admitting that the US military and intelligence agencies are indeed running massive propaganda campaigns that cover a vast array of online networks.

How many times now has such 'conspiracy nonsense' now been reported years later by the mega media as undeniable fact? In the case of the US intelligence propaganda machine that even the New York Times has covered in an article entitled 'The Real War on Reality', we are seeing just that. The New York Times report goes on to detail information uncovered from hacked data regarding the military operation to stage 'grassroots' responses and organizations in order to deceive via psyop. Professor of philosophy Peter Ludlow writes for the Times:
"The hack also revealed evidence that Team Themis was developing a "persona management" system - a program, developed at the specific request of the United States Air Force, that allowed one user to control multiple online identities ("sock puppets") for commenting in social media spaces, thus giving the appearance of grass roots support. The contract was eventually awarded to another private intelligence firm."
This cyber warfare is clearly not just in the capacity of 'improving international reputation' as military commanders are claiming on record (just like there is 'no such thing' as domestic spying and it's only for terrorists). Instead, we're talking about running a major network of computers that are constantly running code specifically written to post to social media and news comment pages. Something that was revealed all the way back in 2011 by RawStory and brushed off in the name of national security by the military.

Comment: Revealed: US spy operation that manipulates social media by creating online sockpuppets to spread propaganda
Army of Fake Social Media Friends to Promote Propaganda

Stock Up

The Guardian's publishing of NSA spying revelations helps reduce overall losses in earnings

Edward Snowden
© Unknown
American "Whistleblower" Edward Snowden
The sensation sparked by the revelations of ex-NSA employee Edward Snowden on the level of covert online monitoring by the U.S. online helped narrow losses at the publisher of the U.K.'s Guardian and Observer newspapers.

Guardian News & Media, which publishes the two newspapers and, reported a £30.6 million ($52.3 million) loss in earnings before interest, taxation, depreciation and amortization over the year to the end of March. This marked an uptick from the £33.8 million loss posted the previous year.

It's been quite a year for the media group, which won the highest accolade in U.S. journalism - the Pulitzer Prize - for its coverage of the NSA's surveillance activities, based on the leaks by Edward Snowden. After breaking the story, the Guardian worked together with The New York Times and ProPublica to report news from the leaked documents.

Rift deepening? Germany expels CIA Berlin chief over NSA spying

© Unknown
Germany is expelling the CIA chief in Berlin in retaliation for the latest espionage scandal.

The expulsion comes shortly after two alleged US agents were unmasked, suspected of acting as double agents within the state security apparatus, and passing secrets to US intelligence contacts.

The move was "a reaction to persistent failure to work together in efforts towards clarification," according to the chief of the Parliamentary Control Panel.

The two new cases, which came in quick succession of one another, increase the strain on already tense relations after the revelations made about the extent of global NSA espionage in June, 2013.

Chancellor Angela Merkel criticized the spy's presence in Germany, stating that when common sense is switched on, "spying is ultimately a waste of force," reported Der Spiegle.

She added that in 21st century intelligence work, there should be a strong focus on the essentials rather than that which is just technically possible - to the point that "one can't see the wood because of all the trees," Merkel said.

Comment: Is the German government starting to see that the US is not acting in the interest of Germany or is it all just a fake outrage and business as usual?

Eye 1

Meet XKeyscore - NSA program devoted to gathering 'nearly everything' on internet users

Meet XKeyscore - "a computer network exploitation system", as described in an NSA presentation, devoted to gathering "nearly everything a user does on the internet." The German site Das Erste has exposed the shocking truth about the rules used by the NSA to decide who is a "target" for surveillance. While the NSA claims to only "target" a small fraction of internet users, the perhaps unsurprising truth is very different. As Boing Boing concludes, one expert suggested that the NSA's intention here was to separate the sheep from the goats -- to split the entire population of the Internet into "people who have the technical know-how to be private" and "people who don't" and then capture all the communications from the first group.

As Das Erste describes it,
The NSA program XKeyscore is a collection and analysis tool and "a computer network exploitation system", as described in an NSA presentation. It is one of the agency's most ambitious programs devoted to gathering "nearly everything a user does on the internet." The source code contains several rules that enable agents using XKeyscore to surveil privacy-conscious internet users around the world. The rules published here are specifically directed at the infrastructure and the users of the Tor Network, the Tails operating system, and other privacy-related software.
And Cory Doctorow of Boing Boing summarizes,

In a shocking story on the German site Tagesschau (Google translate), Lena Kampf, Jacob Appelbaum and John Goetz report on the rules used by the NSA to decide who is a "target" for surveillance.