In the annals of internet conspiracy theories, none is more pervasive than the one speculating paid government plants infiltrate websites, social network sites, and comment sections with an intent to sow discord, troll, and generally manipulate, deceive and destroy reputations. Guess what: it was all true.
And this time we have a pretty slideshow of formerly confidential data prepared by the UK NSA equivalent, the GCHQ, to confirm it, and Edward Snowden to thank for disclosing it. The messenger in this case is Glenn Greenwald, who has released the data in an article in his new website, firstlook.org, which he summarizes as follows: “by publishing these stories one by one, our NBC reporting highlighted some of the key, discrete revelations: the monitoring of YouTube and Blogger, the targeting of Anonymous with the very same DDoS attacks they accuse “hacktivists” of using, the use of “honey traps” (luring people into compromising situations using sex) and destructive viruses. But, here, I want to focus and elaborate on the overarching point revealed by all of these documents: namely, that these agencies are attempting to control, infiltrate, manipulate, and warp online discourse, and in doing so, are compromising the integrity of the internet itself.” Call it Stasi for “Generation Internet.”
Greenwald’s latest revelation focuses on GCHQ’s previously secret unit, the JTRIG (Joint Threat Research Intelligence Group). Continue reading »
Last week, I highlighted the fact that the latest Press Freedom Index showcased a 13 point plunge in America’s press freedom to an embarrassing #46 position in the global ranking. If the authoritarians in the Obama Administration have their way, this country is set to fall much further in next year’s index.
Incredibly, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is set to roll out something called the Critical Information Needs study, which will embed government “researchers” into media organizations around the nation to make sure they are doing their job properly.
No this isn’t “conspiracy theory.” It is so real, and represents such a threat to the First Amendment, that a current FCC commissioner, Ajit Pai, recently wrote an Op-Ed in the Wall Street Journal, warning Americans of this scheme. He writes: Continue reading »
The US National Security Agency has hundreds of teens and college students on its payroll, thanks to a recruiting effort aimed at wooing would-be writers and aspiring producers into the intelligence community.
In an effort to identify prospects for its college internship program and its “High School Work Study Program,” the agency places advertisements on employment websites each autumn and contacts campuses throughout the US.
NSA recruiters are seeking college upperclassmen with at least a 3.0 grade point average who are pursuing “writing, editing, journalism” or “television production, motion picture production, or 3-D animation,” among other fields, according to a report published in Salon on Tuesday. Young men and women are tempted with a “competitive salary” and government-subsidized housing near the NSA headquarters at Ft. Meade, Maryland.
Leading critics of NSA Ron Wyden and Mark Udall say ‘public deserves to know more about violations of secret court orders’
Two US senators on the intelligence committee said on Friday that thousands of annual violations by the National Security Agency on its own restrictions were “the tip of the iceberg.”
“The executive branch has now confirmed that the rules, regulations and court-imposed standards for protecting the privacy of Americans’ have been violated thousands of times each year,” said senators Ron Wyden and Mark Udall, two leading critics of bulk surveillance, who responded Friday to a Washington Post story based on documents provided by whistleblower Edward Snowden.
“We have previously said that the violations of these laws and rules were more serious than had been acknowledged, and we believe Americans should know that this confirmation is just the tip of a larger iceberg.”
On a day when terror threats continued to dominate the U.S. headlines, the Secret Service — a division of the Homeland Security Department since 2003 — tweeted the following message:
“Contact your nearest field office with time-sensitive or critical info or to report a tweet,” said one message.
That tweet from the Secret Service links to telephone numbers for every Secret Service office in the U.S. or its territories (there are 117 of them) and all 20 Secret Service offices overseas.
In a separate tweet on Tuesday morning, the Secret Service asked, “Have you seen any of our Most Wanted?” This tweet links to a list of suspects, most wanted for theft or fraud. None are listed as suspected terrorists.
This is not the first time the Secret Service has asked its Twitter followers to tell on other subscribers.
A top secret National Security Agency program allows analysts to search with no prior authorization through vast databases containing emails, online chats and the browsing histories of millions of individuals, according to documents provided by whistleblower Edward Snowden.
The NSA boasts in training materials that the program, called XKeyscore, is its “widest-reaching” system for developing intelligence from the internet.
The latest revelations will add to the intense public and congressional debate around the extent of NSA surveillance programs. They come as senior intelligence officials testify to the Senate judiciary committee on Wednesday, releasing classified documents in response to the Guardian’s earlier stories on bulk collection of phone records and Fisa surveillance court oversight.
“I, sitting at my desk,” said Snowden, could “wiretap anyone, from you or your accountant, to a federal judge or even the president, if I had a personal email”.
US officials vehemently denied this specific claim. Mike Rogers, the Republican chairman of the House intelligence committee, said of Snowden’s assertion: “He’s lying. It’s impossible for him to do what he was saying he could do.”
But training materials for XKeyscore detail how analysts can use it and other systems to mine enormous agency databases by filling in a simple on-screen form giving only a broad justification for the search. The request is not reviewed by a court or any NSA personnel before it is processed.
“In a time of universal deceit – telling the truth is a revolutionary act.”
- GEORGE ORWELL
“In our age there is no such thing as ‘keeping out of politics.’ All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred and schizophrenia.”
- GEORGE ORWELL
“Terrorism is the best political weapon for nothing drives people harder than a fear of sudden death.”
- Adolf Hitler
“Once a government is committed to the principle of silencing the voice of opposition, it has only one way to go, and that is down the path of increasingly repressive measures, until it becomes a source of terror to all its citizens and creates a country where everyone lives in fear.”
- Harry S. Truman
“The easiest way to gain control of the population is to carry out acts of terror. The public will clamor for such laws if their personal security is threatened.”
- Joseph Stalin
“If you want to have the possibility of some privacy someday, you’d better join the fight now, because now a bunch of other people are joining the fight. Now is the moment when you can make a difference. If you wait until the day you wish you had some privacy and only then try to do something…well, that day you will be one of a few people doing it and that won’t be enough. You’ve got to help make a critical mass when other people are doing it – and that’s now.”“We call Windows 8.1 ‘Windows PRISM Edition’ because it’s designed to require people to send data to Microsoft servers, and of course, Microsoft will hand over any of that data to the US government on request. It puts the users in PRISM.”
- Richard Stallman in the interview embedded below
If you don’t know who Richard Stallman, aka RMS is, it’s time to to get up to speed. I can’t think of a better way to do that than by watching the video interview below. He starts off explaining why he doesn’t own a mobile phone (it can continue to listen to you even when it’s turned off), and then goes on to answer almost every technology question imaginable to a layperson. Definitely worth the time.
Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), the chairman of the committee, said he was surprised that the programs had been kept secret for so long.
“Do you think a program of this magnitude gathering information involving a large number of people involved with telephone companies could be indefinitely kept secret from the American people?” Goodlatte asked.
“Well,” ODNI general counsel Robert S. Litt said with a slight smile, “we tried.”
The backlash in Congress against the government’s monstrous spy program and the ridiculous notion that a secret court (the FISA court) grants any sort of oversight is growing, and it is a bipartisan effort.
More from the Washington Post:
Lawmakers of both parties expressed deep skepticism Wednesday about the government’s bulk collection of Americans’ telephone records and threatened not to renew the legislative authority that has been used to sanction a program described as “off the tracks legally.”
“This is unsustainable, it’s outrageous and must be stopped immediately,” said Rep. John Conyers Jr. (Mich.), the highest-ranking Democrat on the panel.
In case you missed it, last Sunday German artist Oliver Bienkowski projected a giant image of Kim Dotcom on the U.S. embassy in Berlin coupled with the phrase “United Stasi of America.” The entire thing lasted about 30 seconds and was extremely good natured and humorous. However, it seems German “authorities” don’t appreciate being out-Stasied by the USSA, and in an attempt to demonstrate their authoritarianism are looking to criminally charge Mr. Bienkowski. After all, in the Western “civilized” world these days, freedom of speech leads to criminal charges, while the theft of trillions leads to bonuses and promotions. From ArsTechnica:
A German artist may now potentially face criminal charges in Germany after he projected a huge image onto the walls of the United States Embassy in Berlin last Sunday.
The image was of fellow German Kim Dotcom, the embattled founder of Megaupload, along with the phrase “United Stasi of America,” referring to the secret police of former East Germany. Oliver Bienkowski videoed the event and set the video to a song that Dotcom had previously recorded, entitled “Mr. President,” which includes lines like: “What about free speech, Mr. President?”
His possible crime? Violation of Paragraph 103 of the German Penal Code (Google Translate), which forbids insulting foreign heads of state, members of foreign governments, or other foreign diplomatic staff in Germany—and is punishable by “up to three years in prison.” If combined with libel charges, that sentence can increase to up to five years.
Watch the video yourself to witness this heinous crime of human expression.
PARIS, July 4 (Reuters) – France’s external intelligence agency spies on the French public’s phone calls, emails and social media activity in France and abroad, the daily Le Monde said on Thursday.
It said the DGSE intercepted signals from computers and telephones in France, and between France and other countries, although not the content of phone calls, to create a map of “who is talking to whom”. It said the activity was illegal.
“All of our communications are spied on,” wrote Le Monde, which based its report on unnamed intelligence sources as well as remarks made publicly by intelligence officials.
“Emails, text messages, telephone records, access to Facebook and Twitter are then stored for years,” it said.
The activities described are similar to those carried out by the U.S. National Security Agency, as described in documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.
A bipartisan group of 26 US senators has written to intelligence chiefs to complain that the administration is relying on a “secret body of law” to collect massive amounts of data on US citizens.
The senators accuse officials of making misleading statements and demand that the director of national intelligence James Clapper answer a series of specific questions on the scale of domestic surveillance as well as the legal justification for it.
In their strongly-worded letter to Clapper, the senators said they believed the government may be misinterpreting existing legislation to justify the sweeping collection of telephone and internet data revealed by the Guardian.
BERLIN — Wolfgang Schmidt was seated in Berlin’s 1,200-foot-high TV tower, one of the few remaining landmarks left from the former East Germany. Peering out over the city that lived in fear when the communist party ruled it, he pondered the magnitude of domestic spying in the United States under the Obama administration. A smile spread across his face.
“You know, for us, this would have been a dream come true,”he said, recalling the days when he was a lieutenant colonel in the defunct communist country’s secret police, the Stasi.
In those days, his department was limited to tapping 40 phones at a time, he recalled. Decide to spy on a new victim and an old one had to be dropped, because of a lack of equipment. He finds breathtaking the idea that the U.S. government receives daily reports on the cellphone usage of millions of Americans and can monitor the Internet traffic of millions more.
“So much information, on so many people,” he said.
East Germany’s Stasi has long been considered the standard of police state surveillance during the Cold War years, a monitoring regime so vile and so intrusive that agents even noted when their subjects were overheard engaging in sexual intercourse. Against that backdrop, Germans have greeted with disappointment, verging on anger, the news that somewhere in a U.S. government databank are the records of where millions of people were when they made phone calls or what video content they streamed on their computers in the privacy of their homes.
Even Schmidt, 73, who headed one of the more infamous departments in the infamous Stasi, called himself appalled. The dark side to gathering such a broad, seemingly untargeted, amount of information is obvious, he said.
“It is the height of naivete to think that once collected this information won’t be used,” he said. “This is the nature of secret government organizations. The only way to protect the people’s privacy is not to allow the government to collect their information in the first place.”
The debate over the U.S. government’s monitoring of digital communications suggests that Americans are willing to allow it as long as it is genuinely targeted at terrorists. What they fail to realize is that the surveillance systems are best suited for gathering information on law-abiding citizens.
People concerned with online privacy tend to calm down when told that the government can record their calls or read their e-mail only under special circumstances and with proper court orders. The assumption is that they have nothing to worry about unless they are terrorists or correspond with the wrong people.
The infrastructure set up by the National Security Agency, however, may only be good for gathering information on the stupidest, lowest-ranking of terrorists. The Prism surveillance program focuses on access to the servers of America’s largest Internet companies, which support such popular services as Skype, Gmail and iCloud. These are not the services that truly dangerous elements typically use.
China’s official Xinhua news agency has condemned the US over continuing revelations about Washington’s surveillance activities by intelligence fugitive Edward Snowden.
In a commentary, it said the US had turned out to be the “biggest villain in our age”.
Xinhua says the latest allegations in the South China Morning Post, along with previous disclosures, are “clearly troubling signs”.
“They demonstrate that the United States, which has long been trying to play innocent as a victim of cyber-attacks, has turned out to be the biggest villain in our age,”says Xinhua.
“It owes too an explanation to China and other countries it has allegedly spied on. It has to share with the world the range, extent and intent of its clandestine hacking programs.”
Xinhua says the Snowden developments provide support for China’s position on cybersecurity.
“Both the United States and China, together with many other countries, are victims of hacking. For the uncharted waters of the Internet age, these countries should sit down and talk through their suspicions,” says Xinhua.
“With good intentions, they can even work for the establishment of certain rules that help define and regulate Internet activities and mechanisms that can work out their differences when frictions do arise.”
China’s official news agency has slammed the United States as the world’s “biggest villain” following new revelations about Washington’s cyber espionage against Chinese companies and institutions.
“These, along with previous allegations, are clearly troubling signs. They demonstrate that the United States, which has long been trying to play innocent as a victim of cyber attacks, has turned out to be the biggest villain in our age,” said a commentary published in the Xinhua news agency on Sunday.
WASHINGTON — Even before a former U.S. intelligence contractor exposed the secret collection of Americans’ phone records, the Obama administration was pressing a government-wide crackdown on security threats that requires federal employees to keep closer tabs on their co-workers and exhorts managers to punish those who fail to report their suspicions.
President Barack Obama’s unprecedented initiative, known as the Insider Threat Program, is sweeping in its reach. It has received scant public attention even though it extends beyond the U.S. national security bureaucracies to most federal departments and agencies nationwide, including the Peace Corps, the Social Security Administration and the Education and Agriculture departments. It emphasizes leaks of classified material, but catchall definitions of “insider threat” give agencies latitude to pursue and penalize a range of other conduct.
Government documents reviewed by McClatchy illustrate how some agencies are using that latitude to pursue unauthorized disclosures of any information, not just classified material. They also show how millions of federal employees and contractors must watch for “high-risk persons or behaviors” among co-workers and could face penalties, including criminal charges, for failing to report them. Leaks to the media are equated with espionage.
“Hammer this fact home . . . leaking is tantamount to aiding the enemies of the United States,” says a June 1, 2012, Defense Department strategy for the program that was obtained by McClatchy.
The documents show that discretion as to who is actually targeted lies directly with the NSA’s analysts. Photograph: Martin Rogers/Workbook Stock/Getty
Top secret documents submitted to the court that oversees surveillance by US intelligence agencies show the judges have signed off on broad orders which allow the NSA to make use of information “inadvertently” collected from domestic US communications without a warrant.
The Guardian is publishing in full two documents submitted to the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (known as the Fisa court), signed by Attorney General Eric Holder and stamped 29 July 2009. They detail the procedures the NSA is required to follow to target “non-US persons” under its foreign intelligence powers and what the agency does to minimize data collected on US citizens and residents in the course of that surveillance.
The documents show that even under authorities governing the collection of foreign intelligence from foreign targets, US communications can still be collected, retained and used.
The espionage scandal that keeps on giving has released its latest installment, once more courtesy of the Guardian, which on the eve of tomorrow’s starting G-8 meeting reveals that foreign politicians and officials who took part in two G-20 summit meetings in London in 2009 had their computers monitored, their phone calls intercepted, and fake internet cafes were set up on the instructions of the British Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), the sister organization to the US NSA.Naturally, it wasn’t just the GCHQ – according to the Guardian, during the 2009 G-20 meeting there was an NSA attempt to eavesdrop on then-Russian leader, Dmitry Medvedev, as his phone calls passed through satellite links to Moscow.
And while broad espionage allegations can be deflected by pretending by the rhetoric-endowed and teleprompter-aided that only terrorist threats were targeted, it will be very difficult to explain why the national information super spooks used every trick of the trade to spy on the so-called leaders of the developed world.
The disclosure raises new questions about the boundaries of surveillance by GCHQ and its American sister organisation, the National Security Agency, whose access to phone records and internet data has been defended as necessary in the fight against terrorism and serious crime. The G20 spying appears to have been organised for the more mundane purpose of securing an advantage in meetings. Named targets include long-standing allies such as South Africa and Turkey.
Foreign politicians and officials who took part in two G20 summit meetings in London in 2009 had their computers monitored and their phone calls intercepted on the instructions of their British government hosts, according to documents seen by the Guardian. Some delegates were tricked into using internet cafes which had been set up by British intelligence agencies to read their email traffic.
The revelation comes as Britain prepares to host another summit on Monday – for the G8 nations, all of whom attended the 2009 meetings which were the object of the systematic spying. It is likely to lead to some tension among visiting delegates who will want the prime minister to explain whether they were targets in 2009 and whether the exercise is to be repeated this week.
What Edward Snowden has done is an amazingly brave and courageous act of civil disobedience.
Like me, he became discomforted by what he was exposed to and what he saw: the industrial-scale systematic surveillance that is scooping up vast amounts of information not only around the world but in the United States, in direct violation of the fourth amendment of the US constitution.
The NSA programs that Snowden has revealed are nothing new: they date back to the days and weeks after 9/11. I had direct exposure to similar programs, such as Stellar Wind, in 2001. In the first week of October, I had an extraordinary conversation with NSA’s lead attorney. When I pressed hard about the unconstitutionality of Stellar Wind, he said:
“The White House has approved the program; it’s all legal. NSA is the executive agent.”
It was made clear to me that the original intent of government was to gain access to all the information it could without regard for constitutional safeguards. “You don’t understand,” I was told. “We just need the data.”
According to U.S. Representative Loretta Sanchez, members of Congress learned “significantly more than what is out in the media today” during a closed briefing about the NSA on Tuesday, and that what has been revealed so far about NSA snooping is “just the tip of the iceberg”. During her interview with C-SPAN on Wednesday, she also stated that NSA spying is “just broader than most people even realize” but due to security restrictions she could not reveal more than that. So precisely what are the American people not being told? And do our leaders ever plan to tell us the truth? Many of our politicians have come down extremely hard on whistleblower Edward Snowden, but if it wasn’t for him most Americans would have no idea what the NSA has been up to. Is the Obama administration going to come clean on this, or do we have to wait for even more whistleblowers to come forward? The American people deserve to know that they are being spied on, and it appears that those in charge of doing this spying have been flat out lying to Congress about it.
Establishment politicians from both major political parties are rushing to defend the NSA and condemn whistleblower Edward Snowden. They are attempting to portray Edward Snowden as a “traitor” and the spooks over at the NSA that are snooping on all of us as “heroes”. In fact, many of the exact same politicians that once railed against government spying during the Bush years are now staunchly defending it now that Obama is in the White House. But it isn’t just Democrats that are acting shamefully. Large numbers of Republican politicians that love to give speeches about “freedom” and “liberty” are attempting to eviscerate the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The government is not supposed to invade our privacy and investigate us unless there is probable cause to do so. Apparently many of our politicians misunderstood when they read the novel 1984 by George Orwell. It wasn’t supposed to be an instruction manual. We should be thanking Edward Snowden for exposing the deep corruption that is eating away at our own government like cancer. Now the American people need to pick up the ball and start demanding answers, because without a doubt we are going to see establishment politicians from both major political parties try to shut this scandal down. Establishment Democrats and establishment Republicans both love the Big Brother surveillance grid that the U.S. government has constructed, and they are both making it abundantly clear that they will defend the NSA to the very end.
The following are 22 nauseating quotes from hypocritical establishment politicians that show exactly how they feel about the NSA spying scandal… Continue reading »
If the constitutional scholar was hoping he would quietly avoid a major showdown over the constitutionality of the biggest spying scandal since Nixon (whether legal or not remains to be determined) and which would likely have led to an early POTUS retirement if current president was republican, the ACLU just slammed the door shut on the possibility. Moments ago, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit against the Obama administration over its “dragnet” collection of logs of domestic phone calls, contending that the once-secret program is illegal and asking a judge to both stop it and order the records purged. And, as the NYT reports, “the lawsuit, filed in New York, could set up an eventual Supreme Court test.” Only once that happens it will be too bad that InTrade is no longer available, to take the other side of a trade that believes the SCOTUS will for once do the right thing and preserve the constitution when everyone knows the decision to formally enact a Big Brother state will pass along political party lines and America will officially become the country that for 5 decades, at least superficially, it was waging “cold war” against.
The program began as part of the Bush administration’s post-9/11 programs of surveillance without warrants, and, it is now known, it has continued since 2006 with the blessing of a national security court, which has ruled in still-secret legal opinions that such bulk surveillance was authorized by a section of the Patriot Act that allows the F.B.I. to obtain “business records” if they are relevant to a counterterrorism investigation.
When even Zee Germans are staring open-mouthed at what they call “American-style Stasi methods” you know things have got a little out of hand. As Reuters reports, German outrage over a U.S. Internet spying program has broken out ahead of a visit by Barack Obama, with ministers demanding the president provide a full explanation when he lands in Berlin next week and one official likening the tactics to those of the East German Stasi. “The more a society monitors, controls and observes its citizens, the less free it is,” Merkel’s Justice Minister exclaimed, adding, “the suspicion of excessive surveillance of communication is so alarming that it cannot be ignored.” While Obama has defended it as a “modest encroachment” on privacy and reassured Americans that no one is listening to their phone calls, the Germans reflect “I thought this era had ended when the DDR fell.” Via Reuters,
German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman has said she will raise the issue with Obama in talks next Wednesday, potentially casting a cloud over a visit that was designed to celebrate U.S.-German ties on the 50th anniversary John F. Kennedy’s famous “Ich bin ein Berliner” speech.
Government surveillance is an extremely sensitive topic in Germany, where memories of the dreaded Stasi secret police and its extensive network of informants are still fresh in the minds of many citizens. Continue reading »
Since 9/11, there has been, at first secretly but increasingly openly, a revocation of the bill of rights for which this country fought over 200 years ago. In particular, the fourth and fifth amendments of the US constitution, which safeguard citizens from unwarranted intrusion by the government into their private lives, have been virtually suspended.
Glenn Greenwald, Ewen MacAskill and Laura Poitras in Hong Kong
The individual responsible for one of the most significant leaks in US political history is Edward Snowden, a 29-year-old former technical assistant for the CIA and current employee of the defence contractor Booz Allen Hamilton. Snowden has been working at the National Security Agency for the last four years as an employee of various outside contractors, including Booz Allen and Dell.
The Guardian, after several days of interviews, is revealing his identity at his request. From the moment he decided to disclose numerous top-secret documents to the public, he was determined not to opt for the protection of anonymity. “I have no intention of hiding who I am because I know I have done nothing wrong,” he said.
Snowden will go down in history as one of America’s most consequential whistleblowers, alongside Daniel Ellsberg and Bradley Manning. He is responsible for handing over material from one of the world’s most secretive organisations – the NSA.
In a note accompanying the first set of documents he provided, he wrote: “I understand that I will be made to suffer for my actions,” but “I will be satisfied if the federation of secret law, unequal pardon and irresistible executive powers that rule the world that I love are revealed even for an instant.”
Despite his determination to be publicly unveiled, he repeatedly insisted that he wants to avoid the media spotlight. “I don’t want public attention because I don’t want the story to be about me. I want it to be about what the US government is doing.”
He does not fear the consequences of going public, he said, only that doing so will distract attention from the issues raised by his disclosures. “I know the media likes to personalise political debates, and I know the government will demonise me.”
Despite these fears, he remained hopeful his outing will not divert attention from the substance of his disclosures. “I really want the focus to be on these documents and the debate which I hope this will trigger among citizens around the globe about what kind of world we want to live in.” He added: “My sole motive is to inform the public as to that which is done in their name and that which is done against them.”
He has had “a very comfortable life” that included a salary of roughly $200,000, a girlfriend with whom he shared a home in Hawaii, a stable career, and a family he loves. “I’m willing to sacrifice all of that because I can’t in good conscience allow the US government to destroy privacy, internet freedom and basic liberties for people around the world with this massive surveillance machine they’re secretly building.”
‘I am not afraid, because this is the choice I’ve made’