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NSA shares raw data about US citizens with ’Israel’

Al Ahed news

A top-secret document provided to the Guardian by whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed Thursday that the National Security Agency routinely shares raw intelligence data with “Israel” without first sifting it to remove information about US citizens.

Details of the intelligence-sharing agreement are laid out in a memorandum of understanding between the NSA and its “Israeli” counterpart that shows the US government handed over intercepted communications likely to contain phone calls and emails of American citizens. The agreement places no legally binding limits on the use of the data by the “Israelis”.

The disclosure that the NSA agreed to provide raw intelligence data to a foreign country contrasts with assurances from the Obama administration that there are rigorous safeguards to protect the privacy of US citizens caught in the dragnet. The intelligence community calls this process “minimization”, but the memorandum makes clear that the information shared with the “Israelis” would be in its pre-minimized state.

The deal was reached in principle in March 2009, according to the undated memorandum, which lays out the ground rules for the intelligence sharing.

The five-page memorandum, termed an agreement between the US and “Israeli” intelligence agencies “pertaining to the protection of US persons”, repeatedly stresses the constitutional rights of Americans to privacy and the need for “Israeli” intelligence staff to respect these rights.

But this is undermined by the disclosure that “Israel” is allowed to receive “raw Sigint” – signal intelligence. The memorandum says: “Raw Sigint includes, but is not limited to, unevaluated and unminimized transcripts, gists, facsimiles, telex, voice and Digital Network Intelligence metadata and content.”

According to the agreement, the intelligence being shared would not be filtered in advance by NSA analysts to remove US communications. “NSA routinely sends ISNU the so-called “Israeli” Sigint National Unit] minimized and unminimized raw collection”, it says.

“This agreement is not intended to create any legally enforceable rights and shall not be construed to be either an international agreement or a legally binding instrument according to international law,” the document says.

In a statement to the Guardian, an NSA spokesperson did not deny that personal data about Americans was included in raw intelligence data shared with the Israelis. But the agency insisted that the shared intelligence complied with all rules governing privacy.

“Any US person information that is acquired as a result of NSA’s surveillance activities is handled under procedures that are designed to protect privacy rights,” the spokesperson said.

The NSA declined to answer specific questions about the agreement, including whether permission had been sought from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance (Fisa) court for handing over such material.

The memorandum of understanding, which the Guardian published in full, allows Tel Aviv to retain “any files containing the identities of US persons” for up to a year. The agreement requests only that the “Israelis” should consult the NSA’s special liaison adviser when such data is found.

Notably, a much stricter rule was set for US government communications found in the raw intelligence. The “Israelis” were required to “destroy upon recognition” any communication “that is either to or from an official of the US government”. Such communications included those of “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)”.

It is not clear whether any communications involving members of US Congress or the federal courts have been included in the raw data provided by the NSA, nor is it clear how or why the NSA would be in possession of such communications. In 2009, however, the New York Times reported on “the agency’s attempt to wiretap a member of Congress, without court approval, on an overseas trip”.

The NSA is required by law to target only non-US persons without an individual warrant, but it can collect the content and metadata of Americans’ emails and calls without a warrant when such communication is with a foreign target. US persons are defined in surveillance legislation as US citizens, permanent residents and anyone located on US soil at the time of the interception, unless it has been positively established that they are not a citizen or permanent resident.

Moreover, with much of the world’s internet traffic passing through US networks, large numbers of purely domestic communications also get scooped up incidentally by the agency’s surveillance programs.

The document mentions only one check carried out by the NSA on the raw intelligence, saying the agency will “regularly review a sample of files transferred to ISNU to validate the absence of US persons’ identities”. It also requests that the “Israelis” limit access only to personnel with a “strict need to know”.

“Israeli” intelligence is allowed “to disseminate foreign intelligence information concerning US persons derived from raw Sigint by NSA” on condition that it does so “in a manner that does not identify the US person”. The agreement also allows “Israel” to release US person identities to “outside parties, including all INSU customers” with the NSA’s written permission.

“Balancing the Sigint exchange equally between US and “Israeli” needs has been a constant challenge,” states the report, titled ‘History of the US – “Israel” Sigint Relationship, Post-1992’. “In the last decade, it arguably tilted heavily in favor of Israeli security concerns. 9/11 came, and went, with NSA’s only true Third Party [counter-terrorism] relationship being driven almost totally by the needs of the partner.”

In another top-secret document seen by the Guardian, dated 2008, a senior NSA official points out that “Israe”l aggressively spies on the US. “On the one hand, the “Israelis” are extraordinarily good Sigint partners for us, but on the other, they target us to learn our positions on Middle East problems,” the official says. “A NIE [National Intelligence Estimate] ranked them as the third most aggressive intelligence service against the US.”

Later in the document, the official is quoted as saying: “One of 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.”

The memorandum of understanding also contains hints that there had been tensions in the intelligence-sharing relationship with “Israel”. At a meeting in March 2009 between the two agencies, according to the document, it was agreed that the sharing of raw data required a new framework and further training for “Israeli” personnel to protect US person information.

However, an earlier US document obtained by Snowden, which discusses co-operating on a military intelligence program, bluntly lists under the cons: “Trust issues which revolve around previous ISR [“Israel”] operations.

The Guardian asked the Obama administration how many times US data had been found in the raw intelligence, either by the “Israelis” or when the NSA reviewed a sample of the files, but officials declined to provide this information. Nor would they disclose how many other countries the NSA shared raw data with, or whether the Fisa court, which is meant to oversee NSA surveillance programs and the procedures to handle US information, had signed off the agreement with “Israel”.

In its statement, the NSA said: “We are not going to comment on any specific information sharing arrangements, or the authority under which any such information is collected. The fact that intelligence services work together under specific and regulated conditions mutually strengthens the security of both nations.”

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NSA documents show spy agency violated privacy rules

Al Ahed news

US intelligence officials declassified documents Tuesday revealing the National Security Agency violated privacy rules for three years when it sifted phone records of Americans with no suspected links to terrorists.

The revelations raised fresh questions about the NSA’s ability to manage the massive amount of data it collects and whether the US government is able to safeguard the privacy of its citizens.

The government was forced to disclose the documents by a judge’s order after a Freedom of Information lawsuit filed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a non-profit group promoting digital privacy rights and free speech.

The foundation called the release of the documents a “victory” for transparency but intelligence officials said the papers illustrated how the spy service had made unintentional “mistakes” that were rectified under strict judicial oversight.

The government “didn’t release these new NSA docs out of the goodness of their heart,” the foundation wrote in a tweet. “They were compelled to by @EFF’s lawsuit.”

The documents, including hundreds of pages of court orders, reveal privacy violations from 2006 to 2009 in NSA’s collection of phone records or “metadata,” as part of the agency’s effort to track potential terror plots.

The release came after the scale of NSA spying was exposed in a series of bombshell media leaks in recent months by former US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, who has sought asylum in Russia.

Earlier, the documents divulged by Snowden have shown the NSA conducts a massive electronic dragnet, including trawling through phone records and online traffic, that has sometimes flouted privacy laws.

According to papers released Tuesday, the NSA reported its privacy violations to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which found that the spy service was scooping up data “from United States persons not under investigation by the FBI,” according to one court ruling.

The NSA had been permitted by the court to only search phone numbers that had “reasonable articulable suspicion” of having links to terrorism.

But out of more than 17,000 numbers on a NSA list in 2009, the agency only had reasonable suspicion for about 1,800 of the numbers, two senior intelligence officials told reporters on Tuesday.

The declassified documents shed light on friction between the NSA and the court, with judges castigating the agency for failing to abide by their orders and misrepresenting the nature of their data collection.

The documents released “show that the NSA repeatedly violated court-imposed limits on its surveillance powers, and they confirm that the agency simply cannot be trusted with such sweeping authority,” said Alex Abdo, staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union.

The rights group has filed a lawsuit challenging the legality of the NSA’s collection of phone records.

Privacy, pulverized: NSA, GCHQ can bypass online encryption, new Snowden leak reveals

RT

The latest top-secret documents leaked to the media by former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden reveal that United States and British spy agencies have invested billions of dollars towards efforts to make online privacy obsolete.

The New York Times, the Guardian and ProPublica all reported on Thursday that newly released Snowden documents expose the great lengths that the National Security Agency and Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters, or GCHQ, have gone to in order to eavesdrop on encrypted Internet communications.

According to the latest Snowden leak, the NSA and its British counterpart have circumvented the encryption methods used to secure emails, chats and essentially most Internet traffic that was previously thought to be protected from prying eyes.

The price tag for such an endeavor, the Guardian reported, is around a quarter-of-a-billion dollars each year for just the US, and involves not just intricate code-breaking, but maintaining partnerships with the tech companies that provide seemingly secure online communication outlets.

The files show that the National Security Agency and its UK counterpart GCHQ have broadly compromised the guarantees that Internet companies have given consumers to reassure them that their communications, online banking and medical records would be indecipherable to criminals or governments,” James Ball, Julian Borger and Glenn Greenwald reported for the Guardian.

Outside of the shadowy collaboration with Silicon Valley companies, the governments have also reportedly employed supercomputers capable of decrypting codes commonly used by the most popular online protocols, including HTTPS, voice-over-IP and Secure Sockets Layer (SSL).

For the past decade, NSA has lead [sic] an aggressive, multi-pronged effort to break widely used Internet encryption technologies,” a 2010 GCHQ document referenced by the Guardian reads. “Vast amounts of encrypted Internet data which have up till now been discarded are now exploitable.”

With regards to reaching that goal through private-sector cooperation, the Guardian reported that the NSA works with tech companies to “covertly influence” their products.

So significant is the leak, the Times and ProPublica reported, that intelligence officials asked that the documents not be published in fear that the disclosures would prompt surveillance targets, such as terrorist organization, to alter the way they communicate online.

In an editorial published alongside the scoop this week by ProPublica, reporters Stephen Engelberg and Richard Tofel said the outlet decided to go ahead with the story because “It shows that the expectations of millions of Internet users regarding the privacy of their electronic communications are mistaken.”

News of the agency’s vast code-breaking capabilities comes just weeks following the shuttering of no fewer than two Internet services that provided encrypted email for paying customers.

Last month, the founder of email provider Lavabit announced that he was shutting down his company because staying in business would likely force him “to become complicit in crimes against the American people.”

Our government can order us to do things that are morally and ethically wrong, order us to spy on other Americans and then order us, using the threat of imprisonment, to keep it all secret,” Levison told RT.

The next day, competitor Silent Circle announced they’d be suspending their encrypted email service as well.

In the three months since Snowden fled the US and began leaking classified documents to the media, a number of international outlets have published revelations made possible by the analysis of top-secret files. According to the Times, Snowden supplied reporters with 50,000 documents, and the Guardian’s Greenwald said at least dozens were, in his opinion, newsworthy.

The latest revelation comes days after the media began reporting on the leaked US intelligence “black budget” supplied by Snowden. In that document, US Director of National Intelligence James Clapper prefaced an executive summary by saying that America is “investing in groundbreaking cryptanalytic capabilities to defeat adversarial cryptography and exploit Internet traffic.”

According to the secret funding request, the US Consolidated Cryptologic Program asked for $11 billion in fiscal year 2013 towards covert, code-breaking programs.

NSA paid millions to internet companies to cover surveillance program costs

Al Ahed news

Top-secret national security documents leaked to the Guardian newspaper revealed that the United States government compensated the tech companies that signed on to participate in the controversial NSA spy program known as Prism.

The Guardian published new documentation attributed to former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden in which it’s suggested that the US National Security Agency spent millions of dollars making sure the biggest names on the Internet were kept compliant with an international surveillance program disclosed by the leaker earlier this year.

According to the paperwork provided by Snowden and discussed by the Guardian’s Ewen MacAskill , the NSA emptied millions of dollars on ensuring Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and Facebook were able to share information sent over the Web with the federal government.

“The material provides the first evidence of a financial relationship between the tech companies and the NSA,” wrote MacAskill.

The Guardian article cites a top-secret NSA document from December 2012 in which the agency said through a newsletter that it spent millions to keep the tech companies cooperating with the government after the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court ruled that it was a violation of the US Constitution’s Fourth Amendment to be collecting purely domestic communications through the Prism program.

“Last year’s problems resulted in multiple extensions to the certifications’ expiration dates which cost millions of dollars for Prism providers to implement each successive extension – costs covered by Special Source Operations,” it reads in part.

Asked about the latest disclosure, a representative for Yahoo told the Guardian, “Federal law requires the US government to reimburse providers for costs incurred to respond to compulsory legal process imposed by the government. We have requested reimbursement consistent with this law.”

Facebook denied that it received compensation from the US government ever for facilitating the flow of private data.

For his part, a representative for Google told the Guardian, “We await the US government’s response to our petition to publish more national security request data, which will show that our compliance with American national security laws falls far short of the wild claims still being made in the press today.”

According to the latest report, the federal government is spending millions to find a way to keep those companies only collecting data that invades the privacy of those outside the US.

Snowden Leaks: UK operates secret Middle East web surveillance base

Al Ahed news

The UK has been working on a secret Middle East web surveillance base which is a part of a $1.5 billion project, a new report suggests. It intercepts and gathers emails, telephone calls, and web traffic for Western intelligence.

According to Edward Snowden’s leaked documents, as studied by The Independent, “The secret internet-monitoring project is still a work in progress and is being organized by the UK’s Government Communications Headquarters [GCHQ].”

The intelligence station can intercept data both by satellite and underwater fiber-optic cables that pass through the Middle East. The data will then be copied into large computer storage “buffers.” After that, it can be analyzed and passed on to CGHQ, where it later can be shared with the National Security Agency [NSA].

In response to the leaked information, the UK argues that the base is central for the West’s “war on terror” and helps with “early warning” when it comes to possible attacks. It can also gain access to submarine cables passing through the region.

British intelligence sources maintain the base is used strictly to monitor “security, terror and organized crime.”
In its article, The Independent made clear that it was not revealing the exact location of the base. It did say that it received the information from the 50,000 top-secret GCHQ documents leaked by Snowden, many of which the whistleblower downloaded from “an internal Wikipedia-style information site called GC-Wiki” in 2012.

The UK’s main concern is that the location of the secret Middle East web intelligence base will become known in the public domain, according to the newspaper.

The base is part of a larger US$1.5 billion surveillance project code-named “Tempora,” whose overall goal of global interception of digital communications was revealed earlier though Snowden’s leaked documents.

The Middle East base was created after a warrant was signed by then Foreign Secretary David Miliband. It gave permission to the GCHQ to monitor, store, and analyze data that passed through the fiber-optic cables that link up the internet around the world.

It is worth mentioning that the issued certificates allow GCHQ to collect information about the “‘political intentions of foreign powers,’ terrorism, proliferation, mercenaries and private military companies, and serious financial fraud.”

Certificates are reissued every six months and ministers have the authority to change them at will.
GCHQ was essentially given the power to monitor anyone overseas or communicating from overseas, bypassing all other legal checks and balances in place in the UK.

The budget of the Middle East base alone is not known.

The revelation follows the Metropolitan Police’s launch of a terrorism investigation into information found on the computer of Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald’s partner, David Miranda. The data, along with all of Miranda’s electronic devices, was seized during a nine-hour detention in Heathrow airport on Sunday. British authorities held Miranda under Schedule 7 of the UK’s Terrorism Act.

British police said the information found is “highly sensitive,” the disclosure of which “could put lives at risk.”

The Guardian newspaper took the case to court on Thursday to demand the materials seized from Greenwald’s Brazilian partner be protected by injunction.

The court ruled on Thursday that British authorities can sift through electronic documents seized from Miranda, in the interests of “national security.” The two judges gave authorities until August 30 to analyze “thousands” of documents, according to a police lawyer.

NSA illegally collects thousands of emails, violates US constitution

Al Ahed news

The National Security Agency illegally collected tens of thousands of emails between Americans in violation of the fourth amendment to the US constitution.

In his 86-page opinion, declassified on Wednesday, Judge John Bates of the foreign intelligence surveillance (Fisa) court wrote that the government informed the court that the “volume and nature of the information it has been collecting is fundamentally different from what the court had been led to believe”.

“If you have a webmail email account, like Gmail or Hotmail, you know that if you open up your email program, you will get a screenshot of some number of emails that are sitting in your inbox,” an intelligence official who would not be identified publicly described the problem to reporters during a conference call on Wednesday.

“If one of those emails contained a reference to a foreign person believed to be outside the US – in the subject line, the sender or the recipient, for instance – then the NSA would collect the entire screenshot that’s popping up on your screen at the time,” the official stated.

According to The Fisa court, based on models provided by the NSA, the surveillance agency was collecting up to 56,000 purely domestic communications a year in the three years before the court ruling, as the American daily Washington Post reported.

“NSA has acquired, is acquiring, and if the certifications and procedures now before the Court is approved, will continue to acquire, tens of thousands of wholly domestic communications,” Bates wrote in his ruling.

Wholly domestic communications are banned from the NSA’s collection under section 702 of the 2008 Fisa Amendments Act.

Intelligence officials on Wednesday’s conference call said that the Fisa court paused the program but said it was “technologically impossible to prevent this from happening”.

In a footnote, Bates wrote that the court was “troubled that the government’s revelations regarding the NSA’s acquisitions of internet transactions mark the third instance in less than three years in which the government has disclosed a substantial misrepresentation regarding the scope of a major collection program”.

UK destroys Guardian hard drives to stop Snowden publications

by Carlous Latuff

Al Ahed news “Security experts” raided the British Guardian’s office and destroyed hard drives to stop publications of documents leaked by former NSA contractor whistleblower Edward Snowden. The daily along with the Washington Post had published classified documents on the tight surveillance that the American National Security Agency (NSA) has over citizens worldwide and in the US and revealed monitoring of internet activities, which sparked debate among Americans and worldwide governments. The US administration claims that this surveillance aims at stopping potential terrorist threats and plots, however controversy questions how effective this surveillance when it comes to monitoring activities made on the internet. On this note, Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger wrote in the Monday issue of the paper that the British government officials watched as computers containing classified information passed on by Snowden were physically destroyed in one of the newspaper building’s basements. The officials had ordered Guardian employees to destroy the paper’s hard drives in an attempt to halt further publications of the Snowden documents. “Bluntly, we did not have to do our reporting from London. Already most of the NSA stories were being reported and edited out of New York. And had it occurred to him that [reporter Glenn] Greenwald lived in Brazil?” Rusbridger wrote. Rusbridger further pointed out that “the whole incident felt like a pointless piece of symbolism that understood nothing about the digital age.” This “security” procedure comes after Guardian columnist Glenn Greenwald’s partner David Miranda was held at London’s Heathrow airport under the UK Terrorism Act for nine hours before being released without pressing charges. Moreover, Rusbridger promised that the paper “will continue to do patient, painstaking reporting on the Snowden documents, we just won’t do it in London. The seizure of Miranda’s laptop, phones, hard drives and camera will similarly have no effect on Greenwald’s work.” Greenwald, who first published secrets leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, had also promised to release more documents. He added that the UK would be “sorry” for detaining his partner for nine hours. Snowden, who has been granted asylum by Russia, gave Greenwald up to 20,000 documents with details about the US National Security Agency and the UK’s GCHQ surveillance operations. The latest release of top-secret documents revealed last week by the Washington Post that the NSA has broken privacy rules thousands of times each year since 2008.

Leaked documents show NSA broke privacy rules thousands of times

Al Ahed news

The US National Security Agency has broken privacy rules thousands of times each year since 2008, according to leaked documents published by the Washington Post.

Most of the breaches ranged from significant violations of law to typographical errors that resulted in unintended interception of US emails and telephone calls, the Post reported.

The American daily published these top-secret documents leaked by the former NSA contractor and whistleblower Edward Snowden, who is currently living in Russia after the country had granted him a year-long asylum.

The documents included a level of detail and analysis that is not routinely shared with Congress or the special court that oversees surveillance, the daily mentioned.

In one of the documents, agency personnel are instructed to remove details and substitute more generic language in reports to the Justice Department and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

Moreover, The Post reported that the NSA audit, dated May 2012, counted 2,776 incidents in the preceding 12 months of unauthorized collection, storage, access to or distribution of legally protected communications.

“We’re a human-run agency operating in a complex environment with a number of different regulatory regimes, so at times we find ourselves on the wrong side of the line,” a senior NSA official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told the Post.

Moreover, in what the Post said appeared to be one of the most serious violations, the NSA diverted large volumes of international data passing through fiber-optic cables in the United States into a repository where the material could be stored temporarily for processing and selection.

The operation collected and commingled US and foreign emails. NSA lawyers told the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court that the agency could not practicably filter out the communications of Americans.

In October 2011, months after the program got underway, the court ruled that the collection effort was unconstitutional.

Iran, Russia, China, EU atop NSA piority list

Al Manar

Russia, alongside the EU, China and Iran, are on top of the NSA’s spying priority list, according to a document leaked by fugitive Edward Snowden and published by Der Spiegel weekly.

In the classified document, dated April 2013, countries are assigned levels of interest for NSA surveillance from 1 (the highest) to 5 (the lowest).

Among the top surveillance targets are China, Russia, Iran, Pakistan, North Korea and Afghanistan. The EU, as a whole is also ranking high, though individually its 28 member-states are of lesser importance to the US intelligence, with Germany and France representing mid-level interest, while countries like Finland, Croatia and Denmark are denoted as almost irrelevant in data gathering.

Specification is also provided on what areas of interest are to be mostly looked at in different countries. Der Spiegel, which published the leaked document on Saturday, focuses on which German issues interested US spying agency the most.

The top ranking areas marked with a ‘3’ are the country’s foreign policy and economic issues. Arms exports, new technology, advanced conventional weapons and international trade were all assigned a lesser priority of ‘4’. When it comes to the whole of the European Union, the spheres of interest are almost identical.

This most recent leak is complementary to the earlier ones, stating that EU offices in Brussels, Washington and New York were under NSA surveillance and that Germany was the most spied upon of all EU countries.

Chancellor Merkel has been criticized for the lack of response to the leaks, suggesting that Germany was not only spied on extensively, but actually cooperated with the NSA in its surveillance programs.

Merkel first denied all knowledge of the NSA spying, but soon afterwards turned to justifying the US, saying “intelligence was essential for democracies”.

Germans are seemingly not convinced by this type of reasoning, as Snowden’s revelations have sparked massive rallies across the country.

Criminalizing privacy? US government forces Snowden’s encrypted email service to shut down

Source

NSA Whistleblower Edward Snowden famously used an encrypted email account to communicate privately with Glenn Greenwald and other reporters.

Shortly after it was revealed that Snowden used Lavabit, the U.S. government pressured them to close down after ten years of service.

Lavabit’s owner, Ladar Levison, received a court order to turn over all users’ private email data. He refused, and said he would not “become complicit in crimes against the American people.”

Levison claims he was given two choices: cooperate with authorities or be shut down. He bravely said goodbye to his business and livelihood in protest of the digital police state.

Here is the full letter to users regarding the shutdown:

My Fellow Users,

I have been forced to make a difficult decision: to become complicit in crimes against the American people or walk away from nearly ten years of hard work by shutting down Lavabit. After significant soul searching, I have decided to suspend operations. I wish that I could legally share with you the events that led to my decision. I cannot. I feel you deserve to know what’s going on–the first amendment is supposed to guarantee me the freedom to speak out in situations like this. Unfortunately, Congress has passed laws that say otherwise. As things currently stand, I cannot share my experiences over the last six weeks, even though I have twice made the appropriate requests.

What’s going to happen now? We’ve already started preparing the paperwork needed to continue to fight for the Constitution in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. A favorable decision would allow me resurrect Lavabit as an American company.

This experience has taught me one very important lesson: without congressional action or a strong judicial precedent, I would _strongly_ recommend against anyone trusting their private data to a company with physical ties to the United States.

Sincerely,

Ladar Levison
Owner and Operator, Lavabit LLC

It’s as if privacy has been criminalized without anyone knowing it, and the government is doing its very best to snuff it out.

Obama cancels Moscow meeting with Putin over Snowden

by Carlos Latuff

Obama Cancels Moscow Meeting with Putin over Snowden

Al Manar

US President Barack Obama has canceled a meeting with President Vladimir Putin in Moscow which was scheduled for September, AP reports, Russia Today reported. The move comes after Russia’s recent decision to grant temporary asylum to NSA leaker Edward Snowden.

With few signs that progress would be made during the Moscow summit on this and other agenda items, officials said the president decided to cancel the talks.

“We’ll still work with Russia on issues where we can find common ground, but it was the unanimous view of the president and his national security team that a summit did not make sense in the current environment,” White House deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes said.

Rhodes also stated that the decision to grant Snowden temporary asylum within Russia’s borders “exacerbated” an already tumultuous relationship between the two nations.

Instead of visiting Putin in Moscow, Obama will add a stop in Sweden to his early September travel itinerary.

The decision follows Obama’s comments on Tuesday evening’s Tonight Show with Jay Leno that “here have been times where they slip back into Cold-War thinking and a Cold-War mentality. And what I consistently say to them, and what I say to President Putin, is that’s the past and we’ve got to think about the future, and there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be able to cooperate.”

A White House official later confirmed the cancellation of the meeting. While Snowden’s temporary residency permit is the catalyst for the summit being called off, the US cites “lack of progress” pertaining to other differences between the two countries.

Snowden, whose US passport has been revoked, was granted one year’s temporary asylum in Russia last Thursday. The whistleblower is wanted in the US on espionage charges after revealing secret NSA surveillance programs to the public.

Among other issues, Russia and the US have considerable differences over the situation in Syria, with the US government determined to see President Bashar Assad ousted from his position. The House and Senate Intelligence Committees gave a green light to arm Syrian rebels at the end of July.

The last time the two leaders met was in June at the G8 Summit in Ireland.

The G20 summit will be held on September 5-6, with the US deeming it sensible to still attend, as the annual gathering brings together the world’s largest economies. Obama said that it makes sense for the US to have high-level representation at the event.

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Journalist Publishing Snowden Documents Says 20,000 Documents in His Possession

Al Ahed news

The journalist who published classified US documents obtained by whistleblower Edward Snowden Glenn Greenwald said he possesses up to 20,000 secret US government files.

Greenwald made the comment before a Brazilian Senate foreign relations committee on Tuesday.

“I did not do an exact count, but he gave me 15,000, 20,000 documents. Very, very complete and very long,” Greenwald told Brazilian lawmakers.

“The stories we have published are a small portion. There will certainly be more revelations on the espionage activities of the US government and allied governments…on how they have penetrated the communications systems of Brazil and Latin America,” he said.

Moreover, Brazilian O Globo magazine recently published that Washington had maintained at one time a spy center in the capital of Brasilia as part of a network designed to intercept foreign satellite transmissions.

This prompted US Vice President Joe Biden last month to call Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff to provide an explanation.

“The pretext [given by Washington] for the spying is only one thing: terrorism and the need to protect the [American] people. But the reality is that there are many documents which have nothing to do with terrorism or national security, but have to do with competition with other countries, in the business, industrial and economic fields,” Greenwald noted on Tuesday.

Last month, leaks by Snowden revealed to a covert surveillance program that collects metadata named XKeyscore used by the NSA to monitor internet traffic.

In his Tuesday testimony, Greenwald described the system as not only able to collect metadata “but also the content of emails and what is being discussed in telephone conversations. It is a powerful program which frightens.”

This comes as US President Barack Obama expressed “disappointment” over Russia’s temporary asylum to Snowden instead of sending him back to the US to face espionage charges.

In response to the asylum, Obama had remarked that the situation reflected “underlying challenges” in dealing with Moscow.

“There have been times where they slip back into cold war thinking and a cold war mentality,” Obama said on NBC’s Tonight Show.

He further confirmed his trip to Russia to attend the G20 summit in September, which was earlier said to be postponed over the Snowden issue.

The White House had stated earlier in this regards that it was reevaluating the trip for its “utility.”

FBI gives telecom provider spying devices

Press TV

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is secretly pressurizing telecommunications providers into installing spying devices inside internal networks of companies in order to facilitate espionage programs.

Citing the authorization of the move under the Patriot Act, FBI officials have been discussing with carriers in their effort to deploy government-supplied software, which will enable intercepting and analyzing all communications streams, CNET reported.

The software, now identified as “port reader”, used to be known internally as the “harvesting program.”

The FBI spokesman has said the agency has the legal authority to use alternate methods to collect Internet metadata. “In circumstances where a provider is unable to comply with a court order utilizing its own technical solution(s), law enforcement may offer to provide technical assistance to meet the obligation of the court order.”

But, police cannot intercept the contents of real-time communication streams, including email bodies, Facebook messages or streaming video unless a wiretap order from a judge is obtained.

Notwithstanding, “The statute hasn’t caught up with the realities of electronic communication,” says Colleen Boothby, a partner at the Washington, D.C. firm of Levine, Blaszak, Block & Boothby who represents technology companies and industry associations.

Boothby said judges cannot always comprehend how technology has outpaced the law.

In the past, judges drew this conclusion that they have no ability to reject pen register and trap and trace requests as a federal magistrate judge in Florida, in reference to pen register law, wrote “The court under the Act seemingly provides nothing more than a rubber stamp.”

“If magistrates knew more, they would approve less,” said an industry participant, adding, it’s “an interception device by definition”.

The participant, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said carriers are “extra-cautious” resisting installation of the software, as they say it poses privacy and security risks against a sensitive internal network.

Leaked documents: NSA pays £100m to GCHQ

Al Ahed news

The US government has paid at least £100m to the UK spy agency GCHQ over the last three years to secure access to and influence over Britain’s intelligence gathering programs, according to leaked documents published by the British daily The Guardian.

The top secret payments indicated that GCHQ has to work hard to meet their demands.

“GCHQ must pull its weight and be seen to pull its weight,” a GCHQ strategy briefing said.

“The funding underlines the closeness of the relationship between GCHQ and its US equivalent, the National Security Agency,” the daily reported. “But it will raise fears about the hold Washington has over the UK’s biggest and most important intelligence agency, and whether Britain’s dependency on the NSA has become too great.”

Ministers denied that GCHQ does the NSA’s “dirty work”, but in the documents GCHQ described Britain’s surveillance laws and regulatory regime as a “selling point” for the Americans.

The documents seen by the Guardian and leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden who is now living in Russia revealed:

• GCHQ is pouring money into efforts to gather personal information from mobile phones and apps, and has said it wants to be able to “exploit any phone, anywhere, anytime”.

• Some GCHQ staff working on one sensitive program expressed concern about “the morality and ethics of their operational work, particularly given the level of deception involved”.

Moreover, details of the NSA payments are organized in GCHQ’s annual “investment portfolios”.

The papers showed that the NSA gave GCHQ £22.9m in 2009. The following year the NSA’s contribution increased to £39.9m, which included £4m to support GCHQ’s work for Nato forces in Afghanistan, and £17.2m for the agency’s Mastering the Internet project, which gathers and stores vast amounts of “raw” information ready for analysis.

Also, the leaked papers revealed that the UK’s biggest fear is that “US perceptions of the … partnership diminish, leading to loss of access, and/or reduction in investment … to the UK”.

X-Keyscore: Most dangerous US spying program & Russia grants Snowden one-year asylum

X-Keyscore: Most Dangerous US Spying Program in the World

Al Ahed news

On late Wednesday, The British Guardian daily published classified documents leaked by wanted fugitive Edward Snowden showing that the CIA uses a covert program to monitor internet activity called “XKeyscore”.

According to the daily, the NSA tool “collects nearly everything a user does on the internet”.

The program allows analysts to search with no legal authorization through databases containing emails, online chats and the browsing histories of millions of individuals.

“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 daily reported.

“Under US law, the NSA is required to obtain an individualized Fisa warrant only if the target of their surveillance is a US person, though no such warrant is required for intercepting the communications of Americans with foreign targets,” the Guardian noted.

Moreover, one training slide displayed on the Guardian illustrates the digital activity constantly being collected by XKeyscore and the analyst’s ability to query the databases at any time.

Analysts can search by name, telephone number, IP address, keywords, the language in which the internet activity was conducted or the type of browser used.

A slide entitled “plug-ins” in a December 2012 document describes the various fields of information that can be searched. It includes “every email address seen in a session by both username and domain”, “every phone number seen in a session (eg address book entries or signature block)” and user activity – “the webmail and chat activity to include username, buddylist, machine specific cookies etc”.

Also, one top-secret document describes how the program searches within bodies of emails, webpages and documents, including the “To, From, CC, BCC lines” and the ‘Contact Us’ pages on websites.

Furthermore, the daily mentioned that an NSA tool called DNI Presenter, used to read the content of stored emails, also enables an analyst using XKeyscore to read the content of Facebook chats or private messages.

An analyst can monitor such Facebook chats by entering the Facebook user name and a date range into a simple search screen.

Analysts can search for internet browsing activities using a wide range of information, including search terms entered by the user or the websites viewed.

As one slide indicates, the ability to search HTTP activity by keyword permits the analyst access to what the NSA calls “nearly everything a typical user does on the internet”.

While the Fisa Amendments Act of 2008 requires an individualized warrant for the targeting of US persons, NSA analysts are permitted to intercept the communications of such individuals without a warrant if they are in contact with one of the NSA’s foreign targets.

An example is provided by one XKeyscore document showing an NSA target in Tehran communicating with people in Frankfurt, Amsterdam and New York.

One downside of the XKeyscore system is that it continuously collects so much internet data that it can be stored only for short periods of time.

Content remains on the system for only three to five days, while metadata is stored for 30 days. One document explains: “At some sites, the amount of data we receive per day (20+ terabytes) can only be stored for as little as 24 hours.”

“To solve this problem, the NSA has created a multi-tiered system that allows analysts to store “interesting” content in other databases, such as one named Pinwale which can store material for up to five years,” the Guardian said.

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Russia Grants US Leaker Snowden One-Year Asylum

Al Manar

Fugitive US intelligence leaker Edward Snowden on Thursday left the Moscow airport where he has been holed up for over a month, after being granted one year’s asylum in Russia, his lawyer said.

Russia’s surprised decision to award Snowden asylum just two weeks after the application was made risks a diplomatic row with the United States, which had previously described such a prospect as “deeply disappointing”.

“Snowden has left Sheremetyevo airport. He has just been given a certificate that he has been awarded temporary asylum in Russia for one year,” his lawyer Anatoly Kucherena told media outlets.

The lawyer, who had held several meetings with Snowden and helped him make his asylum application on July 16, added his new place of residence would be kept secret for security reasons.

Snowden, 30, is wanted on felony charges by the United States after leaking details of vast US surveillance programs, but Russia has refused to extradite
him.

Interviewed by Rossiya 24 television, Kucherena held up a scanned copy of Snowden’s certificate granting him a year’s temporary asylum in Russia.

Snowden has been staying in the transit zone of the Sheremetyevo airport north of Moscow since he flew in from Hong Kong on June 23. Until now, he had never formally crossed the Russian border.

His awarding of asylum status in Russia came two days after US soldier Bradley Manning was convicted of espionage on Tuesday for leaking US secrets to anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks.

President Vladimir Putin’s foreign policy advisor Yury Ushakov rapidly sought to limit the potential diplomatic damage, saying that the situation should not affect relations with Washington.

He also played down speculation that the dispute over Snowden could prompt President Barack Obama to cancel a planned visit for bilateral talks to Moscow in September ahead of the Saint Petersburg G20 summit.

“We know what sort of noise surrounds this (situation) in America, but we have not received any signals from the United States” regarding the cancellation of Obama’s visit to Moscow, he added.

Putin’s Kremlin had sought to distance itself from the whole affair, saying the question was in the hands of the migration authorities.

The end of press freedom: Freedom and spy control

by GRAHAM PEEBLES, source

As millions take to the streets demanding political participation, social justice and freedom, opponents to change – governments and reactionary forces worldwide – centralise power, tighten control of civil society and the media and trample on democratic ideals. The dangerous accumulation of powers, “legislative, executive, and judiciary” – the “father of the [American] constitution” James Madison wrote, “in the same hands whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.”

Respect and trust for political leaders and governments throughout the world is at an all- time low. In Britain MORI tells us that only “18% trust politicians to tell the truth,” and only “one in twelve believe MPs put the interests of their constituents first”. A survey by Transparency International (TI), found that “on a worldwide basis, political parties are considered to be the most corrupt institutions”, followed closely by the police. Political leaders, politicians and members of the civil service, “those responsible, for running countries and upholding the rule of law… are seen as the most corrupt”, they are “judged to be abusing their positions of power and acting in their own interests rather than for the citizens they are there to represent and serve”.

Edward Snowden and the NSA

Perceptions of government dishonesty and deceit have been compounded by the recent revelations from Edward Snowden, which exposed extensive government spying, by America’s National Security Agency (NSA).

Snowden, a former technical assistant for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), for the last four years was contracted to work for the NSA – “the biggest and most secretive surveillance organization in America”, The Guardian (8/07/2013) report. During this time, he discovered the extensive nature of secret surveillance operations being carried out by the NSA who, he says, “are intent on making every conversation and every form of behaviour in the world known to them”. It is Snowden’s affirmed belief that the people have the right to know of such paranoid, criminal intentions; “my sole motive” he has said, “is to inform the public as to that which is done in their name and that which is done against them.”

The revelations of unconstitutional spying, on hundreds of millions of American citizens by the NSA, which appears to operate as a ‘state within a state’, shows, as Glenn Greenwald makes clear, how “the rule of law [which maintains all in society – including political and financial institutions, are bound on equal terms by a set of common laws] in America has been radically degraded”. The NSA’s operations reveal how dangerously close the country is to the authoritarian and controlling regime foretold by Senator Frank Church, who in 1975 said “I know the capacity that is there to make tyranny total in America, and we must see to it that this agency [NSA] and all agencies that possess this technology operate within the law and under proper supervision”. Far from there being “proper supervision” in place, Snowden told The Guardian that “the [US] government has granted itself power it is not entitled to. There is no public oversight. The result is people like myself have the latitude to go further than they are allowed to”.

Edwards Snowden’s act of conscience provides the opportunity to step back from a democratic precipice, and, as Daniel Ellsberg in his article, “Have we been saved from the United Stasi of America” writes, take back “what has amounted to an executive coup” against the US constitution”. Since the tragic events of 9/11, governments worldwide have appropriated greater and greater levels of control and, in the name of national security, centralised power. In the US “a revocation of the bill of rights for which this country fought over 200 years ago”, has taken place, “In particular the fourth and fifth amendments of the American constitution, which safeguard people’s privacy from government intrusion, have been virtually suspended”.

Snowden’s courageous actions expose the shocking extent of US government spying and theft of personal data, on its own citizens and those of America’s allies – unconstitutional (and therefore criminal) practices, using previously unknown hi-tech programmes, which he felt duty bound to make public. Ellsberg expresses the widespread view that “there has not been in American history a more important leak than Edward Snowden’s release of NSA material – and that definitely includes the Pentagon Papers 40 years ago.” Whist Snowden may well have technically committed a criminal act, justice and the law are often unrelated terms, as Martin Luther King made clear in his famous ‘Letter from Birmingham Jail’, “one who breaks an unjust law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustices. Is in reality expressing the highest aspect of the law”.

Us v’s Them

The government has charged Snowden with “theft of government property, unauthorised communication of national defense information and willful communication of classified communications intelligence information to an unauthorised person”, The Guardian (22/06/2013) reports. He is the most recent, and perhaps the most significant, of a troop of whistleblowers to be criminalised by the Obama administration, which has indicted more people under the 1917 Espionage Act than all previous presidents combined. Indeed it is thought, that President “Obama may be breaking the record for US presidents for violation of civil rights and [the] law.” (Noam Chomsky, quoting Professor Jonathan Turley) This is quite a record for a president who, in his 2007 pre-election propaganda, attacked the Bush administration, saying it “acts like violating our civil liberties is the way to enhance our security, it is not.” Obama went on to say there would be no spying on American citizens who are not suspected of a crime. And politicians wonder why nobody trusts them.

Stating Snowden has “actively aided America’s enemies”; a charge for which there is no evidence at all, the Obama administration, US legislators and the US media are content to paint him as a traitor. The mainstream press seems unconcerned by the NSA’s gross infringement of the human rights of millions of innocent civilians, or the wider threat to media freedom that this matter has shown. Acting on behalf of the government, the media are attempting to restrict the issues of privacy, national security and violations of civil liberties raised by Snowden’s revelations, to a nationalistic discourse, of ‘Us versus ‘Them’. With the sparkling clean men in red, white and blue, sacrificing freedom in the name of security, constituting ‘Us’, (in opposition to the unholy) ‘Them’: undemocratic disbelievers, who, disagreeing with the American model are seen as ‘Anti-American’ and therefore branded as terrorists. Snowden, unsurprisingly, is being cast as one of ‘Them’. “I know the media likes to personalise political debates, and I know the government will demonise me,” Snowden told The Guardian, but “ I am not afraid”.

Global Intrusions

The NSA does not confine its illegal operations to the shores of America, nor is it alone in assuming illegitimate, unconstitutional levels of power that violate people’s human rights and invade their privacy. Glenn Greenwald author of ‘Liberty and Justice for Some’, states – that the US “imposes standards [of legal conduct] on everybody else but exempts itself”, in the same way, he maintains as the elite, who “have committed some of the most egregious crimes of the last decade”, without any legal accountability, “has implemented for everybody else the western worlds harshest and most oppressive [legal] system by far”. Double standards followed not just by the US administration that people throughout the world are waking up to, as the recent worldwide protest movement’s show.

In addition to national surveillance by the NSA, The Guardian revealed that the British had their own paranoid men in grey suits in residence at the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), who in 2009, whilst the G20 Summit in London was in full swing, monitored the computers and phone calls of “foreign politicians and officials”. This and a great deal more “evidence is contained in documents – classified as top secret. Seen by the Guardian”.

Soon after these revelations La Monde disclosed that France’s Directorate General for External Security (DGSE) had mass surveillance systems in place, that are “illegal and outside any serious control”. O Globo (12/07/2013) in Brazil announced that, “in the last decade, people residing or in transit in Brazil, as well as companies operating in the country, have become targets of the NSA” to the extent that “last January (2012) Brazil was just behind the United States, which had 2.3 billion phone calls and messages spied.”

Der Spiegel in Germany reported that documents provided by Snowden show that the NSA had not only been listening to millions of Americans, but they also spy on diplomats from the European Union, in Brussels, Washington DC and at the United Nations in New York. Apparently Australia, Canada, New Zealand and Britain are excluded from NSA intrusions, but in a typical month they may tap up to half a billion phone calls, emails and text messages in Germany, who are, the documents make clear, their number one target in Europe.

Unjust imprisonment

Since 20th May, when he left his office in Hawaii for the Chinese territory of Hong Kong, Snowden has been in hiding. We are told he is now in the international transit lounge at Moscow airport and has applied for temporary asylum in Russia. He is entitled to request political asylum from any country in the world (despite having his passport revoked by the US State Department) and Wikileaks report he has in fact requested asylum in 21 countries, one of which was indeed Brazil, who (surprisingly – given the level of NSA intrusion) refused his application. Asked if he would “trade access to his documents for asylum. He said he would not”.

Like those other ‘consequential whistleblowers’ – Bradley Manning and Daniel Ellsberg, Snowden is a man of conscience who sees clearly that national loyalty means allegiance to the people of the country and not necessarily the government. Their stand for justice and freedom shows both loyalty and integrity, and deserves public recognition. Instead of this, they are persecuted and slandered. Having “watched the Obama administration prosecute whistleblowers at a historically unprecedented rate, Snowden ”is aware that the government will “use all its weight to punish him”, as indeed it has done with Bradley Manning and other courageous public servants.

Arrested in Baghdad in May 2010 and imprisoned without trial ever since – a total of three years, much of which was spent in “extreme” solitary confinement, when he was “ forced to sleep naked without pillows and sheets on his bed, and restricted from physical recreation or access to television or newspapers even during his one daily hour of freedom from his cell, all under the pretense that the private was a suicide risk”, The Daily Beast (5/06/2013) reports. He is currently on trial facing a court martial. The most serious of a range of charges against him, that of ‘aiding the enemy’, has, Amnesty International (AI) state, “no basis [and], the government should withdraw that charge.” However, the government-appointed military judge, (who doubles as jury), Colonel Denise Lind, has refused to throw it out. The charge made against Manning, who has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize (with to date 65,000 nominations), is one of the most severe available to the military, and is a sign of the Obama administrations continuing war on whistleblowers that, The Guardian (18/07/2013) make clear, ”could have far-reaching consequences for investigative journalism.”

The suppression of information is a major attack, not only on those whose conscience compels them to speak out, but to the freedom of the press. Chris Hedges, speaking on Democracy Now, states that without men like Snowden and Manning, “there will be no free press”. They have provided information about the unconstitutional activity of their governments to the public and should be applauded for their moral courage. The American government is attempting to demonise anyone who reveals publicly what the government is doing in secret; “we are at a situation now by which any investigation into the inner workings of government [by the media] has become impossible. That’s the real debate”.

Newspapers have been attacked as guilty accomplices for publishing Snowden’s material by American politicians, Republican member of Congress for New York, Peter King, told CNN “action should be taken … against reporters”. He is clearly unfamiliar with the first amendment of the US constitution, which protects the freedom of the press, and as Professor Geoffrey Stones makes clear is “simply wrong”. Nevertheless such comments, albeit uneducated ones, show the dangers and indeed the desire in some quarters, to impose controls on the press.

Snowden, like Manning before him is “being charged by the US government primarily for revealing its – and other governments’ – unlawful actions that violate human rights. He has disclosed issues of enormous public interest in the US and around the world”. (Amnesty International) The villains of the piece are the politicians, distrusted and disrespected, together with the men inside the NSA’s of the world, who spend their shadowy days sifting through the communications of millions of innocent men and women without their consent and, until Snowden’s revelations, without their knowledge. Political leaders are sanctioning what is dangerous and unconstitutional activity by the intelligence agencies, which, in place to protect the people, have themselves become a cause of national (and indeed international) insecurity by creating an atmosphere of mistrust and fear. The wholesale “invasion of privacy” by the NSA and others “does not contribute to our security”, states Daniel Ellsberg, but rather, “it puts in danger the very liberties we’re trying to protect”.