Tagged: NSA

Apple and Google invited to debate a confidential summit for spies


Click to enlargeDownton Abbey for spies

At an 18th-century mansion in England’s countryside last week, current and former spy chiefs from seven countries faced off with representatives from tech giants Apple and Google to discuss government surveillance in the aftermath of Edward Snowden’s leaks.

The three-day conference, which took place behind closed doors and under strict rules about confidentiality, was aimed at debating the line between privacy and security…

According to an event program obtained by The Intercept, questions on the agenda included: “Are we being misled by the term ‘mass surveillance’?” “Is spying on allies/friends/potential adversaries inevitable if there is a perceived national security interest?” “Who should authorize intrusive intelligence operations such as interception?” “What should be the nature of the security relationship between intelligence agencies and private sector providers, especially when they may in any case be cooperating against cyber threats in general?” And, “How much should the press disclose about intelligence activity?”

The list of participants included:

Richard Salgado, Google’s legal director for law enforcement and information security; Verity Harding, Google’s U.K. public policy manager and head of security and privacy policy; Jane Horvath, Apple’s senior director of global privacy; Erik Neuenschwander, Apple’s product security and privacy manager; Matthew Kirk, Vodafone Group’s external affairs director; and Phillipa McCrostie, global vice chair of transaction advisory services, Ernst & Young…

From the U.S.:

John McLaughlin, the CIA’s former acting director and deputy director; Jami Miscik, the CIA’s former director of intelligence; Mona Sutphen, member of President Obama’s Intelligence Advisory Board and former White House deputy chief of staff; Rachel Brand, member of the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board; George Newcombe, board of visitors, Columbia Law School; David Ignatius, Washington Post columnist and associate editor; and Sue Halpern, New York Review of Books contributor…

The event was chaired by the former British MI6 spy chief Sir John Scarlett and organized by the Ditchley Foundation, which holds several behind-closed-doors conferences every year at its mansion in Oxfordshire in an effort to address “complex issues of international concern.” The discussions are held under what is called the Chatham House Rule, meaning what is said by each attendee during the meetings cannot be publicly revealed, a setup intended to encourage open and frank discussion. The program outlining the conference on surveillance told participants they could “draw afterwards on the substance of what has been said” but warned them “not under any circumstances to reveal to any person not present at the conference” details exposing what particular named individuals talked about…

Investigative reporter Duncan Campbell, who attended the event, told The Intercept that it was a “remarkable” gathering that “would have been inconceivable without Snowden,” the National Security Agency whistleblower.

“Away from the fetid heat of political posturing and populist headlines, I heard some unexpected and surprising comments from senior intelligence voices, including that ‘cold winds of transparency’ had arrived and were here to stay,” said Campbell, who has been reporting on British spy agencies over a career spanning four decades.

He added: “Perhaps to many participants’ surprise, there was general agreement across broad divides of opinion that Snowden – love him or hate him – had changed the landscape; and that change towards transparency, or at least ‘translucency’ and providing more information about intelligence activities affecting privacy, was both overdue and necessary.”

Since none of us were invited to the discussion we’ll have to rely upon “interpretations” leaked over coming weeks. Certainly, some of those attending were on the side of privacy and transparency. Not governed by government-level paranoia or bound by class-dependent arrogance.

NSA bulk phone records collecting to expire – at least for a while – we hope


“What do we do, now?”

Even as the Senate remains at an impasse over the future of US domestic surveillance powers, the National Security Agency will be legally unable to collect US phone records in bulk by the time Congress returns from its Memorial Day vacation…

The administration, as suggested in a memo it sent Congress on Wednesday, declined to ask a secret surveillance court for another 90-day extension of the order necessary to collect US phone metadata in bulk. The filing deadline was Friday, hours before the Senate failed to come to terms on a bill that would have formally repealed the NSA domestic surveillance program…

It represents a quiet, unceremonious end to the most domestically acrimonious NSA program revealed by whistleblower Edward Snowden, in a June 2013 exposé in the Guardian – effectively preempting a bid by GOP leader Mitch McConnell to retain it. But McConnell and other Senate Republicans intend to continue their fight to preserve both that program and other broad surveillance powers under the Patriot Act…

I hope no one expected leading Republicans to support unfettered privacy for Americans other than themselves.

“The Senate is in gridlock, but the tides are shifting,” Michael Macleod-Ball of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Washington office said Saturday. “For the first time, a majority of senators took a stand against simply rubber-stamping provisions of the Patriot Act that have been used to spy on Americans…

It is unclear how the House will vote if its choices are pushed to the extremes that the Senate impasse has set up: all the post-9/11 domestic surveillance powers under the Patriot Act or none of them.

The NSA and the Obama administration have conceded that the bulk domestic phone records collection has never stopped a terrorist attack. Even though the administration has taken as a fallback position the line that the FBI surveillance powers under Section 215 are crucial for domestic counterterrorism, a Justice Department inspector general’s report issued on Thursday “did not identify any major case developments that resulted from use of the records obtained in response to Section 215 orders.”

I was heartened by the actions of a New Mexico Senator I haven’t followed as well or as long as I have Tom Udall. That is Martin Heinrich. I wasn’t surprised by Rand Paul’s grandstand opposition. After all, he’s running for president. Heinrich has nothing to run for other than re-election and that is with a base that is highly dependent on government funding for every military-industrial gewgaw since the invention of the Cold War.

Apprehensive as I am of Democrats who talk like they’re prepared to stand up for working class families and constitutional rights, civil rights and civil liberties – Martin Heinrich appears ready to walk the walk, as well.

Court rules NSA mass phone surveillance illegal

A U.S. spying program that systematically collects millions of Americans’ phone records is illegal, a federal appeals court ruled on Thursday, putting pressure on Congress to quickly decide whether to replace or end a controversial program aimed at fighting terrorism.

Ruling on a program revealed in 2013 by former government security contractor Edward Snowden, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan said the Patriot Act did not authorize the National Security Agency to collect Americans’ calling records in bulk.

Circuit Judge Gerard Lynch wrote for a three-judge panel that Section 215, which addresses the FBI’s ability to gather business records, could not be interpreted to have permitted the NSA to collect a “staggering” amount of phone records, contrary to claims by the Bush and Obama administrations…

The appeals court did not resolve the question of whether the surveillance was unconstitutional…It also declined to halt the program, noting that parts of the Patriot Act including Section 215 expire on June 1.

Lynch said it was “prudent” to give Congress a chance to decide what surveillance is permissible, given the national security interests at stake…I think he’s stupid to think Congress is capable of anything constructive much less Constitutional.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Richard Burr, the Republican chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, have introduced legislation to extend Section 215 and other parts of the Patriot Act through 2020.

The existing NSA program has repeatedly been approved in secret by a national security court established under a 1978 law, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act…

ACLU lawyer Alex Abdo welcomed the decision.

Mass surveillance does not make us any safer, and it is fundamentally incompatible with the privacy necessary in a free society,” he said.

I agree. I believe most Americans with more than the equivalent of a sixth grade level of literacy and understanding of civics would agree. That just leaves miserable, corrupt and cowardly politicians to defend the Patriot act.

We continue to have to rely on a few courts uncorrupted by appointments as sleazy as the Republican Supreme Court to defend constitutional rights – when neither the White House nor Congress is willing to act on our behalf.

Canada prepares to replace democracy with NSA-approved world view

Widespread protest and souring public opinion has failed to prevent Canada’s ruling Conservative Party from pushing forward with sweeping anti-terror legislation which a battery of legal scholars, civil liberties groups, opposition politicians and pundits of every persuasion say will replace the country’s healthy democracy with a creeping police state.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper is looking forward to an easy victory…when the House of Commons votes in its final debate on the bill, known as C-51. But lingering public anger over the legislation suggests that his success in dividing his parliamentary opposition may well work against him when Canadians go to the polls for a national election this fall.

No legislation in memory has united such a diverse array of prominent opponents as the proposed legislation, which the Globe and Mail newspaper denounced as a a plan to create a “secret police force”.

The campaign to stop Bill C-51 grew to include virtually every civil-rights group, law professor, retired judge, author, editorialist and public intellectual in Canada…

Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney and Justice Minister Peter MacKay have described the bill as a “reasonable and proportionate” response to the threat of “jihadi terrorism.” – blah, blah, blah.

Hundreds of thousands of ordinary Canadians signed petitions urging the bill be scrapped and took to the streets in a national day of protest last month.

Critics of the legislation say the imminent law gives Canadian spies sweeping new powers to investigate and disrupt broadly defined threats to public safety, with language that makes no distinction between terrorist plots and legitimate political protests and demonstrations. At the same time, it neglects to provide any increased oversight of the country’s vastly empowered chief spy agency, the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service.

Harper like so many other supposedly independent – but always obedient – leaders of the world’s industrial nations can be counted on to toe the party line established by the White House. Whether that rarely honorable structure houses a Republican or Democrat.

When the topic is homeland security – as defined by Wall Street savants and corporate lobbyists – there is only one source for standards or the lack thereof. That is Uncle Sugar. And if you want to keep your place in the gallery of loyalist ideologues, you had better fall in line.

Senate committee rubber-stamps another surveillance bill

The Senate intelligence committee advanced a priority bill for the National Security Agency on Thursday afternoon, approving long-stalled cybersecurity legislation that civil libertarians consider the latest pathway for surveillance abuse.

The vote on the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act, 14 to 1, occurred in a secret session inside the Hart Senate office building. Democrat Ron Wyden was the dissenter, calling the measure “a surveillance bill by another name”.

Senator Richard Burr, the committee chairman, said the bill would create avenues for private-to-private, private-to-government and government-to-private information sharing.

The bill’s bipartisan advocates consider it a prophylactic measure against catastrophic data theft, particularly in light of recent large-scale hacking of Sony, Target, Home Depot and other companies.

Private companies could share customer data “in a voluntary capacity” with the government, Burr said, “so that we bring the full strength of the federal government to identifying and recommending what anybody else in the United States should adopt”…

The bill faces strong opposition inside and outside Congress. Beyond expanding government’s reach into private data outside warrant requirements, it mandates real-time access to that data for intelligence agencies and the military.

Privacy advocates consider the bill to provide a new avenue for the NSA to access consumer and financial data, once laundered through the Department of Homeland Security, the initial public repository for the desired private-sector information. Campaigners consider the emphasis placed by the bill’s backers on DHS’s role to be a misleading way of downplaying NSA access to win congressional support…

But Burr admitted the bill would still allow companies to share directly with the NSA, and…While the NSA has labored to convince the public to move on from international condemnation of its digital dragnets – though Congress has passed no legislation to curtail them – acrimony within the tech sector at the surveillance giant persists.

Wyden declined to comment to reporters, saying as he left the meeting: “You guys know I like talking about this stuff but I can’t say anything.”

He later articulated his dissent in a statement: “The most effective way to protect cybersecurity is by ensuring network owners take responsibility for security. Strong cybersecurity legislation should make clear that government agencies cannot order US hardware and software companies to build weaker products, as senior FBI officials have proposed.”

As long as I have been a political and social activist, I have had to confront the gamut of ethically-challenged creeps on the payroll of one or another bureaucracy supposedly chartered to provide security for Americans. They are backed up by Congressional fools who slaver over their trite slogans like a hound for a lamb chop. They have never done a damned thing that bettered the lives of ordinary working families. Mostly, they only exist to threaten those who stand up against domestic and international bullies, bigots and apologists for thievery.

American coppers have had some kind of Red Squad since before the name became popular. Their solution to what they call sedition usually is a club or a bullet. Today’s national and international coppers are somewhat more sophisticated; though, Cheney and Bush reminded us that torture is still the first choice of the completely demented and drunk with power.

It might be nice – once in a while – if our elected officials considered legislating on our behalf instead of contriving lies to secure their patriarchal wet dreams.

Tim Cook won’t back down — opposes terrorism, selling data, and snooping

image
During an unannounced visit to Apple’s Covent Garden store

Following comments regarding Apple Watch specifications and an upcoming Apple Store revamp, Cook spoke with the Telegraph in an extensive interview covering data privacy, government snooping, terrorism and more.

The Apple chief is cognizant of the amount of customer information being “trafficked around” by corporations, governments and other organizations, saying data sharing is a practice that goes against Apple’s core philosophies. He said consumers, however, “don’t fully understand what is going on” at present, but “one day they will, and will be very offended.”

“None of us should accept that the government or a company or anybody should have access to all of our private information,” Cook said. “This is a basic human right. We all have a right to privacy. We shouldn’t give it up. We shouldn’t give in to scare-mongering or to people who fundamentally don’t understand the details…”

The publication also asked about implications of terrorism, especially government surveillance operations created with the intent of aiding law enforcement agencies. Cook took a hard-nosed stance on the topic, saying the issue is a non-starter in his book because terrorists use proprietary encryption tools not under the control of U.S. or UK governments.

“Terrorists will encrypt. They know what to do,” Cook said. “If we don’t encrypt, the people we affect [by cracking down on privacy] are the good people. They are the 99.999 percent of people who are good.” He added, “You don’t want to eliminate everyone’s privacy. If you do, you not only don’t solve the terrorist issue but you also take away something that is a human right. The consequences of doing that are very significant…”

The executive reiterated Apple’s mantra of making products, not marketing consumers as products. Every device and service that comes out of Cupertino is designed to store only a minimal amount of customer information, Cook said.

Finally, Cook talked about privacy as it applies to Apple Pay, the fledgling payments service Apple rolled out in October. Unlike other payments processors, Apple designed Apple Pay to reveal little to no information to outside parties, including itself.

“If you use your phone to buy something on Apple Pay, we don’t want to know what you bought, how much you paid for it and where you bought it. That is between you, your bank and the merchant,” Cook said. “Could we make money from knowing about this? Of course. Do you want us to do that that? No. Would it be in our value system to do that? No. We’ve designed [Apple Pay] to be private and for it to be secure.”

I love the privacy of Apple Pay. I haven’t stopped smiling since the first time a checkout clerk exclaimed…”It doesn’t even tell me your name!”

This is excerpted from a long interview in the TELEGRAPH – worth reading.

American government’s answer to privacy concerns — Trust us!


Women sense my power and they seek the life essence…But, I do deny them my essence, Mandrake.

The National Security Agency director, Mike Rogers…sought to calm a chorus of doubts about the government’s plans to maintain built-in access to data held by US technology companies, saying such “backdoors” would not be harmful to privacy, would not fatally compromise encryption and would not ruin international markets for US technology products.

Rogers mounted an elaborate defense of Barack Obama’s evolving cybersecurity strategy in an appearance before an audience of cryptographers, tech company security officers and national security reporters at the New America Foundation in Washington…

For most of the appearance, however, Rogers was on the defensive, at pains to explain how legal or technological protections could be put in place to ensure that government access to the data of US technology companies would not result in abuse by intelligence agencies. The White House is trying to broker a deal with companies such as Apple, Yahoo and Google, to ensure holes in encryption for the government to access mobile data, cloud computing and other data…

Rogers admitted that concerns about US government infiltration of US companies’ data represented a business risk for US companies, but he suggested that the greater threat was from cyber-attacks…

US technology companies have bridled at government pressure to introduce weaknesses in encryption systems in order to ensure government access to data streams, and technical experts have warned that there is no way to create a “backdoor” in an encryption system without summarily compromising it. An appearance by Obama at a cybersecurity conference at Stanford University last week to tout cooperation between the government and US tech companies was upstaged by an impassioned speech by Apple’s chief executive, Tim Cook, who warned of the “dire consequences” of sacrificing the right to online privacy…

“‘Backdoor’ is not the context I would use, because when I hear the phrase ‘backdoor’ I think: ‘Well this is kind of shady, why wouldn’t you want to go in the front door, be very public?’” Rogers said. “We can create a legal framework for how we do this.”

“Legal framework”, eh? Let me remind folks the first mass bombing of civilians had a “legal framework”. Hitler’s Condor Legion was invited into Spain by the fascist dictator, Franco. All perfectly legal. They bombed civilians in Madrid, Guernica, across Republican Spain.

Not that the United States would ever “legally” bomb civilians. Oh.

U.S. and British government spies invaded billions of cellphones

drone watching
“Programming drones to zero in on SIM cards was a great idea!”

U.S. and British spies hacked into the world’s biggest maker of phone SIM cards, allowing them to potentially monitor the calls, texts and emails of billions of mobile users around the world…

The alleged hack on Gemalto…would expand the scope of known mass surveillance methods available to U.S. and British spy agencies to include not just email and web traffic, as previously revealed, but also mobile communications…

All the while, claiming they aren’t snooping without warrants on everyone. Liars.

The report by The Intercept site, which cites documents provided by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, could prove an embarrassment for the U.S. and British governments. It opens a fresh front in the dispute between civil liberties campaigners and intelligence services which say their citizens face a grave threat of attack from militant groups like Islamic State…

The Intercept report said the hack was detailed in a secret 2010 GCHQ document and allowed the NSA and GCHQ to monitor a large portion of voice and data mobile communications around the world without permission from governments, telecom companies or users…

The new allegations could boost efforts by major technology firms such as Apple and Google to make strong encryption methods standard in communications devices they sell, moves attacked by some politicians and security officials.

Leaders including U.S. President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron have expressed concern that turning such encryption into a mass-market feature could prevent governments from tracking militants planning attacks.

You can take that whine and stick it where the sun don’t shine!

It ain’t paranoia if they’re really watching you!

Screen Shot 2015-02-17 at 9.12.07 AM
Click to enlarge

The U.S. National Security Agency has figured out how to hide spying software deep within hard drives made by Western Digital, Seagate, Toshiba and other top manufacturers, giving the agency the means to eavesdrop on the majority of the world’s computers…

That long-sought and closely guarded ability was part of a cluster of spying programs discovered by Kaspersky Lab, the Moscow-based security software maker that has exposed a series of Western cyberespionage operations.

Kaspersky said it found personal computers in 30 countries infected with one or more of the spying programs, with the most infections seen in Iran, followed by Russia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, China, Mali, Syria, Yemen and Algeria. The targets included government and military institutions, telecommunication companies, banks, energy companies, nuclear researchers, media, and Islamic activists, Kaspersky said.

The firm declined to publicly name the country behind the spying campaign, but said it was closely linked to Stuxnet, the NSA-led cyberweapon that was used to attack Iran’s uranium enrichment facility. The NSA is the agency responsible for gathering electronic intelligence on behalf of the United States.

A former NSA employee told Reuters that Kaspersky’s analysis was correct, and that people still in the intelligence agency valued these spying programs as highly as Stuxnet. Another former intelligence operative confirmed that the NSA had developed the prized technique of concealing spyware in hard drives, but said he did not know which spy efforts relied on it.

Kaspersky published the technical details of its research on Monday, which should help infected institutions detect the spying programs, some of which trace back as far as 2001.

Another opportunity to confirm which politicians and pundits are serious about protecting individual privacy and which consider kissing government spy-butts more important. Let’s see who lines up on which side in coming days discussing this latest revelation.

Meanwhile, our government will continue to tell us the biggest cyber-dangers are script-kiddies dwnloading movies and crooks raiding ATMs. Just ignore wholesale spying on everyone on the planet who owns a computer or a cellphone.

If the NSA gets their way, the Internet of Everything will have your refrigerator telling American spy agencies what you plan to have for lunch.

Court forces UK government to admit illegal spying

A UK court vindicated Edward Snowden’s whistleblowing…by ruling that the secrecy surrounding one of the programs he exposed was, in fact, illegal. The decision is more evidence that not only were the Snowden revelations necessary and justified, but are also slowly forcing changes in both US and UK, even as both governments fiercely resist.

In a stunning ruling, the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT) – which oversees (and usually rubber stamps) Britain’s spy agencies – declared that the intelligence-sharing rules between the NSA and GCHQ (Britain’s NSA equivalent and partner-in-crime) governing their mass surveillance program violated UK human rights laws because they were kept secret for so long.

The IPT is one of Britain’s most secretive and deferential courts, which makes this ruling so particularly stinging. And the only reason the surveillance program is currently lawful is because the plaintiffs – Privacy International and a coalition of other groups – forced GCHQ to reveal more of their alleged rules to the public in the course of the case, which itself all stems from the reporting on the Snowden documents…

The complicit British media (with only a few exceptions) refused to cover the GCHQ story at all unless they were called in to act as public relations agencies for the government by printing fear-mongering stories claiming that anyone reporting on the issue of privacy was just helping terrorists and pedophiles…

Yes, the British Press is even slimier than their corporate cousins in the United States.

This case also calls for a re-examination of the British government’s deplorable actions against those who have merely reported on the Snowden stories. They’ve forced the Guardian to destroy a hard drive full of Snowden documents, outrageously detained Glenn Greenwald’s partner David Miranda under the Terrorism Act and threatened Guardian reporters with prosecution for doing their jobs. Until now, the UK government has used vague excuses related to “terrorism” for their authoritarian actions – but now their motives should now be clear to all: they were trying to cover up an illegal program.

It remains to be seen how the court will react, if at all, to future cases. But this should be a warning for both the UK government and the media: the law and even the most obsequious of courts are not on your side. Your citizens aren’t either.

From this side of the pond, I think we only get to recognize small differences. Independence in a few centers of hard-copy journalism are not as self-limiting as the Brits. But, then, we haven’t an Official Secrets Act to deal with. Yet. Butt-kissers in Congress have proposed passing similar laws in the United States now that the pimps for oppressive government are in charge of both wings of congress.

Anyone confident the White House crew will stand up against a rebirth of official McCarthyism?

Just as the political correctness of the Right has generally been obeyed by the respectable Left in Congress, in the American Press – the same is true of policies counter to our Constitution. It took decades and a Supreme Court wholly unlike the sycophants of surveillance-as-safety currently in place atop our court system. And it only took a couple of Republican presidents and cowardly Democrats in Congress to remove principle from the oversight of politics once again.