Tagged: NSA

Ignoranus Republicans think if your data is encrypted, the terrorists win

Jeb “I’m my own man” Bush sounds more and more like his know-nothing ex-president brother every day. This time, in between defending the Iraq War and saying he might bring back torture if elected president, he’s demanding that tech companies stop letting billions of the world’s citizens use encryption online to protect their information because of “evildoers.”

Bush’s comments echo the dangerous sentiments of FBI director Jim Comey, who has publicly campaigned against Apple and Google for attempting to make our cell phones and communications safer by incorporating strong encryption in iPhones and Android devices…

First of all, he seems to either be attacking, or just doesn’t understand, that the entire internet – and much of the economy really – is based around strong encryption. Every time he logs onto his email, uses online banking or wants to check his medical records online, there is some form of encryption that is protecting his data from criminals. So the fact that technology companies are “creating” encryption protects all of us

It begs the questions: how many candidates have technologists or computer scientists advising their campaigns? Given how almost every week there is yet another security breach at a major company, and that voters are concerned about their online privacy, you’d think at least some of the candidates would attempt to capitalize on it by merely having a coherent policy that does not make them sound like they’ve never touched a computer (or sent a fax) before without the assistance of their aides.

Strong end-to-end encryption is one of the best defenses against the massive cyber-attacks that have become all too frequent. If there is not a giant pile of data that is accessible by anyone, then the criminals can’t get it either.

As much as rightwing idjits prattle about hating big government they’re always in favor of using government to get in the way of individual privacy, free speech and free thought.

We get that crap daily from the FBI and the NSA. Two bodies with a long iron-clad history of rejecting privacy or civil liberties for anyone they want to sniff around. It doesn’t matter whether the White House or Congress is led by the vaguely liberal half of our 2-party electoral politics. The heads of our officially-chartered thought police are inevitably some flavor of proto-fascist creep.

Today’s Republican candidates for president nod their bobbleheads in agreement.

AT&T is BFF with NSA

The telecoms giant AT&T has had an “extraordinary, decades-long” relationship with the National Security Agency…Citing newly disclosed NSA documents dating from 2003 to 2013, the New York Times said in a story published with ProPublica that AT&T was described as “highly collaborative” with an “extreme willingness to help” with government internet surveillance.

In June 2013, the former NSA contractor Edward Snowden leaked thousands of documents to media outlets including the Guardian. The following April, the Guardian and the Washington Post were awarded a Pulitzer prize for reporting on the story.

The new documents show that AT&T gave the NSA access to “billions of emails as they have flowed across its domestic networks”, the Times and ProPublica said. The reports also said AT&T provided “technical assistance” in “wiretapping all internet communications at the United Nations headquarters” in New York City.

The documents also show that the NSA’s budget for its relationship with AT&T was twice as large as that of the next-largest such programme, and that the company placed surveillance equipment in 17 of its US internet hubs.

The Times said the new documents did not name AT&T, but said analysis by its reporters and ProPublica revealed “a constellation of evidence” that pointed to the company…

The Times quoted an AT&T spokesman, Brad Burns, as saying: blah, blah, blah, blah.

You can fill in the gaps with any of the several varieties of bullshit offered on occasions like this by some corporate mouthpiece for the alphabet snoops in question, the government in question and the even more questionable cowards and collaborators in Congress who keep this crap flowing into the waters of our lives.

Germany halts treason charges against journalists – for the present


Andre Meister and Markus Beckedahl

A treason investigation into two journalists who reported that the German state planned to increase online surveillance has been suspended by the country’s prosecutor general following protests by leading voices across politics and media.

Harald Range, Germany’s prosecutor general, said on Friday he was halting the investigation “for the good of press and media freedom”. It was the first time in more than half a century that journalists in Germany had faced charges of treason.

Speaking to the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Range said he would await the results of an internal investigation into whether the journalists from the news platform netzpolitik.org had quoted from a classified intelligence report before deciding how to proceed.

His announcement followed a deluge of criticism and accusations that Germany’s prosecutor had “misplaced priorities”, having failed to investigate with any conviction the NSA spying scandal revealed by whistleblower Edward Snowden, and targeting instead the two investigative journalists, Markus Beckedahl and Andre Meister.

In a scathing attack, the leading Green MP Renate Künast, who is also chair of the Bundestag’s legal affairs committee, called the investigation a “humiliation to the rule of law”. She accused Range of disproportionately targeting the two journalists, whilse ignoring the “massive spying and eavesdropping [conducted] by the NSA in Germany”.

Künast told the Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger: “Nothing happened with that. If it wasn’t for investigative journalism, we would know nothing.”…

In articles that appeared on netzpolitik.org in February and April, the two reporters made reference to what is believed to be a genuine intelligence report that had been classified as confidential, which proposed establishing a new intelligence department to monitor the internet, in particular social media networks.

The federal prosecutor’s investigation was triggered by a complaint made by Germany’s domestic intelligence agency, the Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV) over the articles, which it said had been based on leaked documents…

In an act of solidarity, the research website Correctiv reported itself to the general prosecutor’s office on Friday, saying that it too was “guilty of treason”, at the same time as republishing the controversial documents originally published by netzpolitik.org.

“They should be investigating the whole lot of us!” said Correctiv’s editor-in-chief, Markus Grill. Meanwhile, German lawyers called for the abolition of the offence “journalistic treason”.

The uproar against NSA-style security measures seems to have had the desired effect for now. German justice minister, Heiko Maas, is requesting the dismissal and retirement of the chief federal prosecutor, Harald Range, who initiated the charges against the journalists.

Of course, I wouldn’t expect the same to happen here in the GOUSA. And it hasn’t. Much of our Free Press is owned by entertainment media corporations. They aren’t about the rock the boat. The Democratic Party couldn’t turn out a united demonstration for Free Speech if it threatened the military-industrial complex. Republicans would start wearing armbands if requested. And American Greens don’t seem able to generate a grassroots movement with the energy and smarts to grow into a national party.

Yup. Still a cynic. Mail me a penny postcard when Obama invites Ed Snowden to return home.

UK terrorism case ends in acquittal – no one allowed to say why

image
Ian Cobain

Ian Cobain, a reporter with The Guardian, is one of very few people who know why a student arrested by armed British police officers in 2013 was finally acquitted this year of terrorism charges.

Problem is, he cannot report what he knows. He was allowed to observe much of the trial, but only under strict conditions intended to keep classified material secret. His notebooks are being held by Britain’s domestic intelligence agency. And if he writes — or even talks — about the reason that the student, Erol Incedal, 27, was acquitted, Mr. Cobain faces prosecution and possibly jail.

“I know the essence of what was happening,” Mr. Cobain said, “but I can’t tell, I can’t even talk to my editor about this.”

Having initially gone along reluctantly with the reporting restrictions, a number of British news organizations are now challenging them in court. And yes, the challenge itself is being heard under secrecy rules that leave the public mostly excluded. Were Mr. Cobain to break the law and disclose what he knows publicly, his prosecution would also take place in secret…

The case is among the latest to highlight the growing debate about the proper balance between civil liberties and national security in the age of terrorism. That debate has intensified this year in the United States and across much of Europe, with nations reflecting on decisions they have made since the Sept. 11 attacks and reacting to more recent developments, from the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris to disclosures in Germany about eavesdropping by the United States National Security Agency…

But the Incedal case has focused attention on whether governments are cloaking too many of their activities in national security classifications, insulating themselves from public debate and accountability for mistakes or collusion with suspects.

It’s hard to know quite who is being protected in all this,” said David Davis, a lawmaker from the governing Conservative Party and a former minister…“The implication is that this is more about the embarrassment of the agencies than it is about real questions of national security…”

Please RTFA. This case, the repressive manipulation by government, courts and the thought police is not happening in isolation. The parallels with the American FISA court and actions of the NSA, FBI, other alphabetized fascists is striking.

The good fortune is that journalism in the UK is willing to challenge restrictions – even in roundabout ways – while most US media is self-restricted to entertainment. And it ain’t folks who believe in Free Speech who get to determine what is entertainment.

There is beaucoup detail, anecdotal adventures in the dreamland nightmares of our spooks and politicians.

Another corrupt politician goes up the river

Former Rep. Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.), the Staten Islander best known for threatening on-camera to “break” a reporter “in half—like a boy,” has been sentenced by a federal judge to eight months in prison for tax evasion.

The sentencing, by US District Judge Pamela Chen, comes seven months after Grimm pleaded guilty to his role in filing a false tax return. Grimm had been indicted in April 2014 on 20 counts related to accounting practices at Healthalicious, a Manhattan restaurant he owned before his time in Congress. The restaurant’s co-owner, Bennett Orfaly, has previously been accused of having ties to a convicted Gambino family mobster.

Despite his indictment, last year, Grimm ran for reelection to his third term in Congress—and won. It was not until December 30—seven days after entering his guilty plea—that he announced his intentions to resign his seat.

Before Grimm was the target of an investigation by the FBI, he served for two decades as one of its agents. It was during this time that Grimm reportedly pulled a gun in a Queens nightclub, and, after a bouncer ejected him, stormed the nightclub with another FBI agent and members of the NYPD. “I’m a fucking F.B.I. agent,” Grimm reportedly said. “Ain’t nobody gonna threaten me.”

Sad commentary on the more criminal side of today’s Republican constituency. Just as the loony, creationist side of Christianity slanders well-meaning religious folk – just as Confederate flag-toting racists with teabags dangling from their AR-15s slander anyone who used to join the NRA to support their classes in hunting safety – conservatism as a political class is now deeply defined as the last bastion of fear and hatred. Better Dead Than Red is back and voting for more of the same.

NSA’s “zombie dragnet” still bulk collecting our phone data


While TV talking heads tell us to fear hackers accessing government records…

The leading civil liberties group in the United States has requested a federal court to stop the National Security Agency from collecting Americans’ phone data in bulk through the end of the year.

While the surveillance dragnet was phased out by Congress and Barack Obama last month, an American Civil Liberties Union suit seeks to end a twilight, zombie period of the same US phone records collection, slated under the new law to last six months.

“Today the government is continuing – after a brief suspension – to collect Americans’ call records in bulk on the purported authority of precisely the same statutory language this court has already concluded does not permit it,” the ACLU writes in a motion filed on Tuesday before the second circuit court of appeals.

The venue is significant. On 7 May, as Congress debated ending the domestic phone-records collection, the second circuit ruled the collection was illegal. Yet it did not order Obama’s administration to cease the bulk collection, writing that a preferable option would be to stay out of the unfolding legislative battle over the future scope of US surveillance.

That debate ended on 2 June with the passage of the USA Freedom Act, which reinstated expired provisions of the Patriot Act that the government had since 2006 relied upon – erroneously, in the second circuit’s view – for the bulk collection. Yet it ended the NSA’s bulk US phone records collection and created a new mechanism for the NSA to gather “call data records” from telecoms pursuant to a court order.

Within hours of signing the bill, Obama requested that the secret surveillance panel known as the Fisa court reinstate the dragnet, relying on a provision permitting a six-month “transition” period. Judge Michael Mosman granted the request on 29 June.

The ACLU, which was the plaintiff in the case the second circuit decided, has indicated since the Fisa court began considering resumption of the dragnet that it would seek an injunction.

Its major contention in support of the requested injunction is that despite the Freedom Act’s provision for a transition period, the underlying law authorizing the bulk surveillance remains the same Patriot Act provisions that the second circuit held do not justify the NSA phone-records collection.

Obama dare not say the program works. He’s admitted it doesn’t.

That still didn’t stop him supporting reauthorization. That didn’t stop Congress authorizing the imitation – with puerile footnotes. The usual coalition of conservative Republicans, Blue Dog Democrats plus out-and-out cowards rolled over in predictable “patriotic” style.

FBI wants easy access to all our communications or Isis will KILL US ALL!


Quillian and Comey

The director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation has warned US senators that the threat from the Islamic State merits a “debate” about limiting commercial encryption – the linchpin of digital security – despite a growing chorus of technical experts who say that undermining encryption would prove an enormous boon for hackers, cybercriminals, foreign spies and terrorists.

In a twin pair of appearances before the Senate’s judiciary and intelligence committees on Wednesday, James Comey testified that Isis’s use of end-to-end encryption, whereby the messaging service being used to send information does not have access to the decryption keys of those who receive it, helped the group place a “devil” on the shoulders of potential recruits “saying kill, kill, kill, kill”…

He added: “I am not trying to scare folks.”

Since October, following Apple’s decision to bolster its mobile-device security, Comey has called for a “debate” about inserting “back doors” – or “front doors”, as he prefers to call them – into encryption software, warning that “encryption threatens to lead us all to a very, very dark place”.

But Comey and deputy attorney general Sally Quillian Yates testified…they did not wish the government to itself hold user encryption keys and preferred to “engage” communications providers for access, though technicians have stated that what Comey and Yates seek is fundamentally incompatible with end-to-end encryption.

Comey, who is not a software engineer, said his response to that was: “Really?”…

…Comey’s campaign against encryption has run into a wall of opposition from digital security experts and engineers. Their response is that there is no technical way to insert a back door into security systems for governments that does not leave the door ajar for anyone – hackers, criminals, foreign intelligence services – to exploit and gain access to enormous treasure troves of user data, including medical records, financial information and much more.

The cybersecurity expert Susan Landau, writing on the prominent blog Lawfare, called Comey’s vision of a security flaw only the US government could exploit “magical thinking”…

In advance of Comey’s testimony, several of the world’s leading cryptographers, alarmed by the return of a battle they thought won during the 1990s “Crypto Wars”, rejected the effort as pernicious from a security perspective and technologically illiterate.

A paper they released on Tuesday, called “Keys Under Doormats”, said the transatlantic effort to insert backdoors into encryption was “unworkable in practice, raise[s] enormous legal and ethical questions, and would undo progress on security at a time when internet vulnerabilities are causing extreme economic harm”.

I guess all these years spent successfully stopping enemies of democracy [excluding politicians and elected officials] before encrypted communications were broadly, cheaply possible were just a fluke.

Perhaps time spent hiring and training talented well-educated people to work within a system that respects democratic freedoms may have something to do with it. Perhaps aiding folks, domestic and foreign, to build a better life – instead of simply insisting upon obedience – might diminish the danger from demagogues.

Of course a country that spies on its citizens spies on its allies?

American security

France has summoned the US envoy in Paris over claims that the US spied on President Francois Hollande and his two predecessors…

Whistleblower website Wikileaks reports the US National Security Agency (NSA) spied on Mr Hollande, Nicolas Sarkozy and Jacques Chirac between 2006-12.

Mr Hollande called the allegations “unacceptable” and is expected to speak with President Obama over the claims.

The US said it would not comment on “specific intelligence allegations”.

Is there any reason to expect the United States to tell the truth about trust and honesty?

The French president called an emergency meeting to discuss the issue and insisted France would “not tolerate” acts that threaten its security…

The NSA has previously been accused of spying on German Chancellor Angela Merkel and on Brazilian and Mexican leaders…

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius has summoned US Ambassador Jane Hartley to discuss the latest claims…

A statement from the French presidency said the US must respect a promise not to spy on French leaders. The statement came after the emergency meeting of security chiefs in Paris.

A senior French intelligence official is meanwhile expected to visit Washington to discuss the spying claims…

The NSA has come under increased scrutiny since revelations by former employee Edward Snowden…One of the files, dated 2012, is about Mr Hollande discussing Greece’s possible exit from the eurozone. Another one – from 2011 – alleges that Mr Sarkozy was determined to resume peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, possibly without US involvement…

According to the summary of an intercepted exchange, the French envoy to Washington and Mr Sarkozy’s diplomatic adviser discussed Mr Sarkozy’s plan to express his “frustration” over US unwillingness to sign a “bilateral intelligence co-operation agreement”.

The main sticking point is the US desire to continue spying on France,” the intercept says.

“Lafayette we are here” no longer describes the arrival of American forces coming to aid of our oldest ally. France, the one nation that stood beside American rebels in our struggle for freedom and democracy.

Not anymore, man.

NSA and Brit spy-flunkies responsible for cyberattacks on security software firms


NSA burning the midnight oil in Utah

The U.S. National Security Agency and its British equivalent, the Government Communications Headquarters, have both been launching attacks against security software in order to track individuals and break into networks…

One of the primary targets has been Russia’s Kaspersky Lab, according to documents leaked by ex-NSA contractor Edward Snowden, obtained by The Intercept. The agencies have been reverse-engineering Kaspersky software to discover potential exploits, the documents show, and the NSA in particular has allegedly taken things a step further by intercepting data sent from Kaspersky apps to the company’s servers. Much of that app data is reportedly unencrypted, although Kaspersky told The Intercept that it was unable to reproduce similar findings in testing.

One specific piece of evidence for reverse engineering is a GCHQ warrant renewal request from 2008, asking for the legal sanction to deconstruct apps from Kasperksy and others because they “pose a challenge to GCHQ’s CNE [Computer Network Exploitation] capability and SRE [Software Reverse Engineering] is essential in order to be able to exploit such software and to prevent detection of our activities.” The agency also indicated that SRE was being used to judge the suitability of anti-virus programs for use by separate government organizations…

Another NSA method involves scanning the email traffic of foreign anti-virus companies in order to pick up hints of new exploits and malware. In the case of malware, the agency has a group that can repurpose it to launch an attack against a desired target.

An internal 2010 presentation on the monitoring program, known as “Project CAMBERDADA,” mentions 23 foreign anti-virus firms apart from Kaspersky such as Avast, F-secure, and Check Point. Major American and British companies are excluded, such as McAfee, Symantec and Sophos.

Which raises the inevitable question: are the major security software corporations excluded because they’re already cooperating with the NSA?

Obama wants to restart bulk phone record collection as a proper “transition”

cia-fbi-nsa
So, then, I fed him some techy-sounding crap and he rolled over!

The Obama administration intends to use part of a law banning the bulk collection of US phone records to temporarily restart the bulk collection of US phone records.

US officials confirmed to the Guardian that in the coming days they will ask a secret surveillance court to revive the program – deemed illegal by a federal appeals court – all in the name of “transitioning” the domestic surveillance effort to the telephone companies that generate the so-called “call detail records” the government seeks to access.

The unconventional and unexpected legal circumstance depends on a section of the USA Freedom Act, which Obama signed into law on Tuesday, that provides a six-month grace period to prepare the surveillance and legal bureaucracies for a world in which the National Security Agency is no longer the repository of bulk US phone metadata.

During that time, the act’s ban on bulk collection will not yet take effect.

But the NSA stopped its 14-year-old collection of US phone records at 8pm ET on Sunday, when provisions of the Patriot Act that authorized it until that point lapsed. The government will argue it needs to restart the program in order to end it…

One of the leading congressional advocates for surveillance reform, Senator Ron Wyden, warned the Obama administration not to restart a program now roundly rejected by Congress and repudiated by a federal appeals court as illegal.

“I see no reason for the executive branch to restart bulk collection, even for a few months, and I urge them not to attempt to do so. This illegal dragnet surveillance violated Americans’ rights for 14 years without making our country any safer, and the administration should leave it on the ash heap of history,” Wyden, an Oregon Democrat and member of the Senate intelligence committee, told the Guardian…

It is unclear why the NSA believes it needs, as a technical matter, to restart the bulk collection that it has already ended…Representatives for the NSA and the director of national intelligence did not respond to requests for an explanation.

Through a spokesperson, the current presiding judge on the Fisa court, Thomas Hogan, declined to comment.

RTFA if you want additional discussion points, relevant issues.

I’m confounded by the speed and grace by which almost every politician in the United States drops to their knees before the godlike authority given to our spy agencies. From Nixon to Bush, Kennedy to Obama, whenever these pimples on the ass of American history raise the slightest question about policy, our presidents fall over themselves to come up with a response acceptable to our red-white-and-blue version of the Gestapo.

In the post-World War 2 era, only once or twice has any oversight of our foreign and domestic agencies been considered authoritative by the spies, themselves. Mostly, they sit back, nod their heads, pat whichever schoolboy bureaucrat asked a silly question about liberty – on the head – and carry on exactly as they were. The current resident of the White House then says, “Sorry I interrupted your important work”…and resumes distribution of the lies de jour.

Those few moments of divergence were sparked by courageous individuals in Congress who led uprisings of conscience. Not likely to happen, nowadays, in those marble halls which more closely resemble the front office for Corporate Lobbyist Central – with the added aroma of Confederate elitism and racism.