Tech giants lobby to curb NSA — before Congress gives away privacy altogther

Trade groups representing Facebook, Microsoft and Apple are pushing the Senate to pass legislation limiting National Security Agency spying before the Republican majority takes control of the chamber.

A coalition of Internet and technology companies, which also include Google and Twitter, support a bill the Senate plans to vote on Nov. 18 to prohibit the NSA from bulk collection of their subscribers’ e-mails and other electronic communications. Many of the companies opposed a Republican-backed bill the House passed in May, saying a “loophole” would allow bulk collection of Internet user data.

Members of the Consumer Electronics Association “have already lost contracts with foreign governments worth millions of dollars,” in response to revelations about U.S. spying, Gary Shapiro, president and chief executive officer of the group that represents Apple, Google and Microsoft, wrote in a letter sent to all senators yesterday.

The clock is ticking. If a final bill isn’t reached this year, the process for passing legislation would begin over in January under a new Congress controlled by Republicans, many of whom support government surveillance programs.

U.S. Internet and technology companies are confronting a domestic and international backlash against government spying that may cost them as much as $180 billion in lost business…

The issue emerged in June 2013 when former NSA contractor Edward Snowden revealed a program under which the U.S. uses court orders to compel companies to turn over data about their users. Documents divulged by Snowden also uncovered NSA hacking of fiber-optic cables abroad and installation of surveillance tools into routers, servers and other network equipment…

The Senate bill, S. 2685, would end one of the NSA’s most controversial domestic spy programs, through which it collects and stores the phone records of millions of people not suspected of any wrongdoing. In addition to curbing data collection, the legislation would allow companies to publicly reveal the number and types of orders they receive from the government to hand over user data.

RTFA for all the gory economic details. No, you won’t see any participation from tech companies dedicated to skimming the cream off the vat of money tied to the military-industrial complex. And you won’t find a clot of Blue Dog Democrats standing in line to vote for privacy.

Like their peers in today’s Republican Party, conservative Democrats aren’t likely to fight for the personal liberty they all blather about. The concept of “Libertarian” in Congressional politics is thrown around a lot. Mostly by hustlers who read one or two books by Ayn Rand. Perish the thought they stand up to be counted alongside ordinary citizens.

U.S. Tech should worry even more about the Snowden effect


Edward Snowden speaks to a European Council parliamentary hearing

U.S. technology companies have a lot to fear from the fallout over the widespread spying by the National Security Agency. Corporate customers ripping out their products from data centers around the world isn’t one of them.

The real threat? Projects just getting off the ground. A $185-million submarine data cable that Brazil is building to Europe – which the country says can be built without U.S. technologies – offers one example, which we reported on today.

The cable illustrates a bigger problem facing Silicon Valley and the rest of the U.S. tech industry: Emerging markets are spending more on information technology and taking a bigger share of the global market, as growth rates from developed countries are slowing down.

If the Brazil-to-Europe cable is built as planned, and U.S. tech firms are passed over in favor of European, Asian or local suppliers, it would be a sign that when it comes to international tech projects, the Snowden Effect will be as widespread as the NSA’s surveillance.

The dummies in Congress continue to maintain the Cold War mentality which has ballooned since 9/11. On one hand you have the wholesale handover of American privacy into the disdainful care of the NSA and FBI. They couldn’t care less about our rights.

On the other hand, you have populist politicians who attack furriners – especially China – as the Red Menace which sleeps in the closet opposite your bed – while terrorists sleep underneath. So, Huawei – which built the broadband infrastructure for France and a chunk of the UK, as examples – is banned from doing business in the United States. Does anyone think that constitutes a negative in the eyes of nations already put off by US militarism, snoops and profiteers? If Uncle Sugar is afraid of this company they must be doing something right.

Huawei may or may not get a piece of the Brazilian project; but, Cisco doesn’t stand a chance.

Lindsay and Edward together in Moscow

The mystery of the whereabouts of Edward Snowden’s long-time girlfriend is solved in a documentary that premiered in New York on Friday night: she has been living with the national security whistleblower in Russia since July.

The surprise revelation in the documentary, filmed by Laura Poitras, upends the widespread assumption that Snowden had deserted Lindsay Mills and that she, in a fit of pique, fled Hawaii where they had been living to stay with her parents in mainland US.

Since Snowden, a former NSA contractor, outed himself last year as being behind the biggest leak in US intelligence history, Mills has remained silent, giving no interviews or any hints of her feelings on the subject of her boyfriend or his actions.

The two-hour long documentary, Citizenfour, shows Mills living in Russia with Snowden…

Citizenfour offers a fly-on-the wall account of Snowden. Poitras filmed him at the Mira hotel in Hong Kong last year during interviews with journalists that resulted in a series of stories in the Guardian about the extent of surveillance by the US and British intelligence agencies as well as the internet and telecom companies. The revelations started a worldwide debate about the balance between surveillance and privacy.

Poitras captures the tension in his room at the Mira – where then-Guardian columnist Glenn Greenwald and I interviewed him – and in his final minutes at the hotel before he fled after being tipped off that hordes of media were about to arrive. She also filmed at the Guardian in London ahead of publication of one of the most explosive of the stories arising from Snowden’s revelations, and in Moscow, where Snowden is now in exile.

Snowden has been reluctant to talk about his personal life, preferring the media focus to be on wider debate about surveillance rather than him. But Poitras’s portrayal is both personal and sympathetic.

In his first comment about the documentary, which Poitras had shown to him in advance, Snowden told the Guardian: “I hope people won’t see this as a story about heroism. It’s actually a story about what ordinary people can do in extraordinary circumstances.”

I wish more Americans had the courage of Edward Snowden. I’ve known a few, folks who became left-wing activists on behalf of civil rights, peace and national liberation BITD. Two in particular who worked for military intelligence, who left the military and returned to the United States to become active in very different ways. Like Snowden, revulsion at the lies and deceit of our government, our “leaders” patronizing attitude towards the American people, lies in support of an imperial foreign policy – turned them into activists against political corruption.

And Lindsay Mills – I know nothing more than what little I read in newspapers like the GUARDIAN. Most of what appears here in the States, from the TIMES to TV talking heads, you can presume to be crap, lies and more crap. Mostly motivated by dedication and subservience to the Washington establishment. I accept her private life with Edward Snowden as her own.

I accept their life together as a reflection of the proto-existential dicho, “what is done out of love takes place beyond good and evil”. Snowden, for love of his country and its Constitution. Mills, for love of her man.

Latest Snowden revelations piss off Turkey


“Do you think Snowden will ever go away?”

Turkey’s foreign ministry on Monday summoned the U.S. charge d’affaires, currently Washington’s most senior diplomat in Ankara, over a media report that the United States had spied on Turkey…

Here we go with 2 x stupid!

1. The Turkish government can’t summon the US ambassador because Republican do-nothings in Congress blocked that appointment. They would rather we have a dysfunctional government than to give in to the fact that Americans elected a non-white president.

2. The Democrat in the White House proves to be as dumb as his Republican predecessor – holding his hands over his eyes and hoping the NSA digital goon squad won’t be noticed by our “allies”. Somehow, hoping Edward Snowden’s whistleblowing will go away as if by magic.

German magazine Der Spiegel said in an article on its website on Sunday that the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) and Britain’s GCHQ eavesdropping agency had carried out “wide-scale spying against Turkey“, citing documents from the archive of former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

“For the reasons that the United States’ name was mentioned, and such claims were made … the charge d’affaires has been called to the foreign ministry and information has been received from him,” Arinc told reporters after the first meeting of Turkey’s new cabinet following a presidential election.

Der Spiegel said the U.S. intelligence services had also worked closely to support Ankara in its efforts to battle Kurdish militants, who waged a three-decade insurgency for greater Kurdish rights in the country’s southeast.

Yup. The United States cares so deeply about minority rights that we turn over whatever info our spies discover – to the heads of state who have dedicated their political careers to the suppression of minorities.

Then, the folks in the White House who rely on wishful thinking to manage foreign relations skip blithely past all the corruption previously made public by Edward Snowden and ignore the rest of the bad news waiting to come out. With half a brain, someone might have contacted the rest of our “friends” and let them know in advance how the paranoid policies of George W. Bush have been continued by “nice guy” Obama.

Snowden addresses HOPE Conference


Barton Gellman/Getty Images/AP

Edward Snowden, the former U.S. spy agency contractor who leaked details of major U.S. surveillance programs, called on supporters at a hacking conference to spur development of easy-to-use technologies to subvert government surveillance programs around the globe.

Snowden, who addressed conference attendees on Saturday via video link from Moscow, said he intends to devote much of his time to promoting such technologies, including ones that allow people to communicate anonymously and encrypt their messages…

At the HOPE hacking conference, several talks detailed approaches for thwarting government surveillance, including a system known as SecureDrop that is designed to allow people to anonymously leak documents to journalists.

Attorneys with the Electronic Frontier Foundation answered questions about pending litigation with the NSA, including efforts to stop collection of phone records that were disclosed through Snowden’s leaks.

Snowden is seen as a hero by a large segment of the community of hackers attending the HOPE conference [and the nation and the world], which includes computer experts, anti-surveillance activists, artists and other types of hackers.

HOPE in this case stands for Hackers On Planet Earth.

And if you think every kind of government snoop wasn’t doing their best to photogrqph, record and trace everyone at the conference – you’re still living in cloud cuckoo-land — watching Father Knows Best on TV.

Germany expels CIA official over US spying on German government

The German government has ordered the expulsion of a CIA official in Berlin in response to two cases of alleged spying by the US…The official is said to have acted as a CIA contact at the US embassy, reports say, in a scandal that has infuriated German politicians.

A German intelligence official was arrested last week on suspicion of spying.

An inquiry had also begun into a German defence ministry worker, reports said…

Earlier this week the White House described the partnership between the US and Germany as one built on respect. But no-one likes to be spied on, especially when it’s your friend doing the spying.

This latest episode is yet another reminder of how American surveillance programmes are causing friction with allies. It’s angered many in Germany, where the issue of snooping is historically a very sensitive one, and many are asking: “What? Again?”

It wasn’t too long ago, after all, that we heard the National Security Agency was spying on Chancellor Merkel’s mobile phone. After a review into the surveillance programmes, President Obama promised the US wouldn’t spy on its friends overseas…

The request by the German government follows increasing frustration that it has failed to get US assurances that spying would cease on German citizens from Chancellor Merkel down.

She was shocked to learn that her mobile phone conversations were secretly being monitored while President Obama was greeting her as a friend on his visit to Berlin.

Chancellor Merkel has tried to maintain a balance between condemning America’s actions but also maintaining cordial relations. Each revelation has made that balance harder to achieve…

The chairman of the Bundestag (parliament) committee overseeing the secret service said the action had been taken because of America’s spying on German politicians and its failure to co-operate and provide adequate responses.

The US has not denied allegations that a German intelligence agency employee arrested last week was passing secret documents to the US National Security Agency (NSA).

However, the latest reports that an employee within the defence ministry was also spying for the US were considered more serious. Although no arrest was made, searches were carried out on Wednesday at the ministry and elsewhere…

On Thursday, Mrs Merkel said spying on allies was a “waste of energy”…”We have so many problems, we should focus on the important things,” she said…”In the Cold War maybe there was general mistrust. Today we are living in the 21st Century. Today there are completely new threats.”

Anyone who thinks American foreign policy is governed by someone living in the 21st Century should change their meds. From the advent of the Cold War right through Bush/Obama playing kissy-kissy with the NSA and CIA there is no change in the attitude of Imperial America towards the rest of the world.

Our government, the White House and Congress both, not only think we’re the cops of the world, we’re the same kind of cops who beat civil rights demonstrators, who colluded with the worst of racist America, who serve as flunkies for the most backwards elements of corporate wealth. Same as it ever was – for the last seventy years.

NSA collected the private data of tens of thousands of Americans

It’s been a number of months since there were any new revelations based on the massive trove of top-secret NSA surveillance documents that former security contractor Edward Snowden took with him when he left the service, but the Washington Post came out with a big one on Saturday: according to files that Snowden provided to the newspaper, NSA agents recorded and retained the private information of tens of thousands of ordinary Americans — including online chats and emails — even though they were not the target of an official investigation.

According to the Post‘s story, nine out of 10 account holders who were found in a large cache of intercepted conversations were not the actual surveillance target sought by the NSA, but in effect were electronic bystanders caught in a net that the agency had cast in an attempt to catch someone else. Many were Americans, the newspaper said, and nearly half of the files contained names, email addresses and other details. Although many had been redacted or “minimized,” almost 900 files still contained unmasked email addresses…

As the paper explains, the NSA is only legally allowed to target foreign nationals located overseas unless it obtains a warrant from a special surveillance court — a warrant that must be based on a reasonable belief that the target has information about a foreign government or terrorist operations. The government has admitted that American citizens are often swept up in these dragnets, but the scale with which ordinary people are included was not known until now. The NSA also appears to keep this information even though it has little strategic value and compromises the privacy of the users whose data is kept on file…

The Snowden documents come from a cache of retained information that was gathered under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act — despite the fact that for more than a year, government officials have stated that FISA records were beyond the reach of the rogue NSA contractor, according to the Post. The paper said it reviewed about 160,000 intercepted e-mail and instant-message conversations, some of them hundreds of pages long, and 7,900 documents taken from more than 11,000 online accounts.

Thanks to Matthew Ingram for posting this at one of the best widely-read geek blogs, GigaOm. Here’s a link to the original, longer article, over at the POST.

And another thank you – as ever – to Edward Snowden for blowing the whistle on government creeps.

Germany arrests suspected double agent spying for U.S.

An employee of Germany’s BND foreign intelligence agency has been arrested on suspicion of spying for the United States…

The German Federal Prosecutor’s office said in a statement that a 31-year-old man had been arrested on suspicion of being a foreign spy, but it gave no further details. Investigations were continuing, it said…

The man, who is German, has admitted passing to an American contact details about a special German parliamentary committee set up to investigate the spying revelations made by former U.S. intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, the politicians said…

Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert said: “We don’t take the matter of spying for foreign intelligence agencies lightly“…

The United States embassy in Berlin, the State Department in Washington and the White House all declined to comment.

Germany is particularly sensitive about surveillance because of abuses by the East German Stasi secret police and the Nazis. After the Snowden revelations, Berlin demanded that Washington agree to a “no-spy agreement” with its close ally, but the United States has been unwilling…

Bild newspaper said in an advance copy of an article to be published on Saturday that the man had worked for two years as a double agent and had stolen 218 confidential documents.

He sold the documents, three of which related to the work of the committee in the Bundestag, for 25,000 euros, Bild said, citing security sources.

The United States government – regardless of which of the two TweedleDee and TweedleDumb parties is in residence – can always be counted on to rely on duplicity and lies in our relationship with every other country on this poor old planet.

The same lies they feed us.

The Edward Snowden interview with NBC’s Brian Williams


Click to reach interview at NBC News site

Of course, there is a commercial before you get to part 1. And NBC News offers a page full of government punditry trying to counter the Snowden revelations. Just because Brian Williams scored the beat of the year with his interview of Edward Snowden – and did it in a fashion worthy of Edward R. Murrow – doesn’t transform NBC/Universal/ComCast into a bastion of free speech and democracy.

They’re covering their butts in predictable fashion.

Meanwhile –

Let me repeat my reaction right after the interview:

First, let me give credit where due to NBC and Brian Williams. I expected something better than Fox Noise or John Kerry. I was able to watch an essentially Socratic interview with interesting questions generally free of jingoism and pap. Maybe I should drop by and watch this wee corner of network television once in a while. At least on this single important issue, they did American journalism proud.

Second, Ed Snowden was about what I expected ideologically. Pretty much a centrist libertarian – that’s with a small “L” – who cares about the history and standards of our constitution. He was much more articulate and detailed in his defense of civil disobedience against a distorted and hypocritical government – than I expected. He was kinder to the pimps who malign him than I ever could be – but, then, he’s dedicated to a single issue, our privacy, our freedom to be Americans in the traditional sense that our government used to support. He did a great job.

I expect nutballs on the Right to be out of their mind with hating this interview. I expect Democrat apologists for the policies of Bush and Obama to be equally incensed. I’m confident those who supported Snowden before tonight – as I have – will continue. And will recommend – as I do – that you watch the video of the interview and draw your own conclusions.

This Wednesday evening, the 28th, NBC interview with Edward Snowden — UPDATED with my feelings after the interview

Snowden and Williams

After months of preparation and negotiation, “Nightly News” anchor and managing editor Brian Williams met former NSA contractor Edward Snowden last week in Moscow for his first interview with a U.S. television network…

The exclusive, wide-ranging interview with Snowden, who received asylum in Russia after leaking classified documents from NSA servers, will air in a one-hour NBC News primetime special on Wednesday at 10 p.m. Eastern/9 p.m. Central.

“The interview was months in the making and cloaked in the secrecy of his life as a fugitive living in exile overseas,” said Williams. “As you will see and hear, Edward Snowden has a lot more to say.”

Snowden, now 30, is a former systems administrator for the CIA who later went to work for the private intelligence contractor Dell inside a National Security Agency outpost in Japan. In early 2013, he went to work for Booz Allen Hamilton inside the NSA center in Hawaii.

While working for the contractors, Snowden downloaded secret documents related to U.S. intelligence activities and partnerships with foreign allies, including some that revealed the extent of data collection from U.S. telephone records and Internet activity…

U.S. officials have asserted that Snowden may have taken as many as 1.7 million documents. Among the revelations from documents in the Snowden trove are the NSA’s bulk collection of phone and internet metadata from U.S. users, spying on the personal communications of foreign leaders, including U.S. allies, and the NSA’s ability to tap undersea fiber optic cables and siphon off data.

Look at the videos in the article as a preview. I hold about as much hope for unedited courage on the part of NBC as you might expect – or not. But, my DVR is set for 9PM, local MDT.

For example, the last paragraph in the article says, “This week, the House passed a bill to end the NSA’s bulk domestic metadata collection.” Well, No. The bill was so watered down that some of those who wrote the original bill voted against it. Just one more smoke-and-mirrors-act from Congress.