Microsoft wins milestone appeal over US wanting to snoop offshore email

A federal appeals court…said the U.S. government cannot force Microsoft Corp and other companies to turn over customer emails stored on servers outside the United States.

The 3-0 decision by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan is a defeat for the U.S. Department of Justice and a victory for privacy advocates and for technology companies offering cloud computing and other services around the world.

Circuit Judge Susan Carney said communications held by U.S. service providers on servers outside the United States are beyond the reach of domestic search warrants issued under the Stored Communications Act, a 1986 federal law.

“Congress did not intend the SCA’s warrant provisions to apply extraterritorially,” she wrote. “The focus of those provisions is protection of a user’s privacy interests.”

The case has attracted strong interest from the technology and media sectors, amid concern that giving prosecutors expansive power to collect data outside the country could make it harder for U.S. companies to compete there.

Dozens of companies, organizations and individuals filed briefs supporting Microsoft’s appeal, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Amazon.com, Apple, Cisco Systems, CNN, Fox News Network, Gannett and Verizon…

Judge Carney said limiting the reach of warrants serves “the interest of comity” that normally governs cross-border criminal investigations.

She said that comity is also reflected in treaties between the United States and all European Union countries, including Ireland, to assist each other in such probes.

It’s like the stupidity that passes for legal reason over most “religious freedoms”. You decide what you want for an outcome and then search till you can find articles or junk research to suit your convictions. Regardless of logic or science. This is what political lawyers do in so many cases involving privacy and free speech.

Constitutional protections be damned. If they can find some out-of-date regulation that can be torturously interpreted to validate the result they want – Bingo, make it so!

Daniel Radcliffe and Edward Snowden in an off-Broadway play about “Privacy”

NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden and actor Daniel Radcliffe will appear together in a play starting on Saturday in New York City.

The show, Privacy, premiered in London in 2014 and has been refashioned for the American theatre. It was inspired by Snowden’s revelations that the US government was conducting mass surveillance on its citizens.

Radcliffe and Snowden…rehearsed…though Radcliffe was in a Manhattan auditorium speaking to Snowden on video from Moscow, where he has lived since June 2013.

Snowden’s appearance in the play at the Public Theater will be confined to a screen as the US government has a warrant out for his arrest, because he leaked confidential NSA documents to journalists, including those at the Guardian.

Snowden and Radcliffe will appear together for about one minute, according to the Times, and only one of the men will be speaking live – the one actually on stage. The dialogue comes at a climactic moment and centers on statements Snowden has made about privacy.

Gotta piss off Uncle Sugar. Many of the creeps in and outside government officialdom who leaped to condemn Snowden are stuffed from eating their words. Even Obama has to admit much of this generation’s fight against government surveillance of American citizens flows from the critical revelations of Edward Snowden.

Not that our elected and appointed overlords have reduced or limited their commitment to snooping on us all. They’ve just been forced into more judicious choices of words describing their paranoia.

#BlackLivesMatter? — unless you’re Homeland Security


Click to enlargePeter Marshall

The Department of Homeland Security has been monitoring the Black Lives Matter movement since anti-police protests erupted in Ferguson, Missouri last summer, according to hundreds of documents obtained by The Intercept through a Freedom of Information Act request.

The documents, released by the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Operations Coordination, indicate that the department frequently collects information, including location data, on Black Lives Matter activities from public social media accounts, including on Facebook, Twitter, and Vine, even for events expected to be peaceful. The reports confirm social media surveillance of the protest movement and ostensibly related events in the cities of Ferguson, Baltimore, Washington, DC, and New York.

They also show the department watching over gatherings that seem benign and even mundane. For example, DHS circulated information on a nationwide series of silent vigils and a DHS-funded agency planned to monitor a funk music parade and a walk to end breast cancer in the nation’s capital.

The tracking of domestic protest groups and peaceful gatherings raises questions over whether DHS is chilling the exercise of First Amendment rights, and over whether the department, created in large part to combat terrorism, has allowed its mission to creep beyond the bounds of useful security activities as its annual budget has grown beyond $60 billion.

Our government thinks anyone who stands up for equal rights is a potential terrorist.

The surveillance cataloged in the DHS documents goes back to August of last year, when protests and riots broke out in Ferguson the day after the shooting of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown. According to two August 11th, 2014 reports, a DHS FEMA “WatchOps officer” used information from Twitter and Vine to monitor the riots and reproduced a map, originally created by a Reddit user, of conflict zones…

An April 2015 FEMA memo also shows that the DHS appears to have gathered information on anti-police-brutality protests in Philadelphia “organized by members of the Philly Coalition for Real Justice” and in New York on May Day at “Foley Square, start time 1700… Independent factions are being solicited to join in on a full day of demonstration through various open source social media sites, fliers, posters.”…

Baher Azmy, a legal director at the Center for Constitutional Rights, however, argues that this “providing situational awareness” is just another word for surveillance and that creating this body of knowledge about perfectly legal events is a problem in and of itself. “What they call situational awareness is Orwellian speak for watching and intimidation,” said Azmy. “Over time there’s a serious harm to the associational rights of the protesters and it’s an effective way to chill protest movements. The average person would be less likely to go to a Black Lives Matter protest if the government is monitoring social media, Facebook, and their movements.”

Although DHS spokesman S.Y.Lee says…that the department “does not provide resources to monitor any specific planned or spontaneous protest, rally or public gathering,” some of the documents show that the DHS has produced minute-by-minute reports on protesters’ movements in demonstrations…

The documents also elaborate on DHS’s response to riots and militant protests in Baltimore following the death of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old African American man who in April died from injuries sustained while in police custody…the DHS’ Federal Protective Service placed more than 400 officers on duty in Baltimore after Gray’s death…

Raven Rakia, a journalist who investigates state surveillance and policing, said that the DHS’ decision to monitor Black Lives Matter is hardly surprising, given the federal government’s well documented history of spying on and suppressing black social movements and groups like the Black Panthers. “There’s a long history of the federal agencies, especially the FBI, seeing black resistance organizations as a threat to national security,” says Rakia…

Same as it ever was. A government that isn’t serious about equal rights for all Americans, a Congress afraid of attempts to guarantee voting rights, civil rights, expected in a democratic nation – sets the stage for activists to be an automatic target for suppression.

Security breach exposes spy software used around the world


One of Hacking Team’s happy spy customers

A dramatic breach at an Italian surveillance company has laid bare the details of government cyberattacks worldwide, putting intelligence chiefs in the hot seat from Cyprus to South Korea. The massive leak has already led to one spymaster’s resignation and pulled back the curtain on espionage in the iPhone age.

More than 1 million emails released online in the wake of the July 5 breach show that the Milan-based company Hacking Team sold its spy software to the FBI and to Russian intelligence. It also worked with authoritarian governments in the Middle East and pitched to police departments in the American suburbs. It even tried to sell to the Vatican — all while devising a malicious Bible app to infect religiously minded targets

Hacking Team’s spyware was used by a total of 97 intelligence or investigative agencies in 35 countries, according to South Korean National Intelligence Service chief Lee Byoung Ho, who briefed lawmakers Tuesday after it became clear his organization used the technology…

Bills from Hacking Team to Sudan’s intelligence service and a Russian arms conglomerate have critics — including a European parliamentarian — asking whether the company flouted international sanctions. A client list that includes Uzbekistan, Egypt and Azerbaijan has reinforced worries from groups such as Privacy International that the spyware is being used to silence dissidents. And ‘we-love-your-stuff’ emails from sheriffs, police and prosecutors across the United States suggest local law enforcement is eager to give the program a test drive.

Hacking Team’s spyware is called Remote Control System and is delivered to targets through a mix of malicious links, poisoned documents and pornography, the emails show. Booby-trapped programs could be tailored to targets of any persuasion. Some messages appear to show Hacking Team working on apps named “Quran” and “DailyBible.”

Once secretly installed, the spyware acts as a track-anything surveillance tool…

Mexico is a particularly aggressive user of the technology, according to a leaked client list. In Ecuador, evidence that Hacking Team’s spyware was used by the country’s SENAIN spy agency has caused an uproar.

Senior police and intelligence figures have been quizzed about Hacking Team by lawmakers in Italy and the Czech Republic. Revelations that the Cyprus Intelligence Service has been secretly using the spyware prompted the resignation of the agency’s boss, Andreas Pentaras, over the weekend.

What you will see and hear from our “fair and balanced” TV talking heads is more of the fear and trembling about foreign powers hacking our government, corporate barons and maybe your grocery list. You will not be reminded of everyone from our federal government – down through governors and state police – to your friendly neighborhood sheriff snooping through your email and cellphone calls.

That would be way too courageous.

Even Jimmy Carter figures the NSA spies on him

Former presidents — they’re just like us (minus the generous pension, 24-hour-a-day Secret Service protection, dedicated presidential library and a few other perks that come to mind).

If you want to keep something private, send an old-fashioned letter, advises former President Jimmy Carter. The 89-year-old former president told NBC News’ Andrea Mitchell in a new interview that he thinks the U.S. intelligence community is probably monitoring his communications, too.

“When I want to communicate with a foreign leader privately, I type or write a letter myself, put it in the post office, and mail it,” he told Mitchell with a chuckle. “Because I believe if I send an email, it will be monitored.”

They probably snooped on his correspondence when he was in office.

EU asks for protection against US/NSA data surveillance

The European Commission has called…for new protection for Europeans under United States’ law against misuse of personal data, in an attempt to keep in check the U.S. surveillance revealed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

EU justice commissioner Viviane Reding said she wanted Washington to follow through on its promise to give all EU citizens the right to sue in the United States if their data is misused. “I have … made clear that Europe expects to see the necessary legislative change in the U.S. sooner rather than later, and in any case before summer 2014,” she said.

Reding’s message was reinforced in a draft report obtained by Reuters that called for “very close attention by the EU” in monitoring data-exchange agreements given the “large-scale collection and processing of personal information under U.S. surveillance programs”.

The remarks underline a growing sense of unease in Europe at a delicate moment in transatlantic relations, when the globe’s two biggest economies seek a trade pact to deepen ties…

In the report, they highlighted the need for improving transparency in the ‘Safe Harbour’ scheme that allows companies in Europe who gather personal information about customers, for example, to send it to the United States…

We are an economic giant and we behave like a political midget,” said Sophie in’t Veld, a Dutch member of the European Parliament. “The Commission and the member states are extremely timid and soft. They are failing their citizens.”

“It’s not a legal question,” she said. “It’s about Europe behaving like a politically self-confident entity…”

The EU is preparing to establish new rules, regulations and protection of data for member-states. Though it talks about a “right to erasure” some critics feels the members of the Euro Parliament still have little understanding of where the world has come to with the advent of the World Wide Web.

Should we expect them to be more or less behind the times than Congress or the UK Parliament, eh?

France, Mexico, latest allies of the USA who learn the NSA is spying on everything in their lives


Felipe – I read your email about switching to Viagra

The US ambassador was scheduled to attend an emergency meeting over spying on Monday morning at France’s foreign ministry in Paris, according to French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius. The meeting was prompted by an article published by the French daily Le Monde alleging that the US National Security Agency had listened in on millions of French phone calls…

There was no immediate response from Washington regarding the article or the French government’s outrage over the claims.

According to Le Monde’s online article published today, the NSA gathered 70.3 million French phone records between December 10, 2012 and January 8 of this year. The article cited documents obtained from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden and was co-written by Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald, who originally broke the NSA story…

The Mexican Foreign Ministry also demanded answers from Washington after the publication of a separate article alleging NSA-snooping on Mexico on Sunday. The latest revelations stemmed from an article published by the German newsmagazine Der Spiegel which said the US surveillance program had been spying on Mexico for years…

The Spiegel article said the NSA had hacked into the email of President Felipe Calderon in 2010, citing documents obtained from Edward Snowden.

The revelations of US espionage have angered allied countries. Last month, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff cancelled a meeting with President Barack Obama in Washington in protest of alleged surveillance on Brazilian citizens and companies.

Last week, Deutsche Telekom announced a plan to shield domestic Internet traffic from foreign spying. The telecommunications giant aims to strengthen data privacy in Germany by preventing it from leaving its borders and opting instead to channel it through domestic servers only.

Typically, the excuse used by conservative apologists or just plain lazy-ass sophists about the NSA/United States wholesale gobbling up of everything digital about your life is “everyone has always done this, nothing new, move along”. Which is hogwash. Quantitative levels of snooping change qualitatively when you go from slipping a spy into a foreign embassy to photograph the new submarine plans – versus vacuuming up every iota of metadata for every citizen of your nation, 24/7.

You might feel more secure deluding yourself with political ennui. That just makes you part of the problem. Individuals of conscience react to the crimes of their own nation as thoroughly as those of “nasty furriners”. The questions come down to principle – and responsibility.

Cheat-Sheet on the US government spying on US citizens

The government is spying on just about everything we do. It is not just “metadata” … although that is bad enough. Even the government’s attempted denials of this fact confirm it

The government has adopted a secret interpretation of the Patriot Act which allows it to pretend that “everything” is relevant … so it spies on everyone

The government’s mass spying doesn’t keep us safe…

Indeed, most Congress members have no idea what the NSA is doing

And a Federal judge who was on the secret spying court for 3 years says that it’s a kangaroo court…

Spying started before 9/11 … and may have stemmed from an emergency program only meant to be activated in the case of a nuclear war

Governments and big corporations are doing everything they can to destroy anonymity…

Polls show that the public doesn’t believe the NSA

While leaker Edward Snowden is treated as a traitor by the fatcats and elites, he is considered a hero by the American public…

Top constitutional experts say that Obama and Bush are worse than Nixon … and the Stasi East Germans…

Surveillance can be used to frame you if someone in government happens to take a dislike to you

Government spying has always focused on crushing dissent … not on keeping us safe…

This is about half of what is linked on this page at Washington’s blog. Here’s a link to the whole page – each category has its own links.

Special thanks to Barry Ritholtz

Secret court orders U.S. to declassify Prism surveillance ruling

FISA Obama
Click to enlarge

A secret U.S. court overseeing government domestic surveillance activities has sided with Yahoo and ordered the Obama administration to declassify and publish a 2008 court decision justifying Prism, the data collection program revealed last month by former security contractor Edward Snowden.

The ruling could offer a rare glimpse into how the government has legally justified its spy agencies’ data collection programs under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).

Judge Reggie Walton of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court issued Monday’s ruling. The government is expected to decide by August 26 which parts of the 2008 opinion may be published, according to a separate court filing by the Justice Department…

Ever apply for and receive a copy of your FBI case history? That’s what this will probably look like. An advert for black magic marker with everything redacted but Obama’s signature.

In June, after Snowden leaked information about Prism to the Washington Post and the Guardian newspapers, Yahoo’s lawyers asked the courts and government to declassify and publish decisions upholding the constitutionality of the program.

Legal experts who follow surveillance cases said the 2008 ruling may not reveal any strikingly novel legal reasoning by the government or the courts. But civil liberties advocates said the significance of the ruling may lie in the court’s decision itself to declassify the previously secret 2008 ruling.

“Unless the public knows what the laws mean, it can’t really assess how much power (it has) given its government,” said Patrick Toomey, a national security fellow at the American Civil Liberties Union.

Monday’s ruling “is a suggestion that the FISA court is primed now to consider the government’s assertion of the necessity of secrecy,” Toomey said. “It’s a promising first step.”

The decision is also a victory for Yahoo…”Once those documents are made public, we believe they will contribute constructively to the ongoing public discussion around online privacy,” Yahoo said.

Other Internet companies, including Google and Facebook began participating in Prism in early 2009 soon after Yahoo lost its appeal before the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review.

This can be a victory for a lot of ordinary citizens concerned with the government being the ultimate decider – to use George W. Bush’s term – on questions of balance between national security and individual privacy.