Category: Stasi 2.0

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration more often than ever censored government files or outright denied access to them last year under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act, according to a new analysis of federal data by The Associated Press.

The administration cited more legal exceptions it said justified withholding materials and refused a record number of times to turn over files quickly that might be especially newsworthy. Most agencies also took longer to answer records requests, the analysis found.

The government's own figures from 99 federal agencies covering six years show that half way through its second term, the administration has made few meaningful improvements in the way it releases records despite its promises from Day 1 to become the most transparent administration in history. [Read more]


A 'nest' of surveillance cameras at the Gillet...‘You can’t hide from these things’ – Secret NSA spy programs exposed at conference in Germany | RT

Security researcher Jacob Appelbaum revealed what he calls “wrist-slitting depressing” details about the National Security Agency’s spy programs at a computer conference in Germany on Monday where he presented previously unpublished NSA files.

Appelbaum is among the small group of experts, activists and journalists who have seen classified United States intelligence documents taken earlier this year by former contractor Edward Snowden, and previously he represented transparency group WikiLeaks at an American hacker conference in 2010. Those conditions alone should suffice in proving to most anybody that Appelbaum has been around more than his fair share of sensitive information, and during his presentation at the thirtieth annual Chaos Communication Congress in Hamburg on Monday he spilled his guts about some of the shadiest spy tactics seen yet through leaked documents. [Read the full article]

NSA reportedly intercepting laptops purchased online to install spy malware | The Verge

According to a new report from Der Spiegel based on internal NSA documents, the signals intelligence agency’s elite hacking unit (TAO) is able to conduct sophisticated wiretaps in ways that make Hollywood fantasy look more like reality. The report indicates that the NSA, in collaboration with the CIA and FBI, routinely and secretly intercepts shipping deliveries for laptops or other computer accessories in order to implant bugs before they reach their destinations. According to Der Spiegel, the NSA’s TAO group is able to divert shipping deliveries to its own “secret workshops” in a method called interdiction, where agents load malware onto the electronics or install malicious hardware that can give US intelligence agencies remote access.

While the report does not indicate the scope of the program, or who the NSA is targeting with such wiretaps, it’s a unique look at the agency’s collaborative efforts with the broader intelligence community to gain hard access to communications equipment. One of the products the NSA appears to use to compromise target electronics is codenamed COTTONMOUTH, and has been available since 2009; it’s a USB “hardware implant” that secretly provides the NSA with remote access to the compromised machine. [Read the full article]

NSA Stabs Silicon Valley in the Back | The Daily Beast

When tech companies wouldn’t cooperate on surveillance, the spies bugged and hacked them like everyone else. Maybe now they’ll fight for privacy.

The National Security Agency’s sprawling surveillance architecture has long been enabled by cozy partnerships with private sector technology and telecommunications firms. But the honeymoon may be ending, as the continuing disclosures from Edward Snowden’s trove of classified documents make it increasingly clear how fundamentally opposed the interests of Fort Meade and Silicon Valley really are. By doing their best to prove the paranoid right, NSA is undermining the essential trust on which American tech companies depend. [Read the full article]

‘Getting the ungettable’: Leaks reveal NSA’s top hacking unit | RT

Documents leaked by Edward Snowden have uncovered a secret NSA hacking unit which delivered the US some of its most significant intelligence information in recent years. The unit has been tapping into computers and networks since the dawn of the internet.

Der Spiegel described the Office of Tailored Access Operations (TAO) as “something like a squad of plumbers that can be called in when normal access to a target is blocked.” [Read the full article]

RSA’s Deal With The NSA Reflects A General Mistrust | TechCrunch

Here’s how it works when a big company believes that its power is in its girth: They enter this bizarre world that leads them to believe that what comes from their PR organs is enough to float their troubles away. It’s all about denial and avoiding any potential shareholder backlash. And so we come to the sad state of affairs at RSA, the security division of EMC, one of the big-bellied enterprise kings that apparently made a deal with the National Security Agency.

It’s a deal that is now affecting the trust that people have in the company and raises questions about other technology companies and how they have profited from their relationships with the government. It’s fine enough for technology executives to sit down with President Barack Obama like they did last week and say how awful the NSA is behaving. But the RSA’s work with the NSA shows that technology companies need scrutiny as well. The reality: mistrust is spreading, writes security expert Bruce Schneier. [Read the full article]

Glenn Greenwald: A technological battle is being fought over the future of the Internet | The Raw Story

Technology, rather than self-imposed government regulations and oversight, is key to restricting the power of the U.S. National Security Agency, according to journalist Glenn Greenwald.

Greenwald on Friday delivered the keynote address at the 30th Chaos Communications Congress, or 30C3, a gathering of hackers in Germany. Though Greenwald is not a hacker — and admits to having trouble installing encryption software — his exposure of NSA surveillance operations has made him a star among Internet freedom advocates. [Read the full article]

Two Contradictory Rulings on the NSA’s Surveillance Methods, Probably Headed to the Supreme Court | OpEdNews

Less than two weeks ago U.S. District Court Judge Richard J. Leon in Washington ruled against the NSA’s data mining collection of meta data calling it “Orwellian” and “probably unconstitutional”.

On Friday another U.S. District Court Judge William H. Pauley in New York found the NSA’s meta data methods constitutional and didn’t violate the 4 th Amendment.

With these two contradictory rulings the final outcome is probably headed to the Supreme Court. But before that can happen, the two rulings will almost certainly be appealed and presumably whichever side loses will probably ask the Supreme Court to rule. [Read the full article]

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A 'nest' of surveillance cameras at the Gillet...


Inside TAO: Documents Reveal Top NSA Hacking Unit | Spiegel


In January 2010, numerous homeowners in San Antonio, Texas, stood baffled in front of their closed garage doors. They wanted to drive to work or head off to do their grocery shopping, but their garage door openers had gone dead, leaving them stranded. No matter how many times they pressed the buttons, the doors didn’t budge. The problem primarily affected residents in the western part of the city, around Military Drive and the interstate highway known as Loop 410.

In the United States, a country of cars and commuters, the mysterious garage door problem quickly became an issue for local politicians. Ultimately, the municipal government solved the riddle. Fault for the error lay with the United States’ foreign intelligence service, the National Security Agency, which has offices in San Antonio. Officials at the agency were forced to admit that one of the NSA’s radio antennas was broadcasting at the same frequency as the garage door openers. Embarrassed officials at the intelligence agency promised to resolve the issue as quickly as possible, and soon the doors began opening again. [Read the full article]


NSA ‘hacking unit’ infiltrates computers around the world – report | The Guardian


A top-secret National Security Agency hacking unit infiltrates computers around the world and breaks into the toughest data targets, according to internal documents quoted in a magazine report on Sunday.

Details of how the division, known as Tailored Access Operations (TAO), steals data and inserts invisible “back door” spying devices into computer systems were published by the German magazine Der Spiegel. [Read the full article]


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I would like to say that 2013 will go down in history as the year of Edward Snowden’s shocking revelations. From the standpoint of today, however, it was dominated by Obamacare. The Affordable Care Act is not the first behemoth-sized government enterprise to slouch its way, cloaked in shambolic inevitability, toward implementation. It will probably not be the last. But it is definitive of American governance today and the social psychology behind it.

In the hope of a measurable decrease in suffering, many elite and not-so-elite Americans will tolerate almost any cost and any absurdity—especially when the burden appears to fall more upon abstract “liberty” than the particulars of their lives. It is an attitude hardly restricted to health care. The question of Snowden’s immediate impact has already given way to great uncertainty over the prospect for human liberty in this era when so much public emotion and “public sector” machinery has been thrown at the dread aroused by the chance of terrorism. [Read the full article]


A 'nest' of surveillance cameras at the Gillet...

Gen. Michael ‘No Probable Cause’ Hayden | ConsortiumNews

Barring a last-minute frantic call from the White House, CBS’s “Face the Nation” will interview whistleblowers Thomas Drake (ex-senior executive at the National Security Agency) and Jesselyn Radack (ex-ethics adviser at the Justice Department). Michael Hayden, who headed the NSA and CIA and now is a chief NSA defender on CNN and Fox News, will also be interviewed this Sunday.

It was a high privilege for me to join Drake, Radack and FBI whistleblower Coleen Rowley on a visit to Edward Snowden in Russia on Oct. 9. Never have I been in the company of persons who are such incorruptible straight-arrow patriots. Not so, sadly, Michael Hayden. [Read the full article]

Edward Snowden, after months of NSA revelations, says his mission’s accomplished | Washington Post

The familiar voice on the hotel room phone did not waste words.

“What time does your clock say, exactly?” he asked.

He checked the reply against his watch and described a place to meet.

“I’ll see you there,” he said. [Read the full article]

Is the NSA’s Spying Constitutional? It Depends Which Judge You Ask | The Atlantic

This is why we have a justice system in which lower-court conflicts rise up for resolution by a single, supreme court. This is why the law can seem, at times, to be a “same planet, different world” proposition to those who don’t follow it closely (and even to those of us who do).

We have, in the span of just 10 days, seen two diametrically opposed judicial rulings about the legitimacy of the government’s controversial bulk metadata collection program, the existence of which we learned about just this past year thanks to Edward Snowden. Although the two opinions apply the same law and essentially the same facts, they are so contradictory they cannot be reconciled. One judge will be proven right and the other proven wrong, although I suspect it may be 2015  before the final tally is recorded. [Read the full article]

Greenwald: US, British media are servants of security apparatus | RT

Journalist Glenn Greenwald condemned the mainstream media during an address at a German computer conference on Friday and accused his colleagues of failing to challenge erroneous remarks routinely made by government officials around the globe.

Thousands of attendees at the thirtieth annual Chaos Communication Congress in Hamburg packed into a room to watch the 46-year-old lawyer-turned-columnist present a keynote address delivered less than seven months after he started working with former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden. [Read the full article]

Judge Says the NSA Can Look at Your Phone Records Because They’re Not Yours | Reason

Today a  federal judge in New York rejected the American Civil Liberties Union’s challenge to the National Security Agency’s routine collection of information about every telephone call placed in the United States. U.S. District Judge William H. Pauley conceded that “such a program, if unchecked, imperils the civil liberties of every citizen,” since “such data can reveal a rich profile of every individual as well as a comprehensive record of people’s associations with one another.” But he said he was bound by the Supreme Court’s ruling in the 1979 case Smith v. Maryland, which held that the Fourth Amendment does not apply to telephone metadata indicating who calls whom, when, and for how long. “This Court consistently has held,” the justices said in Smith, “that a person has no legitimate expectation of privacy in information he voluntarily turns over to third parties.” Under this precedent, Pauley said, no one has a Fourth Amendment right to stop the government from examining his telephone records, which are not really even his: [Read the full article]

How Worried Should We Be About the Alleged RSA-NSA Scheming? | Wired

A Reuters news story published a week ago raised disturbing questions about the relationship between the NSA and RSA Security (now a division of EMC), a prominent vendor of cryptographic technologies. The article claims that RSA entered into a $10 million contract that required, among other things, that RSA make the (not yet standardized) DUAL_EC_DRBG random number generator the default in its widely used BSAFE cryptographic library. BSAFE is used internally for RSA’s products as well as by other vendors, who license it from RSA to develop their own products around it. A couple days later, RSA issued a response, in which it denies that it deliberately weakened its products, but is silent about most of the claims in the Reuters piece. [Read the full article]

For surveillance program, a lifeline — and limbo | Politico

The NSA’s bulk telephone data collection program got a lifeline from a federal judge Friday — but its future remains in political and legal jeopardy.

Judge William Pauley III’s Friday decision to dismiss an American Civil Liberties Union request for an injunction against Director of National Intelligence James Clapper buttresses the government’s contention that sweeping up data associated with nearly every call to, from, and within the United States is legal under Section 215 of the post-Sept. 11 PATRIOT Act. [Read the full article]

People who condemn the leaks of classified documents by Pvt. Bradley (now Chelsea) Manning and National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden typically cite the supposed harm done to U.S. diplomacy and say lives have been put at risk. Manning/Snowden defenders counter by noting how government secrecy has been used to conceal government excesses and to stifle meaningful debate.

But there is another factor in this discussion: Secrecy often has empowered U.S. government propagandists to manipulate the people and to trick them into policies that, in turn, have cost lives, inflicted damage to national security and created hatred toward America that its enemies can then exploit. In other words, secrecy is the enabler of deception which has undercut precisely those interests that the Manning/Snowden critics say they want to protect (diplomacy and innocent life). [Read the full article]


A 'nest' of surveillance cameras at the Gillet...


Internet privacy as important as human rights, says UN’s Navi Pillay | The Guardian


The UN human rights chief, Navi Pillay, has compared the uproar in the international community caused by revelations of mass surveillance with the collective response that helped bring down the apartheid regime in South Africa.

Pillay, the first non-white woman to serve as a high-court judge in South Africa, made the comments in an interview with Sir Tim Berners-Lee on a special edition of BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, which the inventor of the world wide web was guest editing. [Read the full article]


Your E-Reader Is Tracking You | Slate


The biggest difference between Web journalism and print journalism is that on the Web both publishers and advertisers have some idea about what readers are actually doing, and this naturally ends up informing both the commercial and editorial sides of what we do. Thanks to e-readers, similar analytic power is coming to the world of books: [Read the full article]


Study: Consumers Will Pay $5 for an App That Respects Their Privacy | The Atlantic


Ever since the iPhone came out in 2007, the going rate for many of the most popular apps has been exactly $0.00. Consumers pay nothing.

But of course, nothing is free. Instead, consumers pay with their data, that’s sold to marketers, or with screenspace, which is forked over to make room for ads. It’s a trade consumers are happy to make.

But are they? [Read the full article]


Netanyahu calls for probe of NSA spying in Israel | McClatchyDC


JERUSALEM — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday that he has ordered a probe into reports that the United States and Britain had monitored communications of the previous prime minister and defense minister, calling the actions unacceptable.

Netanyahu also reiterated Israel’s call for the release of Jonathan Jay Pollard, an American Navy intelligence analyst sentenced to life in prison in 1987 for spying for Israel. [Read the full article]


2013 in Review: The Year the NSA Finally Admitted Its “Collect It All” Strategy | EFF


There is probably no bigger story in 2013 than that the American people having learned about the secret mass spying programs of the National Security Agency (NSA).

While prior to 2013 the NSA’s public line was that it was forbidden from spying on Americans in America, but with the Snowden revelations (and help from a wide range of journalists and technologists that helped explain them) the NSA was forced to admit that it secretly expanded its mandate from limited surveillance of specific foreign intelligence targets to a massive “collect it all” strategy where its goal is to ensure that no communication in the world is ever truly private or secure. [Read the full article]


Greenwald slams MSNBC for Obama bias | The Hill


Journalist Glenn Greenwald on Thursday slammed MSNBC as carrying water for President Obama, as he came under fire for defending National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden.

Greenwald, who has published leaked documents from Snowden, was asked by MSNBC host Kristen Welker whether he has been too supportive of the NSA leaker. [Read the full aricle]


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A 'nest' of surveillance cameras at the Gillet...


The NSA Panel’s Pointless Private-Sector Fig Leaf | The Atlantic


One of the major recommendations of President Obama’s NSA review panel is that information about who Americans called (not what they said!) should no longer be stored by the NSA, but rather by either phone companies or a third party.

This may be good politics, but it is surely bad public policy.

As Michael Hayden, the former head of the NSA, told the BBC, this would undermine our ability to protect ourselves from terrorists and rogue nations—yet it seems necessary because unless the libertarian beast is fed some raw meat, it may devour the whole program (his point, my words). After all, the House came within a few votes of decreeing that the whole program should be defunded—i.e., killed—just months ago. [Read the full article]


Edward Snowden: Congress’s Failures Forced My Hand | National Journal


Edward Snowden isn’t giving the National Security Agency a break. The NSA leaker has declared victory in a new interview with The Washington Post, published just a week after a federal judge ruled that the data-collection program Snowden unveiled infringes on Fourth Amendment rights.

“For me, in terms of personal satisfaction, the mission’s already accomplished,” Snowden told The Post earlier this month. “I already won. As soon as the journalists were able to work, everything that I had been trying to do was validated. Because, remember, I didn’t want to change society. I wanted to give society a chance to determine if it should change itself.” [Read the full article]


Recent NSA Ruling Actually REALLY Bad News? | OpEdNews


My guest today is Steven Rosenfeld, Senior Reporter at AlterNet.

Joan Brunwasser: Welcome back to OpEdNews, Steven.  Reading your piece* about the recent NSA ruling was like being doused by a bucket of cold water. We progressives were feeling a tad optimistic but you obviously do not share that feeling. What do you know that we don’t? [Read the interview]


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A 'nest' of surveillance cameras at the Gillet...

The War on Terror’s Jedi Mind Trick | The Atlantic

A Republican-appointed judge and President Obama’s own handpicked Surveillance Review Group both came to the same conclusion last week: The National Security Agency’s controversial phone-records program has been of little real value to American security. Yet its defenders continue to insist that it is necessary, clinging desperately to long-debunked claims about foiled terror plots. Their stubbornness fits a decade-long pattern of fear trumping evidence whenever the word “terrorism” is uttered—a pattern it is time to finally break.

Since the disclosure of the NSA’s massive domestic phone-records database, authorized under a tortured reading of the Patriot Act’s Section 215 authority to obtain business records, intelligence officials and their allies in Congress have claimed it plays a vital role in protecting Americans from “dozens” of terror attacks. But as the expert panel Obama appointed to review the classified facts concluded, in a report released Wednesday, that just isn’t true. [Read the full article]

Prediction: The Government Will Put The NSA In Check | TechCrunch

Up until a few months ago, President Obama probably didn’t worry much about the National Security Agency’s massive surveillance program. After all, Congress had approved it, courts oversaw it, and a majority of Americans continued to support it — even after the leaks were reported.

But, now that every major branch of government is calling for reform, including the President’s own special advisory group, I predict far more transparency and a partial end to mass spying is coming. [Read the full article]

Nine Gifts the NSA Will Hate | MotherJones

In the wake of the Edward Snowden-enabled revelations about the reach of the surveillance state, your more privacy-sensitive loved ones may have spent the year discovering TOR, making the jump to mesh networks or encrypted email, or mumbling about converting their nest egg to Bitcoin.

But now that gift-giving season is well upon us, what’s left to get the security-obsessed person who already has it all? Tin foil hats have a timeless appeal, but here’s a short list of slightly more practical devices: [Read the full article]


A 'nest' of surveillance cameras at the Gillet...

John McCain says NSA chief Keith Alexander ‘should resign or be fired’ | The Guardian

Senator John McCain has called for Keith Alexander to “resign or be fired” as the head of the National Security Agency, in an interview with the German news weekly Der Spiegel published on Sunday.

The senator for Arizona, a former Republican presidential candidate, said Alexander should be held accountable for the leaks of thousands of documents by the whistleblower Edward Snowden, which revealed NSA surveillance and spying on a massive scale. McCain said Snowden, who worked for the NSA as a contractor, should never have had access to classified information. [Read the full article]

NSA leadership shakeup would mean squat | Salon

NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander is due to retire next spring, clearing the way for potential shakeups in the leadership of the agency, evermore prescient in the broadening wake of Snowden’s NSA surveillance leaks. According to the Guardian Monday, “the Obama administration is giving strong consideration to appointing a civilian to run the surveillance apparatus and splitting it from the military command that has been its institutional twin since 2010.”

It’s a Kabuki move, carrying no real promise of limitations to the dragnet surveillance of our every communication, nor does it bode better for agency transparency about covert overseas and domestic programs (like, say, secretly hacking in to Google data centers around the world to access millions of emails, or purposefully weakening encryption standards). [Read the full article]

Quantum Spying: GCHQ Used Fake LinkedIn Pages to Target Engineers | Spiegel

The Belgacom employees probably thought nothing was amiss when they pulled up their profiles on LinkedIn, the professional networking site. The pages looked the way they always did, and they didn’t take any longer than usual to load.

The victims didn’t notice that what they were looking at wasn’t the original site but a fake profile with one invisible added feature: a small piece of malware that turned their computers into tools for Britain’s GCHQ intelligence service. [Read the full article]

Congress could see power to confirm NSA chief | Politico

Frustration with the National Security Agency’s spying and the impending departure of its longtime director have fueled a congressional push to put its future leaders through the potentially grueling process of Senate confirmation — a scenario the White House has warned in the past could harm intelligence efforts.

The idea — backed by California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the leader of the Intelligence Committee and one of the NSA’s top allies in Congress — is among the more prominent agency reforms percolating on Capitol Hill, where lawmakers are rethinking the agency’s expansive surveillance authorities in light of Edward Snowden’s leaks. [Read the full article]

NSA’s Vast Surveillance Powers Extend Far Beyond Counterterrorism, Despite Misleading Government Claims | EFF

Time and again we’ve seen the National Security Agency (NSA) defend its vast surveillance apparatus by invoking the spectre of terrorism, discussing its spying powers as a method to keep America safe.  Yet, the truth is that counterterrorism is only a fraction of their far broader authority to seek “foreign intelligence information,” a menacing sounding term that actually encapsulates all sorts of innocuous, everyday conversation.

The New York Times demonstrated this disconnect last week, reporting, “the [leaked NSA] documents make clear, the focus on counterterrorism is a misleadingly narrow sales pitch for an agency with an almost unlimited agenda. Its scale and aggressiveness are breathtaking.” [Read the full article]

Will NSA Reforms Protect Citizens? | Consortium News

The latest diplomatic tussles triggered by revelations of massive National Security Agency spying, including on U.S. allies and multinational organizations, focus less on intrusions into the privacy of average citizens than on the secrets of the powerful.

Indeed, the debate in Europe illustrates how global leaders are more concerned about the NSA and other intelligence services crossing a red line by intercepting the communications of global leaders, as well as large corporations and powerful institutions, than those of regular citizens. And there are reasons for this selective outrage. [Read the full article]

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