• 1.8m users targeted by UK agency in six-month period alone
• Optic Nerve program collected Yahoo webcam images in bulk
• Yahoo: ‘A whole new level of violation of our users’ privacy’
• Material included large quantity of sexually explicit images
The GCHQ program saved one image every five minutes from the users’ feeds. Photograph: Chris Jackson/Getty Images
Britain’s surveillance agency GCHQ, with aid from the US National Security Agency, intercepted and stored the webcam images of millions of internet users not suspected of wrongdoing, secret documents reveal.
GCHQ files dating between 2008 and 2010 explicitly state that a surveillance program codenamed Optic Nerve collected still images of Yahoo webcam chats in bulk and saved them to agency databases, regardless of whether individual users were an intelligence target or not.
In one six-month period in 2008 alone, the agency collected webcam imagery – including substantial quantities of sexually explicit communications – from more than 1.8 million Yahoo user accounts globally.
Yahoo reacted furiously to the webcam interception when approached by the Guardian. The company denied any prior knowledge of the program, accusing the agencies of “a whole new level of violation of our users’ privacy“.
GCHQ does not have the technical means to make sure no images of UK or US citizens are collected and stored by the system, and there are no restrictions under UK law to prevent Americans’ images being accessed by British analysts without an individual warrant.
The documents also chronicle GCHQ‘s sustained struggle to keep the large store of sexually explicit imagery collected by Optic Nerve away from the eyes of its staff, though there is little discussion about the privacy implications of storing this material in the first place.
Optic Nerve, the documents provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden show, began as a prototype in 2008 and was still active in 2012, according to an internal GCHQ wiki page accessed that year.
The system, eerily reminiscent of the telescreens evoked in George Orwell’s 1984, was used for experiments in automated facial recognition, to monitor GCHQ‘s existing targets, and to discover new targets of interest. Such searches could be used to try to find terror suspects or criminals making use of multiple, anonymous user IDs.
Rather than collecting webcam chats in their entirety, the program saved one image every five minutes from the users’ feeds, partly to comply with human rights legislation, and also to avoid overloading GCHQ‘s servers. The documents describe these users as “unselected” – intelligence agency parlance for bulk rather than targeted collection.
One document even likened the program’s “bulk access to Yahoo webcam images/events” to a massive digital police mugbook of previously arrested individuals.
“Face detection has the potential to aid selection of useful images for ‘mugshots’ or even for face recognition by assessing the angle of the face,” it reads. “The best images are ones where the person is facing the camera with their face upright.”
The agency did make efforts to limit analysts’ ability to see webcam images, restricting bulk searches to metadata only.
However, analysts were shown the faces of people with similar usernames to surveillance targets, potentially dragging in large numbers of innocent people. One document tells agency staff they were allowed to display “webcam images associated with similar Yahoo identifiers to your known target”.
Optic Nerve was based on collecting information from GCHQ‘s huge network of internet cable taps, which was then processed and fed into systems provided by the NSA. Webcam information was fed into NSA’s XKeyscore search tool, and NSA research was used to build the tool which identified Yahoo’s webcam traffic.
Bulk surveillance on Yahoo users was begun, the documents said, because “Yahoo webcam is known to be used by GCHQ targets”.
Programs like Optic Nerve, which collect information in bulk from largely anonymous user IDs, are unable to filter out information from UK or US citizens. Unlike the NSA, GCHQ is not required by UK law to “minimize”, or remove, domestic citizens’ information from its databases. However, additional legal authorisations are required before analysts can search for the data of individuals likely to be in the British Isles at the time of the search.
Mohamed Morsi is accused of leaking secrets to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
An Egyptian prosecutor on Sunday accused the ousted Islamist president of passing state secrets to Iran‘s Revolutionary Guard, the first such explicit detail in an ongoing espionage trial.
If convicted, Mohamed Morsi could face capital punishment. He already stands accused of a string of other charges, some of which also carry the death penalty, levelled as part of a crackdown on his Muslim Brotherhood group after the military deposed him last summer.
At Sunday’s hearing, part of which was aired on state television, the prosecution accused Morsi and 35 other Brotherhood members of conspiring to destabilize the country and cooperating with foreign militant groups – including Palestinian Hamas and Lebanon‘s Hezbollah.
The case’s chief prosecutor, Tamer el-Firgani, said Morsi, his aides and senior Brotherhood members had “handed over secrets to foreign countries, among them national defense secrets, and handed over a number of security reports to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard in order to destabilize the country’s security and stability.”
El-Firgani, divulging details of the charges, said national security reports meant for only Morsi to see were emailed to some of these foreign militant groups. One report, he said, was sent to the Iranians about the activities of Shia Muslims in Egypt. Iran is mostly Shia.
As Egypt’s ousted President Mohamed Morsi appeared in court on Sunday for the first hearing of the case in which he is charged on espionage and terrorism counts, Abdelwahab El-Affendi, Political Scientist at the University of Westminster and a specialist on Islam, Middle East politics and Democracy, explained in an interview to the Voice of Russia on what legal grounds Morsi cannot be brought to trial as executive president and why he thinks the court “would have to convict him”.
How do you think this trial is going to end for Mr. Morsi? Will Morsi be convicted?
Most probably, yes, I think. Because this story is no longer a legal matter. If the legal rules were observed Morsi cannot be brought to trial as executive president and yes, he has his immunity but he has been arrested first before any charges and then the charges were being brought as he was arrested which indicates that if a court accepts these procedures this means that the court would then do the biding of whoever in power at the time is officially. So if they haven’t observed the law in the first instance they would have to convict him.
Sunday’s trial is one of four prosecutions that Morsi has had to face. Can you comment on the reason that we have seen so many trials? Why hasn’t it just been one trial against Morsi? Why is it so many steps in this process of prosecuting?
I think they are groping in the dark, they want something to stick. For example, this charge that a person has escaped from prison during the revolution is rather ridiculous, because there are hundreds of thousands of prisoners who left at that time, none of them were facing trial, some of them are actually in parties which are the parties who support the government. Secondly, how can you charge the president of dealing illegally with foreign entities? Usually the president of the republic is the person who decides foreign policy and is the person who legally can decide who is going to talk to or not to talk to. Anybody else has not been authorized by the president to discuss matters with foreign power could be trialed if he wanted to do that in ways which are harmful to national security or against the law. But there is no law which says that the president for example cannot talk to Hamas or cannot talk to Hezbollah or not talk to anybody else. To charge the president with espionage for talking to whoever he decides is certainly assuming that there is an authority other than the president or above the president which can tell him how to conduct his foreign policy. So all the other charges are also problematic. It is really kind of theater more or less.
The list of those caught up in the global surveillance net cast by the National Security Agency and its overseas partners, from social media users to foreign heads of state, now includes another entry: American lawyers.
A top-secret document, obtained by the former N.S.A. contractor Edward J. Snowden, shows that an American law firm was monitored while representing a foreign government in trade disputes with the United States. The disclosure offers a rare glimpse of a specific instance in which Americans were ensnared by the eavesdroppers, and is of particular interest because lawyers in the United States with clients overseas have expressed growing concern that their confidential communications could be compromised by such surveillance.
The government of Indonesia had retained the law firm for help in trade talks, according to the February 2013 document. It reports that the N.S.A.’s Australian counterpart, the Australian Signals Directorate, notified the agency that it was conducting surveillance of the talks, including communications between Indonesian officials and the American law firm, and offered to share the information.
The Indonesian Embassy in Washington, left, and the building where Mayer Brown has an office. Indonesia retained the American law firm for help in trade talks.Stephen Crowley/The New York Times
The Australians told officials at an N.S.A. liaison office in Canberra, Australia, that “information covered by attorney-client privilege may be included” in the intelligence gathering, according to the document, a monthly bulletin from the Canberra office. The law firm was not identified, but Mayer Brown, a Chicago-based firm with a global practice, was then advising the Indonesian government on trade issues.
On behalf of the Australians, the liaison officials asked the N.S.A. general counsel’s office for guidance about the spying. The bulletin notes only that the counsel’s office “provided clear guidance” and that the Australian agency “has been able to continue to cover the talks, providing highly useful intelligence for interested US customers.”
The N.S.A. declined to answer questions about the reported surveillance, including whether information involving the American law firm was shared with United States trade officials or negotiators.
Duane Layton, a Mayer Brown lawyer involved in the trade talks, said he did not have any evidence that he or his firm had been under scrutiny by Australian or American intelligence agencies. “I always wonder if someone is listening, because you would have to be an idiot not to wonder in this day and age,” he said in an interview. “But I’ve never really thought I was being spied on.”
A Rising Concern for Lawyers
Most attorney-client conversations do not get special protections under American law from N.S.A. eavesdropping. Amid growing concerns about surveillance and hacking, the American Bar Association in 2012 revised its ethics rules to explicitly require lawyers to “make reasonable efforts” to protect confidential information from unauthorized disclosure to outsiders.
Last year, the Supreme Court, in a 5-to-4 decision, rebuffed a legal challenge to a 2008 law allowing warrantless wiretapping that was brought in part by lawyers with foreign clients they believed were likely targets of N.S.A. monitoring. The lawyers contended that the law raised risks that required them to take costly measures, like traveling overseas to meet clients, to protect sensitive communications. But the Supreme Court dismissed their fears as “speculative.”
The N.S.A. is prohibited from targeting Americans, including businesses, law firms and other organizations based in the United States, for surveillance without warrants, and intelligence officials have repeatedly said the N.S.A. does not use the spy services of its partners in the so-called Five Eyes alliance — Australia, Britain, Canada and New Zealand — to skirt the law.
Still, the N.S.A.can intercept the communications of Americans if they are in contact with a foreign intelligence target abroad, such as Indonesian officials. The N.S.A. is then required to follow so-called minimization rules to protect their privacy, such as deleting the identity of Americans or information that is not deemed necessary to understand or assess the foreign intelligence, before sharing it with other agencies.
An N.S.A. spokeswoman said the agency’s Office of the General Counsel was consulted when issues of potential attorney-client privilege arose and could recommend steps to protect such information.
“Such steps could include requesting that collection or reporting by a foreign partner be limited, that intelligence reports be written so as to limit the inclusion of privileged material and to exclude U.S. identities, and that dissemination of such reports be limited and subject to appropriate warnings or restrictions on their use,” said Vanee M. Vines, the spokeswoman.
The Australian government declined to comment about the surveillance. In a statement, the Australian Defense Force public affairs office said that in gathering information to support Australia’s national interests, its intelligence agencies adhered strictly to their legal obligations, including when they engaged with foreign counterparts.Several newly disclosed documents provide details of the cooperation between the United States and Australia, which share facilitiesand highly sensitive intelligence, including efforts to break encryption and collect phone call data in Indonesia. Both nations have trade and security interests in Indonesia, where Islamic terrorist groups that threaten the West have bases.
The 2013 N.S.A. bulletin did not identify which trade case was being monitored by Australian intelligence, but Indonesia has been embroiled in several disputes with the United States in recent years. One involves clove cigarettes, an Indonesian export. The Indonesian government has protested to the World Trade Organization a United States ban on their sale, arguing that similar menthol cigaretteshave not been subject to the same restrictions under American antismoking laws. The trade organization, ruling that the United States prohibition violated international trade laws, referred the case to arbitration to determine potential remedies for Indonesia.
Another dispute involved Indonesia’s exports of shrimp, which the United States claimed were being sold at below-market prices.
The Indonesian government retained Mayer Brown to help in the cases concerning cigarettes and shrimp, said Ni Made Ayu Marthini, attaché for trade and industry at the Indonesian Embassy in Washington. She said no American law firm had been formally retained yet to help in a third case, involving horticultural and animal products.
Mr. Layton, a lawyer in the Washington office of Mayer Brown, said that since 2010 he had led a team from the firm in the clove cigarette dispute. He said Matthew McConkey, another lawyer in the firm’s Washington office, had taken the lead on the shrimp issue until the United States dropped its claims in August. Both cases were underway a year ago when the Australians reported that their surveillance included an American law firm.
Mr. Layton said that if his emails and calls with Indonesian officials had been monitored, the spies would have been bored. “None of this stuff is very sexy,” he said. “It’s just run of the mill.”
NSA, Australian liaison office monitored U.S. law firm
A top-secret document obtained by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden shows that a U.S. law firm was monitored while representing a foreign government in trade disputes with the United States, The New York Times reports.
The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — The National Security Agency (NSA) was involved in the surveillance of a U.S. law firm while it represented a foreign government in trade disputes with the United States, The New York Times reported in a story based on a top-secret document obtained by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.
The February 2013 document shows that the Indonesian government had retained the law firm for help in trade talks, The Times reported in a story posted on its website Saturday. The law firm was not identified in the document, but the Chicago-based firm Mayer Brown was advising the Indonesian government on trade issues at the time, according to the newspaper.
The document itself is a monthly bulletin from an NSA liaison office in Canberra, the capital of Australia. The NSA’s Australian counterpart, the Australian Signals Directorate, had notified the NSA that it was conducting surveillance of the talks, including communications between Indonesian officials and the U.S. law firm, and offered to share the information, The Times reported.
Liaison officials asked the NSA general counsel’s office, on behalf of the Australians, for guidance about the spying. The bulletin notes only that the counsel’s office “provided clear guidance” and that the Australian eavesdropping agency “has been able to continue to cover the talks, providing highly useful intelligence for interested U.S. customers,” according to the article.
The NSA and the Australian government declined to answer questions about the surveillance. In statements to the newspaper and The Associated Press, the NSA said it “does not ask its foreign partners to undertake any intelligence activity that the U.S. government would be legally prohibited from undertaking itself.”
America’s frustration with Europe’s response to the political crisis in Ukraine burst into the open on Thursday after a senior US official was apparently caught on tape saying “f— the EU”.
Victoria Nuland, the assistant secretary of state for European affairs, used the undiplomatic language in a phone conversation with Geoffrey Pyatt, the US ambassador to Ukraine, which was posted online by an unknown source.
The pair are overheard discussing a possible deal between President Viktor Yanukovych and three opposition leaders to end the occupation of central Kiev by tens of thousands of protesters.
Ms Nuland relays the news that the United Nations has agreed to send an envoy to mediate between the rivals, a decision that she welcomes as necessary to “help glue this thing”.
Ukraine’s President Viktor Yanukovich (L) greets US Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland
“And you know,” adds Ms Nuland, “f— the EU.”
”Exactly,” agrees the ambassador, Mr Pyatt. “And I think we got to do something to make it stick together, because you can be sure that if it does start to gain altitude the Russians will be working behind the scenes to torpedo it.”
Victoria Nuland, right, meeting the Ukrainian president, Viktor Yanukovych, in Kiev. Photograph: Markiv Mykhailo/Itar-Tass Photo/Corbis
America’s new top diplomat for Europe seems to have been caught being decidedly undiplomatic about her EU allies in a phone call apparently intercepted and leaked by Russia.
“Fuck the EU,” Victoria Nuland apparently says in a recent phone call with the US ambassador to Kiev, Geoff Pyatt, as they discuss the next moves to try to resolve the crisis in Ukraine amid weeks of pro-democracy protests which have rocked the country. The call appears to have been intercepted and released on YouTube, accompanied by Russian captions of the private and candid conversation.
Although the US state department did not immediately respond to a request for comment, White House spokesman Jay Carney alleged that because it had been “tweeted out by the Russian government, it says something about Russia’s role”.
It was impossible to immediately verify the undated post, although the woman speaking sounds like Nuland, who served as the state department’s spokeswoman before becoming assistant secretary for European and Eurasian affairs last year.
Nuland and Pyatt appear to discuss the upheavals in Ukraine, and President Viktor Yanukovych’s offer last month to make opposition leader Arseniy Yatsenyuk the new prime minister and Vitali Klitschko deputy prime minister. Both men turned the offer down.
Nuland, who in December went to Independence Square in Kiev in a sign of support for the demonstrators, adds that she has also been told that the UN chief, Ban Ki-moon, is about to appoint a former Dutch ambassador to Kiev, Robert Serry, as his representative to Ukraine.
Bugged US diplomats conversation: Moscow relishes in Washington’s embarrassment
By VLADIMIR ISACHENKOV, Associated Press
MOSCOW (AP) — It was a conversation not meant for public consumption: two senior U.S. diplomats discussing the political crisis in Ukraine in strikingly frank language.
But within days, the bugged phone call landed on YouTube and was avidly tweeted by Russian officials, who cited it as proof of Western meddling in Ukrainian affairs.
The Russians denied they had any role in bugging the conversation, but they clearly relished in the embarrassment of the U.S. at a time when the ties between the two countries have been strained by a number of disputes, including Syria and most recently, Ukraine.
A look at recent attempts by Russia to jeer at the U.S.
DIPLOMAT IN BLOND WIG
Last May, Russian counterintelligence agents ambushed Ryan Fogle, a 29-year-old U.S. diplomat who they said was trying to recruit a Russian officer. They said he was caught red handed with a recruitment letter, two wigs, sunglasses, a compass and a wad of cash. The spy toolkit that seemed to come straight from a movie became the subject of mockery on Russian state TV for weeks.
By harboring NSA leaker Edward Snowden and refusing U.S. demands to extradite him, Russia has dealt a blow to the United States. Though President Vladimir Putin denied that Russian security agencies were controlling Snowden, many security analysts were skeptical, saying it was inconceivable the Russians wouldn’t have rummaged through a trove of secrets in his possession.
The Snowden affair and the spotlight it has shone on U.S. eavesdropping activities also offered the Kremlin an opportunity to turn the tables following criticism of Russia’s rights record.
Assistant secretary of state, Victoria Nuland, apologises to EU counterparts for ‘undiplomatic language’
LAST UPDATED AT 10:39 ON Fri 7 Feb 2014
THE United States has issued a humiliating apology after a senior official was heard to say “f*** the EU” in an apparently leaked private phone conversation with the US ambassador to Ukraine.
The alleged phone call between Victoria Nuland, the assistant secretary of state, and the US ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt, was released on YouTube on Thursday. The candid chat is thought to have been conducted on an unencrypted line, which led to its interception.
Moscow has accused the US of meddling in the internal affairs of the sovereign former-Soviet state, which Russia hopes to keep within its economic orbit, Reuters reports. The Kremlin went so far as to suggest that the conversation was evidence that the US may be attempting to foment a coup within Ukraine.
Not content to wait for action at the federal level, those opposed to the ongoing mass surveillance of the NSA and other agencies are speaking out and pushing laws at the state level to ensure privacy rights are protected. (Image: thedaywefightback.org)Concerned about the government’s increasing surveillance powers but unimpressed with the congressional response in Washington so far, state lawmakers from both major political parties are now taking it upon themselves to protect the online and communication privacy of their constituents.
Meanwhile, individuals and privacy groups are planning their own grassroots response to mass surveillance, hoping to repeat past victories by harnessing the power of digital communications to ensure they are adequately protected from government overreach.
As the Associated Press reports Wednesday, efforts are now underway “in at least 14 states are a direct message to the federal government: If you don’t take action to strengthen privacy, we will.”
Republican and Democratic lawmakers have joined in proposing the measures, reflecting the unusual mix of political partnerships that have arisen since the NSA revelations that began in May. Establishment leadership has generally favored the programs, while conservative limited government advocates and liberal privacy supporters have opposed them.
Supporters say the measures are needed because technology has grown to the point that police can digitally track someone’s every move.
Devices such as license plate readers and cellphone trackers “can tell whether you stayed in a motel that specializes in hourly rates, or you stopped at tavern that has nude dancers,” said David Fidanque, director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon.
“It’s one thing to know you haven’t violated the law, but it’s another thing to know you haven’t had every one of your moves tracked,” he said.
Next week, on February 11, privacy advocates and online freedom groups are mobilizing against NSA and other government surveillance in a day of action they’ve dubbed ‘The Day We Fight Back.’
According to Katitza Rodriguez at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, one of the groups organizing the action, those participating will be demanding “an end to mass surveillance in every country, by every state, regardless of boundaries or politics.”
Galvanized by what they see as 13 Principles of internet and communication freedoms, activists will use the day to call attention to those goals, lobby on their behalf with their representatives, and declare an end to the encroaching, unaccountable, and unregulated surveillance apparatus.
“The Principles spellout just why mass surveillance is a violation of human rights,” explained Rodriguez, and they “give sympathetic lawmakers and judges a list of fixes they could apply to the lawless Internet spooks. On the day we fight back, we want the world to sign onto those principles. We want politicians to pledge to uphold them. We want the world to see we care.”
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.
(or at least have to work REALLY hard for the data)
By James Smith
28 Jan 2014
You cannot swing a dead cat without hitting a news story about the National Security Administration (NSA) finding ways to glean information about your personal life. From learning your sexual proclivity to your bank’s PIN, they seem to have an animalistic hunger for your personal details.
The information I am giving you is life changing. It offers freedom where there is captivity. And, believe it or not, actually works!
#1 Get rid of your smart phone.
Your smart phone is the first way the NSA has its claws into you. From your location to your banking info, which any rogue NSA agent can sell (think Edward Snowden with gambling debts), your smart phone is a liability.
Changing to a simple cell phone means you can’t keep up to date with your Facebook buddies, but that’s okay. They don’t like you anyways. And the NSA may be able to track your phone calls and location despite your best efforts. This is one way you can keep the NSA and local law enforcement wondering where you’ve been.
Open the back of the cell phone and locate the GPS chip like these:
And apply a hot soldering iron to the center for a few seconds. Repeat a few times. That will damage the chip to the point of being unreliable or inoperative.
“This type of technology would also make these GPS tracking chips for children too. In fact, it would probably enable a future society to be able to know the exact location of every person in the world at the exact same time! If I wanted to get all 1984-esque, if there was a small microphone on the cell phone component then you would know where everyone in the world was and what they were talking about at any given moment. Now that would be something.”
They had no idea how accurate they were in their prognostication, however, the NSA was in full swing of knowing where people were by the GPS chips in their cell phones.
#2 Delete your Facebook Account
Actually, get rid of all your social media accounts. Facebook is losing more followers than President Obama, and Twitter is REALLY overpriced for the value they hold. If you must use social media – limit it to work issues only, such as current sales and special offers. Private information should stay private. No one, including the NSA, needs to know of problems in your personal life. Save that for #5 and $6.
NSA is after industrial spying – Snowden to German TV
Published time: January 26, 2014 09:44
Edited time: January 27, 2014 08:15
AFP Photo / Jim Watson
The NSA agency is not preoccupied solely with national security, but also spies on foreign industrial entities in US business interests, former American intelligence contractor, Edward Snowden, has revealed in an interview to German TV.
Edward Snowden chose the German ARD broadcaster to make his first TV interview ever since he became a whistleblower. The interview was made in strict secrecy in an unspecified location in Russia, where Snowden is currently living under temporary asylum.
“There is no question that the US is engaged in economic spying,” said Snowden.
If an industrial giant like Siemens has something that the NSA believes “would be beneficial to the national interests, not the national security, of the United States, they will go after that information and they’ll take it,” the whistleblower said, giving an example.
Reuters / Tobias Schwarz
Edward Snowden disavowed participation in any future publications of the documents he withdrew from the NSA databanks, saying in the same interview that he no longer possesses any NSA data. The information has been distributed among a number of trustworthy journalists, who are going to decide for themselves what to make public and in what sequence.
The full 30-minute version was aired at 11pm local time (22:00 UTC) on Sunday.
The former NSA contractor’s revelations about US global spying activities, including snooping on its closest allies, put transatlantic ties “to the test,” said German Chancellor Angela Merkel last November and demanded that Washington give Germany clarity over the future of the NSA in the country.
Snowden’s revelation hit Berlin particularly hard because Germany is a non-Anglophone country, and therefore is not a member of the ‘Five eyes’ intelligence alliance that incorporates NSA-equivalent agencies in Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, Deutsche Welle points out. While members of the ‘Five eyes’ were exchanging intelligence on a regular basis, Berlin had to consider itself satisfied with less data, while both Washington and London, for example, were blatantly listening to German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cell phone right in the middle of Germany’s capital.
The Germans – according to polls – have lost confidence in the US as a trustworthy partner, and the majority of them consider NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden a hero.
NSA’s big nose in big business: Snowden says agency spies on industry
Published on Jan 27, 2014
The NSA agency is not preoccupied solely with national security, but also spies on foreign industrial entities in US business interests, former American intelligence contractor, Edward Snowden, has revealed in an interview to German TV. READ MORE: http://on.rt.com/4knl08
Some of the biggest names in cryptography and computer science just released an open letter condemning the surveillance practices of the U.S government. “Media reports since last June have revealed that the US government conducts domestic and international surveillance on a massive scale, that it engages in deliberate and covert weakening of Internet security standards, and that it pressures US technology companies to deploy backdoors and other data-collection features,” said a statement posted to masssurveillance.info. “As leading members of the US cryptography and information-security research communities, we deplore these practices and urge that they be changed.”
In a speech last week, President Obama addressed concerns related to NSA’s 215 domestic phone records collection program, but he did not remark on reports that the U.S. government had weakened encryption as part of its practices.
An open letter today from a large group of professors – top US computer security and cryptography researchers – slams the damage to ecurity caused by NSA spying:
Inserting backdoors, sabotaging standards, and tapping commercial data-center links provide bad actors, foreign and domestic, opportunities to exploit the resulting vulnerabilities.
The value of society-wide surveillance in preventing terrorism is unclear, but the threat that such surveillance poses to privacy, democracy, and the US technology sector is readily apparent. Because transparency and public consent are at the core of our democracy, we call upon the US government to subject all mass-surveillance activities to public scrutiny and to resist the deployment of mass-surveillance programs in advance of sound technical and social controls. In finding a way forward, the five principles promulgated at http://reformgovernmentsurveillance.com/ [a site launched by Google, Apple, Microsoft, Twitter, Facebook, AOL, Yahoo and LinkedIn] provide a good starting point.
The choice is not whether to allow the NSA to spy. The choice is between a communications infrastructure that is vulnerable to attack at its core and one that, by default, is intrinsically secure for its users. Every country, including our own, must give intelligence and law-enforcement authorities the means to pursue terrorists and criminals, but we can do so without fundamentally undermining the security that enables commerce, entertainment, personal communication, and other aspects of 21st-century life. We urge the US government to reject society-wide surveillance and the subversion of security technology, to adopt state-of-the-art, privacy-preserving technology, and to ensure that new policies, guided by enunciated principles, support human rights, trustworthy commerce, and technical innovation.
The Washington Post notes that these are some of the top names in computer cryptography and security, including heavyweights in the government.
Many other top security experts agree:
IT and security professionals say spying could mess up the safety of our internet and computer systems
“By weakening encryption, the NSA allows others to more easily break it. By installing backdoors and other vulnerabilities in systems, the NSA exposes them to other malicious hackers—whether they are foreign governments or criminals. As security expert Bruce Schneier explained, ‘It’s sheer folly to believe that only the NSA can exploit the vulnerabilities they create.’”
Live Q&A with Edward Snowden: Thursday 23rd January, 8pm GMT, 3pm EST
@mperkel #ASKSNOWDEN They say it’s a balance of privacy and safety. I think spying makes us less safe. do you agree?
Intelligence agencies do have a role to play, and the people at the working level at the NSA, CIA, or any other member of the IC are not out to get you. They’re good people trying to do the right thing, and I can tell you from personal experience that they were worried about the same things I was.
The people you need to watch out for are the unaccountable senior officials authorizing these unconstitutional programs, and unreliable mechanisms like the secret FISA court, a rubber-stamp authority that approves 99.97% of government requests (which denied only 11 requests out of 33,900 in 33 years http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2013/06/fisa-court-nsa-spying-opinion-reject-request. They’re the ones that get us into trouble with the Constitution by letting us go too far.
And even the President now agrees our surveillance programs are going too far, gathering massive amounts of private records on ordinary Americans who have never been suspected of any crime. This violates our constitutional protection against unlawful searches and seizure. Collecting phone and email records for every American is a waste of money, time and human resources that could be better spent pursuing those the government has reason to suspect are a serious threat.
I’m going to stop here. My deepest thanks to everyone who sent questions, and whether or not we agree on where the lines should be drawn, I encourage you to contact your members of congress and tell them how you feel about mass surveillance. This is a global problem, and the first step to tackling it is by working together to fix it at home.
If you’d like to more ideas on how to push back against unconstitutional surveillance, consider taking a look at the organizations working together to organize https://thedaywefightback.org/.
@mrbass21 Recently several threats have been made on your life by the intelligence community. Are you afraid for your life? Thoughts? #AskSnowden
It’s concerning, to me, but primarily for reasons you might not expect.
That current, serving officials of our government are so comfortable in their authorities that they’re willing to tell reporters on the record that they think the due process protections of the 5th Amendment of our Constitution are outdated concepts. These are the same officials telling us to trust that they’ll honor the 4th and 1st Amendments. This should bother all of us.
The fact that it’s also a direct threat to my life is something I am aware of, but I’m not going to be intimidated. Doing the right thing means having no regrets.
@ferenstein what’s the worst and most realistic harm from bulk collection of data? Why do you think it outweighs national security? #AskSnowden
The worst and happening-right-now harm of bulk collection — which again, is a euphemism for mass surveillance — is two-fold.
The first is the chilling effect, which is well-understood. Study after study has show that human behavior changes when we know we’re being watched. Under observation, we act less free, which means we effectively *are* less free.
The second, less understood but far more sinister effect of these classified programs, is that they effectively create “permanent records” of our daily activities, even in the absence of any wrongdoing on our part. This enables a capability called “retroactive investigation,” where once you come to the government’s attention, they’ve got a very complete record of your daily activity going back, under current law, often as far as five years. You might not remember where you went to dinner on June 12th 2009, but the government does.
The power these records represent can’t be overstated. In fact, researchers have referred to this sort of data gathering as resulting in “databases of ruin,” where harmful and embarrassing details exist about even the most innocent individuals. The fact that these records are gathered without the government having any reasonable suspicion or probable cause justifying the seizure of data is so divorced from the domain of reason as to be incapable of ever being made lawful at all, and this view was endorsed as recently as today by the federal government’s Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight board.
Fundamentally, a society in which the pervasive monitoring of the sum of civil activity becomes routine is turning from the traditions of liberty toward what is an inherently illiberal infrastructure of preemptive investigation, a sort of quantified state where the least of actions are measured for propriety. I don’t seek to pass judgment in favor or against such a state in the short time I have here, only to declare that it is not the one we inherited, and should we as a society embrace it, it should be the result of public decision rather than closed conference.
@LukasReuter #AskSnowden How should the community of states react to the new information concerning surveillance? What actions have to be made?
We need to work together to agree on a reasonable international norm for the limitations on spying. Nobody should be hacking critical-to-life infrastructure like hospitals and power stations, and it’s fair to say that can be recognized in international law.
Additionally, we need to recognize that national laws are not going to solve the problem of indiscriminate surveillance. A prohibition in Burundi isn’t going to stop the spies in Greenland. We need a global forum, and global funding, committed to the development of security standards that enforce our right to privacy not through law, but through science and technology. The easiest way to ensure a country’s communications are secure is to secure them world-wide, and that means better standards, better crypto, and better research.
@wikileaks #AskSnowden The Ecuadorean Consul in London, Fidel Narvaez, lost his job after his helping you to safety was spun. Message for his family?
Fidel is an incredibly brave individual, and he did everything that was possible to ensure that the rights of someone he had never met would be protected. He could have turned away from a tough decision, but instead of letting my situation become someone else’s problem, he did what he thought was right. That kind of commitment to doing the right thing, even knowing it could get you in trouble, is something the world needs more of.
@jaketapper #AskSnowden Under what conditions would you agree to return to the U.S.?
Returning to the US, I think, is the best resolution for the government, the public, and myself, but it’s unfortunately not possible in the face of current whistleblower protection laws, which through a failure in law did not cover national security contractors like myself.
The hundred-year old law under which I’ve been charged, which was never intended to be used against people working in the public interest, and forbids a public interest defense. This is especially frustrating, because it means there’s no chance to have a fair trial, and no way I can come home and make my case to a jury.
Maybe when Congress comes together to end the programs the PCLOB just announced was illegal, they’ll reform the Whistleblower Protection Act, and we’ll see a mechanism for all Americans, no matter who they work for, to get a fair trial.
@Valio_ch #asksnowden Do you think that the Watchdog Report by Privacy & Civil Liberties Oversight Board will have any impact at all?
I don’t see how Congress could ignore it, as it makes it clear there is no reason at all to maintain the 215 program. Let me quote from the official report:
“Cessation of the program would eliminate the privacy and civil liberties concerns associated with bulk collection without unduly hampering the government’s efforts, while ensuring that any governmental requests for telephone calling records are tailored to the needs of specific investigations.”
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