Category: Espionage


Voice  Of America

Turkey Begins Espionage Investigation After Syria Leak

YouTube logos displayed on a laptop screen partially covered with Turkey's national flag in this photo illustration taken in Ankara, March 27, 2014.  YouTube logos displayed on a laptop screen partially covered with Turkey’s national flag in this photo illustration taken in Ankara, March 27, 2014.
Reuters

The recording of the meeting between Turkey’s intelligence chief, foreign minister and deputy head of the military was by far the most serious breach in weeks of highly sensitive leaks, a scandal which Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan has cast as a plot to sabotage the state and topple him.

Erdogan and his aides have blamed the Hizmet movement of U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, a former ally whose followers have influence in the police and judiciary, of running a “dirty campaign” of espionage to implicate him in corruption ahead of crucial nationwide municipal elections on Sunday.

“Tomorrow we will teach those liars and slanderers a lesson,” Erdogan told a jubilant crowd of supporters in Istanbul’s working class Kartal district on Saturday, vowing his ruling AK Party would triumph at the polls.

Gulen has vociferously denied orchestrating the leak scandal, but those close to his network have said they fear a heavy crackdown once the local elections have passed.

Police overnight briefly detained Onder Aytac, a prominent writer and journalist known to be close to the Hizmet movement, on suspicion of having information about the bugging of the foreign ministry meeting, the Hurriyet newspaper said.

CNN Turk meanwhile reported Erdogan’s lawyers asked prosecutors to take precautionary measures to stop both Aytac and Emre Uslu, a newspaper columnist, academic and former senior anti-terrorism police official, from fleeing abroad.

Aytac said in a statement on the Hizmet-affiliated Samanyolu news website that he had been asked whether he was a spy and how he had known so much about the content of the leaked recording, after he discussed it on a television program.

“I made my assessment as an academic in that program. They are trying to intimidate people who think like me in this election process,” he said in the statement.

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Desert Rose Creations  (C)  2014

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Snowden Docs Expose How the NSA “Infects” Millions of Computers, Impersonates Facebook Server

democracynow democracynow

Guests

Ryan Gallagher, reporter for The Intercept.

New disclosures from Edward Snowden show the NSA is massively expanding its computer hacking worldwide. Software that automatically hacks into computers — known as malware “implants” — had previously been kept to just a few hundred targets. But the news website The Intercept reports that the NSA is spreading the software to millions of computers under an automated system codenamed “Turbine.” The Intercept has also revealed the NSA has masqueraded as a fake Facebook server to infect a target’s computer and exfiltrate files from a hard drive. We are joined by The Intercept reporter Ryan Gallagher.

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We turn now to our last segment, the latest on leaks from Edward Snowden. TheIntercept.org reported last week the National Security Agency is dramatically expanding its ability to covertly hack into computers on a mass scale by using automated systems that reduce the level of human oversight in the process. The Intercept also revealed the NSA has masqueraded as a fake Facebook server to infect a target’s computer and exfiltrate files from a hard drive.

Joining us now is Ryan Gallagher from The Intercept, co-wrote the piece, “[How] the NSA Plans to Infect ‘Millions’ of Computers with Malware.” Explain, Ryan.

RYAN GALLAGHER: Hi, Amy. Yeah, and the story we wrote last week, really, the key thing about it is the extent to which these techniques have really rapidly escalated in the last decade. And what we can see and what we reported was that, since about 2004, the National Security Agency has expanded the use of what it calls these “implants,” which are sort of malicious software implants within computers and computer networks, and even phone networks, to basically steal data from those systems. About 10 years ago, they had, they say, about a hundred and a hundred and—between a hundred and 150 of these implants, but within the last decade that expanded to an estimated 100,000, in some reports, and they’re building a system to be capable of deploying “millions,” in their own words, of these implants.

AMY GOODMAN: The revelation around the issue of Facebook has led Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg to call President Obama on Wednesday and demand an explanation. He later wrote in a blog post, quote, “I’ve been so confused and frustrated by the repeated reports of the behavior of the US government. When our engineers work tirelessly to improve security, we imagine we’re protecting you against criminals, not our own government.”

RYAN GALLAGHER: Yeah, and Mark Zuckerberg was definitely very agitated, we think, about the report and seems to have got on the phone to Obama. And interestingly, the NSA later issued a—actually claimed that they hadn’t impersonated U.S. websites. However, their own documents actually say that they pretended to be the Facebook server for this particular surveillance technique, so their denial sort of doesn’t really hold up to scrutiny when compared with their own documents. And there’s a bit of sort of a—you know, there’s questions to be asked about that.

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“Giving Hypocrisy a Bad Name”: NSA-Backing Senate Intel Chair Blasts CIA for Spying on Torture Probe

democracynow democracynow

Published on Mar 12, 2014

http://www.democracynow.org- The spat between the CIA and its Congressional overseers has intensified after Senator Dianne Feinstein took to the Senate floor to directly accuse the CIA of spying in an effort to undermine a probe of the agency’s torture and rendition program. The Senate Intelligence Committee’s report has yet to be released but reportedly documents extensive abuses and a cover-up by CIA officials. Feinstein says the CIA broke the law in secretly removing more than 900 documents from computers used by panel investigators. She also accused the CIA of intimidation in requesting an FBI inquiry of the panel’s conduct. CIA Director John Brennan has rejected Feinstein’s allegations. Meanwhile, former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden has weighed in by accusing Feinstein of hypocrisy for criticizing alleged CIA spying on U.S. senators while condoning government surveillance of private citizens. We host a roundtable discussion with three guests: former FBI agent Mike German, former CIA analyst Ray McGovern, and Pulitzer-winning journalist Julia Angwin, author of the new book, “Dragnet Nation: A Quest for Privacy, Security and Freedom in a World of Relentless Surveillance.”

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FULL: Edward Snowden and ACLU at SXSW

T Bert·

 

 

Published on Mar 10, 2014

Edward Snowden speaks about privacy and technology with the ACLU’s Ben Wizner and Christopher Soghoian at SXSW Interactive. -Links are below-

http://washingtonexaminer.com/edward-…

https://www.aclu.org/

https://www.aclu.org/time-rein-survei… – Main “Time to Rein in the Surveillance State
https://www.aclu.org/time-rein-survei… – Patriot Act Info
https://www.aclu.org/time-rein-survei… – FISA Amendments
https://www.aclu.org/time-rein-survei… – FISA Court Info

Edward Snowden warns of personal data vulnerability

The former NSA contractor takes part in a video conference at the South by Southwest tech event in Texas and answers questions via Twitter to an enthusiastic audience.

Edward Snowden

Former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden speaks remotely to the South by Southwest Interactive conference in Austin, Texas, superimposed over an image of the Constitution. (Spencer Bakalar / Los Angeles Times / March 10, 2014)

AUSTIN, Texas — Edward Snowden brought no bombshells when he arrived to an excited round of applause Monday, his stubbled face relaxed as it was beamed in from across the continents for a “virtual conversation” about the vulnerability of personal data. His presence was event enough.

Public appearances by the former National Security Agency contractor and U.S. exile are rare, and this one was beamed in from an undisclosed location in Russia via several online proxies for his own security, a bit of technological cloak-and-dagger that could only add to his mystique for the three roomfuls of international tech specialists struggling to hear his words in video that was choppy and often inaudible.

His message still got through: Personal information is vulnerable not only to government prying but to growing numbers of outside infiltrators because companies have failed to adequately protect the data of their customers. His own exile after leaking to reporters secret information he had gathered while an NSA consultant has made him a central figure in that conversation, and he says he has no regrets.

“Would I do it again? Absolutely,” Snowden said into the camera, in response to one of several questions submitted to him via Twitter (#AskSnowden) and screened backstage at the South by Southwest Interactive conference. “I took an oath to support and defend the Constitution. And I saw the Constitution was being violated on a massive scale.”

He warned, “If we allow the NSA to continue unrestrained, every other government will accept that as a green light to do the same.”

The chosen Twitter questions were notably nonconfrontational for a figure often the subject of heated debate even among supporters. One asked whether the mass surveillance was driven by privatization. Another wondered about the potential for society to “reap benefits” from the “big data.” None asked about his life in Russia, or what further revelations might be coming.

The first question came from Timothy John Berners-Lee, a British scientist known as the inventor of the World Wide Web, who asked Snowden how he would create an accountability system for governance.

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Edward Snowden discusses NSA leaks at SXSW: ‘I would do it again’

• Whistleblower patches in to Texas conference from Russia
• Snowden insists leaks have strengthened national security

Edward Snowden, the NSA whistleblower whose unprecedented leak of top-secret documents led to a worldwide debate about the nature of surveillance, insisted on Monday that his actions had improved the national security of the United States rather than undermined it, and declared that he would do it all again despite the personal sacrifices he had endured.

In remarks to the SXSW culture and technology conference in Texas, delivered by video link from his exile in Russia, Snowden took issue with claims by senior officials that he had placed the US in danger. He also rejected as demonstrably false the suggestions by some members of Congress that his files had found their way into the hands of the intelligence agencies of China or Russia.

Snowden spoke against the backdrop of an image of the US constitution, which he said he had taken an oath to protect but had seen “violated on a mass scale” while working for the US government. He accepted praise from Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the world wide web, accorded the first question via Twitter, who described him as “acting profoundly in the public interest”.

The session provided a rare and extensive glimpse into the thoughts of Snowden, granted temporary asylum by Russia after the US revoked his passport. He struck back strongly against claims made again last week by the NSA director, General Keith Alexander, that his release of secret documents to the Guardian and other outlets last year had weakened American cyber-defences.

“These things are improving national security, these are improving the communications not just of Americans, but everyone in the world,” Snowden said. “Because we rely on the same standard, we rely on the ability to trust our communications, and without that, we don’t have anything.”

He added later that thanks to the more secure communication activity that had been encouraged by his disclosures, “the public has benefited, the government has benefited, and every society in the world has benefited”.

 

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• 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
Yahoo webcam image.

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.

NSA ragout 4

 

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”.

NSA ragout 3

 

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.

 

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Egypt’s ex-president and Muslim Brotherhood figurehead could face capital punishment if found guilty of espionage

  • theguardian.com, Sunday 23 February 2014 14.43 EST
Mohamed Morsi

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.

 

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Lawyers for Egypt’s Morsi walk out of latest trial

Sally Nabil reports from Cairo, where she says the lawyers walked out in protest at the glass dock

Lawyers for deposed Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi have walked out of his trial on charges of espionage and conspiring to commit acts of terror.

The trial has now been adjourned until 23 February.

The lawyers withdrew in protest at Mr Morsi and other defendants being confined in a soundproofed glass cage.

The Islamist former leader is facing four separate trials, three of which have now opened.

Mr Morsi was brought to Cairo’s police academy on Sunday morning by helicopter from the Burj al-Arab prison where he is being held.

In this trial, he and 35 others are accused of working with Lebanese and Palestinian groups to carry out attacks in Egypt.

Mr Morsi has been put in the soundproof cage in recent appearances to prevent him shouting and disrupting proceedings.

The defendants have said they cannot follow proceedings because of the cage, but the judge insisted that headphones installed inside the dock will allow them to listen.

The cage allows the judge to control when the defendants are heard.

At one point when he was audible, Mr Morsi said: “What are you so afraid of? Are you afraid because you have no public support?” Reuters reports.

The court said it would appoint a new defence team.

An Egyptian riot policeman stands guard on the top of an armoured vehicle outside the Police Academy Security was tight outside the police academy where the trial was taking place
A pro-military Egyptian holds a poster behind barbed wires Pro-military protesters had assembled, some demanding Mr Morsi’s execution

Morsi defiant

Mr Morsi was ousted by the military last July following mass street protests against his rule.

Since Mr Morsi was ousted there has been a severe crackdown on his Muslim Brotherhood group, as well as on other activists seen as hostile to the military-backed government.

The Brotherhood has been declared a terrorist organisation and authorities have punished any public show of support for it.

 

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‘Most probably, Morsi will be convicted’ – expert

'Most probably, Morsi will be convicted' - expert

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.

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Electronic Frontier Foundation

Defending your rights in the digital world

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New York Times

Spying by N.S.A. Ally Entangled U.S. Law Firm

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.

Launch media viewer

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 facilities and 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 cigarettes have 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.”

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The Seattle Times

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.”

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US official caught on tape cursing EU for handling of Ukraine crisis

By , Washington, and David Blair

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.”

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US blames Russia for leak of undiplomatic language from top official

State department’s diplomat for Europe, Victoria Nuland, apparently said ‘Fuck the EU’ in conversation over Ukraine crisis
  • The Guardian, Thursday 6 February 2014 15.12 EST

Victoria Nuland and Viktor Yanukovych

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.

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Марионетки Майдана

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US News

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.

SNOWDEN AFFAIR

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.

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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.

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- Jon Queally, staff writer

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.”

According to AP:

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.”

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