The chairman of a key committee in the House of Representatives agreed to move on a major surveillance overhaul on Monday, after months of delay.
The decision, by the Republican chairman of the House judiciary committee, Bob Goodlatte of Virginia, breathes new life back into the USA Freedom Act, a legislative fix favoured by privacy advocates to prevent the US government from collecting domestic data in bulk.
The judiciary committee is expected to take action on an amendment encapsulating the provisions of the USA Freedom Act on Wednesday at 1pm. Congressional aides expected it to pass the committee with bipartisan support, setting up a fight on the House floor.
Goodlatte, who had been hesitant to endorse the bill, written by former committee chairman James Sensenbrenner, will now vote for it personally.
Goodlatte’s decision comes despite pressure by the House Republican leadership, which preferred an alternative bill, written by the House intelligence committee leadership, that would permit the government to acquire Americans’ data without a specific prior judicial order for it. Additional pressure came from a desire on all sides to avoid surveillance-related amendments to unrelated, critical bills slated for floor consideration later this month.
An attempt by the intelligence committee and the House leadership to circumvent Goodlatte’s committee and pass the rival bill is said by observers to have galvanised Goodlatte’s decision to move forward on the USA Freedom Act. Internal committee negotiations on modifying the USA Freedom Act for passage intensified after the House intelligence committee unveiled its bill in March.
The Obama administration has yet to take a public position on the House judiciary bill or the House intelligence bill, although President Barack Obama endorsed getting the National Security Agency out of the business of bulk domestic phone records collection in March.
“This will start to look like a reasonable path forward for surveillance reform,” said a congressional aide.
Barely an hour after the judiciary committee announced its move on the USA Freedom Act, the House intelligence committee announced that it will mark up its alternative bill, the Fisa Transparency and Modernization Act, on Thursday.
“This bill directly addresses the privacy concerns many Americans have expressed over bulk collection. The bill ends bulk collection of telephone metadata and increases transparency while maintaining the tools our government needs to keep Americans and our allies safe. We believe this bill responds to the concerns many members of Congress have expressed and can be the compromise vehicle to reform Fisa while preserving important counterterrorism capabilities,” said the intelligence committee leaders, Republican Mike Rogers of Michigan and Democrat Dutch Ruppersberger of Maryland, in a joint statement on Monday.
A key House committee has approved a package of NSA reforms that would end the spy agency’s bulk collection of Americans’ phone records, nearly a year after former NSA contractor Edward Snowden disclosed the program’s existence.
The House Judiciary Committee voted 32-0 Wednesday to rein in the NSA with the USA FREEDOM Act, a measure that places new requirements on the government when it comes to gathering, targeting and searching telephone metadata for intelligence purposes.
In addition to prohibiting the NSA from engaging in what the bill’s sponsors have called “dragnet surveillance,” the bill would also require authorities to get permission from the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court on a case-by-case basis. It would establish a panel of privacy experts and other officials to serve as a public advocate at the court. And it would also give businesses more latitude to tell the public about requests it receives from the government for user data.
Defiant Apple, Facebook, other firms to inform public of govt surveillance requests
Published time: May 02, 2014 01:07
Edited time: May 02, 2014 06:42
Reuters / Eric Thayer
The same technology companies that the US intelligence community has relied upon to disclose email records are now refusing to keep surveillance requests secret and informing customers when they are the subject of such requests.
In the nearly ten months since former US National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden revealed extensive surveillance efforts on everyday Americans’ online activity, the companies that were forced to facilitate that surveillance have come under harsh public scrutiny.
The embarrassment ignited a series of comments from executives at Google and Facebook, among others, calling on the NSA and other agencies to either stop forcing them to provide the communications that customers trust them with, or allow them to be more transparent.
Now, according to a Thursday report in the Washington Post, Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, and Google have updated their policies to routinely notify customers when law enforcement has requested information about them.
Yahoo enacted such a change in July, with the Post reporting Thursday that companies “have found that investigators often drop data demands to avoid having suspects learn of inquiries.”
Major U.S. technology companies have largely ended the practice of quietly complying with investigators’ demands for e-mail records and other online data, saying that users have a right to know in advance when their information is targeted for government seizure.This increasingly defiant industry stand is giving some of the tens of thousands of Americans whose Internet data gets swept into criminal investigations each year the opportunity to fight in court to prevent disclosures. Prosecutors, however, warn that tech companies may undermine cases by tipping off criminals, giving them time to destroy vital electronic evidence before it can be gathered.
How the NSA is infiltrating private networks
Fueling the shift is the industry’s eagerness to distance itself from the government after last year’s disclosures about National Security Agency surveillance of online services. Apple, Microsoft, Facebook and Google all are updating their policies to expand routine notification of users about government data seizures, unless specifically gagged by a judge or other legal authority, officials at all four companies said. Yahoo announced similar changes in July.As this position becomes uniform across the industry, U.S. tech companies will ignore the instructions stamped on the fronts of subpoenas urging them not to alert subjects about data requests, industry lawyers say. Companies that already routinely notify users have found that investigators often drop data demands to avoid having suspects learn of inquiries.
“It serves to chill the unbridled, cost-free collection of data,” said Albert Gidari Jr., a partner at Perkins Coie who represents several technology companies. “And I think that’s a good thing.”
The Justice Department disagrees, saying in a statement that new industry policies threaten investigations and put potential crime victims in greater peril.
“These risks of endangering life, risking destruction of evidence, or allowing suspects to flee or intimidate witnesses are not merely hypothetical, but unfortunately routine,” department spokesman Peter Carr said, citing a case in which early disclosure put at risk a cooperative witness in a case. He declined to offer details because the case was under seal.
The changing tech company policies do not affect data requests approved by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which are automatically kept secret by law. National security letters, which are administrative subpoenas issued by the FBI for national security investigations, also carry binding gag orders.
The government traditionally has notified people directly affected by searches and seizures — though often not immediately — when investigators entered a home or tapped a phone line. But that practice has not survived the transition into the digital world. Cellular carriers such as AT&T and Verizon typically do not tell customers when investigators collect their call data.
Many tech companies once followed a similar model of quietly cooperating with law enforcement. Courts, meanwhile, ruled that it was sufficient for the government to notify the providers of Internet services of data requests, rather than the affected customers.
Twitter, founded in 2006, became perhaps the first major tech company to routinely notify users when investigators collected data, yet few others followed at first. When the Electronic Frontier Foundation began issuing its influential “Who Has Your Back?” report in 2011 — rating companies on their privacy and transparency policies — Twitter was the only company to get a star under the category “Tell users about data demands.” Google, the next mostly highly rated, got half a star from the civil liberties group.
NSA Said to Exploit Heartbleed Bug for Intelligence for Years
By Michael RileyApr 11, 2014 11:00 PM CT
The U.S. National Security Agency knew for at least two years about a flaw in the way that many websites send sensitive information, now dubbed the Heartbleed bug, and regularly used it to gather critical intelligence, two people familiar with the matter said.
The agency’s reported decision to keep the bug secret in pursuit of national security interests threatens to renew the rancorous debate over the role of the government’s top computer experts. The NSA, after declining to comment on the report, subsequently denied that it was aware of Heartbleed until the vulnerability was made public by a private security report earlier this month.
“Reports that NSA or any other part of the government were aware of the so-called Heartbleed vulnerability before 2014 are wrong,” according to an e-mailed statement from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
Heartbleed appears to be one of the biggest flaws in the Internet’s history, affecting the basic security of as many as two-thirds of the world’s websites. Its discovery and the creation of a fix by researchers five days ago prompted consumers to change their passwords, the Canadian government to suspend electronic tax filing and computer companies including Cisco Systems Inc. (CSCO) to Juniper Networks Inc. to provide patches for their systems.
Putting the Heartbleed bug in its arsenal, the NSA was able to obtain passwords and other basic data that are the building blocks of the sophisticated hacking operations at the core of its mission, but at a cost. Millions of ordinary users were left vulnerable to attack from other nations’ intelligence arms and criminal hackers.
“It flies in the face of the agency’s comments that defense comes first,” said Jason Healey, director of the cyber statecraft initiative at the Atlantic Council and a former Air Force cyber officer. “They are going to be completely shredded by the computer security community for this.”
Experts say the search for flaws is central to NSA’s mission, though the practice is controversial. A presidential board reviewing the NSA’s activities after Edward Snowden’s leaks recommended the agency halt the stockpiling of software vulnerabilities.
NSA Denies Report It Knew About And Exploited Heartbleed For Years
Updated with NSA denial
Bloomberg is reporting that the National Security Agency knew about the Heartbleed flaw for at least two years and “regularly used it to gather critical intelligence,” according to two sources.
The NSA has denied the Bloomberg report. “Reports that NSA or any other part of the government were aware of the so-called Heartbleed vulnerability before April 2014 are wrong. The Federal government was not aware of the recently identified vulnerability in OpenSSL until it was made public in a private sector cybersecurity report,” according to a blog post from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
If the Bloomberg story is true, it would be a major bombshell that is certain to add fuel to the already contentious debate about the NSA’s role in surveillance. Last year it was reported that the NSA paid security firm RSA $10 million to intentionally weaken an encryption algorithm and had circumvented or cracked other encryption schemes. Reuters recently reported that “NSA infiltrated RSA security more deeply than thought.”
Bloomberg said that the NSA was able to use the Heartbleed flaw to obtain passwords and other user data.
WASHINGTON — Stepping into a heated debate within the nation’s intelligence agencies, President Obama has decided that when the National Security Agency discovers major flaws in Internet security, it should — in most circumstances — reveal them to assure that they will be fixed, rather than keep mum so that the flaws can be used in espionage or cyberattacks, senior administration officials said Saturday.
But Mr. Obama carved a broad exception for “a clear national security or law enforcement need,” the officials said, a loophole that is likely to allow the N.S.A. to continue to exploit security flaws both to crack encryption on the Internet and to design cyberweapons.
The White House has never publicly detailed Mr. Obama’s decision, which he made in January as he began a three-month review of recommendations by a presidential advisory committee on what to do in response to recent disclosures about the National Security Agency.
But elements of the decision became evident on Friday, when the White House denied that it had any prior knowledge of the Heartbleed bug, a newly known hole in Internet security that sent Americans scrambling last week to change their online passwords. The White House statement said that when such flaws are discovered, there is now a “bias” in the government to share that knowledge with computer and software manufacturers so a remedy can be created and distributed to industry and consumers.
Caitlin Hayden, the spokeswoman for the National Security Council, said the review of the recommendations was now complete, and it had resulted in a “reinvigorated” process to weigh the value of disclosure when a security flaw is discovered, against the value of keeping the discovery secret for later use by the intelligence community.
“This process is biased toward responsibly disclosing such vulnerabilities,” she said.
Until now, the White House has declined to say what action Mr. Obama had taken on this recommendation of the president’s advisory committee, whose report is better known for its determination that the government get out of the business of collecting bulk telephone data about the calls made by every American. Mr. Obama announced last month that he would end the bulk collection, and leave the data in the hands of telecommunications companies, with a procedure for the government to obtain it with court orders when needed.
But while the surveillance recommendations were noteworthy, inside the intelligence agencies other recommendations, concerning encryption and cyber operations, set off a roaring debate with echoes of the Cold War battles that dominated Washington a half-century ago.
One recommendation urged the N.S.A. to get out of the business of weakening commercial encryption systems or trying to build in “back doors” that would make it far easier for the agency to crack the communications of America’s adversaries. Tempting as it was to create easy ways to break codes — the reason the N.S.A. was established by Harry S. Truman 62 years ago — the committee concluded that the practice would undercut trust in American software and hardware products. In recent months, Silicon Valley companies have urged the United States to abandon such practices, while Germany and Brazil, among other nations, have said they were considering shunning American-made equipment and software. Their motives were hardly pure: Foreign companies see the N.S.A. disclosures as a way to bar American competitors.
The US came under sharp criticism at the UN human rights committee in Geneva on Thursday for a long list of human rights abuses that included everything from detention without charge at Guantánamo, drone strikes and NSA surveillance, to the death penalty, rampant gun violence and endemic racial inequality.
At the start of a two-day grilling of the US delegation, the committee’s 18 experts made clear their deep concerns about the US record across a raft of human rights issues. Many related to faultlines as old as America itself, such as guns and race.
Other issues were relative newcomers. The experts raised questions about the National Security Agency’s surveillance of digital communications in the wake of Edward Snowden’s revelations. It also intervened in this week’s dispute between the CIA and US senators by calling for declassification and release of the 6,300-page report into the Bush administration’s use of torture techniques and rendition that lay behind the current CIA-Senate dispute.
The committee is charged with upholding the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), a UN treaty that the US ratified in 1992. The current exercise, repeated every five years, is a purely voluntarily review, and the US will face no penalties should it choose to ignore the committee’s recommendations, which will appear in a final report in a few weeks’ time.
But the US is clearly sensitive to suggestions that it fails to live up to the human rights obligations enshrined in the convention – as signalled by the large size of its delegation to Geneva this week. And as an act of public shaming, Thursday’s encounter was frequently uncomfortable for the US.
The US came under sustained criticism for its global counter-terrorism tactics, including the use of unmanned drones to kill al-Qaida suspects, and its transfer of detainees to third countries that might practice torture, such as Algeria. Committee members also highlighted the Obama administration’s failure to prosecute any of the officials responsible for permitting waterboarding and other “enhanced interrogation” techniques under the previous administration.
Walter Kälin, a Swiss international human rights lawyer who sits on the committee, attacked the US government’s refusal to recognise the convention’s mandate over its actions beyond its own borders. The US has asserted since 1995 that the ICCPR does not apply to US actions beyond its borders – and has used that “extra-territoriality” claim to justify its actions in Guantánamo and in conflict zones.
The US has put up its defence at the United Nations in Geneva over charges that it is guilty of widespread human rights violations, claiming that the military commissions at Guantanámo Bay meet – and exceed – fair trial standards and that agencies engaging in mass surveillance are subject to “rigorous oversight”.
The US delegation delivered its rebuttal on Friday to the strong criticism it has faced from members of the UN human rights committee. Over two days, the committee has pressed hard questions about the US human rights record, from National Security Agency data mining to racial discrimination and rampant gun violence.
The interaction between the US and the committee is part of a process, completed every five years, to review whether the country is meeting its commitments under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which the US ratified in 1992. At the end of the process, the committee will produce a non-binding final report that is aimed at encouraging the US at all levels of government to improve its policies in areas of perceived weakness.
US officials sought to fend off the committee’s criticisms, focusing particularly on Guantánamo and the mass dragnet of data exposed by Edward Snowden. The delegation insisted that the 154 detainees still being held in Guantánamo are there “lawfully both under international law and US law”.
Officials disputed that any of the detainees had been “cleared for release”. Rather, they were subject to review board assessments every six months to see whether “continued lawful detention is necessary to protect against a continuing threat against the US”.
Just three days after the first Guantánamo detainee lodged the first legal challenge to force feeding at the base in a US federal court, alleging he had been subjected to a form of torture known as the “water cure”, the US delegation in Geneva claimed detainees had “access to exceptional healthcare” and said: “It is the policy of the US to support the preservation of life in a humane manner.”
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.”
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.”
A top financial advisor, worried that Obamacare, the NSA spying scandal and spiraling national debt is increasing the chances for a fiscal and social disaster, is recommending that Americans prepare a “bug-out bag” that includes food, a gun and ammo to help them stay alive.
David John Marotta, a Wall Street expert and financial advisor and Forbes contributor, said in a note to investors, “Firearms are the last item on the list, but they are on the list. There are some terrible people in this world. And you are safer when your trusted neighbors have firearms.”
His memo is part of a series addressing the potential for a “financial apocalypse.” His view, however, is that the problems plaguing the country won’t result in armageddon. “There is the possibility of a precipitous decline, although a long and drawn out malaise is much more likely,” said the Charlottesville, Va.-based president of Marotta Wealth Management.
Marotta said that many clients fear an end-of-the-world scenario. He doesn’t agree with that outcome, but does with much of what has people worried.
Putin: Snowden can stay in Russia if he stops damaging US
Published on Jul 1, 2013
President Vladimir Putin says NSA leaker Edward Snowden may stay in Russia, if he wants to, but only if he stops activities aimed against the United States.
“There is one condition if he wants to remain here: he must stop his work aimed at damaging our American partners. As odd as it may sound from me,” Putin told a media conference in Moscow. READ MORE: http://on.rt.com/wct8fc
By Amie Parnes and Ian Swanson – 07/01/13 01:49 PM ET
Edward Snowden reportedly sought asylum in Russia on Monday amid signs the U.S. and Russia were looking for a way to end the standoff over the 30-year-old leaker of U.S. security secrets.
Fox News reported Snowden’s request for asylum was given to Russian officials by Sarah Harrison, a representative for WikiLeaks. Fox cited a report by the InterFax News Agency.
Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier on Monday suggested Snowden could stay in Russia, but that he must “stop his work aimed at harming our American partners.”
“If he wants to stay here, there is one condition: He must stop his work aimed at harming our American partners, as strange as that sounds coming from my lips,” Putin told reporters at a gas exporters’ conference in Moscow, according to Reuters. “If he wants to go away somewhere and someone will accept him there, by all means,” Putin said.
Reuters — quoting Russia’s RIA news agency — reported Monday that Obama and Putin have told their security services to resolve the standoff over Snowden.
President Obama confirmed those reports Monday at a press conference in Africa where he said there are “high level discussions” underway with Russia to find a solution over the extradition of Snowden. Obama said he was “hopeful” that Russia would make the right decision on Snowden, who has leaked out a string of documents revealing National Security Agency spying campaigns.
Former President George W. Bush is insisting that a National Security Agency (NSA) Internet surveillance program started during his administration “guaranteed” civil liberties, and that Edward Snowden “damaged the country” by leaking details about it.
In an interview with CNN’s Robyn Curnow published on Monday, Bush was confident that “the Obama administration will deal” with Snowden and the fallout from his leaks.
“I think he damaged the security of the country,” he explained. “I put the program in place to protect the country, and one of the certainties is civil liberties were guaranteed.”
The former president added that his program had found “the proper balance” between privacy and security.
Bush said that he “could care less” that polls showed more Americans now viewed him favorably.
“Ultimately history will judge the decisions I made, and I won’t be around because it’s going to take a while for the objective historians to to show up,” he grinned. “So, I’m pretty comfortable with it. I did what I did.”
Watch this video from CNN, broadcast July 1, 2013.
DESCRIPTION FROM RAWSTORY.COM
Edward Snowden’s Father’s Lawyer Lays Out ‘Conditions’ For NSA Leaker’s Return To U.S.
Published on Jul 1, 2013
Fox’s Eric Bolling was the first to speak exclusively to Lonnie Snowden after his son, NSA leaker Edward Snowden, fled the country to Hong Kong. This morning on Fox & Friends, Bolling heard from Lonnie Snowden’s lawyer, Bruce Fein, who laid out the family’s demands for the Justice Department in an attempt to make a deal for Snowden to turn himself in.
Fein said he was attempting to work “with the Department of Justice of creating information directly to Mr. Edward Snowden that would enable him to make an intelligent decision of what’s available back in the United States with regard to due process.” The conditions that Fein laid out in a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder include that Snowden won’t be detained before trial, that he wouldn’t be subject to a gag order and that the trial would occur in a venue of Snowden’s choice. Fein said he had not yet heard back from the Justice Department but stressed that these are not “ultimatums” but rather “conditions” that Lonnie Snowden believes will encourage his son to return to the U.S.
The lawyer also stressed his client’s desire to make Snowden’s trial not just about his son, but also about “who we are as a people, adding, “the right to be left alone from government snooping is a cherished right.”
Bolling contrasted the family’s message with that of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, who appeared on ABC’s This Week on Sunday and encouraged Snowden to continue seeking asylum and avoid being detained by the U.S. Bolling described Assange as someone who many Americans “have a big distaste for” and Fein dismissed him as nothing more than a “side show” in the Snowden case.
President Correa declared that the safe conduct pass issued by Ecuador’s London consul – in collaboration with Assange – was unauthorised. Photograph: EPA
The plan to spirit the surveillance whistleblower Edward Snowden to sanctuary in Latin America appeared to be unravelling on Friday, amid tension between Ecuador‘s government and Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks.
President Rafael Correa halted an effort to help Snowden leave Russia amid concern Assange was usurping the role of the Ecuadoran government, according to leaked diplomatic correspondence published on Friday.
Amid signs Quito was cooling with Snowden and irritated with Assange, Correa declared invalid a temporary travel document which could have helped extract Snowden from his reported location in Moscow.
Correa declared that the safe conduct pass issued by Ecuador’s London consul – in collaboration with Assange – was unauthorised, after other Ecuadorean diplomats privately said the WikiLeaks founder could be perceived as “running the show”.
Ecuador’s ambassador to the US, Nathalie Cely, told presidential spokesman Fernando Alvarado that Quito’s role in the drama was being overshadowed by the WikiLeaks founder, who has sheltered in Ecuador’s London embassy for the past year to avoid extradition.
“I suggest talking to Assange to better control the communications. From outside, [Assange] appears to be running the show.”
Earlier this week a senior foreign diplomat in Quito told the Guardian that some – though not all – factions in the government were annoyed with what they saw as Assange grandstanding.
In a message attributed to Assange sent to Ecuador’s foreign minister, Ricardo Patiño, and other top officials, the WikiLeaks founder apologised “if we have unwittingly [caused] Ecuador discomfort in the Snowden matter.” The note continued: “There is a fog of war due to the rapid nature of events. If similar events arise you can be assured that they do not originate in any lack of respect or concern for Ecuador or its government.”
Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa says Russia will make the decision about the destination of American intelligence whistleblower who has holed up in an airport in Moscow.
“At this moment, the solution of Snowden’s destination is in the hands of Russian authorities,” Correa said in an interview with the private Oromar channel late Saturday.
Snowden arrived in Moscow’s international airport from Hong Kong last Sunday. The U.S. has revoked his passport to prevent him from travelling. However, he has applied for asylum in Ecuador.
According to the law in Ecuador, asylum requests can be processed only when the applicant is in Ecuadorian territories.
Snowden, a former analyst at the National Security Agency, has revealed top secret intelligence documents about the U.S. surveillance programs in the country and abroad. He faces charges of espionage and theft of government property.
Correa said Snowden has requested asylum in Ecuador on the advice of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange who released hundreds of thousands of U.S. classified documents three years ago. Also wanted by the U.S., Assange has taken refuge at the Ecuadorian embassy in London since last year.
Correa spoke with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden early Saturday. In his weekly address, the Ecuadorian leader said Biden had asked him to “please reject” Snowden’s asylum request. He said he would consult the U.S. on making any decision about the application but added Quito would have the final say regarding the issue.
Once again, we are witnessing a growing frustration with “tiny” Ecuador. The United States government is clearly not happy with what would be the latest diplomatic slap in the face coming from the South American country, i.e. the pending arrival of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden in the coming days. Beyond the United States’ government though, the US press corps are also seemingly up in arms. Why are they so angry? Well, it appears that they are indignant over the perceived hypocrisy of President Rafael Correa.
Claims of Hypocrisy
According to an article from The Atlantic (and another similar one from NPR here), the Ecuadorian leader “has created a safe space for foreigners like Assange — and now possibly Snowden –[but] he doesn’t do the same for dissenters within his own country.” News agencies like NBC News and The Atlantic think this is “interesting” and want to know ‘Why Ecuador?’ Such inquiries naturally turn to the NGOs, who are also less than pleased with this unruly little country. Freedom House, the Committee to Protect Journalists and others are upset that this very week, the one-year anniversary of Assange being holed up in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London (and the same week that the Snowden asylum request is being reviewed), the Ecuadorian National Assembly has passed a Communications Bill that detractors claim is a major blow to a free press.
For several of the opposition figures and US-based observers, Ecuador’s new media legislation has sealed the deal on the stasi-like state that they imply or openly charge Correa has been dreaming about for years. In other words, transparency advocates like Assange and Snowden are compromising their credibility by associating with the Correa government. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the right-wing terrorist supporter/US Congresswoman representing Miami, has been busy tweeting as much. The Ecuadorian government, however, asserts that the bill is meant to place more media power in the hands of public groups and move away from privately owned media monopolies.
Meanwhile, the Council of Hemispheric Relations, Center for Strategic and International Studies, and the Heritage Foundation all say that Ecuador must be punished for this latest insult to the US government. James Roberts of Heritagelashed out at the South American leader on June 24, writing in the National Review Online:
“Rafael Correa has demonstrated a blatant disregard for international standards of justice. That kind of conduct may not be surprising from a man who seeks to don the mantle of Chávez, but it should not be rewarded with trade preferences.”
It doesn’t take much imagination to understand how a figure like Correa would have been dealt with a few decades back, but it appears that the more heavy-handed approach is not really possible at the moment, much to the dismay of the powerful and connected.
Returning to the issue of freedom, has the defiant president of Ecuador used the National Assembly to pass a law that NPR,The Atlanticand others tell us will be used to make the country less transparent and more hostile to journalists who only wish to be free to monitor the government and act as a check on state power? Well, let’s hold off on the most absurd elements of irony here for a moment and address the issue at hand.
About a Coup
It should certainly not be regarded as a good thing if the case was simply a cut-and-dry example of authoritarian overreach. Freedom of the press, as we are learning with the Snowden case, has seemingly never before been so important, or so contentious for that matter. However, the Ecuadorian issue is not so simple and it was certainly complicated after a day of crisis nearly three years earlier when factions of the National Police and armed forces attacked the president of Ecuador on September 30, 2010. The event was widely regarded as a coup attempt. What exactly went down is still somewhat unclear. There was a dramatic showdown between Correa himself and police officers that were angered by a supposed attempt to cut their pay. What is for certain, though, is that it was a countrywide, well-coordinated attempt to shut down the National Assembly, the two major airports in Guayaquil and Quito and eventually a hospital where the president was being treated for wounds. Furthermore, the plotters were also attacking journalists throughout the country, and most of these were pro-government reporters working for public media outlets.
The opposition press has taken an active role in attempts to discredit Correa since he first ran for president. He has elaborated on his views of the press and they are certainly not very congenial. In 2012, during a public TV interview in Spain, Correa said, “one of the main problems around the world is that there are private networks in the communication business, for-profit businesses providing public information, which is very important for society. It is a fundamental contradiction.”
One of the issues that NGOs and journalists have cited in their litany of complaints about Ecuador’s endangered freedom of the press actually stems from the 2010 police and military uprising. During the chaos that ensued during the alleged coup attempt, one reporter from the paper of record in Guayaquil took the opportunity to claim that Correa had ordered police to fire on a crowd of innocent onlookers caught up in the melee, presumably aiming to provoke anti-government sentiments. The claim turned out to be completely unsubstantiated. The government fined the journalist and his paper El Universo some $40 million for defamation but later withdrew the charges. Consider what might have happened in the US if the Los Angeles Times or Washington Post would have falsely claimed that Barack Obama had personally ordered military or police forces to fire on a crowd of protesters and innocent people were injured as a result somewhere in Washington, D.C It would be difficult to imagine a reporter and his editors ever committing such a stupid move, but if they had, there would have been some serious consequences. Alas, this is not really too shocking in the context of a sensationalist Latin American press.
Ecuador offers U.S. rights aid, waives trade benefits
By Alexandra Valencia and Brian Ellsworth
QUITO | Thu Jun 27, 2013 10:06am EDT
(Reuters) – Ecuador’s leftist government thumbed its nose at Washington on Thursday by renouncing U.S. trade benefits and offering to pay for human rights training in America in response to pressure over asylum for former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden.
The angry response threatens a showdown between the two nations over Snowden, and may burnish President Rafael Correa’s credentials to be the continent’s principal challenger of U.S. power after the death of Venezuelan socialist leader Hugo Chavez.
“Ecuador will not accept pressures or threats from anyone, and it does not traffic in its values or allow them to be subjugated to mercantile interests,” government spokesman Fernando Alvarado said at a news conference.
In a cheeky jab at the U.S. spying program that Snowden unveiled through leaks to the media, the South American nation offered $23 million per year to finance human rights training.
The funding would be destined to help “avoid violations of privacy, torture and other actions that are denigrating to humanity,” Alvarado said. He said the amount was the equivalent of what Ecuador gained each year from the trade benefits.
“Ecuador gives up, unilaterally and irrevocably, the said customs benefits,” he said.
An influential U.S. senator on Wednesday said he would seek to end those benefits if Ecuador gave Snowden asylum.
Snowden, 30, is believed to be at Moscow’s international airport and seeking safe passage to Ecuador.
Ecuador tells U.S. to send its position on Snowden in writing
WASHINGTON | Wed Jun 26, 2013 11:29am EDT
(Reuters) – Ecuador said on Wednesday the United States must “submit its position” regarding Edward Snowden to the Ecuadorean government in writing as it considers the former U.S. spy agency contractor’s request for asylum.
Ecuador, in a statement from its embassy in Washington, said it would review the request “responsibly.”
“The legal basis for each individual case must be rigorously established, in accordance with our national Constitution and the applicable national and international legal framework. This legal process takes human rights obligations into consideration as well,” the statement said.
“This current situation is not being provoked by Ecuador,” the embassy said.
Snowden, 30, a former employee of the U.S. contractor Booz Allen Hamilton, appears to be still in hiding at a Moscow airport awaiting a ruling on his asylum request from the tiny South American nation’s leftist government.
Putin rules out handing Snowden over to United States
MOSCOW | Wed Jun 26, 2013 6:10am EDT
(Reuters) – A former U.S. spy agency contractor sought by Washington on espionage charges appeared on Wednesday to be still in hiding at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport and the national airline said he was not booked on any of its flights over the next three days.
Edward Snowden fled to Hong Kong after leaking details of secret U.S. government surveillance programs, then flew on to Moscow on Sunday, evading a U.S. extradition request. President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday he was in the transit area of the airport and he had no intention of handing him to Washington.
“They are not flying today and not over the next three days,” an Aeroflot representative at the transfer desk at Sheremetyevo said when asked whether Snowden and his legal adviser, Sarah Harrison, were due to fly out on Wednesday.
Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa has denounced U.S. “double standards” over granting asylum to fugitives.
Correa said Saturday that U.S. Vice President Joe Biden had asked him in a telephone call not to grant asylum to Edward Snowden, the fugitive former CIA contractor wanted in the U.S.
In a weekly television address, Correa rebuked the Obama administration for hypocrisy, pointing to the case of brothers Roberto and William Isaias, both of them bankers, whom Ecuador is seeking to extradite from the U.S.
“Let’s be consistent,” Correa said. “Have rules for everyone, because that is a clear double-standard here.”
Earlier this month, Snowden revealed massive U.S. surveillance programs sparking a scandal in America. Washington is now seeking the extradition of the leaker, charged with espionage and theft of government property in his home country.
Snowden is currently in the transit zone of a Moscow airport. Reports say he could consider seeking asylum from Ecuador, where he was planning to travel to after leaving Russia.
“The moment that he arrives, if he arrives, the first thing is we’ll ask the opinion of the United States, as we did in the Assange case with England,” Correa said in his television address. “But the decision is ours to make.”
Julian Assange, founder of the whistleblower website WikiLeaks, has been given asylum in Ecuador’s embassy in London. Wikileaks revealed classified documents it received from former U.S. Army soldier Bradley Manning, who was arrested in May 2010 in Iraq.
Secret documents provided by Snowden show the United States has spied on various European Union institutions and offices as well.
German news magazine Der Spiegel reported on Saturday that the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA), bugged offices and spied on EU internal computer networks in Washington, New York and Brussels.
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