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Tag Archive: Guardian


Keith Vaz says home affairs committee to look at newspaper’s activities as part of inquiry into counter-terrorism

Keith Vaz

Keith Vaz, head of the Commons home affairs committee. Photograph: Adrian Dennis/AFP/Getty Images

A powerful group of MPs will investigate the Guardian‘s publication of stories about mass surveillance based on leaks by US whistleblower Edward Snowden, as part of a wider inquiry into counter-terrorism.

Keith Vaz, the Labour head of the Commons home affairs committee, said he would look into “elements of the Guardian’s involvement in, and publication of, the Snowden leaks” hours after the prime minister suggested a select committee might look at the issue.

It had emerged the matter would be considered by Vaz’s parliamentary committee after former Tory cabinet minister Liam Fox asked him to investigate what damage the Guardian may have caused to national security.

“I have received a letter from Liam Fox requesting that the home affairs select committee consider elements of the Guardian’s involvement in, and publication of, the Snowden leaks,” Vaz said.

“I will be writing to assure Dr Fox that the committee is currently conducting an inquiry into counter-terrorism and we will be looking at this matter as part of it.”

A spokesman for Vaz could not confirm whether Alan Rusbridger, the Guardian editor-in-chief, would be called to give evidence, saying this would be a matter for all committee members to decide.

 

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Eric Blair
Activist Post

After the initial surge of web traffic to alternative news websites following The Guardian breaking the NSA spying story, traffic has slowed considerably despite the continued interest in the NSA story as well as other alternative headlines.

This dramatic drop in traffic may be due to broad censorship by the Department of Defense on “millions of computers”.

What began as a rumor that the military brass was ordering soldiers not to view news about the whistleblower revelations that the NSA is spying on all Americans has swelled into a confirmed military-wide censorship campaign using a high-tech computer filtering system.

The US News and World Report is reporting that the DoD is blocking access to all articles related to the NSA scandal from all DoD computers. The filter reportedly effects millions of computers and potentially thousands of alternative news and civil liberties websites.

According to U.S. News:

The Department of Defense is blocking online access to news reports about classified National Security Agency documents made public by Edward Snowden. The blackout affects all of the department’s computers and is part of a department-wide directive.

“Any website that runs information that the Department of Defense still considers classified” is affected, Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Damien Pickart told U.S. News in a phone interview.

According to Pickart, news websites that re-report information first published by The Guardian or other primary sources are also affected.

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RussiaToday RussiaToday

Published on Jun 28, 2013

The US army has restricted access to the Guardian website over its revelations of the NSA’s snooping activities. The British daily has been breaking the news from Edward Snowden, shedding light on a number of secret documents. RT’s Sara Firth talks to Rodney Shakespeare from Global Justice Movement about this issue.

RT LIVE http://rt.com/on-air

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US Army restricts access to Guardian website over secrets in NSA leak stories

Published time: June 28, 2013 06:39
Edited time: June 28, 2013 19:46

The US Army confirmed on Thursday that access to The Guardian newspaper’s website has been filtered and restricted for its personnel. The policy is due to classified documents described in detail in the stories.

Gordon Van Vleet, spokesman for the Army Network Enterprise Technology Command, or NETCOM, said in an email to the Monterey Herald that the Army is filtering “some access to press coverage and online content about the NSA leaks.”

The spokesman said the procedure was routine part of “network hygiene” measures to prevent unauthorized disclosures of sensitive information.

Screenshot from guardian.co.uk

Screenshot from guardian.co.uk

“We make every effort to balance the need to preserve information access with operational security,” he wrote, “however there are strict policies and directives in place regarding protecting and handling classified information.”

“Until declassified by appropriate officials, classified information – including material released through an unauthorized disclosure – must be treated accordingly by DoD personnel,” Van Vleet explained.

In a later phone conversation he clarified that the filtering was “Armywide” rather than restricted to some US Army facilities.

Van Vleet said NETCOM, which is part of the Army Cyber Command, does not determine what sites its personnel can have access to, but “relies on automated filters that restrict access based on content concerns or malware threats.”  

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US army blocks access to Guardian website to preserve ‘network hygiene’

Military admits to filtering reports and content relating to government surveillance programs for thousands of personnel

cyberwarfare

The Pentagon insisted the Department of Defense was only seeking to restrict access to certain content. Photograph: Rick Wilking/Reuters

The US army has admitted to blocking access to parts of the Guardian website for thousands of defence personnel across the country.

A spokesman said the military was filtering out reports and content relating to government surveillance programs to preserve “network hygiene” and prevent any classified material appearing on unclassified parts of its computer systems.

The confirmation follows reports in the Monterey Herald that staff at the Presidio military base south of San Francisco had complained of not being able to access the Guardian’s UK site at all, and had only partial access to the US site, following publication of leaks from whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The Pentagon insisted the Department of Defense was not seeking to block the whole website, merely taking steps to restrict access to certain content.

But a spokesman for the Army’s Network Enterprise Technology Command (Netcom) in Arizona confirmed that this was a widespread policy, likely to be affecting hundreds of defence facilities.

“In response to your question about access to the guardian.co.uk website, the army is filtering some access to press coverage and online content about the NSA leaks,” said Gordon Van Vleet, a Netcom public affairs officer.

“The Department of Defense routinely takes preventative ‘network hygiene’ measures to mitigate unauthorized disclosures of classified information onto DoD unclassified networks.”

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Revealed: the top secret rules that allow NSA to use US data without a warrant

Document one: procedures used by NSA to target non-US persons
Document two: procedures used by NSA to minimise data collected from US persons

Computer keyboard

The documents show that discretion as to who is actually targeted lies directly with the NSA’s analysts. Photograph: Martin Rogers/Workbook Stock/Getty

Top secret documents submitted to the court that oversees surveillance by US intelligence agencies show the judges have signed off on broad orders which allow the NSA to make use of information “inadvertently” collected from domestic US communications without a warrant.

The Guardian is publishing in full two documents submitted to the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (known as the Fisa court), signed by Attorney General Eric Holder and stamped 29 July 2009. They detail the procedures the NSA is required to follow to target “non-US persons” under its foreign intelligence powers and what the agency does to minimize data collected on US citizens and residents in the course of that surveillance.

The documents show that even under authorities governing the collection of foreign intelligence from foreign targets, US communications can still be collected, retained and used.

The procedures cover only part of the NSA’s surveillance of domestic US communications. The bulk collection of domestic call records, as first revealed by the Guardian earlier this month, takes place under rolling court orders issued on the basis of a legal interpretation of a different authority, section 215 of the Patriot Act.

The Fisa court’s oversight role has been referenced many times by Barack Obama and senior intelligence officials as they have sought to reassure the public about surveillance, but the procedures approved by the court have never before been publicly disclosed.

The top secret documents published today detail the circumstances in which data collected on US persons under the foreign intelligence authority must be destroyed, extensive steps analysts must take to try to check targets are outside the US, and reveals how US call records are used to help remove US citizens and residents from data collection.

However, alongside those provisions, the Fisa court-approved policies allow the NSA to:

• Keep data that could potentially contain details of US persons for up to five years;

• Retain and make use of “inadvertently acquired” domestic communications if they contain usable intelligence, information on criminal activity, threat of harm to people or property, are encrypted, or are believed to contain any information relevant to cybersecurity;

• Preserve “foreign intelligence information” contained within attorney-client communications;

• Access the content of communications gathered from “U.S. based machine[s]” or phone numbers in order to establish if targets are located in the US, for the purposes of ceasing further surveillance.

The broad scope of the court orders, and the nature of the procedures set out in the documents, appear to clash with assurances from President Obama and senior intelligence officials that the NSA could not access Americans’ call or email information without warrants.

The documents also show that discretion as to who is actually targeted under the NSA’s foreign surveillance powers lies directly with its own analysts, without recourse to courts or superiors – though a percentage of targeting decisions are reviewed by internal audit teams on a regular basis.

Since the Guardian first revealed the extent of the NSA’s collection of US communications, there have been repeated calls for the legal basis of the programs to be released. On Thursday, two US congressmen introduced a bill compelling the Obama administration to declassify the secret legal justifications for NSA surveillance.

The disclosure bill, sponsored by Adam Schiff, a California Democrat, and Todd Rokita, an Indiana Republican, is a complement to one proposed in the Senate last week. It would “increase the transparency of the Fisa Court and the state of the law in this area,” Schiff told the Guardian. “It would give the public a better understanding of the safeguards, as well as the scope of these programs.”

Section 702 of the Fisa Amendments Act (FAA), which was renewed for five years last December, is the authority under which the NSA is allowed to collect large-scale data, including foreign communications and also communications between the US and other countries, provided the target is overseas.

FAA warrants are issued by the Fisa court for up to 12 months at a time, and authorise the collection of bulk information – some of which can include communications of US citizens, or people inside the US. To intentionally target either of those groups requires an individual warrant.

 

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Snowden defends leaks, denies spying

AP

Banner achievement: A bus drives past a banner supporting Edward Snowden, a former CIA employee and NSA contractor who leaked top-secret documents about sweeping U.S. surveillance programs, in Hong Kong on Tuesday.
Banner achievement: A bus drives past a banner supporting Edward Snowden, a former CIA employee and NSA contractor who leaked top-secret documents about sweeping U.S. surveillance programs, in Hong Kong on Tuesday. | AP

A woman holds a placard near the U.S. consulate in Hon Kong during a protest march in support of Edward Snowden.
A woman holds a placard near the U.S. consulate in Hong Kong during a protest march in support of Edward Snowden. | AFP-JIJI PHOTO

Edward Snowden, the National Security Agency leaker, defended his disclosure of top-secret U.S. spying programs in an online chat Monday with The Guardian newspaper and attacked U.S. officials for calling him a traitor.

“The U.S. government is not going to be able to cover this up by jailing or murdering me,” he said. He added the government “immediately and predictably destroyed any possibility of a fair trial at home” by labeling him a traitor, and indicated he will not return to the U.S. voluntarily.

Congressional leaders have called Snowden a traitor for revealing once-secret surveillance programs two weeks ago in The Guardian and The Washington Post. The NSA programs collect records of millions of Americans’ telephone calls and Internet usage as a counterterrorism tool. The disclosures revealed the scope of the collections, which surprised many Americans and have sparked debate about how much privacy the government can take away in the name of national security.

“It would be foolish to volunteer yourself to” possible arrest and criminal charges “if you can do

 

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3 Former NSA Employees Praise Edward Snowden, Corroborate Key Claims

The men, all whistleblowers, say he succeeded where they failed.
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snowdenUSETHIS.banner.reuters.png.png

Reuters

USA Today has published an extraordinary interview with three former NSA employees who praise Edward Snowden’s leaks, corroborate some of his claims, and warn about unlawful government acts.

Thomas Drake, William Binney, and J. Kirk Wiebe each protested the NSA in their own rights. “For years, the three whistle-blowers had told anyone who would listen that the NSA collects huge swaths of communications data from U.S. citizens,” the newspaper reports. “They had spent decades in the top ranks of the agency, designing and managing the very data collection systems they say have been turned against Americans. When they became convinced that fundamental constitutional rights were being violated, they complained first to their superiors, then to federal investigators, congressional oversight committees and, finally, to the news media.”

In other words, they blew the whistle in the way Snowden’s critics suggest he should have done. Their method didn’t get through to the members of Congress who are saying, in the wake of the Snowden leak, that they had no idea what was going on. But they are nonetheless owed thanks.

And among them, they’ve now said all of the following:

 

  • His disclosures did not cause grave damage to national security.
  • What Snowden discovered is “material evidence of an institutional crime.”
  • As a system administrator, Snowden “could go on the network or go into any file or any system and change it or add to it or whatever, just to make sure — because he would be responsible to get it back up and running if, in fact, it failed. So that meant he had access to go in and put anything. That’s why he said, I think, ‘I can even target the president or a judge.’ If he knew their phone numbers or attributes, he could insert them into the target list which would be distributed worldwide. And then it would be collected, yeah, that’s right. As a super-user, he could do that.”

 

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WASHINGTON — Edward Snowden, the former U.S. government contractor who leaked secret details of official surveillance programs, pledged Monday to release more information about U.S. intelligence-gathering methods that he described as “nakedly, aggressively criminal.”

“All I can say right now is the U.S. government is not going to be able to cover this up by jailing or murdering me,” Snowden wrote in an online chat hosted by Britain’s Guardian newspaper. “Truth is coming, and it cannot be stopped.”

Writing from an undisclosed location believed to be in Hong Kong, the former CIA and National Security Agency systems administrator vigorously defended his disclosures about the breadth of U.S. surveillance, including programs that sweep up data about Americans’ telephone calls, emails and Internet use.

U.S. officials have said that under laws governing the surveillance programs, including the Patriot Act and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, U.S. citizens are not the targets of the surveillance and their information is “minimized,” or set aside, unless it becomes relevant to a national security investigation.

But Snowden alleged that intelligence agencies keep the information on government computers “for a very long time” and are available for analysts to view as long as they produce a “rubber stamp” warrant.

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Snowden hits back against critics of NSA leaks

Mon, Jun 17 2013

By Deborah Charles and Laura MacInnis

WASHINGTON | Mon Jun 17, 2013 6:07pm EDT

(Reuters) – The former National Security Agency contractor who revealed the U.S. government’s top-secret monitoring of Americans’ phone and Internet data fought back against his critics on Monday, saying the government’s “litany of lies” about the programs compelled him to act.

Edward Snowden told an online forum run by Britain’s Guardian newspaper that he considered it an honor to be called a traitor by people like former Vice President Dick Cheney, and he urged President Barack Obama to “return to sanity” and roll back the surveillance effort.

Taking questions from readers and journalists, Snowden talked about his motivations and reaction to the debate raging about the damage or virtue of the leaks. Snowden remains in hiding, reportedly in Hong Kong.

Snowden said disillusionment with Obama contributed to his decision but there was no single event that led him to leak details about the vast monitoring of Americans’ activity.

“It was seeing a continuing litany of lies from senior officials to Congress – and therefore the American people – and the realization that Congress … wholly supported the lies,” said Snowden, who had worked at an NSA facility in Hawaii as an employee of contractor Booz Allen Hamilton before providing the details to the Guardian and Washington Post.

Snowden referred to Director of National Intelligence James Clapper’s testimony to Congress in March that such a program did not exist, saying that seeing him “baldly lying to the public without repercussion is the evidence of a subverted democracy. The consent of the governed is not consent if it is not informed.”

The Justice Department has opened a criminal investigation into Snowden’s actions, and U.S. officials promised last week to hold him accountable for the leaks.

Since Snowden went public in a video released by the Guardian on June 9, many U.S. lawmakers have condemned his actions and intelligence officials have said the leaks will compromise national security.

Some lawmakers have been more restrained. Republican Senator Rand Paul, a Tea Party favorite, has said he is reserving judgment about Snowden’s methods, and separately encouraged Americans to be part of a class-action lawsuit against the U.S. government for the surveillance programs.

Snowden, who traveled to Hong Kong before details of the programs were published, has promised to stay in the China-ruled former British colony and fight extradition.

China made its first substantive comments on Monday regarding Snowden’s revelations. A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said that Washington should explain its surveillance programs to the world, and she rejected a suggestion that Snowden was a spy for China.

Snowden said during the online forum on Monday that he does not believe he can get a fair trial in the United States.

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Information chiefs worldwide sound alarm while US senator Dianne Feinstein orders NSA to review monitoring program

Barack Obama nsa

Officials in European capitals denounced the practice of secretly gathering digital information on Europeans as unacceptable. Photograph: Evan Vucci/AP

Barack Obama was facing a mounting domestic and international backlash against US surveillance operations on Monday as his administration struggled to contain one of the most explosive national security leaks in US history.

Political opinion in the US was split with some members of Congress calling for the immediate extradition from Hong Kong of the whistleblower, Edward Snowden. But other senior politicians in both main parties questioned whether US surveillance practices had gone too far.

Dianne Feinstein, chairman of the national intelligence committee, has ordered the NSA to review how it limits the exposure of Americans to government surveillance. But she made clear her disapproval of Snowden. “What he did was an act of treason,” she said.

Officials in European capitals demanded immediate answers from their US counterparts and denounced the practice of secretly gathering digital information on Europeans as unacceptable, illegal and a serious violation of basic rights. The NSA, meanwhile, asked the Justice Department to open a criminal investigation and said that it was assessing the damage caused by the disclosures.

Daniel Ellsberg, the former military analyst who revealed secrets of the Vietnam war through the Pentagon Papers in 1971, described Snowden’s leak as even more important and perhaps the most significant leak in American history.

Snowden disclosed his identity in an explosive interview with the Guardian, published on Sunday, which revealed he was a 29-year-old former technical assistant for the CIA and current employee of the defence contractor Booz Allen Hamilton. Snowden worked at the National Security Agency for the past four years as an employee of various outside contractors, including Booz Allen and Dell.

In his interview, Snowden revealed himself as the source for a series of articles in the Guardian last week, which included disclosures of a wide-ranging secret court order that demanded Verizon pass to the NSA the details of phone calls related to millions of customers, and a huge NSA intelligence system called Prism, which collects data on intelligence targets from the systems of some of the biggest tech companies.

Snowden said he had become disillusioned with the overarching nature of government surveillance in the US. “The government has granted itself power it is not entitled to. There is no public oversight. The result is people like myself have the latitude to go further than they are allowed to,” he said.

“My sole motive is to inform the public as to that which is done in their name and that which is done against them.”

As media interest intensified on Monday, Snowden checked out of the Hong Kong hotel where he had been staying, and moved to an undisclosed location.

Reacting to Snowden’s revelations, Paul Ryan, the former Republican vice-presidential nominee, raised questions about whether privacy was being unduly threatened. “I’m sure somebody can come up with a great computer program that says: ‘We can do X, Y, and Z,’ but that doesn’t mean that it’s right,” he told a radio station in Wisconsin. “I want to learn a lot more about it on behalf of the people I represent,” he added.

Pressure was growing on the White House to explain whether there was effective congressional oversight of the programmes revealed by Snowden. The director of national intelligence, James Clapper, said in an NBC interview that he had responded in the “least untruthful manner” possible when he denied in congressional hearings last year that the NSA collected data on millions of Americans.

Clapper also confirmed that Feinstein had asked for a review to “refine these NSA processes and limit the exposure to Americans’ private communications” and report back “in about a month”.

In Europe, the German chancellor Angela Merkel indicated she would press Obama on the revelations at a Berlin summit next week, while deputy European Commission chief Viviane Reding said she would press US officials in Dublin on Friday, adding that “a clear legal framework for the protection of personal data is not a luxury or constraint but a fundamental right”.

Peter Schaar, Germany’s federal data protection commissioner told the Guardian that it was unacceptable that US authorities have access to the data of European citizens “and the level of protection is lower than what is guaranteed for US citizens.” His Italian counterpart, Antonello Soro, said that the data dragnet “would not be legal in Italy” and would be “contrary to the principles of our legislation and would represent a very serious violation”.

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MSNBC

Most in Congress direct anger at leaks, not NSA surveillance

, @zackroth

1:44 PM on 06/10/2013

Image: U.S. House Majority Leader Cantor takes part in a panel discussion titled "The Awesome Responsibility of Leadership" at the Milken Institute Global Conference in Beverly Hills, California
(U.S. Congressman and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (REUTERS/Gus Ruelas))

As Congress begins probing the release of documents that revealed details of a government surveillance program Monday, most lawmakers are condemning the disclosures as a threat to national security. But some in both parties are instead portraying the program as an example of dangerous government overreach.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said Monday morning that a “very serious” congressional probe of the leak would start today, when Obama administration officials will brief lawmakers on how the information became public. Cantor, a Virginia Republican, added that a broader briefing on the National Security Agency (NSA) program would occur Tuesday.

The U.S. Justice Department confirmed Sunday it had opened a criminal probe into the disclosures. Edward Snowden, a contractor working with the NSA, revealed himself as the source of the leaks, The Guardian reported Sunday.

Related: Watch Guardian’s Greenwald defends leaks as vital to democracy

Republicans have been relatively united in denouncing the leak.

“If Edward Snowden did in fact leak the NSA data as he claims, the United States government must prosecute him to the fullest extent of the law and begin extradition proceedings at the earliest date,” Rep. Peter King, who chairs the subcommittee on Counterterrorism & Intelligence, said in a statement.

 

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POLITICO

NSA leaker reveals self, has no apologies

Edward Snowden. | AP Photo/The Guardian

Snowden is taking credit for exposing the NSA’s PRISM program. | AP Photo/The Guardian | AP Photo

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Reporters say there’s a chill in the air

Barack Obama answers reporters' questions in the briefing room on April 30, 2013. | AP Photo

Journalists they fear their sources will go silent because of recent revelations. | AP Photo

By DYLAN BYERS | 6/8/13 1:59 PM EDT

President Barack Obama said recently that the Department of Justice’s monitoring of reporters as part of national security leak investigations could “chill the investigative journalism that holds government accountable.”

As far as many journalists are concerned, the president couldn’t have been more right – despite last week’s leaks to the media about secret NSA surveillance programs.

In conversations with POLITICO, national security reporters and watchdogs said they already have seen increased caution from government sources following revelations that the DOJ had subpoenaed Associated Press reporters’ phone records and tracked the comings and goings of Fox News reporter James Rosen at the State Department.

(Also on POLITICO: Civil libertarians; Where to go from here)

“I had one former intel officer say, ‘I hope you’re buying ‘burner’ phones for your sources,’ but I think he may have been pulling my leg,” said David Ignatius, the Washington Post’s national security columnist.

Reporters on the national security beat say it’s not the fear of being prosecuted by the DOJ that worries them – it’s the frightened silence of past trusted sources that could undermine the kind of investigative journalism that Obama was talking about.

Some formerly forthcoming sources have grown reluctant to return phone calls, even on unclassified matters, and, when they do talk, prefer in-person conversations that leave no phone logs, no emails, and no records of entering and leaving buildings, reporters and watchdogs said.

(WATCH: NSA reactions in under 60 seconds)

“The classic leak — of information or of government documents — is becoming more and more difficult and more and more rare because the points of contact between reporters and sources are subject to more and more scrutiny,” Steven Aftergood, the director of the Federation of American Scientists’ Project on Government Secrecy, told POLITICO.

“Sources will avoid reporters simply so they don’t have to equivocate on a polygraph appearance,” he added. “In the 90s, you could call up government officials out of the phone book. In the years after 9/11, that became absolutely impossible.”

Some reporters and watchdogs argue that the climate didn’t change suddenly but rather slowly over a period of years, the result of intensified leak crackdowns that began during the George W. Bush administration and then expanded under Obama.

(Also on POLITICO: Tech frets public outcry over privacy)

“There is a chilling effect, but it’s as if you were gradually lowering the temperature of your freezer. There’s been a creeping, incremental phenomenon here for several years,” said Adam Zagorin, a Senior Fellow at The Project On Government Oversight. “The chill is cumulative, and the implication is that the government believes that the chilling effect — in order to be effective — needs to be periodically applied, to be imposed on multiple occasions.”

But the slow chill that started under the Bush Administration picked up significantly under Obama, according to reporters. Since 2009, when Obama took office, the Justice Department has undertaken six leak-related investigations — more than all other administrations combined.

“The chilling effect really started with the Bradley Manning episode,” one national security reporter told POLITICO, referring to the U.S. Army soldier who was arrested in 2010 and is currently standing trial for charges of leaking classified videos, army reports, and diplomatic cables to WikiLeaks.

“Over the last two to three years, there has been a real fear stemming from the Obama administration’s crackdown. Sources will go quiet for months, or stop talking altogether,” the reporter added.

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Glenn Greenwald Says Their Goal Is To End ALL Privacy!

MOXNEWSd0tC0M MOXNEWSd0tC0M


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Monumental phone-records monitoring is laid bare

Monumental phone-records monitoring is laid bare

by DONNA CASSATA and NANCY BENAC / Associated Press

Posted on June 6, 2013 at 7:32 AM

Updated yesterday at 4:05 PM

WASHINGTON — A leaked document has laid bare the monumental scope of the government’s surveillance of Americans’ phone records — hundreds of millions of calls — in the first hard evidence of a massive data collection program aimed at combating terrorism under powers granted by Congress after the 9/11 attacks.

At issue is a court order, first disclosed Wednesday by The Guardian newspaper in Britain, that requires the communications company Verizon to turn over on an “ongoing, daily basis” the records of all landline and mobile telephone calls of its customers, both within the U.S. and between the U.S. and other countries. Intelligence experts said the government, though not listening in on calls, would be looking for patterns that could lead to terrorists — and that there was every reason to believe similar orders were in place for other phone companies.

Some critics in Congress, as well as civil liberties advocates, declared that the sweeping nature of the National Security Agency program represented an unwarranted intrusion into Americans’ private lives. But a number of lawmakers, including some Republicans who normally jump at the chance to criticize the Obama administration, lauded the program’s effectiveness. Leaders of the House Intelligence Committee said the program had helped thwart at least one attempted terrorist attack in the United States, “possibly saving American lives.”

Separately, The Washington Post and The Guardian reported Thursday the existence of another program used by the NSA and FBI that scours the nation’s main Internet companies, extracting audio, video, photographs, emails, documents and connection logs to help analysts track a person’s movements and contacts. It was not clear whether the program, called PRISM, targets known suspects or broadly collects data from other Americans.

The companies include Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube and Apple. The Post said PalTalk has had numerous posts about the Arab Spring and the Syrian civil war. It also said Dropbox would soon be included

One outraged senator, Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said of the phone-records collecting: “When law-abiding Americans make phone calls, who they call, when they call and where they call is private information. As a result of the discussion that came to light today, now we’re going to have a real debate.”

But Republican Lindsay Graham of South Carolina said Americans have no cause for concern. “If you’re not getting a call from a terrorist organization, you’ve got nothing to worry about,” he said.

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said the order was a three-month renewal of an ongoing practice that is supervised by federal judges who balance efforts to protect the country from terror attacks against the need to safeguard Americans’ privacy. The surveillance powers are granted under the post-9/11 Patriot Act, which was renewed in 2006 and again in 2011.

While the scale of the program might not have been news to some congressional leaders, the disclosure offered a public glimpse into a program whose breadth is not widely understood. Sen. Mark Udall, a Colorado Democrat who serves on the Intelligence Committee, said it was the type of surveillance that “I have long said would shock the public if they knew about it.”

The government has hardly been forthcoming.

Wyden released a video of himself pressing Director of National Intelligence James Clapper on the matter during a Senate hearing in March.

“Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?” Wyden asked.

“No, sir,” Clapper answered.

“It does not?” Wyden pressed.

Clapper quickly softened his answer. “Not wittingly,” he said. “There are cases where they could, inadvertently perhaps, collect — but not wittingly.”

There was no immediate comment from Clapper’s office Thursday on his testimony in March.

The public is now on notice that the government has been collecting data — even if not listening to the conversations — on every phone call every American makes, a program that has operated in the shadows for years, under President George W. Bush, and continued by President Barack Obama.

“It is very likely that business records orders like this exist for every major American telecommunication company, meaning that if you make calls in the United States the NSA has those records,” wrote Cindy Cohn, general counsel of the nonprofit digital rights group Electronic Frontier Foundation, and staff attorney Mark Rumold, in a blog post.

Without confirming the authenticity of the court order, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said such surveillance powers are “a critical tool in protecting the nation from terror threats,” by helping officials determine if people in the U.S. who may have been engaged in terrorist activities have been in touch with other known or suspected terrorists.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, R-Mich., stressed that phone records are collected under court orders that are approved by the Senate and House Intelligence committees and regularly reviewed.

And Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada played down the significance of the revelation.

“Everyone should just calm down and understand that this isn’t anything that’s brand new,” he said. “This is a program that’s been in effect for seven years, as I recall. It’s a program that has worked to prevent not all terrorism but certainly the vast, vast majority. Now is the program perfect? Of course not.”

But privacy advocates said the scope of the program was indefensible.

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Wyden calls government sweep of Verizon phone records a ‘massive invasion of Americans’ privacy’

By Jeff Mapes, The Oregonian

on June 06, 2013 at 11:31 AM, updated June 06, 2013 at 12:15 PM

ron wyden.jpgSen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore.

Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden, a Senate Intelligence Committee member who had previously warned that the government was collecting too much data on U.S. citizens, on Thursday charged that the government collection of Verizon phone records was a “massive invasion of Americans’ privacy.”

Wyden, a high-ranking Democratic senator on the committee, said he had been concerned about such  surveillance for a long time but continues to be barred by Senate rules from discussing many of the details that he learned in classified intelligence briefings.

“However, I believe that when law-abiding Americans call their friends, who they call, when they call, and where they call from is private information,” Wyden said.  “Collecting this data about every single phone call that every American makes every day would be a massive invasion of Americans’ privacy.”

In a separate comment on his Twitter feed, Wyden also noted that James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, had assured him in a March hearing that the National Security Agency was not collecting data on millions of Americans — an assurance that Wyden now appears to find suspect.

The Guardian newspaper from Great Britain on Wednesday night revealed the existence of a four-page court order ordering Verizon to turn over the phone records of its customers who made calls from the U.S. to foreign countries or “wholly within the United States, including local telephone calls.”

The information sought by the government did not include the contents of the calls.

Wyden has repeatedly expressed concerns about the extent of government surveillance following the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the passage of the Patriot Act, which was used as the legal basis for the obtaining of the phone records.

Added Wyden in his statement:

“The American people have a right to know whether their government thinks that the sweeping, dragnet surveillance that has been alleged in this story is allowed under the law and whether it is actually being conducted.  Furthermore, they have a right to know whether the program that has been described is actually of value in preventing attacks.  Based on several years of oversight, I believe that its value and effectiveness remain unclear.”

Wyden spokesman Tom Towslee said the senator was not immediately giving interviews on the subject.  But on Wyden’s Twitter feed, he made several more statements:

Ron Wyden         @RonWyden

Letter @MarkUdall & I sent to DoJ last year with our concerns about “business records” section of Patriot Act http://bit.ly/11k9Iuk 

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Wyden in Intelligence Hearing on GPS Surveillance & Nat’l Security Agency Collection

SenRonWyden SenRonWyden

Published on Mar 12, 2013

March 12, 2013- Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) asks questions in Senate Intelligence Committee on warrantless geolocation surveillance and National Security Agency tracking.

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US Says It Gathers Online Data Abroad

Published: Friday, 7 Jun 2013 | 2:45 AM ET

By: Charlie Savage, Edward Wyatt & Peter Baker

The federal government has been secretly collecting information on foreigners overseas for nearly six years from the nation’s largest Internet companies like Google, Facebook and, most recently, Apple, in search of national security threats, the director of national intelligence confirmed Thursday night.

The confirmation of the classified program came just hours after government officials acknowledged a separate seven-year effort to sweep up records of telephone calls inside the United States. Together, the unfolding revelations opened a window into the growth of government surveillance that began under the Bush administration after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and has clearly been embraced and even expanded under the Obama administration.

Government officials defended the two surveillance initiatives as authorized under law, known to Congress and necessary to guard the country against terrorist threats. But an array of civil liberties advocates and libertarian conservatives said the disclosures provided the most detailed confirmation yet of what has been long suspected about what the critics call an alarming and ever-widening surveillance state.

The Internet surveillance program collects data from online providers including e-mail, chat services, videos, photos, stored data, file transfers, video conferencing and log-ins, according to classified documents obtained and posted by The Washington Post and then The Guardian on Thursday afternoon.

In confirming its existence, officials said that the program, called Prism, is authorized under a foreign intelligence law that was recently renewed by Congress, and maintained that it minimizes the collection and retention of information “incidentally acquired” about Americans and permanent residents. Several of the Internet companies said they did not allow the government open-ended access to their servers but complied with specific lawful requests for information.

More From the NYT:
Despite Ambivalence, a Strong Embrace of Divisive Security Tools
Sounding the Alarm, but With a Muted Bell
Blogger, With Focus on Surveillance, Is at Center of a Debate

“It cannot be used to intentionally target any U.S. citizen, any other U.S. person, or anyone located within the United States,” James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, said in a statement, describing the law underlying the program. “Information collected under this program is among the most important and valuable intelligence information we collect, and is used to protect our nation from a wide variety of threats.”

The Prism program grew out of the National Security Agency’s desire several years ago to begin addressing the agency’s need to keep up with the explosive growth of social media, according to people familiar with the matter.

The dual revelations, in rapid succession, also suggested that someone with access to high-level intelligence secrets had decided to unveil them in the midst of furor over leak investigations. Both were reported by The Guardian, while The Post, relying upon the same presentation, almost simultaneously reported the Internet company tapping. The Post said a disenchanted intelligence official provided it with the documents to expose government overreach.

Before the disclosure of the Internet company surveillance program on Thursday, the White House and Congressional leaders defended the phone program, saying it was legal and necessary to protect national security.

(Read More: US Secretly Mines Data From Internet Companies – Reports)

Josh Earnest, a White House spokesman, told reporters aboard Air Force One that the kind of surveillance at issue “has been a critical tool in protecting the nation from terror threats as it allows counterterrorism personnel to discover whether known or suspected terrorists have been in contact with other persons who may be engaged in terrorist activities, particularly people located inside the United States.” He added: “The president welcomes a discussion of the trade-offs between security and civil liberties.”

The Guardian and The Post posted several slides from the 41-page presentation about the Internet program, listing the companies involved — which included Yahoo, Microsoft, Paltalk, AOL, Skype and YouTube — and the dates they joined the program, as well as listing the types of information collected under the program.

The reports came as President Obama was traveling to meet President Xi Jinping of China at an estate in Southern California, a meeting intended to address among other things complaints about Chinese cyberattacks and spying. Now that conversation will take place amid discussion of America’s own vast surveillance operations.

But while the administration and lawmakers who supported the telephone records program emphasized that all three branches of government had signed off on it, Anthony Romero of the American Civil Liberties Union denounced the surveillance as an infringement of fundamental individual liberties, no matter how many parts of the government approved of it.

“A pox on all the three houses of government,” Mr. Romero said. “On Congress, for legislating such powers, on the FISA court for being such a paper tiger and rubber stamp, and on the Obama administration for not being true to its values.”

Others raised concerns about whether the telephone program was effective.

Word of the program emerged when The Guardian posted an April order from the secret foreign intelligence court directing a subsidiary of Verizon Communications to give the N.S.A. “on an ongoing daily basis” until July logs of communications “between the United States and abroad” or “wholly within the United States, including local telephone calls.”

On Thursday, Senators Dianne Feinstein of California and Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, the top Democrat and top Republican on the Intelligence Committee, said the court order appeared to be a routine reauthorization as part of a broader program that lawmakers have long known about and supported.

“As far as I know, this is an exact three-month renewal of what has been the case for the past seven years,” Ms. Feinstein said, adding that it was carried out by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court “under the business records section of the Patriot Act.”

“Therefore, it is lawful,” she said. “It has been briefed to Congress.”

Read Full Article Here

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Thousands blockade European Central Bank in Frankfurt (VIDEO, PHOTOS)

  RT

Published time: May 31, 2013 08:12
Edited time: May 31, 2013 13:50

The entrance of the ECB is blocked by over 3,000 ‘Blockupy’ protesters in a march against austerity. ‘Blockupy’ has announced the coalition has “reached its first goal” of the day.

Anti-capitalist protesters have taken to the streets of the financial heart of Frankfurt a day ahead of Europe-wide gatherings planned for June 1 to protest leaders handling of the three-year euro debt crisis.

“We call up everyone to join our protests.”

 

 

German riot police scuffle with protestors in front of the European Central Bank (ECB) head quarters during a anti-capitalism "Blockupy" demonstration in Frankfurt, May 31, 2013. (Reuters / Kai Pfaffenbach)

German riot police scuffle with protestors in front of the European Central Bank (ECB) head quarters during a anti-capitalism “Blockupy” demonstration in Frankfurt, May 31, 2013. (Reuters / Kai Pfaffenbach)

The ECB spokesman told The Guardian that the Blockupy protests have not disturbed day to day operations at the bank, but would not specify how many bankers managed to come to work.

Apart from those who amassed outside the ECB, a smaller demonstration took place at the nearby Deutsche Bank AG (DBK) headquarters, where around 50 police vehicles had been deployed. The protesters set off by midday.

The crowd, estimated at 2,500 by local authorities, clutched signs demanding ‘humanity before profit’.

Rain-soaked and dressed in ponchos, the crowd is equipped with a wide array of protest props- vuvuzelas, yellow wigs, pots and pans, and mattresses with the spray-painted slogan ‘War Starts Here’.

 

Image from twitter user@Migs_Bru

Image from twitter user@Migs_Bru

Blockupy’ has become a top-ten Twitter trend in Frankfurt, and at 10:09am (08:09 GMT), user Enough14 tweeted, “Strong Powerful blockade at Kaiserstr. Not one banker will come through here,” in reference to the ECB headquarters.

 

Read Full Article  and Watch Video Here