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The complete history of Barack Obama's second term -- click Views/Repies for top stories
 
 
 


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Beckwith

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How the NSA used a "loophole" to spy on Americans

Brendan Sasso is reporting that Team Obama's top intelligence official has confirmed that the National Security Agency intentionally spied on the communications of Americans under a law intended to apply only to foreigners.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper confirmed the surveillance in a letter responding to questioning from Sen. Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat. The agency spied on the actual contents of communications without a warrant -- not just "metadata" such as call times and phone numbers.

"This is unacceptable. It raises serious constitutional questions, and poses a real threat to the privacy rights of law-abiding Americans," Wyden and Sen. Mark Udall, a Colorado Democrat, said in a statement.

"If a government agency thinks that a particular American is engaged in terrorism or espionage, the Fourth Amendment requires that the government secure a warrant or emergency authorization before monitoring his or her communications," the senators said. "This fact should be beyond dispute."

Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act gives the NSA broad power to listen in on phone calls and access emails. But the law covers only non-Americans located outside of the United States.

The agency sometimes collects Americans' information as it scoops up vast amounts of data on foreigners. In his letter to Wyden, Clapper revealed that the NSA has searched through that database specifically looking for Americans' communications.

"There have been queries, using US person identifiers, of communications lawfully acquired to obtain foreign intelligence targeting non-US persons reasonably believed to be located outside the United States," Clapper wrote.

The statement confirms that the NSA has been taking advantage of a secret rule change first revealed by The Guardian in August, based on documents leaked by Edward Snowden.

It's unclear how many Americans have been affected by the surveillance, though the program is presumably much smaller than the NSA's bulk collection of millions of phone records. But unlike that bulk data collection, Section 702 allows the NSA to listen to calls and read emails.

In their statement, Wyden and Udall said the confirmation from Clapper shows that Congress must ensure it closes the "loophole" in Section 702 to require that the NSA has to show probable cause of wrongdoing before targeting individual Americans.

The Democrats also made a veiled swipe at Barack Obama, who reassured Americans that "nobody is listening to your telephone calls."

"Senior officials have sometimes suggested that government agencies do not deliberately read Americans' emails, monitor their online activity or listen to their phone calls without a warrant," the senators said. "However, the facts show that those suggestions were misleading, and that intelligence agencies have indeed conducted warrantless searches for Americans' communications."

Jeff Anchukaitis, a spokesman for Clapper, said the director's office already declassified documents related to the surveillance of people within the U.S. under Section 702 in August.

He emphasized that the "authority is subject to strict oversight by the Department of Justice and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to ensure compliance with the minimization procedures, and that there were no intentional violations of those procedures."

Remember this?

Clapper should be charged with and convicted of perjury. He knowingly and brazenly lied to Congress.


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Beckwith

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No more NSA spying?  Sorry, Obama, but that's not true

John Naughton is reporting that last week in the Hague, Barack Obama seemed to have suddenly remembered the oath he swore on his inauguration as president -- that stuff about preserving, protecting and defending the constitution of the United States. At any rate, he announced that the NSA would end the "bulk collection" of telephone records and instead would be required to seek a new kind of court order to search data held by telecommunications companies.

This policy change is a tacit admission of what Edward Snowden (and 2001 whistleblower William Binney before him) had been claiming, namely that the warrantless surveillance of US citizens by the NSA and other government agencies does, in fact, violate the constitution of the United States. Obama's announcement looked to some observers as the first crack to appear in the implacable facade of the national surveillance state. This looked promising because, as we know from second world war movies, the first crack is inevitably the harbinger of the eventual total collapse of the dam.

Dream on. The significant thing about Obama's announcement is the two things it left out: surveillance of the internet (as distinct from the telephonic activity of American citizens); and of the rest of the world -- that's you and me. So even if Obama succeeds in getting his little policy swerve through Congress, the central capabilities of the national surveillance state will remain in place, untouched and unimpaired.

At the heart of these capabilities is the "bulk collection" (that is, warrantless) collection and storage of communications metadata on an unimaginable scale. Given that metadata in this context is essentially a log of every communicative act that you make in cyberspace -- where you went; who you emailed or texted; who emailed or texted you; the URL of every website you visited; a list of every web search you've ever made; and so on – metadata nowadays constitutes information of a very detailed and intimate nature.

It's the kind of data that in a civilized society would only be accessible to state authorities under very strict conditions. Yet we now know, thanks to Snowden, that all of it is freely available to the NSA and its overseas franchises.

This is intolerable, for various reasons. The first and most obvious one is the intimacy of the data that is being collected. What is even more offensive is the speciousness of the rationale that is trotted out by state authorities to "justify" it. This goes back to the era of analogue telephony when the US supreme court decided that the "metadata" of a telephone subscriber consisted of a log of the numbers s/he called, and that this log was the product of the telephone company, not of the subscriber. This was perhaps a not unreasonable judgment in an analogue era, but it is entirely inapplicable in a digital one. Our metadata should belong to us and should only be accessible under judicial supervision.

Equally offensive is the argument, regularly trotted out by government apologists, that "collection" does not mean what any normal person thinks it means. Sure, they say, the metadata may be hoovered up by the spooks' machines, but it isn't actually "collected" until it has been looked at by a human being. This is either breathtaking casuistry or evidence of startling official ignorance of current capabilities in machine learning and pattern recognition. Either way, it's bullshit.

Related to that is the way in which bulk collection of metadata undermines a fundamental principle of any civilised legal system -- the presumption of innocence until proved otherwise. Current NSA/GCHQ practice effectively turns every citizen into a suspect to be surveilled, just in case, at some time in the future, the state decides to take an interest in him or her.

Finally, there is the legal issue. Ever since Snowden began telling it like it is, the ultimate fall-back position of the establishment has been that what the spooks are doing is "lawful". Even if we accept that proposition, there is still the problem of bad laws caused by incompetent or dishonest law-making. And what we are now discovering is how flawed the US law-making process relating to warrantless surveillance was. In the UK, the parliamentary process that led to RIPA, the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act, was also flawed but in a different way. In the US, it was Dick Cheney and the politicians who decided what they wanted the NSA to do and drafted the law accordingly. Over here, the spooks told the politicians what they wanted and the legislators obliged. This is no way to run a democracy.


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Beckwith

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Reply with quote  #103 
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Beckwith

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How much can your phone's metadata reveal about you? Too much!

Laura Entis is reporting that back in June, Barack Obama assured us that that NSA was "not looking into content" of millions of mobile phone calls; instead, the agency was simply collecting metadata.

That statement seemed to imply that we could all rest easy. After all, sensitive information resides solely in what's said on the phone, not in a call's metadata, right?

Turns out, it's not that simple. As a new study by researchers at Stanford University illustrates, metadata is plenty sensitive; analyzed correctly, it can reveal intimate, personal and shockingly specific things about a person.

Continue reading here . . .

What the NSA is collecting can reveal intimate, personal and shockingly specific things about a person because it is not metadata -- it is data.

I don't know where this "metadata" meme originated but it is nonsense. The federal government is collecting hard data about everything that is transmitted via phone, cellphone, email, text message, etc. And the NSA is analyzing all of your communications using "key-word/key-phrase" algorithms.

When a key-word or key-phrase is found the communication is bumped to another data set, and that data set is further digitally analyzed. This process occurs several times, filtering and filtering communications, until the actual phone call is listened to, or the email read.

If they want it, they have it -- and they want everything.


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Beckwith

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How the NSA plans to infect "millions" of computers with malware
 
Ryan Gallagher and Glenn Greenwald are reporting that top-secret documents reveal that the National Security Agency is dramatically expanding its ability to covertly hack into computers on a mass scale by using automated systems that reduce the level of human oversight in the process.

The classified files -- provided previously by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden -- contain new details about groundbreaking surveillance technology the agency has developed to infect potentially millions of computers worldwide with malware "implants." The clandestine initiative enables the NSA to break into targeted computers and to siphon out data from foreign Internet and phone networks.

The covert infrastructure that supports the hacking efforts operates from the agency’s headquarters in Fort Meade, Maryland, and from eavesdropping bases in the United Kingdom and Japan. GCHQ, the British intelligence agency, appears to have played an integral role in helping to develop the implants tactic.

In some cases the NSA has masqueraded as a fake Facebook server, using the social media site as a launching pad to infect a target’s computer and exfiltrate files from a hard drive. In others, it has sent out spam emails laced with the malware, which can be tailored to covertly record audio from a computer’s microphone and take snapshots with its webcam. The hacking systems have also enabled the NSA to launch cyberattacks by corrupting and disrupting file downloads or denying access to websites.

The implants being deployed were once reserved for a few hundred hard-to-reach targets, whose communications could not be monitored through traditional wiretaps. But the documents analyzed by The Intercept show how the NSA has aggressively accelerated its hacking initiatives in the past decade by computerizing some processes previously handled by humans. The automated system -- codenamed TURBINE -- is designed to "allow the current implant network to scale to large size (millions of implants) by creating a system that does automated control implants by groups instead of individually."

In a top-secret presentation, dated August 2009, the NSA describes a pre-programmed part of the covert infrastructure called the "Expert System," which is designed to operate "like the brain." The system manages the applications and functions of the implants and "decides" what tools they need to best extract data from infected machines.

Mikko Hypponen, an expert in malware who serves as chief research officer at the Finnish security firm F-Secure, calls the revelations "disturbing." The NSA’s surveillance techniques, he warns, could inadvertently be undermining the security of the Internet.

"When they deploy malware on systems," Hypponen says, "they potentially create new vulnerabilities in these systems, making them more vulnerable for attacks by third parties."

Hypponen believes that governments could arguably justify using malware in a small number of targeted cases against adversaries. But millions of malware implants being deployed by the NSA as part of an automated process, he says, would be "out of control."

"That would definitely not be proportionate," Hypponen says. "It couldn’t possibly be targeted and named. It sounds like wholesale infection and wholesale surveillance."

The NSA declined to answer questions about its deployment of implants, pointing to a new presidential policy directive announced by Barack Obama. "As the president made clear on 17 January," the agency said in a statement, "signals intelligence shall be collected exclusively where there is a foreign intelligence or counterintelligence purpose to support national and departmental missions, and not for any other purposes."

Continue reading here . . .


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Claudia

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Reply with quote  #106 
YEP!!!!
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snowyriver

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Reply with quote  #107 
One small thought further on this subject.. Is it a violation of our constitution to be president when you cannot prove you are a citizen of the United States.. Let alone a "natural born citizen" as required by our constitution??
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Democratic senator accuses Obama of violating Constitution


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Democrat senator claims Obama knew the CIA was secretly monitored the Senate Intelligence Committee

Spencer Ackerman is reporting that a leading US senator has said that President Obama knew of an “unprecedented action” taken by the CIA against the Senate intelligence committee, which has apparently prompted an inspector general's inquiry at Langley.

The subtle reference in a Tuesday letter from Senator Mark Udall (D - CO) to Obama, seeking to enlist his help in declassifying a 6,300-page inquiry by the committee into torture carried out by CIA interrogators after 9/11, threatens to plunge the White House into a battle between the agency and its Senate overseers.

McClatchy and the New York Times reported Wednesday that the CIA had secretly monitored computers used by committee staffers preparing the inquiry report, which is said to be scathing not only about the brutality and ineffectiveness of the agency's interrogation techniques but deception by the CIA to Congress and policymakers about it. The CIA sharply disputes the committee's findings.

Udall, a Colorado Democrat and one of the CIA's leading pursuers on the committee, appeared to reference that surreptitious spying on Congress, which Udall said undermined democratic principles.

“As you are aware, the CIA has recently taken unprecedented action against the committee in relation to the internal CIA review and I find these actions to be incredibly troubling for the Committee's oversight powers and for our democracy,” Udall wrote to Obama on Tuesday.

Independent observers were unaware of a precedent for the CIA spying on the congressional committees established in the 1970s to check abuses by the intelligence agencies.

“In the worst case, it would be a subversion of independent oversight, and a violation of separation of powers,” said Steven Aftergood, an intelligence analyst at the Federation of American Scientists. “It's potentially very serious.”

The White House declined to comment, but National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said Obama supported making the major findings of the torture report public.

“For some time, the White House has made clear to the chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence that a summary of the findings and conclusions of the final report should be declassified, with any appropriate redactions necessary to protect national security,” Hayden said.

McClatchy reported that the CIA inspector general has made a criminal referral to the Justice Department, a threshold procedure for opening a criminal investigation.

Neither the CIA nor the Justice Department would comment for this story.

Continue reading here . . .


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Beckwith

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Obama asks court to make NSA database even bigger

GloriousLeade.jpg

Tyler Durden says when a hypertotalitarian banana republic takes another turn for the gigasurreal, even Elon Musk is speechless.

In the most glaring example of how farcical idiocy has become the new normal, we will remind readers (especially those who do not follow us on twitter), of the following blurb from last night:

Tweet05.jpg

Sure enough, this attempt at comedy has just failed once more, as less than 24 hours later, it describes an increasingly surreal reality. Just out from the WSJ:

The Obama administration has asked a special court for approval to hold onto National Security Agency phone records for a longer period–an unintended consequence of lawsuits seeking to stop the phone-surveillance program.

The Wall Street Journal reported last week that the Justice Department was considering such a move, which would end up expanding the controversial phone records database by not deleting older call records.

Under the current system, the database is purged of phone records more than five years old. The Justice Department, in a filing made public Wednesday, said it needs to hold onto the older records as evidence in lawsuits brought by the American Civil Liberties Union, Electronic Frontier Foundation, and others.

Under the proposal made to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, the older data would continue to be held, but NSA analysts would not be allowed to search it.

The gruesome irony of course is that after his so heartfelt, if completely scripted and rehearsed, appearance before the US public one month ago, when Obama promised he would do everything in his power to reform the NSA, including the ending of the Section 215 metadata collection, and the retenion of bulk phone records, the president certainly kept his promise. Just not quite in the way that everyone had assumed.



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Claudia

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Well here is another delightful way to keep tabs on ALL AMERICANS, whether or not we want it or need it........  From WND.com

Feds want to track your DNA like a license plate -- seek "biosignature" spying ability to "identify, locate specific individuals"

140215heatsignatures

Steve Peacock is reporting that the federal government doesn’t just want the ability to track down your car; it wants to be able to track down your body as well.

Just as details are emerging about a controversial, nationwide vehicle-surveillance database, WND has learned the federal government is planning an even more invasive spy program using “physiological signatures” to track down individuals. 

The goal of this research is to detect – as well as analyze and categorize – unique traits the government can exploit to “identify, locate and track specific individuals or groups of people.”

According to the program’s statement of objectives, “The scope of human-centered [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, or ISR] research spans the complete range of human performance starting at the individual molecular, cellular, genomic level.”

Documents WND located through routine database research reveal the ability to follow people by detecting “certain characteristics of operational interest” is designed for U.S. military and intelligence-gathering superiority.

It remains unknown when such capabilities might transition to the realm of domestic counterterrorism or law enforcement operations; however, the feds – through the Air Force Research Lab, or AFRL – are recruiting private-sector assistance in order to make this “biosignature” spying a reality.

Existing ISR systems are “ideal for identifying and tracking entities such as aircraft and vehicles, but are less capable of identifying and tracking the human,” the lab says in a planning document known as a Broad Agency Announcement, or BAA.

The Human-Centered ISR Leveraged Science & Technology Program will seek to develop, with outside help, technologies that the government can use “to identify, locate and track humans of interest within the operational environment,” according to solicitation No. BAA-HPW-RHX-2014-0001.

Research specific to fusing and analyzing sensor data has undergone consistent growth, but such efforts have been “system-centric” and fail to “adequately address the human element.”

This new research scheme seeks to strengthen the ability of intelligence analysts by placing the human component at the forefront of their efforts.

AFRL’s research could have implications for a variety of domains, such as air, space and cyberspace, it says. The program’s outcome also will broadly apply to other U.S. Department of Defense organizations and the intelligence community.

A second component of the AFRL initiative is the Human Trust and Interaction Program, which will conduct research into human-to-human and human-to-machine interactions.

This program segment entails several sub-areas, including Trust and Suspicion, which will focus on “the recognition of suspicious activities in the cyberspace realm.”

This segment will examine open-source data such as social media. It also will continue to leverage “more traditional intelligence sources.”

AFRL says it anticipates awarding three or four initial contracts for the overall initiative, which has an estimated program value of about $50 million.

The goal of this and other AFLR programs typically start out as largely theoretical, similar to the approach taken by the more widely known Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, which created ARPANET, the defense-system predecessor to the Internet.

The Department of Homeland Security, on the other hand, merely has to solicit bids from industry for a National License Plate Recognition, or NLPR, database system.

While DHS is soliciting this service specifically for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, functions, the breadth of this NLPR service encompasses the gathering of transportation-movement data from major metropolitan areas nationwide.

This database, which would be fed with information gleaned from multiple sources, would “track vehicle license plate numbers that pass through cameras or are voluntarily entered into the system,” according to the program solicitation.

The vehicle tracking-data then would be “uploaded to share with law enforcement.”

The database will be compatible with smart phone technology, enabling law enforcement offices to download thousands of listings – as well as close-up photos – of vehicle license plates.

Once DHS secures this service, the contractor must retain and make available data from previous months, as well as update the system with “new and unique” data monthly.

DHS anticipates awarding a one-year contract with four one-year options by May 14. It did not disclose the estimated cost. 

 Read more here . . .
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Tech firms release details on NSA snooping requests

Elizabeth Sheld is reporting that yesterday, the nation's largest tech companies began releasing data on the NSA's requests for customer information. The data shows that the government requested information on thousands of Americans. 

Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Tumbler were allowed to reveal the government's requests on account of a deal they made via a legal deal from the government. 

The figures from 2012 and 2013 showed that companies such as Google and Microsoft were compelled by the government to provide information on as many as 10,000 customer accounts in a six-month period. Yahoo complied with government requests for information on more than 40,000 accounts in the same period.

The effect of Edward Snowden's leaks about the NSA's domestic sureveillance has had consequences for the U.S.tech industry. "The data releases by the major tech companies offered a mix of dispassionate graphics, reassurances and protests, seeking to alleviate customer concerns about government spying while pressuring national security officials about the companies’ constitutional concerns. "

Microsoft was particularly critical about the surveillance efforts. "In a company blog post, Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith scolded the U.S. and allied governments for failing to renounce the reported mass interception of Internet data carried by communications cables."  

“Despite the president’s reform efforts and our ability to publish more information, there has not yet been any public commitment by either the U.S. or other governments to renounce the attempted hacking of Internet companies,” Smith said in a Microsoft blog release. He added that Microsoft planned to press the government “for more on this point, in collaboration with others across our industry.”

LinkedIn also had an opinion on the data dragnet. “We will also continue to advocate for still narrower disclosure ranges, which will provide a more accurate picture of the number of national security-related requests,” said Erika Rottenberg, LinkedIn’s general counsel.

A spokesman for the Office of Director of National Intelligence declined to comment on the tech industry comments.


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NSA Watching phone users with Google Maps

James Ball is reporting that the National Security Agency and its UK counterpart GCHQ have been developing capabilities to take advantage of "leaky" smartphone apps, such as the wildly popular Angry Birds game, that transmit users' private information across the internet, according to top secret documents.

The data pouring onto communication networks from the new generation of iPhone and Android apps ranges from phone model and screen size to personal details such as age, gender and location. Some apps, the documents state, can share users' most sensitive information such as sexual orientation -- and one app recorded in the material even sends specific sexual preferences such as whether or not the user may be a swinger.

Many smartphone owners will be unaware of the full extent this information is being shared across the internet, and even the most sophisticated would be unlikely to realise that all of it is available for the spy agencies to collect.

Dozens of classified documents, provided to the Guardian by whistleblower Edward Snowden and reported in partnership with the New York Times and ProPublica, detail the NSA and GCHQ efforts to piggyback on this commercial data collection for their own purposes.

Scooping up information the apps are sending about their users allows the agencies to collect large quantities of mobile phone data from their existing mass surveillance tools -- such as cable taps, or from international mobile networks -- rather than solely from hacking into individual mobile handsets.

Exploiting phone information and location is a high-priority effort for the intelligence agencies, as terrorists and other intelligence targets make substantial use of phones in planning and carrying out their activities, for example by using phones as triggering devices in conflict zones. The NSA has cumulatively spent more than $1bn in its phone targeting efforts.

The disclosures also reveal how much the shift towards smartphone browsing could benefit spy agencies' collection efforts.

[PRISM]

A May 2010 NSA slide on the agency's 'perfect scenario' for obtaining data from mobile apps. Photograph: Guardian

One slide from a May 2010 NSA presentation on getting data from smartphones -- breathlessly titled "Golden Nugget!" -- sets out the agency's "perfect scenario": "Target uploading photo to a social media site taken with a mobile device. What can we get?"

The question is answered in the notes to the slide: from that event alone, the agency said it could obtain a "possible image", email selector, phone, buddy lists, and "a host of other social working data as well as location".

In practice, most major social media sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, strip photos of identifying location metadata (known as EXIF data) before publication. However, depending on when this is done during upload, such data may still, briefly, be available for collection by the agencies as it travels across the networks.

Depending on what profile information a user had supplied, the documents suggested, the agency would be able to collect almost every key detail of a user's life: including home country, current location (through geolocation), age, gender, zip code, martial status -- options included "single", "married", "divorced", "swinger" and more -- income, ethnicity, sexual orientation, education level, and number of children.

The agencies also made use of their mobile interception capabilities to collect location information in bulk, from Google and other mapping apps. One basic effort by GCHQ and the NSA was to build a database geolocating every mobile phone mast in the world -- meaning that just by taking tower ID from a handset, location information could be gleaned.

A more sophisticated effort, though, relied on intercepting Google Maps queries made on smartphones, and using them to collect large volumes of location information.

So successful was this effort that one 2008 document noted that "[i]t effectively means that anyone using Google Maps on a smartphone is working in support of a GCHQ system."

And the beat goes on . . .


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Team Obama rejects review board finding that NSA data sweep is illegal

Fox News is reporting that, on Thursday, Team Obama disputed the findings of an independent review board that said the National Security Agency's mass data collection program is illegal and should be ended, indicating the administration would not be taking that advice.

"We simply disagree with the board's analysis on the legality of the program," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said.

He was responding to a scathing report from The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board (PCLOB), which said the program ran afoul of the law on several fronts.

"The ... bulk telephone records program lacks a viable legal foundation," the board's report said, adding that it raises "serious threats to privacy and civil liberties" and has "only limited value." The report, further, said the NSA should "purge" the files.

Barack Obama did not go nearly as far when he called last week for ending government control of phone data collected from hundreds of millions of Americans.

Carney claimed Obama, in his address last week, did "directly derive" some of his ideas from the board's draft recommendations. But he made clear that Obama does not see eye to eye with them on the legitimacy of mass phone record collection.

"The administration believes that the program is lawful," he said.

Continue reading here . . .

Absolute proof that Obama's comments were just more lies and he has no intention of stopping his violations of the Fourth Amendment.


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Law enforcement requested Verizon data more than 320,000 times in 2013

Josh Peterson is reporting that U.S. law enforcement agencies requested Verizon customer data more than 320,000 times in 2013, according to a recently published transparency report by the company.

Verizon published its semi-annual data transparency report Wednesday, revealing that U.S. federal, state and local law enforcement agencies requested information 321,545 times from the company in 2013.

The report, which covers Verizon's wireline services such as phone, Internet, and television and the company's Verizon Wireless services, details the number of subpoenas, orders, warrants, emergency requests and national security letters law enforcement presented to the company.

According to the report, Verizon was subpoenaed 164,184 times and presented 70,665 court orders and 36,696 warrants; law enforcement also made approximately 50,000 emergency requests for user data.

Between 1,000 and 1,999 national security letters, which are presented to a company by the FBI during a foreign intelligence investigation, were also sent to the company. Recipients of NSLs are placed under a gag order, prohibiting them from talking about the investigation.

Verizon also revealed that U.S. law enforcement agencies increased the number of demands made in 2013 from 2012, but didn't specify the size of the increase.

The report, first announced in December, is part of a new trend of phone companies publishing information about law enforcement requests for user data. AT&T announced its intentions to follow suit in December as well.

Verizon acknowledges in its report that it sometimes rejects law enforcement data requests, but it didn't publish the number of requests, or the kinds of requests, that it rejected in 2013.

"If a demand is facially invalid, or if a demand seeks certain information that can only be obtained with a different form of process (for example, a subpoena, rather than a warrant, improperly is used to seek stored customer content), we reject the demand," said Verizon in the report.

"If a demand is overly broad or vague we will not produce any information, or will seek to narrow the scope of the demand and produce a subset of the information sought. In many cases we do not produce any information at all, including because the demand seeks information we do not have," said the company.

Verizon stated in the report's frequently asked questions, however, that it plans to publish that number going forward.

The company also said it didn't track the percentage of demands it produced some or no data for in 2013, but stated it plans to publish that number going forward.

Computer security researcher Ashkan Soltani tweeted in response to the report, "Verizon transparency report is meaningless without knowing the number of users affected."

In early January, CREDO Mobile, a San Francisco-based progressive organization with a small base of wireless subscribers, became the first phone company to publish a law enforcement transparency report. CREDO Mobile's report also broke down the number of law enforcement requests by agency and by state, which is unique among transparency reports.

Major Internet companies, including Google, Microsoft, Twitter and Facebook, also regularly publish similar transparency reports.

Concerns about big data and government surveillance have put a spotlight on privacy issues, and technology companies looking to solidify consumer trust in their services have been willing to be more transparent about what they do with user data.

The national security leaks by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden have inspired increased public pressure on telecommunications and technology companies to be even more transparent


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Jon Stewart skewers Obama's NSA speech

Jon Stewart opened Monday night's Daily Show with a stinging takedown of Barack Obama's NSA speech; a delicate tightrope act involving Obama trying to assuage privacy advocates while actually not doing anything that would upset the people with actual say and power in this debate. Obama talked so long about the history of surveillance, it almost seemed like the point was to make it so boring, people would stop listening. The clear takeaway from the speech, for Stewart, was that there are loopholes galore for the government, meaning to them "we will totally follow the rules until we determine such time when we will no longer follow the rules."

Obama did say this was a very important debate, which is why, Stewart explained, "the person who started this debate must be hunted down and thrown in prison for life."


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Guarantees that Obama gave are worthless

Team Obama continues to describe what they are collecting out there in Utah as "metadata" -- that is, "data about data" -- and the media has picked up on that false characterization.

Well, below are the contents of the "call detail record." It resides on what the phone companies call the "billing machine." Each instance of a "call detail record" contains data that describe a single phone call and it used to be used only to calculate a subscriber's monthly phone bill.

Now, it is being used by the NSA to develop intelligence about the calling and called parties.

•  the phone number of the subscriber originating the call (calling party)
•  the phone number receiving the call (called party)
•  the starting time of the call (date and time)
•  the call duration
•  the billing phone number that is charged for the call
•  the identification of the telephone exchange or equipment writing the record
•  a unique sequence number identifying the call record
•  additional digits on the called number used to route or charge the call
•  the disposition or the results of the call, indicating, for example, whether or not the call was connected
•  the route by which the call entered the exchange
•  the route by which the call left the exchange
•  call type (voice, SMS, etc.)
•  cell identifier
•  any fault condition encountered

The listed data is "data." It is not "metadata."  The NSA computers contain "metadata" to describe the attributes of the above listed "data" to the computer programs (ex: numbers, text, length, etc.)

If I have a year's worth of your call records, I can map your movements, and identify your associations and the frequency and duration of your associations -- and their associations -- and their associations -- in that year. 

If I have five years of call records, I can map your movements, and identify your associations and the frequency and duration of your associations -- and their associations -- and their associations -- in that five year period -- and so on.

In other words, I know everything about you and your associations without "listening" to your phone calls or "reading" your emails.

If someone in your "network" is identified as a "terror suspect," by association, you are identified as a "terror suspect."

And because the NSA is also storing data from financial and marketing sources, I can map you and your associations to financial transactions and purchases.

I know everything about you -- and just wait until I get that ObamaCare data.


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Americans should be skeptical of Obama NSA speech

National Journal's Ron Fournier told Fox News' Megyn Kelly Thursday night that President Obama "has not earned our trust," and he thinks Obama will only announce minor changes during his address on NSA spying Friday.

Obama is expected to reveal changes to the agency's controversial surveillance programs, which have come under scrutiny since being leaked by Edward Snowden over the past several months.

However, Fournier said on the "The Kelly File" he only expects minor changes to be announced, and the American people should be skeptical of Obama.

"There is no reason for us to have a whole lot of trust in what we're hearing out of the administration on NSA," Fournier said. "From the beginning they haven't been very transparent about explaining what it is we're doing and why so we really have to be real careful, really look hard at what the president says tomorrow."

Fournier also pointed out it has become more difficult to trust the president in light of his other failed promises; such as that Americans would be able to keep their health plans under ObamaCare.

"He has not earned our trust," Fournier said.

The good doctor hit's the nail on the head:

Related:  Related: On the NSA, the real problem is that Obama can't be trusted

Anybody that thinks Obama will tighten the reins on the NSA's spying on Americans is living in Fantasyland.


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The NSA collects millions of text messages daily in "untargeted" global sweep

James Ball is reporting that the National Security Agency has collected almost 200 million text messages a day from across the globe, using them to extract data including location, contact networks and credit card details, according to top-secret documents.

The untargeted collection and storage of SMS messages -- including their contacts -- is revealed in a joint investigation between the Guardian and the UK's Channel 4 News based on material provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The documents also reveal the UK spy agency GCHQ has made use of the NSA database to search the metadata of "untargeted and unwarranted" communications belonging to people in the UK.

The NSA program, codenamed Dishfire, collects "pretty much everything it can", according to GCHQ documents, rather than merely storing the communications of existing surveillance targets.

The NSA has made extensive use of its vast text message database to extract information on people's travel plans, contact books, financial transactions and more -- including of individuals under no suspicion of illegal activity.

An agency presentation from 2011 -- subtitled "SMS Text Messages: A Goldmine to Exploit" -- reveals the program collected an average of 194 million text messages a day in April of that year. In addition to storing the messages themselves, a further program known as "Prefer" conducted automated analysis on the untargeted communications.

[NSA01]

The Prefer program uses automated text messages such as missed call alerts or texts sent with international roaming charges to extract information, which the agency describes as "content-derived metadata", and explains that "such gems are not in current metadata stores and would enhance current analytics".

On average, each day the NSA was able to extract:

• More than 5 million missed-call alerts, for use in contact-chaining analysis (working out someone's social network from who they contact and when)

• Details of 1.6 million border crossings a day, from network roaming alerts

• More than 110,000 names, from electronic business cards, which also included the ability to extract and save images.

• Over 800,000 financial transactions, either through text-to-text payments or linking credit cards to phone users

The agency was also able to extract geolocation data from more than 76,000 text messages a day, including from "requests by people for route info" and "setting up meetings". Other travel information was obtained from itinerary texts sent by travel companies, even including cancellations and delays to travel plans.

[NSA02]

Communications from US phone numbers, the documents suggest, were removed (or "minimized") from the database -- but those of other countries, including the UK, were retained.

The revelation the NSA is collecting and extracting personal information from hundreds of millions of global text messages a day is likely to intensify international pressure on US president Barack Obama, who on Friday is set to give his response to the report of his NSA review panel.

Continue reading here . . .


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NSA Devises radio pathway into computers

David E. Sanger and Thom Shankerjan are reporting that the National Security Agency has implanted software in nearly 100,000 computers around the world that allows the United States to conduct surveillance on those machines and can also create a digital highway for launching cyberattacks.

While most of the software is inserted by gaining access to computer networks, the N.S.A. has increasingly made use of a secret technology that enables it to enter and alter data in computers even if they are not connected to the Internet, according to N.S.A. documents, computer experts and American officials.

The technology, which the agency has used since at least 2008, relies on a covert channel of radio waves that can be transmitted from tiny circuit boards and USB cards inserted surreptitiously into the computers. In some cases, they are sent to a briefcase-size relay station that intelligence agencies can set up miles away from the target.

[NSALatestScheme] 

The radio frequency technology has helped solve one of the biggest problems facing American intelligence agencies for years: getting into computers that adversaries, and some American partners, have tried to make impervious to spying or cyberattack. In most cases, the radio frequency hardware must be physically inserted by a spy, a manufacturer or an unwitting user.

The N.S.A. calls its efforts more an act of "active defense" against foreign cyberattacks than a tool to go on the offensive. But when Chinese attackers place similar software on the computer systems of American companies or government agencies, American officials have protested, often at the presidential level.

Among the most frequent targets of the N.S.A. and its Pentagon partner, United States Cyber Command, have been units of the Chinese Army, which the United States has accused of launching regular digital probes and attacks on American industrial and military targets, usually to steal secrets or intellectual property. But the program, code-named Quantum, has also been successful in inserting software into Russian military networks and systems used by the Mexican police and drug cartels, trade institutions inside the European Union, and sometime partners against terrorism like Saudi Arabia, India and Pakistan, according to officials and an N.S.A. map that indicates sites of what the agency calls "computer network exploitation."

"What's new here is the scale and the sophistication of the intelligence agency's ability to get into computers and networks to which no one has ever had access before," said James Andrew Lewis, the cybersecurity expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. "Some of these capabilities have been around for a while, but the combination of learning how to penetrate systems to insert software and learning how to do that using radio frequencies has given the U.S. a window it's never had before."

The New York Times report assures us that no domestic use is seen.

Uh-huh! Uh-huh!


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NSA Data have no impact on terrorism

Chris Strohm is reporting that a public policy group says a review of U.S. terrorist arrests shows the government’s collection of bulk phone records does little to prevent terrorism, adding fuel to a debate over whether the spy program should be ended.

The nonprofit New America Foundation, based in Washington, analyzed cases involving 225 people recruited by al-Qaeda or other terrorist groups and charged in the U.S. since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. The majority of cases started with traditional techniques, such as use of “informants, tips from local communities, and targeted intelligence operations,” according to a report today from the group, which has been critical of the NSA spy programs.

“Our investigation found that bulk collection of American phone metadata has had no discernible impact on preventing acts of terrorism and only the most marginal of impacts on preventing terrorist-related activity, such as fundraising for a terrorist group,” Peter Bergen, director of the foundation’s national security program, said in a statement.

The National Security Agency’s collection and use of bulk phone records, such as numbers dialed and call durations, is one of several surveillance programs exposed by former government contractor Edward Snowden. The disclosures have prompted calls both domestically and overseas for the U.S. to discontinue or alter the programs.

"Numbers dialed and call durations [and locations]" are not "metadata!  That's "data."


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"Overwhelm the government" with class-action suit against Obama's NSA

Matthew Boyle is reporting that Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) said the grassroots in America will “overwhelm” the federal government and Obama’s administration by signing up for his class action lawsuit against Obama himself over the National Security Agency (NSA) spying on American citizens.

“Well, the thing about it is the question here is whether or not constitutionally you can have a single warrant apply to millions of people,” Paul said in an exclusive interview with Fox News’ Eric Bolling on Friday evening shortly after 10 p.m. 

So we thought what better way to illustrate the point than having hundreds of thousands of Americans sign up for a class action suit. Six months ago, we began this call. We now have several hundred thousand people who want to be part of this suit to say to the government and to the NSA ‘you can’t have our records without our permission or without a warrant specific to an individual.’ So, it’s kind of an unusual class action suit in that we think everybody in America who has a cell phone would be eligible for this class action suit. If any of your viewers have a cell a phone, they just have to go to my Facebook tonight and they can sign up to be part of the lawsuit. We want to overwhelm the government and we want to show publicly that hundreds of thousands of people object to the government looking at our records without our permission.

Paul confirmed to Bolling that former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli will be leading his legal team’s efforts against President Obama. “Yeah, Ken Cuccinelli is the former attorney general of Virginia,” Paul answered when Bolling asked if Cuccinelli was going to be on the team. “He was also the first attorney general to file a lawsuit against Obamacare. And he’s joined our legal team. He has constitutional expertise. We’re hoping with his help we can get a hearing in court and so that we can get this class action lawsuit, I think the first of its kind, all the way to the Supreme Court.”

Paul said the goal of the lawsuit is to force the Obama administration to follow the constitution, specifically the Fourth Amendment. “We want them to protect the Fourth Amendment,” Paul said. “We want them to protect the right to privacy. We want them to understand that we’re not willing to trade our liberty for security. We think we can have security and we can defend against terrorism but that doesn’t mean every individual American has to give up their privacy. We think we can have both. But we are very upset that this president doesn’t seem to be too concerned with our right to privacy.”

When Bolling asked Paul if Director of National Intelligence James Clapper should be prosecuted for a factually inaccurate statement he made to Congress in 2013, Paul said he thinks so. Clapper denied during a congressional hearing that the NSA had engaged in collection of Americans’ records -- something that has been proven to be untrue.

“Lying to Congress is a felony,” Paul said. 

I don’t think we can pick and choose the law. We’ve got all of these people like James Clapper and others beating the table and saying that "we want to put Edward Snowden in jail for life," and yet they don’t want the law applied to themselves? You know, the law has to be applied equally and that is one of the real tenets of American jurisprudence -- you apply the law equally. I frankly think it would be somewhat enlightening for James Clapper and Edward Snowden to share a prison cell and then maybe we’d all learn a little bit from that. 

Paul rounded out the interview by imploring Americans -- anyone with a cell phone -- to join his class action lawsuit. “If you go to my non-governmental Facebook page, you can sign up there,” Paul said. “You can go to RandPAC and sign up there as well. There are several different venues. But if you have a cell phone in America, and you’re unhappy about the government looking at your data or your records and possibly your content come to my Facebook page and sign up because we’d love to have you on the class action lawsuit.”

Paul's Facebook page is available here and his website is available here. Paul told Bolling he already has several hundred thousand signers on to the class action lawsuit and that he is hoping several thousand more will sign up.


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NSA Building super code cracker

The Washington Post is reporting that in room-size metal boxes ­secure against electromagnetic leaks, the National Security Agency is racing to build a computer that could break nearly every kind of encryption used to protect banking, medical, business and government records around the world.

According to documents provided by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, the effort to build "a cryptologically useful quantum computer" -- a machine exponentially faster than classical computers -- is part of a $79.7 million research program titled "Penetrating Hard Targets." Much of the work is hosted under classified contracts at a laboratory in College Park, Md.

The development of a quantum computer has long been a goal of many in the scientific community, with revolutionary implications for fields such as medicine as well as for the NSA's code-breaking mission. With such technology, all current forms of public key encryption would be broken, including those used on many secure Web sites as well as the type used to protect state secrets.

Physicists and computer scientists have long speculated about whether the NSA's efforts are more advanced than those of the best civilian labs. Although the full extent of the agency's research remains unknown, the documents provided by Snowden suggest that the NSA is no closer to success than others in the scientific community.

"It seems improbable that the NSA could be that far ahead of the open world without anybody knowing it," said Scott Aaronson, an associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The NSA appears to regard itself as running neck and neck with quantum computing labs sponsored by the European Union and the Swiss government, with steady progress but little prospect of an immediate breakthrough.

"The geographic scope has narrowed from a global effort to a discrete focus on the European Union and Switzerland," one NSA document states.

Seth Lloyd, an MIT professor of quantum mechanical engineering, said the NSA's focus is not misplaced. "The E.U. and Switzerland have made significant advances over the last decade and have caught up to the U.S. in quantum computing technology," he said.

The NSA declined to comment for this article.

The documents, however, indicate that the agency carries out some of its research in large, shielded rooms known as Faraday cages, which are designed to prevent electromagnetic energy from coming in or out. Those, according to one brief description, are required "to keep delicate quantum computing experiments running."

The basic principle underlying quantum computing is known as "quantum superposition," the idea that an object simultaneously exists in all states. A classical computer uses binary bits, which are either zeroes or ones. A quantum computer uses quantum bits, or qubits, which are simultaneously zero and one.

This seeming impossibility is part of the mystery that lies at the heart of quantum theory, which even theoretical physicists say no one completely understands.

"If you think you understand quantum mechanics, you don't understand quantum mechanics," said the late Nobel laureate Richard Feynman, who is widely regarded as the pioneer in quantum computing.

Here's how it works, in theory: While a classical computer, however fast, must do one calculation at a time, a quantum computer can sometimes avoid having to make calculations that are unnecessary to solving a problem. That allows it to home in on the correct answer much more quickly and efficiently.

Quantum computing is difficult to attain because of the fragile nature of such computers. In theory, the building blocks of such a computer might include individual atoms, photons or electrons. To maintain the quantum nature of the computer, these particles would need to be carefully isolated from their external environments.

"Quantum computers are extremely delicate, so if you don't protect them from their environment, then the computation will be useless," said Daniel Lidar, a professor of electrical engineering and the director of the Center for Quantum Information Science and Technology at the University of Southern California.

A working quantum computer would open the door to easily breaking the strongest encryption tools in use today, including a standard known as RSA, named for the initials of its creators. RSA scrambles communications, making them unreadable to anyone but the intended recipient, without requiring the use of a shared password. It is commonly used in Web browsers to secure financial transactions and in encrypted ­e-mails. RSA is used because of the difficulty of factoring the product of two large prime numbers. Breaking the encryption involves finding those two numbers. This cannot be done in a reasonable amount of time on a classical computer.

Continue reading here . . .


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NSA Hijacks computer shipments, installs spyware in "secret workshops"

Elizabeth Sheld is reporting that yesterday, Spiegel Online revealed details about an elite hacking unit at the National Security Agency called  Tailored Access Operations (TAO).  The Agency not only uses fancy high-tech tricks to get information from it's targets on the digital front, it also uses more traditional spying methods.  "If a target person, agency or company orders a new computer or related accessories, for example, TAO can divert the shipping delivery to its own secret workshops."

Once the technology is successfully acquired, "agents carefully open the package in order to load malware onto the electronics, or even install hardware components that can provide backdoor access for the intelligence agencies. All subsequent steps can then be conducted from the comfort of a remote computer."

This method has been deemed  one of the "most productive operations" by the NSA hackers.


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NSA Data collection program -- called "Orwellian" by federal judge -- stopped a total of zero terror attacks

Doug Ross is reporting that last week, federal judge, Richard Leon, had some harsh words for the NSA's massive data collection programs, including the one that collects all telephone calls in America:

I cannot imagine a more ‘indiscriminate’ and ‘arbitrary invasion’ than this systematic and high-tech collection and retention of personal data on virtually every single citizen for purposes of querying and analyzing it without prior judicial approval. Surely such a program infringes on ‘that degree of privacy’ that the founders enshrined in the Fourth Amendment...

[It uses] almost-Orwellian technology.

The irony is rich. As Roger Aranoff observes, "...had [this] happened on George Bush’s watch, they could have been calling our government fascist, expressing hyper-outrage, and demanding impeachment."

An investigation by Michael Isikoff of NBC News found that the NSA's unconstitutional domestic data collection programs helped to stop the following number of terror attacks: none.

A member of the White House review panel on NSA surveillance said he was “absolutely” surprised when he discovered the agency’s lack of evidence that the bulk collection of telephone call records had thwarted any terrorist attacks.

 ...Under the NSA program, first revealed by ex-contractor Edward Snowden, the agency collects in bulk the records of the time and duration of phone calls made by persons inside the United States.

...The conclusions of the panel’s reports were at direct odds with public statements by Barack Obama and U.S. intelligence officials. “Lives have been saved,” Obama told reporters last June, referring to the bulk collection program and another program that intercepts communications overseas. “We know of at least 50 threats that have been averted because of this information.”

...But in one little-noticed footnote in its report, ... Section 215, based on the provision of the U.S. Patriot Act that provided the legal basis for it – had made “only a modest contribution to the nation’s security.” The report said that “there has been no instance in which NSA could say with confidence that the outcome [of a terror investigation] would have been any different” without the program.

 The panel’s findings echoed that of U.S. Judge Richard Leon, who in a ruling this week found the bulk collection program to be unconstitutional. Leon said that government officials were unable to cite “a single instance in which analysis of the NSA’s bulk collection metadata collection actually stopped an imminent attack, or otherwise aided the Government in achieving any objective that was time-sensitive in nature.”

...The comparison between [the] 702 overseas interceptions and 215 bulk metadata collection was “night and day,” said Stone. “With 702, the record is very impressive. It’s no doubt the nation is safer and spared potential attacks because of 702. There was nothing like that for 215. We asked the question and they [the NSA] gave us the data. They were very straight about it.”

In other words, the Obama administration (yawn) lied to the American people yet again.


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