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Bernie Sanders to NSA: Spying on Hill? Sen. Bernie Sanders sent a letter Friday to the director of the National Security Agency asking if the agency is spying or has ever spied on members of Congress.
The Vermont independent said he was "deeply concerned" about the NSA's collection of information on Americans and called reports that the agency listens in on foreign leaders "disturbing."
"I am writing today to ask you one very simple question," Sanders wrote in the letter addressed to NSA Director Keith Alexander. "Has the NSA spied, or is the NSA currently spying, on members of Congress or other American elected officials? 'Spying' would include gathering metadata on calls made from official or personal phones, content from websites visited or emails sent, or collecting any other data from a third party not made available to the general public in the regular course of business." (Politico)
Just Two Words From Apple On The NSA's iPhone Hacking Show How The Tech Community Now Hates The NSA If Walmart or McDonald's began describing the Obama Administration as an unconstitutional threat to the privacy of its customers, it would be front page/holy-cow news.
But that's what is happening in Silicon Valley right now, with America's biggest tech companies.
The most interesting two words in Apple's official statement today on the news that the NSA can put spyware on 100% of Apple's products, including the iPhone, are these: "malicious hackers."
The company said it was unaware of the NSA's hacking program, called "DROPOUTJEEP," and that it was working to end the breach. But note that Apple's statement went out of its way to portray the U.S. government as a security threat:
We will continue to use our resources to stay ahead of malicious hackers and defend our customers from security attacks, regardless of who’s behind them. (Business Insider)
NSA stores metadata of millions of web users for up to a year, secret files show
Vast amounts of data kept in repository codenamed Marina -- Data retained regardless of whether person is NSA target -- Material used to build 'pattern-of-life' profiles of individuals - The National Security Agency is storing the online metadata of millions of internet users for up to a year, regardless of whether or not they are persons of interest to the agency, top secret documents reveal.
Metadata provides a record of almost anything a user does online, from browsing history – such as map searches and websites visited – to account details, email activity, and even some account passwords. This can be used to build a detailed picture of an individual's life.
The Obama administration has repeatedly stated that the NSA keeps only the content of messages and communications of people it is intentionally targeting – but internal documents reveal the agency retains vast amounts of metadata.
An introductory guide to digital network intelligence for NSA field agents, included in documents disclosed by former contractor Edward Snowden, describes the agency's metadata repository, codenamed Marina. Any computer metadata picked up by NSA collection systems is routed to the Marina database, the guide explains. Phone metadata is sent to a separate system.
• What is metadata? Find out with our interactive guide (London Guardian)
NSA Utah Data Center: frequently asked questions -- Intelligence » What happens there, why Utah and the Mormon query. With the opening of the National Security Agency’s Utah Data Center, The Tribune’s staff has compiled a list of common questions and their answers.
• Is someone at the Utah Data Center going to be reviewing my Internet and phone history?
All indications are no. First, we’ll give you the obligatory NSA refrain that it does not spy on Americans. Regardless, the Utah Data Center is a storage facility. Your digital footprint, or part of it, may reside there, but any analysis of whether your search engine queries for rifles or the latest BYU football news represents a national security threat will be done at other federal facilities by personnel who can remotely access the information stored in Bluffdale. The Utah Data Center is expected to have only 200 employees; not enough to sort through the records of the average American.
• How is the NSA going to sort all those records?
That remains to be seen. If the NSA has the name of a potential terrorist, technology is sufficient to find that person’s digital history. The trick is identifying terror suspects based on what they do online or on the phone before they commit a crime or associate with terror suspects and that is where the NSA is waiting for technology and mathematics to catch up. Private contractors have said the NSA has purchased Cray XC30 supercomputers. Industry officials say those machines can run up to 1 million Intel Xenon core processors simultaneously, enabling speeds of up to 100 petaflops. One petaflop is about one thousand trillion calculations per second. But it doesn’t matter how fast you can calculate if you don’t have the right algorithm. The NSA, other government agencies and private-sector scientists are racing to build new data-mining algorithms, drawing on a blend of mathematics, machine learning, artificial intelligence and database theory. In March, President Barack Obama announced a $200 million research initiative across seven federal agencies to advance techniques for data mining. This issue hits on one debate about the NSA and its intelligence-gathering. Critics have said the agency is collecting more data than it can manage and far, far more than can ever be useful. (Salt Lake Tribune)
N.S.A. Gathers Data on Social Connections of U.S. Citizens N.S.A. Gathers Data on Social Connections of U.S. Citizens - Since 2010, the National Security Agency has been exploiting its huge collections of data to create sophisticated graphs of some Americans’ social connections that can identify their associates, their locations at certain times, their traveling companions and other personal information, according to newly disclosed documents and interviews with officials.
The spy agency began allowing the analysis of phone call and e-mail logs in November 2010 to examine Americans’ networks of associations for foreign intelligence purposes after N.S.A. officials lifted restrictions on the practice, according to documents provided by Edward J. Snowden, the former N.S.A. contractor.
The policy shift was intended to help the agency “discover and track” connections between intelligence targets overseas and people in the United States, according to an N.S.A. memorandum from January 2011. The agency was authorized to conduct “large-scale graph analysis on very large sets of communications metadata without having to check foreignness” of every e-mail address, phone number or other identifier, the document said. Because of concerns about infringing on the privacy of American citizens, the computer analysis of such data had previously been permitted only for foreigners.
The agency can augment the communications data with material from public, commercial and other sources, including bank codes, insurance information, Facebook profiles, passenger manifests, voter registration rolls and GPS location information, as well as property records and unspecified tax data, according to the documents. They do not indicate any restrictions on the use of such “enrichment” data, and several former senior Obama administration officials said the agency drew on it for both Americans and foreigners.
N.S.A. officials declined to say how many Americans have been caught up in the effort, including people involved in no wrongdoing. The documents do not describe what has resulted from the scrutiny, which links phone numbers and e-mails in a “contact chain” tied directly or indirectly to a person or organization overseas that is of foreign intelligence interest. (New York Times)
Shhh...the NSA's new data center may be open already Don't look for balloons or a big "Grand Opening" sign outside the National Security Agency's new Utah Data Center.
The facility is expected this fall to quietly begin sucking in massive amounts of information for the intelligence community and storing it in the cavernous buildings in Bluffdale, Utah, according to NSA officials — and it could be open now even as the agency faces scrutiny over efforts to collect data on Americans domestically.
NSA officials declined to say whether the center is already online, but the secret agency isn't known for celebrating the opening of classified buildings.
"We turn each machine on as it is installed, and the facility is ready for that installation to begin," NSA spokeswoman Vanee Vines said recently in an interview.
The data center, one of several large computer facilities run by the agency, is one of six major hubs for the NSA and will not only serve as backup storage but also be networked into the government's intelligence gathering so analysts from other sites can access it in real time. (Salt Lake Tribune)
THE FUTURE OF EMPLOYMENT: HOW SUSCEPTIBLE ARE JOBS TO COMPUTERISATION? Abstract: We examine how susceptible jobs are to computerisation. To as-sess this, we begin by implementing a novel methodology to estimate the probability of computerisation for 702 detailed occupations, using a
Gaussian process classifier. Based on these estimates, we examine expected impacts of future computerisation on US labour market outcomes, with the primary objective of analysing the number of jobs at risk and the relationship between an occupation’s probability of computerisation, wages and educational attainment. According to our estimates, about 47 percent of total US employment is at risk. We further provide evidence that wages and educational attainment exhibit a strong negative relation-
ship with an occupation’s probability of computerisation. Keywords:Occupational Choice, Technological Change, Wage Inequality, Employment, Skill Demand (Oxford University)
Former NSA and CIA director says terrorists love using Gmail Former NSA and CIA director Michael Hayden stood on the pulpit of a church across from the White House on Sunday and declared Gmail the preferred online service of terrorists. As part of an adult education forum at St. John’s Episcopal Church, Hayden gave a wide ranging speech on "the tension between security and liberty."
During the speech, he specifically defended Section 702 of the Foreign Surveillance Intelligence Act (FISA), which provides the legal basis for the PRISM program. In doing so, Hayden claimed "Gmail is the preferred Internet service provider of terrorists worldwide," presumably meaning online service rather than the actual provider of Internet service. He added: "I don't think you're going to see that in a Google commercial, but it's free, it's ubiquitous, so of course it is." - At one point, Hayden expressed a distaste for online anonymity, saying "The problem I have with the Internet is that it's anonymous." But he noted, there is a struggle over that issue even inside government. The issue came to a head during the Arab Spring movement when the State Department was funding technology to protect the anonymity of activists so governments could not track down or repress their voices.
"We have a very difficult time with this," Hayden said. He then asked, "is our vision of the World Wide Web the global digital commons -- at this point you should see butterflies flying here and soft background meadow-like music -- or a global free fire zone?" Given that Hayden also compared the Internet to the wild west and Somalia, Hayden clearly leans toward the "global free fire zone" vision of the Internet. (Washington Post)
Tri-City hockey crowds to be taped for U.S. security research Hockey fans at the season opener of the Tri-City Americans will have a chance to help the U.S. Department of Homeland Security improve its facial recognition capabilities.
Video will be taped by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory at the Sept. 21 game in a portion of the Toyota Center in Kennewick.
It is planned to be used by the U.S. government to test the capabilities of facial recognition software that is available or in the prototype stage.
Eventually, state-of-the-art facial recognition technologies could be used to identify terrorists and criminals in public areas, according to the national lab in Richland. The Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate works to make technology available to agencies ranging from local police offices to the U.S. Border Patrol, Transportation Security Administration and Immigration and Customs Enforcement. (Tri-City Herald)
Obama administration had restrictions on NSA reversed in 2011 The Obama administration secretly won permission from a surveillance court in 2011 to reverse restrictions on the National Security Agency’s use of intercepted phone calls and e-mails, permitting the agency to search deliberately for Americans’ communications in its massive databases, according to interviews with government officials and recently declassified material.
In addition, the court extended the length of time that the NSA is allowed to retain intercepted U.S. communications from five years to six years — and more under special circumstances, according to the documents, which include a recently released 2011 opinion by U.S. District Judge John D. Bates, then chief judge of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.
What had not been previously acknowledged is that the court in 2008 imposed an explicit ban — at the government’s request — on those kinds of searches, that officials in 2011 got the court to lift the bar and that the search authority has been used.
Together the permission to search and to keep data longer expanded the NSA’s authority in significant ways without public debate or any specific authority from Congress. The administration’s assurances rely on legalistic definitions of the term “target” that can be at odds with ordinary English usage. The enlarged authority is part of a fundamental shift in the government’s approach to surveillance: collecting first, and protecting Americans’ privacy later. (Washington Post)
The US government has betrayed the internet. We need to take it back The NSA has undermined a fundamental social contract. We engineers built the internet -- and now we have to fix it - Government and industry have betrayed the internet, and us.
By subverting the internet at every level to make it a vast, multi-layered and robust surveillance platform, the NSA has undermined a fundamental social contract. The companies that build and manage our internet infrastructure, the companies that create and sell us our hardware and software, or the companies that host our data: we can no longer trust them to be ethical internet stewards.
This is not the internet the world needs, or the internet its creators envisioned. We need to take it back.
And by we, I mean the engineering community.
Yes, this is primarily a political problem, a policy matter that requires political intervention.
But this is also an engineering problem, and there are several things engineers can – and should – do.
One, we should expose. If you do not have a security clearance, and if you have not received a National Security Letter, you are not bound by a federal confidentially requirements or a gag order. If you have been contacted by the NSA to subvert a product or protocol, you need to come forward with your story. Your employer obligations don't cover illegal or unethical activity. If you work with classified data and are truly brave, expose what you know. We need whistleblowers. (London Guardian)
Forget the NSA; AT&T Helps DEA Collect even more Phone Call Details As the Edward Snowden controversy has revealed, the National Security Agency (NSA) has been collecting enormous volumes of data regarding Americans’ communications. But it is another federal agency, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), which has managed to access a trove of phone call information that reveals more details to government agents than what the NSA has gathered.
With help from AT&T, the DEA has spent the past six years secretly and routinely accessing the company’s database containing decades of records of Americans’ phone calls, The New York Times reported.
Known as the Hemisphere Project, the government has paid AT&T to place its employees in drug-fighting units around the U.S., helping DEA agents and local police by supplying them with the phone data from as far back as 1987. (AllGov)
The Program (video) It took me a few days to work up the nerve to phone William Binney. As someone already a “target” of the United States government, I found it difficult not to worry about the chain of unintended consequences I might unleash by calling Mr. Binney, a 32-year veteran of the National Security Agency turned whistle-blower. He picked up. I nervously explained I was a documentary filmmaker and wanted to speak to him. To my surprise he replied: “I’m tired of my government harassing me and violating the Constitution. Yes, I’ll talk to you.”
Two weeks later, driving past the headquarters of the N.S.A. in Maryland, outside Washington, Mr. Binney described details about Stellar Wind, the N.S.A.’s top-secret domestic spying program begun after 9/11, which was so controversial that it nearly caused top Justice Department officials to resign in protest, in 2004.
“The decision must have been made in September 2001,” Mr. Binney told me and the cinematographer Kirsten Johnson. “That’s when the equipment started coming in.” In this Op-Doc, Mr. Binney explains how the program he created for foreign intelligence gathering was turned inward on this country. He resigned over this in 2001 and began speaking out publicly in the last year. He is among a group of N.S.A. whistle-blowers, including Thomas A. Drake, who have each risked everything — their freedom, livelihoods and personal relationships — to warn Americans about the dangers of N.S.A. domestic spying. (New York Times)
Exclusive: NSA Using Copyright Claims To Crush Free Speech? Can a government agency block criticism by claiming copyright infringement? Sounds a bit ridiculous but it is happening. The NSA is effectively stopping one small business owner from criticism, claiming that by using its name he has infringed on their copyright.
Can they do that?
This is a Reality Check you won’t see anywhere else.
This is a story I had a hard time believing until I looked into it for myself. Here is the backstory.
Dan McCall is the owner of a company that makes snarky t-shirts. The company is called Liberty Maniacs. Liberty Maniacs carry a number of t-shirts dealing with lack of privacy and the growing police state. They sell on a site called www.Zazzle.com
None of it has been a problem—until Liberty Maniacs released a shirt called “The NSA.”
The image looks like the NSA logo but has a motto that is clearly a pun—“Peeping while you are sleeping”—followed by the phrase “The NSA, the only part of government that actually listens.” (Ben Swann)
NSA broke privacy rules thousands of times per year, audit finds The National Security Agency has broken privacy rules or overstepped its legal authority thousands of times each year since Congress granted the agency broad new powers in 2008, according to an internal audit and other top-secret documents.
Most of the infractions involve unauthorized surveillance of Americans or foreign intelligence targets in the United States, both of which are restricted by statute and executive order. They range from significant violations of law to typographical errors that resulted in unintended interception of U.S. e-mails and telephone calls.
The documents, provided earlier this summer to The Washington Post by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, include a level of detail and analysis that is not routinely shared with Congress or the special court that oversees surveillance. In one of the documents, agency personnel are instructed to remove details and substitute more generic language in reports to the Justice Department and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
In one instance, the NSA decided that it need not report the unintended surveillance of Americans. A notable example in 2008 was the interception of a “large number” of calls placed from Washington when a programming error confused the U.S. area code 202 for 20, the international dialing code for Egypt, according to a “quality assurance” review that was not distributed to the NSA’s oversight staff. (Washington Post)
Taken -- Under civil forfeiture, Americans who haven’t been charged with wrongdoing can be stripped of their cash, cars, and even homes. Is that all we’re losing? On a bright Thursday afternoon in 2007, Jennifer Boatright, a waitress at a Houston bar-and-grill, drove with her two young sons and her boyfriend, Ron Henderson, on U.S. 59 toward Linden, Henderson’s home town, near the Texas-Louisiana border. They made the trip every April, at the first signs of spring, to walk the local wildflower trails and spend time with Henderson’s father. This year, they’d decided to buy a used car in Linden, which had plenty for sale, and so they bundled their cash savings in their car’s center console. Just after dusk, they passed a sign that read “Welcome to Tenaha: A little town with BIG Potential!”
They pulled into a mini-mart for snacks. When they returned to the highway ten minutes later, Boatright, a honey-blond “Texas redneck from Lubbock,” by her own reckoning, and Henderson, who is Latino, noticed something strange. The same police car that their eleven-year-old had admired in the mini-mart parking lot was trailing them. Near the city limits, a tall, bull-shouldered officer named Barry Washington pulled them over.
He asked if Henderson knew that he’d been driving in the left lane for more than half a mile without passing.
No, Henderson replied. He said he’d moved into the left lane so that the police car could make its way onto the highway.
Were there any drugs in the car? When Henderson and Boatright said no, the officer asked if he and his partner could search the car.
The officers found the couple’s cash and a marbled-glass pipe that Boatright said was a gift for her sister-in-law, and escorted them across town to the police station. In a corner there, two tables were heaped with jewelry, DVD players, cell phones, and the like. According to the police report, Boatright and Henderson fit the profile of drug couriers: they were driving from Houston, “a known point for distribution of illegal narcotics,” to Linden, “a known place to receive illegal narcotics.” The report describes their children as possible decoys, meant to distract police as the couple breezed down the road, smoking marijuana. (None was found in the car, although Washington claimed to have smelled it.)
The county’s district attorney, a fifty-seven-year-old woman with feathered Charlie’s Angels hair named Lynda K. Russell, arrived an hour later. Russell, who moonlighted locally as a country singer, told Henderson and Boatright that they had two options. They could face felony charges for “money laundering” and “child endangerment,” in which case they would go to jail and their children would be handed over to foster care. Or they could sign over their cash to the city of Tenaha, and get back on the road. “No criminal charges shall be filed,” a waiver she drafted read, “and our children shall not be turned over to CPS,” or Child Protective Services. (The New Yorker)
Exclusive: IRS manual detailed DEA's use of hidden intel evidence Details of a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration program that feeds tips to federal agents and then instructs them to alter the investigative trail were published in a manual used by agents of the Internal Revenue Service for two years.
The practice of recreating the investigative trail, highly criticized by former prosecutors and defense lawyers after Reuters reported it this week, is now under review by the Justice Department. Two high-profile Republicans have also raised questions about the procedure.
A 350-word entry in the Internal Revenue Manual instructed agents of the U.S. tax agency to omit any reference to tips supplied by the DEA's Special Operations Division, especially from affidavits, court proceedings or investigative files. The entry was published and posted online in 2005 and 2006, and was removed in early 2007. The IRS is among two dozen arms of the government working with the Special Operations Division, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the National Security Agency and the Central Intelligence Agency.
An IRS spokesman had no comment on the entry or on why it was removed from the manual. Reuters recovered the previous editions from the archives of the Westlaw legal database, which is owned by Thomson Reuters Corp, the parent of this news agency. (Reuters)
Trail of U.S. Criminal Investigations Altered to Cover up DEA Unit’s Role as Data Source From a constitutional rights perspective, the latest revelation about the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is even more troubling than what’s been reported on National Security Agency (NSA) activities, according to legal experts.
An investigation by Reuters found a secretive DEA unit known as the Special Operations Division (SOD) has been helping state and local law enforcement with drug busts by providing information collected from intelligence intercepts, wiretaps, informants and a “massive database of telephone records.”
That database, known as DICE, contains roughly a billion records and is accessed by about 10,000 law enforcement agents across the nation. SOD’s wiretap data usually comes from foreign governments, U.S. intelligence agencies or court-authorized domestic telephone surveillance.
But the disturbing part is the DEA requires police who receive the agency’s help to cover up the fact that they were given the tips—and not even tell defense lawyers, prosecutors and judges that their investigations began with the DEA. (AllGov)
Administration says it's serious about privacy, defends NSA programs The Obama administration says it takes privacy criticisms over its surveillance programs seriously while defending them to Congress and the U.S. public.
Obama met Thursday with a bipartisan group of lawmakers -- both critics and supporters -- to discuss surveillance activities of the National Security Agency. Also, NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander was on Capitol Hill to answer House lawmakers' questions in a classified briefing before the August recess, The Hill reported.
"Today's meeting was constructive and the President committed that he and his team would continue to work closely with the Congress on these matters in the weeks and months ahead," the White House said in a statement.
"We will continue to work through the August recess on proposals to improve transparency and strengthen privacy protections to further build the confidence of the American public in our nation's counterterrorism programs," the lawmakers said in a joint statement. (United Press International)
New York woman visited by police after researching pressure cookers online -- Long Island resident said her web search history and 'trying to learn how to cook lentils' prompted a visit from authorities but police say search was prompted by tipoff A New York woman says her family's interest in the purchase of pressure cookers and backpacks led to a home visit by six police investigators demanding information about her job, her husband's ancestry and the preparation of quinoa.
Michele Catalano, who lives in Long Island, New York, said her web searches for pressure cookers, her husband's hunt for backpacks and her "news junkie" son's craving for information on the Boston bombings had combined somewhere in the internet ether to create a "perfect storm of terrorism profiling".
Members of what she described as a "joint terrorism task force" descended on Catalano's home on Wednesday.
Catalano was at work, but her husband was sitting in the living room as the police arrived. She retold the experience in a post on Medium.com on Thursday. She attributed the raid largely to her hunt for a pressure cooker, an item used devastatingly, allegedly by the two Tsarnaev brothers, in Boston, but also used by millions across the country to prepare vegetables while retaining most of their nutrients.
The story later took on a different complexion when police finally explained that the investigation was prompted by searches a family member had made for pressure cooker bombs and backpacks made at his former workplace. The former employer, believing the searches to be suspicious, alerted police. Catalano said the family member was her husband. (London Guardian)
My Life in Circles: Why Metadata is Incredibly Intimate One of the most disingenuous arguments in the aftermath of the NSA spying revelations is that the American people shouldn't be concerned about the government hoovering up its sensitive information because it's only metadata--or a fancy way of saying data about the data.
"This is just metadata," Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein assured the American people, referring to the NSA's bulk collection of Americans call records. "There is no content involved." President Obama and his national security officials have made similar assurances.
Feel better? You shouldn't and here's why.
A tool developed by MIT Media Lab proves how intrusive the collection and analysis of metadata is over time, especially for those who are overly reliant on email as their main method of communication. Dubbed "Immersion," the tool analyzes the metadata--From, To, Cc and Timestamp fields-- from a volunteer's Gmail account and visualizes it. (American Civil Liberties Union)
Snowden's surveillance leaks open way for challenges to programs' constitutionality The recent disclosure of U.S. surveillance methods is providing opponents of classified programs with new openings to challenge their constitutionality, according to civil libertarians and some legal experts.
At least five cases have been filed in federal courts since the government’s widespread collection of telephone and Internet records was revealed last month. The lawsuits primarily target a program that scoops up the telephone records of millions of Americans from U.S. telecommunications companies.
Such cases face formidable obstacles. The government tends to fiercely resist them on national security grounds, and the surveillance is so secret that it’s hard to prove who was targeted. Nearly all of the roughly 70 suits filed after the George W. Bush administration’s warrantless wiretapping was disclosed in 2005 have been dismissed.
But the legal landscape may be shifting, lawyers say, because the revelations by Edward Snowden, a former National Security Agency contractor and the principal source of the leaks, forced the government to acknowledge the programs and discuss them. That, they say, could help plaintiffs overcome government arguments that they lack the legal standing to sue or that cases should be thrown out because the programs are state secrets. A federal judge in California last week rejected the government’s argument that an earlier lawsuit over NSA surveillance should be dismissed on secrecy grounds. (Washington Post)
How Microsoft handed the NSA access to encrypted messages
• Secret files show scale of Silicon Valley co-operation on Prism
• Outlook.com encryption unlocked even before official launch
• Skype worked to enable Prism collection of video calls
• Company says it is legally compelled to comply - Microsoft has collaborated closely with US intelligence services to allow users' communications to be intercepted, including helping the National Security Agency to circumvent the company's own encryption, according to top-secret documents obtained by the Guardian.
The files provided by Edward Snowden illustrate the scale of co-operation between Silicon Valley and the intelligence agencies over the last three years. They also shed new light on the workings of the top-secret Prism program, which was disclosed by the Guardian and the Washington Post last month.
The documents show that:
• Microsoft helped the NSA to circumvent its encryption to address concerns that the agency would be unable to intercept web chats on the new Outlook.com portal;
• The agency already had pre-encryption stage access to email on Outlook.com, including Hotmail;
• The company worked with the FBI this year to allow the NSA easier access via Prism to its cloud storage service SkyDrive, which now has more than 250 million users worldwide;
• Microsoft also worked with the FBI's Data Intercept Unit to "understand" potential issues with a feature in Outlook.com that allows users to create email aliases;
• In July last year, nine months after Microsoft bought Skype, the NSA boasted that a new capability had tripled the amount of Skype video calls being collected through Prism;
• Material collected through Prism is routinely shared with the FBI and CIA, with one NSA document describing the program as a "team sport". (London Guardian)
Happy Birthday George Orwell, here's your surveillance society -- Subverting CCTV with party hats To celebrate what would've been George Orwell's 110th birthday, two Dutch artists sought inspiration from perhaps his most famous novel, 1984. The artists took to the streets of the Dutch city of Utrecht to put party hats on CCTV cameras in an attempt to draw attention to the culture of surveillance in modern cities. If we only looked above the stores and billboards that line our streets, say Front404, the artists behind the stunt, we'd realize how many cameras are above us. (The Verge)
NSA takes surveillance fact sheets off website Following a complaint from two senators, the National Security Agency has removed from its website two fact sheets designed to shed light on and defend a pair of surveillance programs. Users now trying to access the documents detailing surveillance under legal authorities known as Section 215 and Section 702 receive an error message when they try to load the fact sheets.
On Monday, Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Mark Udall (D-Colo.) wrote to the head of the spy agency alleging that one of the documents was misleading and inaccurate. The senators claimed, without elaborating, that a fact sheet “contains an inaccurate statement about how the section 702 authority has been interpreted by the U.S. government.”
NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander responded to the two lawmakers Tuesday, and while he didn't admit inaccuracy, he said the documents could have been clearer.
"After reviewing your letter, I agree that the fact sheet that the National Security Agency posted on its website on 18 June 2013 could have more precisely described the requirements for collection under Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act," Alexander said in a letter of his own (posted here). (Politico)
Why were roadblocks in St. Clair and Bibb counties asking for blood and DNA samples this weekend? St. Clair and Bibb county authorities are confirming there were roadblocks at several locations in their counties Friday and Saturday asking for blood and DNA samples. However, the samples were voluntary and motorists were paid for them as part of a study, they said.
According to Lt. Freddie Turrentine of the St. Clair County Sheriff's Department, it isn't the first time such roadblocks have occurred in the area.
"They were here in 2007," said Turrentine, the supervisor in charge of the roadblocks, which took place in several locations in St. Clair County Friday night, early Saturday morning and Saturday night and early Sunday morning. "It's just with social media and Facebook now, word of it has just exploded."
Turrentine said the roadblocks were part of a study conducted by the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation, working with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. St. Clair County was asked to participate by the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs because it had worked with the group six years ago. (AL.com)
This Marijuana Security Firm Struck Gold After Solving One Of The Toughest Problems In Legalization Canna Security America, led by Dan Williams, might be the furthest thing you think of when you hear the term "marijuana business."
For years, Williams and his partners worked for Envision, a firm that created the security systems at places as mundane as Chipotle Mexican Grill.
But after striking off on their own, Williams and his partners have become the go-to firm for the installation of security systems in marijuana dispensaries across Colorado.
The firm is so good that state legislators writing up regulations for the marijuana business asked Williams and his associates to weigh in on what a pot shop really needs to remain secure.
Security is one of the most crucial pieces of the marijuana industry puzzle. Legalization can only work if the business becomes legitimized and the product is removed from the black market trade.
So without top-tier security systems at every stage of the process, the entire legalization process could break down. (Business Insider)
The Truthseeker: Boston Bombing What You Aren't Told - Triggers pulled on 4th, 2nd & 1st Amendments distracted by flag waving; clunky FBI propaganda; and unleash the War on Bathtubs. Seek truth from facts with former Marine Corps officer James Fetzer, editor of Storyleak Anthony Gucciardi, the Corbett Report's James Corbett, Questioning the War on Terror author Kevin Barrett, Boston eyewitnesses, and Fmr. Rep. Ron Paul. (Russia Today)
EXCLUSIVE: Chinese carjack victim of Boston bombers only escaped when they stopped for Red Bull... and they didn't kill him because he 'wasn't American'
Man carjacked by Boston bombing suspects says he was able to escape after Dzhokhar ~ Tsarnaev went into a store for Red Bull and chocolate bars
~ The victim, a Chinese man in his early 20s, ran to a gas station nearby, where he was told a cashier that his captors had a bomb and guns - A man taken hostage by the alleged Boston bombers after he was car jacked was able to escape after they stopped to buy cans of Red Bull at a gas station, MailOnline can reveal.
The carjacking victim, whose name has not been revealed, has told authorities that being Chinese almost certainly saved his life, saying that the brothers told him they would not kill him because he was 'not American.'
The victim was able to jump out of the car and flee while Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, looked to buy cans of the energy drink and chocolate bars.
From interviews with the staff at both gas stations and court records, MailOnline has been able to piece together the frantic events of the early hours of last Friday.
The terrifying sequence of events began when Tamerlan carjacked a Mercedes SUV car at gun point barely 40 minutes after MIT campus police officer Sean Collier was killed as he sat in his patrol car.
Tamerlan jumped into the passenger seat of the Mercedes and told the driver: 'Did you hear about the Boston explosion... I did that.' (UK Daily Mail)
Police State on Display The Boston Marathon bombing has already demonstrated the best and the worst of America for all the world to see.
First, let’s talk about the best. When the bombs detonated, despite the shock and the horror of the blown-off legs and arms, and the blood on street and sidewalk, and without knowing what else might be coming, ordinary citizens jumped into action to try and help the gravely wounded and the dying. Average people with no experience in this kind of mayhem stepped up without hesitation to care for strangers, applying tourniquets, carrying people who couldn’t walk to hospital tents, or just holding a hand and calling for help.
People pored over their cellphone photo records and camera files, looking for photos that could help identify the killers. Without their volunteer actions, the police and federal agencies would have had no clue who they were looking for. With them, it was quick work pinpointing and identifying the two men who appear to have placed the two bombs.
Later, while police failed to catch one of the brothers suspected of having been a bomber, despite placing all of metropolitan Boston under a kind of martial law, it was a citizen who, after the so-called “lock-down” of the city had been lifted, spotted the suspect and alerted police.
Now for the worst.
Let’s start with the martial law. Okay, it wasn’t a declaration, but with police and the Mayor ordering everyone in Boston and its suburbs to stay inside and lock their doors, “answering only to police,” it was virtually the same thing. (Nation of Change)
Boston bombers: FBI hunting 12-strong terrorist "sleeper cell" linked to brothers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev ~ Police believe the pair were specially trained to carry out the devastating attack The FBI was last night hunting a 12-strong terrorist “sleeper cell” linked to the Boston marathon bomb brothers.
Police believe Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev were specially trained to carry out the devastating attack.
More than 1,000 FBI operatives were last night working to track down the cell and arrested a man and two women 60 miles from Boston in the hours before Dzhokhar’s dramatic capture after a bloody shootout on Friday.
A source close to the investigation said: “We have no doubt the brothers were not acting alone. The devices used to detonate the two bombs were highly sophisticated and not the kind of thing people learn from Google.
“They were too advanced. Someone gave the brothers the skills and it is now our job to find out just who they were. Agents think the sleeper cell has up to a dozen members and has been waiting several years for their day to come.”
A specialist team of CIA and FBI interrogators was yesterday flown to a Boston hospital to grill wounded Dzhokhar, 19, about the secret group. The University of Massachusetts student was caught on Friday after hiding out in a boat parked in a garden in locked down Watertown the day after a gun battle with police left his 26-year-old brother and a rookie cop dead. (Mirror.co.uk)
Man Resembling Tamerlan Tsarnaev: Arrested and Stripped Naked [Video] A man resembling Tamerlan Tsarnaev was arrested and told by police to strip naked in Watertown, Massachusetts early Friday. In the video that was shown on CNN and other news outlets, the naked man looked like the older Tsarnaev brother, but other reports were that the man was not connected to the Boston Bombing and was released.
The Boston CBS Affiliate reported that a man was ordered to remove his clothes presumably over worries that he had an explosive device. Who was that guy? Newsday reported that "CNN and local TV station News7 WDHD reported that two suspects were in police custody early Friday after the gunfire in Watertown, just outside Boston and about four miles from the Cambridge-based MIT." This story is getting more and more difficult to navigate. Some glaring inconsistencies: (Gather)
Police, citizens and technology factor into Boston bombing probe Within hours of the Boston Marathon bombing, investigators were already overwhelmed. Bloody clothing, bags, shoes and other evidence from victims and witnesses were piling up. Videos and still images, thousands of them, were beginning to accumulate.
Quickly, the authorities secured a warehouse in Boston’s Seaport district and filled the sprawling space: On half of the vast floor, hundreds of pieces of bloody clothes were laid out to dry so they could be examined for forensic clues or flown to FBI labs at Quantico in Prince William County for testing. In the other half of the room, more than a dozen investigators sifted through hundreds of hours of video, looking for people “doing things that are different from what everybody else is doing,” Boston Police Commissioner Edward Davis said in an interview Saturday.
The work was painstaking and mind-numbing: One agent watched the same segment of video 400 times. The goal was to construct a timeline of images, following possible suspects as they moved along the sidewalks, building a narrative out of a random jumble of pictures from thousands of different phones and cameras.
It took a couple of days, but analysts began to focus on two men in baseball caps who had brought heavy black bags into the crowd near the marathon’s finish line but left without those bags. The decisive moment came on Wednesday afternoon, when Massachusetts Gov. Deval L. Patrick (D) got a call from state police: The investigation had narrowed in on the man who would soon be known as Suspect No. 2, the man whom police captured Friday night bleeding and disoriented on a 22-foot boat in a Watertown driveway.
Patrick said the images of Suspect No. 2 reacting to the first explosion provided “highly incriminating” evidence, “a lot more than the public knows.”
How federal and local investigators sifted through that ocean of evidence and focused their search on two immigrant brothers is a story of advanced technology and old-fashioned citizen cooperation. It is an object lesson in how hard it is to separate the meaningful from the noise in a world awash with information. (Washington Post)
Thank you, Big Brother: Do cities need more surveillance? Footage from CCTV cameras were the key to catching the Boston marathon bombing suspects. Should we have more of them? - Investigators scoured hours and hours of surveillance footage from the Boston marathon for the tiniest clue that could lead them to the suspects who committed this horrible act.
Thousands of man-hours and just three days later — Bingo. They found what they were looking for.
On Thursday, FBI special agent Richard DesLauriers announced that police were searching for two men: Suspect No. 1, wearing a dark baseball cap, and Suspect No. 2, wearing a similar hat in white.
That afternoon, police distributed video footage and still images of the suspects to the public.
A positive ID wasn't far behind. (Global Post)
The Tsarnaev brothers were double agents who decoyed US into terror trap The big questions buzzing over Boston Bombers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev have a single answer: It emerged in the 102 tense hours between the twin Boston Marathon bombings Monday, April 15 – which left three dead, 180 injured and a police officer killed at MIT - and Dzohkhar’s capture Friday, April 19 in Watertown.
The conclusion reached by DEBKAfile’s counterterrorism and intelligence sources is that the brothers were double agents, hired by US and Saudi intelligence to penetrate the Wahhabi jihadist networks which, helped by Saudi financial institutions, had spread across the restive Russian Caucasian.
Instead, the two former Chechens betrayed their mission and went secretly over to the radical Islamist networks.
By this tortuous path, the brothers earned the dubious distinction of being the first terrorist operatives to import al Qaeda terror to the United States through a winding route outside the Middle East – the Caucasus. (Debka File)
SAUDI REPORT: MICHELLE O VISITED 'PERSON OF INTEREST' ~ Jeddah newspaper says first lady saw Alharbi in hospital A Saudi Arabian newspaper is reporting that United States First Lady Michelle Obama visited in the hospital Saudi citizen Abdul Rahman Ali Issa Al-Salimi Alharbi, the young man who had been labeled a “person of interest” in the Boston Marathon bombing.
The newspaper accompanied its report with an image of Obama, although the background was generic and it couldn’t be confirmed immediately that she was at the hospital where Alharbi was being treated at the time. He reportedly suffered injuries in the Boston bombing.
The newspaper’s Arabic-language report is being highlighted by Walid Shoebat, a former Muslim Brotherhood member who now is a peace activist.
“Okaz, the same prominent Saudi newspaper that published photos of Abdul Rahman Ali Issa Al-Salimi Alharbi in the hospital after the Boston Marathon bombings, is now reporting that the Saudi national was also visited by the first lady of the United States, Michelle Obama, during his hospital stay,” Shoebat reported. (World Net Daily)
CISPA permits police to do warrantless database searches ~ Amendment was shot down that would have required warrants before police could peruse shared information for any evidence of hundreds of different crimes. A controversial data-sharing bill being debated today in the U.S. House of Representatives authorizes federal agencies to conduct warrantless searches of information they obtain from e-mail and Internet providers.
Rep. Alan Grayson, a Florida Democrat, proposed a one-sentence amendment (PDF) that would have required the National Security Agency, the FBI, Homeland Security, and other agencies to secure a "warrant obtained in accordance with the Fourth Amendment" before searching a database for evidence of criminal wrongdoing.
Grayson complained this morning on Twitter that House Republicans "wouldn't even allow debate on requiring a warrant before a search."
CISPA is controversial because it overrules all existing federal and state laws by saying "notwithstanding any other provision of law," including privacy policies and wiretap laws, companies may share cybersecurity-related information "with any other entity, including the federal government." It would not, however, require them to do so.
That language has alarmed dozens of advocacy groups, including the American Library Association, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and Reporters Without Borders, which sent a letter (PDF) to Congress last month opposing CISPA. It says: "CISPA's information-sharing regime allows the transfer of vast amounts of data, including sensitive information like Internet records or the content of e-mails, to any agency in the government." President Obama this week threatened to veto CISPA.
CISPA's advocates say it's needed to encourage companies to share more information with the federal government, and to a lesser extent among themselves, especially in the wake of an increasing number of successful and attempted intrusions. A "Myth v. Fact" paper (PDF) prepared by the House Intelligence committee says any claim that "this legislation creates a wide-ranging government surveillance program" is a myth. (CNet)
Investigators Said to Have Video Showing Bomb Suspect Investigators have video of a possible suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings, according to federal law enforcement officials.
The crucial images came from a store security camera near the April 15 bombing site, according to a federal law enforcement official briefed on the matter. Another person familiar with investigators’ work said that, as of early this afternoon, the suspect in the images hadn’t been identified. Both asked for anonymity to discuss the investigation
The Federal Bureau of Investigation and Boston police released statements that no arrest has been made.
“They are making progress,” Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick said in a telephone interview. “Nobody in custody.”
A bomb threat today at the the John Joseph Moakley U.S. Courthouse in Boston forced the postponement of a 5 p.m. news briefing on the investigation. While court employees were later allowed to return, the briefing hadn’t been rescheduled. (Bloomberg)
Industry: Drones Could Have Helped Boston Marathon Bombing Responders ~ Monday's bombing has left at least three people dead Unmanned aircraft, or drones, could have been a boon to law enforcement and first responders in the aftermath of Monday's Boston Marathon bombing that has left at least three dead, according to the president of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International.
"UAS could be an important tool in the tool kit for first responders in the event of an emergency," says Michael Toscano, president of the industry's largest organization. "Whether it is in response to a natural disaster or a tragedy like we saw in Boston, UAS can be quickly deployed to provide first responders with critical situational awareness in areas too dangerous or difficult for manned aircraft to reach."
Monday's bombing killed three people and injured dozens more. On the police scanner in the aftermath of the attack, first responders discussed grounding a helicopter because it needed to refuel. Multiple drones would theoretically solve that problem. (US News & World Report)
Inside Boston Marathon Bombing Press Conferences Here is inside footage from the Boston Marathon Bombing press conferences where Dan Bidondi asks the police commissioner and Massachusetts Governor Devel Patrick about bomb drills that coincided with the bombings at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. (Prison Planet)
Let's hope the Boston Marathon bomber is a white American ~ There is a double standard: White terrorists are dealt with as lone wolves, Islamists are existential threats As we now move into the official Political Aftermath period of the Boston bombing — the period that will determine the long-term legislative fallout of the atrocity — the dynamics of privilege will undoubtedly influence the nation’s collective reaction to the attacks. That’s because privilege tends to determine: 1) which groups are — and are not — collectively denigrated or targeted for the unlawful actions of individuals; and 2) how big and politically game-changing the overall reaction ends up being.
This has been most obvious in the context of recent mass shootings. In those awful episodes, a religious or ethnic minority group lacking such privilege would likely be collectively slandered and/or targeted with surveillance or profiling (or worse) if some of its individuals comprised most of the mass shooters. However, white male privilege means white men are not collectively denigrated/targeted for those shootings — even though most come at the hands of white dudes.
Likewise, in the context of terrorist attacks, such privilege means white non-Islamic terrorists are typically portrayed not as representative of whole groups or ideologies, but as “lone wolf” threats to be dealt with as isolated law enforcement matters. Meanwhile, non-white or developing-world terrorism suspects are often reflexively portrayed as representative of larger conspiracies, ideologies and religions that must be dealt with as systemic threats — the kind potentially requiring everything from law enforcement action to military operations to civil liberties legislation to foreign policy shifts. (Salon)
Sandy Hook truthers are not giving up ~ Meet Brendan Hunt, a 20-something NYC resident with a video camera. He and his movement are on a mission Brendan Hunt is nothing like the other Sandy Hook conspiracy theorists we’ve encountered. Yes, he thinks the December shooting was a kind of hoax to help the government seize power. But he’s not some right-wing “gun nut.” He’s not a militia member. And he’s not middle-aged and living in the middle of the country.
Hunt is in his 20s and lives in New York City, where he is an “actor, musician, artist and independent journalist.” He’s starred in Shakespeare plays and independent films and written books and news reports. His roots aren’t in the radical-right or libertarian movements, but on the left side of the political spectrum, where he’s aligned himself with Occupy Wall Street and says he’s produced segments for WBAI, a well-known public radio station in New York affiliated with the proudly “radical” left-wing Pacifica network.
Social scientists have used the term “fusion paranoia” to describe the merging of the radical left and right into a common concern about the government and centralized power to a point where they are almost indistinguishable on many issues. A British study released last year found that many conspiracy theories are pushed by core groups of people who are prone to believe in conspiracies of all kind — even contradictory ones.
And this isn’t Hunt’s first conspiracy rodeo. He has an e-book positing that Nirvana lead singer Kurt Cobain did not commit suicide, but was in fact murdered, and a movie about the Illuminati. (Salon)
'Naked' airport scans could undergo revamp Canadian airports are still using the so-called naked full body scan images being removed from airports in the United States because the three-dimensional images are considered too revealing.
But that could eventually change, said Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) spokesman Mathieu Larocque.
CATSA is currently testing automated target recognition software on the scanners, he said.
"It essentially generates just a stick man image … that will highlight an area of the body that could need more inspection, like the ankle, for example, or the elbow," said Larocque, who is based in Ottawa.
"We don't have a specific timeline for potential deployment, but this is something that we’re looking at," he said. (CBC)
'Privacy visor blocks facial recognition software' A pair of glasses dubbed a "privacy visor" has been developed to thwart hidden cameras using facial-recognition software.
The prototype spectacles have been designed by scientists at Tokyo's National Institute of Informatics.
The glasses are equipped with a near-infrared light source, which confuses the software without affecting vision.
Law enforcers, shops and social networks are increasingly using facial-recognition software.
Prof Isao Echizen said: "As a result of developments in facial recognition technology in Google images, Facebook et cetera and the popularisation of portable terminals that append photos with photographic information [geotags]... essential measures for preventing the invasion of privacy caused by photographs taken in secret and unintentional capture in camera images is now required." (BBC)
TSA removes body scanners from airports ~ The TSA has finally abandoned the controversial practice of making passengers go through full-body X-rays The Transportation Security Administration will remove all X-ray body scanners from airports, Bloomberg News reports. The reason: Software couldn’t be developed by a congressionally mandated deadline to automatically detect suspicious items on the body. Instead, TSA officers viewed images of passengers’ naked bodies to see if they were carrying weapons or other contraband, a process that privacy advocates have dubbed a “virtual strip search.”
Privacy had not been the only concern dogging the scanners. A ProPublica investigation found that the TSA had glossed over the small cancer risk posed by even the low doses of radiation emitted by X-ray scanners. The stories also showed that the United States was almost alone in the world in X-raying passengers and that the Food and Drug Administration had gone against its own advisory panel, which recommended the agency set a federal safety standard for security X-rays. In addition, ProPublica reported that, outside airports, other security agencies are exposing people to radiation in more settings and in increasing doses. (Salon)
Trial Begins for Alleged 'Christmas Tree Bomber' A federal prosecutor and a public defender painted very different portraits of a teenager accused of trying to detonate a truck bomb at a Christmas-tree lighting ceremony in 2010, as his trial began.
Prosecutors claim that Mohamed Mohamud, now 21, planned to wage violent jihad in the United States.
Mohamud's attorneys claim he was an impressionable and conflicted teen-ager who was provoked into the plot by undercover FBI agents.
Mohamud's trial began Friday after more than a day of jury selection. The jury pool of more than 100 was the largest that U.S. District Judge Garr King has had in any case, the judge said. (Courthouse News Service)
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