Tag Archives: NSA spying

Snowden Explains Deep State’s Influence on Presidents Obama, Trump

Famed whistleblower Edward Snowden was recently interviewed by Italian publication La Repubblic. The publication noted the 5-year mark of Snowden’s historic act of blowing the whistle on the NSA’s expansive surveillance programs and that “many thought he would end up very badly, but when he connects via videolink for this interview with la Repubblica, he seems to be doing very well: the frank smile and peaceful face of someone who is easy in his mind.”

In an excerpt from the exclusive interview, Snowden explained how the presidencies of both Obama and Trump are shaped by the Deep State following an illuminating question by journalist Stefania Maurizi.

Stefania Maurizi: We saw that President Obama, who was an outsider to the US military-intelligence complex, initially wanted to reign in the abuses of agencies like the CIA and the NSA, but in the end he did very little. Now we see a confrontation between president Trump and so-called Deep State, which includes the CIA and the NSA. Can a US president govern in opposition to such powerful entities?

Edward Snowden: Obama is certainly an instructive case. This is a president who campaigned on a platform of ending warrantless wiretapping in the United States, he said “that’s not who we are, that’s not what we do,” and once he became the president, he expanded the program.  He said he was going to close Guantanamo but he kept it open, he said he was going to limit extrajudicial killings and drone strikes that has been so routine in the Bush years. But Obama went on to authorize vastly more drone strikes than Bush. It became an industry.

As for this idea that there is a Deep State, now the Deep State is not just the intelligence agencies, it is really a way of referring to the career bureaucracy of government. These are officials who sit in powerful positions, who don’t leave when presidents do, who watch presidents come and go, they influence policy, they influence presidents and say: this is what we have always done, this is what we must do, and if you don’t do this, people will die.

It is very easy to persuade a new president who comes in, who has never had these powers, but has always wanted this job and wants very, very badly to do that job well. A bureaucrat sitting there for the last twenty years says: I understand what you said, I respect your principles, but if you do what you promised, people will die. It is very easy for a president to go: well, for now, I am going to set this controversy to the side, I’m going to take your advice, let you guys decide how these things should be done, and then I will revisit it, when I have a little more experience, maybe in a few months, maybe in a few years, but then they never do.

This is what we saw quite clearly happen in the case of Barack Obama: when this story [of Snowden exposing the NSA’s mass surveillance] came forward in 2013, when Obama had been president for five years, one of the defences for this from his aides and political allies was: oh, Obama was just about to fix this problem!  And sure enough, he eventually was forced from the wave of criticism to make some limited reforms, but he did not go far enough to end all of the programs that were in violation of the law or the constitution of the United States. That too was an intentional choice: he could have certainly used the scandal to advocate for all of the changes that he had campaigned on, to deliver on all of his promises, but in those five years he had become president, he discovered something else, which is that there are benefits from having very powerful intelligence agencies, there are benefits from having these career bureaucrats on your side, using their spider web over government for your benefit.

[RELATED: Snowden Documents: NSA Worked to Track Bitcoin Users]

Imagine you are Barack Obama, and you realise – yes, when you were campaigning you were saying: spying on people without a warrant is a problem, but then you realise: you can read Angela Merkel’s text messages. Why bother calling her and asking her opinion, when you can just read her mind by breaking the law? It sounds like a joke, but it is a very seductive thing. Secrecy is perhaps the most corrupting of all government powers, because it takes public officials and divorces them from accountability to the public.

When we look at the case of Trump, who is perhaps the worst of politicians, we see the same dynamic occurring. This is a president who said the CIA is the enemy, it’s like Nazi Germany, they’re listening to his phone calls, and all of these other things, some claims which are true, some claims which are absolutely not.  A few months later, he is authorizing major powers for these same agencies that he has called his enemies.

And this gets to the central crux of your question, which is: can any president oppose this?  The answer is certainly. The president has to have some familiarity going in with the fact that this pitch is going to be made, that they are going to try to scare him or her into compliance. The president has to be willing to stand strongly on line and say: ‘I was elected to represent the interests of the American people, and if you’re not willing to respect the constitution and our rights, I will disband your agency, and create a new one’. I think they can definitely be forced into compliance, because these officials fear prison, just like every one of us.

New Facebook Feature Alerts Users of State-Sponsored Cyberattacks

Facebook announced late last week that it has enabled a new security feature that notifies a user when it appears that his or her devices or private accounts are under a government-sponsored cyberattack.

The social network’s Chief Security Officer Alex Stamos published a Facebook note from the company’s verified security page last Friday that explains how the new feature works. “Starting today, we will notify you if we believe your account has been targeted or compromised by an attacker suspected of working on behalf of a nation-state,” he said.

When Facebook detects that a user might be under a state-sponsored cyberattack, it will show that user a notification, seen below.


While we have always taken steps to secure accounts that we believe to have been compromised, we decided to show this additional warning if we have a strong suspicion that an attack could be government-sponsored. We do this because these types of attacks tend to be more advanced and dangerous than others, and we strongly encourage affected people to take the actions necessary to secure all of their online accounts,” wrote Stamos.

[RELATED: Facebook Is Tracking You Even When You Aren’t Logged In]

The notification recommends that users turn on the setting “Login Approvals” to secure their Facebook accounts against such attacks. TechCrunch’s Sarah Perez says that when Login Approvals is activated, “users are alerted when their Facebook account is accessed from a new device or a new web browser.” She added, “When this occurs, Facebook sends a security code to your phone, so only you – as the phone’s owner – will be able to enter in the code and proceed to log in.

Stamos noted that Facebook will not explain in these instances why it believes that the user is under an attack in an effort to “protect the integrity of our methods and processes” but that it will only issue the notifications when the social network’s software detects evidence that “strongly supports our conclusion.”

VIDEO: Activist Group Uses Drone to Drop Anti-Spying Flyers on NSA Facility

Members of Peng!, a tactical media group, published a video online earlier this month in which a drone from the group’s anti-spying campaign is seen dropping flyers, calling on agents to quit their jobs, on the National Security Agency’s Dagger Complex facility in Darmstadt, Germany.

The description panel on the above-embedded YouTube video notes, “The Dagger Complex in Darmstadt, Germany acts as a central point of the NSA’s surveillance and espionage activity in Europe. On Friday Intelexit supporters, the initiative helping people break free from the secret services, dropped information flyers to the 1100 employees working there.

Vice’s Joshua Kopstein wrote, “Dagger Complex has a special significance in surveillance-wary Germany and has long been seen as a slice of the American surveillance state on German soil. The base has been the site of countless protests, including ‘spy spotting’ nature walks organized by activists following the Snowden revelations.

Peng!’s anti-spying campaign, Intelexit, is an initiative launched by privacy advocates seeking to encourage agents working for the National Security Agency and Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters to quit their jobs and become whistleblowers. Prior to launching the aerial flyering campaign, the group also posted a billboard next to Dagger Complex which reportedly says,Listen to your heart, not to private phone calls.” The group has also placed billboards at NSA’s Fort Meade, Md. facility and at GCHQ’s Cheltenham headquarters in England.

An Intelexit spokesperson who goes by the pseudonym Ariel Fischer said, “We know for a fact that there are many, many people working there who are conflicted, anxious and ultimately completely against what these agencies are doing… We make a clear difference between individuals and the structures they are part of. We want to meet our surveillers eye to eye, and say ‘We can help you.’

[RELATED: Democratic Debate: Clinton, Sanders Clash On NSA Spying]

She added, “We have seen a shift in the last years of people leaving, people blowing the whistle, even in the face of great repression and we wanted to support that. If there is a backdoor and people start leaving, and people start talking, and the public starts reacting, they will be forced to change.

On the topic of innovation in activism, Ben Swann is launching a new show highlighting the oft-overlooked work of activists around the world. Watch the Global Activist trailer in the below-embedded video.


Chris Christie: The U.S. Should Track Immigrants Like FedEx Tracks Packages

During a campaign rally on Saturday, former New Jersey Gov. and GOP Presidential candidate Chris Christie said that if he were elected, he would track immigrants with visas in the United States in the same way that FedEx tracks its packages.

Christie said that he plans on having the founder of FedEx come to work for the government because currently when the U.S. issues visas, “the minute they come in, we lose track of them.”

“I’m going to have Fred Smith, the founder of FedEx, come work for the government for three months,” Christie said. “Just come for three months to Immigration and Customs Enforcement and show these people.”

Striving for a system similar to the one used by the independent shipping company, Christie said he used it as an example, because while FedEx can track packages, the U.S. can’t track immigrants.

[pull_quote_center]We need to have a system that tracks you from the moment you come in and then when your time is up, however long your visa is, then we go get you and tap you on the shoulder and say, ‘Excuse me, it’s time to go,'[/pull_quote_center]

[RELATED: Chris Christie Condemns ‘Civil Liberties Extremists’, Argues To Maintain NSA Surveillance In NH Speech]

Along with the topic of immigration, the conversation about “anchor babies” has also been popular among GOP candidates, and Christie referred to it as a “distraction” that reflects poorly on the Republican party.

“The entire conversation about ‘anchor babies’ is a distraction that makes us sound like we’re anti-immigrant, and we’re not,” Christie said. “Our party is not that way. We want people to do it legally. Do it the right way.”

[RELATED: Reality Check: ‘Anchor Babies’ and Trump’s U.S. Citizenship Claims]

Christie’s comments were criticized by immigrant advocates such as Dawn Le, spokeswoman for the Alliance for Citizenship, who told Reuters that she doesn’t see Christies’s proposal as all that different from Donald Trump’s immigration plans.

“Basically, he put a stamp on everyone’s wrist without providing a solution for the people who are here,” Le said. “How is his proposal any different than Donald Trump’s? Would he deport all 11 million people? He didn’t say.”

Christie doubled down on his comments on Sunday, during an interview with Fox News. He insisted that he was not comparing people to packages, and he called any criticism of his prior comments “ridiculous.”

“I don’t mean people are packages, so let’s not be ridiculous,” Christie said. “This is once again a situation where the private sector laps us in the government with the use of technology. We should bring in the folks from FedEx to use the technology to be able to do it. There’s nothing wrong with that.”

For more election coverage, click here.

This story has been updated to clarify the type of immigrant Christie intends to track.

Paul, Christie Clash Over NSA Spying at GOP Debate

Kentucky Senator Rand Paul and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie got into a heated and emotional exchange over the National Security Agency’s illegal and unpopular bulk phone records spying program at the first Republican presidential primary debate of the 2016 campaign season on Thursday night.

[RELATED: Chris Christie: Blame Rand Paul For Next Terror Attack]

During the Fox News GOP debate, moderator Megyn Kelly asked Chris Christie, “Governor Christie. You’ve said that Senator Paul’s opposition to the NSA’s collection of phone records has made the United States weaker and more vulnerable, even going so far as to say that he should be called before Congress to answer for it if we should be hit by another terrorist attack… Do you really believe you can assign blame to Senator Paul just for opposing he bulk collection of people’s phone records in the event of a terrorist attack?

Christie, a former federal prosecutor, doubled down on his position. “Yes, I do. And I’ll tell you why: because I’m the only person on this stage who’s actually filed applications under the Patriot Act, who has gone before the federal — the Foreign Intelligence Service court, who has prosecuted and investigated and jailed terrorists in this country after September 11th,” he said.

Christie noted the fact that former President George W. Bush appointed him as a federal prosecutor the day before the September 11, 2001 terror attacks. “This is not theoretical to me. I went to the funerals. We lost friends of ours in the Trade Center that day. My own wife was two blocks from the Trade Center that day, at her office, having gone through it that morning. When you actually have to be responsible for doing this, you can do it, and we did it, for seven years in my office, respecting civil liberties and protecting the homeland. And I will make no apologies, ever, for protecting the lives and the safety of the American people. We have to give more tools to our folks to be able to do that, not fewer, and then trust those people and oversee them to do it the right way. As president, that is exactly what I’ll do,” he added.

Paul seized the opportunity to respond to the criticism and asked Megyn Kelly for a chance to provide a rebuttal. “I want to collect more records from terrorists, but less records from innocent Americans. The Fourth Amendment was what we fought the Revolution over! John Adams said it was the spark that led to our war for independence, and I’m proud of standing for the Bill of Rights, and I will continue to stand for the Bill of Rights,” he replied.

[RELATED: Federal Appeals Court Ruling: NSA Data Collection Is Illegal]

Christie blasted back, “And — and, Megyn? Megyn, that’s a — that, you know, that’s a completely ridiculous answer. ‘I want to collect more records from terrorists, but less records from other people.’ How are you supposed to know [who is a terrorist], Megyn?

Tempers began to flare as the two shouted over each other. Paul yelled, “Use the Fourth Amendment! Get a warrant!

Listen, Senator, you know, when you’re sitting in a subcommittee, just blowing hot air about this, you can say things like that,” quipped Christie.

Paul then accused Christie of misunderstanding the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and angrily referenced a post Hurricane Sandy photo op, which some Republicans felt hurt Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential chances, in which Chris Christie was seen hugging President Obama. “I don’t trust President Obama with our records. I know you gave him a big hug, and if you want to give him a big hug again, go right ahead,” said Paul.

[RELATED: Christie Tells Colo. Pot Smokers to “Enjoy It” Now As He Will Bust Them As President]

Christie retorted, “Senator Paul, you know, the hugs that I remember are the hugs that I gave to the families who lost their people on September 11th. Those are the hugs I remember, and those had nothing to do — and those had nothing to do with politics, unlike what you’re doing by cutting speeches on the floor of the Senate, then putting them on the Internet within half an hour to raise money for your campaign… and while still putting our country at risk.

The Atlantic’s Conor Friedersdorf wrote that the exchange reminded him of Rudy Giuliani’s dust-up with former Congressman Ron Paul during the 2008 Republican presidential debates, “A GOP debate stage hasn’t witnessed such naked exploitation of the emotions surrounding 9/11 since Rudy Giuliani used the same manipulative tactic in 2008. Then, as now, there are plenty of people who stood every bit as close to the Twin Towers as they fell and drew opposite conclusions about how to fight the war on terror. Invoking physical proximity to the attacks is an irrational appeal made to avoid the need for a more substantive analysis.

CNN’s Donna Brazile called Paul and Christie the debate’s “biggest losers” on account of “their bitter clash over NSA surveillance and terrorism” and added that “they offered testosterone with a bit of Tabasco.

During Fox News’ post-debate coverage, anchor Chris Wallace said that he feels that the Christie-Paul exchange hurt Paul, but at the expense of damaging Christie’s 2016 chances.

On the other hand, CNN contributor Buck Sexton said, “The biggest surprise of the night came from Rand Paul, who showed up ready to fight. The usually laid-back libertarian came out fiery, getting into squabbles with Donald Trump and Christie (winning the latter exchange). If nothing else, Senator Paul reminded America that he’s still in this thing in a meaningful way.”

For more 2016 election coverage, click here.

DoJ Asks Surveillance Court To Ignore Federal Court’s Ruling On Illegal NSA Spying

Hours after President Obama signed the USA Freedom Act, which would continue the National Security Agency’s mass surveillance program, while transferring its bulk data collection to private phone companies, the Department of Justice filed a request asking a FISA court to continue the NSA’s collection for six months.

The request, which was filed with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court on June 2, asked the Court to “approve the Government’s application for the bulk production of call detail records for a 180 day transition period,” claiming that this request is appropriate, despite the fact that on May 7, a federal appeals court ruled that NSA spying is illegal.

In the request, which was written by Justice Department national security chief John Carlin, the USA Freedom Act’s six-month “orderly transition” clause is referenced, but Carlin does not address whether the clause still applies now that the program was supposed to have shut down completely at midnight on May 31.

The NSA’s mass surveillance program, which was allowed under Section 215 of the Patriot Act, became illegal at 12:01 a.m. on June 1, when the section expired. GOP Presidential candidate and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) led the campaign to block a direct extension of Section 215, and took to the floor of the Senate for 10 hours and 30 minutes to speak out against NSA spying.

The Guardian noted that Carlin also suggests that the Obama Administration “may not necessarily comply with any potential court order demanding that the collection stop,” and might “seek to challenge the injunction.”

“In the event an injunction of some sort were to issue by the district court,the Government would need to assess, in light of the nature and scope of whatever injunction the district court issued, its ability to carry out authority granted under an order issued by this Court,” Carlin wrote.

A report from the Washington Post in Jan. 2014  found that after analyzing 225 terrorism cases inside the United States, the NSA’s bulk collection of phone records “has had no discernible impact on preventing acts of terrorism.” 

In the request, Carlin claimed that although the DoJ has considered the Federal court’s ruling on NSA spying in its evaluation of the government’s application, “Second Circuit rulings do not constitute controlling precedent for this Court,” and they are requesting that the NSA’s bulk data collection program continue, even though the majority of the data collected “ultimately will not be terrorist-related.”

Snowden: “The Balance of Power Is Beginning to Shift”

In an op-ed published Thursday in The New York Times, whistleblower and former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden reflected on how circumstances have changed on the two-year anniversary of his first leaks. “Two years ago today, three journalists and I worked nervously in a Hong Kong hotel room, waiting to see how the world would react to the revelation that the National Security Agency had been making records of nearly every phone call in the United States. In the days that followed, those journalists and others published documents revealing that democratic governments had been monitoring the private activities of ordinary citizens who had done nothing wrong,” wrote Snowden in the opening of his retrospective.

At first, politicians rushed to criminally charge Snowden under the 1917 Espionage Act and called him a traitor to his country. “Privately, there were moments when I worried that we might have put our privileged lives at risk for nothing — that the public would react with indifference, or practiced cynicism, to the revelations,” said Snowden.

However, fast-forwarding to the present day, just days after Senator Rand Paul and other civil liberties advocates in the US Senate forced Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act, which authorized many of the programs about which Snowden leaked information, to expire and just weeks after a federal appeals court ruled that the NSA’s bulk collection of Americans’ phone metadata is illegal, Snowden’s cynicism has given way to optimism. “We are witnessing the emergence of a post-terror generation, one that rejects a worldview defined by a singular tragedy. For the first time since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, we see the outline of a politics that turns away from reaction and fear in favor of resilience and reason. With each court victory, with every change in the law, we demonstrate facts are more convincing than fear. As a society, we rediscover that the value of a right is not in what it hides, but in what it protects,” Snowden said, celebrating recent achievements by US civil liberties activists.

Snowden’s commentary noted that privacy advocates still have work ahead of them given the fact that the newly-signed USA FREEDOM Act essentially compels corporations to sweep up Americans’ phone records on behalf of the government. “Some of the world’s most popular online services have been enlisted as partners in the NSA’s mass surveillance programs, and technology companies are being pressured by governments around the world to work against their customers rather than for them. Billions of cellphone location records are still being intercepted without regard for the guilt or innocence of those affected. We have learned that our government intentionally weakens the fundamental security of the Internet with ‘back doors’ that transform private lives into open books. Metadata revealing the personal associations and interests of ordinary Internet users is still being intercepted and monitored on a scale unprecedented in history: As you read this online, the United States government makes a note.

He also warned citizens in Russia, Canada, France, and the United Kingdom that their governments too seek to take advantage of tragedies to generate political will for the dissolution of recognized civil rights. However, he pointed out some reasons to be optimistic about the flourishing of privacy protection worldwide. “Since 2013, institutions across Europe have ruled similar laws and operations illegal and imposed new restrictions on future activities. The United Nations declared mass surveillance an unambiguous violation of human rights. In Latin America, the efforts of citizens in Brazil led to the Marco Civil, an Internet Bill of Rights. Recognizing the critical role of informed citizens in correcting the excesses of government, the Council of Europe called for new laws to protect whistle-blowers,” said Snowden of the international movement towards the protection of privacy rights.

Snowden also recognized the work of “technologists” who have been toiling to prevent governments from hijacking their products in an effort to “ensure access to basic privacies beyond borders.

At the turning of the millennium, few imagined that citizens of developed democracies would soon be required to defend the concept of an open society against their own leaders… Yet the balance of power is beginning to shift,” said Snowden, recognizing that his decision to essentially destroy his cushy life as a well-paid NSA contractor living in Hawaii was not in vain.

National Journal notes that 2016 Democratic presidential candidate and ex-Senator and Governor from Rhode Island Lincoln Chafee fused support for Snowden into a speech announcing his campaign earlier this week. “Our sacred Constitution requires a warrant before unreasonable searches, which includes our phone records… Let’s enforce that and while we’re at it, allow Edward Snowden to come home,” said Chafee.

Rand Paul Declares Victory Over NSA Spying

Washington D.C.- Senator Rand Paul has declared victory over the NSA spy program reportedly authorized by Section 215 of the Patriot Act.

As we reported, late Sunday the National Security Agency (NSA) shut down its bulk data collection program as the PATRIOT Act expired thanks to Paul’s efforts. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell attempted to pass several bills that would temporarily extend the law’s expiring spying authorities but was blocked by Rand Paul, first through a perfectly-timed filibuster and then through additional procedural stalling tactics that pushed the timing of the vote past May 22, when senators were set to leave Washington DC for recess. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell scheduled a last-minute vote on May 31 in an effort to reauthorize the provisions prior to their expiration, but Senator Rand Paul objected to any votes on PATRIOT Act reauthorization bills or the USA FREEDOM Act, a house-passed bill that Congressman Justin Amash (R-MI) said would outsource NSA spying to corporations, until the Senate had sufficient time to debate, thus tabling the votes until Tuesday of this week at the earliest, forcing the PATRIOT Act to officially expire as of 12:01 EST Monday morning.

A new Washington Post article is now suggesting that Senator Paul slipping in Iowa because of this stance against the NSA’s program.  The latest polling from Iowa shows Paul tied with Dr. Ben Carson for second place in Iowa at 10 percent apiece. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is the far-and-away frontrunner, however, reaching 17 percent.

In an interview with Breitbart News, Sen. Paul slammed establishment Republicans who have been supporting the program for years.

“I’ve been all over the United States in the last year, particularly in the last week or so when we’ve been talking just about the PATRIOT Act, and we get hundreds of people showing up at every stop who are all saying you know what, they don’t want President Obama to be collecting their phone records. So I find that not only is it the right position, it’s also a very popular position among Republicans—just not in the Washington establishment Republicans. But when you’re out there meeting with grassroots Republicans, the grassroots by and large think that President Obama went way too far with this illegal collection of our phone records.”


PATRIOT Act Spy Provisions Officially Expire After Senate Reauthorization Attempt Fails

Snowden: Private Explicit Photos Often Shared By NSA Agents

Governor Walker Breaks Silence On Patriot Act, NSA Stance

PATRIOT Act Spy Provisions Officially Expire After Senate Reauthorization Attempt Fails

After the USA PATRIOT Act’s Section 215 provision authorizing the bulk collection of millions of Americans’ phone records by the National Security Agency was ruled illegal by a federal appeals court, Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) launched an aggressive campaign to force the Senate to allow the provision to expire. The law’s spying authority had been designed to sunset on May 31 absent reauthorization by lawmakers.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell attempted to pass several bills that would temporarily extend the law’s expiring spying authorities but was blocked by Rand Paul, first through a perfectly-timed filibuster and then through additional procedural stalling tactics that pushed the timing of the vote past May 22, when senators were set to leave Washington DC for recess. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell scheduled a last-minute vote on May 31 in an effort to reauthorize the provisions prior to their expiration, but Senator Rand Paul objected to any votes on PATRIOT Act reauthorization bills or the USA FREEDOM Act, a house-passed bill that Congressman Justin Amash (R-MI) said would outsource NSA spying to corporations, until the Senate had sufficient time to debate, thus tabling the votes until Tuesday of this week at the earliest, forcing the PATRIOT Act to officially expire as of 12:01 EST this morning.

“Tonight we stopped the illegal NSA bulk data collection. This is a victory no matter how you look at it. It might be short lived, but I hope that it provides a road for a robust debate, which will strengthen our intelligence community, while also respecting our Constitution,” said Senator Paul of his bipartisan campaign to protect Americans’ privacy, which enjoyed substantial support by allies like Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Congressmen Justin Amash (R-MI) and Thomas Massie (R-KY).

Said Majority Leader McConnell, “We shouldn’t be disarming unilaterally as our enemies grow more sophisticated and aggressive, and we certainly should not be doing so based on a campaign of demagoguery and disinformation launched in the wake of the unlawful actions of Edward Snowden.”

According to NBC News, the three expiring provisions of the PATRIOT Act include the National Security Agency’s authority to collect Americans’ phone records in bulk, a “lone wolf” provision allowing officials to investigate individuals who lack connections to terror groups, and a roving wiretap authority allowing investigators to spy on different communication tools believed to be used by a suspect without obtaining a new warrant each time.

During Sunday’s battle over the PATRIOT Act, Senator Rand Paul blocked efforts to pass the USA FREEDOM Act before the PATRIOT Act was set to expire, but the Senate voted 77-17 to consider the legislation in an upcoming vote, which is expected to happen as soon as Tuesday.

A statement by White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest urged Senators to pass the USA FREEDOM Act and said, “The Senate took an important—if late—step forward tonight. We call on the Senate to ensure this irresponsible lapse in authorities is as short-lived as possible. On a matter as critical as our national security, individual Senators must put aside their partisan motivations and act swiftly. The American people deserve nothing less.”

At Saturday’s Tennessee Republican Party fundraiser, likely presidential candidate Jeb Bush said according to The Associated Press that Senator Paul is wrong and “the PATRIOT Act has kept us safe, plain and simple.”

Senator McCain accused Rand Paul of playing politics with national security by thwarting the spying legislation and said according to Politico, “I know what this is about — I think it’s very clear – this is, to some degree, a fundraising exercise. He obviously has a higher priority for his fundraising and political ambitions than for the security of the nation.”

The Daily Beast notes that GOP presidential candidate Senator Ted Cruz said of Rand’s stand against NSA spying, “I disagree with allowing key provisions of federal law to expire that allow the national security team to target radical Islamic terrorists.”

Congressman Thomas Massie defended Paul against those who say that he has exposed the nation to risk by allowing the PATRIOT Act to expire and said, “He’s exposing the country to the Constitution. And the senators that think that’s dangerous are saying the Constitution’s dangerous.”

Said Senator Paul during Sunday’s fireworks, “Tonight begins the process of ending bulk collection… People here in town think I’m making a huge mistake. Some of them, I think, secretly want there to be an attack on the United States so they can blame it on me.”

NSA officials told CNN that the National Security Agency officially ended its bulk metadata collection program at 7:44 PM EST on Sunday.

Rand Paul To Force The Expiration of NSA Spy Program

Senator and Republican presidential candidate Rand Paul (R-KY) will be spending Sunday forcing the expiration the Patriot Act’s surveillance provisions.

On Saturday, Paul made a declaration to refuse to allow any votes that would extend current law beyond its June 1st expiration, as well any votes for the USA Freedom Act that would reform portions of the Patriot Act.

Paul’s statement is in full below.

“I have fought for several years now to end the illegal spying of the NSA on ordinary Americans. The callous use of general warrants and the disregard for the Bill of Rights must end. Forcing us to choose between our rights and our safety is a false choice and we are better than that as a nation and as a people.

That’s why two years ago, I sued the NSA. It’s why I proposed the Fourth Amendment Protection Act. It’s why I have been seeking for months to have a full, open and honest debate on this issue– a debate that never came.

So last week, seeing proponents of this illegal spying rushing toward a deadline to wholesale renew this unconstitutional power, I filibustered the bill. I spoke for over 10 hours to call attention to the vast expansion of the spy state and the corresponding erosion of our liberties.

Then, last week, I further blocked the extension of these powers and the Senate adjourned for recess rather than stay and debate them.

Tomorrow, we will come back with just hours left before the NSA illegal spying powers expire.

Let me be clear: I acknowledge the need for a robust intelligence agency and for a vigilant national security. I believe we must fight terrorism, and I believe we must stand strong against our enemies.

But we do not need to give up who we are to defeat them. In fact, we must not.

There has to be another way. We must find it together. So tomorrow,

[bctt tweet=”I will force the expiration of the NSA illegal spy program. @RandPaul”]

I am ready and willing to start the debate on how we fight terrorism without giving up our liberty.

Sometimes when the problem is big enough, you just have to start over. The tax code and our regulatory burdens are two good examples.

Fighting against unconditional, illegal powers that take away our rights, taken by previous Congresses and administrations is just as important.

I do not do this to obstruct. I do it to build something better, more effective, more lasting, and more cognizant of who we are as Americans.”

Joining the fight against Patriot Act surveillance extension is Congressman Justin Amash (R-MI), who has been attending the House of Representatives’ pro forma sessions to block Speaker John Boehner from using low turnout to hold voice votes to extend the legislation’s spying provisions. Congressman Thomas Massie (R-KY) has joined Amash in keeping watch over a mostly empty House floor. “It only takes one of 435 members to be here on the floor of the House to stop something from passing on unanimous consent,” said Massie.

Rep. Amash Skips House Recess to Make Sure Speaker Boehner Does Not Extend PATRIOT Act

Most of Congress might be away for the week, but the chess game between civil libertarians and security hawks over the USA PATRIOT Act’s expiring bulk phone records collection powers rages on unabated. After Senator Rand Paul ran the clock out on the PATRIOT Act by first filibustering and then objecting to even the briefest extensions of the legislation’s Section 215 spying authority until the moment the Senate left for recess, the Obama administration began to wind down the National Security Agency’s mass hoarding of Americans’ private data.

An emergency Senate session has been planned for May 31 as security hawks lobby to extend the expiring spy powers while civil libertarians attempt to hold the line and block any extension before the legislation’s June 1 expiration date. However, according to The Hill, pro-privacy Congressman Justin Amash (R-MI) fears that House Speaker John Boehner may attempt to take advantage of this week’s low turnout at pro forma House sessions to sneak through an extension of the PATRIOT Act via voice vote. Consequently, Amash has decided to skip recess and attend the pro forma sessions to ensure that a PATRIOT Act reauthorization or extension does not slip through the House of Representatives.

Though John Boehner’s aides have said that he will not use the underhanded technique to override the will of the House, Justin Amash tweeted the Ronald Reagan quote “Trust, but verify” as he left Tuesday’s uneventful pro forma session. Pro-privacy Congressman Thomas Massie (R-KY) said last Thursday, “I just asked for an assurance [that Boehner will not extend the PATRIOT Act via voice vote] and they wouldn’t give it to me.”

Another pro forma session, viewed largely as a poorly-attended formality during recess weeks, is scheduled for Friday.

The Hill‘s Julian Hattem wrote, “Both Amash and [Congressman] Massie took up space on the Senate floor during the upper chamber’s frenzied voting late Friday night, and could be seen repeatedly huddling with like-minded Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), who stood as an obstacle to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) plans for a ‘clean’ short-term extension… The House members’ presence at the Senate votes caused many watchers to speculate they would spend the week in Washington to keep an eye on the House.”

Though the House of Representatives did pass the USA FREEDOM Act, a bill that many representatives say does not include the sweeping Section 215 spy powers, Congressman Justin Amash has suggested that the legislation would instead force private companies to spy on behalf of the government. The USA FREEDOM Act has not yet prevailed in the Senate.

Earlier this month, a federal appeals court ruled that the NSA’s unpopular bulk data collection program is illegal.

Breaking: Obama Admin to Begin Winding Down NSA’s Phone Records Spying Program in Three Days

The clock is ticking, and Congress has until Friday of this week to re-authorize the USA PATRIOT Act’s provision, found in Section 215, which grants the National Security Agency the authority to spy on Americans’ cell phone records, or else the program could be interrupted. According to a Department of Justice memo obtained by National Journal, the Obama administration has announced that it will begin winding down the program at the end of the week if it is not renewed by Congress.

“After May 22, 2015, the National Security Agency will need to begin taking steps to wind down the bulk telephone metadata program in anticipation of a possible sunset in order to ensure that it does not engage in any unauthorized collection or use of the metadata. NSA will attempt to ensure that any shutdown of the program occurs as close in time as possible to the expiration of the authority, assuming the program has not been reauthorized in some form prior to the scheduled sunset of Section 215. In the event of a lapse in authority and subsequent reauthorization, there will necessarily be some time needed to restart the program,” stated the memo, which was sent to members of Congress.

The DOJ memo continued, “Further, the February 26, 2015 Court order renewing the authority for the NSA’s bulk telephone metadata program, which expires at 5:00 pm on June 1, 2015, directs the government to file any proposed renewal application no later than Friday, May 22, 2015, if the government seeks to renew the authorities granted in the order prior to their expiration under the order. For these reasons, after May 22, 2015, it will become increasingly difficult for the government to avoid a lapse in the current NSA program of at least some duration.”

A federal appeals court ruled earlier this month that the program is illegal, and Senators Rand Paul (R-KY) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) have threatened to filibuster its renewal. The House of Representatives recently passed the USA FREEDOM Act, which some have said ends the cell phone spying program, though Congressman Justin Amash (R-MI) criticized the legislation, saying it would force corporations to store smartphone metadata on behalf of the government. The House of Representatives is scheduled to wrap up its activities for the month on Thursday, after which time many representatives will be leaving Washington DC, meaning legislators in favor of the cell phone spying program are running out of time and options.

The Senate is currently considering the USA FREEDOM Act and two-month and five-year re-authorizations of the USA PATRIOT Act.

Meanwhile, the American Civil Liberties Union and Tea Party Patriots have put aside their differences and teamed up on a TV commercial and ad buy aimed at encouraging lawmakers to end the domestic cell phone spying program. Watch their new commercial in the below-embedded video player.


DNI’s Lawyer Claims James Clapper Forgot About NSA Spying During Misleading Testimony

Following news that a federal appeals court has ruled the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of Americans’ phone records illegal, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper’s attorney is pushing back against allegations that he lied to the Senate Intelligence Committee in 2013 when he told Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) that the NSA does not “wittingly” collect any type of data on millions of Americans. Clapper’s misleading testimony, which can be seen in the above-embedded YouTube video, came just before Edward Snowden leaked information about the NSA’s bulk collection of Americans’ cell phone records to the public.

According to The Hill, Office of the Director of National Intelligence attorney Robert Litt said at Friday’s meeting of the Advisory Committee on Transparency, “This was not an untruth or a falsehood. This was just a mistake on his part… We all make mistakes.”

Litt claimed that Clapper did not have adequate time to prepare for the question prior to the hearing and said, “We were notified the day before that Sen. Wyden was going to ask this question and the Director of National Intelligence did not get a chance to review it… He was hit unaware by the question. After this hearing I went to him and I said, ‘Gee, you were wrong on this.’ And it was perfectly clear that he had absolutely forgotten the existence of the 215 program.” Litt said that Clapper thought Wyden was talking about the NSA’s 702 program, in which records of Americans’ web activity are sometimes unknowingly swept up in digital dragnets aimed at spying on foreigners.

Litt said that he made a mistake by not sending a letter to the Senate committee clarifying the error, considering the fact that he claims to have told Clapper after the hearing that the statement denying the 215 program’s bulk collection of Americans’ metadata was wrong.

Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) has previously stated that Clapper should be fired and criminally charged for lying to the Senate and said to CNN, according to The Hill, “I find really that Clapper is lying to Congress is probably more injurious to our intelligence capabilities than anything Snowden did because Clapper has damaged the credibility of the entire intelligence apparatus, and I’m not sure what to believe anymore when they come to Congress.” Paul continued, “And I really think that in order to restore confidence in our intelligence community, I think James Clapper should resign.”

Advanced Cybercrime Gang ‘Equation’ Closely Linked to NSA

Malware Targeted Foreign Industry, Governments

by Jason Ditz, February 16, 2015

Over the weekend, it was reported that the NSA was scrambling to get ready for a new “leak” about their operations, which was uncovered by a “non-US” cybersecurity company. Today, Russian-based Kaspersky Labs unveiled a huge cache of information about a cybercriminal gang they are calling “Equation,” and which appears to be tightly connected to the NSA itself.

Kaspersky Labs released a 44-page report on Equation (pdf), which describes the group’s suite of malware, used to steal information from industries, corporations, governments, and even some individuals, as the most advanced on the planet.

Indeed, Equation’s malware is so successful and so hard to detect, that Kaspersky believes they’ve been in existence since 2001, or possibly as far back as 1996, and they are only now getting a glimpse into their existence.

Equation’s suite is said to be extremely modular, with initial Trojans being installed simply to see if the targeted computer’s user might be of interest, and if so depositing payloads of highly advanced software into the operation system, which is almost impossible to detect.

Though Kaspersky Labs declined to conclusively link them to the NSA in the report, the connection is impossible to deny, as the early Equation worms appear to be the basis for the Stuxnet worm, which US officials have openly admitted was government handiwork.

Equation’s delivery system also appears to have relied on it being quasi-governmental in some cases, intercepting shipments of commercial software being sent to potential targets of interest and replacing the installation CDs with infected alternatives. Kaspersky had examples of infected Oracle software CDs that were apparently created by Equation and delivered to customers instead of the actual CDs.

The malware identified infects Windows systems, and appears to successfully target all known modern versions of the Microsoft operating system. The report also notes some of the malware makes reference to Macintosh OSX versions of the malware, though none has yet been conclusively seen in the wild.

The malware embeds itself within the operating system, the registry, and into the firmware of the physical hard drives themselves, making it virtually impossible to detect and similarly difficult to remove. The use of hard drive firmware as a method of attack by the NSA had been previously reported, but the sophistication of the attacks are surprising many.

Report: NSA Bracing for Major New Leaks

New Leaks Not Related to Edward Snowden

by Jason Ditz, February 15, 2015

Though the NSA is characteristically not discussing the matter publicly, reports citing private comments from the officials say that the agency is bracing for “major” new leaks.

The leaks, according to the reports, are not related to Edward Snowden’s releases, and interestingly weren’t leaked by any insiders at all.

Rather, they are going to be technical data about how the NSA surveils people, and were uncovered by an unnamed cyber security firm operating outside of the United States.

It will be interesting to see how the administration reacts in that case. President Obama has been extremely hostile to whistleblowers within agencies, but with the data uncovered by people who weren’t working for the NSA or the US government to begin with, their options seem limited.

DEA Kept Secret Database of Americans’ Phone Calls

Collected Calls to Countries ‘Linked to Drug Trafficking’

by Jason Ditz, January 16, 2015

The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) was revealed to have conducted secret surveillance of Americans’ phone calls overseas, in an operation that was totally separate from the already publicized NSA program.
The Justice Department revealed the secret database in a criminal case this week, saying the DEA had been collecting information about Americans who were making calls to “certain countries” that they’d linked to drug trafficking.

The scope of the program remains uncertain, as only its base existence was revealed in the case, and the fact that Iran was one of the countries targeted in the program.

The program was active for years, though the Justice Department claims they ended the program in September of 2013. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D – VT) is pressing for additional information on the scheme.

NSA Chief Pushes Bill Granting New Powers

Ruppersberger Reintroduces CISPA, Citing North Korea

by Jason Ditz, January 09, 2015
For years privacy advocates have been pushing against the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), which eliminates all privacy protections on the sharing of private information so long as it is done for “cybersecurity purposes.”

CISPA has failed in the past, but is back again, with Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D – MD), its longtime advocate, reintroducing it and citing the hack of Sony Pictures, putatively by North Korea, as justification for new powers.

The NSA is understandably all over this as well, since it will give the companies it works with carte blanche to share data with them without legal ramifications so long as they can play the cybersecurity card.

It is the eagerness for government agencies to get these new powers and access to information that is likely informing their decision to blame North Korea for the Sony hack, as a foreign attack would be a far better sell for granting them new powers than the likely facts, that Sony was attacked by a disgruntled former employee and a handful of other hackers.

Obama Extends NSA Spying Powers Yet Again

Nine Months Later, Promises of Reform Still Unmet

by Jason Ditz, December 08, 2014
Back in March, Attorney General Eric Holder was promising that the Justice Department was on track to reform the NSA surveillance powers by the deadline of March 28, less than two weeks later. It didn’t happen.
A 90-day extension came and went, and then another 90-day extension was tacked on to that, pushing the deadline for the reform of the mass surveillance to December 5.This time, when the deadline rolled around there was so little expectation of actual reform that its approach was barely even covered. Even the administration seemingly gave it a miss over the weekend Unsurprisingly, it was extended yet again with no real hint of reforms coming.

Other than a brief, failed attempt to pass a toothless version of a reform bill in the Senate, the notion that NSA mass surveillance is ever going to get altered in a meaningful way is looking more dubious all the time.

The statement expressed support for working with the new, more pro-surveillance Congress on “reforms,” which will be even weaker than the last failed bill. Though there are still some in Congress pushing against the wholesale data mining to the American public, for now it seems that extending the deadline indefinitely is simply the new normal.

New Malware Tool Aims to Detect Government Surveillance

EFF, Amnesty International Back Effort to Stop Surveillance

by Jason Ditz, November 20, 2014
Amnesty International, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and other groups are throwing their weight behind a new open-source software malware detection project called Detekt.

Unlike the more all-purpose antivirus and anti-malware programs, Detekt centers around detecting and warning end users of surveillance malware of the sort known to be used by government.The revelations of NSA surveillance last year by Edward Snowden has brought new attention to the problem of government surveillance, and nations across the planet are using malware utilities to spy on civilians. The Detekt program was developed by Claudio Guarnieri, who has previously developed other programs related to the analysis of malware. Detekt is designed only for Windows-based computers, which of course are the most commonly used and subsequently most commonly targeted.

Detekt is available at resistsurveillance.org, and the source is available at github. The program’s authors warn it may not detect the newest revisions of government surveillance malware, but that it may help weed out some of the most common.