Tag Archives: Spying

Panel Urges NSA Reforms, Will Obama Listen?

This article was submitted by guest contributor Jason Ditz.Obama mad

The Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies, appointed by President Obama to review NSA surveillance and offer recommendations, was stacked with insiders and had been widely expected to offer little to no substance.

Yet their 300+ page report has called for some major changes in policy and rethinks in general approach toward surveillance, much more than the administration or pro-surveillance Congressmen had suggested could even be considered.

The telephone metadata proposal, keeping the data under control of a third party, seems relatively minor a change, while other recommendations, including treating foreigners with the same standard as Americans unless there’s a specific reason not to in a specific case, are far afield from the administration’s stance that foreigners are everywhere and always fair game.

The report also recommends an end to using the NSA for industrial espionage or any other surveillance of foreign targets for economic reasons. They also urge an end to government undermining of private encryption.

It remains to be seen if the Obama Administration is going to take many, or indeed any, of the recommendations seriously, as another recommendation to put the NSA under civilian control and split it from the military’s Cyber Command has already been specifically disavowed by the White House, who intends to keep the positions merged.





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NSA Director Plays Offense: Let Us Spy, We Aren’t Reading Your Messages

Article submitted by guest contributor Ezra Van Auken.
NSA Director Keith Alexander

Looking to ease the Americans’ tensions and primarily concerned with federal spying, National Security Agency (NSA) director Keith Alexander took on lawmakers this past Wednesday, hoping to bring understanding to the saga of mass surveillance. Rather than opening discussion to possible NSA reform, more innovative surveillance, or anything of the sort, NSA’s Alexander told a Senate committee that there’s no better way at this time.

The NSA director compared his agency’s unfavorable spying to holding a hornet’s nest, and said that while officials are being stung, there isn’t an alternative solution. Alexander explained that prior to the September 11th attacks, NSA officials had no ability to track communications between foreign and domestic bystanders. While professing that current NSA programs “connect the dots”, Alexander said there’s a balance between privacy and spying.

Civil liberties proponents including groups like the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), which have been putting up a fight since Snowden’s leaks, would beg to differ. Both advocacy groups have aimed at the federal government, filing lawsuits against the NSA and White House. Of course, Snowden’s leaks have only solidified claims by privacy groups, giving ample reason to take action.

Reapplying his position to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Alexander noted, “And [he] think[s] these programs have been effective.” Once again, however, media and advocacy group objections have shown a much different story than “effective”. Most significant was the claim by Alexander, earlier in the year, that NSA officials had foiled 54 terror-related incidents. The claim by Alexander and the President was quickly refuted.

Declassified charts from July provide insight on what exactly the NSA story is behind the alleged 54 thwarted plots. Off the bat, the declassified material reads, the NSA “has contributed to the [US government’s] understanding of terrorism activities and, in many cases, has enabled the disruption of potential terrorist events at home and abroad.” And whether or not Alexander and Obama forgot the NSA’s numbers, it certainly wasn’t 54.

Rather, the number is 42, and only the NSA identified four of the foiled plots. Elliot and Meyer of ProPublica explained that “The NSA itself has been inconsistent on how many plots it has helped prevent and what role the surveillance programs played.” Throwing more fudge onto the NSA’s success, director Alexander decided once again to make bold claims behind cameras – this time in front of CBS’s 60 Minutes with John Miller.

For any viewer who watched the CBS program, conflicted interests were glowing. Miller, the reporter assigned to interviewing Alexander, actually spent years inside the National Intelligence for Analytic Transformation and Technology as associate deputy director, and prior to that, held position in the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Ironically, the entire interview sounded like a shock to Miller, who threw Alexander softballs.

Despite the Snowden storm of NSA information, Alexander and Miller spent Sunday night’s CBS segment talking as if information never existed. He asked the NSA director whether or not it’s true that “There is a perception out there that the NSA is widely collecting the content of the phone calls of Americans.” Alexander, shrugging the obvious, replied, “No, that’s not true,” and added that NSA officials can only target Americans with probable cause.

Alexander said the agency itself has only 60 authorizations on specific persons, allowing officials to scan their phones, e-mails and other devices. However, recent reports show the NSA tracks over five billion phone users. Using up 27 terabytes of computer-server space, the agency is constantly pumping data, a Snowden report showed.

Bringing up a FISA court judge’s claim that even with the FISA courts, NSA officials have avoided using the court’s powers to receive confirmation requests, Miller asked for reasoning. Director Alexander’s blunt and obnoxious answer was that “There was nobody willfully or knowingly trying to break the law.” While Alexander concluded that nothing was willful or knowing, Miller decided not to challenge the response.

Giving in to the NSA director, Miller felt satisfied with the loose answer that held no proof of either happening. It’s as if Miller decided not to challenge Alexander because Alexander is the NSA director and therefore must know facts from conjecture. On the other hand, Miller was in the same intelligence gathering process as Alexander, and challenging the very practice with which you once partook in is certainly not protocol.

With Alexander packing on the interviews and Senate hearings, it seems the NSA wants to shape up more of the picture than they have in recent months.

Snowden Leaks More: NSA Working Directly with Canada’s Spy Agency, the “Five Eyes”

Article submitted by guest contributor Ezra Van Auken.

NSA Spying

Among the piles of information National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Edward Snowden has released to media outlets and the public, is revelations that are not only NSA officials, but also the NSA’s counterparts in other countries like Australia and Britain, scanning the phones, computers and cameras of millions. Coming into the fold of worldwide surveillance is north of the border in Canada.

Seemingly never ending, Snowden published more information Monday, revealing that the Canadian spy agency ‘Communications Security Establishment Canada’ (CSEC) has been working hand-in-hand with the NSA. CBC News broke the story, but decided to release limited information on the matter. However, what has been released is enough to make even the smallest privacy rights advocates cringe.

In all, the NSA and CSEC managed to set up “spying posts”, which allowed the agencies to oversee, without consent, 20 high-priority foreign countries. American intelligence officials decided to make the move with Canada’s CSEC due to the “unique geographic access” where US presence is restricted. The two surveillance communities have shared nationwide, worldwide and transnational targets, and only plan to increase their activity.

Interestingly, accounting for all of Snowden’s released material, the CSEC/NSA documents are, so far, the most recent. Dated in April 2013 and stamped “Top Secret”, the released documents show a quickly growing relationship. Focusing on more recent conditions in which the NSA/CSEC operate, the information describes Canada’s compliance to the NSA’s request of “covert sites” used for joint spying missions.

One of the released documents reads, “CSEC offers resources for advanced collection, processing and analysis, and has opened covert sites at the request of NSA,” executing most of its surveillance activities out of the Ottawa branch. According to CBC, Ottawa’s branch is equipped with high-level computing equipment to intercept phone calls, to Internet communications, around the globe.

Known as the “Five Eyes”, the documents show US, Canadian, Australian and New Zealand agencies as a partnership of countries, while holding Canada’s relationship as a unique one. Snowden’s Monday leak explains how CSEC and NSA officials shared information, but in addition, office space. “Co-operative efforts include the exchange of liaison officers and intégrée,” or in other words, working in and out of NSA/CSEC offices.

Other perks the CSEC receives from the NSA’s community is computer equipment and encryption software. NSA-donated hardware and software is all used for “collection, processing and analytic efforts.” Exchanged for the tools, the CSEC provides the NSA’s community with “cryptographic products, cryptanalysis, technology and software”: a beneficial relationship for the spy industry, sure, but for privacy advocates? Not so much.

Before creating an anti-NSA offense on Facebook or Twitter about Snowden’s newly released information, the CBC reported that with CSEC’s annual budget sitting at $450 million, it’s only about to get worse for taxpayers. The agency is in the midst of opening a brand new, shiny headquarters in Ottawa worth $1.2 billion – double the annual budget itself. Fortunately for Canadians, they still have about $38 billion to catch up with the NSA’s pace.
Of course, just two weeks ago, Snowden released information citing the Canadian government’s consent to allow NSA surveillance at the G8 and G20 summits in 2010.

In a time of true, Orwellian prediction, expecting anything as being possible by government surveillance agencies is probably the most reasonable path to take, and if it wasn’t for whistleblower Snowden, the age of information would cease to exist.

Obama Praises NSA, Promises Future ‘Self-Restraint’

This article was submitted by guest contributor Jason Ditz.


The latest in a long line of interviews defending NSA surveillance came from President Obama on MSNBC today, during which he insisted the NSA is doing “a very good job” of not spying on Americans.

obamaThe pre-recorded comments were taped after the leak of the NSA tracking peoples’ movements worldwide, including many Americans. Obama insisted that the NSA was doing that because of terrorism, and that without it, weapons of mass destruction would be hitting the New York subway system.

Obama went on to dismiss concerns about overseas abuses, insisting the NSA is “not constrained by laws” on foreign surveillance and can do whatever it wants.

He followed this up with promises of unspecified “reforms,” while continuing to deny any wrongdoing. His comments suggested the reforms wouldn’t involve changing any actual laws or doing anything tangible, but would rather involve asking the NSA to show more “self-restraint” in some unspecified ways.



This article is from Antiwar.com.  A friend in need is a friend indeed – and we need your help to fight this brazen state repression. We’re fighting to restore constitutional government in America – but we need your tax-deductible donation to do it. Please, make your contribution today!”

The NSA Is Watching People Watch Porn

By Michael Lotfi,

Good news: There’s no need to take nude selfies for your significant other anymore. Bad news: The NSA has got you covered! If you thought you were safe watching your computer screen in private– think again.

Yes, it’s really getting that creepy. Edward Snowden recently released another report on the NSA’s insatiable appetite for spying. According to documents exclusively obtained by the Huffington Post, the National Security Agency is gathering data on perspective radicalizers‘ pornography habits. The controversial agency is using the data to try and destroy such individuals’ credibility.

According to the report, “The document, provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, identifies six targets, all Muslims, as “exemplars” of how “personal vulnerabilities” can be learned through electronic surveillance, and then exploited to undermine a target’s credibility, reputation and authority.”

Yes, that means exactly what it sounds like. The federal government will leak, or publicly release information on your pornography habits if you cross them.

According to Jameel Jaffer, deputy legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), “Wherever you are, the NSA’s databases store information about your political views, your medical history, your intimate relationships and your activities online,” he added. “The NSA says this personal information won’t be abused, but these documents show that the NSA probably defines ‘abuse’ very narrowly.”

Perhaps most of us are okay with the NSA monitoring every move of a potential terrorist. However, the issue strikes a nerve much closer to home when we recall that the NSA has been spying on American ally, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, average American citizens, and has even broken an anti-spying pact with Great Britain to spy on British citizens.

Truth be told, the NSA knows no bounds and does not operate under the rule of law. We already know that the NSA is collecting essentially every email we send to one another. Even worse, the federal government has labeled right-wing political activists and war veterans as possible terrorists.

Brazenly, when confronted about the “right-wing terrorism” report, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano made no apologies and stood by the report.

I guess the only thing left to say is– Enjoy the show mates.

There is a growing movement called #NullifyNSA that seeks to end NSA spying. Click HERE to learn more.

Follow Michael Lotfi On Facebook & On Twitter: @MichaelLotfi

Black Box in Cars: More Spying Programs by Federal and State Governments

With car gas mileage improving and people driving less due to high gas prices, the government is looking for a new way to raise taxes for road maintenance.  Their solution involves tracking cars using a small “black box” and taxing their drivers per mile driven.  Some states, such as Oregon, have already been testing such a system for a number of years.

Black_box_2_car_IMG_0003Advocates say that a new method of generating government revenue for road maintenance is necessary.  They say it is unfair that people who drive higher gas mileage vehicles don’t have to pay as much tax money for road maintenance, simply because their cars are more fuel efficient.  The irony, of course, is that the government subsidizes “green energy” to try to prompt more people to use these sources of energy.  Hybrid cars have become increasingly popular in recent years, and now their drivers are having some benefits of their use stripped away.

People also say the black box could help the government to change traffic flow.  By taxing some streets more and some less, they could persuade people to choose some routes over others, rather than individuals simply choosing the faster or shorter route (which would also use less fuel).  Indeed many cars are already made with black boxes to help police determine exactly what happened in traffic accidents.  Some are trying to make this mandatory.

The most obvious problem with the plan is the inevitable violations of privacy which will result.  Government databases would store exactly where individual citizens went, their day-to-day routines, when they did anything, and how fast they were going at any given moment.  Such data could be used for anything, from studies to purchase by private companies to use by law enforcement.  Such widespread tracking would do to everyday life what the NSA has done to internet and phone communication.

Though hybrid cars and electric cars would be charged the same as “gas guzzlers,” many of the people who use the roads and currently pay no taxes would continue to avoid payment.  Nationwide, the government is putting hundreds of millions of dollars into building bike paths – at a cost of $5,000-$50,000/mile – but bicycles would not be taxed for this use.  Advocates claim that this would even out the cost per driver and is therefore more fair, people requiring some of the most expensive work would continue to avoid paying the tax.

Some states have proposed variations on the plan to address these concerns.  Some have said there would be no GPS device in the black boxes, though at that point there is no reason the odometer can’t simply be checked at required emissions tests.  Some have proposed simply taxing tires.  Some have allowed an “opt out” solution in which people who refused to use the black box would be charged for the average miles driven in their state.  Some say that a simple raise in the gas tax – an 18.5 cent per gallon tax which hasn’t been raised in 20 years – would be a better solution.

House Republicans stopped a $90 million federal test of the per mileage concept passed by the Senate in 2011.  It’s not surprising that the majority of people who support such a plan are urban “progressives.”  With cities being more dense than rural areas, people who live there have to drive fewer miles to get where they’re going, but they have a much lower MPG driving there.  Many use public transportation, which is already riddled with privacy violations such as surveillance cameras and trackable passes connected to credit card data.

Some libertarians seem to be in favor of the proposal, however. Adrian Moore of the Reason Foundation told the LA Times that it’s an acceptable action because “People are paying more directly into what they are getting.”

The Tea Party and ACLU, however aren’t as keen on the idea.  There are simply too many privacy violations involved, as well as this being yet another tax on American citizens who are already being crushed by new taxes, higher healthcare costs and a crippled economy.  Even when much of the 2009 stimulus went to infrastructure, much of that money was used on projects with no significant value.  There is no guarantee that higher taxes would lead to better roads.