Our latest edition of tales form the dark side begins with a legal question from Wired:
New Ruling Shows the NSA Can’t Legally Justify Its Phone Spying Anymore
The Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals said no this week to tracking your movements using data from your cell phone without a warrant when it declared that this information is constitutionally protected.
The case, United States v. Davis , is important not only because it provides substantive and procedural protections against abuse of an increasingly common and highly invasive surveillance method. It also provides support for something Christopher Sprigman and I have said before — that the government’s other “metadata” collection programs are unconstitutional.
The Davis decision, in effect, suggests that the U.S. government’s collection of all kinds of business records and transactional data — commonly called “metadata” — for law enforcement and national security purposes may also be unconstitutional.
The Washington Post raises more legal questions:
4 senators worry about NSA collection of Americans’ e-mails, phone calls
Four Democratic senators have sent a letter to the director of national intelligence expressing concerns about the scope of the collection of Americans’ e-mails and phone calls under a National Security Agency program that targets foreigners overseas.
The lawmakers, led by Jon Tester (D-Mont.), told Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr. that they were concerned by recent reports by The Washington Post and an independent executive branch panel about the surveillance.
The Post examined 160,000 communications intercepted under the program, which was authorized by Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 2008. The law does not require individualized warrants.
The Post found that “nearly half of the surveillance files . . . contained names, e-mail addresses or other details that the NSA marked as belonging to U.S. citizens or residents.”
And Wired offers opposition:
A Convicted Hacker and an Internet Icon Join Forces to Thwart NSA Spying
The internet is littered with burgeoning email encryption schemes aimed at thwarting NSA spying. Many of them are focused on solving the usability issues that have plagued complicated encryption schemes like PGP for years. But a new project called Dark Mail plans to go further: to hide your metadata.
Metadata is the pernicious transaction data involving the “To”, “From” and subject fields of email that the NSA finds so valuable for tracking communications and drawing connections between people. Generally, even when email is encrypted, metadata is not. Dark Mail ambitiously aims to revamp existing email structures to hide this data while still making the system universally compatible with existing email clients.
The project has made for an interesting pairing between Texas technologist Ladar Levison and convicted hacker Stephen Watt, whom he’s hired to help develop the code. Both have had previous battles with the government in very different ways.
From Social Science Research Network, a research summary raises troubling questions:
Government Surveillance and Internet Search Behavior
This paper uses data from Google Trends on search terms from before and after the surveillance revelations of June 2013 to analyze whether Google users’ search behavior shifted as a result of an exogenous shock in information about how closely their internet searches were being monitored by the U. S. government.
We use data from Google Trends on search volume for 282 search terms across eleven different countries. These search terms were independently rated for their degree of privacy-sensitivity along multiple dimensions.
Using panel data, our result suggest that cross-nationally, users were less likely to search using search terms that they believed might get them in trouble with the U. S. government. In the U. S., this was the main subset of search terms that were affected. However, internationally there was also a drop in traffic for search terms that were rated as personally sensitive. These results have implications for policy makers in terms of understanding the actual effects on search behavior of disclosures relating to the scale of government surveillance on the Internet and their potential effects on international competitiveness.
From The Hill, another agency, another challenge:
Ex-officials demand to see CIA report
Former top officials at the CIA want to make sure that they get a chance to see an upcoming report about the spy agency’s “enhanced interrogation techniques,” according to new reports on Saturday.
Former CIA Directors George Tenet, Porter Goss and Michael Hayden drafted a letter asking to see the Senate’s executive summary of the so-called “torture report,” which they sent to Senate Intelligence Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the New York Times reported.
The three chiefs and two former acing directors, John McLaughlin and Michael Morell, did reportedly get a chance to see the document, which reviews how controversial practices such as waterboarding were used. But many other top staffers did not.
About a dozen former officials who are named in the report were initially promised the chance to read it, according to the Associated Press. That offer was taken back on Friday, however, due to what CIA officials said was miscommunication.
More from Techdirt:
Senator Wyden Toying With The Idea Of Releasing The Senate’s CIA Torture Report
- from the the-pressure’s-on dept
Senator Ron Wyden is apparently getting tired of waiting for the White House to use up its buckets of black ink in redacting everything important in the Senate’s big torture report. He’s publicly pondering the idea of using Senate privilege to just release it himself.
As you may recall, the Senate Intelligence Committee spent years and $40 million investigating the CIA’s torture program, and the 6,000+ page report is supposedly devastating in highlighting (1) how useless the program was and (2) how far the CIA went in torturing people (for absolutely no benefit) and (3) how the CIA lied to Congress about all of this. The CIA, not surprisingly, is not too happy about the report. At all. Still, despite its protests, the Senate Intelligence Committee voted to declassify the executive summary of the report.
However, the CIA got to take first crack at figuring out what to redact, which seemed like a massive conflict of interest. Either way, the CIA apparently finally ran out of black ink in late June, and asked the White House to black out whatever else was left. The State Department has already expressed concerns that releasing anything will just anger the public (our response: probably should have thought of that before sending the CIA to torture people). And, now it appears the report is being held up due to “security” concerns.
From Motherboard, Look! Up in the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane ! It’s Fibbie Drone!:
Do the FBI’s Drones Invade Your Privacy? Sorry, That’s Private
The FBI has been flying drones since 2005, according to a trickle of documents released over the last eight months. Agents called in a small surveillance drone on a hostage situation in Alabama in February 2013, and to monitor a dog-fighting scheme in August 2011.
But despite a mandatory process designed to mitigate privacy concerns, the question of how FBI drones may be impacting Americans’ privacy rights remains unanswered.
Federal law requires the FBI to assess its own surveillance technologies for potential privacy and civil liberties snags. While these technology assessments are typically prepared for public consumption, the FBI has refused to release its privacy reviews on drones.
The E-Government Act of 2002 obliges federal agencies to conduct a privacy impact assessment (PIA) prior to deploying any information technology that collects personal information. Per Department of Justice guidelines, the PIA process ensures that privacy protections “are built into the system from the start—not after the fact,” in order to “promote trust between the public and the Department by increasing transparency of the Department’s systems and missions.”
Meanwhile, another conflict, another sanction from South China Morning Post:
EU hits Russian intelligence chiefs in new round of sanctions over Ukraine
- European Union announces broadened sanctions on Russia targeting 15 new individuals and 18 entities with asset freezes and visa bans
The European Union announced on Saturday it had widened its sanctions against Russia over Moscow’s role in conflict-torn Ukraine to include the heads of intelligence services.
The Russian foreign ministry responded later on Saturday, saying the measures put at risk international cooperation over security issues
The director of the FSB security service, Alexander Bortnikov, and the head of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service, Mikhail Fradkov are on the new list of 15 people and 18 entities targeted by an asset freeze and visa bans, the EU’s Official Journal said. Also on the list is Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov.
And from Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, mythbusters:
The evidence that shows Iron Dome is not working
In the early weeks of July, the conflict between Palestinians in Gaza and Israel flared up again, resulting in a new round of large-scale rocket attacks, launched by Hamas, operating from Gaza, against Israeli population centers. The last such large-scale rocket attacks occurred in November 2012.
Initially, the Israeli military responded to the rocket attacks with air strikes in Gaza, and with protective measures that include deployment of the Iron Dome rocket-defense system and a civil defense effort that includes an efficient system for early warning and sheltering of citizens. As of this writing, only one Israeli had died from Hamas fire, apparently from a mortar round (although that number increased with the Israeli invasion of the Gaza Strip begun late last week).
During the November 2012 conflict, a detailed review of a large number of photographs of Iron Dome interceptor contrails revealed that the rocket-defense system’s success rate was very low—as low as 5 percent or, perhaps, even less. A variety of media outlets have attributed the low casualty number to the supposed effectiveness of the Iron Dome system, quoting Israeli officials as saying it has destroyed 90 percent of the Hamas rockets it targeted. But close study of photographic and video imagery of Iron Dome engagements with Hamas rockets—both in the current conflict and in the 2012 hostilities—shows that the low casualties in Israel from artillery rocket attacks can be ascribed to Israeli civil defense efforts, rather than the performance of the Iron Dome missile defense system.
From the Associated Press, who do they think they are? The NSA?:
Turkey: 20 police arrested for illegal wiretaps
Turkey’s state-run news agency says an Istanbul court has charged 20 police officers with illegal wiretapping and ordered their arrest pending a trial.
The Anadolu Agency says 49 other officers are still waiting on Saturday to be questioned and face possible charges.
The officers were detained on July 22 in raids to their homes on suspicion of wiretapping officials, including Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
After the jump, off to Asia for the latest installment of the Games of Zones, Google’s persistent cyberstalking, cops in the Klan, and so much more. . . Continue reading