Off to the world of dark arts, trenchcoats, and national security, starting with this from the Washington Post:
Spy agencies’ attorney has fiercely defended surveillance programs revealed by Snowden
Amid the initial wave of leaks by former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, U.S. officials arranged closed-door briefings with lawmakers in a bid to contain the damage. As tensions rose in a session with members of the House of Representatives, Robert S. Litt, the intelligence community’s top lawyer, showed his pique:
“Well, you’re the ones who passed it,” he said, referring to the law being used to collect the phone records of virtually every U.S. citizen. “And if you don’t like it,” he added, according to participants, “you can always repeal it.”
Meant to quiet the crowd, the remark instead triggered hostile applause among members inclined to take Litt’s dare — a reaction that underscored how rapidly the political terrain was shifting for spy agencies and the level of antagonism their attorney could provoke.
Techdirt covers rollback:
NSA Goes From Saying Bulk Metadata Collection ‘Saves Lives’ To ‘Prevented 54 Attacks’ To ‘Well, It’s A Nice Insurance Policy’
- from the this-is-why-no-one-trusts-them dept
Want to know why no one trusts anything NSA officials and their defenders have to say any more? When the bulk metadata collection was first revealed, those defenders went on and on about how the program “saved countless lives” and was instrumental in stopping terrorist attacks. Some skeptics then asked what terrorist attacks, and we were told “around 50″ though details weren’t forthcoming. Eventually, we were told that the real number was “54 terrorist events” (note: not attacks) and a review of them later revealed that basically none of them were legitimate. There was one “event” prevented via the program on US soil, and it was a taxi driver in San Diego sending some money to a terrorist group in Somalia, rather than an actual terrorist attack.
Businessweek does it on the cheap:
A Month of Surveillance by GPS Is up to 6,875 Times Cheaper Than Using People
When the U.S. Supreme Court said two years ago that hooking a GPS device onto someone’s car to track his movements for a month is unconstitutional, the FBI acknowledged that it had about 3,000 such devices installed around the country. Presumably, the agency would have to go back to trailing these people in unmarked cars. A paper published by two prominent privacy researchers on Thursday in the Yale Law Journal puts some numbers behind the obvious conclusion that doing so would be nearly impossible.
Kevin Bankston, policy director of the New America Foundation’s Open Technology Institute, and Ashkan Soltani, an independent researcher, quantified the per-hour costs of following someone around using various techniques. In order to do the work of those 3,000 GPS devices, the FBI would have to devote every single one of its special agents to surveillance 24 hours a day, and then go out and hire an additional 1,215.
The point of this thought exercise is to solve a question that privacy scholars have been mulling since the Supreme Court said in the 2012 United States v. Jones case that GPS surveillance amounted to a violation of the Fourth Amendment. It’s legal for the police to follow a suspect’s movements in public, but at some point automated surveillance fundamentally changes the equation. A previous Supreme Court ruling has established that putting a beeper on someone’s car, which allows two people to do the work of five people, is legal. You’ve crossed the line once you’ve put a GPS tracker on a car. But where, exactly, is that line?
TheLocal.no covers spooky phone-ys:
Britain lobbied to weaken security on GSM phones
One of the men who helped develop the GSM mobile standard has told Aftenposten that British intelligence probably lobbied to weaken security so that they could eavesdrop on calls.
“I was told by a British delegate that the British secret services wanted to weaken the security so they could eavesdrop more easily,” Thomas Haug, a former Ericsson engineer and one of the main architects of GSM, told the paper.
No less than four engineers involved in the GSM project in the late 1980s told the paper that negotiators from Britain, and possibly other countries, had fought against the 128-bit encryption they had originally wanted.
“They wanted a key length of 48 bit. We were very surprised,” Jan Arild Audestad, from Norway’s Telenor, said. “The West Germans protested because they wanted a stronger encryption to prevent spying from East Germany. The result was an effective key length of 54 bits.”
RT hits the road:
License to kill? British spies to be authorized to break speed limit
Pedestrian safety is set to take a back seat to national security as British intelligence officers will be provided a free pass to zoom through zebra crossings and ignore red lights, according to new motoring laws.
Hollywood car-chase scenes, James Bond-style, may become a regular occurrence on the streets of Britain thanks to an overhaul of the national motoring law, which Transport minister, Robert Goodwill, is scheduled to announce on Monday.
The new law will allow MI5 and MI6 agents to go through red lights and ignore road markings – much the same as police officers, fire fighters and emergency medical crews – in the name of “protecting national security”.
The Independent lodges a complaint:
Revealed: How gangs used the Freemasons to corrupt police
- Gangsters able to recruit police officers through secret society, says investigation for Scotland Yard
Secret networks of Freemasons have been used by organised crime gangs to corrupt the criminal justice system, according to a bombshell Metropolitan Police report leaked to The Independent.
Operation Tiberius, written in 2002, found underworld syndicates used their contacts in the controversial brotherhood to “recruit corrupted officers” inside Scotland Yard, and concluded it was one of “the most difficult aspects of organised crime corruption to proof against”.
The report – marked “Secret” – found serving officers in East Ham east London who were members of the Freemasons attempted to find out which detectives were suspected of links to organised crime from other police sources who were also members of the society.
Shameless pandering, via the Tribune Washington Bureau:
Hollywood figures spied for CIA, book asserts
It’s well-known that Hollywood loves a good spy story. But what is also true, according to a new memoir by a former senior CIA official, is that movie makers regularly do some real-life spying.
“The CIA has long had a special relationship with the entertainment industry, devoting considerable attention to fostering relationships with Hollywood movers and shakers – studio executives, producers, directors, big-name actors,” John Rizzo, the former acting CIA general counsel, wrote in his new book, “Company Man: Thirty Years of Controversy and Crisis in the CIA.”
People might assume that since Hollywood leans to the political left, the CIA’s relationships “would be with the sort of conservative picket of Hollywood,” Rizzo said in an interview. “Well, that’s not true. People one would normally associate with liberal causes have assisted CIA.”
TheLocal.se, secure, sorta:
PM insists Sweden’s defence is strong enough
Just over one quarter of the Swedish public has faith in Sweden’s defence policy, new figures show, but the prime minister insisted at a conference on Sunday that the military strength was adequate.
Twenty-six percent of Swedes say they have a “high” or “quite high” level of confidence in Sweden’s defence policy, the annual public survey from the Civil Contingencies Agency (Myndigheten för samhällsskydd och beredskap – MSB) revealed.
This figure is down from 35 percent in 2012 and 40 percent in 2011. Meanwhile, 52 percent of Swedes say they have low or quite low confidence in the policy.
The survey prompted a reaction from Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, speaking at the annual defence and security conference Folk och Försvar in Sälen, who said that the biggest threat to Sweden is not military in nature, but was more likely to be a cyber or terrorist threat.
The Express Tribune counts bodies:
At least 1,623 militants killed in US drone strikes: Report
According to ‘Drone Wars Pakistan: Analysis,’ a report by the think tank New America Foundation, 370 US drone strikes have occurred in Pakistan since 2004 with the latest strike on December 25.
The report also gives a breakdown of the number casualties of the drone strikes. The year in which the most number of people who were killed in the strikes is 2010 as seen in the graph below. There is a downward trend of the drone strikes since 2010.
The total number of people who were killed in these strikes is between 2,080-3,428 people. Of these, 1,623-2,787 are reportedly militants and 258 – 307 civilians.
TheLocal.de has the latest:
German security contact dies in US drone attack
A German man has reportedly been killed in a US drone attack in the border region between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Although a convert to Islam, he was said to be in contact with German security officials.
The man, identified only as Patrick K. from Offenbach in Hesse, was not only a convert to Islam, he had also been in touch with the German authorities for years, the Süddeutsche Zeitung reported on Monday.
Although he was killed in the drone attack on February 16th 2012, his death has only now come to light, the paper said. Its reporting, in partnership with the NDR broadcaster, suggested the 27-year-old had moved to the Waziristan region with his wife, thought to be a Pakistani national.
After the jump, the latest Asia security/zone/militarization crises, censorship in India, and a major embarrassment for Bill Gates. . . Continue reading