We’ve been a bit under the weather, so today’s tales form the world of bugs, hacks [digital and political], corporate buccaneering, and military, geographic, and historical crises begins with a panopticon obstruction from the Oakland Tribune:
Oakland council sours on surveillance system
In a sharp reversal, council members made clear early Wednesday they would no longer support moving forward with an intelligence center that has the capacity to conduct surveillance on Oakland streets.
Twice last year, the City Council voted to support the Domain Awareness Center — a joint project with the Port of Oakland that was billed as helping police solve crimes, first responders react to emergencies, and the port protect itself from terrorist attacks.
But after further revelations of federal surveillance programs, threats of lawsuits from First Amendment advocates, and unsatisfactory attempts by city officials to address privacy concerns, a majority of council members said the center should not include any tools that could be used to spy on residents.
The full extent of the council’s reversal won’t be known until it revisits the issue on March 4. Council members did indicate that they would support the center to be used for its original purpose — to safeguard the port from attack.
From USA TODAY, American opinion takes a turn:
Poll: China, not Iran, now USA’s top enemy
- North Korea rises to second place, with Iran, in Gallup survey. Russia is third.
China, not Iran, is now America’s No. 1 enemy, according to a new Gallup Poll.
The Chinese hold that distinction primarily because Americans have spread their negative views across several perceived threats — Iran (16%), North Korea (16%), Russia (9%), Iraq (7%), Afghanistan (5%) and Syria (3%) — while holding relatively constant in their mistrust of China (20%) over the past few years.
The poll, reported Thursday, also found that a slight majority (52%) sees China’s growing economic power as a “critical threat” to “the vital interests” of the United States in the next decade, while 46% cite such a threat from the country’s military.
From The Guardian, the disappointing but unsurprising decision about the partner of a principal Edward Snowden leak reporter:
David Miranda detention at Heathrow airport was lawful, high court rules
- Detention of former Guardian journalist’s partner was justified by ‘very pressing’ interests of national security, judges say
Three high court judges have dismissed a challenge that David Miranda, the partner of the former Guardian journalist, Glenn Greenwald, was unlawfully detained under counter-terrorism powers for nine hours at Heathrow airport last August.
The judges accepted that Miranda’s detention and the seizure of computer material was “an indirect interference with press freedom” but said this was justified by legitimate and “very pressing” interests of national security.
The three judges, Lord Justice Laws, Mr Justice Ouseley and Mr Justice Openshaw, concluded that Miranda’s detention at Heathrow under schedule 7 of the Terrorism 2000 Act was lawful, proportionate and did not breach European human rights protections of freedom of expression.
Some consequences, also from The Guardian:
The David Miranda judgment has chilling implications for press freedom, race relations and basic justice
- The interference of Britains’ security services is shocking, but it’s also vital that we shed light on the murky reality of schedule 7
One person’s freedom fighter may be another’s terrorist, but David Miranda is very clearly neither. Yet he was detained at Heathrow airport for nine hours under schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000. That the high court has now found his detention to be lawful is disappointing to say the least.
If someone travelling as part of journalistic work can be lawfully detained like this – questioned for hours without a lawyer present, his electronic equipment confiscated and cloned and all without the merest suspicion of wrongdoing required – then clearly something has gone wrong with the law.
We’ve been here before. Schedule 7 suffers the same glaring flaws as the old section 44 counter-terrorism power that also allowed stop and search without suspicion. Such laws leave themselves wide open to discriminatory misuse: section 44 never once led to a terrorism conviction but was used to stop people like journalist Pennie Quinton. In a significant victory, Liberty took her case to the European court of human rights and the power was declared unlawful.
Meanwhile, parliamentary questions remain, via the London Telegraph:
Inquiry into phone and email snoopers
- Sir Anthony May, the Interception of Communications Commissioner, says number of requests last year for access to people’s private data – around 500,000 – was “too large”
Britain’s intelligence and law enforcement agencies are facing an inquiry from Whitehall’s snooping watchdog into whether they are collecting too many private telephone and internet records, The Telegraph can disclose.
The investigation by Sir Anthony May, the Interception of Communications Commissioner, will start this year and comes after he told MPs he was worried that the security services were making too many requests for access to people’s private data.
In evidence to the Home Affairs select committee, Sir Anthony suggested that the number of requests last year – around 500,000 – was “too large”.
NSA Official Warned About Threat 17 Years Before Snowden
Seventeen years before Edward Snowden began releasing secret documents on U.S. electronic spying, an analyst with the National Security Agency foresaw just such a threat.
“In their quest to benefit from the great advantages of networked computer systems, the U.S. military and intelligence communities have put almost all of their classified information ‘eggs’ into one very precarious basket: computer system administrators,” the unidentified analyst wrote in a 1996 special edition of Cryptologic Quarterly, an NSA magazine.
Despite the warning, the NSA remained vulnerable. When Snowden’s first disclosures became public last year, some of the agencies’ computers were still equipped with USB ports where thumb drives could be used to copy files, according to a National Public Radio report in September.
Snowden was a systems analyst working as a contractor with Booz Allen Hamilton Holding Corp. (BAH) at an NSA regional signals intelligence facility in Hawaii when he exploited his administrative access to copy thousands of top-secret documents before fleeing to Hong Kong and then Moscow.
The McClatchy Washington Bureau has a deal:
Online company hawking Snowden action figure
He’s been called a low-down traitor and a noble whistleblower, and now there’s a new label for fugitive NSA leaker Edward Snowden: action figure.
An Oregon-based company, Thatsmyface.com, is offering Snowden’s “lifelike head mounted on a 12-inch fully-articulated action figure body with detailed pre-fitted clothes.” Clothing options include casual, business suit or “Indiana Jones.” Perhaps a spinoff line will include a Moscow airport-terminal play set?
Each doll is $99, with proceeds reportedly going to Freedom of the Press Foundation. (The foundation told news agencies that it hadn’t been contacted about the project.)
The website is here, including this video of the Snowden doll alongside their Julian Assange action figure:
And another pair of small victories from the ACLU Blog of Rights:
State High Courts Realize It’s Not 1986 Anymore, Broaden Privacy Protections
Technology in the digital age has changed the way the government conducts surveillance against targets, and the law must change accordingly. So ruled two separate state supreme courts in decisions that take on the so-called ‘third-party doctrine,’ an outdated legal precedent that serves as the foundation for the federal government’s defense of NSA and FBI bulk records surveillance programs.
In two state supreme court rulings published Tuesday, jurists in Massachusetts and Hawaii created new space for the expansion of privacy rights under their state constitutions. The Hawaiian justices found that, as technology changes, the law must change with it—and state courts have a role to play in pushing legislatures and federal courts to adapt more quickly. Massachusetts’ high court did just that, by limiting the government’s authority to obtain without warrants information held about us by third parties. Specifically, Massachusetts justices ruled 5-2 that police must obtain a probable cause warrant in order to obtain two weeks or more of cell site location information from our telecommunications companies.
The Intercept [new venue of Greenwald & Co.] lays the blame:
Judge Tosses Muslim Spying Suit Against NYPD, Says Any Damage Was Caused by Reporters Who Exposed It
A federal judge in Newark has thrown out a lawsuit against the New York Police Department for spying on New Jersey Muslims, saying if anyone was at fault, it was the Associated Press for telling people about it.
In his ruling Thursday, U.S. District Court Judge William J. Martini simultaneously demonstrated the willingness of the judiciary to give law enforcement alarming latitude in the name of fighting terror, greenlighted the targeting of Muslims based solely on their religious beliefs, and blamed the media for upsetting people by telling them what their government was doing.
The NYPD’s clandestine spying on daily life in Muslim communities in the region — with no probable cause, and nothing to show for it — was exposed in a Pulitzer-Prize winning series of stories by the AP. The stories described infiltration and surveillance of at least 20 mosques, 14 restaurants, 11 retail stores, two grade schools, and two Muslim student associations in New Jersey alone.
Well, gollleeee! From the Washington Post:
U.S. intelligence agencies can’t justify why they use so many contractors
In the wake of last year’s NSA revelations, many agencies have been reviewing their contracting policies. But few people have a good grasp on just how many contractors the government employs. What’s worse, the country’s eight civilian intelligence agencies often can’t sufficiently explain what they use those contractors for, according to a Government Accountability Office report.
Every year, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence is supposed to count how many contractors serve the intelligence community (IC). Due to differences in the way intelligence agencies define and assess their workers, however, the data are inconsistent and in some places incomplete. Out of hundreds of agency records, for example, GAO found that almost a fifth lacked enough paperwork to prove how much a contractor was paid. Another fifth of the records were found to have either over-reported or under-reported the actual cost of the contract work.
But the GAO reserves its harshest judgment for the agencies that couldn’t fully explain why they resorted to contractors in the first place.
From Deutsche Welle, attempting the ol’ pot/kettle maneuver:
‘Not shocked if Germany spied on us’
Americans would not be shocked if they found out that German intelligence services monitored them, former CIA Director John McLaughlin tells DW. He also explains why he feels mass surveillance is justified.
RT goes for the help:
No spying on friends: NSA bugs Merkel aides instead of chancellor
In the wake of President Obama’s promise to stop spying on German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the US intelligence has switched its attention to her top government officials, a German newspaper reported.
Washington’s relations with Germany were strained last year after revelations that the US National Security Agency (NSA) was conducting mass surveillance in Germany and even tapped the mobile phone of Chancellor Merkel.
Facing the German outrage, President Barack Obama pledged that the US would stop spying on the leader of the European country, which is among the closest and most powerful allies of America.
After the promise was made, the NSA has stepped up surveillance of senior German officials, German newspaper Bild am Sonntag (BamS) reported on Sunday.
Seeking a change with The Hill:
Dems press Holder on secret FBI letters
Two House Democrats are calling on Attorney General Eric Holder to make changes to secret letters that the FBI uses to get information.
In a letter on Wednesday, the lawmakers demanded answers about the FBI’s National Security Letters, which do not require a court order and require communications companies and financial institutions to turn over details about their customers.
“This is deeply troubling and, therefore, addressing the proper use of NSLs must be part of any meaningful reform of government surveillance authorities,” Reps. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) and David Cicilline (D-R.I.) said in a joint statement accompanying the letter.
“We look forward to working with the Administration as we find a path forward on this issue.
Aviation Week fesses up:
USAF Space Chief Outs Classified Spy Sat Program
The U.S. Air Force is planning to launch two new and previously classified space situational awareness satellites into geosynchronous orbit this year, according to Gen. William Shelton, who leads Air Force Space Command.
The spacecraft were developed covertly by the Air Force and Orbital Sciences under the Geosynchronous Space Situational Awareness Program (GSAP), according to service officials.
The first two spacecraft will be boosted this year with two more to follow in 2016 to prevent a gap in surveillance on activities in the geosynchronous belt, Shelton said at the annual Air Force Association Air Warfare Symposium in Orlando. This is where commercial satellite communications are based, as well as critical national security assets such as the Space-Based Infrared System (Sbirs) early missile warning system and Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) constellation designed to provide jam-proof communications for the president even during a nuclear event.
“One cheap shot” against Sbirs or AEHF would be “devastating” to the Pentagon’s capabilities, Shelton said of a potential anti-satellite attack.
From the London Daily Mail, guess who’s listening:
Head of NSA’s Korea division charged with beating adopted son, three, to death. But he INSISTS the boy’s injuries were suffered in fall and his wife believes him
- Brian O’Callaghan and his wife adopted the boy from Korea in October
- O’Callaghan told police the boy fell in the shower two days before he died
- Authorities describe the boy’s injuries as being ‘from head to toe’
- Investigators believe O’Callaghan beat the boy while his wife was out of town
- The autopsy and other medical tests offer conflicting causes of the boy’s death
- O’Callaghan is an Iraq War veteran who now works as the NSA’s Korea division chief
- O’Callaghan’s wife and other families say he is incapable of hurting a child
The National Security Agency’s Korea division chief has been charged with murder in the alleged beating death of his 3-year-old son who he and his wife adopted from Korea just months before his tragic death.
Brian O’Callaghan, a decorated Iraq War veteran who was awarded the Marine Corps Achievement Medal for his part in a gun battle that helped lead to the rescue of captured soldier Jessica Lynch, is accused of beating his adopted son, Hyunsu, so badly that he ultimately died two days after the alleged beating.
From BBC News, a busted Murdoch operative with a friend in a very high place:
Phone-hacking trial: Blair ‘advised Brooks before arrest’
Tony Blair gave advice to newspaper executive Rebekah Brooks on handling the phone-hacking scandal six days before her arrest, a court has heard.
The court heard Mrs Brooks spoke to the former prime minister and passed on what he had said to James Murdoch, then News International executive chairman.
In an email, she said Mr Blair had said he was “available” to her, James and Rupert Murdoch as an “unofficial adviser”, the Old Bailey heard.
Mrs Brooks denies any wrongdoing.
From Ars Technica, hack attack:
Iranians hacked Navy network for four months? Not a surprise.
- NMCI, now being phased out, is the world’s biggest intranet, and its biggest target.
In 2012, Iranian hackers managed to penetrate the US Navy’s unclassified administrative network, the Navy Marine Corps Intranet. While the attack was disclosed last September, the scale of it was not—the attack gave hackers access to the NMCI for nearly four months, according to an updated report by The Wall Street Journal.
Vice Adm. Michael Rogers, who is now President Barack Obama’s choice to replace Gen. Keith Alexander as both NSA director and commander of the US Cyber Command, led the US Fleet Cyber Command when the attack came to light. Rogers’ response to the attack may be a factor in his confirmation hearings.
Iranian hackers attacked NMCI in August of 2012, using a vulnerability in a public-facing website to gain initial access to the network. Because of a flaw in the security of the network the server was hosted on, attackers were able to use the server to gain access to NMCI’s private network and spread to other systems. While the vulnerability that allowed the attackers to gain access in the first place was discovered and closed by October, spyware installed by the attackers remained in place until November.
RT raises the bar:
German telecom firm to roll out text, voice encryption app
Deutsche Telekom plans to launch an app for smartphones that encrypts voice and text messages. The move is the latest step taken by the firm to address users’ privacy concerns following NSA whistleblower, Edward Snowden’s, mass surveillance revelations.
The cloud-based app will encrypt each voice or text exchange between two devices using a unique code, Reuters cites Deutsche Telekom as saying in a statement.
The firm will roll the app out at Cebit – the world’s largest and most international computer expo – in Hanover, Germany, next month. It remains unclear when it will be available for download, though versions for Android smartphones will be released first, followed by a version for iOS smartphones. The product will be made available to business customers.
And Xinhua calls for a deal:
EU, Brazil to enhance cyber security cooperation
The European Union and Brazil have agreed to launch a new EU-Brazil dialogue on international cyber policy at the annual EU-Brazil summit held here on Monday.
Addressing a press conference, President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy said both the EU and Brazil share the common interest of protecting a “free and open” Internet, which has spurred tremendous economic and social progress.
“At the same time, we will continue to enhance data protection and global privacy standards,” he said.
EU and Brazil have agreed to have the first meeting on cyber security take place during the conference on Internet governance, which Brazil will host in Sao Paulo on April 23-24.
From Sky News, recycling:
US Airlines Warned Over Possible Shoe Bombs
Concerns are raised for the second time in less than three weeks over possible attempts to smuggle explosives onto planes.
Airlines flying to the United States have been warned to be on alert for explosives hidden in shoes.
It is the second time in less than three weeks the US government has raised concerns over possible attempts to smuggle explosives onto commercial jetliners.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) declined to discuss specific details about the warning but said it regularly shares relevant information with domestic and international partners.
ANSA keeps the secret keepers safe:
Italian spy agency officials acquitted in CIA snatch
- State secrecy invoked in extraordinary rendition case
Italy’s supreme court on Monday acquitted the former head and the No.2 of the Italian secret service agency, Nicolo’ Pollari and Marco Mancini, as well as three agents, for involvement in the CIA’s extraordinary rendition of Muslim cleric Hassan Mustafa Omar Nasr from Milan in 2003.
The Cassation Court said sentences could not be upheld due to State secrecy.
Pollari and Mancini were respectively appealing a 10-year and a nine-year sentence at a lower court for allowing the CIA to commit “a grave violation of national sovereignty” when they snatched Nasr, also known as Abu Omar, an Islamist suspected of recruiting jihadi fighters.
And from Al Jazeera America, the expected:
Turkey increases control of Internet
- President Abdullah Gul signs law allowing telecom authority to block websites without a court order
Turkish President Abdullah Gul approved a new law Tuesday which critics said aims to increase government controls over the Internet.
The legislation, approved by Parliament earlier this month, allows the telecommunications authority to block websites without a court decision. It also requires Internet providers to keep records of users’ activities for two years and make them available to authorities.
The move is seen by critics of Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan’s critics as an authoritarian response to a corruption inquiry shaking his government and a bid to stop leaks from circulating online.
SecurityWeek spots another player:
US Man Sues Ethiopian Government for Spyware Infection
- US Man Sues Ethiopia for Cyber Snooping
A lawsuit filed on Tuesday accuses Ethiopia of infecting a US man’s computer with spyware as part of a campaign to gather intelligence about those critical of the government.
“We have clear evidence of a foreign government secretly infiltrating an American’s computer in America, listening to his calls and obtaining access to a wide swath of his private life,” said attorney Nate Cardozo of Internet rights group Electronic Freedom Foundation.
“The current Ethiopian government has a well-documented history of human rights violations against anyone it sees as political opponents.”
And from thinkSPAIN, the game of zones, European style:
UK to lodge formal complaint against Spain following ‘illegal incursion’ into Gibraltarian waters
BRITISH Foreign Office officials have announced they will make a complaint ‘to the highest-possible authority’ after a fresh incursion into Gibraltar’s waters by a Spanish Naval ship.
The UK’s Royal Navy was carrying out military sky-diving exercises in the sea off the Rock on Tuesday when the Spanish ship SPS Vigia approached the area, heightening the tension between London and Madrid over the concrete blocks placed in the sea in Gibraltarian territory to create an artificial reef, which the Spanish government insists are within the seas belonging to the Bay of Algeciras (Cádiz).
The Royal Navy continued with its parachuting practice despite the incursion, says the Foreign Office, which says it intends to present a ‘formal protest’ at the ‘highest level’ against the Spanish government.
After the jump, the latest on the rapidly escalating Asian military escalation, border-claiming, historical, revanchist, and other security crises — plus social media lie detection, punishing proof of insecurity, felonious pseudospooking sexpionage, an Internet ban defeated, and a very serious worm in the Apple. . . Continue reading