Today’s tales of the worlds of espionage, laws, and the current crop of Asian zonal, militarization, and security crises [plus more] opens with a question from the ACLU Blog of Rights:
Who Did the NSA’s Illegal Spying Put in Jail?
Last week, the ACLU joined a constitutional challenge to the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 (FAA), the statute that allows the NSA to engage in dragnet surveillance of Americans’ international phone calls and emails. With the Federal Defenders Office, we filed a motion on behalf of Jamshid Muhtorov, the first criminal defendant to receive notice that he had been monitored under this controversial spying law. But Mr. Muhtorov received this notice only after the Department of Justice (DOJ) abandoned its previous policy of concealing FAA surveillance in criminal cases — a policy that violated both the statute itself and defendants’ due process rights.
For criminal defendants and for the country, it’s good news that the government is reviewing criminal cases in which FAA evidence has played a role. But the FAA is just one surveillance program among many. And given what we now know about the DOJ’s unlawful notice policy, we should be asking whether the government has concealed in criminal prosecutions its use of other mass surveillance programs.
VOA News offers a claim:
NSA Says Snowden Leaks Put US Soldiers at Risk
Top U.S. intelligence officials say leaks by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden have put members of all branches of the U.S. military and other U.S. personnel abroad at risk, and that the Pentagon has had to make costly changes. The officials testified to a congressional panel about worldwide threats to U.S. national security.
Defense Intelligence Agency Chief Michael Flynn told the House Intelligence Committee that revelations by Edward Snowden, who is now living in Russia , have put the lives of U.S. service members in danger, and that the Pentagon is making adjustments.
‘Everything that he touched, we assume that he took, stole,’ he said. ‘So we assume the worst case in how we are reviewing all of the Defense Department’s actions, events, exercises around the world.’
Techdirt delivers a threat:
Congress Warns DOJ That If It Doesn’t Support NSA Reform Plan, It Won’t Renew Key Patriot Act Provision
- from the get-your-act-together dept
While the USA Freedom Act isn’t perfect, it is one bill in Congress that has a lot of support and will fix many problems with the current NSA overreach. Much more needs to be done, but the USA Freedom Act is a good starting point. And yet, the Obama administration and his Justice Department have yet to take a public stand on the bill, and that seems to be annoying plenty of folks in Congress. At the recent Judiciary Committee hearings, Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, the original author of the Patriot Act and Section 215, made it abundantly clear that the DOJ/NSA’s interpretation of his bill was simply incorrect and that they were abusing the system. As the sponsor of the USA Freedom Act to fix this misinterpretation, he pointed out that if the DOJ doesn’t agree to support it, there’s a good chance that Congress simply won’t renew the provisions in Section 215 at all. Section 215, of course, is the part that has been misinterpreted by the DOJ, the FISA court, the NSA and the FBI to pretend it authorizes the collection of every phone record. In short, the message from Congress is: work with us to reform things, or we’ll pull the authority altogether. Of course, some of us think that pulling the authority altogether might be a better long term solution.
McClatchy Washington Bureau resists:
Some in Congress see just one option for NSA spying: Scrap it
“Congress never intended to allow bulk collections,” said Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., author of the 2001 Patriot Act.
Debate is intensifying in Congress over whether to scrap the massive data collection effort or to modify it. There’s widespread skepticism among both parties over President Barack Obama’s plans for the program’s future and a desire for Congress to curb the National Security Agency.
“In my district, and many others, NSA has become not a three-letter word but a four-letter word,” Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., said at a Tuesday hearing on the surveillance effort.
Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., said Congress needs to end the bulk collection.
“Consensus is growing that it is largely ineffective, inconsistent with our national values, and inconsistent with the statute as this committee wrote it,” said Conyers, the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee.
BBC News has a hack attack:
Snowden leaks: GCHQ ‘attacked Anonymous’ hackers
GCHQ disrupted “hacktivist” communications by using one of their own techniques against them, according to the latest Edward Snowden leaks.
Documents from the whistle-blower published by NBC indicate UK cyberspies used a denial of service attack (DoS) in 2011 to force a chatroom used by the Anonymous collective offline.
A spokeswoman for GCHQ said all the agency’s activities were authorised and subject to rigorous oversight. But others say it raises concerns.
Dr Steven Murdoch, a security researcher at the University of Cambridge, said using a DoS attack to overwhelm a computer server with traffic would have risked disrupting other services.
NSA spy program hurting U.S. vendors
- NSA reforms needed to help restore worldwide trust in U.S. tech industry, trade group says
The U.S. Congress needs to help restore global trust in the nation’s technology vendors by reining in surveillance programs at the National Security Agency, an industry representative told lawmakers Tuesday.
Recent revelations about NSA surveillance programs have created a “misimpression” about the U.S. technology industry and are eroding trust in those companies, said Dean Garfield, president and CEO of the Information Technology Industry Council (ITI). The furor over the NSA surveillance programs could lead to lost income in the tens of billions of dollars for U.S. cloud providers, and many U.S. tech vendors are already hearing complaints, he said.
The U.S. needs a “public policy course correction” on NSA surveillance, Garfield told the U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee.
“Made in the U.S.A. is no longer a badge of honor, but a basis for questioning the integrity and the independence of U.S.-made technology,” Garfield said. “Many countries are using the NSA’s disclosures as a basis for accelerating their policies around forced localization and protectionism.”
A case of outsourcing from DutchNews.nl:
The Netherlands, not USA, gathered info from 1.8 million phone calls
The Dutch security service was responsible for collecting information from about 1.8 million telephone calls and text messages at the end of 2012 and in early 2013, ministers have told parliament.
Home affairs minister Ronald Plasterk told MPs in October the Americans were behind the tapping, after the revelations were first published in German magazine Spiegel.
However, in a two paragraph briefing on Wednesday, Plasterk and defence minister Jeanine Hennis said the information had been gathered by the Netherlands itself.
‘The details were collected in the interest of counter-terrorism activities and military operations abroad,’ the briefing stated. The information was then ‘correctly shared with the US’.
RT seeks an end:
‘Assange won’t come’: Swedish MPs urge end to whistleblower case
Swedish MPs are calling on the prosecutors in the Julian Assange sexual assault case to travel to London and question the WikiLeaks founder at the Ecuadorian embassy, where he has been taking refuge since June 2012.
The members of the Swedish parliament say investigators should accept that Assange will not be leaving the embassy voluntarily.
“It is in the interest of everyone involved in this process that the prosecutor reaches a conclusion to either file charges or dismiss the case, and it is obvious that Assange will not come to Sweden,” Staffan Danielsson, from the Center Party, said, as quoted by the Times.
Anne Ramberg, the secretary-general of the Swedish Bar Association, said “You have to be a bit pragmatic to put an end to such a circus. They should have headed to London to interrogate him.”
However, Anders Perklev, the Swedish prosecutor-general, was convinced the lawmakers are interfering with the judicial matters.
A case of dilatory dronal deliberations from Medill News Service:
U.S. lags in putting drones to commercial use, FAA should move faster, advocates say
The U.S. is lagging on commercial use of drones, manufacturers and scientists told the Senate science committee, but several senators said they want to be sure the unmanned aerial vehicles won’t be used to spy on Americans.
“These 20th century eyes in the skies shouldn’t become spies in the skies,” said Sen. Edward Markey, D-Mass., who held up an inexpensive drone equipped with two cameras at the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee meeting.
But privacy concerns aren’t a reason to limit the commercial use of drones in the U.S., Missy Cummings, director of the Humans and Autonomy Laboratory at Duke University’s Institute for Brain Sciences, told the committee. She said unmanned aerial vehicles — UAVs — are only one type of technology that can be used for surveillance. There are small bug robots that can be slipped into bags, and ground technologies like cars will soon have cameras inside and outside, she said.
The real problem is the government is lacking experts with understanding of the technology, Cummings said.
Droning on some more with Deutsche Welle:
Drone usage on the rise, China drives Asia military spending increase says IISS report
Drones are becoming increasingly common in warfare as their operating costs go down, according to a new report by the IISS think tank. It added that China is driving an increase in military spending in Asia.
The use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), or drones, is expected to increase in the future, the military aerospace expert for the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), Doug Barrie, said on Wednesday.
According to the IISS’ annual Military Balance report, as drone usage increases, the legal and ethical questions they raise come to the fore. One key issue is whether attacks on people can be justified as self-defense.
The report said that lethal strikes will be carried out by humans piloting the drones because handing that power over to a machine “will remain a threshold legislatures and the public will likely be unwilling to cross.”
While drones have been almost exclusively a tool used by Western militaries, smaller and cheaper technology has opened up the market to private companies and emerging economies.
A a major dronal move from the Yomiuri Shimbun:
U.S. curbs drone strikes in Pakistan
The Obama administration has sharply curtailed drone strikes in Pakistan after a request from the government there for restraint as it pursues peace talks with the Pakistani Taliban, according to U.S. officials.
“That’s what they asked for, and we didn’t tell them no,” one U.S. official said. The administration indicated that it will still carry out strikes against senior Al-Qaida targets, if they become available, and move to thwart any direct, imminent threat to U.S. persons.
Concern about Pakistani political sensitivities provides one explanation for the absence of strikes since December, the longest pause in the CIA’s drone campaign since a six-week lull in 2011, after an errant U.S. air assault killed 24 Pakistani soldiers at a border post, triggering a diplomatic crisis.
The current pause follows a November strike that killed Pakistani Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud just days before an initial attempt at peace talks was scheduled to begin. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s government accused the United States of trying to sabotage the talks, and the Taliban canceled the meeting.
And a dronal secret revealad from BBC News:
Top secret UK drone Taranis makes first flight
A top secret unmanned drone, said to be the most advanced aircraft ever built in Britain, has carried out its first successful test flights.
It looks like something out of a science fiction movie. But it is also a window into the future of warfare.
Some will view it as an amazing piece of engineering. But not everyone will like what they see.
Taranis – named after the Celtic god of thunder – was first unveiled BAE Systems in 2010.
On to more local Bib Brotherly incarnations, first from MintPress News:
Privacy Advocates Gearing Up To Sue Oakland Over City “Spy” Center
The city says the goal is to monitor 24/7 for crime and to improve emergency response times, but privacy advocates and residents have serious doubts about that claim.
The Oakland Privacy Working Group, a coalition of civil liberties advocates, announced on Monday it would file a taxpayer lawsuit against the city of Oakland, Calif., if city officials continued to construct the Department of Homeland Security-funded Domain Awareness Center, which it says violates the First and Fourth Amendment rights of Oakland residents.
Specifically, the group says it is prepared to file a lawsuit to prevent the City of Oakland from awarding a contract to a company to dismantle all of the work that was completed under Phase 1, which involved adding and connecting computers, TVs, monitors, etc. But most importantly, the group says it wants to prevent Phase 2 from being implemented, which is when the surveillance system goes live.
Oakland Privacy says two other groups are also working on the lawsuit, but their identities have not been made public yet. Brian Hofer, media contact for Oakland Privacy, says the groups will remain anonymous until a lawsuit is actually filed.
And across the Oakland city limits with East Bay Citizen:
Alameda Chief on License Plate Readers: ‘I’m not Trying to Spy on Anyone’
The often insular community of Alameda may soon have Automated License Plate Readers rapidly scanning automobiles passing through the island city. However, critics of the police department’s plan say a recently released draft policy is far too vague and leaves wide gaps for potential abuse by police on civil liberties. Others questioned the proposed usefulness of retaining information obtained from the readers for up to one year.
During a public forum on the issue Monday night in Alameda, Police Chief Paul Rolleri provided an often candid glimpse into his department’s mindset when it comes to utilizing the controversial and relatively new technology, which employs scanning devices attached to patrol cars that rapidly scan thousands of license plates on public streets. Rolleri says Automated License Plate Readers (ALPR) simply capture plate numbers without any corresponding information such as the name and address of the owner. Plate numbers are then matched against a “hot list” of vehicles that may have been recently stolen or involved in other crimes.
“I’m not trying to spy on anyone,” Rolleri said Monday night. “If we were, we wouldn’t be having this discussion.” Rolleri responded to some speakers who criticized the one-and-a-half page policy for its brevity and lack of specificity, saying the proposal is merely in the draft stage. There is also a lack of case law currently available on ALPRs, he said. In addition, Rolleri expressed uncertainty over how long the department should retain data, an topic of great concern among many privacy advocates. “We’re trying to find that sweet spot,” said Rolleri. “I’ll be honest, we don’t know. We’re still trying to figure it out.” He later called the one-year proposal a good starting point that could be reevaluated in another six months.
Across another Oakland border with Pueblo Lands:
The city of Piedmont has installed automated license plate reader stations at busy intersections ringing its borders. The ALPR system was proposed last year. Installation began in November of 2013 after Piedmont’s city council set aside $678,000 for the technology that uses computer analytics to instantly identify the plate numbers of every vehicle passing under the watchful eyes of precision digital video cameras.
Home to bankers, lawyers, corporate executives, and real estate tycoons, Piedmont, population 10,000, is one of the wealthiest municipalities in America. When it was founded in the early 1900s it was immediately given the nickname “City of Millionaires” due to the concentration of wealthy families within its borders.
Piedmont has always been very much defined by its borders. The city is completely surrounded by Oakland, a much larger municipality whose population includes 88,000 persons whose incomes fall below the federally defined poverty line. The median household income in Oakland is $51,000. In Piedmont it’s $206,000, over four times Oakland’s average. The median home price in Piedmont is $1.5 million, and the small city has virtually no rental housing, making it an expensive community to buy a membership in.
And some plain old militarism from Deutsche Welle:
Germany paves way for new engagement
- Germany’s cabinet is discussing ramping up its military involvement in conflicts ranging from Afghanistan to Mali. Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen has signaled a new engagement internationally.
While Reuters goes under in the Southern Hemisphere:
Insight: Brazil spies on protesters, hoping to protect World Cup
Brazilian security forces are using undercover agents, intercepting e-mails, and rigorously monitoring social media to try to ensure that violent anti-government protesters do not ruin soccer’s World Cup this year, officials told Reuters.
Demonstrations in recent months have been much smaller than those last June when Brazil hosted a dress rehearsal tournament for the World Cup, shaking President Dilma Rousseff’s government and contributing to an economic slowdown.
But they have still resulted in vandalism of banks and paralyzed parts of major cities as a hard core of perhaps a few thousand protesters nationwide, some of whom wear masks and call themselves “Black Blocs,” clash with police.
Rousseff’s government fears the protests, the most recent of which carried the slogan “There Will Be No World Cup,” could severely disrupt the tournament, which kicks off on June 12 in Sao Paulo and ends with the final on July 13 in Rio de Janeiro.
After the jump, the latest Asian crises of zones/history/rhetoric/alliances, classroom hackers, military/industrial fails, criminalized tweets, felonious Googling, and more. . . Continue reading