We begin with a belated celebration of a special day!
Theater of Absurd: Happy Data Protection Day…oh, and we spy on you!
The latest leak from Edward Snowden suggests it was Britain’s cyber-spy base GCHQ that showed America’s NSA how to monitor Facebook and Twitter without consent. That’s as Europe marks Data Protection Day – which is supposed to show EU citizens how to keep their online data away from prying eyes. RT’s Polly Boiko looks at how effective that’s likely to be.
From the Associated Press, welcome to the Hall of Infinite Regress:
US looks at ways to prevent spying on NSA spying
As the Obama administration considers ending the storage of millions of phone records by the National Security Agency, the government is quietly funding research to prevent eavesdroppers from seeing whom the U.S. is spying on, The Associated Press has learned.
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence has paid at least five research teams across the country to develop a system for high-volume, encrypted searches of electronic records kept outside the government’s possession. The project is among several ideas that could allow the government to store Americans’ phone records with phone companies or a third-party organization, but still search them as needed.
Under the research, U.S. data mining would be shielded by secret coding that could conceal identifying details from outsiders and even the owners of the targeted databases, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press and interviews with researchers, corporate executives and government officials.
RT gives instruction:
GCHQ taught NSA how to monitor Facebook, Twitter in real time – Snowden leak
British intelligence officials can infiltrate the very cables that transfer information across the internet, as well as monitor users in real time on sites like Facebook without the company’s consent, according to documents leaked by Edward Snowden.
The internal documents reveal that British analysts gave instruction to members of the National Security Agency in 2012, showing them how to spy on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube in real time and collect the computer addresses of billions of the sites’ uploaders.
The leaked documents are from a GCHQ publication titled ‘Psychology: A New Kind of SIGDEV’ (Signals Development). Published by NBC News on Monday, the papers detail a program dubbed ‘Squeaky Dolphin,’ which was developed for analysts working in “broad real-time monitoring of online activity.”
The Guardian opines:
Huge swath of GCHQ mass surveillance is illegal, says top lawyer
- Legal advice given to MPs warns that British spy agency is ‘using gaps in regulation to commit serious crime with impunity’
GCHQ’s mass surveillance spying programmes are probably illegal and have been signed off by ministers in breach of human rights and surveillance laws, according to a hard-hitting legal opinion that has been provided to MPs.
The advice warns that Britain’s principal surveillance law is too vague and is almost certainly being interpreted to allow the agency to conduct surveillance that flouts privacy safeguards set out in the European convention on human rights (ECHR).
The inadequacies, it says, have created a situation where GCHQ staff are potentially able to rely “on the gaps in the current statutory framework to commit serious crime with impunity”.
Gettin’ outa Dodge with the Buenos Aires Herald:
British spy chief accused by Snowden leaks will step down at year end
The British spy chief whose agency was accused in documents leaked by former US intelligence operative Edward Snowden of playing a principal role in mass Anglo-US surveillance will step down at year end, Britain’s Foreign Office said today.
The leaks detailed the close cooperation of Britain’s GCHQ eavesdropping agency with the US National Security Agency (NSA), and embarrassed and angered the British government and its spy chiefs.
Iain Lobban, 53, has served as GCHQ’s director for six years.
“Iain Lobban is doing an outstanding job as Director GCHQ,” said a spokeswoman. “Today is simply about starting the process of ensuring we have a suitable successor in place before he moves on, planned at the end of the year.”
MIT Technology Review has a how-to:
How App Developers Leave the Door Open to NSA Surveillance
- U.S. and U.K. surveillance of smartphone users has been helped by mobile developers—few of whom bother to adopt basic encryption.
News that the National Security Agency has for years harvested personal data “leaked” from mobile apps such as Angry Birds triggered a fresh wave of chatter about the extent of the NSA’s reach yesterday. However the NSA and its U.K. equivalent, GCHQ, hardly had to break much technical ground to hoover up that data. Few mobile apps implement encryption technology to protect the data they send over the Internet, so the agencies could trivially collect and decode that data using their existing access to Internet networks.
Documents seen and published by the New York Times and Guardian newspapers show that the NSA and GCHQ can harvest information such as a person’s age, location, and sexual orientation from the data sent over the Internet by apps. Such personal details are contained in the data that apps send back to the companies that maintain and support them. This includes data sent to companies that serve and target ads in mobile apps.
“This is evidence of negligent levels of insecurity by app companies, says Peter Eckersly, technology projects director for the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Eckersly says his efforts to persuade companies to secure Web traffic shows widespread disregard for the risks of sending people’s data over the Internet without protections against interception. “Most companies have no legitimate reason” not to secure that data, says Eckersly. “Often the security and privacy of their users is so far down the priority list that they haven’t even thought about doing it.”
The Guardian squawks:
Angry Birds firm calls for industry to respond to NSA spying revelations
- Rovio rethinks relationship with ad platforms
- CEO tells users it was not complicit in surveillance
- ‘We do not collaborate or share data with spy agencies’
Angry Birds Spy agencies can collect sensitive user data from ‘leaky’ smartphone apps ranging from basic technical information to gender and location.
Rovio, the Finnish software company behind the Angry Birds game, has announced it will “re-evaluate” its relationship with advertising networks following revelations that the NSA and its UK counterpart GCHQ have the capability to “piggyback” on the private user data they collect.
On Monday, the Guardian, New York Times and ProPublica revealed that the US and UK spy agencies had built systems that could collect data from “leaky” smartphone apps, ranging from basic technical information to gender and location. Some apps mentioned in the documents collected more sensitive information, including sexual orientation of the user.
In a statement released in the wake of the story, Rovio’s chief executive said the company would examine its business relationships, but also called for the wider industry to respond to spy agencies’ use of commercial data traversing the web.
The Guardian reassures Down Under:
Microsoft rules out ‘back door’ access to MPs’ electronic communications
- Officials assured that US agencies do not have unauthorised entry to Australian parliamentary IT operating systems
Parliamentary officials say Microsoft has given some assurances that electronic communications by MPs are not being accessed by American intelligence agencies through a “back door” in the IT operating systems.
Last November during a Senate estimates hearing a senior parliamentary official left open the prospect that parliamentary communications in Australia could be monitored by US intelligence through a “back door” provided by Microsoft operating systems.
The lack of clarity and the concern about the broad sweep of electronic surveillance and intelligence sharing, undertaken through the “5-Eyes” partnership of the US and its allies, prompted Greens senator Scott Ludlam to pursue the issue by putting further questions on notice.
Security Clearance gets intense:
Homeland Security details Super Bowl safety plan
More air marshals and behavioral detection officers, radiological detection teams and random baggage checks at transit hubs are among the security measures the federal Homeland Security Department will deploy in the next few days to help local police in New Jersey and New York secure the Super Bowl.
The game will be played at Met Life Stadium in New Jersey’s Meadowlands area just outside New York City. The stadium’s location near a major airport and busy commuter train lines presents security challenges. Unlike audiences for other championship games, spectators of Super Bowl XLVIII will rely heavily on mass transit.
Homeland Security officials say that federal agencies including the Federal Bureau of Investigation will deploy hundreds of employees to help New Jersey and New York police secure what’s been officially designated “an event of national significance.”
Drone-saving with the McClatchy Washington Bureau:
Obama said to rescue spy aircraft from budget ax
In a surprising reversal, Northrop Grumman’s Global Hawk unmanned aircraft is now seen as having a strong shot at avoiding the Pentagon’s ax when President Barack Obama sends his proposed fiscal 2015 budget to Congress in March, a person familiar with the matter said.
The Air Force said in 2012 that it reluctantly favored scrapping the Global Hawk, one of whose production facilities is just outside Biloxi, Miss., in favor of Lockheed Martin’s U-2 spy plane.
But increasing demands for drones to help the service fulfill its high-altitude surveillance mission may have swung things in the opposite direction.
The Guardian loses eyes in the sky:
US border patrol drone crashes off California coast
- Drone part of fleet that patrols Mexico border
- Crew crashed $12m drone after mechanical problem
An American drone that is part of a fleet that patrols the border with Mexico has crashed off the coast of southern California.
Customs and Border Protection said the drone was looking for drug and people smugglers when a mechanical problem developed about 20 miles south-west of San Diego late on Monday. Spokesman Mike Friel said the Arizona-based crew operating the drone decided to crash it in the Pacific ocean.
The $12m surveillance drone was part of a fleet of 10 the Department of Homeland Security uses to patrol the border. It was just one of two maritime Predator B drones equipped with radar specifically designed to be used over the ocean.
USA TODAY drones on:
At nation’s doorstep, police drones are flying
- Just across the U.S. border, drones are making an impact on police efforts
Just across the border from the United States, police have begun using drones carrying video cameras to patrol residential neighborhoods and watch over parts of the city often visited by Americans.
Tijuana’s use of low-altitude unmanned aircraft for law enforcement surveillance, in darkness as well as daylight, appears to far exceed what state and local police agencies have been permitted to experiment with in the United States.
Unburdened by the sort of aviation restrictions and privacy concerns that have slowed domestic U.S. drone use, Tijuana police recently purchased three specially configured commercial drones and are testing their use in flight now, says Alejandro Lares, the city’s new chief of police.
He says he hopes to put them into full normal operation within weeks.
MintPress News seeks to disambiguate:
Vague Language In MN Drone Bill Could Affect Privacy Rights
- Before drone use by the masses takes off, lawmakers and privacy advocates say there needs to be rules on when and where the technology can be used.
In order to make sure the rules for using a drone are as clear as possible, Minnesota state Rep. Brian Johnson, a Republican, has reintroduced legislation clarifying when law enforcement can use the technology in the state.
Although drones were first used by the U.S. military abroad, local law enforcement officials, farmers, journalists and hobbyists have all begun to express interest in using drones for various reasons. But before drone use by the masses takes off, lawmakers and privacy advocates say there needs to be rules on when and where the technology can be used.
One of the biggest areas of concern is law enforcement’s use of the new technology.
From The Observer, it finally happens:
North Dakota Cow Thief Is First American Arrested, Jailed With Drone’s Help
- A SWAT team also got involved in the armed standoff.
Look, up in the sky! It’s a bird, it’s a plane — it’s a Predator drone finding you because you wouldn’t give your neighbor his cows back after they wandered onto your property.
Rodney Brossart, the farmer from North Dakota, was arrested after being located by Predator drone, Forbes reports. Sentenced yesterday, he is the first American to be sent to the clink thanks to drone assistance.
In June 2011, Forbes reports, police attempted to arrest him because he wouldn’t return the three cows that had grazed onto his property. This resulted in “an armed standoff between Brossart, his three sons and a SWAT team” on his property. It ended only after the family of perps was located by a Predator drone borrowed from Customs and Border Patrol.
Twice As Many U.S. Missileers Now Implicated in Cheating Probe
The number of U.S. nuclear missile-launch officers caught up in a probe into cheating on proficiency exams has roughly doubled in size, the Associated Press reports.
The news service cited unidentified U.S. officials as sources of the report.
The Pentagon revealed earlier this month that 34 Air Force nuclear missile officers were under investigation for either cheating on an autumn 2013 proficiency test or for having knowledge of the misconduct and not reporting it.
It is not yet clear what roles the approximately 30-plus additional Minuteman 3 operational officers allegedly had in the cheating scandal.
And Deutsche Welle discovers the expected:
US whistleblower laws offer no protection
The White House says that Edward Snowden should have reported his concerns within the NSA, instead of revealing surveillance programs to the press. But who exactly do US whistleblower laws protect?
For years, would-be whistleblowers in the US intelligence community had no legal protections to shield them from retaliatory measures by their superiors. The Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989 covered most of the federal government with the glaring exception of the intelligence agencies.
In an effort to close this legal gap, Congress passed the Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act (ICWPA) a decade later. The law covers employees and contractors at the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the National Security Agency (NSA), the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), the National Imagery and Mapping Agency (NIMA) as well as the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO).
But according to Thomas Drake, the act failed to adequately protect whistleblowers from retaliation. A former senior executive at the NSA, Drake blew the whistle on a failed surveillance program called Trailblazer. He used what the government calls “proper channels” to express his concerns about the program’s exorbitant cost and its lack of privacy protections, reaching out to his immediate supervisor, the office of the inspector general, and the congressional intelligence committees.
“I was reprised against severely within the proper channels,” Drake told DW. “I was identified as a troublemaker.”
SecurityWeek sounds the alert:
Canada Privacy Czar Warns Against Spies Trawling Social Media
Canada’s interim privacy commissioner on Tuesday urged lawmakers to crack down on government spies who trawl without cause on social media websites to gather people’s personal data.
“It is our view that (government) departments should not access personal information on social media sites unless they can demonstrate a direct correlation to legitimate government business,” said Interim Privacy Commissioner Chantal Bernier.
In a special report to Parliament, Bernier noted that technical capabilities for surveillance have “grown exponentially” in the digital age.
After the jump, the latest Asian zone, militarization, coalescing coalitions, and saber-rattling news, plus Aussie military austerity, Orwell in Sochi, Mexican vigilantes legalized, corporate agent recruiting, financializing insecurity, and MSM containment. . . Continue reading