Once again, we missed a day, leaving us with a lot of catching up on the latest development in the world of the dark arts, corporate snooping, and military posturing.
Most notable [and after the jump], rapid escalation of the Asian security crisis and the latest in corporate cyber-stalking.
We begin with a headline from Reuters:
Man arrested for suspected plot to blow up Kansas airport
Authorities have arrested a man suspected of plotting to blow up the Mid-Continent Airport in Wichita, Kansas, in a suicide attack with a carload of explosives, officials said Friday.
Terry Loewen, a 58-year-old aviation technician from Wichita, intended to die a martyr in the bombing, U.S. District Attorney for Kansas Barry Grissom said at a news conference.
Authorities said Loewen was believed to have been motivated, at least partly, by religious beliefs. Officials said Loewen had made statements prior to the attempted attack that he was resolved to commit an act of violent “jihad” on behalf of al Qaeda against the United States.
Now, on to the latest twist in the one story that has been capturing global headlines for months. From News Corp Australia:
US spy ‘open to cutting deal with Snowden’
A NATIONAL Security Agency official has said in an interview he would be open to cutting an amnesty deal with US intelligence leaker Edward Snowden if the fugitive agreed to stop divulging secret documents.
Rick Ledgett, who heads the NSA’s task force investigating the damage from the Snowden leaks, told CBS television’s 60 Minutes program that some but not all of his colleagues share his view.
And from The Guardian, vanishing hopes for reform:
NSA review to leave spying programs largely unchanged, reports say
- Panel to propose bulk surveillance continue – with some curbs
- Adviser calls apparent decision to leave core intact ‘shameful’
More from Wired:
White House Task Force Urges Curb on NSA’s Bulk Data Collection
A presidential task force charged with determining what reforms are needed for the NSA and its surveillance activities has recommended the agency be led by a civilian commander, instead of a military one, and that bulk phone records the NSA wants to collect be retained by phone companies or held by a third party, rather than being stored by the NSA.
The task force also recommended restrictions on when and how the NSA can search the data, according to the Wall Street Journal. And it recommended separating the code-making division of the NSA, which develops and promotes codes, from the NSA division that breaks electronic security codes. Documents recently leaked by Edward Snowden described a decade-long effort by the NSA to crack different types of encryption and other security mechanisms in order to provide access to protected data for surveillance, a task at odds with the NSA’s traditional role in helping to develop public algorithms.
Still more from Ars Technica:
Obama panel says NSA phone spying records should be held by third party
Intelligence officials likely to oppose restrictions on surveillance.
Reuters has the response from The Most Transparent Administration in History™:
White House says plans no split of NSA, Cyber Command
The Obama administration on Friday said it will keep one person in charge of both the National Security Agency spy agency and the military’s Cyber Command, despite growing calls for splitting the roles in the wake of revelations about the vast U.S. electronic surveillance operations.
The White House had considered splitting up the two agencies, possibly giving the NSA a civilian leader for the first time in its 61-year history to dampen controversy over its programs revealed by former contractor Edward Snowden.
Dogs and ponies, via The Verge:
NSA officials go on tour to heal agency image amid surveillance scandal
The National Security Agency has endured six months of criticism from media outlets since Edward Snowden released documents disclosing the agency’s massive global surveillance apparatus. With its back against the wall, NSA head Keith Alexander and Snowden task force head Richard Ledgett are speaking directly to the press as a means of getting ahead of the story, with the hope of painting themselves — and Snowden himself — in a new light.
Another Snowden link, via Ars Technica:
Archaic but widely used crypto cipher allows NSA to decode most cell calls
Snowden docs make it official: The NSA can crack 30-year-old A5/1 crypto.
The National Security Agency can easily defeat the world’s most widely used cellphone encryption, a capability that means the agency can decode most of the billions of calls and texts that travel over public airwaves each day, according to published report citing documents leaked by Edward Snowden.
Bloomberg Businessweek has the latest form of blowback:
IBM Shareholder Sues the Company Over NSA Cooperation
Spying is not good for business. That’s been the message from many U.S. tech companies and industry groups in recent months following revelations last summer that several companies were cooperating with the National Security Agency over its Prism surveillance program. The industry says it stands to lose tens of billions of dollars as customers in other countries turn to homegrown technology instead.
Now one such company, IBM (IBM), is facing a lawsuit over its cooperation with the NSA. IBM was sued yesterday by a shareholder claiming it violated federal securities laws in seeking to hide losses that stemmed from disclosures of its relationship with the NSA.
While Business Insider has yet another disappointment from the land of Hope™ and Change™:
AP Photojournalist Blasts Obama’s Press Restrictions As ‘Orwellian Image Control’
A photojournalist for the Associated Press is pulling no punches in a scathing opinion piece published today in The New York Times, referring to the restrictions on press photographers covering the president as “draconian” and calling official photo releases “propaganda.”
The article written by Santiago Lyon, vice president and director of photography for the Associated Press, is titled “Obama’s Orwellian Image Control.”
Lyon takes issue with the release of pictures from official White House photographers as an “idealized portrayal of events” that could not be considered journalism. He also doesn’t mince words in his conclusion, calling these photos “propaganda.”
And the latest embarrassment for the folks at Langley from The Guardian:
CIA veterans say Robert Levinson affair may damage intra-agency co-operation
- AP: former FBI agent missing in Iran was working with CIA
- Relations between analysts and operatives likely to be strained
An unauthorized CIA spy operation initiated by agency analysts didn’t just lead to an American being seized in Iran. It may have damaged ties between intelligence analysts and operations specialists, according to CIA veterans.
More media embarrassment from Gawker:
ABC, NYT Repeatedly Lied About CIA Operative Robert Levinson
ABC News and The New York Times have known since 2007 that Robert Levinson, the ex-FBI agent who was kidnapped in Iran, was not, as the U.S. government and his family claimed, an independent businessman: He was working for the CIA. The Times’ report today discloses this timeline; ABC News’ report does not—but a source at the network confirmed to Gawker that ABC reporters discovered the CIA connection in 2007 as well. At the request of the government and Levinson’s family, however, both outlets repeatedly stated, without any caveats, that Levinson was on a “business trip” when he was captured. A review of their coverage indicates that ABC News did so at least 7 times, and the Times at least 3 times.
The Christian Science Monitor has more lies:
Levinson, Iran, the CIA, and lies
The US government has been lying for years about Robert Levinson, a man kidnapped in Iran after being sent there as part of a rogue CIA operation. Some media have been playing along.
While the AP reports that Levinson’s handlers were CIA employees, they all appear to have been analysts, rather than employees expert in gathering intelligence themselves and running assets in the field. The AP says the employees running Levinson as their own private collection agent weren’t authorized to do so, and that three analysts were quietly sacked in 2007 for their involvement and a further seven admonished.
BBC News offers the latest White House spin control:
White House: Robert Levinson not a government employee
The AP agency says the White House is choosing its words carefully – that Bob Levinson was not an “employee” but a “contractor”
The White House has said the ex-FBI agent believed to have been held in Iran for the last seven years was not working for the US government at the time of his disappearance.
White House spokesman Jay Carney spoke the day after the Associated Press news agency reported Mr Levinson was on an unauthorised mission for the CIA.
And more embarrassment via the London Daily Mail:
CIA star and ‘quirky’ office analyst who introduced her friend to the agency before he was sent on ‘rogue’ mission that led to disappearance
- Anne Jablonski was forced to quit the CIA following the investigation into Levinson’s kidnapping
- She is now working in the private sector and teaches yoga
- She also blogs about finding inner peace and making her own cat food for her pets
BBC News has another imbroglio-in-the-making, this time for spooks across the pond:
Iran claims to have captured MI6 spy
Iran says it has captured a spy working for British intelligence agency MI6 in the south-eastern city of Kerman.
The head of Kerman’s revolutionary court said the alleged spy had admitted being in contact with four British intelligence officers 11 times, both inside and outside the country.
From the McClatchy Washington Bureau, California’s plutocratic senator pronounces:
Feinstein: vote soon on releasing parts of secret CIA detention report
The Senate Intelligence Committee will soon vote on releasing parts of a report that alleges that the CIA misled lawmakers and U.S. officials about the value of the information produced by the agency’s post-9/11 secret detention and harsh interrogation program, the panel chairwoman said.
But that doesn’t mean the public will get to see the excerpts any time soon.
The 300-page executive summary, findings and conclusions will still have to go through a process to determine which parts can be made public and which will be blacked out. The review – which will involve the White House and CIA – could take weeks or months, said a congressional aide, who requested anonymity.
McClatchy Washington Bureau again, this time with word of another report on another, much older Langley cockup:
Lawsuit seeks to unlock CIA’s secret history of Bay of Pigs invasion
The Obama administration on Thursday fought to keep secret a CIA account of the 1961 Bay of Pigs debacle.
Half a century after the failed invasion of Cuba, and three decades after a CIA historian completed his draft study, an administration lawyer told a top appellate court that the time still isn’t right to make the document public.
And the Washington Times lends a covert hand:
Leon Panetta named as source of ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ scriptwriter’s information
A Freedom of Information request filed by government watchdog Judicial Watch revealed that former CIA Director Leon E. Panetta was the source who gave up secret information to the scriptwriter of “Zero Dark Thirty,” the Hollywood movie about the raid on Osama bin Laden.
Judicial Watch said in an email that Mr. Panetta revealed the classified information during an awards ceremony on June 24, 2011, to mark the administration’s assault on Osama bin Laden. Mr. Panetta was giving a speech at the ceremony, during which he concluded: “You have made me proud of the CIA family. And you have made me proud as an Italian to know that bin Laden sleeps with the fishes.”
Next, a trip noth of the border with some unsurprising story about Canada’s NSA counterpart, the Communications Security Establishment Canada, via CBC News:
CSEC watchdog muzzled, defanged
The wish and ‘a prayer’ of keeping tabs on CSEC
The revelation that a little-known Canadian intelligence operation has been electronically spying on trading partners and other nations around the world, at the request of the U.S. National Security Agency, has critics wondering who’s keeping an eye on our spies.
The answer is a watchdog, mostly muzzled and defanged, whose reports to Parliament are first censored by the intelligence agency he is watching, then cleared by the minister politically responsible for any problems in the first place.
And from Reuters, some dronish blowback:
In Yemen, al Qaeda gains sympathy amid U.S. drone strikes
Despite the toll taken on militants, residents in various parts of Yemen told Reuters they worry that the drone program is counter-productive. In the capital Sanaa, Abdulrazzaq al-Jamal, a journalist who has interviewed several members of AQAP, acknowledged the group has taken some hits from the drones, but said the strikes have also brought it followers.
“The drones have limited their movements but it makes their ideology more attractive to people. When a Yemeni is killed, it doesn’t matter whether or not he’s al Qaeda,” said Jamal, who was wearing the dagger common among Yemeni men.
Off to Sweden for a helping hand via TheLocal.se:
US spies asked Sweden for translation help
Leaked documents from the US have shown that the NSA asked Sweden for translation help on their “high-priority” material that involved the Swedish language.
The request came in the form of an internal message at the US National Security Agency (NSA), which asked Sweden’s National Defence Radio Establishment (Svenska Försvarets Radioanstalt – FRA) for translation help in the fight against terrorism.
From The Guardian, gag us with a spoon:
Calling for abolition of monarchy is still illegal, UK justice ministry admits
Department wrongly announced that section of law threatening people with life imprisonment had been repealed
The Treason Felony Act 1848 has been the subject of repeated legal confusion this century. It was the subject of a high court challenge by the Guardian in 2003. This week, in a footnote to a list of new offences, the MoJ said the powers in section 3 of the Act had finally been swept away in a belated, legislative pruning of unwanted laws.
From EUobserver, legal blowback in the works?:
France’s new surveillance law under fire
A new law in France, which expands surveillance monitoring powers, without judicial review, to government agencies like tax and finance authorities, may be challenged in the Constitutional Court, reports Reuters. Pro-right groups, tech companies Google and Microsoft, want the constitutional watchdog to review the law adopted earlier this week.
Moscow next, with suppressive thoughts about another perceived security threat. From The Guardian:
Vladimir Putin defends anti-gay laws as bastion of global conservatism
President says Russia stands on international stage in defence of traditional values against ‘fruitless so-called tolerance’
After the jump, the Asian security crises continue, with heads rolling, internet purging, ships nearly colliding, secrecy law protests, alliance plays, drones a-buildin’, and legal bribes; corporate cyberstalking, civil servant muzzling, and more. . . Continue reading