We begin our latest edition with more on that bombshell Snowden interview, first with this from Reuters:
Planned U.S. cyber warfare program could hurt innocent countries: Snowden
A developing U.S. cyber security program would not only hunt down and halt potential computer attacks but also strike back without staff oversight, according to former U.S. National Security Agency contractor, Edward Snowden.
In an interview with WIRED magazine made public Wednesday, Snowden said the program – MonsterMind – could hurt countries caught in the middle as hackers could disguise the origin of their attacks by routing them through computers in other nations.
“These attacks can be spoofed,” Snowden told the magazine. “You could have someone sitting in China, for example, making it appear that one of these attacks is originating in Russia. And then we end up shooting back at a Russian hospital. What happens next?”
It could also potentially start an accidental war, he said.
Ars Technica covers another revelation:
Snowden: The NSA, not Assad, took Syria off the Internet in 2012
Snowden says TAO tried to install exploit on routers and crashed them
In a Wired interview with well-known National Security Agency journalist James Bamford that was published today, Edward Snowden claimed that the US accidentally took most of Syria off the Internet while attempting to bug the country’s traffic.
Snowden said that back in 2013 when he was still working with the US government, he was told by a US intelligence officer that NSA hackers—not the Assad regime—had been responsible for Syria’s sudden disconnect from the Internet in November and December of 2012.
The NSA’s Tailored Access Office (TAO), Snowden said, had been attempting to exploit a vulnerability in the router of a “major Internet service provider in Syria.” The exploit would have allowed the NSA to redirect traffic from the router through systems tapped by the agency’s Turmoil packet capture system and the Xkeyscore packet processing system, giving the NSA access to enclosures in e-mails that would otherwise not have been accessible to its broad Internet surveillance.
Instead, the TAO’s hackers “bricked” the router, Snowden said. He described the event as an “oh shit” moment, as the TAO operations center team tried to repair the router and cover their tracks, to no avail.
“Fortunately for the NSA, the Syrians were apparently more focused on restoring the nation’s Internet than on tracking down the cause of the outage,” Bamford wrote. Snowden told him that someone joked, “If we get caught, we can always point the finger at Israel.”
The Register has another:
Naughty NSA was so drunk on data it forgot collection rules
Declassified court docs show systematic breaches over [REDACTED] years
Declassified documents from America’s Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) shows that even the NSA didn’t know the limits of what it was supposed to collect, and overstepped its authorisations for years.
The documents were released to the Electronic Privacy Information Centre in response to an FOI request, and record FISC judges’ disquiet about the program. Seeking a renewal for the NSA’s use of “pen register and trap and trace (PR/TT)” devices in US networks to collect subscriber metadata, the papers note that “the government acknowledges that NSA exceeded the scope of authorised acquisition continuously during the more than [REDACATED] years of acquisition under these orders”.
The court says NSA’s overcollection of metadata was “systematic” over a number of years.
More from Techdirt:
Snowden Says He Purposely Left Clues For NSA To See What He Took; Shocked By NSA’s Incompetence In Figuring It Out
from the nyah-nyah-nyah dept
Long time NSA watcher James Bamford spent a bunch of time with Ed Snowden in Moscow recently, leading to an absolutely fascinating story in Wired. There’s lots of interesting stuff in there, but this seems particularly interesting. After noting how the US government — over a year later — is still scrambling to figure out exactly what Snowden took, he notes:
Snowden tells me it doesn’t have to be like this. He says that he actually intended the government to have a good idea about what exactly he stole. Before he made off with the documents, he tried to leave a trail of digital bread crumbs so investigators could determine which documents he copied and took and which he just “touched.” That way, he hoped, the agency would see that his motive was whistle-blowing and not spying for a foreign government. It would also give the government time to prepare for leaks in the future, allowing it to change code words, revise operational plans, and take other steps to mitigate damage. But he believes the NSA’s audit missed those clues and simply reported the total number of documents he touched—1.7 million. (Snowden says he actually took far fewer.) “I figured they would have a hard time,” he says. “I didn’t figure they would be completely incapable.”
Still more from the Guardian:
Snowden casts doubt on NSA investigation into security disclosures
NSA whistleblower says he left detectable digital traces of his removal of documents which the agency did not pick up on
National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden has called into question the competence of the investigation into the aftermath of his disclosures, which was overseen by the NSA’s new deputy director, Rick Ledgett.
In a new cover story for Wired magazine, the former NSA contractor provided writer James Bamford with previously unreported allegations of NSA cyberattack tools, including a piece of software, codenamed MonsterMind, that would automate a hostile response when it detected a network intrusion. He also alleged that a 2012 incident that took Syria’s internet offline was the fault of the NSA.
Snowden told Bamford, a longtime chronicler of the agency, that he left detectable digital traces of his removal of scores of documents from the technically sophisticated agency, allowing the NSA to know precisely what he did and did not take. Yet making a specific determination of the extent of the data breach has escaped the agency, which has simultaneously made vast and dire claims about the damage Snowden caused.
The Guardian questions:
When will Obama’s administration stop trying to send this man to jail for telling the truth about spies, nukes and Iran?
James Risen is out of chances. It’s time for the government to stop harassing a journalist for doing his job
If you blinked at the end of June, you may have missed one of the best pieces of journalism in 2014. The New York Times headline accompanying the story was almost criminally bland, but the content itself was extraordinary: A top manager at Blackwater, the notorious defense contractor, openly threatened to kill a US State Department official in 2007 if he continued to investigate Blackwater’s corrupt dealings in Iraq. Worse, the US government sided with Blackwater and halted the investigation. Blackwater would later go on to infamously wreak havoc in Iraq.
But what makes the story that much more remarkable is that its author, journalist James Risen, got it published amidst one the biggest legal battles over press freedom in decades – a battle that could end with the Justice Department forcing him into prison as early as this fall. It could make him the first American journalist forced into jail by the federal government since Judith Miller nearly a decade ago.
For years, the Justice Department, first under the Bush administration and now under Obama, has been aggressively pursuing Risen to testify against one of his alleged sources who is the subject of a leak prosecution. Risen’s most well-known scoop is the one that won him a Pulitzer Prize in 2006: exposing the Bush-era illegal warrantless wiretapping by the NSA, under threat of Espionage Act prosecution. But the Justice Department has been officially pursuing him about another story for years – a tale first published around the same time, in his book State of War.
More from the Freedom of the Press Foundation:
More Than a Dozen Pulitzer Winners Call on the Justice Dept to End its Pursuit of James Risen
UPDATE: The list has increased to twenty Pulitzer winners after adding statements from David Rohde, Michael LaForgia and Will Hobson, David Cay Johnston, Eric Lichtblau, and Dan Fagin.
Today, fourteen Pulitzer Prize winners have issued statements in support of journalist James Risen and in protest of the Justice Department’s attempt to force Risen to testify against his sources. Risen has vowed to go to jail rather than give up his source, but the Justice Department has steadfastly refused to drop its pursuit. On Thursday, many of the major US press freedom organizations will hold a press conference in Washington DC and deliver a petition with over 100,000 signatures to the Justice Department, calling on them to do the same.
Below are the statements from the fourteen Pulitzer Prize winners. Special thanks to Norman Solomon, co-founder of Roots Action, for gathering them all together. . .
From the East Bay Express, another kind of information control much closer to home:
The High Cost of Justice
Alameda County is now charging high fees to look at court documents online — a new cost that legal experts say may be unconstitutional.
Ben Rosenfeld is the sort of litigator that many young attorneys start out hoping they’ll become: He defends political activists, victims of police misconduct, and injured bicyclists. Many of his clients have little to no money, meaning Rosenfeld only gets paid if he wins. It also means that when courts charge for access to documents, it undermines his ability to research the legal landscape — and threatens his ability to keep assisting low-income clients.
In April, the Alameda County Superior Court quietly began charging $1 per page to view most of its legal documents online. Although the price drops to 50 cents after the fifth page, and the total cost for any document is capped at $40, those costs add up quickly when Rosenfeld is studying similar cases to determine which legal arguments are most likely to help his client. “It caught me by surprise,” he said. “I represent almost exclusively indigent plaintiffs in civil-rights cases, and it’s my responsibility to do everything I can to try to limit my clients’ costs.”
In response, Rosenfeld launched a petition urging the court to reconsider its fees, which are ten times higher than the cost of accessing files in the federal court’s system, PACER. In the petition, hosted at MoveOn.org, Rosenfeld contends that the fees might violate the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments of the Constitution, which protect citizens’ right to counsel, due process, and access to justice.
Just Security reaches a troubled hand across the Atlantic:
Spying Among Friends: The Troubled Waters of the CIA and BND
The rapid erosion of US-German relations continues to prompt much attention and consternation on both sides of the Atlantic. The new era urged by presidential candidate Barack Obama in Berlin in 2008— one based on “allies who will listen to one another, learn from one another and, most of all, trust each other”— has conspicuously failed to materialize. With the enthralled crowds that had gathered at the Victory Column now a distant memory, recent German public opinion polls reflect a widespread disillusionment; only 29% regard the United States as a trustworthy partner, while 57% feel their country should be more independent of their longtime ally in matters of foreign policy.
No one appears more aggrieved about this development than German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Not only was her cell phone tapped by the CIA from the rooftop of the US embassy in Berlin, causing her to break her normally low-key demeanor and object personally to Obama, but upon receiving the report that two German citizens—a midlevel staffer in the Bundesnachrichtendient (Federal Intelligence Serivice; BND) and a civilian employee in the Defense Ministry—were suspected of having been recruited by the CIA, she promptly expelled the US chief-of-station in Berlin. Moreover, according to secret documents leaked by Edward Snowden (who enjoys a decidedly favorable reputation among Germans), the National Security Agency maintains more than 150 listening posts in the country.
Various explanations have been advanced regarding this turn of events, but few have taken into consideration the deeper historical and cultural factors at play, especially in the realm of espionage. The relationship of the CIA to the Bundesnachrichtendienst (Federal Intelligence Service; BND) has complex roots originating in the mid-to-late 1940s. The pivotal figure was Reinhard Gehlen, who had served as head of Foreign Armies East (FHO), the organization responsible for collating and analyzing intelligence on the Eastern front during World War II.
IntelligenceWorld spooks up:
UK School children to be trained in cyber warfare
Teenagers in the UK are being offered the opportunity to learn cyber defence skills from Northrop Grumman, manufacturer of the USAF’s B-2 Stealth Bomber.
The defence giant is partnering with the government-backed Cyber Security Challenge UK to engage thousands of 12- to 18-year-old Army cadets, scout groups, schools and colleges across Britain in national team-based cyber security competitions.
The programme, called CyberCenturion, will allow anyone interested in the world of cyber security to get their first real experience of the scenarios and challenges existing professionals have to undertake on a daily basis.
And the Darwin Award for failing to learn the Snowden lesson, via the Independent:
Florida man accused of killing his roommate asked Siri where to hide the body, court hears
US police say a Florida man accused of killing his roommate asked Apple’s digital assistant Siri for advice on hiding the body the day the man went missing.
Pedro Bravo, 20, is accused of kidnapping and strangling his friend Christian Aguilar in September 2012 after an argument started over Aguilar dating Bravo’s ex-girlfriend.
Bravo was charged with murder on Friday September 28, 2012, though his friend’s body was not found until weeks later when hunters stumbled across Aguilar in a shallow grave in a nearby forest.
Evidence collected from Bravo’s iPhone includes records of him using the phone’s flashlight function nine times from 11.31pm to 12:01am on the day that Bravo disappeared and asking the phone: “I need to hide my roommate”.
According to evidence reproduced from the trial by local news stations and picked up by Buzzfeed, Siri responded “What kind of place are you looking for?” before offering four options: “Swamps, reservoirs, metal foundries, dumps”.
More telephonic woes, via Homeland Security News Wire:
Two major security vulnerabilities found in majority of world’s smartphones
Researchers have uncovered two major vulnerabilities in smart phones from manufacturers including Apple, Google Android, and Blackberry, among others. These flaws could put up to 90 percent of the world’s two billion smartphones at risk for stolen data, password theft, and the potential for hackers even to take control of the device.
This week, researchers at Denver, Colorado-based Accuvant and Bluebox Security in San Francisco have uncovered two major vulnerabilities in smart phones from manufacturers including Apple, Google Android, and Blackberry, among others.
As Insurance Journal reports, these flaws could put up to 90 percent of the world’s two billion smartphones at risk for stolen data, password theft, and the potential for hackers even to take control of the device.
From intelNews, yet more blowback from the American imperial adventure:
ISIS views spread in Balkans as Kosovo police nab 40 militants
Over 40 people have been arrested in Kosovo on strong suspicion of maintaining close links with the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.
Authorities in the small Balkan nation said the Monday arrests were part of “a major police operation” aimed at preventing Kosovar citizens from joining the violent Islamist group. Kosovo gained independence from Serbia in 2008, following several revolts and uprisings in the 1990s.
The vast majority of its citizens are ethnic Albanians, most of whom practice Islam. However the lifestyle of its largely pro-American population remains markedly secular. Observers have thus been startled by reports that an estimated 100 to 200 Kosovars have so far traveled to Syria and Iraq to join the Islamic State, known previously as the State of Iraq and al-Sham, or ISIS.
Channel NewsAsia Singapore covers another:
Spy chief warns Australians becoming ‘extremist propagandists’
Australians are becoming key players in the successful “social media wars” being waged from Iraq and Syria, increasingly acting as “English-language Islamic extremist propagandists”, the country’s spy chief has warned.
Australian Security Intelligence Organisation director-general David Irvine said the bloody and often gruesome conflicts were creating a new generation of militants, “the scale and scope of which we have not seen elsewhere”. “The number of Australians who have sought to take part in the Syria and Iraq conflicts, or have sought to support extremists fighting there, is unprecedented,” he said in a speech late Tuesday (Aug 12).
Irvine said what was particularly worrying was that many of the fluent English speakers were being used by the Islamic State to get their message out to a broad audience through graphic and highly emotive social media coverage.
The Toronto Globe and Mail has old fashioned espionage:
Canadian ex-researcher pleads guilty to smuggling bacteria to China
A former lead researcher at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency has pleaded guilty to attempting to smuggle dangerous bacteria to China.
Klaus Nielsen, who faced 11 charges accusing him of trying to take Brucella bacteria to China with the help of another former CFIA employee, was arrested two years ago as he headed to the Ottawa airport for a trip to China. Undercover police who had Nielsen under surveillance discovered several Brucella vials in his baggage.
Brucella causes an infectious disease called brucellosis. People get the disease when they’re in contact with infected animals or animal products contaminated with the bacteria.
And from The Week, the latest SkyNet proposal:
This laser-armed drone could blow fighter jets out of the sky
An Air Force officer proposes a robot fighter with minimal human control
Here’s an idea for an awesome dogfighting aircraft. Make it small, light, and fast. Build it out of materials that are hard to detect on radar. Even give it a laser cannon.
Oh, and don’t put a human in the cockpit. In fact, don’t even closely tie the drone to human ground control. Because in an aerial knife fight, a computer-controlled machine will beat a human pilot.
That’s the idea behind a controversial proposal by U.S. Air Force captain Michael Byrnes, an experienced Predator and Reaper drone pilot. Byrnes is calling for the development of a robotic dogfighter, which he calls the FQ-X, that could blow manned fighters out of the sky.
After the jump, Orwellian tech, the latest from the Asian Game of Zones — including Indo-Pakistani tensions and Afghan anxieties, Russo–Japanese tensions, ever-enlarging arsenals, and another rare earth lament — and something to make you really insecure. . . Continue reading