We begin with the ACLU Blog of Rights, shining the light:
This Secret Domestic Surveillance Program Is About to Get Pulled Out of the Shadows
The federal government will have to produce information on a vast and secret domestic surveillance program and defend the program’s legality in open court. That’s the result of a decision issued Friday by the federal judge presiding over our lawsuit challenging the Suspicious Activity Reporting program, part of an ever-expanding domestic surveillance network established after 9/11.
The program calls on local police, security guards, and the public — our neighbors — to report activity they deem suspicious or potentially related to terrorism. These suspicious activity reports (“SARs” for short) are funneled to regional fusion centers and on to the FBI, which conducts follow-up investigations and stockpiles the reports in a giant database that it shares with law enforcement agencies across the country.
The decision is significant.
Surveillance programs have largely been shielded from judicial review, as many courts have accepted the government’s position that people cannot prove they have been under surveillance, and thus lack standing to sue. In this case, we represent clients who were confronted by law enforcement or know that SARs were uploaded to a counterterrorism database based on their entirely lawful activity. The government will now have to turn over information about a program that has never been subject to public scrutiny.
The problems with the Suspicious Activity Reporting program are manifold, beginning with the fact that government doesn’t require reasonable suspicion of criminal activity — an already low threshold — for a SAR to be maintained and shared. That violates a binding federal regulation, which is part of the basis for the lawsuit.
From AJ+, our first [but not last] leak story:
Spy Cables: Inside South Africa’s Spy Agency
Ever wondered how Africa’s most powerful spy agency operates? The Spy Cables show us how South Africa’s State Security Agency’s plans to build a secret satellite with Russia which would enable them to spy over all of Africa — take that NSA! Also, learn how a security screw up led to the African Union Chief almost being killed in Addis Ababa.
From the Guardian, domestic snooping:
South Africa spied on own government to get facts on joint project with Russia
- Intelligence agency used agent with links to Russian government to glean information about satellite surveillance programme, leaked cables reveal
South Africa’s intelligence service relied on a spy “with direct access to the Russian government” to find out details of its own government’s involvement in a $100m (£65m) joint satellite surveillance programme with Russia, the leaked spy cables obtained by al-Jazeera and shared with the Guardian reveal.
The satellite system, known as Project Condor, which was launched into orbit by Russia in December last year, provides surveillance coverage of the entire African continent. The project has been shrouded in secrecy, with Russia originally refusing to reveal who its client was.
Those in the dark appear to have included South Africa’s intelligence agency. But a South African agent with access to Russian military intelligence was able to help, according to a leaked espionage report marked “top secret” and dated 28 August 2012.
From the Guardian, a Russian Al Queda warning:
Al-Qaida planning kamikaze attacks on ships in Mediterranean, cables claim
- Leaked document from Russian intelligence agency claims north African branch wants to extend its range to Europe with marine unit
Al-Qaida has developed a seaborne unit to attack targets around the Mediterranean, according to a confidential report from Russian intelligence, one of a cache of secret documents from spy agencies around the world tracking jihadi terrorist groups.
According to the Russians, North African al-Qaida (Aqim – al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb) has established a 60-strong team of suicide bombers to plant mines under the hull of ships and to use small, fast craft for kamikaze attacks.
The claim, in a leaked document from Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB), is one of a string of reports on the rise of Islamic State (Isis) and al-Qaida.
They include a two-month briefing by Omani intelligence estimating that Isis now has up to 35,000 fighters and an income of $1.5m (£1m) a day, reports from United Arab Emirates agents about the Isis leadership structure and a dossier from Jordanian intelligence on confessions extracted from terrorist suspects.
The Guardian has another leak story:
Spies, lies and fantasies: leaked cables lift lid on work of intelligence agencies
- In the world of espionage, reports peppered with half-truths, rumours and the seemingly outlandish are par for the course, documents show
Intelligence agencies thrive on impressing politicians and the public with their mystique, exploits real or imagined, and possession of information that supposedly gives them a unique understanding of the world.
The reality is often bureaucratic and banal, the information unreliable, uncheckable or available in open sources and their judgments frequently politicised and self-serving. All of those elements can be found throughout the spy cables leaked to al-Jazeera and the Guardian.
Take the story about an Israeli plot to use water-gobbling plants to sabotage Egypt. The alleged scheme is mentioned in a 56-page report compiled by South African intelligence on the Israeli spy agency Mossad.
SecurityWeek covers snoopery north of the border:
Canada Monitoring Citizens’ Emails to Government: Media
Ottawa – Canada’s electronic eavesdropping agency has amassed a huge trove of emails sent to the government, as part of its cybersecurity mandate, according to a leaked secret document Wednesday.
And their retention by the Canadian Security Establishment (CSE) for days, months or years in some cases, is worrying privacy advocates.
Public broadcaster CBC, citing a 2010 document obtained from former US National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, said the CSE closely monitors visits to government websites and scans about 400,000 emails per day for suspicious content, links or attachments.
The electronic communications include Canadians’ electronic tax returns, emails to members of Parliament and passport applications, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation said.
From RT, dis-Dane-ful:
Denmark’s plan to give spooks greater-than-NSA spy powers sparks outcry
Copenhagen is considering empowering its intelligence services to conduct covert electronic surveillance on citizens abroad without the need for a court order. Outraged privacy advocates have pledged to fight the initiative.
Despite the global outpouring of criticism of the National Security Agency and its affiliated partners in the so-called Five Eyes spying ring, which was exposed by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden in 2013, it seems the Danish government is only too willing to take spying to an unprecedented new level.
As part of a package of new anti-terror initiatives, Copenhagen is now prepared to empower the Danish Defense Intelligence Service (Forsvarets Efterretningstjeneste, or FE) with greater snooping authority than the NSA.
However, plans to give Danish intelligence what appears to be unlimited access to the electronic communications of Danish citizens abroad is being criticized by privacy watchdog groups, including the think-tank Justitia and Associate Professor Anders Henriksen, from the University of Copenhagen.
From TheLoca.de, jailed for a speech “crime”:
Ex-lawyer jailed again for Holocaust denial
A Munich court on Wednesday sentenced a previously convicted Holocaust denier and ex-lawyer to a second jail term, after she publicly declared that there had been no organized genocide of the Jews under Adolf Hitler.
Sylvia Stolz, 51, was sentenced to 20 months’ imprisonment for telling an anti-censorship congress in Switzerland in 2012 that the “so-called Holocaust” under Adolf Hitler’s National-Socialist (Nazi) Party had never been legally defined or proven, the Süddeutsche Zeitung reported.
In an almost 100-minute address, video footage of which was used as evidence in her trial, Stolz stated before a crowd of 2,000 people there was no hard evidence of either Nazi plans or orders “to partially or wholly destroy Jewry”.
Therefore it was in itself a breach of the law that people like her who defended others put on trial for Holocaust denial should be prosecuted, she argued.
Another U.S. ISIS-related bust, via the Guardian:
Three New York men charged over alleged attempt to join Isis in Syria
- One arrested at airport trying to board flight to Istanbul, another purchased ticket for Turkey on 29 March and third allegedly operated ‘domestic support network’
Three men from Brooklyn, New York are facing terrorism charges for allegedly attempting to join Islamic State (Isis) militants in Syria, federal authorities said on Wednesday.
Two of the men, Abdurasul Hasanovich Juraboev, 24, and Abror Habibov, 30, are Uzbekistani citizens; the other is a 19-year-old Kazakhstani citizen, Akhror Saidakhmetov. All three were charged with conspiracy to provide material support to Isis.
Their indictment was announced by the the FBI, the New York police department and US attorney Loretta Lynch, who is in the process of being confirmed by the Senate as US attorney general.
From the Guardian, a call for justice in the Windy City:
Chicago ‘black site’: former US justice officials call for Homan Square inquiry
- Two ex-senior Justice Department officials say allegations about police operation are ‘very disturbing’ and raise serious questions about constitutional violations
Two former senior Justice Department officials are calling on their colleagues to investigate a secretive warehouse used for interrogations by Chicago police and likened to a CIA “black site” facility.
Sam Bagenstos, who during Barack Obama’s first term was the Justice Department’s No 2 civil rights official, said that the Guardian’s exposé of the Homan Square police warehouse raised concerns about “a possible pattern or practice of violations of the fourth and fifth amendments” that warranted an inquiry.
William Yeomans, who worked in the civil rights division from 1981 to 2005, and served as its acting attorney, said the allegations about off-the-books interrogations and barred access to legal counsel reported by the Guardian merited a preliminary investigation to confirm them, a first step toward a full civil rights investigation.
From the Guardian, intimidating cops under the gun in Old Blighty:
British police investigated over attempts to recruit activists as spies
- Two Cambridgeshire officers face misconduct allegations after approaches by covert unit that campaigners said left them stressed and paranoid, with some ending their political activities
It is examining allegations that coercive and at times repeated approaches by police caused the activists to give up their political campaigning, or left them stressed and paranoid.
One campaigner wore a secret camera to capture police attempting to persuade him to spy on Cambridge University students, environmentalists, campaigners against government cuts and anti-racist activists. The footage was broadcast by the Guardian in 2013.
Another, a 23-year-old single mother, has alleged that police threatened to prosecute her if she disclosed to anyone, including her mother, the attempt to recruit her as an informer.
Cambridgeshire police are carrying out the internal investigation into what they have described as serious allegations surrounding its attempted recruitment of informers.
From the New York Times, more arrests for presidential wiretapping in Turkey:
Turkish Police Arrested and Accused of Wiretapping President Erdogan
Police officers in Turkey arrested dozens of fellow officers on Wednesday accused of wiretapping President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and top government officials.
The chief prosecutor’s office in Ankara, the capital, issued 54 arrest warrants, the Anadolu News Agency reported, and at least 40 people were arrested in a wave of early morning raids that were carried out simultaneously in 19 cities.
The arrests are the latest salvo in a feud between Mr. Erdogan and his former ally, Fethullah Gulen, an influential Muslim cleric who lives in exile in Pennsylvania and has been accused of participating in a plot to overthrow the government.
After the jump, Al Jazeera reporters busted for droning Paris, a drone ban in Morocco, Charlie Hebdo back on schedule, a big reward for a hacking bank robber, Instagram leaks celebrity locations, an Aussie Anonymous hacker charged with attacking spooky sites, major civil rights failures by the major powers, on to the ISIS front and historical nihilism as libraries are burned and artifacts sold, and ISIS sounds up Syrian Christians, Lakes Chad fish traders bombed by Niger to defund Boko Haram, as Boko Haram targets Nigerian elections, a 100-bomb North Korean nuclear arsenal envisioned, China demotes a spy chief, corrupt officials planned to assassinate China’s leaders, China extends its bombers’ reach, and Okinawan opposition to an American base increases. . . Continue reading