John Oliver explores the topic of government surveillance in the context of the June 1st deadline to reauthorize the Patriot Act and the ongoing Edward Snowden case.
Today, the Wikimedia Foundation is filing suit against the National Security Agency (NSA) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) of the United States. The lawsuit challenges the NSA’s mass surveillance program, and specifically its large-scale search and seizure of internet communications — frequently referred to as “upstream” surveillance.
If the Supreme Court tackles the NSA in 2015, it’ll be one of these five cases. Detailed, thoughtful piece with lots of links from Ars Technica.
A nicely lengthy interview with documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras. Poitras was one of the key figures involved in the revealing of Edward Snowden as the NSA whistleblower; she has a film (Citizenfour) opening this week. Poitras discusses her role as a documentary filmmaker, as well as her unique perspectives on the War on Terror, NSA surveillance, her status as a high-profile dissenter, and being on the receiving end of government harrassment.
"Sometimes, society gets it wrong... When that happens, strong privacy protections—including collection controls that let people pick who gets their data, and when—allow the persecuted and unpopular to survive."
What happens when we let industry and government collect all the data they want.
What happens when we let industry and government collect all the data they want.
The question is not so much “do you trust the CIA/NSA/MI6/etc?”. It’s “Do you trust every single sysadmin working for these organisations? Every single analyst? Every single middle manager?”
A Day of Speaking Truth to Power - Quinn Norton visits the Office of the Director of National Intelligence
In Snowden’s view, the PRISM and Upstream programs have “crossed the line of proportionality.” [SLWAPO] [more inside]
On a bright April morning in Menlo Park, California, I became an Internet spy. This was easier than it sounds because I had a willing target. I had partnered with National Public Radio (NPR) tech correspondent Steve Henn for an experiment in Internet surveillance. For one week, while Henn researched a story, he allowed himself to be watched—acting as a stand-in, in effect, for everyone who uses Internet-connected devices. How much of our lives do we really reveal simply by going online? Ars tests Internet surveillance—by spying on an NPR reporter.
During their Freedom Hosting investigation and malware attack last year, the FBI unintentionally obtained the entire e-mail database of popular anonymous webmail service Tor Mail. And now, they've used it in an unrelated investigation to bust a Florida man accused of stealing credit card numbers. [more inside]
Edward Snowden has delivered the UK Channel 4's Alternative Christmas Message (alternative links, transcript):
Together, we can find a better balance. End mass surveillance. And remind the government that if it really wants to know how we feel, asking is always cheaper than spying.This address follows Monday's interview with the Washington Post in which he explains his motives for releasing information he collected while working for the NSA.
CIA, FBI and Pentagon spies have infiltrated online games including World of Warcraft, Second Life and Xbox Live games.
"In 1967, The Public Interest, then a leading venue for highbrow policy debate, published a provocative essay by Paul Baran, one of the fathers of the data transmission method known as packet switching [and agent of RAND]. Titled “The Future Computer Utility," the essay speculated that someday a few big, centralized computers would provide 'information processing … the same way one now buys electricity. Highly sensitive personal and important business information will be stored in many of the contemplated systems … At present, nothing more than trust—or, at best, a lack of technical sophistication—stands in the way of a would-be eavesdropper.' To read Baran’s essay (just one of the many on utility computing published at the time) is to realize that our contemporary privacy problem is not contemporary. It’s not just a consequence of Mark Zuckerberg’s selling his soul and our profiles to the NSA. The problem was recognized early on, and little was done about it... It’s not enough for a website to prompt us to decide who should see our data. Instead it should reawaken our own imaginations. Designed right, sites would not nudge citizens to either guard or share their private information but would reveal the hidden political dimensions to various acts of information sharing." -- MIT Technology Review on The Real Privacy Problem
Google knows almost every wi-fi password. Of course this means that the NSA also has access to them. Apple might not be much better.
How Laura Poitras Helped Snowden Spill His Secrets. "It all started with her own fight against surveillance." [more inside]
In a crackdown that FBI claims to be about hunting down pedophiles, half of the onion sites in the TOR network has been compromised, including the e-mail counterpart of TOR deep web, TORmail. FreedomWeb, an Irish company known for providing hosting for Tor "hidden services" -- services reached over the Tor anonymized/encrypted network -- has shut down after its owner, Eric Eoin Marques, was arrested over allegations that he had facilitated the spread of child pornography. [more inside]
Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, Apple are being monitored by the FBI and NSA, with Dropbox "coming soon." So what can you do? Use some alternatives. As Gabriel Weinberg, founder of DuckDuckGo, told NPR: "we made the choice to just not track people so there is nothing to turn over."
The Secret History of Privacy. "Something creepy happened when mystery became secular, secrecy became a technology, and privacy became a right..." [Via]
I will be satisfied if the federation of secret law, unequal pardon and irresistible executive powers that rule the world that I love are revealed even for an instant."
Washington Post: NSA and FBI are mining data from nine major tech companies in formerly secret program. Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, Apple are being monitored, with Dropbox "coming soon". The program, called PRISM, is reportedly the most prolific contributor to the President's Daily Brief.
Glenn Greenwald has produced a secret court order requiring Verizon to hand over to the NSA "telephony metadata" of all local and international calls either originating or terminating in the United States on an "ongoing, daily basis," and further barring Verizon from disclosing to the public the fulfillment of this request or the existence of the court order itself. The ACLU refers to the practice as "beyond Orwellian." Direct link to the court order available here. [more inside]
The ACLU reports that the IRS claims in an internal document that it has the authority to access citizens' online communications without a warrant. The IRS claimed in a 2009 document that "the Fourth Amendment does not protect communications held in electronic storage, such as email messages stored on a server, because internet users do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in such communications." It still retains that position even after the 2010 case of US v Warshak which determined that citizens have a reasonable expectation of privacy in such communications. [more inside]
The Justice Department, after a legal battle with the ACLU to avoid having to admit it, recently released documents showing that the federal government’s use of warrantless “pen register” and “tap and trace” surveillance has multiplied over the past decade. But the Justice Department is small potatoes. Every day, the NSA intercepts and stores 1.7 billion emails, phone calls, texts, and other electronic communications. [more inside]
"Now we have three former NSA officials confirming the basic facts. Neither the Constitution nor federal law allow the government to collect massive amounts of communications and data of innocent Americans and fish around in it in case it might find something interesting. This kind of power is too easily abused. We're extremely pleased that more whistleblowers have come forward to help end this massive spying program." - the EFF announces that three former employees of the NSA have come forward to testify in their lawsuit against the NSA over the domestic spying program.
"If the government is able to learn what we speak about, and know who we're talking to, and know what it is that we're planning, it makes any kind of activism extremely difficult, because secrecy and privacy are prerequisites to effective activism. "Glenn Greenwald on challenging the surveillance state: (1 - 2 - 3 - 4).
... and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence has supposedly started holding closed door meetings on extending the FISA Amendment Act to again extend the NSA's domestic warrantless wiretapping program. [more inside]
NSA E-Mail Surveillance Renews Concerns in Congress. "Since April, when it was disclosed that the intercepts of some private communications of Americans went beyond legal limits in late 2008 and early 2009, several Congressional committees have been investigating. Those inquiries have led to concerns in Congress about the agency’s ability to collect and read domestic e-mail messages of Americans on a widespread basis, officials said. Supporting that conclusion is the account of a former N.S.A. analyst who, in a series of interviews, described being trained in 2005 for a program in which the agency routinely examined large volumes of Americans’ e-mail messages without court warrants. Two intelligence officials confirmed that the program was still in operation." [Via]
"Ever since President Bush confirmed the existence of a National Security Administration wiretapping program in late 2005, he has insisted it is aimed only at terrorists’ calls and protects Americans’ civil liberties ("This is a limited program designed to prevent attacks on the United States of America — and I repeat: limited.")....However, ABC News reports [text with embedded video] that the NSA frequently listened to and transcribed the private phone calls of Americans abroad....These conversations included those of American soldiers stationed in Iraq and American aid workers abroad, such as Doctors Without Borders."* [more inside]
We know the NSA is watching. They have corporate buddies to help them out. But now they've found a true ideological soul mate - China [more inside]
Who's soft on terrorism? Surely not the Democrats, who are about to enable the National Security Agency to extend its secret domestic wiretapping program after saying otherwise for months. Surely not the Republican White House, determined to rush out a new Osama bin Laden video even if it burns an intelligence connection spying on Al Qaeda that has been carefully cultivated for years.
You had to live -- did live, from the habit that became instinct and the assumption that every sound you made was overheard.
For Your Eyes Only? Allegations that the government is reading your e-mails, with the help of AT&T. The latest episode of NOW did a good piece on the NSA's domestic surveillance program (previously discussed here.) It can be viewed on their website. Meanwhile, Canadian human rights attorney Maureen Webb has written a new book on the scope of government surveillance, and found that the use of sophisticated methods to search for terrorists is not identifying the right suspects.
Newsfilter. Surveillenve of everything you do online: "It was clear that they would go beyond kiddie porn and terrorism and use it for general law enforcement." Offline: "I'm John Doe, and if I had told you before today that the F.B.I. was requesting library records, I could have gone to jail." Previously, here. On your phone? We've already discussed that, too.
"Don't worry Mr. President, we have Kansas surrounded." Warrantless searches: they're not just for wiretaps anymore. U.S. News and World Report probes the Bush administration's covert drive to conduct physical searches of American homes without court approval.
NSA,FISA, and Privacy It is of course the president who finally approves of actions that may or may not be deemed legal but before 9/11, this is what he had been advised to consider "The largest U.S. spy agency warned the incoming Bush administration in its "Transition 2001" report that the Information Age required rethinking the policies and authorities that kept the National Security Agency in compliance with the Constitution's 4th Amendment prohibition on "unreasonable searches and seizures" without warrant and "probable cause," according to an updated briefing book of declassified NSA documents posted today on the World Wide Web. If this is the sort of reading you enjoy, then by all means dig about here: But then Windows allowed NSA to have a sure access to your machine . And by now we all know that Google will fight the government on making its search data base available in order to protect your privacy.(Reality: to protect Google stuff). And if you worry about search engines tracking you and making data available, then here is a workaround
The Agency That Could Be Big Brother [when this guy talks about NSA, he is authoritative] "DEEP in a remote, fog-layered hollow near Sugar Grove, W.Va., hidden by fortress-like mountains, sits the country's largest eavesdropping bug. Located in a "radio quiet" zone, the station's large parabolic dishes secretly and silently sweep in millions of private telephone calls and e-mail messages an hour"...
Federal surveillance of over a hundred homes, businesses, mosques, warehouses and other sites has been conducted without warrants, according to a new USNews report. Indications are that the persons so targeted were US citizens. "In numerous cases, the monitoring required investigators to go on to the property under surveillance, although no search warrants or court orders were ever obtained, according to those with knowledge of the program. Some participants were threatened with loss of their jobs when they questioned the legality of the operation, according to these accounts."
Our Domestic Intelligence Crisis Federal Appeals Court Judge Richard Posner imagines a world in which US citizens are constantly under electronic surveillance.... and is totally okay with it. Once you accept Posner's premise that "machine collection and processing of data cannot, as such, invade privacy," how far are we from cameras and microphones in private homes. After all, there is no privacy invasion so long as it is only a computer flagging "suspicious" activity, right?
Echelon This is what we know--or do not know--about NSA prgram called Echelon, from 60 Minute show (TV) in 2000. If we assume this what had been going on and there were some sort of restraints for internal spying, then what is going on now? This evening I had heard on radio that the White House claimed that only calls going in and out of the country might be monitored. But this early interview suggests that such calls were monitored previous to the "new" approach. Why were legal restraints put in place calling for judicial hearings? Because of spying abuse done under Nixon. Those restraints are now removed.
Pentagon Plans a Computer System That Would Peek at Personal Data of Americans And this is justified because of National Security. We will lose much that is personal, private, but in turn we will be protefted against the bad guys. Or will we? When NASA and CIA claim they need to spy domestically, and computers gather all data on Americans, what is left that is not what Orwell had suggested might our future be like?Or, as Morth Sahl once labelled a comic record: TheFuture Lies Ahead."