The Guardian’s revelations that our privacy is no longer our own has caused huge public outcry, the tinfoil-hat brigade is in a furore, normal folk have become concerned at what governments are peering at, and most importantly the nefarious are sat back gobsmacked. PRISM, if your at all shocked that such government devices exist, your naive; if your angry, then your possibly delusional.
RANT WARNING! Our freedom, our ability to stroll the streets or fly the airways, is almost entirely reliant on a – very real – war on terrorism. As news flashes across our television sets – Syria – and our soldiers return from the fronts of war – Afghanistan – we perhaps need to pause and consider what price that freedom has cost. If we aren’t thankful that we weren’t one of the 3 thousand troops who gave their lives in the name of democracy in Afghanistan then perhaps we’ve become disconnected.
Exagerated outcries like, “Even if your not doing anything wrong, your being watched.” aren’t helpful
The graphic images of war and death beamed to us by television networks isn’t an example of what we face, it’s what we face. And what privacies have we given up – in order that our streets don’t look like a Boston Bombing – someone reading our emails, a government employee checking over our social media posts or an analyst trawling though our text messages, again, what have you lost? Certainly not your life – unlike the 3000 lives lost on September 11 2001, you can surely be thankful that you weren’t one of the 20,0000 patriots who were wounded in the line of duty, defending our freedom to like on Facebook and plus on Google.
No, it seems that the cost of surveillance on the general population is naught! Unless of course you have something to hide, or wear a tinfoil-hat. While I don’t disagree that The Guardian has done a splendid job revealing PRISM, and presenting the world with another anti-espionage proponent – Edward Snowden – what have they truly given us, a safer community, more freedom? This author thinks not. Truth and lies, are very personal, we tend to take a lack of trust – or being lied to – as an infringement on our own integrity. Being deceived isn’t what this is about, it’s much much bigger than our individual integrity, it’s about our safety as a society ::::
Consider: What happens if our government can’t protect us? Who would replace our spy agencies, Ghostbusters or James Bond? If we wait for Google or Facebook to offer up nefarious, badly intentioned users, how quickly would that happen?
Sounds dramatic!? Google has been in control of the internet for the past decade, the search behemoth has the longest and deepest reach of any single entity on the web, it’s tasked itself with knowing where everything is, categorizing, itemizing, tagging and listing EVERYTHING that’s published on our electronic highway, right? So why has it taken Google 10 years to come up with the righteous ideal of dismantling child pornography on the internet? they knew where it was, they’ve tagged most all of the illegal images that exist! What’s stopped Google from handing this data onto law enforcement? It’s not what they do, what Google, Facebook and the like do is sell advertising, paedophiles, and indeed terrorists are customers. Google and Facebook look-out for profit, it’s government we’ve charged with looking-out for us…
A Quick Catch-up! June 7 20113: The Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald and Ewan MacAskill reported that PRISM was the source for more than 2,000 intelligence reports each month. More than 24,000 reports were issued in 2012. A total of 77,000 intelligence reports have cited PRISM since the program began six years ago.
US intelligence agencies are accessing the servers of nine internet giants as part of a secret data mining program, according to reports from the US and Britain. The Washington Post reported that the National Security Agency NSA and FBI had direct access to servers which allowed them to track an individual’s web presence via audio, video, photographs, emails and connection logs.
Seems ALL of Silicon Valley’s behemoths are involved in the program, including Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, Apple, PalTalk, AOL, Skype and YouTube, amusingly they’ve ALL denied any participation in the program. Presently, Twitter seems to be the ONLY techbehemoth NOT taking part in PRISM?
The USA’s number one spy James R. Clapper said the stories contained “numerous inaccuracies,” but he did not offer any details. And he said the law that allowed US government agencies to collect communications from internet companies only permitted the targeting of “non-US persons” outside the United States. According to the Director of National Intelligence – James Clapper – PRISM can’t be used to intentionally target any Americans or anyone in the United States. Clapper said a special court, Congress, and the executive branch oversee the program and extensive procedures ensure the acquisition, retention, and dissemination of data accidentally collected about Americans is kept to a minimum. Clapper issued a statement and “fact sheet” to correct what he characterized as “significant misimpressions” in articles by The Washington Post and The Guardian.
UPDATE! 11 June 2013: The US government intrusion into the private lives of everyday citizens – via PRISM – smells a bunch like coldwar style spy tactics, a regime that the US has long criticised China for.
:: Update continued at the foot of this post :: UPDATES
Original Post Cont’d: The reports came after Britain’s Guardian newspaper published a leaked court order directing Verizon – one of America’s largest phone companies – to hand over telephone data to the FBI.
Without directly confirming the report, the White House broadly defended the seizures of such information as a “critical tool in protecting the country from terrorist threats”. The Obama administration says its secret collection of phone records of millions of Americans is an essential step in combating terrorism.
The order that kicked all of this off requires Verizon to disclose telephone numbers and the time and duration of calls to the NSA. That means calls within the US and between the US and other countries are given to the NSA on an “ongoing, daily basis”.
RELATED! Tech Firms’ Responses to Latest NSA Disclosures Cloud the Truth: Technology companies may be hiding behind legal jargon to avoid being more forthcoming in their responses to new documents on government surveillance that were disclosed Friday, some experts say :: Read the full Computerworld article »»»»
As It Broke
As the story broke, The Washington Post reported that the top secret server intercept program – code-named PRISM – had been established in 2007. It said the program had grown “exponentially” to be the most significant contributor of intelligence to president Barack Obama’s daily briefings, accounting for one in seven intelligence reports.
An anonymous senior administration official told Reuters the information collected through PRISM targeted non-US persons living outside the United States.
“This program was recently reauthorised by Congress after extensive hearings and debate,” the official said. “Information collected under this program is among the most important and valuable intelligence information we collect, and is used to protect our nation from a wide variety of threats.”
The Washington Post revelations, also reported by the Guardian, come amid a furore over the government’s monitoring of phone communications, which has reopened debate over surveillance methods first adopted by George W Bush’s administration after the September 11, 2001 attacks.
The wide-scale monitoring of millions of Americans’ mobile phone records by the US intelligence community under Mr Obama has been decried as “Orwellian” by civil liberty groups. The Guardian said PRISM allowed the intelligence community to collect information such as search history, emails, file transfers and live chats.
- Guardian published court order ordering Verizon to hand phone records to the government
- White House says data seizures are “critical tool” to protect America from terrorism
- Civil Liberty Proponents say program is “beyond Orwellian”
- White House says Barack Obama “welcomes debate” on the issue
What You Need To KNOW!
What’s been revealed, why does it matter?
- The first program to be revealed is a massive effort by spy agencies – via PRISM – to track hundreds of millions of phone calls made within the US
- The program only grabs metadata, it doesn’t record or retain what is said
- It does tell the agencies who made the call and who they called
- The US government compelled one of the countries biggest telcos – Verizon – to hand over ALL phone data
- It’s speculated that other US telcos are under the same pressure
The second program is data harvesting, targeted at foreigners and based entirely online.
- NSA has direct access to major US company servers
- Techbehemoths offer-up a blanket denial, the denials are however qualified by unauthorised
- Under US law, the government is authorised to access any information not protected by constitutional rights, in it’s fight against terrorism
- Foreign nationals – any non-US citizen – are the target of PRISM
- There is NO restriction on what the PRISM program can view, when viewing a foreign nationals internet activity
So far, it seems that Twitter is the only major techbehemoth NOT involved in PRISM – GO FREE SPEECH – it’s unclear if Twitter has resisted or simply not been asked.
The flaw in PRISM seems to be: PRISMs aim is to gather data on terrorism, data that might help prevent an attack on the US or it’s interests. If your a terrorist currently within the confines of United States borders, your pretty safe, your protected by the US constitution…
Craig Timberg from the Washington Post says “Expanded Government surveillance was cast as a price of war in the aftermath of September 11, 2001 attacks – on the USA – …the war on terrorism is showing signs of ebbing, while the surveillance systems created to fight terrorism become more powerful.”
A point that is being echoed around the globe, indeed it’s the rest of the – outside the USA – worlds population that needs to be most concerned about this latest exposed surveillance system.
The US government – from top to bottom – has either denied any knowledge of PRISM, and or, outlined that it is NOT utilised on US citizens, or foreign nationals living on US soil – this is likely to change – and is solely aimed at curbing terror attacks on the US.
What is PRISM?
PRISM is an NSA intelligence alliances with as many as 100 trusted U.S. companies , it’s known as a “Special Source Operation” and has been operating in one guise or another since the 1970s. A prior program, the Terrorist Surveillance Program, was implemented in the wake of the September 11 attacks under the George W. Bush Administration but was widely criticized and had its legality questioned, because it was conducted without approval of the FISC Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.
PRISM was authorized by an order of the FISC. Its creation was enabled by the Protect America Act of 2007 under President Bush and the FISA – Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act – Amendments of 2008, which legally immunized private companies that cooperated voluntarily with US intelligence collection and was renewed by Congress under President Obama in 2012 for five years until December 2017. According to The Register, the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 “specifically authorizes intelligence agencies to monitor the phone, email, and other communications of U.S. citizens for up to a week without obtaining a warrant” when one of the parties is outside the U.S.
- Eavesdropping program used by US intelligence agencies
- Allegedly allows the National Security Agency (NSA) and the FBI direct access to servers to track an individual’s web presence
- Reports Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, Apple, AOL, Skype and YouTube among those involved
- Data monitored could include search histories, emails, social media interactions, connection logs, audio and video
- Washington Post says PRISM program is the most significant contributor to US president Barack Obama’s daily briefings, accounting for one in seven intelligence reports
Check: The Washington Post’s PRISM Document Collection
The White House says strict controls are in place to ensure the program does not violate civil liberties.
“The top priority of the president of the United States is the national security of the United States. We need to make sure we have the tools we need to confront the threat posed by terrorists,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said. “The intelligence community is conducting court-authorised intelligence activities pursuant to public statute with the knowledge and oversight of Congress.”
“What we need to do is balance that priority with the need to protect civil liberties.” Mr Earnest added that president Barack Obama welcomed public debate on the issue.
Republican Mike Rogers from Michigan, chairman of the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, said the program was vitally important.
“I can tell you why this program is important: within the last few years this program was used to stop a terrorist attack in the United States. We know that,” Mr Rogers said.
Leading members of Congress said the program had been going on for seven years.
Verizon has declined to comment. It remains unclear whether the practice extends to other carriers, although several security experts and a US official said that was likely.
The other big question is: …when they say “access to our data” does that include all those documents, programs, pictures and videos we’ve stored in the cloud? Google Drive Dropbox Softplayer…
Privacy proponentss have blasted the order as unconstitutional government surveillance and called for a review of the program. The US Centre for Constitutional Rights says it believes it to be the broadest surveillance order issued in American history.
“The United States should not be accumulating phone records on tens of millions of innocent Americans. That is not what democracy is about. That is not what freedom is about,” Senator Bernie Sanders said.
The American Civil Liberties Union called on Congress to investigate the scope of the effort, which it labelled “alarming” and “unconstitutional”.
“It’s a program in which some untold number of innocent people have been put under the constant surveillance of government agents,” the ACLU’s Jameel Jaffer said. “It is beyond Orwellian.”
The revelation also put a spotlight on the handling of intelligence and privacy issues by the Obama administration. Amid controversy over aggressive leak investigations, the Obama administration has promised journalists will not be prosecuted for publishing material leaked by government officials.
As part of two separate recent leak investigations the US Justice Department has seized the phone records of Associated Press journalists and electronically tracked a Fox news reporter’s movements during visits to the State Department.
However the US attorney general, Eric Holder, has moved to quell concerns.
“The department’s goal in investigating leak cases is to identify and prosecute government officials who jeopardize national security by violating their oaths not to target members of the press,” Mr Holder said.
The Justice Department under Barack Obama has pursued more government officials for leaking than any previous administration.
PRISM coded into Microsoft Silverlight? With 65 percent penetration, who’s watching what your watching!?
Bigend of Internet Deny Back Door Actions
Although the reports indicated the program had been sanctioned by the companies involved, several denied any knowledge of it. Google dismissed suggestions it had opened a “back door” for intelligence agencies.
“Google cares deeply about the security of our users’ data. We disclose user data to government in accordance with the law, and we review all such requests carefully,” the company said in a statement quoted by The Guardian.
“From time to time, people allege that we have created a government ‘back door’ into our systems, but Google does not have a back door for the government to access private user data.”
Facebook also said it did not provide any government agency with “direct access” to its servers.
“When Facebook is asked for data or information about specific individuals, we carefully scrutinise any such request for compliance with all applicable laws, and provide information only to the extent required by law,” Facebook chief security officer Joe Sullivan said in a statement.
Microsoft said it did not voluntarily participate in any government data collection, saying it only complied “with orders for requests about specific accounts or identifiers”.
Yahoo firmly stated that it did not provide the government with direct access to its servers, systems or network.
A spokesman for Apple said the company had “never heard of PRISM”.
“We do not provide any government agency with direct access to our servers, and any government agency requesting customer data must get a court order,” spokesman Steve Dowling said.
The Guardian reported that Microsoft had been part of the program since 2007, with Apple the most recent addition in October 2012.
The program allowed the NSA to obtain communications at the source without having to make requests to service providers directly or to obtain individual court orders.
The Guardian reported that PRISM was the source for more than 2,000 intelligence reports each month. More than 24,000 reports were issued in 2012, a 27 per cent increase from 2011.
A total of 77,000 intelligence reports have cited PRISM since the program began six years ago, The Guardian report said.
President Obama Defends Civil Surveillance
President Barack Obama has staunchly defended US surveillance programs monitoring telephone and internet usage, calling it a modest encroachment on privacy necessary to defend the country from attack.
Mr Obama said the programs were “trade-offs” designed to strike a balance between privacy concerns and keeping Americans safe from terrorist attacks.
Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg responded to what he described as “outrageous” reports about the surveillance program, which is codenamed PRISM.
The Washington Post reported on Friday that federal authorities have been tapping into the central servers of companies including Google, Apple and Facebook to gain access to emails, photos and other files allowing analysts to track a person’s movements and contacts.
That added to privacy concerns sparked by a report in Britain’s Guardian newspaper that the National Security Agency (NSA) had been mining phone records from millions of customers of a subsidiary of Verizon Communications.
Zuckerbrg’s Facebook Statement
“I want to respond personally to the outrageous press reports about PRISM:
Facebook is not and has never been part of any program to give the US or any other government direct access to our servers. We have never received a blanket request or court order from any government agency asking for information or metadata in bulk, like the one Verizon reportedly received. And if we did, we would fight it aggressively. We hadn’t even heard of PRISM before yesterday.
When governments ask Facebook for data, we review each request carefully to make sure they always follow the correct processes and all applicable laws, and then only provide the information if is required by law. We will continue fighting aggressively to keep your information safe and secure.
We strongly encourage all governments to be much more transparent about all programs aimed at keeping the public safe. It’s the only way to protect everyone’s civil liberties and create the safe and free society we all want over the long term.”
Mark Zuckerberg; via Facebook
Your excused if your feeling a little cynical…
The moral high-ground has simply crumbled, no major government can claim innocence here, everyone seems to be involved in civil cyber surveillance
Nobody is Listening
President Obama said the programs were supervised by federal judges and Congress, and that lawmakers had been briefed.
“Nobody is listening to your telephone calls. That’s not what this program is about,” Mr Obama told reporters during a visit to California’s Silicon Valley.
“In the abstract you can complain about Big Brother and how this is a potential program run amok, but when you actually look at the details, I think we’ve struck the right balance.”
The two newspaper reports launched a broad debate about privacy rights and the proper limits of government surveillance in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, attacks in the United States.
Mr Obama, who pledged to run the most transparent administration in US history, said in his first comments on the controversy that he came into office with a “healthy scepticism” about the surveillance programs but had come to believe “modest encroachments on privacy” were worth it.
He said his administration also had instituted audits and tightened safeguards to ensure the programs did not overstep their bounds.
“You can’t have 100 per cent security and also then have 100 per cent privacy and zero inconvenience,” he said.
“We’re going to have to make some choices as a society.”
The move comes as Mr Obama met with Chinese president Xi Jinping in California, agreeing on the need to work together to resolve disputes on cybersecurity.
Mr Obama, speaking after the first in a series of meetings with Mr Xi, said they had recognised it was necessary to establish a set of common rules on the thorny issue.
Larry Page Says Google Never Joined PRISM
In a statement, the flambouyant head of Google said, “We have not joined any program that would give the US government – or any other government – direct access to our servers. Indeed, the US government does not have direct access or a “back door” to the information stored in our data centres. We had not heard of a program called PRISM until yesterday.
We provide user data to governments only in accordance with the law. Our legal team reviews each and every request, and frequently pushes back when requests are overly broad or don’t follow the correct process. Press reports that suggest that Google is providing open-ended access to our users’ data are false, period.
…We understand that the US and other governments need to take action to protect their citizens’ safety – including sometimes by using surveillance. But the level of secrecy around the current legal procedures undermines the freedoms we all cherish.”
Full Statement: http://googleblog.blogspot.com
Mr Obama may be forced to broach the PRISM subject during his meetings with Mr Xi, where US concerns about alleged Chinese hacking of American secrets are expected to be high on the agenda.
While members of the US Congress are routinely briefed by the NSA on secret surveillance programs, it is not clear how much they knew about the widespread surveillance of private internet activity.
Representative Henry Waxman, a California Democrat, said he thought the administration had good intentions but stressed the program was “just too broad an overreach”.
“I think there ought to be some connection to suspicion, otherwise we can say that any intrusion on all of our privacy is justified for the times that we will catch the few terrorists,” Mr Waxman told MSNBC.
“Good intentions are not enough. We need protections against government intrusion that goes too far.”
PRISM Flourished Under Obama
The Washington Post said the surveillance program involving firms including Microsoft, Skype and YouTube, code-named PRISM and established under Republican president George W. Bush in 2007, had seen “exponential growth” under the Democratic Obama administration.
It said the NSA increasingly relies on PRISM as a source of raw material for its intelligence reports.
However, James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, said the report contained “numerous inaccuracies”, and some of the companies identified by the newspaper denied that the NSA and Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) had “direct access” to their central servers.
Microsoft said it does not voluntarily participate in government data collection and only complies “with orders for requests about specific accounts or identifiers”.
Furthermore, Google dismissed suggestions it had opened a “back door” for intelligence agencies and Facebook said it did not provide any government agency with “direct access” to its servers.
A spokesman for Apple said the company had “never heard of PRISM”. Steve Dowling said via statement that Apple “…does not provide any government agency with direct access to our servers, and any government agency requesting customer data must get a court order.”
What’s PRISM Spying On?
Live Chats, Audio, video, emails, images, documents, indeed if it’s got an electronic pulse, it’s most likely being watched! worried yet?
Deny, Deny, Deny, Admit!?
While it might seem odd that all these tech-behemoths have denied any co-operation with PRISM, it’s perhaps a little naive to buy the outright denials. Companies are legally obliged to comply with requests for users’ communications under US law, but the Prism program allows the intelligence services direct access to the companies’ servers. The NSA document notes the operations have “assistance of communications providers in the US”.
The Guardian article points out that this “…revelation also supports concerns raised by several US senators during the renewal of the Fisa Amendments Act in December 2012, who warned about the scale of surveillance the law might enable, and shortcomings in the safeguards it introduces.”
The Prism program allows the NSA – the world’s largest spy agency – to obtain targeted communications without having to request them from the service providers and without having to obtain individual court orders.
Top Secret US Order Calls on Officials to Identify Targets for Cyber-attacks
A top-secret US government order calling for officials to identify possible targets for “offensive” cyber attacks has been published by The Guardian newspaper. The 18-page order, reproduced by the British publication, has been acknowledged by the White House but has never been published before now.
The development comes just one day after reports by The Guardian and The Washington Post revealed details of secret US surveillance programs monitoring phone records and mining data from internet servers, including those of Google, Facebook and Apple.
The latest reports say US president Barack Obama ordered his senior national security and intelligence officials to draw up a list of potential overseas targets for cyber attacks to “advance US objectives around the world”. The directive authorises “defensive” and “offensive” actions by the US military in cyberspace to deal with threats.
The document also permits the US secretary of defence to take “emergency cyber actions” to “mitigate an imminent threat”. White House national security spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden says the classified directive, which has been publicly acknowledged, updated a similar directive dating back to 2004.
“This directive establishes principles and processes for the use of cyber operations so that cyber tools are integrated with the fully array of national security tools we have at our disposal,” Mr Hayden said in a statement. “It provides a whole-of-government approach consistent with the values that we promote domestically and internationally as we have previously articulated in the International Strategy for Cyberspace.”
She added the procedures outlined in the directive “are consistent with the US constitution, including the president’s role as commander in chief, and other applicable law and policies”.
US on Offensive in Cyber-war
The directive said the US government will “identify potential targets of national importance where [offensive cyber actions] can offer a favourable balance of effectiveness and risk as compared with other instruments of national power”. The report comes the same day Mr Obama and Chinese president Xi Jinping attend talks in California.
US officials said the question of Chinese hackers would be on the agenda after repeated cyber attacks from China targeting US military and commercial secrets. Last year, the head of the US Cyber Command said the United States needs to develop offensive weapons in cyberspace as part of its effort to protect the nation from cyber attacks.
“If your defence is only to try to block attacks, you can never be successful,” General Keith Alexander, director of the National Security Agency (NSA) and commander of the US Cyber Command, told a Washington symposium. “At times, the government has to look at what you have to do to stop an attack – stop it before it happens. Part of our defence has to consider offensive measures.”
The source article NSA Prism program taps into user data of Apple, Google and others is part of a series on internet security published in The Guardian, the vanguard describes the series as: A critical, campaigning column on vital issues of civil rights, freedom of information and justice – and their enemies – it’s well worth a read: www.guardian.co.uk Follow the author, Glenn Greenwald on Twitter @ggreenwald
The Bashing China has received over the past decade on civil liberty, internet censorship and human rights now looks like COMPLETE hypocrisy. The scale of PRISM is daunting, it’s flow-on affect for US allies is likely to haunt us for the foreseeable future
In an absolutely ironic twist, as this article is published, US president Barack Obama and Chinese leader Xi Jinping during a meeting on the subject of China/US relations – and China’s propensity of hacking – have pledged a new approach to cooperation, however the US president took the Chinese leader to task on hacking charges. In their first meeting since Mr Xi assumed the presidency in March 2013, Mr Obama voiced hope the US and China “can forge a new model of cooperation between countries based on mutual interest and mutual respect.”
“It is in the United States’ interests that China continues on the path of success because we believe that a peaceful and stable and prosperous China is not only good for the Chinese, but also good for the world and the United States,” Mr Obama said.
Mr Obama wasted no time in hitting a key theme of the visit from the US side – complaints of an alleged Chinese internet spying effort targeting American military and commercial secrets and intellectual property. He voiced concern over the alleged theft – which a recent study said was costing the US economy hundreds of billions of dollars a year – and urged “common rules of the road” to protect against hacking.
“President Xi and I recognize that, because of the incredible advances of technology, the issue of cybersecurity and the need for rules, and common approaches to security, have become increasingly important,” Mr Obama said. “It’s critical, as two of the largest economies and military powers of the world, that China and the United States arrive at a firm understanding.”
Mr Obama, who will hold a second day of talks with Mr Xi on Saturday, said they had not yet discussed cyber-security in-depth. Ahead of the summit, the two countries announced working-level talks to clear up the issue.
Mr Xi said he wanted “good-faith cooperation” to clear up “misgivings” by the United States about cybersecurity, telling reporters that China was also “a victim of cyberattacks.”
How To Avoid Being Watched
Hide your IP address: you can mask your identity by using an anonymising tool such as Tor or hidemyass, connecting via a Virtual Private Network – VPN, Moble VPN, Dynamic VPN or Open VPN – will help keep your identity hidden.
A VPN extends a private network across public networks like the Internet, enabling a host computer to send and receive data across shared or public networks as if they were an integral part of the private network with all the functionality, security and management policies of the private network. This is done by establishing a virtual point-to-point connection through the use of dedicated connections, encryption, or a combination of the two.
Hide you internet search: avoiding Google – or Bing – is a no-brainer, alternatives like Ixquick, with it’s superlative privacy credentials, NO IP logging and a policy of not share information with third parties will hide your activity from PRISMs trawl.
Ixquick is a metasearch engine based in New York and the Netherlands. Founded by David Bodnick in 1998, as well as hidden-search, Ixquick also provides the stand-alone proxy service, Ixquick Proxy, which has also been incorporated into both its Ixquick and Startpage search engines allowing users the option to open all search results via proxy.
Keeping emails private: if you are using a commercial provider that has been linked to PRISM – Microsoft or AOL – you can thwart the NSA by sending and receiving encrypted emails. PGP or its free cousin GPG are considered the standard for email security, and these can be used to both encrypt and decrypt messages. Check the GPG website for more details: www.gnupg.org
GNU Privacy Guard – GnuPG or GPG – is a GPL Licensed alternative to the PGP suite of cryptographic software. GnuPG is compliant with RFC 4880, which is the current IETF standards track specification of OpenPGP. Current versions of PGP (and Veridis’ Filecrypt) are interoperable with GnuPG and other OpenPGP-compliant systems. GnuPG is a part of the Free Software Foundation’s GNU software project, and has received major funding from the German government.
DON’T UNDERESTIMATE THE IMPORTANCE OF ENCRYPTING EMAILS! This is possibly the most important form of communication to protect, email is often detailed and revealing. Think of the broad form your email communication takes, who you communicate with and what info you share. Novice computer users learning how to use PGP or GPG may find it daunting at first, but there are plenty of tutorials online for both Mac and Windows users that can help guide you through the process. For journalists working with confidential sources, attorneys seeking to ensure attorney-client privilege, or others whose work requires secure communications, learning how to use PGP or GPG is an absolute necessity.
Organisations seeking to protect themselves from email grabs could go one step further: taking more control of messages by setting up your own email server, rather than relying on a third-party service, helping ensure no secret court orders can be filed to gain covert access to confidential files. And if you need to store private documents online, you can use Cloudfogger in conjunction with Dropbox.
For instant messaging and online phone or video chats, you can avoid Microsoft and Google services such as Skype and G chat by adopting more secure alternatives.
Jitsi can be used for peer-to-peer encrypted video calls, and for encrypted instant message chats you can try using an “off the record” plugin with Pidgin for Windows users or Adium for Mac. Pidgin and Adium take a little bit of work to set up, there are tutorials to help ease the pain, check: encrypteverything.ca for Adium and ecurityinabox.org for Pidgin.
As for phone calls, if you want to shield against eavesdropping or stop the NSA obtaining records of who you are calling and when, there are a few options. You could use an encryption app such as Silent Circle to make and receive encrypted calls and send encrypted texts and files, though your communications will be fully secure only if both parties to the call, text or file transfer are using the app. Other than Silent Circle, you could try RedPhone – Android or iOS – for making encrypted calls or TextSecure for sending encrypted texts.
This new frontier of sweeping secret cyber-surveillance isn’t a conspiracy theory but a burgeoning reality. However, it’s not an Orwellian dystopia – not yet anyhoo – the best way of avoiding a future that scares you is to get vocal. If government programs like PRISM scare you, say something, join a group or write a letter. Remember it’s YOUR government, we voted them in and can easily exit them with the same precious vote!
In the meantime, tools to circumvent cyber-surveillance are freely available and relatively easy to find.
Spy Agency Whistleblower Reveals His Identity: Edward Snowden
UPDATE! 10 June 2013: The UK newspaper that broke the PRISM story – The Guardian – has identified a 29-year-old former CIA technical worker as the source for leaks about US spy agencies that have rattled Washington’s security services in the past few days. The newspaper said its source, Edward Snowden, had asked it to reveal his identity.
“I have no intention of hiding who I am because I know I have done nothing wrong,” Mr Snowden told The Guardian in an interview posted on the newspaper’s website. According to the Guardian, Mr Snowden had been working for the NSA over the last four years, employed by various outside contractors, including tech-consultants Booz Allen.
- Clients include the US military, the US Intelligence Community and the Dept of Homeland Security
- The company says it aims to help those clients combat global terrorism and improve cyber capabilities
- Mr Snowdon worked for Booz Allen for less than three months and was assigned to a team working in Hawaii
- The company says if the leak allegations are true, it is a “grave violation” of its code of conduct
- Snowden says he leaked the data because he was worried about privacy and internet freedom
Three weeks ago, he copied secret documents at the NSA office in Hawaii and told his boss he needed time off for treatment for epilepsy. He packed his bags and on May 20 flew to Hong Kong, leaving behind a salary of about $US200,000, a girlfriend with whom he lived in Hawaii, a stable career and a loving family.
“I’m willing to sacrifice all of that because I can’t in good conscience allow the US government to destroy privacy, internet freedom and basic liberties for people around the world with this massive surveillance machine they’re secretly building,” Mr Snowden said.
Booz Allen confirmed Mr Snowden had worked for them, saying he had been employed as part of a Hawaii-based team for less than three months.
“News reports that this individual has claimed to have leaked classified information are shocking, and if accurate, this action represents a grave violation of the code of conduct and core values of our firm,” the company said in a statement.
It added that it would cooperate with any investigations into the matter.
Snowden says program targeted ‘vast majority’ of human communications The exposure of the secret programs has triggered widespread debate within the United States and abroad about the vast reach of the NSA, which has expanded its surveillance programs dramatically in the last decade.
Mr Snowden told the Guardian he decided to break his silence after becoming disenchanted with US president Barack Obama who he said had continued the policies of predecessor George W Bush.
“The NSA has built an infrastructure that allows it to intercept almost everything. With this capability, the vast majority of human communications are automatically ingested without targeting,” he said. “If I wanted to see your emails or your wife’s phone, all I have to do is use intercepts. I can get your emails, passwords, phone records, credit cards.”
Snowden Hiding Out in Hong Kong
The Guardian report says Mr Snowden is now holed up in a hotel room in Hong Kong and is deeply worried about being spied on.
“He lines the door of his hotel room with pillows to prevent eavesdropping,” the newspaper said. “He puts a large red hood over his head and laptop when entering his passwords to prevent any hidden cameras from detecting them.”
Mr Snowden says he has eaten most meals in the hotel room.
“I’ve left the room maybe a total of three times during my entire stay,” Mr Snowden said
Mr Snowden says there are many ways the US government could react to one of the biggest leaks in its history.
“Yes, I could be rendered by the CIA. I could have people come after me. Or any of the third-party partners. They work closely with a number of other nations. Or they could pay off the Triads. Any of their agents or assets,” he said.”We have got a CIA station just up the road – the consulate here in Hong Kong – and I am sure they are going to be busy for the next week. And that is a concern I will live with for the rest of my life, however long that happens to be.”
US Spy Boss Says Leaks Have Caused ‘huge, grave damage’
Mr Snowden’s actions are comparable to that of the WikiLeaks whistleblower Bradley Manning, who is currently on trial in the US and facing life in prison for aiding the enemy. The bombshell disclosure of top secret documents by Mr Snowden implicated some of the biggest firms in Silicon valley, including Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, Apple, PalTalk, AOL, Skype and YouTube.
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper earlier called for a criminal probe into the leaks, slamming the “gut-wrenching” disclosures for causing “huge, grave damage” to US intelligence capabilities.
“The NSA has filed a crimes report on this already,” Mr Clapper told NBC.
The Washington Post said the top secret server intercept program was code-named PRISM and had been established in 2007. It said the program had grown “exponentially” to be the most significant contributor of intelligence to president Barack Obama’s daily briefings, accounting for one in seven intelligence reports.
Julian Assange Calls on Australian Government to Come Clean on Spying
UPDATE! 11 June 2013: WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange says the Australian Government must reveal any links it has to the massive public surveillance operation uncovered in the US.The Australian whistleblower has spoken exclusively to ABC’s Lateline program from inside the Ecuadorian embassy, where he is holed up amid fears he will be extradited to America.
Mr Assange says he has had “indirect communication” with Edward Snowden, Britain has denied allegations its spy agency has been involved in the operation, and Mr Assange says the Australian Government must outline any involvement it may have.
“We must ask the question, and the Australian Government must answer the question: how many Australians have been intercepted?” Assange told Lateline’s Emma Alberici. “In the relationship between the Defence Signals Directorate and ASIO and US Intelligence, has the Australian Government been pooling that information about Australians? Is the Australian Government involved in this warrantless interception program? Are there collection points in Australia? Have Australian companies been a part of this having their information sucked out to the United States? Is this being done without a warrant? It is simply not acceptable.”
Mr Snowden, 29, who is believed to have fled to Hong Kong, has said he leaked the information because he has an “obligation to help free people from oppression”.
“My sole motive is to inform the public as to that which is done in their name and that which is done against them,” Mr Snowden told the Guardian newspaper.
Cable Leaks Harmless, Assange says
Mr Assange is responsible for publishing the 700,000 classified documents released by American soldier Bradley Manning, who has pleaded guilty to the leaking of that material and is now on trial in the US for aiding the enemy. Mr Assange is convinced there is a sealed indictment from a grand jury waiting for him in the US and fears extradition if the British government deport him to Sweden where he faces sexual allegations.
He has defended his organisation’s release of secret US diplomatic cables, saying there is no evidence anyone has been harmed by the release of the information.
“The fact is not even the Pentagon alleges that a single person came to harm as a result of any of our publications anywhere in the world, and in fact, no other government agency does either,” he said. “That’s one of the disturbing aspects about the Bradley Manning case, is that they have forbidden the defence to table any evidence whatsoever that no-one came to harm and the prosecution is not going to table any evidence – because there isn’t any – that anyone did come to harm.”
US Navy SEALs found WikiLeaks documents during their 2011 raid on Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan, however Mr Assange says that doesn’t mean much.
“I am sure al Qaeda reads the New York Times. He [Bin Laden] mentioned that he read Bob Woodward books. He probably has People, maybe even Who Magazine,” Mr Assange said. “There’s no allegation that Al Qaeda was in any way aided by the publications that we published, despite the fact, despite the fact that Bradley Manning has been charged with aiding the enemy, a capital offence. The judge in this case has said that the prosecution does not need to show that Al Qaeda was aided in any way whatsoever and the prosecution doesn’t allege that Al Qaeda was. All they intend to show is that Al Qaeda had our publications just like everyone else in the world.”
Assange Trashes Australian Consular Support
This month marks a year since Mr Assange entered the Ecuadorian embassy seeking political asylum. Mr Assange says the Australian consulate in London is simply ticking boxes in its offers of consular help and has given no advice.
“It’s remarkable to look at the statements made by the Foreign Minister. But other Australians who have been in difficult situations will tell you it’s all exactly the same,” Mr Assange told Lateline. “I have not met anyone from any consulate, any Australian Government official since 2010, since I was in prison. In the time that I’ve been in this embassy here – we laugh about it, that once a month, there will be a tick-the-box call to the consul here saying, ‘Well, how’s Mr Assange?’ And, well, my response is, ‘Well, what’s your offer?'”
Mr Assange says the last offer of help from the Australian consul was for medical assistance, which turned out to be a list of doctors.
“The Ecuadorian consul went to meet with the Australian consul, completely utterly wasted his time,” he said. “The result of that was, ‘Well, here you are, here’s a list of doctors in London’. A list of doctors that the Australian Government is going to pay for? ‘No’. Nothing, nothing at all.”
Mr Assange says the only function of the consulate has been to feed political intelligence to the Foreign Minister.
“All that the so-called consular support is doing here is it’s simply collecting political intelligence for Bob Carr,” Mr Assange said. “There’s an Australian member – there’s a DFAT member sitting in on the Bradley Manning case. There has been for about six months, secretly sitting there, recording notes. Are those notes passed on to our legal team? Absolutely not. They produce briefing notes for Bob Carr so he can set up his press lines. It’s really a type of corruption where money that should be spent on actual consular support is simply spent on producing press releases for the Foreign Minister to make it look like he gives a damn about Australians.”
Hong Kong Politician Urges Snowden to Leave
A veteran pro-Beijing politician says Edward Snowden, who is believed to be hiding in Hong Kong, should leave the city. Regina Ip Lau Suk-yee, formerly the city’s top official overseeing security, says the city’s administration is “obliged to comply with the terms of agreements” with the US government, which includes the extradition of fugitives.
She says she does not know whether the government has yet received an extradition request for Mr Snowden but that it is “in his best interest to leave Hong Kong”.
“If Mr Snowden is in Hong Kong and if the US justice department decides to initiate criminal investigation and if the offence comes in the purview of our agreement, they could through the US consulate ask our law enforcement agencies to assist in locating him … and possibly even arresting him,” Ms Ip said. “He may not have known that the US has signed treaties with us … so it’s best he leave.”
The US and Hong Kong signed an extradition treaty in 1996 a year before the city was handed over from British to Chinese sovereignty, under which both parties agreed to hand over fugitive offenders.
But the director of the Hong Kong’s Human Rights Monitor watchdog group, Law Yuk-kai, says the extradition of someone “will probably require a lot of process in Hong Kong”.
Whistleblower Expresses Interest in Iceland
Mr Snowden, whose exact location is unknown, revealed that he was in the southern Chinese city in an interview with the Guardian newspaper published on Sunday.
He says his choice of Hong Kong is due to its “strong tradition of free speech”. Mr Snowden has now expressed an interest in seeking asylum in Iceland, which he describes as a country that stands up for internet freedoms.
However, the head of Iceland’s directorate of immigration, Kristin Volundardottir, says no application has so far been received, and Mr Snowden will have to travel to the country to be able to submit an asylum application.
“The rule is you have to be in Iceland and apply in person,” Ms Volundardottir said.
The International Modern Media Institute, an Icelandic foundation working towards securing free speech, says it is trying to get in touch with Mr Snowden.
“Our next step will be to assess the security implications of asylum, as it is possible that Iceland may not be the best location, depending on various questions regarding the legal framework,” the institute said in a statement.
Mr Snowden says he went public as whistleblower to the secret internet surveillance program because he could not “allow the US government to destroy privacy, internet freedom and basic liberties for people around the world with this massive surveillance machine they’re secretly building”.
“My sole motive is to inform the public as to that which is done in their name and that which is done against them,” he said.
Both the US consulate and Hong Kong government has declined to comment on the case.
Facebook & Microsoft Reveal US Surveillance Deal
Facebook and Microsoft have struck agreements with the United States government to release limited information about the number of surveillance requests they receive.
The move is a modest victory for the companies as they struggle with the fallout from disclosures about a secret government data-collection program. Facebook became the first to release aggregate numbers of requests, saying in a blogpost that it received between 9,000 and 10,000 US requests for user data in the second half of 2012, covering 18,000 to 19,000 of its users’ accounts. Facebook has more than 1.1 billion users worldwide.
Check The Facebook Statement: newsroom.fb.com
The majority of those requests are routine police inquiries, a person familiar with the company said, but under the terms of the deal with Justice Department, Facebook is precluded from saying how many were secret orders issued under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
Until now, all information about requests under FISA, including their existence, were deemed secret.
Microsoft said it had received requests of all types for information on about 31,000 consumer accounts in the second half of 2012. In a “transparency report” Microsoft published earlier this year without including national security matters, it said it had received criminal requests involving 24,565 accounts for all of 2012.
If half of those requests came in the second part of the year, the intelligence requests constitute the bulk of government inquiries. Microsoft did not dispute that conclusion.
Google said that it was negotiating with the government and that the sticking point was whether it could only publish a combined figure for all requests.
It said that would be “a step back for users” because it already breaks out criminal requests and National Security Letters, another type of intelligence inquiry.
Internet Behemoths Fighting Public Backlash
Facebook, Google and Microsoft had all publicly urged the US authorities to allow them to reveal the number and scope of the surveillance requests after documents leaked to the Washington Post and the Guardian suggested they had given the government “direct access” to their computers as part of a National Security Agency program called Prism.
The disclosures about Prism, and related revelations about broad-based collection of telephone records, have triggered widespread concern and congressional hearings about the scope and extent of the information-gathering. The big internet companies in particular have been torn by the need to obey US laws that forbid virtually any discussion of foreign intelligence requests and the need to assuage customers.
“We hope this helps put into perspective the numbers involved and lays to rest some of the hyperbolic and false assertions in some recent press accounts about the frequency and scope of the data requests that we receive,” Facebook wrote on its site.
Facebook said it would continue to press to divulge more information.
It is believed that FISA requests typically seek much more information, but it remains unclear how broad the FISA orders might be. Several companies have said they had never been asked to turn over everything from an entire country, for example. However, the intelligence agencies could ask for all correspondence by an account holder, or even all correspondence from the users’ contacts.
Among the other remaining questions are the nature of court-approved “minimisation” procedures designed to limit use of information about US residents. The NSA is prohibited from specifically targeting them.
“If they are receiving large amounts of data that they are not actually authorised to look at, the question then becomes what are the procedures by which they determine what they can look at?” said Kevin Bankston, an attorney at the Centre for Democracy and Technology.
“Do they simply store that forever in case later they are authorised to look at it?”
In addition, some legal experts say that recent US laws allow for intelligence-gathering simply for the pursuit of foreign policy objectives, not just in hunting terrorists and spies.
Google, Facebook and Microsoft have already directly contradicted the Guardian and Washington Post reports about “direct access” to their servers. Both newspapers have since backtracked, and it now appears that at least some of the companies allowed neither government-controlled equipment on their property nor direct searches without company employees vetting each inquiry.
Google has been the most forthright on the technology issue, saying that it provides information only on request via an old-school data-transfer protocol called FTP and that Google legal staff must approve each request.
Beyond that, it is now clear that many of the companies have objected, at times strenuously, to both individual requests and the broad sweep of the program. It remains unclear how successful they have been.
Wrestling Over Secret Orders
The initial reports about Prism included an internal NSA slide listing the dates that each of nine companies began allowing Prism data collection, starting with Microsoft in 2007 and Yahoo in 2008. The other companies include Apple, AOL and PalTalk as well as YouTube and Skype, which are owned by Google and Microsoft respectively. Sources familiar with the conversations between the government and the internet companies say there are frequent disagreements over how to handle specific requests.
Only one company, Yahoo, is known to have taken the highly unusual step of appealing an order from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. The company argued in 2008 that the order violated the Fourth Amendment protection against unreasonable searches and seizures.
Twitter, which has positioned itself as a hard-line defender of free speech and customer privacy, is still not participating in Prism. But people familiar with talks between the tech companies and the government said it will likely be forced to comply. Mr Snowden is still in hiding in Hong Kong. He has said he will fight against any attempt to extradite him.
Hong Kong Protesters Rally in Support of Edward Snowden
Hundreds of protesters have staged a rally in Hong Kong to urge the city’s government not to extradite Edward Snowden, and slam the US for its surveillance programs. Hong Kong’s first major demonstration on the issue saw protesters – including pro-democracy politicians, activists and a large number of expatriates – brave the rain to march to the US consulate.
They held banners and shouted “Defend Free Speech”, “Protect Snowden”, “No Extradition” and “Respect Hong Kong Law”. Many blew their whistles loudly and wore masks with Mr Snowden’s face on it.
“Today we all blow the whistle,” shouted Tom Grundy, a British blogger and activist who lives in Hong Kong.
One protester held a sign of US president Barack Obama’s famous ‘Hope’ poster, edited to show the leader as a spy wearing large headphones. Another sign read: “Betray Snowden, Betray freedom.” The protesters handed a letter over to the US consulate addressed to Consul General Steve Young.
“For many years, the US State Department has publicly supported the cause of internet freedom and criticised other governments for conducting cyber attacks, surveillance and censorship,” the letter said. “We now understand, through recent revelations, that the US government has been operating their own blanket surveillance systems and allegedly conducting cyber warfare against Hong Kong. This is a violation of Human Rights of people of Hong Kong and around the world.”
Earlier this week, Mr Snowden told the South China Morning Post newspaper that there have been more than 61,000 NSA hacking operations globally, targeting powerful “network backbones” that can yield access to hundreds of thousands of individual computers. He was quoted as saying there were hundreds of targets in mainland China and Hong Kong.
Hong Kong has a long-standing extradition treaty with the US, but Beijing has the potential to veto any ruling.
“We are going to see a lot of political juggling between two of the biggest powers in the world in order to possibly extradite Mr Snowden,” politician and Hong Kong entrepreneur Charles Mok told protesters. “Who is losing? You and I, all the Internet users in the world. Why? Because we in Hong Kong know the best, we live outside of the Great Firewall of China.”
The rally comes amid increasing concern in the city over perceived mainland interference.
“It’s quite ironic that Snowden thought that Hong Kong has impeccable rule of law. Long time residents here would know that our freedoms are being stifled on a daily basis on every front,” pro-democracy politician Claudia Mo said. “Our rule of law is facing all kinds of political challenges, so good luck to Mr. Snowden.”
Maverick Hong Kong politician “Long Hair” Leung Kwok-hung, meanwhile, called US president Barack Obama and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping “twin brothers” when it comes to internet spying.
“The most important thing is in defending Mr Snowden. If he can be extradited and be punished, who will be the second whistleblower?” he told protesters. “There are a lot of Mr Snowdens all over the world. It’s like an execution if they grab Mr Snowden and extradite him. They will condemn him to hell in a small cell for tens of years.”
Following the rally, the city’s chief executive Leung Chun-ying said in a statement: “The Hong Kong… government will handle the case of Mr Snowden in accordance with the laws and established procedures.”
“Meanwhile, the government will follow up on any incidents related to the privacy or other rights of the institutions or people in Hong Kong being violated,” the statement added.
So far the US has not filed a formal extradition request to Hong Kong, a former British colony that retained its separate legal system when it returned to Chinese rule in 1997. Beijing ultimately retains control over defence and foreign affairs but it and Hong Kong’s governments have yet to make any comment about Mr Snowden’s case.
FBI Confirms Hunt for Snowden
The FBI has confirmed former CIA contractor Edward Snowden is under criminal investigation for his disclosures about the extent of US spying. FBI director Robert Mueller has told a congressional hearing Mr Snowden was the “subject of an ongoing criminal investigation”, in the first definitive confirmation president Barack Obama’s administration is looking to prosecute him.
“These disclosures have caused significant harm to our nation and to our safety,” Mr Mueller said. “We are taking all necessary steps to hold the person responsible for these disclosures.”
The FBI chief has become the latest in a series of government officials to defend the US government’s phone and internet surveillance as vital to national security.
“The program is set up for a very limited purpose and a limited objective, and that is to identify individuals in the United States who are using a telephone for terrorist activities and to draw that network,” he said.
Civil liberties groups have praised the former National Security Agency (NSA) sub-contractor as a hero and patriot for making the public aware of the far-reaching surveillance programs. The US administration has said that while the NSA did gather large quantities of telephone metadata, it could not mine the logs to target a specific user without authorisation from a secret court.
Snowden Says More Leaks To Come…
In the online question and answer session hosted on the website of The Guardian newspaper, Mr Snowden denied allegations that he is spying for China and accused US officials of making the claim to distract from their own misconduct.
“This is a predictable smear that I anticipated before going public,” Mr Snowden said. “Ask yourself: If I were a Chinese spy, why wouldn’t I have flown directly into Beijing? I could be living in a palace petting a phoenix by now.”
Snowden has defended his disclosures and said he would be making more revelations about the extent of American spying.
“Truth is coming, and it can’t be stopped,” Mr Snowden said. “The US government’s not going to be able to cover this up by jailing or murdering me,” he said.
Honoured to be Called a Traitor
Mr Snowden said it would be impossible for him to get a fair hearing in America because authorities had already openly declared him guilty of treason. He also hit back at comments from former US vice-president Dick Cheney.
“I think he’s a traitor,” Mr Cheney said. “And I think it’s one of the worst occasions, in my memory, of somebody with access to classified information doing enormous damage to the national security interests of the United States.”
Mr Snowden described Mr Cheney’s comments as “panicked talk”.
“This is a man who gave us the warrantless wiretapping scheme as a kind of atrocity warm-up on the way to deceitfully engineering a conflict that has killed over 4,400 and maimed nearly 32,000 Americans, as well as leaving over 100,000 Iraqis dead,” Mr Snowden said. “Being called a traitor by Dick Cheney is the highest honour you can give an American.”
Yahoo Reveals Surveillance Requests
Internet giant Yahoo! says it has received up to 13,000 requests for information from US law enforcement agencies in the past six months. In a letter to users, the company says between 12,000 and 13,000 requests were made between December 1, 2012 and May 31 this year.
Yahoo!, along with Facebook, Microsoft and Apple, have come under heightened scrutiny since intelligence leaks showed the extent of government data gathering efforts. Yahoo! says the requests include “criminal, FISA, and other requests”.
“The most common of these requests concerned fraud, homicides, kidnappings, and other criminal investigations,”Marissa May said in a statement posted on its Tumblr page. “Like all companies, Yahoo! cannot lawfully break out FISA request numbers at this time because those numbers are classified; however, we strongly urge the federal government to reconsider its stance on this issue.”
Technology companies have been under pressure to disclose the precise nature of their cooperation with the NSA after leaked documents showed it had been acquiring consumer data from them for years. Apple, Microsoft and Facebook have also disclosed the number of data requests they received from US law enforcement authorities.
Facebook said it received between 9,000 and 10,000 requests and Microsoft said it received requests on 31,000 consumer accounts. The companies denied the NSA had any direct access to their servers and said consumer data was only handed over if the request was in the form of a court order.
Snowden Charges Laid
US federal prosecutors have filed a sealed criminal complaint with a court in Virginia and a provisional arrest warrant has been issued. Snowden has been charged with theft of government property, unauthorised communication of national defence information and wilful communication of classified communications intelligence to an unauthorised person. The charges are the government’s first step in what could be a long legal battle to return Snowden from Hong Kong and try him in a US court.
Hong Kong-based Australian barrister Kevin Egan has told Correspondent’s Report he would not have advised Snowden to fly to Hong Kong in the first place. He says there are only a couple of grounds in which extradition can be avoided, including if the offence carries the death penalty, or if Snowden can demonstrate to the courts the offence is of a political nature.
“He has to do more than just hint that that’s the case – he has to demonstrate it. And I would think overtly demonstrate it,” Mr Egan said.
Beijing can also legally block the extradition over foreign affairs or extradition matters. The US now has 60 days to formalise any request to extradite him.
“They then have to present sufficient evidence to justify the finding of a prima facie case, which is basically 51 per cent,” Mr Egan said. “Once they’ve done that in the courts of Hong Kong – and they’ll be assisted in that regard by the Department of Justice here – he is highly likely to be extradited back to the United States.”
Hong Kong Police Commissioner Andy Tsang has declined to comment other than to say Hong Kong will deal with the case in accordance with the law.
Obama Defends Surveillance Program
President Barack Obama and his intelligence chiefs have been forced to defend the program, saying it is regulated by law and that Congress was notified. They say the program has been used to thwart militant plots and does not target Americans’ personal lives.
Major tech companies such as Facebook, Google and Microsoft have publicly urged the US authorities to allow them to reveal the number and scope of surveillance requests after documents leaked to the Washington Post and the Guardian suggested they had given the government “direct access” to their computers as part of PRISM.
The criminal complaint against Snowden was filed in the Eastern District of Virginia, where Snowden’s former employer, Booz Allen Hamilton, is located. That judicial district has seen a number of high-profile prosecutions, including the spy case against former FBI agent Robert Hanssen and the case of al Qaeda operative Zacarias Moussaoui. Both were convicted.
Snowden In Safe Place
Edward Snowden is reportedly in a “safe place” in Hong Kong, as the United States seeks his extradition after filing espionage charges against him. The South China Morning Post said Snowden, who has exposed secret US surveillance programs, was not in police protection in Hong Kong, as had been reported elsewhere.
“Contrary to some reports, the former CIA analyst has not been detained, is not under police protection but is in a ‘safe place’ in Hong Kong,” the newspaper said.
The South China Morning Post also reported that Snowden had offered new details on US surveillance activities in China. The newspaper said documents and statements by Snowden show the NSA program had hacked major Chinese telecom companies to access text messages and targeted China’s top Tsinghua University.
The NSA program also hacked the Hong Kong headquarters of Pacnet, which has an extensive fibre-optic network, it said.
“The NSA does all kinds of things like hack Chinese cell phone companies to steal all of your SMS data,” Snowden was quoted by the newspaper as saying during an interview on June 12.
US Seeking Extradition
US national security adviser Tom Donilon told CBS News the United States had a “good case” against Snowden and expected Hong Kong to comply with its 1998 extradition treaty with the United States.
“We have gone to the Hong Kong authorities seeking extradition of Snowden back to the United States,” Mr Donilon said, adding that US law enforcement officials were in a “conversation” with Hong Kong authorities about the issue. “Hong Kong has been a historically good partner of the United States in law enforcement matters and we expect them to comply with the treaty in this case,” he said.
America’s use of the Espionage Act has fuelled debate among legal experts about whether that could complicate Snowden’s extradition, since Hong Kong courts may choose to shield him. An Icelandic businessman linked to the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks said on Thursday he had readied a private plane in China to fly Snowden to Iceland if Iceland’s government would grant asylum.
Iceland refused on Friday to say whether it would grant asylum to Snowden.
New Leaks Implicate British Spy Agency
Meanwhile, the Guardian newspaper, citing documents shared by Snowden, reports Britain’s intelligence services are tapping cables that carry the world’s phone calls and internet traffic and gathering vast amounts of data. The newspaper reported that Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) has started processing vast amounts of personal information – including Facebook posts, emails, internet histories and phone calls – and is sharing it with the NSA.
“It’s not just a US problem. The UK has a huge dog in this fight,” Snowden told the newspaper. “They (GCHQ) are worse than the US.”
In reaction, however, GCHQ said it was “scrupulous” in its compliance with the law and declined to comment further.
The Guardian reported that GCHQ was able to tap into and store data from the cables for up to 30 days, under an operation codenamed Tempora. The newspaper claimed Tempora had been running for 18 months and GCHQ and the NSA were able to access vast quantities of communications between entirely innocent people.
It also said that the intelligence-gathering directly led to the arrest and jailing of a British terror cell, the arrests of others planning acts of terror, and three London-based people planning attacks prior to the city’s 2012 Olympic Games. The Guardian said the documents it had seen showed that by last year, GCHQ was handling 600 million “telephone events” each day, had tapped more than 200 fibre-optic cables and was able to process data from at least 46 of them at a time.
The two main components of GCHQ’s surveillance programme are called “Mastering the Internet” and “Global Telecoms Exploitation”, the newspaper said, adding that the operations were all being carried out “without any form of public acknowledgement or debate”. The Guardian added that it understood NSA staff and US private contractors had access to GCHQ databases.
Snowden Reportedly en Route to Moscow
Snowden is reportedly en route from Hong Kong to Russia, according to a report in the South China Morning Post, which has carried exclusive interviews with Snowden during his time in Hong Kong, he has now left the semi-autonomous country.
“US whistleblower Edward Snowden has left Hong Kong on an Aeroflot flight to Moscow, credible sources have confirmed to the South China Morning Post,” the newspaper said on its website. “Moscow will not be his final destination,” it added, raising the possibility of Iceland or Ecuador as Snowden’s final destination.
Officials at Hong Kong’s airport authority and immigration department have refused to comment.
The Russian consulate could not be reached for comment.
Father Begs For Silence
In an odd twist, Edward Snowden’s father has begged his son to stop leaking classified information, the comments come after the 29-year-old former intelligence technician said the United States government would not be able to stop him from making more revelations about the country’s surveillance programs. In a nationally televised interview with Fox News, Lonnie Snowden, Edward Snowden’s father, defended his son’s character but also implored him to stop the leaks.
Looking directly into the camera, he asked his son to come home, even if it meant going to jail.
“He is a sensitive, caring, young man. This is the Ed that I know. The same eyes, it’s the same Ed,” Mr Snowden senior said. “I don’t know what you’ve seen, but I just ask that you not release any more information.”
It’s doubtless that Edward Snowden will remain at-large, or at least free. he might end-up in a similar situation as Julian Assange, he may be put to trial by the US? Snowden has stated he intends to release more secret documents.
WikiLeaks Assists Snowden Leave Hong Kong
Frustrating US efforts to extradite him, Snowden caught a commercial flight from Hong Kong to Moscow, apparently accompanied by at least one representative from the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks. Hong Kong said it allowed him to leave because of legal problems with the US extradition request.
Hours later, Ecuador confirmed it had received a request for asylum.
It is not clear how the former NSA contractor has been able to travel, given reports the US had revoked his passport since charging him with espionage and theft of government property. US officials say they will seek cooperation from law enforcement authorities in any country where Snowden may travel.
A state department official warned Snowden “should not be allowed to proceed in any further international travel, other than is necessary to return him to the United States”.
Before announcing the asylum request on Twitter, Ecuador’s foreign minister, Ricardo Patino, told journalists his country would study any petition.
“Mr Snowden has informed us, which we were not aware of, that there’s a large espionage system that the US has developed,” Mr Patino said. “We have said that if Mr Snowden petitions our country for asylum, we will study it thoroughly, the way we did with Mr Assange and we are prepared to accept that petition then make a decision.”
The chairman of the US House Intelligence Committee, Mike Rogers, says the countries through which Mr Snowden is seeking passage undermine his whistleblower claims.
“Every one of those nations is hostile to the United States. I mean if he could go to North Korea and Iran he could round out his government oppression tour by Snowden. So you think about what he says he wants and what his actions are. It defies logic,” Mr Rogers said.
Ecuador has been sheltering WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange at its London embassy for the past year. On its Twitter feed, WikiLeaks said Snowden “is bound for the Republic of Ecuador via a safe route for the purposes of asylum, and is being escorted by diplomats and legal advisers from WikiLeaks” The cheeky tweets are sure to ruffle US officials, “Mr Snowden requested that WikiLeaks use its legal expertise and experience to secure his safety. Once Mr Snowden arrives in Ecuador his request will be formally processed,” it added.
The WikiLeaks legal adviser accompanying Snowden is Baltasar Garzon, a former Spanish judge known around the world for ordering the arrest of former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet.
“The WikiLeaks legal team and I are interested in preserving Mr Snowden’s rights and protecting him as a person,” Mr Garzon said in a statement. “What is being done to Mr Snowden and to Mr Julian Assange – for making or facilitating disclosures in the public interest – is an assault against the people.”
Snowden flies to Moscow from Hong Kong
Snowden arrived Sunday in Moscow from Hong Kong, where he first fled with a trove of secrets taken from the NSA. He was charged – in absentia – with espionage by the US authorities last week.
WikiLeaks gave no details about how it had helped to arrange the escape of one of the America’s most wanted men. Mr Assange, a 41-year-old former computer hacker from Australia, walked into the Ecuador embassy on June 19, 2012 and claimed asylum in a sensational bid to avoid extradition to Sweden for questioning over alleged sex crimes.
The South American country granted his request, accepting his fears that if sent to Sweden he might be passed on to the US and prosecuted for publishing thousands of classified war logs from Iraq and Afghanistan and a cache of diplomatic cables.
Britain has refused to grant him safe passage to Ecuador.
Australian Government Committee Says Data retention Plan Useful for Security, But Could Threaten Privacy
An Australian parliamentary committee has issued a critical report on Government plans to store data on Australians’ phone and internet use for up to two years. The powerful Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security was asked to consider an extensive package of proposed changes to Australia’s national security laws and agencies. It mostly focused its attention on just one change: for telecommunications data to be stored for up to two years in case it is required by law enforcement or security agencies.
The Government said it did not necessarily endorse the proposal, but wanted public feedback.
After more than a year of consideration and hundreds of submissions, the inquiry’s chairman, Labor MP Anthony Byrne, tabled the bipartisan report with 43 recommendations. It notes that while a data retention scheme would be of “significant utility” to national security agencies, it also raises fundamental privacy issues.
“I note that the committee was faced with several difficulties. These included that the terms of reference were wide-ranging and canvassed some of the most complex and significant reforms to national security legislation ever to come before the parliament,” Mr Byrne said. “The actual option of a committee being asked to recommend the establishment of an intrusive power without draft legislation provided almost and existential moment for the committee.” If you see from the events of America with PRISM, what has occurred is that the public must have confidence in its oversight by parliamentary oversight agencies.”
The committee did make recommendations about how a scheme should work if it was pursued by a government. However Mr Byrne says there was an absence of detail about the suggestions, and it was “disconcerting” for the committee to discover that the Attorney-General’s Department had significantly more information on the proposal than it initially wanted to put forward.
The deputy chairman, Liberal MP and former attorney-general Phillip Ruddock, was also blunt about the management of the proposals.
“The handling of this issue by the Government has been appalling,” Mr Ruddock said. “It should have brought forward, as the chair mentioned, precise recommendations in the form of legislation, draft legislation, that we could comment on in a meaningful way.”
Australian Concerns Over Privacy in Wake of PRISM
Labor Senator and committee member John Faulkner says the recent controversy about PRISM will heighten community concerns.
“We must ensure none of our citizens is surprised if and when our intelligence, security and law enforcement agencies use their legislated powers,” Mr Faulkner said. “We must ensure any legislation to establish a mandatory data retention scheme in Australia contains the strongest safeguards to protect the privacy of our citizens.”
Greens Senator Scott Ludlam says the Government should now abandon any plans for data retention.
“This proposal will be back, I have absolutely no doubt about that whatsoever,” Mr Ludlam said. “It will be exhumed in a different form, with a few of the committee’s recommendations attached, and it will be back. And it is a proposal that I suspect will have to be fought and contested, potentially, again and again.”
In a statement, Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus says the Government will carefully consider the report’s recommendations before it decides the next step. But he says given the committee’s view, a data retention scheme will not be pursued at this time.
Ecuador Considers Snowden’s Asylum Request
Ecuador’s foreign minister has questioned the treason and espionage charges against fugitive intelligence worker Edward Snowden, who has continued his globe-trotting game of cat-and-mouse with US authorities. The former NSA contractor is seeking political asylum in the South American nation, although it is unclear if he has now departed Moscow.
Snowden reportedly arrived in Moscow on Sunday from Hong Kong, from where he leaked to the media details of secret cyber-espionage programs by both US and British intelligence agencies. However the 30-year-old who embarrassed US president Barack Obama’s administration with his revelations of massive surveillance programs, failed to appear on a flight he had apparently booked from Moscow to Cuba. But the flight to Cuba left the terminal at Moscow Sheremetyevo airport – with a pack of hopeful journalists on board – and then took off with no sign that the former NSA contractor was among the passengers.
- Edward Snowden booked seat on flight from Russia to Cuba
- Snowden apparently failed to board flight packed with Russian journalists
- Unclear whether Snowden still in Russia or en route to Cuba
- Ecuador considering Snowden’s request for asylum
- Barack Obama says US is using all appropriate legal channels to apprehend Snowden
- White House warns China and Russia to cooperate in Snowden’s extradition
Some believe he is still in the transit area of Moscow Airport, while others suggest he could be in a secret compartment on the plane to Cuba.
Ecuador’s Ricardo Patino said his country is reviewing the asylum request, but that he believes Snowden is being persecuted. He said Snowden acted valiantly by exposing the secret operations by the US, who he says has violated the human rights of the whole world through its espionage.
“Snowden is a man who is trying to shed light and transparency on what affects freedom,” Mr Patino told a press conference in Vietnam. “He is being persecuted by those who should be the ones explaining to the governments and the citizens of the world in relation to the accusations that Mr Snowden has presented – that’s the real paradox of life.”
Mr Patino said only Russia knows where Snowden is and a decision on his asylum bid will be made in “due time” after Ecuador had also considered a US request.
“We will consider the position of the US government and we will take a decision in due course in line with the (Ecuadorean) constitution, the laws, international politics and sovereignty,” Mr Patino said.
President Obama says the US is using all appropriate legal channels to apprehend Snowden. “We are working with various other countries to make sure that the rule of law is observed,” Mr Obama told reporters at the White House. The president then deferred to the US Justice Department, as American authorities seek to persuade Russia to expel Snowden, and not let him flee elsewhere.
Assange says ‘spirits are high’. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said Snowden was safe and healthy after fleeing to Moscow, but declined to reveal his whereabouts.
“The current status of Mr Snowden and Harrison is that both are healthy and safe and they are in contact with their legal teams,” Mr Assange said, referring to Sarah Harrison, a WikiLeaks representative accompanying Snowden. “Edward Snowden left Hong Kong on June 23 bound for Ecuador via a safe pass through Russia and other states.
Russia’s Interfax news agency, known for its strong security contacts, said Snowden was likely already out of the country.
“Snowden, most likely, has already left the Russian Federation. He could have left by a different plane,” a source said.
White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters the US assumes Snowden is still in Russia, and he dismissed suggestions the decision to allow Snowden to depart Hong Kong was a technical one.
“We are just not buying that this was a technical decision by a Hong Kong immigration official,” Mr Carney said. “This was a deliberate choice by the government to release a fugitive despite a valid arrest warrant, and that decision unquestionably has a negative impact on the US-China relationship.”
US secretary of state John Kerry says it is ‘disappointing’ Snowden has been able to travel Russian security sources said they had no reason to arrest Snowden, who officials described as an ordinary “transit passenger” who had not crossed the border.
US secretary of state John Kerry meanwhile dubbed Snowden a traitor to his country and warned both Russia and China that their relations with the US might be damaged by their refusal to extradite him. Snowden was said by Russian officials to have spent the night in Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport awaiting his onward connection. He was not once seen in public in the Moscow airport since Sunday’s Aeroflot flight arrived from Hong Kong.
Mr Kerry says it is “disappointing” that Snowden had been able to fly from Hong Kong to Russia. “It would be obviously disappointing if he was wilfully allowed to board an airplane,” Mr Kerry said. “As a result there would be without any question some effect and impact on the relationship and consequences.”
Mr Kerry, speaking on a visit to New Delhi, also defended the decision to seek Snowden’s arrest, saying he was a traitor.
“He is an indicted individual, indicted on three felony counts,” Mr Kerry said. “Evidently he places himself above the law having betrayed his country.”
The US State Department has revoked Snowden’s passport and asked other countries to prevent him from travelling. But a source in Russia’s security agencies told Interfax that Snowden could travel without a passport.
Hong Kong, a special administrative region under Chinese rule that has maintained its own British-derived legal system, said it had informed Washington of Snowden’s exit after determining that the documents provided by the US government did not fully comply with legal requirements.
US Slams China For Allowing Snowden to Leave, Pressures Russia to Deliver-up the NSA Leaker
The Obama administration is pressing Russia to expel national security leaker Edward Snowden, while slamming China for allowing him to go on the run. Snowden is thought to have spent the night in an airport hotel in Moscow. His seat on a plane bound for Cuba was empty, prompting speculation Russia might be considering handing him over to US authorities.
“In the last two years we have transferred seven prisoners to Russia that they wanted, so I think reciprocity and the enforcement of the law is pretty important,” he said. “And I suppose there’s no small irony here… I wonder if Mr Snowden chose China and Russia as assistants in his flight from justice because they’re such powerful bastions of internet freedom.”
Anti-secrecy group, WikiLeaks, is in the thick of the story. Founder Julian Assange held a telephone press conference from inside the Ecuadorian embassy in London. He is not saying how or when WikiLeaks got involved in the case, except to make clear that Snowden made the approach.
“We are aware of where Mr Snowden is, he is in a safe place and his spirits are high,” Mr Assange said. “Due to the bellicose threats coming from the US administration, we cannot go into further detail at this time.”
At the White House, spokesman Jay Carney has studiously avoided mentioning Snowden by name in recent weeks, but overnight he let loose from the podium.
“Mr Snowden’s claim that he is focused on supporting transparency, freedom of the press and protection of individual rights and democracy is belied by the protectors he has potentially chosen: China, Russia, Ecuador, as we’ve seen. “His failure to criticise these regimes suggests that his true motive throughout has been to injure the national security of the United States, not to advance internet freedom and free speech.”
Mr Carney laid the blame for Snowden’s original escape from Hong Kong squarely at China’s feet.
“We are just not buying that this was a technical decision by a Hong Kong immigration official. This was a deliberate choice by the government to release a fugitive, despite a valid arrest warrant and that decision, unquestionably, has a negative impact on the US-China relationship.” Mr Carney said.
Mr Carney said Hong Kong authorities were advised of the status of Snowden’s travel documents in plenty of time to stop him before he flew out.
Australia’s Top Spy Worried About Rogue Insiders
One of Australia’s most senior spy says the threat that local intelligence might have a rogue insider like NSAs Edward Snowden is real, one that the security community is increasingly concerned about. Steve Meekin, the deputy secretary of intelligence and security, is directly responsible for the operations of the Australian Signals Directorate, our equivalent of NSA.
In rare public comments, Mr Meekin said the revelations cut to the core of privacy and probity, but there was a fair bit of mythology in the reporting about what has occurred. Mr Meekin would not comment on Australian capability but said any involvement Australia had in the PRISM program was consistent with Australian law and that “Australians should have confidence that what we do is in accordance with the law”.
In his address to a seminar at the University of Canberra, Mr Meekin said the insider threat is something that Australia’s intelligence agencies have to live with. He said while the sort of “overzealousness” characterised by the Snowden case in the US is a significant risk, security clearances in Australia are constantly reviewed.
Australia’s security agencies have recognised that technology has meant that individuals within the system now have more access to information. Mr Meekin said the situation has to be well managed and requires “good, strong leadership”. He said managers have to be on the lookout not just for potential “traitors” but also for employees who might find themselves confronting mental illness or messy and difficult personal circumstances.
Mr Meekin also warned the threat of cyber crime is increasing rapidly and increased significantly in the six months between October 2012 and May this year. The number of cyber security incidents identified by or reported to the Cyber Security Operations Centre was 1,259 in 2011 and 1,790 in 2012.
There were 789 incidents recorded between January and May this year. Mr Meekin said the threat of cyber attacks come from a range of sources including “individuals, activists and organised criminal groups”. He said more than 80 per cent come “directly from foreign states” and 65 per cent of cyber intrusions have an economic focus.
But he said the Australian intelligence community is “confident that 85 per cent of those attacks can be mitigated.” Mr Meekin said keeping across technological change is one of the biggest challenges for the intelligence agencies. He said data storage is becoming a concern for Australian intelligence and the need for data storage is expected to grow, but “no agency would have the capability of hoovering up everything that was on the net”.
In The Wake: Initial Responses
In response to the publicity surrounding media reports of data-sharing, several companies requested permission to reveal more public information about the nature and scope of information provided in response to National Security requests.
On June 14, 2013: Facebook reported that the U.S. Government had authorized the communication of “about these numbers in aggregate, and as a range.” In a press release posted to their web site, Facebook reported, “For the six months ending December 31, 2012, the total number of user-data requests Facebook received from any and all government entities in the U.S. (including local, state, and federal, and including criminal and national security-related requests) – was between 9,000 and 10,000.” Facebook further reported that the requests impacted “between 18,000 and 19,000” user accounts, a “tiny fraction of one percent” of more than 1.1 billion active user accounts.
Microsoft reported that for the same period, it received “between 6,000 and 7,000 criminal and national security warrants, subpoenas and orders affecting between 31,000 and 32,000 consumer accounts from U.S. governmental entities (including local, state and federal)” which impacted “a tiny fraction of Microsoft’s global customer base”.
Google issued a statement criticizing the requirement that data be reported in aggregated form, stating that lumping national security requests with criminal request data would be “a step backwards” from its previous, more detailed practices on its site transparency report. The company said that it would continue to seek government permission to publish the number and extent of FISA requests.
Snowden leaves Moscow airport, granted temporary asylum in Russia
UPDATED! August 2, 2013: Fugitive US intelligence leaker Edward Snowden has left Moscow’s airport where he has been holed up for over a month, his Russian lawyer has told state TV.
Snowden, who leaked details on the National Security Agency’s secretive PRISM data-logging spy program has been granted temporary asylum for one year in Russia, his lawyer Anatoly Kucherena told Russia 24 on Thursday.
“Snowden has left Sheremetyevo airport,” Mr Kucherena said. “He has just been given a certificate that he has been awarded temporary asylum in Russia for one year.”
Mr Kucherena added that Snowden left the airport for an undisclosed secure location. “I have just seen him off. He has left for a secure location. Security is a very serious matter for him,” he said.
Mr Kucherena told AFP that Snowden had left in a normal taxi on his own. “His location is not being made public for security reasons since he is the most pursued man on the planet. He himself will decide where he will go,” he said.
On Russia 24 television, Mr Kucherena held up a scanned copy of Snowden’s certificate granting him a year’s temporary asylum in Russia.
“He has gone to a safe place. I hope you will be understanding about this information,” Kucherena said. “He may stay in a flat or in a hotel. So since he is the most pursued man on Earth he today will be working on security questions.”
Mr Kucherna said Snowden would eventually emerge into public view and give interviews to the press.
But he said Snowden first required an “adaptation course” after so long in the transit zone.
Snowden has been staying in the transit zone of the Sheremetyevo airport outside Moscow since he flew in from Hong Kong on June 23 and has never formally crossed the Russian border.
His awarding of asylum status in Russia came two days after US soldier Bradley Manning was convicted of espionage on Tuesday for leaking US secrets to anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks.
The US has promised Moscow that Snowden would not face the death penalty if he was handed over.
Russian president Vladimir Putin’s foreign policy advisor, Yury Ushakov, says ties between Russia and the United States will not suffer because of the “relatively insignificant” case of Snowden’s asylum.
“Our president has … expressed hope many times that this will not affect the character of our relations,” he told reporters, adding there was no sign US president Barack Obama would cancel a planned visit to Moscow in September.
Response from Within the United States Government
Shortly after publication of the reports by The Guardian and The Washington Post, the United States Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, on June 7 released a statement confirming that for nearly six years the government of the United States had been using large internet services companies such as Google and Facebook to collect information on foreigners outside the United States as a defence against national security threats.
The statement read in part, “The Guardian and The Washington Post articles refer to collection of communications pursuant to Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. They contain numerous inaccuracies.” He went on to say, “Section 702 is a provision of FISA that is designed to facilitate the acquisition of foreign intelligence information concerning non-U.S. persons located outside the United States. It cannot be used to intentionally target any U.S. citizen, any other U.S. person, or anyone located within the United States.”
Clapper concluded his statement by stating “The unauthorized disclosure of information about this important and entirely legal program is reprehensible and risks important protections for the security of Americans.” On March 12, 2013, Clapper had told the United States Senate Select Committee on Intelligence that the NSA does “not wittingly” collect any type of data on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans. In an NBC News interview, Clapper said he answered Senator Wyden’s question in the “least untruthful manner by saying no”.
Clapper also stated that “the NSA collects the phone data in broad swaths, because collecting it (in) a narrow fashion would make it harder to identify terrorism-related communications. The information collected lets the government, over time, make connections about terrorist activities. The program doesn’t let the U.S. listen to people’s calls, but only includes information like call length and telephone numbers dialed.”
On June 8, 2013: Clapper said “the surveillance activities published in The Guardian and The Washington Post are lawful and conducted under authorities widely known and discussed, and fully debated and authorized by Congress.” The fact sheet described PRISM as “an internal government computer system used to facilitate the government’s statutorily authorized collection of foreign intelligence information from electronic communication service providers under court supervision, as authorized by Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) (50 U.S.C. § 1881a).”
The National Intelligence fact sheet further stated that “the United States Government does not unilaterally obtain information from the servers of U.S. electronic communication service providers. All such information is obtained with FISA Court approval and with the knowledge of the provider based upon a written directive from the Attorney General and the Director of National Intelligence.” It said that the Attorney General provides FISA Court rulings and semi-annual reports about PRISM activities to Congress, “provid[ing] an unprecedented degree of accountability and transparency.”
The President of the United States, Barack Obama, said on June 7 “What you’ve got is two programs that were originally authorized by Congress, have been repeatedly authorized by Congress. Bipartisan majorities have approved them. Congress is continually briefed on how these are conducted. There are a whole range of safeguards involved. And federal judges are overseeing the entire program throughout.” He also said, “You can’t have 100 percent security and then also have 100 percent privacy and zero inconvenience. You know, we’re going to have to make some choices as a society.”
In separate statements, senior (not mentioned by name in source) Obama administration officials said that Congress had been briefed 13 times on the programs since 2009.
In contrast to their swift and forceful reactions the previous day to allegations that the government had been conducting surveillance of United States citizens’ telephone records, Congressional leaders initially had little to say about the PRISM program the day after leaked information about the program was published. Several lawmakers declined to discuss PRISM, citing its top-secret classification, and others said that they had not been aware of the program. After statements had been released by the President and the Director of National Intelligence, some lawmakers began to comment:
Senator John McCain
June 9 “We passed the Patriot Act. We passed specific provisions of the act that allowed for this program to take place, to be enacted in operation,”
Senator Dianne Feinstein: Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee
June 9 “These programs are within the law”, “part of our obligation is keeping Americans safe”, “Human intelligence isn’t going to do it”.
June 9 “Here’s the rub: the instances where this has produced good — has disrupted plots, prevented terrorist attacks, is all classified, that’s what’s so hard about this.”
June 11 “It went fine…we asked him[ Keith Alexander ] to declassify things because it would be helpful (for people and lawmakers to better understand the intelligence programs).” “I’ve just got to see if the information gets declassified. I’m sure people will find it very interesting.”
Senator Susan Collins: Member of Senate Intelligence Committee and past member of Homeland Security Committee
June 11 “I had, along with Joe Lieberman, a monthly threat briefing, but I did not have access to this highly compartmentalized information” and “How can you ask when you don’t know the program exists?”
Representative John Boehner (R-OH), Speaker of the House of Representatives
June 11 “He’s a traitor” (referring to Edward Snowden)
Representative Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI), principal sponsor of the Patriot Act
June 9, “This is well beyond what the Patriot Act allows.”, “President Obama’s claim that ‘this is the most transparent administration in history’ has once again proven false. In fact, it appears that no administration has ever peered more closely or intimately into the lives of innocent Americans.”
Representative Mike Rogers: Chairman of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.
June 9 “One of the things that we’re charged with is keeping America safe and keeping our civil liberties and privacy intact. I think we have done both in this particular case,”
June 9 “Within the last few years this program was used to stop a program, excuse me, to stop a terrorist attack in the United States we know that. It’s, it’s, it’s important, it fills in a little seam that we have and it’s used to make sure that there is not an international nexus to any terrorism event that they may believe is ongoing in the United States. So in that regard it is a very valuable thing,”
Senator Mark Udall
June 9 “I don’t think the American public knows the extent or knew the extent to which they were being surveilled and their data was being collected.” “I think we ought to reopen the Patriot Act and put some limits on the amount of data that the National Security (Agency) is collecting,” “It ought to remain sacred, and there’s got to be a balance here. That is what I’m aiming for. Let’s have the debate, let’s be transparent, let’s open this up”.
Representative Todd Rokita
June 10 “We have no idea when they [ FISA ] meet, we have no idea what their judgments are”
Senator Rand Paul
June 6 “When the Senate rushed through a last-minute extension of the FISA Amendments Act late last year, I insisted on a vote on my amendment (SA 3436) to require stronger protections on business records and prohibiting the kind of data-mining this case has revealed. Just last month, I introduced S.1037, the Fourth Amendment Preservation and Protection Act,
June 9 “I’m going to be seeing if I can challenge this at the Supreme Court level. I’m going to be asking the Internet providers and all of the phone companies: ask your customers to join me in a class-action lawsuit.”
Representative Luis Gutierrez
June 9 “We will be receiving secret briefings and we will be asking, I know I’m going to be asking to get more information. I want to make sure that what they’re doing is harvesting information that is necessary to keep us safe and not simply going into everybody’s private telephone conversations and Facebook and communications. I mean one of the, you know the terrorists win when you debilitate freedom of expression and privacy.”
The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) has not acknowledged, denied or confirmed any involvement in the PRISM program at this time. It has not issued any press statement or release relating to the current situation and uncertainty.
Applicable Law and Practice
On June 8, 2013, the Director of National Intelligence issued a fact sheet stating that PRISM “is not an undisclosed collection or data mining program”, but rather computer software used to facilitate the collection of foreign intelligence information “under court supervision, as authorized by Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) (50 U.S.C. § 1881a).”
Section 702 provides that “the Attorney General [A.G.] and the Director of National Intelligence [DNI] may authorize jointly, for a period of up to 1 year from the effective date of the authorization, the targeting of persons reasonably believed to be located outside the United States to acquire foreign intelligence information.”
In order to authorize the targeting, the A.G. and DNI need to get an order from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) pursuant to Section 702 or certify that “intelligence important to the national security of the United States may be lost or not timely acquired and time does not permit the issuance of an order.”
When asking for an order, the A.G. and DNI must certify to FISC that “a significant purpose of the acquisition is to obtain foreign intelligence information.” They do not need to specify which facilities or property that the targeting will be directed at.
After getting a FISC order or determining that there are emergency circumstances, the A.G. and DNI can direct an electronic communication service provider to give them access to information or facilities to carry out the targeting and keep the targeting secret. The provider then has the option to: (1) comply with the directive; (2) reject it; or (3) challenge it to FISC.
If the provider complies with the directive, it is released from liability to its users for providing the information and reimbursed for the cost of providing it.
If the provider rejects the directive, the A.G. may request an order from FISC to enforce it. A provider that fails to comply with FISC’s order can be punished with contempt of court.
Finally, a provider can petition FISC to reject the directive. In case FISC denies the petition and orders the provider to comply with the directive, the provider risks contempt of court if it refuses to comply with FISC’s order. The provider can appeal FISC’s denial to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review and then appeal the Court of Review’s decision to the Supreme Court by a writ of certiorari for review under seal.
The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and the FISA Courts had been put in place to oversee intelligence operations in the period after the death of J. Edgar Hoover. Beverly Gage of Slate said, “When they were created, these new mechanisms were supposed to stop the kinds of abuses that men like Hoover had engineered. Instead, it now looks as if they have come to function as rubber stamps for the expansive ambitions of the intelligence community. J. Edgar Hoover no longer rules Washington, but it turns out we didn’t need him anyway.”
Reaction From Outside the USA
Initially, the Australian government has said it will investigate the impact of the PRISM program and the use of the Pine Gap surveillance facility on the privacy of Australian citizens. However, revelations about the scale of so called metadata mining by the United States through its controversial PRISM program have thrown the focus on Australia’s role in the collection of and access to online data and the information collected by the US program in particular.
What is clear is that in the modern digital era there is a lot more information available to the security community. And it remains true that Australia is one of the most important cogs in the global security network run by the United States. The so called ‘five eyes’ relationship is as important as it ever was and our responsibility within that is as important and significant as ever.
This is a longstanding security and intelligence partnership. We have a responsibility for contributing to the network from our own region – most notably south east Asia – but the information in the system is then available to any one of the ‘Five Eyes’ countries – the US, The UK, Australia, Canada and New Zealand.
The digital age has seen an explosion of information – so much so that the Australian Government has had to build a new self-contained data storage faculty on the outskirts of Canberra. The government continues to insist that all the information shared between the US and Australia is subject to strict oversight.
But intelligence and political sources have confirmed to the ABC that intelligence collected by the PRISM program is routinely passed on to Australian security organisations and that “our agencies will not turn away any communication if it is seen as a security threat no matter where it’s from or how it’s gathered.”
Any tip-offs or relevant security concerns passed on by the US are now examined by the Counter Terrorism Control Centre established in 2010 and run by ASIO that includes representatives from the AFP, the Defence Signals Directorate and ASIS. And sources say that as a result of data mining operations it is now even easier for Australian security organisations to obtain the content of communications involving Australians and foreign nationals.
To further act on that and continue to monitor Australians of concern our agencies must seek ministerial approval. In the case of ASIO that is approval from the Attorney General. The ABC understands that between 500 and 700 requests have been made by ASIO and granted by the AG in recent years.
But the metadata explosion has raised broader questions for some. The leak by Edward Snowden has shown that the National Security Agency in the United States is actually collecting millions of electronic communications from the systems of Google, Facebook, Apple and other US internet giants and from the Verizon phone company. This is all contributing to the huge pool of data that is now stored and who can access it.
The question that’s been asked here is does the same arrangement apply between Australia’s Defence Signals Directorate and our own telecommunications companies like Telstra, Optus and iinet? And what about the NBN? Has the Australian Signals directorate made an arrangement with the NBN to conduct internet surveillance on Australians?
Clinton Fernandes, an intelligence analyst who worked for some years with Defence Intelligence is one those who believes it’s a pretty safe bet to assume we do much the same here as the Americans do with the NSA.
“It’s a reasonable deduction that the DSD is doing exactly the same thing as the NSA because of the bilateral relationship we’ve got,” he said.
“You can assume based on the NSA leaks that they have access to all the metadata of your phone calls and your emails as well as the context of your phone calls and your email, who rang you, where you were, where they were, where you went next , who else you talked to, which coffee shop you went to..”
In the Senate independent Nick Xenophon has asked the Government on a number of occasions to spell out the extent and the specifics of Australia’s intelligence agencies surveillance activity.
The Government says it stands by longstanding practice that it doesn’t comment on matters of National Security.
But the internet and our increasingly connected lives have fundamentally changed citizens’ relationship with government and many are now asking for a more transparent approach to longstanding practice.
Canada’s national cryptologic agency, the Communications Security Establishment, said that commenting on PRISM “would undermine CSE’s ability to carry out its mandate”. Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart lamented Canada’s standards when it comes to protecting personal online privacy stating “We have fallen too far behind,” Stoddart wrote in her report. “While other nations’ data protection authorities have the legal power to make binding orders, levy hefty fines and take meaningful action in the event of serious data breaches, we are restricted to a ‘soft’ approach: persuasion, encouragement and, at the most, the potential to publish the names of transgressors in the public interest.” And, “when push comes to shove,” Stoddart wrote, “short of a costly and time-consuming court battle, we have no power to enforce our recommendations.”
Germany did not receive any raw PRISM data, according to Reuters.
Israeli newspaper Calcalist discussed the Business Insider article about the possible involvement of technologies from two secretive Israeli companies in the PRISM program – Verint Systems and Narus.
In New Zealand, University of Otago information science Associate Professor Hank Wolfe said that “under what was unofficially known as the Five Eyes Alliance, New Zealand and other governments, including the United States, Australia, Canada, and Britain, dealt with internal spying by saying they didn’t do it. But they have all the partners doing it for them and then they share all the information.”
In the United Kingdom, Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) has had access to the PRISM program on or before June 2010 and wrote 197 reports with it in 2012 alone. PRISM may have allowed GCHQ to circumvent the formal legal process required to seek personal material.
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