Sunday, November 24, 2013

NSA spying

Paul Mason Culture and Digital Editor  
20 November 2013

Between 2004 and 2007 the Labour government gave the US National Security Agency permission to use information on innocent British people collected in the process of spying on actual targets.
According to a top secret memo I have seen, from within the NSA and dated June 2007, Britain agreed the Americans could "unminimise" British landline numbers as early as 2004. That means they were not obliged to delete them, and could now use their systems to analyse them.

By 2004 the Americans had clear reasons to be concerned about UK citizens and terror. Shoe bomber Richard Reid was in a US jail; there were nine Brits in Guantanamo.

These two documents are the first proof in black and white that an agreement exists between Britain and the USA on the targeting of each other's citizens (on the assumption, not confirmed, that Britain gained the reciprocal right to use data collected on Americans in the 2007 agreement).

Edited time: July 26, 2013 05:49

The US House of Representatives voted on Wednesday to reject an attempt to reign in domestic spying by the National Security Agency following a storm of lobbying by the White House against the measure.

In a 205-217 vote the House defeated an amendment introduced by Rep. Justin Amash (R-Michigan) which would have prevented the NSA from collecting the phone data of individuals not currently under investigation.

Amash aimed to challenge the NSA’s program of widespread collection of phone records, specifically information known as 'metadata,' the details of which were revealed by The Guardian in June.

That newspaper was able to acquire and publish a copy of a top-secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court opinion which required the mobile carrier Verizon to provide the NSA with the phone numbers of both parties involved in calls, along with the time and duration of the calls as well as calling card numbers used, and the International Mobile Subscriber Identity (IMSI) number for mobile carriers.

Since that information was revealed, officials have both confirmed the authenticity of the leak and justified its actions, as well as suggested that many more telecom companies are involved.

Surveillance of phone communications was itself eclipsed by revelations then made by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, who blew the whistle on an unimagined level of online surveillance being conducted by the intelligence agency in conjunction with a long list of major American companies, including Yahoo, Microsoft, Google and Facebook.

According to various experts on the matter, including analysis provided by Wired Magazine, the NSA’s indiscriminate collection of such data would thereby allow the government to build a massive database to map connections and relationships between callers.

Published time: October 31, 2013 07:55

EU leaders are calling for the suspension of a trade pact with the US worth billions of dollars over NSA spying. The 28-nation bloc suspects the so-called ‘Safe Harbor’ deal is being undermined by US espionage and has demanded safeguards for EU citizens.

The EU’s top politicians have slammed Washington for a “breakdown of trust” and seek guarantees for the safety of EU customer data.

“For ambitious and complex negotiations to succeed there needs to be trust among the negotiating partners,” EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding said Wednesday in a speech at Yale University.

The Safe Harbor agreement has been in place for 13 years and it allows over 4,300 American companies to collect and process sales, emails and photos from EU customers. In order for firms to be able to collate this information they have to comply with seven directives to prevent data loss and disclosure.

However, EU officials believe the system is flawed and can be manipulated by the NSA.

“If you look at the US legal environment, there is no adequate legal protection for EU citizens,” said the European Parliament’s leading data protection lawmaker Jan Philipp Albrecht after talks with officials in Washington.

In the light of the spy scandal the EU has threatened to suspend the treaty pending stipulated changes that would sure up security. EU leaders are expected to urge the US to strengthen its privacy laws to allow European citizen more control over how their private data is used.

If the ‘Safe Harbor’ pact is suspended it could have a massive knock-on effect, costing the US and EU billions of dollars in trade. Moreover, the pact allows US companies to get around the lengthy approval procedure by the European data protection authorities, without it some US firms would be forced to stop doing business in the EU.

“I don’t think the US government can be convinced by arguments or outrage alone, but by making it clear that American interests will suffer if this global surveillance is simply continued,” said Peter Schaar, the head of Germany’s data protection watchdog.

Free trade deal

If Washington fails to comply with the EU’s demands then it could further endanger a free trade deal which could add an estimated $138 billion a year to each economy’s gross domestic product.

Reding warned that if changes were not made to US privacy regulations, negotiations for the free trade agreement could easily be “derailed.”

Negotiations on the conditions of the transatlantic agreement are due to resume in December and a decision is likely to be reached by the end of the year.

The revelations of the NSA’s spying activities in Europe scandalized the 28-nation bloc. Security leaks released by former CIA worker Edward Snowden revealed that the NSA taps millions of phone calls across the continent and stores the collected information in its data banks.

Furthermore, the security disclosures indicate the NSA not only monitors citizens it suspects are involved in terrorism, but also businessmen and high-profile politicians.

By Gregor Waschinski october 31, 2013

Washington (United States) (AFP) - Europe and Washington traded spying accusations, as envoys met to seek ways to rebuild trust after shock revelations about the scale and scope of US surveillance of its allies.

A German intelligence delegation and a separate group of EU lawmakers were in the US capital to confront their American allies about the alleged bugging of Chancellor Angela Merkel's phone.

And the visit coincided with the latest in a series of newspaper reports based on leaked National Security Agency files, this one alleging US agents hacked into cables used by Google and Yahoo.

President Barack Obama's spy chiefs are on the defensive over the reports, which have riled America's allies and exposed the vast scale of the NSA's snooping on telephone calls and Internet traffic.

The head of the NSA, General Keith Alexander, repeated the administration's argument that all countries spy on one another, and said that the allies should discuss a new working relationship.

"I think this partnership with Europe is absolutely important," he said. "But it has to do with everybody coming to the table and let's put off all the sensationalism and say: 'Is there a better way for our countries to work together?'"

US intelligence chiefs have said these reports are based on a misinterpretation of an NSA slide leaked to the media by fugitive former intelligence technician Edward Snowden.

Rather than siphoning off the records of tens of millions of calls in Europe, as the slide seems to suggest, they argue that the data was in many cases gathered and shared by European agencies.

'Foreign nations spying on US'

"The perception that NSA is collecting 70 million phone calls in France or Spain or Italy is factually incorrect," Alexander said at a conference organized by Bloomberg media group.

"This is actually countries working together to support military operations, collecting what they need to protect our forces in areas where we work together as nations."

This argument, which Alexander and overall US spy chief James Clapper made on Tuesday before a Congressional committee, had already raised eyebrows in Europe.

French government spokeswoman Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, speaking after a cabinet meeting chaired by President Francois Hollande, said: "The NSA director's denials don't seem likely."

Germany, angered by the revelation that the NSA tapped Chancellor Angela Merkel's phone, also issued a stern response, denying US claims that the European allies spy on US targets in turn.

Elmar Brok, Chairman of the European Parliament's committee on foreign affairs, told reporters that Alexander had admitted to an EU delegation that America had targeted Merkel.

The spy had shown the envoys evidence that much of the data from France, Spain and Germany referenced in the latest leaked slide had indeed been European intelligence shared with the NSA.

"This was given to the US by the French, Spanish or German authorities not spying on Germany, France or Spain, but on what was known in Afghanistan or Yemen," Brok said.

But Brok also noted that Alexander had confirmed at the same time that the NSA and other US intelligence services also "work unilaterally" in Europe, without the knowledge of their local partners.

Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert said German officials and intelligence officers were in Washington to discuss "a new basis of trust and new regulation for our cooperation in this area."

"We are in a process of intensive contacts with US partners both at the intelligence as well as the political level," he said.

Meanwhile, a new report in the Washington Post alleged that NSA technicians had tapped into Yahoo and Google data centers around the world, winning access to vast amounts of private data.

The report said a program dubbed MUSCULAR, operated with the NSA's British counterpart GCHQ, can intercept data directly from the fiber-optic cables used by the US Internet giants.

The Post reported this is a secret program that is unlike PRISM, another NSA tool revealed by Snowden's leaks, which relies on secret court orders to obtain data from technology firms.

According to a document cited by the newspaper dated January 9, 2013, some 181 million records were collected in the prior 30 days, ranging from email metadata to text, audio and video content.

Alexander protested "to my knowledge, this never happened."

But a statement released later Wednesday by the NSA was somewhat more guarded and did not deny that foreign citizens' data is targeted.

"NSA has multiple authorities that it uses to accomplish its mission, which is centered on defending the nation," the statement said."NSA is...focused on discovering and developing intelligence about valid foreign intelligence targets only."

And, in another embarrassing chapter for Washington, the United Nations said it had received an assurance that US agencies would not bug its secret communications in the future.

Conspicuously, the United States could not promise the world body it had not been spied upon in the past.

The NSA has far too much power to spy on innocent Americans without any meaningful oversight.
It's gotten so bad that even one of the original ultra-conservative authors of the Patriot Act, Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, joined with progressive stalwart Rep. John Conyers and Senator Patrick Leahy in introducing a bipartisan NSA reform bill.
This bill, which they named the USA Freedom Act, would end the bulk collection of Americans' telephone records and provide a modest measure of needed transparency to the use of National Security Letters and other forms of warrantless wiretapping.
It's a good first step, and we need to show the House and the Senate that there’s popular support for Congress starting the process of restoring our constitutional rights.

Let's be clear. We support the full repeal of the Patriot Act and the FISA Amendments Act. The only legislative vehicle for that is Rep. Rush Holt’s Surveillance State Repeal Act, which we will continue to fight for.
But until we succeed in repealing the Patriot Act and the FISA Amendments Act, we should support anything that will start the process of reining in the NSA without making anything worse.
The Sensenbrenner-Leahy bill is a good move in that direction. It will at the very least stop the kind of bulk surveillance dragnets that allows the government to spy on millions of Americans who are not suspected of any wrongdoing. And it will take a minor step toward transparency by allowing companies to disclose the number of requests they get from the government that force them to turn over the private information of their users and customers without a court order and under a gag.
It's important to note that this is far less than what we truly need to rein in the NSA. But it's a good start. The bill preserves much of the status quo. Let's remember, the problem of overbroad and unconstitutionally intrusive government surveillance is so vast that even the president didn't know that the U.S. was tapping the phones of allied world leaders like German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
But while the Sensenbrenner-Leahy bill is a good first step, the same cannot be said for the bill proposed by Senator Dianne Feinstein, which in the name of reform would simply codify the ability of the government to spy on innocent Americans without doing anything to prevent the rampant abuses that have become routine practices of a rogue NSA and other intelligence agencies.
That's why we’re asking Congress to support Rep. Sensenbrenner and Sen. Leahy’s USA Freedom Act, and oppose Senator Feinstein’s sham bill which is meant to make the public think oversight is being strengthened over the NSA when there will be no meaningful reform established in the legislation.
Tell Congress: Rein in the NSA to stop its unconstitutional spying. Click the link below to automatically sign the petition:
Thank you for taking a stand against unconstitutional government spying.
Matt Lockshin, Campaign Manager

October 28, 2013

BERLIN (Reuters) - A German newspaper said on Sunday that U.S. President Barack Obama knew his intelligence service was eavesdropping on Angela Merkel as long ago as 2010, contradicting reports that he had told the German leader he did not know.

Germany received information this week that the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) had bugged Merkel's mobile phone, prompting Berlin to summon the U.S. ambassador, a move unprecedented in post-war relations between the close allies.

Reuters was unable to confirm Sunday's news report. The NSA denied that Obama had been informed about the operation by the NSA chief in 2010, as reported by the German newspaper. But the agency did not comment directly on whether Obama knew about the bugging of Merkel's phone.

Both the White House and the German government declined comment.

The Wall Street Journal reported on Sunday that the NSA ended the program that involved Merkel after the operation was uncovered in an Obama administration review that began this summer. The program also involved as many as 35 other world leaders, some of whom were still being monitored, according to the report, which was attributed to U.S. officials.

In response to the WSJ report, National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden noted in a statement that Obama had ordered a review of U.S. surveillance capabilities.

"Through this review, led by the White House, the United States is reviewing the way that we gather intelligence to ensure that we properly account for the security concerns of our citizens and allies and the privacy concerns that all people share," Hayden said, adding that she was not in a position to discuss the details.

Citing a source in Merkel's office, some German media have reported that Obama apologized to Merkel when she called him on Wednesday, and told her that he would have stopped the bugging happening had he known about it.

But Bild am Sonntag, citing a "U.S. intelligence worker involved in the NSA operation against Merkel", said NSA chief General Keith Alexander informed Obama in person about it in 2010.

"Obama didn't stop the operation back then but let it continue," the mass-market paper quoted the source as saying.

The NSA said, however, that Alexander had never discussed any intelligence operations involving Merkel with Obama.

"(General) Alexander did not discuss with President Obama in 2010 an alleged foreign intelligence operation involving German Chancellor Merkel, nor has he ever discussed alleged operations involving Chancellor Merkel", NSA spokeswoman Vanee Vines said in an emailed statement.

"News reports claiming otherwise are not true."

Bild am Sonntag said Obama in fact wanted more material on Merkel, and ordered the NSA to compile a "comprehensive dossier" on her. "Obama, according to the NSA man, did not trust Merkel and wanted to know everything about the German," the paper said.

White House spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden declined to comment and reiterated the standard policy line that the United States gathers foreign intelligence of the type gathered by all nations.

Bild said the NSA had increased its surveillance, including the contents of Merkel's text messages and phone calls, on Obama's initiative and had started tapping a new, supposedly bug-proof mobile she acquired this summer, a sign the spying continued into the "recent past".

The NSA first eavesdropped on Merkel's predecessor Gerhard Schroeder after he refused to support President George W. Bush's war in Iraq and was extended when Merkel took over in 2005, the paper said.

Eighteen NSA staff working in the U.S. embassy, some 800 meters (yards) from Merkel's office, sent their findings straight to the White House, rather than to NSA headquarters, the paper said. Only Merkel's encrypted landline in her office in the Chancellery had not been tapped, it added.

Bild said some NSA officials were becoming annoyed with the White House for creating the impression that U.S. spies had gone beyond what they had been ordered to do.


Merkel has said she uses one mobile phone and that all state-related calls are made from encrypted lines.

The rift over U.S. surveillance activities first emerged this year with reports that Washington had bugged European Union offices and tapped half a billion phone calls, emails and text messages in Germany in a typical month.

Merkel's government said in August - just weeks before a German election - that the United States had given sufficient assurances it was complying with German law.

This week's news has reignited criticism of the U.S. surveillance. Volker Kauder, head of Merkel's party in parliament, called it a "grave breach of trust" and said the United States should drop its "global power demeanor".

Kauder said, however, that he was against halting negotiations on a European free trade agreement with the United States, a call made by Social Democrats and some of Merkel's Bavarian allies.

Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich told Bild am Sonntag: "Bugging is a crime and those responsible for it must be held to account."

The Social Democrats, with whom Merkel is holding talks to form a new government, have joined calls from two smaller opposition parties for a parliamentary investigation into the U.S. surveillance, but Kauder has rejected the idea.

SPD parliamentary whip Thomas Oppermann said former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, who leaked many of the sensitive documents, could be called as a witness. Snowden is living in Russia, out of reach of U.S. attempts to arrest him.

(Reporting by Annika Breidthardt; Additional reporting by Anna Yukhananov in Washington; Editing by Robin Pomeroy, Alistair Lyon, Christopher Wilson and Paul Simao)

By John O'Donnell and Luke Baker
BRUSSELS (Reuters) - German Chancellor Angela Merkel demanded on Thursday that the United States strike a "no-spying" agreement with Berlin and Paris by the end of the year, saying alleged espionage against two of Washington's closest EU allies had to be stopped.

Speaking after talks with EU leaders that were dominated by allegations that the U.S. National Security Agency had accessed tens of thousands of French phone records and monitored Merkel's private mobile phone, the chancellor said she wanted action from President Barack Obama, not just apologetic words.
Germany and France would seek a "mutual understanding" with the United States on cooperation between their intelligence agencies, and other EU member states could eventually take part.
"That means a framework for cooperation between the relevant (intelligence) services. Germany and France have taken the initiative and other member states will join," she said.
In a statement issued after the first day of the summit, the EU's 28 leaders said they supported the Franco-German plan.
Merkel first raised the possibility of a "no-spying" agreement with Obama during a visit to Berlin in June this year, but nothing came of it. The latest revelations, part of the vast leaks made by former U.S. data analyst Edward Snowden, would appear to have renewed her determination for a pact.
The United States has a "no-spying" deal with Britain, Australia, New Zealand and Canada, an alliance known as "Five Eyes" that was struck in the aftermath of World War Two.
But there has traditionally been a reluctance to make similar arrangements with other allies, despite the close relations that the United States and Germany now enjoy.
Merkel said an accord with Washington was long overdue, given the shared experiences the countries face.
"We are in Afghanistan together. Our soldiers experience life threatening situations. They sometimes die in the same battles," she said.
"The friendship and partnership between the European member states, including Germany, and the United States is not a one-way street. We depend on it. But there are good reasons that the United States also needs friends in the world."
As EU leaders arrived for the two-day summit there was near-universal condemnation of the alleged activities by the NSA, particularly the monitoring of Merkel's mobile phone, a sensitive issue for a woman who grew up in East Germany, living under the Stasi police force and its feared eavesdropping.
Some senior German officials, and the German president of the European Parliament, have called for talks between the EU and United States on a free-trade agreement, which began in July, to be suspended because of the spying allegations.
Merkel, whose country is one of the world's leading exporters and stands to gain from any trade deal with Washington, said that was not the right path to take, saying the best way forward was to rebuild trust.
The series of Snowden-based leaks over the past three months have left Washington at odds with a host of important allies, from Brazil to Saudi Arabia, and there are few signs that the revelations are going to dry up anytime soon.
Britain's Guardian newspaper reported on Thursday that one NSA contact, a U.S. official, had provided the telephone numbers of 35 world leaders that had then been monitored.
As well as raising questions about the EU-US trade negotiations, the spying furor could also have an impact on data-privacy legislation working its way through the EU.
The European Parliament this week backed legislation, proposed by the European Commission in early 2012, that would greatly toughen EU data protection rules dating from 1995.
The new rules would restrict how data collected in Europe by firms such as Google and Facebook is shared with non-EU countries, introduce the right of EU citizens to request that their digital traces be erased, and impose fines of 100 million euros ($138 million) or more on rule breakers.
The United States is concerned the regulations, if they enter into law, will raise the cost of handling data in Europe. Google, Yahoo!, Microsoft and others have lobbied hard against the proposals.
Given the spying accusations, France and Germany - the two most influential countries in EU policy - may succeed in getting member states to push ahead on negotiations with the parliament to complete the new data regulations by 2015.
For the United States, it could substantially change how data privacy rules are implemented globally.
(Additional reporting by Madeline Chambers and Noah Barkin in Berlin, Julien Ponthus, Robin Emmott and John O'Donnell in Brussels and Alexandria Sage in Paris; Editing by Will Waterman)

NSA revelations made Argentina’s Cristina Kirchner reach out to Brazil to improve their cyber defense. Countries in the region are now paying attention to this project in order to develop their own email systems: specifically designed for those who don’t want Google and Yahoo accounts which allow US intelligence in. That is open retaliation, but much more might happen behind closed doors. American presence is still important; but now that China’s star is rising rapidly as Latin America’s trade partner, the pressure is on the US.

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