News you may have missed #819 (UKUSA edition)

Charles E. AllenBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Aussie spies’ exemption from Freedom of Information laws to end? Currently, all Australian intelligence agencies are exempt from the operation of federal Freedom of Information (FOI) legislation that allows the public and journalists to seek access to government records. But now Australian Information Commissioner John McMillan has called for the intelligence agencies to no longer be exempted from FOI laws. Professor McMillan and FOI Commissioner James Popple have made the recommendation in a 97-page submission to the review of FOI laws by former Defence Department secretary and diplomat Allan Hawke.
►►US spy agencies move towards single super-cloud. The US intelligence community is developing a single cloud computing network to allow all its analysts to access and rapidly sift through massive volumes of data. Now in its eighth month, the goal of the effort is to connect the Central Intelligence Agency’s existing cloud to a new cloud run by the National Security Agency. This NSA-run network consists of five other intelligence agencies and the FBI. Both of these clouds can interoperate, but the CIA has its own unique needs because it must work with human intelligence, which necessitates keeping its cloud slightly separate, according to Charles Allen, formerly Undersecretary of Homeland Security for intelligence and analysis.
►►Canadian Army struggles with intelligence-gathering. The Canadian Army is trying to hold on to its intelligence-gathering capability and its ability to disrupt spying in the face of budget strain, according to documents from the Canadian Department of National Defence. The Canadian Press, which obtained the documents, says the Army is “anxious to protect HUMINT network and to better resource its counterintelligence abilities”, but is worried that its shrinking budget in the post-Afghanistan War era will cause “degradation” in those disciplines.

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News you may have missed #697: US edition

David PetraeusBy IAN ALLEN| intelNews.org |
►►What happens when CIA couples divorce? One retired CIA senior paramilitary officer, who served for more than two decades and lives in Virginia, said he was told several years ago that the divorce rate for the agency’s operations division was astonishingly high. But unlike the Pentagon, which studies how often service members split up, and knows, for instance, that 29,456 of 798,921 military couples divorced last year, the CIA does not keep official tabs on its employees’ divorce rates.
►►Spies exchange tips in the cloud. While some US federal agencies shy away from cloud computing for fear of losing control over their data, the intelligence community and military increasingly are turning to networked services expressly to exert tighter security restraints, according to Jim Heath, Senior Science Adviser for the National Security Agency.
►►CIA Chief: We’ll spy on you through your dishwasher. More and more personal and household devices are connecting to the internet, from your television to your car navigation systems to your light switches. CIA Director David Petraeus cannot wait to spy on you through them. Earlier this month, Petraeus mused about the emergence of an “Internet of things” —that is, wired devices— at a summit for In-Q-Tel, the CIA’s venture capital firm. “‘Transformational’ is an overused word, but I do believe it properly applies to these technologies”, Petraeus enthused, “particularly to their effect on clandestine tradecraft”.

Analysis: Cloud computing causes ‘cosmic shift’ in US spy community

Cloud computing

Cloud computing

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
While many are focusing on recent reports of arrests of CIA operatives in Lebanon and Iran, American intelligence planners have other things on their minds: the latest buzzword is ‘cloud’; specifically, ‘cloud computing’. The term means storing information and software on a network, which can then be shared on demand by users of interconnected electronic devices. The US intelligence community’s interest in this form of data organizing has been known for quite some time. But according to specialist publication Federal Computer Week, cloud computing is rapidly becoming a reality, as one after the other, US intelligence agencies are “moving their classified, sensitive information off their own servers and into the cloud”. Such a change “might have sounded crazy five years ago”, says FCW, and the fact that it is happening marks nothing less than a “cosmic shift” for American intelligence. The migration unto the cloud was spearheaded two years ago by the National Security Agency; the NSA was later joined by the Defense Intelligence Agency, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, and the super-secretive National Reconnaissance Office. Soon the CIA wanted in: in 2009, Jill Tummler Singer, the CIA’s deputy Chief Intelligence Officer, told ComputerWorld that the CIA was becoming one of the US government’s strongest advocates for cloud computing, even though “the term really didn’t hit our vocabulary until a year ago”. Not everyone is super-excited about the cloud. Last year, Brian Snow, the NSA’s former Technical Director, said at a conference that he didn’t trust cloud services, mostly because of the existence of countless unpatched software vulnerabilities. But the move is heavily supported by two of America’s most senior intelligence officials: Keith Alexander, commander of US Cyber Command and director of NSA —America’s largest intelligence agency— and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #621

Pakistan

Pakistan

►►Pakistan denies spying on German forces in Afghanistan. Pakistani officials have rejected a German newspaper report that the country’s secret service spied on German security forces in Afghanistan. Without citing its sources, mass-selling weekly Bild am Sonntag reported on Sunday that Germany’s BND foreign intelligence agency warned its interior ministry that Pakistan had spied on 180 German police officers deployed in Afghanistan to train locals.
►►CIA expert says US government lacks security operating system. Industry is not providing the US government with the basic tools it needs to build a secure information infrastructure, according to Robert Bigman, chief of the CIA’s Information Assurance Group. “What we need is a secure operating system”, he said during a panel discussion at the Security Innovation Network showcase in Washington last month. “We gave up some time ago on the battle to build a secure operating system, and we don’t have one”.
►►US increased spy spending in 2011. The US Congress appropriated $54.6 billion for intelligence programs in the 2011 fiscal year, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence disclosed last week. The amount, which does not include what was spent on military intelligence, is a slight increase from the year before but could be the end of the upward trend, says CNN’s Security Clearance blog.

News you may have missed #531 (US edition)

  • US spy agencies looking into cloud computing. In-Q-Tel, the investment arm of the US intelligence community, recently sunk money into a cloud-based storage company called Cleversafe. The CIA has emerged as one of the US government’s strongest advocates of cloud computing, but some US intel insiders are not so hot on the idea.
  • Obama administration drops most CIA torture probes. So, this is how one of the darkest chapters in US counterterrorism ends: with practically every instance of suspected CIA torture dodging criminal scrutiny. Wired’s Danger Room blog calls it “one of the greatest gifts the Justice Department could have given the CIA as David Petraeus takes over the agency”.
  • US report shows increase in authorized wiretaps. US federal and state applications for orders authorizing or approving the interception of wire, oral or electronic communications increased 34 percent in 2010, compared to the number reported in 2009.

News you may have missed #302 (NSA edition)

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News you may have missed #0135

  • More revelations in “unprecedented” book on MI5 history. More revelations in Christopher Andrew’s In Defense of the Realm include the disclosure that Margaret Thatcher tried to get MI5 to spy on British trade union activists when she was Prime Minister (MI5 refused). Meanwhile, Professor Andrew has begun serializing selected chapters of the book in The London Times, here and here.
  • Court lets Canadian spies snoop on targets overseas. A court ruling has permitted the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and the Communications Security Establishment to eavesdrop on Canadian nationals traveling overseas. Until now, the two agencies could spy on Canadians so long as they were within the country’s borders.
  • CIA endorses cloud computing. The CIA is emerging as one of the US government’s strongest advocates of cloud computing, even though “cloud computing as a term really didn’t hit our vocabulary until a year ago”, according to Jill Tummler Singer, the CIA’s deputy Chief Intelligence Officer. This article, however, fails to mention that the NSA is also moving to cloud computing in a big way.

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News you may have missed #0042

  • Postcards containing Cold War spy messages unearthed. The postcards, containing chess moves, were posted in 1950 by an unidentified man in Frankfurt, thought to have been an undercover agent, to Graham Mitchell, who was then deputy director general of MI5. The problem is, researchers are not quite sure whether the cryptic text on the postcards is based on British or Soviet codes, because Mitchell was suspected of being a secret Soviet agent at the time.
  • Is NSA actively mapping social networks? There are rumors out there that NSA is monitoring social networking tools, such as Tweeter, Facebook and MySpace, in order to make links between individuals and construct elaborate data-mining-based maps of who associates with whom.
  • US Senate bill would disclose intelligence budget. The US Senate version of the FY2010 intelligence authorization bill would require the President to disclose the aggregate amount requested for intelligence each year. Disclosure of the budget request would enable Congress to appropriate a stand-alone intelligence budget that would no longer need to be concealed misleadingly in other non-intelligence budget accounts.

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News you may have missed #0038

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