New Snowden leaks reveal thousands of NSA privacy violations

NSA headquartersBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
New documents leaked by an American intelligence defector reveal that the National Security Agency (NSA) violated privacy protections nearly 3,000 times in 2012, many of them under an interception program that was later ruled unconstitutional. The documents were supplied to The Washington Post by former NSA and Central Intelligence Agency technical expert Edward Snowden, who recently defected to Russia. The paper published the documents on Thursday, indicating that they form part of an internal NSA audit completed in May of 2012. They detail 2,776 separate incidents of what the NSA describes as “unauthorized data collection”, between May 2011 and May 2012. The documented instances involve unauthorized interception of both email and telephone data belonging to American citizens and foreign nationals operating on American soil. The NSA is forbidden from spying on American citizens, while its interception activities targeting foreign nationals inside the US are severely limited by law. According to the audit report, some of the privacy violations occurred when foreign citizens targeted by the NSA entered US soil and continued to be monitored without prior permission from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC). In other instances, the NSA’s auditors reported “inadvertent collection incidents” relating to targets believed to be foreign, and later proved to be American citizens. The report notes that the privacy violations were unintentional results of “errors and departures from standard [NSA] processes”, which occurred “due to operator errors” and the failure of NSA personnel to “follow procedures”. Read more of this post

Ex-CIA technician who leaked Verizon court order comes forward

Edward SnowdenBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Last week, British newspaper The Guardian revealed a secret court order that enables the United States government to collect the telephone records of millions of customers of Verizon, one of America’s largest cellular phone service providers. On the morning of Sunday, June 9, the individual responsible for leaking the secret court order came forward on his own volition. He is Edward Snowden, a former technical assistant for the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The 29-year-old computer expert, who has been working for the National Security Agency (NSA) for the last four years, told The Guardian that he decided to leak the injunction because he felt it posed “an existential threat to democracy”. He added that he was not motivated by money in disclosing the document. Were he after money, he said, he “could have sold these documents to any number of countries and gotten very rich”. In a video published on The Guardian’s website, Snowden told the paper that his disillusionment with America’s “federation of secret law, unequal pardon and irresistible executive powers” began even before 2007, when he was stationed under diplomatic cover at the CIA station in Geneva, Switzerland. He finally decided to act three weeks ago, he said, after careful consideration of the ramifications of his decision for his life and career.

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News you may have missed #834

Site of one of the Boston Marathon blastsBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Why FBI and CIA didn’t connect the dots on Boston bombers.  The FBI and the CIA are being criticized for not keeping better track of Tamerlan Tsarnaev in the months before the Boston Marathon bombings. How could they have ignored such a dangerous person? How do we reform the intelligence community to ensure this kind of failure doesn’t happen again? Legendary security expert Bruce Schneier says the idea of connecting the dots is a bad metaphor, and focusing on it makes us more likely to implement useless reforms.
►►Korean spy’s deportation reveals web of intrigue. Relations between Australia and South Korea have been strained after the East Asian economic powerhouse was caught soliciting sensitive information from public servants, and the deportation of a South Korean spy for espionage in 2009 was disclosed. New details of South Korean espionage in Australia were revealed in an unfair dismissal case before the Fair Work Commission brought by a former intelligence officer with the Australian Federal Police, Bo-Rim “Bryan” Kim.
►►Secret US court approved all domestic spying requests in 2012. The United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (also known as FISA court) quietly rubber-stamped nearly 2,000 government requests to search or electronically monitor people in the United States last year, according to a Justice Department report. The agency, which oversees requests for surveillance warrants against suspected foreign intelligence agents on US soil, released the report to Senate majority leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada), showing that by approving the 1,856 inquiries “for foreign intelligence purposes”, it had granted every single government request in 2012.

News you may have missed #727

Jeffrey Paul DelisleBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►US government-authorized wiretaps increased in 2011. The US Justice Department sought 1,745 secret wiretapping warrants in 2011, an increase of 239 over 2010, according to correspondence sent to Congressional leaders and oversight committees. The secret warrants are governed under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and are used in terrorist and espionage investigations by the FBI. The letter, dated April 30, 2012, also notes that the FBI issued 16,511 National Security Letters (NSLs) to obtain certain records and information in investigations. It further asserts that the requests were for investigations relating to 7,201 different US persons. The number of NSLs declined dramatically from 2010 when the FBI had sought 24,287.
►►Australia axes spy agency funding. Large budget cuts by the Australian Labour government, which is trying to engineer a federal budget surplus, are expected to affect funding for the country’s intelligence agencies. The six agencies of the Australian intelligence community have been given a collective budget of $81 million over four years, a figure that is $20.4 million lower than previous budgets. The government said that savings will be “redirected to support other national intelligence priorities”.
►►Canada spy case adjourned until June. The case of Jeffrey Delisle, a Halifax naval intelligence officer accused of espionage, has been adjourned until next month because his lawyer has not yet received all of the files in the case. Delisle is charged with communicating information to a foreign entity –probably Russia– that could harm national interests. Until 2010, Delisle worked for both Canada’s Chief of Defence Intelligence and at the Strategic Joint Staff, which oversees virtually every major aspect of the military’s domestic and international plans and operations.

News you may have missed #657

Israel and IranBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Israeli company exported Internet-monitoring hardware to Iran. Israel bans all trade with its enemy, Iran. It turns out, however, that Israeli Internet-monitoring equipment has been finding its way to Iran for years, through Denmark. An Israeli company shipped the equipment to Denmark, where workers stripped away the packaging and removed the labels, before forwarding it to Iran. Now Israeli trade, customs and defense officials say they “did not know” that the systems were ending up in Iran.
►►Court decision revives NSA lawsuits. The 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that the case of Jewel v NSA, which claims that after the 2001 terrorist attacks the NSA began large-scale monitoring of digital traffic, with the assistance of AT&T and others, can proceed. At the same time, the court denied leave to continue on a linked case against AT&T, for aiding and abetting the surveillance. The court upheld the 2008 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) revision, voted for by the current president, which grants the telecommunications companies retroactive immunity from any actions carried out during the period.
►►Czechs charged with espionage in Zambia sent home. Three Czech citizens, who were detained in Zambia on October 12, 2011, and charged with espionage, have returned home, the Czech Foreign Ministry said Sunday. A ministry spokesman declined to give any details on the return of the three Czechs, who were arrested after they were found taking pictures near military sites.

News you may have missed #507

  • Pakistani media reveal name of CIA station chief. Mark Carlton, the purported CIA station chief in Islamabad, was named by a Pakistani newspaper and a private television news network over the weekend, the second holder of that post in less than a year to have his cover blown by the media.
  • How an immigrant from Taiwan came to spy for China. Well-researched article on Tai Shen Kuo, a Taiwanese-born American citizen who is serving time in an Arizona prison for spying on the US for China.
  • Domestic surveillance grew in US in 2010. The level of domestic US intelligence surveillance activity in 2010 increased from the year before, according to a new Justice Department report to Congress. Moreover, the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court approved all 1,506 government requests to electronically monitor suspected “agents” of a foreign power or terrorists on US soil.

News you may have missed #425 (US edition)

  • US Pentagon considering pre-emptive cyber-strikes? This is what The Washington Post is reporting, noting that military officials are “still wrestling with how to pursue the strategy legally”. If anyone in the DoD discovers a legal method of launching pre-emptive aggression, we’d sure like to know.
  • More changes in US FISA court. After a recent change of leadership, the US Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court is considering new compliance rules for handling surveillance requests by US counterspy agencies. The court authorizes requests by agencies for surveillance of foreign suspects operating inside the US.
  • Why do US officials want to deport Chinese defector? Washington wants to deport Li Fengzhi, a Chinese ex-intelligence agent who defected to the US in 2004, back to China, where he could be executed for treason. There are rumors that Li may have “oversold” himself to the FBI and the CIA.

News you may have missed #348

  • US knew Guatemalan Army was behind notorious 1982 massacre. Declassified documents released on May 7 show that US officials knew the Guatemalan Army was responsible for the 1982 Dos Erres massacre, one of Guatemala’s most shocking human rights crimes.
  • New presiding judge in US FISA court. Three years after he was first appointed to serve on the US Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), John D. Bates has taken over as the presiding judge. Last week, Judge Martin Feldman was appointed to serve on the secretive court, which reviews (and invariably approves) government applications for counterintelligence surveillance and physical search.
  • UAE security sector benefits from al-Mabhouh assassination. Business for security companies in the United Arab Emirates has been brisk, with some companies reporting a 40% increase in business, as hotels spend millions bolstering their security systems. Some attribute this to last January’s killing in Dubai of Hamas operative Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, by a Mossad hit squad.

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News you may have missed #343

  • Taliban leader H. Mehsud reportedly not dead. Last February US and Pakistani officials claimed a CIA airstrike had killed Hakimullah Mehsud, the leader of the largest faction of the Pakistani Taliban. But it now appears that Mehsud is alive and well.
  • Analysis: Operation MINCEMEAT and the ethics of spying. The New Yorker‘s Malcolm Gladwell on operation MINCEMEAT, a World War II British deception plan, which helped convince the German high command that the Allies planned to invade Greece and Sardinia in 1943, instead of Sicily.
  • US DoJ announces FISA court appointment. Judge Martin L.C. Feldman, of the Eastern District of Louisiana, has been appointed to a seven-year term on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance (FISA) Court, which reviews (and invariably approves) government applications for counterintelligence surveillance and physical search under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

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NSA bugging more widespread than thought, says ex-analyst

Wayne Madsen

Wayne Madsen

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
A former NSA analyst and US Navy intelligence officer has alleged that the National Security Agency’s (NSA) domestic spying program was more widespread than originally thought, and that it was authorized by the Bush Administration prior to 9/11. Wayne Madsen, who authors the Wayne Madsen Report, says the NSA consulted with US telecommunications service providers about aspects of its STELLAR WIND program in as early as February 27, 2001, several months prior to the events of 9/11. STELLAR WIND was a massive domestic surveillance program involving spying on US citizens. Under the guidance of the office of the US Attorney General, the NSA was systematically allowed to circumvent the standard authorization process under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance (FISA) Court, composed of 11 federal judges, and thus conduct what is known as warrantless wiretapping within the United States, which is illegal. Read more of this post

Secretive US court to relocate in symbolic move

Judge Lamberth

Judge Lamberth

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
In 1978, in the wake of the Watergate scandal, US legislators attempted to curtail the government’s spying powers by instituting the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC). The court is supposed to handle requests by US counterintelligence agencies for surveillance of suspects operating inside the US. In reality, however, the court, which operates in total secrecy, has effectively become a rubber-stamp for the government, rarely turning down a request for a surveillance warrant. It usually rejects less than 1% of all requests each year; in 2007, the court denied only three of the 2,370 applications submitted to it by government agencies wishing to conduct surveillance operations. Even in rare instances when FISC does reject a warrant or two, another body, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review (FISCR) re-examines the rejected cases and usually ends up granting them to the counterintelligence agencies that have requested them. Now, however, the secretive court has reportedly decided to take a symbolic step toward self-determination, by moving its headquarters from the US Department of Justice building to a newly built wing of Washington DC’s federal courthouse. Read more of this post

Obama lawyers employ “state secrets” clause again, despite assurances for openness

Judge Walker

Judge Walker

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS| intelNews.org |
Last week, US Justice Department officials employed a “state secrets” clause previously used by the Bush Administration, to block a lawsuit against CIA’s extraordinary rendition program. The move surprised many observers, as only days earlier the new US Attorney General, Eric H. Holder, had ordered “a review of all claims of state secrets used to block lawsuits” in an attempt to stop hiding “from the American people information about their government’s actions that they have a right to know”. Remarkably, last Friday the Obama Administration tried using the same “state secrets” clause again, this time to prevent a lawsuit filed by a now defunct Islamic charity against the Bush Administration’s post-9/11 warrantless wiretapping scheme. Read more of this post

NSA whistleblower reveals routine spying on American media

Russell Tice

Russell Tice

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Russell Tice, an analyst with the National Security Agency (NSA) until 2005, was among several inside sources who in 2005 helped The New York Times reveal NSA’s warrantless spying program. A few months earlier, Tice had been fired by the NSA after he started to investigate a suspicious communications-monitoring program he was involved in. The last time Mr. Tice spoke publicly about his experience at the NSA was in 2006. He then waited until the Bush Administration was out of the White House before he made any more revelations. Hours after Barack Obama’s inauguration, Tice surfaced again, this time giving an interview to MSNBC’s Keith Olberman. Read more of this post

Bush Administration pressured judge to conceal secret wiretap evidence

Judge Walker

Judge Walker

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
Ever since September 2004, when they were taken to court accused of terrorist links by the US government, the directors of Al-Haramain, a Saudi-based Islamic charity with offices in Oregon and Missouri, have suspected their telephones were tapped under the Bush Administration’s warrantless wiretapping program. Their suspicions were confirmed last July, when US government prosecutors mistakenly gave the charity’s legal team a classified document showing that the FBI had indeed tapped the group’s office phones. The group’s legal team used the classified document as a basis to sue the Bush Administration, claiming that warrantless wiretapping violated the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). On January 5, 2009, the presiding Judge, Chief US District Judge Vaughn Walker, ruled that Al-Haramain’s legal challenge of the legality of the Bush Administration’s warrantless wiretapping scheme could indeed go ahead. Moreover, he asked the US government “to consider declassifying the secret evidence” relating to Al-Haramain’s prosecution. It has now emerged that the Bush Administration wrote to Judge Walker asking him to reverse his ruling. The communication (.pdf) was apparently dispatched to Judge Walker at 10:56 p.m. on Monday, January 19, 2009 –that is, 64 minutes prior to the end of the Administration’s last full day in power. In the filing, Judge Walker is pressed to reverse his January 5 decision and prevent the disclosure of the secret evidence he has requested the government to provide. The next hearing for the case has been scheduled for this coming Friday.

Secretive US review court backs warrantless surveillance

wiretappingBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews |
The US Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) is a panel of Federal Judges tasked with overseeing requests by counterintelligence agencies for surveillance of suspected foreign intelligence agents operating inside the US. It operates in total secrecy and rarely turns down a request for a surveillance warrant –it usually rejects less than 1% of all requests each year. Even in rare instances when it does reject a warrant or two, another body, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review (FISCR) re-examines the rejected cases and usually ends up granting them to the counterintelligence agencies that have requested them. Last Thursday, FISCR resorted to a near-unprecedented action: it published a redacted copy [.pdf] of a legal decision it handed down last August. Read more of this post

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