NSA gives Israel raw intercepts containing US citizens’ data

NSA headquartersBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The United States National Security Agency (NSA) shares raw intercepted data with Israeli intelligence without first deleting information pertaining to American citizens, according to a leaked document. British newspaper The Guardian published on Wednesday an informal memorandum of understanding between the NSA and the Israel SIGINT National Unit (ISNU). The five-page document was supplied to the newspaper by Edward Snowden, a technical contractor for the NSA who defected to Russia this past summer. It outlines an agreement reached in 2009 between the NSA and the ISNU, under which the American side provides the Israelis with raw intercepts, which often contain telephone and email data belonging to American citizens. The memorandum describes this type intelligence sharing as a “routine” aspect of a broader “SIGINT relationship between the two organizations”. SIGINT refers to signals intelligence, a term used in the intelligence community to describe the interception of communications data or content. Additionally, the document specifically mentions that the data shared with the Israelis is “raw” or “unminimized”, meaning it has not been subjected to the process of extracting and deleting information that identifies US citizens or residents —known as “US persons”. By law, the NSA is not permitted to spy on US persons and is required to ‘minimize’ intercepted data so that the communications of US persons remain private, unless they are absolutely indispensible in understanding a piece of foreign intelligence. The memorandum describes a number of restrictions on the use of this information by Israeli intelligence, stating that the ISNU is forbidden from using it in order to target US persons. It also states that the ISNU must shield the identities of US persons when sharing the information with other Israeli government agencies. Read more of this post

About these ads

NSA ‘broke, circumvented Internet encryption standards’

NSA headquartersBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
The United States National Security Agency (NSA) has been able to crack or get around basic encryption standards used daily by hundreds of millions of Internet users, according to newly leaked documents. The New York Times said on Friday that it was in possession of documents that prove that the NSA is not restrained by universal encryption standards used in the US and abroad. The NSA, which is America’s largest intelligence agency, and is tasked by the US government with intercepting electronic communications worldwide, is now able to routinely circumvent Secure Sockets Layer or virtual private networks, as well as encryption protection standards used on fourth-generation cell phones. It therefore has instant access to the content of billions of encrypted messages exchanged by users of some of the Internet’s most popular email companies, including Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo and Facebook. The paper said it obtained the documents from Edward Snowden, a technical contractor for the NSA who defected to Russia this past summer. They include internal NSA memoranda that suggest the NSA deployed specially built supercomputers to break Internet encryption standards. In other cases, the Agency worked with selected companies and convinced them to “build entry points into their products”. The multi-billion effort was apparently launched by the NSA in the early 2000s, soon after the US government lost a lengthy battle with the communications industry centering on the so-called ‘clipper chip’. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #849 (analysis edition)

Edward SnowdenBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Are American spies the next victims of the Internet age? The furor over the NSA’s data collection and surveillance programs has been fierce. But Daniel Prieto, of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, argues that the debate should be focusing on the US intelligence apparatus, transformed in the dozen years since 9/11, can meet the challenges and that the US faces today and into the future. He asks whether the “business model” of US intelligence –how intelligence is gathered, analyzed, and used– is sufficient and sustainable, or whether it needs to evolve to “something different or something more”.
►►What did Edward Snowden get wrong? Everything. Andrew Liepman, senior analyst at RAND Corporation, former career officer at the CIA, and former deputy director of the US National Counterterrorism Center, offers an insider’s view on the Edward Snowden case. He argues that those following the Snowden saga fail to understand that the US government “truly does make strenuous efforts not to violate privacy”. This is not simply because it respects privacy on principle, he says, but also because “it simply doesn’t have the time” to access irrelevant information that is not closely connected to possible espionage or terrorist plots against Americans.
►►Why US diplomatic missions became fortresses. Even during the Cold War, American diplomatic facilities were designed to be welcoming and to project the American values of openness and individual liberty. No more, argues John Campbell, former US Ambassador to Nigeria and Ralph Bunche Senior Fellow for Africa Policy Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. Nowadays, US diplomatic facilities increasingly showcase “Fortress America”, he argues. And he concludes that, “the need to subordinate so much to security diminishes US soft power by undermining its traditional message of openness and welcome”.

Germany probes UK spy program revealed by CIA whistleblower

Sabine Leutheusser-SchnarrenbergerBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Germany wants to know whether its citizens were spied on under a British government surveillance program revealed by American intelligence whistleblower Edward Snowden. The program, codenamed Project TEMPORA, was disclosed earlier this week by Snowden, a former technical assistant for the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Snowden remains holed up at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport, as Russian authorities have rejected repeated requests by Washington to extradite him to the US. According to British newspaper The Guardian, which first wrote about Project TEMPORA on June 21, Britain’s General Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) has been able to “plug into the cables that carry internet traffic into and out” of the United Kingdom. The agency, which is tasked with communications interception, has therefore collected and stored massive quantities of foreign telephone call data and email messages, and has shared much of it with its US counterpart, the National Security Agency. On June 25, Germany’s Federal Minister of Justice, Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, wrote a letter to her British counterpart, Chris Grayling, asking for immediate clarification on the precise legal basis for Project TEMPORA. In her letter, which was copied to the British Home Secretary, Theresa May, the German cabinet minister also inquires whether TEMPORA has been authorized by the appropriate judicial authorities. She argues that “European institutions should shed light on this [issue] immediately” and warns her British colleagues that she plans to raise the subject during the July 2013 meeting of European  Union Justice and Home Affairs ministers, which will be held in Brussels, Belgium. Read more of this post

Analysis: PRISM revelations harm US political, financial interests

NSA headquartersBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Ever since June 6, when Edward Snowden, a former United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) technician, exposed a vast communications spying system called PRISM, observers have focused on the ramifications of this controversy inside America. But in an excellent analysis written for ComputerWorld magazine’s New Zealand edition, Taylor Armerding points out that Snowden’s revelation could result in extensive international blowback for the United States, in both the political and economic realms. Armerding quotes Toronto University political science professor Ron Deibert, who argues that this latest revelation of massive communications interception activity by the National Security Agency (NSA) carries with it “unintended consequences [...] that will undermine US foreign policy interests”. Deibert points out that the spy scandal has the potential to undercut America’s role and influence in global Internet governance. In the words of renowned security expert Bruce Schneier, many around the world are beginning to view the US as “simply too untrustworthy to manage the Internet”. Even policymakers and ordinary users friendly to Washington are worried about what they perceive as the “huge disadvantages” of their dependence on US-managed Internet networks that host the content of social media sites, cloud computing databases, or telecommunications exchanges, says Deibert. But the biggest potential damage to US interests, argues Armerding, is not political, but economic. “It is not just personal information that is being swept into the NSA’s massive databases”, he notes; “it is corporate data as well”. Indeed, the vast foreign and domestic spying represented by PRISM poses a direct threat to the global competitiveness of the American technology sector. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #794

GCHQ center in Cheltenham, EnglandBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Racism charge against GCHQ settled out of court. The British government’s SIGINT agency, GCHQ has been spared having its inner workings broadcast in public after a potentially embarrassing racism case was settled out of court at the last minute. The racial harassment and constructive dismissal lawsuit had been filed by Alfred Bacchus, a 42-year-old former employee. There are unconfirmed reports that, as part of the settlement, the plaintiff has signed a non-disclosure agreement banning him from revealing any more details about his complaints.
►►US spy agencies renew call for electronic surveillance rights. US intelligence officials had made a public plea on Tuesday, the 11th anniversary of the September 11, 2001, attacks, for quick Congressional action to extend a sweeping but controversial US electronic surveillance law. If the law, which expires at the end of 2012, is not extended, US spy agencies say they would lose access to what they describe as a “very, very important source of valuable intelligence information”. But at least one congressional critic of the surveillance law, Democratic Senator Ron Wyden, says he is willing to use legislative tactics to stall the bill, which has been passed by the House, unless the administration and other legislators agree to include stronger provisions to protect Americans’ civil liberties.
►►Yemen claims arrest of ‘Mossad agent’. Al-Nas, a Yemeni weekly associated with the Islamist Yemeni Reform Party, reported last weekend that an Israeli citizen, identified only by his initials and year of birth, 1982, was arrested in the southwestern city of Taizz. He reportedly admitted to smuggling children out of Yemen to neighboring countries and from there to Israel “through Zionist organizations”. Bizarrely, the man reportedly told his Yemeni interrogators that he “spent three years in a Greek prison for researching the biographies of well-known computer hackers”.

Colombian police ‘steal personal data’ of 31 million citizens

Anthony Cotrino SossaBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The National Police Force of Colombia have stolen the contents of an enormous electronic database containing the personal information of over 31 million Colombian citizens, according to news reports from Bogotá. News of the alleged theft surfaced following a formal complaint filed by the Colombian government’s National Registry on Tuesday. According to the complaint, authored by the Registry’s Director, Anthony Cotrino Sossa, two police officers visited the Registry’s offices late last week, saying they wished to access data relating to a specific investigation concerning “election irregularities” in Colombia’s western Cauca state. The two police officers were given access to the data after displaying the appropriate warrant. However, according to Sossa’s complaint, instead of simply accessing limited information relating directly to their investigation, the police officers proceeded to physically and illegally remove two hard-drives containing millions of citizens’ private data. The database stored in the hard-drives contains, among other things, general biographical information, fingerprint samples, as well as residential and other contact information on over 31 million Colombians. Sossa claims in his complaint that police officers transported the hard-drives to the headquarters of Colombia’s Cyber-Police Division, which allegedly failed to respond to repeated calls by National Registry for their prompt return. The hard-drives were eventually returned to the National Registry building on the following Monday without any explanation having been given for their removal. This is the latest in a long series of scandals concerning the activities of Colombia’s chronically corrupt and inefficient law enforcement and intelligence services. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #758

Heinz FrommBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►NSA head claims Americans’ emails ‘won’t be read’. The House of Representatives in April approved a bill that would allow the government and companies to share information about hacking. Critics have raised privacy concerns about the sharing of such information, fearing it would allow the National Security Agency, which also protects government computer networks, to collect data on American communications, which is generally prohibited by law. But in a speech at the American Enterprise Institute, NSA Director Keith Alexander said that the new law would not mean that the NSA would read their personal email.
►►German spy chief quits in neo-Nazi files scandal. The head of Germany’s domestic intelligence agency, the Verfassungsschutz, Heinz Fromm, resigned last week, after admitting that his agency had shredded files on a neo-Nazi cell whose killing spree targeting immigrants rocked the country late last year. The “National Socialist Underground” (NSU), which went undetected for more than a decade despite its murder of 10 people, mostly ethnic Turkish immigrants. German media have said an official working in the intelligence agency is suspected of having destroyed files on an operation to recruit far-right informants just one day after the involvement of the NSU in the murders became public. Fromm had led the Verfassungsschutz since 2000.
►►US spy agency accused of illegally collecting data. The US National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) is pressuring its polygraphers to obtain intimate details of the private lives of thousands of job applicants and employees, pushing the ethical and legal boundaries of a program that is designed to catch spies and terrorists, an investigation has found. The NRO appears so intent on extracting confessions of personal or illicit behavior of its employees, that its officials have admonished polygraphers who refused to go after them and rewarded those who did, sometimes with cash bonuses. And in other cases, when it seems the NRO should notify law enforcement agencies of its candidates’ or employees’ past criminal behavior, it has failed to do so.

News you may have missed #752

Charles SchumerBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►US companies ‘use military-style planes’ to make maps. Companies such as Apple and Google could push the limits of citizens’ privacy thanks to the use of “military-grade spy planes” when creating their next-generation mapping technologies, according to Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY). Schumer expressed his concerns in a letter to the two companies, arguing that hyper-detailed images of people’s backyards and other objects could pose a threat to both privacy and national security. The Senator also pointed out the potential for criminals and, yes, even terrorists to view detailed maps of “sensitive utilities”.
►►CIA wanted ‘torture cage’ for secret prison. Polish Senator Jozef Pinior claims prosecutors in Krakow have a document that shows a local contractor was asked to build a cage at Stare Kiekuty, a Polish army base used as a CIA prison for al-Qaeda suspects in 2002 and 2003. “In a state with rights”, Pinior told the Polish paper Gazeta Wyborcza, “people in prison are not kept in cages”. He said a cage was “non-standard equipment” for a prison, but standard “if torture was used there”. After Poland launched its official investigation of the Stare Kiekuty site, President Bronislaw Komorowski said the probe was needed because “the reputation of Poland is at stake”.
►►US Air Force spy planes facing postwar cut. The US Air Force plans to cut back on the number of Hawker Beechcraft’s MC-12 spy planes it wants to operate after the draw-down from Afghanistan and Iraq, official data indicates. With declining operations, the aircraft began to lose its priority role and recent comments indicated at least some of the aircraft would either be grounded or given to the National Guard or other services. Since the MC-12 was first deployed in Iraq, U. forces have acquired access to more sophisticated surveillance aircraft as well as drones that can perform roles previously assigned to manned aircraft.

News you may have missed #751

Leonid ShebarshinBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Ex-CIA officer remembers his KGB rival. In April, Leonid Shebarshin, a retired General of the KGB, who was often referred to as “the last Soviet spy”, was found dead in his downtown Moscow apartment. Apparently, he had committed suicide. Now Milt Bearden, who was the CIA’s Chief of the Soviet/East European Division during the final years of the USSR, has written a piece in which he remembers Shebarshin. He says that, even though Shebarshin was “the closest thing [he] had to a main adversary” in the USSR, the two became friends in the late 1990s, despite the fact that Shebarshin remained a true believer in the USSR until the very end of his life.
►►NSA won’t reveal how many Americans it spied on. Last month, US Senators Ron Wyden and Mark Udall –both members of the US Senate’s Select Committee on Intelligence– asked the NSA how many persons inside the US it had spied upon since 2008. But Charles McCullough, the Inspector General of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, has told the two Senators that giving such a figure of how many Americans were spied on was “beyond the capacity” of NSA’s oversight mechanisms, and that –ironically– looking into this matter would violate the privacy of American citizens.
►►Russian scientist who ‘spied for China’ freed. Igor Reshetin, the former director of Russian rocket technology firm TsNIIMASH-Export, who was jailed in 2007 for selling state secrets to China, has been released on parole. Reshetin had been initially sentenced to nearly 12 years, for illegally selling state-controlled technology secrets to a Chinese firm, and with stealing 30 million rubles (US$925,000) through a scheme involving bogus companies. His initial sentence was later reduced on appeal.

News you may have missed #582

John Yoo

John Yoo

►►US government conceals Bush surveillance memos. The Justice Department is refusing to release legal memos by lawyer John Yoo, which the George W. Bush administration used to justify its warrantless surveillance program, one of the most contentious civil liberties issues during the Republican president’s time in office.
►►Ex-CIA bin Laden Unit boss wants rendition back. Michael Scheuer, a former insider and vocal critic of the US intelligence establishment, has described the Arab revolutions as “an intelligence disaster for the US and for Britain, and other European services”. Speaking from Scotland, he also urged for a return to the Bush administration’s rendition program, in order to gather new intelligence on Middle Eastern and North African groups.
►►French firm helped Gaddafi spy on opposition. We have written before about technical intelligence support provided by Western firms to some of the world’s most brutal regimes, including Iran and Bahrain. We can no add Libya to the long list. The Wall Street Journal reports that Amesys, a subsidiary of French telecommunications firm Bull helped the Gaddafi regime spy on the emails and chat messages of its opponents.

News you may have missed #565 (United States edition)

DHS seal

DHS seal

►►Secret watch-list proposal causes US privacy groups protests. The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is planning to duplicate the FBI’s Terrorist Screening Database to expand an extensive database called Watchlist Service. The proposed database will include names, birthdays, photos and biometrics of targeted individuals. But the DHS has proposed to exempt the database from Privacy Act provisions, which means that a person can never know if they are on it.
►►US blacklists Syrian banks over WMD ties. The Obama administration unveiled punitive measures on Wednesday against two Syrian financial institutions for their alleged ties to nuclear proliferation in Syria and North Korea. The government-run Commercial Bank of Syria and a subsidiary, the Syrian-Lebanese Commercial Bank, are now prohibited from engaging in transactions with US individuals and from accessing any assets under US control. The US Department of the Treasury alleges that the banks have carried out transactions on behalf of the Scientific Studies and Research Center in Syria and the Tanchon Commercial Bank in North Korea, both of which the US blacklisted several years ago for supporting “WMD proliferation activities”.
►►FBI revises surveillance exam after cheating revelations. About a year ago, the US Federal Bureau of Investigation revealed that hundreds of its agents were caught having cheated on an examination about new surveillance guidelines (known as Read more of this post

News you may have missed #0178

Bookmark and Share

News you may have missed #0154 [updated]

  • Breaking news: Castro’s sister says she spied for the CIA. Juanita Castro, Fidel and Raúl Castro’s sister, says she voluntarily spied for the CIA from 1961 to 1964, when she left the island for Miami. She said she met a CIA officer called “Enrique” at a hotel in Mexico City in 1961; she was then given the codename “Donna” and codebooks so she could receive encoded instructions from Washington.
  • Was Milan Kundera a communist police informant? Documents unearthed by Czech academics allegedly show that the Czech-born author of The Unbearable Lightness of Being denouncing a Western spy to Czechoslovakia’s StB secret police during his student days.
  • Afghans complain about US spy balloon. A US spy balloon (see previous intelNews coverage) flying over the city of Kandahar in Afghanistan, is prompting privacy complaints from residents.

Bookmark and Share

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 744 other followers