Files reveal names of Americans targeted by NSA during Vietnam War

NSA headquartersBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
The names of several prominent Americans, who were targeted by the United States National Security Agency (NSA) during the height of the protests against the Vietnam War, have been revealed in declassified documents. The controversial communications interception operation, known as Project MINARET, was publicly acknowledged in the mind-1970s, during Congressional inquiries into the Watergate affair. We know that MINARET was conducted by the NSA between 1967 and 1973, and that it targeted over a thousand American citizens. Many believe that MINARET was in violation of the Agency’s charter, which expressly prevents it from spying on Americans. But despite the media attention MINARET received during the Watergate investigations, the names of those targeted under the program were kept secret until Wednesday, when the project’s target list was declassified by the US government. The declassification decision was sparked by a Freedom of Information Request filed by George Washington University’s National Security Archive. The two Archive researchers who filed the declassification request, William Burr and Matthew Aid, said MINARET appears to have targeted many prominent Americans who openly criticized America’s involvement in the Vietnam War. The reason for the surveillance was that US President Lyndon Johnson, who authorized the operation, was convinced that antiwar protests were promoted and/or supported by elements outside the US. The newly declassified documents show that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was a major surveillance target of the government. Read more of this post

About these ads

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

News you may have missed #748 (US edition)

Michael HaydenBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►US lawmakers probe China companies over spy concerns. In letters sent last week to Chinese communications hardware firms Huawei Technologies and ZTE Corporation, a group of senior members of the US House of Representatives Intelligence Committee have outlined concerns about the companies’ ties with the Chinese government, including the role of a “party committee” at Huawei. The lawmakers have also asked about Huawei’s relationships with five US consulting firms and requested an expansive collection of documents, including the contracts between the firms and Huawei.
►►Lone Senator resists Bush/Obama NSA wiretapping plan. The Obama administration wanted a quick, no-questions-asked-or-answered renewal of broad electronic eavesdropping powers that largely legalized the Bush administration’s illegal warrantless wiretapping program. That’s despite President Barack Obama’s campaign promise to revisit and revise the rules to protect Americans’ rights. Everything seemed to be going to plan after a Senate committee approved the re-authorization in secret last month. But Senator Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) has stepped in to stop the bill because the government refuses to say how often the spy powers are being used.
►►What did Hayden tell Obama in January 2009? In December of 2008, a meeting took place between the incoming US Presiden Barack Obama and the departing CIA Director Michael Hayden. Several days later, on January 15, Hayden told journalists that Obama had privately assured him that “no plans to launch a legal inquiry” into the CIA’s use of controversial interrogation methods during the Bush administration. Now, several years later, Salon has published an insider’s account of what was said in that meeting between Obama and Hayden, as well as during the days that followed.

News you may have missed #675

Maria del Pilar HurtadoBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►Panama refuses to extradite Colombian ex-spy chief. Panama’s foreign ministry cited the Inter-American Convention on Human Rights, an international accord on asylum and Panamanian law, as reason for denying Colombia’s request to extradite Maria del Pilar Hurtado, who faces charges in Bogota over an illegal wiretapping scandal. Currently enjoying asylum in Panama are former presidents of Guatemala, Jorge Serrano Elias; and Ecuador, Abdala Bucaram; as well as erstwhile Haitian military strongman Raoul Cedras.
►►Russian spy chief to visit Syria. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Saturday he and Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) head Mikhail Fradkov will visit Syria and meet with President Bashar al-Assad on February 7. The visit will be made on instructions from Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. Lavrov did not reveal any details of the upcoming the visit.
►►US spy chief: ‘we don’t know if Iran is building a bomb’. At a hearing of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence last Tuesday, James Clapper, the US Director of National Intelligence, released the following statement: “We assess Iran is keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons, in part by developing various nuclear capabilities that better position it to produce such weapons, should it choose to do so.  We do not know, however, if Iran will eventually decide to build nuclear weapons”.

News you may have missed #672

Osama bin LadenBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►CIA claims bin Laden death photos would trigger violence. The Central Intelligence Agency says releasing images of a dead Osama bin Laden “could trigger violence, attacks, or acts of revenge against the United States”. Disclosing such images, including one showing the bullet wound to bin Laden’s head, the government said, “plausibly and logically pose a particularly grave threat of inflaming anti-American sentiment and resulting in retaliatory harm”. The agency made that argument Wednesday in a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit brought by Judicial Watch, which claims the CIA should release the photos taken by US forces. The American public, Judicial Watch said, has a “right to these historical artifacts”.
►►Kuwait accused of tapping phones of prominent citizens. According to the report published in Kuwaiti media, the country’s State Security Department purchased an integrated intelligence system from a former Soviet country last year, and placed it in a restricted zone inside the headquarters’ building. But last July, everything in the isolated room, including staff members hired specifically to operate the devices, vanished without an explanation, said sources. An investigation is currently ongoing to unearth the mystery behind the devices’ disappearance, and also examine information which hint that the devices could have been used by a certain unnamed individual to spy on prominent Kuwaitis.
►►Did US FDA spy on whistleblowers? The US Food and Drug Administration electronically spied on whistleblowers who alerted the Obama administration and Congress of alleged misconduct in the agency, according to a complaint filed in a US federal court. Named as defendants in the lawsuit are the FDA and several of its employees, the Surgeon General, the Health and Human Services Secretary, among others.

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.

Analysis: India’s spies keep tabs on political opponents, not terrorism

IB seal

IB seal

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
She is America’s rising ally in South Asia and is widely regarded as the world’s largest democracy. But India’s political system is highly chaotic and often repressive. This is aptly reflected in the operations of the Intelligence Bureau, India’s foremost domestic intelligence agency. One would think that the IB has its hands full with India’s countless domestic security concerns, which include increasingly popular and active Maoist insurgents, as well as mounting religious and political tensions in the predominantly Muslim states of Jammu and Kashmir, located in the country’s north. But one of India’s most respected English-language newspapers, The Hindu, cites “highly placed intelligence sources” who allege that most of the IB’s intelligence collection activities are targeted against the Indian government’s political opponents, not terrorism. According to the unnamed sources, “less than a third of the IB’s estimated 25,000-strong manpower [sic] is dedicated to what might be described as national security tasks”. Conversely, over two-thirds of the organization’s staff is reportedly tasked with “providing the government raw information and assessments on its increasingly bleak political prospects”, claims the paper. Examples of political policing by the IB include monitoring public meetings led by Rahul Gandhi, parliamentarian and leader of the National Congress, which is India’s main political opposition group. Another target of the IB’s alleged political policing campaign is anti-corruption activist Anna Hazare, who has become internationally known for spearheading popular protests against government sleaze in New Delhi and elsewhere. According to The Hindu, intelligence on political figures is collected by the IB’s state-of-the-art communications interception systems, which were purchased from Western hardware manufacturers following the sophisticated 2009 Mumbai Attacks by the Pakistani militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #637

Dmitri Bystrolyotov

D.A. Bystrolyotov

►►South African spy boss to quit. Director General of the State Security Agency Jeff Maqetuka, who has been entangled in a never-ending war with Minister Siyabonga Cwele, is expected to step down this week, according to South Africa’s Sunday Independent. The paper claims that that plans are afoot to expedite Maqetuka’s departure from the country’s intelligence infrastructure by placing him on summer leave and then making sure he would not return to work in 2012.
►►Slovakian defense minister resigns over wiretap scandal. The interception of journalists’ telephone calls by the Slovakian Defense Ministry’s counterintelligence arm has cost the country’s Defense Minister, Lubomír Galko, his job. The scandal involved Slovakia’s Military Defense Intelligence (VOS). It has also emerged that the VOS operation involved wiretapping of the head of TV news channel TA3 and two senior Defense Ministry employees, according to leaked documents obtained by Slovak media outlets.
►►Book on Soviet spy Dmitri Bystrolyotov. Excerpt from Emil Draitser’s book Stalin’s Romeo Spy: The Remarkable Rise and Fall of the KGB Most Daring Operative (Northwestern University Press, 2010), about one of the 20th century’s most outstanding undercover operatives. Bystrolyotov acted in Western Europe in the interwar period, recruiting and running several important agents in Great Britain, France, Germany, and Italy.

German government admits using Trojan to spy on private computers

CCC logo

CCC logo

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The local government of at least one German federal state has admitted using specially designed computer software to spy on citizens, after a hacker group revealed the existence of the software. On Saturday, the German Chaos Computer Club (CCC), one of the world’s most reputable ‘white hat’ hacker groups, said that German authorities regularly employ the so-called ‘Bundestrojaner’ (‘Federal Trojan’) virus in order to spy on the users of targeted computers. Club member Frank Rieger told German newsmedia that the virus, which was revealed to the Club via an anonymous tipster, was developed by German police experts, and is used by government agents it to intercept electronic information during investigations. The Trojan is reportedly capable of surreptitiously taking screenshots of infected computers, keylogging, recording Skype conversations, and taking control of networked webcams or microphones, thus permitting physical eavesdropping of a person’s home or workplace. In doing so, the Trojan would appear to facilitate warrantless communications interception that exceeds legal limits set under German law. Moreover, according to CCC, the virus acts as a backdoor to infected systems, thus allowing the uploading and execution of unauthorized programs, and potentially may even facilitate the planting of incriminating evidence on targeted computers. Initially, German government officials denied the CCC’s allegations; on Monday, however, officials in the southern German state of Bavaria confirmed that local police forces have been using the Bundestrojaner virus since at least 2009. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #563 [updated]

Mike McConnell

Mike McConnell

►►Colombia spy official imprisoned for illegal wiretapping. Gustavo Sierra Prieto, the former analysis chief of Colombia’s soon-to-be-dismantled DAS intelligence agency, has been sentenced to eight years and four months in jail for his role in the illegal wiretapping of government opponents, judges and journalists. But the main culprit in the wiretapping scandal, former DAS Director Maria Pilar Hurtado, is still hiding in Panama.
►►Cold War documents detail CIA interest of Canada. The CIA has declassified some of its Cold-War-era reports on Canada. The documents show that the Agency’s interest in America’s northern neighbor was mostly related to the its satellite R&D, as well as its economic sector, with a particular focus on Canada’s energy and minerals sector. There is also discussion in some documents of how to best utilize Canada’s energy resources in a possible war with the Soviet Union.
►►Ex-intel official says US must engage in cyberspying. Is it just me, or is there a calculated echo chamber developing by former senior US spy officials? Read more of this post

Nixon White House may have bugged Pentagon leadership

Richard Nixon

Richard Nixon

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Everyone familiar with American political history knows about the ‘White House Plumbers’, a covert special investigations unit established during the Presidency of Richard Nixon, and tasked with spying on his political opponents. The unit’s bungled attempt to burgle the Watergate offices of the Democratic National Committee, in 1972, eventually led to Nixon’s resignation. But the Watergate burglary was but one of many operations conducted by the ‘Plumbers’, who were one of several ‘dirty tricks’ units managed by the Nixon White House. Now, nearly 40 years after the Watergate scandal erupted, veteran intelligence correspondent Jeff Stein provides new information that suggests the Nixon White House may have bugged the Pentagon telephones of senior American military officials. Stein managed to track down Dave Mann, a former member of the Pentagon’s Counterintelligence Force, who in 1971 stumbled upon a classified report claiming that listening bug signals had been detected emanating from offices in the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The signals had been picked up by a technical surveillance countermeasures (TSCM) team during a routine sweep of the Pentagon, in search of unauthorized interception devices. Mann run some tests to verify the TCM team’s report, and discovered that the bug signals originated from the personal office telephone line of General William Westmoreland, who was then the US Army’s Chief of Staff. He also discovered that the telephone of his assistant had been compromised, as well as the telephone lines belonging to the US Army’s assistant secretary, its logistics director, and at least one general. Mann’s personal conclusion was that the phone lines were most likely bugged with the cooperation of the Chesapeake and Potomac Telephone Company, which was at that the time considered an operational wing of the FBI, under Director J. Edgar Hoover. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #392

  • Soviet spy stood ready to poison DC’s water, says Ex-KGB general. A Soviet deep-cover agent, who was in the United States from around 1963 to 1965, had orders to poison Washington DC’s water and to sabotage its power supply if war with the United States became imminent, according to Oleg Kalugin, former chief of KGB operations in North America.
  • Two interesting interviews. George Kenney, of Electric Politics, has aired two interesting interviews, one with Dr. Thomas Fingar, former US Deputy Director of National Intelligence, touching on a variety of issues, and one with Philip Alston, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial killings, who comments on the CIA drone attacks in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
  • Lawyers who won NSA spy case want $2.63 million. Eight lawyers, who managed to prove that Saudi charity al-Haramain was illegally wiretapped by the US National Security Agency (see here for previous intelNews coverage), are demanding millions of dollars in damages from the US government.

Bookmark and Share

News you may have missed #370

  • Ukrainians ‘not spying any more’ on Russian FSB. Ukrainian counterintelligence services have stopped monitoring Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) officials stationed in Ukraine, according to a leading Ukrainian weekly. Ukrainian-Russian relations have dramatically improved since February, when Ukraine’s pro-Moscow leader Viktor Yanukovych was elected President.
  • US House votes to allow auditing of spy agencies. Despite several veto threats from the White House, the US House of Representatives has adopted an amendment to defense authorization bill HR 5136, which would give the Government Accountability Office the power to audit intelligence agencies.
  • Leading Turkish daily wiretapped. Turkish former deputy police chief Emin Aslan, who was arrested in 2009 in a drug trafficking investigation, says he was told in 2008 that the phone lines at Turkey’s leading daily Milliyet were wiretapped. The wiretapping appears to be connected to the notorious Ergenekon affair.

Bookmark and Share

Political wiretap scandal erupts in India

Outlook magazine

Outlook magazine

By IAN ALEN | intelNews.org |
A major scandal has erupted in India, with the revelation last weekend that government intelligence services have monitored the telecommunications of senior political figures since at least 2006. Indian newsmagazine Outlook, which is published nationwide, reported on Sunday that the left leaning government of the United Progressive Alliance and the Indian National Congress ordered intelligence officers to tap the telephone communications of several politicians. The list allegedly included Bihar state chief minister Nitish Kumar, Communist Party of India (Marxist) general secretary Prakash Karat, and minister for agriculture Sharad Pawar. According to Outlook, the government also used powerful communications interception hardware to “listen in on the conversations of opposition leaders during the July 2008 no-confidence motion on the Indo-US nuclear deal”. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #332

Bookmark and Share

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 637 other followers