News you may have missed #703: US edition

NSA headquartersBy IAN ALLEN | |
►►NSA pressed to reveal details on Google deal. The Electronic Privacy Information Center is locking horns with the National Security Agency over a secret deal the agency cut with Google following an attack on Gmail by Chinese hackers in 2010. The information center has filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the NSA to obtain information about the deal. That request was rejected by a federal court and an appeal process continues.
►►US spy agencies can keep data on Americans longer. Until now, the US National Counterterrorism Center had to immediately destroy information about Americans that was already stored in other government databases when there were no clear ties to terrorism. But it will now be able to store information about Americans with no ties to terrorism for up to five years under new Obama administration guidelines. The new rules replace guidelines issued in 2008 and have privacy advocates concerned about the potential for data-mining information on innocent Americans.
►►Islam convert leads CIA’s Counterterrorism Center. Roger, which is the first name of his cover identity, has been chief of the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center for the past six years. Colleagues describe Roger as a collection of contradictions. A chain-smoker who spends countless hours on a treadmill. Notoriously surly yet able to win over enough support from subordinates and bosses to hold on to his job. He presides over a campaign that has killed thousands of Islamist militants and angered millions of Muslims, but he is himself a convert to Islam. His defenders don’t even try to make him sound likable. Instead, they emphasize his operational talents, encyclopedic understanding of the enemy and tireless work ethic.

News you may have missed #509 (Blackwater edition)

News you may have missed #0116

  • Australia blocks Chinese mining investment on security grounds. The Australian government has for the second time this year vetoed a multi-billion dollar mining project involving a Chinese company, on national security grounds (did someone say Rio Tinto?). The veto follows news earlier this month that the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) investigated the Australian subsidiary of Chinese telecommunications company Huawei Technologies because of its rumored links with China’s intelligence establishment.
  • Declassified files reveal massive FBI data-mining project. An immense FBI data-mining system billed as a tool for hunting terrorists is being used in hacker and domestic criminal investigations, and now contains tens of thousands of records from private corporate databases, including car-rental companies, large hotel chains and at least one national department store, according to declassified documents.
  • Book by Danish special forces soldier reveals dirty tricks. A Danish court has turned down an appeal by the country’s military to ban the publication of a book by Thomas Rathsack, former member of Jaegerkorps, an elite army unit. Among other things, the book reveals systematic breach of Geneva Convention directives by members of the unit deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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NSA spying more aggressive than ever, says Bamford

James Bamford

James Bamford

The US National Security Agency (NSA) has for the first time in its history appointed a “director of compliance”, whose office will supervise the lawfulness of NSA’s communications surveillance and other spy activities. The Agency, America’s largest intelligence organization, which is tasked with worldwide communications surveillance as well as communications security, has appointed John DeLong to the new post. But in a new column for Salon magazine, James Bamford argues that the gigantic agency is still overstepping its legal framework in both domestic and international spying. Read more of this post

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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NSA whistleblower reveals routine spying on American media

Russell Tice

Russell Tice

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

DoJ continues criminal investigation of NSA whistleblower

Last month, Thomas M. Tamm, a former US Justice Department official, revealed himself as the source who initially tipped off The New York Times about NSA’s operation STELLAR WIND, a domestic warrantless spying program, which was secretly authorized by the Bush Administration in the wake of 9/11. New York Times journalists James Risen and Eric Lichtblau eventually revealed the program in a front page article, relying on interviews with nearly a dozen undisclosed insiders. Despite numerous indications that STELLAR WIND may be unconstitutional, and despite the impending change of guard at the White House, the US Department of Justice appears to be actively pursuing its criminal investigation of Tamm. Read more of this post

Journalist talks about revealing NSA program whistleblower

Michael Isikoff, the Newsweek investigative correspondent who authored the recent article about Thomas Tamm, the whistleblower of NSA’s domestic spying program, has given an interview to Democracy Now. Isikoff, who wrote the article with Tamm’s consent, states in the interview that “Tamm’s lawyers have been told that US Department of Justice officials [are going to leave] the decision on whether to prosecute [Tamm] to the Obama Justice Department”. Read more of this post

Whistleblower who disclosed NSA domestic spying program comes forth

Exactly three years ago, New York Times journalists James Risen and Eric Lichtblau revealed NSA’s domestic warrantless spying program, which was secretly authorized by the Bush Administration in the wake of 9/11. Nearly a dozen undisclosed insiders helped the two journalists unravel the NSA scheme. But the initial tip came from what Lichtblau describes in his book, Bush’s Law, as a “walk-in” source with intimate knowledge of the US intelligence community’s practices. That “walk-in” source has now come forth. His name is Thomas M. Tamm, a former US Justice Department official who held a Sensitive Compartmented Security clearance (“a level above Top Secret”) issued by the US government. Read more of this post

A rare look at the new NSA center in Texas

Based on revelations in James Bamford’s new book, The Shadow Factory, Greg Schwartz has produced a rare piece on the new National Security Agency (NSA) data mining facility San Antonio, TX. The gigantic Agency, which is tasked with worldwide communications surveillance, as well as communications security, is in the process of renovating its soon-to-be-unveiled Texas Cryptology Center. The 470,000-square-foot facility will cost “upwards of $130 million” and be used primarily to store intercepted communications data. Bamford speculates that “[c]onsidering how much data can now be squeezed onto a small flash drive, the new NSA building may eventually be able to hold all the information in the world”. Read more of this post

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