News you may have missed #0114

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News you may have missed #0045

  • Ex-CIA, -NSA director defends warrantless wiretapping. Michael Hayden, who was director of the CIA from 2006 to 2009 and of the NSA from 1999 to 2005, has penned an article in The New York Times, in which he says that the Bush Administration’s warrantless wiretapping program helped the US intelligence community “connecting the dots, something for which we were roundly criticized after Sept[ember] 11 as not sufficiently doing”.
  • US House intelligence panel member calls for new Church Committee. Rush Holt (D-NJ) a senior member of the US House of Representatives Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, has called for a resuscitation of the Church and Pike investigations into intelligence practices of the 1970s.
  • BBC radio launches series on MI6. The BBC’s Radio 4 has launched today a new three-part series examining the 100-year history and operations of MI6, Britain’s foremost external intelligence agency. The programs, which can also be listened to online, include interviews with senior intelligence officers, agents and diplomats.

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NSA spying more aggressive than ever, says Bamford

James Bamford

James Bamford

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
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

Wiretap whistleblower shunned by US Congress, media

Mark Klein

Mark Klein

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
Those of you who have been following the ongoing revelations about STELLAR WIND, the National Security Agency (NSA) warrantless wiretapping scheme authorized by the Bush Administration in the wake of 9/11, will know about Thomas M. Tamm. Tamm was the Justice Department official who in 2005 first notified The New York Times about the existence of the project. But Tamm was not the only whistleblower in the case. He was joined soon afterwards by another insider, Mark Klein. Klein had just retired from AT&T as a communications technician when he read The New York Times revelations about STELLAR WIND. As soon as he read the paper’s vague description of the NSA project, Klein realized he had in his possession AT&T documents describing exactly how the company shared its customers’ telephone communications with the NSA, through a secret room at the AT&T Folsom Street facility in San Francisco. To this day, Klein remains the only AT&T employee to have come forward with information on STELLAR WIND. But, apparently, nobody cares. Read more of this post

Attorney behind NSA domestic wiretapping defends his views

John Yoo

John Yoo

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The former US Justice Department lawyer who authored legal memos sanctioning the legality of the Bush administration’s secret wiretapping program has defended his views. John Yoo, who on 9/11 was a deputy assistant attorney general in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, has penned an article in The Wall Street Journal, in which he voices disagreement over a recently published US government report that criticizes the wiretap program’s secrecy and dubious legal basis. The report was authored by the Offices of Inspectors General of the Department of Defense, Department of Justice, CIA, NSA, and Office of the Director of National Intelligence. It says that the Bush administration’s decision to keep NSA’s domestic wiretap program secret even from senior Department of Justice and intelligence officials hampered the broader intelligence community’s ability to use the program’s output, and subverted the government’s ethical standing in the so-called “war on terrorism”. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #0029

  • Iranians revolting against Nokia for alleged spying complicity. Consumer sales of Nokia handsets in Iran have allegedly fallen by up to 50%, reportedly because of the company’s membership in the Nokia Siemens Networks (NSN) partnership. As intelNews has been pointing out since last month, NSN allegedly helped supply the Iranian government with some of the world’s most sophisticated communications surveillance systems.
  • Analysis: Why NSA’s Einstein 3 project is dangerous. This editorial argues that US President Barack Obama’s decision to proceed with a Bush administration plan to task the National Security Agency with protecting government computer traffic on private-sector networks is “antithetical to basic civil liberties and privacy protections” in the United States.
  • New US government report says Bush secrecy hampered intelligence effectiveness. A new report from the Offices of Inspectors General of the Department of Defense, Department of Justice, CIA, NSA, and Office of the Director of National Intelligence, says that the Bush administration’s decision to keep NSA’s domestic wiretap program secret seriously hampered the broader intelligence community’s ability to use the program’s output.

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Analysis: Al-Qaeda dumps phones, making interception impossible

Secret Sentry

Secret Sentry

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
In his brief but perceptive review of Matthew M. Aid’s new book, The Secret Sentry: The Untold Story of the National Security Agency, Craig Seligman, critic for Bloomberg News, refers to an argument made in the book, which in my opinion deserves attention. Namely, in discussing the NSA’s activities in the so-called “war on terrorism”, Aid points out that, not only are Iran and North Korea increasingly converting their analog communications networks into fiber-optic cables, thus making their internal communications virtually impossible to intercept, but al-Qaeda and other militant groups are now “practically cut[ing] out the use of telephones and radios”. All of this is gradually turning the NSA, an agency that receives over $9 billion a year in US taxpayers’ money, into a gargantuan organization whose daily tasks are becoming “maddeningly difficult” –indeed, almost irrelevant. Read more of this post

Comment: NSA listened in on Rep. Harman secret phone deal

Jane Harman

Jane Harman

By IAN ALLEN| intelNews.org |
Representative Jane Harman (D-CA) has been in the limelight since Sunday evening, when veteran national security correspondent Jeff Stein published an article alleging that the Democratic politician struck a quid pro quo deal with a suspected Israeli spy. In the article, Stein cites several unnamed “former national security officials” who say Harman’s incriminating telephone conversation with the suspected Israeli agent was picked up in 2005 by a FISA-authorized NSA wiretap. During the call, the agent asked Harman to pressure US Justice Department officials to show leniency toward two American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) lobbyists, who were arrested in 2005 for receiving classified information by convicted Israeli spy Lawrence Anthony Franklin. The two lobbyists, Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman, are still awaiting trial.

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NSA tried to spy on US Congress member

Thomas Tamm

Thomas Tamm

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
An anonymous intelligence official has told The New York Times that the National Security Agency (NSA) attempted to wiretap the personal communications of a US Congressman without court approval. The gigantic US government agency, which is tasked with worldwide communications surveillance, as well as communications security, believed that the Congressman “was in contact […] with an extremist who had possible terrorist ties and was already under surveillance”, said the paper. NSA agents tried therefore to set in motion a warrantless communications interception operation against the Congressman, while he participated in a “Congressional delegation to the Middle East”, either in 2005 or 2006. Read more of this post

Analysis: Rare film on National Security Agency aired

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The Nova documentary series on PBS has aired a rare look at the National Security Agency (NSA), America’s signals intelligence and cryptological organization that rarely releases information to outsiders. The ultra-secret Agency is said to be the world’s largest intelligence institution, employing tens of thousands of technicians, analysts and mathematicians. The PBS film, titled The Spy Factory, features veteran author James Bamford, who has authored books on NSA for nearly 30 years. The primary focus of the documentary is on NSA’s share of the intelligence failure in detecting and preventing the 9/11 attacks. The film also examines NSA’s STELLAR WIND program, a warrantless eavesdropping scheme targeting communications of American citizens, which the Bush Administration authorized shortly after 9/11. 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

Obama to protect immunity of TSPs who assisted in warrantless wiretapping

Holder

Holder

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews |
After assuring the CIA that “he has no plans to launch a legal inquiry” into its use of torture methods to interrogate prisoners, Barack Obama is now sending a similar message to telecommunications service providers (TSPs) who participated in the Bush Administration’s warrantless surveillance program. Eric Holder, who is Obama’s nominee for the position of US Attorney General, told the US Senate Committee on the Judiciary that the Obama Administration intends to safeguard the immunity of all TSPs that participated in warrantless wiretapping. Speaking before the Committee last Thursday, Holder said the new Administration will keep protecting TSPs from privacy lawsuits “[u]nless there are compelling reasons” to do otherwise. He did not specify what such “compelling reasons” might be. Read more of this post

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

Obama said to be backing down in rift with CIA

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
This author has been reporting on the continuing rift between the incoming Democratic Administration and many in ledership positions at the CIA. The latter openly warned the President Elect last month that he “may have difficulty finding a candidate who can be embraced by both veteran officials at the agency and the left flank of the Democratic Party”. As I explained on January 6, Obama’s nomination of Leon Panetta to head the CIA should be expected to spark further protests by the troubled agency. It now appears that, having nominated Panetta, the Obama team is slowly backing away from its dispute with the country’s intelligence leadership. The New York Times reports that there is “a growing sense” among observers that the incoming President is “not inclined” to pursue any broad inquiries on warrantless eavesdropping (Operation STELLAR WIND) or the use of torture against CIA detainees in the “global war on terrorism”. Read more of this post

DoJ continues criminal investigation of NSA whistleblower

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
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