National Security Agency – Wikipedia

National Security Agency

Seal of the National Security Agency

Flag of the National Security Agency

The National Security Agency (NSA) is a national-level intelligence agency of the United States Department of Defense, under the authority of the Director of National Intelligence. The NSA is responsible for global monitoring, collection, and processing of information and data for foreign intelligence and counterintelligence purposes, specializing in a discipline known as signals intelligence (SIGINT). The NSA is also tasked with the protection of U.S. communications networks and information systems.[8][9] The NSA relies on a variety of measures to accomplish its mission, the majority of which are clandestine.[10]

Originating as a unit to decipher coded communications in World War II, it was officially formed as the NSA by President Harry S. Truman in 1952. Since then, it has become one of the largest U.S. intelligence organizations in terms of personnel and budget.[6][11] The NSA currently conducts worldwide mass data collection and has been known to physically bug electronic systems as one method to this end.[12] The NSA has also been alleged to have been behind such attack software as Stuxnet, which severely damaged Iran’s nuclear program.[13][14] The NSA, alongside the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), maintains a physical presence in many countries across the globe; the CIA/NSA joint Special Collection Service (a highly classified intelligence team) inserts eavesdropping devices in high value targets (such as Presidential palaces or embassies). SCS collection tactics allegedly encompass “close surveillance, burglary, wiretapping, [and] breaking and entering”.[15][16]

Unlike the CIA and the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), both of which specialize primarily in foreign human espionage, the NSA does not publicly conduct human-source intelligence gathering. The NSA is entrusted with providing assistance to, and the coordination of, SIGINT elements for other government organizations – which are prevented by law from engaging in such activities on their own.[17] As part of these responsibilities, the agency has a co-located organization called the Central Security Service (CSS), which facilitates cooperation between the NSA and other U.S. defense cryptanalysis components. To further ensure streamlined communication between the signals intelligence community divisions, the NSA Director simultaneously serves as the Commander of the United States Cyber Command and as Chief of the Central Security Service.

The NSA’s actions have been a matter of political controversy on several occasions, including its spying on anti-Vietnam-war leaders and the agency’s participation in economic espionage. In 2013, the NSA had many of its secret surveillance programs revealed to the public by Edward Snowden, a former NSA contractor. According to the leaked documents, the NSA intercepts and stores the communications of over a billion people worldwide, including United States citizens. The documents also revealed the NSA tracks hundreds of millions of people’s movements using cellphones metadata. Internationally, research has pointed to the NSA’s ability to surveil the domestic Internet traffic of foreign countries through “boomerang routing”.[18]

The origins of the National Security Agency can be traced back to April 28, 1917, three weeks after the U.S. Congress declared war on Germany in World War I. A code and cipher decryption unit was established as the Cable and Telegraph Section which was also known as the Cipher Bureau. It was headquartered in Washington, D.C. and was part of the war effort under the executive branch without direct Congressional authorization. During the course of the war it was relocated in the army’s organizational chart several times. On July 5, 1917, Herbert O. Yardley was assigned to head the unit. At that point, the unit consisted of Yardley and two civilian clerks. It absorbed the navy’s Cryptanalysis functions in July 1918. World War I ended on November 11, 1918, and the army cryptographic section of Military Intelligence (MI-8) moved to New York City on May 20, 1919, where it continued intelligence activities as the Code Compilation Company under the direction of Yardley.[19][20]

After the disbandment of the U.S. Army cryptographic section of military intelligence, known as MI-8, in 1919, the U.S. government created the Cipher Bureau, also known as Black Chamber. The Black Chamber was the United States’ first peacetime cryptanalytic organization.[21] Jointly funded by the Army and the State Department, the Cipher Bureau was disguised as a New York City commercial code company; it actually produced and sold such codes for business use. Its true mission, however, was to break the communications (chiefly diplomatic) of other nations. Its most notable known success was at the Washington Naval Conference, during which it aided American negotiators considerably by providing them with the decrypted traffic of many of the conference delegations, most notably the Japanese. The Black Chamber successfully persuaded Western Union, the largest U.S. telegram company at the time, as well as several other communications companies to illegally give the Black Chamber access to cable traffic of foreign embassies and consulates.[22] Soon, these companies publicly discontinued their collaboration.

Despite the Chamber’s initial successes, it was shut down in 1929 by U.S. Secretary of State Henry L. Stimson, who defended his decision by stating, “Gentlemen do not read each other’s mail”.[23]

During World War II, the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) was created to intercept and decipher the communications of the Axis powers.[24] When the war ended, the SIS was reorganized as the Army Security Agency (ASA), and it was placed under the leadership of the Director of Military Intelligence.[24]

On May 20, 1949, all cryptologic activities were centralized under a national organization called the Armed Forces Security Agency (AFSA).[24] This organization was originally established within the U.S. Department of Defense under the command of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.[25] The AFSA was tasked to direct Department of Defense communications and electronic intelligence activities, except those of U.S. military intelligence units.[25] However, the AFSA was unable to centralize communications intelligence and failed to coordinate with civilian agencies that shared its interests such as the Department of State, Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).[25] In December 1951, President Harry S. Truman ordered a panel to investigate how AFSA had failed to achieve its goals. The results of the investigation led to improvements and its redesignation as the National Security Agency.[26]

The agency was formally established by Truman in a memorandum of October 24, 1952, that revised National Security Council Intelligence Directive (NSCID) 9.[27] Since President Truman’s memo was a classified document,[27] the existence of the NSA was not known to the public at that time. Due to its ultra-secrecy the U.S. intelligence community referred to the NSA as “No Such Agency”.[28]

In the 1960s, the NSA played a key role in expanding U.S. commitment to the Vietnam War by providing evidence of a North Vietnamese attack on the American destroyer USSMaddox during the Gulf of Tonkin incident.[29]

A secret operation, code-named “MINARET”, was set up by the NSA to monitor the phone communications of Senators Frank Church and Howard Baker, as well as major civil rights leaders, including Martin Luther King, Jr., and prominent U.S. journalists and athletes who criticized the Vietnam War.[30] However, the project turned out to be controversial, and an internal review by the NSA concluded that its Minaret program was “disreputable if not outright illegal”.[30]

The NSA mounted a major effort to secure tactical communications among U.S. forces during the war with mixed success. The NESTOR family of compatible secure voice systems it developed was widely deployed during the Vietnam War, with about 30,000 NESTOR sets produced. However a variety of technical and operational problems limited their use, allowing the North Vietnamese to exploit and intercept U.S. communications.[31]:Vol I, p.79

In the aftermath of the Watergate scandal, a congressional hearing in 1975 led by Sen. Frank Church[32] revealed that the NSA, in collaboration with Britain’s SIGINT intelligence agency Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), had routinely intercepted the international communications of prominent anti-Vietnam war leaders such as Jane Fonda and Dr. Benjamin Spock.[33] Following the resignation of President Richard Nixon, there were several investigations of suspected misuse of FBI, CIA and NSA facilities.[34] Senator Frank Church uncovered previously unknown activity,[34] such as a CIA plot (ordered by the administration of President John F. Kennedy) to assassinate Fidel Castro.[35] The investigation also uncovered NSA’s wiretaps on targeted U.S. citizens.[36]

After the Church Committee hearings, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 was passed into law. This was designed to limit the practice of mass surveillance in the United States.[34]

In 1986, the NSA intercepted the communications of the Libyan government during the immediate aftermath of the Berlin discotheque bombing. The White House asserted that the NSA interception had provided “irrefutable” evidence that Libya was behind the bombing, which U.S. President Ronald Reagan cited as a justification for the 1986 United States bombing of Libya.[37][38]

In 1999, a multi-year investigation by the European Parliament highlighted the NSA’s role in economic espionage in a report entitled ‘Development of Surveillance Technology and Risk of Abuse of Economic Information’.[39] That year, the NSA founded the NSA Hall of Honor, a memorial at the National Cryptologic Museum in Fort Meade, Maryland.[40] The memorial is a, “tribute to the pioneers and heroes who have made significant and long-lasting contributions to American cryptology”.[40] NSA employees must be retired for more than fifteen years to qualify for the memorial.[40]

NSA’s infrastructure deteriorated in the 1990s as defense budget cuts resulted in maintenance deferrals. On January 24, 2000, NSA headquarters suffered a total network outage for three days caused by an overloaded network. Incoming traffic was successfully stored on agency servers, but it could not be directed and processed. The agency carried out emergency repairs at a cost of $3 million to get the system running again. (Some incoming traffic was also directed instead to Britain’s GCHQ for the time being.) Director Michael Hayden called the outage a “wake-up call” for the need to invest in the agency’s infrastructure.[41]

In the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, the NSA created new IT systems to deal with the flood of information from new technologies like the Internet and cellphones. ThinThread contained advanced data mining capabilities. It also had a “privacy mechanism”; surveillance was stored encrypted; decryption required a warrant. The research done under this program may have contributed to the technology used in later systems. ThinThread was cancelled when Michael Hayden chose Trailblazer, which did not include ThinThread’s privacy system.[42]

Trailblazer Project ramped up in 2002 and was worked on by Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC), Boeing, Computer Sciences Corporation, IBM, and Litton Industries. Some NSA whistleblowers complained internally about major problems surrounding Trailblazer. This led to investigations by Congress and the NSA and DoD Inspectors General. The project was cancelled in early 2004.

Turbulence started in 2005. It was developed in small, inexpensive “test” pieces, rather than one grand plan like Trailblazer. It also included offensive cyber-warfare capabilities, like injecting malware into remote computers. Congress criticized Turbulence in 2007 for having similar bureaucratic problems as Trailblazer.[43] It was to be a realization of information processing at higher speeds in cyberspace.[44]

The massive extent of the NSA’s spying, both foreign and domestic, was revealed to the public in a series of detailed disclosures of internal NSA documents beginning in June 2013. Most of the disclosures were leaked by former NSA contractor, Edward Snowden.

NSA’s eavesdropping mission includes radio broadcasting, both from various organizations and individuals, the Internet, telephone calls, and other intercepted forms of communication. Its secure communications mission includes military, diplomatic, and all other sensitive, confidential or secret government communications.[45]

According to a 2010 article in The Washington Post, “[e]very day, collection systems at the National Security Agency intercept and store 1.7billion e-mails, phone calls and other types of communications. The NSA sorts a fraction of those into 70 separate databases.”[46]

Because of its listening task, NSA/CSS has been heavily involved in cryptanalytic research, continuing the work of predecessor agencies which had broken many World War II codes and ciphers (see, for instance, Purple, Venona project, and JN-25).

In 2004, NSA Central Security Service and the National Cyber Security Division of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) agreed to expand NSA Centers of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Education Program.[47]

As part of the National Security Presidential Directive 54/Homeland Security Presidential Directive 23 (NSPD 54), signed on January 8, 2008, by President Bush, the NSA became the lead agency to monitor and protect all of the federal government’s computer networks from cyber-terrorism.[9]

The NSA intercepts telephone and Internet communications of over a billion people worldwide, seeking information on foreign politics, military developments, terrorist activity, pertinet economic developments,[48] and “commercial secrets”.[49] A dedicated unit of the NSA locates targets for the CIA for extrajudicial assassination in the Middle East.[50] The NSA has also spied extensively on the European Union, the United Nations and numerous governments including allies and trading partners in Europe, South America and Asia.[51][52]

In the United States, at least since 2001,[53] there has been legal controversy over what signal intelligence can be used for and how much freedom the National Security Agency has to use signal intelligence.[54] The government has made, in 2015, slight changes in how it uses and collects certain types of data,[55] specifically phone records.

On December 16, 2005, The New York Times reported that, under White House pressure and with an executive order from President George W. Bush, the National Security Agency, in an attempt to thwart terrorism, had been tapping phone calls made to persons outside the country, without obtaining warrants from the United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, a secret court created for that purpose under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).[56]

One such surveillance program, authorized by the U.S. Signals Intelligence Directive 18 of President George Bush, was the Highlander Project undertaken for the National Security Agency by the U.S. Army 513th Military Intelligence Brigade. NSA relayed telephone (including cell phone) conversations obtained from ground, airborne, and satellite monitoring stations to various U.S. Army Signal Intelligence Officers, including the 201st Military Intelligence Battalion. Conversations of citizens of the U.S. were intercepted, along with those of other nations.[57]

Proponents of the surveillance program claim that the President has executive authority to order such action, arguing that laws such as FISA are overridden by the President’s Constitutional powers. In addition, some argued that FISA was implicitly overridden by a subsequent statute, the Authorization for Use of Military Force, although the Supreme Court’s ruling in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld deprecates this view. In the August 2006 case ACLU v. NSA, U.S. District Court Judge Anna Diggs Taylor concluded that NSA’s warrantless surveillance program was both illegal and unconstitutional. On July 6, 2007, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals vacated the decision on the grounds that the ACLU lacked standing to bring the suit.[58]

On January 17, 2006, the Center for Constitutional Rights filed a lawsuit, CCR v. Bush, against the George W. Bush Presidency. The lawsuit challenged the National Security Agency’s (NSA’s) surveillance of people within the U.S., including the interception of CCR emails without securing a warrant first.[59][60]

In September 2008, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) filed a class action lawsuit against the NSA and several high-ranking officials of the Bush administration,[61] charging an “illegal and unconstitutional program of dragnet communications surveillance,”[62] based on documentation provided by former AT&T technician Mark Klein.[63]

As a result of the USA Freedom Act passed by Congress in June 2015, the NSA had to shut down its bulk phone surveillance program on November 29 of the same year. The USA Freedom Act forbids the NSA to collect metadata and content of phone calls unless it has a warrant for terrorism investigation. In that case the agency has to ask the telecom companies for the record, which will only be kept for six months.

In May 2006, Mark Klein, a former AT&T employee, alleged that his company had cooperated with NSA in installing Narus hardware to replace the FBI Carnivore program, to monitor network communications including traffic between U.S. citizens.[64]

NSA was reported in 2008 to use its computing capability to analyze “transactional” data that it regularly acquires from other government agencies, which gather it under their own jurisdictional authorities. As part of this effort, NSA now monitors huge volumes of records of domestic email data, web addresses from Internet searches, bank transfers, credit-card transactions, travel records, and telephone data, according to current and former intelligence officials interviewed by The Wall Street Journal. The sender, recipient, and subject line of emails can be included, but the content of the messages or of phone calls are not.[65]

A 2013 advisory group for the Obama administration, seeking to reform NSA spying programs following the revelations of documents released by Edward J. Snowden.[66] mentioned in ‘Recommendation 30’ on page 37, “…that the National Security Council staff should manage an interagency process to review on a regular basis the activities of the US Government regarding attacks that exploit a previously unknown vulnerability in a computer application.” Retired cyber security expert Richard A. Clarke was a group member and stated on April 11 that NSA had no advance knowledge of Heartbleed.[67]

In August 2013 it was revealed that a 2005 IRS training document showed that NSA intelligence intercepts and wiretaps, both foreign and domestic, were being supplied to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and were illegally used to launch criminal investigations of US citizens. Law enforcement agents were directed to conceal how the investigations began and recreate an apparently legal investigative trail by re-obtaining the same evidence by other means.[68][69]

In the months leading to April 2009, the NSA intercepted the communications of U.S. citizens, including a Congressman, although the Justice Department believed that the interception was unintentional. The Justice Department then took action to correct the issues and bring the program into compliance with existing laws.[70] United States Attorney General Eric Holder resumed the program according to his understanding of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act amendment of 2008, without explaining what had occurred.[71]

Polls conducted in June 2013 found divided results among Americans regarding NSA’s secret data collection.[72]Rasmussen Reports found that 59% of Americans disapprove,[73]Gallup found that 53% disapprove,[74] and Pew found that 56% are in favor of NSA data collection.[75]

On April 25, 2013, the NSA obtained a court order requiring Verizon’s Business Network Services to provide metadata on all calls in its system to the NSA “on an ongoing daily basis” for a three-month period, as reported by The Guardian on June 6, 2013. This information includes “the numbers of both parties on a call… location data, call duration, unique identifiers, and the time and duration of all calls” but not “[t]he contents of the conversation itself”. The order relies on the so-called “business records” provision of the Patriot Act.[76][77]

In August 2013, following the Snowden leaks, new details about the NSA’s data mining activity were revealed. Reportedly, the majority of emails into or out of the United States are captured at “selected communications links” and automatically analyzed for keywords or other “selectors”. Emails that do not match are deleted.[78]

The utility of such a massive metadata collection in preventing terrorist attacks is disputed. Many studies reveal the dragnet like system to be ineffective. One such report, released by the New America Foundation concluded that after an analysis of 225 terrorism cases, the NSA “had no discernible impact on preventing acts of terrorism.”[79]

Defenders of the program said that while metadata alone can’t provide all the information necessary to prevent an attack, it assures the ability to “connect the dots”[80] between suspect foreign numbers and domestic numbers with a speed only the NSA’s software is capable of. One benefit of this is quickly being able to determine the difference between suspicious activity and real threats.[citation needed] As an example, NSA director General Keith Alexander mentioned at the annual Cybersecurity Summit in 2013, that metadata analysis of domestic phone call records after the Boston Marathon bombing helped determine that[clarification needed] another attack in New York was baseless.[80]

In addition to doubts about its effectiveness, many people argue that the collection of metadata is an unconstitutional invasion of privacy. As of 2015[update], the collection process remains legal and grounded in the ruling from Smith v. Maryland (1979). A prominent opponent of the data collection and its legality is U.S. District Judge Richard J. Leon, who issued a report in 2013[81] in which he stated: “I cannot imagine a more ‘indiscriminate’ and ‘arbitrary invasion’ than this systematic and high tech collection and retention of personal data on virtually every single citizen for purposes of querying and analyzing it without prior judicial approval…Surely, such a program infringes on ‘that degree of privacy’ that the founders enshrined in the Fourth Amendment”.

As of May 7, 2015, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled that the interpretation of Section 215 of the Patriot Act was wrong and that the NSA program that has been collecting Americans’ phone records in bulk is illegal.[82] It stated that Section 215 cannot be clearly interpreted to allow government to collect national phone data and, as a result, expired on June 1, 2015. This ruling “is the first time a higher-level court in the regular judicial system has reviewed the N.S.A. phone records program.” [83] The replacement law known as the U.S.A. Freedom Act, which will enable the NSA to continue to have bulk access to citizens’ metadata but with the stipulation that the data will now be stored by the companies themselves.[83] This change will not have any effect on other Agency procedures – outside of metadata collection – which have purportedly challenged Americans’ Fourth Amendment rights;,[84] including Upstream collection, a mass of techniques used by the Agency to collect and store American’s data/communications directly from the Internet backbone.[85]

Under programs like PRISM, the NSA paid billions of dollars to telecommunications companies in order to collect data from them.[86] While companies such as Google and Yahoo! claim that they do not provide “direct access” from their servers to the NSA unless under a court order,[87] the NSA had access to emails, phone calls and cellular data users.[88] Under this new ruling, telecommunications companies maintain bulk user metadata on their servers for at least 18 months, to be provided upon request to the NSA.[83] This ruling made the mass storage of specific phone records at NSA datacenters illegal, but it did not rule on Section 215’s constitutionality.[83]

In a declassified document it was revealed that 17,835 phone lines were on an improperly permitted “alert list” from 2006 to 2009 in breach of compliance, which tagged these phone lines for daily monitoring.[89][90][91] Eleven percent of these monitored phone lines met the agency’s legal standard for “reasonably articulable suspicion” (RAS).[89][92] The NSA tracks the locations of hundreds of millions of cellphones per day, allowing it to map people’s movements and relationships in detail.[93] The NSA has been reported to have access to all communications made via Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Yahoo, YouTube, AOL, Skype, Apple and Paltalk,[94] and collects hundreds of millions of contact lists from personal email and instant messaging accounts each year.[95] It has also managed to weaken much of the encryption used on the Internet (by collaborating with, coercing or otherwise infiltrating numerous technology companies to leave “backdoors” into their systems), so that the majority of encryption is inadverently vulnerable to different forms of attack.[96][97]

Domestically, the NSA has been proven to collect and store metadata records of phone calls,[98] including over 120 million US Verizon subscribers,[99] as well as intercept vast amounts of communications via the internet (Upstream).[94] The government’s legal standing had been to rely on a secret interpretation of the Patriot Act whereby the entirety of US communications may be considered “relevant” to a terrorism investigation if it is expected that even a tiny minority may relate to terrorism.[100] The NSA also supplies foreign intercepts to the DEA, IRS and other law enforcement agencies, who use these to initiate criminal investigations. Federal agents are then instructed to “recreate” the investigative trail via parallel construction.[101]

The NSA also spies on influential Muslims to obtain information that could be used to discredit them, such as their use of pornography. The targets, both domestic and abroad, are not suspected of any crime but hold religious or political views deemed “radical” by the NSA.[102]

According to a report in The Washington Post in July 2014, relying on information provided by Snowden, 90% of those placed under surveillance in the U.S. are ordinary Americans, and are not the intended targets. The newspaper said it had examined documents including emails, text messages, and online accounts that support the claim.[103]

Despite White House claims that these programs have congressional oversight, many members of Congress were unaware of the existence of these NSA programs or the secret interpretation of the Patriot Act, and have consistently been denied access to basic information about them.[104] The United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, the secret court charged with regulating the NSA’s activities is, according to its chief judge, incapable of investigating or verifying how often the NSA breaks even its own secret rules.[105] It has since been reported that the NSA violated its own rules on data access thousands of times a year, many of these violations involving large-scale data interceptions.[106] NSA officers have even used data intercepts to spy on love interests;[107] “most of the NSA violations were self-reported, and each instance resulted in administrative action of termination.”[108]

The NSA has “generally disregarded the special rules for disseminating United States person information” by illegally sharing its intercepts with other law enforcement agencies.[109] A March 2009 FISA Court opinion, which the court released, states that protocols restricting data queries had been “so frequently and systemically violated that it can be fairly said that this critical element of the overall … regime has never functioned effectively.”[110][111] In 2011 the same court noted that the “volume and nature” of the NSA’s bulk foreign Internet intercepts was “fundamentally different from what the court had been led to believe”.[109] Email contact lists (including those of US citizens) are collected at numerous foreign locations to work around the illegality of doing so on US soil.[95]

Legal opinions on the NSA’s bulk collection program have differed. In mid-December 2013, U.S. District Judge Richard Leon ruled that the “almost-Orwellian” program likely violates the Constitution, and wrote, “I cannot imagine a more ‘indiscriminate’ and ‘arbitrary invasion’ than this systematic and high-tech collection and retention of personal data on virtually every single citizen for purposes of querying and analyzing it without prior judicial approval. Surely, such a program infringes on ‘that degree of privacy’ that the Founders enshrined in the Fourth Amendment. Indeed, I have little doubt that the author of our Constitution, James Madison, who cautioned us to beware ‘the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power,’ would be aghast.”[112]

Later that month, U.S. District Judge William Pauley ruled that the NSA’s collection of telephone records is legal and valuable in the fight against terrorism. In his opinion, he wrote, “a bulk telephony metadata collection program [is] a wide net that could find and isolate gossamer contacts among suspected terrorists in an ocean of seemingly disconnected data” and noted that a similar collection of data prior to 9/11 might have prevented the attack.[113]

At a March 2013 Senate Intelligence Committee hearing, Senator Ron Wyden asked Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, “does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?” Clapper replied “No, sir. … Not wittingly. There are cases where they could inadvertently perhaps collect, but not wittingly.”[114] This statement came under scrutiny months later, in June 2013, details of the PRISM surveillance program were published, showing that “the NSA apparently can gain access to the servers of nine Internet companies for a wide range of digital data.”[114] Wyden said that Clapper had failed to give a “straight answer” in his testimony. Clapper, in response to criticism, said, “I responded in what I thought was the most truthful, or least untruthful manner.” Clapper added, “There are honest differences on the semantics of what — when someone says collection to me, that has a specific meaning, which may have a different meaning to him.”[114]

NSA whistler-blower Edward Snowden additionally revealed the existence of XKeyscore, a top secret NSA program that allows the agency to search vast databases of “the metadata as well as the content of emails and other internet activity, such as browser history,” with capability to search by “name, telephone number, IP address, keywords, the language in which the internet activity was conducted or the type of browser used.”[115] XKeyscore “provides the technological capability, if not the legal authority, to target even US persons for extensive electronic surveillance without a warrant provided that some identifying information, such as their email or IP address, is known to the analyst.”[115]

Regarding the necessity of these NSA programs, Alexander stated on June 27 that the NSA’s bulk phone and Internet intercepts had been instrumental in preventing 54 terrorist “events”, including 13 in the US, and in all but one of these cases had provided the initial tip to “unravel the threat stream”.[116] On July 31 NSA Deputy Director John Inglis conceded to the Senate that these intercepts had not been vital in stopping any terrorist attacks, but were “close” to vital in identifying and convicting four San Diego men for sending US$8,930 to Al-Shabaab, a militia that conducts terrorism in Somalia.[117][118][119]

The U.S. government has aggressively sought to dismiss and challenge Fourth Amendment cases raised against it, and has granted retroactive immunity to ISPs and telecoms participating in domestic surveillance.[120][121] The U.S. military has acknowledged blocking access to parts of The Guardian website for thousands of defense personnel across the country,[122][123] and blocking the entire Guardian website for personnel stationed throughout Afghanistan, the Middle East, and South Asia.[124]

An October 2014 United Nations report condemned mass surveillance by the United States and other countries as violating multiple international treaties and conventions that guarantee core privacy rights.[125]

The Wikimedia Foundation and several other plaintiffs filed suit against the NSA in 2015, Wikimedia Foundation v. NSA, for the violation of their user’s First and Fourth Amendement rights by the Agency’s mass surveillance programs like Upstream.[126] The suit was initially dismissed, but was later found to have plausible and legal standing to its complaints by the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit and was remanded. The case is currently awaiting further proceedings at the United States District Court for the District of Maryland.[127]

An exploit, EternalBlue, which is believed to have been created by the NSA, was used in the unprecedented worldwide WannaCry ransomware attack in May 2017. The exploit had been leaked online by a hacking group, The Shadow Brokers, nearly a month prior to the attack. A number of experts have pointed the finger at the NSA’s non-disclosure of the underlying vulnerability, and their loss of control over the EternalBlue attack tool that exploited it. Edward Snowden said that if the NSA had “privately disclosed the flaw used to attack hospitals when they found it, not when they lost it, [the attack] might not have happened”.[128] Wikipedia co-founder, Jimmy Wales, stated that he joined “with Microsoft and the other leaders of the industry in saying this is a huge screw-up by the government … the moment the NSA found it, they should have notified Microsoft so they could quietly issue a patch and really chivvy people along, long before it became a huge problem.”[129]

Operations by the National Security Agency can be divided in three types:

CAPRI OS is a National Security Agency codename for a project that is sent SSH and SSL intercepts for post-processing.[130]

“Echelon” was created in the incubator of the Cold War.[131] Today it is a legacy system, and several NSA stations are closing.[132]

NSA/CSS, in combination with the equivalent agencies in the United Kingdom (Government Communications Headquarters), Canada (Communications Security Establishment), Australia (Defence Signals Directorate), and New Zealand (Government Communications Security Bureau), otherwise known as the UKUSA group,[133] was reported to be in command of the operation of the so-called ECHELON system. Its capabilities were suspected to include the ability to monitor a large proportion of the world’s transmitted civilian telephone, fax and data traffic.[134]

During the early 1970s, the first of what became more than eight large satellite communications dishes were installed at Menwith Hill.[135] Investigative journalist Duncan Campbell reported in 1988 on the “ECHELON” surveillance program, an extension of the UKUSA Agreement on global signals intelligence SIGINT, and detailed how the eavesdropping operations worked.[136] On November 3, 1999 the BBC reported that they had confirmation from the Australian Government of the existence of a powerful “global spying network” code-named Echelon, that could “eavesdrop on every single phone call, fax or e-mail, anywhere on the planet” with Britain and the United States as the chief protagonists. They confirmed that Menwith Hill was “linked directly to the headquarters of the US National Security Agency (NSA) at Fort Meade in Maryland”.[137]

NSA’s United States Signals Intelligence Directive 18 (USSID 18) strictly prohibited the interception or collection of information about “… U.S. persons, entities, corporations or organizations….” without explicit written legal permission from the United States Attorney General when the subject is located abroad, or the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court when within U.S. borders. Alleged Echelon-related activities, including its use for motives other than national security, including political and industrial espionage, received criticism from countries outside the UKUSA alliance.[138][139]

The NSA was also involved in planning to blackmail people with “SEXINT”, intelligence gained about a potential target’s sexual activity and preferences. Those targeted had not committed any apparent crime nor were they charged with one.[140]

In order to support its facial recognition program, the NSA is intercepting “millions of images per day”.[141]

The Real Time Regional Gateway is a data collection program introduced in 2005 in Iraq by NSA during the Iraq War that consisted of gathering all electronic communication, storing it, then searching and otherwise analyzing it. It was effective in providing information about Iraqi insurgents who had eluded less comprehensive techniques.[142] This “collect it all” strategy introduced by NSA director, Keith B. Alexander, is believed by Glenn Greenwald of The Guardian to be the model for the comprehensive worldwide mass archiving of communications which NSA is engaged in as of 2013.[143]

Edward Snowden revealed in June 2013 that between February 8 and March 8, 2013, the NSA collected about 124.8billion telephone data items and 97.1billion computer data items throughout the world, as was displayed in charts from an internal NSA tool codenamed Boundless Informant. It was reported that some of these data reflected eavesdropping on citizens in countries like Germany, Spain and France.[144]

BoundlessInformant employs big data databases, cloud computing technology, and Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) to analyze data collected worldwide by the NSA.[145]

In 2013, reporters uncovered a secret memo that claims the NSA created and pushed for the adoption of the Dual EC DRBG encryption standard that contained built-in vulnerabilities in 2006 to the United States National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and the International Organization for Standardization (aka ISO).[146][147] This memo appears to give credence to previous speculation by cryptographers at Microsoft Research.[148]Edward Snowden claims that the NSA often bypasses encryption altogether by lifting information before it is encrypted or after it is decrypted.[147]

XKeyscore rules (as specified in a file xkeyscorerules100.txt, sourced by German TV stations NDR and WDR, who claim to have excerpts from its source code) reveal that the NSA tracks users of privacy-enhancing software tools, including Tor; an anonymous email service provided by the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) in Cambridge, Massachusetts; and readers of the Linux Journal.[149][150]

Linus Torvalds, the founder of Linux kernel, joked during a LinuxCon keynote on September 18, 2013, that the NSA, who are the founder of SELinux, wanted a backdoor in the kernel.[151] However, later, Linus’ father, a Member of the European Parliament (MEP), revealed that the NSA actually did this.[152]

When my oldest son was asked the same question: “Has he been approached by the NSA about backdoors?” he said “No”, but at the same time he nodded. Then he was sort of in the legal free. He had given the right answer, everybody understood that the NSA had approached him.

IBM Notes was the first widely adopted software product to use public key cryptography for clientserver and serverserver authentication and for encryption of data. Until US laws regulating encryption were changed in 2000, IBM and Lotus were prohibited from exporting versions of Notes that supported symmetric encryption keys that were longer than 40 bits. In 1997, Lotus negotiated an agreement with the NSA that allowed export of a version that supported stronger keys with 64 bits, but 24 of the bits were encrypted with a special key and included in the message to provide a “workload reduction factor” for the NSA. This strengthened the protection for users of Notes outside the US against private-sector industrial espionage, but not against spying by the US government.[154][155]

While it is assumed that foreign transmissions terminating in the U.S. (such as a non-U.S. citizen accessing a U.S. website) subject non-U.S. citizens to NSA surveillance, recent research into boomerang routing has raised new concerns about the NSA’s ability to surveil the domestic Internet traffic of foreign countries.[18] Boomerang routing occurs when an Internet transmission that originates and terminates in a single country transits another. Research at the University of Toronto has suggested that approximately 25% of Canadian domestic traffic may be subject to NSA surveillance activities as a result of the boomerang routing of Canadian Internet service providers.[18]

Intercepted packages are opened carefully by NSA employees

A “load station” implanting a beacon

A document included in NSA files released with Glenn Greenwald’s book No Place to Hide details how the agency’s Tailored Access Operations (TAO) and other NSA units gain access to hardware. They intercept routers, servers and other network hardware being shipped to organizations targeted for surveillance and install covert implant firmware onto them before they are delivered. This was described by an NSA manager as “some of the most productive operations in TAO because they preposition access points into hard target networks around the world.”[156]

Computers seized by the NSA due to interdiction are often modified with a physical device known as Cottonmouth.[157] Cottonmouth is a device that can be inserted in the USB port of a computer in order to establish remote access to the targeted machine. According to NSA’s Tailored Access Operations (TAO) group implant catalog, after implanting Cottonmouth, the NSA can establish Bridging (networking) “that allows the NSA to load exploit software onto modified computers as well as allowing the NSA to relay commands and data between hardware and software implants.”[158]

NSA’s mission, as set forth in Executive Order 12333 in 1981, is to collect information that constitutes “foreign intelligence or counterintelligence” while not “acquiring information concerning the domestic activities of United States persons”. NSA has declared that it relies on the FBI to collect information on foreign intelligence activities within the borders of the United States, while confining its own activities within the United States to the embassies and missions of foreign nations.[159] The appearance of a ‘Domestic Surveillance Directorate’ of the NSA was soon exposed as a hoax in 2013.[160][161]

NSA’s domestic surveillance activities are limited by the requirements imposed by the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court for example held in October 2011, citing multiple Supreme Court precedents, that the Fourth Amendment prohibitions against unreasonable searches and seizures applies to the contents of all communications, whatever the means, because “a person’s private communications are akin to personal papers.”[162] However, these protections do not apply to non-U.S. persons located outside of U.S. borders, so the NSA’s foreign surveillance efforts are subject to far fewer limitations under U.S. law.[163] The specific requirements for domestic surveillance operations are contained in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (FISA), which does not extend protection to non-U.S. citizens located outside of U.S. territory.[163]

George W. Bush, president during the 9/11 terrorist attacks, approved the Patriot Act shortly after the attacks to take anti-terrorist security measures. Title 1, 2, and 9 specifically authorized measures that would be taken by the NSA. These titles granted enhanced domestic security against terrorism, surveillance procedures, and improved intelligence, respectively. On March 10, 2004, there was a debate between President Bush and White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales, Attorney General John Ashcroft, and Acting Attorney General James Comey. The Attorney Generals were unsure if the NSA’s programs could be considered constitutional. They threatened to resign over the matter, but ultimately the NSA’s programs continued.[164] On March 11, 2004, President Bush signed a new authorization for mass surveillance of Internet records, in addition to the surveillance of phone records. This allowed the president to be able to override laws such as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which protected civilians from mass surveillance. In addition to this, President Bush also signed that the measures of mass surveillance were also retroactively in place.[165]

Under the PRISM program, which started in 2007,[166][167] NSA gathers Internet communications from foreign targets from nine major U.S. Internet-based communication service providers: Microsoft,[168]Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube and Apple. Data gathered include email, video and voice chat, videos, photos, VoIP chats such as Skype, and file transfers.

In June 2015, Wikileaks published documents, which showed that NSA spied on French companies.[169]

In July 2015, WikiLeaks published documents, which showed that NSA spied on federal German ministries since the 1990s.[170][171] Even Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cellphones and phone of her predecessors had been intercepted.[172]

Former NSA director General Keith Alexander claimed that in September 2009 the NSA prevented Najibullah Zazi and his friends from carrying out a terrorist attack.[173] However, this claim has been debunked and no evidence has been presented demonstrating that the NSA has ever been instrumental in preventing a terrorist attack.[174][175][176][177]

Besides the more traditional ways of eavesdropping in order to collect signals intelligence, NSA is also engaged in hacking computers, smartphones and their networks. These operations are conducted by the Tailored Access Operations (TAO) division.

According to the Foreign Policy magazine, “… the Office of Tailored Access Operations, or TAO, has successfully penetrated Chinese computer and telecommunications systems for almost 15 years, generating some of the best and most reliable intelligence information about what is going on inside the People’s Republic of China.”[178][179]

In an interview with Wired magazine, Edward Snowden said the Tailored Access Operations division accidentally caused Syria’s internet blackout in 2012.[180]

The NSA is led by the Director of the National Security Agency (DIRNSA), who also serves as Chief of the Central Security Service (CHCSS) and Commander of the United States Cyber Command (USCYBERCOM) and is the highest-ranking military official of these organizations. He is assisted by a Deputy Director, who is the highest-ranking civilian within the NSA/CSS.

NSA also has an Inspector General, head of the Office of the Inspector General (OIG), a General Counsel, head of the Office of the General Counsel (OGC) and a Director of Compliance, who is head of the Office of the Director of Compliance (ODOC).[181]

Unlike other intelligence organizations such as CIA or DIA, NSA has always been particularly reticent concerning its internal organizational structure.

Read more from the original source:
National Security Agency – Wikipedia

Dont Reauthorize NSA Spying in a Must-Pass Funding Bill …

The next two weeks will be a flurry of activity in Congress. Before they can leave for the holidays, our government mustat minimumpass at least one bill to keep the government running and also decide what to do about a controversial NSA spying authority called Section 702. Some legislators want to reauthorize Section 702, without meaningful reform, by attaching it to must-pass spending legislation. This is a terrible idea. The legislative process surrounding Section 702 already lacks necessary transparency and deliberation.

The new legislative stratagem gets complicated very quickly. Heres what you need to know.

On December 8th, Congress passed a temporary funding bill, or a Continuing Resolution (CR) to keep the government running until December 22. To prevent a government shutdown, Congress must either pass another CR by the new deadline, or ideally, finish writing the final funding bill for the rest of Fiscal Year 2018. This final funding bill is known as the omnibus.

Even though the Republican Party controls the House, the Senate,and the White House, GOP leadership has struggled to find enough consensus among their members to pass the omnibus. Instead, the government is limping along with a series of short-term CRs while avoiding hard decisions on longer term funding priorities. This constant negotiation on funding between the White House and Congressional leaders from both parties means that there is less time to negotiate other issues, like necessary reforms on Section 702 NSA spying program, which is scheduled to sunset at the end of this month.

Faced with multiple looming deadlines, legislators may be tempted to include Section 702 reauthorization in one of the funding bills. The allure of killing two (or more) birds with one stone often becomes overwhelming this time of year. Instead of taking the time to negotiate and navigate multiple difficult votes on various contentious bills, leadership finds it easier to find a majority only once.

After consulting with the various Chairmen of Committees of jurisdiction (in this case, the Intelligence and Judiciary Committees), Congressional leadership, along with the White House, will decide what will help them get the votes they need.

For example, a member who is not inclined to support a spending bill on its own may decide to vote yes on a spending bill that includes language to prohibit the NSAs controversial about searching. Of course, the reverse can also be true, which is why such discussions will happen behind closed doors.

Yes and no. Individual members or groups of members (often called Caucuses) would have to tell their leadership that they would not vote for any spending package that contains language they dont like. If the numbers work in their favor, and leadership believes them, this will keep the language out of the bill.

However, leadership may choose to call the members bluff. If the language is added over members objections, the members can still vote no on the whole bill. But that could cause the bill to fail and shut down the government. Government shutdowns are highly disruptive to many people, and thus politically risky. The members and the leadership take that into consideration. Its a high-risk game of chickenwith very real and long-term consequences.

Practically speaking, no. All the language in the CR is carefully negotiated behind closed doors, so leadership does not usually allow any amendments in case something accidentally passes that would cost them votes.

Once again, practically speaking, no.

In theory, no spending bill CR or omnibus should contain language that isnt related to funding the government. Of course, how we fund the government often has policy implications, which is why these bills are often so contentious and so tightly negotiated. For example, earlier this year Rep. Kevin Yoder (R-KS) sponsored language in a funding bill that would prevent law enforcement from using any taxpayer dollars to seize cloud-hosted documents (email, photos, etc) without a warrant. In practice, the policy impact of this language would have been quite similar to the Email Privacy Commutations Act, but Rep. Yoders language actually only prohibits funding these actions. Adding language that has nothing to do with government funding at all, like reauthorization of the Section 702 program, does happen, but it is rare.

A CR is even less appropriate than an omnibus as a vehicle to make new policy. As it is designed only to be a temporary, short-term measure, a CR is theoretically only a continuation of current funding levels, with no major funding changes and no major policy changes. In practice, this rule gets waived (at the discretion of the leadership), especially when pushed up against a deadline and when the added language brings in needed votes.

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In normal circumstances, all legislation is supposed to be public for at least a day before Congress votes on it. Unfortunately, these are not normal circumstances.

When there is a difficult, tightly negotiated bill and a looming deadline (like with both the CR and Section 702 reauthorization), the House of Representatives may enact something called martial law, allowing leadership to move quickly through debate and final passage as soon as they have an agreement – before the media or the public have an opportunity to comment.

EFF is in constant communication with members interested in reforming Section 702, and were fighting alongside them to make sure Section 702 reauthorization does not sneak through in the dead of night. Well make sure to let you know when we know!

No! While the legislative calendar may pose a challenge, it is completely unacceptable for Congressional leadership to shove Section 702 reauthorization into an end-of-year funding bill. This program invades the privacy of an untold number of Americans. Before it can be reauthorized, Congress must undertake a transparent and deliberative process to consider the impact this NSA surveillance has on Americans privacy.

It is troubling that a secretive NSA surveillance program may be reauthorized in a secret legislative backroom deal. But this program is too important to be hidden in a big funding bill, and members shouldnt be forced to choose between shutting down the federal government or violating the Fourth Amendment.

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Dont Reauthorize NSA Spying in a Must-Pass Funding Bill …

FACT CHECK: Did Clapper Get ‘Caught Lying To Congress’? – The Daily Caller

FACT CHECK: Did Clapper Get 'Caught Lying To Congress'?
The Daily Caller
Snowden then disclosed thousands of classified and confidential NSA documents to journalists and in doing so revealed a vast NSA spying apparatus on millions of Americans by the NSA. The exact size of the leak or number of documents leaked by …

and more »

More here:
FACT CHECK: Did Clapper Get ‘Caught Lying To Congress’? – The Daily Caller

The struggalo is real as radical ICP fans mobilize online – A.V. Club

If youve any interest in politics, rapping clowns, and/or the intersection of the two, youve probably heard by now that the National Mall has been double-booked on September 16, with the pro-Trump Mother of All Ralliespresumably named to honor the mothers who will be dropping protesters off at the marchset to collide with ICPs planned Juggalo March on Washington. The Juggalo march is in protest of the FBIs classification of ICP fans as a loosely organized hybrid gang, a label organizers say has unfairly cost Juggalos jobs and custody of their children, and encouraged police harassment of Juggalos.

Save for this one issue, ICP is not an explicitly political band, and there are some pro-Trump Juggalos. But the overlap between the Juggalo March and rabid Trumpies is likely to be minimal. Juggalos view their community as a loving family that accepts everyone just as they are, which is the opposite of what Nazi pricksor, as they prefer to be known, white nationalistsadvocate. And, in the unlikely venue of a Time magazine editorial on last years wave of creepy clown sightings, ICPs Violent J had this to say about the clowns in Washington:

These clowns threaten the very fabric on which our nation was supposedly founded uponand for some fing crazy-a reason, theyre getting away with it. From keystone-cop clowns shooting unarmed citizens, to racist clowns burning down Islamic centers or clowns in the NSA spying on us through our cell phones and laptops, America has turned into something far more terrifying than Insane Clown Posses Dark Carnival.

So perhaps it shouldnt be too much of a surprise that radical leftist Juggalos are mobilizing online in opposition to the Trump supporters who are giving clowns a bad name. One of those organizers runs a Twitter account called Struggalo Circus, a ragtag and messy coalition between radicals and juggalos which started in June with this tweet:

And distributed these Protesting 101 flyers at this years Gathering:

Well give that a whoop whoop. Struggalo Circus also has a Facebook group, and the feminist Juggalo group Lettes Respect has emerged to advocate for Juggalette rights. The rest of the Juggalo movement is less organized, but a quick search of the largest Juggalo March on Washington Facebook event turns up a number of left-leaning political posts, from the eloquentAll irony aside, Juggalos are true working class people suffering under the exploitive capitalist system and I would be proud to stand with yall against the rich elite class ruining our society and trashing our world. Can I get a whoop whoopto the more straightforward seems like theyre trying to lump us in with people spouting hate. We need to come in with a strong message of Juggalo Love.

Screenshot: Facebook

Screenshot: Facebook

This all goes down on September 16, when the M.O.A.R march is set to kick off at 11 a.m. at the Washington Monument, and the Juggalo March at noon at the Lincoln Memorial, according to Consequence Of Sound. Thats when well see if Juggalos truly are ready to, to quote ICPs 1992 song Your Rebel Flag, shit on a motherfuckin Rebel flag.

Submit your Great Job, Internet tips here.

Next Great Job, Internet! Watch America rid itself of Confederate statues with this constantly updating map

The struggalo is real as radical ICP fans mobilize online – A.V. Club

The Government Is Seeking Information on Anti-Trump Website Visitors and People Are Concerned – POPSUGAR

If you weren’t already concerned enough with the abnormal trickle-down effects of the Donald Trump White House, there’s something else you should worry about: the government potentially tracking you down because you visited an anti-Trump website.

The United States Department of Justice is trying to obtain visitor logs and IP addresses of anyone who visited, a web resource for various resistance-based activities associated with January’s inauguration. The DOJ is hoping to get information on more than 1.3 million IP addresses connected to the website from Dreamhost, the company that hosts the J20 website, in the hopes of connecting them to more than 200 people arrested during inaugural protests.

News of the measure comes in advance of a hearing to be held this Friday by the Washington DC Superior Court one that could shape how the government gains access to supposedly private First Amendment-protected free speech via online interactions. The move has been denounced by many in the digital rights community: the Electronic Frontier Foundation stated “no plausible explanation exists” for such an overreaching measure and it is monitoring the situation; digital advocacy blog Popehat called the matter “chilling” as the administration carries “overt hostility to protesters;” net neutrality nonprofit Fight For the Future simply stated that the issue is “outrageous government overreach;” and the ACLU wrote that there is a “vast danger” in letting the government target political speech in this way.

The DOJ’s move appears to put many online dissenters in potential danger, and experts like Bennet Kelley, founder of the Internet Law Center, are concerned. Kelley believes people should be worried about the government requesting this kind of private data. “What’s striking about this request is that they’re seeking anyone who went to the site without limitation to day,” Kelley tells POPSUGAR, explaining that offered information on everything from the Women’s March to maps of inaugural events.

Kelley contrasts a sweeping request like this to a “vacuum cleaner search,” one that hones in on what information is needed instead of demanding it all, as the former “burdens free speech” by giving the DOJ too much information. As Dreamhost noted in a statement that resists the request and supports users, using a site like is protected by the First Amendment as a means to “exercise and express political speech.”

Yet this situation isn’t entirely surprising. As Kelley points out, the leading web platforms have seen increasing numbers of government requests which have been shared in public reports. Facebook alone saw a nine percent increase in requests for user account data in the latter half of 2016. Moreover, technology users are mostly not protecting themselves, ignoring Edward Snowden’s distrust of US cloud services as they risk NSA spying and rarely reading terms and conditions. People are not protecting their free speech accordingly and, as the situation proves, tech users should be more vigilant in their online interactions.

At the heart of the issue is protecting online anonymity. Akin to Apple’s opposing the unlocking of the San Bernardino shooter’s phone, “Our success depends on our ability for people to feel secure on these platforms,” Kelley says. “[Anonymous speech] has a long history in our constitutional republic. It’s very highly regarded as a key element of speech.”

Beyond encrypting everything, people should feel empowered in another way: reach out to your congressperson and similar representatives to express concern. “If you are concerned about this, talk to your congressman or senator,” Kelley says. “Tell them you want to hold a hearing and that you want to restrict the Justice Department.”

Image Source: Getty / Drew Angerer

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The Government Is Seeking Information on Anti-Trump Website Visitors and People Are Concerned – POPSUGAR

Why Govt officials shouldn’t use Gmail, Yahoo or Hotmail – The Herald

On the October 14, 2013 there was a report that, on a single day, the National Security Agency (NSA)s Special Source Operations branch collected 444 743 email address books from Yahoo, 105 068 from Hotmail, 82 857 from Facebook, 33 697 from Gmail and 22 881 from other unspecified providers, The Washington Post said, according to an internal NSA presentation.

Furthermore, according to a report published in July 2017, Zimbabwe is number one Most Hackable Country in the World. Four years on (2017), following the Washington Post report, what concerns us in the Zimbabwe Information Communication Technologies (ZICT) sector is the fact that each and every Government employee who has an email address, including ministers, deputy ministers, Members of Parliament, permanent secretaries, etc has either a Gmail, Yahoo or a Hotmail, and uses it as a means of Government communication.

ZICT is one organisation that supports the use of Facebook, Twitter and other social media to reach out to the masses, but when it comes to official Government communication, officials should be stopped from using Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail or any other FREE email provider and use emails that are provided by our Government Internet Service Provider (GISP) (lets work on making it efficient).

The ZICT move comes amid concerns about rising cybercrime and hacking incidents that are constantly recorded worldwide. With the other being the well-publicised WikiLeaks and revelations of the US NSA spying, Zimbabwe should be drawing up an Email Policy to help secure Government communications. The use of Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail and the like is highly risky since these free email providers have their servers in the US and the NSA has been known to tap into their database systems. It is very clear that 100 percent, yes 100 percent of Zimbabwe Government officials use free email providers for official communication as all Government officials have a either a Gmail, Yahoo or Hotmail address as indicated on their official Government business cards.

I have a email, but the quality of our official Government email provided by Government Internet Service Provider (GISP) is not that great, as a Government official, you struggle to send or receive emails, hence the need to have a Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail, etc, a Government official added on condition of anonymity.

The Government of Zimbabwe has to come up with an Email Policy in the wake of spying allegations of the NSA revealed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden and WikiLeaks exposed by Julian Assange, to protect our Government communication channels. It is in the public domain that NSAs tentacles not only crept into the Zimbabwean embassy in Washington and its UN office in New York, but has also accessed email and chat messenger contact lists of hundreds of millions of ordinary citizens worldwide, according to media reports.

The Email Policy must be policy that states that all Government services, officials and ministers must rely on the GISP as the provider of a secure email service and that they cannot even forward email from their official Government email to their personal Gmail email.

It is a ZICT proposal that the Government of Zimbabwe provides a platform where ICT experts meet to find a lasting solution to the use of FREE email providers.

The move must be brought as a matter of urgency amid concerns about rising cybercrime and hacking incidents.

The Email Policy must seek to protect large amounts of critical Government data and aim to make it mandatory for Government offices to communicate only on GISP, not on commercial email services Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail, etc.

With TelOne having a Data Centre, these emails may be integrating in the TelOne cloud so that official data can be saved on a cloud platform and can then be easily shared with the concerned Government ministries, officials and departments.

What should give the Government of Zimbabwe goose bumps is the fact that NSA has a data-mining tool, called Boundless Informant, which gives details and even maps by country of the voluminous amount of information it collects from computer and telephone networks in any particular country. Considering that Zimbabwe is a sanctioned country and the passing of the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act of 2001, which is still in effect, there is no doubt that the Boundless Informant is definitely focusing on Zimbabwe.

As Zimbabwes elections are just round the corner, it will be ill-advised for the Government of Zimbabwe to ignore this information, considering that there is speculation that the Russians hacked the USA electoral system. How about us Zimbabwe?

Act now.

See original here:
Why Govt officials shouldn’t use Gmail, Yahoo or Hotmail – The Herald

EFF Urges Supreme Court to Take On Unconstitutional NSA Surveillance, Reverse Dangerous Ruling That Allows … – EFF

WASHINGTON, D.C.The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) asked the Supreme Court to review and overturn an unprecedented ruling allowing the government to intercept, collect, and storewithout a warrantmillions of Americans electronic communications, including emails, texts, phone calls, and online chats.

This warrantless surveillance is conducted by U.S. intelligence agencies under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The law is exceedingly broadSection 702 allows the government to conduct surveillance of any foreigner abroadand the law fails to protect the constitutional rights of Americans whose texts or emails are incidentally collected when communicating with those people.

This warrantless surveillance of Americans is unconstitutional and should be struck down.

Yet the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, ruling in U.S. v. Mohamud, decided that the Fourth Amendment doesnt apply to Americans whose communications were intercepted incidentally and searched without a warrant. The case centered on Mohammed Mohamud, an American citizen who in 2012 was charged with plotting to bomb a Christmas tree lighting ceremony in Oregon. After he had already been convicted, Mohamud was told for the first time that information used in his prosecution was obtained using Section 702. Further disclosures clarified that the government used the surveillance program known as PRISM, which gives U.S. intelligence agencies access to communications in the possession of Internet service providers such as Google, Yahoo, or Facebook, to obtain the emails at issue in the case. Mohamud sought to suppress evidence gathered through the warrantless spying, arguing that Section 702 was unconstitutional.

In a dangerous and unprecedented ruling, the Ninth Circuit upheld the warrantless search and seizure of Mohamuds emails. EFF, the Center for Democracy & Technology, and New Americas Open Technology Institute filed a petition today asking the Supreme Court to review that decision.

The ruling provides an end-run around the Fourth Amendment, converting sweeping warrantless surveillance directed at foreigners into a tool for spying on Americans, said EFF Senior Staff Attorney Mark Rumold. Section 702 is unlike any surveillance law in our countrys history, it is unconstitutional, and the Supreme Court should take this case to put a stop to this surveillance.

Section 702, which is set to expire in December unless Congress reauthorizes it, provides the government with broad authority to collect, retain, and search Americans international communications, even if they dont contain any foreign intelligence or evidence of a crime.

We urge the Supreme Court to review this case and Section 702, which subjects Americans to warrantless surveillance on an unknown scale, said EFF Staff Attorney Andrew Crocker. We have long advocated for reining in NSA mass surveillance, and the incidental collection of Americans private communications under Section 702 should be held unconstitutional once and for all.

For the petition:

For more on Section 702:

For more on NSA spying:

See the original post here:
EFF Urges Supreme Court to Take On Unconstitutional NSA Surveillance, Reverse Dangerous Ruling That Allows … – EFF

Supreme Court Asked to Look at Warrantless NSA Spying Powers – InsideSources

Digital rights advocates asked the U.S. Supreme Court Thursday to review the case of an American convicted with evidence gathered under FISA Section 702 warrantless National Security Agency surveillance authority meant to spy on foreign nationals.

Privacy and digital rights groups including the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) filed a petition Thursday with the nations highest court seeking review of the case ofMohammed Mohamud, an American citizen who was charged in 2012 with planning to car-bomb a Christmas tree lighting ceremony in Portland, Oregon. Information used to prosecute Mohamud was gathered using Section 702 of the 2008 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Amendments Act.

Section 702 authorizes NSA to tap the physical infrastructure of internet service providers, like fiber connections, to intercept foreign emails, instant messages, and other communications belonging to foreign nationals as they exit and enter the U.S. But according to NSA, the program also incidentally sweeps up the communications of Americans corresponding with, and until recently, merely even mentioning foreign targets.

NSA is legally barred from searching through Americans communications without a warrant, but that wasnt the case with Mohamud. His emails were intercepted specifically by a program dubbed PRISM, the existence of which was leaked to the press by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden in 2013. PRISMgives NSA access to communications transmitted over internet edge services like Google, Yahoo, or Facebook.

Mohamud learned after his conviction that his emails were gathered under Section 702 and sought to suppress the evidence, arguing its gathering violated his Fourth Amendment rights against search and seizure without a warrant. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit noted the governments conduct was quite aggressive at times but upheld the search, a move EFF, the Center for Democracy and Technology and New Americas Open Technology Institute call dangerous and unprecedented.

The ruling provides an end-run around the Fourth Amendment, converting sweeping warrantless surveillance directed at foreigners into a tool for spying on Americans, Mark Rumold, a staff attorney for EFF, said Thursday. Section 702 is unlike any surveillance law in our countrys history, it is unconstitutional, and the Supreme Court should take this case to put a stop to this surveillance.

The groups add weight to a Supreme Court petition filed by Mohamuds attorneys in July, and join a long list of battles from the courts to Congress over the legality of Section 702. Wikimedia and the ACLU are suing the government over the use of Section 702 in theFourth Circuit Court of Appeals, and Congress has held several hearings this year to debate the laws renewal ahead of its expiration at the end of December.

Section 702 is at the heart of a dispute between Oregon Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, the nations top spy chief. Wyden has pressed Coats and his predecessor to provide an estimate of the number of Americans incidentally swept up in Section 702 that both claim is impossible to produce. The senator has further suggested the authority could be used to warrantlessly target Americans directly.

Congresss concerns over Section 702 have become a point of rare bipartisanship for some. Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul has fought alongside Wyden to peel back the curtain on Section 702. South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsay Graham is grilling intelligence officials for information about what Section 702 gathers on lawmakers and other members of government, and if those intercepts can and are used to politically target government officials like former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.

In testimony to Congress intelligence chiefs including NSA Director Mike Rogers have admitted Section 702 programs have a history of compliance issues, some highlighted by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which approves more than 99 percent of the governments secret surveillance requests.

The typically intel-friendly court chastised the government for an institutional lack of candor on a very serious Fourth Amendment issue. One such opinion said NSA has engaged in significant overcollection . . . including the content of communications of non-target U.S. persons and persons in the U.S.

As a result, NSA in April suspended a Section 702 practice known as about collection when NSA sweeps up American emails and text messages exchanged with overseas users that simply mention search terms like an email address belonging to a target but isnt to or from a target.

The agency recently told Congress its working on a technical solution to reengage about collection.

All of the pushback comes as intelligence leaders pressure Congress not just to renew Section 702 but implement it permanently. Top Republicans and Democrats have endorsed the idea, including Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn of Texas and Intelligence Committee Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein of California.

In a recent interview, Snowden said using Section 702 to surveil Americans requires the agency to engage in little more than word games. Privacy advocates suspect the loophole created by Section 702 likelyamounts to millions or even hundreds of millions of warrantless interceptionsbelonging to Americans.

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Original post:
Supreme Court Asked to Look at Warrantless NSA Spying Powers – InsideSources

Quickly – Chicago Tribune

What’s Quickly? It’s where readers sound off on the issues of the day. Have a quote, question or quip? Call Quickly at 312-222-2426 or email

Attention Quickly: Why not be creative and kind? How about having a TRUMP-FREE day!

Incompetence and ego have started more than one bloody war in history. This situation is exactly what most people feared about electing Trump.

We have a history of leaders starting wars to solve problems at home. If a few million people die, they think that’s a fair price to protect their greatness. Any fool can start a war, but once it’s started, it almost never goes as expected.

President Trump warned North Korea that his threats “will be met with fire and fury and frankly power the likes the world has never seen.” Great, one unstable madman threatening another unstable madman. We could really use a thoughtful, sober, sane president right now.

Reading about the Buncich trial I found two interesting things. One was the e-mails about ethics and political activities on government time. And the concern about being recorded at these meetings. Everyone knew what they were doing was wrong, yet they were trying to cover their tracks.

Almost every day there is a comment from someone lamenting those who do not let this president “do his job.” If you want to be angry at someone, be angry at Mr. Trump, he refuses to do any real work. He is the one that has broken rules and laws that have created a need for an investigation. Don’t be mad at the people that criticize his shortcomings, they have that right.

It’s been five days since Quickly has posted their hate the president comments. You don’t think they ran out of hate, do you?

The Justice Department is siding with Ohio in a legal fight of their state’s purging of infrequent voters from its election rolls. They think that if you don’t vote in three elections you should be removed. People have the right to not vote in an election, that does not give the state the right to remove them.

Food for thought: If one is willing to betray their own country for money or power, they will turn on their co-conspirators in order to save themselves in a heartbeat.

President Trump promised to tackle the growing epidemic of opioid abuse in the United States after blaming his predecessor for not doing more to stem the surge of drug overdoses. But he offered no specific ideas for how he would do so. To recap, he was really, really bad. I will be really, really good. But I don’t know what the heck that I am doing. Everyone good?

Sean Hannity is threatening to sue President Obama over illegal NSA spying. How could he have standing to sue unless he was harmed by unmasking? Another diversion to get the heat away from Russia?

Does anybody know who’s picketing Regional Rental and why? They’ve been there for a while but they don’t gave any contact info posted and there’s nowhere to pull over to ask what’s up. I also will never cross a picket line, so I can’t go in and ask.

Fox News has so many problems with their staff. I think a bigger bombshell would be discovering a male Fox employee hasn’t been a total creep to women.

President Trump’s Department of Transportation just gave a $10 million grant to the Port of Indiana-Burns Harbor to upgrade the facility. I wonder how many hypocrites will be there to accept the money and then go home to bash the very hand that feeds them. Will this sore loser syndrome ever end? The president is doing so many great things for our country.

Vicente Fox, former president of Mexico sent President Trump two Tweets. “Hey Trump, I’m watching this really bad reality TV show with low ratings called Survivor White House, I can’t change the channel. Sad.” “Leaving on vacation, huh? What for? If you’re not happy with your job, just leave. After all, it was never for you.”

On the Fox News website: “Would you even care if he was guilty?” It makes the argument that things are supposedly going so wonderfully in America under Trump, perhaps no one should care if Trump is guilty of conspiring with Russia to rig the election. This is the propaganda that Fox News feeds the brainwashed.

Trump said, “After 200 days, rarely has any administration achieved what we have achieved, not even close.” Right, no administration has achieved this level of public contempt, unbridled stupidity or complete chaos this quickly.


See the rest here:
Quickly – Chicago Tribune

Newly declassified memos detail extent of improper Obama-era NSA spying – MTNV

The National Security Agency and FBI violated specific civil liberty protections during the Obama administrationby improperly searching and disseminating raw intelligence on Americans or failing to promptly delete unauthorized intercepts, according to newly declassified memos that provide some of the richest detail to date on the spy agencies ability to obey their own rules.

The memos reviewed by The Hill were publicly released on July 11 through Freedom of Information Act litigation by the American Civil Liberties Union.

They detail specific violations that the NSA or FBI disclosed to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court or the Justice Departments national security division during President Obamas tenure between 2009 and 2016. The intelligence community isnt due to report on compliance issues for 2017, the first year under the Trump administration, until next spring.

ADVERTISEMENTThe NSA says that the missteps amount to a small number less than 1 percent when compared to the hundreds of thousands of specific phone numbers and email addresses the agencies intercepted through theso-called Section 702 warrantless spying program created by Congress in late 2008.

Quite simply, a compliance program that never finds an incident is not a robust compliance program, said Michael Halbig, theNSAs chief spokesman. The National Security Agency has in place a strong compliance program that identifies incidents, reports them to external overseers, and then develops appropriate solutions to remedy any incidents.

But critics say the memos undercut the intelligence communitys claim that it has robust protections for Americans incidentally intercepted under the program.

Americans should be alarmed that theNSAisvacuuming up their emails and phone calls without a warrant, said , an ACLU staff attorney in New York who helped pursue the FOIA litigation.TheNSAclaims it has rules to protectour privacy, but it turns out those rules are weak, full of loopholes, andviolated again and again.

Section 702 empowers the NSA to spy on foreign powers and to retain and use certain intercepted data that was incidentally collected on Americans under strict privacy protections. Wrongly collected information is supposed to be immediately destroyed.

The Hill reviewed the new ACLU documents as well as compliance memos released by the NSA inspector general and identified more than 90 incidents where violations specifically cited an impact on Americans. Many incidents involved multiple persons, multiple violations or extended periods of time.

For instance, thegovernment admitted improperly searching the NSAs foreign intercept data on multiple occasions, including one instance in which ananalyst ran the same search query about an American every work day for a period between 2013 and 2014.

There also were several instances in which Americans unmasked names were improperly shared inside the intelligence community without being redacted, a violation of the so-called minimization procedures that Obama loosened in 2011that are supposed to protect Americans identity from disclosure when they are intercepted without a warrant.Numerous times improperly unmasked information about Americans had to be recalled and purged after the fact, the memos stated.

CIA and FBI received unminimized data from many Section 702-tasked facilities and at times are thus required to conduct similar purges, one report noted.

NSAissued a report which included the name of a United States person whose identity was not foreign intelligence, said one typical incident report from 2015, which said theNSAeventually discovered the error and recalled the information.

Likewise, the FBI disclosed three instances between December 2013 and February 2014 of improper disseminations of U.S. persons identities.

TheNSAalso admitted it was slow in some cases to notify fellow intelligence agencies when it wrongly disseminated information about Americans. The law requires a notificationwithin five days, but some took as long as 131 business days and the average was 19 days, the memos show.

U.S. intelligence officials directly familiar with the violations told The Hill that the memos confirm that the intelligence agencies have routinely policed, fixed and self-disclosed to the nations intelligence court thousands of minor procedural and more serious privacy infractions that have impacted both Americans and foreigners alike since the warrantless spying program was created by Congress in late 2008.

Alexander Joel, who leads the Office of Civil Liberties, Privacy and Transparency under the director of national intelligence, said the documents chronicle episodes that have been reported to Congress and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court for years in real time and are a tribute to the multiple layers of oversight inside the intelligence community.

We take every compliance incident very seriously and continually strive to improve compliance through our oversight regime and as evidence by our reporting requirements to the FISC and Congress, he told The Hill. That said, we believe that, particularly when compared with the overall level of activity, the compliance incident rate is very low.

The FBI said it believes it has adequate oversight to protect Americans privacy, while signaling it will be pushing Congress hard this fall to renew the Section 702 law before it expires.

The FBIs mission is to protect the American people and uphold the Constitution of the United States, the bureau said in a statement to The Hill. When Congress enacted Section 702, it built in comprehensive oversight and compliance procedures that involve all three branches of government. These procedures are robust and effective in identifying compliance incidents. The documents released on July 11, 2017 clearly show the FBIs extensive efforts to follow the law, and to identify, report, and remedy compliance matters.

Section 702 is vital to the safety and security of the American people. It is one of the most valuable tools the Intelligence Community has, and therefore, is used with the utmost care by the men and women of the FBI so as to not jeopardize future utility. As such, we continually evaluate our internal policies and procedures to further reduce the number of these compliance matters.

The new documents show that theNSAhas, on occasion, exempted itself from its legal obligation to destroy all domestic communications that were improperly intercepted.

Under the law, theNSAis supposed to destroy any intercept if it determines the data was domestically gathered, meaning someone was intercepted on U.S. soil without a warrant when the agency thought they were still overseas. The NSA, however, has said previously it created destruction waivers to keep such intercepts in certain cases.

The new documents confirm theNSAhas in fact issued such waivers and that it uncovered in 2012 a significant violation in which the waivers were improperly used and the infraction was slow to be reported to the court.

In light of related filings being presented to the Court at the same time this incident was discovered and the significance of the incident, DOJ should have reported this incident under the our immediate notification process, then-Assistant Attorney General Lisa Monaco wrote the FISA court in Aug. 28, 2012, about the episode, according to one memo released through FOIA.

TheNSAdeclined to say how often destruction waivers are given. But Joel, of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, said the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court has supervised such waivers and affirmed they are consistent with the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution and the statutory requirements of Section 702.

Other violations cited in the memos:

In annual and quarterly compliance reports that have been released in recent years, U.S. intelligence agencies have estimated the number of Section 702 violations has averaged between 0.3 percent and 0.6 percent of the total number of taskings. A tasking is an intelligence term that reflects a request to intercept a specific phone number or email address.

The NSA now targets more than 100,000 individuals a year under Section 702 for foreign spying, and some individual targets get multiple taskings, officials said.

The actual number of compliance incidents remains classified but from the publicly available data it is irrefutable that the number is in the thousands since Section 702 was fully implemented by 2009, said a senior U.S. official with direct knowledge, who spoke only on condition of anonymity.

The increasing transparency on Section 702 violations is having an impact on both critics and supporters of a law that is up for renewal in Congress at the end of this year. Of concern are the instances in which Americans data is incidentally collected and then misused.

Retired House Intelligence Committee Chairman Pete Hoekstra, a Republican who strongly supported the NSA warrantless spying program when it started under President George W. Bush, said he now fears it has now become too big and intrusive.

If I were still in Congress today, I might vote with the people today to shut the program down or curtail it, Hoekstra, who has been tapped by Trump to be ambassador to the Netherlands, said in an interview.

One percent or less sounds great, but the truth is 1percent of my credit card charges dont come back wrong every month. And in my mind one percent is pretty sloppy when it can impact Americans privacy.

This story was updated at 10:38 a.m.

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Newly declassified memos detail extent of improper Obama-era NSA spying – MTNV