Posts Tagged ‘Edward Snowden’

Edward Snowden talks to German TV

January 29, 2014

Edward Snowden talking to Germany’s NDR who he chose to make his first television interview since he blew the whistle on NSA’s global dragnet and illegal surveillance. The 30-minute interview was made in strict secrecy in an unspecified location in Russia, where Snowden is currently living under temporary asylum.

At the beginning of the interview, Edward Snowden talks of seeking Russian police protection, because of threats to kill him by the military-security-industrial complex in the US.

If we contract security and intelligence out to private companies, we run two risks: the first is they inflate the value of the intelligence for their own profit, the second is that they use the intelligence for their own commercial gain.

Welcome to Police State UK

August 19, 2013
David Miranda and Glenn Greenwald

David Miranda and Glenn Greenwald

David Miranda, Brazilian associate of journalist Glenn Greenwald, detained and questioned by the police for nine hours, laptop, camera, mobile phone, memory stick seized, as he passed through Heathrow en route from Berlin to Brazil.

Detention was made using police powers, because they could.

Irrespective of the use of anti-terrorism legislation, it would appear to have been a crude attempt to intimidate Glenn Greenwald, and by implication, intimidation of Edward Snowden by association.

As Greenwald says, the detention had absolutely nothing to do with terrorism as no questions were asked on terrorism:

The stated purpose of this law, as the name suggests, is to question people about terrorism. The detention power, claims the UK government, is used “to determine whether that person is or has been involved in the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism.”

But they obviously had zero suspicion that David was associated with a terrorist organization or involved in any terrorist plot. Instead, they spent their time interrogating him about the NSA reporting which Laura Poitras, the Guardian and I are doing, as well the content of the electronic products he was carrying. They completely abused their own terrorism law for reasons having nothing whatsoever to do with terrorism: a potent reminder of how often governments lie when they claim that they need powers to stop “the terrorists”, and how dangerous it is to vest unchecked power with political officials in its name.

Worse, they kept David detained right up until the last minute: for the full 9 hours, something they very rarely do. Only at the last minute did they finally release him. We spent all day – as every hour passed – worried that he would be arrested and charged under a terrorism statute. This was obviously designed to send a message of intimidation to those of us working journalistically on reporting on the NSA and its British counterpart, the GCHQ.

Before letting him go, they seized numerous possessions of his, including his laptop, his cellphone, various video game consoles, DVDs, USB sticks, and other materials. They did not say when they would return any of it, or if they would.

David Miranda was en route from a meeting with independent filmmaker Laura Poitras. Laura Poitras has been repeatedly harassed by the US. David Miranda says during his nine hour period of detention, he was questioned by six different agents and asked about his entire life.

Under Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act of 2000, police do not have to have reasonable suspicion to detain up nine hours and seize equipment for one week, they can do so because they are seeking information on terrorism. Those detained are obliged to answer questions, failure to do so is a criminal offence. Those detained are not entitled to be represented by a lawyer.

According to David Anderson, independent reviewer of Terrorism legislation, speaking on BBC Radio 4 lunchtime news programme World at One, 60-70,000 people have been detained under Schedule 7 but only 40 detained longer than six hours.

Tom Watson MP is demanding answers, as is Keith Vaaz MP chair of House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee. Amnesty International has condemned the detention, as has Liberty, as the NUJ, as has the Society of Editors. Brazil has lodged a formal complaint with the UK.

Are all those who now question the state, now terrorists?

When Glenn Greenwald and Edward Snowden exposed the extent to which the state in the US and the UK was spying on its citizens, the knee-jerk reaction was at one end of the spectrum the two should be summarily executed for treason, to the other end of the spectrum the ordinary citizen has nothing to fear.

The detention of David Miranda for nine hours for no other reason than intimidation, shows the ordinary citizen has everything to fear.

Who ordered the detention? How did they know David Miranda was passing through? Were they aware of his visit to Laura Poitras? At the very least David Miranda must be on a watch list, his name flagged up.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4 evening news programme The World Tonight, John Schindler, former NSA and now Professor of National Security Affairs at the US Naval War College in Newport Rhode Island where he is a specialist on intelligence and terrorism, has said he does not regard Glenn Greenwald as a real journalist, and if he was he, he would be very careful where he traveled.

Writing in exile, is something dating from Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn and Stalinist Russia, or maybe Iranians outside of Iran. But no, Glenn Greenwald is having to write from Brazil. Guardian editor-in-chief Alan Rusbridger is now based outside the UK. The Guardian has had government agents pay them a visit and trash hard drives.

Does this sound like an open and democratic country?

Welcome to Police State UK!

NSA Whistleblower Thomas Drake speaks at National Press Club

July 7, 2013

Edward Snowden is not the only NSA whistleblower. Another is Thomas Drake.

Forcing down Evo Morales’s plane was an act of air piracy

July 4, 2013

Denying the Bolivian president air space was a metaphor for the gangsterism that now rules the world

President Evo Morales arrives at El Alto airport in La Paz

President Evo Morales arrives at El Alto airport in La Paz

Imagine the aircraft of the president of France being forced down in Latin America on “suspicion” that it was carrying a political refugee to safety – and not just any refugee but someone who has provided the people of the world with proof of criminal activity on an epic scale.

Imagine the response from Paris, let alone the “international community”, as the governments of the west call themselves. To a chorus of baying indignation from Whitehall to Washington, Brussels to Madrid, heroic special forces would be dispatched to rescue their leader and, as sport, smash up the source of such flagrant international gangsterism. Editorials would cheer them on, perhaps reminding readers that this kind of piracy was exhibited by the German Reich in the 1930s.

The forcing down of Bolivian President Evo Morales’s plane – denied airspace by France, Spain and Portugal, followed by his 14-hour confinement while Austrian officials demanded to “inspect” his aircraft for the “fugitive” Edward Snowden – was an act of air piracy and state terrorism. It was a metaphor for the gangsterism that now rules the world and the cowardice and hypocrisy of bystanders who dare not speak its name.

In Moscow, Morales had been asked about Snowden – who remains trapped in the city’s airport. “If there were a request [for political asylum],” he said, “of course, we would be willing to debate and consider the idea.” That was clearly enough provocation for the Godfather. “We have been in touch with a range of countries that had a chance of having Snowden land or travel through their country,” said a US state department official.

The French – having squealed about Washington spying on their every move, as revealed by Snowden – were first off the mark, followed by the Portuguese. The Spanish then did their bit by enforcing a flight ban of their airspace, giving the Godfather’s Viennese hirelings enough time to find out if Snowden was indeed invoking article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states: “Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.”

Those paid to keep the record straight have played their part with a cat-and-mouse media game that reinforces the Godfather’s lie that this heroic young man is running from a system of justice, rather than preordained, vindictive incarceration that amounts to torture – ask Bradley Manning and the living ghosts in Guantánamo.

Historians seem to agree that the rise of fascism in Europe might have been averted had the liberal or left political class understood the true nature of its enemy. The parallels today are very different, but the Damocles sword over Snowden, like the casual abduction of Bolivia’s president, ought to stir us into recognising the true nature of the enemy.

Snowden’s revelations are not merely about privacy, or civil liberty, or even mass spying. They are about the unmentionable: that the democratic facades of the US now barely conceal a systematic gangsterism historically identified with, if not necessarily the same as, fascism. On Tuesday, a US drone killed 16 people in North Waziristan, “where many of the world’s most dangerous militants live”, said the few paragraphs I read. That by far the world’s most dangerous militants had hurled the drones was not a consideration. President Obama personally sends them every Tuesday.

In his acceptance of the 2005 Nobel prize in literature, Harold Pinter referred to “a vast tapestry of lies, upon which we feed”. He asked why “the systematic brutality, the widespread atrocities” of the Soviet Union were well known in the west while America’s crimes were “superficially recorded, let alone documented, let alone acknowledged”. The most enduring silence of the modern era covered the extinction and dispossession of countless human beings by a rampant US and its agents. “But you wouldn’t know it,” said Pinter. “It never happened. Even while it was happening it never happened.”

This hidden history – not really hidden, of course, but excluded from the consciousness of societies drilled in American myths and priorities – has never been more vulnerable to exposure. Snowden’s whistleblowing, like that of Manning and Julian Assange and WikiLeaks, threatens to break the silence Pinter described. In revealing a vast Orwellian police state apparatus servicing history’s greatest war-making machine, they illuminate the true extremism of the 21st century. Unprecedented, Germany’s Der Spiegel has described the Obama administration as “soft totalitarianism”. If the penny is falling, we might all look closer to home.

John Pilger

Published in The Guardian.

As this drama unfolded on Tuesday night, I was shocked, the presidential plane (which I assume has diplomatic immunity), of a neutral country with which we are not at war, was denied airspace over France, Portugal and Italy, and finally forced to land in Austria as an emergency as running out of fuel.

In the past this action would have been seen as an Act of War. The Bolivian Minister of Defence who was on board said it put at risk the lives of those on board the presidential aircraft.

The reason for the actions of these countries in denial airspace and Austria demanding to search the plane was rumours that Edward Snowden may be on board.

How spineless were these countries, jumping to the diktat of the US.

Wednesday I turned on the radio, expecting to hear extensive coverage. There was nothing, nada, a total news blackout.

I should not be shocked, not even surprised, this is the way the world works. The US super bully barks and the rest of the world jumps.

These same countries which denied airspace to President Morales of Bolivia, were only too happy to allow US extraordinary rendition flights taking captives to US offshore torture camps.

This is not even about detaining, capturing or killing Edward Snowden who has exposed the extent of the criminal activities of the US. This is about sending a very clear warning to any future whistle blowers, you will be hounded to the ends of the earth, if we catch you, you will be tortured as we have tortured as we have tortured Bradley Manning.

Edward Snowden leaves reporters chasing shadows around an airport

June 24, 2013

US whistleblower’s rumoured arrival then non-departure from Russia leaves many in Moscow asking: was he ever even here?

The Aeroflot Airbus A330 that was expected to carry Edward Snowden to Havana waits at the gate at Sheremetyevo airport in Moscow. Photograph: Sergei Ivanov/AP

The Aeroflot Airbus A330 that was expected to carry Edward Snowden to Havana waits at the gate at Sheremetyevo airport in Moscow. Photograph: Sergei Ivanov/AP

As the Aeroflot jet bound for Havana rolled away from the gate at Sheremetyevo airport, the question became: was he ever even really here?

For more than 24 hours the sprawling international airport on Moscow’s northern outskirts was the site of an intricate game of cat-and-mouse. The target: Edward Snowden, sought by an enraged US, which has charged him with leaking classified documents on US surveillance programmes and warned countries suspected of abetting his escape.

The action culminated at 2pm on Monday afternoon outside gate 28, where Snowden was checked in for a flight to Havana, another stopover en route to Venezuela or Ecuador, where he had sought political asylum.

Dozens of journalists assembled at the window, hoping to spot the man who had eluded them for endless hours inside Sheremetyevo’s winding halls. Hours later, they imagined, they would have Snowden cornered, ready to spill his innermost thoughts as the plane hurtled towards Havana for a full 12 hours.

The news zoomed through the hall – Russian news agencies reported that Snowden and his travelling companion, Sarah Harrison of WikiLeaks, had checked into seats 17A and 17C. Those seated nearby were giddy.

As the plane started to board, more than a dozen Aeroflot agents converged on the gate and ushered reporters away from the windows.

They threatened to confiscate cameras and telephones, and attempted to block the view. Some journalists said they were ready to hide their telephones in their pants. Anything for a snap of Snowden.

One by one, the journalists got on board – all the world’s media, and Russia’s too. The line dwindled to a crawl and the Aeroflot agents began to whisper: “He’s not on board.”

The gate closed. A detachable staircase pulled away from the aircraft. The Airbus began to roll backward. “He’s not on board,” said Nikolai Sokolov, an Aeroflot gate employee, his eyes wide. “I was waiting for him myself.”

Around two dozen journalists settled in for the 12-hour journey to Havana – a flight on which no alcohol is served, much to the chagrin of the reporters, many of whom aren’t used to going half a day without a stiff drink.

And, yet again, Snowden was nowhere to be found.

He was reportedly in Moscow for 21 hours but no photographs or video of him have emerged – no leaks from the Federal Security Service or police, who use the website Life News to broadcast the news they want the world to see.

Moscow has made its overtures to Snowden obvious, with Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, repeatedly saying the Kremlin would consider an asylum request from the American, as it would from any other. But the events come amid the worst Russian-US relations since the end of the cold war, with the Kremlin once again making anti-Americanism a central governing pillar. The sight of a US whistleblower, hounded by his own government, being welcomed on Russian soil would be nothing short of a coup.

But was he ever here?

When it emerged on Sunday morning that Snowden had boarded Aeroflot flight SU23 from Hong Kong to Moscow en route to an undisclosed third country, journalists streamed towards the airport. They shoved pictures of Snowden into the faces of disembarking passengers, asking: “Have you seen this man?”

Most shrugged and pushed on through the crowd. Two Spanish men, transiting through Moscow en route to Madrid, thought that maybe one of them had. It was the first suspected sighting of a man who would become a ghost.

Russian news agencies jumped into the story, issuing a host of contradictory information by citing an endless stream of anonymous sources. “Snowden is in the transit area!” “Snowden has been examined by an Ecuadorian doctor.” While the Hong Kong-Moscow plane was still in midair, somewhere over the Siberian city of Omsk, the Kremlin’s English-language channel, Russia Today, flashed: “Snowden already in Russia – SOURCE.”

Journalists were not alone in waiting for Snowden. Outside the transit area in terminal F, a grey branch of the airport that remains frozen in Soviet times, plainclothes officers attempted to blend in. As the day wore on, more and more arrived, some following reporters from a distance, others guarding heavy doors that appeared to lead nowhere.

Snowden is believed to have landed in Moscow shortly after 5pm on Sunday. Lacking a Russian visa, and stripped of his US passport anyway, he could not leave the airport. That left the Capsule Hotel, a newly opened site in Sheremetyevo’s terminal E, featuring sparse suites with room for little more than a bed. Receptionists there examined photos of Snowden and said they had never seen him.

As evening began to fall, Ecuador’s ambassador to Moscow arrived. He too was seeking Snowden (the country’s foreign minister later said it had received an asylum request). He did not know where to find Snowden. He was still waiting in the airport, empty of its daytime rush, at 2am on Monday. It was unclear whether he had, at that point, achieved his goal.

The comparisons began to roll in. It was like that Tom Hanks movie The Terminal, about a stateless man stuck in New York’s JFK airport.

Or like that other Tom Hanks movie, Catch Me If You Can. The overtones of Waiting for Godot, about expecting the arrival of a man who never arrives, were, perhaps, too obvious.

Nothing like that was to come. Those chasing Snowden resorted to following ridiculous leads – was that group of Russian agents milling around a handicapped people’s bathroom hiding Snowden? That airport employee, rolling a tray with three plates, was she about to feed Snowden, Harrison and an unknown third party? That man with the sunglasses, he kind of looks like him, doesn’t he?

By 4pm on Monday, after spending 27 consecutive hours inside Sheremetyevo’s barely air-conditioned halls, Lidia Kelly, a journalist with Reuters, squinted her eyes in the direction of an overweight senior citizen and asked: “Wait, is that Julian Assange?”

The hunt for Snowden continues.

Published in The Guardian.

Edward Snowden is a former CIA agent. Give the guy credit for having some tradecraft.

Would he really have announced flight etc. Of course not. Set a false trail, then vanish.

This is like watching a Robert Ludlum novel unfold in real life.

US Secretary of State John Kerry speaking from India has reinforced the world view of the US as a bullying thug. Without pausing to draw breath he threatened Hong Kong, China, Russia, and any other state which may or may even think about granting Edward Snowden safe passage.

Tell Obama: Hands Off Edward Snowden!‏

June 24, 2013

Hard to imagine anyone of sound mind who doesn’t hope that Edward Snowden stays free. — Jon Snow

The US has bullied Hong Kong, threatened China and Russia, there is therefore every possibility that US jets will be scrambled to intercept a passenger jet carrying Edward Snowden or try to force it to land.

Please sign the petition telling Obama, hands off Edward Snowden.

Please repost, tweet, e-mail to your friends.

Edward Snowden: A cat and mouse game

June 23, 2013
Edward Snowden charged with spying

Edward Snowden charged with spying

Edward Snowden Hong Kong statement

Edward Snowden Hong Kong statement

If Bradley Manning had not been so abused by the US authorities, one’s concern for the fate of Snowden might not be so considerable. — Jon Snow

I think this really illustrates how vindictive this president is and how much acrimony he has towards any kind of transparency. — Glenn Greenwald

A game of cat and mouse is being played out.

The US authorities have charged Edward Snowden with spying.

Spying implies working for a foreign agent or passing information to a foreign agent.

The charges against Snowden represent the seventh instance under the Obama presidency that the Espionage Act of 1917 has been used. During all previous American presidencies, the law has been used in a total of three instances to bring charges.

Edward Snowden has done neither. Edward Snowden has exposed a massive illegal surveillance operated by the state.

We should be applauding Edward Snowden, we should be throwing a party for him.

Secret courts have determined what is legal, what is not legal. Justice has to be seen to be done, only police states have secret courts.

It is claimed numerous terror plots have been stalled. But the evidence would appear to show the opposite. It is always easy to claim something that cannot easily be verified.

Did mass surveillance stop female students being massacred on a bus? Did it stop climbers being shot dead in cold blood?

After hacking their computers and phones, US demands cooperation from countries who may just choose to aid Edward Snowden.

Is is unbelievable, US threatened China, if Hong Kong did not hand over Edward Snowden.

US has been bullying Hong Kong to hand over Edward Snowden, but they are too late, he has fled to Moscow.

Two cars of the embassy of Ecuador in Moscow are parked outside the terminal where Edward Snowden, the former contractor for the U.S. National Security Agency, is believed to have landed in Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport, June 23, 2013.(Reuters / Maxim Shemetov)

Two cars of the embassy of Ecuador in Moscow are parked outside the terminal where Edward Snowden, the former contractor for the U.S. National Security Agency, is believed to have landed in Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport, June 23, 2013.(Reuters / Maxim Shemetov)

He may then travel on to Ecuador, as according to a their foreign minister, he has applied for political assylum in that country.

Does this mean we all have to cultivate friends in Russia, just in case we are obliged to flee?

Now US is warning Russia, if the do not hand over Edward Snowden.

Do I get the impression the bully on the block has got a bit too big for its boots, and having not got its way, is now throwing a tantrum?

Thank God we have Wikileaks!

The petition in support of Edward Snowden has now passed 100,000 signatures!

And who is the state spying on? Activists who campaigned against McDonald’s, the family of murdered teenager Stephen Lawrence.

Those who grew up in the Cold War, did so under a constant barrage of propaganda that everything the other side of the Iron Curtain was bad, that all they did was spy on their own citizens, anyone who spoke out was sent to Gulag.

Are we not now finding that the West was no different? Nineteen Eighty-Four writ large, not only is Big Brother watching our every move, but there are three power blocs, anyone who is an enemy of Big Brother is an enemy of the people and must be eliminated, a world where we are at constant war, a world of privileges for the few, poverty for the masses.

What is utterly incomprehensible, there are hacks (it would elevate their status to call them journalists) like David Gregory who are calling for the prosecution of journalists like Glenn Greenwald for doing their job, holding those in power to account. I assume David Gregory wishes US to be like Turkey or Zimbabwe. Obviously he has not read the US Constitution that guarantees a free press press. No society can be free without a free press, and that means free of corporate control, not just state control.

GCHQ taps fibre-optic cables for secret access to world’s communications

June 21, 2013

Exclusive: British spy agency collects and stores vast quantities of global email messages, Facebook posts, internet histories and calls, and shares them with NSA, latest documents from Edward Snowden reveal

GCHQ Mastering the Internet

GCHQ Mastering the Internet

Britain’s spy agency GCHQ has secretly gained access to the network of cables which carry the world’s phone calls and internet traffic and has started to process vast streams of sensitive personal information which it is sharing with its American partner, the National Security Agency (NSA).

The sheer scale of the agency’s ambition is reflected in the titles of its two principal components: Mastering the Internet and Global Telecoms Exploitation, aimed at scooping up as much online and telephone traffic as possible. This is all being carried out without any form of public acknowledgement or debate.

One key innovation has been GCHQ’s ability to tap into and store huge volumes of data drawn from fibre-optic cables for up to 30 days so that it can be sifted and analysed. That operation, codenamed Tempora, has been running for some 18 months.

GCHQ and the NSA are consequently able to access and process vast quantities of communications between entirely innocent people, as well as targeted suspects.

This includes recordings of phone calls, the content of email messages, entries on Facebook and the history of any internet user’s access to websites – all of which is deemed legal, even though the warrant system was supposed to limit interception to a specified range of targets.

The existence of the programme has been disclosed in documents shown to the Guardian by the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden as part of his attempt to expose what he has called “the largest programme of suspicionless surveillance in human history”.

“It’s not just a US problem. The UK has a huge dog in this fight,” Snowden told the Guardian. “They [GCHQ] are worse than the US.”

However, on Friday a source with knowledge of intelligence argued that the data was collected legally under a system of safeguards, and had provided material that had led to significant breakthroughs in detecting and preventing serious crime.

Britain’s technical capacity to tap into the cables that carry the world’s communications – referred to in the documents as special source exploitation – has made GCHQ an intelligence superpower.

By 2010, two years after the project was first trialled, it was able to boast it had the “biggest internet access” of any member of the Five Eyes electronic eavesdropping alliance, comprising the US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

UK officials could also claim GCHQ “produces larger amounts of metadata than NSA”. (Metadata describes basic information on who has been contacting whom, without detailing the content.)

By May last year 300 analysts from GCHQ, and 250 from the NSA, had been assigned to sift through the flood of data.

The Americans were given guidelines for its use, but were told in legal briefings by GCHQ lawyers: “We have a light oversight regime compared with the US”.

When it came to judging the necessity and proportionality of what they were allowed to look for, would-be American users were told it was “your call”.

The Guardian understands that a total of 850,000 NSA employees and US private contractors with top secret clearance had access to GCHQ databases.

The documents reveal that by last year GCHQ was handling 600m “telephone events” each day, had tapped more than 200 fibre-optic cables and was able to process data from at least 46 of them at a time.

GCHQ collect it all

GCHQ collect it all

Each of the cables carries data at a rate of 10 gigabits per second, so the tapped cables had the capacity, in theory, to deliver more than 21 petabytes a day – equivalent to sending all the information in all the books in the British Library 192 times every 24 hours.

And the scale of the programme is constantly increasing as more cables are tapped and GCHQ data storage facilities in the UK and abroad are expanded with the aim of processing terabits (thousands of gigabits) of data at a time.

For the 2 billion users of the world wide web, Tempora represents a window on to their everyday lives, sucking up every form of communication from the fibre-optic cables that ring the world.

The NSA has meanwhile opened a second window, in the form of the Prism operation, revealed earlier this month by the Guardian, from which it secured access to the internal systems of global companies that service the internet.

The GCHQ mass tapping operation has been built up over five years by attaching intercept probes to transatlantic fibre-optic cables where they land on British shores carrying data to western Europe from telephone exchanges and internet servers in north America.

This was done under secret agreements with commercial companies, described in one document as “intercept partners”.

The papers seen by the Guardian suggest some companies have been paid for the cost of their co-operation and GCHQ went to great lengths to keep their names secret. They were assigned “sensitive relationship teams” and staff were urged in one internal guidance paper to disguise the origin of “special source” material in their reports for fear that the role of the companies as intercept partners would cause “high-level political fallout”.

The source with knowledge of intelligence said on Friday the companies were obliged to co-operate in this operation. They are forbidden from revealing the existence of warrants compelling them to allow GCHQ access to the cables.

“There’s an overarching condition of the licensing of the companies that they have to co-operate in this. Should they decline, we can compel them to do so. They have no choice.”

The source said that although GCHQ was collecting a “vast haystack of data” what they were looking for was “needles”.

“Essentially, we have a process that allows us to select a small number of needles in a haystack. We are not looking at every piece of straw. There are certain triggers that allow you to discard or not examine a lot of data so you are just looking at needles. If you had the impression we are reading millions of emails, we are not. There is no intention in this whole programme to use it for looking at UK domestic traffic – British people talking to each other,” the source said.

He explained that when such “needles” were found a log was made and the interception commissioner could see that log.

“The criteria are security, terror, organised crime. And economic well-being. There’s an auditing process to go back through the logs and see if it was justified or not. The vast majority of the data is discarded without being looked at … we simply don’t have the resources.”

However, the legitimacy of the operation is in doubt. According to GCHQ’s legal advice, it was given the go-ahead by applying old law to new technology. The 2000 Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (Ripa) requires the tapping of defined targets to be authorised by a warrant signed by the home secretary or foreign secretary.

However, an obscure clause allows the foreign secretary to sign a certificate for the interception of broad categories of material, as long as one end of the monitored communications is abroad. But the nature of modern fibre-optic communications means that a proportion of internal UK traffic is relayed abroad and then returns through the cables.

Parliament passed the Ripa law to allow GCHQ to trawl for information, but it did so 13 years ago with no inkling of the scale on which GCHQ would attempt to exploit the certificates, enabling it to gather and process data regardless of whether it belongs to identified targets.

The categories of material have included fraud, drug trafficking and terrorism, but the criteria at any one time are secret and are not subject to any public debate. GCHQ’s compliance with the certificates is audited by the agency itself, but the results of those audits are also secret.

An indication of how broad the dragnet can be was laid bare in advice from GCHQ’s lawyers, who said it would be impossible to list the total number of people targeted because “this would be an infinite list which we couldn’t manage”.

There is an investigatory powers tribunal to look into complaints that the data gathered by GCHQ has been improperly used, but the agency reassured NSA analysts in the early days of the programme, in 2009: “So far they have always found in our favour”.

Historically, the spy agencies have intercepted international communications by focusing on microwave towers and satellites. The NSA’s intercept station at Menwith Hill in North Yorkshire played a leading role in this. One internal document quotes the head of the NSA, Lieutenant General Keith Alexander, on a visit to Menwith Hill in June 2008, asking: “Why can’t we collect all the signals all the time? Sounds like a good summer project for Menwith.”

By then, however, satellite interception accounted for only a small part of the network traffic. Most of it now travels on fibre-optic cables, and the UK’s position on the western edge of Europe gave it natural access to cables emerging from the Atlantic.

The data collected provides a powerful tool in the hands of the security agencies, enabling them to sift for evidence of serious crime. According to the source, it has allowed them to discover new techniques used by terrorists to avoid security checks and to identify terrorists planning atrocities. It has also been used against child exploitation networks and in the field of cyberdefence.

It was claimed on Friday that it directly led to the arrest and imprisonment of a cell in the Midlands who were planning co-ordinated attacks; to the arrest of five Luton-based individuals preparing acts of terror, and to the arrest of three London-based people planning attacks prior to the Olympics.

As the probes began to generate data, GCHQ set up a three-year trial at the GCHQ station in Bude, Cornwall. By the summer of 2011, GCHQ had probes attached to more than 200 internet links, each carrying data at 10 gigabits a second. “This is a massive amount of data!” as one internal slideshow put it. That summer, it brought NSA analysts into the Bude trials. In the autumn of 2011, it launched Tempora as a mainstream programme, shared with the Americans.

The intercept probes on the transatlantic cables gave GCHQ access to its special source exploitation. Tempora allowed the agency to set up internet buffers so it could not simply watch the data live but also store it – for three days in the case of content and 30 days for metadata.

“Internet buffers represent an exciting opportunity to get direct access to enormous amounts of GCHQ’s special source data,” one document explained.

The processing centres apply a series of sophisticated computer programmes in order to filter the material through what is known as MVR – massive volume reduction. The first filter immediately rejects high-volume, low-value traffic, such as peer-to-peer downloads, which reduces the volume by about 30%. Others pull out packets of information relating to “selectors” – search terms including subjects, phone numbers and email addresses of interest. Some 40,000 of these were chosen by GCHQ and 31,000 by the NSA. Most of the information extracted is “content”, such as recordings of phone calls or the substance of email messages. The rest is metadata.

The GCHQ documents that the Guardian has seen illustrate a constant effort to build up storage capacity at the stations at Cheltenham, Bude and at one overseas location, as well a search for ways to maintain the agency’s comparative advantage as the world’s leading communications companies increasingly route their cables through Asia to cut costs. Meanwhile, technical work is ongoing to expand GCHQ’s capacity to ingest data from new super cables carrying data at 100 gigabits a second. As one training slide told new users: “You are in an enviable position – have fun and make the most of it.”

Published in The Guardian.

Papers for the arrest of Edward Snowden for spying have been filed in the US. They are now trying to extradite him from Hong Kong.

Leaks Are Vital For Democracy and the NSA Revelations Are the Quintessential Example Why

June 14, 2013

When looking back at the past decade, it’s hard to think of a constitutional scandal that wasn’t first brought to the public’s attention by a leak to the press. Bush’s NSA warrantless wiretapping program, black site prisons, torture, CIA drone strikes, and offensive cyberattacks are just some of the examples.

Leaks, while controversial, remain vital to democracy when the government shuts off traditional avenues of transparency and accountability. And there has never been a better example of this than the recent revelations by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.

Unfortunately, many lawmakers have spent the last week criticizing Snowden’s actions rather than scrutinizing the programs he’s exposed and the system that led him to do what he did. In the past five years, the government has systematically cut off congressional oversight, Freedom of Information Act requests, and the federal courts as avenues to hold the NSA accountable. Similarly, whistleblower protection laws have provided no protection those like Snowden who might wish to bring abuses to light.

In Congress, the intelligence committees have teamed up with the Obama administration and rejected even modest transparency and oversight amendments to both the Patriot Act and FISA Amendments Act in the last two years, despite ample evidence of abuse.

In federal courts, the Justice Department has used a variety of procedural moves to prevent judges from ruling on whether the NSA warrantless wiretapping program is constitutional – including ‘standing,’ ‘sovereign immunity,’ and the pernicious ‘state secrets’ privilege.

Freedom of Information Act lawsuits about the secret Patriot Act interpretations (exposed by the Verizon court order) and secret FISA court decisions have been met with absurd and Kafkaesque arguments to prevent even the administration’s interpretation of a public law from being made public.

And importantly, Congress recently passed the Whistleblower Protection Act and purposely excluded government contractors like Snowden (of which there are more than a million). So if he went through official channels he would have been provided no protection, unlike what some misguided commentators have suggested. Snowden would’ve been stifled, fired, or worse.

These efforts, taken altogether, have meant these programs have stayed largely secret and out of the public eye for the last five years. But look at what has happened in just one last week since journalists Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras, and others, started publishing stories based on information given to them by Snowden:

–Senators confirmed the leaked Verizon FISA order is real, orders like it are “routine,” and that the NSA has been collected all American phone records for seven years —information the administration has fought to keep secret for since 2010.

–President Obama suddenly called for debate over the surveillance program, despite trying to cut off debate on the subject for years.

–Dozens of Congressmen said they did not know the full scope of the NSA’s domestic surveillance, despite the administration’s public claims that every member of Congress has been read in.

–In response to PRISM leak, DNI Clapper declassified portions of the program and explains how it relates to broad collection of data under section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act—which they’ve avoided for years.

–Both Google and Facebook publicly demanded that the government allow them to tell the public how many users are affected by secret FISA orders—something they should have done years ago.

–ACLU filed a lawsuit alleging the government collection of all American phone records under PATRIOT Act is unconstitutional, after having their prior suit over the FISA Amendments Act dismissed just moths ago for lack of evidence.

–Possible Congressional hearings about whether Director of National Intelligence James Clapper lied to Congress when he definitively told Congress the NSA was not gathering data on millions of Americans.

— A group of eight Senators introduced a law requiring the FISA court declassifying some of its secret interpretations of law.

–Key lawmakers signaled their wish review the scope of the PATRIOT Act, including its author, despite renewing key sections with no oversight only two years ago.

–Many lawmakers plan to introduce a variety of legislation, and many groups plan to file lawsuits, regarding NSA spying in the coming days and weeks.

Now, those who wish to use the new revelations to instill permanent structural changes have a long way to go before the government gets there. And it’s possible the American people will simply choose to continue these programs, despite their Orwellian undertones. But the fact that this debate is finally happening, and that the Americans will—for the first time—be informed about what the government is doing in their name, cannot be understated.

Without Edward Snowden, none of this would be possible.

— Trevor Timm

Published by Freedom of the Press Foundation.

Sales of Nineteen Eighty-Four soar

June 13, 2013

One of the consequences of the expose by Edward Snowden of the NSA PRISM mass surveillance programme is that sales of Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell have soared.

What we have seen is Big Brother writ large.

Published in 1949, Nineteen Eighty-Four is a chilling account of the future, where everything we do is monitored by Big Brother. Nothing we do escapes the attention of Big Brother, and if we err and incur the displeasure, we will be exposed and destroyed.

Revelation of PRISM has caused a huge backlash in the US, but this is nothing compared with the outrage across Europe.

There has also been some brutal attacks, calling Edward Snowden a traitor and worse. One rabid politician practically foaming at the mouth has called for all journalists associated with Edward Snowden to be prosecuted.

But these are the exceptions.

There are calls for hearings, investigations, for James Clapper National Director Intelligence to be prosecuted, questions are being asked how did PRISM come about.

DNI James Clapper appears to have lied to Congress in previous testimony, hence the calls for him to be prosecuted, and if he lied about PRISM, what else did he lie about?

Back at an open Congressional hearing on 12 March, Sen Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) asked 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.” As we all now know, he was lying.

Nor was this a spontaneous lie or a lie he regretted making. Sen Ron Wyden revealed in a recent statement that he’d given Clapper advance notice that he would ask the question and that, after the hearing, he offered Clapper a chance to revise his answer. Clapper didn’t take the offer.

Speaking once PRISM was exposed, James Clapper comes across as a bumbling buffoon, a complete moron. How did this idiot ever get appointed as Director of National Intelligence?

One of the biggest lies peddled by Clapper is that mass surveillance deals with terrorism.

One of the least threats facing us is terrorism, but it is used a bogey man to clamp down on civil liberties, to infiltrate and disrupt democratic challenges to the status quo. We deal with terrorism, by addressing the causes. We track down terrorists, use good old fashioned police work. Maybe US should look to its drone attacks.