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Posts tagged ‘National Security Agency’

Obama’s NSA Has A ‘Time Machine’ Voice Interception Program Called MYSTIC.


Washington Post: The National Security Agency has built a surveillance system capable of recording “100 percent” of a foreign country’s telephone calls, enabling the agency to rewind and review conversations as long as a month after they take place, according to people with direct knowledge of the effort and documents supplied by former contractor Edward Snowden.

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A senior manager for the program compares it to a time machine — one that can replay the voices from any call without requiring that a person be identified in advance for surveillance.

The voice interception program, called MYSTIC, began in 2009. Its RETRO tool, short for “retrospective retrieval,” and related projects reached full capacity against the first target nation in 2011. Planning documents two years later anticipated similar operations elsewhere.

In the initial deployment, collection systems are recording “every single” conversation nationwide, storing billions of them in a 30-day rolling buffer that clears the oldest calls as new ones arrive, according to a classified summary.

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Bulk methods capture massive data flows “without the use of discriminants,” as President Obama put it in January. By design, they vacuum up all the data they touch — meaning that most of the conversations collected by RETRO would be irrelevant to U.S. national security interests.

The call buffer opens a door “into the past,” the summary says, enabling users to “retrieve audio of interest that was not tasked at the time of the original call.” Analysts listen to only a fraction of 1 percent of the calls, but the absolute numbers are high. Each month, they send millions of voice clippings, or “cuts,” for processing and long-term storage. source – Washington Post.

by NTEB News Desk

Wikileaks’s Assange Says He’s Releasing More Secret Data.


Image: Wikileaks's Assange Says He's Releasing More Secret Data

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange speaks by video link to an audience at the South by Southwest Interactive conference in Austin, Texas. (AP)

Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks who has disclosed scores of classified data about U.S. military and diplomatic efforts, said the group would be releasing a new batch of secret information.

Assange, speaking through a video feed Saturday to a crowd of more than 3,000 people at the South by Southwest Interactive conference in Austin, Texas, said he wouldn’t share details about the timing or contents of the data because he doesn’t want to give the subjects a chance to prepare a response.

“I don’t think it’s right to give the perpetrator the heads up,” said Assange.

Assange is one of several speakers at the conference who is focused on Internet privacy and online security. After years of being an event for celebrating startups with new social- networking tools for posting personal information, South by Southwest this year is taking a more critical look at the privacy consequences of sharing that data. Edward Snowden, the government contractor who leaked documents disclosing spying by the National Security Agency, speaks on Monday through a video link.

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Assange, 42, said the disclosures about NSA spying are causing people to reassess the role of government in a world where an increasing amount of personal information is stored online. He said the U.S. agency is losing the public-relations battle since the revelations from Snowden about gathering data from companies such as Google Inc., Facebook Inc. and Apple Inc. The disclosures show a “military occupation” in the Internet’s “public space,” he said.

He said the release of classified information is critical to better understanding of the practices the government is doing in secret. He also said the NSA doesn’t face enough oversight from President Barack Obama’s administration.

“Who really wears the pants in the administration?” Assange said.

Wikileaks, which started in 2006, leaks classified documents under a philosophy of increasing government transparency. With help from people who have access to secret information, the nonprofit group has released materials including State Department communications about foreign governments and military efforts during wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. One U.S. soldier, private Bradley Manning, is serving as long as 35 years in prison for leaking classified information to Wikileaks.

Assange lives in the Ecuadorean embassy in London to avoid arrest in relation to a sexual assault investigation. He has denied the charges.

Google Chairman Eric Schmidt said earlier in the conference that there needs to be a balance between transparency and security because the government information being disclosed could put lives at risk. He also said the disclosures have made Assange and Snowden “celebrities” and may spawn copycat efforts, increasing the risk for harm if the disclosures aren’t done carefully.

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© Copyright 2014 Bloomberg News. All rights reserved.

NSA May Have to Store More Phone Records as Evidence in Lawsuits.


The National Security Agency may be forced to expand its extensive collection of phone records, an unintended consequence of lawsuits aiming to stop the controversial surveillance program, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Government officials have told the paper that federal court rules on preserving evidence related to lawsuits could mean that the agency would be forced to stop routinely destroying older phone records, thereby expanding the database, at least while the lawsuits remain active.

“It’s difficult to understand why the government would consider taking this position, when the relief we’ve requested in the lawsuit is a purge of our data,” Patrick Toomey, an ACLU lawyer on one of the lawsuits against the government, told the newspaper.

No final decision about whether to retain the data has yet been made, but one official told the Journal that if the information was preserved, it would be used solely for lawsuits and not for surveillance purposes.

Cindy Cohn, legal director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, one of the other plaintiffs in the case, said she did not see a problem with the government saving the phone records as long as they would not still be searchable under the program.

“If they’re destroying evidence, that would be a crime,” she said. She did, however, question the motives and timing of the government in considering this course of action, telling the Journal, “I think they’re looking for any way to throw rocks at the litigation.”

Surveillance program critics, including Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, who has filed a class-action lawsuit challenging the program, say the collection and storage of phone records violates Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable searches.

In December, a presidential advisory panel recommended sweeping limits on the government’s surveillance programs, including requiring a court to sign off on individual searches of phone records and stripping the NSA of its ability to store that data from Americans.

The NSA currently holds about five years of data, and about twice a year, purges any call record more than five years old, officials told the Journal.

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
By Melanie Batley

Reporting on Snowden NSA Leaks Wins Polk Award.


Four journalists who reported on the extent of the National Security Agency’s secret surveillance based on documents leaked by Edward Snowden are among the winners of the 65th annual George Polk Awards in Journalism.

Glenn Greenwald, Ewen MacAskill, and Laura Poitras of The Guardian and Barton Gellman of The Washington Post will receive the award for national security reporting for stories based on secret documents leaked by Snowden, a former intelligence analyst.

The awards were announced Sunday by Long Island University.

Journalists who wrote about massive traffic jams caused by bridge lane closures in New Jersey, a catastrophic garment factory collapse in Bangladesh and the struggles of a homeless family in Brooklyn also will be among those honored.

This year’s Polk Awards will be given out April 11.

© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Source: Newsmax.com

Ex-CIA Analyst: Snowden Journalist Could Have Blood on Hands.


The journalist who holds a cache of documents stolen by National Security Agency secrets leaker Edward Snowden not only disrupts U.S. intelligence but must ultimately take responsibility for any deadly consequences of the leaked information, former CIA analyst and LIGNET contributor Lisa Ruth said Tuesday.

“There is an absolute direct correlation between leaks and problems on the ground,” Ruth said in an exclusive interview with John Bachman on “America’s Forum” on Newsmax TV.

Former Guardian reporter Glenn Greenwald should have “months ago” considered withholding the NSA information in light of killings in 2010 of Afghan tribal leaders after the release of military documents by WikiLeaks, she said.

“I understand journalists believe part of their view is to give information, that’s what they’re trying to do,” she said. “With WikiLeaks, when this information first came out, we know that there were Afghan tribal leaders who were beheaded and killed. These were our sources.”

Story continues below video.

She said the WikiLeaks release was responsible for “not only disrupting our intelligence sources, but that journalist, in my opinion, is carrying the weight of those deaths on his shoulders, and at some point there is an ethical decision, what’s right.

“Obviously we can’t decide that for [Greenwald], but I agree that there is a point where the damage they are doing is far greater than any benefit,” she said.

Ruth said the intelligence community thinks it’s “absurd” that the public is debating the issue of how the government conducts drone strikes overseas, particularly how the military and CIA often rely on data from the NSA’s electronic spy program for targeted drone strikes and killings.

“I just can’t get my head around why we’re all debating this,” she said. “We don’t throw out for a referendum, ‘OK, folks, should we go after this guy or not?’ This is a government decision.”

According to a report from a news website launched by Greenwald, NSA documents confirm the agency “played a key supporting role” in the drone strike in September 2011 that killed U.S. citizen Anwar al-Awlaki, as well as another American, Samir Khan, in Yemen.

“I have to say that it is horrifying to me that we are talking about this,” she said. “I have to go out and say the fact that this is in the press is completely absurd to the intelligence community — the fact that we’re debating drone strikes.”

She said classified information is paramount “if you’re going to carry out operations.”

“Until yesterday, most Americans didn’t know there was a guy in Pakistan, American citizen, who’s with al-Qaida,” she said. “Did it make them feel more safe to know we’re considering attacking him with a drone? Probably not.

“If you look at overall, it’s about trust in your government, really, trust, and right now perhaps that’s not at its highest peak, and I don’t know how you get that back but in terms of intelligence. I don’t’ believe that’s something that needs to be aired,” she said.

She said the reason the CIA “holds . . . the controls to the drone strikes” is that it can “move quickly.”

“Going through military bureaucracy, as you know, takes time,” she said. “The reason they put it in the hands of the CIA was to get things done quickly . . . So, now we’re in a situation where we’re talking about this American, and again, all over the press, all over the news, and whether NSA information is going to be used. From a CIA officer standpoint, that’s only one piece we would use . . . you need a lot of other pieces of information to target in.”

Ruth noted the United States is not getting the “human intelligence” it used to, partly “because of the drones” and partly because of “the way intelligence is done, and cutbacks.”

“The idea that, oh, we can put a bug somewhere or we can use a listening device. That’s not really accurate,” she said.

“Without human intelligence in many cases we’re operating blind, and keep in mind, if I’m hearing something perhaps from a cellphone or other places, I have no way of knowing how accurate that is . . . as a human, I can sit across from you, I’m evaluating you, I’m spotting, I’m assessing, I’m making these decisions, and it usually provides more targeted information, in conjunction with NSA information, of course.”

Ruth said she hopes debate on the issue spurs change for the good.

“From my perspective and some of my contacts at the intelligence community, the hope is to get back on track . . . and that these kinds of debates can really highlight the importance of human intelligence and why we need that, and particularly with a terrorist threat,” she said.

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

 

By Cathy Burke

Obama Ringing in New Year in Low-key Fashion.


President Barack Obama is closing out a difficult year in low-key fashion, with hopes for better results in 2014, particularly for his troubled healthcare law.

Obama kicked off the last day of 2013 with an hourlong workout at a military base near his rented vacation home on the Hawaiian island of Oahu. The White House said the president planned to stay home Tuesday night and ring in the new year with friends and family.

The president has largely stayed out of the spotlight since arriving in Hawaii more than a week ago. He’s spent his days golfing with friends, hiking with his family, and hitting the town for dinner at several high-end restaurants he frequents while in his home state.

Behind the scenes, aides say Obama is receiving updates on the problematic rollout of his signature healthcare law. Insurance coverage is scheduled to start Jan. 1 for the more than 2 million people who have enrolled since signups opened at the beginning of October.

Widespread glitches on the HealthCare.gov website appear to be largely fixed, but insurers say they are still receiving thousands of erroneous signups from the government.

Aides say the president has also been reviewing a presidential panel’s recommendations for placing limits on the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs.

Obama is not obligated to accept the panel’s recommendations, and is expected to announce his decision in January.

 

© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Source: Newsmax.com

Ex-NSA Director Hayden: Report Shows Spying Keeps US Safe.


Image: Ex-NSA Director Hayden: Report Shows Spying Keeps US Safe

By Greg Richter

Former NSA and CIA director Gen. Michael Hayden says he is surprised people are surprised at the detailed spying the National Security Agency is able to do.

German magazine Der Spiegel published a story on Sunday that laid out the NSA’s ability to hack into the computer systems and phones of its targets, and even to stop computer equipment mid-shipping to install spyware.

The article says current NSA director Gen. Keith Alexander and his crew are “pretty good at this. And that’s good news for the American people,” Hayden said Monday on Fox News Channel’s “Special Report.” 

Traditional signals intelligence used to be passive and “midpoint,” Hayden explained. If someone being targeted decided to send a message, spy agencies tried to get between points A and B and intercept the communication.

With the digital age, he said, spies have gone to “active” signals intelligence. They don’t just intercept at the midpoint, but go to the endpoint, he said.

“Go to a point where sometimes they have not even yet decided to transmit,” he said.

Hayden called the new collection methods “a good thing for American security and American liberty.”

Der Spiegel’s article no doubt damaged the NSA’s abilities, Hayden said. Now, legitimate foreign intelligence targets will read such reports and begin to take action to get around the methods, and that will make the United States less safe, he said.

Hayden told Fox News he read the article in Der Spiegel with his “antennae up” to see whether there was anything that should concern the U.S. public, but said he couldn’t find it.

The targets discussed were legitimate foreign intelligence targets, he said.

Hayden also said he was pleased that U.S. companies are surprised their products were  hacked by the NSA. They should be surprised, Hayden said, because they had nothing to do with it; it was all the NSA.

Turning to the New York Times story on Saturday that said al-Qaida was not involved in the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, Hayden compared the argument to medieval theological discussions about how many angels could dance on the head of a pin.

Hayden said it was reminiscent of President Bill Clinton’s parsing the meaning of the word “is.”

Whether the terrorist group behind the 9/11 attacks was also linked to the Benghazi attacks “depends on your meaning of the word ‘al-Qaida’,” he said.

There are three levels to the group, he explained: “al-Qaida prime, al-Qaida-affiliated, and groups who are like-minded.” Within days of the attacks, he said, he termed them “either high-end like-minded or low-end affiliated.”

So, while al-Qaida probably did not directly order the attacks, they were carried out by people under its influence, he said.

“No one has suggested that somebody with a Motorola Push to Talk in the Hindu Kush was sending detailed instructions to somebody in Benghazi,” he said.

Republican lawmakers on the House Intelligence Committee have called the Times report “misleading.”

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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Privacy Advocate Exposes High-Tech NSA Spy Gadgets.


A well-known privacy advocate has given the public an unusually explicit peek into the intelligence world’s tool box, pulling back the curtain on the National Security Agency’s arsenal of high-tech spy gear.

Independent journalist and security expert Jacob Appelbaum on Monday told a hacker conference in Germany that the NSA could turn iPhones into eavesdropping tools and use radar wave devices to harvest electronic information from computer even if they weren’t online.

Appelbaum told hundreds of computer experts gathered at Hamburg’s Chaos Communications Conference that his revelations about the NSA’s capabilities “are even worse than your worst nightmares.”

“What I am going to show you today is wrist-slittingly depressing,” he said.

Even though in the past six months there have been an unprecedented level of public scrutiny of the NSA and its methods, Appelbaum’s claims — supported by what appeared to be internal NSA slideshows — still caused a stir.

One of the slides described how the NSA can plant malicious software onto Apple Inc.’s iPhone, giving American intelligence agents the ability to turn the popular smartphone into a pocket-sized spy.

Another slide showcased a futuristic-sounding device described as a “portable continuous wave generator,” a remote controlled device which — when paired with tiny electronic implants — can bounce invisible waves of energy off keyboards and monitors to see what is being typed even if the target device isn’t connected to the Internet.

A third slide showcased a piece of equipment called NIGHTSTAND, which can tamper with wireless Internet connections from up to 8 miles away.

An NSA spokeswoman Vanee Vines said that she wasn’t aware of Appelbaum’s presentation, but that in general should would not comment on “alleged foreign intelligence activities.”

“As we’ve said before: NSA’s focus is on targeting the communications of valid foreign intelligence targets — not on collecting and exploiting a class of communications or services that would sweep up communications that are not of bona fide foreign intelligence interest to the U.S. government.”

The documents included in Appelbaum’s presentation were first published by German magazine Der Spiegel Sunday and Monday.

Appelbaum and Der Spiegel have both played an important role in the disclosures of NSA leaker Edward Snowden, but neither has clarified whether the most recent set of slides came from Snowden.

© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Source: Newsmax.com

Report: Elite NSA Hacker Group Focused on ‘Getting the Ungettable’.


A special National Security Administration team of hackers is finding creative, and sometimes old-fashioned, methods of keeping an eye on what its targets are up to, Der Spiegel reports.

A story in the German magazine on Sunday reported on the NSA‘s Tailored Access Operations (TAO), which exploits hardware vulnerabilities, hijack Microsoft’s internal reporting system and intercepts computer deliveries to install malware.

TAO’s team of top hackers target the toughest targets, according to NSA documents viewed by the magazine, focusing on “getting the ungettable.” The team uses computer monitor cables specially modified to record what is being typed across the screen, USB sticks secretly fitted with radio transmitters to broadcast stolen data over the airwaves, and fake base stations intended to intercept mobile phone signals on the go.

The hackers also take advantage of vulnerabilities in software distributed by leading companies infect target computers with malicious software.

One of TAO’s methods of finding weaknesses in a target’s system is through Microsoft’s crash reports, which often pop up on a user’s screen when a program fails. A window will ask users if they wish to send a report to Microsoft to help the company fix bugs in the system.

Though the method is of little use, the team appeared to enjoy poking fun at the company by replacing the regular message in an internal graphic with the words, “This information may be intercepted by a foreign sigint [signals intelligence] system to gather detailed information and better exploit your machine.”

In addition to the high tech methods of getting into computers to monitor them, TAO members also use the low tech method of simply intercepting computers ordered by their targets and manually installing spyware before sending it on to its recipient.

One of the more sophisticated methods of attack involves a covert system running alongside the Internet. Someone trying, or instance, to reach a LinkedIn page would instead get a page from the NSA’s system which would contain not only the information from the LinkedIn page, but also a package of spyware already tailored to the computer’s identified vulnerabilities.

TAO employees typically target certain individuals, which then allows them to get further into an organization’s system.

Der Spiegel did not say where it obtained the NSA documents on which its story was based, but The Associated Press noted that one of the article’s authors is American documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras, who, along with Guardian reporter Glenn Greenwald, has been one of the main contacts of NSA leaker Edward Snowden.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

By Greg Richter

Mike Rogers: Snowden ‘Ran to Russia,’ Deserves No Amnesty.


Image: Mike Rogers: Snowden 'Ran to Russia,' Deserves No Amnesty

By Greg Richter

Two members of the House Intelligence Committee from opposing parties agreed Sunday that NSA leaker Edward Snowden should have stayed in the United States rather than fleeing to Russia.

Snowden addressed the British public via television on Christmas Day and talked to The Washington Post on Dec. 23. He said he is doing the work the government has failed to do.

“I’m not moved by the message at all,” Schiff said on “Fox News Sunday.”

“And I think there’s a real irony here that he’s giving this message from one of the foremost Big Brother states in the world, where he is living without any privacy, because there is no right or expectation of privacy in Russia whatsoever,” he said.

Schiff admitted that Snowden “has kindled an important public debate,” but he said it came from a “mixture of motivations.” Snowden should have stayed in the United States and been willing to stand up for his beliefs, he said.

Likewise, Rogers, appearing on “Fox News Sunday,” said Snowden “is somebody who had a troubled employment history, who ran to China and Russia.”

Snowden himself swiped at both parties in his Washington Post interview, in which he said he was “elected” to his post to “improve” the National Security Agency by Sen. Dianne Feinstein “when she asked softball questions” in committee hearings and by Rogers “when he kept these programs secret.”

Rogers argued that the programs that keep metadata on Americans’ phone and email communications were instituted after 9/11 because it was found that they could have prevented the worst act of terrorism on American soil. Members of relevant committees are briefed on everything, he argued.

Information is “well-overseen, locked away in a vault,” Rogers said, and there is oversight over who gets access.

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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

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