Category Archives: Surveilling internet communications

You Can Take the 9/11 Security State From My Cold, Dead, Top Secret Hands

You Can Take the 9/11 Security State From My Cold, Dead, Top Secret Hands


By Spencer Ackerman May 11, 2011

Osama bin Laden’s death was the end result of a massive investment in surveillance and spy tools that arose after the 9/11 attacks, designed to end the emergency that al-Qaida posed. But according to the chairman of the House intelligence committee, rolling back that huge security state after bin Laden’s death would not only miss an opportunity to destroy al-Qaida once and for all, it would effectively give bin Laden one last laugh.

“This is the time to step on the gas and break their back,” Rep. Mike Rogers, a Michigan Republican and former FBI agent, told the Council on Foreign Relations in a Wednesday speech. The choice, as he laid it out, is between ratifying the post-9/11 redefinition of liberty and security and getting attacked again.

“All the tools” of the security state created after the Twin Towers fell need to be retained, Rogers argued. The Patriot Act, whose most controversial surveillance provisions are to expire on May 27? Keep it. The doubling of intelligence cash, which now stands at $80 billion annually? Keep it. The explosion of drones and other spy technologies that “didn’t exist ten years ago?” Keep it all.

Rogers argued that lesson of the bin Laden raid is that ballooning the surveillance state paid off — and that scaling back spycraft just leaves the U.S. vulnerable. Back in the 1990s, the government viewed “the intelligence community as the opportunity for the peace dividend for the fall of the Soviet Union,” he said. “We see what a serious mistake that was.”

And there are even more spy advances on the horizon, Rogers said, like better methods for analysts to navigate the flood of drone and satellite data coming in every day. He didn’t give any specific examples, but the Air Force is building a supercomputer-in-sky inside a giant blimp that will crunch drone footage before beaming it down to soldiers on the ground.

Not many people are calling for an intelligence rollback — especially not right as a team of spies sifts through a trove of hard drives, removable media, recording devices and cellphones taken from bin Laden’s compound. Besides, al-Qaida these days is more of a global franchise of terror groups than a strict hierarchy. And it’s not like bin Laden’s former crew are the only terrorists on the block.

By contrast, Rogers’ remarks come as the House Armed Services Committee is considering a measure that would reauthorize and expand the war to unnamed affiliates of al-Qaida. But, some wonder, if bin Laden’s death doesn’t prompt a chance to reconsider the security state, whatever will?

Rogers conceded there’s room for trimming around the edges. An audit conducted on his committee found “a couple hundred million bucks” worth of savings — out of $80 billion in annual spy spending. And he said that it might make sense to consolidate federal-state “fusion centers” and joint task forces for the dissemination of terrorism threat data.

Outside of that, Rogers made a robust case for keeping the 9/11 state as it is. His speech presented the entirety of intelligence advances — interrogations, surveillance, human spying — as part of an inexorable chain of events leading to bin Laden. (Interestingly, while he credited harsh interrogations with leading to at least some info on bin Laden’s couriers, he said, “I don’t think you have to use torture to get information; I’m a former FBI guy.”) Lose any part of it, and the country’s vulnerable to the next attack.

Left unsaid was whether any of these post-9/11 spy measures — passed as emergency provisions — could be jettisoned after the U.S. “breaks the back” of al-Qaida; or whether the America that bin Laden indirectly created will remain the terrorist’s enduring legacy.

Google, CIA Invest in ‘Future’ of Web Monitoring

Exclusive: Google, CIA Invest in ‘Future’ of Web Monitoring

By Noah Schachtman,, 28 July 2010

The investment arms of the CIA and Google are both backing a company that monitors the web in real time — and says it uses that information to predict the future.

The company is called Recorded Future, and it scours tens of thousands of websites, blogs and Twitter accounts to find the relationships between people, organizations, actions and incidents — both present and still-to-come. In a white paper, the company says its temporal analytics engine “goes beyond search” by “looking at the ‘invisible links’ between documents that talk about the same, or related, entities and events.”

The idea is to figure out for each incident who was involved, where it happened and when it might go down. Recorded Future then plots that chatter, showing online “momentum” for any given event.

“The cool thing is, you can actually predict the curve, in many cases,” says company CEO Christopher Ahlberg, a former Swedish Army Ranger with a PhD in computer science.

Which naturally makes the 16-person Cambridge, Massachusetts, firm attractive to Google Ventures, the search giant’s investment division, and to In-Q-Tel, which handles similar duties for the CIA and the wider intelligence community.

It’s not the very first time Google has done business with America’s spy agencies. Long before it reportedly enlisted the help of the National Security Agency to secure its networks, Google sold equipment to the secret signals-intelligence group. In-Q-Tel backed the mapping firm Keyhole, which was bought by Google in 2004 — and then became the backbone for Google Earth.

This appears to be the first time, however, that the intelligence community and Google have funded the same startup, at the same time. No one is accusing Google of directly collaborating with the CIA. But the investments are bound to be fodder for critics of Google, who already see the search giant as overly cozy with the U.S. government, and worry that the company is starting to forget its “don’t be evil” mantra.

America’s spy services have become increasingly interested in mining “open source intelligence” — information that’s publicly available, but often hidden in the daily avalanche of TV shows, newspaper articles, blog posts, online videos and radio reports.

Secret information isn’t always the brass ring in our profession,” then CIA-director General Michael Hayden told a conference in 2008. “In fact, there’s a real satisfaction in solving a problem or answering a tough question with information that someone was dumb enough to leave out in the open.”

U.S. spy agencies, through In-Q-Tel, have invested in a number of firms to help them better find that information. Visible Technologies crawls over half a million web 2.0 sites a day, scraping more than a million posts and conversations taking place on blogs, YouTube, Twitter and Amazon. Attensity applies the rules of grammar to the so-called “unstructured text” of the web to make it more easily digestible by government databases. Keyhole (now Google Earth) is a staple of the targeting cells in military-intelligence units.

Recorded Future strips from web pages the people, places and activities they mention. The company examines when and where these events happened (“spatial and temporal analysis”) and the tone of the document (“sentiment analysis”). Then it applies some artificial-intelligence algorithms to tease out connections between the players. Recorded Future maintains an index with more than 100 million events, hosted on servers. The analysis, however, is on the living web.

“We’re right there as it happens,” Ahlberg told Danger Room as he clicked through a demonstration. “We can assemble actual real-time dossiers on people.”

Recorded Future certainly has the potential to spot events and trends early. Take the case of Hezbollah’s long-range missiles. On March 21, Israeli President Shimon Peres leveled the allegation that the terror group had Scud-like weapons. Scouring Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah’s past statements, Recorded Future found corroborating evidence from a month prior that appeared to back up Peres’ accusations.

That’s one of several hypothetical cases Recorded Future runs in its blog devoted to intelligence analysis. But it’s safe to assume that the company already has at least one spy agency’s attention. In-Q-Tel doesn’t make investments in firms without an “end customer” ready to test out that company’s products.

Both Google Ventures and In-Q-Tel made their investments in 2009, shortly after the company was founded. The exact amounts weren’t disclosed, but were under $10 million each. Google’s investment came to light earlier this year online. In-Q-Tel, which often announces its new holdings in press releases, quietly uploaded a brief mention of its investment a few weeks ago.

Both In-Q-Tel and Google Ventures have seats on Recorded Future’s board. Ahlberg says those board members have been “very helpful,” providing business and technology advice, as well as introducing him to potential customers. Both organizations, it’s safe to say, will profit handsomely if Recorded Future is ever sold or taken public. Ahlberg’s last company, the corporate intelligence firm Spotfire, was acquired in 2007 for $195 million in cash.

Google Ventures did not return requests to comment for this article. In-Q-Tel Chief of Staff Lisbeth Poulos e-mailed a one-line statement: “We are pleased that Recorded Future is now part of IQT’s portfolio of innovative startup companies who support the mission of the U.S. Intelligence Community.”

Just because Google and In-Q-Tel have both invested in Recorded Future doesn’t mean Google is suddenly in bed with the government. Of course, to Google’s critics — including conservative legal groups, and Republican congressmen — the Obama Administration and the Mountain View, California, company slipped between the sheets a long time ago.

Google CEO Eric Schmidt hosted a town hall at company headquarters in the early days of Obama’s presidential campaign. Senior White House officials like economic chief Larry Summers give speeches at the New America Foundation, the left-of-center think tank chaired by Schmidt. Former Google public policy chief Andrew McLaughlin is now the White House’s deputy CTO, and was publicly (if mildly) reprimanded by the administration for continuing to hash out issues with his former colleagues.

In some corners, the scrutiny of the company’s political ties have dovetailed with concerns about how Google collects and uses its enormous storehouse of search data, e-mail, maps and online documents. Google, as we all know, keeps a titanic amount of information about every aspect of our online lives. Customers largely have trusted the company so far, because of the quality of their products, and because of Google’s pledges not to misuse the information still ring true to many.

But unease has been growing. Thirty seven state Attorneys General are demanding answers from the company after Google hoovered up 600 gigabytes of data from open Wi-Fi networks as it snapped pictures for its Street View project. (The company swears the incident was an accident.)

“Assurances from the likes of Google that the company can be trusted to respect consumers’ privacy because its corporate motto is ‘don’t be evil’ have been shown by recent events such as the ‘Wi-Spy’ debacle to be unwarranted,” long-time corporate gadfly John M. Simpson told a Congressional hearing in a prepared statement. Any business dealings with the CIA’s investment arm are unlikely to make critics like him more comfortable.

But Steven Aftergood, a critical observer of the intelligence community from his perch at the Federation of American Scientists, isn’t worried about the Recorded Future deal. Yet.

“To me, whether this is troublesome or not depends on the degree of transparency involved. If everything is aboveboard — from contracts to deliverables — I don’t see a problem with it,” he told Danger Room by e-mail. “But if there are blank spots in the record, then they will be filled with public skepticism or worse, both here and abroad, and not without reason.”

Photo: AP/Charles Dharapak

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US to access Europeans’ bank data in new deal

US to access Europeans’ bank data in new deal

BBC (8 July 2010)

Euro MPs have approved a new deal to allow US anti-terror investigators to access Europeans’ bank data.

The vote followed tough negotiations with US authorities after a previous agreement was blocked by the European Parliament in February.

EU negotiators say the new deal gives EU officials authority to monitor the US investigators’ actions.

The deal gives the US access to bulk data from Swift, a firm that handles millions of bank transactions daily.

Washington says the Swift deal is crucial to fighting terrorism, as part of the US Terrorist Financing Tracking Programme (TFTP) set up after the September 2001 attacks on the US.

Top US officials, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, lobbied the EU over the data transfer deal.

The agreement was passed with 484 MEPs in favour and 109 against. There were 12 abstentions.

In February Euro MPs rejected an earlier draft agreement, saying the privacy safeguards were inadequate.

The fact that the US was secretly accessing Swift bank data did not come to light until 2006.

Under the new deal, the EU police agency Europol will assess whether specific data requests are necessary for the fight against terrorism before the data is sent to the US, the European Commission says.

The Commission will appoint EU officials to monitor the US investigators’ actions.

There is also a requirement that bulk data can never be sent to third countries.

EU citizens who believe their data has been misused will have the right to legal action in the US courts.

‘Sends right signals’

The Commission says the data transferred under TFTP can include identifying information about the originator and/or recipient of the transaction, including name, address, national identification number and other personal data related to financial messages.

A German Liberal MEP, Alexander Alvaro, said the deal “will ensure that terrorist financing can be traced back to its sources, but it will not affect day-to-day bank transfers of EU citizens”.

And the leader of the UK Conservative MEPs, Timothy Kirkhope, said it “sends the right signals about our resolve in fighting terrorism and our commitment to remaining a strong partner of the United States”.

The lobby group European Digital Rights (EDRI) says the new deal is still not restrictive enough. It will allow a great deal of data to be transferred to the US, EDRI says, doubting that aggrieved EU citizens will get any legal redress in the US.

EDRI also says Europol is the wrong vehicle to vet US anti-terror requests, because Europol itself will be able to request data from US searches, and that “drastically reduces any incentive to limit the transferred amount of data”.

A judicial body, not the police, should be in charge, it argues. 

Beyond Orwell: The Electronic Police State, 2010

Global Research, March 16, 2010
Antifascist Calling… – 2010-03-14

A truism perhaps, but before resorting to brute force and open repression to halt the “barbarians at the gates,” that would be us, the masters of declining empires (and the chattering classes who polish their boots) regale us with tales of “democracy on the march,” “hope” and other banalities before the mailed fist comes crashing down.

Putting it another way, as the late, great Situationist malcontent, Guy Debord did decades ago in his relentless call for revolt, The Society of the Spectacle:

“The reigning economic system is a vicious circle of isolation. Its technologies are based on isolation, and they contribute to that same isolation. From automobiles to television, the goods that the spectacular systemchooses to produce also serve it as weapons for constantly reinforcing the conditions that engender ‘lonely crowds.’ With ever-increasing concreteness the spectacle recreates its own presuppositions.”

And when those “presuppositions” reproduce ever-more wretched clichés promulgated by true believers or rank opportunists, take your pick, market “democracy,” the “freedom to choose” (the length of one’s chains), or even quaint notions of national “sovereignty” (a sure fire way to get, and keep, the masses at each others’ throats!) we’re left with a fraud, a gigantic swindle, a “postmodern” refinement of tried and true methods that would do Orwell proud!

Ponder Debord’s rigorous theorem and substitute “cell phone” and “GPS” for “automobile,” and “Internet” for “television” and you’re soon left with the nauseating sense that the old “infobahn” isn’t all its cracked up to be. As a seamless means for effecting control on the other hand, of our thoughts, our actions, even our whereabouts; well, that’s another story entirely!

In this light, a new report published by Cryptohippie, The Electronic Police State: 2010 National Rankings, delivers the goods and rips away the veil from the smirking visage of well-heeled corporate crooks and media apologists of America’s burgeoning police state.

“When we produced our first Electronic Police State report” Cryptohippie’s analysts write, “the top ten nations were of two types:

1. Those that had the will to spy on every citizen, but lacked ability.
2. Those who had the ability, but were restrained in will.

But as they reveal in new national rankings, “This is changing: The able have become willing and their traditional restraints have failed.” The key developments driving the global panopticon forward are the following:

● The USA has negated their Constitution’s fourth amendment in the name of protection and in the name of “wars” against terror, drugs and cyber attacks.
● The UK is aggressively building the world of 1984 in the name of stopping “anti-social” activities. Their populace seems unable or unwilling to restrain the government.
● France and the EU have given themselves over to central bureaucratic control.

In France, the German newsmagazine Spiegel reported that a new law passed by the lower house of Parliament in February “conjures up the specter of Big Brother and the surveillance state.”

Similar to legislation signed into law by German president Horst Köhler last month, police and security forces in France would be granted authority to surreptitiously install malware known as a “Trojan horse” to spy on private computers. Remote access to a user’s personal data would be made possible under a judge’s supervision.

While French parliamentarians aligned with right-wing President Nicolas Sarkozy insist the measure is intended to filter and block web sites with criminal content or to halt allegedly “illegal” file sharing, civil libertarians have denounced the legislation.

Sandrine Béllier, a member of the European Parliament for the Green Party, said that “when it comes to restrictions, this text is preparing us for hell.”

Additionally, the new law will include measures that will further integrate police files and private data kept by banks and other financial institutions. French securocrats cynically insist this is a wholly innocent move to “maintain the level and quality of service provided by domestic security forces,” Interior Minister Brice Hortefeux told Spiegel.

Generalized political measures such as these that hinder free speech and expression, whilst enhancing the surveillance capabilities of the state, also indicate that so-called “Western democracies” are not far behind beacons of freedom such as China, North Korea, Belarus and Russia when it comes to repressive police measures. Indeed, Cryptohippie’s rankings place the United States a mere 2/100ths of a point behind Russia when it comes to Internet and other forms of electronic spying.

The top ten scofflaws in 2010 are: 1. North Korea; 2. China; 3. Belarus; 4. Russia; 5. United States; 6. United Kingdom; 7. France; 8. Israel; 9. Singapore and, 10. Germany.

A Profit-Driven Panopticon

In a capitalist “democracy” such as ours where the business of government is always business and individual liberties be damned, grifting North American and European telecommunications and security firms, with much encouragement and great fanfare from their national security establishments and a lap-dog media blaze the path for Western versions of the sinister “Golden Shield.”

Recently in the United States, whistleblowing web sites such as Cryptome and Slight Paranoia have come under attack. Both sites have been hit by take down notices under the onerous Digital Millennium Copyright Act for posting documents and files that exposed the close, and very profitable arrangements, made by giant telecommunications firms and ISPs with the American secret state.

In Cryptome’s case, administrator John Young had his site shuttered for a day when the giant software firm, Microsoft, demanded that its so-called “lawful spying guide” be removed by Young. All five files are currently back on-line as Zipped files at Cryptome and make for a very enlightening read.

But the harassment didn’t stop there. When Young published PayPal’s “lawful spying guide,” the firm froze Cryptome’s account, in all likelihood at the behest of America’s spy agencies, allegedly for “illegal activities,” i.e., offering Cryptome’s entire archive for sale on two DVDs!

Why would the secret state’s corporate partners target Young? Perhaps because since 1996, “Cryptome welcomes documents for publication that are prohibited by governments worldwide, in particular material on freedom of expression, privacy, cryptology, dual-use technologies, national security, intelligence, and secret governance–open, secret and classified documents–but not limited to those. Documents are removed from this site only by order served directly by a US court having jurisdiction. No court order has ever been served; any order served will be published here–or elsewhere if gagged by order. Bluffs will be published if comical but otherwise ignored.”

In previous reports, Cryptohippie characterized an electronic police state thusly:

1. It is criminal evidence, ready for use in a trial.
2. It is gathered universally (“preventively”) and only later organized for use in prosecutions.

Silent and seamless, our political minders have every intention of deploying such formidable technological resources as a preeminent–and preemptive–means for effecting social control. Indeed, what has been characterized by corporate and media elites as an “acceptable,” i.e. managed political discourse, respect neither national boundaries, the laws and customs of nations, nor a population’s right to abolish institutions, indeed entire social systems when the governed are reduced to the level of a pauperized herd ripe for plunder.

How then, does this repressive metasystem work? What are the essential characteristics that differentiate an Electronic Police State from previous forms of oppressive governance? Cryptohippie avers:

“In an Electronic Police State, every surveillance camera recording, every email sent, every Internet site surfed, every post made, every check written, every credit card swipe, every cell phone ping… are all criminal evidence, and all are held in searchable databases. The individual can be prosecuted whenever the government wishes.”

“Long term” Cryptohippie writes, the secret state (definitionally expanded here to encompass “private” matters such as workplace surveillance, union busting, persecution of whistleblowers, corporate political blacklisting, etc.), “the Electronic Police State destroys free speech, the right to petition the government for redress of grievances, and other liberties. Worse, it does so in a way that is difficult to identify.”

As Antifascist Calling and others have pointed out, beside the usual ruses deployed by ruling class elites to suppress general knowledge of driftnet spying and wholesale database indexing of entire populations, e.g., “national security” exemptions to the Freedom of Information Act, outright subversion of the rule of law through the expansion of “state secrets” exceptions that prohibit Courts from examining a state’s specious claims, one can add the opaque, bureaucratic violence of corporations who guard, by any means necessary, what have euphemistically been christened “proprietary business information.”

In a state such as ours characterized by wholesale corruption, e.g., generalized financial swindles, insider trading, sweetheart deals brokered with suborned politicians, dangerous pharmaceuticals or other commodities “tested” and then certified “safe” by the marketeers themselves, the protection of trade secrets, formulas, production processes and marketing plans are jealously guarded by judicial pit bulls.

Those who spill the beans and have the temerity to reveal that various products are harmful to the public health or have deleterious effects on the environment (off-loaded onto the public who foot the bill as so-called “external” costs of production) are hounded, slandered or otherwise persecuted, if not imprisoned, by the legal lackeys who serve the corporatist state.

How does this play out in the real world? According to Cryptohippie, the objective signs that an electronic net has closed in to ensure working class compliance with our wretched order of things, are the following:

Daily Documents: Requirement of state-issued identity documents and registration.

Border Issues: Inspections at borders, searching computers, demanding decryption of data.

Financial Tracking: State’s ability to search and record all financial transactions: Checks, credit card use, wires, etc.

Gag Orders: Criminal penalties if you tell someone the state is searching their records.

Anti-Crypto Laws: Outlawing or restricting cryptography.

Constitutional Protection: A lack of constitutional protections for the individual, or the overriding of such protections.

Data Storage Ability: The ability of the state to store the data they gather.

Data Search Ability: The ability to search the data they gather.

ISP Data Retention: States forcing Internet Service Providers to save detailed records of all their customers’ Internet usage.

Telephone Data Retention: States forcing telephone companies to record and save records of all their customers’ telephone usage.

Cell Phone Records: States forcing cellular telephone companies to record and save records of all their customers’ usage, including location.

Medical records: States demanding records from all medical service providers and retaining the same.

Enforcement Ability: The state’s ability to use overwhelming force (exemplified by SWAT Teams) to seize anyone they want, whenever they want.

Habeas Corpus: Lack of habeas corpus, which is the right not to be held in jail without prompt due process. Or, the overriding of such protections.

Police-Intel Barrier: The lack of a barrier between police organizations and intelligence organizations. Or, the overriding of such barriers.

Covert Hacking: State operatives copying digital evidence from private computers covertly. Covert hacking can make anyone appear as any kind of criminal desired, if combined with the removing and/or adding of digital evidence.

Loose Warrants: Warrants issued without careful examination of police statements and other justifications by a truly independent judge.

Sound familiar? It should, since this is the warped reality manufactured for us, or, as Debord would have it: “The spectacle cannot be understood as a mere visual excess produced by mass-media technologies. It is a worldview that has actually been materialized, a view of a world that has become objective.”

That such a state of affairs is monstrous is of course, an understatement. Yet despite America’s preeminent position as a militarist “hyperpower,” the realization that it is a collapsing Empire is a cliché only for those who ignore history’s episodic convulsions.

If, as bourgeois historian Niall Ferguson suggests in the March/April 2010 issue of Foreign Affairs, the American Empire may “quite abruptly … collapse,” and that this “complex adaptive system is in big trouble when its component parts lose faith in its viability,” what does this say about the efficacy of an Electronic Police State to keep the lid on?

Despite the state’s overwhelming firepower, at the level of ideology as much as on the social battlefield where truncheons meet flesh and bullets fly, Marx’s “old mole” is returning with a vengeance, the “specter” once again haunting “rich men dwelling at peace within their habitations,” as Churchill described the West’s system of organized plunder.

Against this loss of “faith” in the system’s “viability,” Debord points out, although the working class “has lost its ability to assert its own independent perspective,” in a more fundamental sense “it has also lost its illusions.” In this regard, “no quantitative amelioration of its impoverishment, no illusory participation in a hierarchized system, can provide a lasting cure for its dissatisfaction.”

Forty years on from Debord, sooner rather later, an historical settling of accounts with the system of global piracy called capitalism will confront the working class with the prospect of “righting the absolute wrong of being excluded from any real life.”

As that process accelerates and deepens, it will then be the “watchers” who tremble…

Information Awareness Office


The Information Awareness Office (IAO) was established by the Defense Advanced Research Projects AgencyUnited States Department of Defense, in January 2002 to bring together several DARPA projects focused on applying information technology to counter transnational threats to national security. The IAO mission was to "imagine, develop, apply, integrate, demonstrate and transition information technologies, components and prototype, closed-loop, information systems that will counter asymmetric threats by achieving total information awareness". Following public criticism that the development and deployment of these technologies could potentially lead to a mass surveillance system, the IAO was defunded by Congress in 2003, although several of the projects run under IAO have continued under different funding. (DARPA), the research and development agency of the

US NSA spies on US journalists and politicians

Did Bush’s Terrorist Surveillance Program Really Focus on American Journalists?

By Scott Horton

Harpers Magazine, 22 January 2009

For the last several weeks, Michael Hayden, the former CIA director who previously led the NSA, has been sweating bullets. In recent press meetings he was a bundle of worries, regularly expressing worries about “prosecutions.” Fear of the consequences of criminal acts has been a steady theme for Hayden. In her book The Dark Side, Jane Mayer reports that in 2004 Deputy Attorney General James Comey was “taken aback” by Hayden’s comments when he was let in on the details of the program that Hayden ran at NSA. “I’m glad you’re joining me, because I won’t have to be lonely, sitting all by myself at the witness table, in the administration of John Kerry.”

Last night on MSNBC’s “Countdown with Keith Olbermann,” we learned that Hayden is concerned about more than just allegations that detainees in CIA custody were tortured. Former NSA analyst Russell Tice, a source for the New York Times disclosure of details of the program, appears to offer further details on the program. He reports that under Hayden the NSA was looking at “everyone’s” communications—telephone conversations, emails, faxes, IMs—and that in addition to suspect terrorists, the NSA was carefully culling data from Internet and phone lines to track the communications of U.S. journalists. This was done under the pretense of pulling out a control group that was notTice reports that when he started asking questions about why journalists were sorted out for special scrutiny, he found that he himself came under close scrutiny and was removed from involvement in the program. He found that he had come under intense FBI surveillance and his communications in all forms were being monitored. After expressing severe doubts about the operations of the NSA program, both Deputy Attorney General Comey and former Assistant Attorney General Jack Goldsmith both believe they also came under intense surveillance. Both decided to leave the Bush Administration after these developments. suspect. But

If Tice’s allegations are correct, then Hayden managed a program which was in essence a massive felony, violating strict federal criminal statutes that limit the NSA’s domestic surveillance operations. While a number of media outlets reported that Hayden’s activities were “vindicated” by a recent FISA court ruling approving the NSA surveillance program, that view is completely incorrect. The FISA court ruling dealt only with the implementation of a program under the newly amended FISA following Hayden’s departure.

Watch the Tice interview here

Security services want personal data from sites like Facebook

The Guardian, 15 October 2008

Security services want personal data from sites like Facebook

Ministers say terrorists and other criminals are using free websites as a way of concealing their communications

The government is drawing up plans to give the police and security and intelligence agencies new powers to access personal data held by internet services, including social network sites such as Facebook and Bebo and gaming networks.

The move, heralded in this morning’s speech on international terrorism by Jacqui Smith, the home secretary, is prompted by concern that criminals and terrorists are using websites as a way of concealing their communications, according to Whitehall security sources.

At present, security and intelligence agencies can demand to see telephone and email traffic from traditional communications services providers (CSPs), which store the personal data for business purposes such as billing.

The rapid expansion of new CSPs – such as gaming, social networking, auction and video sites – and technologies such as wireless internet and broadband present a serious problem for the police, MI5, customs and other government agencies, the security sources say.

Sites such as Bebo and Facebook provide their services free, relying mainly on advertising for income. They do not hold records of their customers, many of whom in any case use pseudonyms.

"Criminals could use a chat facility – they are not actually playing the game but we can’t actually get hold of the data," said one official.

"Criminal terrorists are exploiting free social networking sites," said another Whitehall security official, who added that the problem was compounded by the increasing use of data rather than voice in communications.

"People have many accounts and sign up as Mickey Mouse and no one knows who they are," he said. "We have to do something. We need to collect data CSPs do not hold."

Whitehall officials say that with the help of GCHQ – the electronic eavesdropping centre with a huge information storage capacity – the government is looking at different options that will be put out for consultation. They declined today to spell out the options but said that whatever is decided will need new legislation.

Despite this reticence, it is clear that the government wants to be able to demand that the new generation of CSPs collect data from their customers so the security services can access them.

The response from the networks is likely to be hostile, not least because of the potential costs involved.

If the government, as expected, offers to pay for any new data access scheme, it is likely to cost taxpayers billions of pounds.

The plan will need international cooperation since many of the new CSPs are based abroad, notably in the US.

Government officials insist that what they call the interception modernisation programme, or IMP, is important since access to communications data is a crucial tool in combating crime such as paedophilia, kidnapping and drug trafficking.

They say the planned new legislation would apply only to communications data – such addresses and names – but not to the actual contents of the communications. Intercepting the contents would still need ministerial warrants. Access to communications data would be available, as now, to senior police, local council officers and other public bodies.

Clearly concerned about a public backlash against the plan, officials stress that the government is not building up a single central database containing personal information of everyone in the country.

U.S. Government Starts secret Spy Program in Mexico

U.S. Government Starts secret Spy Program in Mexico
By Erich Moncada,
Posted on Mon Apr 2nd, 2007 at 06:09:23 PM EST
An American corporation is in charge of monitoring all types of communications in the country.

On March 5, “El Centro” (1) newspaper exposed information about a contract given by the U.S. State Department to Verint Technology Incorporated, a New York-based company, to spy on communications in Mexico.

An American corporation is in charge of monitoring all types of communications in the country.

On March 5, “El Centro” (1) newspaper exposed information about a contract given by the U.S. State Department to Verint Technology Incorporated, a New York-based company, to spy on communications in Mexico.

Verint Technology, according to its Web site (2), “is a leading provider of analytic software solutions for communications interception, digital video security and surveillance.” Its CEO, Dan Bodner, a former senior Israeli army officer, was under investigation by U.S. authorities for an alleged phone monitoring technology monopoly.(3)

On Feb. 23, Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) awarded a US$2,963,438 contract bid (S-INLEC-07-M-0002) to Vernit thru the Federal Business Opportunities Web site (4).

The notice (5) states:

“The U.S. Department of State, Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs intends to … purchase of Communications Intercept Systems to include installation, technical support and training on-site in Mexico.”

Solicitation No. 01 (Dec. 19, 2005) explains how the U.S. government aimed to obtain a system to “timely receipt, processing, analysis, and storage of intercepted communications from the national telephonic and other communications service providers in Mexico.”

It requested some delicate features, like real-time and off-line playback, call storing of all phone calls for at least 25,000 hours, installation of 30 monitoring stations and cell phone location and tracking devices.

The document describes the procurement was undertaken to “establish a lawful interception solution” and aid U.S. and Mexican security agencies with “the capability to intercept, analyze, and use intercepted information from all types of communications systems operating in Mexico (to) help deter, prevent, and mitigate acts of major federal crimes in Mexico that include narcotics trafficking and terrorism.”

Amendment 01 (Feb. 1, 2006) furthers about the project’s management. Mexico’s Federal Investigation Agency (AFI) will directly operate the system, aided by a Narcotics Affair Section (NAS) representative from the US Embassy in Mexico and the contractor.(6)

Authoritarian Proposals

On March 10, Mexican President Felipe Calderon proposed to Congress a constitutional reform (7) to increase detentions, search warrants, unlawful entries and wire tapping without judge authorization.

Calderon argued federal police have the need to search private property in “cases of flagrancy”; while the Federal Public Ministry requires “immediately” intrusion of private communications because “when there’s a request to judiciary authorities the investigation turns more difficult or impossible to do.”

The president assured the initiative concedes judges faculties to review wire tapings or search warrants after being executed.

Another troubling aspect of this new law is that evidence gathered without court’s supervision could became full proof. In current Mexican and U.S. legal systems, an exclusionary rule applies to dissuade prosecutors from using illegally collected or analyzed evidence in trial when in violation of constitutional principles.

To date, neither U.S. nor Mexican officials have confirmed or denied the existence of the spy program contract.

Links in English:

(1) “FBI Office Spies on Mexicans””ID=%7B3B7C173 8-40AB-4123-98EC-2BB56DA04867%7D)&language=EN

(2) Verint Technologies

(3) “Software maker Witness Systems to be acquired by Verint in $950 million deal”

(4) Federal Business Opportunities. “58—Communications Intercept System Mexico”

(5) Federal Business Opportunities. “58—Communications Intercept System”

(6) Federal Business Opportunities. “58—Communications Intercept System Solicitation 01” EC%2D06%2DR%2D4042/Attachments.html

(7) “Mexico’s Calderon pushes criminal law overhaul”

The Era Of The American Internet Is Ending

U.S. tracking citizens’ border crossings

U.S. tracking citizens’ border crossings: report

Wednesday, August 20, 2008; 12:59 AM

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. government has been using its border checkpoints to collect information on citizens that will be stored for 15 years, raising concern among privacy advocates, the Washington Post reported on Wednesday.

Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials said the collection is part of a broader effort to guard against terrorist threats, the report said, citing a Federal Register notice the agency issued last month.

Officials said the disclosure is among a series of notices to make the department’s data gathering more transparent, the newspaper reported.

A notice by Customs and Border Protection, a DHS agency, said it does not perform data mining on border crossings to search for patterns that could signal a terrorist or law enforcement threat, according to the Post.

But it states that information may be shared with federal, state and local governments to test "new technology and systems designed to enhance border security or identify other violations of law," the Post reported.

A DHS spokesman was not immediately available for comment on the report.

Information on international air passengers has long been collected this way but Customs and Border Protection only this year began to log the arrivals of all U.S. citizens across land borders, the Post said.

Privacy advocates raised concerns about the expanded collection of personal data and said safeguards are needed to ensure the system is not abused.

"People expect to be checked when they enter the country and for the government to determine if they’re admissible or not," Greg Nojeim of the Center for Democracy and Technology told the Post.

"What they don’t expect is for the government to keep a record for 15 years of their comings into the country. "

DHS spokesman Russ Knocke told the paper that the retention period was justified.

"History has shown, whether you are talking about criminal or terrorist activity, that plotting, planning or even relationships among conspirators can go on for years," he said. "Basic travel records can, quite literally, help frontline officers to connect the dots."

(Reporting by JoAnne Allen; Editing by John O’Callaghan)

© 2008 Reuters

Verizon spies for the US government

Verizon Says It Turned Over Data Without Court Orders

Firm’s Letter to Lawmakers Details Government Requests

By Ellen Nakashima

Washington Post
Tuesday, October 16, 2007; Page A01


Verizon Communications, the nation’s second-largest telecom company, told congressional investigators that it has provided customers’ telephone records to federal authorities in emergency cases without court orders hundreds of times since 2005.

The company said it does not determine the requests’ legality or necessity because to do so would slow efforts to save lives in criminal investigations.

In an Oct. 12 letter replying to Democratic lawmakers, Verizon offered a rare glimpse into the way telecommunications companies cooperate with government requests for information on U.S. citizens.

Verizon also disclosed that the FBI, using administrative subpoenas, sought information identifying not just a person making a call, but all the people that customer called, as well as the people those people called. Verizon does not keep data on this “two-generation community of interest” for customers, but the request highlights the broad reach of the government’s quest for data.

The disclosures, in a letter from Verizon to three Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee investigating the carriers’ participation in government surveillance programs, demonstrated the willingness of telecom companies to comply with government requests for data, even, at times, without traditional legal supporting documents. The committee members also got letters from AT&T and Qwest Communications International, but those letters did not provide details on customer data given to the government. None of the three carriers gave details on any classified government surveillance program.

From January 2005 to September 2007, Verizon provided data to federal authorities on an emergency basis 720 times, it said in the letter. The records included Internet protocol addresses as well as phone data. In that period, Verizon turned over information a total of 94,000 times to federal authorities armed with a subpoena or court order, the letter said. The information was used for a range of criminal investigations, including kidnapping and child-predator cases and counter-terrorism investigations.

Verizon and AT&T said it was not their role to second-guess the legitimacy of emergency government requests.

The letters were released yesterday by the lawmakers as Congress debates whether to grant telecom carriers immunity in cases in which they are sued for disclosing customers’ phone records and other data as part of the government’s post-September 11 surveillance program, even if they did not have court authorization. House Democrats have said that they cannot contemplate such immunity without first understanding the nature of the carriers’ cooperation with the government.

“The responses from these telecommunications companies highlight the need of Congress to continue pressing the Bush administration for answers. The water is as murky as ever on this issue, and it’s past time for the administration to come clean,” said Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), who launched the investigation with panel Chairman John D. Dingell (D-Mich.), and Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.).

Congressional Democrats have been largely stymied in their efforts to have the Bush administration disclose the scope and nature of its surveillance and data-gathering efforts after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Revelations have come through press reports, advocacy groups’ Freedom of Information Act lawsuits and Justice Department inspector general reports.

In May 2006, USA Today reported that the National Security Agency had been secretly collecting the phone-call records of tens of millions of Americans, using data provided by major telecom firms. Qwest, it reported, declined to participate because of fears that the program lacked legal standing.

Last month, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a privacy group in San Francisco, obtained records through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit showing that the FBI sought data from telecom companies about the calling habits of suspects and their associates, the New York Times reported. Neither Qwest nor AT&T answered the lawmakers’ question as to whether they had received such requests for information.

Chinese government wants real names of bloggers

Chinese government wants real names of bloggers

By Nate Anderson | Published: October 23, 2006 – 10:46AM CT

China is mulling a rule change that would require all bloggers to register with the government under their own names, though they would be permitted to keep using an online pseudonym. The move is part of a crackdown against what official news agency Xinhua terms "irresponsible and untrue information," which is a "bad influence" on society.

Rumors that such a plan was in the works have sparked controversy in China, but the Internet Society of China (tasked with developing the real names system) has announced that nothing is official and no proposals have yet been finalized. The group is developing ideas, but has expressed interest in making the debate an open one, encouraging bloggers to air their views on the issue.

The ISC is also concerned with the possible privacy problems such a scheme could create, and plan to address those in proposal they put forward. Huang Chengqing, the ISC's secretary general, told Xinhua that "a complete personal data protection system should be established in advance." This is a good idea if the worries center on identity thieves and public disclosure of a blogger's identity. But if bloggers worry that the government will know exactly who you are and what you're saying, then a data protection system will provide little comfort; it's the online equivalent of the fox guarding the henhouse.

China has a history of cracking down on Internet communications, of course, and not just with its Great Firewall. Last week, we reported on one municipality's plan to ban Internet-spread rumors, and China implemented a similar "real names" directive on mobile phones earlier this month, which are sometimes used by criminals, but are also used to spread rumors and information.

The government also keeps a close eye on what those inside the country are writing, and shuts down some objectionable material, as it did a few weeks ago when it closed blogs run by a Tibetan intellectual. According to Human Rights Watch, "the Chinese government and Communist party officials have moved aggressively to shut down websites, blogs, and other electronic forums that discuss what the government considers sensitive topics, using a sophisticated network of human and technological controls. Journalists, bloggers, webmasters, writers, and editors who sent news out of China or who even debated among themselves about Tibet, Taiwan, and human rights, among other subjects, have faced punishments ranging from sudden unemployment to long prison terms."

Should bloggers worry? Even the rumor of the "real names" measure has aroused considerable opposition, so it's not clear that it will come to pass. Blogging is also difficult to control, since it's so easy to do. There are hundreds of blog hosts within China, and many more without, and it's easy enough to open your own website and start publishing. Policing the Internet for bloggers who have not registered with the government is unlikely to happen in practice, though a law's unworkability is no guarantee that it won't be passed – and that's true anywhere in the world.

But plenty of people welcome the new plan. Anonymous online criticism and rumormongering have aroused their own debate in China over responsibility and free speech. Xinhua cites a Net user named "Tinghai," who believes "that the tricks, porns and rights infringement in China's blogs will never be curbed or reduced unless a real name system is shaped and starts running."

Bloggers beware when you criticize the rich and powerful

International Herald Tribune

Alisher Usmanov, a billionaire born in Uzbekistan, was angry about what Craig Murray, a former British envoy, wrote about him. (AP Photo)

Bloggers beware when you criticize the rich and powerful

By Doreen Carvajal
Published: October 7, 2007

PARIS: When a billionaire born in Uzbekistan and an outspoken former British ambassador clashed over a scorching blog, the first outcome was the Internet equivalent of a smackdown.

The daily Web log, or blog, of the former U.K. ambassador to Uzbekistan, Craig Murray, vanished after Murray's British Internet provider received a flurry of ominous legal letters demanding the removal of "potentially defamatory" information about Alisher Usmanov, a mining mogul with a rising stake in the English soccer club Arsenal.

Two weeks later, Murray is not blogging, but his blistering opinions are about to surface again through a Dutch Internet provider that offers refuge to controversial bloggers in the United States and in England, where libel laws are more lax. And with that journey, Murray has stirred support and a common outrage among bloggers and Internet service providers who complain that chilling demands from companies are becoming more frequent in a number of countries.

"I'm personally predicting that the next growth area is not censorship of bomb-making Web sites," said Richard Clayton, a computer security researcher at Cambridge University and part of the OpenNet Initiative that tracks Internet filtering around the world, "but complaints about defamation and civil suits."

Murray's odyssey began in early September when he posted a pejorative description of Usmanov on his blog.

Schillings, a London law firm specializing in media entertainment, then fired back for Usmanov with legal warnings to Fasthosts, the blog's Internet service provider, demanding elimination of the posting within 24 hours.

More letters followed and by the fourth complaint, Fasthosts simply deactivated the Web site – along with two other servers, shutting down more than a dozen other sites, including that of a British member of Parliament.

"It's extremely scary that this can happen, because they can take down something without anything being tested in court, without any legal sanction at all except a letter from a high-priced lawyer," Murray said in an interview. "I'm very happy to have this tested in court. Why don't they do that? Because that will bring together people who know the truth of the matter."

After his blog was silenced, a number of other bloggers with views ranging across the political spectrum started organizing a coalition to seek legislative protections, according to Tim Ireland, an online marketing consultant whose blog also vanished when the servers were shut down.

The Internet Service Providers Association, or ISPA, the leading trade group for British ISPs, is also hosting a meeting of its members this month to debate the issue.

"The threat is and always has been money," Ireland said. "Might makes rights. We have to take away at least one aspect in U.K. libel law that gives an unfair advantage to people who are cashed up."

In the meantime, Murray's accusations, which were also part of his memoir, "Murder in Samarkand," continue to spread online to other blogs, pointing out the potential perils of trying to squelch information.

Rollo Head, a spokesman for Usmanov, said the businessman and his advisers remained content with the tools used to challenge damaging and misleading information. "We are very comfortable with the strategy that we pursued with regard to the Web site," he said.

Usmanov hired Schillings, which specializes in "reputation protection" and boasts about being lawyers to the stars. Harriet Campbell, a solicitor there, declined to discuss the impact of the firm's strategy, saying in an e-mail message that, "like any professional law firm, Schillings does not comment on its instructions or approach to its current client matters."

But on its Web site, the law firm freely offers a tip sheet to challenge online critics across national borders, describing a client and wealthy chief executive who was accused of unethical behavior and financial crimes on a U.S. Web site.

In that case, the British firm employed similar tactics. It contacted the Internet provider, "advising them that even though the allegations had physically been posted in the U.S., they were defamatory under U.K. law as they could be accessed here."

The provider removed the material, according to Schillings, and "once the source was outed and starved of publicity, he quickly settled to avoid a defamation claim."

Companies in the United States, Canada and Australia have moved against bloggers to remove copyrighted material with takedown complaints or have demanded removal of critical comments posted by blog visitors.

But British bloggers are particularly vulnerable to defamation complaints because of a previous court ruling that found that Internet providers qualified as publishers of libelous material if they did not react when alerted about a problem.

The result is that Internet providers are forced to weigh who is telling the truth.

"It's something that the ISPs are having to manage as part of managing their business," said Brian Ahearne, a spokesman for the ISP trade group. "It's not something that the ISPA wants to be involved in, and they shouldn't have to be judge and jury on this."

Some law firms have taken an even more direct approach, targeting bloggers with brisk legal warnings.

Richard Brunton, a Scottish writer with two blogs, said he started receiving takedown notices last April from a leisure industry firm in the United Kingdom that was irked by comments posted by visitors to his blog, where he reviews products from video games to bamboo flooring.

Brunton said it appeared that some disgruntled employees had posted comments with specific references to company employees. So he eliminated them, he said, but then received legal letters about critical comments posted by writers describing personal experiences with the company.

Brunton and the British blogger, Tim Ireland, said that companies appear to be galvanized into action about critical commentary when blogs surface in Google's top results for a search word. Such was the case for Murray's caustic comments about Alisher Usmanov, which emerged in the top 10 searches of the billionaire's name.

"People have learned a lesson for the future," Ireland said. "That's why we are standing up. It could be anyone next time."

US collection of travelers’ data more extensive than formerly believed

Collecting of Details on Travelers Documented
U.S. Effort More Extensive Than Previously Known

By Ellen Nakashima
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, September 22, 2007; Page A01

The U.S. government is collecting electronic records on the travel habits of millions of Americans who fly, drive or take cruises abroad, retaining data on the persons with whom they travel or plan to stay, the personal items they carry during their journeys, and even the books that travelers have carried, according to documents obtained by a group of civil liberties advocates and statements by government officials.

The personal travel records are meant to be stored for as long as 15 years, as part of the Department of Homeland Security's effort to assess the security threat posed by all travelers entering the country. Officials say the records, which are analyzed by the department's Automated Targeting System, help border officials distinguish potential terrorists from innocent people entering the country.

But new details about the information being retained suggest that the government is monitoring the personal habits of travelers more closely than it has previously acknowledged. The details were learned when a group of activists requested copies of official records on their own travel. Those records included a description of a book on marijuana that one of them carried and small flashlights bearing the symbol of a marijuana leaf.

The Automated Targeting System has been used to screen passengers since the mid-1990s, but the collection of data for it has been greatly expanded and automated since 2002, according to former DHS officials.

Officials yesterday defended the retention of highly personal data on travelers not involved in or linked to any violations of the law. But civil liberties advocates have alleged that the type of information preserved by the department raises alarms about the government's ability to intrude into the lives of ordinary people. The millions of travelers whose records are kept by the government are generally unaware of what their records say, and the government has not created an effective mechanism for reviewing the data and correcting any errors, activists said.

The activists alleged that the data collection effort, as carried out now, violates the Privacy Act, which bars the gathering of data related to Americans' exercise of their First Amendment rights, such as their choice of reading material or persons with whom to associate. They also expressed concern that such personal data could one day be used to impede their right to travel.

"The federal government is trying to build a surveillance society," said John Gilmore, a civil liberties activist in San Francisco whose records were requested by the Identity Project, an ad-hoc group of privacy advocates in California and Alaska. The government, he said, "may be doing it with the best or worst of intentions. . . . But the job of building a surveillance database and populating it with information about us is happening largely without our awareness and without our consent."

Gilmore's file, which he provided to The Washington Post, included a note from a Customs and Border Patrol officer that he carried the marijuana-related book "Drugs and Your Rights." "My first reaction was I kind of expected it," Gilmore said. "My second reaction was, that's illegal."

DHS officials said this week that the government is not interested in passengers' reading habits, that the program is transparent, and that it affords redress for travelers who are inappropriately stymied. "I flatly reject the premise that the department is interested in what travelers are reading," DHS spokesman Russ Knocke said. "We are completely uninterested in the latest Tom Clancy novel that the traveler may be reading."

But, Knocke said, "if there is some indication based upon the behavior or an item in the traveler's possession that leads the inspection officer to conclude there could be a possible violation of the law, it is the front-line officer's duty to further scrutinize the traveler." Once that happens, Knocke said, "it is not uncommon for the officer to document interactions with a traveler that merited additional scrutiny."

He said that he is not familiar with the file that mentions Gilmore's book about drug rights, but that generally "front-line officers have a duty to enforce all laws within our authority, for example, the counter-narcotics mission." Officers making a decision to admit someone at a port of entry have a duty to apply extra scrutiny if there is some indication of a violation of the law, he said.

The retention of information about Gilmore's book was first disclosed this week in Wired News. Details of how the ATS works were disclosed in a Federal Register notice last November. Although the screening has been in effect for more than a decade, data for the system in recent years have been collected by the government from more border points, and also provided by airlines — under U.S. government mandates — through direct electronic links that did not previously exist.

The DHS database generally includes "passenger name record" (PNR) information, as well as notes taken during secondary screenings of travelers. PNR data — often provided to airlines and other companies when reservations are made — routinely include names, addresses and credit-card information, as well as telephone and e-mail contact details, itineraries, hotel and rental car reservations, and even the type of bed requested in a hotel.

The records the Identity Project obtained confirmed that the government is receiving data directly from commercial reservation systems, such as Galileo and Sabre, but also showed that the data, in some cases, are more detailed than the information to which the airlines have access.

Ann Harrison, the communications director for a technology firm in Silicon Valley who was among those who obtained their personal files and provided them to The Post, said she was taken aback to see that her dossier contained data on her race and on a European flight that did not begin or end in the United States or connect to a U.S.-bound flight.

"It was surprising that they were gathering so much information without my knowledge on my travel activities, and it was distressing to me that this information was being gathered in violation of the law," she said.

James P. Harrison, director of the Identity Project and Ann Harrison's brother, obtained government records that contained another sister's phone number in Tokyo as an emergency contact. "So my sister's phone number ends up being in a government database," he said. "This is a lot more than just saying who you are, your date of birth."

Edward Hasbrouck, a civil liberties activist who was a travel agent for more than 15 years, said that his file contained coding that reflected his plan to fly with another individual. In fact, Hasbrouck wound up not flying with that person, but the record, which can be linked to the other passenger's name, remained in the system. "The Automated Targeting System," Hasbrouck alleged, "is the largest system of government dossiers of individual Americans' personal activities that the government has ever created."

He said that travel records are among the most potentially invasive of records because they can suggest links: They show who a traveler sat next to, where they stayed, when they left. "It's that lifetime log of everywhere you go that can be correlated with other people's movements that's most dangerous," he said. "If you sat next to someone once, that's a coincidence. If you sat next to them twice, that's a relationship."

Stewart Verdery, former first assistant secretary for policy and planning at DHS, said the data collected for ATS should be considered "an investigative tool, just the way we do with law enforcement, who take records of things for future purposes when they need to figure out where people came from, what they were carrying and who they are associated with. That type of information is extremely valuable when you're trying to thread together a plot or you're trying to clean up after an attack."

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff in August 2006 said that "if we learned anything from Sept. 11, 2001, it is that we need to be better at connecting the dots of terrorist-related information. After Sept. 11, we used credit-card and telephone records to identify those linked with the hijackers. But wouldn't it be better to identify such connections before a hijacker boards a plane?" Chertoff said that comparing PNR data with intelligence on terrorists lets the government "identify unknown threats for additional screening" and helps avoid "inconvenient screening of low-risk travelers."

Knocke, the DHS spokesman, added that the program is not used to determine "guilt by association." He said the DHS has created a program called DHS Trip to provide redress for travelers who faced screening problems at ports of entry.

But DHS Trip does not allow a traveler to challenge an agency decision in court, said David Sobel, senior counsel with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which has sued the DHS over information concerning the policy underlying the ATS. Because the system is exempted from certain Privacy Act requirements, including the right to "contest the content of the record," a traveler has no ability to correct erroneous information, Sobel said.

Zakariya Reed, a Toledo firefighter, said in an interview that he has been detained at least seven times at the Michigan border since fall 2006. Twice, he said, he was questioned by border officials about "politically charged" opinion pieces he had published in his local newspaper. The essays were critical of U.S. policy in the Middle East, he said. Once, during a secondary interview, he said, "they had them printed out on the table in front of me."

Researcher Julie Tate contributed to this report.

Private agency put protest groups under surveillance

Private agency put protest groups under surveillance

Statewatch Bulletin; vol 13 no 5 August-October 2003

A Sunday Times "Insight" investigation has revealed that a numer of private companies, including the defence giant BAE Systems and the security firm Group 4, were supplied with personal details on protestors by a a private agency run by Evelyn Le Chene, is said to have a database of 148,000 activists, peace protestors, environmentalists and trade unionists.

BAE is said by the Sunday Times to have paid the company

U.S. government quietly rates millions of travellers for terrorism potential

U.S. government quietly rates millions of travellers for terrorism potential

Michael J. Sniffen
Canadian Press

Friday, December 01, 2006

WASHINGTON (AP) – Without notifying the public, federal agents for the past four years have assigned millions of international travellers, including Americans, computer-generated scores rating the risk they pose of being terrorists or criminals.

The travellers are not allowed to see or directly challenge these risk assessments, which the government intends to keep them on file for 40 years.

The scores are assigned to people entering and leaving the United States after computers assess their travel records, including where they are from, how they paid for tickets, their motor vehicle records, past one-way travel, seating preference and what kind of meal they ordered.

The program's existence was quietly disclosed earlier in November when the government put an announcement detailing the Automated Targeting System, or ATS, for the first time in the Federal Register, a fine-print compendium of federal rules. Privacy and civil liberties lawyers, congressional aides and even law enforcement officers said they thought this system had been applied only to cargo.

The Homeland Security Department notice called its program "one of the most advanced targeting systems in the world." The department said the nation's ability to spot criminals and other security threats "would be critically impaired without access to this data."

Still, privacy advocates view ATS with alarm. "It's probably the most invasive system the government has yet deployed in terms of the number of people affected," David Sobel, a lawyer at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a civil liberties group devoted to electronic data issues, said in an interview.

A similar Homeland Security data-mining project, for domestic air travellers – now known as Secure Flight – caused a furor two years ago in Congress. Legislators barred its implementation until it can pass 10 tests for accuracy and privacy protection.

In comments to the Homeland Security Department about ATS, Sobel said, "Some individuals will be denied the right to travel and many the right to travel free of unwarranted interference as a result of the maintenance of such material."

Sobel said in the interview the government notice also raises the possibility that faulty risk assessments could cost innocent people jobs in shipping or travel, government contracts, licenses or other benefits.

The government notice says ATS data may be shared with state, local and foreign governments for use in hiring decisions and in granting licenses, security clearances, contracts or other benefits. In some cases, the data may be shared with courts, Congress and even private contractors.

"Everybody else can see it, but you can't," Stephen Yale-Loeher, an immigration lawyer who teaches at Cornell Law school, said in an interview.

But Jayson P. Ahern, an assistant commissioner of Homeland Security's Customs and Border Protection agency, said the ATS ratings simply allow agents at the border to pick out people not previously identified by law enforcement as potential terrorists or criminals and send them for additional searches and interviews. "It does not replace the judgements of officers," Ahern said in an interview Thursday.

This targeting system goes beyond traditional border watch lists, Ahern said. Border agents compare arrival names with watch lists separately from the ATS analysis.

In a privacy impact assessment posted on its website this week, Homeland Security said ATS is aimed at discovering high-risk individuals who "may not have been previously associated with a law enforcement action or otherwise be noted as a person of concern to law enforcement."

Ahern said ATS does this by applying rules derived from the government's knowledge of terrorists and criminals to the passenger's travel patterns and records.

He said any traveller who objected to additional searches or interviews could ask to speak to a supervisor to complain. Homeland Security's privacy impact statement said that if asked, border agents would hand complaining passengers a one-page document that describes some, but not all, of the records that agents check and refers complaints to Custom and Border Protection's Customer Satisfaction Unit.

Homeland Security's statement said travellers can use this office to obtain corrections to the underlying data sources that the risk assessment is based on. "There is no procedure to correct the risk assessment and associated rules stored in ATS as the assessment … will change when the data from the source system(s) is amended."

"I don't buy that at all," said Jim Malmberg, executive director of American Consumer Credit Education Support Services, a private credit education group. Malmberg noted how hard it has been for citizens, including members of Congress and even infants, to stop being misidentified as terrorists because their names match those on anti-terrorism watch lists.

The department says that 87 million people a year enter the country by air and 309 million enter by land or sea. The government gets advance passenger and crew lists for all flights and ships entering and leaving and all those names are entered into the system for an ATS analysis, Ahern said. He also said the names of vehicle drivers and passengers are entered when they cross the border and Amtrak is voluntarily supplying passenger data for trains to and from Canada.

Ahern said that border agents concentrate on arrivals more than on departures because their resources are limited.

"If this catches one potential terrorist, this is a success," Ahern said.

Terrorism invoked in ISP snooping proposal

Terrorism invoked in ISP snooping proposal
Attorney general said Internet providers must retain records of Americans’ activities to help in terrorism fight, CNET has learned.

By Declan McCullagh
Staff Writer, CNET
Published: May 30, 2006, 6:30 PM PDT

In a radical departure from earlier statements, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has said that requiring Internet service providers to save records of their customers’ online activities is necessary in the fight against terrorism, CNET has learned.

Gonzales and FBI Director Robert Mueller privately met with representatives of AOL, Comcast, Google, Microsoft and Verizon last week and said that Internet providers–and perhaps search engines–must retain data for two years to aid in anti-terrorism prosecutions, according to multiple sources familiar with the discussion who spoke on condition of anonymity on Tuesday.

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales says ISP record retention is necessary in the fight against terrorism, according to one person familiar with DOJ discussions.

Gonzales’ acknowledgement represents a departure from earlier statements that emphasized how mandatory data retention would help thwart child exploitation.

“We want this for terrorism,” Gonzales said, according to one person familiar with the discussion.

Gonzales’ earlier position had only emphasized how mandatory data retention would help thwart child exploitation.

In a speech last month at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, Gonzales said that Internet providers must retain records to aid investigations of criminals “abusing kids and sending images of the abuse around the world through the Internet.”

If data retention becomes viewed primarily as an anti-terrorism measure, recent legal and political spats could complicate the Justice Department’s efforts to make it standard practice.

Especially after recent reports that AT&T has opened its databases to the National Security Agency, Internet and telecommunications executives have become skittish about appearing to be cooperating too closely with the federal government’s surveillance efforts.

In addition, the positive publicity that Google received during its legal dispute with the Justice Department over search terms has demonstrated to Internet companies the benefits of objecting to government requests on privacy grounds.

“A monumental data trove is a crazy thing from a privacy perspective,” said one person familiar with Friday’s discussions. “It’s crazy that the U.S. government is going to retain more data than the Chinese government does.”

Comcast said in a statement that “we fully share the attorney general’s concern with the need to combat illegal use of the Internet for child pornography, terrorism and other illegal activities. We applaud the attorney general’s initiative in convening an internal task force on this issue and look forward to continuing to cooperate with him and the FBI.”

“The reasons for skepticism are growing,” said Jim Harper, an analyst at the free-market Cato Institute and member of the Department of Homeland Security’s Data Privacy and Integrity Advisory Committee. He predicted the reaction among Internet and telecom companies will be “mildly unfavorable but people are not yet to the point where they’ll say the emperor has no clothes.”
ISP snooping time line

In events first reported by CNET, Bush administration officials have said Internet providers must keep track of what Americans are doing online. Here’s the time line:

June 2005: Justice Department officials quietly propose data retention rules.

December 2005: European Parliament votes for data retention of up to two years.

April 14, 2006: Data retention proposals surface in Colorado and the U.S. Congress.

April 20, 2006: Attorney General Gonzales says data retention “must be addressed.”

April 28, 2006: Rep. DeGette proposes data retention amendment.

May 16, 2006: Rep. Sensenbrenner drafts data retention legislation, but backs away from it two days later.

May 26, 2006: Gonzales and FBI Director Mueller meet with Internet and telecommunications companies.

Details of the Justice Department’s proposal remain murky. One possibility is requiring Internet providers to record the Internet addresses that their customers are temporarily assigned. A more extensive mandate would require them to keep track of the identities of Americans’ e-mail and instant messaging correspondents and save the logs of Internet phone calls.

A Justice Department representative said Tuesday that the proposal would not require Internet providers to retain records of the actual contents of conversations and other Internet traffic.

Until Gonzales’ public remarks last month, the Bush administration had generally opposed laws requiring data retention, saying it had “serious reservations” (click for PDF) about them. But after the European Parliament last December approved such a requirement for Internet, telephone and voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) providers, top administration officials began talking about it more favorably.

Two proposals to mandate data retention have surfaced in the U.S. Congress. One, backed by Rep. Diana DeGette, a Colorado Democrat, says that any Internet service that “enables users to access content” must permanently retain records that would permit police to identify each user. The records could be discarded only at least one year after the user’s account was closed.

The other was drafted by aides to Wisconsin Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and a close ally of President Bush. Sensenbrenner said through a spokesman earlier this month, though, that his proposal is on hold because “our committee’s agenda is tremendously overcrowded already.”

‘Preservation’ vs. ‘retention’
At the moment, Internet service providers typically discard any log file that’s no longer required for business reasons such as network monitoring, fraud prevention or billing disputes. Companies do, however, alter that general rule when contacted by police agencies performing an investigation–a practice called data preservation.

A 1996 federal law called the Electronic Communication Transactional Records Act regulates data preservation. It requires Internet providers to retain any “record” in their possession for 90 days “upon the request of a governmental entity.”

Because Internet addresses remain a relatively scarce commodity, ISPs tend to allocate them to customers from a pool based on if a computer is in use at the time. (Two standard techniques used are the Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol and Point-to-Point Protocol over Ethernet.)

In addition, Internet providers are required by another federal law to report child pornography sightings to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which is in turn charged with forwarding that report to the appropriate police agency.
In other news:

    * Greenbacks flock to green tech
    * Open source on the move
    * Photos: A rescue robot for combat zones
    * Extra: Clinton debuts $1B renewable-energy fund
    * Video: Dunn inducted into Hall of Fame

When adopting its data retention rules, the European Parliament approved U.K.-backed requirements saying that communications providers in its 25 member countries–several of which had enacted their own data retention laws already–must retain customer data for a minimum of six months and a maximum of two years.

The Europe-wide requirement applies to a wide variety of “traffic” and “location” data, including the identities of the customers’ correspondents; the date, time, and duration of phone calls, VoIP calls, or e-mail messages; and the location of the device used for the communications. But the “content” of the communications is not supposed to be retained. The rules are expected to take effect in 2008.

Security Experts’ ‘Suicides’ Called Into Question

Just after noon on Friday, July 21, Adamo Bove — head of security at Telecom Italia, the country’s largest telecommunications firm — told his wife he had some errands to run as he left their Naples apartment. Hours later, police found his car parked atop a freeway overpass. Bove’s body lay on the pavement some 100 feet below.

Security Experts’ ‘Suicides’ Called Into Question — European Media Probe Dangers of Secret Surveillance Systems



New America Media, Investigation, Jeffrey Klein and Paolo Pontoniere, Aug 16, 2006

Editor’s Note: European journalists and investigators are tracking the mysterious deaths of two security experts — one in Italy, the other in Greece — who had uncovered extensive spyware in their telecommunications firms. So far, despite possible U.S. links to the extralegal, politicized spy operations, few U.S. media have picked up the trail. Jeffrey Klein, a founding editor of Mother Jones, this summer received a Loeb, journalism’s top award for business reporting. Paolo Pontoniere is a New America Media European commentator.

Just after noon on Friday, July 21, Adamo Bove — head of security at Telecom Italia, the country’s largest telecommunications firm — told his wife he had some errands to run as he left their Naples apartment. Hours later, police found his car parked atop a freeway overpass. Bove’s body lay on the pavement some 100 feet below.

Bove was a master at detecting hidden phone networks. Recently, at the direction of Milan prosecutors, he’d used mobile phone records to trace how a "Special Removal Unit" composed of CIA and SISMI (the Italian CIA) agents abducted Abu Omar, an Egyptian cleric, and flew him to Cairo where he was tortured. The Omar kidnapping and the alleged involvement of 26 CIA agents, whom prosecutors seek to arrest and extradite, electrified Italian media. U.S. media noted the story, then dropped it.

The first Italian press reports after Bove’s death said the 42-year-old had committed suicide. Bove, according to unnamed sources, was depressed about his imminent indictment by Milan prosecutors. But prosecutors immediately, and uncharacteristically, set the record straight: Bove was not a target; in fact, he was prosecutors’ chief source. Bove, prosecutors said, was helping them investigate his own bosses, who were orchestrating an illegal wiretapping bureau and the destruction of incriminating digital evidence. One Telecom executive had already been forced out when he was caught conducting these illicit operations, as well as selling intercepted information to a business intelligence firm.

About 16 months earlier, in March of 2005, Costas Tsalikidis, a 38-year-old software engineer for Vodaphone in Greece had just discovered a highly sophisticated bug embedded in the company’s mobile network. The spyware eavesdropped on the prime minister’s and other top officials’ cell phone calls; it even monitored the car phone of Greece’s secret service chief. Others bugged included civil rights activists, the head of Greece’s "Stop the War" coalition, journalists and Arab businessmen based in Athens. All the wiretapping began about two months before the Olympics were hosted by Greece in August 2004, according to a subsequent investigation by the Greek authorities.

Tsalikidis, according to friends and family, was excited about his work and was looking forward to marrying his longtime girlfriend. But on March 9, 2005, his elderly mother found him hanging from a white rope tied to pipes outside of his apartment bathroom. His limp feet dangled a mere three inches above the floor. His death was ruled a suicide; he, like Adamo Bove, left no suicide note.

The next day, Vodaphone’s top executive in Greece reported to the prime minister that unknown outsiders had illicitly eavesdropped on top government officials. Before making his report, however, the CEO had the spyware destroyed, even though this destroyed the evidence as well.

Investigations into the alleged suicides of both Adamo Bove and Costas Tsalikidis raise questions about more than the suspicious circumstances of their deaths. They point to politicized, illegal intelligence structures that rely upon cooperative business executives. European prosecutors and journalists probing these spying networks have revealed that:

— the Vodaphone eavesdropping was transmitted in real time via four antennae located near the U.S. embassy in Athens, according to an 11-month Greek government investigation. Some of these transmissions were sent to a phone in Laurel, Md., near America’s National Security Agency.

— according to Ta Nea, a Greek newspaper, Vodaphone’s CEO privately told the Greek government that the bugging culprits were "U.S. agents." Because Greece’s prime minister feared domestic protests and a diplomatic war with the United States, he ordered the Vodafone CEO to withhold this conclusion from his own authorities investigating the case.

— in both the Italian and Greek cases, the spyware was much more deeply embedded and clever than anything either phone company had seen before. Its creation required highly experienced engineers and expensive laboratories where the software could be subjected to the stresses of a national telephone system. Greek investigators concluded that the Vodaphone spyware was created outside of Greece.

— once placed, the spyware could have vast reach since most host companies are merging their Internet, mobile telephone and fixed-line operations onto a single platform.

— Germany’s Federal Intelligence Service, BND, recently snooped on investigative journalists. According to parliamentary investigations, the spying may have been carried out using the United States’s secretive Bad Aibling base in the Bavarian Alps, which houses the American global eavesdropping program dubbed Echelon.

Were the two alleged suicides more than an eerie coincidence? A few media in Italy — La Stampa, Dagospia and Feltrinelli, among others — have noted the unsettling parallels. But so far no journalists have been able to overcome the investigative hurdles posed by two entirely different criminal inquiry systems united only by two prime ministers not eager to provoke the White House’s wrath. In the United States, where massive eavesdropping programs have operated since 9/11, investigators, reporters and members of Congress have not explored whether those responsible for these spying operations may be using them for partisan purposes or economic gain. As more troubling revelations come out of Europe, it may become more difficult to ignore how easily spying programs can be hijacked for illegitimate purposes. The brave soul who pursues this line of inquiry, however, should fear for his or her life.

SIDEBAR — Italy special place in the heart of the Dirty War

As the investigation into covert CIA’s and local rogue intelligence operatives in Europe expands across the continent, Italy’s emerges as the thinking head of a hydra whose tentacles reach far into worldwide communication net and backward into the history of international conspiracies.

Because of its unique politically hybrid nature — Italy contains both a strong Christian Democrat constituency as well as the largest Communist Party of a Western country — the nation has as been at the crossroads of political exchanges between East and West. This has been true since the end World War II and remained so until the fall of the Berlin Wall. The crossroads was economic, too; affinities between Christian Democrats, Italian Socialists and Communists and political parties and leaders in the Middle East and the socialist countries made it easy for Italy to win strategically important contracts in the field of energy, construction and telecommunications.

Some of those contracts are still operative, like those international telecommunications routing through Italian networks coming from North Africa, the Middle East and some of the world’s remaining Communist countries. Telecommunications apparatus that formerly belonged to STET, the Italian state-owned telephone company, today are owned by Telecom Italia.

Italy is not new to convoluted networks that bind security and military elites to conservative business leaders in long-term secret pacts to carry out subversive activities. Historically such networks have morphed into massive bribing machines.

The Masonic Loggia P2 and Gladio are just two examples. The first, a network comprised of about 2,000 military officers, public servants, bankers, journalists and business-people, operated between the 1970s and the ’80s, some say in concert with the CIA. Its secret goal was to keep Italy solidly in the hands of center-right administrations. The P2 network is reputed to have begun the "Strategia della Tensione," a concoction of terrorist attacks, political unrest and economic crises that created a feeling of uncertainty among Italians, which in turn led them to vote for centrist administrations.

In the case of Gladio, a much wider intelligence and military net was created to prevent the rise to power of the Communist and Socialist Parties in Italy. Although supposedly disbanded at the beginning of the 1990s, this network is said to have transformed into the Department of Anti-terrorism Strategic Studies, a neo-fascist organization that in 2004, to benefit economically from funding made available to fight al-Qaeda, didn’t hesitate to disseminate false information about an impending attack on Milan’s Linate International Airport and on the city’s historical Duomo.

Some European prosecutors and journalists are now trying to discern how today’s covert intelligence networks altered political discourse on the continent.

Class Lawsuit Against AT&T for Collaboration with Illegal Domestic Spying Program

Class-Action Lawsuit Against AT&T for Collaboration with Illegal Domestic Spying Program

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) filed a class-action lawsuit against AT&T on January 31, 2006, accusing the telecom giant of violating the law and the privacy of its customers by collaborating with the National Security Agency (NSA) in its massive and illegal program to wiretap and data-mine Americans’ communications.

In December of 2005, the press revealed that the government had instituted a comprehensive and warrantless electronic surveillance program that ignored the careful safeguards set forth by Congress. This surveillance program, purportedly authorized by the President at least as early as 2001 and primarily undertaken by the NSA, intercepts and analyzes the communications of millions of ordinary Americans.

In the largest “fishing expedition” ever devised, the NSA uses powerful computers to “data-mine” the contents of these Internet and telephone communications for suspicious names, numbers, and words, and to analyze traffic data indicating who is calling and emailing whom in order to identify persons who may be “linked” to “suspicious activities,” suspected terrorists or other investigatory targets, whether directly or indirectly.

But the government did not act-and is not acting-alone. The government requires the collaboration of major telecommunications companies to implement its unprecedented and illegal domestic spying program.

AT&T Corp. (which was recently acquired by the new AT&T, Inc,. formerly known as SBC Communications) maintains domestic telecommunications facilities over which millions of Americans’ telephone and Internet communications pass every day. It also manages some of the largest databases in the world, containing records of most or all communications made through its myriad telecommunications services.

The lawsuit alleges that AT&T Corp. has opened its key telecommunications facilities and databases to direct access by the NSA and/or other government agencies, thereby disclosing to the government the contents of its customers’ communications as well as detailed communications records about millions of its customers, including the lawsuit’s class members.

The lawsuit also alleges that AT&T has given the government unfettered access to its over 300 terabyte “Daytona” database of caller information — one of the largest databases in the world. Moreover, by opening its network and databases to wholesale surveillance by the NSA, EFF alleges that AT&T has violated the privacy of its customers and the people they call and email, as well as broken longstanding communications privacy laws.

The lawsuit also alleges that AT&T continues to assist the government in its secret surveillance of millions of Americans. EFF, on behalf of a nationwide class of AT&T customers, is suing to stop this illegal conduct and hold AT&T responsible for its illegal collaboration in the government’s domestic spying program, which has violated the law and damaged the fundamental freedoms of the American public.

Legal Documents

Preliminary Injunction
March 31, 2006

  • Notice of Motion for Preliminary Injunction
  • Declaration of Cindy A. Cohn [PDF, 38K]
  • Declaration of Carolyn Jewel [PDF, 917K]
  • Declaration of Lee Tien [PDF, 42K]
  • Proposed Order re Preliminary Injunction [PDF, 36K]
  • Request for Judicial Notice [PDF, 75K]
  • Press release about this filing: EFF Motion in AT&T Surveillance Case Draws Government’s Eye


  • Amended Complaint [PDF, 370K] February 22, 2006
  • Complaint [PDF, 351KB] January 21, 2006