Privacy News Articles
Excerpts of Key Privacy News Articles in Major Media


Below are many highly revealing excerpts of important privacy news articles from the major media suggesting a cover-up. Links are provided to the full news articles for verification and for those who want more. If any link fails to function, read this webpage. These privacy news articles are listed by order of importance. You can also explore the articles listed by order of the date of the news article or by the date posted. By choosing to educate ourselves and to spread the word, we can and will build a brighter future.


Privacy News Articles


Note: Explore our full index to revealing excerpts of key major media news articles on several dozen engaging topics. And don't miss amazing excerpts from 20 of the most revealing news articles ever published.

Behind the Eavesdropping Story, a Loud Silence
2006-01-01, New York Times
http://www.nytimes.com/2006/01/01/opinion/01publiceditor.html?ex=1293771600&e...

The New York Times's explanation of its decision to report, after what it said was a one-year delay, that the National Security Agency is eavesdropping domestically without court-approved warrants was woefully inadequate. And I have had unusual difficulty getting a better explanation for readers, despite the paper's repeated pledges of greater transparency. For the first time since I became public editor, the executive editor and the publisher have declined to respond to my requests for information about news-related decision-making. My queries concerned the timing of the exclusive Dec. 16 article about President Bush's secret decision in the months after 9/11 to authorize the warrantless eavesdropping on Americans in the United States. I e-mailed a list of 28 questions to Bill Keller, the executive editor [of the New York Times], on Dec. 19, three days after the article appeared. He promptly declined to respond to them. I then sent the same questions to Arthur Sulzberger Jr., the publisher, who also declined to respond. They held out no hope for a fuller explanation in the future. The top Times people involved in the final decisions [are] refusing to talk and urging everyone else to remain silent.




Echelon spy network revealed
1999-11-03, BBC News
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/503224.stm

Imagine a global spying network that can eavesdrop on every single phone call, fax or e-mail, anywhere on the planet. It sounds like science fiction, but it's true. Two of the chief protagonists - Britain and America - officially deny its existence. But the BBC has confirmation from the Australian Government that such a network really does exist. The base is linked directly to the headquarters of the US National Security Agency (NSA) at Fort Mead in Maryland, and it is also linked to a series of other listening posts scattered across the world, like Britain's own GCHQ. The power of the network, codenamed Echelon, is astounding. Every international telephone call, fax, e-mail, or radio transmission can be listened to by powerful computers capable of voice recognition. They home in on a long list of key words, or patterns of messages. The network is so secret that the British and American Governments refuse to admit that Echelon even exists. But another ally, Australia, has decided not to be so coy. The man who oversees Australia's security services, Inspector General of Intelligence and Security Bill Blick, has confirmed to the BBC that their Defence Signals Directorate (DSD) does form part of the network. Asked if they are then passed on to countries like Britain and America, he said: "They might be in certain circumstances." They are looking for evidence of international crime, like terrorism. But the system is so widespread all sorts of private communications, often of a sensitive commercial nature, are hoovered up and analysed.

Note that this is a 1999 article. The capability to monitor all communications has existed for a long time. For a powerful, well documented 20-page paper in the Federal Communications Law Journal providing strong evidence that this program is unconstitutional, click here.




Whistle-blower Had to Fight NSA, LA Times to Tell Story
2007-03-06, ABC News
http://blogs.abcnews.com/theblotter/2007/03/whistleblower_h.html

Whistle-blower AT&T technician Mark Klein says his effort to reveal alleged government surveillance of domestic Internet traffic was blocked not only by U.S. intelligence officials but also by the top editors of the Los Angeles Times. Klein describes how he stumbled across "secret NSA rooms" being installed at an AT&T switching center in San Francisco and later heard of similar rooms in at least six other cities. Eventually, Klein says he decided to take his documents to the Los Angeles Times, to blow the whistle on what he calls "an illegal and Orwellian project." But after working for two months with LA Times reporter Joe Menn, Klein says he was told the story had been killed at the request of then-Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte and then-director of the NSA Gen. Michael Hayden. Klein says he then took his AT&T documents to The New York Times, which published its exclusive account last April. In the court case against AT&T, Negroponte formally invoked the "state secrets privilege," claiming the lawsuit and the information from Klein and others could "cause exceptionally grave damage to the national security of the United States." The Los Angeles Times' decision was made by the paper's editor at the time, Dean Baquet, now the Washington bureau chief of The New York Times. As the new Washington bureau chief of The New York Times, Baquet now oversees the reporters who have broken most of the major stories involving the government surveillance program, often over objections from the government.

Note: So after the NY Times has the guts to report this important story, the man who was responsible for the censorship at the LA Times is transferred to the very position in the NY Times where he can now block future stories there. For why this case of blatant media censorship isn't making headlines, click here.




U.S. threatened massive fine to force Yahoo to release data
2014-09-11, Washington Post
http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/technology/us-threatened-massive-fine-...

The U.S. government threatened to fine Yahoo $250,000 a day in 2008 if it failed to comply with a broad demand to hand over user communications — a request the company believed was unconstitutional — according to court documents unsealed [on September 11] that illuminate how federal officials forced American tech companies to participate in the National Security Agency’s controversial PRISM program. The documents ... outline a secret and ultimately unsuccessful legal battle by Yahoo to resist the government’s demands. The company’s loss required Yahoo to become one of the first to begin providing information to PRISM, a program that gave the NSA extensive access to records of online communications by users of Yahoo and other U.S.-based technology firms. The ruling by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review became a key moment in the development of PRISM, helping government officials to convince other Silicon Valley companies that unprecedented data demands had been tested in the courts and found constitutionally sound. Eventually, most major U.S. tech companies, including Google, Facebook, Apple and AOL, complied. Microsoft had joined earlier, before the ruling, NSA documents have shown. PRISM was first revealed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden last year. Documents made it clear that the program allowed the NSA to order U.S.-based tech companies to turn over e-mails and other communications to or from foreign targets without search warrants for each of those targets. Other NSA programs gave even more wide-ranging access to personal information of people worldwide, by collecting data directly from fiber-optic connections.

Note: For more on this, see concise summaries of deeply revealing government surveillance news articles from reliable major media sources.




The US government can brand you a terrorist based on a Facebook post
2014-08-30, The Guardian (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/aug/30/terrorist-watch-list-rul...

The US government’s web of surveillance is vast and interconnected. You can be pulled into the National Security Agency’s database quietly and quickly. Through ICREACH, a Google-style search engine created for the intelligence community, the NSA provides data on private communications to 23 government agencies. More than 1,000 analysts had access to that information. It was confirmed earlier this month that the FBI shares its master watchlist, the Terrorist Screening Database, with at least 22 foreign governments, countless federal agencies, state and local law enforcement, plus private contractors. The watchlist [is] based on [low] standards and secret evidence, which ensnares innocent people. Indeed, the standards are so low that the US government’s guidelines specifically allow for a single, uncorroborated source of information – including a Facebook or Twitter post – to serve as the basis for placing you on its master watchlist. Of the 680,000 individuals on that FBI master list, roughly 40% have “no recognized terrorist group affiliation”, according to the Intercept. These individuals don’t even have a connection – as the government loosely defines it – to a designated terrorist group, but they are still branded as suspected terrorists. The US [government uses] a loose standard – so-called “reasonable suspicion” – in determining who, exactly, can be watchlisted. ["Reasonable suspicion"] requires neither “concrete evidence” nor “irrefutable evidence”. Instead, an official is permitted to consider “reasonable inferences” and “to draw from the facts in light of his/her experience”.

Note: For more on this, see concise summaries of deeply revealing terrorism news articles from reliable major media sources.




Racy Photos Were Often Shared at N.S.A., Snowden Says
2014-07-21, New York Times
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/21/us/politics/edward-snowden-at-nsa-sexually-...

The former National Security Agency contractor Edward J. Snowden said in a wide-ranging interview ... that the oversight of surveillance programs was so weak that members of the United States military working at the spy agency sometimes shared sexually explicit photos they intercepted. He also said the British government often pioneered the most invasive surveillance programs because its intelligence services operate with fewer restrictions intended to protect individual privacy than its counterparts in the United States and other allies. “In the course of their daily work they stumble across something that is completely unrelated to their work, for example an intimate nude photo of someone in a sexually compromising situation but they’re extremely attractive,” he said. “So what do they do? They turn around in their chair and they show a co-worker. And their co-worker says: ‘Oh, hey, that’s great. Send that to Bill down the way.’ ” Mr. Snowden said that type of sharing ... was “seen as the fringe benefits of surveillance positions.” He said that this was never reported and that the system for auditing surveillance programs was “incredibly weak.” Mr. Snowden had particularly stark criticism for the British government’s surveillance programs, because in Britain the respect for individual privacy, he said, “is not strongly encoded in law or policy.” Because it has fewer restrictions, British intelligence platforms “are used as a testing ground” for programs of all five intelligence partners, a group referred to as “Five Eyes,” which includes Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United States.”

Note: For more on this, see concise summaries of deeply revealing privacy news articles from reliable major media sources.




N.S.A. Able to Foil Basic Safeguards of Privacy on Web
2013-09-06, New York Times
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/06/us/nsa-foils-much-internet-encryption.html

The National Security Agency is winning its long-running secret war on encryption, using supercomputers, technical trickery, court orders and behind-the-scenes persuasion to undermine the major tools protecting the privacy of everyday communications in the Internet age, according to newly disclosed documents. The agency has circumvented or cracked much of the encryption, or digital scrambling, that guards global commerce and banking systems, protects sensitive data like trade secrets and medical records, and automatically secures the e-mails, Web searches, Internet chats and phone calls of Americans and others around the world, the documents show. Many users assume — or have been assured by Internet companies — that their data is safe from prying eyes, including those of the government, and the N.S.A. wants to keep it that way. The agency treats its recent successes in deciphering protected information as among its most closely guarded secrets, restricted to those cleared for a highly classified program code-named Bullrun, according to the documents, provided by Edward J. Snowden, the former N.S.A. contractor. Beginning in 2000, as encryption tools were gradually blanketing the Web, the N.S.A. invested billions of dollars in a clandestine campaign to preserve its ability to eavesdrop. Having lost a public battle in the 1990s to insert its own “back door” in all encryption, it set out to accomplish the same goal by stealth. The agency ... deployed custom-built, superfast computers to break codes, and began collaborating with technology companies in the United States and abroad to build entry points into their products [called "backdoors"].

Note: For an excellent article in the UK's respected Guardian on this, click here. For a guide from the Guardian on "How to remain secure against NSA surveillance", click here.




Hackers Reveal Nasty New Car Attacks
2013-08-12, Forbes Magazine
http://www.forbes.com/sites/andygreenberg/2013/07/24/hackers-reveal-nasty-new...

[The] fact that a car is not a simple machine of glass and steel but a hackable network of computers, is what [Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek] have spent the last year trying to demonstrate. Miller, a 40-year-old security engineer at Twitter, and Valasek, the 31-year-old director of security intelligence at the Seattle consultancy IOActive, received an $80,000-plus grant last fall from [the] Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to root out security vulnerabilities in automobiles. The need for scrutiny is growing as cars are increasingly automated and connected to the Internet. Practically every American carmaker now offers a cellular service or Wi-Fi network like General Motors’ OnStar, Toyota’s Safety Connect and Ford’s SYNC. Without better security it’s all potentially vulnerable, and automakers are remaining mum or downplaying the issue. As I drove their vehicles for more than an hour, Miller and Valasek showed that they’ve reverse-engineered enough of the software of the [Ford] Escape and the Toyota Prius (both the 2010 model) to demonstrate a range of nasty surprises: everything from annoyances like uncontrollably blasting the horn to serious hazards like slamming on the Prius’ brakes at high speeds. They sent commands from their laptops that killed power steering, spoofed the GPS and made pathological liars out of speedometers and odometers. Finally they directed me out to a country road, where Valasek showed that he could violently jerk the Prius’ steering at any speed, threatening to send us into a cornfield or a head-on collision.

Note: Don't miss the unbelievable video at the above link which shows how a good hacker can take control of your car's steering, brakes, and much more. For more on the OnStar system in most GM cars now and how it allows spying on you, read the CNN article titled "OnStar's 'brazen' data tracking comes under fire" at this link. For more on government and corporate digital security invasions, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.




Revealed: how the FBI coordinated the crackdown on Occupy
2012-12-29, The Guardian (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/dec/29/fbi-coordinated-crackdown...

New documents prove what was once dismissed as paranoid fantasy: totally integrated corporate-state repression of dissent. It was more sophisticated than we had imagined: new documents show that the violent crackdown on Occupy last fall – so mystifying at the time – was not just coordinated at the level of the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security, and local police. The crackdown, which involved, as you may recall, violent arrests, group disruption, canister missiles to the skulls of protesters, people held in handcuffs so tight they were injured, people held in bondage till they were forced to wet or soil themselves – was coordinated with the big banks themselves. The Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, in a groundbreaking scoop that should once more shame major US media outlets (why are nonprofits now some of the only entities in America left breaking major civil liberties news?), filed this request. The document – reproduced here in an easily searchable format – shows a terrifying network of coordinated DHS, FBI, police, regional fusion center, and private-sector activity so completely merged into one another that the monstrous whole is, in fact, one entity: in some cases, bearing a single name, the Domestic Security Alliance Council. And it reveals this merged entity to have one centrally planned, locally executed mission. The documents, in short, show the cops and DHS working for and with banks to target, arrest, and politically disable peaceful American citizens.

Note: For analysis of these amazing documents revealing the use of joint government and corporate counterterrorism structures against peaceful protestors of financial corruption, click here and here. For a Democracy Now! video segment on this, click here.




Law enforcement is tracking Americans' cell phones in real time
2010-02-19, Newsweek magazine
http://www.newsweek.com/id/233916

Law enforcement is tracking Americans' cell phones in real time—without the benefit of a warrant. Amid all the furor over the Bush administration's warrantless wiretapping program a few years ago, a mini-revolt was brewing over another type of federal snooping that was getting no public attention at all. Federal prosecutors were seeking what seemed to be unusually sensitive records: internal data from telecommunications companies that showed the locations of their customers' cell phones—sometimes in real time, sometimes after the fact. Prosecutors "were using the cell phone as a surreptitious tracking device," said Stephen W. Smith, a federal magistrate in Houston. "And I started asking the U.S. Attorney's Office, 'What is the legal authority for this? What is the legal standard for getting this information?'" Those questions are now at the core of a constitutional clash between President Obama's Justice Department and civil libertarians alarmed by what they see as the government's relentless intrusion into the private lives of citizens. There are numerous other fronts in the privacy wars—about the content of e-mails, for instance, and access to bank records and credit-card transactions. The Feds now can quietly get all that information. But cell-phone tracking is among the more unsettling forms of government surveillance, conjuring up Orwellian images of Big Brother secretly following your movements through the small device in your pocket.

Note: For many key reports from major media sources on the disturbing trend toward increasing government and corporate surveillance, click here.




Meet Mikey, 8: U.S. Has Him on Watch List
2010-01-14, New York Times
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/14/nyregion/14watchlist.html

The Transportation Security Administration ... has on its web site a “mythbuster” that tries to reassure the public. Myth: The No-Fly list includes an 8-year-old boy. Buster: No 8-year-old is on a T.S.A. watch list. “Meet Mikey Hicks,” said Najlah Feanny Hicks, introducing her 8-year-old son, a New Jersey Cub Scout and frequent traveler who has seldom boarded a plane without a hassle because he shares the name of a suspicious person. “It’s not a myth.” Hicks’s mother initially sensed trouble when he was a baby and she could not get a seat for him on their flight to Florida at an airport kiosk; airline officials explained that his name “was on the list,” she recalled. The first time he was patted down, at Newark Liberty International Airport, Mikey was 2. He cried. After years of long delays and waits for supervisors at every airport ticket counter, this year’s vacation to the Bahamas badly shook up the family. Mikey was frisked on the way there, then more aggressively on the way home. “Up your arms, down your arms, up your crotch — someone is patting your 8-year-old down like he’s a criminal,” Mrs. Hicks recounted. It is true that Mikey is not on the federal government’s “no-fly” list, which includes about 2,500 people, less than 10 percent of them from the United States. But his name appears to be among some 13,500 on the larger “selectee” list, which sets off a high level of security screening.

Note: For many reports from major media sources on the extreme loss of liberties brought about by the highly touted "war on terrorism," click here.




State to 'spy' on every phone call, email and web search
2009-11-10, The Telegraph (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/politics/lawandorder/6534319/State...

Every phone call, text message, email and website visit made by private citizens is to be stored for a year and will be available for monitoring by government bodies. All telecoms companies and internet service providers will be required by law to keep a record of every customer's personal communications, showing who they have contacted, when and where, as well as the websites they have visited. Despite widespread opposition to the increasing amount of surveillance in Britain, 653 public bodies will be given access to the information, including police, local councils, the Financial Services Authority, the ambulance service, fire authorities and even prison governors. They will not require the permission of a judge or a magistrate to obtain the information, but simply the authorisation of a senior police officer or the equivalent of a deputy head of department at a local authority. The Government announced yesterday it was pressing ahead with privately held "Big Brother" databases that opposition leaders said amounted to "state-spying" and a form of "covert surveillance" on the public. It is doing so despite its own consultation showing that it has little public support. The new rules ... will not only force communications companies to keep their records for longer, but to expand the type of data they keep to include details of every website their customers visit.

Note: For many more reports from major media sources on the disturbing trend toward increasing government and corporate surveillance and loss of privacy, click here.




Whistleblower exposes spying on Americans
2009-01-22, MSNBC Countdown With Keith Olberman
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/28794766/

OLBERMANN: It has taken less than 24 hours after the Bush presidency ended for a former analyst at the National Security Agency to come forward to reveal new allegations about how this nation was spied on by its own government. Russell Tice [reveals] that under the collar of fighting terrorism, the Bush administration was also targeting specific groups of Americans for surveillance. TICE: The National Security Agency had access to all Americans‘ communications, faxes, phone calls, and their computer communications. They monitored all communications. What was done was a sort of an ability to look at the meta data, the signaling data for communications, and ferret that information to determine what communications would ultimately be collected. Basically, filtering out sort of like sweeping everything with that meta data, and then cutting down ultimately what you are going to look at and what is going to be collected, and in the long run have an analyst look at, you know, needles in a haystack for what might be of interest. OLBERMANN: I mention that you say specific groups were targeted. What group or groups can you tell us about? TICE: [Some of the groups they] collected on were U.S. news organizations and reporters and journalists. The collection ... was 24/7, and you know, 365 days a year, and it made no sense.

Note: To watch this revealing clip on video, click here. For many reports on government surveillance and invasions of privacy, click here.




Hacking Online Polls and Other Ways British Spies Seek to Control the Internet
2014-07-14, The Intercept
https://firstlook.org/theintercept/2014/07/14/manipulating-online-polls-ways-...

The secretive British spy agency GCHQ has developed covert tools to seed the internet with false information, including the ability to manipulate the results of online polls, artificially inflate pageview counts on web sites, “amplif[y]” sanctioned messages on YouTube, and censor video content judged to be “extremist.” The capabilities, detailed in documents provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, even include an old standby for pre-adolescent prank callers everywhere: A way to connect two unsuspecting phone users together in a call. The tools were created by GCHQ’s Joint Threat Research Intelligence Group (JTRIG), and constitute some of the most startling methods of propaganda and internet deception contained within the Snowden archive. Previously disclosed documents have detailed JTRIG’s use of “fake victim blog posts,” “false flag operations,” “honey traps” and psychological manipulation to target online activists, monitor visitors to WikiLeaks, and spy on YouTube and Facebook users. A newly released top-secret GCHQ document called “JTRIG Tools and Techniques” provides a comprehensive, birds-eye view of just how underhanded and invasive this unit’s operations are. The document—available in full here—is designed to notify other GCHQ units of JTRIG’s “weaponised capability” when it comes to the dark internet arts, and serves as a sort of hacker’s buffet for wreaking online havoc.

Note: For more on this, see concise summaries of deeply revealing intelligence agency operations news articles from reliable major media sources.




In NSA-intercepted data, those not targeted far outnumber the foreigners who are
2014-07-05, Washington Post
http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/in-nsa-intercepted-data...

Ordinary Internet users, American and non-American alike, far outnumber legally targeted foreigners in the communications intercepted by the National Security Agency from U.S. digital networks, according to a four-month investigation by The Washington Post. [90% of] account holders found in a large cache of intercepted conversations, which former NSA contractor Edward Snowden provided in full to The Post, were not the intended surveillance targets but were caught in a net the agency had cast for somebody else. Many of them were Americans. [Many] files, described as useless by the analysts but nonetheless retained, have a startlingly intimate, even voyeuristic quality. They tell stories of love and heartbreak, illicit sexual liaisons, mental-health crises, political and religious conversions, financial anxieties and disappointed hopes. The daily lives of more than 10,000 account holders who were not targeted are catalogued and recorded nevertheless. The cache Snowden provided came from domestic NSA operations under the broad authority granted by Congress in 2008 with amendments to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. FISA content is generally stored in closely controlled data repositories, and for more than a year. The files offer an unprecedented vantage point on the changes wrought by Section 702 of the FISA amendments, which enabled the NSA to make freer use of methods that for 30 years had required probable cause and a warrant from a judge.

Note: For more on this, see concise summaries of deeply revealing government surveillance news articles from reliable major media sources.




Optic Nerve: millions of Yahoo webcam images intercepted by GCHQ
2014-02-27, The Guardian (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/feb/27/gchq-nsa-webcam-images-internet-...

Britain's surveillance agency GCHQ, with aid from the US National Security Agency, intercepted and stored the webcam images of millions of internet users not suspected of wrongdoing, secret documents reveal. GCHQ files dating between 2008 and 2010 explicitly state that a surveillance program codenamed Optic Nerve collected still images of Yahoo webcam chats in bulk and saved them to agency databases, regardless of whether individual users were an intelligence target or not. In one six-month period in 2008 alone, the agency collected webcam imagery – including substantial quantities of sexually explicit communications – from more than 1.8 million Yahoo user accounts globally. Yahoo ... denied any prior knowledge of the program, accusing the agencies of "a whole new level of violation of our users' privacy". Optic Nerve, the documents provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden show, began as a prototype in 2008 and was still active in 2012. The system, eerily reminiscent of the telescreens evoked in George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four, was used for experiments in automated facial recognition, to monitor GCHQ's existing targets, and to discover new targets of interest. Such searches could be used to try to find terror suspects or criminals making use of multiple, anonymous user IDs. Rather than collecting webcam chats in their entirety, the program saved one image every five minutes from the users' feeds ... to avoid overloading GCHQ's servers. The documents describe these users as "unselected" – intelligence agency parlance for bulk rather than targeted collection.

Note: For more on government surveillance, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.




Snowden: NSA conducts industrial espionage too
2014-01-26, CBS News/Reuters
http://www.cbsnews.com/news/snowden-nsa-conducts-industrial-espionage-too/

The U.S. National Security Agency is involved in industrial espionage and will grab any intelligence it can get its hands on regardless of its value to national security, former NSA contractor Edward Snowden told a German TV network. ARD TV quoted Snowden saying the NSA does not limit its espionage to issues of national security and he cited German engineering firm, Siemens as one target. "If there's information at Siemens that's beneficial to U.S. national interests - even if it doesn't have anything to do with national security - then they'll take that information nevertheless," Snowden said. Snowden's claim the NSA is engaged in industrial espionage follows a New York Times report earlier this month that the NSA put software in almost 100,000 computers around the world, allowing it to carry out surveillance on those devices and could provide a digital highway for cyberattacks. The NSA planted most of the software after gaining access to computer networks, but has also used a secret technology that allows it entry even to computers not connected to the Internet, the newspaper said, citing U.S. officials, computer experts and documents leaked by Snowden. Frequent targets of the programme, code-named Quantum, included units of the Chinese military and industrial targets.

Note: For more on the realities of intelligence agency operations, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.




Stealth Surprises in NSA Report Take on Non-NSA Spying
2013-12-20, ABC News
http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/stealth-surprises-nsa-report-nsa-spying/story?i...

The White House's expert NSA panel may have made headlines ... for telling President Barack Obama to knock off the collection of Americans' meta-data, but surveillance experts said they were surprised that the panel also took to task some controversial non-NSA-related spy tactics as well. One recommendation was to impose much stricter oversight on the FBI's ability to issue National Security Letters (NSLs), which have been used to obtain telephone call records and credit reports in terrorism and espionage cases. Another even more peculiar recommendation by the five national security experts ... was their advice that "governments" shouldn't hack into bank accounts and drain funds. "Governments should not use their offensive cyber capabilities to change the amounts held in financial accounts or otherwise manipulate the financial systems," the unanimous Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies report warned Obama. "That was a strangely specific recommendation for something nobody was talking about," Kel McClanahan, executive director of government transparency group National Security Counselors, told ABC News. Michelle Richardson, the American Civil Liberties Union's legislative council in Washington, also said the findings on "NSLs" and government hacking were unexpected -- but welcomed.

Note: The fact that this expert panel would even mention governments manipulating financial accounts suggests that if it hasn't already happened, some were seriously considering this. For lots more on this strange news, click here. For more on the realities of intelligence agency activities, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.




Corporate Espionage Undermines Democracy
2013-11-26, MSN/Reuters
http://money.msn.com/business-news/article.aspx?feed=OBR&Date=20131127&ID=171...

It’s not just the NSA that has been caught spying on Americans. Some of our nation’s largest corporations have been conducting espionage as well, against civic groups. That’s the lesson of a new report on corporate espionage against nonprofit organizations by ... Essential Information. The title of the report is Spooky Business, and it is apt. Spooky Business is like a Canterbury Tales of corporate snoopery: Hiring investigators to pose as volunteers and journalists. Hacking. Wiretapping. Information warfare. Physical intrusion. Investigating the private lives of nonprofit leaders. Dumpster diving using an active duty police officer to gain access to trash receptacles. Electronic surveillance. Many different types of nonprofit civic organizations have been targeted by corporate spies: environmental, public interest, consumer, food safety, animal rights, pesticide reform, nursing home reform, gun control and social justice. A diverse constellation of corporations has planned or executed corporate espionage against these nonprofit civic organizations. Food companies like Kraft, Coca-Cola, Burger King, McDonald’s and Monsanto. Oil companies like Shell, BP and Chevron. Chemical companies like Dow and Sasol. Also involved are the retailers (Wal-Mart), banks (Bank of America), and, of course, the nation’s most powerful trade association: the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Plenty of mercenary spooks have joined up to abet them, including former officials at the FBI, CIA, NSA, Secret Service and U.S. military. Sometimes even government contractors are part of the snooping.

Note: For more on corporate corruption, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.




No Morsel Too Minuscule for All-Consuming N.S.A.
2013-11-03, New York Times
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/03/world/no-morsel-too-minuscule-for-all-consu...

When Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations secretary general, sat down with President Obama at the White House in April to discuss Syrian chemical weapons, Israeli-Palestinian peace talks and climate change, it was a cordial, routine exchange. The National Security Agency nonetheless went to work in advance and intercepted Mr. Ban’s talking points for the meeting, a feat the agency later reported as an “operational highlight” in a weekly internal brag sheet. It was emblematic of an agency that for decades has operated on the principle that any eavesdropping that can be done on a foreign target of any conceivable interest — now or in the future — should be done. After all, American intelligence officials reasoned, who’s going to find out? From thousands of classified documents, the National Security Agency emerges as an electronic omnivore of staggering capabilities, eavesdropping and hacking its way around the world to strip governments and other targets of their secrets, all the while enforcing the utmost secrecy about its own operations. It spies routinely on friends as well as foes, as has become obvious in recent weeks; the agency’s official mission list includes using its surveillance powers to achieve “diplomatic advantage” over such allies as France and Germany and “economic advantage” over Japan and Brazil, among other countries. The scale of eavesdropping by the N.S.A., with 35,000 workers and $10.8 billion a year, sets it apart.

Note: For more on the realities of intelligence agency operations, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.




NSA monitored calls of 35 world leaders after US official handed over contacts
2013-10-24, The Guardian (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/oct/24/nsa-surveillance-world-leaders-c...

The National Security Agency monitored the phone conversations of 35 world leaders after being given the numbers by an official in another US government department, according to a classified document provided by whistleblower Edward Snowden. The confidential memo reveals that the NSA encourages senior officials in its "customer" departments, such as the White House, State and the Pentagon, to share their "Rolodexes" so the agency can add the phone numbers of leading foreign politicians to their surveillance systems. The document notes that one unnamed US official handed over 200 numbers, including those of the 35 world leaders, none of whom is named. These were immediately "tasked" for monitoring by the NSA. The revelation is set to add to mounting diplomatic tensions between the US and its allies, after the German chancellor Angela Merkel ... accused the US of tapping her mobile phone. The NSA memo obtained by the Guardian suggests that such surveillance was not isolated, as the agency routinely monitors the phone numbers of world leaders – and even asks for the assistance of other US officials to do so. The memo, dated October 2006 and which was issued to staff in the agency's Signals Intelligence Directorate (SID), was titled "Customers Can Help SID Obtain Targetable Phone Numbers". In the wake of the Merkel row, the US is facing growing international criticism that any intelligence benefit from spying on friendly governments is far outweighed by the potential diplomatic damage.

Note: For more on the hidden realities of intelligence agency operations, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.




The Snowden files: why the British public should be worried about GCHQ
2013-10-03, The Guardian (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/oct/03/edward-snowden-files-john-lanche...

The problem and the risk [with surveillance by GCHQ] comes in the area of mass capture of data, or strategic surveillance. This is the kind of intelligence gathering that sucks in data from everyone, everywhere: from phones, internet use from email to website visits, social networking, instant messaging and video calls, and even areas such as video gaming; in short, everything digital. In the US, the Prism programme may have given the NSA access to the servers of companies such as Google and Facebook; in the UK, GCHQ has gained a similar degree of access via its Tempora programme, and the two of them together have a cable- and network-tapping capabilities collectively called Upstream, which have the ability to intercept anything that travels over the internet. This data is fed into a database called XKeyscore, which allows analysts to extract information "in real time", ie immediately. What this adds up to is a new thing in human history: with a couple of clicks of a mouse, an agent of the state can target your home phone, or your mobile, or your email, or your passport number, or any of your credit card numbers, or your address, or any of your log-ins to a web service. Using that "selector", the state can get access to all the content of your communications, via any of those channels; can gather information about anyone you communicate with, can get a full picture of all your internet use, can track your location online and offline. It can, in essence, know everything about you, including – thanks to the ability to look at your internet searches – what's on your mind.

Note: For an excellent 15-minute BBC Newsnight interview with Glenn Greenwald defending Edward Snowden's release of secret documents, click here. For more on government privacy invasions, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.




As F.B.I. Pursued Snowden, an E-Mail Service Stood Firm
2013-10-03, New York Times
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/03/us/snowdens-e-mail-provider-discusses-press...

The owner of the e-mail service [Lavabit, Ladar Levison,] said he closed it down after the government, in pursuit of Edward J. Snowden, sought untrammeled access to the protected messages of all his customers. Mr. Levison was willing to allow investigators with a court order to tap Mr. Snowden’s e-mail account; he had complied with similar narrowly targeted requests involving other customers about two dozen times. But they wanted more, he said: the passwords, encryption keys and computer code that would essentially allow the government untrammeled access to the protected messages of all his customers. That, he said, was too much. On Aug. 8, Mr. Levison closed Lavabit rather than, in his view, betray his promise of secure e-mail to his customers. On [October 2], a federal judge unsealed documents in the case, allowing the tech entrepreneur to speak candidly for the first time about his experiences. He had been summoned to testify to a grand jury in Virginia; forbidden to discuss his case; held in contempt of court and fined $10,000 for handing over his private encryption keys on paper and not in digital form; and, finally, threatened with arrest for saying too much when he shuttered his business. While Mr. Levison’s struggles have been with the F.B.I., hovering in the background is the N.S.A., which has worked secretly for years to undermine or bypass encrypted services like Lavabit so that their electronic message scrambling cannot obstruct the agency’s spying. Mr. Levison’s case shows how law enforcement officials can use legal tools to pry open messages, no matter how well protected.

Note: For an excellent 15-minute BBC Newsnight interview with Glenn Greenwald defending Edward Snowden's release of secret documents, click here. For more on government privacy invasions, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.




NSA spied on Martin Luther King, documents reveal
2013-09-25, USA Today
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-24279394

The US National Security Agency spied on civil rights leader Martin Luther King and boxer Muhammad Ali during the height of the Vietnam War protests, declassified documents reveal. The documents show the NSA also tracked journalists from the New York Times and the Washington Post and two senators. Some NSA officials later described the programme as "disreputable if not outright illegal", the documents show. The operation, dubbed "Minaret", was originally exposed in the 1970s. However, the names of those on the phone-tapping "watch list" had been kept secret until now. The secret papers were published after a government panel ruled in favour of researchers at George Washington University. The university's National Security Archive - a research institute that seeks to check government secrecy - described the names on the NSA's watch-list as "eye-popping". The agency eavesdropped on civil rights leaders Martin Luther King and Whitney Young as well as boxing champion Muhammad Ali, New York Times journalist Tom Wicker and Washington Post columnist Art Buchwald. The NSA also monitored the overseas phone calls of two prominent US senators - Democrat Frank Church and Republican Howard Baker. In 1967 the strength of the anti-war campaign led President Lyndon Johnson to ask US intelligence agencies to find out if some protests were being stoked by foreign governments. Many of those targeted were considered to be critics of US involvement in the Vietnam War. The NSA worked with other spy agencies to draw up the "watch lists" of anti-war critics, tapping their phone calls. The programme continued after Richard Nixon entered the White House in 1969.

Note: These names were kept secret until now allegedly for reason of "national security." Note how this term is repeatedly used to cover up illegal government activity solely to protect those who commit these crimes. For more on the hidden realities of intelligence agency operations, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.




NSA stories around the world
2013-09-23, The Guardian (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/sep/23/various-items-nsa-india-...

One of the most overlooked aspects of the NSA reporting in the US has been just how global of a story this has become. Last week it was revealed that Belgium's largest telecom, Belgacom, was the victim of a massive hacking attack which systematically compromised its system for as long as two years. Last week, using documents obtained from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, Laura Poitras and other Der Spiegel journalists reported in that paper that it was the GCHQ, Britain's intelligence agency, that was behind the attack. According to that report, the attack was carried out by targeting individual engineers at the telecom with malware that allowed GCHQ agents to "own" their computer and thus exploit their access to the telecommunications system. As the US and UK run around the world protesting the hacking activities of others and warning of the dangers of cyber-attacks, that duo is one of the most aggressive and malicious, if not the most aggressive and malicious, perpetrators of those attacks of anyone on the planet. Nobody hacks as prolifically and aggressively as the two countries who most vocally warn of the dangers of hacking. A coalition called Stop Watching Us has been formed by privacy and civil liberties groups from across the political spectrum. On October 26, the 12th anniversary of the enactment of the Patriot Act, they will hold an anti-surveillance rally in Washington DC.

Note: For more on the hidden realities of intelligence agency operations, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.




Your TV might be watching you
2013-08-01, CNN
http://money.cnn.com/2013/08/01/technology/security/tv-hack/index.html

Today's high-end televisions are almost all equipped with "smart" PC-like features, including Internet connectivity, apps, microphones and cameras. But a recently discovered security hole in some Samsung Smart TVs shows that many of those bells and whistles aren't ready for prime time. The flaws in Samsung Smart TVs, which have now been patched, enabled hackers to remotely turn on the TVs' built-in cameras without leaving any trace of it on the screen. While you're watching TV, a hacker anywhere around the world could have been watching you. Hackers also could have easily rerouted an unsuspecting user to a malicious website to steal bank account information. Samsung quickly fixed the problem after security researchers at iSEC Partners informed the company about the bugs. Samsung sent a software update to all affected TVs. But the glitches speak to a larger problem of gadgets that connect to the Internet but have virtually no security to speak of. Security cameras, lights, heating control systems and even door locks and windows are now increasingly coming with features that allow users to control them remotely. Without proper security controls, there's little to stop hackers from invading users' privacy, stealing personal information or spying on people. In the case of Samsung Smart TVs, iSEC researchers found that they could tap into the TV's Web browser with ease, according to iSEC security analyst Josh Yavor. That gave hackers access to all the functions controlled by the browser, including the TV's built-in camera. "If there's a vulnerability in any application, there's a vulnerability in the entire TV," said Aaron Grattafiori, also an analyst at iSEC.

Note: For how deep this problem goes, read this article. For more on corporate and government privacy invasions, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.




Americans pay GCHQ Ł100m to spy for them, leaked papers claim
2013-08-01, The Telegraph (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/defence/10217280/Americans-pay-GCHQ-10...

GCHQ has received at least Ł100 million from the US to help fund intelligence gathering, raising questions over American influence on the British agencies. The money was paid across a range of projects over three years and resulted in GCHQ spying on behalf of America, according to leaked documents. It also emerged that the intelligence agency wants the ability to “exploit any phone, anywhere, any time” and that some staff have raised concerns over the “morality and ethics” of their operational work. The payments from the US National Security Agency (NSA) are detailed in GCHQ’s annual “investment portfolios”, leaked by Mr Snowden to The Guardian. The NSA paid GCHQ Ł22.9 million in 2009, Ł39.9 million in 2010 and Ł34.7 million in 2011/12. The 2010 funding included ... Ł17.2 million for the agency’s “Mastering the Internet” project, which gathers “raw” information from the web to be analysed. In return, GCHQ has to have the American view in mind when prioritising work, the papers claim. One strategy briefing disclosed the pressure on GCHQ to meet NSA demands, saying: “GCHQ must pull its weight and be seen to pull its weight.” In another document, from 2010, GCHQ apparently acknowledged that the US had “raised a number of issues with regards to meeting NSA’s minimum expectations”.

Note: For more on government corruption, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.




XKeyscore: NSA tool collects 'nearly everything a user does on the internet'
2013-07-31, The Guardian (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/jul/31/nsa-top-secret-program-online-data

A top secret National Security Agency program allows analysts to search with no prior authorization through vast databases containing emails, online chats and the browsing histories of millions of individuals, according to documents provided by whistleblower Edward Snowden. The NSA boasts in training materials that the program, called XKeyscore, is its "widest-reaching" system for developing intelligence from the internet. The files shed light on one of Snowden's most controversial statements, made in his first video interview published by the Guardian on June 10. "I, sitting at my desk," said Snowden, could "wiretap anyone, from you or your accountant, to a federal judge or even the president, if I had a personal email". Training materials for XKeyscore detail how analysts can use it and other systems to mine enormous agency databases by filling in a simple on-screen form giving only a broad justification for the search. The request is not reviewed by a court or any NSA personnel before it is processed. One presentation claims the program covers "nearly everything a typical user does on the internet", including the content of emails, websites visited and searches, as well as their metadata. Analysts can also use XKeyscore and other NSA systems to obtain ongoing "real-time" interception of an individual's internet activity. XKeyscore provides the technological capability [to target] US persons for extensive electronic surveillance without a warrant provided that some identifying information, such as their email or IP address, is known to the analyst.

Note: For more on government privacy invasions, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.




What the Government Pays to Snoop on You
2013-07-10, CNBC/Associated Press
http://www.cnbc.com/id/100876701

In the era of intense government surveillance and secret court orders, a murky multimillion-dollar market has emerged. Paid for by U.S. tax dollars, but with little public scrutiny, surveillance fees charged in secret by technology and phone companies can vary wildly. AT&T, for example, imposes a $325 "activation fee" for each wiretap and $10 a day to maintain it. Smaller carriers Cricket and U.S. Cellular charge only about $250 per wiretap. But snoop on a Verizon customer? That costs the government $775 for the first month and $500 each month after that. Regardless of price, the surveillance business is growing. The U.S. government long has enjoyed access to phone networks and high-speed Internet traffic under the U.S. Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act to catch suspected criminals and terrorists. More recently, the FBI has pushed technology companies like Google and Skype to guarantee access to real-time communications on their services. As the number of law enforcement requests for data grew and carriers upgraded their technology, the cost of accommodating government surveillance requests increased. AT&T, for example, said it devotes roughly 100 employees to review each request and hand over data. Likewise, Verizon said its team of 70 employees works around the clock, seven days a week to handle the quarter-million requests it gets each year.

Note: For more on government and corporate attacks on privacy, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.




GCHQ taps fibre-optic cables for secret access to world's communications
2013-06-21, The Guardian (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2013/jun/21/gchq-cables-secret-world-communicati...

Britain's spy agency GCHQ has secretly gained access to the network of cables which carry the world's phone calls and internet traffic and has started to process vast streams of sensitive personal information which it is sharing with its American partner, the National Security Agency (NSA). The sheer scale of the agency's ambition is reflected in the titles of its two principal components: Mastering the Internet and Global Telecoms Exploitation, aimed at scooping up as much online and telephone traffic as possible. This is all being carried out without any form of public acknowledgement or debate. One key innovation has been GCHQ's ability to tap into and store huge volumes of data drawn from fibre-optic cables for up to 30 days so that it can be sifted and analysed. GCHQ and the NSA are consequently able to access and process vast quantities of communications between entirely innocent people, as well as targeted suspects. This includes recordings of phone calls, the content of email messages, entries on Facebook and the history of any internet user's access to websites – all of which is deemed legal, even though the warrant system was supposed to limit interception to a specified range of targets. The existence of the programme has been disclosed in documents shown to the Guardian by the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. Britain's technical capacity to tap into the cables that carry the world's communications ... has made GCHQ an intelligence superpower. A total of 850,000 NSA employees and US private contractors with top secret clearance had access to GCHQ databases.

Note: For solid evidence spy agencies targeted even top politicians, click here. For more on intelligence agency corruption, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.




GCHQ intercepted foreign politicians' communications at G20 summits
2013-06-16, The Guardian (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2013/jun/16/gchq-intercepted-communications-g20-...

Foreign politicians and officials who took part in two G20 summit meetings in London in 2009 had their computers monitored and their phone calls intercepted on the instructions of their British government hosts. Some delegates were tricked into using internet cafes which had been set up by British intelligence agencies to read their email traffic. The disclosure raises new questions about the boundaries of surveillance by GCHQ [Government Communications Headquarters] and its American sister organisation, the National Security Agency [NSA], whose access to phone records and internet data has been defended as necessary in the fight against terrorism and serious crime. There have often been rumours of this kind of espionage at international conferences, but it is highly unusual for hard evidence to confirm it and spell out the detail. The evidence is contained in documents – classified as top secret – which were uncovered by the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden and seen by the Guardian. They reveal that during G20 meetings in April and September 2009 GCHQ used what one document calls "ground-breaking intelligence capabilities" to intercept the communications of visiting delegations. This included: • Setting up internet cafes where they used an email interception programme and key-logging software to spy on delegates' use of computers; • Penetrating the security on delegates' BlackBerrys to monitor their email messages and phone calls; • Supplying 45 analysts with a live round-the-clock summary of who was phoning who at the summit.

Note: For deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources on the hidden realities of intelligence agencies, click here




U.S., British intelligence mining data from nine U.S. Internet companies in broad secret program
2013-06-07, Washington Post
http://www.washingtonpost.com/investigations/us-intelligence-mining-data-from...

The National Security Agency and the FBI are tapping directly into the central servers of nine leading U.S. Internet companies, extracting audio and video chats, photographs, e-mails, documents, and connection logs. The program, code-named PRISM, has not been made public until now. It may be the first of its kind. Equally unusual is the way the NSA extracts what it wants, according to the document: “Collection directly from the servers of these U.S. Service Providers: Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, Apple.” GCHQ, Britain’s equivalent of the NSA, also has been secretly gathering intelligence from the same internet companies through an operation set up by the NSA. PRISM was launched from the ashes of President George W. Bush’s secret program of warrantless domestic surveillance in 2007, after news media disclosures, lawsuits and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court forced the president to look for new authority. Congress obliged with the Protect America Act in 2007 and the FISA Amendments Act of 2008, which immunized private companies that cooperated voluntarily with U.S. intelligence collection. Government officials and the document itself made clear that the NSA regarded the identities of its private partners as PRISM’s most sensitive secret, fearing that the companies would withdraw from the program if exposed. “98 percent of PRISM production is based on Yahoo, Google and Microsoft; we need to make sure we don’t harm these sources,” the briefing’s author wrote in his speaker’s notes.

Note: For graphs and lots more on the Prism program, see the Guardian article at this link. Technically, U.S. officials are not allowed to mine personal data from U.S. citizens. Yet if U.K. authorities mine data on U.S. citizens, they can share it freely with officials in the U.S. and vice versa. There is evidence that this happens quite frequently, thus circumventing privacy protections. For an excellent article which goes deep into this issue, click here.




U.S. Terrorism Agency to Tap a Vast Database of Citizens
2012-12-12, Wall Street Journal
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324478304578171623040640006.html

Through Freedom of Information Act requests and interviews with officials at numerous agencies, The Wall Street Journal has reconstructed the clash over the counterterrorism program within the administration of President Barack Obama. The attorney general [has] signed the changes into effect. The rules now allow the little-known National Counterterrorism Center to examine the government files of U.S. citizens for possible criminal behavior, even if there is no reason to suspect them. That is a departure from past practice, which barred the agency from storing information about ordinary Americans unless a person was a terror suspect or related to an investigation. Now, NCTC can copy entire government databases—flight records, casino-employee lists, the names of Americans hosting foreign-exchange students and many others. The agency has new authority to keep data about innocent U.S. citizens for up to five years, and to analyze it for suspicious patterns of behavior. Previously, both were prohibited. Data about Americans "reasonably believed to constitute terrorism information" may be permanently retained. "It's breathtaking" in its scope, said a former senior administration official. The Fourth Amendment of the Constitution says that searches of "persons, houses, papers and effects" shouldn't be conducted without "probable cause" that a crime has been committed.

Note: This article requires subscription to view at the link above. To read it for free, click here. For analysis of this sweeping increase in government privacy invasions, click here. For deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources on government privacy invasions, click here.




Drones over America. Are they spying on you?
2012-06-16, Christian Science Monitor
http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/2012/0616/Drones-over-America.-Are-they-spying-o...

Most Americans have gotten used to regular news reports about military and CIA drones attacking terrorist suspects – including US citizens – in Pakistan, Yemen, and elsewhere abroad. But picture thousands of drone aircraft buzzing around the United States. By some government estimates, as many as 30,000 drones could be part of intelligence gathering and law enforcement here in the United States within the next ten years. Operated by agencies down to the local level, this would be in addition to the 110 current and planned drone activity sites run by the military services in 39 states, reported this week by the Federation of American Scientists, a non-government research project. Civil libertarians warn that “unmanned aircraft carrying cameras raise the prospect of a significant new avenue for the surveillance of American life,” as the American Civil Liberties Union put it in a report last December. “The technology is quickly becoming cheaper and more powerful, interest in deploying drones among police departments is increasing, and our privacy laws are not strong enough to ensure that the new technology will be used responsibly and consistently with democratic values,” reported the ACLU. “In short, all the pieces appear to be lining up for the eventual introduction of routine aerial surveillance in American life.”

Note: For deeper analysis of the threats posed to American citizens by military and police drones in the skies, click here. For information on a federal recent law compelling the Federal Aviation Administration to allow drones to fly in US skies, click here. For more information on the use of drones by police in the US, click here. For lots more from reliable sources on surveillance in the US, click here.




Supreme Court Ruling Allows Strip Searches for Any Arrest
2012-04-02, New York Times
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/03/us/justices-approve-strip-searches-for-any-...

The Supreme Court on Monday ruled by a 5-to-4 vote that officials may strip-search people arrested for any offense, however minor, before admitting them to jails even if the officials have no reason to suspect the presence of contraband. Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, joined by the court’s conservative wing, wrote that courts are in no position to second-guess the judgments of correctional officials. The procedures endorsed by the majority are forbidden by statute in at least 10 states. According to a supporting brief filed by the American Bar Association, international human rights treaties also ban the procedures. Justice Stephen G. Breyer, writing for the four dissenters, said the strip searches the majority allowed were “a serious affront to human dignity and to individual privacy” and should be used only when there was good reason to do so. Justice Breyer said that the Fourth Amendment should be understood to bar strip searches of people arrested for minor offenses not involving drugs or violence, unless officials had a reasonable suspicion that they were carrying contraband. People have been subjected to “the humiliation of a visual strip search” after being arrested for driving with a noisy muffler, failing to use a turn signal and riding a bicycle without an audible bell. A nun was strip-searched ... after an arrest for trespassing during an antiwar demonstration. In a study of 23,000 people admitted to a correctional facility in Orange County, N.Y., using that standard, there was at most one instance of contraband detected that would not otherwise have been found.

Note: For an abundance of major media articles showing severe erosion of civil liberties, click here.




The government has your baby's DNA
2010-02-04, CNN News
http://www.cnn.com/2010/HEALTH/02/04/baby.dna.government/index.html

When Annie Brown's daughter, Isabel, was a month old, her pediatrician asked Brown and her husband to sit down because he had some bad news to tell them: Isabel carried a gene that put her at risk for cystic fibrosis. While grateful to have the information -- Isabel received further testing and she doesn't have the disease -- the Mankato, Minnesota, couple wondered how the doctor knew about Isabel's genes in the first place. After all, they'd never consented to genetic testing. It's simple, the pediatrician answered: Newborn babies in the United States are routinely screened for a panel of genetic diseases. Since the testing is mandated by the government, it's often done without the parents' consent, according to Brad Therrell, director of the National Newborn Screening & Genetics Resource Center. In many states, such as Florida, where Isabel was born, babies' DNA is stored indefinitely, according to the resource center. Many parents don't realize their baby's DNA is being stored in a government lab, but sometimes when they find out, as the Browns did, they take action. Parents in Texas, and Minnesota have filed lawsuits, and these parents' concerns are sparking a new debate about whether it's appropriate for a baby's genetic blueprint to be in the government's possession.

Note: For many reliable reports on the increasing governmental and corporate threats to privacy, click here.




Man with tuberculosis jailed for not wearing mask
2007-04-03, CNN/Associated Press
http://www.cnn.com/2007/HEALTH/conditions/04/03/tuberculosis.confinement.ap

Behind the county hospital's tall cinderblock walls, a 27-year-old tuberculosis patient ... sits in a jail cell equipped with a ventilation system that keeps germs from escaping. Robert Daniels has been locked up indefinitely, perhaps for the rest of his life, since last July. But he has not been charged with a crime. Instead, he suffers from an extensively drug-resistant strain of tuberculosis. It is considered virtually untreatable. County health authorities obtained a court order to lock him up as a danger to the public because ... he did not heed doctors' instructions to wear a mask in public. "I'm being treated worse than an inmate," Daniels said. "I'm all alone. Four walls. Even the door to my room has been locked. I haven't seen my reflection in months." He said sheriff's deputies will not let him take a shower -- he cleans himself with wet wipes -- and have taken away his television, radio, personal phone and computer. His only visitors are masked medical staff members who come in to give him his medication. Though Daniels' confinement is extremely rare, health experts say it is a situation that U.S. public health officials may have to confront more and more because of the spread of drug-resistant TB and the emergence of diseases such as SARS and avian flu.

Note: If the above link fails, click here. What possible reason is there for taking away this man's TV, radio, cell phone, and computer? Are we being prepared for mass quarantines and imprisonment due to disease? For more, click here.




An Orwellian solution to kids skipping school
2007-02-20, Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Atlanta's leading newspaper)
http://www.ajc.com/opinion/content/opinion/stories/2007/02/19/0220truants.html

Let's say your teenager is a habitual truant and there is nothing you can do about it. A Washington area politician thinks he might have the solution: Fit the child with a Global Positioning System chip, then have police track him down. "It allows them to get caught easier," said Maryland Delegate Doyle Niemann (D-Prince George's), who recently co-sponsored legislation in the House that would use electronic surveillance as part of a broader truancy reduction plan. "It's going to be done unobtrusively. The chips are tiny and can be put into a hospital ID band or a necklace." Niemann's legislation mirrors a bill sponsored by state Sen. Gwendolyn Britt (D-Prince George's). Both would provide truants and their parents with better access to social services, such as mental health evaluations and help with schoolwork. Electronic monitoring would be a last resort. Still, the prospect of tagging children and using them in some "catch and release" hunt by police casts a pall over everything that's good about the plan. Odd how billions and billions of dollars keep going to a war that almost nobody wants, but there's never enough to fund the educational programs that nearly everybody says are needed. Aimed solely at students in Prince George's — the only predominantly black county in the Washington area — the truancy effort is called a "pilot program," a first-of-its-kind experiment. It would cost $400,000 to keep track of about 660 students a year.

Note: For more reliable information on the push to microchip the entire population, click here.




Professor Feels Himself Become Closer to the Machine
1998-09-23, ABC News
http://web.archive.org/web/20001109140100/http://more.abcnews.go.com/sections...

When Kevin Warwick enters his office building on the campus of Reading University, strange things happen. As Warwick heads down the main hall, lights turn on. When he turns to the right, an office door unbolts and opens. Each step is clocked and recorded. The building knows who he is, where he is, and what he expects to happen. The building [even] says, “Hello Professor Warwick.” The structure knows Warwick because of the electrical fuse-sized “smart card” implanted in his left arm. In Britain, he’s been dubbed “The Cyborg Man,” the first person known to have a microchip implanted in his body for communication with outside machines. Warwick predicts chip implants will one day replace time cards, criminal tracking devices, even credit cards. Capable of carrying huge amounts of data, they may, he says, one day be used to identify individuals by Social Security numbers, blood type, even their banking information. No one knows yet how the body will respond to this type of invasion. Warwick is not blind to the ethical questions of this technology. Implants ostensibly designed to clock workers in and out might be misused to monitor where people are at all times and who they are meeting. Governments could move to use implants instead of I.D. cards and passports, but what would stop them from using this new science to invade privacy? “I feel mentally different. When I am in the building I feel much more closely connected with the computer.

Note: Those who would like to control the public named these implants "smart cards" to encourage us to accept them. For more reliable information on important topic, click here and here.




Snowden: New Zealand’s Prime Minister Isn’t Telling the Truth About Mass Surveillance
2014-09-15, The Intercept
https://firstlook.org/theintercept/2014/09/15/snowden-new-zealand-surveillance

Prime Minister John Key ... has denied that New Zealand’s spy agency GCSB engages in mass surveillance, mostly as a means of convincing the country to enact a new law vesting the agency with greater powers. Let me be clear: any statement that mass surveillance is not performed in New Zealand, or that the internet communications are not comprehensively intercepted and monitored, or that this is not intentionally and actively abetted by the GCSB, is categorically false. If you live in New Zealand, you are being watched. At the NSA I routinely came across the communications of New Zealanders in my work with a mass surveillance tool we share with GCSB, called “XKEYSCORE.” It allows total, granular access to the database of communications collected in the course of mass surveillance. It is not limited to or even used largely for the purposes of cybersecurity, as has been claimed, but is instead used primarily for reading individuals’ private email, text messages, and internet traffic. I know this because it was my full-time job in Hawaii, where I worked every day in an NSA facility with a top secret clearance. The prime minister’s claim to the public, that “there is no and there never has been any mass surveillance” is false. The GCSB, whose operations he is responsible for, is directly involved in the untargeted, bulk interception and algorithmic analysis of private communications sent via internet, satellite, radio, and phone networks. It means they have the ability see every website you visit, every text message you send, every call you make, every ticket you purchase, every donation you make, and every book you order online. From “I’m headed to church” to “I hate my boss” to “She’s in the hospital,” the GCSB is there. Your words are intercepted, stored, and analyzed by algorithms long before they’re ever read by your intended recipient.

Note: New Zealand's prime minister has acknowledged that Snowden may be right, as reported in this article. For more on this, see concise summaries of deeply revealing government surveillance news articles from reliable major media sources.




The U.S. Government’s Secret Plans to Spy for American Corporations
2014-09-05, The Intercept
https://firstlook.org/theintercept/2014/09/05/us-governments-plans-use-econom...

Throughout the last year, the U.S. government has repeatedly insisted that it does not engage in economic and industrial espionage, in an effort to distinguish its own spying from China’s infiltrations of Google, Nortel, and other corporate targets. [But] the NSA was caught spying on plainly financial targets such as the Brazilian oil giant Petrobras; economic summits; international credit card and banking systems; the EU antitrust commissioner investigating Google, Microsoft, and Intel; and the International Monetary Fund and World Bank. In response, the U.S. modified its denial to acknowledge that it does engage in economic spying, but unlike China, the spying is never done to benefit American corporations. But a secret 2009 report issued by [Director of National Intelligence James Clapper's] office explicitly contemplates doing exactly that. The document, the 2009 Quadrennial Intelligence Community Review—provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden—is a fascinating window into the mindset of America’s spies. One of the principal threats raised in the report is a scenario “in which the United States’ technological and innovative edge slips”— in particular, “that the technological capacity of foreign multinational corporations could outstrip that of U.S. corporations.” How could U.S. intelligence agencies solve that problem? The report recommends “a multi-pronged, systematic effort to gather open source and proprietary information through overt means, clandestine penetration (through physical and cyber means), and counterintelligence”.

Note: For more on this, see concise summaries of deeply revealing intelligence agency operations news articles from reliable major media sources.




Mysterious Phony Cell Towers Could Be Intercepting Your Calls
2014-08-27, Popular Science
http://www.popsci.com/article/technology/mysterious-phony-cell-towers-could-b...

Les Goldsmith, the CEO of ESD America [marketers of the Crytophone 500], points me to a map that he and his customers have created, indicating 17 different phony cell towers known as “interceptors,” detected by the CryptoPhone 500 around the United States during the month of July alone. Interceptors look to a typical phone like an ordinary tower. Once the phone connects with the interceptor, a variety of “over-the-air” attacks become possible, from eavesdropping on calls and texts to pushing spyware to the device. “Interceptor use in the U.S. is much higher than people had anticipated,” Goldsmith says. “One of our customers took a road trip from Florida to North Carolina and he found 8 different interceptors on that trip. We even found one at South Point Casino in Las Vegas.” Who is running these interceptors and what are they doing with the calls? Goldsmith says we can’t be sure, but he has his suspicions. “Are some of them U.S. government interceptors?” [asks] Goldsmith. Interceptors vary widely in expense and sophistication – but in a nutshell, they are radio-equipped computers with software that can use arcane cellular network protocols and defeat the onboard encryption. For governments or other entities able to afford a price tag of “less than $100,000,” says Goldsmith, high-quality interceptors are quite realistic. Some interceptors are limited, only able to passively listen to either outgoing or incoming calls. But full-featured devices like the VME Dominator, available only to government agencies, can not only capture calls and texts, but even actively control the phone, sending out spoof texts, for example.

Note: Do you think the government might have put up fake cell towers to nab more data? For more on this, see concise summaries of deeply revealing government surveillance news articles from reliable major media sources.




The Surveillance Engine: How the NSA Built Its Own Secret Google
2014-08-25, The Intercept
https://firstlook.org/theintercept/2014/08/25/icreach-nsa-cia-secret-google-c...

The National Security Agency is secretly providing data to nearly two dozen U.S. government agencies with a “Google-like” search engine built to share more than 850 billion records about phone calls, emails, cellphone locations, and internet chats, according to classified documents obtained by The Intercept. The documents provide the first definitive evidence that the NSA has for years made massive amounts of surveillance data directly accessible to domestic law enforcement agencies. ICREACH [as the search engine is called] contains information on the private communications of foreigners and, it appears, millions of records on American citizens who have not been accused of any wrongdoing. Details about its existence are contained in the archive of materials provided to The Intercept by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. Earlier revelations sourced to the Snowden documents have exposed a multitude of NSA programs for collecting large volumes of communications. The NSA has acknowledged that it shares some of its collected data with domestic agencies like the FBI, but details about the method and scope of its sharing have remained shrouded in secrecy. ICREACH has been accessible to more than 1,000 analysts at 23 U.S. government agencies that perform intelligence work, according to a 2010 memo. Information shared through ICREACH can be used to track people’s movements, map out their networks of associates, help predict future actions, and potentially reveal religious affiliations or political beliefs.

Note: For more on this, see concise summaries of deeply revealing government surveillance news articles from reliable major media sources.




Court gave NSA broad leeway in surveillance, documents show
2014-06-30, Washington Post
http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/court-gave-nsa-broad-le...

A classified 2010 legal certification and other documents indicate the NSA has been given a far more elastic authority than previously known, one that allows it to intercept through U.S. companies not just the communications of its overseas targets but any communications about its targets as well. The certification — approved by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court and included among a set of documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden — lists 193 countries that would be of valid interest for U.S. intelligence. The certification also permitted the agency to gather intelligence about entities including the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the European Union and the International Atomic Energy Agency. The documents underscore the remarkable breadth of potential “foreign intelligence” collection. An affidavit in support of the 2010 foreign-government certification said the NSA believes that foreigners who will be targeted for collection “possess, are expected to receive and/or are likely to communicate foreign intelligence information concerning these foreign powers.” That language could allow for surveillance of academics, journalists and human rights researchers. A Swiss academic who has information on the German government’s position in the run-up to an international trade negotiation, for instance, could be targeted if the government has determined there is a foreign-intelligence need for that information. If a U.S. college professor e-mails the Swiss professor’s e-mail address or phone number to a colleague, the American’s e-mail could be collected as well, under the program’s court-approved rules.

Note: For more on this, see concise summaries of deeply revealing intelligence agency news articles from reliable major media sources.




US Pushing Local Cops to Stay Mum on Surveillance
2014-06-12, ABC News/Associated Press
http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/wireStory/us-pushing-local-cops-stay-mum-surve...

The Obama administration has been quietly advising local police not to disclose details about surveillance technology they are using to sweep up basic cellphone data from entire neighborhoods. Citing security reasons, the U.S. has intervened in routine state public records cases and criminal trials regarding use of the technology. This has resulted in police departments withholding materials or heavily censoring documents in rare instances when they disclose any [information] about the purchase and use of such powerful surveillance equipment. One well-known type of this surveillance equipment is known as a Stingray. The equipment tricks cellphones into identifying some of their owners' account information, like a unique subscriber number, and transmitting data to police as if it were a phone company's tower. That allows police to obtain cellphone information without having to ask for help from service providers ... and can locate a phone without the user even making a call or sending a text message. The Obama administration is asking agencies to withhold common information about the equipment, such as how the technology is used and how to turn it on. "These extreme secrecy efforts are in relation to very controversial, local government surveillance practices using highly invasive technology," said Nathan Freed Wessler, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, which has fought for the release of these types of records. "People should have the facts about what the government is doing to them."

Note: For more on this, see concise summaries of deeply revealing government surveillance news articles from reliable major media sources.




Vodafone: governments use secret cables to tap phones
2014-06-06, The Telegraph (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/internet-security/10880208/Vodafone-gov...

Government agencies are able to listen to phone conversations live and even track the location of citizens without warrants using secret cables connected directly to network equipment, admits Vodafone today. The company said that secret wires have been connected to its network and those belonging to competitors, giving government agencies the ability to tap in to phone and broadband traffic. In many countries this is mandatory for all telecoms companies, it said. Vodafone is today publishing its first Law Enforcement Disclosure Report which will describe exactly how the governments it deals with are eavesdropping on citizens. It is calling for an end to the use of “direct access” eavesdropping and transparency on the number of warrants issued giving access to private data. Gus Hosein, executive director of Privacy International, said: "Vodafone is taking a commendable step by taking this issue on at an international scale. And they are trying to identify the legal basis for governments' claimed powers. Governments around the world are unashamedly abusing privacy by demanding access to communications and data, and alarmingly, sometimes granting themselves direct access to the networks. Now that Vodafone has been more open, the entire industry has cover to take the necessary next step of pushing back. Pushing back against bad requests is a start, pushing back against bad laws is the next step. The usefulness of transparency reports hinges on governments abiding by the rule of law. We now know that these reports only provide a limited picture of what is going on.”

Note: For more on government surveillance of the world's population, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.




Fine Line Seen in U.S. Spying on Companies
2014-05-21, New York Times
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/21/business/us-snooping-on-companies-cited-by-...

The National Security Agency has never said what it was seeking when it invaded the computers of Petrobras, Brazil’s huge national oil company, but angry Brazilians have guesses: the company’s troves of data on Brazil’s offshore oil reserves, or perhaps its plans for allocating licenses for exploration to foreign companies. Nor has the N.S.A. said what it intended when it got deep into the computer systems of China Telecom, one of the largest providers of mobile phone and Internet services in Chinese cities. But documents released by Edward J. Snowden, the former agency contractor now in exile in Russia, leave little doubt that the main goal was to learn about Chinese military units, whose members cannot resist texting on commercial networks. The agency’s interest in Huawei, the giant Chinese maker of Internet switching equipment, and Pacnet, the Hong Kong-based operator of undersea fiber optic cables, is more obvious: Once inside those companies’ proprietary technology, the N.S.A. would have access to millions of daily conversations and emails that never touch American shores. The [US] government does not deny it routinely spies to advance American economic advantage, which is part of its broad definition of how it protects American national security. While the N.S.A. cannot spy on Airbus and give the results to Boeing, it is free to spy on European or Asian trade negotiators and use the results to help American trade officials — and, by extension, ... American industries.

Note: For more on the realities of intelligence agency operations, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.




British Spy Chiefs Secretly Begged to Play in NSA’s Data Pools
2014-04-30, The Intercept
https://firstlook.org/theintercept/article/2014/04/30/gchq-prism-nsa-fisa-uns...

Britain’s electronic surveillance agency, Government Communications Headquarters [GCHQ], has long presented its collaboration with the National Security Agency’s massive electronic spying efforts as proportionate, carefully monitored, and well within the bounds of privacy laws. But according to a top-secret document in the archive of material provided to The Intercept by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, GCHQ secretly coveted the NSA’s vast troves of private communications and sought “unsupervised access” to its data as recently as last year. The document, dated April 2013, reveals that GCHQ requested broad new authority to tap into data collected under a law that authorizes a variety of controversial NSA surveillance initiatives, including the PRISM program. PRISM is a system used by the NSA and the FBI to obtain the content of personal emails, chats, photos, videos, and other data processed by nine of the world’s largest internet companies, including Google, Yahoo!, Microsoft, Apple, Facebook, and Skype. The arrangement GCHQ proposed would also have provided the British agency with greater access to millions of international phone calls and emails that the NSA siphons directly from phone networks and the internet. The Snowden files do not indicate whether NSA granted GCHQ’s request, but they do show that the NSA was “supportive” of the idea, and that GCHQ was permitted extensive access to PRISM during the London Olympics in 2012. The request for the broad access was communicated at “leadership” level.

Note: For more on the construction of a total surveillance state, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.




NSA performed warrantless searches on Americans' calls and emails – Clapper
2014-04-01, The Guardian (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/apr/01/nsa-surveillance-loophole-americ...

US intelligence chiefs have confirmed that the National Security Agency has [performed] warrantless searches on Americans’ communications. The NSA's collection programs are ostensibly targeted at foreigners, but in August the Guardian revealed a secret rule change allowing NSA analysts to search for Americans' details within the databases. Now, in a letter to Senator Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat on the intelligence committee, the director of national intelligence, James Clapper, has confirmed the use of this legal authority to search for data related to “US persons”. The legal authority to perform the searches, revealed in top-secret NSA documents provided ... by Edward Snowden, was denounced by Wyden as a “backdoor search loophole.” Many of the NSA's most controversial programs collect information under the law affected by the so-called loophole. These include Prism, which allows the agency to collect data from Google, Apple, Facebook, Yahoo and other tech companies, and the agency's Upstream program – a huge network of internet cable taps. Confirmation that the NSA has searched for Americans’ communications in its phone call and email databases complicates President Barack Obama’s initial defenses of the broad surveillance in June. Wyden and Udall [said] “Today’s admission by the Director of National Intelligence is further proof that meaningful surveillance reform must include closing the back-door searches loophole and requiring the intelligence community to show probable cause before deliberately searching through ... the communications of individual Americans."

Note: For more on the realities of intelligence agency operations, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.




NSA surveillance program reaches ‘into the past’ to retrieve, replay phone calls
2014-03-18, Washington Post
http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/nsa-surveillance-progra...

The National Security Agency has built a surveillance system capable of recording “100 percent” of a foreign country’s telephone calls, enabling the agency to rewind and review conversations as long as a month after they take place, according to people with direct knowledge of the effort and documents supplied by former contractor Edward Snowden. A senior manager for the program compares it to a time machine — one that can replay the voices from any call without requiring that a person be identified in advance for surveillance. The voice interception program, called MYSTIC, began in 2009. Its RETRO tool, short for “retrospective retrieval,” and related projects reached full capacity against the first target nation in 2011. Planning documents two years later anticipated similar operations elsewhere. In the initial deployment, collection systems are recording “every single” conversation nationwide, storing billions of them in a 30-day rolling buffer that clears the oldest calls as new ones arrive, according to a classified summary. Analysts listen to only a fraction of 1 percent of the calls, but the absolute numbers are high. Each month, they send millions of voice clippings, or “cuts,” for processing and long-term storage. At the request of U.S. officials, The Washington Post is withholding details that could be used to identify the country where the system is being employed or other countries where its use was envisioned.

Note: Though technically it is illegal for the NSA to snoop on Americans without good cause, all they have to do is to share this technology with another country like the UK, and then ask the UK to do the snooping and send the results back to them, thereby circumventing the law. For more on NSA surveillance, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.




NSA monitored US law firm and overseas client
2014-02-16, Boston Globe/New York Times
http://www.bostonglobe.com/news/nation/2014/02/16/eavesdropping-ensnared-law-...

The list of those caught up in the global surveillance net cast by the National Security Agency and its overseas partners, from social media users to foreign heads of state, now includes another entry: US lawyers. A top-secret document, obtained by former NSA contractor Edward J. Snowden, shows that a US law firm was monitored while representing a foreign government in trade disputes with the United States. The disclosure offers a rare glimpse of a specific instance of Americans ensnared by the eavesdroppers and is of particular interest because US lawyers with clients overseas have expressed growing concern that their confidential communications could be compromised by such surveillance. The government of Indonesia had retained the law firm for help in trade talks, according to the February 2013 document. The NSA’s Australian counterpart, the Australian Signals Directorate, notified the agency that it was conducting surveillance of the talks, including communications between Indonesian officials and the US law firm, and offered to share information. The NSA is banned from targeting Americans, including businesses, law firms, and other organizations based in the United States, for surveillance without warrants, and intelligence officials have repeatedly said the NSA does not use spy services of its partners in the so-called Five Eyes alliance — Australia, Britain, Canada, and New Zealand — to skirt the law. The Australians told officials at an NSA liaison office in Canberra, that “information covered by attorney-client privilege may be included” in the intelligence gathering. Most attorney-client conversations do not get special protections under US law from NSA eavesdropping.

Note: For more on intense deception perpetrated by the intelligence community, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.




Watchdog Report Says N.S.A. Program Is Illegal and Should End
2014-01-23, New York Times
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/23/us/politics/watchdog-report-says-nsa-progra...

An independent federal privacy watchdog has concluded that the National Security Agency’s program to collect bulk phone call records has provided only “minimal” benefits in counterterrorism efforts, is illegal and should be shut down. The findings are laid out in a 238-page report [that represents] the first major public statement by the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, which Congress made an independent agency in 2007 and only recently became fully operational. The Obama administration has portrayed the bulk collection program as useful and lawful. But in its report, the board lays out what may be the most detailed critique of the government’s once-secret legal theory behind the program: that a law known as Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which allows the F.B.I. to obtain business records deemed “relevant” to an investigation, can be legitimately interpreted as authorizing the N.S.A. to collect all calling records in the country. The program “lacks a viable legal foundation under Section 215, implicates constitutional concerns under the First and Fourth Amendments, raises serious threats to privacy and civil liberties as a policy matter, and has shown only limited value,” the report said. “As a result, the board recommends that the government end the program.” The report also sheds light on the history of the once-secret bulk collection program. It contains the first official acknowledgment that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court produced no judicial opinion detailing its legal rationale for the program until last August, even though it had been issuing orders to phone companies for the records and to the N.S.A. for how it could handle them since May 2006.

Note: The PCLOB report is titled "Report on the Telephone Records Program Conducted under Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act and on the Operations of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court," and is available here. For more on government attacks to privacy, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.




NSA collects millions of text messages daily in 'untargeted' global sweep
2014-01-16, The Guardian (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jan/16/nsa-collects-millions-text-messa...

The National Security Agency has collected almost 200 million text messages a day from across the globe, using them to extract data including location, contact networks and credit card details, according to top-secret documents. The NSA program, codenamed Dishfire, collects “pretty much everything it can”, according to GCHQ documents, rather than merely storing the communications of existing surveillance targets. The NSA has made extensive use of its vast text message database to extract information on people’s travel plans, contact books, financial transactions and more – including of individuals under no suspicion of illegal activity. On average, each day the NSA was able to extract: • More than 5 million missed-call alerts, for use in contact-chaining analysis (working out someone’s social network from who they contact and when) • Details of 1.6 million border crossings a day, from network roaming alerts • More than 110,000 names, from electronic business cards, which also included the ability to extract and save images. • Over 800,000 financial transactions, either through text-to-text payments or linking credit cards to phone users The agency was also able to extract geolocation data from more than 76,000 text messages a day, including from “requests by people for route info” and “setting up meetings”.

Note: For more on government surveillance, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.




Secret contract tied NSA and security industry pioneer
2013-12-20, CNBC/Reuters
http://www.cnbc.com/id/101290438

As a key part of a campaign to embed encryption software that it could crack into widely used computer products, the U.S. National Security Agency arranged a secret $10 million contract with RSA, one of the most influential firms in the computer security industry. Documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden show that the NSA created and promulgated a flawed formula for generating random numbers to create a "back door" in encryption products, the New York Times reported in September. Reuters later reported that RSA became the most important distributor of that formula by rolling it into a software tool called Bsafe that is used to enhance security in personal computers and many other products. Undisclosed until now was that RSA received $10 million in a deal that set the NSA formula as the preferred, or default, method for number generation in the BSafe software, according to two sources familiar with the contract. Although that sum might seem paltry, it represented more than a third of the revenue that the relevant division at RSA had taken in during the entire previous year. The RSA deal shows one way the NSA carried out what Snowden's documents describe as a key strategy for enhancing surveillance: the systematic erosion of security tools. NSA documents released in recent months called for using "commercial relationships" to advance that goal, but did not name any security companies as collaborators.

Note: For more on the realities of intelligence agency activities, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.




Intel officials believe Snowden has 'doomsday' cache
2013-11-26, MSN/Reuters
http://news.msn.com/us/intel-officials-believe-snowden-has-doomsday-cache

British and U.S. intelligence officials say they are worried about a "doomsday" cache of highly classified, heavily encrypted material they believe former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden has stored on a data cloud. The cache contains documents generated by the NSA and other agencies and includes names of U.S. and allied intelligence personnel, seven current and former U.S. officials and other sources briefed on the matter said. One source described the cache of still unpublished material as Snowden's "insurance policy" against arrest or physical harm. U.S. officials and other sources said only a small proportion of the classified material Snowden downloaded during stints as a contract systems administrator for NSA has been made public. Some Obama Administration officials have said privately that Snowden downloaded enough material to fuel two more years of news stories. "The worst is yet to come," said one former U.S. official who follows the investigation closely. Snowden ... is believed to have downloaded between 50,000 and 200,000 classified NSA and British government documents. [It is] estimated that the total number of Snowden documents made public so far is over 500. Glenn Greenwald, who met with Snowden in Hong Kong and was among the first to report on the leaked documents for the Guardian newspaper, said the former NSA contractor had "taken extreme precautions to make sure many different people around the world have these archives to insure the stories will inevitably be published."

Note: For more on the realities of intelligence agency operations, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.




GCHQ and European spy agencies worked together on mass surveillance
2013-11-01, The Guardian (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2013/nov/01/gchq-europe-spy-agencies-mass-...

The German, French, Spanish and Swedish intelligence services have all developed methods of mass surveillance of internet and phone traffic over the past five years in close partnership with Britain's GCHQ eavesdropping agency. The bulk monitoring is carried out through direct taps into fibre optic cables and the development of covert relationships with telecommunications companies. A loose but growing eavesdropping alliance has allowed intelligence agencies from one country to cultivate ties with corporations from another to facilitate the trawling of the web, according to GCHQ documents leaked by the former US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden. The files also make clear that GCHQ played a leading role in advising its European counterparts how to work around national laws intended to restrict the surveillance power of intelligence agencies. US intelligence officials have insisted the mass monitoring was carried out by the security agencies in the countries involved and shared with the US. The Guardian revealed the existence of GCHQ's Tempora programme, in which the electronic intelligence agency tapped directly into the transatlantic fibre optic cables to carry out bulk surveillance. GCHQ officials expressed admiration for the technical capabilities of German intelligence to do the same thing, [saying] the Federal Intelligence Service (BND) had "huge technological potential and good access to the heart of the internet – they are already seeing some bearers running at 40Gbps and 100Gbps". Bearers is the GCHQ term for the fibre optic cables, and gigabits per second (Gbps) measures the speed at which data runs through them.

Note: For more on the realities of intelligence agency operations, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.




Edward Snowden is no traitor
2013-10-21, Washington Post
http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/richard-cohen-edward-snowden-is-no-tra...

What are we to make of Edward Snowden? I know what I once made of him. He was no real whistleblower, I wrote, but “ridiculously cinematic” and “narcissistic” as well. As time has proved, my judgments were just plain wrong. Whatever Snowden is, he is curiously modest and has bent over backward to ensure that the information he has divulged has done as little damage as possible. As a “traitor,” he lacks the requisite intent and menace. But traitor is what Snowden has been roundly called. Harry Reid: “I think Snowden is a traitor.” John Boehner: “He’s a traitor.” Rep. Peter King: “This guy is a traitor; he’s a defector.” And Dick Cheney not only denounced Snowden as a “traitor” but also suggested that he might have shared information with the Chinese. This innuendo, as with Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction, is more proof of Cheney’s unerring determination to be cosmically wrong. The early denunciations of Snowden now seem both over the top and beside the point. If he is a traitor, then which side did he betray and to whom does he now owe allegiance? Snowden seems to have sold out to no one. In fact, a knowledgeable source says that Snowden has not even sold his life story and has rebuffed offers of cash for interviews. Maybe his most un-American act is passing up a chance at easy money. Someone ought to look into this. Snowden’s residency in Russia has been forced upon him — he had nowhere else to go. Snowden insists that neither the Russians nor, before them, the Chinese have gotten their grubby hands on his top-secret material.

Note: For more on the hidden realities of intelligence agency operations, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.




Privacy Fears Grow as Cities Increase Surveillance
2013-10-14, New York Times
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/14/technology/privacy-fears-as-surveillance-gr...

Federal grants of $7 million, initially intended to help thwart terror attacks at the port in Oakland, Calif., are instead going to a police initiative that will collect and analyze reams of surveillance data. The new system ... is the latest example of how cities are compiling and processing large amounts of information, known as big data, for routine law enforcement. And the system underscores how technology has enabled the tracking of people in many aspects of life. Like the Oakland effort, other pushes to use new surveillance tools in law enforcement are supported with federal dollars. The New York Police Department, aided by federal financing, has a big data system that links 3,000 surveillance cameras with license plate readers, radiation sensors, criminal databases and terror suspect lists. Police in Massachusetts have used federal money to buy automated license plate scanners. And police in Texas have bought a drone with homeland security money. [Critics] of the Oakland initiative, formally known as the Domain Awareness Center, [say] the program, which will create a central repository of surveillance information, will also gather data about the everyday movements and habits of law-abiding residents. Oakland has a contract with the Science Applications International Corporation, or SAIC, to build its system. That company has earned the bulk of its $12 billion in annual revenue from military contracts.

Note: For more on government privacy invasions, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.




Revealed: how US and UK spy agencies defeat internet privacy and security
2013-09-05, The Guardian (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/sep/05/nsa-gchq-encryption-codes-security

US and British intelligence agencies have successfully cracked much of the online encryption relied upon by hundreds of millions of people to protect the privacy of their personal data, online transactions and emails, according to top-secret documents revealed by former contractor Edward Snowden. The files show that the National Security Agency and its UK counterpart GCHQ have broadly compromised the guarantees that internet companies have given consumers to reassure them that their communications, online banking and medical records would be indecipherable to criminals or governments. The agencies, the documents reveal, have adopted a battery of methods in their systematic and ongoing assault on what they see as one of the biggest threats to their ability to access huge swathes of internet traffic – "the use of ubiquitous encryption across the internet". Those methods include covert measures to ensure NSA control over setting of international encryption standards, the use of supercomputers to break encryption with "brute force", and – the most closely guarded secret of all – collaboration with technology companies and internet service providers themselves. Through these covert partnerships, the agencies have inserted secret vulnerabilities – known as backdoors or trapdoors – into commercial encryption software. "Backdoors are fundamentally in conflict with good security," said Christopher Soghoian, principal technologist and senior policy analyst at the American Civil Liberties Union. "Backdoors expose all users of a backdoored system, not just intelligence agency targets, to heightened risk of data compromise."

Note: For an excellent article in the New York Times on this, click here. For a guide from the Guardian on "How to remain secure against NSA surveillance", click here.




NYPD's massive mosque spying operations revealed
2013-08-28, MSN/Associated Press
http://news.msn.com/us/nypds-massive-mosque-spying-operations-revealed

The New York Police Department has secretly labeled entire mosques as terrorism organizations, a designation that allows police to use informants to record sermons and spy on imams, often without specific evidence of criminal wrongdoing. Designating an entire mosque as a terrorism enterprise means that anyone who attends prayer services there is a potential subject of an investigation and fair game for surveillance. Since the 9/11 attacks, the NYPD has opened at least a dozen "terrorism enterprise investigations" into mosques, according to interviews and confidential police documents. Many TEIs stretch for years, allowing surveillance to continue even though the NYPD has never criminally charged a mosque or Islamic organization with operating as a terrorism enterprise. The documents show in detail how, in its hunt for terrorists, the NYPD investigated countless innocent New York Muslims and put information about them in secret police files. As a tactic, opening an enterprise investigation on a mosque is so potentially invasive that while the NYPD conducted at least a dozen, the FBI never did one, according to interviews with federal law enforcement officials. The revelations about the NYPD's massive spying operations are in documents recently obtained by The Associated Press and part of a new book, Enemies Within: Inside the NYPD's Secret Spying Unit... The book ... is based on hundreds of previously unpublished police files and interviews with current and former NYPD, CIA and FBI officials.

Note: For more on the realities of intelligence operations, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.




Email service used by Snowden shuts itself down, warns against using US-based companies
2013-08-09, The Guardian (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/aug/09/lavabit-shutdown-snowden...

A Texas-based encrypted email service recently revealed to be used by Edward Snowden - Lavabit - announced yesterday it was shutting itself down in order to avoid complying with what it perceives as unjust secret US court orders to provide government access to its users' content. "After significant soul searching, I have decided to suspend operations," the company's founder, Ladar Levinson, wrote in a statement to users posted on the front page of its website. He said the US directive forced on his company "a difficult decision: to become complicit in crimes against the American people or walk away from nearly ten years of hard work by shutting down Lavabit." He chose the latter. CNET's Declan McCullagh ... speculates that Lavabit was served "with [a] federal court order to intercept users' passwords" to allow ongoing monitoring of emails; specifically: "the order can also be to install FedGov-created malware." After challenging the order in district court and losing - all in a secret court proceeding, naturally - Lavabit shut itself down to avoid compliance while it appeals to the Fourth Circuit. What is particularly creepy about the Lavabit self-shutdown is that the company is gagged by law even from discussing the legal challenges it has mounted and the court proceeding it has engaged. In other words, the American owner of the company believes his Constitutional rights and those of his customers are being violated by the US Government, but he is not allowed to talk about it. Lavabit has been told that they would face serious criminal sanctions if they publicly discuss what is being done to their company.

Note: For more on government and corporate privacy invasions, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.




In 21st century America, Samsung TV watches YOU!
2013-08-05, Houston Chronicle (Houston's leading newspaper)
http://blog.chron.com/techblog/2013/08/in-21st-century-america-samsung-tv-wat...

During last week’s Black Hat computer security conference in Las Vegas, researchers from iSEC Partners demonstrated a vulnerability in 2012 models of Samsung’s line of Smart TVs, particularly the ones with that come with cameras designed for teleconferencing. The problem with the Samsung TVs highlights a much larger issue: The number of devices connected to the Internet is growing exponentially, and many of them have little or no security in place. Flaws may be found in almost any application on an Internet-connected platform that, if exploited, could allow access to the entire device, and then the user’s full network. Many of these unsecured devices can be found with a simple search. In fact, there’s a search engine devoted just to scouring the so-called “Internet of things” called Shadon. Playing around with it is an eye-opener. For example, in late July a writer for Forbes discovered an entire home automation product line with Internet-connected features that could be set up without a default password, and were visible to search engines. This would enable a hacker to search and find these systems on the Net, then access them at will. To prove her point, Kashmir Hill breached the home automation systems of random strangers, called them on the phone and demonstrated the vulnerability by turning their lights on and off.

Note: For more on corporate and government privacy invasions, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.




Is your television watching you?
2013-08-03, CNN
http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/1308/03/cnnitm.02.html

When you're watching TV ... you probably don't think someone could be on the other side watching you back. An alarming security flaw in Samsung's Smart-TVs makes this scenario possible. LAURIE SEGALL [CNN Money/Technology Correspondent]: We've spoken to a lot of folks and they're saying there are major vulnerabilities. YAVOR: One of the things we were able to do with the Smart-TV platform was abuse the browser so that we could actually gain access to the camera that's built into the TV. What we can prove here is that with a little bit of extra code, we can turn the camera on in your browser. This is something we can do invisibly and actually have it run behind the web page you're looking at. I could be sitting at a laptop in a cafe in Paris, and as long as I have a web connection, I would be able to get into your TV and access your camera. AARON GRATTAFIORI [security consultant]: The scary thing about it is that it doesn't give an indication that the camera is on and there is no LED that shows up when the camera is on. So they could actually be watching you and you would never even know. SEGALL: What is a Smart-TV, and why is it a playground, essentially, for hackers? GRATTAFIORI: It's a computer. So instead of being a tube and some other electronics, now it has a web browser and it has a lot of devices running Linux.

Note: To watch this video clip on CNN News, click here.




The Public-Private Surveillance Partnership
2013-07-31, Bloomberg News
http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-07-31/the-public-private-surveillance-part...

Computers and networks inherently produce data, and our constant interactions with them allow corporations to collect an enormous amount of intensely personal data about us as we go about our daily lives. Sometimes we produce this data inadvertently simply by using our phones, credit cards, computers and other devices. Sometimes we give corporations this data directly on Google, Facebook, [or] Apple’s iCloud ... in exchange for whatever free or cheap service we receive from the Internet in return. The NSA is also in the business of spying on everyone, and it has realized it’s far easier to collect all the data from these corporations rather than from us directly. The result is a corporate-government surveillance partnership, one that allows both the government and corporations to get away with things they couldn’t otherwise. There are two types of laws in the U.S., each designed to constrain a different type of power: constitutional law, which places limitations on government, and regulatory law, which constrains corporations. Historically, these two areas have largely remained separate, but today each group has learned how to use the other’s laws to bypass their own restrictions. The government uses corporations to get around its limits, and corporations use the government to get around their limits. This partnership manifests itself in various ways. The government uses corporations to circumvent its prohibitions against eavesdropping domestically on its citizens. Corporations rely on the government to ensure that they have unfettered use of the data they collect.

Note: For more on government and corporate privacy invasions, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.




In Secret, Court Vastly Broadens Powers of N.S.A.
2013-07-07, New York Times
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/07/us/in-secret-court-vastly-broadens-powers-o...

In more than a dozen classified rulings, the nation’s surveillance court has created a secret body of law giving the National Security Agency the power to amass vast collections of data on Americans. The rulings, some nearly 100 pages long, reveal that the court has taken on a much more expansive role by regularly assessing broad constitutional questions and establishing important judicial precedents, with almost no public scrutiny. The 11-member Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, known as the FISA court, was once mostly focused on approving case-by-case wiretapping orders. But since major changes in legislation and greater judicial oversight of intelligence operations were instituted six years ago, it has quietly become almost a parallel Supreme Court, serving as the ultimate arbiter on surveillance issues and delivering opinions that will most likely shape intelligence practices for years to come. In one of the court’s most important decisions, the judges have expanded the use in terrorism cases of a legal principle known as the “special needs” doctrine and carved out an exception to the Fourth Amendment’s requirement of a warrant for searches and seizures. Unlike the Supreme Court, the FISA court hears from only one side in the case — the government — and its findings are almost never made public.

Note: For more on government secrecy, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.




U.S. Postal Service Logging All Mail for Law Enforcement
2013-07-04, New York Times
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/04/us/monitoring-of-snail-mail.html?pagewanted...

Leslie James Pickering noticed something odd in his mail last September: a handwritten card, apparently delivered by mistake, with instructions for postal workers to pay special attention to the letters and packages sent to his home. “Show all mail to supv” — supervisor — “for copying prior to going out on the street,” read the card. It included Mr. Pickering’s name, address and the type of mail that needed to be monitored. The word “confidential” was highlighted in green. “It was a bit of a shock to see it,” said Mr. Pickering, who with his wife owns a small bookstore in Buffalo. More than a decade ago, he was a spokesman for the Earth Liberation Front, a radical environmental group labeled eco-terrorists by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. As the world focuses on the high-tech spying of the National Security Agency, the misplaced card offers a rare glimpse inside the seemingly low-tech but prevalent snooping of the United States Postal Service. Mr. Pickering was targeted by a longtime surveillance system called mail covers, a forerunner of a vastly more expansive effort, the Mail Isolation Control and Tracking program, in which Postal Service computers photograph the exterior of every piece of paper mail that is processed in the United States — about 160 billion pieces last year. It is not known how long the government saves the images. The Mail Isolation Control and Tracking program was created after the anthrax attacks in late 2001. It enables the Postal Service to retrace the path of mail at the request of law enforcement. No one disputes that it is sweeping.

Note: The exposure by whistleblower Edward Snowden of the NSA's massive domestic and global spying operations seems to have triggered a series of other revelations about surveillance of the US population, like this report on the US Postal Service's photographing all mail. Hardly a week goes by without another major revelation, such as a new digital photo-ID database utilized by the FBI and police forces, and the development by US police of a national DNA database on all "potential suspects". Since very few US citizens are terrorists, what is the real purpose behind this total surveillance?




NSA surveillance played little role in foiling terror plots, experts say
2013-06-12, The Guardian (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jun/12/nsa-surveillance-data-terror-attack

Lawyers and intelligence experts with direct knowledge of two intercepted terrorist plots that the Obama administration says confirm the value of the NSA's vast data-mining activities have questioned whether the surveillance sweeps played a significant role, if any, in foiling the attacks. The defence of the controversial data collection operations ... has been led by Dianne Feinstein, chairwoman of the Senate intelligence committee, and her equivalent in the House, Mike Rogers. The two politicians have attempted to justify the NSA's use of vast data sweeps such as Prism and Boundless Informant by pointing to the arrests and convictions of would-be New York subway bomber Najibullah Zazi in 2009 and David Headley, who is serving a 35-year prison sentence for his role in the 2008 Mumbai attacks. But court documents lodged in the US and UK, as well as interviews with involved parties, suggest that data-mining through Prism and other NSA programmes played a relatively minor role in the interception of the two plots. Conventional surveillance techniques, in both cases including old-fashioned tip-offs from intelligence services in Britain, appear to have initiated the investigations. The Headley case is a peculiar choice for the administration to highlight as an example of the virtues of data-mining. The fact that the Mumbai attacks occurred, with such devastating effect, in itself suggests that the NSA's secret programmes were limited in their value as he was captured only after the event. Headley ... had been an informant working for the Drug Enforcement Administration perhaps as recently as 2005. There are suggestions that he might have then worked in some capacity for the FBI or CIA.

Note: For deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources on the realities of intelligence agency activity, click here.




Everything you need to know about the NSA’s phone records scandal
2013-06-06, Washington Post
http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/06/06/everything-you-nee...

The Guardian [has] released a classified court order requiring Verizon to turn over records of all domestic phone calls to the National Security Agency. The revelation has led to a renewed debate over the legality and policy merits of indiscriminate government surveillance of Americans. The court order, issued by the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance court, only sought metadata — a fancy word for information like what numbers you called, what time you made the calls, and how long the calls were. The order does not seek the audio of calls. Of course, it’s possible the NSA has other programs collecting the contents of calls. In 2006 a whistleblower reported the existence of a secret, NSA-controlled room in an AT&T switching facility in San Francisco. So it’s possible the NSA is using rooms like that to listen to everyone’s phone calls. But all we know for sure is that the NSA has been requesting information about our phone calls. We only have proof of spying on Verizon customers, but it’s hard to imagine the NSA limiting its surveillance program to one company. There are probably similar orders in effect for AT&T and CenturyLink, the other major telephone companies. The order includes hints that the NSA is also collecting information from cellular customers. In addition to phone numbers and call times, the order seeks information about the specific cell phone tower the customer used to connect to the network during each call. Cellphones make calls using the closest tower. So if the NSA knows you made a call using a specific tower, they can safely assume you were near that tower at the time of the call.

Note: For graphs and lots more on the Prism program, see the Guardian article at this link. Technically, U.S. officials are not allowed to mine personal data from U.S. citizens. Yet if U.K. authorities mine data on U.S. citizens, they can share it freely with officials in the U.S. and vice versa. There is evidence that this happens quite frequently, thus circumventing privacy protections. For an excellent article which goes deep into this issue, click here.




Gov't Probe Obtains Wide Swath of AP Phone Records
2013-05-13, ABC News/Associated Press
http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/wireStory/govt-obtains-wide-ap-phone-records-p...

The Justice Department secretly obtained two months of telephone records of reporters and editors for The Associated Press in what the news cooperative's top executive called a "massive and unprecedented intrusion" into how news organizations gather the news. The records obtained by the Justice Department listed outgoing calls for the work and personal phone numbers of individual reporters, for general AP office numbers in New York, Washington and Hartford, Conn., and for the main number for the AP in the House of Representatives press gallery. In all, the government seized the records for more than 20 separate telephone lines assigned to AP and its journalists in April and May of 2012. The government would not say why it sought the records. Officials have previously said in public testimony that the U.S. attorney in Washington is conducting a criminal investigation into who may have provided information contained in a May 7, 2012, AP story about a foiled terror plot. The story disclosed details of a CIA operation in Yemen that stopped an al-Qaida plot in the spring of 2012 to detonate a bomb on an airplane bound for the United States. Prosecutors have sought phone records from reporters before, but the seizure of records from such a wide array of AP offices, including general AP switchboards numbers and an office-wide shared fax line, is unusual.

Note: For deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources on government corruption, click here.




U.S. to let spy agencies scour Americans' finances
2013-03-13, Chicago Tribune/Reuters
http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2013-03-13/business/chi-us-to-let-spy-agen...

The Obama administration is drawing up plans to give all U.S. spy agencies full access to a massive database that contains financial data on American citizens and others who bank in the country, according to a Treasury Department document. The proposed plan represents a major step by U.S. intelligence agencies to spot and track down [targeted persons] by bringing together financial databanks, criminal records and military intelligence. Financial institutions that operate in the United States are required by law to file reports of "suspicious customer activity," such as large money transfers or unusually structured bank accounts, to Treasury's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN). The Federal Bureau of Investigation already has full access to the database. However, intelligence agencies, such as the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency, currently have to make case-by-case requests for information to FinCEN. The Treasury plan would give spy agencies the ability to analyze more raw financial data than they have ever had before. Financial institutions file more than 15 million "suspicious activity reports" every year, according to Treasury. Banks, for instance, are required to report all personal cash transactions exceeding $10,000.

Note: For deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources on the games intelligence agencies play, click here.




Push to step up domestic use of drones
2012-11-27, San Francisco Chronicle (SF's leading newspapers)
http://www.sfgate.com/nation/article/Push-to-step-up-domestic-use-of-drones-4...

Are unmanned aircraft, known to have difficulty avoiding collisions, safe to use in America's crowded airspace? And would their widespread use for surveillance result in unconstitutional invasions of privacy? Experts say neither question has been answered satisfactorily. Yet the federal government is rushing to open America's skies to tens of thousands of the drones - pushed to do so by a law championed by manufacturers of the unmanned aircraft. The 60-member House of Representatives' "drone caucus" - officially, the House Unmanned Systems Caucus - has helped push that agenda. And over the last four years, caucus members have drawn nearly $8 million in drone-related campaign contributions. Domestic use of drones began with limited aerial patrols of the nation's borders by Customs and Border Patrol authorities. But the industry and its allies pushed for more, leading to provisions in the FAA Modernization and Reform Act, signed into law on Feb. 14 of this year. The law requires the FAA to fully integrate the unmanned aerial vehicles into national airspace by September 2015. The FAA has predicted that 30,000 drones could be flying in the United States in less than 20 years. House members from California, Texas, Virginia and New York on the bipartisan "drone caucus" received the lion's share of the funds channeled to lawmakers from dozens of firms that are members of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International.

Note: For deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources on drone killings and other war crimes committed by the US in its wars of aggression in the Middle East, Asia and Africa, click here.




FBI's abuse of the surveillance state is the real scandal needing investigation
2012-11-13, The Guardian (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/nov/13/petraeus-surveillance-sta...

The Petraeus scandal is receiving intense media scrutiny. Several of the emerging revelations are genuinely valuable, particularly those involving the conduct of the FBI and the reach of the US surveillance state. The FBI investigation began when Jill Kelley - a Tampa socialite friendly with Petraeus (and apparently very friendly with Gen. John Allen, the four-star U.S. commander of the war in Afghanistan) - received a half-dozen or so anonymous emails that she found vaguely threatening. She then informed a friend of hers who was an FBI agent, and a major FBI investigation was then launched that set out to determine the identity of the anonymous emailer. What is most striking is how sweeping, probing and invasive the FBI's investigation then became, all without any evidence of any actual crime - or the need for any search warrant. The FBI traced all of [Paula] Broadwell's physical locations, learned of all the accounts she uses, ended up reading all of her emails, investigated the identity of her anonymous lover (who turned out to be Petraeus), and then possibly read his emails as well. They also discovered "alleged inappropriate communication" to Kelley from Gen. Allen, who is not only the top commander in Afghanistan but was also just nominated by President Obama to be the Commander of US European Command and Supreme Allied Commander Europe (a nomination now "on hold"). This is a surveillance state run amok. It also highlights how any remnants of internet anonymity have been all but obliterated by the union between the state and technology companies.

Note: For deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources on government surveillance, click here.




Rented computers secretly photographed users having sex
2012-09-26, BBC News
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-19726954

Rented computers from seven different companies secretly took photographs of their users, US authorities have said. The companies used software made by US company Designerware which could track key strokes and other personal data. The software, called PC Rental Agent, captured people engaging in "intimate acts", including sex. It is believed that PC Rental Agent has been installed in approximately 420,000 computers worldwide. The Federal Trade Commission ruling concerned a feature in the software, called Detective Mode, which would typically become activated if the user was late in returning equipment, or failed to pay for use. Detective Mode would assist the rental store in locating the overdue computer in order to pursue its return. Part of the process involved a pop-up window designed to look like a software registration screen. It would request personal information such as email addresses and telephone numbers that could then be used to pursue the users for payment and/or the return of equipment. In addition, the FTC said the software had access to much more sensitive information, including: usernames and passwords for email accounts, social media websites, and financial institutions. Among the other data collected were social security numbers; medical records; private emails to doctors; bank and credit card statements. Webcam pictures of children, partially undressed individuals, and intimate activities at home were also found. In the FTC's formal complaint document, it said the software had captured "couples engaged in sexual activities".

Note: Do you think other companies or intelligence agencies might be conducting similar monitoring? For more on this, click here.




The new totalitarianism of surveillance technology
2012-08-15, The Guardian (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/aug/15/new-totalitarianism-surve...

Last week, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg joined NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly to unveil a major new police surveillance infrastructure, developed by Microsoft. The Domain Awareness System links existing police databases with live video feeds, including cameras using vehicle license plate recognition software. No mention was made of whether the system plans to use – or already uses – facial recognition software. But, at present, there is no law to prevent US government and law enforcement agencies from building facial recognition databases. And we know from industry newsletters that the US military, law enforcement, and the department of homeland security are betting heavily on facial recognition technology. As PC World notes, Facebook itself is a market leader in the technology – but military and security agencies are close behind. According to Homeland Security Newswire, billions of dollars are being invested in the development and manufacture of various biometric technologies capable of detecting and identifying anyone, anywhere in the world – via iris-scanning systems, already in use; foot-scanning technology (really); voice pattern ID software, and so on. What is very obvious is that this technology will not be applied merely to people under arrest, or to people under surveillance in accordance with the fourth amendment. No, the "targets" here [include] everyone. In the name of "national security", the capacity is being built to identify, track and document any citizen constantly and continuously.

Note: For deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources on civil liberties, click here.




Senators sound alarm over Patriot Act extension
2011-06-02, Chicago Tribune
http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/politicsnow/la-pn-patriot-act-alarm-201106...

When two senators warned that the Patriot Act is being interpreted in a secret way that would alarm Americans if they knew the details, civil liberties activists could only speculate about what they meant. The activists' fear: that the government is using the anti-terrorism law to collect vast troves of personal information, including cellphone records, on Americans who have no link to terrorism. Sens. Ron Wyden of Oregon and Mark Udall of Colorado, both Democrats, proclaimed that the Patriot Act's surveillance powers are being used far more expansively than most Americans realize. "Today the American people do not know how their government interprets the language of the Patriot Act," Wyden said. "Someday they are going to find out, and a lot of them are going to be stunned. Some of them will undoubtedly ask their senators: 'Did you know what this law actually did? Why didn't you know? Wasn't it your job to know, before you voted on it?'" The warnings by two lawmakers with access to secret information underscore the extent to which government surveillance is shielded from view, in an age when nearly every American leaves a digital trail through the Internet and mobile devices. A clue about Wyden's concerns may be found in a separate bill he is proposing, to forbid the government from tracking, without a court order, the location of Americans through the GPS signals given out by their cellphones.

Note: For key reports from major media sources on government surveillance and other threats to privacy and civil liberties, click here and here.




Former Miss USA: I was 'molested' by the TSA
2011-04-29, USA Today
http://travel.usatoday.com/flights/post/2011/04/susie-castillo-dallas-fort-wo...

Weeks after generating an uproar for the aggressive screening of a six-year-old child in New Orleans, the TSA is again facing criticism for an enhanced pat-down. Former Miss USA Susie Castillo says she was "molested" by a TSA screener at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport after declining to go through a body scanner due to radiation concerns. According to a detailed account from the Dallas Morning News, Castillo wrote "My private area was grazed four times!" on a complaint card after the screening. Castillo immediately shot a tearful video recounting the episode more explicitly and posted it on YouTube. The Boston Herald quotes from the video: "That's why I'm crying, that's why I'm so upset. They're making me choose to either get molested, because that's what I feel like, or go through this machine that's completely unhealthy and dangerous." TSA spokesman Luis Casanova defended the screening procedure. "Everything [the screener] did was according to protocol," Casanova said.

Note: For key articles on increasing reductions of civil liberties by governments, click here.




iPhone keeps record of everywhere you go
2011-04-20, The Guardian (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2011/apr/20/iphone-tracking-prompts-priv...

Security researchers have discovered that Apple's iPhone keeps track of where you go – and saves every detail of it to a secret file on the device which is then copied to the owner's computer when the two are synchronised. The file contains the latitude and longitude of the phone's recorded coordinates along with a timestamp, meaning that anyone who stole the phone or the computer could discover details about the owner's movements using a simple program. For some phones, there could be almost a year's worth of data stored, as the recording of data seems to have started with Apple's iOS 4 update to the phone's operating system, released in June 2010. "Apple has made it possible for almost anybody – a jealous spouse, a private detective – with access to your phone or computer to get detailed information about where you've been," said Pete Warden, one of the researchers. Only the iPhone records the user's location in this way, say Warden and Alasdair Allan, the data scientists who discovered the file and are presenting their findings at the Where 2.0 conference in San Francisco on [April 20]. "Alasdair has looked for similar tracking code in [Google's] Android phones and couldn't find any," said Warden.

Note: For key reports from reliable sources on threats to privacy, click here.




Revealed: US spy operation that manipulates social media
2011-03-17, The Guardian (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2011/mar/17/us-spy-operation-social-netw...

The US military is developing software that will let it secretly manipulate social media sites by using fake online personas to influence internet conversations and spread pro-American propaganda. A Californian corporation has been awarded a contract with United States Central Command (Centcom), which oversees US armed operations in the Middle East and Central Asia, to develop what is described as an "online persona management service" that will allow one US serviceman or woman to control up to 10 separate identities based all over the world. Critics are likely to complain that it will allow the US military to create a false consensus in online conversations, crowd out unwelcome opinions and smother commentaries or reports that do not correspond with its own objectives. The discovery that the US military is developing false online personalities – known to users of social media as "sock puppets" – could also encourage other governments, private companies and non-government organisations to do the same. Once developed, the software could allow US service personnel, working around the clock in one location, to respond to emerging online conversations with any number of co-ordinated messages, blogposts, chatroom posts and other interventions.

Note: The Pentagon claims that the "fake persona" software will not be used on social networks in the United States, because that would break laws against using propaganda on US citizens. How much credence should be given to this assurance?




WikiLeaks: U.S. Spied on NATO's Top Official
2011-02-11, CBS News/Associated Press
http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2011/02/11/501364/main20031493.shtml

Leaked U.S. diplomatic cables appear to show that the United States has been snooping on NATO's top official using secret sources on his own staff. Confidential cables from the U.S. mission to NATO released [on February 11] by WikiLeaks, ... said American diplomats received information on the private conversations of Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen from "a member of the NATO international staff." Instead of the staffer's name, the phrase "strictly protect" was inserted in a cable dated Sept. 10, 2009. The cable dealt with Fogh Rasmussen's proposal to improve ties with Russia by establishing contacts with the Collective Security Treaty Organization, a Russia-dominated security alliance. The cable was signed off by U.S. ambassador Ivo Daalder. There has been no known [previous] case in the past of a nation spying on the secretary-general.




Undercover police cleared 'to have sex with activists'
2011-01-22, The Guardian (One of the UK's leading newspapers
http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2011/jan/22/undercover-police-cleared-sex-activists

Undercover police officers routinely adopted a tactic of "promiscuity" with the blessing of senior commanders, according to a former agent who worked in a secretive unit of the Metropolitan police for four years. The former undercover policeman claims that sexual relationships with activists were sanctioned for both men and women officers infiltrating anarchist, leftwing and environmental groups. Sex was a tool to help officers blend in, the officer claimed, and was widely used as a technique to glean intelligence. He said undercover officers, particularly those infiltrating environmental and leftwing groups, viewed having sex with a large number of partners "as part of the job". His comments contradict claims last week from the Association of Chief Police Officers that operatives were absolutely forbidden to sleep with activists. The claims follow the unmasking of undercover PC Mark Kennedy, who had sexual relationships with several women during the seven years he spent infiltrating a ring of environmental activists. Another two covert officers have been named in the past fortnight who also had sex with the protesters they were sent to spy on, fuelling allegations that senior officers had authorised sleeping around as a legitimate means of gathering intelligence.

Note: For a comprehensive overview of the still-ongoing revelations about police provocateur Mark Kennedy and his cohorts in the UK police infiltration of environmental and related activist groups, click here.




Monitoring America
2010-12-20, Washington Post
http://projects.washingtonpost.com/top-secret-america/articles/monitoring-ame...

Nine years after the terrorist attacks of 2001, the United States is assembling a vast domestic intelligence apparatus to collect information about Americans, using the FBI, local police, state homeland security offices and military criminal investigators. The system, by far the largest and most technologically sophisticated in the nation's history, collects, stores and analyzes information about thousands of U.S. citizens and residents, many of whom have not been accused of any wrongdoing. The months-long investigation [by The Washington Post], based on nearly 100 interviews and 1,000 documents, found that: * Technologies and techniques honed for use on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan have migrated into the hands of law enforcement agencies in America. * The FBI is building a database with the names and certain personal information, such as employment history, of thousands of U.S. citizens and residents whom a local police officer or a fellow citizen believed to be acting suspiciously. * Law enforcement agencies have hired as trainers self-described experts whose extremist views on Islam and terrorism are considered inaccurate and counterproductive by the FBI and U.S. intelligence agencies. * The Department of Homeland Security sends its state and local partners intelligence reports with little meaningful guidance, and state reports have sometimes inappropriately reported on lawful meetings.

Note: This report is part of a series, "Top Secret America," by The Washington Post. For more, click here.




Look out, your medicine is watching you
2010-11-08, Fox News/Reuters
http://www.foxnews.com/health/2010/11/09/smart-pill-embedded-microchip

Novartis AG plans to seek regulatory approval within 18 months for a pioneering tablet containing an embedded microchip, bringing the concept of "smart-pill" technology a step closer. The initial program will use one of the Swiss firm's established drugs taken by transplant patients to avoid organ rejection. But Trevor Mundel, global head of development, believes the concept can be applied to many other pills. Novartis agreed in January to spend $24 million to secure access to chip-in-a-pill technology developed by privately owned Proteus Biomedical of Redwood City, California, putting it ahead of rivals. The biotech start-up's ingestible chips are activated by stomach acid and send information to a small patch worn on the patient's skin, which can transmit data to a smartphone or send it over the Internet to a doctor. Because the tiny chips are added to existing drugs, Novartis does not expect to have to conduct full-scale clinical trials to prove the new products work. Instead, it aims to do so-called bioequivalence tests to show they are the same as the original. A bigger issue may be what checks should be put in place to protect patients' personal medical data as it is transmitted from inside their bodies by wireless and Bluetooth.

Note: It's interesting that Fox News was the only major media to pick up this revealing Reuters story. This article seriously underplays the privacy concerns raised by this new corporate strategy. For more on this, click here. For many key reports on corporate and governmental threats to privacy, click here. For more on the dangers of microchips from reliable sources, click here.




Civil Rights Photographer Unmasked as Informer
2010-09-14, New York Times
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/14/us/14photographer.html

That photo of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. riding one of the first desegregated buses in Montgomery, Ala.? He took it. The well-known image of black sanitation workers carrying “I Am a Man” signs in Memphis? His. He was there in Room 306 of the Lorraine Hotel, Dr. King’s room, on the night he was assassinated. But now an unsettling asterisk must be added to the legacy of Ernest C. Withers, one of the most celebrated photographers of the civil rights era: He was a paid F.B.I. informer. On [September 12], The Commercial Appeal in Memphis published the results of a two-year investigation that showed Mr. Withers, who died in 2007 at age 85, had collaborated closely with two F.B.I. agents in the 1960s to keep tabs on the civil rights movement. From at least 1968 to 1970, Mr. Withers, who was black, provided photographs, biographical information and scheduling details to two F.B.I. agents in the bureau’s Memphis domestic surveillance program, Howell Lowe and William H. Lawrence, according to numerous reports summarizing their meetings. The reports were obtained by the newspaper under the Freedom of Information Act and posted on its Web site. While he was growing close to top civil rights leaders, Mr. Withers was also meeting regularly with the F.B.I. agents, disclosing details about plans for marches and political beliefs of the leaders, even personal information like the leaders’ car tag numbers.

Note: For a fascinating CNN interview with civil rights leader and former Atlanta mayor Andrew Young on this issue, click here. For key reports from reliable sources raising unanswered questions about the assassination of Martin Luther King and other major US political leaders, click here.




Crackdown on dangerous dogs to make microchips compulsory for all
2010-03-09, The Guardian (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/mar/09/dangerous-dogs-microchips-insurance

All dogs are to be compulsorily microchipped so that their owners can be more easily traced under a crackdown on dangerous dogs. Under the scheme a microchip the size of a grain of rice is injected under the skin of the dog between its shoulder blades. The chip contains a unique code number, the dog's name, age, breed and health as well as the owner's name, address and phone number. When the chip is "read" by a handheld scanner the code number is revealed and the details can be checked on a national database. The measures will be set out by the home secretary, Alan Johnson, who will point to rising public concern that "status dogs" are being used by some irresponsible owners to intimidate communities or as a weapon by gangs. If the scheme were made compulsory owners would face a fine for failing to microchip their dogs.

Note: Once all dogs are required to be microchipped, what will come next? To be informed of some disturbing plans to microchip all of us, click here. For lots more on microchipping from reliable sources, click here.




The future of brain-controlled devices
2010-01-04, CNN
http://www.cnn.com/2009/TECH/12/30/brain.controlled.computers/index.html

Researchers are already using brain-computer interfaces to aid the disabled, treat diseases like Parkinson's and Alzheimer's, and provide therapy for depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. Work is under way on devices that may eventually let you communicate with friends telepathically, give you superhuman hearing and vision or even let you download data directly into your brain, a la "The Matrix." Researchers are practically giddy over the prospects. "We don't know what the limits are yet," says Melody Moore Jackson, director of Georgia Tech University's BrainLab. At the root of all this technology is the 3-pound generator we all carry in our head. It produces electricity at the microvolt level. But the signals are strong enough to move robots, wheelchairs and prosthetic limbs -- with the help of an external processor. One of the more controversial uses under development is telepathy. It would require at least two people to be implanted with electrodes that send and receive signals. DARPA, the Pentagon's technology research division, is currently working on an initiative called "Silent Talk," which would let soldiers on secret missions communicate with their thoughts alone. This stealth component is attractive, but naysayers fear that such soldiers could become manipulated for evil means.

Note: Remember that secret military research such as that undertaken by DARPA is often years ahead of capabilities publicly acknowledged.




Who's in Big Brother's Database?
2009-11-05, New York Review of Books
http://www.nybooks.com/articles/23231

On a remote edge of Utah's dry and arid high desert ... hard-hatted construction workers with top-secret clearances are preparing to build [a] mammoth $2 billion structure. It's being built by the ultra-secret National Security Agency ... to house trillions of phone calls, e-mail messages, and [electronic data trails of all kinds]. The NSA is also completing work on another data archive, this one in San Antonio, Texas, which will be nearly the size of the Alamodome. Just how much information will be stored in these windowless cybertemples? A recent report prepared by the MITRE Corporation, a Pentagon think tank, [states] "Sensor data volume could potentially increase to the level of Yottabytes [10-to-the-24th-power bytes] by 2015." Once vacuumed up and stored in these near-infinite "libraries," the data are then analyzed by powerful infoweapons, supercomputers running complex algorithmic programs, to determine who among us may be — or may one day become — a terrorist. Emerging [after 9/11] as the most powerful chief the spy world has ever known was the director of the NSA. He is in charge of an organization three times the size of the CIA and empowered in 2008 by Congress to spy on Americans to an unprecedented degree. These new centers in Utah, Texas, and possibly elsewhere will likely become the centralized repositories for the data intercepted by the NSA in America's version of the "big brother database."

Note: James Bamford, the author of this review of a new book on the history of the NSA, has himself written three important books on the agency. For many revealing reports from reliable sources on the developing capacity by government and corporate surveillance to construct a "Big Brother" states, click here.




Patriot Act Provisions Get Obama Support
2009-09-15, ABC News
http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/obama-supports-extending-patriot-act/story?id=...

The Justice Department has indicated that the Obama administration is in support of renewing [three] controversial sections of the USA Patriot Act that expire later this year. The provisions that will expire in December include Section 206, that allows "roving" wiretaps so FBI agents can tap multiple phones or computers (with court authorization) that a specific person (target) may use. Another expiring provision, Section 215, is the so-called "library provision," which allows investigators to obtain [library, medical, business, banking and other] records with approval from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. And the final provision which was nicknamed the "Lone Wolf" authorization, allows intelligence gathering of people not suspected of being part of a foreign government or known terrorist organization. Critics of the Patriot Act protested loudly that the FBI could obtain individuals' library records under the legislation. [But] section 215 is much more expansive than reviewing a suspected terrorist's summer reading list. [It] allows the FBI to obtain any business record, "any tangible things," like credit card and bank statements and also allows access to medical and mental health records. The provision has been used to obtain communication and subscriber information to help set up surveillance and monitoring of computers and telephones.

Note: The American Library Association, the national organization of professional librarians, was the first and strongest defender of civil liberties after the passage of the PATRIOT Act. For a discussion of the concerns of professional librarians over this decision by the Obama administration, click here.




Control of Cybersecurity Becomes Divisive Issue
2009-04-17, New York Times
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/17/us/politics/17cyber.html?partner=rss&emc=rs...

The National Security Agency has been campaigning to lead the government’s rapidly growing cybersecurity programs, raising privacy and civil liberties concerns among some officials who fear that the move could give the spy agency too much control over government computer networks. The security agency’s interest in taking over the dominant role has met resistance, including the resignation of the Homeland Security Department official who was until last month in charge of coordinating cybersecurity efforts throughout the government. Rod Beckstrom, who resigned in March as director of the National Cyber Security Center at the Homeland Security Department, said ... that he feared that the N.S.A.’s push for a greater role in guarding the government’s computer systems could give it the power to collect and analyze every e-mail message, text message and Google search conducted by every employee in every federal agency. Mr. Beckstrom said he believed that an intelligence service that is supposed to focus on foreign targets should not be given so much control over the flow of information within the United States government. To detect threats against the computer infrastructure — including hackers, viruses and intrusions by foreign agents and terrorists — cybersecurity guardians must have virtually unlimited access to networks. Mr. Beckstrom argues that those responsibilities should be divided among agencies. “I have very serious concerns about the concentration of too much power in one agency,” he said. “Power over information is so important, and it is so difficult to monitor, that we need to have checks and balances.”

Note: For further disturbing reports from reliable sources on government efforts to establish total surveillance systems, click here.




Prosecutor turned up on U.S. terror watch list
2008-07-14, USA Today/Associated Press
http://www.usatoday.com/news/washington/2008-07-14-justice-terror-list_N.htm

The Justice Department's former top criminal prosecutor says the U.S. government's terror watch list likely has caused thousands of innocent Americans to be questioned, searched or otherwise hassled. Former Assistant Attorney General Jim Robinson would know: he is one of them. Robinson joined [with] the American Civil Liberties Union on Monday to urge fixing the list that's supposed to identify suspected terrorists. "It's a pain in the neck, and significantly interferes with my travel arrangements," said Robinson, the head of the Justice Department's criminal division during the Clinton administration. He believes his name matches that of someone who was put on the list in early 2005, and is routinely delayed while flying — despite having his own government top-secret security clearances renewed last year. He [said] "I expect my story is similar to hundreds of thousands of people who are on this list who find themselves inconvenienced." [The watch list] was created after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks to consolidate 12 existing lists. Audits of the watch list over the last several years ... have concluded that it has mistakenly flagged innocent people whose names are similar to those on it. More than 30,000 airline passengers had asked the Homeland Security Department to clear their names from the list as of October 2006. The ACLU predicted the watch list would include 1 million names as early as Monday. The civil liberties group reached that number by citing the 700,000 records on the watch list as of last September and adding 20,000 names each month, as forecast by the Justice Department's inspector general.

Note: For many disturbing reports on threats to civil liberties, click here.




Civil liberties group criticizes new FBI authority
2008-07-02, Boston Globe/Associated Press
http://www.boston.com/news/nation/washington/articles/2008/07/02/civil_libert...

Nearly 40 years ago, the FBI was roundly criticized for investigating Americans without evidence [that] they had broken any laws. Now, critics fear the FBI may be gearing up to do it again. Tentative Justice Department guidelines, to be released later this summer, would let agents investigate people whose backgrounds -- and potentially their race or ethnicity -- match the traits of terrorists. Such profiling ... echoes the FBI's now-defunct COINTELPRO, an operation under Director J. Edgar Hoover in the 1950s and 1960s to monitor and disrupt groups with communist and socialist ties. Before it was shut down in 1971, the domestic spying operation -- formally known as Counterintelligence Programs -- had expanded to include civil rights groups, anti-war activists, ... state legislators and journalists. Among the FBI's targets were Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, and John Lennon, along with members of black [political] groups ... and student protesters. The new proposal to allow investigations of Americans with no evidence of wrongdoing is "COINTELPRO for the 21st century," said Barry Steinhardt of the American Civil Liberties Union. "But this is much more insidious because it could involve more people. In the days of COINTELPRO, they were watching only a few people. Now they could be watching everyone."

Note: For many disturbing reports on threats to civil liberties, click here.




FBI Prepares Vast Database Of Biometrics
2007-12-22, Washington Post
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/12/21/AR20071221025...

The FBI is embarking on a $1 billion effort to build the world's largest computer database of peoples' physical characteristics, a project that would give the government unprecedented abilities to identify individuals in the United States and abroad. Digital images of faces, fingerprints and palm patterns are already flowing into FBI systems. Next month, the FBI intends to award a 10-year contract that would significantly expand the amount and kinds of biometric information it receives. And in the coming years, law enforcement authorities around the world will be able to rely on iris patterns, face-shape data, scars and perhaps even the unique ways people walk and talk, to ... identify [people]. The increasing use of biometrics for identification is raising questions about the ability of Americans to avoid unwanted scrutiny. It is drawing criticism from those who worry that people's bodies will become de facto national identification cards. "It's going to be an essential component of tracking," said Barry Steinhardt, director of the Technology and Liberty Project of the American Civil Liberties Union. "It's enabling the Always On Surveillance Society." The FBI's biometric database ... communicates with the Terrorist Screening Center's database of suspects and the National Crime Information Center database, which is the FBI's master criminal database of felons, fugitives and terrorism suspects. At the West Virginia University Center for Identification Technology Research (CITeR) ... researchers are working on capturing images of people's irises at distances of up to 15 feet, and of faces from as far away as 200 yards. Soon, those researchers will do biometric research for the FBI. Covert iris- and face-image capture is several years away, but it is of great interest to government agencies.

Note: For many important major-media reports on threats to privacy, click here.




Judges OK warrantless monitoring of Web use
2007-07-07, San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco's leading newspaper)
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2007/07/07/BAGMNQSJDA1.DTL

Federal agents do not need a search warrant to monitor a suspect's computer use and determine the e-mail addresses and Web pages the suspect is contacting, a federal appeals court ruled Friday. In a drug case from San Diego County, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco likened computer surveillance to the "pen register" devices that officers use to pinpoint the phone numbers a suspect dials, without listening to the phone calls themselves. In Friday's ruling, the court said computer users should know that they lose privacy protections with e-mail and Web site addresses when they are communicated to the company whose equipment carries the messages. The search is no more intrusive than officers' examination of a list of phone numbers or the outside of a mailed package, neither of which requires a warrant, Judge Raymond Fisher said in the 3-0 ruling. Defense lawyer Michael Crowley disagreed. His client, Dennis Alba, was sentenced to 30 years in prison after being convicted of operating a laboratory in Escondido that manufactured the drug ecstasy. Some of the evidence against Alba came from agents' tracking of his computer use. The court upheld his conviction and sentence. Expert evidence in Alba's case showed that the Web addresses obtained by federal agents included page numbers that allowed the agents to determine what someone read online, Crowley said. The ruling "further erodes our privacy," the attorney said. "The great political marketplace of ideas is the Internet, and the government has unbridled access to it."

Note: So now every email you send and read can be monitored legally. Why didn't this make news headlines?




[N.Y.] City Police Spied Broadly Before G.O.P. Convention
2007-03-25, New York Times
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/25/nyregion/25infiltrate.html?ex=1332475200&en...

For at least a year before the 2004 Republican National Convention, teams of undercover New York City police officers traveled to cities across the country, Canada and Europe to conduct covert observations of people who planned to protest at the convention, according to police records and interviews. From Albuquerque to Montreal, San Francisco to Miami, undercover New York police officers attended meetings of political groups, posing as sympathizers or fellow activists. They made friends, shared meals, swapped e-mail messages and then filed daily reports with the department’s Intelligence Division. In hundreds of reports stamped “N.Y.P.D. Secret,” the Intelligence Division chronicled the views and plans of people who had no apparent intention of breaking the law. These included members of street theater companies, church groups and antiwar organizations. Three New York City elected officials were cited in the reports. In at least some cases, intelligence on what appeared to be lawful activity was shared with police departments in other cities. In addition to sharing information with other police departments, New York undercover officers were active themselves in at least 15 places outside New York — including California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montreal, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas and Washington, D.C. — and in Europe. To date, as the boundaries of the department’s expanded powers continue to be debated, police officials have provided only glimpses of its intelligence-gathering.




My National Security Letter Gag Order
2007-03-23, Washington Post
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/03/22/AR20070322018...

The Justice Department's inspector general revealed on March 9 that the FBI has been systematically abusing one of the most controversial provisions of the USA Patriot Act: the expanded power to issue "national security letters." It no doubt surprised most Americans to learn that between 2003 and 2005 the FBI issued more than 140,000 specific demands under this provision. It did not, however, come as any surprise to me. Three years ago, I received a national security letter (NSL) in my capacity as the president of a small Internet access and consulting business. The letter ordered me to provide sensitive information about one of my clients. There was no indication that a judge had reviewed or approved the letter, and it turned out that none had. The letter came with a gag provision that prohibited me from telling anyone, including my client, that the FBI was seeking this information. Based on the context of the demand -- a context that the FBI still won't let me discuss publicly -- I suspected that the FBI was abusing its power. Living under the gag order has been stressful and surreal. Under the threat of criminal prosecution, I must hide all aspects of my involvement in the case -- including the mere fact that I received an NSL -- from my colleagues, my family and my friends. When I meet with my attorneys I cannot tell my girlfriend where I am going or where I have been. I hide any papers related to the case in a place where she will not look. When clients and friends ask me whether I am the one challenging the constitutionality of the NSL statute, I have no choice but to look them in the eye and lie. At some point -- a point we passed long ago -- the secrecy itself becomes a threat to our democracy.




Embracing flag, Snowden says he hopes to return to U.S.
2014-08-13, USA Today
http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2014/08/13/snowden-wired-flag/13995013/

Development of a U.S. counterattack for cyberterrorism that could do more harm than good was one of the final events that drove Edward Snowden to leak government secrets, the former National Security Agency contractor tells Wired magazine. Snowden ... said the MonsterMind program was designed to detect a foreign cyberattack and keep it from entering the country. But it also would automatically fire back. The problem, he said, is malware can be routed through an innocent third-party country. "These attacks can be spoofed," he told Wired. MonsterMind for example ... could accidentally start a war. And it's the ultimate threat to privacy because it requires the NSA to gain access to virtually all private communications coming in from overseas. "The argument is that the only way we can identify these malicious traffic flows and respond to them is if we're analyzing all traffic flows," he said. "And if we're analyzing all traffic flows, that means we have to be intercepting all traffic flows. That means violating the Fourth Amendment, seizing private communications without a warrant, without probable cause or even a suspicion of wrongdoing. For everyone, all the time. You get exposed to a little bit of evil, a little bit of rule-breaking, a little bit of dishonesty, a little bit of deceptiveness, a little bit of disservice to the public interest, and you can brush it off, you can come to justify it," Snowden told Wired. "But if you do that, it creates a slippery slope that just increases over time. And by the time you've been in 15 years, 20 years, 25 years, you've seen it all and it doesn't shock you. And so you see it as normal."

Note: Read the cover story from Wired magazine with a deep inside report on Snowden.




Before Snowden: The Whistleblowers Who Tried To Lift The Veil
2014-07-22, NPR
http://www.npr.org/2014/07/22/333741495/before-snowden-the-whistleblowers-who...

Bill Binney worked at the National Security Agency [for] nearly three decades as one of its leading crypto-mathematicians. He then became one of its leading whistleblowers. The NSA is overseen by Congress, the courts and other government departments. It's also supposed to be watched from the inside by its own workers. But over the past dozen years, whistleblowers like Binney have had a rough track record. Those who tried unsuccessfully to work within the system say Edward Snowden — the former National Security Agency contractor who shared top-secret documents with reporters — learned from their bitter experience. For Binney, the decision to quit the NSA and become a whistleblower began a few weeks after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, when he says he discovered the spy agency had begun using software he'd created to scoop up information on Americans — all without a court order. "I had to get out of there, because they were using the program I built to do domestic spying, and I didn't want any part of it, I didn't want to be associated with it," he says. "I look at it as basically treason. They were subverting the Constitution." Binney says he and two other NSA colleagues who also quit tried sounding the alarm with congressional committees. But because they did not have documents to prove their charges, nobody believed them. Snowden, he says, did not repeat that mistake. "He recognized right away, it was very clear to me, that if he wanted anybody to believe him, he'd have to take a lot of documentation with him — which is what he did," Binney says.

Note: For more on this, see concise summaries of deeply revealing intelligence agency operations news articles from reliable major media sources.




Scott Volkers: Swimming coach accused of child abuse 'too good to sack'
2014-07-10, Sydney Morning Herald (One of Australia's leading newspapers)
http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/scott-volkers-swimming-coach-accused-of-child-abuse...

When Australia's Susie O'Neill claimed the gold medal at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, she dedicated her victory to Scott Volkers, the swimming coach who had taken over her training two years earlier. By this time, three women who had been Volkers' students were losing belief in themselves and the swimming community. Julie Gilbert, Kylie Rogers and Simone Boyce took the stand at the royal commission into child abuse in Sydney this week to describe their mental breakdowns, eating disorders, anxiety and isolation from a swimming hierarchy that refused to believe them or failed to explore the possibility that Volkers molested them – as girls aged 12 to 18 – in the 1980s. Volkers remained on the payroll of elite Australian swimming institutions until 2010, when he was finally forced to move to Brazil, where he still works as a leading coach. Was it Australia's win-at-all-costs swimming culture that kept him in the presence of young athletes? An exasperated Andrew Boe, the lawyer representing Gilbert, Rogers and Boyce, pointed out: "This is not an examination of whether he was a good swimming coach or not." Nor is it an examination of the guilt or innocence of Volkers – against whom charges concerning these three alleged victims were dropped in 2002 – or other swimming coaches. It is an inquiry into the institutional responses to abuse. Swimming Australia's association with Volkers [ended] in 2005, when the coach's fourth accuser came forward with claims that Volkers had groped her breasts and attempted to stimulate her vagina in the late 1990s, when she was 15. The allegations were very similar to the earlier cases.

Note: For more on this, see concise summaries of deeply revealing sexual abuse scandals news articles from reliable major media sources.




Supreme Court says police must get warrants for most cellphone searches
2014-06-25, Washington Post
http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/supreme-court-police-must-get-warrants...

The Supreme Court unequivocally ruled [on June 25] that privacy rights are not sacrificed to 21st-century technology, saying unanimously that police generally must obtain a warrant before searching the cellphone of someone they arrest. While the specific protection may not affect the average American, the court made a bold statement that the same concern about government prying that animated the nation’s birth applies to the abundance of digital information about an individual in the modern world. Modern cellphones “hold for many Americans the privacies of life,” Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote for a court united behind the opinion’s expansive language. “The fact that technology now allows an individual to carry such information in his hand does not make the information any less worthy of the protection for which the Founders fought.” Roberts said that in most cases when police seize a cellphone from a suspect, the answer is simple: “Get a warrant.” The ruling has no impact on National Security Agency data-collection programs revealed in the past year or law enforcement use of aggregated digital information. But lawyers involved in those issues said the emphatic declarations signaled the justices’ interest in the dangers of government overreach. Stephen Vladeck, a law professor at American University, said the decision is more than simply a warning to government officials employing high-tech forms of government surveillance. “This is a cruise missile across the bow of lawyers defending warrantless search programs,” Vladeck said.

Note: For more on this, see concise summaries of deeply revealing privacy news articles from reliable major media sources.




N.S.A. Collecting Millions of Faces From Web Images
2014-06-01, New York Times
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/01/us/nsa-collecting-millions-of-faces-from-we...

The National Security Agency is harvesting huge numbers of images of people from communications that it intercepts through its global surveillance operations for use in sophisticated facial recognition programs, according to top-secret documents. The spy agency’s reliance on facial recognition technology has grown significantly over the last four years as the agency has turned to new software to exploit the flood of images included in emails, text messages, social media, videoconferences and other communications. Agency officials believe that technological advances could revolutionize the way that the N.S.A. finds intelligence targets around the world. The agency’s ambitions for this highly sensitive ability and the scale of its effort have not previously been disclosed. The agency intercepts “millions of images per day” — including about 55,000 “facial recognition quality images” — which translate into “tremendous untapped potential,” according to 2011 documents obtained from the former agency contractor Edward J. Snowden. It is not clear how many people around the world, and how many Americans, might have been caught up in the effort. Neither federal privacy laws nor the nation’s surveillance laws provide specific protections for facial images. Civil-liberties advocates and other critics are concerned that the power of the improving technology, used by government and industry, could erode privacy. “Facial recognition can be very invasive,” said Alessandro Acquisti, a researcher on facial recognition technology at Carnegie Mellon University.

Note: For another New York Times article showing how the NSA is using mobile phone apps to "snatch data revealing the player’s location, age, sex and other personal information," see this article.




Data Pirates of the Caribbean: The NSA Is Recording Every Cell Phone Call in the Bahamas
2014-05-19, The Intercept
https://firstlook.org/theintercept/article/2014/05/19/data-pirates-caribbean-...

The National Security Agency is secretly intercepting, recording, and archiving the audio of virtually every cell phone conversation on the island nation of the Bahamas. According to documents provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, the surveillance is part of a top-secret system – code-named SOMALGET – that was implemented without the knowledge or consent of the Bahamian government. SOMALGET is part of a broader NSA program called MYSTIC, which ... is being used to secretly monitor the telecommunications systems of the Bahamas and several other countries, including Mexico, the Philippines, and Kenya. But while MYSTIC scrapes mobile networks for so-called “metadata” – information that reveals the time, source, and destination of calls – SOMALGET is a cutting-edge tool that enables the NSA to vacuum up and store the actual content of every conversation in an entire country. The program raises profound questions about the nature and extent of American surveillance abroad. The U.S. intelligence community routinely justifies its massive spying efforts by citing the threats to national security posed by global terrorism and unpredictable rival nations like Russia and Iran. But the NSA documents indicate that SOMALGET has been deployed in the Bahamas to locate “international narcotics traffickers and special-interest alien smugglers” – traditional law-enforcement concerns, but a far cry from derailing terror plots or intercepting weapons of mass destruction.

Note: For more on the realities of intelligence agency operations, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.




Glenn Greenwald: from Martin Luther King to Anonymous, the state targets dissenters not just "bad guys"
2014-05-13, The Guardian (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/may/13/glenn-greenwald-anonymous-mass-s...

The opportunity those in power have to characterise political opponents as "national security threats" or even "terrorists" has repeatedly proven irresistible. In the past decade, the government ... has formally so designated environmental activists, broad swaths of anti-government rightwing groups, anti-war activists, and associations organised around Palestinian rights. One document from the Snowden files, dated 3 October 2012, chillingly underscores the point. It revealed that the agency has been monitoring the online activities of individuals it believes express "radical" ideas and who have a "radicalising" influence on others. Among the information collected about the individuals, at least one of whom is a "US person", are details of their online sex activities and "online promiscuity." The agency discusses ways to exploit this information to destroy their reputations and credibility. The record is suffused with examples of groups and individuals being placed under government surveillance by virtue of their dissenting views and activism – Martin Luther King, the civil rights movement, anti-war activists, environmentalists. The NSA's treatment of Anonymous ... is especially troubling and extreme. Gabriella Coleman, a specialist on Anonymous at McGill University, said that [Anonymous] "is not a defined" entity but rather "an idea that mobilises activists to take collective action and voice political discontent. It is a broad-based global social movement with no centralised or official organised leadership structure. Some have rallied around the name to engage in digital civil disobedience, but nothing remotely resembling terrorism."

Note: This excerpt is from the new book No Place to Hide by Glenn Greenwald. For more on government surveillance, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.




United States Of Secrets
2014-05-12, KPBS.org
http://www.kpbs.org/news/2014/may/12/frontline-united-states-secrets/

When NSA contractor Edward Snowden downloaded tens of thousands of top-secret documents from a highly secure government network, it led to the largest leak of classified information in history — and sparked a fierce debate over privacy, technology and democracy in the post-9/11 world. Now, in "United States Of Secrets," FRONTLINE goes behind the headlines to reveal the dramatic inside story of how the U.S. government came to monitor and collect the communications of millions of people around the world—including ordinary Americans—and the lengths they went to trying to hide the massive surveillance program from the public. “This is as close to the complete picture as anyone has yet put together — and it’s bigger and more pervasive than we thought,” says veteran FRONTLINE filmmaker Michael Kirk. In part one ... Kirk [pieces] together the secret history of the unprecedented surveillance program that began in the wake of September 11 and continues today – even after the revelations of its existence by Edward Snowden. Then, in part two, premiering Tuesday, May 20 ..., veteran FRONTLINE filmmaker Martin Smith continues the story, exploring the secret relationship between Silicon Valley and the National Security Agency, and investigating how the government and tech companies have worked together to gather and warehouse your data. “Through in-depth interviews with more than 60 whistleblowers, elected officials, journalists, intelligence insiders and cabinet officials, we have woven together the secret narrative that reveals the scale and scope of the government’s spying program,” says Kirk.

Note: Don't miss this engaging program, available at this link. For more on government surveillance, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.




Glenn Greenwald: the explosive day we revealed Edward Snowden's identity to the world
2014-05-11, The Guardian (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/may/11/glenn-greenwald-nsa-whistleblowe...

On Sunday 9 June 2013, the Guardian published the story that revealed [Edward] Snowden to the world. The article told Snowden's story, conveyed his motives, and proclaimed that "Snowden will go down in history as one of America's most consequential whistleblowers, alongside Daniel Ellsberg and Bradley [now Chelsea] Manning." We quoted [a note from Snowden that said:] "I understand that I will be made to suffer for my actions … but I will be satisfied if the federation of secret law, unequal pardon and irresistible executive powers that rule the world that I love are revealed even for an instant." The reaction to the article and the video was more intense than anything I had experienced as a writer. Ellsberg himself, writing the following day in the Guardian, proclaimed that "there has not been in American history a more important leak than Edward Snowden's release of NSA material – and that definitely includes the Pentagon Papers 40 years ago". Several hundred thousand people posted the link to their Facebook accounts in the first several days alone. Almost three million people watched the interview on YouTube. Many more saw it on the Guardian's website. The overwhelming response was shock and inspiration at Snowden's courage.

Note: Don't miss the full, exciting story of how Snowden originally came to leak his stunning information at the link above. This excerpt is from the new book No Place to Hide by Glenn Greenwald. For more on government surveillance, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.




Stories about NSA surveillance, Snowden leaks win Pulitzers for two news groups
2014-04-14, CNN
http://www.cnn.com/2014/04/14/us/pulitzer-prizes-journalism

Two news organizations' stories about National Security Agency surveillance, based upon documents leaked by Edward Snowden, have been awarded the Pulitzer Prize for public service, often described as the highest prize in American journalism. The Washington Post and ... The Guardian each received the prize on [April 14]. The recognition of the NSA reporting was most significant because of the questions raised by Snowden's leaks and the reaction to them. Snowden, who has been living in Russia while seeking asylum from U.S. prosecution, said in a statement that the Pulitzer board's recognition of the coverage was "vindication for everyone who believes that the public has a role in government." "We owe it to the efforts of the brave reporters and their colleagues who kept working in the face of extraordinary intimidation, including the forced destruction of journalistic materials, the inappropriate use of terrorism laws, and so many other means of pressure to get them to stop what the world now recognizes was work of vital public importance." While Snowden provided a trove of documents, reporters including Glenn Greenwald, working for the Guardian; Barton Gellman, working for The Post; and Laura Poitras, who worked with both, pored over the raw information, decided with their editors what parts were ethical to publish, and turned the information into stories that stunned readers around the world.

Note: For more on the historic Snowden revelations, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.




The “Cuban Twitter” Scam Is a Drop in the Internet Propaganda Bucket
2014-04-04, The Intercept
https://firstlook.org/theintercept/2014/04/04/cuban-twitter-scam-social-media...

This week, the Associated Press exposed a secret program run by the U.S. Agency for International Development to create “a Twitter-like Cuban communications network” run through “secret shell companies” in order to create the false appearance of being a privately owned operation. Unbeknownst to the service’s Cuban users was the fact that “American contractors were gathering their private data in the hope that it might be used for political purposes”–specifically, to manipulate those users in order to foment dissent in Cuba and subvert its government. This sort of operation is frequently discussed at western intelligence agencies, which have plotted ways to covertly use social media for ”propaganda,” “deception,” “mass messaging,” and “pushing stories.” One previously undisclosed top-secret document–prepared by GCHQ for the 2010 annual “SIGDEV” gathering of the “Five Eyes” surveillance alliance comprising the UK, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and the U.S.–explicitly discusses ways to exploit Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and other social media as secret platforms for propaganda. Those programs, carried out in secrecy and with little accountability ... threaten the integrity of the internet itself, as state-disseminated propaganda masquerades as free online speech and organizing. There is thus little or no ability for an internet user to know when they are being covertly propagandized by their government, which is precisely what makes it so appealing to intelligence agencies, so powerful, and so dangerous.

Note: For more on the realities of intelligence agency operations, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.




NSA posed as Facebook to infect computers with malware, report says
2014-03-12, Los Angeles Times
http://www.latimes.com/business/technology/la-fi-tn-nsa-posing-facebook-malwa...

The National Security Agency has reportedly used automated systems to infect user computers with malware since 2010. At times the agency pretended to be Facebook to install its malware. The NSA has been using a program codenamed TURBINE to contaminate computers and networks with malware "implants" capable of spying on users, according to the Intercept, which cited documents provided by whistleblower Edward Snowden. Between 85,000 and 100,000 of these implants have been deployed worldwide thus far. To infect computers with malware, the NSA has relied on various tactics, including posing as Facebook. The federal agency performed what is known as a "man-on-the-side" attack in which it tricked users computers into thinking that they were accessing real Facebook servers. Once the user had been fooled, the NSA hacked into the user's computer and extracted data from their hard drive. Facebook said it had no knowledge of the NSA"s TURBINE program. However, [Facebook] said it is no longer possible for the NSA or hackers to attack users that way, but Facebook warned that other websites and social networks may still be vulnerable to those types of attacks. "This method of network level disruption does not work for traffic carried over HTTPS, which Facebook finished integrating by default last year," Facebook told the National Journal.

Note: For more on NSA surveillance, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.




Judge Tosses Muslim Spying Suit Against NYPD, Says Any Damage Was Caused by Reporters Who Exposed It
2014-02-21, The Intercept
https://firstlook.org/theintercept/2014/02/21/judge-tosses-muslim-spying-suit...

A federal judge in Newark has thrown out a lawsuit against the New York Police Department for spying on New Jersey Muslims, saying if anyone was at fault, it was the Associated Press for telling people about it. In his ruling ... U.S. District Court Judge William J. Martini simultaneously demonstrated the willingness of the judiciary to give law enforcement alarming latitude in the name of fighting terror, greenlighted the targeting of Muslims based solely on their religious beliefs, and blamed the media for upsetting people by telling them what their government was doing. The NYPD’s clandestine spying on daily life in Muslim communities in the region — with no probable cause, and nothing to show for it — was exposed in a Pulitzer-Prize winning series of stories by the AP. The stories described infiltration and surveillance of at least 20 mosques, 14 restaurants, 11 retail stores, two grade schools, and two Muslim student associations in New Jersey alone. In a cursory, 10-page ruling issued before even hearing oral arguments, Martini essentially said that what the targets didn’t know didn’t hurt them: "None of the Plaintiffs’ injuries arose until after the Associated Press released unredacted, confidential NYPD documents and articles expressing its own interpretation of those documents. Nowhere in the Complaint do Plaintiffs allege that they suffered harm prior to the unauthorized release of the documents by the Associated Press. This confirms that Plaintiffs’ alleged injuries flow from the Associated Press’s unauthorized disclosure of the documents. The harms are not “fairly traceable” to any act of surveillance."

Note: For more on government corruption, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.




N.S.A. Devises Radio Pathway Into Computers
2014-01-15, New York Times
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/15/us/nsa-effort-pries-open-computers-not-conn...

The National Security Agency has implanted software in nearly 100,000 computers around the world that allows the United States to conduct surveillance on those machines and can also create a digital highway for launching cyberattacks. While most of the software is inserted by gaining access to computer networks, the N.S.A. has increasingly made use of a secret technology that enables it to enter and alter data in computers even if they are not connected to the Internet, according to N.S.A. documents, computer experts and American officials. The technology, which the agency has used since at least 2008, relies on a covert channel of radio waves that can be transmitted from tiny circuit boards and USB cards inserted surreptitiously into the computers. In some cases, they are sent to a briefcase-size relay station that intelligence agencies can set up miles away from the target. In most cases, the radio frequency hardware must be physically inserted by a spy, a manufacturer or an unwitting user. Among the most frequent targets of the N.S.A. and its Pentagon partner, United States Cyber Command, have been units of the Chinese Army, which the United States has accused of launching regular digital probes and attacks on American industrial and military targets, usually to steal secrets or intellectual property. But the program, code-named Quantum, has also been successful in inserting software into Russian military networks and systems used by the Mexican police and drug cartels, trade institutions inside the European Union, and sometime partners against terrorism like Saudi Arabia, India and Pakistan.

Note: For more on government surveillance, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.




GCHQ and NSA targeted charities, Germans, Israeli PM and EU chief
2013-12-20, The Guardian (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2013/dec/20/gchq-targeted-aid-agencies-ger...

British and American intelligence agencies had a comprehensive list of surveillance targets that included the EU's competition commissioner, German government buildings in Berlin and overseas, and the heads of institutions that provide humanitarian and financial help to Africa, top-secret documents reveal. The papers show GCHQ [and the NSA were] targeting organisations such as the United Nations development programme, the UN's children's charity Unicef and Médecins du Monde, a French organisation that provides doctors and medical volunteers to conflict zones. The head of the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) also appears in the documents, along with text messages he sent to colleagues. One GCHQ document, drafted in January 2009, makes clear that the agencies were targeting an email address listed as belonging to another important American ally – the "Israeli prime minister". Ehud Olmert was in office at the time. Three further Israeli targets appeared on GCHQ documents, including another email address understood to have been used to send messages between the then Israeli defence minister, Ehud Barak, and his chief of staff, Yoni Koren. The names and details are the latest revelations to come from documents leaked by the whistleblower Edward Snowden. They provoked a furious reaction. The disclosures reflect the breadth of targets sought by the agencies, which goes far beyond the desire to intercept the communications of potential terrorists and criminals, or diplomats and officials from hostile countries.

Note: For more on the realities of intelligence agency activities, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.




NSA’s indiscriminate spying ‘collapsing,’ Snowden says in open letter
2013-12-17, Washington Post/Associated Press
http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/nsas-indiscriminate-spying-collapsing-sno...

National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden wrote in a lengthy “open letter to the people of Brazil” that he has been inspired by the global debate ignited by his release of thousands of documents and that the NSA’s culture of indiscriminate global espionage “is collapsing.” In the letter, Snowden commended the Brazilian government for its strong stand against U.S. spying. He wrote that he would be willing to help the South American nation investigate NSA spying on its soil but could not fully participate in doing so without being granted political asylum, because the U.S. “government will continue to interfere with my ability to speak.” The documents revealed that Brazil is the top NSA target in Latin America, in spying that has included the monitoring of Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff’s cellphone and hacking into the internal network of the state-run oil company Petrobras. In his letter, Snowden dismissed U.S. explanations to the Brazilian government and others that the bulk metadata gathered on billions of e-mails and calls was more “data collection” than surveillance. “There is a huge difference between legal programs, legitimate spying ... and these programs of dragnet mass surveillance that put entire populations under an all-seeing eye and save copies forever,” he wrote. “These programs were never about terrorism: they’re about economic spying, social control, and diplomatic manipulation. They’re about power.” Brazilian senators have asked for Snowden’s help during hearings about the NSA’s targeting of Brazil, an important transit hub for transatlantic fiber-optic cables that are hacked.

Note: To read Snowden's full, inspiring letter, click here.




NSA review to leave spying programs largely unchanged, reports say
2013-12-13, The Guardian (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/dec/13/nsa-review-to-leave-spying-progr...

A participant in a White House-sponsored review of surveillance activities described as “shameful” an apparent decision to leave most of the National Security Agency’s controversial bulk spying intact. Sascha Meinrath, director of the Open Technology Institute, said [on December 13] that ... “The review group was searching for ways to make the most modest pivot necessary to continue business as usual.” Should the review group’s report resemble descriptions that leaked ... the report “does nothing to alter the lack of trust the global populace has for what the US is doing, and nothing to restore our reputation as an ethical internet steward,” said Meinrath, who met with the advisory panel and White House officials twice to discuss the bulk surveillance programs that have sparked international outrage. Leaks about the review group’s expected recommendations to the New York Times and Wall Street Journal strengthened Meinrath and other participants’ long-standing suspicions that much of the NSA’s sweeping spy powers would survive. The Times quoted an anonymous official familiar with the group saying its report “says we can’t dismantle these programs, but we need to change the way almost all of them operate”. According to the leaks, the review group will recommend that bulk collection of every American’s phone call data continue, possibly by the phone companies instead of the NSA, with tighter restrictions than the “reasonable, articulable suspicion” standard for searching through them that the NSA currently employs.

Note: For more on massive government intrusions of citizens' privacy, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.




Law enforcement using methods from NSA playbook
2013-12-08, USA Today
http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/12/08/cellphone-data-spying-ns...

The National Security Agency isn't the only government entity secretly collecting data from people's cellphones. Local police are increasingly scooping it up, too. Armed with new technologies, including mobile devices that tap into cellphone data in real time, dozens of local and state police agencies are capturing information about thousands of cellphone users at a time, whether they are targets of an investigation or not. The records, from more than 125 police agencies in 33 states, reveal [that] about one in four law-enforcement agencies have used a tactic known as a "tower dump," which gives police data about the identity, activity and location of any phone that connects to the targeted cellphone towers over a set span of time, usually an hour or two. A typical dump covers multiple towers, and wireless providers, and can net information from thousands of phones. At least 25 police departments own a Stingray, a suitcase-size device that costs as much as $400,000 and acts as a fake cell tower. The system, typically installed in a vehicle so it can be moved into any neighborhood, tricks all nearby phones into connecting to it and feeding data to police. In some states, the devices are available to any local police department via state surveillance units. Organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union and Electronic Privacy Information Center say the swelling ability by even small-town police departments to easily and quickly obtain large amounts of cellphone data raises questions about the erosion of people's privacy as well as their Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure.

Note: For more on massive government intrusions of citizens' privacy, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.




Canada allowed widespread NSA surveillance at 2010 G20 summit
2013-11-28, NBC News/Reuters
http://www.nbcnews.com/id/53688035#.UpkAXo2f8h0

Canada allowed the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) to conduct widespread surveillance during the 2010 Group of 20 summit in Toronto, according to a media report that cited documents from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. The report by the Canadian Broadcasting Corp ... cited briefing notes it said showed the United States turned its Ottawa embassy into a security command post during a six-day spying operation by the top-secret U.S. agency as President Barack Obama and other world leaders met that June. One of the bylines on the CBC report was Glenn Greenwald, the U.S. journalist who has worked with Snowden on several other NSA stories. CBC ... quoted an NSA briefing note describing the operation as "closely coordinated with the Canadian partner". The Canadian equivalent of the NSA is the Communications Security Establishment Canada, or CSEC. CBC said the documents did not reveal the targets of the NSA operation, but described part of the U.S. eavesdropping agency's mandate at the Toronto summit as "providing support to policymakers". CSEC, which has a very low public profile, employs about 2,000 people. It is part of the so-called Five Eyes intelligence-sharing network that also includes the United States, Britain, New Zealand and Australia. Last month, Brazil angrily demanded an explanation for media reports which said CSEC agents had targeted its mines and energy industry.

Note: For more on the realities of intelligence agency activities, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.




US and UK struck secret deal to allow NSA to 'unmask' Britons' personal data
2013-11-20, The Guardian (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/nov/20/us-uk-secret-deal-surveillance-p...

The phone, internet and email records of UK citizens not suspected of any wrongdoing have been analysed and stored by America's National Security Agency under a secret deal that was approved by British intelligence officials, according to documents from the whistleblower Edward Snowden. In the first explicit confirmation that UK citizens have been caught up in US mass surveillance programs, an NSA memo describes how in 2007 an agreement was reached that allowed the agency to "unmask" and hold on to personal data about Britons that had previously been off limits. The memo ... says the material is being put in databases where it can be made available to other members of the US intelligence and military community. Until now, it had been generally understood that the citizens of each country were protected from surveillance by any of the others. But the Snowden material reveals that: • In 2007, the rules were changed to allow the NSA to analyse and retain any British citizens' mobile phone and fax numbers, emails and IP addresses swept up by its dragnet. • These communications were "incidentally collected" by the NSA, meaning the individuals were not the initial targets of surveillance operations and therefore were not suspected of wrongdoing. • The NSA has been using the UK data to conduct so-called "pattern of life" or "contact-chaining" analyses, under which the agency can look up to three "hops" away from a target of interest – examining the communications of a friend of a friend of a friend. Three hops for a typical Facebook user could pull the data of more than 5 million people into the dragnet.

Note: For more on government threats to privacy, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.




FISA court order that allowed NSA surveillance is revealed for first time
2013-11-19, The Guardian (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/nov/19/court-order-that-allowed-nsa-sur...

A secret court order that authorised a massive trawl by the National Security Agency of Americans' email and internet data was published for the first time on [November 18], among a trove of documents that also revealed a judge's concern that the NSA "continuously" and "systematically" violated the limits placed on the program. Another later court order found that what it called "systemic overcollection" had taken place. In a heavily redacted opinion Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, the former presiding judge of the FISA court, placed legal weight on the methods of surveillance employed by the NSA, which had never before collected the internet data of “an enormous volume of communications”. The methods, known as pen registers and trap-and-trace devices, record the incoming and outgoing routing information of communications. Kollar-Kotelly ruled that acquiring the metadata, and not the content, of email and internet usage in bulk was harmonious with the “purpose” of Congress and prior court rulings – even though no surveillance statute ever authorized it and top officials at the Justice Department and the FBI threatened to resign in 2004 over what they considered its dubious legality. The type of data collected under the program included information on the "to", "from" and "bcc" lines of an email rather than the content. Metadata, wrote Kollar-Kotelly, enjoyed no protection under the fourth amendment to the US constitution, a precedent established by the Supreme Court in 1979 in a single case on which the NSA relies currently.

Note: For more on government corruption, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.




Snowden Says He Took No Secret Files to Russia
2013-10-17, New York Times
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/18/world/snowden-says-he-took-no-secret-files-...

Edward J. Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor, said in an extensive interview this month that he did not take any secret N.S.A. documents with him to Russia when he fled there in June, assuring that Russian intelligence officials could not get access to them. He also asserted that he was able to protect the documents from China’s spies because he was familiar with that nation’s intelligence abilities, saying that as an N.S.A. contractor he had targeted Chinese operations and had taught a course on Chinese cybercounterintelligence. “There’s a zero percent chance the Russians or Chinese have received any documents,” he said. Mr. Snowden added that inside the spy agency “there’s a lot of dissent.” But he said that people were kept in line through “fear and a false image of patriotism,” which he described as “obedience to authority.” He said he believed that if he tried to question the N.S.A.’s surveillance operations as an insider, his efforts “would have been buried forever,” and he would “have been discredited and ruined.” Mr. Snowden said he finally decided to act when he discovered a copy of a classified 2009 inspector general’s report on the N.S.A.’s warrantless wiretapping program during the Bush administration. After reading about the program, which skirted the existing surveillance laws, he concluded that it had been illegal, he said. “If the highest officials in government can break the law without fearing punishment or even any repercussions at all,” he said, “secret powers become tremendously dangerous.”

Note: For more on the hidden realities of intelligence agency operations, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.




N.S.A. Gathers Data on Social Connections of U.S. Citizens
2013-09-29, New York Times
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/29/us/nsa-examines-social-networks-of-us-citiz...

Since 2010, the National Security Agency has been exploiting its huge collections of data to create sophisticated graphs of some Americans’ social connections that can identify their associates, their locations at certain times, their traveling companions and other personal information, according to newly disclosed documents and interviews with officials. The spy agency began allowing the analysis of phone call and e-mail logs in November 2010 to examine Americans’ networks of associations for foreign intelligence purposes after N.S.A. officials lifted restrictions on the practice, according to documents provided by Edward J. Snowden, the former N.S.A. contractor. The agency was authorized to conduct “large-scale graph analysis on very large sets of communications metadata without having to check foreignness” of every e-mail address, phone number or other identifier, the document said. The agency can augment the communications data with material from public, commercial and other sources, including bank codes, insurance information, Facebook profiles, passenger manifests, voter registration rolls and GPS location information, as well as property records and unspecified tax data, according to the documents. They do not indicate any restrictions on the use of such “enrichment” data, and several former senior Obama administration officials said the agency drew on it for both Americans and foreigners. Almost everything about the agency’s operations is hidden, and the decision to revise the limits concerning Americans was made in secret, without review by the nation’s intelligence court or any public debate.

Note: For an excellent 15-minute BBC Newsnight interview with Glenn Greenwald defending Edward Snowden's release of secret documents, click here. For more on government surveillance, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.




NSA files: why the Guardian in London destroyed hard drives of leaked files
2013-08-20, The Guardian (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/aug/20/nsa-snowden-files-drives-destroy...

Guardian editors on [August 20] revealed why and how the newspaper destroyed computer hard drives containing copies of some of the secret files leaked by Edward Snowden. The decision was taken after a threat of legal action by the government that could have stopped reporting on the extent of American and British government surveillance revealed by the documents. It resulted in one of the stranger episodes in the history of digital-age journalism. On Saturday 20 July, in a deserted basement of the Guardian's King's Cross offices, a senior editor and a Guardian computer expert used angle grinders and other tools to pulverise the hard drives and memory chips on which the encrypted files had been stored. As they worked they were watched by technicians from Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) who took notes and photographs, but who left empty-handed. The editor of the Guardian, Alan Rusbridger, had earlier informed government officials that other copies of the files existed outside the country and that the Guardian was neither the sole recipient nor steward of the files leaked by Snowden, a former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor. But the government insisted that the material be either destroyed or surrendered. The British government has attempted to step up its pressure on journalists, with the detention in Heathrow on Sunday of David Miranda, the partner of Glenn Greenwald, who has led the Guardian's US reporting on the files.

Note: For more on government attacks on civil liberties, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.




Glenn Greenwald's partner detained at Heathrow airport for nine hours
2013-08-18, The Guardian (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/aug/18/glenn-greenwald-guardian-partner...

The partner of the Guardian journalist [Glenn Greenwald], who has written a series of stories revealing mass surveillance programmes by the US National Security Agency, was held for almost nine hours ... by UK authorities as he passed through London's Heathrow airport on his way home to Rio de Janeiro. David Miranda ... was returning from a trip to Berlin when he was stopped by officers at 8.05am and informed that he was to be questioned under schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000. The controversial law, which applies only at airports, ports and border areas, allows officers to stop, search, question and detain individuals. The 28-year-old was held for nine hours, the maximum the law allows before officers must release or formally arrest the individual. According to official figures, most examinations under schedule 7 – over 97% – last less than an hour, and only one in 2,000 people detained are kept for more than six hours. Miranda was released, but officials confiscated electronics equipment including his mobile phone, laptop, camera, memory sticks, DVDs and games consoles. "This is a profound attack on press freedoms and the news gathering process," Greenwald said. "To detain my partner for a full nine hours while denying him a lawyer, and then seize large amounts of his possessions, is clearly intended to send a message of intimidation to those of us who have been reporting on the NSA and GCHQ. The actions of the UK pose a serious threat to journalists everywhere. But the last thing it will do is intimidate or deter us in any way from doing our job as journalists. Quite the contrary: it will only embolden us more to continue to report aggressively."

Note: For more on government attacks on civil liberties, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.




NSA revelations of privacy breaches 'the tip of the iceberg' – Senate duo
2013-08-16, The Guardian (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/aug/16/nsa-revelations-privacy-breaches...

Two US senators on the intelligence committee said [that] thousands of annual violations by the National Security Agency on its own restrictions were "the tip of the iceberg." "The executive branch has now confirmed that the rules, regulations and court-imposed standards for protecting the privacy of Americans' have been violated thousands of times each year," said senators Ron Wyden and Mark Udall, two leading critics of bulk surveillance, who responded [to] a Washington Post story based on documents provided by whistleblower Edward Snowden. "We have previously said that the violations of these laws and rules were more serious than had been acknowledged, and we believe Americans should know that this confirmation is just the tip of a larger iceberg." On July 31, Wyden, backed by Udall, vaguely warned other senators in a floor speech that the NSA and the director of national intelligence were substantively misleading legislators by describing improperly collected data as a matter of innocent and anodyne human or technical errors. In keeping with their typically cautious pattern when discussing classified information, Wyden and Udall did not provide details about their claimed "iceberg" of surveillance malfeasance. But they hinted that the public still lacks an adequate understanding of the NSA's powers to collect data on Americans under its controversial interpretation of the Patriot Act. "We believe the public deserves to know more about the violations of the secret court orders that have authorized the bulk collection of Americans' phone and email records under the Patriot Act," [they] said.

Note: For more on massive surveillance, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.




US directs agents to cover up program used to investigate Americans
2013-08-05, CNBC/Reuters
http://www.cnbc.com/id/100938530

A secretive U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration unit is funneling information from intelligence intercepts, wiretaps, informants and a massive database of telephone records to authorities across the nation to help them launch criminal investigations of Americans. Documents reviewed by Reuters show that law enforcement agents have been directed to conceal how such investigations truly begin—not only from defense lawyers but also sometimes from prosecutors and judges. The undated documents show that federal agents are trained to "recreate" the investigative trail to effectively cover up where the information originated, a practice that some experts say violates a defendant's constitutional right to a fair trial. If defendants don't know how an investigation began, they cannot know to ask to review potential sources of exculpatory evidence—information that could reveal entrapment, mistakes or biased witnesses. "I have never heard of anything like this at all," said Nancy Gertner, a Harvard Law School professor who served as a federal judge from 1994 to 2011. Gertner and other legal experts said the program sounds more troubling than recent disclosures that the National Security Agency has been collecting domestic phone records. The NSA effort is geared toward stopping terrorists; the DEA program targets common criminals, primarily drug dealers. "It is one thing to create special rules for national security," Gertner said. "Ordinary crime is entirely different. It sounds like they are phonying up investigations."

Note: For more on government corruption, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.




Glenn Greenwald: Low-Level NSA Analysts Have ‘Powerful and Invasive’ Search Tool
2013-07-28, ABC News blog
http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2013/07/glenn-greenwald-low-level-nsa-an...

Glenn Greenwald – the reporter who broke the story about the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs – claimed that those NSA programs allowed even low-level analysts to search the private emails and phone calls of Americans. “The NSA has trillions of telephone calls and emails in their databases that they’ve collected over the last several years,” Greenwald told ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos. “All an analyst has to do is enter an email address or an IP address, and [the program] searches that database and lets them listen to the calls or read the emails of everything that the NSA has stored, or look at the browsing histories or Google search terms that you’ve entered.” Greenwald explained that ... these programs still allow analysts to search through data with little court approval or supervision. Greenwald said "these systems allow analysts to listen to whatever emails they want, whatever telephone calls, browsing histories, Microsoft Word documents. And it’s all done with no need to go to a court, with no need to even get supervisor approval on the part of the analyst,” he added. Greenwald said the existence of these analyst search programs are in line with the claims of Edward Snowden, who first leaked details of the NSA’s surveillance programs last month. “It’s an incredibly powerful and invasive tool, exactly of the type that Mr. Snowden described,” Greenwald said. “NSA officials are going to be testifying before the Senate on Wednesday, and I defy them to deny that these programs work exactly as I just said,” Greenwald said.

Note: For more on government privacy invasions, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.




America's real subversives: FBI spying then, NSA surveillance now
2013-07-25, The Guardian (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/jul/25/america-subversives-fbi-...

As the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington approaches ... where Martin Luther King Jr gave his famous "I have a dream" speech, it is important to recall the extent to which King was targeted by the government. The FBI operation against King is one of the most shameful episodes in the long history of our government's persecution of dissenters. In a heavily redacted, classified FBI memo dated 4 January 1956 – just a little more than a month after Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat on a bus to a white passenger – stated that an agent "had been assigned ... to find out all he could about Reverend Martin L King, colored minister in Montgomery and leader in the bus boycott … to uncover all the derogatory information he could about King." [FBI] director, J Edgar Hoover ... was deploying the vast resources he controlled against any and all perceived critics of the United States. The far-reaching clandestine surveillance, infiltration and disruption operation Hoover ran was dubbed "COINTELPRO", for counterintelligence program. The FBI's COINTELPRO activities ... were thoroughly investigated in 1975 by the Church Committee, [which] reported that the FBI "conducted a sophisticated vigilante operation aimed squarely at preventing the exercise of first amendment rights of speech and association." Among COINTELPRO's perverse activities was an FBI effort to threaten Martin Luther King Jr with exposure of an alleged extramarital affair, including the suggestion, made by the FBI to King, that he avoid embarrassment by killing himself. Deeply concerned about the crackdown on dissent happening under Obama, scholar Cornel West ... wondered if [King] "would not be invited to the very march in his name."

Note: This article fails to mention a key fact. At a 1999 court trial held in Memphis, the family of Rev. King accused elements of the U.S. government of complicity in King's death. After one month of hearings from 70 witnesses, a jury composed of six white and six black jurors took only one hour to find the U.S. government, the state of Tennessee, the city of Memphis, the Memphis police, and several individuals guilty of murdering King. Yet the mainstream media completely boycotted this trial. Thankfully, CBC (Canada's PBS) gave it some coverage. To see a six-minute CBC clip of this highly revealing trial, click here.




A Black Box for Car Crashes
2013-07-22, New York Times
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/22/business/black-boxes-in-cars-a-question-of-...

[There is] a growing debate over a little-known but increasingly important piece of equipment buried deep inside a car: the event data recorder, more commonly known as the black box. About 96 percent of all new vehicles sold in the United States have the boxes, and in September 2014, if the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has its way, all will have them. Data stored in the devices is increasingly being used to identify safety problems in cars and as evidence in traffic accidents and criminal cases. And the trove of data inside the boxes has raised privacy concerns, including questions about who owns the information, and what it can be used for, even as critics have raised questions about its reliability. To consumer advocates, the data is only the latest example of governments and companies having too much access to private information. Once gathered, they say, the data can be used against car owners, to find fault in accidents or in criminal investigations. “These cars are equipped with computers that collect massive amounts of data,” said Khaliah Barnes of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, a Washington-based consumer group. “Without protections, it can lead to all kinds of abuse.” In [14] states, lawyers may subpoena the data for criminal investigations and civil lawsuits, making the information accessible to third parties, including law enforcement or insurance companies that could cancel a driver’s policy or raise a driver’s premium based on the recorder’s data.

Note: For more on government and corporate privacy invasions, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.




ACLU warns of mass tracking through license plate scanners
2013-07-18, CBS News
http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-201_162-57594179/aclu-warns-of-mass-tracking-thro...

The American Civil Liberties Union is warning that law enforcement officials are using license plate scanners to amass massive and unregulated databases that can be used to track law-abiding citizens as their go about their daily lives. In a new report, "You Are Being Tracked: How License Plate Readers Are Being Used to Record Americans' Movements," the ACLU discusses the data culled from license plate scanners - cameras mounted on patrol cars, overpasses and elsewhere to record your license plate number and location at a given time. There are tens of thousands such cameras now in operation, according to the group, with the data in some cases being stored indefinitely. The ACLU report is the result of an analysis of 26,000 pages of documents from police departments around the country, obtained through nearly 600 [FOIA] requests. It finds that while some jurisdictions keep the information gleaned from the scanners for a short time ... many hold onto the data for years. The organization complains that there are "virtually no rules in place" to keep officials from tracking "everybody all the time." The ACLU also warns that the data is being fed into larger databases, with the private National Vehicle Location Service now holding more than 800 million license plate records. The group's database is used by more than 2,200 law enforcement customers. The [ACLU] report warns that the data can be used in an official capacity to spy on protesters or target communities based on their religious beliefs, or unofficially by a police officer who wants to keep an eye on a romantic rival.

Note: For more on privacy, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.




How cash rules surveillance policy
2013-07-04, San Francisco Chronicle (SF's leading newspaper)
http://www.sfchronicle.com/opinion/article/How-cash-rules-surveillance-policy...

Have you noticed anything missing in the political discourse about the National Security Administration's unprecedented mass surveillance? There's at least been some conversation about the intelligence community's potential criminality and constitutional violations. But there have only been veiled references to how cash undoubtedly tilts the debate against those who challenge the national security state. Those indirect references have come in stories about Booz Allen Hamilton, the security contractor that employed Edward Snowden. CNN/Money notes that 99 percent of the firm's multibillion-dollar annual revenues now come from the federal government. Those revenues are part of a larger and growing economic sector within the military-industrial complex - a sector that, according to author Tim Shorrock, is "a $56 billion-a-year industry." Yet few in the Washington press corps mention that politicians' attacks on surveillance critics may have nothing to do with principle and everything to do with shilling for campaign donors. For a taste of what that kind of institutionalized corruption looks like, peruse the Influence Explorer site to see how much Booz Allen Hamilton and its parent company, the Carlyle Group, spend. As you'll see, from Barack Obama to John McCain, many of the politicians publicly defending the surveillance state have taken huge sums of money from the firms. Simply put, there are corporate forces with a vested financial interest in making sure the debate over security is tilted toward the surveillance state and against critics of that surveillance state.

Note: Tim Shorrock, quoted above, is the author of Spies for Hire: The Secret World of Intelligence Outsourcing.




FBI uses drones for surveillance in U.S
2013-06-20, CNN
http://www.cnn.com/2013/06/19/politics/fbi-drones/index.html

FBI Director Robert Mueller acknowledged [to the Senate Judiciary Committee on June 19 that] the law enforcement agency uses drone aircraft in the United States for surveillance. He did not say how many unmanned surveillance vehicles (UAVs) the FBI has or how often they have been used. But a law enforcement official told CNN the FBI has used them a little more than a dozen times but did not say when that started. The official said drones are useful in hostage and barricade situations because they operate more quietly and are less visible than traditional aircraft such as helicopters. Bureau spokesman Paul Bresson said their use allows "us to learn critical information that otherwise would be difficult to obtain without introducing serious risk to law enforcement personnel." Bresson said the aircraft can only be used to perform surveillance on stationary subjects and the FBI must first get approval from the Federal Aviation Administration to fly in a "very confined geographic area." Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein expressed concern over drone use domestically. "I think the greatest threat to the privacy of Americans is the drone and the use of the drone, and the very few regulations that are on it today and the booming industry of commercial drones," the California Democrat said. The FAA forecasts some 10,000 civilian drones will be in use in the United States within five years, including those for law enforcement and commercial purposes.

Note: For more on domestic US drone surveillance, click here. For deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources on the hidden realities of intelligence agencies, click here.




3 NSA veterans speak out on whistle-blower: We told you so
2013-06-16, USA Today
http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2013/06/16/snowden-whistleblower-...

When a National Security Agency contractor revealed top-secret details this month on the government's collection of Americans' phone and Internet records, one select group of intelligence veterans breathed a sigh of relief. Thomas Drake, William Binney and J. Kirk Wiebe belong to a select fraternity: the NSA officials who paved the way. For years, the three whistle-blowers had told anyone who would listen that the NSA collects huge swaths of communications data from U.S. citizens. They had spent decades in the top ranks of the agency, designing and managing the very data-collection systems they say have been turned against Americans. When they became convinced that fundamental constitutional rights were being violated, they complained first to their superiors, then to federal investigators, congressional oversight committees and, finally, to the news media. They have been investigated as criminals and forced to give up careers, reputations and friendships built over a lifetime. Today, they feel vindicated. They say the documents leaked by Edward Snowden, the 29-year-old former NSA contractor who worked as a systems administrator, proves their claims of sweeping government surveillance of millions of Americans not suspected of any wrongdoing. They say those revelations only hint at the programs' reach. On [June 15], USA TODAY brought Drake, Binney and Wiebe together for the first time since the story broke to discuss the NSA revelations. With their lawyer, Jesselyn Radack of the Government Accountability Project, they weighed their implications and their repercussions.

Note: See the link above for a great interview of these courageous whistleblowers. For deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources on the hidden realities of intelligence agencies, click here




Are all telephone calls recorded and accessible to the US government?
2013-05-04, The Guardian (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/may/04/telephone-calls-recorded-...

CNN's Out Front with Erin Burnett [has been] focused on the possible involvement in the Boston Marathon attack of Katherine Russell, the 24-year-old American widow of the deceased suspect, Tamerlan Tsarnaev. Anonymous government officials are claiming that they are now focused on telephone calls between Russell and Tsarnaev that took place both before and after the attack to determine if she had prior knowledge of the plot or participated in any way. Burnett interviewed Tim Clemente, a former FBI counterterrorism agent, about whether the FBI would be able to discover the contents of past telephone conversations between the two. He quite clearly insisted that they could: BURNETT: There's no way they actually can find out what happened, right, unless she tells them? CLEMENTE: No, there is a way. We certainly have ways in national security investigations to find out exactly what was said in that conversation. We certainly can find that out. BURNETT: So they can actually get that? People are saying, look, that is incredible. CLEMENTE: No, welcome to America. All of that stuff is being captured as we speak whether we know it or like it or not. On Thursday night, Clemente again appeared on CNN. He reiterated what he said the night before but added expressly that "all digital communications in the past" are recorded and stored. All digital communications - meaning telephone calls, emails, online chats and the like - are automatically recorded and stored and accessible to the government after the fact. To describe that is to define what a ubiquitous, limitless Surveillance State is.

Note: All of our communications have been monitored by government computers for years. BBC News reported in this this 1999 article about the Echelon network which monitors all communications globally. For deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources on government and corporate threats to privacy, click here.




Domestic drones and their unique dangers
2013-03-29, The Guardian (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/mar/29/domestic-drones-unique-da...

The use of drones by domestic US law enforcement agencies is growing rapidly, both in terms of numbers and types of usage. As a result, civil liberties and privacy groups led by the ACLU ... have been devoting increasing efforts to publicizing their unique dangers and agitating for statutory limits. The belief that weaponized drones won't be used on US soil is patently irrational. Police departments are already speaking openly about how their drones "could be equipped to carry nonlethal weapons such as Tasers or a bean-bag gun." The drone industry has already developed and is now aggressively marketing precisely such weaponized drones for domestic law enforcement use. Domestic weaponized drones will be much smaller and cheaper, as well as more agile - but just as lethal [as the large missile-firing drones used by the US military overseas]. The nation's leading manufacturer of small "unmanned aircraft systems" (UAS) ... is AeroVironment, Inc. (AV). AV is now focused on drone products - such as the "Qube" - that are so small that they can be "transported in the trunk of a police vehicle or carried in a backpack." AV's website ... touts a February, 2013 Defense News article describing how much the US Army loves [its] "Switchblade" [drone]. Time Magazine heralded this tiny drone weapon as "one of the best inventions of 2012", gushing: "the Switchblade drone can be carried into battle in a backpack. It's a kamikaze: the person controlling it uses a real-time video feed from the drone to crash it into a precise target. Its tiny warhead detonates on impact."

Note: This important article also discusses drones used by government agencies such as police for purposes of continuous surveillance. But it misses entirely another major dimension: privately owned and controlled drones, which are becoming dirt cheap and within the reach of virtually anyone. Will the new "DroneWorld" in the making combine the worst features of the Police State with the Wild West?




F.B.I. Counterterrorism Agents Monitored Occupy Movement
2012-12-25, New York Times
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/25/nyregion/occupy-movement-was-investigated-b...

The Federal Bureau of Investigation used counterterrorism agents to investigate the Occupy Wall Street movement, including its communications and planning, according to newly disclosed agency records. The F.B.I. records show that as early as September 2011, an agent from a counterterrorism task force in New York notified officials of two landmarks in Lower Manhattan — Federal Hall and the Museum of American Finance — “that their building was identified as a point of interest for the Occupy Wall Street.” In the following months, F.B.I. personnel around the country were routinely involved in exchanging information about the movement with businesses, local law-enforcement agencies and universities. An October 2011 memo from the bureau’s Jacksonville, Fla., field office was titled Domain Program Management Domestic Terrorist. The memo said agents discussed “past and upcoming meetings” of the movement, and its spread. It said agents should contact Occupy Wall Street activists to ascertain whether people who attended their events had “violent tendencies.” Since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the F.B.I. has come under criticism for deploying counterterrorism agents to conduct surveillance and gather intelligence on organizations active in environmental, animal-cruelty and poverty issues. The records were obtained by the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund, a civil-rights organization in Washington, through a Freedom of Information request to the F.B.I.

Note: For analysis of these amazing documents revealing the use of joint government and corporate counterterrorism structures against peaceful protestors of financial corruption, click here and here. For a Democracy Now! video segment on this, click here.




The Program
2012-08-23, New York Times
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/23/opinion/the-national-security-agencys-domes...

[William] Binney, a 32-year veteran of the National Security Agency turned whistle-blower, ... described details about Stellar Wind, the N.S.A.’s top-secret domestic spying program begun after 9/11, which was so controversial that it nearly caused top Justice Department officials to resign in protest, in 2004. “The decision must have been made in September 2001,” Mr. Binney told me [and] cinematographer Kirsten Johnson. “That’s when the equipment started coming in.” He resigned over this in 2001 and began speaking out publicly in the last year. [Binney] is among a group of N.S.A. whistle-blowers, including Thomas A. Drake, who have each risked everything — their freedom, livelihoods and personal relationships — to warn Americans about the dangers of N.S.A. domestic spying. The N.S.A. has technical abilities that are nearly impossible to defend against if you are targeted. The 2008 amendments to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which oversees the N.S.A. activities, are up for renewal in December. Two members of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Senators Ron Wyden of Oregon and Mark Udall of Colorado ... have been warning about “secret interpretations” of laws and backdoor “loopholes” that allow the government to collect our private communications. Thirteen senators have signed a letter expressing concern about a “loophole” in the law that permits the collection of United States data. The A.C.L.U. and other groups have also challenged the constitutionality of the law, and the Supreme Court will hear arguments in that case on Oct. 29.

Note: The video about this on the NY Times webpage at the link above is quite revealing. One potent comment of this 32-year NSA veteran in the video is "They wanted to highly classify the extreme impeachable crimes they were committing." For deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources on government and corporate surveillance, click here.




Trapwire surveillance system exposed in document leak
2012-08-13, The Guardian (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/aug/13/trapwire-surveillance-system-expo...

[Trapwire is] a CCTV surveillance system that recognises people from their face or walk and analyses whether they might be about to commit a terrorist or criminal act. According to documents released online by WikiLeaks [it] is being used in a number of countries to try to monitor people and threats. Founded by former CIA agents, Trapwire uses data from a network of CCTV systems and numberplate readers to figure out the threat level in huge numbers of locations. The documents outlining Trapwire's existence and its deployment in the US were apparently obtained in a hack of computer systems belonging to the intelligence company Stratfor at the end of last year. Documents from the US department of homeland security show that it paid $832,000 to deploy Trapwire in Washington DC and Seattle. Stratfor describes Trapwire as "a unique, predictive software system designed to detect patterns of pre-attack surveillance and logistical planning". It serves "a wide range of law enforcement personnel and public and private security officials domestically and internationally", Stratfor says. Some have expressed doubts that Trapwire could really forecast [future] acts based on data from cameras. The claims might seem overblown, but then the idea that the US could have an international monitoring system seemed absurd until the discovery of the Echelon system, used by the US to eavesdrop on electronic communications internationally.

Note: For more on the growing use of this secret technology, click here. For deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources on privacy, click here.




TSA defies the courts
2012-07-18, Washington Times
http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2012/jul/18/editorial-tsa-defies-courts/

The days of secrecy at the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) may be coming to an end. It’s a widely held belief that the agency’s hasty embrace of expensive, X-rated x-ray machines has more to do with closed-door lobbying efforts of manufacturers than a deliberate consideration of the devices’ merits. The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) [has] pushed for some transparency by asking the D.C. Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals to compel the agency to hold a public notice-and-comment period on the use of pornographic scanners, as the law requires. EPIC has a good case because on July 15, 2011, the D.C. Circuit issued a ruling insisting TSA “promptly” come into compliance with Administrative Procedure Act requirements regarding public hearings. TSA believed it wasn’t subject to such rules because the virtual strip-searching of women, children and the elderly is an essential security operation. The last thing TSA wants is the public-relations disaster of having to collect and publish the horror tales from Americans subjected to humiliation from the nude photography and intrusive “pat-down” groping sessions. It’s time to admit the post-Sept. 11 experiment in having the government take over airport screening duties has been a colossal flop. TSA has defied the Administrative Procedures Act, an appellate court, the public will and common decency. It’s not enough just to pull the plug on the scanners; the plug should be pulled on TSA itself.

Note: According to this PBS report, "European Union regulators recently banned any body scanner that uses X-rays, 'in order not to risk jeopardizing citizens' health and safety.'" It also states, "The TSA tested the devices behind closed doors, without scrutiny from independent scientists." For lots more on this topic important to all air travelers, click here.




New Homeland Security Laser Scanner Reads People At Molecular Level
2012-07-11, CBS-DC (Washington DC CBS affiliate)
http://washington.cbslocal.com/2012/07/11/new-homeland-security-laser-scanner...

The Department of Homeland Security will soon be using a laser at airports that can detect everything about you from over 160 feet away. This laser-based scanner ... could read everything from a person’s adrenaline levels, to traces of gun powder on a person’s clothes, to illegal substances — and it can all be done without a physical search. It also could be used on multiple people at a time, eliminating random searches at airports. The scanner is called the Picosecond Programmable Laser. The device works by blasting its target with lasers which vibrate molecules that are then read by the machine that determine what substances a person has been exposed to. The inventor of this invasive technology is Genia Photonics. Active since 2009, they hold 30 patents on laser technology designed for scanning. In 2011, they formed a partnership with In-Q-Tel, a company chartered by the CIA and Congress to build “a bridge between the Agency and a new set of technology innovators.” Although the technology could be used by “Big Brother,” Genia Photonics states that the device could be far more beneficial being used for medical purposes to check for cancer in real time, lipids detection, and patient monitoring.

Note: For deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources on government threats to privacy, click here.




U.S. Relaxes Limits on Use of Data in Terror Analysis
2012-03-23, New York Times
https://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/23/us/politics/us-moves-to-relax-some-restric...

The Obama administration is moving to relax restrictions on how counterterrorism analysts may retrieve, store and search information about Americans gathered by government agencies for purposes other than national security threats. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. [has] signed new guidelines for the National Counterterrorism Center. The guidelines will lengthen to five years — from 180 days — the amount of time the center can retain private information about Americans when there is no suspicion that they are tied to terrorism, intelligence officials said. The guidelines are also expected to result in the center making more copies of entire databases and “data mining them.” They also set off civil-liberties concerns among privacy advocates who invoked the “Total Information Awareness” program. That program, proposed early in the George W. Bush administration and partially shut down by Congress after an outcry, proposed fusing vast archives of electronic records — like travel records, credit card transactions, phone calls and more. “We’re all in the dark, and for all we know it could be a rerun of Total Information Awareness, which would have allowed the government to make a computerized database of everything on everybody,” said Kate Martin, the director of the Center for National Security Studies, who criticized the administration for not making the draft guidelines public for scrutiny ahead of time.

Note: For excellent and insightful analyses of the disturbing growth of government surveillance and secrecy described in this NYT report, click here and here and here and here.




Drones Set Sights on U.S. Skies
2012-02-18, New York Times
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/18/technology/drones-with-an-eye-on-the-public...

A new federal law, signed by the president on [February 14], compels the Federal Aviation Administration to allow drones to be used for all sorts of commercial endeavors. Local police and emergency services will also be freer to send up their own drones. But while businesses, and drone manufacturers especially, are celebrating the opening of the skies to these unmanned aerial vehicles, the law raises new worries about how much detail the drones will capture about lives down below — and what will be done with that information. Some questions likely to come up: Can a drone flying over a house pick up heat from a lamp used to grow marijuana inside, or take pictures from outside someone’s third-floor fire escape? Can images taken from a drone be sold to a third party, and how long can they be kept? The American Civil Liberties Union and other advocacy groups are calling for new protections against what the A.C.L.U. has said could be “routine aerial surveillance of American life.” The new law, part of a broader financing bill for the F.A.A., came after intense lobbying by drone makers and potential customers. These manufacturers have been awaiting lucrative new opportunities at home. The market for drones is valued at $5.9 billion and is expected to double in the next decade, according to industry figures. Drones can cost millions of dollars for the most sophisticated varieties to as little as $300 for one that can be piloted from an iPhone.

Note: For more information on the use of drones by police in the US, click here. For more on the threats to civil liberties created by this new law, click here. For lots more from reliable sources on surveillance in the US, click here.




Governments turn to hacking techniques for surveillance of citizens
2011-11-01, The Guardian (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2011/nov/01/governments-hacking-techniqu...

In a luxury Washington, DC, hotel last month, governments from around the world gathered to discuss surveillance technology they would rather you did not know about. The annual Intelligence Support Systems (ISS) World Americas conference is a mecca for representatives from intelligence agencies and law enforcement. But to the media or members of the public, it is strictly off limits. Behind the cloak of secrecy at the ISS World conference, tips are shared about the latest advanced ... methods used to spy on citizens – computer hacking, covert bugging and GPS tracking. The use of such methods is more commonly associated with criminal hacking groups, who have used spyware and trojan viruses to infect computers and steal bank details or passwords. But as the internet has grown, intelligence agencies and law enforcement have adopted similar techniques. "The current method of choice would seem to be spyware, or trojan horses," said Chris Soghoian, a Washington-based surveillance and privacy expert. "When there are five or six conferences held in closed locations every year, where telecommunications companies, surveillance companies and government ministers meet in secret to cut deals, buy equipment, and discuss the latest methods to intercept their citizens' communications – that I think meets the level of concern," he said. "Decades of history show that surveillance powers are abused – usually for political purposes."

Note: For more on corporate and government threats to privacy and civil liberties, click here and here.




War Evolves With Drones, Some Tiny as Bugs
2011-06-20, New York Times
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/20/world/20drones.html

Military researchers are at work on another revolution in the air: shrinking unmanned drones ... to the size of insects and birds. The drones in development ... are designed to replicate the flight mechanics of moths, hawks and other inhabitants of the natural world. “We’re looking at how you hide in plain sight,” said Greg Parker, an aerospace engineer, as he held up a prototype of a mechanical hawk that in the future might carry out espionage or kill. An explosion in aerial drones is transforming the way America fights and thinks about its wars. Predator drones ... are by now a brand name, known and feared around the world. But far less known is the sheer size, variety and audaciousness of a rapidly expanding drone universe, along with the dilemmas that come with it. The Pentagon now has some 7,000 aerial drones, compared with fewer than 50 a decade ago. Within the next decade the Air Force anticipates a decrease in manned aircraft but expects its number of “multirole” aerial drones like the Reaper — the ones that spy as well as strike — to nearly quadruple, to 536. Already the Air Force is training more remote pilots, 350 this year alone, than fighter and bomber pilots combined. “It’s a growth market,” said Ashton B. Carter, the Pentagon’s chief weapons buyer. The Pentagon has asked Congress for nearly $5 billion for drones next year, and by 2030 envisions ever more stuff of science fiction: “spy flies” equipped with sensors and microcameras to detect enemies

Note: Ashton B. Carter, CIA director John Deutch, and executive director of the 9/11 Commission Philip Zelikow co-authored a 1998 article in the journal of the Council on Foreign Relations, Foreign Affairs, titled "Catastrophic Terrorism". It predicted, years in advance, a massive attack on the World Trade Center that would result in loss of civil liberties, detention without charge, torture, and endless wars abroad. The Pentagon's weapons-buying spree, now including billions of dollars for drones to be used over US soil, and for which Carter is the "chief weapons buyer," would have been impossible without the 9/11 attacks.




TSA Under Fire for New Security Procedures
2010-11-22, ABC News
http://abcnews.go.com/Travel/tsa-responds-passenger-outrages-underwear-search...

The Transportation Security Administration has come under fire for new body scanners and what some say are highly invasive pat-downs. Thomas Sawyer, a bladder cancer survivor, said he was humiliated after a pat-down broke his urostomy bag, leaving the 61-year-old covered in his own urine. Sawyer said he warned the TSA officials twice that the pat-down could break the seal. Cathy Bossi, a long-time flight attendant and breast cancer survivor, said the TSA made her take off her prosthetic breast. "She put her full hand on my breast and said, 'What is this?' I said 'It's a prosthesis because I've had a breast cancer,'" Bossi said. "And she said, 'You'll need to show me that.'" In recent days, several passengers have come forward to tell such shocking stories about their experiences with TSA officers. An ABC News employee said she was subject to a "demeaning" search at Newark Liberty International Airport Sunday morning. "The woman who checked me reached her hands inside my underwear and felt her way around," she said. "It was basically worse than going to the gynecologist. It was embarrassing. It was demeaning. It was inappropriate." The head of the Transportation Security Administration John Pistole ... has said the TSA would not change its pat-down procedures.

Note: For lots more from major media sources on increasing threats to privacy, click here.




Pilots Refusing to Use Full Body Scanners or Submit to Patdown
2010-11-09, ABC News
http://abcnews.go.com/Travel/major-pilots-unions-rebel-tsa-screening-rules-ur...

Two of the largest pilots' unions in the nation are urging commercial pilots to rebel against current airport screening rules. In late October, the Transport Security Administration implemented more invasive patdown rules. Travelers and pilots were faced with a new dilemma -- have a revealing, full-body scan or what some are calling an X-rated patdown. Pilots are piping mad over the options, saying the full-body scanners emit dangerous levels of radiation and that the alternative public patdown is disgraceful for a pilot in uniform. Some pilots have said they felt so violated after a patdown, they were unfit to fly. The patdowns, implemented Oct. 29, allow TSA officers to pat down passengers with the front of their hands, instead of the backs of their hands. A security expert who demonstrated the new procedure on a mannequin for ABC News explained the changes. "You go down the body and up to the breast portion," said Charles Slepian of the Foreseeable Risk Analysis Center. "If it's a female passenger, you're going to see if there's anything in the bra." The new patdown protocol could be used at any of the nation's 450 airports on passengers who require additional screening. Tens of thousands of passengers are submitted to patdowns and full-body scanners every day. More than 300 full-body scanners are being used at 65 airports across the country.

Note: And what about the general public having to submit to being groped?




From protester to senator, FBI tracked Paul Wellstone
2010-10-25, Minnesota Public Radio
http://origin-minnesota.publicradio.org/projects/2010/wellstone-files/feature/

It started with a fingerprint of a 25-year-old college professor who opposed the Vietnam War and ended with a search for his remains, 32 years later, in a wooded area near Eveleth, Minn. The FBI's files on Paul and Sheila Wellstone [show that] the FBI initially took interest in Wellstone as part of the broader surveillance of the American left ... and, in the end, [sifted] through the wreckage of the fatal plane crash that killed Wellstone and seven others eight years ago. Wellstone's surviving sons declined to comment on the documents, which were obtained in response to a Freedom of Information Act request filed by MPR News. The FBI did not include 76 pages related to the National Transportation Safety Board, the agency that investigated the crash. A request for those records is pending. Coleen Rowley, the 9/11 whistleblower and former chief legal advisor in the FBI's Minneapolis office, said the documents from 1970 shed light on the FBI's far-reaching efforts to quash political dissent. "I think this really is valuable … because it's basically history repeating what we have right now," she said, noting the recent FBI raids at the homes of several anti-war organizers in Minneapolis. Wellstone's arrest occurred less than a year before the official end of Cointelpro, a series of secret domestic surveillance programs created by FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover to monitor and disrupt groups deemed to be a threat to national security.

Note: For insights into the deeper implications of Senator Wellstone's mysterious plane crash, click here.




Every email and website to be stored
2010-10-20, The Telegraph (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/news/8075563/Every-email-and-website-to...

Every email, phone call and website visit is to be recorded and stored after the Coalition Government revived controversial Big Brother snooping plans. It will allow security services and the police to spy on the activities of every Briton who uses a phone or the internet. Moves to make every communications provider store details for at least a year will be unveiled later this year sparking fresh fears over a return of the surveillance state. It comes despite the Coalition Agreement promised to "end the storage of internet and email records without good reason". The plans are expected to involve service providers storing all users details for a set period of time. That will allow the security and police authorities to track every phone call, email, text message and website visit made by the public if they argue it is needed to tackle crime or terrorism. The information will include who is contacting whom, when and where and which websites are visited, but not the content of the conversations or messages. The move was buried in the Government's Strategic Defence and Security Review.

Note: For lots more from major media sources on increasing government and corporate threats to privacy, click here.




GPS tracker in car inflames privacy debate
2010-10-16, Seattle Times/Associated Press
http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/nationworld/2013181658_gpstracking17.html

Yasir Afifi, a 20-year-old computer salesman and community-college student, took his car in for an oil change earlier this month and his mechanic spotted an odd wire hanging from the undercarriage. The wire was attached to a strange magnetic device that puzzled Afifi and the mechanic. They freed it from the car and posted images of it online, asking for help in identifying it. Two days later, FBI agents arrived at Afifi's Santa Clara apartment and demanded the return of their property — a global-positioning-system tracking device now at the center of a raging legal debate over privacy rights. One federal judge wrote that the widespread use of the device was straight out of George Orwell's novel Nineteen Eighty-Four." By holding that this kind of surveillance doesn't impair an individual's reasonable expectation of privacy, the panel hands the government the power to track the movements of every one of us, every day of our lives," wrote Alex Kozinski, the chief judge of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in a blistering dissent in which a three-judge panel from his court ruled that search warrants weren't necessary for GPS tracking. In his dissent, Chief Judge Kozinski noted that GPS technology is far different from tailing a suspect on a public road, which requires the active participation of investigators. "The devices create a permanent electronic record that can be compared, contrasted and coordinated to deduce all manner of private information about individuals," Kozinksi wrote.

Note: For an AP photo of this device, click here.




Federal Agents Urged to 'Friend' People on Social Networks, Memo Reveals
2010-10-14, Fox News
http://www.foxnews.com/scitech/2010/10/13/government-spying-social-networks/

A privacy watchdog has uncovered a government memo that encourages federal agents to befriend people on a variety of social networks, to take advantage of their readiness to share -- and to spy on them. In response to a Freedom of Information request, the government released a handful of documents, including a May 2008 memo detailing how social-networking sites are exploited by the Office of Fraud Detection and National Security (FDNS). Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, and Digg had not commented on the report, which details the official government program to spy via social networking. Other websites the government is spying on include ... Craigslist and Wikipedia, according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), which filed the FOIA request. "Narcissistic tendencies in many people fuel a need to have a large group of 'friends' link to their pages, and many of these people accept cyber-friends that they don't even know," stated one of the documents obtained by the EFF. "This provides an excellent vantage point for FDNS to observe the daily life of [members]," it said. Among the networks specifically cited for analysis "were general social networking sites like Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, and Flickr, as well as sites that focus specifically on certain demographic groups such as MiGente and BlackPlanet, news sites such as NPR, and political commentary sites DailyKos," the EFF wrote.

Note: For more information, read the full report at the Electronic Frontier Foundation.




'Feds radiating Americans'? Mobile X-ray vans hit US streets
2010-09-29, Christian Science Monitor
http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/2010/0929/Feds-radiating-Americans-Mobile-X-ray-...

News that the US is buying custom-made vans packed with something called backscatter X-ray capacity has riled privacy advocates and sparked internet worries about "feds radiating Americans." American Science & Engineering, a Billerica, Mass.-company, tells Forbes it [has] sold more than 500 ZBVs, or Z Backscatter Vans, to US and foreign governments. The Department of Defense has bought the most for war zone use, but US law enforcement has also deployed the vans to [use] inside the US, according to Joe Reiss, a company spokesman. On [September 28], a counterterror operation snarled truck traffic on I-20 near Atlanta, where Department of Homeland Security teams used mobile X-ray technology to check the contents of truck trailers. Authorities said the inspections weren't prompted by any specific threat. Backscatter X-ray is already part of an ongoing national debate about its use in so-called full body scanners being deployed in many US airports. [Critics] worry that radiating Americans without their knowledge is evidence of gradually eroding constitutional protections in the post-9/11 age. "This is another way in which the government is capturing information they may lose control over. I just have some real problems with the idea of even beginning a campaign of rolling surveillance of American citizens, which is what this essentially is said [Vermont-based privacy expert Frederick Lane, author of American Privacy.]

Note: For further reports from reliable sources on the militarization of US police forces, click here.




The Government Can Use GPS to Track Your Moves
2010-08-25, Time magazine
http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,2013150,00.html

Government agents can sneak onto your property in the middle of the night, put a GPS device on the bottom of your car and keep track of everywhere you go. This doesn't violate your Fourth Amendment rights, because you do not have any reasonable expectation of privacy in your own driveway — and no reasonable expectation that the government isn't tracking your movements. That is the bizarre — and scary — rule that now applies in California and eight other Western states. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which covers this vast jurisdiction, recently decided the government can monitor you in this way virtually anytime it wants — with no need for a search warrant. It is a dangerous decision — one that, as the dissenting judges warned, could turn America into the sort of totalitarian state imagined by George Orwell. It is particularly offensive because the judges added insult to injury with some shocking class bias: the little personal privacy that still exists, the court suggested, should belong mainly to the rich. Plenty of liberals have objected to this kind of spying, but it is the conservative Chief Judge Kozinski who has done so most passionately. "1984 may have come a bit later than predicted, but it's here at last," he lamented in his dissent. And invoking Orwell's totalitarian dystopia where privacy is essentially nonexistent, he warned: "Some day, soon, we may wake up and find we're living in Oceania."

Note: For key reports from reliable souces on increasing government threats to civil liberties, click here.




Big Brother: Eye-scanners being installed across one Mexican city
2010-08-19, USA Today
http://content.usatoday.com/communities/ondeadline/post/2010/08/big-brother-e...

Mexico's sixth-largest city, Leon, is on the road to ... a future in which everyone is tracked wherever they go. Fast Company reports that U.S. biometrics firm Global Rainmakers and its Mexican partner announced yesterday that they have begun installing iris-scanning technology in the city of more than 1 million in Guanajuato state. The companies aim ... to create "the most secure city in the world." The first phase concentrates on law enforcement and security checkpoints. Then the iris scanners, which the firms say can "identify humans in motion and at a distance while ensuring liveness," will fill malls, pharmacies, mass transit, medical centers and banks, "among other public and private locations," Fast Company writes. "In the future, whether it's entering your home, opening your car, entering your workspace, getting a pharmacy prescription refilled, or having your medical records pulled up, everything will come off that unique key that is your iris," says Jeff Carter, CDO of Global Rainmakers. Before coming to GRI, Carter headed a think tank partnership between Bank of America, Harvard, and MIT. "Every person, place, and thing on this planet will be connected [to the iris system] within the next 10 years," he says.

Note: For lots more from reliable sources on threats to privacy, click here.




Digital Photocopiers Loaded With Secrets
2010-04-15, CBS News
http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2010/04/19/eveningnews/main6412439.shtml

At a warehouse in New Jersey, 6,000 used copy machines sit ready to be sold. Almost every one of them holds a secret. Nearly every digital copier built since 2002 contains a hard drive ... storing an image of every document copied, scanned, or emailed by the machine. In the process, it's turned an office staple into a digital time-bomb packed with highly-personal or sensitive data. If you're in the identity theft business it seems this would be a pot of gold. "The type of information we see on these machines with the social security numbers, birth certificates, bank records, income tax forms," John Juntunen said, "that information would be very valuable." Juntunen's Sacramento-based company Digital Copier Security developed software called "INFOSWEEP" that can scrub all the data on hard drives. He's been trying to warn people about the potential risk - with no luck. All the major [digital copier] manufacturers told us they offer security or encryption packages on their products. One product from Sharp automatically erases an image from the hard drive. It costs $500. But evidence keeps piling up in warehouses that many businesses are unwilling to pay for such protection, and that the average American is completely unaware of the dangers posed by digital copiers.

Note: For lots more from reliable sources on threats to privacy, click here.




Federal Judge Finds N.S.A. Wiretaps Were Illegal
2010-04-01, New York Times
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/01/us/01nsa.html

A federal judge ruled [on March 31] that the National Security Agency's program of surveillance without warrants was illegal, rejecting the Obama administration's effort to keep shrouded in secrecy one of the most disputed counterterrorism policies of former President George W. Bush. In a 45-page opinion, Judge Vaughn R. Walker ruled that the government had violated a 1978 federal statute requiring court approval for domestic surveillance when it intercepted phone calls of Al Haramain, a now-defunct Islamic charity in Oregon, and of two lawyers representing it in 2004. Declaring that the plaintiffs had been 'subjected to unlawful surveillance,' the judge said the government was liable to pay them damages. The ruling by Judge Walker, the chief judge of the Federal District Court in San Francisco, rejected the Justice Department's claim ' first asserted by the Bush administration and continued under President Obama ' that the charity's lawsuit should be dismissed without a ruling on the merits because allowing it to go forward could reveal state secrets. The judge characterized that expansive use of the so-called state-secrets privilege as amounting to 'unfettered executive-branch discretion' that had 'obvious potential for governmental abuse and overreaching.'

Note: For illumination of the dark world of state secrecy, click here.




Brussels gives CIA the power to search UK bank records
2009-12-06, Times of London
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/crime/article6945972.ece

The CIA is to be given broad access to the bank records of millions of Britons under a European Union plan to fight terrorism. The Brussels agreement, which will come into force in two months’ time, requires the 27 EU member states to grant requests for banking information made by the United States under its terrorist finance tracking programme. The EU said it had agreed that Europeans would be compelled to release the information to the CIA “as a matter of urgency”. The records will be kept in a US database for five years before being deleted. Critics say the system is “lopsided” because there is no reciprocal arrangement under which the UK authorities can easily access the bank accounts of US citizens. They also say the plan to sift through cross-border and domestic EU bank accounts gives US intelligence more scope to consult our bank accounts than is granted to law enforcement agencies in the UK or the rest of Europe. This weekend civil liberties groups and privacy campaigners said the surveillance programme, introduced as an emergency measure in 2001, was being imposed on Britain without a proper debate. Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty, said: “The massive scope for transferring personal information from Europe to the United States is extremely worrying, especially in the absence of public debate or parliamentary scrutiny either at EU or domestic level.

Note: For reports from major media sources on erosion of privacy by governments and corporations, click here.




Justice Dept. Asked For News Site's Visitor Lists
2009-11-10, CBS News
http://www.cbsnews.com/blogs/2009/11/09/taking_liberties/entry5595506.shtml

In a case that raises questions about online journalism and privacy rights, the U.S. Department of Justice sent a formal request to an independent news site ordering it to provide details of all reader visits on a certain day. The grand jury subpoena also required the Philadelphia-based Indymedia.us Web site "not to disclose the existence of this request" unless authorized by the Justice Department, a gag order that presents an unusual quandary for any news organization. Kristina Clair, a 34-year old Linux administrator living in Philadelphia who provides free server space for Indymedia.us, said she was shocked to receive the Justice Department's subpoena. The subpoena ... demanded "all IP traffic to and from www.indymedia.us" on June 25, 2008. It instructed Clair to "include IP addresses, times, and any other identifying information," including e-mail addresses, physical addresses, registered accounts, and Indymedia readers' Social Security Numbers, bank account numbers, [and] credit card numbers. Clair [called] the Electronic Frontier Foundation in San Francisco, which represented her at no cost. Making this investigation more mysterious is that Indymedia.us is an aggregation site, meaning articles that appear on it were published somewhere else first, and there's no hint about what sparked the criminal probe. Clair, the system administrator, says that no IP (Internet Protocol) addresses are recorded for Indymedia.us, and non-IP address logs are kept for a few weeks and then discarded. "This is the first time we've seen them try to get the IP address of everyone who visited a particular site," [EFF's Kevin] Bankston said. "That it was a news organization was an additional troubling fact that implicates First Amendment rights."

Note: For many reports from major media sources of growing government threats to civil liberties, click here.




Electronic border control
2009-10-02, San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco's leading newspaper)
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2009/10/02/EDDQ19VF7L.DTL

Suppose you're returning home from a vacation in Cancun. A customs agent asks you to open your suitcase so he can check its contents. So far, so good. Now, the agent asks you to log on to your laptop so he can read your e-mails and personal files and examine which Web sites you've visited. He makes a copy of your hard drive so the government can comb through its contents. You've done nothing to give the agent any cause for suspicion. That can't be legal - can it? Until recently, it would not have been allowed. Long-standing customs directives prohibited agents from reading travelers' personal documents unless they reasonably suspected them to be merchandise or evidence of illegal activity. Then the Bush administration changed the rules, allowing agents to "review and analyze" the contents of electronic devices, including laptops, cell phones and BlackBerrys "absent individualized suspicion." Agents also could make copies of the devices' contents and share them with other government agencies. In a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in May, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano promised to review the policy. Homeland Security has now released a new policy - and it is the same as the Bush policy in almost every relevant respect. The government may still search electronic devices without reasonable suspicion, retain copies indefinitely to complete its search and share information with other agencies. Both administrations have cited national security to justify suspicionless searches. There's no evidence, however, that a suspicionless search has ever turned up a security threat.

Note: The author of this op-ed, Elizabeth Goitein, is the director of the Liberty and National Security Project at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law. For lots more on how politicians use "national security" as a means to protect their own manipulations at the expense of the public good, click here.




As government tags passports, licenses, critics fear privacy is 'chipped' away
2009-07-11, Los Angeles Times
http://www.latimes.com/business/nationworld/wire/sns-ap-us-chipping-america-i...

Climbing into his Volvo, outfitted with a Matrics antenna and a Motorola reader he'd bought on eBay for $190, Chris Paget cruised the streets of San Francisco with this objective: To read the identity cards of strangers, wirelessly, without ever leaving his car. It took him 20 minutes to strike hacker's gold. Zipping past Fisherman's Wharf, his scanner detected, then downloaded to his laptop, the unique serial numbers of two pedestrians' electronic U.S. passport cards embedded with radio frequency identification, or RFID, tags. Within an hour, he'd "skimmed" the identifiers of four more of the new, microchipped PASS cards from a distance of 20 feet. Paget's February experiment demonstrated something privacy advocates had feared for years: That RFID, coupled with other technologies, could make people trackable without their knowledge or consent. He filmed his drive-by heist, and soon his video went viral on the Web, intensifying a debate over a push by government, federal and state, to put tracking technologies in identity documents and over their potential to erode privacy. With advances in tracking technologies coming at an ever-faster rate, critics say, it won't be long before governments could be able to identify and track anyone in real time, 24-7, from a cafe in Paris to the shores of California. The key to getting such a system to work, these opponents say, is making sure everyone carries an RFID tag linked to a biometric data file. On June 1, it became mandatory for Americans entering the United States by land or sea from Canada, Mexico, Bermuda and the Caribbean to present identity documents embedded with RFID tags, though conventional passports remain valid until they expire.

Note: For lots more on corporate and government surveillance, click here.




E-Mail Surveillance Renews Concerns in Congress
2009-06-17, New York Times
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/17/us/17nsa.html

The National Security Agency is facing renewed scrutiny over the extent of its domestic surveillance program, with critics in Congress saying its recent intercepts of the private telephone calls and e-mail messages of Americans are broader than previously acknowledged, current and former officials said. Since April, when it was disclosed that the intercepts of some private communications of Americans went beyond legal limits in late 2008 and early 2009, several Congressional committees have been investigating. Those inquiries have led to concerns in Congress about the agency’s ability to collect and read domestic e-mail messages of Americans on a widespread basis, officials said. Supporting that conclusion is the account of a former N.S.A. analyst who, in a series of interviews, described being trained in 2005 for a program in which the agency routinely examined large volumes of Americans’ e-mail messages without court warrants. Two intelligence officials confirmed that the program was still in operation. Both the former analyst’s account and the rising concern among some members of Congress about the N.S.A.’s recent operation are raising fresh questions about the spy agency. Representative Rush Holt, Democrat of New Jersey and chairman of the House Select Intelligence Oversight Panel, has been investigating the incidents and said he had become increasingly troubled by the agency’s handling of domestic communications. In an interview, Mr. Holt disputed assertions by Justice Department and national security officials that the overcollection was inadvertent. “Some actions are so flagrant that they can’t be accidental,” Mr. Holt said.

Note: For lots more from major media sources on the ever-increasing government and coroporate threats to privacy, click here.




Pentagon Plans New Arm to Wage Cyberspace Wars
2009-05-29, New York Times
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/29/us/politics/29cyber.html

The Pentagon plans to create a new military command for cyberspace ... stepping up preparations by the armed forces to conduct both offensive and defensive computer warfare. White House officials say Mr. Obama has not yet been formally presented with the Pentagon plan. But he is expected to sign a classified order in coming weeks that will create the military cybercommand, officials said. It is a recognition that the United States already has a growing number of computer weapons in its arsenal and must prepare strategies for their use — as a deterrent or alongside conventional weapons — in a wide variety of possible future conflicts. [A] main dispute has been over whether the Pentagon or the National Security Agency should take the lead in preparing for and fighting cyberbattles. Under one proposal still being debated, parts of the N.S.A. would be integrated into the military command so they could operate jointly. A classified set of presidential directives is expected to lay out the military’s new responsibilities and how it coordinates its mission with that of the N.S.A., where most of the expertise on digital warfare resides today. The decision to create a cybercommand is a major step beyond the actions taken by the Bush administration, which authorized several computer-based attacks but never resolved the question of how the government would prepare for a new era of warfare fought over digital networks. Officials declined to describe potential offensive operations, but said they now viewed cyberspace as comparable to more traditional battlefields.

Note: Combine this with the BBC's revealing article on US plans to fight the Internet, and there is reason for concern. For lots more on new developments in modern war planning, click here.




Officials Say U.S. Wiretaps Exceeded Law
2009-04-16, New York Times
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/16/us/16nsa.html?partner=rss&emc=rss&pagewante...

The National Security Agency intercepted private e-mail messages and phone calls of Americans in recent months on a scale that went beyond the broad legal limits established by Congress last year, government officials said in recent interviews. Several intelligence officials, as well as lawyers briefed about the matter, said the N.S.A. had been engaged in “overcollection” of domestic communications of Americans. They described the practice as significant and systemic. The legal and operational problems surrounding the N.S.A.’s surveillance activities have come under scrutiny from the Obama administration, Congressional intelligence committees and a secret national security court. Congressional investigators say they hope to determine if any violations of Americans’ privacy occurred. It is not clear to what extent the agency may have actively listened in on conversations or read e-mail messages of Americans without proper court authority, rather than simply obtained access to them. While the N.S.A.’s operations in recent months have come under examination, new details are also emerging about earlier domestic-surveillance activities, including the agency’s attempt to wiretap a member of Congress, without court approval, on an overseas trip. After a contentious three-year debate that was set off by the disclosure in 2005 of the program of wiretapping without warrants that President George W. Bush approved after the Sept. 11 attacks, Congress gave the N.S.A. broad new authority to collect, without court-approved warrants, vast streams of international phone and e-mail traffic as it passed through American telecommunications gateways.

Note: For further disturbing reports from reliable sources on government efforts to establish total surveillance systems, click here.




More Groups Than Thought Monitored in Police Spying
2009-01-04, Washington Post
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/01/03/AR20090103019...

The Maryland State Police surveillance of advocacy groups was far more extensive than previously acknowledged, with records showing that troopers monitored -- and labeled as terrorists -- activists devoted to such wide-ranging causes as promoting human rights and establishing bike lanes. Intelligence officers created a voluminous file on Norfolk-based People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, calling the group a "security threat" because of concerns that members would disrupt the circus. Angry consumers fighting a 72 percent electricity rate increase in 2006 were targeted. The DC Anti-War Network, which opposes the Iraq war, was designated a white supremacist group, without explanation. One of the possible "crimes" in the file police opened on Amnesty International, a world-renowned human rights group: "civil rights." The [surveillance] ... confirmed the fears of civil liberties groups that have warned about domestic spying since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. "No one was thinking this was al-Qaeda," said Stephen H. Sachs, a former U.S. attorney and state attorney general appointed by Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) to review the case. "But 9/11 created an atmosphere where cutting corners was easier." Maryland has not been alone. The FBI and police departments in several cities, including Denver in 2002 and New York before the 2004 Republican National Convention, also responded to [dissent] by spying on activists.

Note: For wide coverage from reliable sources of disturbing threats to civil liberties, click here.




Boston launches flu shot tracking
2008-11-21, Boston Globe
http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2008/11/21/boston_lau...

Using technology originally developed for mass disasters, Boston disease trackers are embarking on a novel experiment - one of the first in the country - aimed at eventually creating a citywide registry of everyone who has had a flu vaccination. The resulting vaccination map would allow swift intervention in neighborhoods left vulnerable to the fast-moving respiratory illness. The trial starts this afternoon, when several hundred people are expected to queue up for immunizations at the headquarters of the Boston Public Health Commission. Each of them will get a bracelet printed with a unique identifier code. Information about the vaccine's recipients, and the shot, will be entered into handheld devices similar to those used by delivery truck drivers. Infectious disease specialists in Boston and elsewhere predicted that the registry approach could prove even more useful if something more sinister strikes: a bioterrorism attack or the long-feared arrival of a global flu epidemic. In such crises, the registry could be used to track who received a special vaccine or antidote to a deadly germ. "Anything you can do to better pinpoint who's vaccinated and who's not, that's absolutely vital," said Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research & Policy at the University of Minnesota. "I wish more cities were doing this kind of thing." When people arrive for their shots, they will get an ID bracelet with a barcode. Next, basic information - name, age, gender, address - will be entered into the patient tracking database. There will be electronic records, too, of who gave the vaccine and whether it was injected into the right arm or the left, and time-stamped for that day.

Note: For more on the serious risks and dangers posed by vaccines, click here and here.




Online warfare research outlined
2008-05-15, Washington Times
http://washingtontimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080515/FOREIGN/586297...

Procurement documents released by the U.S. Air Force give a rare glimpse into Pentagon plans for developing an offensive cyber-war capacity that can infiltrate, steal data from and, if necessary, take down enemy information-technology networks. The Broad Area Announcement, posted ... by the Air Force Research Laboratory's Information Directorate, outlines a two-year, $11 million effort to develop capabilities to "access ... any remotely located open or closed computer information systems," lurk on them "completely undetected," "stealthily exfiltrate information" from them and ultimately "be able to affect computer information systems through Deceive, Deny, Disrupt, Degrade, Destroy (D5) effects." "Of interest," the announcement says, "are any and all techniques to enable user and/or root-level access to both fixed [and] mobile computing platforms ... [and] methodologies to enable access to any and all operating systems, patch levels, applications and hardware." The announcement is the latest stage in the Air Force's effort to develop a cyber-war capability and establish itself as the service that delivers U.S. military power in cyberspace. Last year, the Air Force announced it was setting up a Cyberspace Command ... and was developing military doctrine for the prosecution of cyber-war operations. The developments highlight the murky legal territory on which the cyber-wars of the future will be fought. More important, because of the difficulties in identifying attackers and immediately quantifying damage from a cyber-attack, it can be hard to determine when such attacks constitute an act of war as opposed to crime or even vandalism.




FBI Backs Off From Secret Order for Data After Lawsuit
2008-05-08, Washington Post
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/05/07/AR20080507038...

The FBI has withdrawn a secret administrative order seeking the name, address and online activity of a patron of the Internet Archive after the San Francisco-based digital library filed suit to block the action. It is one of only three known instances in which the FBI has backed off from such a data demand, known as a "national security letter," or NSL, which is not subject to judicial approval and whose recipient is barred from disclosing the order's existence. NSLs are served on phone companies, Internet service providers and other electronic communications service providers, but because of the gag order provision, the public has little way to know about them. FBI officials now issue about 50,000 such orders a year. The order against the Internet Archive was served Nov. 26, and the nonprofit challenged it based on a provision of the reauthorized USA Patriot Act, which protects libraries from such requests. The privacy advocacy group Electronic Frontier Foundation represented the archive in the suit, which was joined by the American Civil Liberties Union. The archive also alleged that the gag order that accompanied the data demand violated the Constitution. As part of their settlement, the FBI agreed to drop the gag order and the archive agreed to withdraw the complaint. The case was unsealed Monday. Yesterday, redacted versions of key documents were filed, allowing the parties to discuss the case. "We see this as an unqualified success," said Brewster Kahle, the archive's co-founder and digital librarian. "The goal here was to help other recipients of NSLs to understand that you can push back."

Note: The Internet Archive has now posted excellent information on how to deal with cases like this at http://government.zdnet.com/?p=3795. Three cheers for the Internet Archive!




Going to Canada? Check your past
2007-02-23, San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco's leading newspaper)
http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2007/02/23/MNGCAO9NSB1.DTL

Welcome to the new world of border security. Unsuspecting Americans are turning up at the Canadian border expecting clear sailing, only to find that their past -- sometimes their distant past -- is suddenly an issue. There was a time not long ago when a trip across the border from the United States to Canada was accomplished with a wink and a wave of a driver's license. Those days are over. Take the case of 55-year-old Lake Tahoe resident Greg Felsch. Stopped at the border in Vancouver this month at the start of a planned five-day ski trip, he was sent back to the United States because of a DUI conviction seven years ago. Not that he had any idea what was going on when he was told at customs: "Your next stop is immigration." Felsch was ushered into a room. "There must have been 75 people in line," he says. "We were there for three hours. One woman was in tears. A guy was sent back for having a medical marijuana card. I felt like a felon with an ankle bracelet." Or ask the well-to-do East Bay couple who flew to British Columbia this month for an eight-day ski vacation at the famed Whistler Chateau, where rooms run to $500 a night. They'd made the trip many times, but were surprised at the border to be told that the husband would have to report to "secondary" immigration. There, in a room he estimates was filled with 60 other concerned travelers, he was told he was "a person who was inadmissible to Canada." The problem? A conviction for marijuana possession ... in 1975. This is just the beginning. Soon other nations will be able to look into your past when you want to travel there.




NSA Whistleblower Alleges Illegal Spying
2006-05-11, ABC News
http://abcnews.go.com/WNT/Investigation/story?id=1491889&WNT=true

Russell Tice, a longtime insider at the National Security Agency, is now a whistleblower the agency would like to keep quiet. For 20 years, Tice worked in the shadows as he helped the United States spy on other people's conversations around the world. "I specialized in what's called special access programs," Tice said of his job. "We called them 'black world' programs and operations." But now, Tice tells ABC News that some of those secret "black world" operations run by the NSA were operated in ways that he believes violated the law. He is prepared to tell Congress all he knows about the alleged wrongdoing in these programs run by the Defense Department and the NSA. Tice says the technology exists to track and sort through every domestic and international phone call...and to search for key words or phrases that a terrorist might use. President Bush has admitted that he gave orders that allowed the NSA to eavesdrop on a small number of Americans without the usual requisite warrants. But Tice disagrees. He says the number of Americans subject to eavesdropping by the NSA could be in the millions. The NSA revoked Tice's security clearance in May of last year based on what it called psychological concerns and later dismissed him. Tice calls that bunk and says that's the way the NSA deals with troublemakers and whistleblowers.

Note: For many years, both the U.S. and U.K. denied the existence of Echelon, which according to the BBC article below is a "spying network that can eavesdrop on every single phone call, fax or e-mail, anywhere on the planet." http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/503224.stm




FBI Keeps Watch on Activists
2006-03-27, Los Angeles Times
http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-fbi27mar27,0,5815737.story

The FBI, while waging a highly publicized war against terrorism, has spent resources gathering information on antiwar and environmental protesters and on activists who feed vegetarian meals to the homeless, the agency's internal memos show. For years, the FBI's definition of terrorism has included violence against property. That definition has led FBI investigations to online discussion boards, organizing meetings and demonstrations of a wide range of activist groups. The FBI's encounters with activists are described in hundreds of pages of documents obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union under the Freedom of Information Act after agents visited several activists before the 2004 political conventions. ACLU attorneys acknowledge that the FBI memos are heavily redacted and contain incomplete portraits of some cases. Still, the attorneys say, the documents show that the FBI has monitored groups that were not suspected of any crime. FBI officials respond that there is nothing improper about agents attending a meeting or demonstration.




National Security Watch: Disquieted whistleblowers
2005-10-11, U.S. News and World Report
http://www.usnews.com/usnews/news/articles/051011/11natsec.htm

The first annual National Security Whistleblowers Conference...has to be one of the more unusual gatherings of intelligence veterans in recent years. The nearly 20 current or former officials from the FBI, CIA, Defense Intelligence Agency, and even the supersecret National Security Agency who make up the core of the conference share an unusual distinction: They are all deeply out of favor with their longtime employers. Most cannot discuss the allegations they are making in detail because the specifics are highly classified. The agencies they work for also refuse to answer questions. The current and former officials at the conference said that today's climate in Washington has never been worse for whistleblowers. One of the biggest names of the conference never even uttered a word. Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer is the military intelligence operative who...went public with a controversial claim that a year before September 11, his top-secret task force "Able Danger" was able to identify the man who later turned out to be the lead hijacker [on 9/11]. Shaffer was slated to speak but instead sat quietly by as his lawyer, Mark Zaid, spoke for him. "Tony is not allowed to talk," Zaid said. "He is gagged from talking to Congress." The conference was organized by Sibel Edmonds, a former FBI translator who was pushed out of the bureau after raising accusations of wrongdoing by other FBI translators. She has been barred from discussing the details of her case by the FBI. She created the National Security Whistleblowers Coalition www.nswbc.org to bring whistleblowers like her together to push for legal reforms.

Note: For a detailed article in Vanity Fair on Sibel Edmonds' courageous efforts to expose the truth, click here. For the whistleblowing action which drew international media attention by WantToKnow.info founder Fred Burks, click here.




Students ordered to wear tracking tags
2005-02-09, MSNBC News
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/6942751

The only grade school in this rural town is requiring students to wear radio frequency identification badges that can track their every move. Some parents are outraged, fearing it will rob their children of privacy. The badges introduced at Brittan Elementary School on Jan. 18 rely on the same radio frequency and scanner technology that companies use to track livestock and product inventory. The system was imposed, without parental input, by the school as a way to simplify attendance-taking and potentially reduce vandalism and improve student safety. Some parents see a system that can monitor their children's movements on campus as something straight out of Orwell. This latest adaptation of radio frequency ID technology was developed by InCom Corp., a local company co-founded by the parent of a former Brittan student, and some parents are suspicious about the financial relationship between the school and the company. InCom has paid the school several thousand dollars for agreeing to the experiment, and has promised a royalty from each sale if the system takes off, said the company's co-founder, Michael Dobson, who works as a technology specialist in the town's high school.




Scientists Find Ways to Make Us Slaves
2004-10-17, WantToKnow.info/London Times
http://www.WantToKnow.info/monkeydrones

Scientists have discovered a way of manipulating a gene that turns animals into drones that do not become bored with repetitive tasks. The experiments, conducted on monkeys, are the first to demonstrate that animal behaviour can be permanently changed, turning the subjects from aggressive to "compliant" creatures. The genes are identical in humans and although the discovery could help to treat depression and other types of mental illness, it will raise images of the Epsilon caste from Aldous Huxley's futuristic novel Brave New World. The experiments... involved blocking the effect of a gene called D2 in a particular part of the brain. This cut off the link between the rhesus monkeys' motivation and reward. Instead of speeding up with the approach of a deadline or the prospect of a "treat," the monkeys in the experiment could be made to work just as enthusiastically for long periods. The scientists say the identical technique would apply to humans. [They] found that they could make the monkeys work their hardest and fastest all the time, without any complaint or sign of slacking, just by manipulating D2 so that they forgot about the expectation of reward. Methods of manipulating human physical and psychological traits are just around the corner, and the technology will emerge first as a lucrative add-on available from in vitro fertilization clinics. "There's no doubt we will be able to influence behaviour," said Julian Savulescu, a professor of ethics at Oxford University.

Note: For lots more reliable information on how human behavior is already being manipulated, click here.




RNC [Republican National Convention] to Feature Unusual Forms of Sound
2004-08-25, ABC News
http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/story?id=99472

Outside the convention hall, New York City police plan to control protesters using a device that directs sound for up to 1,500 feet in a spotlight-like beam. Meanwhile, a display of former Republican presidents inside the hall will feature campaign speeches that are funneled to listeners through highly focused audio beams. Both technologies feature unprecedented manipulation of sound, but for very different purposes. And while both technologies have unique, "gee-whiz" factors, some remain uneasy with the idea of using sound to control crowds. When in weapon mode, LRAD blasts a tightly controlled stream of caustic sound that can be turned up to high enough levels to trigger nausea or possibly fainting. LRAD ... has been used by the U.S. military in Iraq and at sea as a non-lethal force. In these settings, operators can use the device not only to convey orders, but also as a weapon. In tests, police have shown how they can convey orders in a normal voice to someone as far as four blocks away. The sound beam is even equipped with a viewfinder so the operator can precisely target the audio by finding a person in cross hairs. Rather than using pure volume to throw sound far, the LRAD reaches distant ears by focusing the audio beam. Wherever the beam makes contact with air, the air molecules interact in a way that isolates the original audible sound. So if you're standing in front of the ultrasonic sound wave, you can hear the sound. If you're a few inches away, you hear nothing. Already, some Coca-Cola machines in Japan are equipped with the technology so passers-by hear the enticing sound of soda being poured into a glass of ice.

Note: For more reliable information on these "non-lethal weapons," click here.




Technology gets under clubbers' skin
2004-06-09, CNN News
http://edition.cnn.com/2004/WORLD/europe/06/09/spain.club

Queuing to get into one nightclub in Spain could soon be a thing of the past for regular customers thanks to a tiny computer chip implanted under their skin. The technology, known as a VeriChip, also means nightclubbers can leave their cash and cards at home and buy drinks using a scanner. The bill can then be paid later. Clubbers who want to join the scheme at Baja Beach Club in Barcelona pay 125 euros (about US $150) for the VeriChip -- about the size of a grain of rice -- to be implanted in their body. Then when they pass through a scanner the chip is activated and it emits a signal containing the individual's number, which is then transmitted to a secure data storage site. The club's director, Conrad Chase, said he began using the VeriChip, made by Applied Digital Solutions, in March 2004 because he needed something similar to a VIP card and wanted to provide his customers with better service. He said 10 of the club's regular customers, including himself, have been implanted with the chip, and predicted more would follow. "I know many people who want to be implanted," said Chase. "Almost everybody now has a piercing, tattoos or silicone. Why not get the chip and be original?" Chase said VeriChip could also boost security by speeding up checks at airports, for example. He denied the scheme had any drawbacks. The VeriChip is an in-house debit card and contains no personal information.

Note: Why is the media so upbeat about this? The article raises very few questions, yet seems to promote microchip implants in humans as the wave of the future for commerce.




America's Deep, Dark Secret
2004-05-02, CBS 60 Minutes
http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2004/04/29/60minutes/main614728.shtml

Starting in the early 1900s, hundreds of thousands of American children were warehoused in institutions by state governments. And the federal government did nothing to stop it. The justification? The kids had been labeled feeble-minded, and were put away in conditions that can only be described as unspeakable. A large proportion of the kids who were locked up were not retarded at all. They were simply poor, uneducated kids with no place to go, who ended up in institutions like the Fernald School in Waltham, Mass. The Fernald School, and others like it, was part of a popular American movement in the early 20th century called the Eugenics movement. The idea was to separate people considered to be genetically inferior from the rest of society, to prevent them from reproducing. Eugenics is usually associated with Nazi Germany, but in fact, it started in America. Not only that, it continued here long after Hitler's Germany was in ruins. Few of the attendants [at Fernald] showed any kindness. And ... there was sexual abuse. The place was tailor made for it. The school [also] allowed them to be used as human guinea pigs. In 1994 Senate hearings, it came out that scientists from MIT had been giving radioactive oatmeal to the boys ... in a nutrition study for Quaker Oats. All they knew is that they'd been asked to join a science club. The boys were recruited with special treats [like] extra milk. “But they forgot to mention the milk was radioactive,” says David White-Lief, an attorney who worked on the state task force investigating the science club. “These experiments, because of the lack of informed consent, violated the Nuremburg Code established just 10 years earlier,” says White-Lief.

Note: The extreme racism of the Nazis was quite popular among certain groups in the U.S. For lots more on how these ideas came to pervade some groups in U.S. intelligence services, click here. For a powerful list of military and government sponsored experiments on human guinea pigs with links for verification, click here.




Professor has nightmare vision of global positioning technology
2003-05-07, WantToKnow.info/Kansas City Star (Leading newspaper of Kansas City)
http://www.WantToKnow.info/030307kansascitystar

Jerome Dobson is not joking. The University of Kansas research professor, a respected leader in the field of geographic information technologies [speculates about] "geoslavery" -- a form of technological human control that could make "George Orwell's `Big Brother' nightmare ... look amateurish." He's talking about overlords electronically punishing errant workers. He's talking about the possibility of people hooked to, tracked by, and potentially shocked or burned using inexpensive electronic bracelets, manacles or implants. Dobson worked for 26 years at Tennessee's Oak Ridge National Laboratory creating, for the government, the maps used in global tracking. He is the president of the American Geographical Society. And he is not alone in his thoughts. [In] the journal published by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, a paper titled "Geoslavery" is co-written by Dobson and Peter F. Fisher, British editor of the International Journal of Geographical Information Science. "Human tracking systems, currently sold commercially without restrictions, already empower those who would be masters. Safeguards have not yet evolved to protect those destined to be slaves," they wrote. With a laptop computer, employers can keep track of their drivers' every move. Implanted chips ... keep track of livestock or pets. Whereify Wireless Inc. sells its GPS Kids Locator for $400. The device, which also looks like a watch, can be locked to a child's wrist. Dobson said that ... none of the companies was thinking of anything nefarious. [Yet he] worries that where there is an evil will, there is an evil way. He hopes [to ] create debate and perhaps legislation or safeguards around the technology that will keep it from being misused.




Internet Giants Erect Barriers to Spy Agencies
2014-06-07, New York Times
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/07/technology/internet-giants-erect-barriers-t...

[Google engineers] are making it far more difficult — and far more expensive — for the National Security Agency and the intelligence arms of other governments around the world to pierce their systems. As fast as it can, Google is sealing up cracks in its systems that Edward J. Snowden revealed the N.S.A. had brilliantly exploited. It is encrypting more data as it moves among its servers and helping customers encode their own emails. Facebook, Microsoft and Yahoo are taking similar steps. After years of cooperating with the government, the immediate goal now is to thwart Washington — as well as Beijing and Moscow. The strategy is also intended to preserve business overseas in places like Brazil and Germany that have threatened to entrust data only to local providers. A year after Mr. Snowden’s revelations, the era of quiet cooperation is over. Telecommunications companies say they are denying requests to volunteer data not covered by existing law. A.T.&T., Verizon and others say that compared with a year ago, they are far more reluctant to cooperate with the United States government in “gray areas” where there is no explicit requirement for a legal warrant. But governments are fighting back, harder than ever. The cellphone giant Vodafone reported ... that a “small number” of governments around the world have demanded the ability to tap directly into its communication networks [and] noted that some countries did not issue warrants to obtain phone, email or web-searching traffic, because “the relevant agencies and authorities already have permanent access to customer communications via their own direct link.”

Note: For more on this, see concise summaries of deeply revealing government surveillance news articles from reliable major media sources.




Everyone should know just how much the government lied to defend the NSA
2014-05-17, The Guardian (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/may/17/government-lies-nsa-just...

Just before Edward Snowden became a household name, the ACLU argued before the supreme court that the FISA Amendments Act – one of the two main laws used by the NSA to conduct mass surveillance – was unconstitutional. In a sharply divided opinion, the Supreme Court ruled, 5-4, that the case should be dismissed because the plaintiffs didn't have "standing". The court relied on two claims by the Justice Department to support their ruling: 1) that the NSA would only get the content of Americans' communications without a warrant when they are targeting a foreigner abroad for surveillance, and 2) that the Justice Department would notify criminal defendants who have been spied on under the Fisa Amendments Act, so there exists some way to challenge the law in court. It turns out that neither of those statements were true. One of the most explosive Snowden revelations exposed a then-secret technique known as "about" surveillance. As the New York Times first reported, the NSA "is searching the contents of vast amounts of Americans' e-mail and text communications into and out of the country, hunting for people who mention information about foreigners under surveillance." In other words, the NSA doesn't just target a contact overseas – it sweeps up everyone's international communications into a dragnet and searches them for keywords. The Snowden leaks also pushed the Justice Department to admit ... that the government hadn't been notifying any defendants they were being charged based on NSA surveillance.

Note: For more on the realities of intelligence agency operations, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.




New surveillance technology can track everyone in an area for several hours at a time
2014-02-05, Washington Post
http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/technology/new-surveillance-technology...

From 10,000 feet up, tracking an entire city at one glance: Ohio-based Persistent Surveillance Systems is trying to convince cities across the country that its surveillance technology can help reduce crime. Its new generation of camera technology is far more powerful than the police cameras to which America has grown accustomed. But these newer cameras have sparked some privacy concerns. A new, far more powerful generation is being quietly deployed [from small aircraft] that can track every vehicle and person across an area the size of a small city, for several hours at a time. Although these cameras can’t read license plates or see faces, they provide such a wealth of data that police, businesses and even private individuals can use them to help identify people and track their movements. Already, the cameras have been flown above major public events such as the Ohio political rally where Sen. John McCain named Sarah Palin as his running mate in 2008. They’ve been flown above Baltimore; Philadelphia; Compton, Calif.; and Dayton [OH] in demonstrations for police. They’ve also been used for traffic impact studies, [and] for security at NASCAR races. Defense contractors are developing similar technology for the military, but its potential for civilian use is raising novel civil liberties concerns. In Dayton, where Persistent Surveillance Systems is based, city officials balked last year when police considered paying for 200 hours of flights, in part because of privacy complaints. The Supreme Court generally has given wide latitude to police using aerial surveillance as long as the photography captures images visible to the naked eye.

Note: For more on surveillance by government agencies and corporations, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.




Edward Snowden, after months of NSA revelations, says his mission’s accomplished
2013-12-23, Washington Post
http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/edward-snowden-after-mo...

Taken together, the [Edward Snowden] revelations have brought to light a global surveillance system that cast off many of its historical restraints after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Secret legal authorities empowered the NSA to sweep in the telephone, Internet and location records of whole populations. Six months after the first revelations ... Snowden agreed to reflect at length on the roots and repercussions of his choice. He was relaxed and animated over two days of nearly unbroken conversation. Snowden offered vignettes from his intelligence career and from his recent life as “an indoor cat” in Russia. But he consistently steered the conversation back to surveillance, democracy and the meaning of the documents he exposed. “For me, in terms of personal satisfaction, the mission’s already accomplished,” he said. “I already won. As soon as the journalists were able to work, everything that I had been trying to do was validated. Because, remember, I didn’t want to change society. I wanted to give society a chance to determine if it should change itself. All I wanted was for the public to be able to have a say in how they are governed,” he said. Snowden ... had come to believe that a dangerous machine of mass surveillance was growing unchecked. Closed-door oversight by Congress and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court was a “graveyard of judgment,” he said, manipulated by the agency it was supposed to keep in check. The NSA’s business is “information dominance,” the use of other people’s secrets to shape events. At 29, Snowden upended the agency on its own turf.

Note: For more on the realities of intelligence agency activities, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.




Security Check Now Starts Long Before You Fly
2013-10-22, New York Times
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/22/business/security-check-now-starts-long-bef...

The Transportation Security Administration is expanding its screening of passengers before they arrive at the airport by searching a wide array of government and private databases that can include records like car registrations and employment information. It is unclear precisely what information the agency is relying upon to make these risk assessments, given the extensive range of records it can access, including tax identification number, past travel itineraries, property records, physical characteristics, and law enforcement or intelligence information. The measures go beyond the background check the government has conducted for years, called Secure Flight, in which a passenger’s name, gender and date of birth are compared with terrorist watch lists. Now, the search includes using a traveler’s passport number, which is already used to screen people at the border, and other identifiers to access a system of databases maintained by the Department of Homeland Security. “I think the best way to look at it is as a pre-crime assessment every time you fly,” said Edward Hasbrouck, a consultant to the Identity Project, one of the groups that oppose the prescreening initiatives. “The default will be the highest, most intrusive level of search, and anything less will be conditioned on providing some additional information in some fashion.” Critics argue that the problem with what the agency calls an “intelligence-driven, risk-based analysis” of passenger data is that secret computer rules, not humans, make these determinations. Civil liberties groups have questioned whether the agency has the legal authority to make these assessments.

Note: For more on the realities of intelligence agency operations, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.




Democratic establishment unmasked: prime defenders of NSA bulk spying
2013-07-25, The Guardian (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/jul/25/democratic-establishment...

When it comes to foreign policy, war, assassinations, drones, surveillance, secrecy, and civil liberties, President Obama's most stalwart, enthusiastic defenders are often found among the most radical precincts of the Republican Party. The extraordinary events that took place in the House of Representatives [on July 24] are perhaps the most vivid illustration yet of this dynamic. The House voted on an amendment sponsored by Justin Amash, the young Michigan lawyer elected in 2010 as a Tea Party candidate, and co-sponsored by John Conyers, the 24-term senior Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee. The amendment was simple. It would de-fund one single NSA program: the agency's bulk collection of the telephone records of all Americans. The amendment yesterday was defeated. A majority of House Democrats supported the Amash/Conyers amendment, while a majority of Republicans voted against it. As the New York Times put it in its account of yesterday's vote: "Conservative Republicans leery of what they see as Obama administration abuses of power teamed up with liberal Democrats long opposed to intrusive intelligence programs. The Obama administration made common cause with the House Republican leadership to try to block it." The fate of the amendment was sealed when the Obama White House ... announced its vehement opposition to it, and then sent NSA officials to the House to scare members that barring the NSA from collecting all phone records of all Americans would "Help The Terrorists."

Note: For more on government privacy invasions, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.




Connecting the Dots on PRISM, Phone Surveillance, and the NSA’s Massive Spy Center
2013-06-12, Wired Magazine
http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2013/06/nsa-prism-verizon-surveillance

Long before Edward Snowden walked out of the NSA with his trove of documents, whistleblowers there had been trying for years to bring attention to the massive turn toward domestic spying that the agency was making. Last year in my Wired cover story on the enormous new NSA data center in Utah, Bill Binney, the man who largely designed the agency’s worldwide eavesdropping system, warned of the secret, nationwide surveillance. He told how the NSA had gained access to billions of billing records not only from AT&T but also from Verizon. I also wrote about Adrienne J. Kinne, an NSA intercept operator who attempted to blow the whistle on the NSA’s illegal eavesdropping on Americans following the 9/11 attacks. She [attempted and failed] to end the illegal activity with appeals all the way up the chain of command to Major General Keith Alexander. The deception by General Alexander is especially troubling. In my new cover story for Wired’s July issue ...I show how he has become the most powerful intelligence chief in the nation’s history. Never before has anyone in America’s intelligence sphere come close to his degree of power, the number of people under his command, the expanse of his rule, the length of his reign, or the depth of his secrecy. A four-star Army general, his authority extends across three domains: He is director of the world’s largest intelligence service, the National Security Agency; chief of the Central Security Service; and commander of the U.S. Cyber Command. As such, he has his own secret military, presiding over the Navy’s 10th Fleet, the 24th Air Force, and the Second Army.

Note: James Bamford, the author of this article, was the ABC producer responsible for breaking the story on Operation Northwoods, which proved a level of deception almost beyond belief at the very highest levels of the Pentagon. For more on this, click here. For deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources on the realities of intelligence agency activity, click here.




OnStar's 'brazen' data tracking comes under fire
2011-09-26, CNN
http://money.cnn.com/2011/09/26/technology/schumer_onstar_investigation/index...

Your OnStar-equipped car can share an awful lot about your driving habits -- even if you're no longer an OnStar customer. A senator from New York has asked the Federal Trade Commission to open an investigation into vehicle tracking by General Motors' OnStar division. Two other senators issued calls for the company to explain and reconsider its tracking policies. OnStar, which provides a variety of services including vehicle diagnostics, driving directions and automated 911 calls to owners of mostly GM vehicles, recently announced that it reserves the right to track and sell information about vehicles' location and speed even after the driver has stopped subscribing to the service. OnStar, which has around 6 million subscribers, relies on GPS tracking and other systems built into the car. Senator Charles Schumer, a Democrat from New York,... called the tracking "one of the most brazen invasions of privacy in recent memory." Senators Al Franken and Christopher Coons, both Democrats, sent a letter to OnStar last week saying that the company's actions "appear to violate basic principles of privacy and fairness." OnStar reserves the right to sell "anonymized" information collected from vehicles to outside companies. "Anonymized" data is aggregated on cannot be traced back to any individual vehicle or person. But hackers have been able to tease out individual user information from supposedly anonymized data, Schumer noted in his announcement.

Note: For more on corporate and government privacy invasions, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.




Turning camera on police activities is good thing
2011-05-20, San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco's leading newspaper)
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2011/05/19/ED6L1JICLV.DTL

What's good for the police apparently isn't good for the people - or so the law enforcement community would have us believe when it comes to surveillance. That's a concise summary of a new trend noted by National Public Radio last week - the trend whereby law enforcement officials have been trying to prevent civilians from using cell phone cameras in public places as a means of deterring police brutality. Oddly, the effort - which employs both forcible arrests of videographers and legal proceedings against them - comes at a time when the American Civil Liberties Union reports that "an increasing number of American cities and towns are investing millions of taxpayer dollars in surveillance camera systems." The assault on civil liberties in America is a very real problem. As USA Today reported under the headline "Police brutality cases on rise since 9/11," situations "in which police, prison guards and other law enforcement authorities have used excessive force or other tactics to violate victims' civil rights increased 25 percent" between 2001 and 2007. Last year alone, more than 1,500 officers were involved in excessive force complaints, according to the National Police Misconduct Statistics and Reporting Project.

Note: For lots more from major media sources on government and police threats to civil liberties and privacy, click here and here.




Documents Reveal TSA Research Proposal To Body-Scan Pedestrians, Train Passengers
2011-03-02, Forbes blog
http://blogs.forbes.com/andygreenberg/2011/03/02/docs-reveal-tsa-plan-to-body...

Giving Transportation Security Administration agents a peek under your clothes may soon be a practice that goes well beyond airport checkpoints. Newly uncovered documents show that as early as 2006, the Department of Homeland Security has been planning pilot programs to deploy mobile scanning units that can be set up at public events and in train stations, along with mobile x-ray vans capable of scanning pedestrians on city streets. The non-profit Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) [has] published documents it obtained from the Department of Homeland Security showing that from 2006 to 2008 the agency planned a study of of new anti-terrorism technologies. The projects range from what the DHS describes as “a walk through x-ray screening system that could be deployed at entrances to special events” ... to “covert inspection of moving subjects” employing the same backscatter imaging technology currently used in American airports. The 173-page collection of contracts and reports, acquired through a Freedom of Information Act request, includes contracts with Siemens Corporations, Northeastern University, and Rapiscan Systems. One project allocated to Northeastern University and Siemens would mount backscatter x-ray scanners and video cameras on roving vans, along with other cameras on buildings and utility poles, to monitor groups of pedestrians, assess what they carried, and even track their eye movements. It’s not clear to what degree the technologies outlined in the DHS documents have been implemented.

Note: When WantToKnow.info manager Fred Burks worked as a language interpreter with the US State Department, he accompanied foreign dignitaries on ride-alongs with police where they were already using equipment like this over 10 years ago in clear violation of privacy laws. For other major media articles revealing clear violations of civil liberties, click here.




Domestic use of aerial drones by law enforcement likely to prompt privacy debate
2011-01-23, Washington Post
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/01/22/AR20110122041...

The suspect's house, just west of this city, sat on a hilltop at the end of a steep, exposed driveway. Agents with the Texas Department of Public Safety believed the man inside had a large stash of drugs and a cache of weapons. The Texas agents did what no state or local law enforcement agency had done before in a high-risk operation: They launched a drone. A bird-size device called a Wasp floated hundreds of feet into the sky and instantly beamed live video to agents on the ground. The SWAT team stormed the house and arrested the suspect. "The nice thing is it's covert," said Bill C. Nabors Jr., chief pilot with the Texas DPS, "You don't hear it, and unless you know what you're looking for, you can't see it." The drone technology that has revolutionized warfare in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan is entering the national airspace. The operation outside Austin presaged what could prove to be one of the most far-reaching and potentially controversial uses of drones: as a new and relatively cheap surveillance tool in domestic law enforcement. By 2013, the FAA expects to have formulated new rules that would allow police across the country to routinely fly lightweight, unarmed drones up to 400 feet above the ground - high enough for them to be largely invisible eyes in the sky. Such technology could allow police to record the activities of the public below with high-resolution, infrared and thermal-imaging cameras.

Note: For lots more from reliable sources on government and corporate threats to privacy, click here.




AT&T Case Asks High Court to Assign Privacy Rights to Companies
2011-01-19, Bloomberg/Businessweek
http://www.businessweek.com/news/2011-01-19/at-t-case-asks-high-court-to-assi...

A business privacy case that comes before the U.S. Supreme Court today may rekindle a debate among the justices over whether corporations are like people, even to the point of suffering embarrassment. The case ... pits the Obama administration against AT&T Inc. over the release of documents stemming from a government investigation of the company. The question is whether corporations can invoke a Freedom of Information Act provision that protects against invasions of “personal privacy.” In siding with AT&T, a lower court said companies can be embarrassed and stigmatized just like human beings -- a contention the Obama administration scoffed at. The court’s divisions were on display when it considered whether to overturn decades-old restrictions on corporate campaign spending. During arguments in 2009, Justice Sonia Sotomayor said that judges “created corporations as persons” and that they might have been wrong to have “imbued a creature of state law with human characteristics.” Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said that “a corporation, after all, is not endowed by its creator with inalienable rights.” The court majority disagreed, ruling in a 5-4 decision that corporations have the same constitutional right to spend money on campaign ads as individuals do.

Note: For lots more on government and corporate corruption, click here and here.




U.S. Tries to Make It Easier to Wiretap the Internet
2010-09-27, New York Times
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/27/us/27wiretap.html

Federal law enforcement and national security officials are preparing to seek sweeping new regulations for the Internet, arguing that their ability to wiretap criminal and terrorism suspects is “going dark” as people increasingly communicate online instead of by telephone. Essentially, officials want Congress to require all services that enable communications — including encrypted e-mail transmitters like BlackBerry, social networking Web sites like Facebook and software that allows direct “peer to peer” messaging like Skype — to be technically capable of complying if served with a wiretap order. The mandate would include being able to intercept and unscramble encrypted messages. James X. Dempsey, vice president of the Center for Democracy and Technology, an Internet policy group, said the proposal had “huge implications” and challenged “fundamental elements of the Internet revolution” — including its decentralized design. “They are really asking for the authority to redesign services that take advantage of the unique, and now pervasive, architecture of the Internet,” he said. “They basically want to turn back the clock and make Internet services function the way that the telephone system used to function.”

Note: For an analysis of this new government move to spy on US citizens, click here. For lots more from reliable sources on disturbing government threats to privacy and civil liberties, click here and here.




U.S. Plans Cyber Shield for Utilities, Companies
2010-07-08, Wall Street Journal
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704545004575352983850463108.html

The federal government is launching an expansive program dubbed "Perfect Citizen" to detect cyber assaults on private companies and government agencies running such critical infrastructure as the electricity grid and nuclear-power plants. The surveillance by the National Security Agency, the government's chief eavesdropping agency, would rely on a set of sensors deployed in computer networks for critical infrastructure that would be triggered by unusual activity suggesting an impending cyber attack. Defense contractor Raytheon Corp. recently won a classified contract for the initial phase of the surveillance effort valued at up to $100 million. Some industry and government officials familiar with the program see Perfect Citizen as an intrusion by the NSA into domestic affairs. One internal Raytheon email, the text of which was seen by The Wall Street Journal [said,] "Perfect Citizen is Big Brother." Raytheon declined to comment on this email. The information gathered by Perfect Citizen could also have applications beyond the critical infrastructure sector, officials said, serving as a data bank that would also help companies and agencies who call upon NSA for help with investigations of cyber attacks, as Google did when it sustained a major attack late last year.

Note: For key reports of government and corporate surveillance from reliable sources, click here.




Watching Certain People
2010-03-02, New York Times
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/02/opinion/02herbert.html

From 2004 through 2009, in a policy that has gotten completely out of control, New York City police officers stopped people on the street and checked them out nearly three million times, frisking and otherwise humiliating many of them. Upward of 90 percent of the people stopped are completely innocent of any wrongdoing. And yet the New York Police Department is compounding this intolerable indignity by compiling an enormous and permanent computerized database of these encounters between innocent New Yorkers and the police. “They have been collecting the names and all sorts of other information about everybody who is stopped and frisked on the streets,” said Donna Lieberman, the executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, which is fighting the department’s stop-and-frisk policy and its compiling of data on people who are innocent. “This is a massive database of innocent, overwhelmingly black and Latino people,” she said. Police Commissioner Kelly has made it clear that this monstrous database, growing by a half-million or so stops each year, is to be a permanent feature of the department’s operations.

Note: For lots more from major media sources on serious threats to civil liberties, click here.




A list for those who complain
2009-11-29, San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco's leading newspaper)
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2009/11/29/IN941APQS7.DTL

In spring 2007, as one of many American air travelers who were inconvenienced when our names popped up on a federal "watch list," I never could get straight answers from my government. Was this a mistake, or was I being flagged for some reason? How many Americans were on that watch list? What were the criteria for getting on it? I filed my appeal with the Department of Homeland Security's Travel Redress Inquiry Program (TRIP). The Department of Homeland Security received 75,315 requests for redress under the TRIP program as of Oct. 31. Of those requests, 49,826 have been adjudicated, 7,217 are under review, and 18,272 are awaiting supporting documentation, according to the DHS. "Absolutely, the system didn't work as well as it should have," said Suzanne Trevino, a spokeswoman for the Transportation Security Administration. Once an airline receives a passenger's control number, along with full name, date of birth and gender, that information is transmitted to the government for clearance. Fewer than 2,500 known and suspected terrorists are actually on the "no fly" list, according to Trevino. And less than 10 percent of them are Americans. [Yet] the FBI's Terrorist Screening Center has acknowledged that its watch list has more than 1 million entries of names and aliases representing about 400,000 people [with] with an average of 1,600 people who presented a "reasonable suspicion" being added every day.

Note: For many revealing reports from major media sources on the worsening threats to civil liberties, click here.




President Obama in 'snooping' row over US car scrappage scheme
2009-08-07, Times of London (One of the U.K.'s leading newspapers)
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/us_and_americas/article6742322.ece

President Obama's effort to revive the American car industry with a "cash-for-clunkers" scheme has become embroiled in a row over government snooping. The problems arose after the Department of Transportation claimed that when dealers logged on to the clunkers website their computers – and everything on them – become the property of the US Government. "This application provides access to the Department of Transportation (DoT) CARS system," the warning message read. "When logged on to the CARS system, your computer is considered a Federal computer system and is the property of the United States Government. Any or all uses of this system and all files on this system may be intercepted, monitored, recorded, copied, audited, inspected, and disclosed to authorised CARS, DoT, and law enforcement personnel, as well as authorised officials of other agencies, both domestic and foreign." By the time the disclaimer had been circulated widely on blogs, posted on YouTube and become the subject of a ferocious on-air editorial by the conservative Fox News host Glenn Beck, the Department of Transportation had issued a statement saying that "we are working to revise the language". No explanation was given as to why the original disclaimer was worded so aggressively. Members of the general public do not need to log on to the website so were not asked to agree to the same conditions as dealers. Mr Obama's ... critics argue that the controversy is another example of the intrusiveness that will accompany the President's plans to expand the role of government in the lives of Americans.

Note: Watch a revealing Fox news video report of this unbelievable development at this link. Big Brother at work.




Cybersecurity Plan to Involve NSA, Telecoms
2009-07-03, Washington Post
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/07/02/AR20090702027...

The Obama administration will proceed with a Bush-era plan to use National Security Agency assistance in screening government computer traffic on private-sector networks, with AT&T as the likely test site, according to three current and former government officials. President Obama said in May that government efforts to protect computer systems from attack would not involve "monitoring private-sector networks or Internet traffic," and Department of Homeland Security officials say the new program will scrutinize only data going to or from government systems. But the program has provoked debate within DHS, the officials said, because of uncertainty about whether private data can be shielded from unauthorized scrutiny, how much of a role NSA should play and whether the agency's involvement in warrantless wiretapping during George W. Bush's presidency would draw controversy. Each time a private citizen visited a "dot-gov" Web site or sent an e-mail to a civilian government employee, that action would be screened for potential harm to the network. Under a classified pilot program approved during the Bush administration, NSA data and hardware would be used to protect the networks of some civilian government agencies. Part of an initiative known as Einstein 3, the plan called for telecommunications companies to route the Internet traffic of civilian agencies through a monitoring box that would search for and block computer codes designed to penetrate or otherwise compromise networks. AT&T, the world's largest telecommunications firm, was the Bush administration's choice to participate in the test. AT&T officials declined to comment. The prospect of NSA involvement in cybersecurity ... fuels concerns about unwarranted government snooping into private communication."

Note: For lots more on government and corporate threats to privacy, click here and here.




The Court That May Not Be Heard
2007-12-15, New York Times
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/15/opinion/15sat2.html?ex=1355374800&en=722ead...

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, the special court that reviews government requests for warrants to spy on suspected foreign agents in the United States, seems to have forgotten that its job is to ensure that the government is accountable for following the law — not to help the Bush administration keep its secrets. Last week, the court denied a request by the American Civil Liberties Union to release portions of past rulings that would explain how it has interpreted the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA. The court should share its legal reasoning with the public. After the 9/11 attacks, the National Security Agency for years engaged in domestic spying that violated both FISA and the Constitution. Earlier this year, after a court ruled that the program was illegal, the Bush administration said that in the future it would conduct surveillance with the approval of the intelligence court. At the same time, it announced that a judge of the court had issued orders setting out how the program could proceed. The administration has repeatedly referred to these orders, but has refused to make them public. As a result, it is impossible for the American people — and even some members of Congress — to know how the court reached its conclusions, or the state of the law with respect to domestic surveillance. The idea of courts developing law in secret and handing down legal principles that the public cannot know about should not be part of the American legal system. That is especially true when the subject matter is as important as the government spying on its citizens, an issue the founders — who drafted the Fourth Amendment — cared about deeply. The people have a right to know how the act, which is in the process of being revised, is being interpreted so they can tell their elected representatives what they think the law should be.




"A Blow at the Core of Fourth Amendment Protections"
2007-11-28, New York Times
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/28/opinion/28wed2.html

The Constitution protects individuals against unreasonable searches, but for this protection to have practical meaning, the courts must enforce it. This week, the Supreme Court let stand a disturbing ruling out of California that allows law enforcement to barge into people’s homes without a warrant. The case has not prompted much outrage, perhaps because the people whose privacy is being invaded are welfare recipients, but it is a serious setback for the privacy rights of all Americans. San Diego County’s district attorney has a program called Project 100% that is intended to reduce welfare fraud. Applicants for welfare benefits are visited by law enforcement agents, who show up unannounced and examine the family’s home, including the insides of cabinets and closets. The program does not meet the standards set out by the Fourth Amendment. For a search to be reasonable, there generally must be some kind of individualized suspicion of wrongdoing. These searches are done in the homes of people who have merely applied for welfare and have done nothing to arouse suspicion. The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, based in San Francisco, rejected a challenge brought by welfare recipients. In ruling that the program does not violate the Constitution, the majority made the bizarre assertion that the home visits are not “searches.” It is a fun-house mirrors version of constitutional analysis for a court to say that government agents are not conducting a search when they show up unannounced in a person’s home and rifle through her bedroom dresser. Judge Harry Pregerson, writing for himself and six other Ninth Circuit judges who voted to reconsider the case, got it right. The majority decision upholding Project 100%, Judge Pregerson wrote, “strikes an unprecedented blow at the core of Fourth Amendment protections.” When the government is allowed to show up unannounced without a warrant and search people’s homes, it is bad news for all of us.




Telecom Firms Helped With Government's Warrantless Wiretaps
2007-08-24, Washington Post
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/08/23/AR20070823020...

The Bush administration acknowledged for the first time that telecommunications companies assisted the government's warrantless surveillance program and were being sued as a result, an admission some legal experts say could complicate the government's bid to halt numerous lawsuits challenging the program's legality. "[U]nder the president's program, the terrorist surveillance program, the private sector had assisted us," Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell said in an interview with the El Paso Times. His statement could help plaintiffs in dozens of lawsuits against the telecom companies, which allege that the companies participated in a wiretapping program that violated Americans' privacy rights. David Kris, a former Justice Department official, ... said McConnell's admission makes it difficult to argue that the phone companies' cooperation with the government is a state secret. "It's going to be tough to continue to call it 'alleged' when he's just admitted it," Kris said. McConnell has just added to "the list of publicly available facts that are no longer state secrets," increasing the plaintiffs' chances that their cases can proceed, Kris said. McConnell's statement "does serious damage to the government's state secrets claims that are at the heart of its defenses," said Greg Nojeim, senior counsel at the Center for Democracy and Technology. Bruce Fein, an associate deputy attorney general in the Reagan administration, said that McConnell's disclosure shows that "an important element of a program can be discussed publicly and openly without endangering the nation. These Cassandran cries that the earth is going to fall every time you have a discussion simply are not borne out by the facts," he said.




Bush Signs Law to Widen Legal Reach for Wiretapping
2007-08-06, New York Times
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/08/06/washington/06nsa.html?ex=1344052800&en=5e75...

President Bush signed into law ... legislation that broadly [expands] the government’s authority to eavesdrop on the international telephone calls and e-mail messages of American citizens without warrants. The law [goes] far beyond the small fixes that administration officials had said were needed to gather information about foreign terrorists [and will] sharply alter the legal limits on the government’s ability to monitor millions of phone calls and e-mail messages going in and out of the United States. The new law for the first time [provides] a legal framework for much of the surveillance without warrants that was being conducted in secret by the National Security Agency and outside the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the 1978 law that is supposed to regulate the way the government can listen to the private communications of American citizens. “This more or less legalizes the N.S.A. program,” said Kate Martin, director of the Center for National Security Studies in Washington. Previously, the government needed search warrants approved by a special intelligence court to eavesdrop on ... electronic communications between individuals inside the United States and people overseas. The new law gives the attorney general and the director of national intelligence the power to approve the international surveillance, rather than the special intelligence court. The law also gave the administration greater power to force telecommunications companies to cooperate with such spying operations. The companies can now be compelled to cooperate by orders from the attorney general and the director of national intelligence.




In Intelligence World, A Mute Watchdog
2007-07-15, Washington Post
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/07/14/AR20070714008...

An independent oversight board created to identify intelligence abuses after the CIA scandals of the 1970s did not send any reports to the attorney general of legal violations during the first 5 1/2 years of the Bush administration's counterterrorism effort, the Justice Department has told Congress. The President's Intelligence Oversight Board -- the principal civilian watchdog of the intelligence community -- is obligated under a 26-year-old executive order to tell the attorney general and the president about any intelligence activities it believes "may be unlawful." The board was vacant for the first two years of the Bush administration. The board's mandate is to provide independent oversight, so the absence of such communications has prompted critics to question whether the board was doing its job. "It's now apparent that the IOB was not actively employed in the early part of the administration. And it was a crucial period when its counsel would seem to have been needed the most," said Anthony Harrington, who served as the board's chairman for most of the Clinton administration. Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) added: "It is deeply disturbing that this administration seems to spend so much of its energy and resources trying to find ways to ignore any check and balance on its authority and avoid accountability to Congress and the American public."




Police Log Confirms FBI Role In Arrests
2007-04-03, Washington Post
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/04/02/AR20070402015...

A secret FBI intelligence unit helped detain a group of war protesters in a downtown Washington parking garage in April 2002 and interrogated some of them on videotape about their political and religious beliefs. [Washington] D.C. police said authorities only recently found the logs of police responses to that day's events. That discovery came after three years of police assurances in federal court that no such records or logs existed showing the FBI's role. The FBI and D.C. police said they had no records of such an incident. And police told a federal court that no FBI agents were present when officers arrested more than 20 protesters that afternoon for trespassing; police viewed them as suspicious for milling around the parking garage entrance. Similar intelligence-gathering operations have been reported in New York, where a local police intelligence unit tried to infiltrate groups planning to protest at the Republican National Convention in 2004, and in Colorado, where records surfaced showing that the FBI collected names and license plates of people protesting timber industry practices at a 2002 industry convention.




Gonzales says the Constitution doesn't guarantee habeas corpus
2007-01-24, San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco's leading newspaper)
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2007/01/24/MNGDONO11O1.DTL

One of the Bush administration's most far-reaching assertions of government power was revealed quietly last week when Attorney General Alberto Gonzales testified that habeas corpus -- the right to go to federal court and challenge one's imprisonment -- is not protected by the Constitution. "The Constitution doesn't say every individual in the United States or every citizen is hereby granted or assured the right of habeas," Gonzales told Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Jan. 17. Gonzales acknowledged that the Constitution declares "habeas corpus shall not be suspended unless ... in cases of rebellion or invasion the public safety may require it." But he insisted that "there is no express grant of habeas in the Constitution." Specter was incredulous, asking how the Constitution could bar the suspension of a right that didn't exist -- a right, he noted, that was first recognized in medieval England as a shield against the king's power to dispatch troublesome subjects to royal dungeons. Later in the hearing, Gonzales described habeas corpus as "one of our most cherished rights'' and noted that Congress had protected that right in the 1789 law that established the federal court system. But he never budged from his position on the absence of constitutional protection -- a position that seemingly would leave Congress free to reduce habeas corpus rights or repeal them altogether.




Bush Claims Right to Open Mail
2007-01-04, Washington Post
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/blog/2007/01/04/BL2007010400803....

The New York Daily News today reports on a signing statement President Bush quietly issued two weeks ago, in which he asserts his right to open mail without a warrant. Signing statements have historically been used by presidents mostly to explain how they intend to enforce the laws passed by Congress; Bush has used them to quietly assert his right to ignore those laws. The President asserted his new authority when he signed a postal reform bill into law on Dec. 20. Bush then issued a 'signing statement' that declared his right to open people's mail under emergency conditions. That claim is contrary to existing law and contradicted the bill he had just signed, say experts who have reviewed it. The Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act ... explicitly reinforced protections of first-class mail from searches without a court's approval. Here is the signing statement in question. Here is information on the bill in question. Are these signing statements just a bunch of ideological bluster from overenthusiastic White House lawyers -- or are they actually emboldening administration officials to flout the laws passed by Congress? If the latter, Bush's unprecedented use of these statements constitutes a genuine Constitutional crisis.




US group implants electronic tags in workers
2006-02-13, MSNBC/Financial Times
http://msnbc.msn.com/id/11314766/

An Ohio company has embedded silicon chips in two of its employees - the first known case in which US workers have been "tagged" electronically as a way of identifying them. A private video surveillance company said it was testing the technology as a way of controlling access to a room where it holds security video footage for government agencies and the police. Embedding slivers of silicon in workers is likely to add to the controversy over RFID technology, widely seen as one of the next big growth industries. RFID chips – inexpensive radio transmitters that give off a unique identifying signal – have been implanted in pets or attached to goods so they can be tracked in transit. "There are very serious privacy and civil liberty issues of having people permanently numbered," said Liz McIntyre, who campaigns against the use of identification technology. "There's nothing pulsing or sending out a signal," said Mr Darks, who has had a chip in his own arm. "It's not a GPS chip. My wife can't tell where I am." The technology's defenders say it is acceptable as long as it is not compulsory. But critics say any implanted device could be used to track the "wearer" without their knowledge.




NSA Whistleblower Alleges Illegal Spying
2006-01-10, ABC News
http://abcnews.go.com/WNT/Investigation/story?id=1491889

Russell Tice, a longtime insider at the National Security Agency, is now a whistleblower the agency would like to keep quiet. For 20 years, Tice worked in the shadows. "I specialized in what's called special access programs," Tice said of his job. "We called them 'black world' programs and operations." Some of those secret "black world" operations run by the NSA were operated in ways that he believes violated the law. He is prepared to tell Congress all he knows. Tice says the technology exists to track and sort through every domestic and international phone call...and to search for key words or phrases that a terrorist might use. Tice...says the number of Americans subject to eavesdropping by the NSA could be in the millions if the full range of secret NSA programs is used. "For most Americans [who] placed an overseas communication, more than likely they were sucked into that vacuum." He told ABC News that he was a source for the [New York] Times. But Tice maintains that his conscience is clear. "We need to clean up the intelligence community. We've had abuses, and they need to be addressed." The NSA revoked Tice's security clearance in May of last year based on what it called psychological concerns and later dismissed him. Tice calls that bunk and says that's the way the NSA deals with troublemakers and whistleblowers.




Passports go electronic with new microchip
2004-12-09, Christian Science Monitor
http://www.csmonitor.com/2004/1209/p12s01-stct.html

The US passport is about to go electronic, with a tiny microchip embedded in its cover. The chip is the latest outpost in the battle to outwit tamperers. But it's also one that worries privacy advocates. The RFID (radio frequency identification) chip in each passport will contain the same personal data as now appear on the inside pages - name, date of birth, place of birth, issuing office - and a digitized version of the photo. But the 64K chip will be read remotely. And there's the rub. The scenario, privacy advocates say, could be as simple as you standing in line with your passport as someone walks by innocuously carrying a briefcase. Inside that case, a microchip reader could be skimming data from your passport to be used for identity theft. Or maybe authorities or terrorists want to see who's gathered in a crowd and surreptitiously survey your ID and track you. Why not choose a contact chip, where there would be no possibility of skimming, asks Barry Steinhardt, director of the ACLU's Technology and Liberty Project. "There was another way to go, which was to put an electronic strip in the passport that would require contact." The State Department says it's just following international standards set by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), under the umbrella of the United Nations. The ICAO specified the RFID ... at the behest of the United States. All countries that are part of the US visa-waiver program must use the new passports by Oct. 26, 2005. Mr. Steinhardt ... says the US pushed through the standards against the reservations of the Europeans. "Bush says at the G8 meeting, 'We have to adhere to the global standard,' as though we had nothing to do with it," he says in exasperation.

Note: If the above link fails, click here. For more on the risk of RFID chips, click here.




A Real Chip On Your Shoulder
2003-07-17, CBS News/Associated Press
http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2003/07/17/tech/main563819.shtml

A U.S. company launched Thursday in Mexico the sale of microchips that can be implanted under a person's skin and used to confirm everything from health history to identity. The microchips ... went on sale last year in the United States. The microchip, the size of a grain of rice, is implanted in the arm or hip and can contain information on everything from a person's blood type to their name. In a two-hour presentation, Palm Beach, Florida-based Applied Digital Solutions Inc. introduced reporters to the VeriChip and used a syringe-like device and local anesthetic to implant a sample in the right arm of employee Carlos Altamirano. “It doesn't hurt at all,” he said. “The whole process is just painless.” Antonio Aceves, the director of the Mexican company charged with distributing the chip here, said that in the first year of sales, the company hoped to implant chips in 10,000 people and ensure that at least 70 percent of all hospitals had the technology to read the devices. One chip costs $150 and has a $50 annual fee. Users can update and manage their chips' information by calling a 24-hour customer service line. The VeriChip can track subjects who are within 5 miles, but officials want to develop a new chip that can use satellite technology to track people who are farther away and may have been kidnapped. While the idea of using the chip to track people has raised privacy concerns in the United States, the idea has been popular with Mexicans. The company hopes to have the new anti-kidnapping chip developed by 2003.




Edward Snowden urges professionals to encrypt client communications
2014-07-17, The Guardian (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jul/17/edward-snowden-professionals-enc...

The NSA whistleblower, Edward Snowden, has urged lawyers, journalists, doctors, accountants, priests and others with a duty to protect confidentiality to upgrade security in the wake of the spy surveillance revelations. Snowden said professionals were failing in their obligations to their clients, sources, patients and parishioners in what he described as a new and challenging world. "What last year's revelations showed us was irrefutable evidence that unencrypted communications on the internet are no longer safe. Any communications should be encrypted by default," he said. Snowden's plea for the professions to tighten security came during an extensive and revealing interview with the Guardian in Moscow. During the seven hours of interview, Snowden: • Said if he ended up in US detention in Guantánamo Bay he could live with it. • Does not have any regrets. • Said that ... he was independently secure, living on savings, and money from awards and speeches he has delivered online round the world. • Made a startling claim that a culture exists within the NSA in which, during surveillance, nude photographs picked up of people in "sexually compromising" situations are routinely passed around. He works online late into the night; a solitary, digital existence not that dissimilar to his earlier life. He said he was using part of that time to work on the new focus for his technical skills, designing encryption tools to help professionals such as journalists protect sources and data. He is negotiating foundation funding for the project, a contribution to addressing the problem of professions wanting to protect client or patient data, and in this case journalistic sources.

Note: Read the transcript of the Guardian's new interview of Edward Snowden. For more on this, see concise summaries of deeply revealing government surveillance news articles from reliable major media sources.




Snowden: Why hasn’t the Director of National Intelligence been punished for lying to Congress
2014-05-01, Washington Post blog
http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-switch/wp/2014/05/01/snowden-why-hasn...

Former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, and one of the reporters who first broke the news of Snowden's documents, Laura Poitras, received a Ridenhour Truth-Teller prize [on April 30] to a standing ovation at the National Press Club. Snowden leaked classified documents that exposed the NSA's massive global surveillance programs. Snowden ... compared his actions with that of Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper, who denied that the NSA was "wittingly" collecting data on millions of Americans in a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing last spring -- a claim at odds with revelations about domestic phone records collection as a result of documents provided by Snowden. "The oath that I remember is James Clapper raising his hand, swearing to tell the truth and then lying to the American public," Snowden said. "I also swore an oath, but that oath was not to secrecy, but to defend the American Constitution." While Clapper has accused Snowden of perpetrating the most "massive and damaging theft of intelligence" in U.S. history, Snowden argues his actions were serving a larger public interest that superseded the national intelligence need for secrecy. Later in the speech, he described Clapper as having "committed a crime by lying under oath to the American people," and questioned why charges were never brought against the director. By contrast, Snowden said, charges were brought against him soon after he revealed himself as the source of the leaks.

Note: For more on the construction of a total surveillance state, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.




Former whistleblowers: open letter to intelligence employees after Snowden
2013-12-11, The Guardian (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/dec/11/whistleblowers-open-lett...

At least since the aftermath of September 2001, western governments and intelligence agencies have been hard at work expanding the scope of their own power, while eroding privacy, civil liberties and public control of policy. What used to be viewed as paranoid, Orwellian, tin-foil hat fantasies [turn] out post-Snowden, to be not even the whole story. We've been warned for years that these things were going on: wholesale surveillance of entire populations, militarization of the internet, the end of privacy. Secret laws, secret interpretations of secret laws by secret courts and no effective parliamentary oversight whatsoever. By and large the media have paid scant attention to this, even as more and more courageous, principled whistleblowers stepped forward. The unprecedented persecution of truth-tellers, initiated by the Bush administration and severely accelerated by the Obama administration, has been mostly ignored, while record numbers of well-meaning people are charged with serious felonies simply for letting their fellow citizens know what's going on. Numerous ex-NSA officials have come forward in the past decade, disclosing massive fraud, vast illegalities and abuse of power in [that] agency, including Thomas Drake, William Binney and Kirk Wiebe. The response was 100% persecution and 0% accountability by both the NSA and the rest of government. Since the summer of 2013, the public has witnessed a shift in debate over these matters. The reason is that one courageous person: Edward Snowden.

Note: For more on government corruption, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.




U.S. spy agency edges into the light after Snowden revelations
2013-08-25, MSN/Reuters
http://money.msn.com/business-news/article.aspx?feed=OBR&date=20130825&id=168...

There was a time when the U.S. National Security Agency was so secretive that government officials dared not speak its name in public. NSA, the joke went, stood for "No Such Agency." That same agency this month held an on-the-record conference call with reporters, issued a lengthy press release to rebut a newspaper story, and posted documents on a newly launched open website - icontherecord.tumblr.com (which stands for intelligence community on the record). The steps were taken under pressure as President Barack Obama's administration tries to calm a public storm over disclosures by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. The NSA's moves out of the shadows were meant to show that it operates lawfully..., but not everyone is convinced that it is a fundamental shift toward more openness at the intelligence agencies. Jameel Jaffer, deputy legal director at the American Civil Liberties Union, said the [disclosures] should not be viewed as a huge shift toward transparency by the administration. "In fact, on the same day the president promised more transparency on surveillance issues, the CIA filed a brief in one of our 'targeted killing' cases arguing that it could not release legal memos about the drone program, could not release civilian casualty numbers, and for that matter could not even acknowledge that the agency had played any role in targeted killings," Jaffer said.

Note: For more on the realities of intelligence operations, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.




NSA broke privacy rules thousands of times per year, audit finds
2013-08-15, Washington Post
http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/nsa-broke-privacy-rules...

The National Security Agency has broken privacy rules or overstepped its legal authority thousands of times each year since Congress granted the agency broad new powers in 2008, according to an internal audit and other top-secret documents. Most of the infractions involve unauthorized surveillance of Americans or foreign intelligence targets in the United States, both of which are restricted by statute and executive order. They range from significant violations of law to typographical errors that resulted in unintended interception of U.S. e-mails and telephone calls. The documents, provided earlier this summer to The Washington Post by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, include a level of detail and analysis that is not routinely shared with Congress or the special court that oversees surveillance. In one of the documents, agency personnel are instructed to remove details and substitute more generic language in reports to the Justice Department and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. In one instance, the NSA decided that it need not report the unintended surveillance of Americans. The NSA audit obtained by The Post, dated May 2012, counted 2,776 incidents in the preceding 12 months of unauthorized collection, storage, access to or distribution of legally protected communications. Many involved failures of due diligence or violations of standard operating procedure. The most serious incidents included a violation of a court order and unauthorized use of data about more than 3,000 Americans and green-card holders.

Note: For more on the realities of intelligence agency operations, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.




Tech firms push back on digital spying
2013-06-18, San Francisco Chronicle (SF's leading newspaper)
http://www.sfchronicle.com/technology/article/Tech-firms-push-back-on-digital...

Edward Snowden, the whistle-blower shining spotlights on federal surveillance practices, made a rhetorical - and volatile - point during an online question-and-answer session Monday. "If Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Apple refused to provide this cooperation with the intelligence community, what do you think the government would do? Shut them down?" he asked. Snowden's point implies that tech companies should push back on all government requests for data on their users. Prosecuting these much-used companies for noncompliance would only shed light on the extent of the programs they aimed to keep secret in the first place. Whether a tech company dares go that far remains to be seen. But in the past week a number of household names in Silicon Valley have at least started demanding more freedom to disclose what the government wants to know about their users. As the tech companies associated with Snowden's leaked materials scramble to comply with government requests, they're also scrambling to save face with customers. It's still not clear what exact technical mechanism the government used to acquire information about users of Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and Apple, among others. But it is clear that some Internet users have come to view these tech giants as proxy spies as a result of their assumed compliance. The companies say they would like nothing better than to clear their names, but they simply aren't allowed to release details about government requests.

Note: For deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources on government assaults on privacy, click here.




Daniel Ellsberg: ‘I’m sure that President Obama would have sought a life sentence in my case’
2013-06-05, Washington Post
http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/06/05/daniel-ellsberg-im...

[Daniel] Ellsberg is one of the most outspoken critics of the Obama administration’s prosecution of leakers. Under President Obama’s tenure, the government has prosecuted six individuals for releasing classified information to media organizations. Ellsberg is particularly fierce in his support of Bradley Manning, a young soldier who released a large amount of classified information to WikiLeaks. Manning was arrested in 2010, and his military court-martial began this week. Ellsberg considers Manning a hero, and he argues that there is little difference between what Manning did in 2010 and what Ellsberg did four decades earlier. [Q.}: In a 1973 interview, you said that a “secondary objective” of releasing the Pentagon Papers was “the hope of changing the tolerance of Executive secrecy that had grown up over the last quarter of a century both in Congress and the courts and in the public at large.” How has that “tolerance of secrecy” changed over the last four decades? DE: There’s been very great tolerance that if the magic words “national security,” or the new words “homeland security” are invoked, Congress has given the president virtually a free hand in deciding what information they will know as well as the public. I wouldn’t count on the current court with its current makeup making the same ruling with the Pentagon Papers as they did 40 years ago. I’m sure that President Obama would have sought a life sentence in my case. Various things that were counted as unconstitutional then have been put in the president’s hands now. He’s become an elected monarch. Nixon’s slogan, “when the president does it, it’s not illegal,” is pretty much endorsed now.

Note: To see key quotes showing the amazing courage and dedication of Snowden, click here. For deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources on the realities of intelligence agency activity, click here.




Raytheon software trolls social networks
2013-02-12, San Francisco Chronicle (SF's leading newspaper)
http://www.sfgate.com/technology/article/Raytheon-software-trolls-social-netw...

Raytheon, a Massachusetts defense contractor, has built tracking software that pulls information from social networks, according to a video obtained by the Guardian newspaper in London. "[Raytheon] has acknowledged the technology was shared with U.S. government and industry as part of a joint research and development effort, in 2010, to help build a national security system capable of analyzing 'trillions of entities' from cyberspace." Using public data from Facebook, Twitter, Gowalla and Foursquare, the software - called RIOT, or Rapid Information Overlay Technology - apparently gathers uploaded information and forms a profile of a person's every move that was registered with one of the websites. The video obtained by the newspaper starts with a demonstration by Raytheon's "principal investigator," Brian Urch, showing how easy it is to track an employee named Nick - a real person - based on all the places he has checked in using his smartphone. "When people take pictures and post them on the Internet using their smartphones, the phone will actually embed the latitude and longitude in the header data - so we're going to take advantage of that," Urch says. "So now we know where Nick's gone ... and now we'll predict where he'll be in the future." Urch goes on to analyze - using graphs and calendars - where Nick likes to spend his personal time and make predictions about his behavior. "If you ever wanted to get a hold of his laptop, you might want to visit the gym at 6 a.m. on Monday," Urch says with alarming casualness.

Note: To read the full Guardian article, click here.




GOP and Feinstein join to fulfill Obama's demand for renewed warrantless eavesdropping
2012-12-28, The Guardian (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/dec/28/fisa-feinstein-obama-demo...

The FISA Amendments Act of 2008 did much more than shield lawbreaking telecoms from all forms of legal accountability. It also legalized vast new, sweeping and almost certainly unconstitutional forms of warrantless government eavesdropping. [The] 2008 law gutted the 30-year-old FISA statute that had [barred] the government from eavesdropping on the communications of Americans without first obtaining a warrant from a court. Worst of all, the 2008 law legalized ... the NSA warrantless eavesdropping program secretly implemented by George Bush after the 9/11 attack. The 2008 FISA law provided that it would expire in four years unless renewed. Yesterday, the Senate debated its renewal. Several Senators - Democrats Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden of Oregon along with Kentucky GOP Senator Rand Paul - each attempted to attach amendments to the law simply to provide some modest amounts of transparency and oversight to ensure that the government's warrantless eavesdropping powers were constrained and checked from abuse. The Democratic Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Dianne Feinstein ... demanded renewal of the FISA law without any reforms. And then predictably, in virtually identical 37-54 votes, Feinstein and her conservative-Democratic comrades joined with virtually the entire GOP caucus ... to reject each one of the proposed amendments and thus give Obama exactly what he demanded: reform-free renewal of the law.

Note: For analysis of this Senate vote, click here. For deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources on government assaults on privacy, click here.




To Track Militants, U.S. Has System That Never Forgets a Face
2011-07-14, New York Times
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/14/world/asia/14identity.html

With little notice and only occasional complaints, the American military and local authorities have been engaged in an ambitious effort to record biometric identifying information on a remarkable number of people in Afghanistan and Iraq, particularly men of fighting age. Information about more than 1.5 million Afghans has been put in databases operated by American, NATO and local forces. In Iraq, an even larger number of people, and a larger percentage of the population, have been registered. Data have been gathered on roughly 2.2 million Iraqis. A citizen in Afghanistan or Iraq would almost have to spend every minute in a home village and never seek government services to avoid ever crossing paths with a biometric system. What is different from traditional fingerprinting is that the government can scan through millions of digital files in a matter of seconds. While the systems are attractive to American law enforcement agencies, there is serious legal and political opposition to imposing routine collection on American citizens. Various federal, state and local law enforcement agencies have discussed biometric scanning, and many have even spent money on hand-held devices. But the proposed uses are much more limited, with questions being raised about constitutional rights of privacy and protection from warrantless searches.

Note: Many new technologies for domestic population control are developed, deployed, and tested by the US military in war theaters abroad, and then shared with police agencies in the US. For many examples see our "Non-lethal" Weapons article archive available here.




Icelandic MP fights US demand for her Twitter account details
2011-01-08, The Guardian (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2011/jan/08/us-twitter-hand-icelandic-wikilea...

A member of parliament in Iceland who is also a former WikiLeaks volunteer says the US justice department has ordered Twitter to hand over her private messages. Birgitta Jonsdottir, an MP for the Movement in Iceland, said last night on Twitter that the "USA government wants to know about all my tweets and more since november 1st 2009. Do they realize I am a member of parliament in Iceland?" She said she was starting a legal fight to stop the US getting hold of her messages, after being told by Twitter that a subpoena had been issued. She added that the US authorities had requested personal information from Twitter as well as her private messages and that she was now assessing her legal position. "It's not just about my information. It's a warning for anyone who had anything to do with WikiLeaks. It is completely unacceptable for the US justice department to flex its muscles like this. I am lucky, I'm a representative in parliament. But what of other people? It's my duty to do whatever I can to stop this abuse."

Note: For a New York Times article with more on this, click here.




Judges Divided Over Rising GPS Surveillance
2010-08-14, New York Times
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/14/us/14gps.html

The growing use by the police of new technologies that make surveillance far easier and cheaper to conduct is raising difficult questions about the scope of constitutional privacy rights. The issue is whether the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable searches covers a device that records a suspect’s movements for weeks or months without any need for an officer to trail him. The GPS tracking dispute coincides with a burst of other technological tools that expand police monitoring abilities — including ... the widely discussed prospect of linking face-recognition computer programs to the proliferating number of surveillance cameras. Some legal scholars ... have called for a fundamental rethinking of how to apply Fourth Amendment privacy rights in the 21st century. Traditionally, courts have held that the Fourth Amendment does not cover the trailing of a suspect because people have no expectation of privacy for actions exposed to public view. On [August 12], five judges on the San Francisco appeals court dissented from a decision not to re-hear a ruling upholding the warrantless use of GPS trackers. Chief Judge Alex Kozinski characterized the tactic as “creepy and un-American” and contended that its capabilities handed “the government the power to track the movements of every one of us, every day of our lives.”

Note: For lots more on threats to civil liberties and privacy, click here and here.




Breaking a Promise on Surveillance
2010-07-30, New York Times
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/30/opinion/30fri1.html

It is just a technical matter, the Obama administration says: We just need to make a slight change in a law to make clear that we have the right to see the names of anyone’s e-mail correspondents and their Web browsing history without the messy complication of asking a judge for permission. It is far more than a technical change. The administration’s request, reported [on July 29] in The Washington Post, is an unnecessary and disappointing step backward toward more intrusive surveillance from a president who promised something very different during the 2008 campaign. To get this information, the F.B.I. simply has to ask for it in the form of a national security letter, which is an administrative request that does not require a judge’s signature. The F.B.I. used these letters hundreds of thousands of times to demand records of phone calls and other communications, and the Pentagon used them to get records from banks and consumer credit agencies. Internal investigations of both agencies found widespread misuse of the power, and little oversight into how it was wielded. President Obama campaigned for office on an explicit promise to rein in these abuses. But instead of implementing reasonable civil liberties protections, like taking requests for e-mail surveillance before a judge, the administration is proposing changes to the law that would allow huge numbers of new electronic communications to be examined with no judicial oversight.

Note: For key reports on the growing government and corporate threats to privacy, click here.




FBI broke law for years in phone record searches
2010-01-19, Washington Post
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/01/18/AR20100118039...

The FBI illegally collected more than 2,000 U.S. telephone call records between 2002 and 2006 by invoking terrorism emergencies that did not exist or simply persuading phone companies to provide records, according to internal bureau memos and interviews. FBI officials issued approvals after the fact to justify their actions. E-mails obtained by The Washington Post detail how counterterrorism officials inside FBI headquarters did not follow their own procedures that were put in place to protect civil liberties. A Justice Department inspector general's report due out this month is expected to conclude that the FBI frequently violated the law with its emergency requests. FBI officials said they thought that nearly all of the requests involved terrorism investigations. FBI general counsel Valerie Caproni said ... that the FBI technically violated the Electronic Communications Privacy Act when agents invoked nonexistent emergencies to collect records.

Note: The FBI, by admitting that "nearly all" of the phone records they obtained were related to "terrorism investigations," make it clear that some were not. But they used claims of "terrorism emergency" to obtain them. These they then assert were merely "technical" violations. For many disturbing reports from major media sources on the increasing threats to civil liberties under the pretext of the "war on terrorism," click here.




U.S. readies plan to ID departing visitors
2009-11-08, Washingon Post
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/11/07/AR20091107031...

The Department of Homeland Security is finalizing a proposal to collect fingerprints or eye scans from all foreign travelers at U.S. airports as they leave the country, officials said, a costly screening program that airlines have opposed. The plan ... would collect fingerprints at airport security checkpoints, departure gates or terminal kiosks, allowing the government to track when roughly 35 million foreign visitors a year. In a concession to industry, DHS said it probably will drop plans to require airlines to pay for the bulk of the program and is looking to cut costs, which could reach $1 billion to $2 billion over a decade, largely to be paid by taxpayers or foreign travelers. In addition, the program would not operate for now at land borders, where 80 percent of noncitizens enter and leave the country, because fingerprinting travelers there could cost billions more and significantly delay commerce. Congress focused on inbound travelers after the [September 11, 2001 attacks,] appropriating $3 billion since 2003 on the US-VISIT tracking program. The program collects biological identifiers, such as fingerprints and digital photographs, from all arriving foreigners except Canadians and Mexicans with special border-crossing cards. By the time Bush administration officials unveiled a $3.5 billion program in April 2008, however, political impetus for changes had weakened.

Note: For many reports from major media sources of growing government threats to civil liberties, click here.




VeriChip shares jump after H1N1 patent license win
2009-09-21, Reuters
http://www.reuters.com/article/hotStocksNews/idUSTRE58K4BZ20090921

Shares of VeriChip Corp tripled after the company said it had been granted an exclusive license to two patents, which will help it to develop implantable virus detection systems in humans. The patents, held by VeriChip partner Receptors LLC, relate to biosensors that can detect the H1N1 and other viruses. The technology will combine with VeriChip's implantable radio frequency identification devices to develop virus triage detection systems. The triage system will provide multiple levels of identification -- the first will identify the agent as virus or non-virus, the second level will classify the virus and alert the user to the presence of pandemic threat viruses and the third level will identify the precise pathogen, VeriChip said in a white paper published May 7, 2009. Shares of VeriChip were up 186 percent.

Note: Beware of efforts to scare you into getting microchipped for your own safety. Click here for more on this. For more on pharmaceutical corporation profiteering from swine flu vaccines, click here.




Bush's Search Policy For Travelers Is Kept
2009-08-28, Washington Post
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/08/27/AR20090827040...

The Obama administration will largely preserve Bush-era procedures allowing the government to search -- without suspicion of wrongdoing -- the contents of a traveler's laptop computer, cellphone or other electronic device. The policy, disclosed ... in a pair of Department of Homeland Security directives, describes more fully than did the Bush administration the procedures by which travelers' laptops, iPods, cameras and other digital devices can be searched and seized when they cross a U.S. border. And it sets time limits for completing searches. Representatives of civil liberties and travelers groups say they see little substantive difference between the Bush-era policy, which prompted controversy, and this one. "It's a disappointing ratification of the suspicionless search policy put in place by the Bush administration," said Catherine Crump, staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union. "It doesn't deal with the fundamental problem, which is that under the policy, government officials are free to search people's laptops and cellphones for any reason whatsoever." "Under the policy begun by Bush and now continued by Obama, the government can open your laptop and read your medical records, financial records, e-mails, work product and personal correspondence -- all without any suspicion of illegal activity," said Elizabeth Goitein, who leads the liberty and national security project at the nonprofit Brennan Center for Justice.

Note: For important revelations of government threats to civil liberties, click here.




Government black boxes will 'collect every email'
2008-11-05, The Independent (One of the U.K.'s leading newspapers)
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/government-black-boxes-will-co...

Internet "black boxes" will be used to collect every email and web visit in the UK under the Government's plans for a giant "big brother" database, The Independent has learnt. Home Office officials have told senior figures from the internet and telecommunications industries that the "black box" technology could automatically retain and store raw data from the web before transferring it to a giant central database controlled by the Government. Plans to create a database holding information about every phone call, email and internet visit made in the UK have provoked a huge public outcry. Richard Thomas, the Information Commissioner, described it as "step too far" and the Government's own terrorism watchdog said that as a "raw idea" it was "awful". News that the Government is already preparing the ground by trying to allay the concerns of the internet industry is bound to raise suspicions about ministers' true intentions. Further details of the database emerged on Monday at a meeting of internet service providers (ISPs) in London where representatives from BT, AOL Europe, O2 and BSkyB were given a PowerPoint presentation of the issues and the technology surrounding the Government's Interception Modernisation Programme (IMP), the name given by the Home Office to the database proposal. "It was clear the 'back box' is the technology the Government will use to hold all the data. But what isn't clear is what the Home Secretary, GCHQ and the security services intend to do with all this information in the future," said a source close to the meeting.

Note: For lots more on threats to privacy from reliable sources, click here.




Exclusive: Inside Account of U.S. Eavesdropping on Americans
2008-10-09, ABC News
http://abcnews.go.com/Blotter/Story?id=5987804&page=1

Hundreds of US citizens overseas have been eavesdropped on as they called friends and family back home, according to two former military intercept operators who worked at the giant National Security Agency (NSA) center in Fort Gordon, Georgia. "These were just really everyday, average, ordinary Americans who happened to be in the Middle East, in our area of intercept and happened to be making these phone calls on satellite phones," said Adrienne Kinne, a 31-year old US Army Reserves Arab linguist assigned to a special military program at the NSA's Back Hall at Fort Gordon from November 2001 to 2003. She said US military officers, American journalists and American aid workers were routinely intercepted and "collected on" as they called their offices or homes in the United States. Another intercept operator, former Navy Arab linguist, David Murfee Faulk, 39, said he and his fellow intercept operators listened into hundreds of Americans picked up using phones in Baghdad's Green Zone from late 2003 to November 2007. Both former intercept operators came forward at first to speak with investigative journalist [James] Bamford for a book on the NSA, The Shadow Factory, to be published next week. "It's extremely rare," said Bamford, who has written two previous books on the NSA, including the landmark Puzzle Palace which first revealed the existence of the super secret spy agency. "Both of them felt that what they were doing was illegal and improper, and immoral, and it shouldn't be done, and that's what forces whistleblowers."

Note: For many reports from major media sources of disturbing threats to privacy, click here.




Feds give customs agents free hand to seize travelers' documents
2008-09-24, Feds give customs agents free hand to seize travelers' documents
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/09/23/BA9P133LEA.DTL

The Bush administration has overturned a 22-year-old policy and now allows customs agents to seize, read and copy documents from travelers at airports and borders without suspicion of wrongdoing, civil rights lawyers in San Francisco said Tuesday in releasing records obtained in a lawsuit. The records also indicate that the government gives customs agents unlimited authority to question travelers about their religious beliefs and political opinions, said lawyers from the Asian Law Caucus and the Electronic Frontier Foundation. They said they had asked the Department of Homeland Security for details of any policy that would guide or limit such questioning and received no reply. "We're concerned that people of South Asian or Muslim-looking background are being targeted inappropriately" for questioning and searches, said Asian Law Caucus attorney Shirin Sinnar. The Bay Area legal groups filed a Freedom of Information Act suit against the government in February, seeking documents on the policies that govern searches and questioning of international travelers. The organizations said they had received more than 20 complaints in the previous year, mostly from South Asians and Muslims. The travelers said customs agents regularly singled them out when they returned from abroad, looked at their papers and laptop computers, and asked them such questions as whom they had seen on their trips, whether they attended mosques and whether they hated the U.S. government.

Note: For many reports from major media sources of rising threats to civil liberties, click here.




Unmarked chopper patrols New York City from above
2008-05-24, CBS News/Associated Press
http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2008/05/23/ap/national/main4123912.shtml

On a cloudless spring day, the NYPD helicopter soars over the city, its sights set on the Statue of Liberty. A dramatic close-up of Lady Liberty's frozen gaze fills one of three flat-screen computer monitors mounted on a console. Hundreds of sightseers below are oblivious to the fact that a helicopter is peering down on them from a mile and a half away. "They don't even know we're here," said crew chief John Diaz, speaking into a headset over the din of the aircraft's engine. The helicopter's unmarked paint job belies what's inside: an arsenal of sophisticated surveillance and tracking equipment powerful enough to read license plates — or scan pedestrians' faces — from high above the nation's largest metropolis. "It looks like just another helicopter in the sky," said Assistant Police Chief Charles Kammerdener, who oversees the department's aviation unit. Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly has said that no other U.S. law enforcement agency "has anything that comes close" to the surveillance chopper, which was designed by engineers at Bell Helicopter and computer technicians based on NYPD specifications. The $10 million helicopter is just part of the department's efforts to adopt cutting-edge technology for its [surveillance] operations. The NYPD also plans to spend tens of millions of dollars strengthening security in the lower Manhattan business district with a network of closed-circuit television cameras and license-plate readers posted at bridges, tunnels and other entry points. Civil rights advocates are skeptical about the push for more surveillance, arguing it reflects the NYPD's evolution into ad hoc spy agency.

Note: For many important reports on disturbing threats to privacy, click here.




Domestic spying far outpaces terrorism prosecutions
2008-05-12, Los Angeles Times
http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-justice12-2008may12,0,43...

The number of Americans being secretly wiretapped or having their financial and other records reviewed by the government has continued to increase as officials aggressively use powers approved after the Sept. 11 attacks. But the number of terrorism prosecutions ending up in court -- one measure of the effectiveness of such sleuthing -- has continued to decline, in some cases precipitously. The trends, visible in new government data and a private analysis of Justice Department records, are worrisome to civil liberties groups and some legal scholars. They say it is further evidence that the government has compromised the privacy rights of ordinary citizens without much to show for it. The Bush administration has been seeking to expand its ability to gather intelligence without prior court approval. The [Justice] department ... reported a sharp rise in the use of national security letters by the FBI -- from 9,254 in 2005 to 12,583 in 2006, the latest data available. The letters seek customer information from banks, Internet providers and phone companies. They have caused a stir because consumers do not have a right to know that their information is being disclosed and the letters are issued without court oversight. Civil liberties groups say the new data reveal a disturbing consequence of the government's post-Sept. 11 expanded surveillance capabilities. "The number of Americans being investigated dwarfs any legitimate number of actual terrorism prosecutions, and that is extremely troubling," said Lisa Graves, deputy director of the Center for National Security Studies, a Washington-based civil liberties group.

Note: For many reports from major media sources that question the reality of the "terror" threat, click here.




Microchips Everywhere: a Future Vision
2008-01-29, Seattle Times/Associated Press
http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/businesstechnology/2004151388_apchippin...

Here's a vision of the not-so-distant future: Microchips with antennas will be embedded in virtually everything you buy, wear, drive and read, allowing retailers and law enforcement to track consumer items -- and, by extension, consumers -- wherever they go, from a distance. A seamless, global network of electronic "sniffers" will scan radio tags in myriad public settings, identifying people and their tastes instantly so that customized ads, "live spam," may be beamed at them. In "Smart Homes," sensors built into walls, floors and appliances will inventory possessions, record eating habits, monitor medicine cabinets -- all the while, silently reporting data to marketers eager for a peek into the occupants' private lives. Science fiction? In truth, much of the radio frequency identification [RFID] technology that enables objects and people to be tagged and tracked wirelessly already exists -- and new and potentially intrusive uses of it are being patented, perfected and deployed. Some of the world's largest corporations are vested in the success of RFID technology, which couples highly miniaturized computers with radio antennas to broadcast information about sales and buyers to company databases. Already, microchips are turning up in some computer printers, car keys and tires, on shampoo bottles and department store clothing tags. They're also in library books and "contactless" payment cards. With tags in so many objects, relaying information to databases that can be linked to credit and bank cards, almost no aspect of life may soon be safe from the prying eyes of corporations and governments, says Mark Rasch, former head of the computer-crime unit of the U.S. Justice Department.

Note: For lots more on microchip implants, click here.




Inquisition at JPL
2008-01-16, Los Angeles Times
http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/la-oe-rutten16jan16,0,2608869.story

For the last four years, two robot rovers operated from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Canada Flintridge have been moving across the surface of Mars, taking photographs and collecting information. It's an epic event in the history of exploration, one of many for which JPL's 7,000 civilian scientists and engineers are responsible -- when they're not fending off the U.S. government's attempts to conduct an intimidating and probably illegal inquisition into the intimate details of their lives. The problem began -- as so many have -- in the security mania that gripped the Bush administration after 9/11. Presidential Directive No. 12, issued by the Department of Homeland Security, directed federal agencies to adopt a uniform badge that could be used by employees and contractors to gain access to government facilities. NASA Administrator Michael Griffin ... directed Caltech, which has a contract to run JPL for NASA, to make sure all of the lab's employees complied. The government demanded that the scientists, in order to get the badges, fill out questionnaires on their personal lives and waive the privacy of their financial, medical and psychiatric records. The government also wanted permission to gather information about them by interviewing third parties. Twenty-eight of JPL's senior scientists sued in federal court to stop the government and Caltech from forcing them to agree to the background checks as the price of keeping their jobs. They point out that Griffin is one of those who remain skeptical that human actions contribute to global warming, and that some of JPL's near-Earth science has played a critical role in establishing the empirical case to the contrary. They see the background checks as the first step toward establishing a system of intimidation that might be used to silence inconvenient science.

Note: For many disturbing reports on threats to our civil liberties, click here.




Houston Police Drone Aircraft
2007-11-23, CNN
http://edition.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0711/23/sitroom.02.html

Transcript: [Suzanne] MALVEAUX: A Texas mystery solved -- at least partially. We now know Houston police are going to start using unmanned drone aircraft. But the question remains, well, for what? Stephen Dean of CNN affiliate KPRC has got an exclusive look. STEPHEN DEAN, KPRC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): HPD [Houston Police Dept.], the federal Department of Homeland Security and other invited guests all watching to see how this drone could be used for police work in and around Houston. We tracked that drone from News Chopper 2. And that drone was able to use a high-powered camera to track us. Those cameras can actually look into people's homes or even follow them in moving cars -- which raises all sorts of new questions. HPD quickly hustled together a news conference when it realized our cameras were there for the entire secret test. Executive Assistant Chief Martha Mantabo admits that could mean covert police action. But she says it's too early to tell what else HPD will do with the aircraft. We asked, are these drones headed for ticketing speeders from the sky? MONTALVO: I'm not ruling anything out. DEAN: Back at the secret test site, police helicopter pilots claimed the entire air space was restricted and even threatened our local 2 Investigates pilot with action from the FAA if we didn't leave. But we checked with FAA several times and there never was a flight restriction. That leaves some to wonder whether the police are now ready to use terrorism fears since 911 to push the envelope further into our private lives.

Note: To watch the video of secret police work in action, click here.




Big Brother Spying on Americans' Internet Data?
2007-11-07, ABC News
http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/Story?id=3833172

According to a former AT&T employee, the government has warrantless access to a great deal of Internet traffic should they care to take a peek. As information is traded between users it flows also into a locked, secret room on the sixth floor of AT&T's San Francisco offices and other rooms around the country -- where the U.S. government can sift through and find the information it wants, former AT&T employee Mark Klein alleged Wednesday at a press conference on Capitol Hill. "An exact copy of all Internet traffic that flowed through critical AT&T cables -- e-mails, documents, pictures, Web browsing, voice-over-Internet phone conversations, everything -- was being diverted to equipment inside the secret room," he said. Klein ... said that as an AT&T technician overseeing Internet operations in San Francisco, he helped maintain optical splitters that diverted data en route to and from AT&T customers. One day he found that the splitters were hard-wired into a secret room on the sixth floor. Documents he obtained [from] AT&T showed that highly sophisticated data mining equipment was kept there. Conversations he had with other technicians and the AT&T documents led Klein to believe there are 15 to 20 such sites nationwide, including in Seattle, Los Angeles, San Jose, San Diego and Atlanta, he said. Brian Reid, a former Stanford electrical engineering professor who appeared with Klein, said the NSA would logically collect phone and Internet data simultaneously because of the way fiber optic cables are intertwined. He said ... the system described by Klein suggests a "wholesale, dragnet surveillance." Of the major telecom companies, only Qwest is known to have rejected government requests for access to data. Former Qwest CEO Joseph Nacchio, appealing an insider trading conviction last month, said the government was seeking access to data even before Sept. 11.




Strict Visa Regulations Discourage Visiting Artists
2007-10-20, Washington Post
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/10/19/AR20071019025...

The Halle Orchestra, one of Great Britain's oldest symphony orchestras, has not toured the United States in more than a decade, so spirits were high when the group secured dates at Lincoln Center and in Upstate New York for performances last winter. But when the orchestra learned that to get their entry visas, all 85 musicians -- every last cellist, oboist and piccolo player -- would have to travel from their Manchester headquarters to the U.S. Embassy in London for personal interviews, electronic fingerprinting and facial-recognition scans, it scrapped the trip. Budgeting for airfare and travel costs to New York was one thing, but simply getting everyone to the embassy at the same time, along with hotel bills and fees for the visas themselves, would have cost an additional $80,000, said marketing director Andy Ryans. "It was very simply money that we didn't have," Ryans explained. "We were desperate to go to the States, but our hands were absolutely tied." Theirs aren't the only ones. To perform in this country, foreign artists of all stripes -- punk rockers, ballet dancers, folk musicians, acrobats -- are funneled through a one-size-fits-all "nonimmigrant" visa process whose costs and complications have become prohibitive, according to booking agents, managers and presenters, such as the Kennedy Center, who program and market the performers. Visiting businesspeople face similar security hurdles put in place since Sept. 11, 2001. But artists' visa petitions also require substantial documentation to satisfy the "sustained international recognition" requirement for the type of visa (called a "P-1") issued to many performing artists. Arts organizations say they have become reluctant to book foreign performers because of the risk of bureaucratic snags. Soon after Sept. 11, the State Department rolled out its Biometric Visa Program, requiring all applicants to undergo fingerprinting and have photographs taken at the nearest U.S. consulate each time they apply.




Former CEO Says U.S. Punished Phone Firm
2007-10-13, Washington Post
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/10/12/AR20071012024...

A former Qwest Communications International executive, appealing a conviction for insider trading, has alleged that the government withdrew opportunities for contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars after Qwest refused to participate in an unidentified National Security Agency program that the company thought might be illegal. Former chief executive Joseph P. Nacchio, convicted in April of 19 counts of insider trading, said the NSA approached Qwest more than six months before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks ... about participating in a warrantless surveillance program to gather information about Americans' phone records. In the court filings disclosed this week, Nacchio suggests that Qwest's refusal to take part in that program led the government to cancel a separate, lucrative contract with the NSA in retribution. He is using the allegation to try to show why his stock sale should not have been considered improper. He has claimed in court papers that he had been optimistic that Qwest would overcome weak sales because of the expected top-secret contract with the government. Nacchio's account, which places the NSA proposal at a meeting on Feb. 27, 2001, suggests that the Bush administration was seeking to enlist telecommunications firms in programs without court oversight before the terrorist attacks on New York and the Pentagon. The Sept. 11 attacks have been cited by the government as the main impetus for its warrantless surveillance efforts. In May 2006, USA Today reported that the NSA 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.

Note: The Bush Administration has claimed that the NSA surveillance of the American public was a necessary response to the attacks of 9/11. But this story reveals that the surveillance began before 9/11, shortly after Bush took office. The obvious question is, why? For many other reliable, verifiable reports that suggest the official explanation of the events of 9/11 is false, click here.




U.S. Cites ‘Secrets’ Privilege to Stop Suit on Banking Records
2007-08-31, New York Times
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/08/31/us/nationalspecial3/31swift.html?ex=1346212...

The Bush administration ... plans to turn again to a legal tool, the “state secrets” privilege, to try to stop a suit against a Belgian banking cooperative [known as Swift] that secretly supplied millions of private financial records to the United States government. The “state secrets” privilege, allowing the government to shut down litigation on national security grounds, was once rarely used. The Bush administration has turned to it more than 30 times, seeking to end public discussion of cases like the claims of an F.B.I. whistle-blower and the abduction of a German terrorism suspect. Most notably, the administration has sought to use the privilege to kill numerous suits against telecommunications carriers over the National Security Agency’s eavesdropping program. Swift is considered the nerve center of the global banking industry, routing trillions of dollars each day among banks, brokerage houses and other financial institutions. Its partnership with Washington ... gave Central Intelligence Agency and Treasury Department officials access to millions of records on international banking transactions. Months after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, Swift began turning over large chunks of its database in response to a series of unusually broad subpoenas from the Treasury Department. Two American banking customers ... sued Swift on invasion-of-privacy grounds. [Steven E. Schwarz, the lawyer for the plaintiffs, said the Swift program] “is an Orwellian example of government overreaching and unfettered access to private financial information that is not consistent with the values upon which our country was founded. We’ve seen a real erosion of the ‘state secrets’ privilege in the last year. I think it is from overuse. We’ve seen it used in record numbers, in situations where it was inappropriate, and the courts are starting to recognize that.”




Same Agencies to Run, Oversee Surveillance Program
2007-08-07, Washington Post
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/08/06/AR20070806013...

The Bush administration plans to leave oversight of its expanded foreign eavesdropping program to the same government officials who supervise the surveillance activities and to the intelligence personnel who carry them out, senior government officials said yesterday. The law, which permits intercepting Americans' calls and e-mails without a warrant if the communications involve overseas transmission, gives Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell and Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales responsibility for creating the broad procedures determining whose telephone calls and e-mails are collected. It also gives McConnell and Gonzales the role of assessing compliance with those procedures. The law ... does not contain provisions for outside oversight -- unlike an earlier House measure that called for audits every 60 days by the Justice Department's inspector general. The controversial changes to the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act were approved by both chambers of the Democratic-controlled Congress despite privacy concerns raised by Democratic leaders and civil liberties advocacy groups. Central to the new program is the collection of foreign intelligence from "communication service providers," which the officials declined to identify, citing secrecy concerns. Under the new law, the attorney general is required to draw up the governing procedures for surveillance activity, for approval by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. Once the procedures are established, the attorney general and director of national intelligence will formally certify that the collection of data is authorized. But the certification will be placed under seal "unless the certification is necessary to determine the legality of the acquisition," according to the law signed by Bush.




F.B.I. Watched Activist Groups, New Files Show
2005-12-20, New York Times
http://www.nytimes.com/2005/12/20/politics/20fbi.html?ex=1292734800&en=d2129c...

Counterterrorism agents at the Federal Bureau of Investigation have conducted numerous surveillance and intelligence-gathering operations that involved, at least indirectly, groups active in causes as diverse as the environment, animal cruelty and poverty relief. One F.B.I. document...talks of the Catholic Workers group's "semi-communistic ideology." The documents...came as part of a series of Freedom of Information Act lawsuits brought by the American Civil Liberties Union. The latest batch of documents...totals more than 2,300 pages and centers on references in internal files to a handful of groups, including PETA, the environmental group Greenpeace and the Catholic Workers group, which promotes antipoverty efforts and social causes. Many of the investigative documents turned over by the bureau are heavily edited. The documents indicate that in some cases, the F.B.I. has used employees, interns and other confidential informants within groups like PETA and Greenpeace to develop leads on potential criminal activity and has downloaded material from the groups' Web sites, in addition to monitoring their protests.




Your life at your fingertips — courtesy of the Pentagon
2003-06-02, USA Today/Associated Press
http://www.usatoday.com/tech/news/techinnovations/2003-06-02-lifelog_x.htm

Coming to you soon from the Pentagon: the diary to end all diaries — a multimedia, digital record of everywhere you go and everything you see, hear, read, say and touch. Known as LifeLog, the project has been put out for contractor bids by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, the agency that helped build the Internet and that is now developing the next generation of [surveillance] tools. The agency ... [considers] LifeLog ... a tool to capture "one person's experience in and interactions with the world" through a camera, microphone and sensors worn by the user. Everything from heartbeats to travel to Internet chatting would be recorded. The goal is to create breakthrough software that helps analyze behavior, habits and routines, according to Pentagon documents reviewed by The Associated Press. The products of the unclassified project would be available to both the private sector and other government agencies — a concern to privacy advocates. John Pike of Global Security.org, a defense analysis group, is dubious the project has military application. "I have a much easier time understanding how Big Brother would want this than how (Defense Secretary Donald) Rumsfeld would use it," Pike said. "They have not identified a military application."

Note: For more on this at Wired, click here.




E-mail users warned over spy network
2001-05-29, BBC News
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/1357264.stm

Computer users across Europe should encrypt all their e-mails, to avoid being spied on by a UK-US eavesdropping network, say Euro-MPs. The tentacles of the Echelon network stretch so far that the UK's involvement could constitute a breach of human rights, they say. The Euro-MPs have been studying Echelon for almost a year, after allegations that it has been used by the US to commit industrial espionage against European firms. They conclude that Echelon - whose existence is not officially acknowledged - is reading millions of e-mails and faxes sent every day by ordinary people. The US has denied the system even exists, and the UK refuses to give details, except to say that communications interception is a vital tool in the fight against "dangers to society". The Echelon operation is based at Fort Meade in Maryland, America, and at the UK's spy centre, GCHQ in Cheltenham.

Note: For another revealing BBC News report on Echelon, click here.




Drones, computers new weapons of US shadow wars
2012-06-16, MSNBC/Associated Press
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/47842756/ns/technology_and_science-security/t/dro...

Drone aircraft spy on and attack terrorists with no pilot in harm's way. Small teams of special operations troops quietly train and advise foreign forces. Viruses sent from computers to foreign networks strike silently, with no American fingerprint. It's war in the shadows, with the U.S. public largely in the dark. The high-tech warfare allows Obama to target what the administration sees as the greatest threats to U.S. security, without the cost and liabilities of sending a swarm of ground troops to capture territory; some of them almost certainly would come home maimed or dead. But it also raises questions about accountability and the implications for international norms regarding the use of force outside of traditional armed conflict. "Congressional oversight of these operations appears to be cursory and insufficient," said Steven Aftergood, an expert on government secrecy issues for the Federation of American Scientists, a private group. "It is Congress' responsibility to declare war under the Constitution, but instead it appears to have adopted a largely passive role while the executive takes the initiative in war fighting," Aftergood said in an interview. That's partly because lawmakers relinquished their authority by passing a law just after the Sept. 11 [attacks]. In this shroud of secrecy, leaks to the news media of classified details about certain covert operations have led to charges that the White House orchestrated the revelations to bolster Obama's national security credentials and thereby improve his re-election chances.

Note: For deeper analysis of the threats posed to American citizens by military and police drones in the skies, click here. For information on a federal recent law compelling the Federal Aviation Administration to allow drones to fly in US skies, click here. For more information on the use of drones by police in the US, click here. For lots more from reliable sources on surveillance in the US, click here.




Email and web use 'to be monitored' under new laws
2012-04-01, BBC News
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-17576745

The government will be able to monitor the calls, emails, texts and website visits of everyone in the UK under new legislation set to be announced soon. Internet firms will be required to give intelligence agency GCHQ access to communications on demand, in real time. The Home Office says the move is key to tackling crime and terrorism, but civil liberties groups have criticised it. Tory MP David Davis called it "an unnecessary extension of the ability of the state to snoop on ordinary people". A new law ... would not allow GCHQ to access the content of emails, calls or messages without a warrant. But it would enable intelligence officers to identify who an individual or group is in contact with, how often and for how long. They would also be able to see which websites someone had visited. Conservative MP and former shadow home secretary David Davis said it would make it easier for the government "to eavesdrop on vast numbers of people". "What this is talking about doing is not focusing on terrorists or criminals, it's absolutely everybody's emails, phone calls, web access..." He said that until now anyone wishing to monitor communications had been required to gain permission from a magistrate. Nick Pickles, director of the Big Brother Watch campaign group, called the move "an unprecedented step that will see Britain adopt the same kind of surveillance seen in China and Iran". The previous Labour government attempted to introduce a central, government-run database of everyone's phone calls and emails, but eventually dropped the bid after widespread anger.

Note: For more on this from BBC, click here. Though this is interesting news, many know that the government has had easy access to all people's emails, phone calls, and more for many years through systems like echelon and more. For an abundance of major media articles showing how many of the power elite want to create a big-brother society, click here.




Social Media History Becomes a New Job Hurdle
2011-07-21, New York Times
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/21/technology/social-media-history-becomes-a-n...

Companies have long used criminal background checks, credit reports and even searches on Google and LinkedIn to probe the previous lives of prospective employees. Now, some companies are requiring job candidates to also pass a social media background check. A year-old start-up, Social Intelligence, scrapes the Internet for everything prospective employees may have said or done online in the past seven years. Then it assembles a dossier with examples of professional honors and charitable work, along with negative information that meets specific criteria: online evidence of racist remarks; references to drugs; sexually explicit photos, text messages or videos; flagrant displays of weapons or bombs and clearly identifiable violent activity. The service ... alarms privacy advocates who say that it invites employers to look at information that may not be relevant to job performance. And what relevant unflattering information has led to job offers being withdrawn or not made? Marc S. Rotenberg, president of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, ... said that employers were entitled to gather information to make a determination about job-related expertise, but he expressed concern that “employers should not be judging what people in their private lives do away from the workplace.”

Note: For key reports from major media sources on government threats to privacy and civil liberties, click here and here.




Schools use GPS to track students who skip
2011-02-18, MSNBC
http://technolog.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2011/02/18/6081656-schools-use-gps-to-tr...

Skipping class, though frowned upon, is practically a rite of passage for young teens, but thanks to an elaborate system involving GPS being used by some school districts, it is practically being eliminated completely. The Orange County Register reports that the Anaheim Union High School District in California is currently participating in a pilot program which involves using a combination of Global Positioning System technology, automated telephone reminders, and one-on-one coaching to cut down on truancy. It's similar to programs being used in Baltimore and San Antonio. Basically any students in the seventh- or eighth-grade who have four or more unexcused absences over the course of a school year can be put into the Anaheim program. They will be assigned a GPS tracking device about the size of a cell phone, and they'll need to use it regularly, the newspaper said. It's worth noting that while this anti-truancy program is very elaborate and almost invasive, it is [promoted as] optional. Students and their parents are offered the chance to voluntarily participate in the "monitoring as a way to avoid continuation school or prosecution with a potential stay in juvenile hall." On top of that, parents would also be avoiding the $2,000 fine that can come from turning a blind eye to truancy if a school district chooses to pursue the issue.

Note: For other revealing media articles on microchips being used to invade privacy, click here. To better understand a program of elements within the power elite to microchip the entire population, click here.




Google Comes Under Fire for 'Secret' Relationship with NSA
2011-01-25, Yahoo News/PC World
http://news.yahoo.com/s/pcworld/20110125/tc_pcworld/googlecomesunderfireforse...

Consumer Watchdog, an advocacy group largely focused in recent years on Google's privacy practices, has called [for] a congressional investigation into the Internet giant's "cozy" relationship with U.S. President Barack Obama's administration. In a letter sent [on January 24], Consumer Watchdog asked Representative Darrell Issa, the new chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, to investigate the relationship between Google and several government agencies. "We believe Google has inappropriately benefited from close ties to the administration," the letter said. "It should not get special treatment and access because of a special relationship with the administration." Consumer Watchdog's latest complaints about the relationship of Google and the Obama administration are outlined in a 32-page report [which] questions Google's relationship with the U.S. National Security Agency and calls for the company to be more open about what consumer information it shares with the spy agency.




What Microsoft knows and keeps about you
2010-02-25, San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco's leading newspaper)
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/blogs/ybenjamin/detail??blogid=150&entry_id=57956

It's time to reflect on the immense powers Americans have ceded to the government and [the] potential for abuse by federal, state and local authorities. The global Internet and telecommunications infrastructure provides massive information on almost ... every person on the planet. One power truly stands out --- the all-encompassing reach and technological capabilities of the US National Security Agency. If you want to be secure, don't use a phone, a computer, credit card or any other technologically linked system because it guarantees that Big Brother will find you. Big Brother is not just the government. Most consumer "spying" comes from subpoenas and requests from non-terrorist-related federal, state, local agency requests and non-governmental private litigation and discovery. Simply put, a subpoena issued by a court in support of private litigation and discovery may have the same impact on an individual as the full force of the NSA. What information is typically requested from a company by say a plaintiff's lawyer during some discovery phase? Well, it's everything. In fact, it's generally a fishing expedition for every log file, every uploaded video, photo, chat session and anything else they can get their hands on.

Note: For lots more from major media sources on the continuing development of a global society under Big Brother's constant gaze, click here.




Judge rejects bid to derail wiretap challenge
2009-04-18, San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco's leading newspaper)
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2009/04/17/MN6O174O7E.DTL

A San Francisco federal judge rejected on Friday the Obama administration's attempt to derail a challenge to former President George W. Bush's electronic surveillance program by withholding a critical wiretap document. President Obama's Justice Department had appeared to defy a previous order by Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker to allow lawyers for an Islamic organization to see the classified document, which reportedly showed that the group had been wiretapped. The document, which the government accidentally sent to the Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation, could establish its right to sue over the legality of the program. Justice Department lawyers told Walker in February that he had no power to enforce his order, and indicated they would remove the document from his files if he planned to disclose it to Al-Haramain's lawyers. But after a federal appeals court denied the department's request to intervene, Walker told the government Friday to cooperate. "The United States should now comply with the court's orders," the judge said. He told lawyers for the administration and Al-Haramain to work out a protective order by May 8 that would maintain the document's secrecy after it had been shown to the Islamic group's lawyers. If the two sides can't agree, Walker said, he will issue his own protective order "under which this case may resume forward progress." The case is one of two before Walker challenging the constitutionality of the program that Bush secretly authorized in 2001 to intercept phone calls and e-mails between Americans and suspected foreign terrorists without seeking a court warrant, as required by a 1978 law.

Note: For more reports on government secrecy from reliable sources, click here.




Tapping your cell phone
2008-11-13, WTHR-TV (Indianapolis NBC affiliate)
http://www.wthr.com/global/story.asp?s=9346833

Imagine someone watching your every move, hearing everything you say and knowing where you are at every moment. If you have a cell phone, it could happen to you. After four months of harassing phone calls, Courtney Kuykendall was afraid to answer her cell phone. The Tacoma, Washington, teenager was receiving graphic, violent threats at all hours. And when she and her family changed their cell phone numbers and got new phones, the calls continued. Using deep scratchy voices, anonymous stalkers literally took control of the Kuykendall's cell phones, repeatedly threatened Courtney with murder and rape, and began following the family's every move. "They're listening to us and recording us," Courtney's mother, Heather Kuykendall, told NBC's Today Show. "We know that because they will record us and play it back as a voicemail." How is something like this possible? Just take a look on the internet. That's where you'll find the latest spy technology for cell phones. Spyware marketers claim you can tap into someone's calls, read their text messages and track their movements "anywhere, anytime." Security experts say it's no internet hoax."It's real, and it is pretty creepy," said Rick Mislan, a former military intelligence officer who now teaches cyber forensics at Purdue University's Department of Computer and Information Technology. Mislan has examined thousands of cell phones inside Purdue's Cyber Forensics Lab, and he says spy software can now make even the most high-tech cell phone vulnerable. "I think a lot of people think their cell phone calls are very secure but our privacy isn't always what we think it is."

Note: For lots more on increasing corporate and governmental threats to privacy, click here.




Wiretap lawsuit defense challenged in court
2008-10-18, San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco's leading newspaper
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/10/18/BATN13JVOG.DTL

Civil liberties groups started a legal challenge ... to the new federal law designed to dismiss their wiretapping suits against telecommunications companies, saying the statute violates phone customers' constitutional rights and tramples on judicial authority. The law ... granted retroactive protection to AT&T, Verizon and other companies against lawsuits accusing them of illegally sharing their telephone and e-mail networks and millions of customer records with the National Security Agency. Almost 40 such suits from around the nation are pending before Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker in San Francisco. The law requires him to dismiss the cases if the Justice Department tells him the companies had cooperated in a surveillance program authorized by President Bush. Details of the department's filing and the judge's dismissal order are to be kept secret. The American Civil Liberties Union and the Electronic Frontier Foundation attacked the secrecy requirements and argued that Congress and President Bush lack authority to order courts to whitewash constitutional violations. "If Congress can give the executive the power to exclude the judiciary from considering the constitutional claims of millions of Americans ... then the judiciary will no longer be functioning as a coequal branch of government," Cindy Cohn, the foundation's legal director, said in court papers. She said the law's secrecy makes the proceedings one-sided. "Due process requires more than the chance to shadow-box with the government," Cohn wrote.

Note: For many reports from reliable, verifiable sources on threats to civil liberties, click here.




The Ultra-Secret NSA from 9/11 to the Eavesdropping on America
2008-10-14, Washington Post
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/discussion/2008/10/09/DI20081009...

By exploring the current, post-9/11 operations of the NSA [National Security Agency, James] Bamford ... goes where congressional oversight committees and investigative journalists still struggle to go. [When] the Bush administration declared its ... global war on terror, Congress agreed to most of the White House's demands. According to Bamford, the NSA's expanded powers and resources enabled it to collect communications both inside and outside the United States. He quotes a former NSA employee as a witness to the agency's spying on the conversations of Americans who have no connection to terrorism. After suing the NSA for documents, [Bamford] obtained considerable evidence that telecommunication companies (with the notable exception of Qwest) knowingly violated U.S. law by cooperating with the NSA to tap fiber optic lines. In impressive detail, The Shadow Factory: The Ultra-Secret NSA from 9/11 to the Eavesdropping on America tells how private contractors, including some little-known entities with foreign owners, have done the sensitive work of storing and processing the voices and written data of Americans and non-Americans alike. In the book, he offers new revelations about the National Security Agency's counterterrorism tactics, including its controversial domestic surveillance programs. Bamford warns of worse to come: 'There is now the capacity to make tyranny total in America. Only law ensures that we never fall into that abyss -- the abyss from which there is no return.'"

Note: Bamford is the author of two other books on the NSA: Body of Secrets and The Puzzle Palace.




The Business of Intelligence Gathering
2008-06-15, New York Times
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/15/business/15shelf.html?partner=rssuserland&e...

America is ruled by an “intelligence-industrial complex” whose allegiance is not to the taxpaying public but to a cabal of private-sector contractors. That is the central thesis of Spies for Hire: The Secret World of Intelligence Outsourcing by Tim Shorrock, ... an investigative journalist. His book [provides a] disturbing overview of the intelligence community, also known as “the I.C.” Mr. Shorrock says our government is outsourcing 70 percent of its intelligence budget, or more than $42 billion a year, to a “secret army” of corporate vendors. Because of accelerated privatization efforts after 9/11, these companies are participating in covert operations and intelligence-gathering activities that were considered “inherently governmental” functions reserved for agencies like the Central Intelligence Agency, he says. Some of the book’s most intriguing assertions concern the permeating influence of the consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton. In 2006, Mr. Shorrock reports, Booz Allen amassed $3.7 billion in revenue, much of which came from classified government contracts exempt from public oversight. Among its more than 18,000 employees are R. James Woolsey, the former C.I.A. director, and Joan Dempsey, a former longtime United States intelligence official who declared in a 2004 speech, “I like to refer to Booz Allen as the shadow I.C.” The “revolving door” between Booz Allen and the I.C. is personified by Mike McConnell, who joined the firm after serving as head of the National Security Agency under President Bill Clinton, only to return as director of national intelligence under President Bush.

Note: For revealing reports on government corruption from reliable sources, click here.




Colorado Proposes Tough Law on Executive Accountability
2008-04-01, New York Times
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/01/business/01fraud.html?ex=1364702400&en=6a78...

For 30 years, Lew Ellingson loved being a telephone man. His job splicing phone cables was one that he says gave him “a true sense of accomplishment,” first for Northwestern Bell, then US West and finally Qwest Communications International. But by the time Mr. Ellingson retired from Qwest last year at 52, he had grown angry. An insider trading scandal had damaged the company’s reputation, and the life savings of former colleagues had evaporated in the face of Qwest’s stock troubles. “It was a good place,” he said wistfully. “And then something like this happened.” Now, Mr. Ellingson is the public face of a proposed ballot measure in Colorado that seeks to create what supporters hope will be the nation’s toughest corporate fraud law. Buttressed by local advocacy groups and criticized by a Colorado business organization, the measure would make business executives criminally responsible if their companies run afoul of the law. It would also permit any Colorado resident to sue the executives under such circumstances. Proceeds from successful suits would go to the state. If passed by voters in November, the proposal would leave top business officers [with] unprecedented individual accountability, said Mr. Ellingson. “If nothing else, these folks in charge of the corporations and companies will think twice about cutting corners to make themselves look more profitable than they really are,” he said. The plight of Mr. Ellingson’s former employer, Qwest, based in Denver, was a motivation for the proposal. Last April, a jury in Denver convicted Qwest’s former chief executive, Joseph P. Nacchio, of 19 of 42 counts of insider trading. Mr. Nacchio was sentenced to six years in prison and ordered to pay a fine of $19 million and forfeit $52 million in money he earned from stock sales in 2001.

Note: As reported in the Washington Post, Joseph P. Nacchio, the former Qwest CEO, has claimed that he was singled out for prosecution because he refused to cooperate with the National Security Agency's electronic surveillance of American citizens, which began before 9/11.




Like FBI, CIA Has Used Secret 'Letters'
2008-01-25, Washington Post
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/01/24/AR20080124031...

For three years, the Bush administration has drawn fire from civil liberties groups over its use of national security letters, a kind of administrative subpoena that compels private businesses such as telecommunications companies to turn over information to the government. After the 2001 USA Patriot Act loosened the guidelines, the FBI issued tens of thousands of such requests, something critics say amounts to warrantless spying on Americans who have not been charged with crimes. Now, newly released documents shed light on the use of the letters by the CIA. The spy agency has employed them to obtain financial information about U.S. residents and does so under extraordinary secrecy, according to the American Civil Liberties Union, which obtained copies of CIA letters under the Freedom of Information Act. The CIA's requests for financial records come with "gag orders" on the recipients, said ACLU lawyer Melissa Goodman. In many cases, she said, the recipient is not allowed to keep a copy of the letter or even take notes about the information turned over to the CIA. The ACLU posted copies of some of the letters on its Web site. In most cases, nearly all the text had been redacted by CIA censors.

Note: For many powerful reports on the growing threats to civil liberties, click here.




Companies Seeking Immunity Donate to Senator
2007-10-23, New York Times
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/23/washington/23nsa.html?ex=1350792000&en=f9b3...

Executives at the two biggest phone companies contributed more than $42,000 in political donations to Senator John D. Rockefeller IV this year while seeking his support for legal immunity for businesses participating in National Security Agency eavesdropping. The surge in contributions came from a Who’s Who of executives at the companies, AT&T and Verizon, starting with the chief executives and including at least 50 executives and lawyers at the two utilities, according to campaign finance reports. The money came primarily from a fund-raiser that Verizon held for Mr. Rockefeller in March in New York and another that AT&T sponsored for him in May in San Antonio. Mr. Rockefeller, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, [has emerged] as the most important supporter of immunity in [the Senate]. Mr. Rockefeller’s office said ... that the sharp increases in contributions from the telecommunications executives had no influence on his support for the immunity provision. “Any suggestion that Senator Rockefeller would make policy decisions based on campaign contributions is patently false,” Wendy Morigi, a spokeswoman for him, said. AT&T and Verizon have been lobbying hard to insulate themselves from suits over their reported roles in the security agency program by gaining legal immunity from Congress. The effort included meetings with Mr. Rockefeller and other members of the intelligence panels. Mr. Rockefeller received little in the way of contributions from AT&T or Verizon executives before this year, reporting $4,050 from 2002 through 2006. From last March to June, he collected a total of $42,850 from executives at the two companies. The increase was first reported by the online journal Wired, using data compiled by the Web site OpenSecrets.org. [Telecommunications] industry executives have given significant contributions to a number of other Washington politicians, including two presidential contenders, Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton and John McCain.




Dragonfly or Insect Spy? Scientists at Work on Robobugs
2007-10-09, Washington Post
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/10/08/AR20071008014...

Vanessa Alarcon saw them while working at an antiwar rally in Lafayette Square last month. "I heard someone say, 'Oh my god, look at those,' " the college senior from New York recalled. "I look up and I'm like, 'What the hell is that?' They looked kind of like dragonflies or little helicopters. But I mean, those are not insects." Out in the crowd, Bernard Crane saw them, too. "I'd never seen anything like it in my life," the Washington lawyer said. "They were large for dragonflies. I thought, 'Is that mechanical, or is that alive?' " Some suspect the insectlike drones are high-tech surveillance tools, perhaps deployed by the Department of Homeland Security. No agency admits to having deployed insect-size spy drones. But a number of U.S. government and private entities acknowledge they are trying. So what was seen by Crane, Alarcon and a handful of others at the D.C. march -- and as far back as 2004, during the Republican National Convention in New York, when one observant ... peace-march participant described on the Web "a jet-black dragonfly hovering about 10 feet off the ground, precisely in the middle of 7th Avenue . . . watching us?" Three people at the D.C. event independently described a row of spheres, the size of small berries, attached along the tails of the big dragonflies -- an accoutrement that [Jerry Louton, an entomologist at the National Museum of Natural History,] could not explain. And all reported seeing at least three maneuvering in unison. "Dragonflies never fly in a pack," he said. Mara Verheyden-Hilliard of the Partnership for Civil Justice said her group is investigating witness reports and has filed Freedom of Information Act requests with several federal agencies. If such devices are being used to spy on political activists, she said, "it would be a significant violation of people's civil rights."

Note: To read further reliable reports of threats to our civil liberties, click here.




An Opportunity for Wall St. in China’s Surveillance Boom
2007-09-07, New York Times
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/09/11/business/worldbusiness/11security.html?ex=1...

Li Runsen, the powerful technology director of China’s ministry of public security, is best known for leading Project Golden Shield, China’s intensive effort to strengthen police control over the Internet. But last month Mr. Li took an additional title: director for China Security and Surveillance Technology, a fast-growing company that installs and sometimes operates surveillance systems for Chinese police agencies, jails and banks, among other customers. The company has just been approved for a listing on the New York Stock Exchange. The company’s listing and Mr. Li’s membership on its board are just the latest signs of ever-closer ties among Wall Street, surveillance companies and the Chinese government’s security apparatus. Wall Street analysts now follow the growth of companies that install surveillance systems providing Chinese police stations with 24-hour video feeds from nearby Internet cafes. Hedge fund money from the United States has paid for the development of not just better video cameras, but face-recognition software and even newer behavior-recognition software designed to spot the beginnings of a street protest and notify police. Executives of Chinese surveillance companies say they are helping their government reduce street crime, preserve social stability and prevent terrorism. They note that London has a more sophisticated surveillance system, although the Chinese system will soon be far more extensive. Wall Street executives also defend the industry as necessary to keep the peace at a time of rapid change in China. They point out that New York has begun experimenting with surveillance cameras in Lower Manhattan and other areas of the city.




Spy Satellites Turned on the U.S.
2007-09-06, ABC News
http://abcnews.go.com/TheLaw/story?id=3567635

Traditionally, powerful spy satellites have been used to search for strategic threats overseas. But now the Department of Homeland Security has developed a new office to use the satellites to [monitor the US itself]. [DHS] officials ... faced extensive criticism [in Congress] about the privacy and civil liberty concerns of the new office, called the National Applications Office. [House Homeland Security] Committee members expressed concern about abuse of the satellite imagery, charging that Homeland Security had not informed the oversight committee about the program. "What's most disturbing is learning about it from The Wall Street Journal," said Committee Chairman Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss. The lawmakers also expressed concern about using military capabilities for U.S. law enforcement and Homeland Security operations, potentially a violation of the Posse Comitatus Act, which bars the military from serving as a law enforcement body within the United States. Committee members said that in addition to not being informed about the National Applications Office program, they had not yet been provided with documents defining the limits and legal guidance about the program. [They] sent a letter to Homeland Security saying, "We are so concerned that ... we are calling for a moratorium on the program. Today's testimony made clear that there is effectively no legal framework governing the domestic use of satellite imagery for the various purposes envisioned by the department."




A chip on my shoulder
2007-08-12, San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco's leading newspaper)
http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2007/08/12/EDG00REOHJ1.DTL

The ability to blend vast databases containing personal information -- and the sophistication of tracking devices that can announce your presence along with myriad vital statistics when you cross a bridge or enter a room -- have brought Americans to a crossroads. Do we shrug and concede that privacy is lost -- "get over it," as one titan of tech declared so bluntly? Or do we look for ways to draw the line, to identify means and places where employers and governments should not dare to tread? One such place: Our bodies. Life has begun to imitate art -- as in the futuristic film "Minority Report" -- with the refinement of toothpick-thick microchips that can be implanted in your arm and packed with loads of personally identifiable information that can be beamed to the world. These radio-frequency identification (RFID) devices -- or "talking bar codes" -- amount to miniature antennas that transmit the types of information that might otherwise be held on a swipe card. Even if you've shrugged through the debates about warrantless wiretapping and said "what the heck" at the prospect that everything from your spending habits to your Web site travels are being compiled and crunched for commercial purposes, you might think twice about letting your employer insert a microchip under your skin as a condition of getting a job. As of today, it is both a technical and a legal possibility. Just last year, a ... provider of video-surveillance equipment inserted ... microchips into the arms of two employees. Those two workers volunteered, but it's not hard to imagine the lightbulbs going off in Corporate America. Is Joe really making a sales call or is he taking in a baseball game at AT&T Park? How many smoke breaks is Mary taking? Amazingly, there is no California law against "chipping" workers as a condition of employment.

Note: For many reliable reports from the major media on the potential dangers of microchips, click here.




Bush administration defends spy law
2007-08-07, Los Angeles Times
http://www.latimes.com/news/la-na-intel7aug07,0,1631228.story

The Bush administration rushed to defend new espionage legislation Monday amid growing concern that the changes could lead to increased spying by U.S. intelligence agencies on American citizens. But officials declined to provide details about how the new capabilities might be used by the National Security Agency and other spy services. And in many cases, they could point only to internal monitoring mechanisms to prevent abuse of the new rules that appear to give the government greater authority to tap into the traffic flowing across U.S. telecommunications networks. Officials rejected assertions that the new capabilities would enable the government to cast electronic "drift nets" that might ensnare U.S. citizens [and] that the new legislation would amount to the expansion of a controversial — and critics contend unconstitutional — warrantless wiretapping program that President Bush authorized after the 9/11 attacks. Intelligence experts said there were an array of provisions in the new legislation that appeared to make it possible for the government to engage in intelligence-collection activities that the Bush administration officials were discounting. "They are trying to shift the terms of the debate to their intentions and away from the meaning of the new law," said Steven Aftergood, an intelligence policy analyst at the Federation of American Scientists. "The new law gives them authority to do far more than simply surveil foreign communications abroad," he said. "It expands the surveillance program beyond terrorism to encompass foreign intelligence. It permits the monitoring of communications of a U.S. person as long as he or she is not the primary target. And it effectively removes judicial supervision of the surveillance process."




FBI Proposes Building Network of U.S. Informants
2007-07-25, ABC News blog
http://blogs.abcnews.com/theblotter/2007/07/fbi-proposes-bu.html

The FBI is taking cues from the CIA to recruit thousands of covert informants in the United States as part of a sprawling effort to boost its intelligence capabilities. According to a recent unclassified report to Congress, the FBI expects its informants to provide secrets about possible terrorists and foreign spies, although some may also be expected to aid with criminal investigations, in the tradition of law enforcement confidential informants. The FBI said the push was driven by a 2004 directive from President Bush ordering the bureau to improve its counterterrorism efforts by boosting its human intelligence capabilities. The aggressive push for more secret informants appears to be part of a new effort to grow its intelligence and counterterrorism efforts. Other recent proposals include expanding its collection and analysis of data on U.S. persons, retaining years' worth of Americans' phone records and even increasing so-called "black bag" secret entry operations. To handle the increase in so-called human sources, the FBI also plans to overhaul its database system, so it can manage records and verify the accuracy of information from "more than 15,000" informants, according to the document. The bureau has arranged to use elements of CIA training to teach FBI agents about "Source Targeting and Development," the report states. The courses will train FBI special agents on the "comprehensive tradecraft" needed to identify, recruit and manage these "confidential human sources."




'Code Orange' for press freedom
2007-07-15, San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco's leading newspaper)
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2007/07/15/EDGU9R0PAC1.DTL

The arguments against a federal shield law might be frightening if they were not so ludicrous. There are two ways to reassure yourself that legislation to allow journalists to protect the identity of confidential sources will not be exploited by terrorists, thugs, identity thieves, sleazy sleuths and anarchists who expose trade secrets. One is to look at the experience of 49 state laws that grant varying levels of protection for journalists using anonymous sources. The other is to read the bill. "The Free Flow of Information Act of 2007,'' sponsored by Reps. Mike Pence, R-Ind., and Rick Boucher, D-Va., does not provide an absolute right for journalists to protect their sources. Under their HR2102, a journalist could be forced by the courts to reveal his or her source if the disclosure involved: -- A threat to national security. -- A threat of imminent death or significant [bodily] harm to a person. -- A trade secret of significant value. -- Personal financial or health information. [The] Justice Department, which has wielded subpoenas and threats of jail time against journalists in pursuing government leaks, has never liked the idea of a shield law. So it was hardly a surprise when it recently testified against HR2102. What was eye-poppingly outrageous was a Justice official's straight-faced attempt to suggest that criminals or terrorists would invoke the bill's protection for journalists to thwart prosecutors. "Totally absurd," House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers, D-Mich., said of the terrorism argument. However, the dangers that overzealous prosecutors pose to a free and independent press that Pence calls "essential to an informed" electorate are very real and growing. As Pence put it, "there may never be another Deep Throat" if whistle-blowers become worried that journalists cannot keep a promise of confidentiality.




We are moving ever closer to the era of mind control
2006-02-06, The Guardian (one of the UK's leading newspapers)
http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/story/0,,1702694,00.html

There is increasing military interest in the development of techniques that can survey and possibly manipulate the mental processes of potential enemies, or enhance the potential of one's own troops. There is nothing new about such an interest. In the US, it stretches back at least half a century. Impressed by claims that the Soviet Union was developing psychological warfare, the CIA and the Defence Advanced Projects Agency (Darpa) began their own programmes. Early experiments included the clandestine feeding of LSD to their own operatives and attempts at 'brain-washing'. By the 1960s, Darpa, along with the US Navy, was funding almost all US research into 'artificial intelligence', in order to develop methods and technologies for the 'automated battlefield' and the 'intelligent soldier'. Contracts were let and patents taken out on techniques aimed at recording signals from the brains of enemy personnel at a distance, in order to 'read their minds'. These efforts have burgeoned in the aftermath of the so-called 'war on terror'. The step beyond reading thoughts is to attempt to control them directly. A new technique - transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) - has begun to generate interest. This focuses an intense magnetic field on specific brain regions, and has been shown to affect thoughts, perceptions and behaviour.

Note: These technologies are far more developed than this article suggests. For reliable, verifiable information on these little-known "non-lethal" weapons: http://www.WantToKnow.info/mindcontrol10pg#nonlethal




Spain colluded in NSA spying on its citizens, Spanish newspaper reports
2013-10-30, The Guardian (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/oct/30/spain-colluded-nsa-spying-citize...

The widespread surveillance of Spanish citizens by the US National Security Agency, which caused outrage when it was reported this week, was the product of a collaboration with Spain's intelligence services, according to one Spanish newspaper. Spanish agents not only knew about the work of the NSA but also facilitated it, El Mundo reports. An NSA document entitled "Sharing computer network operations cryptologic information with foreign partners" reportedly shows how the US relies on the collaboration of many countries to give it access to intelligence information, including electronic metadata. According to the document seen by El Mundo, the US classifies cooperation with various countries on four different levels. In the first group – "Comprehensive Cooperation" – are the UK, Australia, Canada and New Zealand. The second group – "Focused Cooperation" – of which Spain is a member, includes 19 countries, all of them European, apart from Japan and South Korea. The third group – "Limited cooperation" – consists of countries such as France, Israel, India and Pakistan; while the fourth – "Exceptional Cooperation" – is made up of countries that the US considers to be hostile to its interests. The NSA documents [suggest] the Spanish intelligence services were working hand in hand with the NSA, as were other foreign agencies. But if there was any doubt as to who held the upper hand, the NSA documents make clear that any collaboration was always to serve the needs of protecting American interests.

Note: For more on the realities of intelligence agency activities, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.




State photo-ID databases become troves for police
2013-06-16, Washington Post
http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/technology/state-photo-id-databases-be...

The faces of more than 120 million people are in searchable photo databases that state officials assembled to prevent driver’s-license fraud but that increasingly are used by police to identify suspects, accomplices and even innocent bystanders in a wide range of criminal investigations. The facial databases have grown rapidly in recent years and generally operate with few legal safeguards beyond the requirement that searches are conducted for “law enforcement purposes.” The most widely used systems were honed on the battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq as soldiers sought to identify insurgents. The increasingly widespread deployment of the technology in the United States has helped police [identify people who] leave behind images on surveillance videos or social-media sites that can be compared against official photo databases. But law enforcement use of such facial searches is blurring the traditional boundaries between criminal and non-criminal databases, putting images of people never arrested in what amount to perpetual digital lineups. Though not yet as reliable as fingerprints, these technologies can help determine identity through individual variations in irises, skin textures, vein patterns, palm prints and a person’s gait while walking. Facial-recognition systems ... can be deployed remotely, without subjects knowing that their faces have been captured.

Note: For deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources on government assaults on privacy, click here.




How the US government secretly reads your email
2011-10-11, The Guardian (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2011/oct/11/us-government-...

Somewhere, a US government official is reading through a list of those who sent or received an email from Jacob Appelbaum, a 28-year-old computer science researcher at the University of Washington who volunteered for WikiLeaks. Among those listed will be my name, a journalist who interviewed Appelbaum for a book about the digital revolution. Appelbaum is a spokesman for Tor, a free internet anonymising software that helps people defend themselves against internet surveillance. He's spent five years teaching activists around the world how to install and use the service to avoid being monitored by repressive governments. Now, Appelbaum finds himself a target of his own government as a result of his friendship with Julian Assange and the fact WikiLeaks used the Tor software. Appelbaum has not been charged with any wrongdoing; nor has the government shown probable cause that he is guilty of any criminal offence. That matters not a jot, because, as the law stands, government officials don't need a search warrant to access our digital data. Searching someone's home requires a warrant that can only be obtained by proving probable cause, but digital searches require no such burden of proof. Most people are not aware of the ease with which governments – free, open and so-called democratic – can access and peruse our private communications.

Note: For key reports on government threats to privacy from major media sources, click here.




Ex-Minn. governor sues over body scans, pat-downs
2011-01-24, Washington Post/Associated Press
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/01/24/AR20110124059...

Former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura is suing the Department of Homeland Security and the Transportation Security Administration, saying full-body scans and pat-downs at airport checkpoints are violating his rights. Ventura filed his lawsuit [on January 24] in federal court in Minnesota. He says the new security measures violate his right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. He's asking a federal court to order officials to stop subjecting him to these searches. Ventura was governor of Minnesota from 1999 through 2002. He now hosts the television program "Conspiracy Theory." The lawsuit says Ventura had a hip replacement in 2008, and his titanium implant sets off metal detectors.

Note: Jesse Ventura is one of the heros of our time. Do a video search on his name to watch episodes of his amazingly revealing "Conspiracy Theory" programs.




Passports will be needed to buy mobile phones
2008-10-19, Times of London
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/politics/article4969312.ece

Everyone who buys a mobile telephone will be forced to register their identity on a national database under government plans to extend massively the powers of state surveillance. Phone buyers would have to present a passport or other official form of identification at the point of purchase. Privacy campaigners fear it marks the latest government move to create a surveillance society. A compulsory national register for the owners of all 72m mobile phones in Britain would be part of a much bigger database. Whitehall officials have raised the idea of a register containing the names and addresses of everyone who buys a phone in recent talks with Vodafone and other telephone companies, insiders say. The move is targeted at monitoring the owners of Britain’s estimated 40m prepaid mobile phones. They can be purchased with cash by customers who do not wish to give their names, addresses or credit card details. The pay-as-you-go phones are popular with criminals ... because their anonymity shields their activities from the authorities. But they are also used by thousands of law-abiding citizens who wish to communicate in private. The move aims to close a loophole in plans being drawn up by GCHQ, the government’s eavesdropping centre in Cheltenham, to create a huge database to monitor and store the internet browsing habits, e-mail and telephone records of everyone in Britain.

Note: For many disturbing reports on increasing threats to privacy, click here.




Agency and Bush Are Sued Over Domestic Surveillance
2008-09-18, New York Times
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/19/washington/19nsa.html?partner=rssuserland&e...

A privacy group filed a class-action lawsuit on Thursday against the National Security Agency, President Bush and other officials, seeking to halt what it describes as illegal surveillance of Americans’ telephone and Internet traffic. The lawsuit parallels a legal action brought against the AT&T Corporation in 2006 by the same nonprofit group, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, charging that the company gave the N.S.A. access to its communications lines and customer records without proper warrants. Congress derailed that lawsuit this year by passing legislation granting immunity to telecommunications companies that had provided assistance to the agency, though the foundation has said it intends to challenge the constitutionality of the new law. A lawyer with the foundation, Kevin S. Bankston, said the new suit opened a “second front” against a “massively illegal fishing expedition through AT&T’s domestic networks and databases of customer records.” When Mr. Bush started the program in late 2001, the N.S.A. began eavesdropping inside the United States without court warrants for the first time since 1978, when Congress created the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to oversee such intelligence collection. The suit’s plaintiffs are five AT&T customers, but it is filed on behalf of all customers. Like the 2006 suit, it is based in part on information from Mark Klein, a former AT&T technician who says he saw what he believed to be equipment installed by the N.S.A. at a company communications hub in San Francisco allowing the agency to filter a huge volume of Internet traffic.

Note: For many disturbing reports from major media sources of threats to privacy, click here.




Civil liberties: Outrage at New York police plan to track vehicles
2008-08-14, The Guardian (One of the U.K.'s leading newspapers)
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/aug/14/usa.humanrights

The Big Apple is turning into Big Brother, civil liberties groups have warned in response to a new plan from New York city's police chiefs to photograph every vehicle entering Manhattan and hold the details on a massive database. As well as placing cameras at all tunnels and bridges into Manhattan, the 36-page plan, called Operation Sentinel, calls for a security ring to be erected at Ground Zero and for a 50-mile buffer zone around the city within which mobile units would search for nuclear or "dirty" bombs. [The] 3,000 cameras that could be mounted as a result of the plans of the New York police ... have provoked outrage in the United States. Donna Lieberman, director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, said the idea of tracking the movements of millions of people was "an assault on the country's historical respect for the right to privacy and the freedom to be left alone". The NYCLU is pressing the New York police to release further details of its intentions under freedom of information laws. The toughest element of the scheme relates to preparations to secure Ground Zero once the six-hectare site is rebuilt and open to the public again. Those measures include moveable roadblocks, security cameras across lower Manhattan and an underground bomb-screening centre through which all delivery vehicles would have to pass. The plan to video the number plates of every vehicle would be applied to all points of entry into Manhattan, including the main Brooklyn-Battery, Holland, Lincoln and Midtown tunnels and Brooklyn, Manhattan and other bridges.

Note: For lots more on threats to privacy from major media sources, click here.




Administration Set to Use New Spy Program in U.S.
2008-04-12, Washington Post
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/04/11/AR20080411036...

The Bush administration said yesterday that it plans to start using the nation's most advanced spy technology for domestic purposes soon, rebuffing challenges by House Democrats over the idea's legal authority. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said his department will activate his department's new domestic satellite surveillance office in stages, starting as soon as possible. Sophisticated overhead sensor data will be used for law enforcement once privacy and civil rights concerns are resolved, he said. His statements marked a fresh determination to operate the department's new National Applications Office. But Congress delayed launch of the new office last October. Critics cited its potential to expand the role of military assets in domestic law enforcement, to turn new or as-yet-undeveloped technologies against Americans without adequate public debate, and to divert the existing civilian and scientific focus of some satellite work to security uses. Democrats say Chertoff has not spelled out what federal laws govern the NAO, whose funding and size are classified. Congress barred Homeland Security from funding the office until its investigators could review the office's operating procedures and safeguards. The department submitted answers on Thursday, but some lawmakers promptly said the response was inadequate. [Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee] said, "We still don't know whether the NAO will pass constitutional muster since no legal framework has been provided."

Note: For many more revealing stories on threats to civil liberties, click here.




The FBI Deputizes Business
2008-02-07, Common Dreams
http://www.commondreams.org/archive/2008/02/07/6918/

Today, more than 23,000 representatives of private industry are working quietly with the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security. The members of this rapidly growing group, called InfraGard, receive secret warnings of terrorist threats before the public does -- and, at least on one occasion, before elected officials. In return, they provide information to the government, which alarms the ACLU. But there may be more to it than that. One business executive, who showed me his InfraGard card, told me they have permission to "shoot to kill"ť in the event of martial law. In November 2001, InfraGard had around 1,700 members. As of late January, InfraGard had 23,682 members, according to its website, www.infragard.net, which adds that "350 of our nation's Fortune 500 have a representative in InfraGard."ť FBI Director Robert Mueller addressed an InfraGard convention on August 9, 2005. He urged InfraGard members to contact the FBI if they "note suspicious activity or an unusual event." And he said they could sic the FBI on "disgruntled employees who will use knowledge gained on the job against their employers."ť

Note: We don't normally use Common Dreams as a news source, but as this news is so important and the major media failed to report it, we decided to include this article here. For a revealing report by the ACLU on this key topic, click here. For important reports from major media sources on threats to civil liberties, click here.




Spies' Battleground Turns Virtual
2008-02-06, Washington Post
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/02/05/AR20080205031...

U.S. intelligence officials are [now claiming] that popular Internet services that enable computer users to adopt cartoon-like personas in three-dimensional online spaces also are creating security vulnerabilities by opening novel ways ... to move money, organize and conduct corporate espionage. Over the last few years, "virtual worlds" such as Second Life and other role-playing games have become home to millions of computer-generated personas known as avatars. By directing their avatars, people can take on alternate personalities, socialize, explore and earn and spend money across uncharted online landscapes. Nascent economies have sprung to life in these 3-D worlds, complete with currency, banks and shopping malls. Corporations and government agencies have opened animated virtual offices, and a growing number of organizations hold meetings where avatars gather and converse in newly minted conference centers. Intelligence officials ... say they're convinced that the qualities that many computer users find so attractive about virtual worlds -- including anonymity, global access and the expanded ability to make financial transfers outside normal channels -- have turned them into seedbeds for transnational threats. The government's growing concern seems likely to make virtual worlds the next battlefield in the struggle over the proper limits on the government's quest to [expand] data collection and analysis and the surveillance of commercial computer systems. Virtual worlds could also become an actual battlefield. The intelligence community has begun contemplating how to use Second Life and other such communities as platforms for cyber weapons.




Pentagon Review Faults Bank Record Demands
2007-10-14, New York Times
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/14/washington/14letter.html?ex=1350014400&en=b...

An internal Pentagon review this year found systemic problems ... in the military’s efforts to obtain records from American banks and consumer credit agencies in terrorism and espionage investigations, according to Pentagon documents. The newly disclosed documents, totaling more than 1,000 pages, provide additional confirmation of the military’s expanding use of what are known as national security letters under powers claimed under the Patriot Act. The documents show that the military has issued at least 270 of the letters since 2005, and about 500 in all since 2001. The documents were obtained through the Freedom of Information Act by two private advocacy groups, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Electronic Frontier Foundation. The New York Times first disclosed the military’s use of the letters in January, and senior members of Congress and civil liberties groups criticized the practice on grounds that it seemed to conflict with traditional Pentagon rules against domestic law enforcement operations. The documents raise a number of apparent discrepancies between the Defense Department’s internal practices and what officials have said publicly and to Congress about their use of the letters. The documents suggest, for instance, that military officials used the F.B.I. to collect records for what started as purely military investigations. And the documents also leave open the possibility that records could be gathered on nonmilitary personnel in the course of the investigations. Civil liberties advocates said recent controversy over the Department of Defense’s collection of information on antiwar protesters made them suspicious of the assertion that the letters had been used exclusively to focus on military personnel. “We are very skeptical that the D.O.D. is voluntarily limiting its own surveillance power,” said Melissa Goodman, a staff attorney for the A.C.L.U..




Case Dismissed?
2007-09-20, Newsweek
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/20884696/site/newsweek/from/ET/

The nation’s biggest telecommunications companies, working closely with the White House, have mounted a secretive lobbying campaign to get Congress to quickly approve a measure wiping out all private lawsuits against them for assisting the U.S. intelligence community’s warrantless surveillance programs. The campaign — which involves some of Washington's most prominent lobbying and law firms — has taken on new urgency in recent weeks because of fears that a U.S. appellate court in San Francisco is poised to rule that the lawsuits should be allowed to proceed. If that happens, the telecom companies say, they may be forced to terminate their cooperation with the U.S. intelligence community — or risk potentially crippling damage awards for allegedly turning over personal information about their customers to the government without a judicial warrant. But critics say the language proposed by the White House — drafted in close cooperation with the industry officials — is so extraordinarily broad that it would provide retroactive immunity for all past telecom actions related to the surveillance program. Its practical effect, they argue, would be to shut down any independent judicial or state inquires into how the companies have assisted the government in eavesdropping on the telephone calls and e-mails of U.S. residents in the aftermath of the September 11 terror attacks. “It’s clear the goal is to kill our case," said Cindy Cohn, legal director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, [which] filed the main lawsuit against the telecoms after The New York Times first disclosed, in December 2005, that President Bush had approved a secret program to monitor the phone conversations of U.S. residents without first seeking judicial warrants. “I find it a little shocking that Congress would participate in the covering up of what has been going on," added Cohn.




China Enacting a High-Tech Plan to Track People
2007-08-12, New York Times
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/08/12/business/worldbusiness/12security.html?ex=1...

At least 20,000 police surveillance cameras are being installed along streets here [in Shenzhen] in southern China and will soon be guided by sophisticated computer software from an American-financed company to recognize automatically the faces of police suspects and detect unusual activity. Starting this month in a port neighborhood and then spreading across Shenzhen, a city of 12.4 million people, residency cards fitted with powerful computer chips programmed by the same company will be issued to most citizens. Data on the chip will include not just the citizen’s name and address but also work history, educational background, religion, ethnicity, police record, medical insurance status and landlord’s phone number. Even personal reproductive history will be included, for enforcement of China’s controversial “one child” policy. Plans are being studied to add credit histories, subway travel payments and small purchases charged to the card. Security experts describe China’s plans as the world’s largest effort to meld cutting-edge computer technology with police work to track the activities of a population. But they say the technology can be used to violate civil rights. “We have a very good relationship with U.S. companies like I.B.M., Cisco, H.P., Dell,” said Robin Huang, the chief operating officer of China Public Security. “All of these U.S. companies work with us to build our system together.” The role of American companies in helping Chinese security forces has periodically been controversial in the United States. Executives from Yahoo, Google, Microsoft and Cisco Systems testified in February 2006 at a Congressional hearing called to review whether they had deliberately designed their systems to help the Chinese state muzzle dissidents on the Internet; they denied having done so.




FBI Finds It Frequently Overstepped in Collecting Data
2007-06-14, Washington Post
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/06/13/AR20070613024...

An internal FBI audit has found that the bureau potentially violated the law or agency rules more than 1,000 times while collecting data about domestic phone calls, e-mails and financial transactions in recent years, far more than was documented in a Justice Department report in March that ignited bipartisan congressional criticism. The new audit covers just 10 percent of the bureau's national security investigations since 2002. The vast majority of the new violations were instances in which telephone companies and Internet providers gave agents phone and e-mail records the agents did not request and were not authorized to collect. The agents retained the information anyway in their files. Two dozen of the newly-discovered violations involved agents' requests for information that U.S. law did not allow them to have. The results confirmed what ... critics feared, namely that many agents did not ... follow the required legal procedures and paperwork requirements when collecting personal information with one of the most sensitive and powerful intelligence-gathering tools of the post-Sept. 11 era -- the National Security Letter, or NSL. Such letters are uniformly secret and amount to nonnegotiable demands for personal information -- demands that are not reviewed in advance by a judge. After the 2001 terrorist attacks, Congress substantially eased the rules for issuing NSLs, [leading] to an explosive growth in the use of the letters. More than 19,000 such letters were issued in 2005 seeking 47,000 pieces of information, mostly from telecommunications companies.




Officials Sued Over Phone Records Access
2006-06-14, Los Angeles Times/Associated Pres
http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/politics/wire/sns-ap-phone-records-la...

The federal government sued the New Jersey attorney general and other state officials Wednesday to stop them from seeking information about telephone companies' cooperation with the National Security Agency. The unusual filing...is the latest effort by federal authorities to halt legal proceedings aimed at revealing whether and how often AT&T, Verizon and other phone companies have provided customer records to the NSA without a court order. New Jersey Attorney General Zulima Farber, a Democrat, and other officials sent subpoenas to five carriers on May 17, asking for documents that would explain whether they supplied customer records to the NSA, the lawsuit said. The subpoenas followed by a few days a USA Today report that the phone companies had complied with the secretive agency's request for the phone records of millions of ordinary Americans after the Sept. 11 attacks. The Justice Department said more than 20 lawsuits have been filed around the country alleging that the phone companies illegally assisted the NSA. The government says sensitive national security information would be revealed if judges allow those cases to proceed. In this matter, the federal government said the New Jersey officials are treading on federal turf and that the companies, if forced to comply with the subpoenas, would be confirming or denying the existence of the program. President Bush and other top federal officials have refused to do that.




Pentagon Creating Student Database
2005-06-23, Washington Post
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/06/22/AR20050622023...

The Defense Department began working yesterday with a private marketing firm to create a database of high school students ages 16 to 18 and all college students to help the military identify potential recruits. The program is provoking a furor among privacy advocates. The new database will include personal information including birth dates, Social Security numbers, e-mail addresses, grade-point averages, ethnicity and what subjects the students are studying. "The purpose of the system is to provide a single central facility within the Department of Defense to compile, process and distribute files of individuals who meet age and minimum school requirements for military service." Some information on high school students already is given to military recruiters in a separate program under provisions of the 2002 No Child Left Behind Act. Recruiters have been using the information to contact students at home, angering some parents and school districts around the country.




Encouraging Words of Regret From Dean Baquet
2014-06-06, The Intercept
https://firstlook.org/theintercept/2014/06/06/encouraging-words-dean-baquet-w...

NPR’s David Folkenflik has a revealing new look at ... one of the most important journalistic stories of the last decade: The New York Times‘ 2004 decision ... to suppress for 15 months (through Bush’s re-election) its reporters’ discovery that the NSA was illegally eavesdropping on Americans without warrants. This episode was one significant reason Edward Snowden purposely excluded the Times from his massive trove of documents. In an interview with Folkenflik, the paper’s new executive editor, Dean Baquet, describes the paper’s exclusion from the Snowden story as “really painful.” But ... Baquet has his own checkered history in suppressing plainly newsworthy stories at the government’s request, including a particularly inexcusable 2007 decision, when he was the managing editor of The Los Angeles Times, to kill a story based on AT&T whistleblower Mark Klein’s revelations that the NSA had built secret rooms at AT&T to siphon massive amounts of domestic telephone traffic. In his NPR interview, Baquet insists that he has had a serious change of heart on such questions as a result of the last year of NSA revelations: "[Baquet] says the experience has proved that news executives are often unduly deferential to seemingly authoritative warnings unaccompanied by hard evidence." Dean Baquet’s epiphany about the U.S. government and the American media ... is long overdue, but better late than never. Let us hope that it signals an actual change in behavior.

Note: For more on this, see concise summaries of deeply revealing media corruption news articles from reliable major media sources.




Keep the focus on facts about NSA spying
2014-01-16, San Francisco Chronicle (SF's leading newspaper)
http://www.sfgate.com/opinion/article/Keep-the-focus-on-facts-about-NSA-spyin...

To have a genuinely constructive debate, data must be compiled, evidence must be amassed and verifiable truths must be presented. This truism is particularly significant when it comes to debates about security and liberty. Without facts, we get the counterproductive discourse we are being treated to right now - the one hijacked by National Security Administration defenders throwing temper tantrums, tossing out fear-mongering platitudes and trying to prevent any scrutiny of the agency. Tune into a national news program and you inevitably will hear pundits who have spent the last decade mindlessly cheering on wars and warrantless wiretapping now echoing the talking points emanating from surveillance-state apparatchiks like Reps. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., and Dutch Ruppersberger, D-Md. This week, these two lawmakers, who head the House Intelligence Committee, summarized all the bluster in a press release that should be enshrined for posterity. In an attempt to defend the NSA, the bipartisan duo breathlessly claimed that whistle-blower Edward Snowden ended up "endangering each and every American" by exposing the government's mass surveillance (i.e., metadata) programs. They indicted Snowden's patriotism and said his disclosures of the NSA's unlawful and unconstitutional programs "aligned him with our enemy." But the facts now leaking out of the government's national security apparatus are doing the opposite. They are debunking - rather than confirming - the NSA defenders' platitudes.

Note: For more on government surveillance, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.




Facial Scanning Is Making Gains in Surveillance
2013-08-21, New York Times
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/21/us/facial-scanning-is-making-gains-in-surve...

The federal government is making progress on developing a surveillance system that would pair computers with video cameras to scan crowds and automatically identify people by their faces, according to newly disclosed documents and interviews with researchers working on the project. The Department of Homeland Security tested a crowd-scanning project called the Biometric Optical Surveillance System — or BOSS — last fall after two years of government-financed development. Although the system is not ready for use, researchers say they are making significant advances. That alarms privacy advocates, who say that now is the time for the government to establish oversight rules and limits on how it will someday be used. In a sign of how the use of such technologies can be developed for one use but then expanded to another, the BOSS research began as an effort to help the military detect potential suicide bombers. But in 2010, the effort was transferred to the Department of Homeland Security to be developed for use instead by the police in the United States. The effort to build the BOSS system involved a two-year, $5.2 million federal contract given to Electronic Warfare Associates, a Washington-area military contractor with a branch office in Kentucky. Significant progress is already being made in automated face recognition using photographs taken under ideal conditions, like passport pictures and mug shots. The Federal Bureau of Investigation is spending $1 billion to roll out a Next Generation Identification system that will provide a national mug shot database to help local police departments verify identities.

Note: For more on government and corporate threats to privacy, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.




The latest effort to distract attention from the NSA revelations is more absurd than most
2013-07-13, The Guardian (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/jul/13/reuters-article-dead-man-...

This Reuters article ... purports to summarize an interview I gave to the daily newspaper La Nacion of Argentina. Like everything in the matter of these NSA leaks, this interview is being wildly distorted to attract attention away from the revelations themselves. I made three points in this La Nacion interview, all of which are true: 1) The oft-repeated claim that Snowden's intent is to harm the US is completely negated by the reality that he has all sorts of documents that could quickly and seriously harm the US if disclosed, yet he has published none of those. When he gave us the documents he provided, he repeatedly insisted that we exercise rigorous journalistic judgment in deciding which documents should be published in the public interest and which ones should be concealed on the ground that the harm of publication outweighs the public value. 2) The US government has acted with wild irrationality. The current criticism of Snowden is that he's in Russia. But the reason he's in Russia isn't that he chose to be there. It's because the US blocked him from leaving: first by revoking his passport (with no due process or trial), then by pressuring its allies to deny airspace rights to any plane they thought might be carrying him to asylum (even one carrying the democratically elected president of a sovereign state), then by bullying small countries out of letting him land for re-fueling. 3) I said that [forcing his plane down] would be completely counter-productive given that ... such an attack could easily result in far more disclosures than allowing us as journalists to vet and responsibly report them, as we've [been] doing.

Note: The above article was written by brave journalist Glenn Greenwald, who broke the Snowden story. For more on the NSA surveillance scandal, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.




The journalistic practices of the Washington Post and Walter Pincus
2013-07-10, The Guardian (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/jul/10/washington-post-walter-pi...

On [July 10] the Washington Post published an article by its long-time reporter Walter Pincus. The article concocted a frenzied and inane conspiracy theory: that it was WikiLeaks and Julian Assange, working in secret with myself [Glenn Greenwald] and Laura Poitras, who masterminded the Snowden leaks ahead of time and directed Snowden's behavior. To peddle this tale, Pincus, in lieu of any evidence, spouted all sorts of accusatory innuendo masquerading as questions ... and invoked classic guilt-by association techniques. See the email I sent Pincus for the conclusive evidence of those factual falsehoods and the other distortions peddled by the Post. Apparently, the Washington Post has decided to weigh in on the ongoing debate over "what is journalism?" with this answer: you fill up articles on topics ... with nothing but idle speculation, rank innuendo, and evidence-free accusations, all under the guise of "just asking questions". You then strongly imply that other journalists who have actually broken a big story are involved in a rampant criminal conspiracy. What was far worse was that Pincus' wild conspiracy theorizing was accomplished only by asserting blatant, easily demonstrated falsehoods. The Post allowed the falsehoods to stand uncorrected all day. More than 8 hours after I first publicized his errors - Pincus emailed me back ... and vowed that a correction would be published. 36 hours after the Post published these falsehoods, 24 hours after I publicized them, and 15 hours after the author of this article acknowledged one of those errors and vowed a correction, the Post article still sits on the internet: uncorrected.

Note: For more on mass media corruption, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.




Google challenges U.S. gag order, citing First Amendment
2013-06-18, Washington Post
http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/technology/google-challenges-us-gag-or...

Google asked the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court on [June 18] to ease long-standing gag orders over data requests the court makes, arguing that the company has a constitutional right to speak about information it is forced to give the government. The legal filing, which invokes the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech, is the latest move by the California-based tech giant to protect its reputation in the aftermath of news reports about broad National Security Agency surveillance of Internet traffic. Revelations about the program, called PRISM, have opened fissures between U.S. officials and the involved companies, which have scrambled to reassure their users without violating strict rules against disclosing information that the government has classified as top secret. A high-profile legal showdown might help Google’s efforts to portray itself as aggressively resisting government surveillance, and a victory could bolster the company’s campaign to portray government surveillance requests as targeted narrowly and affecting only a small number of users. [The] unusual legal move came after days of intense talks between federal officials and several of the technology companies, including Google, over what details can be released. It also comes as the firms increasingly show signs of wanting to outdo each other in demonstrating their commitment to protecting user privacy. Facebook, Microsoft and Yahoo in recent days have won federal government permission to include requests from the court as part of the overall number of data requests they receive from federal, state and local officials.

Note: For deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources on government assaults on privacy, click here.




TSA removing 'virtual strip search' body scanners
2013-01-19, CNN
http://www.cnn.com/2013/01/18/travel/tsa-body-scanners/index.html

Airport body scanners that produce graphic images of travelers' bodies will be removed from checkpoints by June, the Transportation Security Administration says, ending what critics called "virtual strip searches." Passengers will continue to pass through machines that display a generic outline of the human body, raising fewer privacy concerns. The TSA move came after Rapiscan, the manufacturer of the 174 so-called "backscatter" machines, acknowledged it could not meet a congressional-ordered deadline to install privacy software on the machines. "It is big news," said Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center. "It removes the concern that people are being viewed naked by the TSA screener." Currently, the TSA uses the 174 backscatter machines in 30 airports, and has another 76 units in storage. It uses millimeter wave machines in 170 airports. The decision to remove the backscatter machine will make moot, at least temporarily, travelers' concerns about the health effects of the machines. Backscatter machines use X-rays, while millimeter wave machines use radio waves. The TSA has long maintained both machines are safe, but recently signed an agreement with the National Academy of Sciences to study the scanners. The study will continue even though the machines are being pulled, the TSA said, because they could be reintroduced in the future.

Note: Each of those machines cost $175,000. Someone sure made a lot of money on these machines which had a very short lifespan.




Man infects himself with computer virus
2010-05-26, MSNBC News
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/37360942

University of Reading researcher Mark Gasson has become the first human known to be infected by a computer virus. The virus, infecting a chip implanted in Gasson's hand, passed into a laboratory computer. From there, the infection could have spread into other computer chips found in building access cards. All this was intentional, in an experiment to see how simple radio-frequency identification (RFID) chips like those used for tracking animals can host and spread technological diseases. The research from the British university shows that as implantable bionic devices such as pacemakers get more sophisticated in the years ahead, their security and the safety of the patients whose lives depend on them will become increasingly important, said Gasson. "We should start to think of these devices as miniature computers," Gasson said. And just like everyday computers, they can get sick. "I don’t think for us that (infectious technological agents) would be a particularly new concept, but implants in our bodies will make it a lot more real," Gasson told TechNewsDaily. "A denial-of-service attack on a pacemaker, if such a thing were possible, would of course be very detrimental."

Note: For lots more from reliable sources on the dangers of microchip implant technologies, click here.




Loosening of F.B.I. Rules Stirs Privacy Concerns
2009-10-29, New York Times
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/29/us/29manual.html

After a Somali-American teenager from Minneapolis committed a suicide bombing in Africa in October 2008, the Federal Bureau of Investigation began investigating whether a Somali Islamist group had recruited him on United States soil. Instead of collecting information only on people about whom they had a tip or links to the teenager, agents fanned out to scrutinize Somali communities. The operation unfolded as the Bush administration was relaxing some domestic intelligence-gathering rules. The F.B.I.’s interpretation of those rules was recently made public when it released, in response to a Freedom of Information lawsuit, its “Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide.” The disclosure of the manual has opened the widest window yet onto how agents have been given greater power in the post-Sept. 11 era. But the manual’s details have alarmed privacy advocates. “It raises fundamental questions about whether a domestic intelligence agency can protect civil liberties if they feel they have a right to collect broad personal information about people they don’t even suspect of wrongdoing,” said Mike German, a former F.B.I. agent who now works for the American Civil Liberties Union. The manual authorizes agents to open an “assessment” to “proactively” seek information about whether people or organizations are involved in national security threats. Assessments permit agents to use potentially intrusive techniques, like sending confidential informants to infiltrate organizations and following and photographing targets in public. When selecting targets, agents are permitted to consider political speech or religion as one criterion.

Note: To read the FBI's recently-released and redacted new "Domestic Investigations and Operation Guide", described by the New York Times as giving "F.B.I. agents the most power in national security matters that they have had since the post-Watergate era," click here.




Warning over 'surveillance state'
2009-02-06, BBC News
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/politics/7872425.stm

Electronic surveillance and collection of personal data are "pervasive" in British society and threaten to undermine democracy, peers [in the House of Lords] have warned. CCTV cameras and the DNA database were two examples of threats to privacy, the Lords constitution committee said. It called for compensation for people subject to illegal surveillance. Civil liberties campaigners have warned about the risks of a "surveillance society" in which the state acquires ever-greater powers to track people's movements and retain personal data. In its report, the Lords constitution committee said growth in surveillance by both the state and the private sector risked threatening people's right to privacy, which it said was "an essential pre-requisite to the exercise of individual freedom". People were often unaware of the scale of personal information held and exchanged by public bodies, it said. "There can be no justification for this gradual but incessant creep towards every detail about us being recorded and pored over by the state," committee chairman and Tory peer Lord Goodlad said. "The huge rise in surveillance and data collection by the state and other organisations risks undermining the long-standing tradition of privacy and individual freedom which are vital for democracy," Lord Goodlad added. Human rights campaigners Liberty welcomed the report.

Note: For key reports from major media sources on growing threats to privacy from governments and corporations, click here.




Let's face it, soon Big Brother will have no trouble recognising you
2009-01-13, Times of London
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/guest_contributors/articl...

This is the year when automated face-recognition finally goes mainstream, and it's about time we considered its social and political implications. Researchers are developing sharply accurate scanners that monitor faces in 3D and software that analyses skin texture to turn tiny wrinkles, blemishes and spots into a numerical formula. The strongest face-recognition algorithms are now considered more accurate than most humans - and already the Home Office and the Association of Chief Police Officers have held discussions about the possibility of linking such systems with automatic car-numberplate recognition and public-transport databases. Join everything together via the internet, and voilŕ - the nation's population, down to the individual Times reader, can be conveniently and automatically monitored in real time. So let's understand this: governments and police are planning to implement increasingly accurate surveillance technologies that are unnoticeable, cheap, pervasive, ubiquitous, and searchable in real time. And private businesses, from bars to workplaces, will also operate such systems, whose data trail may well be sold on or leaked to third parties - let's say, insurance companies that have an interest in knowing about your unhealthy lifestyle, or your ex-spouse who wants evidence that you can afford higher maintenance payments.

Note: For disturbing reports on threats to privacy from major media sources, click here.




Satellite-Surveillance Program to Begin Despite Privacy Concerns
2008-10-01, Wall Street Journal
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB122282336428992785.html

The Department of Homeland Security will proceed with the first phase of a controversial satellite-surveillance program, even though an independent review found the department hasn't yet ensured the program will comply with privacy laws. Congress provided partial funding for the program in a little-debated $634 billion spending measure that will fund the government until early March. For the past year, the Bush administration had been fighting Democratic lawmakers over the spy program, known as the National Applications Office. The program is designed to provide federal, state and local officials with extensive access to spy-satellite imagery. Since the department proposed the program a year ago, several Democratic lawmakers have said that turning the spy lens on America could violate Americans' privacy and civil liberties unless adequate safeguards were required. A new [but classified] 60-page Government Accountability Office report said the department "lacks assurance that NAO operations will comply with applicable laws and privacy and civil liberties standards." The report cites gaps in privacy safeguards. The department, it found, lacks controls to prevent improper use of domestic-intelligence data by other agencies and provided insufficient assurance that requests for classified information will be fully reviewed to ensure it can be legally provided. But the bill Congress approved, which President George W. Bush signed into law Tuesday, allows the department to launch a limited version.

Note: For many reports from major media sources of disturbing threats to privacy, click here.




A New Rush to Spy
2008-08-22, New York Times
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/22/opinion/22fri2.html?partner=rssuserland&emc...

There is apparently no limit to the Bush administration’s desire to invade Americans’ privacy in the name of national security. According to members of Congress, Attorney General Michael Mukasey is preparing to give the F.B.I. broad new authority to investigate Americans — without any clear basis for suspicion that they are committing a crime. Opening the door to sweeping investigations of this kind would be an invitation to the government to spy on people based on their race, religion or political activities. Mr. Mukasey has not revealed the new guidelines. But according to senators whose staff have been given limited briefings, the rules may also authorize the F.B.I. to use an array of problematic investigative techniques. Among these are pretext interviews, in which agents do not honestly represent themselves while questioning a subject’s neighbors and work colleagues. The F.B.I. has a long history of abusing its authority to spy on domestic groups, including civil rights and anti-war activists, and there is a real danger that the new rules would revive those dark days. Clearly, the Bush administration cannot be trusted to get the balance between law enforcement and civil liberties right. It has repeatedly engaged in improper and illegal domestic spying — notably in the National Security Agency’s warrantless eavesdropping program. The F.B.I. and the White House no doubt want to push the changes through before a new president is elected. There is no reason to rush to adopt rules that have such important civil liberties implications.




FBI plans to loosen post-Watergate FBI rules
2008-08-13, Minneapolis Star-Tribune/McClatchy News Service
http://www.startribune.com/nation/26935044.html?elr=KArksi8cyaiUBP7hUiD3aPc:_...

Attorney General Michael Mukasey confirmed plans ... to loosen post-Watergate restrictions on the FBI's national security and criminal investigations. Mukasey said he expected criticism of the new rules because "they expressly authorize the FBI to engage in intelligence collection inside the United States." The Justice Department ... is expected to publicly release the final version within several more weeks. Even then, portions are expected to remain classified for national security reasons. Nonetheless, Mukasey provided enough detail Wednesday to alarm civil libertarians. Michael German, a former veteran FBI agent who is now policy counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, said if Mukasey moves ahead with the new rules as he describes them, he'll be weakening restrictions originally put in place after the Watergate scandal to rein in the FBI's domestic Counter Intelligence Program, or COINTELPRO. "I'm concerned with the way the attorney general frames the problem," German said. "He talks about 'arbitrary or irrelevant differences' between criminal and national security investigations but these were corrections originally designed to prevent the type of overreach the FBI engaged in for years." German said recent events demonstrated that Mukasey needed to strengthen the FBI's guidelines, not "water them down. ... What the attorney general is doing is expanding the bureau's intelligence collection without addressing the mismanagement within the FBI. If you have an agency collecting more with less oversight, it's only going to get worse."

Note: For many disturbing reports on increasing threats to civil liberties from reliable sources, click here.




Travelers' Laptops May Be Detained At Border: No Suspicion Required
2008-08-01, Washington Post
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/08/01/AR20080801030...

Federal agents may take a traveler's laptop computer or other electronic device to an off-site location for an unspecified period of time without any suspicion of wrongdoing, as part of border search policies the Department of Homeland Security recently disclosed. Also, officials may share copies of the laptop's contents with other agencies and private entities for language translation, data decryption or other reasons, according to the policies, dated July 16 and issued by two DHS agencies, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. "The policies . . . are truly alarming," said Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.), who is probing the government's border search practices. He said he intends to introduce legislation soon that would require reasonable suspicion for border searches, as well as prohibit profiling on race, religion or national origin. DHS officials said the newly disclosed policies ... apply to anyone entering the country, including U.S. citizens. Civil liberties and business travel groups have pressed the government to disclose its procedures as an increasing number of international travelers have reported that their laptops, cellphones and other digital devices had been taken -- for months, in at least one case -- and their contents examined. The policies cover "any device capable of storing information in digital or analog form," including hard drives, flash drives, cellphones, iPods, pagers, beepers, and video and audio tapes. They also cover "all papers and other written documentation," including books, pamphlets and "written materials commonly referred to as 'pocket trash' or 'pocket litter.' "

Note: For many reports from reliable, verifiable sources on threats to privacy, click here.




Why Hospitals Want Your Credit Report
2008-03-18, Wall Street Journal
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB120580305267343947.html

In a development that consumer groups say raises privacy issues, a growing number of hospitals are mining patients' personal financial information to figure out how likely they are to pay their bills. Some hospitals are peering into patients' credit reports, which contain information on people's lines of credit, debts and payment histories. Other hospitals are contracting with outside services that predict a patient's income and whether he or she is likely to walk away from a medical bill. Hospitals often use these services when patients are uninsured or have big out-of-pocket costs despite having health insurance. Consumer advocates say the practice creates the potential for hospitals to misuse the information by denying or cutting back on patients' care if they can't pay. What's more, hospitals could scour a patient's financial records for credit lines and encourage the patient to tap them, despite high interest rates or other costs. "It has the potential to put people at risk financially," says Mark Rukavina, executive director of the Access Project, a research and advocacy group that focuses on medical debt. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or Hipaa, a federal law that has patient-privacy provisions, doesn't bar hospitals from providing patient payment histories to consumer reporting agencies. It's unclear how much latitude hospitals have to legally check a patient's financial information. Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, hospitals are allowed to obtain patients' credit reports if they get their permission, says Rebecca Kuehn, an assistant director in the Federal Trade Commission's division of privacy and identity protection.

Note: For many other revelations of privacy abuses from reliable, verifiable sources, click here.




Microsoft seeks patent for office 'spy' software
2008-01-16, Times of London
http://technology.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/tech_and_web/article3193480.ece

Microsoft is developing Big Brother-style software capable of remotely monitoring a worker’s productivity, physical wellbeing and competence. The Times has seen a patent application filed by the company for a computer system that links workers to their computers via wireless sensors that measure their metabolism. The system would allow managers to monitor employees’ performance by measuring their heart rate, body temperature, movement, facial expression and blood pressure. Unions said they fear that employees could be dismissed on the basis of a computer’s assessment of their physiological state. This is believed to be the first time a company has proposed developing such software for mainstream workplaces. Microsoft submitted a patent application in the US for a “unique monitoring system” that could link workers to their computers. Wireless sensors could read “heart rate, galvanic skin response, EMG, brain signals, respiration rate, body temperature, movement facial movements, facial expressions and blood pressure”, the application states. The system could also “automatically detect frustration or stress in the user”. Physical changes to an employee would be matched to an individual psychological profile based on a worker’s weight, age and health. If the system picked up an increase in heart rate or facial expressions suggestive of stress or frustration, it would tell management. Civil liberties groups and privacy lawyers strongly criticised the potential of the system for “taking the idea of monitoring people at work to a new level”.

Note: For revealing reports from major media sources on the increasing surveillance of all aspects of society by secret government and corporate programs, click here.




Immunity for Telecoms May Set Bad Precedent, Legal Scholars Say
2007-10-22, Washington Post
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/10/21/AR20071021010...

When previous Republican administrations were accused of illegality in the FBI and CIA spying abuses of the 1970s or the Iran-Contra affair of the 1980s, Democrats in Congress launched investigations or pushed for legislative reforms. But last week, faced with admissions by several telecommunication companies that they assisted the Bush administration in warrantless spying on Americans, leaders of the Senate intelligence committee took a much different tack -- proposing legislation that would grant those companies retroactive immunity from prosecution or lawsuits. The proposal marks the second time in recent years that Congress has moved toward providing legal immunity for past actions that may have been illegal. The Military Commissions Act, passed by a GOP-led Congress in September 2006, provided retroactive immunity for CIA interrogators who could have been accused of war crimes for mistreating detainees. Legal experts say the granting of such retroactive immunity by Congress is unusual, particularly in a case involving private companies. "It's particularly unusual in the case of the telecoms because you don't really know what you're immunizing," said Louis Fisher, a specialist in constitutional law with the Law Library of the Library of Congress. Civil liberties groups and many academics argue that Congress is allowing the government to cover up possible wrongdoing and is inappropriately interfering in disputes that the courts should decide. The American Civil Liberties Union [said] in a news release Friday that "the administration is trying to cover its tracks."




Concerns Raised on Wider Spying Under New Law
2007-08-19, New York Times
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/08/19/washington/19fisa.html?ex=1345176000&en=2e7...

Broad new surveillance powers approved by Congress this month could allow the Bush administration to conduct spy operations that go well beyond wiretapping to include — without court approval — certain types of physical searches on American soil and the collection of Americans’ business records. “This may give the administration even more authority than people thought,” said David Kris, a former senior Justice Department lawyer in the Bush and Clinton administrations. Several legal experts said that by redefining the meaning of “electronic surveillance,” the new law narrows the types of communications covered in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, known as FISA, by indirectly giving the government the power to use intelligence collection methods far beyond wiretapping that previously required court approval if conducted inside the United States. These new powers include the collection of business records, physical searches and so-called “trap and trace” operations, analyzing specific calling patterns. For instance, the legislation would allow the government, under certain circumstances, to demand the business records of an American in Chicago without a warrant if it asserts that the search concerns its surveillance of a person who is in Paris, experts said. Some civil rights advocates said they suspected that the administration made the language of the bill intentionally vague to allow it even broader discretion over wiretapping decisions. The end result ... is that the legislation may grant the government the right to collect a range of information on American citizens inside the United States without warrants, as long as the administration asserts that the spying concerns the monitoring of a person believed to be overseas.




Defense Agency Proposes Outsourcing More Spying
2007-08-19, Washington Post
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/08/18/AR20070818009...

The Defense Intelligence Agency is preparing to pay private contractors up to $1 billion to conduct core intelligence tasks of analysis and collection over the next five years, an amount that would set a record in the outsourcing of such functions by the Pentagon's top spying agency. The proposed contracts ... reflect a continuing expansion of the Defense Department's intelligence-related work and fit a well-established pattern of Bush administration transfers of government work to private contractors. Since 2000, the value of federal contracts signed by all agencies each year has more than doubled to reach $412 billion, with the largest growth at the Defense Department. Outsourcing particularly accelerated among intelligence agencies after the [Sept. 11] 2001 terrorist attacks. The DIA's action comes a few months after CIA Director Michael V. Hayden, acting under pressure from Congress, announced a program to cut the agency's hiring of outside contractors by at least 10 percent. The DIA is the country's major manager and producer of foreign military intelligence, with more than 11,000 military and civilian employees worldwide and a budget of nearly $1 billion. It has its own analysts from the various services as well as collectors of human intelligence in the Defense HUMINT Service. DIA also manages the Defense attaches stationed in embassies all over the world. Unlike the CIA, the DIA outsources the major analytical products known as all-source intelligence reports, a senior intelligence official said.




Domestic Use of Spy Satellites To Widen
2007-08-16, Washington Post
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/08/15/AR20070815024...

The Bush administration has approved a plan to expand domestic access to some of the most powerful tools of 21st-century spycraft, giving law enforcement officials and others the ability to view data obtained from satellite and aircraft sensors that can see through cloud cover and even penetrate buildings and underground bunkers. A program approved by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Department of Homeland Security will allow broader domestic use of secret overhead imagery beginning as early as this fall, with the expectation that state and local law enforcement officials will eventually be able to tap into technology once largely restricted to foreign surveillance. But the program ... quickly provoked opposition from civil liberties advocates, who said the government is crossing a well-established line against the use of military assets in domestic law enforcement. The administration's decision would provide domestic authorities with unprecedented access to high-resolution, real-time satellite photos. They could also have access to much more. Civil liberties groups quickly condemned the move, which Kate Martin, director of the Center for National Security Studies, ... likened to "Big Brother in the sky. They want to turn these enormous spy capabilities ... onto Americans. They are laying the bricks one at a time for a police state." Steven Aftergood, director of the Project on Government Secrecy for the Federation of American Scientists, said that ... oversight for the program was woefully inadequate. Enhanced access "shouldn't be adopted at all costs because it comes with risk to privacy and to the integrity of our political institutions," he said.




US doles out millions for street cameras
2007-08-12, Boston Globe
http://www.boston.com/news/nation/articles/2007/08/12/us_doles_out_millions_f...

The Department of Homeland Security is funneling millions of dollars to local governments nationwide for purchasing high-tech video camera networks, accelerating the rise of a "surveillance society" in which the sense of freedom that stems from being anonymous in public will be lost, privacy rights advocates warn. The department ... has doled out millions on surveillance cameras, transforming city streets and parks into places under constant observation. A Globe [investigation] shows that a large number of new surveillance systems, costing at least tens and probably hundreds of millions of dollars, are being simultaneously installed around the country as part of homeland security grants. Federal money is helping New York, Baltimore, and Chicago build massive surveillance systems that may also link thousands of privately owned security cameras. Boston has installed about 500 cameras in the MBTA system, funded in part with homeland security funds. Marc Rotenberg, director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, said [the] Homeland Security Department is the primary driver in spreading surveillance cameras, making their adoption more attractive by offering federal money to city and state leaders. The proliferation of cameras could mean that Americans will feel less free because legal public behavior -- attending a political rally, entering a doctor's office, or even joking with friends in a park -- will leave a permanent record, retrievable by authorities at any time.




The Fear of Fear Itself
2007-08-07, New York Times
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/08/07/opinion/07tue1.html?ex=1344139200&en=69538e...

It was appalling to watch over the last few days as Congress — now led by Democrats — caved in to yet another unnecessary and dangerous expansion of President Bush’s powers, this time to spy on Americans in violation of basic constitutional rights. Many of the 16 Democrats in the Senate and 41 in the House who voted for the bill said that they had acted in the name of national security, but the only security at play was their job security. What [do] the Democrats ... plan to do with their majority in Congress if they are too scared of Republican campaign ads to use it to protect the Constitution and restrain an out-of-control president[?] The White House and its allies on Capitol Hill railroaded Congress into voting a vast expansion of the president’s powers. They gave the director of national intelligence and the attorney general authority to intercept — without warrant, court supervision or accountability — any telephone call or e-mail message that moves in, out of or through the United States as long as there is a “reasonable belief” that one party is not in the United States. While serving little purpose, the new law has real dangers. It would allow the government to intercept, without a warrant, every communication into or out of any country, including the United States. The Democratic majority has made strides on other issues like children’s health insurance against White House opposition. As important as these measures are, they do not excuse the Democrats from remedying the damage Mr. Bush has done to civil liberties and the Bill of Rights. That is their most important duty.




Ruling Limited Spying Efforts
2007-08-03, Washington Post
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/08/02/AR20070802026...

A federal intelligence court judge earlier this year secretly declared a key element of the Bush administration's wiretapping efforts illegal, according to a lawmaker and government sources, providing a previously unstated rationale for fevered efforts by congressional lawmakers this week to expand the president's spying powers. House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) disclosed elements of the court's decision in remarks ... to Fox News as he was promoting the administration-backed wiretapping legislation. The judge, whose name could not be learned, concluded early this year that the government had overstepped its authority in attempting to broadly surveil communications between two locations overseas that are passed through routing stations in the United States. The decision was both a political and practical blow to the administration, which had long held that all of the National Security Agency's enhanced surveillance efforts since 2001 were legal. The administration for years had declined to subject those efforts to the jurisdiction of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, and after it finally did so in January the court ruled that the administration's legal judgment was at least partly wrong. The practical effect has been to block the NSA's efforts to collect information from a large volume of foreign calls and e-mails that passes through U.S. communications nodes clustered around New York and California. Both Democrats and Republicans have signaled they are eager to fix that problem through amendments to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). An unstated facet of the program is that anyone the foreigner is calling inside the United States, as long as that person is not the primary target, would also be wiretapped.




A Push to Rewrite Wiretap Law
2007-08-01, Washington Post
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/07/31/AR20070731018...

The Bush administration is pressing Congress this week for the authority to intercept, without a court order, any international phone call or e-mail between a surveillance target outside the United States and any person in the United States. It would also give the attorney general sole authority to order the interception of communications for up to one year as long as he certifies that the surveillance is directed at a person outside the United States. Civil liberties and privacy groups have denounced the administration's proposal, which they say would effectively allow the National Security Agency to revive a warrantless surveillance program conducted in secret from 2001 until late 2005. They say it would also give the government authority to force carriers to turn over any international communications into and out of the United States without a court order. An unstated facet of the program is that anyone the foreigner is calling inside the United States, as long as that person is not the primary target, would also be wiretapped. Caroline Fredrickson, director of the ACLU's Washington legislative office [said], "What the administration is really going after is the Americans. Even if the primary target is overseas, they want to be able to wiretap Americans without a warrant." The proposal would also allow the NSA to ... have access to the entire stream of communications without the phone company sorting, said Kate Martin, director of the Center for National Security Studies. "It's a 'trust us' system," she said. "Give us access and trust us."




FBI Plans Initiative To Profile Terrorists
2007-07-11, Washington Post
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/07/10/AR20070710018...

The Federal Bureau of Investigation is developing a computer-profiling system that would enable investigators to target possible terror suspects. The System to Assess Risk, or STAR, assigns risk scores to possible suspects based on a variety of information, similar to the way a credit bureau assigns a rating based on a consumer's spending behavior and debt. The program focuses on foreign suspects but also includes data about some U.S. residents. Some lawmakers said ... that the report raises new questions about the government's power to use personal information and intelligence without accountability. "The Bush administration has expanded the use of this technology, often in secret, to collect and sift through Americans' most sensitive personal information," said Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. The use of data mining in the war on terror has sparked criticism. An airplane-passenger screening program called CAPPS II was revamped and renamed because of civil liberty concerns. An effort to collect Americans' personal and financial data called Total Information Awareness was killed. Law enforcement and national security officials have continued working on other programs to use computers to sift through information for signs of threats. The Department of Homeland Security, for example, flags travelers entering and leaving the United States who may be potential suspects through a risk-assessment program called the Automated Targeting System.




Lawsuit Against Wiretaps Rejected
2007-07-07, Washington Post
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/07/06/AR20070706007...

A federal appeals court removed a serious legal challenge to the Bush administration's warrantless wiretapping program yesterday, overruling the only judge who held that a controversial surveillance effort by the National Security Agency was unconstitutional. Two members of a three-judge panel ... ordered the dismissal of a major lawsuit that challenged the wiretapping, which President Bush authorized secretly to eavesdrop on communications ... shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. The court did not rule on the spying program's legality. Instead, it declared that the American Civil Liberties Union and the others who brought the case -- including academics, lawyers and journalists -- did not have the standing to sue because they could not demonstrate that they had been direct targets of the clandestine surveillance. The decision vacates a ruling in the case made last August by a U.S. District Court judge in Detroit, who ruled that the administration's program to monitor private communications violated the Bill of Rights and a 1970s federal law. Steven R. Shapiro, the ACLU's legal director, said: "As a result of today's decision, the Bush administration has been left free to violate the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which Congress adopted almost 30 years ago to prevent the executive branch from engaging in precisely this kind of unchecked surveillance."




Doctors, Legislators Resist Drugmakers' Prying Eyes
2007-05-22, Washington Post
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/05/21/AR20070521017...

Pediatrician Rupin Thakkar's first inkling that the pharmaceutical industry was peering over his shoulder ... came in a letter from a drug representative about the generic drops Thakkar prescribes to treat infectious pinkeye. In the letter, the salesperson wrote that Thakkar was causing his patients to miss more days of school than they would if he put them on Vigamox, a more expensive brand-name medicine made by Alcon Laboratories. "My initial thought was 'How does she know what I'm prescribing?' " Thakkar said. "It feels intrusive ... I just feel strongly that medical encounters need to be private." He is not alone. Many doctors object to drugmakers' common practice of contracting with data-mining companies to track exactly which medicines physicians prescribe and in what quantities -- information marketers and salespeople use to fine-tune their efforts. The concerns are not merely about privacy. Proponents say using such detailed data for drug marketing serves mainly to influence physicians to prescribe more expensive medicines, not necessarily to provide the best treatment. "We don't like the practice, and we want it to stop," said Jean Silver-Isenstadt, executive director of the National Physicians Alliance. (Thakkar is on the group's board of directors.) "We think it's a contaminant to the doctor-patient relationship, and it's driving up costs." The American Medical Association makes millions of dollars each year by helping data-mining companies link prescribing data to individual physicians. It does so by licensing access to the AMA Physician Masterfile, a database containing names, birth dates, educational background, specialties and addresses for more than 800,000 doctors.

Note: For more reliable, verifiable information about major corruption in the drug industry, click here.




Congress Demands NSA Spying Answers
2006-05-11, CBS News
http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2006/05/11/politics/main1609261.shtml

Congressional Republicans and Democrats demanded answers from the Bush administration Thursday about a government spy agency secretly collecting records of ordinary Americans' phone calls to build a database of every call made within the country. This database affects as many as 200 million Americans. AT&T Corp., Verizon Communications Inc., and BellSouth Corp. telephone companies began turning over records of tens of millions of their customers' phone calls to the NSA program shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. 'We have reached a privacy crisis,' said Rep. Edward J. Markey, D-MA, the ranking Democrat on the House Telecommunications and Internet Subcommittee. 'The N.S.A. stands for Now Spying on Americans.' Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., told Fox News Channel: "The idea of collecting millions or thousands of phone numbers, how does that fit into following the enemy?" The Justice Department has abruptly ended an inquiry into the warrantless eavesdropping program because the NSA refused to grant its lawyers the necessary security clearance. The Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility [said] they were closing their inquiry because without clearance their lawyers cannot examine Justice lawyers' role in the program.

Note: Who gave the NSA power to stop the Justice Department from performing an inquiry?




NSA used city police as trackers
2006-01-13, Baltimore Sun
http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/local/bal-md.nsa13jan13,1,3964287.story

The National Security Agency used law enforcement agencies, including the Baltimore Police Department, to track members of a city anti-war group as they prepared for protests outside the sprawling Fort Meade facility, internal NSA documents show. The target of the clandestine surveillance was the Baltimore Pledge of Resistance, a group...whose members include many veteran city peace activists with a history of nonviolent civil disobedience. Since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, members of the group say, their protests have come under increasing scrutiny by federal and local law enforcement officials working on behalf of the NSA. An internal NSA e-mail, posted on two Internet sites this week, shows how operatives with the "Baltimore Intel Unit" provided a minute-by-minute account of Pledge of Resistances' preparations for a July 3, 2004. "****UPDATE: 11:55 HRS. S/A V------- ADVISED THE PROTESTORS LEFT 4600 YORK ROAD EN ROUTE TO THE NSA CAMPUS ... S/A V----- REPORTED FIVE OR SIX PEOPLE IN A BLUE VAN WITH BLACK BALLOONS, ANTI-WAR SIGNS AND A POSSIBLE HELIUM TANK." Some legal analysts and administration critics say the agency's actions violate the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.




Military enforces 'Semper Fido' with microchips
2002-08-15, Christian Science Monitor
http://www.csmonitor.com/2002/0815/p01s04-usmi.html

Abandoned pets are a growing part of the military culture. Dogs and cats are dropped off in remote corners of the post at a rate of more than 20 a week. But the US Armed Forces are fighting back. Adopting a Big Brother approach, the military is implanting microchips in cats and dogs that live on government land – as much for animal control as for owner control. Says Fort Polk, La., Garrison Command Sgt. Maj. Ricky L. Jones of the soldier who abandons a pet, "with the chip you can't hide." Fort Polk has used the chip to track down soldiers who have abandoned their pets and forced them to pay an adoption fee. "It's a way to control our stray animal population and protect our working force, too," says Capt. Steven Baty, a veterinarian at Fort Carson, Colo., where microchipping has been mandatory since 1998. The tiny chips, the size of a grain of rice, are injected under the skin on an animal's neck and contain a bar code that can be scanned and read by humane societies and veterinary clinics nationwide. The procedure costs about $15, takes two to three seconds, and is no more painful than a typical vaccination. Microchip enforcement varies by base. At Fort Polk, La., animal controllers are part of a weekly housing patrol, joining inspectors who check to make sure lawns are cut and that soldiers aren't violating housing regulations. The animal controller carries a portable scanner and runs the wand over dogs and cats, looking for numbers to light up the small screen. If the pets don't have a microchip, soldiers are warned, and if they don't comply, their animals are taken away.

Note: The Monitor removed this article from their website. To see a copy of it on the Internet archive, click here.




Stampeding Congress, Again
2007-08-03, New York Times
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/08/03/opinion/03fri1.html?ex=1343793600&en=269721...

Since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the Bush administration has repeatedly demonstrated that it does not feel bound by the law or the Constitution. It cannot even be trusted to properly use the enhanced powers it was legally granted after the attacks. Yet, once again, President Bush has been trying to stampede Congress into a completely unnecessary expansion of his power to spy on Americans. The fight is over the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which requires the government to obtain a warrant before eavesdropping on electronic communications that involve someone in the United States. Mr. Bush decided after 9/11 that he was no longer going to obey that law. He authorized the National Security Agency to intercept international telephone calls and e-mail messages of Americans and other residents of this country without a court order. He told the public nothing and Congress next to nothing about what he was doing, until The Times disclosed the spying in December 2005. Ever since, the White House has tried to pressure Congress into legalizing Mr. Bush’s rogue operation. The administration and its ... supporters in Congress argue that American intelligence is blinded by FISA and have seized on neatly timed warnings of heightened terrorist activity to scare everyone. It is vital for Americans, especially lawmakers, to resist that argument. It is pure propaganda. [The question at issue is] whether we are a nation ruled by law, or the whims of men in power.




AT+T revises privacy policy, says owns customer data
2006-06-22, ABC News/Reuters
http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory?id=2105967

AT&T Inc. said on Wednesday it was revising its privacy policy, explaining to customers that it owns their phone records and can hand them over to law enforcers if necessary. The changes...come at a time when AT&T and other phone companies face lawsuits claiming they aided a U.S. government domestic spying program by giving the National Security Agency call records of millions of customers without their permission. The new policy, unlike the old one, spells out the fact that AT&T...customer information constitutes "business records that are owned by AT&T. As such, AT&T may disclose such records to protect its legitimate business interests, safeguard others, or respond to legal process." The earlier policy had simply said that...the company could share customer information to "respond to subpoenas, court orders or other legal process, to the extent required and/or permitted by law." Under the new policy...the company also said that it would track viewing information for customers of a television service it is developing in order to help it make recommendations to customers based on their viewing habits. It also said that before customers use its services they must agree to the policy, an element that was not in its previous guidelines.




Tracking The Companies That Track You Online
2010-08-19, NPR
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=129298003

One of the fastest-growing online businesses is the business of spying on Internet users by using sophisticated software to track movements through the Web, so that the information can be sold to advertisers. Julia Angwin recently led a team of reporters from The Wall Street Journal in analyzing the tracking software. They discovered that nearly all of the most commonly visited websites gather information in real time about the behavior of online users. The Journal series identified more than 100 tracking companies, data brokers and advertising networks collecting data — which are then sold on a stock market-like exchange to online advertisers. Angwin explains how consumer surveillance works, how users can disable the tracking software — and how advertisers are continually evolving to keep up with the data they receive. She notes that many Internet users are unaware that their information is being tracked and then traded. "Most people that we have heard from since writing these stories did not know what was going on," Angwin explains. "So when you go to a website, you're not thinking about the fact that they might have relationships with all different types of monitoring firms, and those firms are installing things that are invisible to you on your computer."

Note: Julia Angwin is senior technology editor of The Wall Street Journal, and author of the book, Stealing MySpace: The Battle to Control the Most Popular Website in America. For lots more on growing threats to privacy, click here.




Greater Use of Privilege Spurs Concern
2008-01-29, Washington Post
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/01/28/AR20080128024...

The U.S. government has been increasing its use of the state secrets privilege to avoid disclosure of classified information in civil lawsuits. Some legal scholars and members of Congress contend that the Bush administration has employed it excessively as it intervened in cases that could expose information about sensitive programs. These include the rendition of detainees to foreign countries for interrogation and cases related to the National Security Agency's use of warrantless wiretaps. The privilege allows the government to argue that lawsuits -- and the information potentially revealed by them -- could damage national security. It gives judges the power to prevent information from reaching public view or to dismiss cases even if they appear to have merit. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) ... cited statistics that show the Bush administration has used the state secrets privilege substantially more, on a percentage basis, than previous administrations to block or dismiss lawsuits. Kevin Bankston, a lawyer with the Electronic Frontier Foundation ... said "The administration is attempting to use the privilege as a back-door immunity to obtain dismissal of any case that attempts to put the NSA wiretapping issue in front of a judge. It is no secret such a program existed."

Note: For many disturbing reports on government secrecy from reliable sources, click here.




Journalist in legal battle with military
2007-01-05, San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco's leading newspaper)
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2007/01/05/DDG4HNCE5R1.DTL

The questions from the civilian spokesman at Fort Lewis started sounding suspicious to Sarah Olson. He had called to ask the Oakland freelance journalist about the accuracy of quotes in her story about Lt. Ehren Watada, which had appeared on the liberal Web site Truthout.org. As the telephone conversation progressed, Olson realized that the military was using her to fortify its case against Watada, whom it was prosecuting as the first commissioned officer to refuse deployment to Iraq. While Watada faces a court-martial next month for conduct unbecoming an officer, the U.S. military pursues Olson. Last month, military prosecutors subpoenaed the 31-year-old writer and radio journalist, asking her to appear at his court-martial, scheduled to begin next month, to verify what Watada said. If Olson doesn't testify, she faces six months in jail or a $500 fine and a felony charge for a story she was paid $300 to write. Olson doesn't want to be part of a legal action that she believes limits someone's free speech. She came to journalism six years ago ... hoping to create more places for dissenting or seldom-heard voices, not fewer. "Journalists should not be asked to participate in the prosecution of political speech," Olson said. [She] isn't being asked to reveal unpublished work. "What I don't understand is why they (prosecutors) can't get this information digitally," said Fidell, president of the National Institute of Military Justice. Olson doesn't have a problem with journalists testifying in court. She doesn't want journalists to be coerced to testify in cases that could limit free speech.

Note: Truthout.org is one of the main sources of our information. Interesting that one of their reporters should be targeted in this way. For stories by 20 award-winning journalists on how the media is controlled, click here.




The Agency That Could Be Big Brother
2005-12-25, New York Times
http://www.nytimes.com/2005/12/25/weekinreview/25bamford.html?ex=1293166800&e...

Deep in a remote, fog-layered hollow near Sugar Grove, W.Va., hidden by fortress-like mountains, sits the country's largest eavesdropping bug. The station's large parabolic dishes secretly and silently sweep in millions of private telephone calls and e-mail messages an hour. Run by the ultrasecret National Security Agency, the listening post intercepts all international communications entering the eastern United States. Another N.S.A. listening post, in Yakima,Wash., eavesdrops on the western half of the country. According to John E. McLaughlin, who as the deputy director of the Central Intelligence Agency in the fall of 2001 was among the first briefed on the program, this eavesdropping was the most secret operation in the entire intelligence network, complete with its own code word - which itself is secret. Jokingly referred to as "No Such Agency," the N.S.A. was created in absolute secrecy in 1952 by President Harry S. Truman. But the agency is still struggling to adjust to the war on terror. At home, it increases pressure on the agency to bypass civil liberties and skirt formal legal channels of criminal investigation. Originally created to spy on foreign adversaries, the N.S.A. was never supposed to be turned inward.

Note: Don't miss the amazing article on Operation Northwoods by the author of this article, former ABC producer James Bamford. It details the 1962 plans of the Pentagon chiefs to foment terrorism in the US as a pretext for war with Cuba. See http://www.WantToknow.info/010501operationnorthwoods




Invoking Secrets Privilege Becomes a More Popular Legal Tactic
2006-06-04, New York Times
http://www.nytimes.com/2006/06/04/washington/04secrets.html?ex=1307073600&en=...

Facing a wave of litigation challenging its eavesdropping at home and its handling of terror suspects abroad, the Bush administration is increasingly turning to a legal tactic that swiftly torpedoes most lawsuits: the state secrets privilege. Officials have used the privilege...to ask the courts to throw out three legal challenges to the National Security Agency's domestic surveillance program. The privilege claim, in which the government says any discussion of a lawsuit's accusations would endanger national security, has short-circuited judicial scrutiny and public debate. While the privilege...was once used to shield sensitive documents or witnesses from disclosure, it is now often used to try to snuff out lawsuits at their inception. "If the very people you're suing are the ones who get to use the state secrets privilege, it's a stacked deck," said Representative Christopher Shays, Republican of Connecticut. Robert M. Chesney, a law professor at Wake Forest University...said the administration's legal strategy "raises profound legal and policy questions." Under Mr. Bush, the secrets privilege has been used to block a lawsuit by a translator at the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Sibel Edmonds, who was fired after accusing colleagues of security breaches. Two lawsuits challenging the government's practice of rendition, in which terror suspects are seized and delivered to detention centers overseas, were dismissed after the government raised the secrets privilege.

Note: Sibel Edmonds is one of several whistleblowers with powerfully incriminating information on 9/11 who have been silenced with tactics like those mentioned above. To learn more about this critical case which has been blocked, see http://www.WantToKnow.info/050131sibeledmonds




For some firms, NSA eavesdropping means business
2014-08-12, San Francisco Chronicle (SF's leading newspaper)
http://www.sfgate.com/technology/article/For-some-firms-NSA-eavesdropping-mea...

To many Americans, online eavesdropping by the U.S. National Security Agency is an outrage, a threat to privacy and freedom. To some, it's a business opportunity. A small but growing number of companies have introduced Internet and communications services designed to shield users from the government's eyes. A few even advertise their products as "NSA-proof." Many of the companies have been offering encrypted online services for years, scrambling their customers' data and communications in ways that require the right computer-generated "key" to decode. They are at least as concerned with thwarting private hackers and corporate spies as they are with blocking federal agents. But some entrepreneurs in the field found motivation in the NSA, after learning that the agency has been collecting troves of Internet and phone data on ordinary citizens for years. "Privacy and democracy go hand in hand - that's why this is so important," said Jason Stockman, one of the creators of ProtonMail, which began offering an encrypted e-mail service in May. "Our goal is to protect people against mass surveillance." But most companies will quickly admit that if the NSA - or some foreign intelligence service - really wants your data, they can't guarantee protection. Since the NSA conducts its business in secret, its full capabilities remain a matter of speculation. Most companies that invoke the NSA in their marketing focus on encryption.

Note: For more on this, see concise summaries of deeply revealing government surveillance news articles from reliable major media sources.




Indiana Woman Sues US Customs Over Detention
2014-02-20, CBS Cleveland
http://cleveland.cbslocal.com/2014/02/20/indiana-woman-sues-us-customs-over-d...

An Indiana University faculty member has sued two U.S. customs agents for detaining her after the government eavesdropped on emails she exchanged with a Greek friend. The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana filed a federal lawsuit [on February 19] alleging the customs agents violated Christine Von Der Haar’s constitutional protection against unreasonable searches and seizures. “This case raises troubling issues about the power of the government to detain and question citizens,” said Ken Falk, the ACLU of Indiana legal director who represents Von Der Haar. The lawsuit alleges Von Der Haar, a senior lecturer in the sociology department at Indiana University in Bloomington, was confined in a guarded room at Indianapolis International Airport for more than 20 minutes on June 8, 2012, while she was questioned about her relationship with her friend. The lawsuit alleges the questioning was based on surreptitious monitoring of communications between Von Der Haar and her friend, Dimitris Papatheodoropoulus. The two “communicated frequently through emails. Some of these emails were flirtatious and romantic in nature,” the lawsuit said. Von Der Haar felt she had no choice but to answer questions from the agents, whom she believed to be armed, and did not believe she could leave until they released her, the lawsuit said. “The detention of Dr. Von Der Haar was without cause or justification,” the complaint said, and “caused her anxiety, concern, distress and other damages.” The lawsuit names the two customs agents as defendants and seeks damages.

Note: For more on government abuses of civil liberties, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.




Edward Snowden a 'hero' for NSA disclosures, Wikipedia founder says
2013-11-25, The Guardian (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/nov/25/edward-snowden-nsa-wikipedia-fou...

Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia, has called on Barack Obama to rein in the National Security Agency as he described the whistleblower Edward Snowden as "a hero" whom history will judge "very favourably". Wales called for a "major re-evaluation" of the NSA, adding that the public "would have never approved this sweeping surveillance program" had it been put to a vote. The revelations, Wales said, had been "incredibly damaging and embarrassing to the US. It makes it very difficult for someone like me to go out, as I do, [to] speak to people in authoritarian countries, and say: 'You shouldn’t be spying on activists, you shouldn’t be censoring the internet', when we [in the US] are complicit in these acts of extraordinary intrusion into people’s personal lives. [Snowden] has exposed what I believe to be criminal wrongdoing, lying to Congress, and certainly [an] affront to the Fourth Amendment. I think that history will judge him very favourably. There is a growing sense of concern in Congress about this, a growing sense in Congress that public is angry about this, that they have been misled and I think we are going to see legislation to change this."

Note: For more on the realities of intelligence agency activities, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.




Guardian teams up with New York Times over Snowden documents
2013-08-23, MSN/Reuters
http://money.msn.com/business-news/article.aspx?feed=OBR&date=20130823&id=168...

The Guardian has agreed with the New York Times to give the U.S. newspaper access to some classified documents leaked by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, both papers said on [August 23]. In a brief story posted on its website, the Guardian said it "struck a partnership" with the Times after the British government threatened the Guardian with legal action unless it either surrendered or destroyed files it received from Snowden about Government Communications Headquarters - Britain's equivalent of NSA. The Times' executive editor, Jill Abramson, confirmed the collaboration. A source familiar with the matter said the partnership deal had been struck several weeks ago and that Abramson was personally involved in negotiating it. The Guardian said in its story that its partnership with the Times would enable it to "continue exposing mass surveillance by putting the Snowden documents on GCHQ beyond government reach." The Times and the Guardian previously collaborated on stories related to alleged phone hacking by British tabloid newspapers and on coverage of secret U.S. military and diplomatic documents made available by U.S. Army soldier Bradley Manning to the WikiLeaks website.

Note: For more on the NSA spying scandal, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.




Supreme Court says police may take DNA samples from arrestees
2013-06-03, Washington Post
http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2013-06-03/politics/39704073_1_dna-samples...

A divided Supreme Court ruled [on June 3] that police may take DNA samples when booking those arrested for serious crimes, narrowly upholding a Maryland law and opening the door to more widespread collection of DNA by law enforcement. The court ruled 5 to 4 that government has a legitimate interest in collecting DNA from arrestees ... to establish the identity of the person in custody. Conservative Justice Antonin Scalia ... amplified his displeasure by reading a summary of his dissent from the bench. “The court has cast aside a bedrock rule of our Fourth Amendment law: that the government may not search its citizens for evidence of crime unless there is a reasonable cause to believe that such evidence will be found,” Scalia said from the bench. He added, “Make no mistake about it: As an entirely predictable consequence of today’s decision, your DNA can be taken and entered into a national DNA database if you are ever arrested, rightly or wrongly, and for whatever reason.” Steven R. Shapiro, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union said the decision “creates a gaping new exception to the Fourth Amendment” and violates a long-established understanding that “police cannot search for evidence of a crime ... without individualized suspicion.”

Note: For deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources on government assaults on privacy, click here.




Your car may be invading your privacy
2013-03-24, USA Today
http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/cars/2013/03/24/car-spying-edr-data-priva...

Is your car spying on you? If it's a recent model, has a fancy infotainment system or is equipped with toll-booth transponders or other units you brought into the car that can monitor your driving, your driving habits or destination could be open to the scrutiny of others. If your car is electric, it's almost surely capable of ratting you out. You may have given your permission, or you may be the last to know. All too often, "people don't know it's happening," says Dorothy Glancy, a law professor at Santa Clara University in California who specializes in transportation and privacy. "People should be able to decide whether they want it collected or not." Try as you may to protect your privacy while driving, it's only going to get harder. The government is about to mandate installation of black-box accident recorders, a dumbed-down version of those found on airliners — that remember all the critical details leading up to a crash, from your car's speed to whether you were wearing a seat belt. The devices are already built into 96% of new cars. Privacy becomes an issue when data end up in the hands of outsiders whom motorists don't suspect have access to it, or when the data are repurposed for reasons beyond those for which they were originally intended. Though the information is being collected with the best of intentions — safer cars or to provide drivers with more services and conveniences — there is always the danger it can end up in lawsuits, or in the hands of the government or with marketers looking to drum up business from passing motorists.

Note: For more on the OnStar system in most GM cars now and how it allows spying on you, read the CNN article titled "OnStar's 'brazen' data tracking comes under fire" at this link.




Police to begin iPhone iris scans amid privacy concerns
2011-07-20, Chicago Tribune/Reuters News
http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/sns-rt-us-crime-identificatre76j4a1-201107...

Dozens of police departments nationwide are gearing up to use a tech company's already controversial iris- and facial-scanning device that slides over an iPhone and helps identify a person or track criminal suspects. Its use has set off alarms with some who are concerned about possible civil liberties and privacy issues. The smartphone-based scanner, named Mobile Offender Recognition and Information System, or MORIS, is made by BI2 Technologies in Plymouth, Massachusetts. An iris scan, which detects unique patterns in a person's eyes, can reduce to seconds the time it takes to identify a suspect in custody. When attached to an iPhone, MORIS can photograph a person's face and run the image through software that hunts for a match in a BI2-managed database of U.S. criminal records. Constitutional rights advocates are concerned, in part because the device can accurately scan an individual's face from up to four feet away, potentially without a person's being aware of it. Experts also say that before police administer an iris scan, they should have probable cause a crime has been committed. "What we don't want is for them to become a general surveillance tool, where the police start using them routinely on the general public, collecting biometric information on innocent people," said Jay Stanley, senior policy analyst with the national ACLU in Washington, D.C.

Note: For key reports from major media sources on government threats to privacy and civil liberties, click here and here.




Plain-clothes officers 'were deployed at G20 demo'
2011-01-19, BBC
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-12232936

Scotland Yard has admitted giving MPs inaccurate information by denying "covert officers" were deployed at London's G20 protests in April 2009. In a statement, the Metropolitan Police said it had established that covert officers had been deployed to the protests. The letter came after ... the unmasking of undercover policeman Mark Kennedy, who attended many demonstrations during seven years living as a spy among green activists. Giving evidence at the select committee in 2009, Commander Bob Broadhurst told MPs then: "The only officers we deploy for intelligence purposes at public order are forward intelligence team officers who are wearing full police uniforms with a yellow jacket with blue shoulders. There were no plain clothes officers deployed at all." The Met statement released on Wednesday said: "Having made thorough checks on the back of recent media reporting we have now established that covert officers were deployed during the G20 protests. Therefore the information that was given by Commander Bob Broadhurst to the Home Affairs Select Committee saying that 'We had no plain-clothes officers deployed within the crowd' was not accurate."

Note: For lots more on the police provocateur Mark Kennedy, click here.




Growing backlash against TSA body scanners, pat-downs
2010-11-13, CNN
http://www.cnn.com/2010/TRAVEL/11/12/travel.screening/index.html

A growing pilot and passenger revolt over full-body scans and what many consider intrusive pat-downs couldn't have come at a worse time for the nation's air travel system. Thanksgiving, the busiest travel time of the year, is less than two weeks away. Grassroots groups are urging travelers to either not fly or to protest by opting out of the full-body scanners and undergo time-consuming pat-downs instead. Some pilots, passengers and flight attendants have chosen to opt out of the revealing scans. One online group, National Opt Out Day calls for a day of protest against the scanners on Wednesday, November 24, the busiest travel day of the year. Another group argues the TSA should remove the scanners from all airports. The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC)... is taking legal action. Pilots' unions for US Airways and American Airlines are urging their members to avoid full-body scanning at airport security checkpoints, citing health risks and concerns about intrusiveness and security officer behavior. "Pilots should NOT submit to AIT (Advanced Imaging Technology) screening," wrote Capt. Mike Cleary, president of the U.S. Airline Pilots Association. "Frequent exposure to TSA-operated scanner devices may subject pilots to significant health risks," Cleary wrote. The website We Won't Fly urgers travelers to "Act now. Travel with Dignity."

Note: For a powerful, one-minute video showing just how invasive these searches are, click here.




The People We Pay to Look Over Our Shoulders
2010-02-23, New York Times
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/23/books/23watchers.html

The world of modern eavesdropping, or signals intelligence ... for many years ... operated in the shadows. The Puzzle Palace, the 1983 best seller by James Bamford that remains the benchmark study of the N.S.A., first pulled back the curtain to provide a glint of unwanted sunlight on the place. As each operation has come to light, an anxious public has wanted to know whether this powerful new surveillance model was undermining traditional notions of privacy and civil liberties. Just whom is the government watching? And who is watching the watchers? It has been left to outsiders — journalists, authors, civil rights advocates and privacy groups — to keep tabs on the watchers and to bring public scrutiny to once-secret programs. For the spymasters, this spotlight was decidedly unwelcome. Mike McConnell, a director of intelligence in the Bush administration, ... is one of the recurring characters in The Watchers: The Rise of America’s Surveillance State by Shane Harris. Mr. Harris, with some success, does what Mr. McConnell and others in the intelligence world have found so objectionable: he watches the watchers. At its best The Watchers provides an insightful glimpse into how Washington works and how ideas are marketed and sold in the back rooms of power, whether the product being peddled is widgets or a radical model for intelligence gathering.

Note: For more insights into the activities of Big Brother, click here.




Arrest Puts Focus on Protesters’ Texting
2009-10-05, New York Times
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/05/nyregion/05txt.html

As demonstrations have evolved with the help of text messages and online social networks, so too has the response of law enforcement. On Thursday, F.B.I. agents descended on a house in Jackson Heights, Queens [NY], and spent 16 hours searching it. The most likely reason for the raid: a man who lived there had helped coordinate communications among protesters at the Group of 20 summit in Pittsburgh. The man, Elliot Madison, 41, a social worker who has described himself as an anarchist, had been arrested in Pittsburgh on Sept. 24 and charged with hindering apprehension or prosecution, criminal use of a communication facility and possession of instruments of crime. The Pennsylvania State Police said he was found in a hotel room with computers and police scanners while using the social-networking site Twitter to spread information about police movements. He has denied wrongdoing. American protesters first made widespread use of mass text messages in New York, during the 2004 Republican National Convention. Messages, sent as events unfolded, allowed demonstrators and others to react quickly to word of arrests, police mobilizations and roving rallies. Mass texting has since become a valued tool among protesters, particularly at large-scale demonstrations. Mr. Madison [may be] the first to be charged criminally while sending information electronically to protesters about the police. “He and a friend were part of a communications network among people protesting the G-20,” Mr. Madison’s lawyer, Martin Stolar, said on Saturday. “There’s absolutely nothing that he’s done that should subject him to any criminal liability.”

Note: For many reports from reliable sources on increasing government erosion of civil liberties, click here.




Big business and security
2009-09-28, The Guardian (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/libertycentral/2009/sep/25/eu-security

The European security research programme (ESRP) has a €1.4bn EU budget and its twin objectives are to enhance European security and foster the growth of a globally competitive security industry in Europe. Unfortunately, in its haste to cash-in on the homeland security boom, the EU has effectively outsourced the design of its security research agenda to some of the corporations that have the most to gain from its implementation. It has created bodies outside the formal structure of the EU, beyond parliamentary scrutiny and democratic control. The result is a public research programme designed by lobbyists, for lobbyists, with corporations invited to shape the objectives and annual priorities, and then apply for the money on offer. ESRP was the brainchild of the "group of personalities", an EU advisory body convened in 2003 that included some of Europe's largest defence and IT contractors alongside the likes of NATO, the EU military committee and the Rand Corporation. The group's primary concern was the scale of the US government's investment in homeland security R&D, which meant that the US was "taking a lead" in the development of security "technologies and equipment which … could meet a number of Europe's needs", putting US multinationals in "a very strong competitive position".

Note: The author of this article, Ben Hayes, has written a detailed report, NeoConOpticon: the EU Security-Industrial Complex published by Statewatch and the Transnational Institute.




Interpol wants facial recognition database to catch suspects
2008-10-20, The Guardian (One of the U.K.'s leading newspapers)
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/oct/20/interpol-facial-recognition

Interpol is planning to expand its role into the mass screening of passengers moving around the world by creating a face recognition database. Every year more than 800 million international travellers fail to undergo "the most basic scrutiny" to check whether their identity documents have been stolen, the global policing cooperation body has warned. Senior figures want a system that lets immigration officials capture digital images of passengers and immediately cross-check them against a database of pictures of [alleged] terror suspects, international criminals and fugitives. The UK's first automated face recognition gates -- matching passengers to their digital image in the latest generation of passports -- began operating at Manchester airport in August. Mark Branchflower, head of Interpol's fingerprint unit, will this week unveil proposals in London for the creation of biometric identification systems that could be linked to such immigration checks. The civil liberties group No2ID, which campaigns against identity cards, expressed alarm at the plans. "This is a move away from seeking specific persons to GCHQ-style bulk interception of information," warned spokesman Michael Parker. "This is the next step. Law enforcement agencies want the most efficient systems but there has to be a balance between security and privacy."

Note: For many disturbing reports on increasing threats to privacy, click here.




New, controversial FBI guidelines go into effect
2008-10-05, Agence France Presse
http://afp.google.com/article/ALeqM5hP_LBcTEJD1GJG_ScYfk20kl0bPw

US Attorney General Michael Mukasey has signed new guidelines for FBI operations he said are designed to better protect the country from terrorist attacks, but that raise concern of some lawmakers and civil rights groups. The new, revised regulations -- the original version met strong criticism from congressional committees last month -- comprise 50 pages dealing with five areas of FBI investigation, including criminal, national security and foreign intelligence. Despite Mukasey's assurances that the new regulations "reflect consultation with Congress as well as privacy and civil liberties groups," not all concerns over their effect on privacy rights were dispelled. [The] Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, Democrat Patrick Leahy, said the new guidelines expand the FBI's powers of surveillance. "It appears that with these guidelines, the attorney general is once again giving the FBI broad new powers to conduct surveillance and use other intrusive investigative techniques on Americans without requiring any indication of wrongdoing or any approval even from FBI supervisors," Leahy said in a statement. "The American people deserve a ... Justice Department that does not sacrifice or endanger their rights and privacy," he added. The American Civil Liberties Union, who had called for an investigation into the first version of the FBI regulations, said the new rules "reduce standards for beginning 'assessments.'" "More troubling still," it added, "the guidelines allow a person's race or ethnic background to be used as a factor in opening an investigation, a move that the ACLU believes may institute a racial profiling as a matter of policy."

Note: For many reports on increasing government surveillance and threats to privacy, click here.




Bush Lawyer Won't Say if Congress can Limit President's Power
2008-04-24, San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco's leading newspaper)
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/04/24/MNAI10AKM0.DTL

A Bush administration lawyer resisted a San Francisco federal judge's attempts Wednesday to get him to say whether Congress can limit the president's wiretap authority in terrorism and espionage cases, calling the question simplistic. "You can't possibly make that judgment on the public record" without knowing the still-secret details of the electronic surveillance program that President Bush approved in 2001, Justice Department attorney Anthony Coppolino said at a crucial hearing in a wiretapping lawsuit. Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker didn't rule immediately on the government's request to dismiss the suit by an Islamic charity in Oregon, which says a document that federal authorities accidentally released showed it was wiretapped. But Walker, in an extensive exchange with Coppolino, said Congress had spoken clearly in a 1978 law that required the government to obtain a warrant from a secret court before it could conduct electronic surveillance of suspected foreign terrorists or spies. "The president is obliged to follow what Congress has mandated," Walker said. The case may determine whether any U.S. court can judge the legality of Bush's covert order to the National Security Agency to intercept phone calls and e-mails between Americans and suspected foreign terrorists without seeking judicial approval. After Bush acknowledged the existence of the program, Congress temporarily extended it in August and now is debating whether to protect telecommunications companies from lawsuits for their past cooperation. Most lawsuits challenging the program have been dismissed because the plaintiffs were unable to show that they had been wiretapped.

Note: For many disturbing reports of increasing threats to civil liberties, click here.




ACLU: Military using FBI to skirt restrictions
2008-04-01, MSNBC/Associated Press
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/23908142

The military is using the FBI to skirt legal restrictions on domestic surveillance to obtain private records of Americans' Internet service providers, financial institutions and telephone companies, the ACLU said Tuesday. The American Civil Liberties Union based its conclusion on a review of more than 1,000 documents turned over by the Defense Department after it sued the agency last year for documents related to national security letters. The letters are investigative tools used to compel businesses to turn over customer information without a judge's order or grand jury subpoena. ACLU lawyer Melissa Goodman said the documents the civil rights group studied "make us incredibly concerned that the FBI and DoD might be collaborating to evade limits" placed on the Defense Department's use of the letters. Goodman, a staff attorney with the ACLU National Security Project, said the military is allowed to demand financial and credit records in certain instances but does not have the authority to get e-mail and phone records or lists of Web sites that people have visited. That is the kind of information that the FBI can get by using a national security letter, she said. "That's why we're particularly concerned. The DoD may be accessing the kinds of records they are not allowed to get," she said. Goodman also noted that legal limits are placed on the Defense Department "because the military doing domestic investigations tends to make us leery.

Note: For further disturbing reports on threats to civil liberties, click here.




Google has lots to do with intelligence
2008-03-30, San Francisco Chronicle (San Francisco's leading newspaper)
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/03/29/BUQLUAP8L.DTL

When the nation's intelligence agencies wanted a computer network to better share information ... they turned to a big name in the technology industry to supply some of the equipment: Google Inc. The Mountain View company sold the agencies servers for searching documents. Many of the contracts are for search appliances - servers for storing and searching internal documents. Agencies can use the devices to create their own mini-Googles on intranets made up entirely of government data. Additionally, Google has had success licensing a souped-up version of its aerial mapping service, Google Earth. Spy agencies are using Google equipment as the backbone of Intellipedia, a network aimed at helping agents share intelligence. [The system] is maintained by the director of national intelligence and is accessible only to the CIA, FBI, National Security Agency and an alphabet soup of other intelligence agencies and offices. Google supplies the computer servers that support the network, as well as the search software that allows users to sift through messages and data. Because of the complexities of doing business with the government, Google uses resellers to process orders on its behalf. Google takes care of the sales, marketing and management of the accounts. Google is one of many technology vendors vying for government contracts. On occasion, Google is the target of conspiracy theories from bloggers who say it is working with spy agencies more closely than simply selling search equipment.




Every bank transaction triggers snooping
2008-03-26, Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Atlanta's leading newspaper)
http://www.ajc.com/blogs/content/shared-blogs/ajc/barrcode/entries/2008/03/26...

The sad saga of [Eliot] Spitzer should concern every American. The web of snooping in which federal investigators and regulators are now able to ensnare any person who engages in any form of financial transaction has become so complex and pervasive that almost no person anywhere in the world can escape its clutches. The seeds of this modern-day Orwellian financial web were sown in the late 1960s and early 1970s when such expansive federal laws as the Bank Secrecy Act were enacted. Designed as tools to ferret out organized crime figures, major drug traffickers and international money launderers, this family of far-reaching regulatory-cum-criminal laws initially was used largely as intended. Many of the “Suspicious Activity Reports” (or SARs) required by the Bank Secrecy Act of 1970, for example, were largely ignored by investigators and prosecutors, who viewed them as burdensome and difficult to catalog and utilize. Two events have conspired to change all that. First, the advent of digital technology has elevated dramatically the ability of the government to gather, analyze, manipulate, retrieve and disseminate the SAR data. The second factor ... was, of course, the events of 9/11 and the ensuing USA Patriot Act. These two things institutionalized fear as the driving force in virtually all federal policies, including those relating to financial reporting. [A section of] the Patriot Act — has been interpreted by banking examiners to require banks to profile their customers and the full range of their transactions, regardless of amount. These “know your customer” regulations are among the most insidious of this entire class of invasive federal laws and regulations.

Note: This informative article is by former US Congressman Bob Barr, who has become a crusader against the excesses of the PATRIOT Act.




Unintended Consequences
2008-03-24, Newsweek magazine
http://www.newsweek.com/id/123489

When Congress passed the Patriot Act in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, law-enforcement agencies hailed it as a powerful tool to help track down the confederates of Osama bin Laden. No one expected it would end up helping to snag the likes of Eliot Spitzer. In the fine print were provisions that gave the Treasury Department authority to demand more information from banks about their customers' financial transactions. But Treasury went further. It issued stringent new regulations that required banks themselves to look for unusual transactions (such as odd patterns of cash withdrawals or wire transfers) and submit SARs—Suspicious Activity Reports—to the government. Facing potentially stiff penalties if they didn't comply, banks and other financial institutions installed sophisticated software to detect anomalies among millions of daily transactions. They began ranking the risk levels of their customers ... based on complex formulas that included ... whether an account holder was a "politically exposed person" [PEP]. At first focused on potentially crooked foreign officials, the PEP lists expanded to include many U.S. politicians and public officials who were conceivably vulnerable to corruption. Federal prosecutors around the country routinely scour the SARs for potential leads. One of those leads led to Spitzer. Last summer New York's North Fork Bank, where Spitzer had an account, filed a SAR about unusual money transfers he had made. The governor called attention to himself by asking the bank to transfer money in someone else's name. The SAR was not itself evidence that Spitzer had committed a crime. But it made the Feds curious enough to follow the money.

Note: This story provides useful information about how the PATRIOT Act has been applied since its passage. The reasons for the investigation of Eliot Spitzer, leading to his resignation, may not have been so simple, however, given his many powerful enemies in government and on Wall Street.




Schweitzer seeks other governors to oppose REAL ID
2008-01-19, Associated Press
http://www.kptm.com/Global/story.asp?S=7745822&nav=menu606_2_4

Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer is urging a third of the nation's governors to join him in opposing the implementation of a national identification card, saying they can force Congress to change it. Schweitzer, who last year said "no, nope, no way, hell no" to the federal plan calling for national driver's licenses under the REAL ID Act, sent a letter yesterday to 17 other governors asking them to oppose a Department of Homeland Security effort to penalize states that have not adopted the mandate. Homeland Security has said recently that travelers from states that have not adopted the license will have to use a passport or certain types of federal border-crossing cards if they want to avoid a vigorous secondary screening at airport security.




New rules on licenses pit states against feds
2008-01-11, CNN
http://www.cnn.com/2008/US/01/11/real.id.ap/index.html

Residents of at least 17 states are suddenly stuck in the middle of a fight between the Bush administration and state governments over post-September 11 security rules for driver's licenses -- a dispute that, by May, could leave millions of people unable to use their licenses to board planes or enter federal buildings. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, who unveiled final details of the REAL ID Act's rules on Friday, said that if states want their licenses to remain valid for air travel after May 2008, those states must seek a waiver indicating they want more time to comply with the legislation. Chertoff said that in instances where a particular state doesn't seek a waiver, its residents will have to use a passport or a newly created federal passport card if they want to avoid a vigorous secondary screening at airport security. Chertoff spoke as he discussed the details of the administration's plan to improve security for driver's licenses in all 50 states -- an effort delayed due to opposition from states worried about the cost and civil libertarians upset about what they believe are invasions of privacy. Under the rules announced Friday, Americans born after Dec. 1, 1964, will have to get more secure driver's licenses in the next six years. The American Civil Liberties Union has fiercely objected to the effort, particularly the sharing of personal data among government agencies. In its written objection to the law, the ACLU claims REAL ID amounts to the "first-ever national identity card system," which "would irreparably damage the fabric of American life."




Cellphone Tracking Powers on Request
2007-11-23, Washington Post
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/11/22/AR20071122014...

Federal officials are routinely asking courts to order cellphone companies to furnish real-time tracking data so they can pinpoint the whereabouts of drug traffickers, fugitives and other criminal suspects, according to judges and industry lawyers. In some cases, judges have granted the requests without requiring the government to demonstrate that there is probable cause to believe that a crime is taking place or that the inquiry will yield evidence of a crime. Privacy advocates fear such a practice may expose average Americans to a new level of government scrutiny of their daily lives. The requests and orders are sealed at the government's request, so it is difficult to know how often the orders are issued or denied. "Most people don't realize it, but they're carrying a tracking device in their pocket," said Kevin Bankston of the privacy advocacy group Electronic Frontier Foundation. "Cellphones can reveal very precise information about your location, and yet legal protections are very much up in the air." In a stinging opinion this month, a federal judge in Texas denied a request by a Drug Enforcement Administration agent for data that would identify a drug trafficker's phone location by using the carrier's E911 tracking capability. E911 tracking systems read signals sent to satellites from a phone's Global Positioning System (GPS) chip or triangulated radio signals sent from phones to cell towers. "Law enforcement routinely now requests carriers to continuously 'ping' wireless devices of suspects to locate them when a call is not being made . . . so law enforcement can triangulate the precise location of a device and [seek] the location of all associates communicating with a target," wrote Christopher Guttman-McCabe, vice president of regulatory affairs for CTIA -- the Wireless Association.

Note: For many major media reports on serious new threats to civil liberties, click here.




FBI Would Skirt the Law With Proposed Phone Record Program, Experts Say
2007-07-10, ABC News blog
http://blogs.abcnews.com/theblotter/2007/07/fbi-would-skirt.html

A proposed new FBI program would skirt federal laws by paying private companies to hold millions of phone and Internet records which the bureau is barred from keeping itself, experts say. The $5 million project would apparently pay private firms to store at least two years' worth of telephone and Internet activity by millions of Americans, few of whom would ever be considered a suspect in any terrorism, intelligence or criminal matter. The FBI is barred by law from collecting and storing such data if it has no connection to a specific investigation or intelligence matter. In recent years the bureau has tried to encourage telecommunications firms to voluntarily store such information, but corporations have balked at the cost of keeping records they don't need. "The government isn't allowed to warehouse the information, and the companies don't want to, so this creates a business incentive for the companies to warehouse it, so the government can access it later," said Mike German, a policy expert on national security and privacy issues for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).  "It's a public-private partnership that puts civil liberties to the test." In March, an FBI official identified the companies as Verizon, MCI and AT&T. Even the bureau's own top lawyer said she found the [FBI's] behavior "disturbing," noting that when requesting access to phone company records, it repeatedly referenced "emergency" situations that did not exist, falsely claimed grand juries had subpoenaed information and failed to keep records on much of its own activity.




Informed Consent Waived in Public Crisis
2006-06-08, CBS News/Associated Press
http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2006/06/08/ap/health/mainD8I3MMRO0.shtml

In a public health emergency, suspected victims would no longer have to give permission before experimental tests could be run to determine why they're sick, under a federal rule published Wednesday. Privacy experts called the exception unnecessary, ripe for abuse and an override of state informed-consent laws. Health care workers will be free to run experimental tests on blood and other samples taken from people who have fallen sick as a result of a bioterrorist attack, bird flu outbreak, detonation of a dirty bomb or any other life-threatening public health emergency, according to the rule issued by the Food and Drug Administration. The rule took effect Wednesday but remains subject to public comment until Aug. 7. The FDA said it published the rule without first seeking comments because it would hinder the response to an outbreak of bird flu or other public health emergency.




Palace Revolt
2006-02-06, Newsweek
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/11079547/site/newsweek/

They were loyal conservatives and Bush appointees. They fought a quiet battle to rein in the president's power in the war on terror. And they paid a price for it. James Comey...resigned as deputy attorney general in the summer of 2005. Comey's farewell speech...contained...an unusual passage. Comey thanked "people who came to my office, or my home, or called my cell phone late at night, to quietly tell me when I was about to make a mistake; they were the people committed to getting it right....Some of them did pay a price for their commitment to right, but they wouldn't have it any other way." These Justice Department lawyers, backed by their intrepid boss Comey, had stood up to the hard-liners, centered in the office of the vice president, who wanted to give the president virtually unlimited powers in the war on terror. Demanding that the White House stop using what they saw as farfetched rationales for riding rough-shod over the law and the Constitution, [they] fought to bring government spying and interrogation methods within the law. These government attorneys did not always succeed, but their efforts went a long way toward vindicating the principle of a nation of laws and not men. They did not see the struggle in terms of black and white but in shades of gray -- as painfully close calls with unavoidable pitfalls. They worried deeply about whether their principles might put Americans at home and abroad at risk. Their story...is a quietly dramatic profile in courage.

Note: If you want to understand the complexities involved behind the scenes at the top levels of US politics, I most highly recommend reading this entire article. It is five webpages in length.




Blair laid bare: the article that may get you arrested
2006-06-29, Independent (One of the U.K.'s leading newspapers)
http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/politics/article1129827.ece

In the guise of fighting terrorism and maintaining public order, Tony Blair's Government has quietly and systematically taken power from Parliament and the British people. The author charts a nine-year assault on civil liberties that reveals the danger of trading freedom for security. A new law...says that no one may demonstrate within a kilometre...of Parliament Square if they have not first acquired written permission. This effectively places the entire centre of British government...off-limits to the protesters. Blair...turns out to have an authoritarian streak. What is remarkable...is the harm his government has done to the unwritten British constitution in those nine years, without anyone really noticing, without the press objecting or the public mounting mass protests. Last year...I started to notice trends in Blair's legislation...to put in place all the necessary laws for total surveillance of society. The right not to be tried twice for the same offence...no longer exists. The presumption of innocence is compromised. The ID card [and] centralised database...will log and store details of every important action in a person's life. "You and I will carry them because we are upright citizens. But a terrorist ...will be carrying yours." Once a person is arrested he or she may be fingerprinted and photographed by the police and have a DNA sample removed with an oral swab - by force if necessary...before that person has been found guilty of any crime, whether it be dropping litter or shooting someone.




Gitmo detainees denied witnesses: Lawyer calls legal proceedings ‘shams’
2006-11-16, MSNBC/Associated Press
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/15759610

The U.S. military called no witnesses, withheld evidence from detainees and usually reached a decision within a day as it determined that hundreds of men detained at Guantanamo Bay were “enemy combatants,” according to a new report. The analysis of transcripts and records...found that hearings that determined whether a prisoner should remain in custody gave the accused little opportunity to contest allegations against him. “These were not hearings. These were shams,” said Mark Denbeaux, an attorney and Seton Hall University law professor who along with his son, Joshua, is the author of the report. The military held Combatant Status Review Tribunals for 558 detainees...between July 2004 and January 2005 and found all but 38 were enemy combatants. Handcuffed detainees appeared before a panel of three officers with no defense attorney, only a military “personal representative.” Representatives said nothing in the hearings 14 percent of the time and made no “substantive” comments in 30 percent. In 74 percent of the cases, the government denied requests to call witnesses who were detained at the prison. The report is based on transcripts...released earlier this year in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit... The Military Commissions Act, which President Bush signed on Oct. 17, strips all non-U.S. citizens held under suspicion of being an enemy combatant of their right to challenge their detention in civilian courts with petitions of habeas corpus.




Apple, Google, Facebook and others urge government surveillance disclosure
2013-07-18, NBC News/Reuters
http://www.nbcnews.com/technology/apple-google-facebook-others-urge-surveilla...

Dozens of companies, non-profits and trade organizations including Apple, Google, and Facebook sent a letter [on July 18] pushing the Obama administration and Congress for more disclosures on the government's national security-related requests for user data. Together with LinkedIn, Yahoo!, Microsoft, Twitter and many others, the companies asked for more transparency of secret data gathering in the letter. Tech companies have been scrambling to assert their independence after documents leaked last month by former U.S. security contractor Edward Snowden suggested they had given the government direct access to their computers as part of the NSA's secret surveillance program called Prism. The classified nature of the data gathering has barred the participating companies from disclosing even their involvement, let alone the content of the requests. Some companies, including Facebook and Apple, in June struck an agreement with the government to release some information about the number of surveillance requests they receive. But they were limited to disclosing aggregate government requests for data without showing the split between surveillance and criminal requests, and only for a six-month period.

Note: For more on government and corporate privacy invasions, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.




U.S. drones to watch entire Mexico border from September 1
2010-08-30, MSNBC/Reuters
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/38923040

The U.S. government will have unmanned surveillance aircraft monitoring the whole southwest border with Mexico from September 1, as it ramps up border security in this election year. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said U.S. Customs and Border Protection would begin flying a Predator B drone out of Corpus Christi, Texas, on [that date], extending the reach of the agency's unmanned surveillance aircraft across the length of the nearly 2,000 mile border with Mexico. "With the deployment of the Predator in Texas, we will now be able to cover the southwest border from the El Centro sector in California all the way to the Gulf of Mexico in Texas, providing critical aerial surveillance assistance to personnel on the ground," Napolitano said during a conference call. Earlier this month, President Barack Obama signed a $600 million bill that would fund some 1,500 new Border Patrol agents, customs inspectors and other law enforcement officials along the border, as well as paying for two more unmanned drones. The Predator B drones are made by defense contractor General Atomics. They carry equipment including sophisticated day and night vision cameras that operators use to detect drug and human smugglers, and can stay aloft for up to 30 hours at a time.

Note: How long will it be before aerial surveillance drones, now positioned over the southern border of the US, are deployed in other parts of the country?




Technology Coalition Seeks Stronger Privacy Laws
2010-03-31, New York Times
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/31/technology/31privacy.html

A broad coalition of technology companies, including AT&T, Google and Microsoft, and advocacy groups from across the political spectrum said Tuesday that it would push Congress to strengthen online privacy laws to protect private digital information from government access. The group, calling itself the Digital Due Process coalition, said it wanted to ensure that as millions of people moved private documents from their filing cabinets and personal computers to the Web, those documents remain protected from easy access by law enforcement and other government authorities. The coalition, which includes the American Civil Liberties Union, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Center for Democracy and Technology, wants law enforcement agencies to use a search warrant approved by a judge or a magistrate rather than rely on a simple subpoena from a prosecutor to obtain a citizen’s online data. The group also said that it wanted to safeguard location-based information collected by cellphone companies and applications providers. forcement agencies and the Obama administration.

Note: For many key articles from reliable sources on privacy issues in the new age of surveillance, click here.




Obama administration defending Bush secrets
2009-02-16, MSNBC/Associated Press
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/29225492/

Despite President Barack Obama's vow to open government more than ever, the Justice Department is defending Bush administration decisions to keep secret many documents about domestic wiretapping, data collection on travelers and U.S. citizens, and interrogation of suspected terrorists. "The signs in the last few days are not ... encouraging," said Jameel Jaffer, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, which filed several lawsuits seeking the Bush administration's legal rationales for warrantless domestic wiretapping and for its treatment of terrorism detainees. The documents sought in these lawsuits "are in many cases the documents that the public most needs to see," Jaffer said. "It makes no sense to say that these documents are somehow exempt from President Obama's directives." Groups that advocate open government, civil liberties and privacy were overjoyed that Obama on his first day in office reversed the FOIA policy imposed by Bush's first attorney general, John Ashcroft. Obama pledged "an unprecedented level of openness in government" and ordered new FOIA guidelines written with a "presumption in favor of disclosure." But Justice's actions in courts since then have cast doubt on how far the new administration will go. "This is not change," said ACLU executive director Anthony Romero. "President Obama's Justice Department has disappointingly reneged" on his promise to end "abuse of state secrets."

Note: For lots more on state secrecy from reliable, verifiable sources, click here.




Intelligence Agencies' Databases Set to Be Linked
2009-01-22, Wall Street Journal
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123258232280204323.html

U.S. spy agencies' sensitive data should soon be linked by Google-like search systems. Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell has launched a sweeping technology program to knit together the thousands of databases across all 16 spy agencies. After years of bureaucratic snafus, intelligence analysts will be able to search through secret intelligence files the same way they can search public data on the Internet. Linking up the 16 agencies is the challenge at the heart of the job of director of national intelligence, created after 9/11. The new information program also is designed to include Facebook-like social-networking programs and classified news feeds. It includes enhanced security measures to ensure that only appropriately cleared people can access the network. The price tag is expected to be in the billions of dollars. The impact for analysts, Mr. McConnell says, "will be staggering." Not only will analysts have vastly more data to examine, potentially inaccurate intelligence will stand out more clearly, he said. Today, an analyst's query might scan only 5% of the total intelligence data in the U.S. government, said a senior intelligence official. Even when analysts find documents, they sometimes can't read them without protracted negotiations to gain access. Under the new system, an analyst would likely search about 95% of the data, the official said.

Note: For key reports from reliable sources on the hidden realities of the War on Terror, click here.




Internet Providers' New Tool Raises Deep Privacy Concerns
2008-08-21, Washington Post
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/08/20/AR20080820032...

If you're reading this story on our Web site, I don't know what you did online before you reached this page. But your Internet provider might if it engages in something called deep packet inspection. That phrase may sound like what the Transportation Security Administration does to uncooperative airline passengers, but on the Internet it means a thorough and automatic inspection of online traffic -- not just where you've been but also what you've seen. Peering inside the digital packets of data zipping across the Internet -- in real time, for tens of thousands of users at once -- was commercially impractical until recently. But the ceaseless march of processing power has made it feasible. Unsurprisingly, companies have been trying to turn this potential into profit. By tracking users' Web habits this closely, they can gain a much more detailed picture of their interests -- and then display precisely targeted, premium-priced ads. The House Committee on Energy and Commerce recently asked dozens of providers to explain whether they had done any such testing. Most companies said they had yet to try the technology and had no plans to do so. (Although AT&T allowed that "if done properly," deep packet inspection "could prove quite valuable to consumers.") Taking these companies at their word, what's there to worry about? Systems such as deep packet inspection unnerve a lot of Internet users for sound reasons. One is, of course, the immensely greater surveillance they allow. Another concern is the difficulty of circumventing this constant tracking. The machinery of deep packet inspection hides out of reach in your provider's servers.




Some Web Firms Say They Track Behavior Without Explicit Consent
2008-08-12, Washington Post
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/08/11/AR20080811022...

Several Internet and broadband companies have acknowledged using targeted-advertising technology without explicitly informing customers, according to letters released yesterday by the House Energy and Commerce Committee. The revelations came in response to a bipartisan inquiry of how more than 30 Internet companies might have gathered data to target customers. Some privacy advocates and lawmakers said the disclosures help build a case for an overarching online-privacy law. "Increasingly, there are no limits technologically as to what a company can do in terms of collecting information . . . and then selling it as a commodity to other providers," said committee member Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.). "Our responsibility is to make sure that we create a law that, regardless of the technology, includes a set of legal guarantees that consumers have with respect to their information." Markey said he and his colleagues plan to introduce legislation next year, a sort of online-privacy Bill of Rights, that would require that consumers must opt in to the tracking of their online behavior and the collection and sharing of their personal data. Ari Schwartz, vice president of the Center for Democracy and Technology, said lawmakers are beginning to understand the convergence across platforms. "People are starting to see: 'Oh, we have these different industries that are collecting the same types of information to profile individuals and the devices they use on the network," he said. "Internet. Cellphones. Cable. Any way you tap into the network, concerns are raised."

Note: For lots more on increasing threats to privacy from reliable sources, click here.




From Casinos to Counterterrorism
2007-10-22, Washington Post
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/10/21/AR20071021015...

[Las Vegas], famous for being America's playground, has also become its security lab. Like nowhere else in the United States, Las Vegas has embraced the twin trends of data mining and high-tech surveillance, with arguably more cameras per square foot than any airport or sports arena in the country. Even the city's cabs and monorail have cameras. Some privacy advocates view the city as a harbinger of things to come. In secret rooms in casinos across Las Vegas, surveillance specialists are busy analyzing information about players and employees. Relying on thousands of cameras in nearly every cranny of the casinos, they evaluate ... behavior. They ping names against databases that share information with other casinos, sometimes using facial-recognition software to validate a match. And in the marketing suites, casino staffers track players' every wager, every win or loss, the better to target high-rollers for special treatment and low- and middle-rollers for promotions. "You could almost look at Vegas as the incubator of a whole host of surveillance technologies," said James X. Dempsey, policy director for the Center for Democracy and Technology. Those technologies, he said, have spread to other commercial venues: malls, stadiums, amusement parks. After Sept. 11, 2001, several airports tested facial-recognition software, with little success. But the government is continuing to invest in biometric technologies. "We often hear of the surveillance technology du jour, but what we're seeing now in America is a collection of surveillance technologies that work together," said Barry Steinhardt, the American Civil Liberties Union's technology and liberty project director. "It isn't just video surveillance or face recognition or license plate readers or RFID chips. It's that all these technologies are converging to create a surveillance society."

Note: For revealing major media reports of privacy risks and invasions, click here.




Spies Prep Reporters on Protecting Secrets
2007-09-27, New York Sun
http://www.nysun.com/article/63465

Frustrated by press leaks about its most sensitive electronic surveillance work, the secretive National Security Agency convened an unprecedented series of off-the-record "seminars" in recent years to teach reporters about the damage caused by such leaks and to discourage reporting that could interfere with the agency's mission to spy on America's enemies. The half-day classes featured high-ranking NSA officials highlighting objectionable passages in published stories and offering "an innocuous rewrite" that officials said maintained the "overall thrust" of the articles but omitted details that could disclose the agency's techniques, according to course outlines obtained by The New York Sun. Dubbed "SIGINT 101," using the NSA's shorthand for signals intelligence, the seminar was presented "a handful of times" between approximately 2002 and 2004. The syllabi make clear that the sessions, which took place at NSA headquarters in Fort Meade, Md., were conceived of ... as part of a campaign to limit the damage caused by leaks of sensitive intelligence. During one sensitive discussion, journalists were to be told they could not take any notes. The exact substitutions of language that the NSA proposed were deleted from the syllabi released to the Sun under the Freedom of Information Act. In 2005, following the publication of a New York Times story on a secret program for warrantless wiretapping ... Director of Central Intelligence Porter Goss crusaded against leaks at the CIA and later told a Senate committee that he hoped reporters would be called before grand juries to identify their sources. Attorney General Gonzales also discussed the "possibility" of prosecuting journalists who wrote stories based on leaked intelligence. The syllabi, which are marked as drafts, list presenters including the director of the NSA at the time, General Michael Hayden, [now director of the CIA].




NSA Spying Part of Broader Effort
2007-08-01, Washington Post
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/07/31/AR20070731021...

The Bush administration's chief intelligence official said yesterday that President Bush authorized a series of secret surveillance activities under a single executive order in late 2001. The disclosure makes clear that a controversial National Security Agency program was part of a much broader operation than the president previously described. The disclosure by Mike McConnell [is] the first time that the administration has publicly acknowledged that Bush's order included undisclosed activities beyond the warrantless surveillance of e-mails and phone calls that Bush confirmed in December 2005. McConnell [disclosed] that the executive order following the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks included "a number of . . . intelligence activities" and that a name routinely used by the administration -- the Terrorist Surveillance Program -- applied only to "one particular aspect of these activities, and nothing more. This is the only aspect of the NSA activities that can be discussed publicly, because it is the only aspect of those various activities whose existence has been officially acknowledged." News reports ... have detailed a range of activities linked to the program, including the use of data mining to identify surveillance targets and the participation of telecommunication companies in turning over millions of phone records. Kate Martin ... of the Center for National Security Studies, said the new disclosures show that ... administration officials have "repeatedly misled the Congress and the American public" about the extent of NSA surveillance efforts. "They have repeatedly tried to give the false impression that the surveillance was narrow and justified," Martin said. "Why did it take accusations of perjury before the DNI disclosed that there is indeed other, presumably broader and more questionable, surveillance?"




Alarm at US right to highly personal data
2007-07-22, The Observer (U.K.)
http://observer.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,,2132099,00.html

Highly sensitive information about the religious beliefs, political opinions and even the sex life of Britons travelling to the United States is to be made available to US authorities when the European Commission agrees to a new system of checking passengers. The EC is in the final stages of agreeing a new Passenger Name Record system with the US which will allow American officials to access detailed biographical information about passengers entering international airports. Civil liberty groups warn it will have serious consequences for European passengers. In a strongly worded document drawn up in response to the plan that will affect the 4 million-plus Britons who travel to the US every year, the EU parliament said it 'notes with concern that sensitive data (ie personal data revealing racial or ethnic origin, political opinions, religious or philosophical beliefs, trade union membership, and data concerning the health or sex life of individuals) will be made available to the DHS.' The US will be able to hold the records of European passengers for 15 years compared with the current three year limit. The EU parliament said it was concerned the data would lead to 'a significant risk of massive profiling and data mining, which is incompatible with basic European principles and is a practice still under discussion in the US congress.' Peter Hustinx, the European Data Protection Supervisor, has written to the EC expressing his 'grave concern' at the plan, which he describes as 'without legal precedent' and one that puts 'European data protection rights at risk'. Hustinx warns: 'Data on EU citizens will be readily accessible to a broad range of US agencies and there is no limitation to what US authorities are allowed to do with the data.'




Pay too much and you could raise the alarm
2006-02-23, Providence Journal (the leading newspaper in Rhode Island)
http://www.projo.com/news/bobkerr/projo_20060224_frico24.1d2c026b.html

Walter Soehnge is a retired Texas schoolteacher. What got him so upset might seem trivial to some people who have learned to accept small infringements on their freedom as just part of the way things are in this age of terror-fed paranoia. The balance on their JCPenney Platinum MasterCard had gotten to an unhealthy level. So they sent in a large payment, a check for $6,522. And an alarm went off. A red flag went up. The Soehnges' behavior was found questionable. After sending in the check, they checked online to see if their account had been duly credited. They learned that the check had arrived, but the amount available for credit on their account hadn't changed. They were told, as they moved up the managerial ladder at the call center, that the amount they had sent in was much larger than their normal monthly payment. And if the increase hits a certain percentage higher than that normal payment, Homeland Security has to be notified. And the money doesn't move until the threat alert is lifted. Walter called television stations, the American Civil Liberties Union and me. And he went on the Internet to see what he could learn. He learned about changes in something called the Bank Privacy Act. "The more I'm on, the scarier it gets," he said. "It's scary how easily someone in Homeland Security can get permission to spy."




The war on free press
2006-05-24, Boston Globe
http://www.boston.com/news/globe/editorial_opinion/oped/articles/2006/05/24/t...

JOURNALISTS. Our attorney general is coming for us. On Sunday, Alberto Gonzales told ABC's "This Week" that he would consider prosecuting reporters who get their hands on classified information and break news about President Bush's terrorist surveillance program. "There are some statutes on the book which, if you read the language carefully, would seem to indicate that that is a possibility. We have an obligation to enforce those laws." Asked...if The New York Times should be prosecuted for its initial story on government surveillance without warrants, Gonzales said, "We are engaged now in an investigation about what would be the appropriate course of action." This is the same administration that...has already set the presidential record in claiming the authority to circumvent the law in more than 750 cases. Gonzales...issued the infamous "torture memo" that advised President Bush to throw the Geneva Convention into the trash can for detainees in the war on terror. Gonzales...helped the administration block and drag its feet on the release of presidential papers from Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. Gonzales helped to withhold or delay highly classified documents from the president's own 9/11 Commission and from...the energy task force of Vice President Dick Cheney. The actions of Gonzales show how little the Bush administration promotes the rights of the press. With every pronouncement, freedom is disappearing, in incremental steps.




IRS plans to allow preparers to sell data
2006-03-21, Philadelphia Enquirer (Philadelphia's leading newspaper)
http://www.philly.com/mld/inquirer/business/14147002.htm

The IRS is quietly moving to loosen the once-inviolable privacy of federal income-tax returns. If it succeeds, accountants and other tax-return preparers will be able to sell information from individual returns - or even entire returns - to marketers and data brokers. The change is raising alarm among consumer and privacy-rights advocates. It was included in a set of proposed rules that the Treasury Department and the IRS published...where the official notice labeled them "not a significant regulatory action." The proposed rules...would require a tax preparer to obtain written consent before selling tax information. Critics call the changes a dangerous breach in personal and financial privacy. They say the requirement for signed consent would prove meaningless for many taxpayers, especially those hurriedly reviewing stacks of documents before a filing deadline.The IRS first announced the proposal in a news release the day before the official notice was published, headlined: "IRS Issues Proposed Regulations to Safeguard Taxpayer Information."




Keith Alexander Unplugged: on Bush/Obama, 1.7 million stolen documents
2014-05-08, The Intercept
https://firstlook.org/theintercept/2014/05/08/keith-alexander-unplugged-busho...

Back in December, 60 Minutes broadcast a now-notorious segment of pure access journalism in which they gullibly disseminated one false NSA claim after the next. The program claimed that Snowden “is believed to still have access to 1.5 million classified documents he has not leaked”. Ever since then, that Snowden “stole” 1.7 or 1.8 million documents from the NSA has been repeated over and over again by US media outlets as verified fact. The Washington Post‘s Walter Pincus, citing an anonymous official source, purported to tell readers that “among the roughly 1.7 million documents he walked away with — the vast majority of which have not been made public — are highly sensitive, specific intelligence reports”. Reuters frequently includes in its reports the unchallenged assertion that “Snowden was believed to have taken 1.7 million computerized documents.” In fact, that number is and always has been a pure fabrication, as even Keith Alexander admits. The claimed number has changed more times than one can count: always magically morphing into randomly chosen higher and scarier numbers. The reality, in the words of the General, is that the US Government ”really [doesn't know] what he actually took with him” and they ”don’t have an accurate way of counting”. All they know is how many documents he accessed in his entire career at NSA, which is a radically different question from how many documents he took. But that hasn’t stopped American media outlets from repeatedly affirming the inflammatory evidence-free claim that Snowden took 1.7 million documents.

Note: For more on the realities of intelligence agency operations, see the deeply revealing reports from reliable major media sources available here.




Cispa will give US unprecedented access, internet privacy advocates warn
2012-04-18, The Guardian (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/apr/18/cispa-unprecedented-access-intern...

Washington looks set to wave through new cybersecurity legislation next week that opponents fear will wipe out decades of privacy protections at a stroke. The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (Cispa) will be discussed in the House of Representatives next week and already has the support of 100 House members. It will be the first such bill to go to a vote since the collapse of the Stop Online Piracy Act (Sopa) in January after global protests and a concerted campaign by internet giants such as Google, Wikipedia and Twitter. The author of the new bill, Mike Rogers, the Republican chair of the House intelligence committee, has said it is aimed at tracking the nefarious activities of hackers, terrorists and foreign states, especially China. But its critics charge the bill will affect ordinary citizens and overturn the privacy protections they now enjoy. Opponents fear the way it is currently drafted will open up ordinary citizens to unprecedented scrutiny. The bill uses the wording: "Notwithstanding any other provision of law," a phrase that if it became law would trump all existing legislation, according to critics. In one section, the bill defines "efforts to degrade, disrupt or destroy" a network as an area that would trigger a Cispa investigation. Opponents argue something as simple as downloading a large file – a movie for example – could potentially be defined as an effort to "degrade" a network. The bill also exempts companies from any liability for handing over private information.

Note: For lots more on government and corporate threats to civil liberties, click here.




Security Checks on Flights to U.S. to Be Revamped
2010-04-02, New York Times
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/02/us/02terror.html

President Obama has signed off on new security protocols for people flying to the United States, establishing a system that uses intelligence information and assessment of threats to identify passengers who could have links to terrorism. The system, which will be put in place this month, applies only to travelers flying into the United States. Officials said intelligence information from a variety of United States agencies would be made available to foreign airlines, whose employees and security officials would have wide latitude to stop passengers, or not. Currently, the only information typically checked before a passenger boards an airplane is the name, date of birth and nationality — information found in a passport, which is compared against the terror watch lists. But the Homeland Security Department separately already collects much more information on the travel patterns of passengers headed to the United States, including other stops made on the way to an American airport, how the passenger paid for the ticket as well as other details contained in the reservation, like what hotel a passenger might be staying in, or if he or she is traveling alone.

Note: For many disturbing reports from major media sources on increasing governmental threats to civil liberties, click here.




Citizens' U.S. Border Crossings Tracked
2008-08-20, Washington Post
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/08/19/AR20080819028...

The federal government has been using its system of border checkpoints to greatly expand a database on travelers entering the country by collecting information on all U.S. citizens crossing by land, compiling data that will be stored for 15 years and may be used in criminal and intelligence investigations. The Border Crossing Information system, disclosed last month by the Department of Homeland Security in a Federal Register notice, ... reflects the growing number of government systems containing personal information on Americans that can be shared for a broad range of law enforcement and intelligence purposes, some of which are exempt from some Privacy Act protections. While international air passenger data has long been captured this way, Customs and Border Protection agents only this year began to log the arrivals of all U.S. citizens across land borders, through which about three-quarters of border entries occur. The volume of people entering the country by land prevented compiling such a database until recently. But the advent of machine-readable identification documents, which the government mandates eventually for everyone crossing the border, has made gathering the information more feasible. Critics say the moves exemplify efforts by the Bush administration in its final months to cement an unprecedented expansion of data gathering for national security and intelligence purposes. The data could be used beyond determining whether a person may enter the United States. For instance, information may be shared with foreign agencies when relevant to their hiring or contracting decisions.




U.S. May Ease Police Spy Rules
2008-08-16, Washington Post
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/08/15/AR20080815034...

The Justice Department has proposed a new domestic spying measure that would make it easier for state and local police to collect intelligence about Americans, share the sensitive data with federal agencies and retain it for at least 10 years. Law enforcement agencies would be allowed to target groups as well as individuals, and to launch a criminal intelligence investigation based on the suspicion that a target is engaged in terrorism or providing material support to terrorists. They also could share results with a constellation of federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies, and others in many cases. Michael German, policy counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, said the proposed rule may [permit] police to collect intelligence even when no underlying crime is suspected. German, an FBI agent for 16 years, said easing established limits on intelligence-gathering would lead to abuses against peaceful political dissenters. He pointed to reports in the past six years that undercover New York police officers infiltrated protest groups before the 2004 Republican National Convention; that California state agents eavesdropped on peace, animal rights and labor activists; and that Denver police spied on Amnesty International and others before being discovered. "If police officers no longer see themselves as engaged in protecting their communities from criminals and instead as domestic intelligence agents working on behalf of the CIA, they will be encouraged to collect more information," German said. "It turns police officers into spies on behalf of the federal government."

Note: For many disturbing reports on increasing threats to civil liberties from reliable sources, click here.




Prescription Data Used To Assess Consumers
2008-08-04, Washington Post
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/08/03/AR20080803020...

Health and life insurance companies have access to a powerful new tool for evaluating whether to cover individual consumers: a health "credit report" drawn from databases containing prescription drug records on more than 200 million Americans. Collecting and analyzing personal health information in commercial databases is a fledgling industry, but one poised to take off as the nation enters the age of electronic medical records. Some insurers have already begun testing systems that tap into not only prescription drug information, but also data about patients held by clinical and pathological laboratories. Privacy and consumer advocates fear [the trend] it is taking place largely outside the scrutiny of federal health regulators and lawmakers. The practice also illustrates how electronic data gathered for one purpose can be used and marketed for another -- often without consumers' knowledge, privacy advocates say. And they argue that although consumers sign consent forms, they effectively have to authorize the data release if they want insurance. "As health care moves into the digital age, there are more and more companies holding vast amounts of patients' health information," said Joy Pritts, research professor at Georgetown University's Health Policy Institute. "Most people don't even know these [companies] exist. Unfortunately the federal health privacy rule does not cover many of them." Tim Sparapani, senior legislative counsel at the American Civil Liberties Union, said, "We've got to stop these practices before the marketplace is fully developed and patients lose all control over their medical information."

Note: For lots more on increasing threats to privacy from reliable sources, click here.




Centers Tap Into Personal Databases
2008-04-02, Washington Post
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/04/01/AR20080401030...

Intelligence centers run by states across the country have access to personal information about millions of Americans, including unlisted cellphone numbers, insurance claims, driver's license photographs and credit reports, according to a document obtained by The Washington Post. One center also has access to top-secret data systems at the CIA, the document shows, though it's not clear what information those systems contain. Dozens of the organizations known as fusion centers were created after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The centers use law enforcement analysts and sophisticated computer systems to compile, or fuse, disparate tips and clues and pass along the refined information to other agencies. Though officials have publicly discussed the fusion centers' importance to national security, they have generally declined to elaborate on the centers' activities. But a document that lists resources used by the fusion centers shows how a dozen of the organizations in the northeastern United States rely far more on access to commercial and government databases than had previously been disclosed. The list of information resources was part of a survey conducted last year, officials familiar with the effort said. It shows that, like most police agencies, the fusion centers have subscriptions to private information-broker services that keep records about Americans' locations, financial holdings, associates, relatives, firearms licenses and the like. "Fusion centers have grown, really, off the radar screen of public accountability," said Jim Dempsey, vice president for public policy at the Center for Democracy and Technology, a nonpartisan watchdog group in the District. "Congress and the state legislatures need to get a handle over what is going on at all these fusion centers."

Note: For further disturbing reports on threats to privacy, click here.




National Dragnet Is a Click Away
2008-03-06, Washington Post
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/03/05/AR20080305036...

Several thousand law enforcement agencies are creating the foundation of a domestic intelligence system through computer networks that analyze vast amounts of police information. As federal authorities struggled to meet information-sharing mandates after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, police agencies from Alaska and California to the Washington region poured millions of ... records into shared digital repositories called data warehouses, giving investigators and analysts new power to discern links among people, patterns of behavior and other hidden clues. Those network efforts will begin expanding further this month, as some local and state agencies connect to a fledgling Justice Department system called the National Data Exchange, or N-DEx. The expanding police systems illustrate the prominent roles that private companies play in homeland security and counterterrorism efforts. They also underscore how the use of new data -- and data surveillance -- is evolving faster than the public's understanding or the laws intended to check government power and protect civil liberties. Three decades ago, Congress imposed limits on domestic intelligence activity after revelations that the FBI, Army, local police and others had misused their authority for years to build troves of personal dossiers and monitor political activists and other law-abiding Americans. Since those reforms, police and federal authorities have observed a wall between law enforcement information-gathering, relating to crimes and prosecutions, and more open-ended intelligence that relates to national security and [politics]. That wall is fast eroding following the passage of laws expanding surveillance authorities, the push for information-sharing networks, and the expectation that local and state police will play larger roles.

Note: For many revealing reports from reliable sources of serious threats to civil liberties, click here.




Librarians Say Surveillance Bills Lack Adequate Oversight
2007-11-02, Washington Post
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/11/01/AR20071101022...

A little-remarked feature of pending legislation on domestic surveillance has provoked alarm among university and public librarians who say it could allow federal intelligence-gathering on library patrons without sufficient court oversight. Draft House and Senate bills would allow the government to compel any "communications service provider" to provide access to e-mails and other electronic information within the United States. The Justice Department has previously said that "providers" may include libraries, causing three major university and library groups to worry that the government's ability to monitor people targeted for surveillance without a warrant would chill students' and faculty members' online research activities. "It is fundamental that when a user enters the library, physically or electronically," said Jim Neal, the head librarian at Columbia University, "their use of the collections, print or electronic, their communications on library servers and computers, is not going to be subjected to surveillance unless the courts have authorized it." The librarians said their concern about such monitoring is rooted in recent history. In the summer of 2005, FBI agents handed an administrative subpoena called a national security letter (NSL) to a Connecticut librarian, and demanded subscriber, billing and other information on patrons who used a specific computer at a branch library. NSLs can be approved by certain FBI agents without court approval. The agents ordered the librarian to keep the demand secret. But he refused to produce the records, and his employer filed suit, challenging the gag order. A federal judge in September 2005 declared the gag order unconstitutional. The Association of Research Libraries, ... the American Library Association ... and the Association of American Universities ... each say they seek to amend the draft bills to make clear that the term "communications provider" does not include libraries.

Note: For more eye-opening reports from major media sources on the erosion of civil liberties, click here.




Privacy Lost: These Phones Can Find You
2007-10-23, New York Times
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/23/technology/23mobile.html?ex=1350792000&en=e...

Two new questions arise, courtesy of the latest advancement in cellphone technology: Do you want your friends, family, or colleagues to know where you are at any given time? And do you want to know where they are? Obvious benefits come to mind. Parents can take advantage of the Global Positioning System chips embedded in many cellphones to track the whereabouts of their phone-toting children. And for teenagers and 20-somethings, who are fond of sharing their comings and goings on the Internet, youth-oriented services like Loopt and Buddy Beacon are a natural next step. But ... if G.P.S. [makes] it harder to get lost, new cellphone services are now making it harder to hide. “There are massive changes going on in society, particularly among young people who feel comfortable sharing information in a digital society,” said Kevin Bankston, a staff lawyer at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “We seem to be getting into a period where people are closely watching each other,” he said. “There are privacy risks we haven’t begun to grapple with.” What if a boss asks an employee to use the service? Almost 55 percent of all mobile phones sold today in the United States have the technology that makes such friend- and family-tracking services possible. Consumers can turn off their service, making them invisible to people in their social-mapping network. Still, the G.P.S. service embedded in the phone means that your whereabouts are not a complete mystery. “There is a Big Brother component,” said Charles S. Golvin, a wireless analyst. “The thinking goes that if my friends can find me, the telephone company knows my location all the time, too.”

Note: For revealing major media reports of privacy risks and invasions, click here.




Collecting of Details on Travelers Documented
2007-09-22, Washington Post
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/09/21/AR20070921023...

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, [by] the Department of Homeland Security's ... Automated Targeting System. 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. 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.




A third 'will refuse ID checks'
2007-04-04, BBC News
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/6526225.stm

One in three people are expected not to cooperate with identity card checks, Home Office papers from 2004 suggest. The working assumptions were revealed in the documents published by the Department for Work and Pensions under the Freedom of Information laws. They show that the assumption was that the cards, due to be introduced on a voluntary basis from 2008, would become compulsory to own - though not carry - in 2014. Lib Dem MP Mark Oaten had asked for the information to be made public when he was the party's home affairs spokesman in 2004. The department had resisted his request, which came under the Freedom of Information Act. But the department was ordered to release the data by the Information Commissioner - a decision which was subsequently backed by the Information Tribunal.

Note: Why do you think the government was so keen on keeping this information secret? For more, click here.




The Other Big Brother
2006-01-30, Newsweek
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/10965509/site/newsweek/

The Pentagon has its own domestic spying program. Even its leaders say the outfit may have gone too far. Late on a June afternoon in 2004, a motley group of about 10 peace activists showed up outside the Houston headquarters of Halliburton, the giant military contractor once headed by Vice President Dick Cheney. The demonstrators wore papier-mache masks and handed out free peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches to Halliburton employees as they left work. The idea, according to organizer Scott Parkin, was to call attention to allegations that the company was overcharging on a food contract for troops in Iraq. To U.S. Army analysts at the top-secret Counterintelligence Field Activity (CIFA), the peanut-butter protest was regarded as a potential threat to national security. A Defense document shows that Army analysts wrote a report on the Halliburton protest and stored it in CIFA's database. There are now questions about whether CIFA exceeded its authority and conducted unauthorized spying on innocent people and organizations. The deputy Defense secretary now acknowledges that...reports may have contained information on U.S. citizens and groups that never should have been retained. The number of reports with names of U.S. persons could be in the thousands, says a senior Pentagon official.




ID cards could be used for mass surveillance system
2005-08-18, The Independent (One of the UK's leading newspapers)
http://news.independent.co.uk/uk/politics/article306577.ece

The Government is creating a system of "mass public surveillance" capable of tracking every adult in Britain without their consent, MPs say. They warn that people who have never committed a crime can be "electronically monitored" without their knowledge. Biometric facial scans, which will be compulsory with ID cards, are to be put on a national database which can then be matched with images from CCTV. The database of faces will enable police and security services to track individuals regardless of whether they have broken the law. CCTV surveillance footage from streets, shops and even shopping centres could be cross-referenced with photographs of every adult in the UK once the ID cards Bill becomes law. Biometric facial scans, iris scans and fingerprints of all adults in the UK will be stored on a national database. Civil liberties groups say the plans are a "dangerous" threat to people's privacy. Mark Oaten, the Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman, said the plans were being brought in by the Government without informing the public.




Searching Passengers' Faces For Subtle Cues to Terror
2007-09-19, Washington Post
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/09/18/AR20070918018...

Looking for signs of "stress, fear and deception" among the hundreds of passengers shuffling past him at Orlando International Airport one day last month, security screener Edgar Medina immediately focused on four casually dressed men trying to catch a flight to Minneapolis. One of the men, in particular, was giving obvious signs of trying to hide something, Medina said. After obtaining the passengers' ID cards and boarding passes, the Transportation Security Administration officer quickly determined the men were illegal immigrants traveling with fake Florida driver's licenses. They were detained. The otherwise mundane arrests Aug. 13 illustrated an increasingly popular tactic in the government's effort to fight terrorism: detecting lawbreakers or potential terrorists by their behavior. The TSA has embraced the strategy, training 600 of its screeners ... in detection techniques. The TSA's teams are the most publicly acknowledged effort by the government or the private sector to come up with strategies and technology to detect lawbreakers or terrorists before they commit a crime. Other technologies under development or being deployed include machines that detect stress in voices and software that scans video images to match the faces of passengers with those of known terrorists. The government is testing other technology that can see through clothing with ... electromagnetic waves. TSA's growing reliance on detecting behavior and the close study of passengers' expressions concerns civil liberties groups and members of Congress. "The problem is behavioral characteristics will be found where you look for them," said John Reinstein, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts.




Police Turn to Secret Weapon: GPS Device
2008-08-13, Washington Post
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/08/12/AR20080812032...

Across the country, police are using GPS devices to snare [criminal suspects], often without a warrant or court order. Privacy advocates said tracking suspects electronically constitutes illegal search and seizure, violating Fourth Amendment rights of protection against unreasonable searches and seizures, and is another step toward George Orwell's Big Brother society. With the ... ever-declining cost of the technology, many analysts believe that police will increasingly rely on GPS ... and that the public will hear little about it. "I've seen them in cases from New York City to small towns -- whoever can afford to get the equipment and plant it on a car," said John Wesley Hall, president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. "And of course, it's easy to do. You can sneak up on a car and plant it at any time." Details on how police use GPS usually become public when the use of the device is challenged in court. Leibig said GPS should be held to a different standard because it provides greater detail. "While it may be true that police can conduct surveillance of people on a public street without violating their rights, tracking a person everywhere they go and keeping a computer record of it for days and days without that person knowing is a completely different type of intrusion," he said. Barry Steinhardt, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's technology and liberty program, considers GPS monitoring, along with license plate readers, toll transponders and video cameras with face-recognition technology, part of the same trend toward "an always-on, surveillance society."

Note: For lots more on threats to privacy from major media sources, click here.




Bush Says He Can Edit Security Reports
2006-10-05, ABC News/Associate Press
http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/wireStory?id=2532403

President Bush, again defying Congress, says he has the power to edit the Homeland Security Department's reports about whether it obeys privacy rules while handling background checks, ID cards and watchlists. In the law Bush signed Wednesday, Congress stated no one but the privacy officer could alter, delay or prohibit the mandatory annual report on Homeland Security department activities that affect privacy, including complaints. But Bush, in a signing statement attached to the agency's 2007 spending bill, said he will interpret that section "in a manner consistent with the President's constitutional authority to supervise the unitary executive branch." The American Bar Association and members of Congress have said Bush uses signing statements excessively as a way to expand his power. Bush's signing statement Wednesday challenges several other provisions in the Homeland Security spending bill. Bush, for example, said he'd disregard a requirement that the director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency must have at least five years experience and "demonstrated ability in and knowledge of emergency management and homeland security."




Bush Blocked Ethics Inquiry, Gonzales Says
2006-07-19, New York Times
http://www.nytimes.com/2006/07/19/washington/19gonzales.html?ex=1310961600&en...

Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales told the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday that President Bush had personally decided to block the Justice Department ethics unit from examining the role played by government lawyers in approving the National Security Agency's domestic eavesdropping program. Mr. Gonzales made the assertion in response to questioning from Senator Arlen Specter, Republican of Pennsylvania and chairman of the committee. Mr. Specter said the Office of Professional Responsibility at the Justice Department had to call off an investigation into the conduct of department lawyers who evaluated the surveillance program because the unit was denied clearance to review classified documents. Representative Zoe Lofgren...said Tuesday that she was shocked that Mr. Bush had blocked the clearances of lawyers from that office. "The president's latest action shows that he is willing to be personally involved in the cover-up of suspected illegal activity," Ms. Lofgren said.




Cover-Up Exposed?
2006-07-19, Washington Post
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/blog/2006/07/19/BL2006071900935....

The attorney general's startling revelation that President Bush personally blocked a Justice Department investigation into the administration's controversial secret domestic spying programs hasn't gotten the attention it deserves. Bush's move -- denying the requisite security clearances to attorneys from the department's ethics office -- is unprecedented in that office's history. It also comes in stark contrast to the enthusiastic way in which security clearances were dished out to...those charged with finding out who leaked information about the program to the press. Time and time again, Bush and his aides have selectively leaked or declassified secret intelligence findings that served their political agenda -- while aggressively asserting the need to keep secret the information that would tend to discredit them. Some legal experts and members of Congress who have questioned the legality of the NSA program said Bush's move to quash the Justice probe represents a politically motivated interference in Justice Department affairs. The government has in effect curtailed an investigation of itself and hardly anyone has noticed. It has not caused much interest in Congress, or on the nation's editorial pages, or the even in the blogosphere, which takes pride in causing a stir about things that should but nobody else has yet taken notice."

Note: As noted in our key summary Building a Brighter Future, "Secrecy leads to control through preventing the exposure of hidden agendas, and through breeding distrust, suspicion, and paranoia in the world."




Tommy Thompson Is His Own Best Ad
2005-07-25, U.S. News and World Report
http://www.usnews.com/usnews/politics/whispers/articles/050725/25whisplead.htm

We bet that former Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson wishes he had gone to work for Breyers or Hershey's. To set a good example, he's preparing to consume his new company's product--VeriChip Corp's flesh-embedded medical radio chip. "It doesn't cause any pain," he assures us, explaining that a rice-size chip will be inserted into his arm. The chip stores coding that makes the user's health records available worldwide. Hospitals wave a radio wand over the arm to get the info. "People are dying all the time," he says, "because they can't access their medical information overseas."




Privacy under attack, but does anybody care?
2006-10-16, MSNBC News
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/15221095/

Only a tiny fraction of Americans – 7 percent, according to a recent survey by The Ponemon Institute – change any behaviors in an effort to preserve their privacy. Few people turn down a discount at toll booths to avoid using the EZ-Pass system that can track automobile movements. And few turn down supermarket loyalty cards. Privacy will remain in the headlines in the months to come, as states implement the federal government’s Real ID Act, which will effectively create a national identification program by requiring new high-tech standards for driver’s licenses and ID cards. The “right to be left alone” is a decidedly conservative -- even Libertarian -- principle. People are now well aware there are video cameras and Internet cookies everywhere, [yet] there is abundant evidence that people live their lives ignorant of the monitoring. People write e-mails and type instant messages they never expect anyone to see. Just ask Mark Foley or even Bill Gates, whose e-mails were a cornerstone of the Justice Department’s antitrust case against Microsoft. It is also impossible to deny that Americans are now being watched more than at any time in history. But there is another point in the discussion about which there is little disagreement: The debate over how much privacy we are willing to give up never occurred.




A Leap of Faith, Off a Cliff
2006-06-15, New York Times
http://www.nytimes.com/2006/06/15/opinion/15thurs1.html

The Bush administration told a judge in Detroit that the president's warrantless domestic spying is legal and constitutional, but refused to say why. The judge should just take his word for it, the lawyer said, because merely talking about it would endanger America. Today, Senator Arlen Specter wants his Judiciary Committee to take an even more outlandish leap of faith for an administration that has shown it does not deserve it. Mr. Specter wants the committee to approve a bill he drafted that tinkers dangerously with the rules on wiretapping, even though the president has said the law doesn't apply to him anyway, and even though Mr. Specter and most of the panel are just as much in the dark as that judge in Detroit. The bill could well diminish the power of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, known as FISA, which was passed in 1978 to prevent just the sort of abuse that Mr. Bush's program represents. This is not a time to offer the administration a chance to steamroll Congress into endorsing its decision to ignore the 1978 intelligence act and shred constitutional principles on warrants and on the separation of powers. This is a time for Congress to finally hold Mr. Bush accountable for his extralegal behavior and stop it.






Important Note: Explore our full index to revealing excerpts of key major media news articles on several dozen engaging topics. And don't miss amazing excerpts from 20 of the most revealing news articles ever published.


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