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WOW... In Case You Missed This... 'The NSA Is Losing The Benefit Of The Doubt' - Ruth Marcus/WaPo

The NSA is losing the benefit of the doubt
By Ruth Marcus - WaPo
August 22, 2013


Footnote 14 should scare every American. Even the parts that aren’t blacked out.

The footnote is contained in the just-declassified 2011 opinion by U.S. District Judge John Bates, then the chief judge of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

In the ruling, Bates found that the government had been sweeping up e-mails before receiving court approval in 2008 and, even after that, was illegally collecting “tens of thousands of wholly domestic communications.”

That’s not the really scary part. This is: “The court is troubled that the government’s revelations . . . mark the third instance in less than three years in which the government has disclosed a substantial misrepresentation regarding the scope of a major collection program,” Bates wrote in Footnote 14.

He cited a 2009 finding that the court’s approval of the National Security Agency’s telephone records program was premised on “a flawed depiction” of how the NSA uses metadata, a “misperception . . . buttressed by repeated inaccurate statements made in the government’s submissions, and despite a government-devised and Court-mandated oversight regime

“Contrary to the government’s repeated assurances, NSA had been routinely running queries of the metadata using querying terms that did not meet the required standard for querying. The Court concluded that this requirement had been ‘so frequently and systemically violated that it can fairly be said that this critical element of the overall . . . regime has never functioned effectively.’ ”

Followed by two full paragraphs of redactions. We can only imagine what that episode entailed.

To judge the significance of Bates’s footnote, it helps to know something about the judge...


More: http://articles.washingtonpost.com/2013-08-22/opinions/41435729_1_oversight-nsa-national-security-agency

The Scariest Thing About NSA Analysts Spying On Their Lovers Is How They Were Caught - BusinessInsi

The Scariest Thing About NSA Analysts Spying On Their Lovers Is How They Were Caught
Michael Kelley - BusinessInsider


Last week Siobhan Gorman of The Wall Street Journal reported that National Security Agency analysts have occasionally used vast surveillance tools to spy on love interests.

NSA Chief Compliance Officer John DeLong told reporters that willful violations of spying rules — dubbed "LOVEINT" — happened on “very rare” occasions, adding that he didn't have exact numbers because most of the violations were self-reported.

(One situation in which self-reported abuses arise is when an employee takes a polygraph test as part of a renewal of a security clearance.)

D.B. Grady, who co-authored the book "Deep State: Inside the Government Secrecy Industry" with fellow investigative journalist Marc Ambinder, said that the lack of oversight regarding abuse by NSA analysts is the most troubling part of the admission.

"The real shocking revelation about all that is that this information is self-reported," Grady told Business Insider. "You mean there's no record? I can't download something from BitTorrent without my ISP shutting me down and these guys can spy on their girlfriends and boyfriends across the planet and nobody finds out? That's the most shocking thing of all; all of the security mechanisms lack teeth."


More: http://www.businessinsider.com/most-nsa-abuses-are-self-reported-2013-8

Here’s How Phone Metadata Can Reveal Your Affairs, Abortions, And Other Secrets - WaPo

Here’s how phone metadata can reveal your affairs, abortions, and other secrets
By Timothy B. Lee - WaPo
Published: August 27 at 11:12 am


The American Civil Liberties Union is challenging the National Security Agency’s dragnet surveillance of Americans’ phone calling records. On Monday, the ACLU asked the court to issue a preliminary injunction halting the program while its legality is litigated.

The program only collects metadata about Americans’ phone calls—who they call, when, and how long the calls last. In defending the program, the government has cited a controversial 1979 Supreme Court decision that held that phone records are not protected by the Fourth Amendment because consumers do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in their calling records.

But Ed Felten, a professor of computer science at Princeton University (and, full disclosure, my former graduate school advisor) argues that this intuition is wrong. In a legal brief supporting the ACLU’s request, Felten argues that the distinction between call “contents” and “metadata” isn’t always clear. Sometimes, the mere fact that someone called a particular number reveals extremely sensitive personal information.

Certain telephone numbers are used for a single purpose, such that any contact reveals basic and often sensitive information about the caller. Examples include support hotlines for victims of domestic violence and rape, including a specific hotline for rape victims in the armed services.

Similarly, numerous hotlines exist for people considering suicide, including specific services for first responders, veterans, and gay and lesbian teenagers. Hotlines exist for suffers of various forms of addiction, such as alcohol, drugs, and gambling.

Similarly, inspectors general at practically every federal agency—including the NSA—have hotlines through which misconduct, waste, and fraud can be reported, while numerous state tax agencies have dedicated hotlines for reporting tax fraud. Hotlines have also been established to report hate crimes, arson, illegal firearms and child abuse. In all these cases, the metadata alone conveys a great deal about the content of the call, even without any further information.

And, Felten argues, metadata becomes even more revealing when it’s collected in bulk:


More: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-switch/wp/2013/08/27/heres-how-phone-metadata-can-reveal-your-affairs-abortions-and-other-secrets/

New Poll: Syria Intervention Even Less Popular Than Congress - WaPo

New poll: Syria intervention even less popular than Congress
By Max Fisher - WaPo
Published: August 26 at 2:37 pm


A new Reuters/Ipsos poll has finally found something that Americans like even less than Congress: the possibility of U.S. military intervention in Syria. Only 9 percent of respondents said that the Obama administration should intervene militarily in Syria; a RealClearPolitics poll average finds Congress has a 15 percent approval rating, making the country’s most hated political body almost twice as popular.

The Reuters/Ipsos poll was taken Aug.19-23, the very same week that horrific reports emerged strongly suggesting that Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad has used chemical weapons against his own people, potentially killing hundreds or even thousands of civilians. If there were ever a time that Americans would support some sort of action, you’d think this would be it. But this is the lowest support for intervention since the poll began tracking opinion on the issue. The survey also found that 60 percent oppose intervention outright, with the rest, perhaps sagely, saying that they don’t know.

Strangely, 25 percent said that they support intervention if Assad uses chemical weapons. I say strangely because the United States announced way back in June that it believed Assad had done exactly this. A large share of people who answered that the United States should intervene if Assad uses chemical weapons are apparently unaware that this line has already been crossed. Presumably, some number of these people would drop their support if they realized the question was no longer hypothetical.


Link: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2013/08/26/new-poll-syria-intervention-even-less-popular-than-congress/

'Devastating': California's Biggest Wildfire Of The Year Seen From Space - MSNBC

'Devastating': California's biggest wildfire of the year seen from space
Alan Boyle, Science Editor NBC News

NASA astronaut Karen Nyberg transmitted this image of smoke wafting from California's Rim Fire, as seen from the International Space Station, via Twitter on Monday. North is to the left in this image.

The 150,000-acre fire blazing in and around Yosemite National Park made a big impression on NASA astronaut Karen Nyberg, who was watching the smoke from the International Space Station on Monday.

"Our orbit took us directly over California's Rim Fire about an hour ago. Devastating," Nyberg wrote in a Twitter update.

Nyberg isn't the only one keeping track of the blaze from outer space: The MODIS imaging spectrometers that NASA has aboard its Aqua and Terra satellites are keeping watch on the Rim Fire as well as other wildfires across the West.

A map from the National Interagency Fire Center helps you get a fix on the extent of the Rim Fire, in relation to California's Mono Lake as well as Yosemite National Park's famous Half Dome.

An image from the MODIS instrument on NASA's Terra Satellite, acquired on Aug. 25, shows the active burning areas of the Yosemite Rim Fire in red outlines.

Link: http://www.nbcnews.com/science/devastating-californias-biggest-wildfire-year-seen-space-8C11008420

Why Thank You, Matt Damon... Exactly !!!

Actor Matt Damon on Edward Snowden: 'It's a great thing he did'
By Marcus Hondro - DigitalJournal
Aug 26, 2013


Matt Damon's newest, 'Elysium' is now out in the U.K. and the actor is over there on a press junket. Never one to shy from controversial topics during a talk on a BBC program, Damon commented on his countryman, Edward Snowden.


“I think it’s a great thing he did," Damon told host Husam “Sam” Asi on the BBC Arabic TV show 'Alternate Cinema'. “If we are going to trade our civil liberties for our security, then that should be a decision that we collectively make. It shouldn’t be made for us.”


Link: http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/357162

N.S.A. Phone Data Collection Is Illegal, A.C.L.U. Says - NYT

N.S.A. Phone Data Collection Is Illegal, A.C.L.U. Says
August 26, 2013


WASHINGTON — In a detailed legal attack on the National Security Agency’s collection of Americans’ phone call data, the American Civil Liberties Union argued in court papers filed Monday that the sweeping data gathering violates the Constitution and should be halted.

The A.C.L.U. cited the writings of George Orwell and the comprehensive East German surveillance portrayed in the film “The Lives of Others” in warning of the dangers of large-scale government intrusion into private lives. The new motion, elaborating on the A.C.L.U.’s arguments against the data collection, came in a federal lawsuit challenging the N.S.A. program that the group filed in June.

Intelligence officials have emphasized that the N.S.A. database does not contain the contents of any Americans’ calls, but only the so-called metadata — the numbers called and the time and duration of each call. They say the database is searched only based on “reasonable, articulable suspicion” of terrorism and is valuable for tracking terror plots.

By midnight Monday, the Justice Department was expected to ask the judge in the case, William H. Pauley III of the Southern District of New York, to dismiss it. The department declined to comment on the A.C.L.U.’s filing.

In a declaration in support of the A.C.L.U., Edward W. Felten, a professor of computer science and public affairs at Princeton, said that by gathering data on the three billion calls made each day in the United States, the N.S.A. was creating a database that could reveal some of the most intimate secrets of American citizens.

“Calling patterns can reveal when we are awake and asleep, our religion, if a person regularly makes no calls on the Sabbath or makes a large number of calls on Christmas Day, our work habits and our social aptitude, the number of friends we have, and even our civil and political affiliations,” Mr. Felten wrote.

He pointed out that calls to certain numbers — a government fraud hot line, say, or a sexual assault hot line — or a text message that automatically donates to Planned Parenthood can reveal intimate details. He also said sophisticated data analysis, using software that can instantly trace chains of social connections, can make metadata even more revealing than the calls’ contents.


More: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/27/us/nsa-phone-data-collection-is-illegal-aclu-says.html?_r=0

UPDATE: How Snowden Got The NSA Documents - ZDNet

My Post on the NBC Story: http://www.democraticunderground.com/10023536903


How Snowden got the NSA documents
Summary: A report confirms what was likely all along, that Edward Snowden's contractor job gave him unrestricted access to a mountain of sensitive materials for which he had no legitimate need.

By Larry Seltzer | ZDNet
August 26, 2013 -- 19:30 GMT (12:30 PDT)

It's been known for a while that Edward Snowden was a systems administrator for Booz Allen Hamilton doing contract work for the NSA when he obtained the documents which he subsequently leaked to the press. But how did he get at these documents? NBC News has an investigations story on "How Snowden did it" which purports to explain.

The story reveals the problem, although incidentally to their focus on a red herring. The culprit, according to the story, was Snowden's access to NSA systems, from his Honolulu location, through a "'thin client' computer". The story does not name the specific thin client technology used, but the most popular would be products by Citrix, such as their VDI-in-a-Box. These products allow a user to connect using a special client program to a server which runs numerous virtual desktop sessions, each of which appears to be a Windows desktop system. Windows Server comes with a similar, if less-capable technology.

But there's nothing inherently insecure or old-fashioned about thin clients, as the NBC News story claims. Thin clients, properly managed, can be a very secure method with which to give limited access to users.

The intelligent way to manage such a system is to have a multi-level hierarchy of administration, limiting the access of the vast bulk of administrators to documents and systems for which they have a legitimate need. The higher up the hierarchy you go, the more access an administrator would have, and the more closely security personnel could scrutinize their moves.

It's long been a basic principle of security that you compartmentalize access to sensitive data. This goes back long before computers. 3 years went by between Manning's leaks and Snowden's, and nothing appears to have been done to restrict the access to sensitive data. It may be that the NSA has been negligent, but it may also be that there's just too much sensitive data. Probably both.

More: http://www.zdnet.com/how-snowden-got-the-nsa-documents-7000019860/

NSA Might Be Listening, But PI Had Your Number Before You Were Born

NSA might be listening, but pi had your number before you were born
Virtual-Strategy Magazine/Nanojems
Monday, August 26th 2013


RENO, Nev., Aug. 26, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Nanojems, a Reno, Nevada company has just engraved the first million digits of pi, 200 times more than other known engravings and a landmark feat for the never-ending constant. "Ok, so this is not just another number," says Jesse Adams, co-founder of the startup that has debuted its new artistic media by engraving the first million digits of pi on sapphire with gold. "The number is amazing, really," says Adams. "When you discover that your phone number, birthday, and full words and documents are already contained somewhere in pi, that's pretty amazing."

Adams says he got the idea for the project from the hit TV show Person of Interest. "There was a scene where character, Harold Finch, inventor of the all-watching 'machine', explains that pi has every number, and then if you translate letters into numbers, every word and every complete written work somewhere in its infinite digits. I thought this was amazing and then to think that you take any line and try to make a circle around it - you need pi times the length of that line to close the circle. You need every digit of pi! You need everything ever created encoded in that number to make one circle. That is beautiful!"

Some share Adams new found respect for pi. One of Nanojems' Kickstarter project http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/nanojems/million-digits-of-pi-pendant backers, and math teacher, Scott MacDonald, says "I am down in Vegas, and have not been so excited about a Kickstarter before. I'm getting married on pi day 2015: 3/14/15!" Another backer, in New York, Daqwan Koenig, says "..sorry I couldn't give more, I love the idea.." These guys are not alone, pi lovers are already preparing for the once in a lifetime pi day 2015, where at 9:26:53 in the morning the date and time will contain over 10 digits of pi. https://www.facebook.com/events/328804572620/


Link: http://www.virtual-strategy.com/2013/08/26/nsa-might-be-listening-pi-had-your-number-you-were-born

Why Did NSA Spy On UN? Not To Counter Terrorism, Secret Documents Show - CSM

Why did NSA spy on UN? Not to counter terrorism, secret documents show.
A report in the German news magazine Der Spiegel claims that documents obtained by Edward Snowden show that the NSA has spied on the UN and European Union.

By David Cook - CSM
August 26, 2013


The National Security Agency (NSA) has bugged United Nations and European Union internal communications, according to secret documents obtained by former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden and disclosed by the German news magazine Der Spiegel.

The story, published Sunday, charges that the NSA “infiltrated the Europeans’ internal computer network between New York and Washington, used US embassies abroad to intercept communications, and eavesdropped on video conferences of UN diplomats.” Among the UN activities targeted by the NSA, Der Spiegel says, was the UN’s Vienna-based nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The report also asserts that there are “secret eavesdropping posts in 80 US embassies and consulates around the world,” which the NSA operates along with the Central Intelligence Agency. The program is referred to as the “Special Collection Service.”

The UN responded to the report on Monday. UN spokesman Farhan Haq said that the United Nations will "reach out" to US officials about the reports of eavesdropping, as it has in the past when such allegations have been raised, the Associated Press reported.

Mr. Haq noted that “the inviolability of diplomatic missions, including the United Nations and other international organizations, whose functions are protected by the relevant international conventions like the Vienna Convention, has been well-established international law.” He added, "Therefore, member-states are expected to act accordingly to protect the inviolability of diplomatic missions."

President Obama defended NSA surveillance programs in his Aug. 9 press conference as necessary to protect the nation and its citizens against terrorist attacks. It is “intelligence that helps us protect the American people and they're worth preserving,” Mr. Obama said. The authors of the Der Speigel report say the surveillance aimed at the UN, EU, and various nations is “intensive and well-organized – and it has little or nothing to do with counter-terrorism.”


Link: http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/USA-Update/2013/0826/Why-did-NSA-spy-on-UN-Not-to-counter-terrorism-secret-documents-show

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