Posts Tagged ‘National Security Agency’

Sharyl Attkisson’s Computer Was Hacked, Heavily Monitored By The Federal Government

October 28, 2014

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Stonewalled: Ex-CBS reporter Sharyl Attkisson says that she encountered obstacles from the Obama administration and her own colleagues while reporting

Stonewalled: Ex-CBS reporter Sharyl Attkisson says that she encountered obstacles from the Obama administration and her own colleagues while reporting

Last year Former CBS News investigative reporter Sharyl Attkisson, who is known for incredible work on Operation Fast and Furious, Benghazi and other White House scandals, noticed her computers at work and at home were acting strange. She suspected someone had hacked into her computer, specifically into a desktop in her home due to the machine turning on and off by itself at all hours of the night. An initial review of the hard drive revealed that her computer had in fact been compromised, but it wasn’t known at the time who did it. The intruder into her system didn’t take any financial information and it was clear they were looking for something else.

The news of Attkisson’s computer problems came shortly after we found out the phones and emails of Fox News reporters James Rosen (and his parents) and William LaJeunesse were monitored. Rosen’s movements were also monitored by government officials and he was named as a criminal co-conspirator in an affidavit from the Department of Justice to a judge. All three reporters, LaJeunesse, Rosen and Attkisson work on stories typically unfavorable to the administration (and all three have also scrutinized former administrations, including those headed by a Republican).

Now, Attkisson is revealing in her new book Stonewalled: My Fight for Truth Against the Forces of Obstruction, Intimidation, and Harassment in Obama’s Washington that it was in fact the government that hacked into her computer, even installing software to track her information and every key she pushed. More from the New York Post:

In her new memoir, Sharyl Attkisson says a source who arranged to have her laptop checked for spyware in 2013 was “shocked” and “flabbergasted” at what the analysis revealed.

“This is outrageous. Worse than anything Nixon ever did. I wouldn’t have believed something like this could happen in the United States of America,” Attkisson quotes the source saying.

Attkisson says the source, who’s “connected to government three-letter agencies,” told her the computer was hacked into by “a sophisticated entity that used commercial, nonattributable spyware that’s proprietary to a government agency: either the CIA, FBI, the Defense Intelligence Agency or the National Security Agency.”

The breach was accomplished through an “otherwise innocuous e-mail” that Attkisson says she got in February 2012, then twice “redone” and “refreshed” through a satellite hookup and a Wi-Fi connection at a Ritz-Carlton hotel.

The spyware included programs that Attkisson says monitored her every keystroke and gave the snoops access to all her e-mails and the passwords to her financial accounts.

“The intruders discovered my Skype account handle, stole the password, activated the audio, and made heavy use of it, presumably as a listening tool,” she wrote in “Stonewalled: My Fight for Truth Against the Forces of Obstruction, Intimidation, and Harassment in Obama’s Washington.”

So what was the motive behind the hack? Attkisson believes the feds were trying to go after herself and her sources with legal charges. Keep in mind, President Obama has used the Espionage Act against more sources providing information to reporters, and ultimately the American public, than any other President in history. The fact that this administration gets away with these types of intrusions is incredibly alarming for all Americans, but particularly for reporters who shine a light on corruption. This news is incredibly unnerving for the pursuit of truth, in keeping trusted sources talking and in protecting the First Amendment.

http://townhall.com/tipsheet/katiepavlich/2014/10/27/sharyl-attkisson-reveals-the-government-hacked-into-her-computer-n1910610

Novel: Her revelations claim to show there is a liberal bias in the news media as a whole that excuses the Obama administration

Her revelations claim to show there is a liberal bias in the news media as a whole that excuses the Obama administration

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2810470/Government-related-agency-laptop-hack-claims-former-CBS-reporter-targeted-Obama-administration-reporting-Benghazi.html#ixzz3HQ3ml1vS
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Edward Snowden Film Likely To Embarrass Obama Administration

October 11, 2014
 

Citizen Four is the shocking doc about Edward Snowden made by Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras. Just screened tonight was the two hour film will be released by the Weinstein Company this month. It doesn’t paint the Obama administration in a very good light as Snowden explains how the government has violated privacy rights on a massive scale.

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Also the filmmakers clearly inducate that all roads lead to POTUS, a fairly serious accusation. There may be serious repercussions.

Then there’s the Hollywoodization of Snowden. The detail of how and why Snowden went about this is pretty surprising considering how the 29 year old former NSA employee says he wants his own privacy and not to be a celebrity. It’s instructive to see his evolution from eyeglass wearing nerd to contact lenses and moussed up hair sporting hero of his own thriller. It’s all very Tom Cruise. Even the beautiful girlfriend sets up housekeeping with him in Moscow. Nevertheless as the details of the NSA’s programs are revealed Snowden says, “This isn’t science fiction. It’s really happening.”.

http://www.showbiz411.com/2014/10/10/edward-snowden-doc-premieres-shocking-inside-look-at-how-he-did-it

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At the end of the Laura Poitras doc, the famed informant registers shock over another who outranks him

By Seth Abramovitch, Chris O’Falt

The Hollywood Reporter

A second National Security Agency whistleblower exists within the ranks of government intelligence.

That bombshell comes toward the end of Citizenfour, a new documentary from filmmaker Laura Poitras about NSA informant Edward Snowden that had its world premiere on Friday at the New York Film Festival.

In the key scene, journalist Glenn Greenwald visits Snowden at a hotel room in Moscow. Fearing they are being taped, Greenwald communicates with Snowden via pen and paper.

While some of the exchanges are blurred for the camera, it becomes clear that Greenwald wants to convey that another government whistleblower — higher in rank than Snowden — has come forward.

The revelation clearly shocks Snowden, whose mouth drops open when he reads the details of the informant’s leak.

Also revealed by Greenwald is the fact that 1.2 million Americans are currently on a government watch-list. Among them is Poitras herself.

And the surprises don’t end there. Near the end of the film, which received a rousing standing ovation, it is revealed that Lindsay Mills, Snowden’s dancer girlfriend of 10 years, has been living with Snowden in Moscow.

When Poitras went to Moscow in July to show Snowden an early cut of the film, she shot footage of the two cooking dinner together, which appears in the final cut.

Snowden fled to Russia after the U.S. government revoked his passport and put pressure on other governments not to grant him asylum.

After spending 39 days in a Moscow airport, Snowden was granted a one-year asylum from President Vladimir Putin. He is now in the country on a three-year residency permit.

Poitras took the stage at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall following the screening, flanked by Greenwald, with whom she partnered on a pair of explosive stories in The Guardian and Washington Post about Snowden’s surveillance disclosures in June 2014.

Also joining them was Jeremy Scahill, their partner on the website The Intercept, and Snowden’s father and stepmother. Snowden’s father thanked Poitras for having made Citizenfour, which he deemed a “wonderful piece of work.”

Poitras kept her comments following the screening to a minimum, and thanked her crew and Snowden. Instead it was Greenwald and Scahill who did most of the talking, with Scahill at one point describing Poitras as “the most bad-ass director alive, period.”

Before the screening, Poitras told The Hollywood Reporter that she will never forget the moment when Snowden — who was so young Greenwald initially doubted his authenticity — said he was willing to go on the record with his allegations.

“One of the most intense moments was when Snowden told us his identity would not remain anonymous, and I knew that somebody was really, really putting their life on the line,” Poitras said.

http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/nyff-edward-snowden-doc-citizenfour-740060

A demonstrator holds a photograph of Edward Snowden

A demonstrator holds a sign with a photograph of Edward Snowden during 4 July celebrations in 2013 in Boston, Massachusetts. Photograph: Brian Snyder/REUTERS
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From The Guardian
Lindsay Mills, girlfriend of Edward SnowdenLindsay Mills, the girlfriend of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, in Hawaii. Photograph: Splash/Luis Silos III

The mystery of the whereabouts of Edward Snowden’s long-time girlfriend is solved in a documentary that premiered in New York on Friday night: she has been living with the national security whistleblower in Russia since July.

The surprise revelation in the documentary, filmed by Laura Poitras, upends the widespread assumption that Snowden had deserted Lindsay Mills and that she, in a fit of pique, fled Hawaii where they had been living to stay with her parents in mainland US.

Since Snowden, a former NSA contractor, outed himself last year as being behind the biggest leak in US intelligence history, Mills has remained silent, giving no interviews or any hints of her feelings on the subject of her boyfriend or his actions.

The two-hour long documentary, Citizenfour, shows Mills living in Russia with Snowden.

When the Guardian met Snowden in Moscow in July, Snowden suggested the relationship was more complex than the view constantly recycled in the media of a woman abandoned and hinted that the two were not in fact estranged.

Citizenfour offers a fly-on-the wall account of Snowden. Poitras filmed him at the Mira hotel in Hong Kong last year during interviews with journalists that resulted in a series of stories in the Guardian about the extent of surveillance by the US and British intelligence agencies as well as the internet and telecom companies. The revelations started a worldwide debate about the balance between surveillance and privacy.

Poitras captures the tension in his room at the Mira – where then-Guardian columnist Glenn Greenwald and I interviewed him – and in his final minutes at the hotel before he fled after being tipped off that hordes of media were about to arrive. She also filmed at the Guardian in London ahead of publication of one of the most explosive of the stories arising from Snowden’s revelations, and in Moscow, where Snowden is now in exile.

Snowden has been reluctant to talk about his personal life, preferring the media focus to be on wider debate about surveillance rather than him. But Poitras’s portrayal is both personal and sympathetic.

In his first comment about the documentary, which Poitras had shown to him in advance, Snowden told the Guardian: “I hope people won’t see this as a story about heroism. It’s actually a story about what ordinary people can do in extraordinary circumstances.”

Snowden was working as an NSA contractor in Hawaii where Mills joined him. A dancer, she posted many details and photographs about herself and him on the web.

She was still in Hawaii when news broke from Hong Kong that he was the whistleblower. Days earlier, authorities, suspicious about his prolonged absence from work, had visited their home.

On her blog, subtitled, ‘Adventures of a world-travelling, pole-dancing superhero,’ she wrote that she felt “sick, exhausted and carrying the weight of the world”. Shortly afterwards, she took the blog down.

The two appear to have been together since at least 2009, living part of the time near Baltimore before moving to Hawaii in 2012.

http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2014/oct/11/edward-snowden-girlfriend-moscow-documentary-poitras

Chinese Hacked U.S. Military Contractors, Senate Panel Says

September 17, 2014

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Hackers Broke Into Computer Networks 20 Times in a Year, Armed Services Committee Report Finds

By Danny Yadron

The Wall Street Journal

A Senate investigation released Wednesday found that hackers linked to the Chinese government broke into U.S. military transportation companies’ computer networks 20 times in a year.

But the Senate Armed Services Committee says officials of the U.S. Transportation Command, responsible for moving troops across the globe in times of crisis, were told about just two of those incidents. If a system was compromised, they may not have known, the panel said.

The committee’s study covered June 2012 through June 2013.

“The security of our military operations are what is at stake,” Sen. Carl Levin, the panel’s chairman said at a news conference. “What we found is very disturbing.”

The Chinese embassy didn’t immediately return a call seeking comment.

In the past, China has denied such allegations and said that U.S. spies infiltrate its computer networks as well. Senate aides said the determination the cyberattacks came from China was made by the executive branch, which would cover the Defense Department and its National Security Agency, though they didn’t cite specific evidence.

Write to Danny Yadron at danny.yadron@wsj.com

Beheading: Former director of the National Security Agency and the Central Intelligence Agency, on the beheading of American Journalist James Foley

August 20, 2014

Gen. Michael Hayden, former director of the National Security Agency and the Central Intelligence Agency, said Tuesday that the alleged death of journalist James Foley has a “high emotional impact” across the nation and in the Oval Office.

“Our government, despite that kind of popular thought that it’s a black box — input in, output out — it’s comprised of human beings. They look at this video too, [and are] very emotionally affected by this,” Hayden said on Fox News’ “The Kelly File.” “It’s not that human lives have any different value, but this one is one of our own. This is someone from our own village.”

He continued, “This affects the people in the situation room and the Oval Office the way it affects you and me, this has high emotional impact.”

On Tuesday, men claiming to be members of the terrorist group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant released a video that allegedly shows the beheading of Foley, an American journalist. Foley went missing in Syria in November 2012. The video also shows a man alleged to be American journalist Steven Joel Sotloff, who, his captors threaten, might be killed next, depending on President Barack Obama’s “next decision.” Intelligence officials have not yet confirmed the authenticity of the video. It was taken off YouTube about 20 minutes after it was posted.

Hayden said on “The Kelly File” that he understands that Americans might feel fighting back against ISIL could cause more harm to Americans, but he said a military response might be necessary.

“I know all about the war weariness here, I’m tired of war myself, but this may be a question of pay now or pay later, and paying later may actually be a much higher bill,” Hayden said.

Hayden said the recent events reminded him of the case of journalist Daniel Pearl, whose beheading by Al Qaeda’s Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was released on video in February 2002.

“It’s really important what the American government says, because there are a lot of audiences for the next American statement on this,” Hayden said. “Not just ISIS, but our Iraqi and Kurdish friends, as well. We’ve got to be careful with our messaging.”

Read more: http://www.politico.com/story/2014/08/james-foley-michael-hayden-isil-110178.html#ixzz3AvwzCPPW

Related:

China Warns Microsoft Against Obstructing Probe

August 4, 2014

Regulator Says It Questioned Microsoft Deputy General Counsel Mary Snapp

 

By  Eva Dou
Wall Street Journal

A visitor walks past a Microsoft booth at a computer software expo in Beijing. Reuters

Chinese regulators on Monday publicly warned Microsoft Corp.  against obstructing an antitrust investigation into the firm, in the latest sign that Beijing has turned frosty on the U.S. software maker.

China’s State Administration for Industry and Commerce said in a statement that Microsoft should avoid “interfering in or obstructing” the probe. The regulator also said it had questioned Microsoft Deputy General Counsel Mary Snapp as part of the investigation.

About 100 SAIC investigators raided Microsoft’s offices last week in four Chinese cities. The agency said Microsoft hadn’t disclosed relevant information about some security features and how it ties its software products together.

A Microsoft spokeswoman in Beijing declined to comment Monday. The company previously said its business practices in China were designed to comply with Chinese law, and has pledged to cooperate with the probe. The SAIC also said Monday that Microsoft had promised to abide by the law and cooperate.

Related Article

The investigation is the newest friction point between the U.S. and China, following disclosures about the U.S. National Security Agency surveillance and revelations of hacking of U.S. networks by China’s military.

U.S. executives at several tech firms have said their business has been hurt by mounting suspicions against U.S. firms in China.

Qualcomm Inc. a major supplier of cellphone chips, also has been under investigation since November over how it calculates patent-licensing and royalty rates in China and other issues. The chip maker said last month the investigation could trigger fines and a possible loss on business in the country. Qualcomm said China’s investigation has contributed to new uncertainty in the country.

Microsoft Chief Financial Officer Amy Hood said last month the company continues to see challenging conditions in China because of a weak business environment.

Microsoft has worked for years to crack the Chinese market and has battled rampant software piracy in the country. Chief Executive Satya Nadella lobbied Chinese officials in 2012 to allow the company to sell cloud-computing services with a Chinese partner.

—Yang Jie

Write to Eva Dou at eva.dou@wsj.com

Corrections & Amplifications

Microsoft’s chief executive is Satya Nadella. An earlier version of this article misspelled his name.

U.S. Intelligence Warns Israel: Hamas Has Even More Tunnels Undetected — John Kerry Works For Cease Fire

July 22, 2014

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A Palestinian smuggler works inside a tunnel in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip.   Adel Hana/AP

By ARIEL BEN SOLOMON

American satellites have preliminary findings of around 60 tunnels on the Israel-Gaza border, according to senior official; number could actually be higher.

As Israeli security forces thwarted the latest attempt by terrorists to infiltrate Israel via tunnels from Gaza on Monday, The Jerusalem Post has learned that Israel may be underestimating the extent of tunnel penetration on its southern border.
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Steven Emerson, founder and executive director of the Washington-based Investigative Project on Terrorism, told the Post in an exclusive interview on Sunday that US intelligence officials believe that Israel is underestimating the number of tunnels.
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He said that according to a senior National Security Council official dealing with the Middle East, American satellites – equipped with specialhigh resolution infrared detection technology – have preliminary findings of around 60 tunnels on the Israel-Gaza border.This number could actually be higher though because it does not include overhead satellite coverage of ground structures that are several stories in height and are impervious to infrared detection, Emerson said.
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This information seems to contradict Israeli estimates of remaining tunnels, Emerson said.The IDF told the Post on Monday that up until now 45 tunnels have been discovered, but when asked how many it estimated remain, it said that no information was available.Emerson said that the advanced American satellite, which was originally developed to deal with the Iranian theater, had been directed to orbit over Israel and send the data to specialized reconnaissance agencies operating under the aegis of  the National Security Agency (NSA) for analysis.The infrared heat-seeking technology works by detecting changes in terrain density and the preliminary findings show that the tunnels are 1.5 m. by 1.2 m. and at least 46 m. in length.Emerson said that he is unaware if Israel requested such intelligence from the Americans or if it has yet been shared between the two nations – though he presumes that if it hadn’t it will be.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said on Sunday that the threat of the tunnels is not a new one and Israel is aware of them. “It is an operation with more risk, but it is vital. If these tunnels were not found, then the results would have been a lot worse,” Netanyahu said of the ground operations in Gaza.

Emerson said that “according to American experts, there are only a couple of very specialized international corporations that manufacture tunnel-based equipment that detect unusual gaps in the density of hard rock being measured.”

The technology also has commercial uses and assists in determining areas suitable for tunnels and mines.

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Emerson speculated that Israel did not purchase this equipment because of its high cost – and due to its belief that Israel can find and deal with the tunnels without it. He said that an ex-Israeli intelligence official who he spoke to came across as arrogant when speaking of the tunnel threat, and had a “we can deal with it,” attitude.

“It is believed that the construction of the more advanced Palestinian tunnels began right after the 2012 cease-fire agreement, when Israel agreed to lift restrictions for humanitarian aid, including large quantities of steel and concrete,” he said, adding that the agreement to lift the blockade was overseen by Hillary Clinton.

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Egyptian tunnels are easier to build and are dug by using traditional excavation equipment and are meant mainly for  commerce. These are easier to see, he said, adding that the ones crossing into Israel are for military purposes and “are of a totally different magnitude.”

Emerson said that Hamas has learned from Hezbollah how to improve its use of tunnels. He also said that Hamas terrorists are probably not using any communication devices while inside the tunnels, making it harder to detect them.

In addition, the tunnels are quite sophisticated, with water, sewage, and lighting allowing for month longs stays.

Regarding Israel’s efforts at using conventional forces, such as tanks and troop carriers, Emerson said that these are easier targets for Hamas since they can gather intelligence on them from close up.

Hamas has been very good at adapting and Israelis “need to think outside the box as they traditionally have and use their ability to think two steps ahead of their enemies,” Emerson said.

Herb Keinon contributed to this report.

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Nearly every Secretary of State has been dispatched to the Middle East, or brokered a peace deal, since the State of Israel was formed in 1948.
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NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
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As Secretary of State Kerry set off for the Middle East Monday hoping to forge a Israeli-Palestinian truce, he follows of long line of top U.S. diplomats who have done the same — dating back to the 1940s.Here’s the lengthy list of Secretaries of State who have tried before Kerry to find a peaceful solution. Some have brokered brief stints of calm, but no one has come up with a plan to make it permanent:
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* September 2010 — Hillary Clinton lead peace talks in Washington between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Tensions in the region stemmed from attacks on Israeli settlements in Palestinian lands, and an Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip.
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* March 2008 — Condoleezza Rice traveled to Jerusalem to broker a peace deal between Palestinians and Israelis. Hamas, the ruling party in the Gaza Strip, had been exchanging rocket fire with Israel over the country’s settlements in Palestinian land.
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* May 2003 — Colin Powell visited Israeli and Palestinian territories to work on a peace plan that would curb Palestinian violence and freeze Israeli settlements.
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* September 1997 — Madeleine Albright jets to Jerusalem to broker a new peace deal a week after relations crumbled following a triple suicide bombing by Islamic militants, and Netanyahu’s refusal to hand back control of some promised West Bank lands.* September 1993 — Warren Christopher accepted Israel’s request to sign the 1993 Oslo Accords, in which the U.S., Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organization recognized each other as states and established the Palestinian Authority.

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* October 1994 — Christopher sets up the Israel-Jordan peace treaty, settling border disputes, diplomatic relations and water supply.
* March-May 1991 — James Baker III made a series of trips to Jerusalem trying to broker a peace deal between Arab nations and Israel. Baker publicly said his main roadblock in a peace deal is Israel’s settlement buildups in occupied territories.
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* December 1988 — George P. Schultz got PLO leader Yasser Arafat to renounce terrorism, allowing the U.S. to lift its boycott of the PLO. Schultz earlier that year called for self-governance in the West Bank and Gaza.
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* January 1982 — Alexander Haig went to Jerusalem for talks to break a stalemate between Egypt and Israel over what power Palestinians could have in Gaza and the West Bank.* June 1980 — Edmund Muskie never traveled to Israel, but blasted the country’s settlement policy on lands promised to Palestinians. Israeli Prime MinisterMenachem Begin rejected Muskie’s statement.
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* August 1978 — Cyrus Vance traveled to the Middle East to confirm firsthand that Israel and Egypt had agreed to enter peace negotiations. The agreement eventually led to the Camp David Accords, setting up the framework for peace in the Middle East..

* October 1973 — Henry Kissinger journeyed to Tel Aviv for a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir over the Yom Kippur War, which pitted Israel against Egypt and Syria over land in the Golan Heights and Sinai Peninsula that Israel captured in the 1967 Six-Day War.

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* May 1971 — William P. Rogers discussed peace initiatives in Tel Aviv that were worked out in the aftermath of the Six-Day War. The “Rogers Plan” was developed in 1969 and set up the framework for a truce in the region.

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* January 1967 — Dean Rusk told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that he didn’t believe there would be a war in Israel. In his eight years as Secretary of State, Rusk never traveled to Israel.

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* October 1959 — Christian Herter said the United States welcomed direct Arab-Israel negotiations at the United Nations to settle the Palestine issue.

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* August 1956 — John Foster Dulles went to the United Kingdom to negotiate an end a crisis over the Suez Canal that pitted Egypt against Israel, Britain and France. Foster’s attempt at peace went nowhere and Israel invaded Egypt later that year.

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* 1948 — George Marshall was active in the United Nations’ establishment of the State of Israel. The general-turned-diplomat argued that the British land called Palestine should be handed over to the U.N., rather than setting up separate Israeli and Arab provinces.

Search for Lois Lerner’s Lost Emails Leads to NSA

July 17, 2014

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By Rebecca Kaplan, CBS News

The House Armed Services Committee has come up with a creative approach to look for emails from embattled former Internal Revenue Service (IRS) official Lois Lerner that were apparently lost in a computer crash: they’re asking the National Security Agency (NSA) and the Defense Department.

The panel approved a resolution Wednesday authored by Rep. Steve Stockman, R-Texas, that directs the Secretary of Defense to send the House of Representatives “copies of any electronic communication in the possession of the Secretary, the Director of the National Security Agency, or any office that reports to the Secretary or the Director that was transmitted to or from any electronic mail account(s) used by former Internal Revenue Service Exempt Organizations Division Director Lois Lerner at any time between January 1, 2009, and April 30, 2011.”

The IRS said last month that it could not locate many emails sent and received by Lerner – the official at the heart of the controversy over the agency’s targeting of conservative groups – because her computer crashed in 2011. They were ultimately able to generate 24,000 emails from 2009 to 2011 by finding message where she had copied other employees.

The resolution hopes that perhaps the NSA – which apparently collected as many as 56,000 emails and other communications from Americans who had no connection to terrorism prior to 2013 – might have picked up some of the lost communications.

(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

The IRS said last month that it could not locate many emails sent and received by Lerner – the official at the heart of the controversy over the agency’s targeting of conservative groups – because her computer crashed in 2011. They were ultimately able to generate 24,000 emails from 2009 to 2011 by finding message where she had copied other employees.

The resolution hopes that perhaps the NSA – which apparently collected as many as 56,000 emails and other communications from Americans who had no connection to terrorism prior to 2013 – might have picked up some of the lost communications.

IRS Commissioner John Koskinen was asked in a hearing last month whether his agency’s emails were exempt from monitoring by the FBI and NSA. He said he was unaware of any NSA collection, but said the emails could still be in their possession if it had taken place.

Although Democrats have been critical of the GOP’s extensive investigation of the IRS controversy, they are not standing in the way of the new approach. The top Democrat on the Armed Services Committee, Rep. Adam Smith of Washington, said that he thought it was “highly unlikely” they would find any emails but did not object.

“I hope we can dispose of this quickly and move on,” he said.

Stockman, the author of the resolution, is also pushing the House to vote to arrest Lerner and put in her jail after she was held in contempt of Congress in May for failing to testify in front of the House Oversight Committee. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said at the time that it was up to Attorney General Eric Holder, not the House, to pursue any further punishment.

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Internal Revenue Service Headquarters in Washington Associated Press

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Holder on ABC's 'This Week,' where he also criticized the Republican lawsuit against Obamacare and defended himself against accusations that he should be impeached for declining to appoint a special prosecutor to handle investigation of the IRS scandal

Senate committee adopts cybersecurity bill opposed by NSA critics

July 9, 2014

Intelligence committee approves major bill that civil libertarians say would give NSA even wider access to Americans’ data

theguardian.com, Tuesday 8 July 2014 18.17 EDT

The cybersecurity bill was pushed by senator Dianne Feinstein, chair of the Senate intelligence committee. Photograph: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

The Senate intelligence committee voted Tuesday to adopt a major cybersecurity bill that critics fear will give the National Security Agency even wider access to American data than it already has.

Observers said the bill, approved by a 12 to 3 vote in a meeting closed to the public, would face a difficult time passing the full Senate, considering both the shortened legislative calendar in an election year and the controversy surrounding surveillance.

But the bill is a priority of current and former NSA directors, who warn that private companies’ vulnerability to digital sabotage and economic data exfiltration will get worse without it.

Pushed by Dianne Feinstein and Saxby Chambliss, the California Democrat and Georgia Republican who lead the committee, the bill would remove legal obstacles that block firms from sharing information “in real time” about cyber-attacks and prevention or mitigation measures with one another and with the US government.

Worrying civil libertarians is that the NSA and its twin military command, US Cyber Command, would receive access to vast amounts of data, and privacy guidelines for the handling of that data are yet to be developed.

A draft of the bill released in mid-June would permit government agencies to share, retain and use the information for “a cybersecurity purpose” – defined as “the purpose of protecting an information system or information that is stored on, processed by or transiting an information system from a cybersecurity threat or security vulnerability” – raising the prospect of the NSA stockpiling a catalogue of weaknesses in digital security, as a recent White House data-assurance policy permits.

It would also prevent participating companies from being sued for sharing data with each other and the government, even though many companies offer contract terms of service prohibiting the sharing of client or customer information without explicit consent.

“To strengthen our networks, the government and private sector need to share information about attacks they are facing and how best to defend against them. This bill provides for that sharing through a purely voluntary process and with significant measures to protect private information,” Feinstein said in a statement after the vote.

Intrusions into private data networks are on the rise, with enormous economic consequences. A perceived need for some sort of government response drove the Justice Department to indict five Chinese military officers in May.

Champions of a similar bill that passed the House of Representatives last year despite a White House veto threat urged the full Senate to follow the intelligence panel’s lead.

“These attacks cost our country billions of dollars through the loss of jobs and intellectual property. We are confident that the House and the Senate will quickly come together to address this urgent threat and craft a final bill that secures our networks and protects privacy and civil liberties,” said Mike Rogers of Michigan and Dutch Ruppersberger of Maryland, the Republican and Democratic leaders of the House intelligence committee.

But digital rights advocates warn that the measure will give the government, including the NSA, access to more information than just that relating to cyberthreats, potentially creating a new avenue for broad governmental access to US data even as Congress and the Obama administration contemplate restricting the NSA’s domestic collection.

The bill contains “catch-all provisions that would allow for the inclusion of a lot more than malicious code. It could include the content of communications. That’s one of the biggest concerns,” said Gabriel Rottman, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union.

Provisions in the bill are intended to protect American privacy on the front end by having participating companies strike “indicators … known to be personal information of or identifying a United States person” before the government sees it, but the draft version leaves specific guidelines for privacy protection up to the attorney general.

“Nobody knows whether the flow from the private sector will be a trickle or a river or an ocean. The bill contemplates an ocean, and that’s what worries us,” said Greg Nojeim of the Center for Democracy and Technology.

Two of the senators who voted against the bill, Democrats Ron Wyden of Oregon and Mark Udall of Colorado, said that they were prepared to work to improve the bill, which they said “lacks adequate protections for the privacy rights of law-abiding Americans, and that it will not materially improve cybersecurity”.

They warned: “We have seen how the federal government has exploited loopholes to collect Americans’ private information in the name of security.”

A cybersecurity bill failed in the Senate in 2012, and observers like Nojeim doubted that a post-Edward Snowden environment was more conducive to passage, a point echoed reluctantly by leading NSA officials. Nevertheless, both NSA director vice-admiral Michael Rogers and his predecessor, Keith Alexander, have urged Congress to pass legislation along the lines of the Senate intelligence committee bill.

When U.S. Government Conducts “Targeted Surveillance,” It Also Grabs Phone, Internet Data, Personal Info on Nine Times The Number of “Innocent Bystanders”

July 6, 2014

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While collecting data on legally targeted foreigners, U.S. government vacuums up nine times as many conversations from “innocent citizens.”

WASHINGTON (AP) — When the National Security Agency intercepted the online accounts of legally targeted foreigners over a four-year period it also collected the conversations of nine times as many ordinary Internet users, both Americans and non-Americans, according to an investigation by The Washington Post.

Nearly half of those surveillance files contained names, email addresses or other details that the NSA marked as belonging to U.S. citizens or residents, the Post reported in a story posted on its website Saturday night. While the federal agency tried to protect their privacy by masking more than 65,000 such references to individuals, the newspaper said it found nearly 900 additional email addresses that could be strongly linked to U.S. citizens or residents.

At the same time, the intercepted messages contained material of considerable intelligence value, the Post reported, such as information about a secret overseas nuclear project, double-dealing by an ostensible ally, a military calamity that befell an unfriendly power, and the identities of aggressive intruders into U.S. computer networks.

As an example, the newspaper said the files showed that months of tracking communications across dozens of alias accounts led directly to the capture in 2011 of a Pakistan-based bomb builder suspected in a 2002 terrorist bombing in Bali. The Post said it was withholding other examples, at the request of the CIA, that would compromise ongoing investigations.

The material reviewed by the Post included roughly 160,000 intercepted e-mail and instant-message conversations, some of them hundreds of pages long, and 7,900 documents taken from more than 11,000 online accounts. It spanned President Barack Obama’s first term, 2009 to 2012, and was provided to the Post by former NSA analyst Edward Snowden.

The daily lives of more than 10,000 account holders who were not targeted were catalogued and recorded, the Post reported. The newspaper described that material as telling “stories of love and heartbreak, illicit sexual liaisons, mental-health crises, political and religious conversions, financial anxieties and disappointed hopes.” The material collected included more than 5,000 private photos, the paper said.

The cache Snowden provided to the newspaper came from domestic NSA operations under the broad authority granted by Congress in 2008 with amendments to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, according to the Post.

By law, the NSA may “target” only foreign nationals located overseas unless it obtains a warrant based on probable cause from a special surveillance court, the Post said. “Incidental collection” of third-party communications is inevitable in many forms of surveillance, according to the newspaper. In the case of the material Snowden provided, those in an online chat room visited by a target or merely reading the discussion were included in the data sweep, as were hundreds of people using a computer server whose Internet protocol was targeted.

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Washington Post: washingtonpost.com

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The Washington Post

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.Nine of 10 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. Nearly half of the surveillance files, a strikingly high proportion, contained names, e-mail addresses or other details that the NSA marked as belonging to U.S. citizens or residents. NSA analysts masked, or “minimized,” more than 65,000 such references to protect Americans’ privacy, but The Post found nearly 900 additional e-mail addresses, unmasked in the files, that could be strongly linked to U.S. citizens or U.S.residents.The surveillance files highlight a policy dilemma that has been aired only abstractly in public. There are discoveries of considerable intelligence value in the intercepted messages — and collateral harm to privacy on a scale that the Obama administration has not been willing to address.

Among the most valuable contents — which The Post will not describe in detail, to avoid interfering with ongoing operations — are fresh revelations about a secret overseas nuclear project, double-dealing by an ostensible ally, a military calamity that befell an unfriendly power, and the identities of aggressive intruders into U.S. computer networks.


A breakdown of the cache of NSA-intercepted communications provided to the Washington Post by Edward Snowden

http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/in-nsa-intercepted-data-those-not-targeted-far-outnumber-the-foreigners-who-are/2014/07/05/8139adf8-045a-11e4-8572-4b1b969b6322_story.html?hpid=z1

Months of tracking communications across more than 50 alias accounts, the files show, led directly to the 2011 capture in Abbottabad of Muhammad Tahir Shahzad, a Pakistan-based bomb builder, and Umar Patek, a suspect in a 2002 terrorist bombing on the Indonesian island of Bali. At the request of CIA officials, The Post is withholding other examples that officials said would compromise ongoing operations.

Many other 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.

In order to allow time for analysis and outside reporting, neither Snowden nor The Post has disclosed until now that he obtained and shared the content of intercepted communications. 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, senior government officials have depicted it as beyond Snowden’s reach.

The Post reviewed roughly 160,000 intercepted e-mail and instant-message conversations, some of them hundreds of pages long, and 7,900 documents taken from more than 11,000 online accounts.

The material spans President Obama’s first term, from 2009 to 2012, a period of exponential growth for the NSA’s domestic collection.

Taken together, 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. One program, code-named PRISM, extracts content stored in user accounts at Yahoo, Microsoft, Facebook, Google and five other leading Internet companies. Another, known inside the NSA as Upstream, intercepts data on the move as it crosses the U.S. junctions of global voice and data networks.

No government oversight body, including the Justice Department, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, intelligence committees in Congress or the president’s Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, has delved into a comparably large sample of what the NSA actually collects — not only from its targets but also from people who may cross a target’s path.


A composite image of two of the more than 5,000 private photos among data collected by the National Security Agency from online accounts and network links in the United States. The images were included in a large cache of NSA intercepts provided by former agency contractor Edward Snowden. (Images obtained by The Washington Post)

Among the latter are medical records sent from one family member to another, résumés from job hunters and academic transcripts of schoolchildren. In one photo, a young girl in religious dress beams at a camera outside a mosque.

Scores of pictures show infants and toddlers in bathtubs, on swings, sprawled on their backs and kissed by their mothers. In some photos, men show off their physiques. In others, women model lingerie, leaning suggestively into a webcam or striking risque poses in shorts and bikini tops.

“None of the hits that were received were relevant,” two Navy cryptologic technicians write in one of many summaries of nonproductive surveillance. “No additional information,” writes a civilian analyst. Another makes fun of a suspected kidnapper, newly arrived in Syria before the current civil war, who begs for employment as a janitor and makes wide-eyed observations about the state of undress displayed by women on local beaches.

By law, the NSA may “target” only foreign nationals located overseas unless it obtains a warrant based on probable cause from a special surveillance court. For collection under PRISM and Upstream rules, analysts must state a reasonable belief that the target has information of value about a foreign government, a terrorist organization or the spread of nonconventional weapons.

Most of the people caught up in those programs are not the targets and would not lawfully qualify as such. “Incidental collection” of third-party communications is inevitable in many forms of surveillance, but in other contexts the U.S. government works harder to limit and discard irrelevant data. In criminal wiretaps, for example, the FBI is supposed to stop listening to a call if a suspect’s wife or child is using the phone.

There are many ways to be swept up incidentally in surveillance aimed at a valid foreign target. Some of those in the Snowden archive were monitored because they interacted directly with a target, but others had more-tenuous links.

If a target entered an online chat room, the NSA collected the words and identities of every person who posted there, regardless of subject, as well as every person who simply “lurked,” reading passively what other people wrote.

“1 target, 38 others on there,” one analyst wrote. She collected data on them all.

In other cases, the NSA designated as its target the Internet protocol, or IP, address of a computer server used by hundreds of people.

The NSA treats all content intercepted incidentally from third parties as permissible to retain, store, search and distribute to its government customers. Raj De, the agency’s general counsel, has testified that the NSA does not generally attempt to remove irrelevant personal content, because it is difficult for one analyst to know what might become relevant to another.

The Obama administration declines to discuss the scale of incidental collection. The NSA, backed by Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr., has asserted that it is unable to make any estimate, even in classified form, of the number of Americans swept in. It is not obvious why the NSA could not offer at least a partial count, given that its analysts routinely pick out “U.S. persons” and mask their identities, in most cases, before distributing intelligence reports.

If Snowden’s sample is representative, the population under scrutiny in the PRISM and Upstream programs is far larger than the government has suggested. In a June 26 “transparency report,” the Office of the Director of National Intelligence disclosed that 89,138 people were targets of last year’s collection under FISA Section 702. At the 9-to-1 ratio of incidental collection in Snowden’s sample, the office’s figure would correspond to nearly 900,000 accounts, targeted or not, under surveillance.

‘He didn’t get this data’

U.S. intelligence officials declined to confirm or deny in general terms the authenticity of the intercepted content provided by Snowden, but they made off-the-record requests to withhold specific details that they said would alert the targets of ongoing surveillance. Some officials, who declined to be quoted by name, described Snowden’s handling of the sensitive files as reckless.

In an interview, Snowden said “primary documents” offered the only path to a concrete debate about the costs and benefits of Section 702 surveillance. He did not favor public release of the full archive, he said, but he did not think a reporter could understand the programs “without being able to review some of that surveillance, both the justified and unjustified.”

“While people may disagree about where to draw the line on publication, I know that you and The Post have enough sense of civic duty to consult with the government to ensure that the reporting on and handling of this material causes no harm,” he said.

In Snowden’s view, the PRISM and Upstream programs have “crossed the line of proportionality.”

“Even if one could conceivably justify the initial, inadvertent interception of baby pictures and love letters of innocent bystanders,” he added, “their continued storage in government databases is both troubling and dangerous. Who knows how that information will be used in the future?”

For close to a year, NSA and other government officials have appeared to deny, in congressional testimony and public statements, that Snowden had any access to the material.

As recently as May, shortly after he retired as NSA director, Gen. Keith Alexander denied that Snowden could have passed FISA content to journalists.

“He didn’t get this data,” Alexander told a New Yorker reporter. “They didn’t touch —”

“The operational data?” the reporter asked.

“They didn’t touch the FISA data,” Alexander replied. He added, “That database, he didn’t have access to.”

Robert S. Litt, the general counsel for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, said in a prepared statement that Alexander and other officials were speaking only about “raw” intelligence, the term for intercepted content that has not yet been evaluated, stamped with classification markings or minimized to mask U.S. identities.

“We have talked about the very strict controls on raw traffic, the training that people have to have, the technological lockdowns on access,” Litt said. “Nothing that you have given us indicates that Snowden was able to circumvent that in any way.”

In the interview, Snowden said he did not need to circumvent those controls, because his final position as a contractor for Booz Allen at the NSA’s Hawaii operations center gave him “unusually broad, unescorted access to raw SIGINT [signals intelligence] under a special ‘Dual Authorities’ role,” a reference to Section 702 for domestic collection and Executive Order 12333 for collection overseas. Those credentials, he said, allowed him to search stored content — and “task” new collection — without prior approval of his search terms.

“If I had wanted to pull a copy of a judge’s or a senator’s e-mail, all I had to do was enter that selector into XKEYSCORE,” one of the NSA’s main query systems, he said.

The NSA has released an e-mail exchange acknowledging that Snowden took the required training classes for access to those systems.

‘Minimized U.S. president’

At one level, the NSA shows scrupulous care in protecting the privacy of U.S. nationals and, by policy, those of its four closest intelligence allies — Britain, Australia, Canada and New Zealand.

More than 1,000 distinct “minimization” terms appear in the files, attempting to mask the identities of “possible,” “potential” and “probable” U.S. persons, along with the names of U.S. beverage companies, universities, fast-food chains and Web-mail hosts.

Some of them border on the absurd, using titles that could apply to only one man. A “minimized U.S. president-elect” begins to appear in the files in early 2009, and references to the current “minimized U.S. president” appear 1,227 times in the following four years.

Even so, unmasked identities remain in the NSA’s files, and the agency’s policy is to hold on to “incidentally” collected U.S. content, even if it does not appear to contain foreign intelligence.

In one exchange captured in the files, a young American asks a Pakistani friend in late 2009 what he thinks of the war in Afghanistan. The Pakistani replies that it is a religious struggle against 44 enemy states.

Startled, the American says “they, ah, they arent heavily participating . . . its like . . . in a football game, the other team is the enemy, not the other teams waterboy and cheerleaders.”

“No,” the Pakistani shoots back. “The team’s water boy is also an enemy. it is law of our religion.”

“Haha, sorry thats kind of funny,” the American replies.

When NSA and allied analysts really want to target an account, their concern for U.S. privacy diminishes. The rationales they use to judge foreignness sometimes stretch legal rules or well-known technical facts to the breaking point.

In their classified internal communications, colleagues and supervisors often remind the analysts that PRISM and Upstream collection have a “lower threshold for foreignness ‘standard of proof’ ” than a traditional surveillance warrant from a FISA judge, requiring only a “reasonable belief” and not probable cause.

One analyst rests her claim that a target is foreign on the fact that his e-mails are written in a foreign language, a quality shared by tens of millions of Americans. Others are allowed to presume that anyone on the chat “buddy list” of a known foreign national is also foreign.

In many other cases, analysts seek and obtain approval to treat an account as “foreign” if someone connects to it from a computer address that seems to be overseas. “The best foreignness explanations have the selector being accessed via a foreign IP address,” an NSA supervisor instructs an allied analyst in Australia.

Apart from the fact that tens of millions of Americans live and travel overseas, additional millions use simple tools called proxies to redirect their data traffic around the world, for business or pleasure. World Cup fans this month have been using a browser extension called Hola to watch live-streamed games that are unavailable from their own countries. The same trick is routinely used by Americans who want to watch BBC video. The NSA also relies routinely on locations embedded in Yahoo tracking cookies, which are widely regarded by online advertisers as unreliable.

In an ordinary FISA surveillance application, the judge grants a warrant and requires a fresh review of probable cause — and the content of collected surveillance — every 90 days. When renewal fails, NSA and allied analysts sometimes switch to the more lenient standards of PRISM and Upstream.

“These selectors were previously under FISA warrant but the warrants have expired,” one analyst writes, requesting that surveillance resume under the looser standards of Section 702. The request was granted.

‘I don’t like people knowing’

She was 29 and shattered by divorce, converting to Islam in search of comfort and love. He was three years younger, rugged and restless. His parents had fled Kabul and raised him in Australia, but he dreamed of returning to Afghanistan.

One day when she was sick in bed, he brought her tea. Their faith forbade what happened next, and later she recalled it with shame.

“what we did was evil and cursed and may allah swt MOST merciful forgive us for giving in to our nafs [desires]”

Still, a romance grew. They fought. They spoke of marriage. They fought again.

All of this was in the files because, around the same time, he went looking for the Taliban.

He found an e-mail address on its English-language Web site and wrote repeatedly, professing loyalty to the one true faith, offering to “come help my brothers” and join the fight against the unbelievers.

On May 30, 2012, without a word to her, he boarded a plane to begin a journey to Kandahar. He left word that he would not see her again.

If that had been the end of it, there would not be more than 800 pages of anguished correspondence between them in the archives of the NSA and its counterpart, the Australian Signals Directorate.

He had made himself a target. She was the collateral damage, placed under a microscope as she tried to adjust to the loss.

Three weeks after he landed in Kandahar, she found him on Facebook.

“Im putting all my pride aside just to say that i will miss you dearly and your the only person that i really allowed myself to get close to after losing my ex husband, my dad and my brother.. Im glad it was so easy for you to move on and put what we had aside and for me well Im just soo happy i met you. You will always remain in my heart. I know you left for a purpose it hurts like hell sometimes not because Im needy but because i wish i could have been with you.”

His replies were cool, then insulting, and gradually became demanding. He would marry her but there were conditions. She must submit to his will, move in with his parents and wait for him in Australia. She must hand him control of her Facebook account — he did not approve of the photos posted there.

She refused. He insisted:

“look in islam husband doesnt touch girl financial earnigs unless she agrees but as far as privacy goes there is no room….i need to have all ur details everything u do its what im supposed to know that will guide u whether its right or wrong got it”

Later, she came to understand the irony of her reply:

“I don’t like people knowing my private life.”

Months of negotiations followed, with each of them declaring an end to the romance a dozen times or more. He claimed he had found someone else and planned to marry that day, then admitted it was a lie. She responded:

“No more games. You come home. You won’t last with an afghan girl.”

She begged him to give up his dangerous path. Finally, in September, she broke off contact for good, informing him that she was engaged to another man.

“When you come back they will send you to jail,” she warned.

They almost did.

In interviews with The Post, conducted by telephone and Facebook, she said he flew home to Australia last summer, after failing to find members of the Taliban who would take him seriously. Australian National Police met him at the airport and questioned him in custody. They questioned her, too, politely, in her home. They showed her transcripts of their failed romance. When a Post reporter called, she already knew what the two governments had collected about her.

Eventually, she said, Australian authorities decided not to charge her failed suitor with a crime. Police spokeswoman Emilie Lovatt declined to comment on the case.

Looking back, the young woman said she understands why her intimate correspondence was recorded and parsed by men and women she did not know.

“Do I feel violated?” she asked. “Yes. I’m not against the fact that my privacy was violated in this instance, because he was stupid. He wasn’t thinking straight. I don’t agree with what he was doing.”

What she does not understand, she said, is why after all this time, with the case long closed and her own job with the Australian government secure, the NSA does not discard what it no longer needs.

Jennifer Jenkins and Carol D. Leonnig contributed to this report.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/in-nsa-intercepted-data-those-not-targeted-far-outnumber-the-foreigners-who-are/2014/07/05/8139adf8-045a-11e4-8572-4b1b969b6322_story.html?hpid=z1

Nearly half of NSA surveillance files contained names, email addresses or other details that the NSA marked as belonging to U.S. citizens or residents

Nearly half of NSA surveillance files contained names, email addresses or other details that the NSA marked as belonging to U.S. citizens or residents

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2682085/New-report-says-NSA-monitors-innocent-users-online.html#ixzz36hJHuwN3
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U.S. Cops Getting More and More Military Gear

June 24, 2014

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By

Robert Shellmyer was relieved to see last week at his hometown’s 175th anniversary celebration that the local police department’s new prized possession was not driving alongside the tractors and floats in the parade.

That’s because a 45,000 pound, explosion-resistant vehicle from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan might spoil the mood.

Shellmyer, a 78-year-old city councilman for the small town of Washington, Iowa, was the sole local politician to vote against the department of 12 police officers getting the free MRAP—short for mine resistant ambush protected vehicle—from the Defense Department two months ago. Washington is one of hundreds of towns and cities to get a recycled MRAP from the Pentagon over the past year and a half.

“Here’s the thing,” Shellmyer says. “Washington, Iowa has 8,000 people. We have an MRAP now. We have a SWAT team. We have [police] dogs, and we have a SWAT team transportation vehicle that’s not armored.”

The city councilman began to think: “Goodness, this is overkill.”

But as a new report by the ACLU demonstrates, Washington’s use of military tactics and equipment has become the norm. Most of America’s police departments now have special paramilitary units—called SWAT teams—to respond to emergency situations, conduct drug raids, and even, in some cases, patrol the streets. In the past few years, more of these SWAT teams are getting armored vehicles provided by the federal government to expand their capabilities.

Law enforcement leaders say the increased military equipment and tactics are necessary to respond to violent emergency events, like school shootings. Critics counter that the militarization of police causes needless violence. The ACLU report found that 46 civilians were injured in 818 SWAT raids over two years in 11 states. Children were present in the home in 14 percent of the raids the group studied. In 60 percent of the raids, police had a search warrant for a drug offense. Only 7 percent of the SWAT deployments the ACLU studied were for hostage or active shooter scenarios.

The MRAPs, designed to protect U.S. soldiers from roadside bombs in Iraq and Afghanistan, are now providing more firepower to these raids thanks to the Defense Department’s 1033 program, which began in the late 1980s to recycle old military equipment to cops. (That includes tens of thousands of machine guns, as well as more quotidian items like office furniture and computers.) The Department of Homeland Security, meanwhile, provides millions of dollars in grants to local cops to buy lighter armored vehicles, like BearCats, to combat terrorism or drug running. (Keane, New Hampshire received a DHS grant on the strength of an application that listed their annual pumpkin festival as one of several potential terrorist targets.)

Unlike when they apply for DHS grants, police departments do not have to make the case that they are facing a terror threat to receive an MRAP under the Defense Department program. The Pentagon has given away 600 MRAPs since it began unloading the vehicles last year. The demand for the hulking machines is growing.

[See if your county has an MRAP here.]

“There’s been a real steady increase in police stations taking advantage of this,” said Mark Wright, a Defense Department spokesman. “It’s a heck of a good deal… ‘Here’s the MRAP free of charge. You’ve got to pay for maintenance and gas, but other than that we’ll take care of the rest.’”

Police departments can cruise for MRAPs and other free military equipment online. A government website that advertises the available equipment shows armored vehicles covered in American flags and branded “POLICE.” Police departments are asked to specify if they want an armored vehicle that is tracked, like a tank, or one that is on wheels.

The supply of extra MRAPs is likely to only increase—the government spent $50 billion to produce 27,000 of them in 2007.

 

“Now that the Iraq and Afghanistan war has wound down, the military has a tremendous amount of surplus,” said Pete Kraska, a criminology professor at Eastern Kentucky University who has studied SWAT teams for 25 years. But Kraska doesn’t think it’s a good thing for local cops to inherit those leftovers. Though military-style tactics are necessary to respond to extreme situations—like an active shooter—SWAT teams are predominantly being used to raid private homes in search for drugs. The decommissioned Defense Department gear is likely just to encourage more of those raids carried out by cops wearing battle fatigues, another item the 1033 program doles out.

Because the Pentagon just started handing out the MRAPs in 2013, it’s unclear how they’re being used. Some SWAT teams just use them for transportation to a raid, but at least one department has used the vehicle to bust through a door. The ACLU wasn’t able to determine how often the vehicles were used by SWAT teams, according to the report’s author Kara Dansky.

Many of the armored vehicles end up in hamlets like Washington, which may seem surprising, except that SWAT teams have grown exponentially in small towns over the past 20 years. Kraska found that 80 percent of small towns had SWAT teams by the mid 2000s, up from just 20 percent in 1980. More than 90 percent of city departments have the special units.

Police say the vehicles are necessary to protect officers in a violent world.

William Brister, a captain in the Rapides Parish Sheriff’s Office in Louisiana, said his department decided it needed an armored vehicle after a shootout in 2003 left two officers dead and four more wounded. The Rapides SWAT team was delivering a search warrant to a gunman’s house after he was suspected of shooting at a police car the week earlier. Hundreds of shots were fired over two hours, and one resident told the local paper at the time that it sounded like “a warzone.”

The MRAP could also come in handy for rescue missions after flooding or a hurricane, he said.

 

The armored vehicle ended up costing the Rapides department $15,000 through various state and transportation fees, which Brister calls “a good chunk of change,” but he feels it’s worth it. That’s not counting gas for the 75-gallon tank, though, or training, which the Pentagon doesn’t provide. “A guy from MRAP University,” came and trained eight of the officers in how to operate the heavy vehicle, Brister said. For now, the hulking MRAP is just sitting in the yard near a police building.

In Washington, meanwhile, Shellmyer gets ribbed by the locals for the vehicle and the local media attention it’s garnered. “I go down to a little filling station and there’s always two or three boys sipping coffee and they say, ‘Well Shellmyer do you feel safer now that we have a tank?’”

The city councilman just shrugs it off. “We’re just trying to put the blanket over the top of it and hopefully people will forget we have it.”

http://news.yahoo.com/as-wars-wind-down–small-town-cops-inherit-armored-vehicles-233505138.html

(Department of Defense/Yahoo News)

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