Posts Tagged ‘Edward Snowden’

EU unveils details of data privacy pact with US

February 29, 2016


© AFP/File | Austrian Max Schrems waits for a verdict at the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg on October 6, 2015 over claims that his privacy data was allegedly violated by Facebook within the scope of NSA mass surveillance programs

BRUSSELS (AFP) – The EU on Monday unveiled details of a new deal with the US to curb government spying on the personal Internet data of European citizens, but critics said it fell short and threatened fresh legal action.

Top US companies including Facebook and Google rely on such transatlantic agreements to give legal cover for them to transfer data from their European subsidiaries to their headquarters in the United States.

Brussels and Washington announced the new EU-US “Privacy Shield” deal on February 2, replacing a previous agreement that was thrown out by the European Court of Justice last year.

The new steps include commitments from President Barack Obama to limit the use of bulk-collected intelligence, the appointment of a US ombudsman to deal with complaints by European citizens, and fines for firms that do not comply.

EU Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova said the agreement was a “strong new framework” with easier redress for individuals”.

But Austrian Internet activist Max Schrems — who brought a case against Facebook in Ireland that led to the EU court judgment last year — said the new deal amounts to putting “ten layers of lipstick on a pig.”

“There will be a number of people that will challenge this decision if it ever comes out this way ? and I may very will be one of them,” Schrems said in a document on his Twitter account.

He said that the deal includes too many areas under which “bulk” data collection is allowed.

The old Safe Harbor agreement effectively meant that Europe treated the United States a safe destination for Internet data on the basis that Brussels and Washington adhered to similar standards.

But the EU court declared Safe Harbor “invalid” in October because of US snooping practices exposed by Edward Snowden, the former intelligence contractor who leaked a hoard of National Security Agency documents.

Brussels said the new agreement meant EU member states’ national authorities will be able to fine firms up to 20 million euros, or up to four percent of total worldwide annual turnover, if they break EU rules.

EU authorities will also be able suspend data transfers to recipients in third countries or to international obligations.

Washington has also agreed to set up an ombudsman within the US State Department to assess complaints by EU citizens.

Europeans will further be able to seek redress for breaches through several channels including an arbitration system.

The deal will also be subject to an annual review.

US, EU warned of fallout if no data protection deal by January 31

January 18, 2016


Max Schrems, seen in Luxembourg on October 6, 2015, was the first to challenge the “Safe Harbour” arrangement between Washington and Brussels on the grounds it did not properly protect European data. AFP photo

BRUSSELS (AFP) – The top US and European trade groups have warned their leaders of enormous fallout for businesses and customers if the two sides fail to reach a new deal on data transfers by end January.

The European Court of Justice in October ruled that the EU-US “Safe Harbour” arrangement allowing firms to transfer European citizens’ personal information to the United States was “invalid” because it did not properly protect the data from spy agencies.

EU and US officials have held several rounds of talks for a new arrangement with European officials hoping for a new deal by the end of January, and the four business groups mentioning a “deadline” of January 31, 2016.

“We are writing to convey the critical importance of your efforts to come to a comprehensive and sustainable transatlantic agreement concerning data transfers,” the four business groups said in a letter to European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and US President Barack Obama.

A copy of the letter dated January 15 and obtained by AFP on Monday was signed by the heads of Business Europe, Digital Europe, the US Chamber of Commerce and the Information Technology Industry Council.

“This issue must be resolved immediately or the consequences could be enormous for the thousands of businesses and millions of users impacted,” the groups said.

EU officials said in November they were taking seriously businesses’ concerns about the legal void following the court ruling.

It has alarmed Washington which says it “put at risk the thriving transatlantic digital economy.”

The landmark verdict stemmed from a case lodged by Austrian law student Max Schrems, who challenged the deal between Washington and Brussels on the grounds it did not properly protect European data.

His concerns were raised by the scandal involving Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency whistleblower who in 2013 revealed a worldwide US surveillance programme harvesting the data.

European Commissioner Vera Jourova said last year in the absence of “Safe Harbour,” data can still flow between the two continents under provisions of a 1995 EU directive where data protection, for example, is guaranteed by clauses in individual contracts.

But she admitted there was no substitute for a new arrangement.

A spokesman for the European Commission, the EU executive, told AFP that Juncker received the letter and that the aim was still to conclude the deal by the end of January but declined to say where negotiations stood.

House Will Look Into Whether NSA Collected Lawmakers’ Communications Ass WSJ Says

December 30, 2015


Getty Images

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) said Wednesday his committee is looking into whether the intelligence community collected communications between Israeli officials and members of Congress.

The move comes a day after the Wall Street Journal published a report that said the National Security Agency (NSA) spied on communications between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli officials, along with communcations by members of Congress.

“The Committee has requested additional information from the [intelligence community] to determine which, if any, of these allegations are true, and whether the IC followed all applicable laws, rules, and procedures,” he said in a statement.

The report also said the NSA swept up conversations with members of Congress as Israeli officials lobbied lawmakers on the Iran nuclear deal and that White House officials were initially worried when they realized it was happening.

However, the administration then decided to let the NSA decide what to share.

“We didn’t say, ‘Do it,'” a senior U.S. official told the Journal. “We didn’t say, ‘Don’t do it.'”

The NSA reportedly found Netanyahu and his aides leaking details of the negotiation, coordinating talking points with Jewish-American groups against the deal and asked lawmakers how they could get their vote against the deal.

Netanyahu spoke out against a potentially unsatisfactory nuclear deal during a speech to a joint session of Congress in March. Although he communicated with members of Congress about the speech in advance, the administration was allegedly surprised when it was announced.

The report also said that the Obama administration decided to keep monitoring Netanyahu and Israel even as German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other NATO heads of state were considered off limits.

The administration decided that monitoring Netanyahu served a “compelling national security purpose,” according to the Journal, which cited unnamed current and former U.S. officials.


National Security Agency’s targeting of Israeli leaders also swept up the content of private conversations with U.S. lawmakers

December 30, 2015

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu joined President Barack Obama last month for a meeting in the Oval Office of the White House.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu joined President Barack Obama last month for a meeting in the Oval Office of the White House.PHOTO: OLIVIER DOULIERY/BLOOMBERG NEWS

President Barack Obama announced two years ago he would curtail eavesdropping on friendly heads of state after the world learned the reach of long-secret U.S. surveillance programs.

But behind the scenes, the White House decided to keep certain allies under close watch, current and former U.S. officials said. Topping the list was Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The U.S., pursuing a nuclear arms agreement with Iran at the time, captured communications between Mr. Netanyahu and his aides that inflamed mistrust between the two countries and planted a political minefield at home when Mr. Netanyahu later took his campaign against the deal to Capitol Hill.

The National Security Agency’s targeting of Israeli leaders and officials also swept up the contents of some of their private conversations with U.S. lawmakers and American-Jewish groups. That raised fears—an “Oh-s— moment,” one senior U.S. official said—that the executive branch would be accused of spying on Congress.

White House officials believed the intercepted information could be valuable to counter Mr. Netanyahu’s campaign. They also recognized that asking for it was politically risky. So, wary of a paper trail stemming from a request, the White House let the NSA decide what to share and what to withhold, officials said. “We didn’t say, ‘Do it,’ ” a senior U.S. official said. “We didn’t say, ‘Don’t do it.’ ”

Stepped-up NSA eavesdropping revealed to the White House how Mr. Netanyahu and his advisers had leaked details of the U.S.-Iran negotiations—learned through Israeli spying operations—to undermine the talks; coordinated talking points with Jewish-American groups against the deal; and asked undecided lawmakers what it would take to win their votes, according to current and former officials familiar with the intercepts.

Before former NSA contractor Edward Snowden exposed much of the agency’s spying operations in 2013, there was little worry in the administration about the monitoring of friendly heads of state because it was such a closely held secret. After the revelations and a White House review, Mr. Obama announced in a January 2014 speech he would curb such eavesdropping.

In closed-door debate, the Obama administration weighed which allied leaders belonged on a so-called protected list, shielding them from NSA snooping. French PresidentFrançois Hollande, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other North Atlantic Treaty Organization leaders made the list, but the administration permitted the NSA to target the leaders’ top advisers, current and former U.S. officials said. Other allies were excluded from the protected list, including Recep Tayyip Erdogan, president of NATO ally Turkey, which allowed the NSA to spy on their communications at the discretion of top officials.

Privately, Mr. Obama maintained the monitoring of Mr. Netanyahu on the grounds that it served a “compelling national security purpose,” according to current and former U.S. officials. Mr. Obama mentioned the exception in his speech but kept secret the leaders it would apply to.

Israeli, German and French government officials declined to comment on NSA activities. Turkish officials didn’t respond to requests Tuesday for comment. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the NSA declined to comment on communications provided to the White House.

The White House stopped directly monitoring the private communications of German Chancellor Angela Merkel but authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on her top advisers.
The White House stopped directly monitoring the private communications of German Chancellor Angela Merkel but authorized the National Security Agency to eavesdrop on her top advisers. PHOTO: ODD ANDERSEN/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

This account, stretching over two terms of the Obama administration, is based on interviews with more than two dozen current and former U.S. intelligence and administration officials and reveals for the first time the extent of American spying on the Israeli prime minister.

Taking office

After Mr. Obama’s 2008 presidential election, U.S. intelligence officials gave his national-security team a one-page questionnaire on priorities. Included on the form was a box directing intelligence agencies to focus on “leadership intentions,” a category that relies on electronic spying to monitor world leaders.

The NSA was so proficient at monitoring heads of state that it was common for the agency to deliver a visiting leader’s talking points to the president in advance. “Who’s going to look at that box and say, ‘No, I don’t want to know what world leaders are saying,’ ” a former Obama administration official said.

In early intelligence briefings, Mr. Obama and his top advisers were told what U.S. spy agencies thought of world leaders, including Mr. Netanyahu, who at the time headed the opposition Likud party.

Michael Hayden, who led the NSA and the Central Intelligence Agency during the George W. Bush administration, described the intelligence relationship between the U.S. and Israel as “the most combustible mixture of intimacy and caution that we have.”

The NSA helped Israel expand its electronic spy apparatus—known as signals intelligence—in the late 1970s. The arrangement gave Israel access to the communications of its regional enemies, information shared with the U.S. Israel’s spy chiefs later suspected the NSA was tapping into their systems.

When Mr. Obama took office, the NSA and its Israeli counterpart, Unit 8200, worked together against shared threats, including a campaign to sabotage centrifuges for Iran’s nuclear program. At the same time, the U.S. and Israeli intelligence agencies targeted one another, stoking tensions.

“Intelligence professionals have a saying: There are no friendly intelligence services,” said Mike Rogers, former Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.

Early in the Obama presidency, for example, Unit 8200 gave the NSA a hacking tool the NSA later discovered also told Israel how the Americans used it. It wasn’t the only time the NSA caught Unit 8200 poking around restricted U.S. networks. Israel would say intrusions were accidental, one former U.S. official said, and the NSA would respond, “Don’t worry. We make mistakes, too.”

In 2011 and 2012, the aims of Messrs. Netanyahu and Obama diverged over Iran. Mr. Netanyahu prepared for a possible strike against an Iranian nuclear facility, as Mr. Obama pursued secret talks with Tehran without telling Israel.

The NSA maintains the means to monitor the communications of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey.
The NSA maintains the means to monitor the communications of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey.PHOTO: YASIN BULBUL/ASSOCIATED PRESS

Convinced Mr. Netanyahu would attack Iran without warning the White House, U.S. spy agencies ramped up their surveillance, with the assent of Democratic and Republican lawmakers serving on congressional intelligence committees.

By 2013, U.S. intelligence agencies determined Mr. Netanyahu wasn’t going to strike Iran. But they had another reason to keep watch. The White House wanted to know if Israel had learned of the secret negotiations. U.S. officials feared Iran would bolt the talks and pursue an atomic bomb if news leaked.

The NSA had, in some cases, spent decades placing electronic implants in networks around the world to collect phone calls, text messages and emails. Removing them or turning them off in the wake of the Snowden revelations would make it difficult, if not impossible, to re-establish access in the future, U.S. intelligence officials warned the White House.

Instead of removing the implants, Mr. Obama decided to shut off the NSA’s monitoring of phone numbers and email addresses of certain allied leaders—a move that could be reversed by the president or his successor.

There was little debate over Israel. “Going dark on Bibi? Of course we wouldn’t do that,” a senior U.S. official said, using Mr. Netanyahu’s nickname.

One tool was a cyber implant in Israeli networks that gave the NSA access to communications within the Israeli prime minister’s office.

Given the appetite for information about Mr. Netanyahu’s intentions during the U.S.-Iran negotiations, the NSA tried to send updates to U.S. policy makers quickly, often in less than six hours after a notable communication was intercepted, a former official said.

Emerging deal

NSA intercepts convinced the White House last year that Israel was spying on negotiations under way in Europe. Israeli officials later denied targeting U.S. negotiators, saying they had won access to U.S. positions by spying only on the Iranians.

By late 2014, White House officials knew Mr. Netanyahu wanted to block the emerging nuclear deal but didn’t know how.

On Jan. 8, John Boehner, then the Republican House Speaker, and incoming Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell agreed on a plan. They would invite Mr. Netanyahu to deliver a speech to a joint session of Congress. A day later, Mr. Boehner called Ron Dermer, the Israeli ambassador, to get Mr. Netanyahu’s agreement.

Despite NSA surveillance, Obama administration officials said they were caught off guard when Mr. Boehner announced the invitation on Jan. 21.

Soon after, Israel’s lobbying campaign against the deal went into full swing on Capitol Hill, and it didn’t take long for administration and intelligence officials to realize the NSA was sweeping up the content of conversations with lawmakers.

The message to the NSA from the White House amounted to: “You decide” what to deliver, a former intelligence official said.

NSA rules governing intercepted communications “to, from or about” Americans date back to the Cold War and require obscuring the identities of U.S. individuals and U.S. corporations. An American is identified only as a “U.S. person” in intelligence reports; a U.S. corporation is identified only as a “U.S. organization.” Senior U.S. officials can ask for names if needed to understand the intelligence information.

The Obama administration included French President François Hollande on a so-called protected list, shielding him from NSA snooping.
The Obama administration included French President François Hollande on a so-called protected list, shielding him from NSA snooping. PHOTO: PHILIPPE WOJAZER/REUTERS

The rules were tightened in the early 1990s to require that intelligence agencies inform congressional committees when a lawmaker’s name was revealed to the executive branch in summaries of intercepted communications.

A 2011 NSA directive said direct communications between foreign intelligence targets and members of Congress should be destroyed when they are intercepted. But the NSA director can issue a waiver if he determines the communications contain “significant foreign intelligence.”

The NSA has leeway to collect and disseminate intercepted communications involving U.S. lawmakers if, for example, foreign ambassadors send messages to their foreign ministries that recount their private meetings or phone calls with members of Congress, current and former officials said.

“Either way, we got the same information,” a former official said, citing detailed reports prepared by the Israelis after exchanges with lawmakers.

During Israel’s lobbying campaign in the months before the deal cleared Congress in September, the NSA removed the names of lawmakers from intelligence reports and weeded out personal information. The agency kept out “trash talk,” officials said, such as personal attacks on the executive branch.

Administration and intelligence officials said the White House didn’t ask the NSA to identify any lawmakers during this period.

“From what I can tell, we haven’t had a problem with how incidental collection has been handled concerning lawmakers,” said Rep. Adam Schiff, a California Democrat and the ranking member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. He declined to comment on any specific communications between lawmakers and Israel.

The NSA reports allowed administration officials to peer inside Israeli efforts to turn Congress against the deal. Mr. Dermer was described as coaching unnamed U.S. organizations—which officials could tell from the context were Jewish-American groups—on lines of argument to use with lawmakers, and Israeli officials were reported pressing lawmakers to oppose the deal.

“These allegations are total nonsense,” said a spokesman for the Embassy of Israel in Washington.

A U.S. intelligence official familiar with the intercepts said Israel’s pitch to undecided lawmakers often included such questions as: “How can we get your vote? What’s it going to take?”

NSA intelligence reports helped the White House figure out which Israeli government officials had leaked information from confidential U.S. briefings. When confronted by the U.S., Israel denied passing on the briefing materials.

The agency’s goal was “to give us an accurate illustrative picture of what [the Israelis] were doing,” a senior U.S. official said.

Just before Mr. Netanyahu’s address to Congress in March, the NSA swept up Israeli messages that raised alarms at the White House: Mr. Netanyahu’s office wanted details from Israeli intelligence officials about the latest U.S. positions in the Iran talks, U.S. officials said.

A day before the speech, Secretary of State John Kerry made an unusual disclosure. Speaking to reporters in Switzerland, Mr. Kerry said he was concerned Mr. Netanyahu would divulge “selective details of the ongoing negotiations.”

The State Department said Mr. Kerry was responding to Israeli media reports that Mr. Netanyahu wanted to use his speech to make sure U.S. lawmakers knew the terms of the Iran deal.

Intelligence officials said the media reports allowed the U.S. to put Mr. Netanyahu on notice without revealing they already knew his thinking. The prime minister mentioned no secrets during his speech to Congress.

In the final months of the campaign, NSA intercepts yielded few surprises. Officials said the information reaffirmed what they heard directly from lawmakers and Israeli officials opposed to Mr. Netanyahu’s campaign—that the prime minister was focused on building opposition among Democratic lawmakers.

The NSA intercepts, however, revealed one surprise. Mr. Netanyahu and some of his allies voiced confidence they could win enough votes.

Write to Adam Entous at and Danny Yadron

Obama administration had “secret policy” to not include social media reviews in vetting for entry to the U.S. because of a fear of “bad public relations” — Fourteen Americans died in San Bernardino, in part, because of that policy

December 14, 2015

By Brian Ross, Rhonda Schwartz, James Gordon Meek and Josh Margolin

ABC News

In Belgium, an Encryption Powerhouse Rises

December 11, 2015


University of Leuven has become a battleground in the fight between privacy and surveillance

Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, the world’s oldest Catholic university still in existence, is home to the Computer Security and Industrial Cryptography group. 
Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, the world’s oldest Catholic university still in existence, is home to the Computer Security and Industrial Cryptography group. Photo: Sander de Wilde for The Wall Street Journal

LEUVEN, Belgium—A 600-year-old Catholic university here has become an unexpected battleground in the fight between privacy advocates and those who think governments and law enforcement need more powerful online surveillance.

Tucked in the woods outside this medieval town in Dutch-speaking Flanders, the electrical-engineering department of Katholieke Universiteit Leuven is home to the Computer Security and Industrial Cryptography group, or COSIC. Led by Bart Preneel, a cryptography professor and outspoken privacy stalwart, the group has grown over the last 15 years into one of the world’s top research centers for digital encryption.

Mr. Preneel is considered a hero by privacy advocates who see encryption as a way of keeping out the prying eye of governments and police. His center is hardly a household name in Silicon Valley circles, but it is widely regarded as one of the world’s best at coming up with, building and testing encryption tools.

Dan Boneh, who heads the applied cryptography group at Stanford University’s computer-science department, calls Leuven a “powerhouse of cryptography.”

But critics see Mr. Preneel and some of his work at Leuven as a threat, worried that today’s explosion of readily accessible encryption software is making it harder for law enforcement and governments to thwart or track down perpetrators of crime and terror.
“A vibrant academic cryptographic community is to be welcomed,” says David Omand, a former head of GCHQ, the U.K.’s equivalent to the National Security Agency. “But academics have to be aware of the need to act responsibly when their discoveries can lead to harm.”

Mr. Preneel bristles at characterizations that he is somehow working at cross purposes with law enforcement or governments.

Led by Bart Preneel, COSIC has grown into one of the world’s top research centers for digital encryption. Photo: Sander de Wilde for The Wall Street Journal
“I’m not of the WikiLeaks principle that everything should be open,” he said in a recent interview, referring to the group that has published reams of classified government documents in recent years. “Governments need to do some things in secret. On the other hand, citizens need to be able to do some things in secret legitimately.”

Encryption, which protects online communication and data from being intercepted, has become a key component of today’s digital economy. It is also a crucial safeguard against hacking for a growing number of gadgets, from cellphones to cars. But government intelligence agencies and law-enforcement officials fear sophisticated encryption can get in the way of detecting and preventing crime and terrorism.

Governments and corporations, meanwhile, have sought to develop or buy the best encryption around to protect their own secrets or products. Some of them have come to Mr. Preneel for help.

His labs are partly self-financed, with the rest coming from the university and the Belgian government. Packed with hardware and laptop-wielding students in jeans and sneakers, they develop new encryption for corporate clients, or test their in-house antihacking technology.

“They’ll give me the protocol and say ‘break it,’” Mr. Preneel says. “Sometimes I will.”

Some clients are longer term, others come for specific issues. The lab has done work for Dutch chip giant NXP Semiconductors NV, Sony Corp. and Unilever Group PLC, he says. NXP confirmed its work with Leuven. Sony and Unilever didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Mr. Preneel said Intel Corp. is partly funding his lab’s research into how to shield different apps on a smartphone so that they can’t steal data from each other, or siphon off data from the phone’s user. Intel didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Packed with hardware and laptop-wielding students in jeans and sneakers, COSIC’s labs develop new encryption for corporate clients, or test their in-house antihacking technology. Photo: Sander de Wilde for The Wall Street Journal
His department’s work extends well outside the lab. A special privacy team is currently advising the Belgian government’s data-protection authority in a high-profile court case targeting Facebook Inc. ’s privacy policies. KU Leuven researchers pored through the social network’s code and found that it tracked nonmembers through cookies, a practice a Belgian court has ordered Facebook to stop. Facebook says the cookie in question is used only for securing the profiles of its users against attacks from untrustworthy sites hijacked by hackers.

KU Leuven ranks as the world’s oldest Catholic university still in existence. It was founded in 1425 by Pope Martin V, to teach law, medicine and the liberal arts. Up until the early 20th century, most of its funding came from the Catholic church in Belgium, though now it comes from the Belgian state and private grants.

The department of electrical engineering was established in 1900, and the cryptography group was founded in 1979. Mr. Preneel, who grew up in Leuven, joined the group in 1987 as a Ph.D. student. After a stint at the University of California at Berkeley, he came back to Leuven as and assistant professor and hasn’t left since.

In 2001, two of the university’s graduates created what is known as the Rijndael cipher, a cryptography system that has become known as the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES), the most widely used method to encrypt data in the world.

Mr. Preneel’s groups include students and Ph.D.’s working in fields like hardware cryptography, crypto algorithms and cloud-data encryption. Another team tests encryption protecting chip-enabled passports, SIM cards and other forms of digital identification.

There is also a small team hacking medical devices like insulin pumps and pacemakers to make them more secure. In one of the group’s labs on a recent afternoon, a team of students inspected a microchip with the help of an antenna and a microscope, searching for encryption codes transmitted over the chip’s minuscule electrical currents.

Apart from supervising his lab, Mr. Preneel has become an outspoken advocate of privacy. He has take specific aim at the NSA and the U.K.’s GCHQ. Documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden implicated both organizations of widespread, undisclosed interception of data. The two agencies have said they work within the bounds of their countries’ laws.

“This is power the likes of which government has never had,” Mr. Preneel said. “Once you have this power, why would you give it up?”

Write to Amir Mizroch at



Former CIA Director Says Edward Snowden “Has Blood on His Hands,” Should Be Hanged

November 21, 2015

By Bradford Richardson
The Hill

James Woolsey
A former CIA director says leaker Edward Snowden should be convicted of treason and given the death penalty in the wake of the terrorist attack on Paris.

“It’s still a capital crime, and I would give him the death sentence, and I would prefer to see him hanged by the neck until he’s dead, rather than merely electrocuted,” James Woolsey told CNN’s Brooke Baldwin on Thursday.

Woolsey said Snowden, who divulged classified in 2013, is partly responsible for the terrorist attack in France last week that left at least 120 dead and hundreds injured.
“I think the blood of a lot of these French young people is on his hands,” he said.

Woolsey, who served as the head of the CIA from 1993 to 1995, said the Snowden leak was “substantial.”

“They turned loose not only material about some procedural aspects of something, they turned loose, for example, some substantial material about the Mexican intelligence service and law enforcement working together against human trafficking,” he said.

Woolsey wondered if Snowden were “pro-pimp.”

Current CIA Director John Brennan has recently echoed his predecessor’s sentiments, arguing that Snowden’s disclosures make it harder for intelligence officials to track terror plots.

“I think any unauthorized disclosures made by individuals that have dishonored the oath of office, that they have raised their hand and attested to, undermines this nation’s security,” Brennan said about Snowden at the Overseas Security Advisory Council’s annual meeting on Wednesday.

Snowden fled the country after stealing classified information and disclosing the extent of U.S. surveillance programs. He currently resides in Russia, where he has been granted temporary asylum.

Telegram cracked down on 78 ISIS-related channels in 12 languages this week

November 18, 2015

NOVEMBER 18, 2015 11:05 AM

Encrypted messaging app Telegram announced today that it has shut down access to several public channels that people have used to communicate about ISIS. The news comes after days after the terrorist group waged attacks in Paris that killed more than 100 people. Since then, reports have surfaced about how terrorists have used encrypted messaging in their operations.

“We were disturbed to learn that Telegram’s public channels were being used by ISIS to spread their propaganda,” Telegram wrote today in a publicly visible postin the Telegram app. “We are carefully reviewing all reports sent to us at and are taking appropriate action to block such channels. As a result, this week alone we blocked 78 ISIS-related channels across 12 languages.”

This week the company will be rolling out an easier way to report on “objectionable” content that’s visible to any user, according to the post. For now users can alert Telegram to questionable material by sending an email to That’s exactly how Telegram figured out what to ban.

n addition to Telegram, people can send encrypted messages with apps like Open Whisper Systems’ Signal.

But Telegram is growing quickly. As of September it was delivering more than 12 billion messages each day.



CIA chief blasts Snowden in wake of Paris attacks

November 18, 2015


Edward Snowden, who has been charged by the US with espionage and theft of government property after leaking documents to the media about digital espionage, has been living in exile in Russia since June 2013

WASHINGTON (AFP) – CIA Director John Brennan on Wednesday blasted former analyst Edward Snowden, saying his intelligence leaks had undermined US security.

The comments from Brennan come at a time of growing debate following last week’s attacks in Paris about whether intelligence services have enough tools at their disposal to deal with tech-savvy jihadists as they plan attacks.

“Any unauthorized disclosures that are made by individuals who have dishonored the oath of office that they raised their hand and attested to undermines this country’s security,” Brennan said at a Washington event in response to a question about Snowden.

“Hero-izing such individuals I find to be unfathomable as far as what it is that this country needs to be able to do again in order to keep itself safe.”

Brennan on Monday made a pitch for reviewing curbs placed on intelligence services’ surveillance capabilities, saying leaks and “handwringing” had made international efforts to track down terrorists more challenging.

The New York Times said in an opinion piece on Wednesday that the comments by America’s top spy were “disgraceful” and that the issue in last week’s attacks in Paris was not was not a lack of data, “but a failure to act on information authorities already had.”

“Law enforcement agencies should have the necessary powers to detect and stop attacks before they happen,” the Times said. “But that does not mean unquestioning acceptance of ineffective and very likely unconstitutional tactics that reduce civil liberties without making the public safer.”

When asked whether the United States was doing enough to share information with other countries, Brennan said the CIA had been working closely with other nations including Russia to discuss the threat of the Islamic State group.

“Over the last five weeks or so, I have had a number of conversations with my Russian counterpart, despite the policy difference we may have in Syria and Ukraine,” he said.

“These have been discussions about how we can in fact share more information about this threat from” the IS group.


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