Posts Tagged ‘Edward Snowden’

Snapping up cheap spy tools, nations ‘monitoring everyone’ — “If you said it, somebody likely recorded it.”

August 2, 2016

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Pedestrians talk on their cellphones in Lima, Peru, on Monday, Aug. 1, 2016. Under a July 2015 decree, police now track cellphone locations without a court order but would need one to listen in. All four Peruvian phone companies are cooperating. They signed a pact with the government in Octoboer the details of which were not disclosed. (AP Photo/Martin Mejia)

Pedestrians talk on their cellphones in Lima, Peru, on Monday, Aug. 1, 2016. Under a July 2015 decree, police now track cellphone locations without a court order but would need one to listen in. All four Peruvian phone companies are cooperating. They signed a pact with the government in October the details of which were not disclosed. (AP Photo/Martin Mejia) (The Associated Press)

By Frank Bajak, Jack Gillum and several other AP writers (see end of article)

The Associated Press

August 2, 2016

It was a national scandal. Peru’s then-vice president accused two domestic intelligence agents of staking her out. Then, a top congressman blamed the spy agency for a break-in at his office. News stories showed the agency had collected data on hundreds of influential Peruvians.

Yet after last year’s outrage, which forced out the prime minister and froze its intelligence-gathering, the spy service went ahead with a $22 million program capable of snooping on thousands of Peruvians at a time. Peru — a top cocaine-producing nation — joined the ranks of world governments that have added commercial spyware to their arsenals.

The purchase from Israeli-American company Verint Systems, chronicled in documents obtained by The Associated Press, offers a rare, behind-the-scenes look into how easy it is for a country to purchase and install off-the-shelf surveillance equipment. The software allows governments to intercept voice calls, text messages and emails.

Except for blacklisted nations like Syria and North Korea, there is little to stop governments that routinely violate basic rights from obtaining the same so-called “lawful intercept” tools that have been sold to Western police and spy agencies. People tracked by the technology have been beaten, jailed and tortured, according to human rights groups.

Targets identified by the AP include a blogger in the repressive Central Asian republic of Uzbekistan, opposition activists in the war-ravaged African nation of South Sudan, and politicians and reporters in oil-rich Trinidad and Tobago in the Caribbean.

“The status quo is completely unacceptable,” said Marietje Schaake, a European Union lawmaker pushing for greater oversight. “The fact that this market is almost completely unregulated is very disturbing.”

The Verint documents that AP obtained in Peru, including training manuals, contracts, invoices and emails, offer more detail than previously available on the inner workings of a highly secretive industry.

“There is just so little reliable data on this,” said Edin Omanovic, a researcher at Privacy International, a London-based advocacy group. “These commercial tools are being used in a strategic and offensive way in much the same way that military tools are used.”

The scope and sophistication revealed in the Peru documents approximates, on a small scale, U.S. and British surveillance programs catalogued in 2013 by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden. That trove showed how the U.S. government collected the phone records of millions of Americans, few suspected of crimes. Even after some reforms, there is still much to be done in the U.S. and abroad to rein in Big Brother, privacy advocates say.

Reached at Verint’s corporate headquarters in Melville, New York, an assistant to CEO Dan Bodner said the company would have no comment. “We typically don’t comment to reporters,” said Barbara Costa.

Verint and its main competitors hail from nations with well-funded spy agencies, including the United States, Israel, Britain and Germany, and have operated with limited oversight.

With more than $1 billion in yearly sales, Verint is a major, longtime player in an industry whose secrecy makes its size difficult to quantify. Verint Systems Ltd., the subsidiary that sold the surveillance package to Peru, is based in Herzliya, Israel, outside Tel Aviv.

In regulatory filings, the parent corporation boasts upward of 10,000 customers in more than 180 countries, including most of the world’s largest companies and U.S. law-enforcement agencies. The company says its products help businesses run better and “make the world a safer place.” In 2007, Verint provided Mexico with a U.S.-funded, $3 million surveillance platform aimed at fighting drug cartels.

Surveillance sales account for about a third of its business. However, the company discloses little about those products, which it says collect and parse massive data sets to “detect, investigate and neutralize threats.”

It also does not identify its law enforcement and intelligence agency clients, but the AP independently confirmed through interviews and documents that it has sales in countries including Australia, Brazil, the United States, Mexico, Colombia and Switzerland.

About half of Verint’s surveillance dealings are in the developing world, said analyst Jeff Kessler of Imperial Capital in New York.

The Peru installation — known as Pisco, a nod to the local brandy — illustrates how the private surveillance industry has piggybacked on multibillion-dollar government research in the West. Many security experts who honed their skills in Israel’s military have gone to work in the private sector, effectively putting their tech chops at the service of less sophisticated nations for a fraction of the cost.

Like spy tools wielded by larger nations, Pisco lets officials “intercept and monitor” satellite networks that carry voice and data traffic, potentially putting private communications of millions of Peruvians at risk.

A software manual offers step-by-step instructions on how to intercept those communications with Verint equipment: Connect to a satellite, identify the callers, then “open a voice product” — their jargon for a phone call.

Next on the flow chart:

“Voice is heard.”

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‘PINPOINT NEW TARGETS OF INTEREST’

Since the early 2000s, Verint and top competitor Nice Systems have sold mass surveillance products to the secret police in Uzbekistan, according to extensive research by Mari Bastashevski for Privacy International, a London-based advocacy group. She found the companies also sold such systems to neighboring Kazakhstan, also a tightly governed nation.

Israeli technicians from both companies have rotated in and out of Tashkent, the Uzbek capital, for tech support and maintenance, Bastashevski found. Nice Systems sold its surveillance business to Israeli defense heavyweight Elbit Systems last year.

That equipment has let Uzbek secret police quickly locate and arrest people who discuss sensitive information on the phone or via email, dissidents say.

“The authorities’ main weapon is people’s fear,” said Tulkin Karayev, a Sweden-based exile. “Freedom of speech, freedom of expression — all this is banned.”

Asked by the AP whether Nice Systems’ sales had enabled political repression, Elbit spokeswoman Dalia Rosen would not comment. “We follow the leading standards of corporate governance and focus on ethical behavior in our business dealings,” she said.

Over the past two decades, Uzbekistan has “imprisoned thousands to enforce repressive rule,” Human Rights Watch reported last year. The price of dissent is arbitrary detention, forced labor and torture, the group said. A report submitted to the U.N. by three rights groups deemed torture by the secret police systematic, unpunished and encouraged.

Three years ago, metal worker Kudrat Rasulov reached out to Karayev from Uzbekistan via Facebook seeking advice on how he could help promote free expression in his country. The exile said he suggested that Rasulov, now 46, write critical commentary on local media reports. Rasulov’s weekly reports were then published online under a pseudonym. Rasulov thought he was being careful. He created a new email account for every article he sent, and the two men discussed the articles over Skype. But after six months, Rasulov was arrested. He is serving an 8-year-prison sentence for subversion.

Karayev believes Rasulov was undone by surveillance, and Human Rights Watch agreed. The court’s sentence found he was convicted based in part on his Skype communications and contact with Karayev, the group said in a report.

“They were reading Skype. They were listening to his phone calls. That’s the way they build their cases,” said Steve Swerdlow, the report’s author.

In Colombia, Verint has racked up millions in sales. As recently as 2015, U.S. customs officials funded maintenance for a wiretapping system, according to government contracts. Nearly a decade ago, its products were abused by officials who were later sacked for illegal eavesdropping, senior police and prosecutors told the AP at the time, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the matter.

Like the United States, most countries require court orders to use the technology. But where rule of law is weak, abuse is not uncommon.

The Caribbean nation of Trinidad and Tobago saw a government fall after a wiretapping scandal involving Verint-supplied equipment. In 2009, a total of 53 people, including politicians and journalists, were illegally monitored, according to a former senior security official who asked not to be named for fear of reprisal. The Verint equipment remains operative, though now a court order is needed to use it.

One piece of the Verint product mix that Trinidad and Tobago bought is Vantage Broadway. A promotional brochure published by Israel’s defense ministry for a 2014 trade show in India describes it as data-analysis and pattern-seeking software. It pairs with a product called Reliant to “intercept, filter and analyze huge volumes of Internet, voice and satellite communication.” The package Peru bought includes both Reliant and Vantage, documents show.

The little regulation that exists in the commercial mass-surveillance trade falls under a non-binding international arms export-control regime called the Wassenaar Arrangement. In December 2013, it was amended to add monitoring products like Reliant and Vantage and “attack-ware” that breaks into smartphones and computers and turns them into listening posts.

The United States has not ratified the amendment; the federal Commerce Department proposed rules that raised objections in Silicon Valley. Israel says it is complying, and the European Union ratified the update. But Schaake, the EU lawmaker, said its 28 member states act independently and “technologies continue to be exported to countries that are known human rights violators.”

Surveillance technology from Israel, meanwhile, is being used in South Sudan, where a 2 ½-year-old civil war has claimed tens of thousands of lives, a panel of U.N. experts reported in January. U.N. and human rights groups say the government deploys it to track down, jail and torture dissidents and journalists.

The ability of South Sudan’s intelligence agency “to identify and illegally apprehend individuals has been significantly enhanced” through the acquisition of “additional communications interception equipment from Israel,” the U.N. experts wrote.

They did not name the suppliers, and a government spokesman declined to discuss the issue. While there is no direct evidence that Verint is a supplier, an AP reporter confirmed the names of two company employees on a flight in May from Ethiopia to the South Sudanese capital of Juba. Typing on a laptop, one was working on a presentation that named the three telecoms that operate in the country.

Verint did not respond to questions about whether it supplied surveillance technology to South Sudan.

An activist jailed for four months in Juba said his interrogators spoke openly about tapping his phone, played recordings of him in intercepted phone conversations and showed him emails he had sent. He spoke to the AP on condition he not be identified, saying he fears for his life.

Joseph Bakosoro, a former South Sudanese state governor who was also held without charge for four months, said his interrogators played for him a voicemail that had been left on his cellphone. They claimed it was evidence he backed rebels.

Bakosoro said the voicemail proved only that he was being bugged.

His interrogators didn’t hide that.

“They told me they are monitoring me,” he said. “They are monitoring my phone, and they are monitoring everyone, so whatever we say on the telephone, they are monitoring.”

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‘WHO WILL GUARD THE GUARDS?’

Three years after Peru acquired the Verint package, it’s not yet up and running, Carlos Basombrio, the incoming interior minister said just before taking office last week. “When it becomes operative, it will be used against organized crime (in coordination) with judges and prosecutors.”

Located in a three-story building next to the country’s DINI spy agency, Pisco sits on a Lima military base off-limits to the public. It can track 5,000 individual targets and simultaneously record the communications of 300 people, according to agency documents, with eight listening rooms and parabolic antennae affixed outside to capture satellite downlinks.

Control of Pisco was shifted to the national police after the spying scandal that crippled the intelligence agency. Verint sent Israeli personnel to train Peruvian operators, adding eight months of instruction at the host government’s request, records show.

One major eavesdropping tool has, however, been active in Peru since October. It can physically track any phone in real time using geolocation. Under a July 2015 decree, police can locate phones without a court order, but would need one to listen in.

Government officials wouldn’t offer details on what software was being used to track cellphones. But two months before the decree, DINI officials said payment had been authorized for a Verint geolocation product called SkyLock. That software enables phone-tracking within the country, and a premium version can pinpoint any mobile phone in most countries.

All four Peruvian phone companies agreed to cooperate on geolocation, signing a pact with the government the details of which were not disclosed.

Civil libertarians consider warrantless geolocation a dangerous invasion of privacy, especially in a nation with pervasive public corruption. Peru’s incoming congress is dominated by Fuerza Popular, a party associated with imprisoned former President Alberto Fujimori. He ran one of the most corrupt Latin American regimes in recent history.

In July 2015, the Verint surveillance platform got caught in the chaos of Peruvian politics.

Word of the purchase was leaked, triggering a government audit. The Miami-based Verint vice president who made the sale, Shefi Paz, complained about the phone companies’ apparent foot-dragging in emails and letters to DINI officials. They weren’t making themselves available for meetings.

“Verint should not have to suffer from political delays,” Paz wrote. Reached by phone, Paz declined to comment.

The eavesdropping products Verint and its peers sell play an important role in fighting terrorism, said Ika Balzam, a former employee of both Verint and Nice. That is a common industry claim, echoed by politicians.

And yet, Balzam acknowledged, there are no guarantees that nation-states won’t abuse surveillance tools.

“There is a saying,” Balzam said: “‘Who will guard the guards?'”

___

Associated Press writer Frank Bajak reported this story in Lima and AP writer Jack Gillum reported from Washington. AP writers Maria Danilova in Washington; Josef Federman in Jerusalem; Jason Patinkin in Juba, South Sudan; Tony Fraser in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad and Tobago; Jamey Keaten in Geneva and Kristen Gelineau in Sydney contributed to this report.

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Frank Bajak on Twitter: https://twitter.com/fbajak

Jack Gillum on Twitter: https://twitter.com/jackgillum

 

FBI declares Clinton guilty, but refuses to push for charges

July 6, 2016

Curiouser and curiouser

The FBI declares Clinton guilty, but refuses to push for charges.

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FBI Director James Comey said in essence yesterday that Hillary Clinton’s email adventures violated the Espionage Act but refused to recommend the former U.S. secretary of state be prosecuted for her crimes.

With her hacker-friendly private email servers that appear to have been penetrated by foreign intelligence agencies, Clinton is now in the company of Aaron Burr, Bradley Manning, and Edward Snowden all of whom betrayed the public trust. The failure to hold her accountable is yet more proof that the Clintons are above the law. No matter what they do the legal system always treats them with kid gloves.

The congenitally corrupt Clintons created the private email system to frustrate Freedom of Information Act requesters, shield Hillary’s correspondence from congressional oversight, and steer money to the international cash-for-future-presidential-favors clearinghouse known as the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation, which, amazingly enough, still enjoys tax-exempt status.

President Barack Obama made his 2016 campaign debut with Hillary Clinton on Tuesday, July 5, 2016.

“She’s laughing at the stupidity of our system,” presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump said at a campaign rally yesterday. “Today’s the best evidence that we’ve ever seen that our system is rigged.”

“This is one of the most crooked politicians in history,” Trump said. “She can’t keep her emails safe, and I tell you, folks, she sure as hell can’t keep our country safe.”

The illegal, insecure private email servers Clinton used while at the State Department are at the heart of the scandal over her mishandling of an Islamic terrorist attack in militant-infested Benghazi, Libya on the 11th anniversary of 9/11 that left four Americans, including U.S. ambassador Chris Stevens, dead. Even now, four years after the assault, the Obama administration has failed to provide an autopsy report about Stevens who was initially reported to have been ritualistically sodomized before being murdered by Muslim terrorists.

At a press conference where no questions were taken from the press, Comey carefully explained that the presumptive Democrat presidential nominee committed all the elements of the crime of improperly handling national security secrets. (Comey’s full prepared remarks are available here.)

“There is evidence that [Secretary Clinton or her colleagues] were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information,” Comey said.

For example, seven e-mail chains concern matters that were classified at the Top Secret/Special Access Program level when they were sent and received. These chains involved Secretary Clinton both sending e-mails about those matters and receiving e-mails from others about the same matters. There is evidence to support a conclusion that any reasonable person in Secretary Clinton’s position, or in the position of those government employees with whom she was corresponding about these matters, should have known that an unclassified system was no place for that conversation. … None of these e-mails should have been on any kind of unclassified system, but their presence is especially concerning because all of these e-mails were housed on unclassified personal servers not even supported by full-time security staff, like those found at Departments and Agencies of the U.S. Government—or even with a commercial service like Gmail.

Despite all of this Clinton shouldn’t be prosecuted, Comey said, because there is no “clear evidence that Secretary Clinton or her colleagues intended to violate laws governing the handling of classified information.”

Except that “gross negligence” – not whatever Clinton or her underlings may have intended – is the relevant legal test here.

To help Clinton worm her way out of this legal pickle, “the FBI rewrote the statute, inserting an intent element that Congress did not require,” former federal prosecutor Andrew C. McCarthy wrote.

Adding this new intent element makes no sense, he wrote.

The point of having a statute that criminalizes gross negligence is to underscore that government officials have a special obligation to safeguard national defense secrets; when they fail to carry out that obligation due to gross negligence, they are guilty of serious wrongdoing. The lack of intent to harm our country is irrelevant. People never intend the bad things that happen due to gross negligence. [emphases in original]

McCarthy interpreted Comey’s remarks to amount to an informal indictment of Clinton.

Hillary Clinton checked every box required for a felony violation of Section 793(f) of the federal penal code (Title 18): With lawful access to highly classified information she acted with gross negligence in removing and causing it to be removed it from its proper place of custody, and she transmitted it and caused it to be transmitted to others not authorized to have it, in patent violation of her trust.

According to McCarthy, the FBI director “even conceded that former Secretary Clinton was ‘extremely careless’ and strongly suggested that her recklessness very likely led to communications (her own and those she corresponded with) being intercepted by foreign intelligence services.”

Insulting the intelligence of Americans, Comey declared that there was no evidence of “efforts to obstruct justice.”

This is pure nonsense. As I’ve written before, this protracted quest for a smoking gun in the email saga was arguably unnecessary.

The fact that Mrs. Clinton destroyed email evidence — evidence subject to a congressional subpoena, no less — is already evidence in itself that she obstructed justice through spoliation of evidence. Spoliation means you can take as evidence the fact that evidence has been destroyed. Courts are entitled to draw spoliation inferences and convict an accused person on that basis alone.

But a long-running investigation of an obviously guilty celebrity reprobate is far more interesting to reporters than the said reprobate being imprisoned after a quick slam-dunk prosecution. The media and the Left – but I repeat myself – were more than happy to ignore the spoliation evidence and work with the Obama administration to needlessly drag this thing out, knocking down every good piece of inculpatory evidence along the way.

The FBI and State Department repeatedly dragged their heels, resisting information requests throughout the investigative process.

There was that suspicious meeting last week between former President Bill Clinton and Attorney General Loretta Lynch onboard an airplane at a Phoenix, Ariz. airport. Lynch’s FBI bodyguards tried to prevent any filming of the meeting, local media reported.

Lynch claimed no official business was discussed during the 30-minute conversation.

“Our conversation was a great deal about grandchildren, it was primarily social about our travels and he mentioned golf he played in Phoenix,” Lynch said later that day.

Donald Trump rejected that explanation. “I love my grandchildren, but if I talk about them for more than nine or 10 seconds, after that, what are you going to say?” Trump said July 1. “I love golf, but after speaking about golf for a couple minutes, it’s tough.”

Of course the mere appearance of bias is unacceptable. It is not enough for justice to be done: it must be seen to be done. But the Clintons believe they are above the law so they don’t worry much about perceptions and adverse inferences.

The cloak-and-dagger meeting June 28 came hours before the House Select Committee on Benghazi released its damning investigative report detailing the Obama administration’s incompetent handling of the deadly saga and its efforts to cover-up wrongdoing.

If Clinton becomes the nation’s 45th president, we will never hear of Benghazi or her email problems again.

Hillary Clinton Should Fear “The Rejection of The Elites” Britain’s Voters Showed Us in Brexit Vote

June 25, 2016

By John Francis Carey
Peace and Freedom Commentary

Hillary Clinton should have a cold chill after Britain’s voters reclaimed their democracy and rejected “the elites.”

Journalists and pollsters in the UK tell us that one of the common threads among UK voters that decided to vote against the EU is, “a rejection of the elites.”

“The ‘we know better than the voters’ crowd in the UK were sure Brexit would fail — proving the elites do not know better than the voters.”

“Seen from the pro-EU point of view, the EU elites have been proved right in their belief that the people should never be consulted,” Charles Moore wrote for The Telegraph.

“The European elite forgot that democracy is the one thing Britain holds most dear,” Charles Moore concluded.

And who are the elites in the U.S.?

Have you ever heard Barack Obama talking glowingly about democracy?

He said nothing about a pro-democracy revolt in Hong Kong in 2014.

Past presidents were often heard to say, “We support democracy where ever it is — wherever it is found even in its very infancy.”

President Obama also refused a chance to support a huge outpouring for democracy in Iran during his presidency, choosing instead to make a business deal with the very people that the U.S. Department of State calls “the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism.”

Iran had that honor from the State Department before Obama and Hillary Clinton and John Kerry started to deal with Iran on nuclear weapons. And at the conclusion of the “Iran nuclear deal,” Iran was again named as “the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism.”

Who but “the elite” would decide not to submit proposals to the U.S. Congress (like the Iran Nuclear Deal), for debate and votes in our democratic process — instead choosing to create a new America through Executive Orders and failure(s) to enforce laws. Ask anybody who patrols the U.S. border with Mexico. Ask a huge cross-section of American police officers.

What nation has its own huge bureaucracy of people, never elected, like the EU in Brussels, who act in defiance of the people they are supposed to serve.

Well it’s the good old United States of America, the world’s oldest standing democracy.

Does anyone think the IRS, the V.A., the EPA and other federal agencies are accountable to the people that pay their salaries? If they are accountable, why is their service to the voters so bad?

When confronted by apparent IRS wrongdoing, President Obama said, “there was not a smidgen of evidence.”

Au contraire Mister President. As a lawyer, you should have said, “We’ll let the investigation take its course.” But President Obama knows that even his Justice Department knows better than the law. He pre-judged the IRS, not wanting to know the facts, just as he pre-judged the Hillary email caper, not wanting the facts to ruin his successor — who to most other lawyers, clearly violated the law.

Hillary Clinton has been saying continuously, in her own words, what the White House script advised: “There’s no wrongdoing here.” Hillary is basically saying that there isn’t a smidgen of evidence of her wrongdoing as the U.S. Secretary of State. That’s because she destroyed the emails. Those emails, by law, belong to the people of the United States. They were never “owned” by Hillary Clinton. She destroyed “public records.”

So much for the “most transparent administration in history.” More like the most lawless and arrogant.

Hillary destroyed emails, or had her staff do it, and not just a smiden of them, by all accounts.

What is a greater hallmark of the elite than the notion that they are “above the law.”

The last Attorney General has said that Edward Snowden “did us a favor” by releasing classified government information. Wasn’t he  Attorney General to enforce the law?

Loretta Lynch, the current  Attorney General, said “Our most effective response to terror is compassion unity and love.”

She isn’t going to enforce the law? She wants us to love the killer at Orlando? Welcome to the elites. The Politically Correct. She isn’t talking about her job, she’s talking about the Dalai Lama’s job. Who does such a thing?

The elites.

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President Obama went to London this year to insult the voters of our closest ally by saying, “If you vote to leave the EU, on trade deals you’ll be at the back  of the queue” with America.

In cases like this, past U.S. presidents always said, “We will respect what the voters decide.”

Bernie Sanders and his followers get this rejection of the elites. While Obama and Hillary Clinton wink and nod and say the economy is working (at least for them), Bernie’s follows know the U.S economy is broken. The Middle Class is disappearing. The rich have gotten richer, the poor are arguing over the “minimum wage.”

Every American should have higher hopes than the “minimum wage.”

People want and deserve prosperity.

And then there’s Donald Trump. A rich guy.

The rich guys that support Obama and Hillary Clinton reject a guy like Donald Trump.

He’s not from Hollywood. He talks like a truck driver.

They’ve called him a raciest, a misogynist. And other names. The New York Times seems to have a battalion of journalists assigned just to tarnish Trump. The elite media is always with the elite political class.

And when Trump supporters were bloodied by anti-Trump protesters, did anyone on the left loudly condemn the threat that lawlessness and violence means to our democratic system?

Nope.

In Asia, China has been busy with the greatest confiscation of territory in modern times without a war — in the South China Sea. In the Middle East, Iran is still threatening the leadership of American allies like Bahrain. They just did it again this week.

Maybe we should say, “former American allies.”

In Syria, Barack Obama went to the brink of conflict in a threat to Bashar al-Assad on his potential to use chemical weapons.

Obama’s “red line.”

But Obama blinked. Putin and Assad did not.

Now Putin’s Russian military is a land-owner in Syria — and this after Putin had already taken Crimea and half of Ukraine.

Asked what Putin might do next, former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said, “Whatever he can get away with.”

North Korea has already tested nuclear warheads and is busily perfecting the long-range ballistic missiles to deliver them.

And in a cancer spreading everywhere with violence and death, the folks President Obama and Hillary Clinton refuse to call by the name they themselves have professed, the Islamic State, could be coming soon to an American city near you.

The President calls them Isil (rhymes with pencil). His Secretary of State calls them Daesh.

We can’t even agree on their name — much less a strategy.

The President has said this Isil is not an existential threat and the effort to destroy them may take years.

Obama’s Secretary of Defense says the shootings in San Bernardino and Orlando tell us we have to accelerate and not delay our work to kill off these radical Islamic terrorists.

So it is time we put this to the voters in the world’s most enduring democracy.

Hillary Clinton doesn’t want the voters to think this through like the Brits did.

Nobody is chanting “four more years.” The economy is not wonderful. There is plenty more danger in the world than there was when Barack Obama first moved into the White House.

That’s likely to hurt the elites like Hillary Clinton.

And it could ruin Barack Obama’s “legacy.”

But he has an escape clause.

He’ll blame Bush.

Related:

 (JV Team — On The Run — Minimizing the danger — This seems to be a pattern)

Then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton talks to then Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Ji on September 5, 2012 (China got the South China Sea)

Then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov press a red button symbolizing the intention to “reset” US-Russian relations in March 2009. Photo: AP (Russia got Crimea, half of Ukraine, and Syria)

 (June 3, 2016)

Kremlin insider tells Al Jazeera that Moscow is considering sending special forces to fight against Syrian rebel groups.

U.S. Economy, Obama Legacy

 

 (Read the Associated Press report cited above)

 (Experts say this has added to the “burden” the government places upon businesses. Too much EU regulation was a complaint of Britain before Brexit.)

American wages remain at 1997 levels as recovery fails to lift middle class
http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/sep/16/american-economy-wages-poverty-middle-class-census-bureau

 

Why Hillary Clinton Cannot Talk About Her “Foreign Policy Achievements”

June 23, 2016

John Francis Carey
Peace and Freedom Commentary

A friend at the Pentagon recently commented over lunch, “To know what Hillary Clinton was up to when she was Secretary of State, you’d have to ask Vladimir Putin.”

This not too veiled reference to Hillary Clinton’s private in-home email server is the kind one hears from seasoned military officers and intelligence official who suggest that Hillary Clinton’s disregard for the protection of  national secrets deserves a merciless punishment.

Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld voiced similar criticism in an interview with Greta Van Susteren on the Fox News Channel on Wednesday evening, June 22, 2016.

Rumsfeld: If Hillary Were in the Military, ‘She’d Be Prosecuted’ Over Emails

Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld spoke to Greta Van Susteren about Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump and the ISIS threat. He said that if the former secretary of state were a member of the military, “she’d be prosecuted” for mishandling classified information.

Rumsfeld said that Clinton’s private email server had special compartmented and top-secret information, which shouldn’t have been there.

“I really believe that if she were a yeoman in the Navy or a sergeant in the Army or the Marine Corps or the Air Force that she’d be prosecuted,” he said.

Rumsfeld said he doesn’t know what will happen, but “it’s a serious offense.”

http://insider.foxnews.com/2016/06/22/rumsfeld-talks-greta-about-defeating-isis-voting-trump

Rumsfeld mentioned that at least some of the Hillary Clinton emails came from documents marked as “Sensitive compartmented information (SCI).”

In my military career, we were taught that if you disclosed anything SCI intentionally or by mistake, the Hand Of God would immediately come down from on high and grab you by the balls and squeeze until you DIED.

I guess nobody cares about protecting those kind of national secrets any more — at the State Department and maybe not even at the Justice Department.We say that because President Obama’s first Attorney General was recently quoted as saying that Edward Snowden did us all a favor by disclosing highly classified U.S. government information.

Protection of the U.S. and whatever is classified has always been a bipartisan thing. We, as a nation, have always taken off our political jerseys to work as one united nation — to defend America as Americans — when dealing with national security information and national defense.

And there’s a bigger issue here. Our U.S. government men and women representing the United States of America overseas, wherever they may be, have always been giving the utmost protection. 

To have an Ambassador killed overseas has long been held as an act of war among diplomats. We go to any length to protect them.

At least we used to.

It isn’t politically correct to say it but the truth is this: Four U.S. government servants of the people were brutally killed in action against the enemy. They worked for Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

In many circles this is an inexcusable sin. An unconscionable failure.

A video had nothing to do with it. The national leadership lied, shrugged their shoulders and moved on.

God rest the souls of those servants of the American people who died.

God will meet out his justice no doubt to those responsible.

Every voter should  make their own justice on this when the time comes.

That’s why Hillary Clinton isn’t talking about her achievements as Secretary of State.

*

Killed at Benghazi: From left Glen Doherty, Tyrone Woods and Sean Smith died in the recent attacks on the U.S. Embassy in Libya.

Related:

Holder Praises Edward Snowden: He Performed a ‘Public Service’
http://townhall.com/tipsheet/leahbarkoukis/2016/05/31/holder-praises-edward-snowden-he-performed-a-public-service-n2171290

China’s Tech Rules Make It Hard for U.S. Firms to Take Control

June 3, 2016

Many U.S. tech firms are finding that their best way to go forward in China is by conducting more of their business through Chinese partners

Bill Veghte, fifth from left, then Hewlett-Packard’s head of enterprise business, at China’s Tsinghua University last year.
Bill Veghte, fifth from left, then Hewlett-Packard’s head of enterprise business, at China’s Tsinghua University last year. PHOTO: EVA DOU/THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
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June 2, 2016 8:28 a.m. ET

BEIJING—A year ago, Hewlett-Packard Co.’s then-head of enterprise business, Bill Veghte, sat at China’s elite Tsinghua University, a bowl of hydrangea arranged before him in keeping with Chinese meeting style.

Against a purple backdrop announcing the arrival of a “Chinese Technology Powerhouse,” Mr. Veghte said: “Today we start the next chapter.”

And with that, a U.S. business became a Chinese one.

Since H-P sold 51% of its China networking business to Tsinghua Unigroup, an affiliate of the university, sales have revived. They are up 40% in the first four months of this year, compared with a 1% decline for all of last year, said Tony Yu, chief executive of the unit’s reincarnation, the New H3C Group.

“Once we became Chinese, some hurdles were gone,” Mr. Yu said in an interview.
Western companies have struggled with China’s increasingly stiff cybersecurity regulations and many U.S. tech firms are now finding that their best way to go forward in China is by strengthening joint ventures and conducting more of their business through Chinese partners.

BUDDYING UP

Amid headwinds, U.S. tech firms look for Chinese partnerships.

  • Apple: book and movie services suspended; invested $1 billion in China’s rival to Uber, Didi Chuxing, in May 2016.
  • Qualcomm: paid $1 billion fine in antitrust settlement last year; joint-venture with China’s Guizhou province to make server chips customized for Chinese customers.
  • Microsoft: faces ongoing antitrust investigation; joint-venture with state-owned CETC to make version of Windows 10 tailored for Chinese government clients.
  • Cisco: steep sales fall after Edward Snowden alleged U.S. government put back doors into routers; joint-venture with China server maker Inspur on localized networking gear.
  • H-P: lost networking-gear sales to Chinese rivals like Huawei; sold 51% stake of China networking equipment unit to Tsinghua Unigroup.

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Microsoft Corp., Qualcomm Inc. and Cisco Systems Inc.—which all have faced headwinds in China, including antitrust probes and espionage accusations—have formed new Chinese joint ventures in the past year tailored to meet Chinese security requirements. Newer companies such as Uber Technologies Co. have chosen to enter China through purely Chinese ventures with all their data stored in the country.

Beijing has recently shifted to a softer sell. At a tech meeting last week in China’s south, Premier Li Keqiang reiterated that security rules apply equally to all companies registered in China and pledged “a more fair, transparent and predictable investment environment.”

In practice, China has shown little sign of letting up; earlier this year, it further tightened restrictions on online publishing by foreign companies. In April, Chinese regulators blocked Apple Inc.’s iBook and iMovie services.

New technologies have connected the world more than ever, but in something of a paradox they grow increasingly dissimilar between regions as governments dictate local terms. In Europe, websites such as Google and Wikipedia increasingly diverge from their U.S. versions as European courts uphold individuals’ “right to be forgotten.” The same model of a smartphone bought in India and Indonesia will likely soon contain different components because of local sourcing regulations.

After Edward Snowden’s revelations about U.S. government spying in 2013, Chinese regulators have used both carrots and sticks to push foreign tech suppliers to localize product development and data.

A slate of new cybersecurity laws requires technology companies to store their data in China, submit to security checks and help the government with decryption if requested. Government agencies and key industries have been urged to adopt “secure and controllable” technologies, a term widely interpreted to mean Chinese products.

Companies have also been prodded individually: Last month after a visit from Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook, China’s technology ministry urged the iPhone maker to deepen its local partnerships and provide a “more secure user experience” to Chinese customers.

Qualcomm President Derek Aberle said in a recent interview in Beijing that the company’s new China-controlled joint venture for server chips would likely develop “something very specific to China” in the security area.

“They can take our platform and innovate on top of it and provide those components that wouldn’t necessarily be coming from us,” he said.

Qualcomm announced several new investments in China after it agreed to pay a roughly $1 billion antitrust fine and renegotiate its licensing agreements with Chinese companies.

Foreign trade groups say China’s cybersecurity rules make it difficult to do business except through a Chinese company. More than 20 U.S. and international associations signed a letter to China’s insurance regulator on Wednesday to protest draft security rules with data provisions and other requirements for the sector that they said would be an obstacle to trade.

Neither the insurance regulator nor the commerce ministry responded to requests for comment on the letter.

While big companies have moved forward with joint ventures, the obstacles have put a damper on deals overall. The number of investments where a U.S. tech company acquired more than 50% in a Chinese company fell from 15 in 2011 to only one in 2015, according to research firm Dealogic.


New technologies have connected the world more than ever, but in something of a paradox, the internet experience varies across regions as governments dictate local terms. PHOTO: ZUMA PRESS
To be sure, mistrust goes both ways. Huawei Technologies Co., in particular, has been virtually shut out of the U.S. telecommunications sector after a U.S. congressional report in 2012 suggested Beijing could use the company’s equipment for spying.

Huawei has said it doesn’t assist China’s government in espionage and has aligned itself with U.S. companies on security issues as it expands internationally. Huawei’s rotating chief executive took the unusual step last year of publicly urging Beijing to stay open to the best global technology.

In an effort to stem the two-way damage, Huawei and Microsoft—which faces a continuing antitrust investigation in China—are partners in a “Breakthrough Group” that is writing a so-called buyer’s guide for commercial enterprises to help them evaluate potential risks of various technology products, said the project coordinator, Bruce McConnell, a former U.S. Department of Homeland Security cyberspace expert who is now vice president at New York-based advisory EastWest Institute.

U.S. trade lobbyists say the global supply-chain fragmentation increases cost and vulnerability. “By trying to wall off your network, you have untested systems and that increases the risk of security flaws,” said Erin Ennis, senior vice president of the U.S.-China Business Council.

China’s officials have acknowledged the need to balance security imperatives with the economic value generated from open information flow.

“We must strictly control data flow across borders,” said Liu Yong, a tech-industry researcher with China’s main economic-planning agency at a recent conference. “But at the same time, we must be aware that data can only reach its greatest value through its flow.”

At New H3C, Mr. Yu said the company is better poised to land orders from China’s government and other sensitive sectors under local ownership.

“The fields we can plow have broadened,” he said.

—Yang Jie and James T. Areddy contributed to this article.

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

http://www.wsj.com/articles/chinas-new-tech-rules-make-it-hard-for-u-s-firms-to-take-control-1464870481

EU unveils details of data privacy pact with US

February 29, 2016

AFP

© 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

AFP

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

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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.

http://thehill.com/policy/national-security/264448-house-panel-looking-into-nsa-collecting-communications-between-israel-and

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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 adam.entous@wsj.com and Danny Yadron atdanny.yadron@wsj.com

http://www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-spy-net-on-israel-snares-congress-1451425210


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