Posts Tagged ‘Edward Snowden’

CIA unveils new rules for putting Americans under surveillance just two days before Trump takes over

January 19, 2017

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The CIA has unveiled revised rules for collecting, analyzing and storing information on American citizens just two days before Donald Trump is sworn in as president

The CIA has unveiled revised rules for collecting, analyzing and storing information on American citizens just two days before Donald Trump is sworn in as president

  • CIA revealed its new rules for collecting and storing information on Americans
  • New restrictions means CIA has to dispose of personal data of Americans it comes across during its probes within five years
  • The new rules were published in full for the first time on Wednesday
  • It comes just two days before Donald Trump will be sworn in as president 
  • Trump has said previously he favors stronger government surveillance powers 

The Central Intelligence Agency has unveiled revised rules for collecting, analyzing and storing information on American citizens just two days before Donald Trump is sworn in as president.

The new restrictions imposed by the US attorney general will force the CIA to dispose of the personal data of Americans it comes across during its probes within five years.

The new rules, which were published in full for the first time on Wednesday, were released amid continued public discomfort over the government’s surveillance powers.

Issues surrounding surveillance gained prominence following revelations in 2013 by former government contractor Edward Snowden that the National Security Agency (NSA) secretly collected the communications data of millions of ordinary Americans.

The guidelines were published two days before Trump is sworn into office and may be changed by the new administration.

Trump has said he favors stronger government surveillance powers, including the monitoring of ‘certain’ mosques in the United States.

The CIA is largely barred from collecting information inside the United States or on U.S. citizens. But a 1980s presidential order provided for discrete exceptions governed by procedures approved by the CIA director and the attorney general.

Known as the ‘Attorney General Guidelines,’ the original rules over time became a ‘patchwork of policies and procedures’ that failed to keep pace with the development of technology that can store massive amounts of digital data, said Krass.

The guidelines were published two days before Trump is sworn into office and may be changed by the new administration give he has said he favors stronger government surveillance powers

The guidelines were published two days before Trump is sworn into office and may be changed by the new administration give he has said he favors stronger government surveillance powers

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The new procedures, under development for years, were signed on Tuesday by CIA Director John Brennan and Attorney General Loretta Lynch

The new procedures, under development for years, were signed on Tuesday by CIA Director John Brennan and Attorney General Loretta Lynch

In 2014, legislation gave U.S. intelligence agencies two years to develop procedures limiting the storage of information on U.S. citizens.

The new procedures, under development for years, were signed on Tuesday by CIA Director John Brennan and Attorney General Loretta Lynch.

While the 1982 guidelines were made public two years ago, sections were blacked out. The updated procedures were posted in full for the first time on the CIA’s website on Wednesday.

John Brennan said on Fox News Sunday that Donald Trump's 'talking and tweeting' is not in the nation's interest and the president-elect lacks a full understanding of the threat Russia poses

The updated procedures include what the CIA must do when it clandestinely obtains a computer hard drive holding millions of pages of text, hours of videos and thousands of photos containing information on foreigners and U.S. citizens.

Because extensive time and many analysts are required to assess such large volumes of data, the new rules regulate the handling of material whose intelligence value cannot be promptly evaluated.

They also regulate how such data can be searched and create strict requirements for dealing with unevaluated electronic communications, which must be destroyed no later than five years after the are first examined.

The rules were unveiled a week after civil liberties groups decried new guidelines approved by the Obama administration expanding the NSA’s ability to share communications intercepts with other U.S. intelligence agencies, including the CIA.

Issues surrounding surveillance gained prominence following revelations in 2013 by former government contractor Edward Snowden (pictured) that the National Security Agency (NSA) secretly collected the communications data of millions of ordinary Americans

Issues surrounding surveillance gained prominence following revelations in 2013 by former government contractor Edward Snowden (pictured) that the National Security Agency (NSA) secretly collected the communications data of millions of ordinary Americans

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Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4134340/CIA-unveils-new-rules-collecting-information-Americans.html#ixzz4WCIFTgQo
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Republican senator accusing Obama of treating “a traitor like a martyr.”

 

Russia says Snowden can stay two more years

January 18, 2017

AFP

© GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA/AFP/File | US intelligence leaker Edward Snowden has been living in exile in Russia since 2013

MOSCOW (AFP) – Russian authorities have extended US intelligence leaker Edward Snowden’s Russian residency permit by two years, the foreign ministry said Wednesday.The former National Security Agency contractor shook the American intelligence establishment to its core in 2013 with a series of devastating leaks on mass surveillance in the US and around the world.

The announcement came as outgoing US President Barack Obama commuted the sentence of army private Chelsea Manning, who was sentenced to 35 years in prison for handing classified US documents to WikiLeaks.

Snowden was not on Obama’s list of commutations or pardons.

“Snowden’s residence permit has just been extended by two years,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova wrote on her Facebook page.

His lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, could not be reached on Wednesday morning to confirm Zakharova’s statement.

Snowden has been living in exile in Russia since 2013, where he ended up after spending weeks in the transit area of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport.

He was initially granted permission to stay in Russia for one year amid the rapid deterioration in Moscow’s relations with Washington.

The revelations from the documents he leaked sparked a massive row over the data sweeps conducted by the United States domestically and in allied nations, including of their leaders.

Snowden welcomed the action on Manning’s sentence, writing on Twitter: “Let it be said here in earnest, with good heart: Thanks, Obama.”

Obama commuted the 35-year prison sentence of Chelsea Manning, covicted of leaking thousands of secret documents to Wikileaks — “This treachery put American lives at risk.”

January 18, 2017

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Republican senator accusing Obama of treating “a traitor like a martyr.”

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President Barack Obama has commuted the 35-year prison sentence given to Chelsea Manning for leaking thousands of secret documents to Wikileaks in 2010, setting her on track for release in May.

Wikileaks said last week that Julian Assange, the site’s publisher, would agree to extradition to the US if Ms Manning were freed. It is unclear if Mr Assange, the subject of an espionage investigation, will follow through, though a member of his legal team said he stands by his statements.

Ms Manning, a US army soldier born Bradley Manning, is the most high-profile of 273 individuals granted clemency or presidential pardons on Tuesday,  Mr Obama’s third-to-last full day in office. 

 

The decision is also the most controversial, with one Republican senator accusing Mr Obama of treating “a traitor like a martyr”.

Assange
Julian Assange, the Wikileaks founder, may now be willing to face extradition to the USCREDIT: AP

“I don’t understand why the president would feel special compassion for someone who endangered the lives of our troops, diplomats, intelligence officers and allies,” Tom Cotton, the senator, said in a statement.

Paul Ryan, the speaker of the House, called Mr Obama’s decision “outrageous”.

“Chelsea Manning’s treachery put American lives at risk and exposed some of our nation’s most sensitive secrets,” he said. “President Obama now leaves in place a dangerous precedent that those who compromise our national security won’t be held accountable for their crimes.”

Meanwhile, Amnesty International called the step “long overdue”, saying Ms Manning’s treatment had been “unconscionable”.

The White House had signalled that Ms Manning was being considered for clemency, contrasting her case with that of Edward Snowden, who also leaked sensitive documents to Wikileaks before fleeing to Russia.

“Chelsea Manning is somebody who went through the military criminal justice process, was exposed to due process, was found guilty, was sentenced for her crimes, and she acknowledged wrongdoing,” Josh Earnest, Mr Obama’s spokesman said last week.

Snowden
Edward Snowden tweeted his appreciation for Chelsea Manning’s pardon CREDIT: AFP

“Mr Snowden fled into the arms of an adversary and sought refuge in a country, that most recently made a concerted effort to undermine confidence in our democracy.”

Among the materials leaked by Ms Manning, who served as an Army intelligence analyst and was deployed to Iraq, was video of an American helicopter attack that resulted in the deaths of innocent Iraqi civilians and two reporters.

Ms Manning also leaked diplomatic cables containing sensitive information. US officials said the leaks harmed American foreign policy and strained relations with allies.

She will now be released on May 17, after seven years in prison.

Mr Snowden took to Twitter on Tuesday to thank Ms Manning’s supporters, and Mr Obama for enabling her release.

Mr Snowden also thanked Ms Manning “for what you did for everyone”, and urged her to “stay strong” for the next five months.

Wikileaks called the news a “victory”. Mr Assange released a statement, but did not say whether he now planned to turn himself over to the US authorities.

“Thank you to everyone who campaigned for Chelsea Manning’s clemency. Your courage & determination made the impossible possible,” he said.

Mr Assange has been living in the Ecuadorian embassy in London for more than four years, and also faces sexual assault allegations in Sweden, which he denies.

With today’s 209 commutations, @POTUS has commuted sentences of more people than the last 12 presidents combined. http://go.wh.gov/ct2oSv 

Wikileaks said Mr Assange was “confident of winning any fair trial in the US”, adding that the Obama administration had prevented the possibility of an impartial jury.

Ms Manning’s case was polarising, with military and intelligence officials largely furious at the leaks, and human rights and transparency activists calling her a hero.

Ms Manning pleaded guilty during her trial and apologised for her actions, but still received the longest sentence ever for a leak conviction.

She later applied to the Obama administration for a commutation, saying there was “no historical precedent” for such an “extreme” sentence.

Mr Obama also pardoned James Cartwright, a retired Marine general who pleaded guilty last year to making false statements to investigators. Mr Cartwright had denied leaking classified information, despite having done so.

Mr Obama has commuted the sentences of 1,385 individuals throughout his presidency, the most in history. The majority of those people received long sentences for drug-related crimes.

Obama commutes Chelsea Manning sentence — Leaked U.S. Government information from National Security Agency to Wikileaks

January 18, 2017

BBC News

Senator John McCain said the president’s decision was “a grave mistake that I fear will encourage further acts of espionage”.

Chelsea Manning

Manning declared her new identity the day after sentencing. AP photo

President Barack Obama has commuted Chelsea Manning’s sentence for leaking documents to Wikileaks in 2010.

The 29-year-old transgender US Army private, born Bradley Manning, will be freed on 17 May instead of her scheduled 2045 release.

She was sentenced to 35 years in 2013 for her role in leaking diplomatic cables to the anti-secrecy group.

The leak was one of the largest breaches of classified material in US history.

Media caption Journalist Glenn Greenwald: Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden “acted with extreme amounts of courage”

The White House had suggested in recent days it was open to commuting Manning’s sentence.

She twice attempted suicide last year at the male military prison where she is being held at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

Manning also went on a hunger strike last year, which ended after the military agreed to provide her with gender dysphoria treatment.

In one of his final acts as president, Mr Obama granted commutation of sentences to 209 individuals and pardons to 64 others.

Chelsea Manning at Fort Meade, Maryland, in July 2013

Chelsea Manning, then Bradley, was convicted in 2013. Reuters

However, Edward Snowden, a former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor who leaked information on mass surveillance programmes before fleeing the US, will not be granted a pardon.

Russian authorities said on Wednesday that Mr Snowden had been granted a two-year extension to his temporary asylum in the country.

Why Manning? Rajini Vaidyanathan, BBC News

Chelsea Manning’s case divided public opinion in the US. To some she was a whistleblower who lifted the veil on US military secrets. More than 100,000 people signed a White House petition calling for her release and the campaign for her commutation was well publicised. But to others Manning was a traitor who compromised the safety of US military personnel.

House Speaker Paul Ryan described President Obama’s commutation as treachery. When I attended Manning’s sentencing in 2013, the prosecution asked for a tougher sentence than the 35 years handed down. They said they wanted to send a message to future potential leakers.

The White House has yet to explain why it made the decision to free Manning. It’s worth noting that Mr Obama was accused of waging a war on whistleblowers for prosecuting more people under the Espionage Act than any other US president before him.

What has been the reaction?

Manning’s lawyer, David Coombs, told the BBC the commutation would be a great relief to his client.

“It really is a great act of mercy by President Obama,” said Mr Coombs. “For myself and Chelsea, I’m very thankful he took that option.”

Journalist Glenn Greenwald, who broke the story of Edward Snowden’s leaks, told the BBC: “I don’t think she (Manning) should have spent a single day in prison.”

He said she was “heroic and has inspired millions of people around the world”.

But Republican Senator John McCain said the president’s decision was “a grave mistake that I fear will encourage further acts of espionage”.

And House Speaker Paul Ryan said it was “just outrageous”, adding that the US Army private had “put American lives at risk”.

What was in the leaked cables?

The US Army charged Manning with 22 counts relating to the unauthorised possession and distribution of more than 700,000 secret diplomatic and military documents and video.

Included in those files was video footage of an Apache helicopter killing 12 civilians in Baghdad in 2007.

Manning also passed on sensitive messages between US diplomats, intelligence assessments of Guantanamo detainees being held without trial and military records from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The disclosures were considered an embarrassment to the US, prompting the Obama administration to crack down on government leaks.

At a sentencing hearing, Manning apologised for “hurting the US” and said she had mistakenly thought she could “change the world for the better”.

What next for Julian Assange?

Wikileaks, the anti-secrecy organisation which published the diplomatic cables, has previously said its founder Julian Assange would agree to be extradited to the US if Mr Obama granted clemency to Manning.

The White House said the Manning commutation was not influenced in any way by Mr Assange’s extradition offer.

Mr Assange, who has taken refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in London since 2012, did not immediately comment on whether he plans to surrender.

But he did tweet: “Thank you to everyone who campaigned for Chelsea Manning’s clemency. Your courage & determination made the impossible possible.”

The US justice department has not publicly announced any indictment against Mr Assange. It is Sweden that has sought to extradite him, for an alleged sex crime.

Why no pardon for Edward Snowden?

More than a million supporters of Mr Snowden have petitioned President Barack Obama to pardon him.

But according to the White House, the National Security Agency leaker has not himself submitted the necessary documents for clemency.

In November, Mr Obama told German newspaper Der Spiegel: “I can’t pardon somebody who hasn’t gone before a court and presented themselves.”

The White House last week pointed out that Manning had passed through the US military justice system and acknowledged her crimes.

Mr Snowden, however, fled the US in 2013, evading charges in America which could put him in prison for up to 30 years.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said “the disclosures by Edward Snowden were far more serious and far more dangerous”.

He had also “fled into the arms of an adversary and has sought refuge in a country that most recently made a concerted effort to undermine the confidence in our democracy”, Mr Earnest added.

How do pardons and commutations work?

Mr Obama has commuted 1,385 sentences and issued 212 pardons, more than the total granted by the past 12 presidents combined.

In America, a pardon not only lifts the sentence but removes other penalties such as the bar on convicted felons sitting on federal juries, and state-level prohibitions on such things as voting or possession of firearms.

A commutation means the sentence is lifted but the civil handicaps outlined above remain.

Neither a pardon nor a commutation is an acknowledgment of innocence.

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-38659068

Bonfire of the Intelligence Vanities — Democrats are using Russian cyber hacks as an excuse to explain their defeat

January 9, 2017

Putin is the winner as Washington melts down over Russian hacking.

A part of the declassified version Intelligence Community Assessment on Russia's efforts to interfere with the U.S. political process is photographed in Washington, Friday, Jan. 6, 2017.

A part of the declassified version Intelligence Community Assessment on Russia’s efforts to interfere with the U.S. political process is photographed in Washington, Friday, Jan. 6, 2017. Photo: Associated Press

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The Wall Street Journal
Updated Jan. 8, 2017 10:20 p.m. ET

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What a spectacle. Two weeks before a peaceful democratic transition of power, Democrats are using Russian cyber hacks as an excuse to explain their defeat, and Donald Trump is playing into their hands by refusing to acknowledge that Vladimir Putin is no friend of America. The only winner here is Mr. Putin, who must be laughing at his success in causing Americans to mistrust their own democratic system.

The U.S. intelligence community (IC) late Friday finally released a declassified version of the report on Russian hacking that President Obama had requested before he leaves office. The surprise is how thin it is. The report is made up mostly of top-line conclusions, while seven of the 25 pages are devoted to RT, Mr. Putin’s propaganda arm whose anti-Americanism is well known.

The IC report says it couldn’t release details without betraying intelligence sources or methods, but that didn’t stop leakers from whispering some of those details to NBC and the Washington Post. The Post reported that the U.S. overheard Russian officials gloating after Mr. Trump’s victory, saying it would be good for Russian interests. A fair inference is that White House officials authorized those leaks to embarrass Mr. Trump and suggest the election was stolen by the Kremlin.

The report concludes “with high confidence” that Mr. Putin “ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election” to “undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary [Hillary] Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency.” It also concludes that Mr. Putin “developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump.”

Yet the report offers no evidence or judgment that the hacking influenced the election result. The leaks from Clinton aide John Podesta’s email and the Democratic National Committee were embarrassing in their candid views of individuals, but they included no bombshells. The emails that really hurt Mrs. Clinton’s electability were those she kept on a private server while Secretary of State.

American voters were also well aware of the Russian meddling during the campaign, since Democrats made so much of it. “You encouraged espionage against our people,” Mrs. Clinton said to Mr. Trump in the third debate. “You are willing to spout the Putin line, sign up for his wish list, break up NATO, do whatever he wants to do. And that you continue to get help from him because he has a very clear favorite in this race.”

She lost anyway, and for reasons unrelated to the Kremlin. But Democrats and the left want to maintain the stolen-election line because they want to undermine the Republican ability to govern and repeal the Obama agenda that voters rejected at the polls.

As for Mr. Trump, he keeps playing this poorly even by the needs of his own political interests. For weeks he insisted that the Russians may not have done the hacking, though WikliLeaks and Guccifer 2.0 are favorite Russian outlets. He picked needless fights with the intelligence services he will soon need as President. He even cited Julian Assange’s claim that Russia wasn’t the source of WikiLeaks’s campaign dump of Democratic emails, as if Mr. Assange isn’t a practiced liar and deeply anti-American.

The smart line from the beginning would have been to denounce the hack, acknowledge that Russia has been acting in ways that harm the U.S., and say that Mr. Putin should stop or face consequences once Mr. Trump is President. Mr. Trump could also say that if Mr. Obama had retaliated sooner against Russia, the election hacks might not have happened.

Instead, Mr. Trump’s denial of Russian reality makes him look like a sap for Mr. Putin. “Having a good relationship with Russia is a good thing, not a bad thing. Only ‘stupid’ people, or fools, would think that it is bad!” he tweeted on Saturday. He added: “We have enough problems around the world without yet another one. When I am President, Russia will respect us far more than they do now.”

Let’s hope so, but it isn’t “stupid” to mistrust Mr. Putin. After his sheltering of Edward Snowden, his invasion of Ukraine, annexation of Crimea, intervention in Syria, sale of anti-aircraft missiles to Iran and massacre of civilians in Aleppo, only a fool would imagine that Mr. Putin can be trusted beyond the cold logic of military and economic balance of power.

Mr. Trump may be able to build a better relationship with the Russian strongman, but then that’s also what George W. Bush and President Obama thought. Mr. Bush thought his good-old-boy bonhomie could charm him, while Mr. Obama thought the example of his claims to moral superiority would persuade him. Mr. Trump seems to think his advantage will be his superior deal-making skills.

But Mr. Putin respects power, and nothing else. If Mr. Trump wants Russia to respect U.S. interests, he will have to show Mr. Putin that he will pay a price for damaging those interests. This means not covering up nuclear arms-control violations, as Mr. Obama did, and not dismissing or apologizing for Russian cyber attacks, as Mr. Trump has been too close to doing.

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Mr. Trump won the White House fair and square, and he could help himself by acting like it. The best defense against Russian cyber attacks is to show Americans and the world that he knows better than Mr. Obama how to use U.S. power to deter them. Instead of assailing every critic out of political and personal vanity, it’s time for Mr. Trump to realize that the best revenge against his implacable opponents is to succeed as President.

http://www.wsj.com/articles/bonfire-of-the-intelligence-vanities-1483913263

The Fable of Edward Snowden

December 31, 2016

As he seeks a pardon, the NSA thief has told multiple lies about what he stole and his dealings with Russian intelligence.

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Updated Dec. 30, 2016 10:21 p.m. ET

Of all the lies that Edward Snowden has told since his massive theft of secrets from the National Security Agency and his journey to Russia via Hong Kong in 2013, none is more provocative than the claim that he never intended to engage in espionage, and was only a “whistleblower” seeking to expose the overreach of NSA’s information gathering. With the clock ticking on Mr. Snowden’s chance of a pardon, now is a good time to review what we have learned about his real mission.

Mr. Snowden’s theft of America’s most closely guarded communication secrets occurred in May 2013, according to the criminal complaint filed against him by federal prosecutors the following month. At the time Mr. Snowden was a 29-year-old technologist working as an analyst-in-training for the consulting firm of Booz Allen Hamilton at the regional base of the National Security Agency (NSA) in Oahu, Hawaii. On May 20, only some six weeks after his job there began, he failed to show up for work, emailing his supervisor that he was at the hospital being tested for epilepsy.

This excuse was untrue. Mr. Snowden was not even in Hawaii. He was in Hong Kong. He had flown there with a cache of secret data that he had stolen from the NSA.

This was not the only lie Mr. Snowden told. As became clear during my investigation over the past three years, nearly every element of the narrative Mr. Snowden has provided, which reached its final iteration in Oliver Stone’s 2016 movie, “Snowden,” is demonstrably false.

This narrative began soon after Mr. Snowden arrived in Hong Kong, where he arranged to meet with Laura Poitras, a Berlin-based documentary filmmaker, and Glenn Greenwald, a Brazil-based blogger for the Guardian. Both journalists were longtime critics of NSA surveillance with whom Mr. Snowden (under the alias Citizen Four) had been in contact for four months.

To provide them with scoops discrediting NSA operations, Mr. Snowden culled several thousand documents out of his huge cache of stolen material, including two explosive documents he asked them to use in their initial stories. One was the now-famous secret order from America’s Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court requiring Verizon to turn over to the NSA its billing records for its phone users in the U.S. The other was an NSA slide presentation detailing its ability to intercept communications of non-American users of the internet via a joint program with the FBI code-named Prism.

These documents were published in 2013 on June 5 and 6, followed by a video in which he identified himself as the leaker and a whistleblower.

At the heart of Mr. Snowden’s narrative was his claim that while he may have incidentally “touched” other data in his search of NSA files, he took only documents that exposed the malfeasance of the NSA and gave all of them to journalists.

Yet even as Mr. Snowden’s narrative was taking hold in the public realm, a secret damage assessment done by the NSA and Pentagon told a very different story. According to a unanimous report declassified on Dec. 22 by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, the investigation showed that Mr. Snowden had “removed” (not merely touched) 1.5 million documents. That huge number was based on, among other evidence, electronic logs that recorded the selection, copying and moving of documents.

The number of purloined documents is more than what NSA officials were willing to say in 2013 about the removal of data, possibly because the House committee had the benefit of the Pentagon’s more-extensive investigation. But even just taking into account the material that Mr. Snowden handed over to journalists, the December House report concluded that he compromised “secrets that protect American troops overseas and secrets that provide vital defenses against terrorists and nation-states.” These were, the report said, “merely the tip of the iceberg.”

The Pentagon’s investigation during 2013 and 2014 employed hundreds of military-intelligence officers, working around the clock, to review all 1.5 million documents. Most had nothing to do with domestic surveillance or whistle blowing. They were mainly military secrets, as Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testified before the House Armed Services Committee on March 6, 2014.

It was not the quantity of Mr. Snowden’s theft but the quality that was most telling. Mr. Snowden’s theft put documents at risk that could reveal the NSA’s Level 3 tool kit—a reference to documents containing the NSA’s most-important sources and methods. Since the agency was created in 1952, Russia and other adversary nations had been trying to penetrate its Level-3 secrets without great success.

Yet it was precisely these secrets that Mr. Snowden changed jobs to steal. In an interview in Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post on June 15, 2013, he said he sought to work on a Booz Allen contract at the CIA, even at a cut in pay, because it gave him access to secret lists of computers that the NSA was tapping into around the world.

He evidently succeeded. In a 2014 interview with Vanity Fair, Richard Ledgett, the NSA executive who headed the damage-assessment team, described one lengthy document taken by Mr. Snowden that, if it fell into the wrong hands, would provide a “road map” to what targets abroad the NSA was, and was not, covering. It contained the requests made by the 17 U.S. services in the so-called Intelligence Community for NSA interceptions abroad.

On June 23, less than two weeks after Mr. Snowden released the video that helped present his narrative, he left Hong Kong and flew to Moscow, where he received protection by the Russian government. In much of the media coverage that followed, the ultimate destination of these stolen secrets was fogged over—if not totally obscured from the public—by the unverified claims that Mr. Snowden was spoon feeding to handpicked journalists.

In his narrative, Mr. Snowden always claims that he was a conscientious “whistleblower” who turned over all the stolen NSA material to journalists in Hong Kong. He has insisted he had no intention of defecting to Russia but was on his way to Latin America when he was trapped in Russia by the U.S. government in an attempt to demonize him.

For example, in October 2014, he told the editor of the Nation, “I’m in exile. My government revoked my passport intentionally to leave me exiled” and “chose to keep me in Russia.” According to Mr. Snowden, the U.S. government accomplished this entrapment by suspending his passport while he was in midair after he departed Hong Kong on June 23, thus forcing him into the hands of President Vladimir Putin’s regime.

None of this is true. The State Department invalidated Mr. Snowden’s passport while he was still in Hong Kong, not after he left for Moscow on June 23. The “Consul General-Hong Kong confirmed that Hong Kong authorities were notified that Mr. Snowden’s passport was revoked June 22,” according to the State Department’s senior watch officer, as reported by ABC news on June 23, 2013.

Mr. Snowden could not have been unaware of the government’s pursuit of him, since the criminal complaint against him, which was filed June 14, had been headline news in Hong Kong. That the U.S. acted against him while he was still in Hong Kong is of great importance to the timeline because it points to the direct involvement of Aeroflot, an airline which the Russian government effectively controls. Aeroflot bypassed its normal procedures to allow Mr. Snowden to board the Moscow flight—even though he had neither a valid passport nor a Russian visa, as his newly assigned lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, said at a press conference in Russia on July 12, 2013.

By falsely claiming his passport was invalidated after the plane departed Hong Kong—instead of before he left—Mr. Snowden hoped to conceal this extraordinary waiver. The Russian government further revealed its helping hand, judging by a report in Russia’s Izvestia newspaper when, on arrival, Mr. Snowden was taken off the plane by a security team in a “special operation.”

Nor was it any kind of accident. Vladimir Putin personally authorized this assistance after Mr. Snowden met with Russian officials in Hong Kong, as Mr. Putin admitted in a televised press conference on Sept. 2, 2013.

To provide a smokescreen for Mr. Snowden’s escape from Hong Kong, WikiLeaks (an organization that the Obama administration asserted to be a tool of Russian intelligence after the hacking of Democratic Party leaders’ email in 2016) booked a dozen or more diversionary flight reservations to other destinations for Mr. Snowden.

WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange also dispatched Sarah Harrison, his deputy at WikiLeaks, to fly to Hong Kong to pay Mr. Snowden’s expenses and escort him to Moscow. In short, Mr. Snowden’s arrival in Moscow was neither accidental nor the work of the U.S. government.

Mr. Snowden’s own narrative asserts that he came to Russia not only empty-handed but without access to any of the stolen material. He wrote in Vanity Fair in 2014 that he had destroyed all of it before arriving in Moscow—the very data that he went to such lengths to steal a few weeks earlier in Hawaii.

As it turns out, this claim is also untrue. It is belied by two Kremlin insiders who were in a position to know what Mr. Snowden actually brought with him to Moscow. One of them, Frants Klintsevich, was the first deputy chairman of the defense and security committee of the Duma (Russia’s parliament) at the time of Mr. Snowden’s defection. “Let’s be frank,” Mr. Klintsevich said in a taped interview with NPR in June 2016, “Mr. Snowden did share intelligence. This is what security services do.”

The other insider was Anatoly Kucherena, a well-connected Moscow lawyer and Mr. Putin’s friend. Mr. Kucherena served as the intermediary between Mr. Snowden and Russian authorities. On Sept. 23, 2013, Mr. Kucherena gave a long interview to Sophie Shevardnadze, a journalist for Russia Today television.

When Ms. Shevardnadze directly asked him if Mr. Snowden had given all the documents he had taken from the NSA to journalists in Hong Kong, Mr. Kucherena said Mr. Snowden had only given “some” of the NSA’s documents in his possession to journalists in Hong Kong. “So he [Mr. Snowden] does have some materials that haven’t been made public yet?” Ms. Shevardnadze asked. “Certainly,” Mr. Kucherena answered.

This disclosure filled in a crucial piece of the puzzle. It explained why NSA documents that Mr. Snowden had copied, but had not given to the journalists in Hong Kong—such as the embarrassing revelation about the NSA targeting the cellphone of German Chancellor Angela Merkel—continued to surface after Mr. Snowden arrived in Moscow, along with NSA documents released via WikiLeaks.

As this was a critical discrepancy in Mr. Snowden’s narrative, I went to Moscow in October 2015 to see Mr. Kucherena. During our conversation, Mr. Kucherena confirmed that his interview with Ms. Shevardnadze was accurate, and that Mr. Snowden had brought secret material with him to Moscow.

Mr. Snowden’s narrative also includes the assertion that he was neither debriefed by nor even met with any Russian government official after he arrived in Moscow. This part of the narrative runs counter to findings of U.S. intelligence. According to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence report, Mr. Snowden, since he arrived in Moscow, “has had, and continues to have, contact with Russian intelligence services.” This finding is consistent with Russian debriefing practices, as described by the ex-KGB officers with whom I spoke in Moscow

Mr. Snowden also publicly claimed in Moscow in December 2013 to have secrets in his head, including “access to every target, every active operation. Full lists of them.” Could Mr. Snowden’s Russian hosts ignore such an opportunity after Mr. Putin had authorized his exfiltration to Moscow? Mr. Snowden, with no exit options, was in the palm of their hands. Under such circumstances, as Mr. Klintsevich pointed out in his June NPR interview: “If there’s a possibility to get information, they [the Russian intelligence services] will get it.”

The transfer of state secrets from Mr. Snowden to Russia did not occur in a vacuum. The intelligence war did not end with the termination of the Cold War; it shifted to cyberspace. Even if Russia could not match the NSA’s state-of-the-art sensors, computers and productive partnerships with the cipher services of Britain, Israel, Germany and other allies, it could nullify the U.S. agency’s edge by obtaining its sources and methods from even a single contractor with access to Level 3 documents.

Russian intelligence uses a single umbrella term to cover anyone who delivers it secret intelligence. Whether a person acted out of idealistic motives, sold information for money or remained clueless of the role he or she played in the transfer of secrets—the provider of secret data is considered an “espionage source.” By any measure, it is a job description that fits Mr. Snowden.

Mr. Epstein’s book, “How America Lost Its Secrets: Edward Snowden, the Man and the Theft,” will be published by Knopf in January.

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Democratic National Committee Hacking, Donald Trump, and CrowdStrike Backstory — Defensive Measure Not In Place to Stop Hacking, Cyberspying — Obama Administration pattern of reckless disregard for hackers?

December 31, 2016

Image may contain: outdoor

The headquarters of the Democratic National Committee is seen in Washington, U.S. June 14, 2016. Russian government hackers penetrated the computer network of the Democratic National Committee and gained access to all opposition research on Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, the committee and security researchers said on Tuesday. Credit: REUTERS/Gary Cameron

By | Senior Staff Writer
June 15, 2016

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A hacker claiming responsibility for the DNC hack that made headlines earlier this week has slammed the security company responsible for the incident response, and leaked several documents compromised during the incident – including a 235-page opposition memo on Donald Trump.

On Tuesday, the Washington Post reported that hackers – believed to be Russian – compromised the Democratic National Committee network and walked off with opposition research on Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

CrowdStrike, the security firm that was brought in to do incident response, suggested espionage as the likely motive. In fact, later that day, CrowdStrike published reports on two different “APT” groups in Russia, giving them the names Cozy Bear and Fancy Bear.

Overall, the Washington Post story actually read more like a promotion for CrowdStrike’s incident response offerings than actual security news.

But the fact is, someone targeted the DNC directly and that is news worth watching. At the same time, many experts felt it was a stretch to hype the incident as some sort of massive international conspiracy.

The hacker claiming responsibility for the DNC attack (using the alias Guccifer 2.0) mocked CrowdStrike’s assessment that he was a sophisticated hacker group, noting that he was pleased the company “appreciated my skills so highly. But in fact, it was easy, very easy.”

“Guccifer may have been the first one who penetrated Hillary Clinton’s and other Democrats’ mail servers. But he certainly wasn’t the last. No wonder any other hacker could easily get access to the DNC’s servers. Shame on CrowdStrike: Do you think I’ve been in the DNC’s networks for almost a year and saved only 2 documents? Do you really believe it?”

As proof, he published the full opposition report on Donald Trump, which describes the GOP presidential candidate having “no core.”

The 235-page memo is essentially a timeline and collection of comments and speeches given by Trump, as well as an overview of his political stance and mindset.

A 2-page memo to the DNC was included in the cache of posted files, which outlines the suggested positioning and public message strategy around the national election and the match-up between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

In response to DNC comments that no financial information was accessed during the attack, several donor lists were also published on Wednesday by the hacker, showing millions in financial contributions from Hollywood elites, businesses, trade groups, and unions.

The hacker ended their disclosure with a notice that a bulk of the compromised documents, including memos marked confidential and secret – allegedly taken from Hillary Clinton’s personal email server – were delivered to WikiLeaks.

“The main part of the papers, thousands of files and mails, I gave to WikiLeaks. They will publish them soon. I guess CrowdStrike customers should think twice about company’s competence,” they wrote.

Salted Hash reached out to CrowdStrike for comment, but the company wasn’t able to respond before this article was published. It will be updated with additional details as they become available.

Update:

CrowdStrike didn’t respond to questions directly, but issued the statement below.

“CrowdStrike stands fully by its analysis and findings identifying two separate Russian intelligence-affiliated adversaries present in the DNC network in May 2016. On June 15, 2016 a blog post to a WordPress site authored by an individual using the moniker Guccifer 2.0 claiming credit for breaching the Democratic National Committee. This blog post presents documents alleged to have originated from the DNC.

“Whether or not this posting is part of a Russian Intelligence disinformation campaign, we are exploring the documents’ authenticity and origin. Regardless, these claims do nothing to lessen our findings relating to the Russian government’s involvement, portions of which we have documented for the public and the greater security community.”

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CrowdStrike says malware implant was used to track movements of artillery units, adding to suspicions Russia is involved

A Russian military truck about six miles from the Russia-Ukrainian border control point in Donetsk, in August 2014.

 A Russian military truck about six miles from the Russia-Ukrainian border control point in Donetsk, in August 2014. Photograph: Pavel Golovkin/AP

A new report suggests the same hacking group believed to have hacked the Democrats during the recent presidential election also targeted Ukrainian artillery units over a two-year period, that if confirmed would add to suspicions they are Russian state operatives.

The report, issued by cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike, said a malware implant on Android devices was used to track the movements of Ukrainian artillery units and then target them. The hackers were able to access communications and geolocations of the devices, which meant the artillery could then be fired on and destroyed.

The report will further fuel concerns that Russia is deploying hacking and cyber-attacks as a tool of both war and foreign policy. The hack “extends Russian cyber-capabilities to the frontlines of the battlefield”, the report said.

Russia gave military and logistical backing to separatists fighting against Ukrainian forces in east Ukraine, in a war that broke out in spring 2014.

The application was designed for use with the D-30 122mm towed howitzer, a Soviet-made artillery weapon still in use today. The app reduced firing times from minutes to seconds, according to the Ukrainian officer who designed it. However, it appears that the Android app was infected with a Trojan.

CrowdStrike said open-source research suggested that during the two years of conflict, Ukrainian artillery forces lost 50% of all weaponry but over 80% of their D-30 howitzers. The higher than average loss suggests data gained from the hack was then used to target the artillery.

Research has shown that Russia shelled Ukraine from inside its own territory, as well as sending weapons and troops over the border. Officially, Russia denied any major role in the conflict.

The malware was a version of the type used in the hack of the Democratic National Committee, CrowdStrike believes, making it highly likely that Fancy Bear, a hacking group believed to be based in Russia, was the culprit. “The source code to this malware has not been observed in the public domain and appears to have been developed uniquely by Fancy Bear,” CrowdStrike said.

US intelligence officials believe Fancy Bear works on behalf of the GRU, the intelligence agency of Russia’s army. Before the attack on the DNC, the same group is believed to have interfered on behalf of Russian interests in Georgia (pdf)and other countries bordering Russia.

“This cannot be a hands-off group or a bunch of criminals. They need to be in close communication with the Russian military,” CrowdStrike co-founder Dmitri Alperovitch told Reuters.

US officials believe Fancy Bear and other Russian hackers intervened in the election, with the aim of giving an advantage to Donald Trump. Both Fancy Bear and another supposedly Russian hacking group named Cozy Bear had hacked the DNC servers, according to analysts, without knowing about each other.

Vladimir Putin has dismissed the allegations as “hysteria”, while Trump himself has also rubbished the US intelligence assessment in recent days. But the new allegations, if proved, would make it harder to distance the activities of the hackers from the Russian state.

“CrowdStrike have been pretty reliable in the past, and their reports about the bears were independently verified,” said Andrei Soldatov, co-author of the Red Web, a recent book about the Russian internet. He said: “This doesn’t mean Fancy Bear is GRU: it could be, but not necessarily. But I think this new information means Fancy Bear is more incorporated into the Russian state than I might have thought before, and works with the military.”

However, Yaroslav Sherstyuk, the Ukrainian military officer who developed the app, wrote on Facebook that the report was “total nonsense”. He said he was personally in control of downloads of the app and that they were not compromised, suggesting the report itself might be a way to spread panic among Ukrainian military units.

https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/dec/22/dnc-hack-crowdstrike-ukraine-malware-russia

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How Russians Pay to Play in Other Countries

PRAGUE — For a brief moment, it seemed that the powerful adviser’s head might roll at the Castle. After he lost his long legal battle over a hefty state fine, the Czech president warned him to pay up or lose his post.

Then a guardian angel materialized from Moscow.

Lukoil, the largest private Russian oil company in an industry dependent on Kremlin approval, stepped in to pay the nearly $1.4 million fine owed to a Czech court.

The aide, Martin Nejedly, stayed on as economic adviser to the Czech president, Milos Zeman, and vice chairman of his party. Perhaps more important, he retained his office right next to the president’s in the Castle, the official palace that looms over the capital, Prague.

Source: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/30/world/europe/czech-republic-russia-milos-zeman.html?ref=world&_r=0

Russia behind hack on German parliament, paper reports

December 11, 2016

A German parliament database compromised in 2015 likely fell victim to the Russian hackers who also attacked the US Democratic Party’s servers, a German newspaper reported. Lawmakers had been assured their data was safe.

Germany’s “Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung” (FAS) quoted a high-ranking security official who said it was “highly plausible” that a cybertheft of files from a German parliamentary inquiry in 2015 was conducted by Russian hackers.

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Russia has repeatedly denied such spying, with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov saying in October that such claims were unproven.

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In early 2015, a cyberattack took place on the database of the Bundestag parliament’s administration, prompting widespread alarm in Berlin followed by calls to improve Germany’s cybersecurity.

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FAS reported Sunday that 2,420 secret files published two weeks ago by WikiLeaks were documents that had been stored electronically at parliament in late 2014 and early 2015 for the Bundestag’s own inquiry into the NSA.

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The inquiry panel was examining the extent of US National Security Agency (NSA) interactions with Germany’s BND foreign intelligence service triggered by Edward Snowden’s disclosures of rampant surveillance conducted by the NSA, BND and other intelligence agencies around the world.

German Intelligence (BND) Breitwandaufmacher

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No other Bundestag files, and especially none from the period beyond January 2015, had been disclosed by WikiLeaks, FAS reported.

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The paper quoted a high-ranking security official as saying: “There is a high plausibility that the files originated from Russia’s cyberattack on the Bundestag in early 2015.”

Edward Snowden

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Parallels with hacking of US Democrats?

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FAS said security sources saw parallels between the German attack and the theft of messages from the server of the US Democratic Party – also published by WikiLeaks – that last July forced the resignation of party chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schulz for allegedly favoring candidate Hilary Clinton over Bernie Sanders.

 

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US President-elect Trump on Saturday rejected reported US intelligence findings carried by US newspapers that Russia had interfered in November’s US presidential election.

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In an interview for Fox News Sunday he described such claims as “ridiculous.” In July, Trump said he hoped Russian hackers would reveal messages that had been deleted from Hillary Clinton’s email server. The FBI twice said Clinton’s behavior was careless but not criminal.

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US media reported being told by senior US intelligence officials that probes had established with “high confidence” that not only did Russian counterparts direct the hacking of the Democratic Party but did so to undermine Clinton.

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Two leading Republican senators, John McCain and Lindsey Graham, joined two other senators, Democrats Chuck Schumer and Jack Reed, on Sunday, saying: “Recent reports of Russian interference in our election should alarm every American.”

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“This cannot become a partisan issue. The stakes are too high for our country, said the senators.

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Impact denied at the time

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In Berlin, a senior opposition Greens member in the NSA panel, Konstantin von Notz, expressed skepticism, telling the “Tagesspiegel” newspaper that the NSA “inquiry committee was not affected” by the 2015 cyberattack.

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The panel had been set up in 2014 to look into suggestions by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden that the NSA had eavesdropped on German citizens and politicians.

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Fears for Germany’s 2017 election year

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Fears were expressed Sunday that Germany’s 2017 federal election and three regional elections could be subjected to manipulative attempts by cyberoperators.
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Wolfgang Bosbach, a conservative ally of Chancellor Angela Merkel, told the “Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger” (KStA) newspaper:

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“The risk of exertion of influence through deliberate infiltration from outside with the aim of manipulating facts or opinion exists generally.”

Rolf Mützenich, the Social Democrat parliamentary group’s foreign policy spokesman told the KStA: “During campaigning we will have to prepare ourselves for distortion and false stories.”

Christian Lindner, the chairman of the liberal pro-business Free Democrats (FDP) claimed that the populist, anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany (AfD) party would try to profit from “Russian-controlled online media.”

ipj/sms (AFD, dpa, Reuters)

http://www.dw.com/en/russia-behind-hack-on-german-parliament-paper-reports/a-36729079

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China hacked Vietnam — The altered appearance of a Vietnamese website attacked by Chinese hackers (May 2014). PHOTO by QUANG THUAN

Julian Assage

Rigged Debates: Wikileaks Emails Confirm Media in Clinton’s Pocket

 

U.S. cybersecurity “deserves action” within the first 100 of the Trump Administration, National Commission says

December 3, 2016

The Associated Press

A national commission on Friday delivered urgent recommendations to improve the nation’s cybersecurity, weeks before US president-elect Donald Trump takes office. The report follows the worst hacking of US government systems in history and accusations by the Obama administration that Russia meddled in the US presidential election by hacking Democrats.

The Presidential Commission on Enhancing National Cybersecurity, which was expected to spell out actions the US can take over the next 10 years, instead urged more immediate actions within two to five years. It suggested the Trump administration consider some items “deserving action” within the first 100 days.

The commission recognised that what we’ve been doing over the last 15 to 20 years simply isn’t working, and the problem isn’t going to be fixed simply by adding more money
STEVEN CHABINSKY, COMMISSION MEMBER

It recommended that Trump create an assistant to the president for cybersecurity, who would report through the national security adviser, and establish an ambassador for cybersecurity, who would lead efforts to create international rules. It urged steps, such as getting rid of traditional passwords, to end the threat of identity theft by 2021 and said Trump’s administration should train 100,000 new cybersecurity workers by 2020.

Other ideas included helping consumers to judge products using an independent “nutritional label” for technology products and services.

“The commission recognised that what we’ve been doing over the last 15 to 20 years simply isn’t working, and the problem isn’t going to be fixed simply by adding more money,” said Steven Chabinsky, a commission member and the global chair of the data, privacy and cybersecurity practice for White & Case LLP, an international law firm.

He said the group wanted the burden of cybersecurity “moved away from every computer user and handled at higher levels”, including internet providers and product developers who could ensure security by default and design “for everyone’s benefit”.

The White House requested the report in February and intended it to serve as a transition memo for the next president. The commission included 12 of what the White House described as the brightest minds in business, academia, technology and security. It was led by Tom Donilon, Obama’s former national security adviser.

The panel studied sharing information with private companies about cyber threats, the lack of talented American security engineers and distrust of the US government by private businesses, especially in Silicon Valley. Classified documents stolen under Obama by Edward Snowden, a contractor for the National Security Agency, revealed government efforts to hack into the data pipelines used by US companies to serve customers overseas.

One commissioner, Herbert Lin of Stanford University, said some senior information technology managers distrust the federal government as much as they distrust China, widely regarded as actively hacking in the US.

 President Barack Obama and, from left, Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, former IBM CEO Sam Palmisano, former National Security Adviser Tom Donilon, and Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson. Photo: AP

President Barack Obama said in a written statement after meeting with Donilon that his administration will take additional action “wherever possible” to build on its efforts make progress before he leaves office next month. He urged Trump and the next Congress to treat the recommendations as a guide.

“Now it is time for the next administration to take up this charge and ensure that cyberspace can continue to be the driver for prosperity, innovation, and change both in the United States and around the world,” Obama said.

It was not immediately clear whether Trump would accept the group’s recommendations. Trump won election on promises to reduce government regulations, although decades of relying on market pressure or asking businesses to voluntarily make their products and services safer have been largely ineffective.

Now it is time for the next administration to take up this charge and ensure that cyberspace can continue to be the driver for prosperity, innovation, and change both in the United States and around the world
US PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA

Trump’s presidential campaign benefited from embarrassing disclosures in hacked emails stolen from the Democratic National Committee, Hillary Clinton’s campaign staff and others, and Trump openly invited Russian hackers to find and release tens of thousands of personal emails that Clinton had deleted from the private server she had used to conduct government business as secretary of state. He also disputed the Obama administration’s conclusion that Russia was responsible for the Democratic hackings.

Though Trump is a prolific user of online social media services, especially Twitter, he is rarely seen using a computer. His campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, tweeted a photograph on Monday of Trump working on an Apple laptop inside his office at Trump Tower. And he testified in a deposition in 2012 that he did not own a personal computer or smartphone, and in another deposition earlier this year said he deliberately does not use email.

Trump has already promised his own study by a “Cyber Review Team” of people he said he will select from military, law enforcement and private sectors. He said his team will develop mandatory cyber awareness training for all US government employees, and he has proposed a buildup of US military offensive and defensive cyber capabilities that he said will deter foreign hackers.

The new report suggested that the government should remain the only organisation responsible for responding to large-scale attacks by foreign countries.

Obama has a mixed legacy on cybersecurity.

Under Obama, hackers stole personal data from the US Office of Personnel Management on more than 21 million current, former and prospective government employees, including details of security-clearance background investigations for federal agents, intelligence employees and others. The White House also failed in its efforts to convince Congress to pass a national law – similar to laws passed in some states – to require hacked companies to notify affected customers.

But the Obama administration also became more aggressive about publicly identifying foreign governments it accused of hacking US victims, arrested some high-profile hackers overseas, successfully shut down some large networks of hacked computers used to attack online targets, enacted but never actually used economic sanctions against countries that hacked American targets and used a sophisticated new cyberweapon called Stuxnet against Iran’s main nuclear enrichment facilities.

Congress passed a new law in late 2015 to encourage companies and the government to share information about online threats.