Posts Tagged ‘Fisa court’

FBI investigating ties between Russia and Trump campaign

March 20, 2017

AFP and The Associated Press

© Nicholas Kamm, AFP | FBI Director James Comey (pictured left) and NSA Director Mike Rogers on Capitol Hill in Washington D.C. on March 20, 2017

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2017-03-20

FBI Director James Comey confirmed Monday that the bureau is investigating possible links and coordination between Russia and associates of President Donald Trump as part of a probe of Russian interference in last year’s presidential election.

The extraordinary revelation came at the outset of Comey’s opening statement in a congressional hearing examining Russian meddling and possible connections between Moscow and Trump‘s campaign. He acknowledged that the FBI does not ordinarily discuss ongoing investigations, but said he’d been authorized to do so given the extreme public interest in this case.

“This work is very complex, and there is no way for me to give you a timetable for when it will be done,” Comey told the House Intelligence Committee.

Earlier in the hearing, the chairman of the committee contradicted an assertion from Trump by saying that there had been no wiretap of Trump Tower. But Rep. Devin Nunes, a California Republican whose committee is one of several investigating, said that other forms of surveillance of Trump and his associates have not been ruled out.

Comey was testifying at Monday’s hearing along with National Security Agency Director Michael Rogers.

Trump, who recently accused President Barack Obama of wiretapping his New York skyscraper during the campaign, took to Twitter before the hearing began, accusing Democrats of making up allegations about his campaign associates’ contact with Russia during the election. He said Congress and the FBI should be going after media leaks and maybe even Hillary Clinton instead.

“The real story that Congress, the FBI and others should be looking into is the leaking of Classified information. Must find leaker now!” Trump tweeted early Monday as news coverage on the Russia allegations dominated the morning’s cable news.

Trump also suggested, without evidence, that Clinton’s campaign was in contact with Russia and had possibly thwarted a federal investigation. U.S. intelligence officials have not publicly raised the possibility of contacts between the Clintons and Moscow. Officials investigating the matter have said they believe Moscow had hacked into Democrats’ computers in a bid to help Trump’s election bid.

The real story that Congress, the FBI and all others should be looking into is the leaking of Classified information. Must find leaker now!

Monday’s hearing, one of several by congressional panels probing allegations of Russian meddling, could allow for the greatest public accounting to date of investigations that have shadowed the Trump administration in its first two months.

The top two lawmakers on the committee said Sunday that documents the Justice Department and FBI delivered late last week offered no evidence that the Obama administration had wiretapped Trump Tower, the president’s New York City headquarters. But the panel’s ranking Democrat said the material offered circumstantial evidence that American citizens colluded with Russians in Moscow’s efforts to interfere in the presidential election.

“There was circumstantial evidence of collusion; there is direct evidence, I think, of deception,” Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” ”There’s certainly enough for us to conduct an investigation.”

The Democrats made up and pushed the Russian story as an excuse for running a terrible campaign. Big advantage in Electoral College & lost!

Nunes said: “For the first time the American people, and all the political parties now, are paying attention to the threat that Russia poses.”

“We know that the Russians were trying to get involved in our campaign, like they have for many decades. They’re also trying to get involved in campaigns around the globe and over in Europe,” he said on “Fox News Sunday.”

The Senate Intelligence Committee has scheduled a similar hearing for later in the month.

It is not clear how much new information will emerge Monday, and the hearing’s open setting unquestionably puts Comey in a difficult situation if he’s asked to discuss an ongoing investigation tied to the campaign of the president.

At a hearing in January, Comey refused to confirm or deny the existence of any investigation exploring possible connections between Trump associates and Russia, consistent with the FBI’s longstanding policy of not publicly discussing its work. His appearances on Capitol Hill since then have occurred in classified settings, often with small groups of lawmakers, and he has made no public statements connected to the Trump campaign or Russia.

Any lack of detail from Comey on Monday would likely be contrasted with public comments he made last year when closing out an investigation into Clinton’s email practices and then, shortly before Election Day, announcing that the probe would be revived following the discovery of additional emails.

(AP)

Related:

FBI Director Comey: Justice Dept. has no information that supports President Trump’s tweets alleging he was wiretapped by Obama

March 20, 2017

James Comey. Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images (File Photo)

.

The Washington Post
March 20 at 11:27 AM
.
FBI Director James B. Comey acknowledged on Monday the existence of a counterintelligence investigation into the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 election, and said that probe extends to the nature of any links between Trump campaign associates and the Russian government.
.
Testifying before the House Intelligence Committee, Comey said the investigation is also exploring whether there was any coordination between the campaign and the Kremlin, and “whether any crimes were committed.”
.The acknowledgment was an unusual move, given that the FBI’s practice is not to confirm the existence of ongoing investigations. “But in unusual circumstances, where it is in the public interest,” Comey said, “it may be appropriate to do so.”

Comey said he had been authorized by the Justice Department to confirm the wide-ranging probe’s existence.

He spoke at the first intelligence committee public hearing on alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election, along with National Security Agency head Michael S. Rogers.

Comey: No information to support Trump’s wiretapping tweets

FBI Director James B. Comey said at a House Intelligence Committee hearing that he has no information that Trump Tower was wiretapped by former president Barack Obama. (Reuters)

The hearing comes amid the controversy fired up by President Trump two weeks ago when he tweeted, without providing evidence, that President Barack Obama ordered his phones tapped at Trump Tower.

Comey says there is “no information’’ that supports Trump’s claims that his predecessor Barack Obama ordered surveillance of Trump Tower during the election campaign.

“I have no information that supports those tweets,’’ said Comey. “We have looked carefully inside the FBI,’’ and agents found nothing to support those claims, he said. He added the Justice Department had asked him to also tell the committee that that agency has no such information, either.

Under questioning from the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif,), Comey said no president could order such surveillance.

Committee chairman, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) said in his opening statement, “The fact that Russia hacked U.S. election-related databases comes as no shock to this committee. We have been closely monitoring Russia’s aggressions for years…However, while the indications of Russian measures targeting the U.S. presidential election are deeply troubling, one benefit is already clear – it has focused wide attention on the pressing threats posed by the Russian autocrat. In recent years, Committee members have issued repeated and forceful pleas for stronger action against Russian belligerence. But the Obama administration was committed to the notion, against all evidence, that we could ‘reset’ relations with Putin, and it routinely ignored our warnings.”

Nunes said he hoped the hearing would focus on several key questions, including what actions Russia undertook against the United States during the 2016 election and did anyone from a political campaign conspire in these activities? He also wants to know if the communications of any campaign officials or associates were subject to any improper surveillance.

“Let me be clear,” he said. “We know there was not a wiretap on Trump Tower. However, it’s still possible that other surveillance activities were used against President Trump and his associates.”

Finally, Nunes said he is focused on leaks of classified information to the media. “We aim to determine who has leaked or facilitated leaks of classified information so these individuals can be brought to justice,” he said.

In his opening statement, Schiff said, “We will never know whether the Russian intervention was determinative in such a close election. Indeed it is unknowable in a campaign in which so many small changes could have dictated a different result. More importantly, and for the purposes of our investigation, it simply does not matter. What does matter is this: the Russians successfully meddled in our democracy, and our intelligence agencies have concluded that they will do so again.”

He added: “Most important, we do not yet know whether the Russians had the help of U.S. citizens, including people associated with the Trump campaign. Many of Trump’s campaign personnel, including the president himself, have ties to Russia and Russian interests. This is, of course, no crime. On the other hand, if the Trump campaign, or anybody associated with it, aided or abetted the Russians, it would not only be a serious crime, it would also represent one of the most shocking betrayals of our democracy in history.”

Just hours before the start of the hearing, Trump posted a series of tweets claiming Democrats “made up” the allegations of Russian contacts in an attempt to discredit the GOP during the presidential campaign. Trump also urged federal investigators to shift their focus to probe disclosures of classified material.

“The real story that Congress, the FBI and all others should be looking into is the leaking of Classified information,” Trump wrote early Monday. “Must find leaker now!”

Republican members pressed hard on the subject of leaks to the media that resulted in news stories about contacts between Russian officials and the Trump campaign or administration officials. Nunes sought an admission from the officials that the leaks were illegal under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court act, the law that governs foreign intelligence-gathering on U.S. soil or of U.S. persons overseas.

“Yes,” Comey answered. “In addition to being a breach of our trust with the FISA court.”

One story in particular that apparently upset the Republicans was a Feb. 9 story by The Washington Post reporting that Trump’s national security advisor, Michael Flynn, discussed the subject of sanctions with the Russian ambassador, Sergey Kislyak, in the month before Trump took office. The Post reported that the discussions were monitored under routine, court-approved monitoring of Kislyak’s calls.

Rep. Tom Rooney (R-Fla.) pressed Rogers to clarify under what circumstances it would be legitimate for Americans caught on tape speaking with people under surveillance to have their identities disclosed publicly, and whether leaking those identities would “hurt or help” intelligence collection.

“Hurt,” Rogers noted.

Rogers stressed that the identities of U.S. persons picked up through “incidental collection” – that being the way intelligence officials picked up on Flynn’s phone calls with Kislyak – are disclosed only on a “valid, need to know” basis, and usually only when there is a criminal activity or potential threat to the United States at play.

Rogers added that there are a total of 20 people in the NSA he has delegated to make decisions about when someone’s identity can be unmasked.

The FBI probe combines an investigation into hacking operations by Russian spy agencies with efforts to understand how the Kremlin sought to manipulate public opinion and influence the election’s outcome.

In January, the intelligence community released a report concluding that Russian President Vladi­mir Putin wanted to not only undermine the legitimacy of the election process but also harm the campaign of Hillary Clinton and boost Trump’s chances of winning.

Hackers working for Russian spy agencies penetrated the computers of the Democratic National Committee in 2015 and 2016 as well as the email accounts of Democratic officials, intelligence official said in the report. The material was relayed to WikiLeaks, the officials said, and the anti-secrecy group began a series of damaging email releases just before the Democratic National Convention that continued through the fall.

On Friday, the Justice Department delivered documents to the committee in response to a request for copies of intelligence and criminal wiretap orders and applications. Nunes, speaking Sunday, said the material provided “no evidence of collusion” to sway the election toward Trump and repeated previous statements that there is no credible proof of any active coordination.

But Schiff, also speaking Sunday, said there was “circumstantial evidence of collusion” at the outset of the congressional investigations into purported Russian election meddling, as well as “direct evidence” that Trump campaign figures sought to deceive the public about their interactions with Russian figures.

The concerns about Moscow’s meddling are also being felt in Europe, where France and Germany hold elections this year. “Our allies,” Schiff said, “are facing the same Russian onslaught.”

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/fbi-director-to-testify-on-russian-interference-in-the-presidential-election/2017/03/20/cdea86ca-0ce2-11e7-9d5a-a83e627dc120_story.html?utm_term=.2b44421224ec

*******************************

The Associated Press

WASHINGTON – FBI Director James Comey confirmed Monday that the bureau is investigating possible links and coordination between Russia and associates of President Donald Trump as part of a broader probe of Russian interference in last year’s presidential election.

The extraordinary revelation came at the outset of Comey’s opening statement in a congressional hearing examining Russian meddling and possible connections between Moscow and Trump’s campaign. He acknowledged that the FBI does not ordinarily discuss ongoing investigations, but said he’d been authorized to do so given the extreme public interest in this case.

“This work is very complex, and there is no way for me to give you a timetable for when it will be done,” Comey told the House Intelligence Committee.

Earlier in the hearing, the chairman of the committee contradicted an assertion from Trump by saying that there had been no wiretap of Trump Tower. But Rep. Devin Nunes, a California Republican whose committee is one of several investigating, said that other forms of surveillance of Trump and his associates have not been ruled out.

Comey was testifying at Monday’s hearing along with National Security Agency Director Michael Rogers.

Trump, who recently accused President Barack Obama of wiretapping his New York skyscraper during the campaign, took to Twitter before the hearing began, accusing Democrats of making up allegations about his campaign associates’ contact with Russia during the election. He said Congress and the FBI should be going after media leaks and maybe even Hillary Clinton instead.

“The real story that Congress, the FBI and others should be looking into is the leaking of Classified information. Must find leaker now!” Trump tweeted early Monday as news coverage on the Russia allegations dominated the morning’s cable news.

Trump also suggested, without evidence, that Clinton’s campaign was in contact with Russia and had possibly thwarted a federal investigation. U.S. intelligence officials have not publicly raised the possibility of contacts between the Clintons and Moscow. Officials investigating the matter have said they believe Moscow had hacked into Democrats’ computers in a bid to help Trump’s election bid.

Monday’s hearing, one of several by congressional panels probing allegations of Russian meddling, could allow for the greatest public accounting to date of investigations that have shadowed the Trump administration in its first two months.

The top two lawmakers on the committee said Sunday that documents the Justice Department and FBI delivered late last week offered no evidence that the Obama administration had wiretapped Trump Tower, the president’s New York City headquarters. But the panel’s ranking Democrat said the material offered circumstantial evidence that American citizens colluded with Russians in Moscow’s efforts to interfere in the presidential election.

“There was circumstantial evidence of collusion; there is direct evidence, I think, of deception,” Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” `’There’s certainly enough for us to conduct an investigation.”

Nunes said: “For the first time the American people, and all the political parties now, are paying attention to the threat that Russia poses.”

“We know that the Russians were trying to get involved in our campaign, like they have for many decades. They’re also trying to get involved in campaigns around the globe and over in Europe,” he said on “Fox News Sunday.”

The Senate Intelligence Committee has scheduled a similar hearing for later in the month.

It is not clear how much new information will emerge Monday, and the hearing’s open setting unquestionably puts Comey in a difficult situation if he’s asked to discuss an ongoing investigation tied to the campaign of the president.

At a hearing in January, Comey refused to confirm or deny the existence of any investigation exploring possible connections between Trump associates and Russia, consistent with the FBI’s longstanding policy of not publicly discussing its work. His appearances on Capitol Hill since then have occurred in classified settings, often with small groups of lawmakers, and he has made no public statements connected to the Trump campaign or Russia.

Any lack of detail from Comey on Monday would likely be contrasted with public comments he made last year when closing out an investigation into Clinton’s email practices and then, shortly before Election Day, announcing that the probe would be revived following the discovery of additional emails.


PUBLISHED: MARCH 20, 2017, 8:01 A.M. 

FBI Director Comey Asked Justice Department to Reject Trump’s Wiretap Claims

March 6, 2017

NBC News

By PHIL MCCAUSLAND

FBI Director Comey Asked Justice Department to Reject Trump Allegation 2:25
.

FBI Director James Comey asked Justice Department officials to publicly reject President Donald Trump’s claims that former President Barack Obama ordered the wiretapping of Trump Tower, The New York Times reported Sunday. A senior U.S. official confirmed the newspaper’s reporting to NBC News.

.FBI Director James Comey on January 10, 2017 in Washington, DC. © Joe Raedle / Getty Images North America / AFP (FIle photo) |

The Times reported that Comey requested that the Justice Department publicly rebut the president’s allegations — which he posted on Twitter without evidence — because the claims are untrue and suggest that the FBI broke the law. Comey’s appeal pits him against the president.

Related: White House Calls for Probe, Offers No Proof of Wiretapping

But, The Times added, Comey is having difficulty knocking the story down because there are only a few politically appointed Justice Department officials who could approve a statement, as Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from anything pertaining to the government’s investigation into alleged connections between Russia and the Trump campaign.

Image: Donald Trump
President Donald Trump leaves the Oval Office to board Marine One at the White House on Friday.Erik S. Lesser / EPA

Despite Comey’s request, Trump’s White House did not back off on Sunday and called for Congress to investigate.

“President Donald J. Trump is requesting that as part of their investigation into Russian activity, the congressional intelligence committees exercise their oversight authority to determine whether executive branch investigative powers were abused in 2016,” White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said in a statement. He offered no evidence to back up the allegations, which Trump compared to a scandal of “Nixon/Watergate” proportions.

NBC News has found no evidence that would support his claims, which have been flatly dismissed by the previous administration.

Related: What Does It Take to Get a Legal Wiretap?

An Obama spokesman called Trump’s tweets “unequivocally false,” and James Clapper, the former director of national intelligence, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that he had no knowledge of any surveillance of Trump Tower.

Clapper: ‘I Can Deny’ Wiretap of Trump Tower 1:10

Later Sunday, Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee demanded that White House counsel Donald McGahn respond to The Times’ report that his office had sought to gain access to what he “believed to be an order issued by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court authorizing some form of surveillance related to Mr. Trump and his associates.”

Such an effort would be “inappropriate” and “improper,” the lawmakers said in a letter to McGahn obtained by NBC News.

“The independence of the Department of Justice and the FBI is a particular concern when individuals associated with both the Administration and the President’s campaign may be the targets of the investigation,” the lawmakers said.

Meanwhile, politicians on both sides of the aisle said the White House needed to provide evidence to back up the president’s allegations.

“Suffice it to say I don’t have any basis — I’ve never heard that allegation made before by anybody,” Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, a Republican member of the Select Committee on Intelligence, said Sunday.

“I’ve never seen anything about that anywhere before,” Rubio said. “But again, the president put that out there, and now the White House will have to answer as to exactly what he was referring to.”

Includes videos:

http://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/fbi-director-comey-asked-doj-reject-trump-s-wiretap-claims-n729351

**************************************

Comey Asks Justice Dept. to Reject Trump’s Wiretapping Claim

WASHINGTON — The F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, asked the Justice Department this weekend to publicly reject President Trump’s assertion that President Barack Obama ordered the tapping of Mr. Trump’s phones, senior American officials said on Sunday. Mr. Comey has argued that the highly charged claim is false and must be corrected, they said, but the department has not released any such statement.

Mr. Comey, who made the request on Saturday after Mr. Trump leveled his allegation on Twitter, has been working to get the Justice Department to knock down the claim because it falsely insinuates that the F.B.I. broke the law, the officials said.

A spokesman for the F.B.I. declined to comment. Sarah Isgur Flores, the spokeswoman for the Justice Department, also declined to comment.

Mr. Comey’s request is a remarkable rebuke of a sitting president, putting the nation’s top law enforcement official in the position of questioning Mr. Trump’s truthfulness. The confrontation between the two is the most serious consequence of Mr. Trump’s weekend Twitter outburst, and it underscores the dangers of what the president and his aides have unleashed by accusing the former president of a conspiracy to undermine Mr. Trump’s young administration.

The White House showed no indication that it would back down from Mr. Trump’s claims. On Sunday, the president demanded a congressional inquiry into whether Mr. Obama had abused the power of federal law enforcement agencies before the 2016 presidential election. In a statement from his spokesman, Mr. Trump called “reports” about the wiretapping “very troubling” and said Congress should examine them as part of its investigations into Russia’s meddling in the election.

In addition to being concerned about potential attacks

Source and Read the rest: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/05/us/politics/trump-seeks-inquiry-into-allegations-that-obama-tapped-his-phones.html?_r=0

Yahoo threatened with $250,000 daily fine over access to data

September 12, 2014

.

A man types on a computer keyboard in Warsaw in this February 28, 2013 illustration file picture. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel/Files

By 

A secret and scrappy court battle that Yahoo launched to resist the NSA’s PRISM spy program came to an end in 2008 because the Feds threatened the internet giant with a massive $250,000 a day fine if it didn’t comply.

The detail of the threat became public today after 1,500 pages worth of documents were unsealed in the case, revealing new information about the aggressive battle the Feds fought to force the company to bow to its demands. The information was first reported by the Washington Post following a blog post published by Yahoo’s general counsel disclosing that the documents had been unsealed and revealing for the first time the government’s threat of a fine.

Yahoo fought to unseal the case documents to provide better transparency about the government’s data collection programs and the FISA Court’s controversial history in approving nearly every data request the government makes.

The company disputed the initial order in 2007 because it deemed the bulk demand for email metadata to be unconstitutionally broad, but it lost that fight both in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court and during appeal to the Foreign Intelligence Court of Review. It was among the first of nine internet companies to fall to the government’s demands for customer data and was a crucial win for the Feds since they were allowed to wield the ruling as part of their demand to other companies to comply.

Each of the internet companies fell in line with the program at separate times in the wake of that ruling.

“The released documents underscore how we had to fight every step of the way to challenge the U.S. Government’s surveillance efforts,” Yahoo General Counsel Ron Bell wrote in a post published after the unsealing. “At one point, the U.S. Government threatened the imposition of $250,000 in fines per day if we refused to comply.”

The unsealing of FISA Court documents is extremely rare but, as Bell noted, it was “an important win for transparency, and [we] hope that these records help promote informed discussion about the relationship between privacy, due process, and intelligence gathering.”

The documents were posted online today by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. Bell noted that “[d]espite the declassification and release, portions of the documents remain sealed and classified to this day, unknown even to our team.”

The American Civil Liberties Union praised Yahoo for pushing back on the government’s unreasonable surveillance.

“Yahoo should be lauded for standing up to sweeping government demands for its customers’ private data,” Patrick Toomey, staff attorney with the ACLU said in a statement.”But today’s [document] release only underscores the need for basic structural reforms to bring transparency to the NSA’s surveillance activities.”

The government threatened to fine Yahoo $250,000 a day if it did not immediately comply with a secret court order. Credit Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Yahoo’s secret battle, and the PRISM program, came to light only last year after documents released by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden exposed the data-collection program. Yahoo, Google, Apple and other companies were harshly criticized for complying with the program and seemingly putting up no resistance to it. But shortly after the program was exposed, Yahoo’s dogged battle with the Feds to resist its inclusion in the program came to light only after another document leaked by Snowden exposed the company’s legal fight against the FISA Court order.

Yahoo fought back on Fourth Amendment grounds, insisting that such a request required a probable-cause warrant and that the surveillance request was too broad and unreasonable and, therefore, violated the Constitution.

Yahoo also felt that warrantless requests placed discretion for data collection “entirely in the hands of the Executive Branch without prior judicial involvement” thereby ceding to the government “overly broad power that invites abuse” and possible errors that would result in scooping up data of U.S. citizens as well.

The request for data initially came under the Protect America Act, legislation passed in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks that allowed the Director of National Intelligence and the Attorney General to authorize “the acquisition of foreign intelligence information concerning persons reasonably believed to be outside the United States” for periods of up to one year, if the acquisition met five criteria. The Protect America Act sunset in February 2008, but was incorporated into the FISA Amendments Act in July that year.

Under the law, the government has to ensure that reasonable procedures are in place to ensure that the targeted person is reasonably believed to be located outside the U.S. and that a significant purpose of the collection is to obtain foreign intelligence. In its request to Yahoo, the government apparently proposed additional measures it planned to use to ensure that its data collection was reasonable.

But Yahoo felt the procedures and measures the government proposed to undertake were insufficient and refused to comply with the data request. The government then asked the FISA Court to compel Yahoo to comply, which it did.

Yahoo applied to appeal the decision and requested a stay in the data collection pending the appeal. But the FISA Court refused the stay, and beginning in March 2008, Yahoo was forced to comply with the request for data in the meantime “under threat of civil contempt.”

Five months later, in August 2008, the FISA Court of Review found that the data request, undertaken for national security reasons, qualified for an exception to the warrant requirement under the Fourth Amendment and upheld the original court’s order to comply.

As for Yahoo’s concern that the request was too broad and opened the possibility for potential abuse, the judges wrote that the company had “presented no evidence of any actual harm, any egregious risk of error, or any broad potential for abuse in the circumstances of the instant case” and called Yahoo’s concerns “little more than a lament about the risk that government officials will not operate in good faith.”

To support their ruling, the judges wrote that the government “assures us that it does not maintain a database of incidentally collected information from non-targeted United States persons, and there is no evidence to the contrary.”

A year’s worth of Snowden revelations, however, have now shown this to have been a misguided statement on the part of the judges.

*********************************

The New York Times

NEW YORK — The federal government was so determined to collect the Internet communications of Yahoo customers in 2008 that it threatened the company with fines of $250,000 per day if it did not immediately comply with a secret court order to turn over the data.

The threat — which was made public Thursday as part of about 1,500 pages of previously classified documents that were unsealed by a court — sheds a rare spotlight on the fight between Internet companies and the government over the ground rules for the secret surveillance of Americans and foreigners following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, companies that receive data requests are prohibited from talking about the substance of the interactions or even acknowledging they occurred.

Yahoo’s 2008 challenge to the warrantless surveillance law and an appeals court’s rejection of that challenge were first reported by The New York Times last year, shortly after Edward J. Snowden, a former National Security Agency contractor,

Read the rest:

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/12/technology/documents-unsealed-in-yahoos-case-against-us-data-requests.html?_r=0

 

President Obama’s NSA ‘Ruse’ — With congress and the voters off his back, now he can do next to nothing

January 21, 2014
U.S. President Barack Obama is seen through a teleprompter as he speaks about the National Security Agency from the Justice Department in Washington January 17, 2014. (Reuters/Kevin Lamarque).
.
U.S. President Barack Obama is seen through a teleprompter as he speaks about the National Security Agency from the Justice Department in Washington January 17, 2014. (Reuters/Kevin Lamarque)
.
By Sam Sacks
.

We were all looking at the president’s speech the wrong way.

It was billed as a major speech on reform to the nation’s  intelligence programs. But although some genuine reforms were  introduced, the speech really wasn’t about reform. It was about  saving the NSA’s most controversial tactic, as revealed by Edward  Snowden, which is to “collect it all.” Build the  haystack, and then find the needle.

Of all the Snowden disclosures thus far, it’s the very first one  that’s still most significant: the NSA is running a domestic  spying program based on the collection and storage of virtually  all Americans’ telephone metadata.

The White House and spy chiefs deny it is a domestic spy program   – a denial the President reiterated in his ‘reform’   speech. But their denials are belied by former CIA Director  Michael Morrell, a member of the president’s own NSA review  panel, who admitted to the Senate Judiciary Committee a few days  before the speech, “There is quite a bit of content in  metadata. When you have the records of the phone calls that a  particular individual made, you can learn an awful lot about that  person.”

But here’s the thing about that program: it has an expiration  date – something the White House was keenly aware of heading into  the ‘reform’ speech.

Just as the telephone spying program is the most jaw-dropping NSA  disclosure; it’s also the program most in peril. Already one  federal court has ruled it likely unconstitutional. Back in July,  the House of Representatives came within a handful of votes of  killing the program – and that was before an entire autumn and  now winter of more disclosures.

A prominent coalition of powerful Senators on both sides of the  aisle is pushing to end the program, too. So there are a lot of  pitchforks pointed at it.

Then there’s June 1, 2015, when Section 215 of the Patriot Act,  which underpins the NSA’s telephone spying program, expires.  Congress may not have the votes today to kill the telephone  spying program. But, thanks to Edward Snowden, Congress almost  certainly doesn’t have the votes next year to renew it either.

So that’s what President Obama, a fierce defender of the  telephone spying program and Commander in Chief of the nation’s  intelligence operations, was facing when he stepped to the podium  in the Department of Justice’s Great Hall. And it’s why his   ‘reform’ speech that followed was actually a Trojan horse  containing a last-ditch effort to save the NSA’s “collect it all”   telephone spying program.

Reuters/Kai Pfaffenbach.
.
Reuters/Kai Pfaffenbach

A convenient distinction

Yes, the president said he is, “ordering a transition that  will end the Section 215 bulk metadata program as it currently  exists.” But he didn’t do that. Instead he took the primary  concern of NSA critics, which is the collection and storage of  Americans telephone data, and severed it in two, by focusing  strictly on the storage of that data – not the collection of it.

He pushed for a tinkering of the program that would retain the  bulk collection of Americans’ telephone (meta)data, but,   “without the government holding this bulk metadata.”   Instead, private telecoms or some sort of “third party”   would retain the databases. It’s up to the attorney general, the  intelligence community, and Congress ultimately to figure out how  to make it work, which could be difficult since the telecoms  don’t want this responsibility and it’s hard to imagine a  trustworthy “third party” capable of retaining these  databases, short of the ACLU or Electronic Frontier Foundation.

However, the important thing to remember is, no matter who’s  holding the databases, those databases are still being filled  with nearly every single American’s phone data. The government  may have to deal with more restricted access to these databases  in the short-term, and lose ownership of them altogether in the  long-term, but indiscriminate bulk collection will continue  indefinitely.

This convenient distinction wasn’t lost on those who know the NSA  best and have blown the whistle on it. Speaking at the National  Press Club within an hour of the President’s ‘reform’ speech, NSA  whistleblower Kirk Wiebe called it a “ruse,” adding,   “It’s not where the data is. It’s a red-herring to say if the  NSA doesn’t have it, it’s safe. Not true.”

Another NSA whistleblower, Bill Binney, criticized the speech  saying that any approach that “still maintains bulk  collection is the wrong way to do it.” Yet that’s exactly  the approach President Obama took – with good reason.

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks about the National Security Agency from the Justice Department in Washington January 17, 2014. (Reuters/Kevin Lamarque).
.
U.S. President Barack Obama speaks about the National Security Agency from the Justice Department in Washington January 17, 2014. (Reuters/Kevin Lamarque)

Cut off one hand to save the other

When US District Court Judge Richard Leon ruled against the  telephone spying program, he argued, “I cannot imagine a more   ‘indiscriminate’ and ‘arbitrary invasion’ than this systematic  and high-tech collection and retention of personal data on  virtually every single citizen for purposes of querying it and  analyzing it without judicial approval.”

His key words: “collection and retention.” Does Judge  Leon rule the same way if the ‘retention’ is taken out of the  picture? That’s the gamble President Obama is making. By slicing  off the NSA’s left hand of bulk retention, President Obama may  just be able to save the right hand of bulk collection moving  forward.

Not only might he have gotten the courts off his back by  disavowing government storage of bulk data collection, but  President Obama may have got Congress off his back, too. In the  Senate, the lead lawmaker pushing for a complete undoing of the  telephone spying program, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), said  following the speech that he wouldn’t fight the president on his  reform proposals.

The chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Senator  Dianne Feinstein predicted after the speech that the telephone  spying program will end up surviving. She told NBC, “The  president has very clearly said that he wants to keep the  capability…I know a dominant majority of the — everybody,  virtually, except two or three – on the Senate Intelligence  Committee would agree with that.” Her counterpart in the  House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI), echoed  those sentiments.

Rep. Adam Schiff, a member of the House Intelligence Committee,  took the bait as well and forecast that the bulk storage will   “inexorably” end up in the hands of the telecoms. He  said nothing about the ethics, efficacy, or constitutionality of  bulk collection.

Edward Snowden and the journalists he’s working with critically  wounded the NSA’s telephone spying program. Either by way of the  courts or by way of Congress, the program was not going to  survive in its current form. The President knew this, which is  why he had to give his ‘reform’ speech.

If he really wanted to see the program terminated, he could have  ended the bulk collection on his own without the approval of  Congress. He could have ordered his spy agencies to no longer  seek approval from the FISA court for the collection of  everyone’s telephone data. And by ending bulk collection, the  question of bulk storage would be settled, too.

But the president didn’t do that. Instead, he handed the wounded  remains of the program back to Congress, where the NSA’s  staunchest supporters are poised to reincarnate it before its old  form expires.

A few cosmetic changes, maybe a new overseer of the databases,  but ultimately, ‘collect it all’ spying has a better chance of  surviving now than it did before the president’s speech.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

Sam Sacks is a political commentator and journalist, the last five years spent covering politics in Washington, DC.

The Snowden affair’s most insidious consequence: “Significantly damaged the trust between the private sector and government.”

January 6, 2014

There is more than a little hypocrisy to the outcry that the government, through the National Security Agency (NSA), is systematically destroying Americans’ right to privacy. Edward Snowden’s revelations have been stripped of their social, technological and historical context. Unless you’ve camped in the Alaskan wilderness for two decades, you know — or should — that millions upon millions of Americans have consciously and, probably in most cases, eagerly surrendered much of their privacy by embracing the Internet and social media.

People do not open Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram accounts because they wish to shroud their lives in secrecy. They do not use online dating services or post videos on YouTube because they cherish their anonymity. The Internet is a vehicle for self-promotion, personal advertising and the pursuit of celebrity.

Robert J. Samuelson

The Pew Research Center’s surveys confirm that these behaviors are now entirely mainstream. In 2013, 85 percent of Americans used the Internet. Of these, almost three-quarters (73 percent) belonged to social media sites (the biggest: Facebook). Almost one-fifth of adult Internet users have posted personal videos, many hoping, says Pew, that “their creations go viral.” Among people “single and looking” for mates, nearly two-fifths (38 percent) used online dating.If Americans think their privacy is dangerously diminished, there are remedies. They can turn off their PCs, toss their smartphones and smash their tablets. Somehow, this seems unlikely, even though another Pew survey finds that “86 percent of adult Internet users have taken steps . . . to avoid surveillance by other people or organizations.”
.
To these conscious sacrifices of privacy must be added murkier, collateral losses that are orchestrated by the world’s Googles, Facebooks, service providers and “data brokers,” writes Alice Marwick of Fordham University in the New York Review of Books. They scan users’ digital decisions (sites visited, products and services purchased, habits and hobbies favored) to create databases, often merged with other socio-economic information. These target advertising, improve political appeals — President Obama’s campaign excelled at this — and influence hiring decisions, as Don Peck notes in the Atlantic.
.
The NSA’s damage to privacy is dwarfed by the impact of market activity. The sensationalism surrounding Snowden’s revelations obscures this. Case in point: The disclosure that U.S. telephone calls are open to NSA monitoring. Suddenly, Big Brother looms. In our mind’s eye, we see the NSA’s computers scouring our every phone call. We’re exposed to constant snooping and the possibility that the government will misuse the information it finds.The reality is far more limited. The NSA is governed by legal restrictions. It does not examine the full database. It searches individual numbers only after it has determined there’s a “reasonable, articulable suspicion” that a number might be linked to terrorist groups. In 2012, there were 288 of these findings. After one is made, the NSA can retrieve three items about the number: the dates of calls made and received for five years; the other phones’ numbers; and the calls’ length. The NSA is not entitled to listen to conversations, but it can order similar searches on the other numbers involved.
.
Thousands of calls are caught in the dragnet, but the total is puny compared with the untold billions of annual calls.Whether these searches are effective in fighting terrorism is disputed. The NSA says they’re valuable. A panel of experts appointed by Obama concluded that the monitoring “was not essential to preventing attacks.” But more important for civil liberties and privacy, the panel found that present practices don’t approach past abuses. During the Vietnam War, the panel noted, the CIA investigated 300,000 anti-war critics. The government also sought to “expose, disrupt, and neutralize their efforts to affect public opinion.”By all means, let’s debate the NSA. Some policies seem suspect, spying on the heads of friendly governments topping the list. It’s also important to recognize that government can coerce and punish in ways that private markets cannot. The potential for abuse is greater. But let’s also keep the debate in perspective.In a digitized world, spying must be digitized. Then there’s cyberwarfare. Our electronic systems remain vulnerable, as the recent theft of data from millions of credit and debit cards at Target demonstrates. Government and the private sector need to collaborate more closely to protect vital systems. But these “efforts are as good as dead for the foreseeable future,” says Dmitri Alperovitch of CrowdStrike, a cybersecurity firm. The NSA controversy has “significantly damaged the trust between the private sector and government.” This may be the Snowden affair’s most insidious (and overlooked) consequence.

Vilifying the NSA — letting Snowden dictate the terms of debate — promotes bad history and bad policy. It’s bad history, because the most powerful assaults on privacy have originated in markets. It’s bad policy, because weakening the NSA leaves the United States more exposed to cyberattacks.

Read more from Robert Samuelson’s archive.

The former NSA contractor prepares to deliver his televised Christmas message on Britain’s Channel 4.

This guy took the law into his own hands and broke it, violated the terms of his employment, violate his oath, and is now telling anyone who will listen how even the NSA (amaong others) seems to him. And he refuses to present himself in his home country to face the consequences — opting instead to fee first to Communist China and then to Communist Russia, two nations where there is no real “get away with it” criticism of the government without consequences or free speech.  As a Chinese or Russian citizen  his treason could have likely have resulted in execution by now.  “He intentionally did damage to the security of every loyal American citizen.” Photo: CHANNEL 4/AFP/Getty Images

This is the guy he’s blaming…..

“There was nobody [in the American government] willfully or knowingly trying to break the law.”

*****************************************

By ANDREA DRUSCH | 12/15/13 9:08 PM EST

The leader of a task force responding to security leaks by Edward Snowden says the former National Security Agency employee could conceivably give America’s enemies “the keys to the kingdom.”

In an interview with CBS’s “60 Minutes,” Rick Ledgett said the information Snowden took reveals gaps in U.S. capabilities via some 31,000 files that have not yet been disclosed.

“It would give them a roadmap of what we know and what we don’t know … implicitly, a way to protect their information from the U.S. intelligence community’s view,” Ledgett said. “It is the keys to the kingdom.”

Snowden, who fled the United States earlier this year after leaking files to journalist Glenn Greenwald, remains in exile in Russia.

(WATCH: Boehner says Edward Snowden is a ‘traitor’)

Ledgett, a 25-year veteran of the agency tasked with conducting an investigation of Snowden, said he visited Hawaii to probe the leaker’s home and personal life. He learned about unusual work habits, such as the fact that Snowden worked at the computer with a hood covering the screen so his girlfriend couldn’t see what he was doing. He also found that Snowden had stolen information to cheat on a test to get work at the agency in the first place.

Among the chief concerns after Snowden fled was that he could have a left a bug on any of the computers he worked on, functioning like a time bomb, Ledgett said.

“All the machines that he had access to, we removed from our classified network,” he said. “All the machines in the unclassified network, and including the actual cables that connect those machines, we removed as well.”

Doing so cost the agency tens of millions of dollars, he said.

Asked whether he thought it was possible to negotiate a deal with Snowden to return to the United States, Ledgett said his personal view was that it was “worth having a conversation about,” but that it was not a unanimous opinion. NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander rejected such a plan, comparing Snowden to a hostage situation.

Pressed on the FISA court’s assertions that the NSA had abused its powers, Alexander said no one had done so intentionally.

“There was nobody willfully or knowingly trying to break the law,” Alexander said.

Includes video:
Read more: http://www.politico.com/story/2013/12/edward-snowden-nsa-leak-101183.html#ixzz2pc0A6Mkg

Michael Hayden during his time as the head of the CIA

Michael Hayden, former head of NSA and CIA, has become a leading media defender of government eavesdropping — and a critic of Mr. Snowden. Photograph: Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images
.
Michael Hayden, who served as NSA director and CIA director under the last administration, called the suggestion of clemency for Snowden “outrageous.”
.
Former CIA Director James Woolsey said the NSA leaker should be “hanged” if he’s ever tried and convicted of treason.“I think giving him amnesty is idiotic,” Woolsey said. “He should be prosecuted for treason. If convicted by a jury of his peers, he should be hanged by his neck until he is dead.”Former U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Hugh Shelton called the prospect of giving Snowden amnesty a “grave error.”

“We Only Know The Tip of the Iceberg” on the NSA, Surveillance

August 18, 2013

in Washington

The Guardian

Sen. Ron Wyden

Senator Ron Wyden (above) and Mark Udall said: ‘We believe Americans should know that this confirmation is just the tip of a larger iceberg.’ Photograph: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call

Two US senators on the intelligence committee said on Friday that thousands of annual violations by the National Security Agency on its own restrictions were “the tip of the iceberg.”

“The executive branch has now confirmed that the rules, regulations and court-imposed standards for protecting the privacy of Americans’ have been violated thousands of times each year,” said senators Ron Wyden and Mark Udall, two leading critics of bulk surveillance, who responded Friday to a Washington Post story based on documents provided by whistleblower Edward Snowden.

“We have previously said that the violations of these laws and rules were more serious than had been acknowledged, and we believe Americans should know that this confirmation is just the tip of a larger iceberg.”

On July 31, Wyden, backed by Udall, vaguely warned other senators in a floor speech that the NSA and the director of national intelligence were substantively misleading legislators by describing improperly collected data as a matter of innocent and anodyne human or technical errors.

In keeping with their typically cautious pattern when discussing classified information, Wyden and Udall did not provide details about their claimed “iceberg” of surveillance malfeasance. But they hinted that the public still lacks an adequate understanding of the NSA’s powers to collect data on Americans under its controversial interpretation of the Patriot Act.

“We believe the public deserves to know more about the violations of the secret court orders that have authorized the bulk collection of Americans’ phone and email records under the Patriot Act,” Wyden and Udall said.

“The public should also be told more about why the Fisa court has said that the executive branch’s implementation of section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act has circumvented the spirit of the law, particularly since the executive branch has declined to address this concern.”

In October 2011, the Fisa court secretly ruled that an NSA collection effort violated the fourth amendment, a fact first disclosed last year by Wyden. The Post disclosed the effort involved diverting international communications via fiberoptic cables inside the US into a “repository.”

Shortly before Wyden and Udall hinted at even broader NSA violations of its surveillance authorities, the chairwoman of the Senate intelligence committee came to the NSA’s defense.

Senator Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat, said the majority of “compliance incidents” are “unintentional and do not involve any inappropriate surveillance of Americans.”

“The large majority of NSA’s so-called ‘compliance incidents’ are called ‘roaming’ incidents, in which the NSA is collecting the phone or electronic communications of a non-American outside the United States, and that person then enters the United States,” Feinstein said.

“The NSA generally won’t know that the person has traveled to the United States. As the laws and rules governing NSA surveillance require different procedures once someone enters the U.S.—generally to require a specific FISA court order—NSA will cite this as a ‘compliance incident,’ and either cease the surveillance or obtain the required FISA court order.”

Feinstein’s counterpart in the House of Representatives, Mike Rogers of Michigan, issued a similar defense of the NSA.

“The disclosed documents demonstrate that there was no intentional and willful violation of the law and that the NSA is not collecting the email and telephone traffic of all Americans, as previously reported,” Rogers said.

“Congress and the court have put in place auditing, reporting, and compliance requirements to help ensure that the executive branch, the Congress, and the court each have insight into how the authorities granted to the NSA are used. As a result, even the inadvertent and unintentional errors are documented.

“We demand these reviews so the NSA can constantly improve and correct any technical missteps that may impact Americans.  The committee has been apprised of previous incidents, takes seriously each one, and uses the oversight and compliance regime to provide us insight into these operations and whether further adjustments must be made.

“The committee does not tolerate any intentional violation of the law. Human and technical errors, like all of the errors reported in this story, are unfortunately inevitable in any organization and especially in a highly technical and complicated system like NSA. The committee will continue to work with the executive branch to reduce these errors.”

Feinstein also denied an aspect of the Post’s reporting that claimed she was unaware of a 2012 NSA “compliance” report. Feinstein said that she received it in a different format.

But Feinstein also suggested that her committee does not have full visibility into the NSA’s operations.

“The committee does not receive the same number of official reports on other NSA surveillance activities directed abroad that are conducted pursuant to legal authorities outside of Fisa (specifically executive order 12333), but I intend to add to the committee’s focus on those activities.”

Executive order 12333 is one of the foundational texts of modern US intelligence. A decades-old presidential order, it is an informal guide to the rules and regulations of American spycraft, such as the nominal ban on assassinations. It lacks the force of law in name if not in practice; lawyers in the intelligence agencies keep copies on their desks. “It is the Bible,” said Vicki Divoll, a former legal counsel for the CIA and the Senate intelligence committee.

The Democratic leader of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, a former senior member of the House intelligence committee, criticized the NSA on Friday, saying reports that it had overstepped its boundaries “extremely disturbing.”

“Congress must conduct rigorous oversight to ensure that all incidents of non-compliance are reported to the oversight committees and the FISA court in a timely and comprehensive manner, and that appropriate steps are taken to ensure violations are not repeated,” Pelosi said.

Pelosi was one of very few legislators briefed about the expansions of NSA surveillance activities after 9/11. She became a vocal critic of them when they were partially exposed under the Bush administration, yet once Barack Obama took office, her criticism ceased. She and the rest of the Democratic leadership worked hard last month to quash a legislative effort to end the bulk collection of Americans’ phone records.

The office of the director of national intelligence and the White House did not respond to a request for comment.

Obama Vows to Revamp NSA — But Obstacles May Prevent Progress

August 12, 2013

Some Say a Privacy Advocate in Secret Court May Impede Antiterror Efforts, Others Seek Even More Civil-Liberties Protection

By Janet Hook and Carol E. Lee

The Wall Street Journal

President  Barack Obama‘s proposal to revamp the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs faces potent obstacles on Capitol Hill, where both parties are divided on the issue and some Republicans already are throwing cold water on a cornerstone of his plan.

Senior House GOP lawmakers on Sunday criticized Mr. Obama’s idea to provide a new advocate for privacy concerns before a secret court that oversees the agency’s sweeping data collection, warning that it could slow antiterrorism efforts when time is of the essence.

President Obama at the White House, Friday afternoon, August 9, 2013. He promised to revise NSA programs collecting metadata. Washington Post Photo

House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R., Texas), speaking on NBC, said changes like those Mr. Obama proposed would “slow down the efficacy and efficiency of our counterterrorism investigation.”

“I don’t think that’s the right way to go,” said Mr. McCaul, who said he dealt directly with the secret court and related issues as a counterterrorism prosecutor before being elected to Congress.

Those cautionary words from Mr. McCaul and other Republicans suggest the proposals Mr. Obama outlined at a Friday news conference could face tough sledding in Congress, which would have to approve any major change to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

Congress is in recess until early September. A Senate Democratic aide said he didn’t sense “great appetite” for turning to the NSA issue this fall, when much of Congress’s attention will be focused on fiscal matters. The issue likely will cause splits within both parties, as it did in July when the House narrowly defeated an amendment to cut off funding for blanket phone surveillance by the NSA.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D., Conn.), author of legislation to establish a special privacy advocate, said Mr. Obama’s proposal “is profoundly significant and enormously positive.” He said such an advocate “will in no way impede the speed and security of the court’s approval of critical activities protecting our nation.”

Michael Hayden, a former director of the NSA and the Central Intelligence Agency under President George W. Bush, said he believed Mr. Obama’s proposal wouldn’t have to be as intrusive as critics suggested. “He was not talking about getting a public defender in there for Tony Soprano every time you want to go up on a wiretap with him,” Mr. Hayden said on CBS.

But Mr. Obama faces pushback from civil-liberties advocates who say his proposals don’t go far enough. Sen. Ron Wyden (D., Ore.) said he welcomed the proposals but would fight to have them “strengthened” so that, among other things, the phone-data collection program is ended.

One question is how strongly Mr. Obama will fight for his plan. He devised it while under growing pressure from some Democrats and foreign allies after former NSA contractor Edward Snowden leaked information about NSA surveillance.

Mr. Obama said his chief goal was to gain public trust in the NSA programs and engage in a national debate about surveillance. But he also has said he was comfortable with the current programs. So he could say he spurred a debate and tried to address privacy concerns even if no changes result.

Rep. Justin Amash (R., Mich.), who led the effort to cut off funding for the NSA phone-surveillance program, said that if Mr. Obama isn’t serious about reining in such operations Americans will “demand it and dozens of colleagues on both sides will push ahead” in Congress.

Mr. Obama didn’t release many details of his proposals. The White House is examining several options for how to add an adversarial element to the foreign-intelligence court, people familiar with the deliberations said.

The president said he wanted “programmatic” oversight in “appropriate cases,” suggesting the adversary might have a role when the court is evaluating requests for broad data-collection programs rather than warrants for individual terrorism cases.

Any legislation to change the NSA surveillance would have to go through the House and Senate intelligence committees, which are dominated by staunch defenders of such programs. The panels have promised to consider changes, but those efforts appear aimed at shoring up support for the program, not dismantling it.

Write to   Janet Hook at janet.hook@wsj.com and Carol E. Lee at carol.lee@wsj.com

A version of this article appeared August 12, 2013, on page A4 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: Obama Plan to Revamp NSA Faces Obstacles.

A demonstrator holds a photograph of Edward Snowden

A demonstrator holds a sign with a photograph of Edward Snowden during 4 July celebrations in Boston, Massachusetts. Photograph: Brian Snyder/REUTERS

Time for a laugh: Obama grins during a commercial break while filming The Tonight Show on Tuesday

US to launch criminal probe into leak which resulted in stories about secret surveillance, counterterrorism programs

June 9, 2013

America’s  National Security Agency has formally requested a criminal probe into the leak of highly classified information about its secret surveillance programmes.

NSA surveillance scandal: Barack Obama's credibility under scrutiny like never before

.
Barack Obama’s credibility is under scrutiny like never before Photo: Reuters

By Reuters

A “crimes report has been filed,” said Shawn Turner, a spokesman for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

The announcement came as US officials acknowledged for the first time that data harvesting programme, Prism existed. James Clapper, the director of National Intelligence, said the initiative had been mischaracterised by the media. The project is legal, not aimed at US citizens and has thwarted threats against the country, he said.

“Over the last week we have seen reckless disclosures of intelligence community measures used to keep Americans safe,” Mr Clapper said in a statement.

He said the surveillance activities reported in the Washington Post and the Guardian newspaper were lawful and conducted under authorities approved by Congress. “Significant misimpressions” have resulted from recent articles, he said.

Media of the world may have over-reacted, revealed classified information last week……

His statement came hours before the National Security Agency requested a criminal probe into the leak of highly classified information about secret surveillance programs.

It was not known how broad a leaks investigation was requested by the super-secret NSA, but Shawn Turner, a spokesman for Mr Clapper’s office, said a “crimes report has been filed.”

The report goes to the Justice Department, which has established procedures for determining whether an investigation is warranted. Prosecutors do not accept all requests, but they have brought a series of high-profile leak investigations under President Barack Obama. US officials said the NSA leaks were so astonishing they expected the Justice Department to take the case.

Mr Clapper’s comments were the latest development in an escalating battle over government spying and civil liberties, involving the Obama administration and news organizations that have published details of US data mining efforts.

A fact sheet accompanying the statement discussed in general terms what had been until Thursday an unknown and highly classified program. It made a rare public acknowledgement that US spy agencies obtained data from US telecommunications providers, but defended the practice as legal and regulated by courts.

“The United States Government does not unilaterally obtain information from the servers of US electronic communication service providers. All such information is obtained with FISA Court approval and with the knowledge of the provider,” the fact sheet said, referring to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Court.

Prism, characterised in news reports as a top-secret National Security Agency program for extracting data from the computers of internet companies, in reality is an “internal government computer system” used to “facilitate” the government’s handling of information it collects from service providers, according to the factsheet.

The reports this week said the surveillance program involving internet firms and established under Republican President George W. Bush in 2007, had seen “exponential growth” under President Barack Obama, a Democrat. It said the NSA increasingly relied on Prism as a source of raw material for daily intelligence reports to the president.

The news reports included PowerPoint slides showing that major Internet companies such as Yahoo, Google , Facebook and a half-dozen others were involved in the program.

Alan Rusbridger, editor-in-chief of the Guardian, had no comment on Mr Clapper’s statement. Washington Post spokeswoman Kris Coratti said the company had no comment.

Edited by Bonnie Malkin for telegraph.co.uk