Posts Tagged ‘“Five Eyes”’

Big Brother Australia cracks open encrypted messaging

December 7, 2018

A new law will require tech firms to give security agencies access to their encrypted data, a provision experts expect other Western nations to soon replicate

 SYDNEY, DECEMBER 7, 2018 1:25 PM (UTC+8)
New Australian legislation will require tech companies to open back doors to their encryption technologies. Photo: iStock

New Australian legislation will require tech companies to open back doors to their encryption technologies. Photo: iStock

Basis for FBI Probe On Trump? Slim to None (That we know of)

June 1, 2018

His story about the Papadopoulos meeting calls the FBI’s into question.

The Curious Case of Mr. Downer

High Commissioner of Australia to the United Kingdom Alexander Downer arrives at Downing Street in central London on March 22, 2017.
High Commissioner of Australia to the United Kingdom Alexander Downer arrives at Downing Street in central London on March 22, 2017.PHOTO: DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES


To hear the Federal Bureau of Investigation tell it, its decision to launch a counterintelligence probe into a major-party presidential campaign comes down to a foreign tip about a 28-year-old fourth-tier Trump adviser, George Papadopoulos.

The FBI’s media scribes have dutifully reported the bare facts of that “intel.” We are told the infamous tip came from Alexander Downer, at the time the Australian ambassador to the U.K. Mr. Downer invited Mr. Papadopoulos for a drink in early May 2016, where the aide told the ambassador the Russians had dirt on Hillary Clinton. Word of this encounter at some point reached the FBI, inspiring it to launch its counterintelligence investigation into the Trump campaign on July 31.

Notably (nay, suspiciously) absent or muddled are the details of how and when that information made its way to the FBI, and what exactly was transmitted. A December 2017 New York Times story vaguely explains that the Australians passed the info to “American counterparts” about “two months later,” and that once it “reached the FBI,” the bureau acted. Even the Times admits it’s “not clear” why it took the Aussies so long to flip such a supposedly smoking tip. The story meanwhile slyly leads readers to believe that Mr. Papadopoulos told Mr. Downer that Moscow had “thousands of emails,” but read it closely and the Times in fact never specifies what the Trump aide said, beyond “dirt.”

When Mr. Downer ended his service in the U.K. this April, he sat for an interview with the Australian, a national newspaper, and “spoke for the first time” about the Papadopoulos event. Mr. Downer said he officially reported the Papadopoulos meeting back to Australia “the following day or a day or two after,” as it “seemed quite interesting.” The story nonchalantly notes that “after a period of time, Australia’s ambassador to the US, Joe Hockey, passed the information on to Washington.”

My reporting indicates otherwise. A diplomatic source tells me Mr. Hockey neither transmitted any information to the FBI nor was approached by the U.S. about the tip. Rather, it was Mr. Downer who at some point decided to convey his information—to the U.S. Embassy in London.

That matters because it is not how things are normally done. The U.S. is part of Five Eyes, an intelligence network that includes the U.K., Canada, Australia and New Zealand. The Five Eyes agreement provides that any intelligence goes through the intelligence system of the country that gathered it. This helps guarantee information is securely handled, subjected to quality control, and not made prey to political manipulation. Mr. Downer’s job was to report his meeting back to Canberra, and leave it to Australian intelligence. We also know that it wasn’t Australian intelligence that alerted the FBI. The document that launched the FBI probe contains no foreign intelligence whatsoever. So if Australian intelligence did receive the Downer info, it didn’t feel compelled to act on it.

But the Obama State Department did—and its involvement is news. The Downer details landed with the embassy’s then-chargé d’affaires, Elizabeth Dibble, who previously served as a principal deputy assistant secretary in Mrs. Clinton’s State Department.

When did all this happen, and what came next? Did the info go straight to U.S. intelligence? Or did it instead filter to the wider State Department team, who we already know were helping foment Russia-Trump conspiracy theories? Jonathan Winer, a former deputy assistant secretary of state, has publicly admitted to communicating in the summer of 2016 with his friend Christopher Steele, author of the infamous dossier.

I was unable to reach Mr. Downer for comment and do not know why he chose to go to the embassy. A conservative politician, he was Australia’s longest-serving foreign minister (1996-2007). Sources speculate that he might have felt his many contacts justified reaching out himself.

Meanwhile, something doesn’t gel between Mr. Downer’s account of the conversation and the FBI’s. In his Australian interview, Mr. Downer said Mr. Papadopolous didn’t give specifics. “He didn’t say dirt, he said material that could be damaging to her,” said Mr. Downer. “He didn’t say what it was.” Also: “Nothing he said in that conversation indicated Trump himself had been conspiring with the Russians to collect information on Hillary Clinton.”

For months we’ve been told the FBI acted because it was alarmed that Mr. Papadopoulos knew about those hacked Democratic emails in May, before they became public in June. But according to the tipster himself, Mr. Papadopoulos said nothing about emails. The FBI instead received a report that a far-removed campaign adviser, over drinks, said the Russians had something that might be “damaging” to Hillary. Did this vague statement justify a counterintelligence probe into a presidential campaign, featuring a spy and secret surveillance warrants?

Unlikely. Which leads us back to what did inspire the FBI to act, and when? The Papadopoulos pretext is getting thinner.

‘Five Eyes’ talks to focus on encryption: Australian PM

June 13, 2017

Officials from the United States, Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand will meet next month to discuss plans to press technology firms to share encrypted data with security agencies, Australia’s prime minister said on Tuesday.

The meeting of the so-called Five Eyes intelligence-sharing coalition in Canada would focus on how to ensure “terrorists and organized criminals are not able to operate with impunity in ungoverned digital spaces online”, Malcolm Turnbull said.

“The privacy of a terrorist can never be more important than public safety – never,” he said in parliament.

Technology companies like Facebook Inc and Apple Inc have come under growing pressure to share encrypted information to prevent terror attacks.

Apple and Facebook did not immediately respond to requests for comment, but both companies have previously resisted sharing such information citing privacy concerns.

Turnbull’s comments echo that of British Prime Minister Theresa May who said on June 4 that international cooperation and regulation was needed to remove the “safe space” that allowed extremists to thrive online.

“We need to work with allied democratic governments to reach international agreements that regulate cyberspace,” she said.

Australia has seen a series of lone-wolf Islamist-inspired attacks recently, prompting a review of police tactics.

Turnbull last week signaled a drive to reform parole laws, including a ban on parole for violent offenders with links to militancy, following a deadly siege claimed by the Islamic State group.

(Reporting by Colin Packham; Editing by Stephen Coates)

British PM May to challenge Trump over intelligence leaks as police hunt bomb-maker

May 25, 2017


A woman looks at flowers for the victims of the Manchester Arena attack, in central Manchester Britain. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth

British Prime Minister Theresa May will raise concerns with Donald Trump on Thursday about U.S. leaks of intelligence on the suicide bombing in Manchester that police fear could hinder a hunt for a possible bomb-maker still at large.

After the deadliest attack in Britain since July 2005, police are hunting for accomplices whom they suspect helped Salman Abedi build the bomb that killed 22 people on Monday in a crowded concert hall in the northern English city of Manchester.

But British ministers and security chiefs have been dismayed by leaks in the U.S. media which made public details about the British investigation.

May will raise concerns over the leaks when she meets U.S. President Trump at a NATO meeting on Thursday, the BBC reported.

The New York Times published detailed pictures of the crime scene, including the remains of the suspected bomb and the rucksack worn by the suicide bomber.

The BBC reported that British police had stopped sharing information about the Manchester bombing with the United States, due to anger over the detailed disclosures. A spokeswoman for PM May declined to comment on the reports.

British police have arrested two more men in connection with the Manchester attack, taking the number of people in custody to eight, Greater Manchester police said.

Britain views the United States as its most important defense and security ally, and the two countries also share intelligence as part of the “Five Eyes” network which also includes Australia, Canada and New Zealand.

After Trump defended his decision to discuss intelligence with the Russians during a White House meeting, Prime Minister Theresa May said last week that Britain would continue to share intelligence with the United States.

(For a graphic showing where the blast hit, click

(Writing by Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by Catherine Evans)

British Intelligence: At GCHQ “We sure as hell can’t lick terrorism on our own’

October 11, 2014

British Intelligence: In an unprecedented interview, Sir Iain Lobban, the departing director of GCHQ, talks to Charles Moore about Edward Snowden’s leaks, the ‘nausea’ of 7/7 – and shows him the secret world of its acclaimed intelligence operation

British spies employed 'dirty tricks' including honey traps' in a bid to trap nations, hackers, terror groups, suspected criminals and arms dealers

Britain’s GCHQ



On the outskirts of Cheltenham stands a huge circular building known as The Doughnut. This is the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), the heir of the war-winning codebreakers in those little huts in Bletchley Park. The 5,500 employees monitor the communications of the world – in the interests, says the relevant Act, of national security, “economic well-being’’ and combating serious crime – but they do not communicate with us.

I pass through multiple security, traverse “the Street’’ that circles inside the edifice, and sit down to wait. I am the first print journalist ever to interview GCHQ’s director, Sir Iain Lobban. He is about to leave after six years in the top job and 31 in the organisation.

He is bursting to speak. Young Iain, a Southport boy fresh with a languages degree from Leeds University, began here in 1983. At that time, GCHQ was the dingy provincial sister of the big boys in Whitehall – MI5 (the Security Service) and MI6 (the Secret Intelligence Service). Today, thanks to the march of technology, it dominates. Foreign heads of government come on pilgrimages here. The director has a seat on the National Security Council (NSC). GCHQ is our most important global intelligence asset.

Yet just as everything got good for the boys in Cheltenham – this being the techie world, most still are boys – it also got bad. Last year, The Guardian published the information Edward Snowden had purloined from the US National Security Agency (NSA). Some of what he revealed compromised GCHQ: “He made my job a thousand times more difficult,’’ one man charged with cracking terrorists’ internet games tells me. At a time when Isil, also known as Islamic State, is a clear and present threat, the imperative is greater than ever. In the eyes of GCHQ’s critics, Snowden also revealed unacceptable levels of intrusion into the personal data of British citizens.

Sir Iain Lobban, left, shows Charles Moore around GCHQ

Britain’s spy agency GCHQ intercepted millions of people’s webcam chats

February 27, 2014

By Julia Fioretti

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s spy agency GCHQ intercepted millions of people’s webcam chats and stored still images of them, including sexually explicit ones, the Guardian newspaper reported on Thursday.

GCHQ files dating between 2008 and 2010 provided to the newspaper by the former U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden, revealed that the surveillance program, codenamed Optic Nerve, saved one image every five minutes from randomly selected Yahoo Inc webcam chats and stored them on agency databases.

Optic Nerve, which began as a prototype in 2008 and was still active in 2012, was intended to test automated facial recognition, monitor GCHQ’s targets and uncover new ones, the Guardian said. It said that under British law, there are no restrictions preventing images of U.S. citizens being accessed by British intelligence.

GCHQ collected images from the webcam chats of more than 1.8 million users globally in a six-month period in 2008 alone, the newspaper reported.

“It is a long-standing policy that we do not comment on intelligence matters,” a GCHQ representative said on Thursday.

In another sign of the widespread information-sharing between U.S. and British spy agencies which has riled public and politicians on both sides of the Atlantic, the webcam information was fed into the NSA’s search tool and all of the policy documents were available to NSA analysts, the paper said.

It was not clear, however, whether the NSA had access to the actual database of Yahoo webcam images, the Guardian reported.

Yahoo said it had no knowledge the interceptions.

“We were not aware of nor would we condone this reported activity. This (Guardian) report, if true, represents a whole new level of violation of our users’ privacy that is completely unacceptable,” company spokeswoman Suzanne Philion said in an emailed statement.

Snowden, now in Russia after fleeing the United States, made world headlines last summer when he provided details of NSA surveillance programs to the Guardian and the Washington Post.

For decades, the NSA and GCHQ have shared intelligence under an arrangement known as the UKUSA agreement. They also collaborate with eavesdropping agencies in Canada, Australia and New Zealand in what is known as the “Five Eyes” alliance.

Under Optic Nerve, GCHQ tried to limit its staff’s ability to see the webcam images, but they could still see the images of people with similar usernames to intelligence targets, the Guardian said.

GCHQ also implemented restrictions on the collection of sexually explicit images, but its software was not always able to distinguish between these and other images.

“Discussing efforts to make the interface “safer to use”, it (GCHQ) noted that current “naïve” pornography detectors assessed the amount of flesh in any given shot, and so attracted lots of false positives by incorrectly tagging shots of people’s faces as pornography,” the newspaper said.

The spy agency eventually excluded images in which the software had not detected any faces from search results to prevent staff from accessing explicit images, it added.

(Reporting by Julia Fioretti; Editing by Catherine Evans and Grant McCool)

British spies employed 'dirty tricks' including honey traps' in a bid to trap nations, hackers, terror groups, suspected criminals and arms dealers

Britain’s GCHQ

Former CIA Director says allies fear U.S. leadership vacuum

November 2, 2013

Allies are wary of the United States — for good reason — says former CIA  Director James Woolsey.

That wariness comes from “having seen less  American leadership in recent years on a number of important issues,” he  writes in The Wall Street Journal.

In Syria, for example, “the  U.S. is not even leading from behind but rather stumbling along behind,” Woolsey  says, adding that France, for example, was clear about its policy toward Syria  and was prepared to attack President Bashar Assad.

In Iran, Woolsey writes, “wavering American  leadership has also led the Europeans to fear that their tough economic  sanctions may be subjected to a pre-emptive weakening, now that the Obama  administration is avidly pursuing talks  with Tehran over its nuclear program.”

Woolsey notes that U.S.  allies “over the past several years, almost always including Britain, have taken  action that is in America’s interest. But they have also rather frequently seen  the U.S. make unilateral concessions to enemies and refuse to lead.”

U.S. allies, he writes, deserve an apology because, “[a]t our worst, we have  suggested by our behavior that it is better to be an enemy of the United States  (Assad) than a friend (Hosni Mubarak).”

The nation’s former top  intelligence official must now offer a sense leadership and direction much as it  during the Cold War.

“But even in the absence of such leadership, the  U.S. can take another step to build necessary bridges with its allies,” Woolsey  writes, noting that a good start would be to ease concerns over recent reports  that the National Security Agency spied on the leaders of Germany and France.

“America already is part of the decades-old ‘Five Eyes’ pact with  Britain, Australia, Canada and New Zealand, agreeing to share intelligence and  not to spy on each other. The U.S. should accede to recent requests from Germany  and France to join the group,” Woolsey says.

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The White House leadership vacuum has made Europeans wary. The surveillance scandal strengthens their doubts.

By R. James Woolsey

Nearly a quarter of a century ago, the nuclear-policy strategist Albert Wohlstetter wrote in these pages a fine essay titled “The Fax Will Make You Free.” In the 1980s, as he noted, the CIA, working with the AFL-CIO and restive Eastern European labor unions, put fax machines to excellent use undermining Soviet rule. That particular technology is now ancient, but Wohlstetter’s bigger point remains valid: Technological innovations that vastly expand the amount of information we can transfer to one another are fundamentally revolutionary, for good or ill.

Smartphones are the new faxes and, for many all over the globe, especially the young, their phone is their source of news, their grocery store, their means of talking with (and seeing) absent friends and family, their bank, their movie theater. It is at the core of their lives and their sense of personal freedom. If the United States government wanted to collect intelligence on Germany’s leadership, it could not have picked a method more likely to stir wide outrage than tapping the personal phone of a politically popular democratic leader.

And in targeting Chancellor Angela Merkel, the U.S. picked someone who grew up dodging East Germany’s Stasi secret police in order to talk honestly to friends. The U.S. has not denied that the monitoring occurred in the past and some media reports say it went on for a decade. If so, we have been sitting on a powder keg for years.

Some Europeans are now being candid about their own espionage, including against the U.S. Bernard Squarcini, the head of French intelligence until last year, recently told Le Figaro that the “French Intelligence Services know full well that all countries, whether or not they are allies in the fight against terrorism, spy on each other all the time.”

Many of the recent blasts of allied indignation thus ring quite false, especially since it appears that much of the National Security Agency’s collection involved basic information called metadata, such as the date sent and the sender and receiver addresses, not the message content itself. Chancellor Merkel’s Germany, however, has not to the best of my knowledge perpetrated the kind or degree of intelligence collection against us that some other allies inside and outside Europe have.

Some critics have waxed indignant over the possibility that the U.S. has collected intelligence on some 35 national leaders. But the intelligence business is not a competition to avoid collecting intelligence. In particular, we should be getting the lowdown on hostile regimes and the governments that deal with them. Keeping an eye on allies has always been part of the effort as well. Yet there is no doubt that the U.S. has taken a heavy blow regarding our part in this wild dance of spies—especially from the monitoring of Chancellor Merkel’s phone.

The episode poses its greatest danger if it seriously damages America’s ability to obtain badly needed allied intelligence and allied help in dealing with terrorism and terrorist-backing states. We are doubly at risk of losing that sort of cooperation because our allies are already wary of the U.S., having seen less American leadership in recent years on a number of important issues.

Syria is probably the most dramatic case of the U.S. not even leading from behind but rather stumbling along behind. Wavering American leadership has also led the Europeans to fear that their tough economic sanctions on Iran may be subjected to a pre-emptive weakening, now that the Obama administration is avidly pursuing talks with Tehran over its nuclear program. The Europeans also have not forgotten that in 2009 the Obama administration abandoned plans to install antiballistic-missile sites in the Czech Republic and Poland, to the deep concern of both nations and to Moscow’s pure delight.

In addition to France’s being a far better leader than the U.S. on Syria—they were ready to punish Bashar Assad for his chemical-weapons use, no need for a parliamentary vote of approval—the French also took charge in Mali earlier this year to combat Islamist rebels. Germany has long stood beside us in Afghanistan. In short, our allies over the past several years, almost always including Britain, have taken action that is in America’s interest on more than one occasion.

But they have also rather frequently seen the U.S. make unilateral concessions to enemies and refuse to lead. And whereas those badly served by the ObamaCare website have received a presidential apology, those badly served by our weakness overseas have not. At our worst, we have suggested by our behavior that it is better to be an enemy of the United States (Assad) than a friend (Hosni Mubarak).

Because of this history, the U.S. must take steps to bolster a spirit of trust and cooperation with its allies. A restoration of American leadership would do much to help on that front, as it did during the Cold War, when the U.S. would show initiative and assumed, rightly, that its allies would follow. With America and its allies battling the global terror threat, no less sense of direction from Washington is needed.

But even in the absence of such leadership, the U.S. can take another step to build necessary bridges with its allies. America already is part of the decades-old “Five Eyes” pact with Britain, Australia, Canada and New Zealand, agreeing to share intelligence and not to spy on each other. The U.S. should accede to recent requests from Germany and France to join the group.

Taking such a step would not be popular in some corners of the intelligence community. But if the U.S. is already going to stand down on intelligence efforts and military capability because of the costs imposed by sequestration, world-weariness, or other reasons, then we must stop and take stock of where intelligence now fits in the nation’s interests. If President Obama is not going to lead in the way that successful leaders always have, the U.S. must figure out other means of enhancing the support of major allies. For these seven nations to agree not to spy on one another is, in these circumstances, a reasonable direction to take.

Chancellor Merkel should be able to use her phone with the confidence that at least the Americans are not among those listening in.