Posts Tagged ‘Snowden’

American Intelligence and Getting past the zero-sum game online

April 3, 2015


The National Security Agency campus in Fort Meade in 2013. (Patrick Semansky/Associated Press)

By Michael V. Hayden
The Washington Post

As director of the National Security Agency and then the Central Intelligence Agency after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, I fought to provide our intelligence officers with every possible advantage in their work to detect and confront threats from our enemies.

We were entering a new kind of conflict. I had grown to professional maturity in an era in which it was NATO vs. the Soviet Union, and our enemy — with its tank divisions in Eastern Europe and intercontinental ballistic missile silos in our sights — was easy to find, though hard to defeat. Today, our enemies are relatively easy to defeat, but they often are damnably difficult to find. Hence the need to create timely, actionable — even exquisite — intelligence.

In our efforts, the genius and innovation of American business has been essential. The United States enjoys a number of advantages, such as world-class information-technology companies, a mastery of the challenges and opportunities of big data and the reality that much of the world’s Internet traffic is serviced by U.S. companies. These things have truly made a difference, but sometimes less can be more. Here a little bit of history might be instructive.

In the late 20th century, many viewed the world as a zero-sum game. Any U.S. loss of competitive advantage was our adversary’s gain, and our security, the argument went, was correspondingly weakened as well.

Then, a key technology battleground was a measure of raw computing power known as “MTOPS” — or millions of theoretical operations per second. Successive administrations tried to protect this assumed U.S. security advantage by blocking exports of computers above a certain MTOPS limit to any but our closest allies. The NSA was always an important player in this discussion. After all, in the business of making and breaking codes, advantages in computing power were often decisive. The export barrier was seen as the NSA’s friend.

By the time I became NSA director in the late 1990s, however, the calculation was no longer that simple. We still wanted an MTOPS advantage, of course, but we were fast realizing that our preferred limits were undermining the global competitiveness of the U.S. computer industry — the very industry on which we relied for our success. It was becoming clear that the overall health of that industry was more important than any MTOPS advantage against a specific target country. We still insisted on limits with regard to places such as Cuba and North Korea, but we became far more forgiving elsewhere.

This, of course, had a powerful, positive commercial impact, but the NSA didn’t flip its position for commercial reasons. We did it for security reasons. On balance, this change made us stronger, not weaker, over the long haul, since retarding exports would inevitably retard the technological progress that was both our economic and our security lifeblood.

That early lesson has caused me to continue to challenge arguments that technological protectionism furthers national security. It might, but then again, it could have the opposite effect if it freezes development, alienates allies, feeds distrust or invites the creation of similar barriers abroad. I would recommend these broader considerations to those in the U.S. security enterprise with responsibility for evaluating these trade-offs today.

In a perverse way, as the saying goes, what goes around comes around. Precedents we set will be followed — or exploited — by others in an economic system that becomes more globalized and hence more interdependent by the day. Already others point to U.S. activities to justify their own, often nefarious, efforts. Witness the Chinese trying to create moral and legal equivalency between legitimate U.S. intelligence and their massive theft of intellectual property, or their placement of newly minted restrictions on U.S. IT firms. One wonders what the Russias and Chinas of the world will demand if U.S.-based firms are forbidden to create encryption schemes inaccessible to themselves or the government. Beyond the realm of speculation, the Chinese company Alibaba has announced plans to open a cloud data center in the United States. How will we feel when a Chinese court orders Alibaba to send data on Americans back to China, citing our own behavior as justification?

These are serious, long-term questions requiring serious, strategic answers. Possible second- and third-order effects — such as generating a stampede toward data localization or a Balkanized Internet — need to be considered alongside a still-important calculus based on more transient, tactical advantage.

U.S. intelligence was given a black eye, unfairly for the most part, by l’Affaire Snowden. It has conducted its business honorably, with restraint and oversight — perhaps more than any other country. But that has been little noted.

Today’s issues give the United States a chance to demonstrate to the world that its tough and powerful intelligence services understand what is at stake and intend to join the public discussion on how to balance the truly important privacy and security questions before us and, more important, take meaningful steps to make us stronger.

Michael V. Hayden is a principal at the Chertoff Group, a security and risk management advisory firm with clients in the technology sector. He was director of the National Security Agency from 1999 to 2005 and the Central Intelligence Agency from 2006 to 2009.


China’s new regulations for foreign tech companies

January 31, 2015


Russia is behind cyber attack on banks, says Kevin Mandia
Photo: Reuters

The Chinese government has introduced new regulations for foreign technology companies that sell computer equipment to Chinese banks.

According to The New York Times, the new rules, outlined in a 22-page document, require foreign tech companies to turn over source code, submit to audits, and build back doors into hardware and software.

However, a letter sent to a top-level Community Party cybersecurity committee in China from foreign business groups, which included the US Chamber of Commerce, has objected to the new policies, The New York Times said.

The foreign business groups expressed that such policies could potentially lead to a broader “cybersecurity review regime” by the Chinese government, which will assess the “security and controllability” of hardware, software, and technology services sold in China.

Apple recently accepted the Chinese government’s inspection demands, and will allow the government to conduct network safety evaluations on its products, mainly because China is one of the biggest markets for the Silicon Valley tech giant.

Latest news on Asia

The new regulations add to the escalating tension over questions about whether the Chinese government has been using tech companies to spy on foreign countries.

Meanwhile, Chinese telecom and internet giant Huawei has been barred by both the US and Australian governments from involvement in any broadband projects over concerns about the company’s alleged links to the Chinese government.

Huawei’s chief executive Ren Zhengfei has denied the company‘s involvement in any espionage.

In separate news, Bloomberg reported that the Chinese government slammed Alibaba for failing to pay enough attention to cracking down on the sale of counterfeit merchandise, shady merchants, and misleading promotions.The Chinese government’s stance was made clear in a report released by the State Administration for Industry and Commerce (SAIC), which accused the company of allowing its merchants to operate without a licence, run unauthorised stores, and sell fake name-brand items.

However, Alibaba Group’s executive vice chairman Joe Tsai has questioned the accuracy of the report, saying its findings were the result of flawed methodology.

“Yesterday, a so-called ‘whitepaper’ was posted on the SAIC website that specifically identified Alibaba and referred to a meeting between Alibaba and the regulators in July last year,” said Tsai. “We believe the flawed approach taken in the report, and the tactic of releasing a so-called ‘whitepaper’ specifically targeting us, was so unfair that we felt compelled to take the extraordinary step of preparing a formal complaint to the SAIC.”

Alibaba recently signed a memorandum of understanding with Microsoft to strengthen its anti-counterfeit measures on two of its e-commerce platforms, Taobao marketplace and

Additionally, a report by US security company Mandiant last year claimed that China was behind an “overwhelming” percentage of cyberattacks on US organisations and companies. The US had also said that hackers based in China have targeted the country’s government and corporate computer networks, in order to steal sensitive data.

In fact, Huawei was one company that the US National Security Agency (NSA) had spied on, according to leaked documents by former US government contractor Edward Snowden. The documents said that the NSA had conducted surveillance on Huawei’s networks, email archives, and other communications between senior executives.

Chinese phone maker Xiaomi is currently being investigated by the privacy authority of the Hong Kong Administrative Region government for allegedly sending user information without consent back to servers in mainland China.

Apple recently accepted the Chinese government’s inspection demands, and will allow the government to conduct network safety evaluations on its products, mainly because China is one of the biggest markets for the Silicon Valley tech giant.

Tsai said that the company has a broad range of measures to prevent counterfeit and pirated goods from being sold on its marketplaces, and that it is devoting more resources to the “fight against fakes”.

“The issues of counterfeiting and IP protections are a part of the problems in a growing economy today, whether it is online or offline,” he said.

“We have a zero tolerance policy towards counterfeits on our platform because the health and integrity of our marketplaces depend on consumer trust.

“When you step back and look at our overall efforts to combat illicit activities, our track record is clear. We are certainly not perfect, and we have a lot of hard work ahead of us,” he said. “In the global e-commerce marketplace, there will always be people who seek to conduct illicit activities, and like all global companies in our industry, we must continue to do everything we can to stop these activities.”

He also acknowledged the ubiquitous nature of selling pirated goods online, but defended the company’s work to weed them out of its sites.



A paramilitary policeman prepares for a national flag-lowering ceremony in front of a portrait of the late chairman Mao Zedong on Tiananmen Square in Beijing, August 17, 2010. REUTERS/Jason Lee

New York Times Editorial

Under the guise of improving security, the Chinese government is clamping down on technology companies and further limiting the access its citizens have to information that is not sanitized by the Communist Party. These moves will hurt the Chinese economy and create a major rift between China and the rest of the world.

The government of President Xi Jinping has taken a series of steps recently that have unnerved businesses, human rights organizations and governments around the world. This week, for example, American and other foreign business groups sent a letter to Mr. Xi protesting new policies that require companies that sell computer equipment to Chinese banks to turn over their source code to the government and to create ways for security officials to monitor and control those devices. Industry executives expect similar policies to be enacted for other sectors of the Chinese economy, making it increasingly difficult, if not impossible, for foreign technology vendors to sell their products to Chinese customers.

Chinese officials have also proposed a law, purportedly to fight terrorism, that would require technology companies to provide the government with the means to monitor all communications over their systems in China, including those that are encrypted. And in recent weeks, the authorities have made it nearly impossible for Internet users to employ virtual private networks that allow people to evade the government filters and restrictions collectively known as the Great Firewall. Dissidents, researchers, businesses and professionals have long used V.P.N.s to access information beyond China’s borders, and the government previously seemed to tolerate the practice.

With these new moves, Chinese leaders are trying to increase government control over communications in order to suppress dissent. And they are trying to promote Chinese technology businesses at the expense of foreign companies. That is not entirely surprising. Mr. Xi has previously made clear that he considers the free flow of information on the Internet a threat to the Communist Party. And he has said that he considers domestic control over technology a matter of “national economic security, defense security and other aspects of security.”

But this push for greater control could cost China dearly. The country’s businesses and professionals say it has become increasingly difficult for them to communicate with customers and suppliers abroad or to obtain scientific data and research from the rest of the world. Executives at Chinese banks are reportedly worried that they will have to rely on substandard domestic computer equipment that could make their systems more vulnerable to hacking by criminals, foreign rivals and others.

Foreign businesses and governments are rightly saying these new policies amount to protectionism. The changes also seem to make a joke of China’s commitment to abide by global trading rules established by the World Trade Organization and of its stated desire to deepen trade and investment ties with the United States and other countries. Officials from China and the United States are negotiating a bilateral investment treaty that is supposed to make it easier for companies from each country to do business in the other nation. American officials should use those talks to put China on notice that its latest security policies are wrongheaded and unacceptable.

Mr. Xi cannot expect the United States or any other country to engage in negotiations to liberalize trade and investment with his country while his government is actively making it impossible for foreign businesses to survive there.



China calls Snowden’s stealth jet hack accusations ‘groundless’

January 19, 2015

BEIJING Mon Jan 19, 2015 5:10am EST

(Reuters) – China dismissed accusations it stole F-35 stealth fighter plans as groundless on Monday, after documents leaked by former U.S. intelligence contractor Edward Snowden on a cyber attack were published by a German magazine.

The Pentagon has previously acknowledged that hackers had targeted sensitive data for defense programs such as the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, but stopped short of publicly blaming China for the F-35 breach.

Defense experts say that China’s home-grown stealth jets had design elements resembling the F-35.


 The Pentagon and the jet’s builder, Lockheed Martin Corp, had said no classified information was taken during the cyber intrusion.

German magazine Der Spiegel on Saturday published a cache of Snowden documents, including a top secret U.S. government presentation that said China stole “many terabytes” of data on the F-35 program, including radar designs and engine schematics.

“The so-called evidence that has been used to launch groundless accusations against China is completely unjustified,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told reporters.

Hong said the “complex nature” of cyber attacks makes it difficult to pinpoint the relevant attacker, adding that China wanted to work with other countries to prevent hacking.

“According to the materials presented by the relevant person, some countries themselves have disgraceful records on cyber security,” Hong added.

Snowden’s 2013 revelations of the broad reach of the National Security Agency’s (NSA) spying program sparked international outrage.

Lockheed Martin is producing the F-35 for the U.S. military and allies in a $399 billion project, the world’s most expensive weapons program.

It is intended to deliver advanced stealth capabilities, improved manoeuvrability and high-tech sensors, but the program has struggled with delays and budget overruns.

China unveiled its highly anticipated J-31 twin-engine fighter jet at an air show late last year in a show of muscle during a visit to the country by U.S. President Barack Obama.

China’s J-31

The aircraft’s maker, Aviation Industry Corp of China, caused a stir when its president, Lin Zuoming, said the jet could “take down” the F-35.

President Xi Jinping has pushed to toughen the country’s 2.3 million-strong armed forces as China takes a more assertive stance in the region, particularly in the South China and East China seas.

(Reporting by Sui-Lee Wee, Writing by Michael Martina; Editing by Nick Macfie)

German researchers discover a flaw that could let anyone listen to your cell calls.

December 19, 2014

By  Craig Timberg
The Washington Post

REUTERS/Kacper Pempel

German researchers have discovered security flaws that could let hackers, spies and criminals listen to private phone calls and intercept text messages on a potentially massive scale – even when cellular networks are using the most advanced encryption now available.

The flaws, to be reported at a hacker conference in Hamburg this month, are the latest evidence of widespread insecurity on SS7, the global network that allows the world’s cellular carriers to route calls, texts and other services to each other. Experts say it’s increasingly clear that SS7, first designed in the 1980s, is riddled with serious vulnerabilities that undermine the privacy of the world’s billions of cellular customers.

The flaws discovered by the German researchers are actually functions built into SS7 for other purposes – such as keeping calls connected as users speed down highways, switching from cell tower to cell tower – that hackers can repurpose for surveillance because of the lax security on the network.

Those skilled at the myriad functions built into SS7 can locate callers anywhere in the world, listen to calls as they happen or record hundreds of encrypted calls and texts at a time for later decryption. There also is potential to defraud users and cellular carriers by using SS7 functions, the researchers say.

These vulnerabilities continue to exist even as cellular carriers invest billions of dollars to upgrade to advanced 3G technology aimed, in part, at securing communications against unauthorized eavesdropping. But even as individual carriers harden their systems, they still must communicate with each other over SS7, leaving them open to any of thousands of companies worldwide with access to the network. That means that a single carrier in Congo or Kazakhstan, for example, could be used to hack into cellular networks in the United States, Europe or anywhere else.

“It’s like you secure the front door of the house, but the back door is wide open,” said Tobias Engel, one of the German researchers.

Engel, founder of Sternraute, and Karsten Nohl, chief scientist for Security Research Labs, separately discovered these security weaknesses as they studied SS7 networks in recent months, after The Washington Post reported the widespread marketing of surveillance systems that use SS7 networks to locate callers anywhere in the world. The Post reported that dozens of nations had bought such systems to track surveillance targets and that skilled hackers or criminals could do the same using functions built into SS7. (The term is short for Signaling System 7 and replaced previous networks called SS6, SS5, etc.)

The researchers did not find evidence that their latest discoveries, which allow for the interception of calls and texts, have been marketed to governments on a widespread basis. But vulnerabilities publicly reported by security researchers often turn out to be tools long used by secretive intelligence services, such as the National Security Agency or Britain’s GCHQ, but not revealed to the public.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Photo: YVES HERMAN/REUTERS

“Many of the big intelligence agencies probably have teams that do nothing but SS7 research and exploitation,” said Christopher Soghoian, principal technologist for the ACLU and an expert on surveillance technology. “They’ve likely sat on these things and quietly exploited them.”

The GSMA, a global cellular industry group based in London, did not respond to queries seeking comment about the vulnerabilities that Nohl and Engel have found. For the Post’s article in August on location tracking systems that use SS7, GSMA officials acknowledged problems with the network and said it was due to be replaced over the next decade because of a growing list of security and technical issues.

The German researchers found two distinct ways to eavesdrop on calls using SS7 technology. In the first, commands sent over SS7 could be used to hijack a cell phone’s “forwarding” function — a service offered by many carriers. Hackers would redirect calls to themselves, for listening or recording, and then onward to the intended recipient of a call. Once that system was in place, the hackers could eavesdrop on all incoming and outgoing calls indefinitely, from anywhere in the world.

The second technique requires physical proximity but could be deployed on a much wider scale. Hackers would use radio antennas to collect all the calls and texts passing through the airwaves in an area. For calls or texts transmitted using strong encryption, such as is commonly used for advanced 3G connections, hackers could request through SS7 that each caller’s carrier release a temporary encryption key to unlock the communication after it has been recorded.

Nohl on Wednesday demonstrated the ability to collect and decrypt a text message using the phone of a German senator, who cooperated in the experiment. But Nohl said the process could be automated to allow massive decryption of calls and texts collected across an entire city or a large section of a country, using multiple antennas.

“It’s all automated, at the push of a button,” Nohl said. “It would strike me as a perfect spying capability, to record and decrypt pretty much any network… Any network we have tested, it works.”

Those tests have included more than 20 networks worldwide, including T-Mobile in the United States. The other major U.S. carriers have not been tested, though Nohl and Engel said it’s likely at least some of them have similar vulnerabilities. (Several smartphone-based text messaging systems, such as Apple’s iMessage and Whatsapp, use end-to-end encryption methods that sidestep traditional cellular text systems and likely would defeat the technique described by Nohl and Engel.)

In a statement, T-Mobile said: “T-Mobile remains vigilant in our work with other mobile operators, vendors and standards bodies to promote measures that can detect and prevent these attacks.”

The issue of cell phone interception is particularly sensitive in Germany because of news reports last year, based on documents provided by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, that a phone belonging to Chancellor Angela Merkel was the subject of NSA surveillance. The techniques of that surveillance have not become public, though Nohl said that the SS7 hacking method that he and Engel discovered is one of several possibilities.

U.S. embassies and consulates in dozens of foreign cities, including Berlin, are outfitted with antennas for collecting cellular signals, according to reports by German magazine Der Spiegel, based on documents released by Snowden. Many cell phone conversations worldwide happen with either no encryption or weak encryption.

The move to 3G networks offers far better encryption and the prospect of private communications, but the hacking techniques revealed by Nohl and Engel undermine that possibility. Carriers can potentially guard their networks against efforts by hackers to collect encryption keys, but it’s unclear how many have done so. One network that operates in Germany, Vodafone, recently began blocking such requests after Nohl reported the problem to the company two weeks ago.

Nohl and Engel also have discovered new ways to track the locations of cell phone users through SS7. The Post story, in August, reported that several companies were offering governments worldwide the ability to find virtually any cell phone user, virtually anywhere in the world, by learning the location of their cell phones through an SS7 function called an “Any Time Interrogation” query.

Some carriers block such requests, and several began doing so after the Post’s report. But the researchers in recent months have found several other techniques that hackers could use to find the locations of callers by using different SS7 queries. All networks must track their customers in order to route calls to the nearest cellular towers, but they are not required to share that information with other networks or foreign governments.

Carriers everywhere must turn over location information and allow eavesdropping of calls when ordered to by government officials in whatever country they are operating in. But the techniques discovered by Nohl and Engel offer the possibility of much broader collection of caller locations and conversations, by anyone with access to SS7 and the required technical skills to send the appropriate queries.

“I doubt we are the first ones in the world who realize how open the SS7 network is,” Engel said.

Secretly eavesdropping on calls and texts would violate laws in many countries, including the United States, except when done with explicit court or other government authorization. Such restrictions likely do little to deter criminals or foreign spies, say surveillance experts, who say that embassies based in Washington likely collect cellular signals.

The researchers also found that it was possible to use SS7 to learn the phone numbers of people whose cellular signals are collected using surveillance devices. The calls transmit a temporary identification number which, by sending SS7 queries, can lead to the discovery of the phone number. That allows location tracking within a certain area, such as near government buildings.

The German senator who cooperated in Nohl’s demonstration of the technology, Thomas Jarzombek of Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union party, said that while many in that nation have been deeply angered by revelations about NSA spying, few are surprised that such intrusions are possible.

“After all the NSA and Snowden things we’ve heard, I guess nobody believes it’s possible to have a truly private conversation on a mobile phone,” he said. “When I really need a confidential conversation, I use a fixed-line” phone.

Craig Timberg is a national technology reporter for The Post.


Hong Kong Democracy Stand Off: Tuesday, November 4 and Wednesday, November 5, 2014

November 4, 2014


Britain did more for HK democracy than China

By Matthew Yim Yew Fei

The writer of the letter, “Where were protesters when UK ruled, US spied?” (Oct 31), is confusing issues about the British Empire and spying by the United States with the current Hong Kong protests for universal suffrage.

When Edward Snowden ran away from the United States’ National Security Agency, the first place he fled to was Hong Kong, where he also gave journalists his first interview. To Hongkongers, it felt like Hong Kong was freer than the US.

Also, it is pointless to compare the modern era to the British Empire. Even our forefathers in Singapore were contented living under the British. It was only after the war when ideas of democracy and self-rule spread to the colonies.

Democracy is not only about electing leaders, but also about rule of law, individual rights, freedom of press and judicial independence. In this regard, Britain did more to improve democracy and provide freedom to Hong Kong than China has done.

One can argue that Hongkongers are fearful that China will take away their rights and freedom, let alone their ability to choose their own leaders.

They hear about corruption and abuse of authority in the mainland, closing down of Weibo accounts critical of Communist Party leaders, press censorship and the Great Firewall of China blocking access to Facebook, Google and other websites Beijing deems inappropriate.

Also, Hong Kong leaders selected by Beijing have so far given the impression of aloofness, and seem more interested in serving the interests of business elites and Beijing, rather than the common people.

One could conclude that the protesters would rather risk their future in leaders of their own choosing than live in a restricted regime ruled by elites.


Anti-Occupy petition submitted to Hong Kong SAR gov’t

Protesters in Hong Kong remain on the streets after more than a month. But Campaigners for an end to the disruptions believe the city’s residents have sent out a clear message against protesters.

And it’s got the evidence to prove it: a petition signed by more than 1.8 million people. On Monday afternoon, the anti-Occupy Central Alliance presented the petition to the Hong Kong SAR government.

The public’s opinion on paper. Over 1.8 million of Hong Kong’s residents have made it clear they want an end to disruptions, and a return to normal life.
After presenting their petition report to the Hong Kong SAR government, anti-Occupy leaders say they will arrange meetings with legislative councillors, and protest organizers.

“We will also try to arrange meetings with scholars, as well as Federations of Hong Kong students,” Anti-Occupy Central Alliance spokesman Robert Chow said.

The anti-Occupy Central Alliance launched its petition on October 25th. About 1.3 million signed their name in the streets, with the remaining 500,000 doing so online. Anger at the protests was shared among residents of all ages and backgrounds.

The anti-Occupy leaders say such a popular and robust petition has made Hong Kong residents’ voice of objection to the ongoing protests much louder. And it’s clear the people will back the Hong Kong SAR government and police to solve the ongoing protests with further measures.

The anti-Occupy group also called on Hong Kong residents to participate in the district-council and legislative council elections in two years, in order to help with the city’s long term development.

Includes video:


PHOTOS: Trade unions at anti-Occupy Central rally in Admiralty last night

By Laurel Chor November 4, 2014


People from the Motor Transport Workers General Union held signs against the “hogging of roads”.

Last night, different trade unions came together to hold an anti-Umbrella Movement rally in Chater Garden, Central.

Chefs came out in full uniform to voice their anger at the Umbrella Movement. 

A man wearing a Hong Kong Mass Transit Rail Way Staff General Association vest wrote about why he is against the protests.

People from the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions hold signs saying “Give me back my roads, give me back my livelihood”.

Most of the crowd was elderly, though there were young people who acted as chaperones or organisers. Here, a young woman collects the papers on which people wrote their feelings about the pro-democracy protests. 

People from the Hong Kong Manufacturing Industry Employees General Union gave thumbs-up signs to the camera.

No one seemed to notice the irony of sitting under yellow umbrellas at an anti-Umbrella Movement rally.

People sat down in front of the stage, from which blinding lights were shining.

An elderly man takes a photo of the event.

“Give Hong Kong back a means to make a living”, this man’s sign demands.

The anti-“road hogging” signs doubled as much-needed shields against the stage lights.

This kid brought down the crowd’s average age slightly. 

This woman’s sign says: “Give back the roads to the people. Restore order.” 

Many wore their unions’ uniforms.

Organisers had collection boxes for people’s opinions on the Umbrella Movement.

That’s one way to hold a sign. It says “Give the roads back to the people. Defend Hong Kong.”

People from the Garment Fashion Practitioners Association holding signs saying “Give the roads back to the people, restore order.” and “Give me back my roads, give me back my livelihood”.

It was past many people’s bedtimes. 

Smiling for the camera!

Photos/Words: Laurel Chor/Coconuts Media



Edward Snowden Film Likely To Embarrass Obama Administration

October 11, 2014

Citizen Four is the shocking doc about Edward Snowden made by Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras. Just screened tonight was the two hour film will be released by the Weinstein Company this month. It doesn’t paint the Obama administration in a very good light as Snowden explains how the government has violated privacy rights on a massive scale.

Also the filmmakers clearly inducate that all roads lead to POTUS, a fairly serious accusation. There may be serious repercussions.

Then there’s the Hollywoodization of Snowden. The detail of how and why Snowden went about this is pretty surprising considering how the 29 year old former NSA employee says he wants his own privacy and not to be a celebrity. It’s instructive to see his evolution from eyeglass wearing nerd to contact lenses and moussed up hair sporting hero of his own thriller. It’s all very Tom Cruise. Even the beautiful girlfriend sets up housekeeping with him in Moscow. Nevertheless as the details of the NSA’s programs are revealed Snowden says, “This isn’t science fiction. It’s really happening.”.




At the end of the Laura Poitras doc, the famed informant registers shock over another who outranks him

By Seth Abramovitch, Chris O’Falt

The Hollywood Reporter

A second National Security Agency whistleblower exists within the ranks of government intelligence.

That bombshell comes toward the end of Citizenfour, a new documentary from filmmaker Laura Poitras about NSA informant Edward Snowden that had its world premiere on Friday at the New York Film Festival.

In the key scene, journalist Glenn Greenwald visits Snowden at a hotel room in Moscow. Fearing they are being taped, Greenwald communicates with Snowden via pen and paper.

While some of the exchanges are blurred for the camera, it becomes clear that Greenwald wants to convey that another government whistleblower — higher in rank than Snowden — has come forward.

The revelation clearly shocks Snowden, whose mouth drops open when he reads the details of the informant’s leak.

Also revealed by Greenwald is the fact that 1.2 million Americans are currently on a government watch-list. Among them is Poitras herself.

And the surprises don’t end there. Near the end of the film, which received a rousing standing ovation, it is revealed that Lindsay Mills, Snowden’s dancer girlfriend of 10 years, has been living with Snowden in Moscow.

When Poitras went to Moscow in July to show Snowden an early cut of the film, she shot footage of the two cooking dinner together, which appears in the final cut.

Snowden fled to Russia after the U.S. government revoked his passport and put pressure on other governments not to grant him asylum.

After spending 39 days in a Moscow airport, Snowden was granted a one-year asylum from President Vladimir Putin. He is now in the country on a three-year residency permit.

Poitras took the stage at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall following the screening, flanked by Greenwald, with whom she partnered on a pair of explosive stories in The Guardian and Washington Post about Snowden’s surveillance disclosures in June 2014.

Also joining them was Jeremy Scahill, their partner on the website The Intercept, and Snowden’s father and stepmother. Snowden’s father thanked Poitras for having made Citizenfour, which he deemed a “wonderful piece of work.”

Poitras kept her comments following the screening to a minimum, and thanked her crew and Snowden. Instead it was Greenwald and Scahill who did most of the talking, with Scahill at one point describing Poitras as “the most bad-ass director alive, period.”

Before the screening, Poitras told The Hollywood Reporter that she will never forget the moment when Snowden — who was so young Greenwald initially doubted his authenticity — said he was willing to go on the record with his allegations.

“One of the most intense moments was when Snowden told us his identity would not remain anonymous, and I knew that somebody was really, really putting their life on the line,” Poitras said.

A demonstrator holds a photograph of Edward Snowden

A demonstrator holds a sign with a photograph of Edward Snowden during 4 July celebrations in 2013 in Boston, Massachusetts. Photograph: Brian Snyder/REUTERS
From The Guardian
Lindsay Mills, girlfriend of Edward SnowdenLindsay Mills, the girlfriend of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, in Hawaii. Photograph: Splash/Luis Silos III

The mystery of the whereabouts of Edward Snowden’s long-time girlfriend is solved in a documentary that premiered in New York on Friday night: she has been living with the national security whistleblower in Russia since July.

The surprise revelation in the documentary, filmed by Laura Poitras, upends the widespread assumption that Snowden had deserted Lindsay Mills and that she, in a fit of pique, fled Hawaii where they had been living to stay with her parents in mainland US.

Since Snowden, a former NSA contractor, outed himself last year as being behind the biggest leak in US intelligence history, Mills has remained silent, giving no interviews or any hints of her feelings on the subject of her boyfriend or his actions.

The two-hour long documentary, Citizenfour, shows Mills living in Russia with Snowden.

When the Guardian met Snowden in Moscow in July, Snowden suggested the relationship was more complex than the view constantly recycled in the media of a woman abandoned and hinted that the two were not in fact estranged.

Citizenfour offers a fly-on-the wall account of Snowden. Poitras filmed him at the Mira hotel in Hong Kong last year during interviews with journalists that resulted in a series of stories in the Guardian about the extent of surveillance by the US and British intelligence agencies as well as the internet and telecom companies. The revelations started a worldwide debate about the balance between surveillance and privacy.

Poitras captures the tension in his room at the Mira – where then-Guardian columnist Glenn Greenwald and I interviewed him – and in his final minutes at the hotel before he fled after being tipped off that hordes of media were about to arrive. She also filmed at the Guardian in London ahead of publication of one of the most explosive of the stories arising from Snowden’s revelations, and in Moscow, where Snowden is now in exile.

Snowden has been reluctant to talk about his personal life, preferring the media focus to be on wider debate about surveillance rather than him. But Poitras’s portrayal is both personal and sympathetic.

In his first comment about the documentary, which Poitras had shown to him in advance, Snowden told the Guardian: “I hope people won’t see this as a story about heroism. It’s actually a story about what ordinary people can do in extraordinary circumstances.”

Snowden was working as an NSA contractor in Hawaii where Mills joined him. A dancer, she posted many details and photographs about herself and him on the web.

She was still in Hawaii when news broke from Hong Kong that he was the whistleblower. Days earlier, authorities, suspicious about his prolonged absence from work, had visited their home.

On her blog, subtitled, ‘Adventures of a world-travelling, pole-dancing superhero,’ she wrote that she felt “sick, exhausted and carrying the weight of the world”. Shortly afterwards, she took the blog down.

The two appear to have been together since at least 2009, living part of the time near Baltimore before moving to Hawaii in 2012.

Seems Like Most People In Asia Worry About China’s Rise

July 15, 2014

By Banyan
The Economist

A Chinese Coast Guard ship keeps an eye on China’s oil rig positioned by China near Vietnam in May 2014. China said the rig was in international waters, Vietnam said the rig was in Vietnamese waters.

FOR all the alarmist commentary in the international press—including The Economist—it still seems incredible that China’s tiffs with its neighbours about mainly tiny, uninhabited and barren rocks and islets in the South and East China seas might actually lead to conflict. But a survey published this week by the Pew Research Centre, an American polling organisation, suggests that many of the people most directly affected, ie those living in Asia, fear just that.

The global survey covered 44 countries, 11 of them in Asia. Not surprisingly, those countries with the most active territorial disputes with China were the most alarmed. In the Philippines, for example, which is engaged in a number of battles-of-will with China over encroachments on territory it claims in parts of the South China Sea, 93% of respondents were “concerned” about the possibility of conflict.

In Vietnam, in whose claimed territorial waters China started operating an oil-rig in May, it was 84%. And in Japan, which administers the Senkaku islands, claimed by China as the Daioyus, over which China announced an Air-Defence Identification Zone last November, 85% are worried. Even in South Korea and Malaysia, which are on very good terms with China, and whose own disputes with it are very low-key, the figures are 83% and 66% respectively. In China itself it is 62%.

Chinese leaders make much of how their country’s rise has been and will continue to be “peaceful”. Yet their recent behaviour suggests they may not be too bothered that many of their own citizens, as well as the people living in neighbouring countries, seem not to believe them.  They have done little to lessen concerns about China’s perceived willingness to use force to pursue its claims.

They may, however, feel a little queasy reading some of the other findings in the survey. Despite all the bad publicity America has received over its use of drone strikes and over the revelations by Edward Snowden, a former contractor of its security services, about the extent of American electronic surveillance of its own and others’ citizens, the United States remains a very popular country.

Of the 11 Asian countries surveyed, eight see America as their greatest ally. One, Indonesia, whose people are subtle in their logic, sees it as both best friend and biggest threat. The two, besides China, which do not see America as their greatest ally, are Malaysia and Pakistan, which are also the only ones not to have a majority holding a “favourable” view of America. Bangladesh is an exception, but Muslim-majority countries continue to have a dim view of America

The survey is not all bad news for China. Only those three most directly affected countries—Japan, the Philippines and Vietnam—see it as the biggest security threat to their country. And in a  number of Asian countries—Bangladesh, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand—views of China are as favourable as those of America.

What’s more, the perception that China is the coming superpower has taken root. In a survey in 2008, Pew found that a median of 41% of respondents believed China had already or would in the future supplant America as the world’s superpower. This year one half think China is already or will one day be the world’s leading power. Only a diehard 32% thinks China will never replace America in that role. That may be why the Asians are so fretful.

Chinese maritime protection officers board and search a fishing boat from another nation in international waters — a clear violation of international law.

China-U.S. “Dialogue” Marred by “Lack of Trust”

July 13, 2014


Chinese President Xi Jinping (3rd L) meets with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (2nd L) and Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew (1st L) in Beijing, capital of China, July 10, 2014. John Kerry and Jacob Lew came here to attend the Sixth Round of China-U.S. Strategic and Economic Dialogue and the Fifth Round of China-U.S. High-Level Consultation on People-to-People Exchange. (Xinhua/Huang Jingwen)

BEIJING, July 12  — The sixth round of China-U.S. Strategic and Economic Dialogue (S&ED), which was convened here Wednesday and Thursday, has been lauded by world media as conducive to boosting mutual understanding and building a new type of major-country relations.

Professors Chun Kalim from Hoseo University of South Korea said that China and the U.S. are two big powers in the world. It is reasonable and necessary to build a new era of relations between big powers in line with the current situation, which will also play a crucial role in maintaining world peace.

The China-U.S. dialogue process is a process of closer exchange and cooperation which will be helpful for the two sides to understand each other’s positions as well as to clear up contradictions and unpleasantness. It is worth mentioning that the China-U.S. cultural exchanges and dialogue are to be elevated to the same level as the strategic and economic position, which is a major breakthrough.

The Yonhap News agency reported that Chinese President Xi Jinping at the opening ceremony repeatedly mentioned the establishment of a new-type China-U.S. relations, and noted that China and the U.S. should respect each other’s choice of the development path. The two sides have reached agreement on cooperation in various fields, with plenty of achievements made.

Veteran Indian strategic analyst Ramesh Chopra said the dialogue is conducive to peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region and the world.

He said the United States and China can hold dialogue and coordination on various issues despite their differences.

Both China and the United States are economic giants and East, Southeast as well as South Asia can benefit immensely by interacting bilaterally as well as multi-laterally in the fields of economy and development to derive maximum advantage, Chopra said.

Russia’s Kommersant daily newspaper published on Thursday an article titled “American diplomacy turns to China,” in which it said U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s visit to China for the S&ED is seen as a step to build a new model of major-country relations between China and the United States, which was raised by the two countries’ leaders last year.

The S&ED proved that the United States saw the economic cooperation between China as a top priority.

Progress was registered in negotiations on the Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT), which helps solve the problems of trade imbalance, the exchange rate of the Chinese yuan, investment restrictions and so on.

World News published in the Philippines reported that, through the joint efforts, the annual China-U.S. dialogue has scored more than 300 achievements of cooperation and achieved perfect success.

As the largest developed country and the largest developing country in the world, although the two countries face conflicts of interest, they have common interests in various fields including denuclearization of the Korean peninsula, the international fight against terrorism, the nuclear issue of Iran, the international financial crisis and climate changes, the newspaper said.

Strengthening communications and reducing frictions will benefit both countries, it said.

Singapore’s Lianhe Zaobao newspaper said China and the United States had seen frequent frictions over the past year and the dialogue created an opportunity for the two sides to cushion the blow and “cool down” tensions.

The paper said the dialogue had already made breakthroughs on important issues such as currency reform and BIT.

In another article, the paper said the economic dialogue yielded over 90 items of agreement and the most remarkable progress is that both sides agreed to resolve core issues and major provisions of BIT.

Although the two failed to reach agreements over cyber security and maritime disputes, it showcased the complicated “cooperative and contradictory” relationship between the two giant economies.

Sin Chew Daily, a Malaysian Chinese-language newspaper, reported that China and the United States had reached an agreement that the two countries’ leaders would continue to maintain regular communication.

At the same time, it said that China and the United States had agreed to promote their cooperation in fields like anti-terrorism, law enforcement, anti-corruption, customs, fishery, maritime affairs, energy and climate changes, security, etc.

Thailand’s Sirinakorn Daily News quoted academics as saying that China and the U.S. should take good advantage of this dialogue to reshape bilateral relations and create a positive momentum for development.

An article posted on the website of MCOT, a Thai-language media group, said that the relations between China and the United States have much bearing on global peace and stability.

Both countries have expected to take this opportunity to improve their relations, further promote economic and security cooperation and prevent disagreements from exerting negative impact, it said.


Chinese Premier Li Keqiang (R) speaks to U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew next to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (C) during a meeting at the Zhongnanhai leadership compound in Beijing July 10, 2014. REUTERS/Ng Han Guan/Pool

By David Gordon


Secretary of State John Kerry and Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew traveled to Beijing this week for the annual Strategic and Economic Dialogue, at a time when U.S.-China tensions are running higher than at any point in the past decade. Though each country’s bureaucrats were able to put on a good face and paper over significant disagreements, they were unable to make progress on any major security or economic issue.

Unfortunately, the U.S. administration passed up a chance to advance and elevate the U.S.-China Bilateral Investment Treaty, an agreement that sets the rules of the road for cross-border investment. Doing so could have yielded major economic benefits and had positive spillover effects on the strategic issues vexing both countries. But now, with little for the two sides to hang their hats on, the relationship is ripe for more tension.

A year ago, when President Barack Obama met with new Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Sunnylands Ranch in California, the two laid out an ambitious agenda, agreeing to discuss contentious cyber issues, the need to increase pressure on North Korea, and more broadly chart a positive course for the world’s most important bilateral relationship.

Since the earlier summit, however, a number of issues have set back relations. Increased Japan-China acrimony in the East China Sea, an aggressive Chinese move to set up oil rigs in disputed waters off Vietnam, and the Edward Snowden espionage revelations have set teeth on edge in Washington and Beijing.

On the economic side, U.S. indictments of Chinese military hackers, a series of ongoing trade disputes, the recent weakening of China’s currency and continued restrictions on foreign investors have each threatened to undermine the countries’ $500-billion-a-year commercial relationship. While the United States continues to describe relations with China as a delicate balance between cooperation and competition, China looks at the United States through a darker lens, convinced that America is determined to “contain” its rise.

At this year’s dialogue, the Obama administration passed up a big opportunity to make progress on the BIT. At the opening ceremony, Xi publicly expressed interest in “speeding up” talks on the treaty, but from the final communique it is clear that the U.S. side did not take up his offer.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (L) shakes hand with Chinese State Councillor Yang Jiechi as they arrive for the China-U.S. Eco Partnerships signing ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing July 10, 2014. REUTERS/Andy Wong/Pool (CHINA – Tags: POLITICS) – RTR3XZLB CHINA

So, why is the treaty important? Each country would have to treat most foreign business ventures as if they came from home. China could no longer subject U.S. companies to technology-transfer mandates that force them to hand over trade secrets as a price of doing business in the country. Chinese state-owned enterprises would be restricted in their ability to use the government to boost their competitiveness. U.S. firms would be allowed to invest more in sectors like insurance, telecom and banking, which were previously highly restricted to foreigners. They could for the first time seek legal recourse through independent international arbitration. The Chinese economy would benefit from the BIT — both by making U.S. investors more confident in their Chinese exposure, and by allowing more Chinese investment in the United States.

Treaty talks remain in the early stages because the Obama administration, it appears, does not want to seem too eager to either engage China or reward the Chinese for bad behavior. But slow-rolling the BIT will reinforce the view of many in China that the only real U.S. economic priority in Asia is the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a deal that China has not been asked to join and which it sees as part of a U.S. containment strategy.

At the S&ED, the administration should have pushed to conclude the BIT before President Obama leaves the White House. Such a commitment would have sent a strong signal that Obama remains serious about his statement at Sunnylands that — despite the tension surrounding regional maritime claims, currency manipulation and corporate espionage — the U.S. has a real stake in China’s success.

Progress on the BIT will not make regional tensions disappear. Security issues will remain strained as the United States continues to stand strong on maritime issues, a matter of critical importance to America’s treaty-bound allies Japan, South Korea, the Philippines and Australia. By demonstrating resolve in the face of Chinese maritime aggression, U.S. security commitments decrease the odds of conflict. This stance, though, will inevitably strain U.S.-China relations.

Still, the BIT could take at least some of the bite out of a growing list of security challenges. It would be the first major agreement between the United States and China on any issue since the negotiations for China to gain World Trade Organization membership ended in 2001. During the Cold War, the United States and Soviet Union came to major agreements on a variety of strategic and economic issues, providing an important safety valve for the relationship. Passage of the BIT would help our two nations create a habit of dealing with difficult issues in a workmanlike way. A major economic breakthrough is more likely to soften Beijing’s territorial assertiveness than holding back on an agreement that would benefit both countries.

The South China Morning Post is reporting on Sunday, July 13, 2014 that “Mistrust between China and US is getting worse”


When U.S. Government Conducts “Targeted Surveillance,” It Also Grabs Phone, Internet Data, Personal Info on Nine Times The Number of “Innocent Bystanders”

July 6, 2014


While collecting data on legally targeted foreigners, U.S. government vacuums up nine times as many conversations from “innocent citizens.”

WASHINGTON (AP) — When the National Security Agency intercepted the online accounts of legally targeted foreigners over a four-year period it also collected the conversations of nine times as many ordinary Internet users, both Americans and non-Americans, according to an investigation by The Washington Post.

Nearly half of those surveillance files contained names, email addresses or other details that the NSA marked as belonging to U.S. citizens or residents, the Post reported in a story posted on its website Saturday night. While the federal agency tried to protect their privacy by masking more than 65,000 such references to individuals, the newspaper said it found nearly 900 additional email addresses that could be strongly linked to U.S. citizens or residents.

At the same time, the intercepted messages contained material of considerable intelligence value, the Post reported, such as information about a secret overseas nuclear project, double-dealing by an ostensible ally, a military calamity that befell an unfriendly power, and the identities of aggressive intruders into U.S. computer networks.

As an example, the newspaper said the files showed that months of tracking communications across dozens of alias accounts led directly to the capture in 2011 of a Pakistan-based bomb builder suspected in a 2002 terrorist bombing in Bali. The Post said it was withholding other examples, at the request of the CIA, that would compromise ongoing investigations.

The material reviewed by the Post included roughly 160,000 intercepted e-mail and instant-message conversations, some of them hundreds of pages long, and 7,900 documents taken from more than 11,000 online accounts. It spanned President Barack Obama’s first term, 2009 to 2012, and was provided to the Post by former NSA analyst Edward Snowden.

The daily lives of more than 10,000 account holders who were not targeted were catalogued and recorded, the Post reported. The newspaper described that material as telling “stories of love and heartbreak, illicit sexual liaisons, mental-health crises, political and religious conversions, financial anxieties and disappointed hopes.” The material collected included more than 5,000 private photos, the paper said.

The cache Snowden provided to the newspaper came from domestic NSA operations under the broad authority granted by Congress in 2008 with amendments to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, according to the Post.

By law, the NSA may “target” only foreign nationals located overseas unless it obtains a warrant based on probable cause from a special surveillance court, the Post said. “Incidental collection” of third-party communications is inevitable in many forms of surveillance, according to the newspaper. In the case of the material Snowden provided, those in an online chat room visited by a target or merely reading the discussion were included in the data sweep, as were hundreds of people using a computer server whose Internet protocol was targeted.



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The Washington Post

Ordinary Internet users, American and non-American alike, far outnumber legally targeted foreigners in the communications intercepted by the National Security Agency from U.S. digital networks, according to a four-month investigation by The Washington Post.Nine of 10 account holders found in a large cache of intercepted conversations, which former NSA contractor Edward Snowden provided in full to The Post, were not the intended surveillance targets but were caught in a net the agency had cast for somebody else.Many of them were Americans. Nearly half of the surveillance files, a strikingly high proportion, contained names, e-mail addresses or other details that the NSA marked as belonging to U.S. citizens or residents. NSA analysts masked, or “minimized,” more than 65,000 such references to protect Americans’ privacy, but The Post found nearly 900 additional e-mail addresses, unmasked in the files, that could be strongly linked to U.S. citizens or U.S.residents.The surveillance files highlight a policy dilemma that has been aired only abstractly in public. There are discoveries of considerable intelligence value in the intercepted messages — and collateral harm to privacy on a scale that the Obama administration has not been willing to address.

Among the most valuable contents — which The Post will not describe in detail, to avoid interfering with ongoing operations — are fresh revelations about a secret overseas nuclear project, double-dealing by an ostensible ally, a military calamity that befell an unfriendly power, and the identities of aggressive intruders into U.S. computer networks.

A breakdown of the cache of NSA-intercepted communications provided to the Washington Post by Edward Snowden

Months of tracking communications across more than 50 alias accounts, the files show, led directly to the 2011 capture in Abbottabad of Muhammad Tahir Shahzad, a Pakistan-based bomb builder, and Umar Patek, a suspect in a 2002 terrorist bombing on the Indonesian island of Bali. At the request of CIA officials, The Post is withholding other examples that officials said would compromise ongoing operations.

Many other files, described as useless by the analysts but nonetheless retained, have a startlingly intimate, even voyeuristic quality. They tell stories of love and heartbreak, illicit sexual liaisons, mental-health crises, political and religious conversions, financial anxieties and disappointed hopes. The daily lives of more than 10,000 account holders who were not targeted are catalogued and recorded nevertheless.

In order to allow time for analysis and outside reporting, neither Snowden nor The Post has disclosed until now that he obtained and shared the content of intercepted communications. The cache Snowden provided came from domestic NSA operations under the broad authority granted by Congress in 2008 with amendments to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. FISA content is generally stored in closely controlled data repositories, and for more than a year, senior government officials have depicted it as beyond Snowden’s reach.

The Post reviewed roughly 160,000 intercepted e-mail and instant-message conversations, some of them hundreds of pages long, and 7,900 documents taken from more than 11,000 online accounts.

The material spans President Obama’s first term, from 2009 to 2012, a period of exponential growth for the NSA’s domestic collection.

Taken together, the files offer an unprecedented vantage point on the changes wrought by Section 702 of the FISA amendments, which enabled the NSA to make freer use of methods that for 30 years had required probable cause and a warrant from a judge. One program, code-named PRISM, extracts content stored in user accounts at Yahoo, Microsoft, Facebook, Google and five other leading Internet companies. Another, known inside the NSA as Upstream, intercepts data on the move as it crosses the U.S. junctions of global voice and data networks.

No government oversight body, including the Justice Department, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, intelligence committees in Congress or the president’s Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, has delved into a comparably large sample of what the NSA actually collects — not only from its targets but also from people who may cross a target’s path.

A composite image of two of the more than 5,000 private photos among data collected by the National Security Agency from online accounts and network links in the United States. The images were included in a large cache of NSA intercepts provided by former agency contractor Edward Snowden. (Images obtained by The Washington Post)

Among the latter are medical records sent from one family member to another, résumés from job hunters and academic transcripts of schoolchildren. In one photo, a young girl in religious dress beams at a camera outside a mosque.

Scores of pictures show infants and toddlers in bathtubs, on swings, sprawled on their backs and kissed by their mothers. In some photos, men show off their physiques. In others, women model lingerie, leaning suggestively into a webcam or striking risque poses in shorts and bikini tops.

“None of the hits that were received were relevant,” two Navy cryptologic technicians write in one of many summaries of nonproductive surveillance. “No additional information,” writes a civilian analyst. Another makes fun of a suspected kidnapper, newly arrived in Syria before the current civil war, who begs for employment as a janitor and makes wide-eyed observations about the state of undress displayed by women on local beaches.

By law, the NSA may “target” only foreign nationals located overseas unless it obtains a warrant based on probable cause from a special surveillance court. For collection under PRISM and Upstream rules, analysts must state a reasonable belief that the target has information of value about a foreign government, a terrorist organization or the spread of nonconventional weapons.

Most of the people caught up in those programs are not the targets and would not lawfully qualify as such. “Incidental collection” of third-party communications is inevitable in many forms of surveillance, but in other contexts the U.S. government works harder to limit and discard irrelevant data. In criminal wiretaps, for example, the FBI is supposed to stop listening to a call if a suspect’s wife or child is using the phone.

There are many ways to be swept up incidentally in surveillance aimed at a valid foreign target. Some of those in the Snowden archive were monitored because they interacted directly with a target, but others had more-tenuous links.

If a target entered an online chat room, the NSA collected the words and identities of every person who posted there, regardless of subject, as well as every person who simply “lurked,” reading passively what other people wrote.

“1 target, 38 others on there,” one analyst wrote. She collected data on them all.

In other cases, the NSA designated as its target the Internet protocol, or IP, address of a computer server used by hundreds of people.

The NSA treats all content intercepted incidentally from third parties as permissible to retain, store, search and distribute to its government customers. Raj De, the agency’s general counsel, has testified that the NSA does not generally attempt to remove irrelevant personal content, because it is difficult for one analyst to know what might become relevant to another.

The Obama administration declines to discuss the scale of incidental collection. The NSA, backed by Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr., has asserted that it is unable to make any estimate, even in classified form, of the number of Americans swept in. It is not obvious why the NSA could not offer at least a partial count, given that its analysts routinely pick out “U.S. persons” and mask their identities, in most cases, before distributing intelligence reports.

If Snowden’s sample is representative, the population under scrutiny in the PRISM and Upstream programs is far larger than the government has suggested. In a June 26 “transparency report,” the Office of the Director of National Intelligence disclosed that 89,138 people were targets of last year’s collection under FISA Section 702. At the 9-to-1 ratio of incidental collection in Snowden’s sample, the office’s figure would correspond to nearly 900,000 accounts, targeted or not, under surveillance.

‘He didn’t get this data’

U.S. intelligence officials declined to confirm or deny in general terms the authenticity of the intercepted content provided by Snowden, but they made off-the-record requests to withhold specific details that they said would alert the targets of ongoing surveillance. Some officials, who declined to be quoted by name, described Snowden’s handling of the sensitive files as reckless.

In an interview, Snowden said “primary documents” offered the only path to a concrete debate about the costs and benefits of Section 702 surveillance. He did not favor public release of the full archive, he said, but he did not think a reporter could understand the programs “without being able to review some of that surveillance, both the justified and unjustified.”

“While people may disagree about where to draw the line on publication, I know that you and The Post have enough sense of civic duty to consult with the government to ensure that the reporting on and handling of this material causes no harm,” he said.

In Snowden’s view, the PRISM and Upstream programs have “crossed the line of proportionality.”

“Even if one could conceivably justify the initial, inadvertent interception of baby pictures and love letters of innocent bystanders,” he added, “their continued storage in government databases is both troubling and dangerous. Who knows how that information will be used in the future?”

For close to a year, NSA and other government officials have appeared to deny, in congressional testimony and public statements, that Snowden had any access to the material.

As recently as May, shortly after he retired as NSA director, Gen. Keith Alexander denied that Snowden could have passed FISA content to journalists.

“He didn’t get this data,” Alexander told a New Yorker reporter. “They didn’t touch —”

“The operational data?” the reporter asked.

“They didn’t touch the FISA data,” Alexander replied. He added, “That database, he didn’t have access to.”

Robert S. Litt, the general counsel for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, said in a prepared statement that Alexander and other officials were speaking only about “raw” intelligence, the term for intercepted content that has not yet been evaluated, stamped with classification markings or minimized to mask U.S. identities.

“We have talked about the very strict controls on raw traffic, the training that people have to have, the technological lockdowns on access,” Litt said. “Nothing that you have given us indicates that Snowden was able to circumvent that in any way.”

In the interview, Snowden said he did not need to circumvent those controls, because his final position as a contractor for Booz Allen at the NSA’s Hawaii operations center gave him “unusually broad, unescorted access to raw SIGINT [signals intelligence] under a special ‘Dual Authorities’ role,” a reference to Section 702 for domestic collection and Executive Order 12333 for collection overseas. Those credentials, he said, allowed him to search stored content — and “task” new collection — without prior approval of his search terms.

“If I had wanted to pull a copy of a judge’s or a senator’s e-mail, all I had to do was enter that selector into XKEYSCORE,” one of the NSA’s main query systems, he said.

The NSA has released an e-mail exchange acknowledging that Snowden took the required training classes for access to those systems.

‘Minimized U.S. president’

At one level, the NSA shows scrupulous care in protecting the privacy of U.S. nationals and, by policy, those of its four closest intelligence allies — Britain, Australia, Canada and New Zealand.

More than 1,000 distinct “minimization” terms appear in the files, attempting to mask the identities of “possible,” “potential” and “probable” U.S. persons, along with the names of U.S. beverage companies, universities, fast-food chains and Web-mail hosts.

Some of them border on the absurd, using titles that could apply to only one man. A “minimized U.S. president-elect” begins to appear in the files in early 2009, and references to the current “minimized U.S. president” appear 1,227 times in the following four years.

Even so, unmasked identities remain in the NSA’s files, and the agency’s policy is to hold on to “incidentally” collected U.S. content, even if it does not appear to contain foreign intelligence.

In one exchange captured in the files, a young American asks a Pakistani friend in late 2009 what he thinks of the war in Afghanistan. The Pakistani replies that it is a religious struggle against 44 enemy states.

Startled, the American says “they, ah, they arent heavily participating . . . its like . . . in a football game, the other team is the enemy, not the other teams waterboy and cheerleaders.”

“No,” the Pakistani shoots back. “The team’s water boy is also an enemy. it is law of our religion.”

“Haha, sorry thats kind of funny,” the American replies.

When NSA and allied analysts really want to target an account, their concern for U.S. privacy diminishes. The rationales they use to judge foreignness sometimes stretch legal rules or well-known technical facts to the breaking point.

In their classified internal communications, colleagues and supervisors often remind the analysts that PRISM and Upstream collection have a “lower threshold for foreignness ‘standard of proof’ ” than a traditional surveillance warrant from a FISA judge, requiring only a “reasonable belief” and not probable cause.

One analyst rests her claim that a target is foreign on the fact that his e-mails are written in a foreign language, a quality shared by tens of millions of Americans. Others are allowed to presume that anyone on the chat “buddy list” of a known foreign national is also foreign.

In many other cases, analysts seek and obtain approval to treat an account as “foreign” if someone connects to it from a computer address that seems to be overseas. “The best foreignness explanations have the selector being accessed via a foreign IP address,” an NSA supervisor instructs an allied analyst in Australia.

Apart from the fact that tens of millions of Americans live and travel overseas, additional millions use simple tools called proxies to redirect their data traffic around the world, for business or pleasure. World Cup fans this month have been using a browser extension called Hola to watch live-streamed games that are unavailable from their own countries. The same trick is routinely used by Americans who want to watch BBC video. The NSA also relies routinely on locations embedded in Yahoo tracking cookies, which are widely regarded by online advertisers as unreliable.

In an ordinary FISA surveillance application, the judge grants a warrant and requires a fresh review of probable cause — and the content of collected surveillance — every 90 days. When renewal fails, NSA and allied analysts sometimes switch to the more lenient standards of PRISM and Upstream.

“These selectors were previously under FISA warrant but the warrants have expired,” one analyst writes, requesting that surveillance resume under the looser standards of Section 702. The request was granted.

‘I don’t like people knowing’

She was 29 and shattered by divorce, converting to Islam in search of comfort and love. He was three years younger, rugged and restless. His parents had fled Kabul and raised him in Australia, but he dreamed of returning to Afghanistan.

One day when she was sick in bed, he brought her tea. Their faith forbade what happened next, and later she recalled it with shame.

“what we did was evil and cursed and may allah swt MOST merciful forgive us for giving in to our nafs [desires]”

Still, a romance grew. They fought. They spoke of marriage. They fought again.

All of this was in the files because, around the same time, he went looking for the Taliban.

He found an e-mail address on its English-language Web site and wrote repeatedly, professing loyalty to the one true faith, offering to “come help my brothers” and join the fight against the unbelievers.

On May 30, 2012, without a word to her, he boarded a plane to begin a journey to Kandahar. He left word that he would not see her again.

If that had been the end of it, there would not be more than 800 pages of anguished correspondence between them in the archives of the NSA and its counterpart, the Australian Signals Directorate.

He had made himself a target. She was the collateral damage, placed under a microscope as she tried to adjust to the loss.

Three weeks after he landed in Kandahar, she found him on Facebook.

“Im putting all my pride aside just to say that i will miss you dearly and your the only person that i really allowed myself to get close to after losing my ex husband, my dad and my brother.. Im glad it was so easy for you to move on and put what we had aside and for me well Im just soo happy i met you. You will always remain in my heart. I know you left for a purpose it hurts like hell sometimes not because Im needy but because i wish i could have been with you.”

His replies were cool, then insulting, and gradually became demanding. He would marry her but there were conditions. She must submit to his will, move in with his parents and wait for him in Australia. She must hand him control of her Facebook account — he did not approve of the photos posted there.

She refused. He insisted:

“look in islam husband doesnt touch girl financial earnigs unless she agrees but as far as privacy goes there is no room….i need to have all ur details everything u do its what im supposed to know that will guide u whether its right or wrong got it”

Later, she came to understand the irony of her reply:

“I don’t like people knowing my private life.”

Months of negotiations followed, with each of them declaring an end to the romance a dozen times or more. He claimed he had found someone else and planned to marry that day, then admitted it was a lie. She responded:

“No more games. You come home. You won’t last with an afghan girl.”

She begged him to give up his dangerous path. Finally, in September, she broke off contact for good, informing him that she was engaged to another man.

“When you come back they will send you to jail,” she warned.

They almost did.

In interviews with The Post, conducted by telephone and Facebook, she said he flew home to Australia last summer, after failing to find members of the Taliban who would take him seriously. Australian National Police met him at the airport and questioned him in custody. They questioned her, too, politely, in her home. They showed her transcripts of their failed romance. When a Post reporter called, she already knew what the two governments had collected about her.

Eventually, she said, Australian authorities decided not to charge her failed suitor with a crime. Police spokeswoman Emilie Lovatt declined to comment on the case.

Looking back, the young woman said she understands why her intimate correspondence was recorded and parsed by men and women she did not know.

“Do I feel violated?” she asked. “Yes. I’m not against the fact that my privacy was violated in this instance, because he was stupid. He wasn’t thinking straight. I don’t agree with what he was doing.”

What she does not understand, she said, is why after all this time, with the case long closed and her own job with the Australian government secure, the NSA does not discard what it no longer needs.

Jennifer Jenkins and Carol D. Leonnig contributed to this report.

Nearly half of NSA surveillance files contained names, email addresses or other details that the NSA marked as belonging to U.S. citizens or residents

Nearly half of NSA surveillance files contained names, email addresses or other details that the NSA marked as belonging to U.S. citizens or residents

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