Germany BND chief to restructure agency following NSA spying scandal – report

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The head of Germany’s BND foreign intelligence service is reportedly aiming to bring more oversight to the agency and hire external advisers, in an effort to prevent a repeat of the NSA spying scandal that engulfed it this year.

BND chief Gerhard Schindler told a meeting of the staff council leadership that he wants to bring the 6,500 agents in field offices under central control, stating that some of them have taken on “a life of their own,” Süddeutsche Zeitung reported on Monday.

In addition, Schindler said the “administrative and technical supervision” of the agency needs to be “significantly improved,” adding that the controlling system should be strengthened by legal and statistical testing bodies.

He also plans to hire external advisers to assist with the agency’s restructuring, and to put an end to the “frayed” work.

Read more
​Germany provides NSA with staggering 1.3bn pieces of metadata per month – report
Schindler spoke of the agency’s operations, stating that tasks have previously been split between those in field offices and at headquarters.

That division in labor led to “significant problems in communication,” Schindler said, adding that those issues were “cemented yet further” after the agency’s HQ was moved to Berlin.

It comes shortly after German media revealed that the BND went against German interests while spying on European politicians and companies for the US National Security Agency (NSA). Those involved in the surveillance were divided between HQ and the listening post at Bad Aibling.

Read more
Merkel defends her staff amid NSA spying scandal
Adding to the layers of problems was the fact that no one felt responsible for the employees at Bad Aibling, Schindler said.

That lack of responsibility and oversight led to the BND breaching its own 2002 ‘Memorandum of Agreement’ with the NSA – because the German agency wasn’t supposed to spy on NATO partners or European institutions on behalf of Washington.

Although BND employees felt some of the selectors ran contrary to the goal of the agency and German Foreign Ministry since at least 2008, it wasn’t until 2013 – in the midst of the Edward Snowden revelations – that an investigation showed that some of the selectors violated German and EU interests.

READ MORE: NSA ‘asked’ Germany’s BND to spy on Siemens over alleged links with Russian intel

But despite the spying scandal and imminent restructuring of the BND, Schindler is keen to continue working with the NSA. He stated in May that the BND is “dependent” on the US agency, adding that “without this cooperation we wouldn’t be able to carry out our work.”

The scandal has led to a dip in German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s approval rating, with a May poll finding that one-third of Germans feel deceived by her.

NSA CAN IDENTIFY YOU BY YOUR “SMARTPHONE HANDWRITING”

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Agency has Lockheed Martin technology to monitor finger swipes on phones

    by STEVE WATSON | INFOWARS | MAY 27, 2015

    The NSA has technology that can identify anyone from the way they swipe and text on a smartphone, according to officials with Lockheed Martin who helped design it.

    The revelations were made in an interview with Lockheed IT and Security Solutions’s senior fellow John Mears, who told Nextgov that the technology, known as ‘Mandrake’, remotely analyses the curve, speed and acceleration of a person’s finger strokes on a device.

    “Nobody else has the same strokes. People can forge your handwriting in two dimensions, but they couldn’t forge it in three or four dimensions,” Mears said.

    “Three is the pressure you put in, in addition to the two dimensions on the paper. The fourth dimension is time. The most advanced handwriting-type authentication tracks you in four dimensions.”

    Mears note that the NSA is able to actively deploy the technology right now, and could already be using it as part of its bulk data collection program.

    “We’ve done work with the NSA with that for secure gesture authentication as a technique for using smartphones. They are actually able to use it,” said Mears.

    The technology works via motion-recognition, a breakthrough originally achieved by the US Air Force in 1978 as part of a Pentagon program to capture the behavioural biometrics of a handwritten signature.

    Several reports insinuate that the NSA may be interested in using the technology for ‘security systems of the future’, or as an improvement on fingerprint identification. However, given that it is already known, via Snowden leaks, that NSA has made extensive use of QWERTY keystroke technology, to monitor everything a user does on the internet, it is impossible not to suspect this is also their goal as far as smartphones are concerned.

    Perhaps another purpose may be to counter so called NSA-proof smartphones which use encryption tools to mask the identities and whereabouts of users. Ironically, Pentagon personnel are said to already be using such devices.

    The latest revelation comes on the heels of news this week that the NSA planned to infect the app stores of smartphones with spyware in order to hack into phones and collect data from them without their users noticing.

    It has been known for two years that the NSA has already managed to insert code into potentially three quarters of all smartphones.

    Whatever the purpose of the technology may be, It appears that the NSA clearly is not preparing to end its mass spying program any time soon, despite declarations by government and the media that the agency is to be reigned in.

US ‘cuts’ spying cooperation with Germany over data leak

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The US Director of National Intelligence James Clapper has ordered a review of cooperation between the National Security Agency (NSA) and the German intelligence agency BND, Bild newspaper reports.

Citing an unnamed source in US intelligence, Bild says Clapper is unhappy with Berlin’s “inability to contain secret data”. According to the report, the Bundestag committee on investigating the recent secret service scandals handed some secret documents to the media.

Read more

‘German intelligence dependent on NSA’ – Berlin’s spy chief

For the US it is “more dangerous than what Snowden did,” Bild quoted the source as saying, referring to former NSA contractor Edward Snowden’s revelations of worldwide surveillance.

Now, the US secret services are reviewing the areas in which cooperation with the BND can be reduced or ended altogether, the paper reports. Several joint projects have already been canceled, it says.

Both the German government and the US embassy in Berlin refused to comment on the report.

READ MORE: German intelligence halts internet surveillance for NSA – reports

In April, German media reported that over the past decade, the BND helped NSA in spying all over Europe. The US agency sent its German colleagues so-called “selectors”, which included IP addresses, emails, and phone numbers guiding what targets must be spied on.

READ MORE: Germany provides NSA with staggering 1.3bn pieces of metadata per month – report

One report suggested that the BND sends about 1.3 billion pieces of phone and text data to NSA per month.

The public outrage over those allegations and the subsequent investigation cost Chancellor Angela Merkel about a third of her approval rating. In late April, her government was accused of lying to parliament saying it had no knowledge of Washington’s surveillance activities in Germany.

FBI ADMITS NO MAJOR CASES CRACKED WITH PATRIOT ACT SNOOPING POWERS

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FBI agents can’t point to any major terrorism cases they’ve cracked thanks to the key snooping powers in the Patriot Act

By Maggie Ybarra – The Washington Times – Thursday, May 21, 2015
FBI agents can’t point to any major terrorism cases they’ve cracked thanks to the key snooping powers in the Patriot Act, the Justice Department’s inspector general said in a report Thursday that could complicate efforts to keep key parts of the law operating.

Inspector General Michael E. Horowitz said that between 2004 and 2009, the FBI tripled its use of bulk collection under Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which allows government agents to compel businesses to turn over records and documents, and increasingly scooped up records of Americans who had no ties to official terrorism investigations.

The FBI did finally come up with procedures to try to minimize the information it was gathering on nontargets, but it took far too long, Mr. Horowitz said in the 77-page report, which comes just as Congress is trying to decide whether to extend, rewrite or entirely nix Section 215.

Backers say the Patriot Act powers are critical and must be kept intact, particularly with the spread of the threat from terrorists. But opponents have doubted the efficacy of Section 215, particularly when it’s used to justify bulk data collection such as in the case of the National Security Agency’s phone metadata program, revealed in leaks from former government contractor Edward Snowden.

The new report adds ammunition to those opponents, with the inspector general concluding that no major cases have been broken by use of the Patriot Act’s records-snooping provisions.

“The agents we interviewed did not identify any major case developments that resulted from use of the records obtained in response to Section 215 orders,” the inspector general concluded — though he said agents did view the material they gathered as “valuable” in developing other leads or corroborating information.

The report said agents bumped their number of bulk-data requests under Section 215 from seven in 2004 to 21 in 2009 as a result of technological advances and legislative changes that the intelligence community believed expanded the reach of the law.

Increasingly, that meant scooping up information on those who weren’t targets of a terrorism investigation, Mr. Horowitz said. He said that while Section 215 authority allows the government to do that, the FBI needed more checks to make sure it was using the power properly.

“While the expanded scope of these requests can be important uses of Section 215 authority, we believe these expanded uses require continued significant oversight,” he concluded.

The report was an update to a previous study done in 2008 that urged the department to figure out ways to minimize the amount of data it was gathering on ordinary Americans even as it was targeting terrorists.

In Thursday’s report Mr. Horowitz said the administration finally came up with procedures — five years later. He said it never should have taken that long but that he considers that issue solved.

The report was heavily redacted, and key details were deleted. The entire chart showing the number of Section 215 requests made from 2007 through 2009 was blacked out, as was the breakdown of what types of investigations they stemmed from: counterintelligence, counterterrorism, cyber or foreign intelligence investigations.

Section 215 of the Patriot Act is slated to expire at the end of this month. The House, in an overwhelming bipartisan vote, passed a bill to renew it but also to limit it so the government could no longer do bulk collection such as the NSA phone data program. That legislation is known as the USA Freedom Act.

But Senate Republican leaders have balked, insisting the NSA program and Section 215 should be kept intact as is.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who is leading the fight to protect the NSA program, is counting on his opponents not being able to muster the 60 votes needed to pass the bill, leaving them with the choice of either extending Section 215 or seeing all of the powers expire — including those that would go after specific terrorist suspects. Mr. McConnell believes that, faced with that choice, enough of his colleagues will vote to extend all of the powers.

FBI Director James B. Comey asked Congress this week to make sure Section 215 and two other parts of the Patriot Act, also slated to expire at the end of the month, are preserved. Those other powers include the ability to target lone wolf actors and to switch wiretaps if suspects switch their phones.

As for Section 215, Mr. Comey said Congress should at least preserve the power to go after individuals’ records.

“If we lose that authority, which I don’t think is controversial with folks, that is a big problem,” he said Wednesday at a forum at the Georgetown University Law Center.

But most of the Section 215 debate has revolved around bulk collection. Earlier this month a federal appeals court ruled that the Patriot Act does not envision the kind of phone program the NSA has been running, which gathers and stores five years’ worth of records of the numbers, dates and durations of calls made in the U.S.

For anti-bulk surveillance advocates, Thursday’s report further undermines Section 215.

“This report adds to the mounting evidence that Section 215 has done little to protect Americans and should be put to rest,” said American Civil Liberties Union Staff Attorney Alex Abdo.

Bulk data collection creates false leads, ties up investigative resources and, essentially, undermines national security, said Stephen Kohn, an attorney at Kohn, Kohn & Colapinto, LLP and advocate for government whistleblowers. Also, increased FBI dependency on that bulk data collection indicates that the agency is lacking the appropriate resources for conducting successful counterterrorism operations, Mr. Kohn said.

“They have a large amount of agents who are working counterterrorism that have no human resources, no leads, no infiltrations, so they have nothing else to do,” he said. “In other words, when they staffed up and made [counterterrorism] a major priority, these agents need to do something. And they’re doing what they know to do, and that’s electronic surveillance.”

But former FBI agents said opponents wanted to callously cripple one of the government’s investigative agencies by depriving it of a critical data collection tool at a time of new terror threats.

“ISIS is singing a siren song, calling people to their death to crash on the rocks — and it’s the rocks that ISIS will take credit for,” said Ron Hosko, president of Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund and former assistant director of the FBI. “They’re looking for those who are disaffected, disconnected and willing to commit murder. So if we’re willing to take away tools, OK, congressman, stand behind it [and] take the credit for putting the FBI in the dark.”

• Stephen Dinan contributed to this report.

Read more: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2015/may/21/fbi-admits-patriot-act-snooping-powers-didnt-crack/#ixzz3asw6Le8i
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‘Weaponizing Vulnerabilities': New Snowden Doc Reveals Spy Agencies Targeted Smartphones

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Find new ways to exploit smartphone technology for spying operations

by RINF | May 21, 2015

The ‘Five Eyes’ alliance exploited weaknesses in popular browser and planned to hijack links to app stores to implant spyware on mobile phones, new documents show

(Common Dreams) – The intelligence alliance known as Five Eyes—comprising the U.S., Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and Australia—exploited security weaknesses in one of the world’s most popular browsers to obtain data about users and planned to use links to Google and Samsung app stores to infect smartphones with spyware, a top secret National Security Agency (NSA) document published Wednesday has revealed.

According to the 2012 document, leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden and published jointly by CBC News and The Intercept, the NSA and its international counterparts took part in a series of workshops between November 2011 and February 2012 to find new ways to exploit smartphone technology for spying operations.

The Intercept reports:

As part of a pilot project codenamed IRRITANT HORN, the agencies were developing a method to hack and hijack phone users’ connections to app stores so that they would be able to send malicious “implants” to targeted devices. The implants could then be used to collect data from the phones without their users noticing.

CBC continues:

The Five Eyes alliance targeted servers where smartphones get directed whenever users download or update an app from Google and Samsung stores.

…Ultimately, the spy agencies wanted to implant spyware on certain smartphones to take control of a person’s device or extract data from it, the document suggests.

The spy agencies also sought to match their targets’ smartphone devices to their online activities, using databases of emails, chats and browsing histories kept in the Five Eyes’ powerful XKeyScore tool to help build profiles on the people they were tracking.

The project emerged in part due to concerns about the possibility of “another Arab spring,” referring to the 2011 wave of revolutionary actions in Tunisia, Egypt, and other countries in the Middle East and North Africa where several autocratic, Western-backed leaders were ousted.

“Respecting agreements not to spy on each others’ citizens, the spying partners focused their attention on servers in non-Five Eyes countries, the document suggests,” write CBC‘s Amber Hildebrandt and Dave Seglins. “The agencies targeted mobile app servers in France, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Cuba, Morocco, the Bahamas and Russia.”

The spy agencies also began targeting UC Browser—a popular app in India and China with growing usage in North America—in late 2011 after learning that it had leaked information about its half-billion users.

According to the reporting, the operation was launched by a joint surveillance unit called the Network Tradecraft Advancement Team, which includes spies from each of the Five Eyes nations.

The document frames the plan as a move for national security, with the agencies seeking to collect data or spy indefinitely on mobile phones of “suspected terrorists.” But they did so without alerting the public or the phone companies of the browser’s weaknesses, which “potentially put millions of users in danger of their data being accessed by other governments’ agencies, hackers or criminals,” Hildebrandt and Seglins write.

“Of course, the security agencies don’t [disclose the information],” Ron Deibert, executive director of digital rights group Citizen Lab, which identified security gaps in UC Browser and alerted the company to those issues in April, told CBC. “Instead, they harbor the vulnerability. They essentially weaponize it.”