National security state specializes in vacuuming up social media
BY KURT NIMMO
The claim Homeland Security failed to share with Immigration the social media posts of Tashfeen Malik prior to approving her visa does not hold up under scrutiny.
The official excuse is the government feared a civil liberties backlash and “bad public relations” and because of this refused to end a secret policy prohibiting immigration officials from reviewing social media messages of foreigners applying for visas.
We are told the reason for widespread surveillance is to detect and prevent terrorism. If this was indeed true, the information on Malik would have been shared with Immigration. The bad PR and supposed sensitivity to civil liberties excuse offered by the government is betrayed by its widely documented behavior.
National Security State Tracks Social Media
In 2013 former NSA contractor Edward Snowden disclosed how the agency mines Facebook and Twitter to create social connection maps.
“Since 2010, the National Security Agency has been exploiting its huge collections of data to create sophisticated graphs of some Americans’ social connections that can identify their associates, their locations at certain times, their traveling companions and other personal information,” The New York Times reported.
The maps are specifically used to “discover and track” the connections between intelligence targets. Social media data is used to augment a wide variety of material from other sources, including data from public, commercial and other sources, and includes bank codes, insurance information, passenger manifests, voter registration rolls and GPS location information, as well as property records and unspecified tax data, according to the Times report.
The NSA has used XKeyscore, a program described as covering “nearly everything a typical user does on the internet,” for real-time surveillance since 2008.
According to the journalist Glenn Greenwald the program is used by the NSA to surveil “whatever emails they want, whatever telephone calls, browsing histories, Microsoft Word documents. And it’s all done with no need to go to a court, with no need to even get supervisor approval on the part of the analyst.”
Since at least 2010 data collected by the NSA has been shared with the Department of Homeland Security.
“Domestic Surveillance is a team sport. Our success depends upon our partnership with other federal, state, and local agencies,” the NSA explains on its Domestic Surveillance Directorate web page. Citing the USA PATRIOT Act, the NSA says its “partners transmit a steady flow of intelligence information 24-hours a day from across the nation. The incoming data is indexed, stored, and shared throughout the Intelligence Community on our massive cloud computing network.”
The DHS explanation as to why it failed to share with other government agencies the messages of Malik and presumably those of other would-be terrorists is simply not believable. The agency has faced criticism and lawsuits accusing it of routinely violating the civil liberties of citizens and non-citizens alike.
Is it possible the government is in fact allowing would-be terrorists into the country?
CIA Visa Program
Lost in the discussion is the fact the CIA has used visa programs to facilitate the movement of terrorists in and out of the United States.
Michael Springmann, a high level State Department official, revealed details on the process years ago.
“In Saudi Arabia I was repeatedly ordered by high level State Dept officials to issue visas to unqualified applicants,” Springmann told the BBC prior to the 9/11 attack. “These were, essentially, people who had no ties either to Saudi Arabia or to their own country. I complained bitterly at the time there. I returned to the US, I complained to the State Dept here, to the General Accounting Office, to the Bureau of Diplomatic Security and to the Inspector General’s office. I was met with silence.”
Thirteen of the fifteen supposed Saudi hijackers were issued visas to the United States, 10 of them at the US Consulate in Jeddah, US officials toldThe Boston Globe in March, 2002.
The op was run by the CIA and Springmann was told “If you want a job in the State Department in future, you will change your mind” about refusing to issue visas to terrorists.
Edward Snowden’s leaks first revealed the National Security Agency’s email metadata program to the public, but it was played down compared to other surveillance programs when US officials claimed the email program was dropped in December 2011 for “operational and resource reasons.”
The newly released January 2007 NSA Inspector General report shows that, indeed, other operations or resources were used to replace the NSA’s program. However, the replacement system came under much less scrutiny from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), while also circumventing telecommunications companies.
“Other authorities can satisfy certain foreign intelligence requirements that the PRTT program was designed to meet,” the NSA IG report reads, referring to the Pen Register and Trap and Trace program, as it had been called, which was authorized by Section 402 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
FISC had secretly authorized PRTT in 2004, but eventually placed limitations on the program, according to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. Upon approval from a court order, the database could be accessed using something like an email address as a search target, if it was relevant to an FBI counterterrorism investigation, and if reasonable and articulable suspicion was written down by the analyst.
Moreover, if the email address could reasonably be believed to belong to a US person, the NSA Office of General Counsel would look to make sure the suspected connection to the investigation was not entirely based on First Amendment protected activity.
Citing Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act, which covers surveillance gathered domestically when the target is a noncitizen outside the US, and the Special Procedures Governing Communications Metadata Analysis (SPCMA) under Executive Order (EO) 12333, which authorizes collection of Americans’ data even when they’re not targets, the NSA IG report outlines how the bulk email metadata collection is still lawful.
By simply using fiber optic internet cables outside the US, the NSA can still obtain domestic email data, and the FISC hardly enters into the equation.
BY JOHN HAYWARD
Speaking at a global security forum hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, CIA Director John Brennan warned that the Islamic State is probably planning more attacks like the massacre in Paris.
“I would anticipate that this is not the only operation that ISIL has in the pipeline,” said Brennan, as quoted by CBS News. “I do believe that this is something we’ll have to live with for quite some time.”
“I certainly would not consider it a one-off event. It is clear to me that ISIS has an external agenda and that they are determined to carry out these types of attacks,” he added, according to NBC News. “This was not something done in a matter of days. This was something that was deliberately and carefully.”
Brennan said it was “not a surprise” that such an attack was carried out, because Western intelligence agencies “knew that these plans, the plotting by ISIL, was underway.”
Brennan also became the latest intelligence expert to suggest that the exposure of national security secrets by leakers such as Edward Snowden have hindered our ability to monitor terrorists, although he did not refer to Snowden by name.
“In the past several years, because of the number of unauthorized disclosures and a lot of hand-wringing over the government’s role in the effort to try to uncover these terrorists. There have been policy and other legal changes that make our ability to collectively find these terrorists much more challenging,” the CIA Director asserted.
Brennan also recognized the danger of compromising civil liberties too much, in the pursuit of security. He also appeared to offer some cover for continuing President Obama’s policy of important tens of thousands of Syrian refugees into the United States, despite mounting concerns that the migrants pose an unacceptable security risk.
“We don’t want these terrorists to succeed in taking away the liberties we pride ourselves on. We should be wary, but we don’t want to hermetically seal our borders. That is inconsistent with what our societies have been founded on,” said Brennan, as quoted by Business Insider.
In his ruling on Monday, Judge Richard Leon of the US District Court reiterated his assertion that the NSA’s program“likely violates the Construction” and said that “the loss of constitutional freedoms for even one day is a significant harm.”
In doing so, he sided with conservative legal activist Larry Klayman, whose clients had sued the NSA over its data collection following the revelations of whistleblower of Edward Snowden in 2013.
“This court simply cannot, and will not, allow the government to trump the Constitution merely because it suits the exigencies of the moment,’’ Leon wrote in his 43-page decision.
Klayman said that winning the case is a “tremendous victory for the American people.” He added that Leon is one of the few judges in the country who “has the guts to stand in the breach for the American people during a period of time where their government is running roughshod over them.”
Klayman also said that he will continue the fight and seek monetary damages from the government.
It’s not clear whether the Department of Justice, which had argued the case, will quickly appeal the new ruling.
“The government is reviewing the decision,” spokeswoman Nicole Navas told US News and World Report in an email.
Monday’s ruling comes almost two years after Judge Leon made a similar decision, calling the mass record collection program “almost Orwellian,” and only 20 days before the program is expected to end due to the Congress passing the USA Freedom Act in June.
The USA Freedom Act will shift the responsibility of collecting data from the NSA itself to private telecom companies. Intelligence agencies like the NSA would then ask the companies for specific data on an individual allegedly connected to a terrorist organization or a foreign nation.
The small window between the ruling and the implementation of the new law means that the immediate effects of Klayman’s victory will be trivial. But the precedent set by the decision could carry a lot of weight in future court battles, according to David Greene, civil liberties director for the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
“In effect, it only requires them to stop doing very little of what they do,” Greene told Wired. “But the opinion is very broad-reaching. And because the NSA makes many of the same arguments to justify all of its mass spying programs, it’s really significant when a judge rejects them.”
Other courts have had mixed opinions about the NSA’s surveillance program. In August, the US Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit in New York overturned Leon’s original decision on the case, known as Klayman v. Obama, from May this year. A three-judge panel ruled that Klayman had not met the legal threshold to file the suit. When Klayman added new plaintiffs and new information, the case was sent back to Judge Leon.
However, in October the court decided in the opposite direction on the record collection issue, ruling that the phone records collection could continue until the program met its Congressionally-determined demise at the end of November. The judges said that it was not necessary to block the program, because it was already set to expire soon.
NSA Deputy Director, Richard Ledgett, recently sat down with the BCC. During the interview, he blamed Edward Snowden’s leaks for members of ISIS changing from Apple phones to Android ones. Ledgett said, in no uncertain terms, that Snowden is responsible for enabling terrorists to circumvent the NSA’s ability to keep us safe by spying. The Resident discusses. Follow The Resident athttp://www.twitter.com/TheResident
A Russian Su-24 bomber takes off on a night combat mission in Syria. (Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via Associated Press) more >
BY BILL GERTZ
Iraq’s government has told the United States that it will not permit Russian military forces to conduct air and missile strikes inside the country. But Baghdad is allowing Russian military aircraft to overfly its territory to resupply its forces, despite a request from the United States to deny the flights.
Sen. Tom Cotton, Arkansas Republican, disclosed during a Senate ArmedServices Committee hearing Tuesday that the U.S. government asked the governments of Bulgaria and Iraq to close their airspace to Russian aircraft several weeks before Moscow’s Syria military intervention.
Mr. Cotton suggested that Bulgaria agreed to deny the overflights but that Baghdad rejected the U.S. request. Both Defense Secretary Ashton Carter and Marine Corps. Gen. Joseph Dunford didn’t dispute that the diplomatic requests to deny Russian military supply flights were made, but he declined to detail the specifics.CIA,
“I would say it’s problematic for Russia to be resupplying its forces in Syria by flying through Iraq,” Mr. Cotton said during a Senate ArmedServices Committee hearing Tuesday. “We should renew our request that they exclude Russian aircraft from their airspace. And our military should be ready to assist them in excluding Russian aircraft from their airspace.”
Gen. Dunford confirmed that Russian supply flights have passed through Iraq but said it was “not at the understanding of the Iraqi government.”
Iraq’s small F-16 force has limited capabilities to prevent intrusions of its airspace, the four-star general said.
During a visit to Iraq recently, Gen. Dunford said, he received assurances from Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and other Iraqi leaders that Baghdad would not align with Russia in battling Islamic State militants.
“And I explained to them how difficult it would be for us to continue to provide support if the Russians were invited in to conduct airstrikes,” he said, “and I was assured at every level that that wouldn’t be the case.”
Russia conducted 59 airstrikes from Oct. 23 through Oct. 25 in northern Syria, according to the Russian Defense Ministry.
NSA: SNOWDEN LEAKS HELPED TERRORISTS
Hundreds of international terrorists have changed their electronic communications operating procedures and can no longer be tracked by National Security Agency electronic spies, the NSA’s deputy director disclosed this week.
NSA Deputy Director Rick Ledgett outlined the damage caused by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden in an interview with the BBC.
“We have kept track of what our targets have said about disclosures and what that means for them, and we’ve seen in the high hundreds of targets who have said, ‘Hey, we are vulnerable to these sorts of detection techniques and we need to change the way that we do that,’ and a number of them have, including several terrorist organizations and one in particular that had a mature operational plot directed against Western Europe and the U.S.,” Mr. Ledgett said, without elaborating.
“So we’ve actually seen them move away from our ability to do that as a result of those disclosures, as a direct result,” he said.
Mr. Ledgett, who headed the special NSA task force to deal with the Snowden disclosures of some 1.7 million secret NSA documents beginning in 2013, disputed claims that the former contractor was a whistleblower seeking to expose NSA wrongdoing.
The deputy director said public discussion of NSA surveillance is positive, but the way the debate came about is wrong.
“You hear claims that he was a whistleblower and that he tried to raise things. Those are just not true,” Mr. Ledgett said.
Mr. Snowden, who fled initially to Hong Kong and is currently under Russian government protection in Moscow, has asserted that the NSA is involved in illegal surveillance of Americans and is seeking to create an unrestricted secret police state. Those claims remain unproven since he provided documents to anti-secrecy and anti-surveillance advocates.
Critics say most of Mr. Snowden’s disclosures didn’t involve domestic U.S. electronic surveillance and that most of his documents disclosed by news outlets compromised sensitive methods used by the NSA to spy electronically.
Mr. Ledgett also told the news agency that the risk of foreign nations conducting cyberattacks is growing.
“If you are connected to the Internet, you are vulnerable to determined nation-state attackers,” he said. “The barrier to entry is going down and as everybody in the world becomes more connected with computers and information systems, the vulnerabilities are going up.”
The solution is to build better defenses and prepare to conduct offensive counter-cyberattacks.
The NSA’s No. 2 official also said the “jury is still out” on whether China will curb economic cyberespionage as agreed during the summit last month between President Obama and Chinese leader Xi Jinping. “In any big organization, when guidance is sent down, then sometimes it takes awhile to get to the working level,” he said.
Two years ago, Mr. Ledgett revealed that Mr. Snowden used a hacking method called “scraping” within classified intelligence websites to gather and steal secret information.
One damaging impact was Mr. Snowden’s release of NSA spying requirements that showed NSA’s interests and gaps including some 31,000 targets, among them China, Iran and Russia.
U.S. adversaries would gain “a road map of what we know, what we don’t know, and give them, implicitly, a way to protect their information from the U.S. intelligence community’s view,” Mr. Ledgett told the CBS program “60 Minutes” in December 2013.
PENTAGON PLAYS DOWN SOUTH CHINA SEA TRANSIT
The Pentagon and U.S. military sought to play down the long-anticipated freedom of navigation operation by the guided missile destroyer USS Lassen through the South China Sea on Tuesday in an apparent bid to avoid upsetting China.
Defense Secretary Ashton Carter at first refused to comment on the ship’s passage near the South China Sea’s Spratly island chain, but under sharp questioning from senators reluctantly confirmed that the warship passage at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing Tuesday.
Committee Chairman John McCain, Arizona Republican, criticized Mr. Carter for not publicly commenting on the ship’s transit.
“Why would you not confirm or deny that that happened since all the details and the action happened? This is what frustrates members of this committee when it’s there in the media, saturating the media, and you won’t even tell us,” Mr. McCain said.
“I do understand your frustration, and that is to match it with my own frustration, which is that these are operations that we should be conducting normally,” Mr. Carter said.
Mr. McCain then stated: “But the American people should know about it. And we’re their representatives. And you refuse to even confirm or deny something that is all over the media and confirmed by everyone? And you come before this committee and say you won’t comment on it? Why?”
The defense secretary said he did not like to talk about military operations, but then added that “what you read in the newspaper is accurate, but I don’t want to say more than that, and I don’t want to say when or whether and how we operate anywhere in the world.”
China called the ship transit a military provocation and a challenge to Beijing’s sovereign maritime claims.