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James Risen: “A lot of people still think this is some kind of game or signal or spin.”

Jamie Weinstein
Senior Editor

President Barack Obama is no friend of press freedom, says a New York Times reporter who may be sent to jail for refusing to reveal a source.

“A lot of people still think this is some kind of game or signal or spin,” reporter James Risen told his own paper in a profile about his plight published Saturday. “They don’t want to believe that Obama wants to crack down on the press and whistle-blowers. But he does. He’s the greatest enemy to press freedom in a generation.” (RELATED: NYT reporter: Obama administration ‘the greatest enemy of press freedom’ in a generation)

Risen’s troubles stem from the 2006 publication of his book “State of War,” which included classified information about a failed CIA plot against Iran’s nuclear program. In 2008, George W. Bush’s Department of Justice subpoenaed Risen to reveal the source of the classified information. Citing his role as a journalist, Risen refused to comply, fighting the subpoena until it expired in 2009.

But the Obama administration renewed the subpoena in 2010. After many more years of legal fisticuffs, the Supreme Court announced in June that it would not take Risen’s appeal, leaving Risen out of legal options. Now Risen faces the specter of jail time if the Justice Department continues to insist that he reveal his source for the classified information.

“Though the court’s decision looked like a major victory for the government, it has forced the Obama administration to confront a hard choice,” the New York Times reported in June in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s ruling. “Should it demand Mr. Risen’s testimony and be responsible for a reporter’s being sent to jail? Or reverse course and stand down, losing credibility with an intelligence community that has pushed for the aggressive prosecution of leaks?”

Read more: http://dailycaller.com/2014/08/17/nytimes-reporter-obama-greatest-enemy-to-press-freedom-in-a-generation/#ixzz3AgOKGRS6

Germany tapped John Kerry’s phone, spied on Turkey for years – report

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Germany’s foreign intelligence agency eavesdropped at least one telephone conversation of US Secretary of State John Kerry and spied on NATO ally Turkey since 2009, Der Spiegel newspaper revealed on Saturday.

Germany’s Federal Intelligence Service (BND) picked up the phone call “by accident” in 2013, the weekly newspaper reported in a pre-publication citing unnamed sources. Kerry was discussing the Middle East tensions between Israelis, Palestinians and Arab states in a satellite link, according to Der Spiegel.

The new revelation comes after German media – Daily newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung (SZ) and regional public broadcasters NDR and WDR – reported on Friday that BND intercepted at least one phone call made by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The date of the call was not given and the media said that it was also picked up “by accident”.

The German media retrieved the information of the hacking from documents that were passed to the CIA by one of its moles inside the BND.

On Saturday Der Spiegel reported that Clinton’s call recorded was intercepted in 2012. Clinton was in talks with former UN chief Kofi Annan, who had just returned from negotiations in Syria and wanted to brief the former Secretary of State.

The NDR added on Friday that Clinton wasn’t the only one spied on as “apparently, phone calls by US politicians and from other friendly nations have been repeatedly recorded and submitted to the respective BND President as instructed”.

“The fact that the recording wasn’t deleted immediately was called ‘idiocy’ by a member of the government in Berlin,” NDR reported.

Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (Reuters/Jonathan Ernst)Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (Reuters/Jonathan Ernst)

In another leak, Der Spiegel also learned that BND has been spying on its NATO ally Turkey since 2009. No further details on the scale of surveillance were given. Sources confirmed the wiretapping to the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung, saying that it was essential for national security as there are many Turkish people living in Germany.

The government in Ankara says it intends to carefully investigate the Der Spiegel report.

“I am of the opinion that this needs to be taken seriously… Definitely, our government and foreign ministry will carry out the necessary research about the allegations in the magazine,” Mehmet Ali Sahin, deputy chairman of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), was quoted as saying by Agence France Presse.

According to Der Spiegel, the German government reviews its espionage program every four years but did not modify its priorities after the NSA scandal that deeply strained US-German relations last year.

The full version of the report will be published by Der Spiegel on Sunday.

In October, US whistleblower Edward Snowden leaked information that Washington had conducted intensive spying operations including tapping phones of at least 35 heads of state, including Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Merkel called US President Barack Obama over the issue, saying that if the revelations were proven to be true it would be “completely unacceptable” and represent a “grave breach of trust,” Steffen Seibert, a German government spokesman, said at the time.

The issue was brought up again in July when two US agents were unmasked, suspected of acting as double agents within the state security apparatus, and passing secrets to US intelligence contacts. In response to the espionage scandal Germany promptly expelled the Berlin CIA chief.

The new reports may escalate the growing political tension between the two states, key partners in the NATO military alliance.

Last month in an interview to German broadcaster ZDF Germany’s Chancellor said that Washington and Berlin have different perceptions of the role of the intelligence service.

“For me it is a sign that we have fundamentally different conceptions of the work of the intelligence services.”

“I can’t say in advance if [the measures we took] will have an effect, of course I hope something will change. But the important thing is to show how we view things… and it is not a co-operative partnership when such things take place.”

New app reveals how your smartphone can spy on you without permission (VIDEO)

Your Android phone can be turned into a microphone without your permission or knowledge. All that’s needed are the gyros in your phone that measure orientation. Stanford researchers have shown how to rewire them to pick up sound waves.

Together with the defense firm Rafael, they created an Android app called Gyrophone, which shows just how easy it is to get the vibrating pressure plates used by the gyroscope to pick up vibrations of sound at frequencies in the 80-250Hz range – the base frequencies of the human voice.

“We show that the MEMS gyroscopes found on modern smartphones are sufficiently sensitive to measure acoustic signals in the vicinity of the phone. The resulting signals contain only very low-frequency information (< 200 Hz). Nevertheless we show, using signal processing and machine learning, that this information is sufficient to identify speaker information and even parse speech. Since iOS and Android require no special permissions to access the gyro, our results show that apps and active web content that cannot access the microphone can nevertheless eavesdrop on speech in the vicinity of the phone,” the scientists say on the Stanford Security Research website, where they also offer the Android application as a free download.

They also provide a link to a webpage that can be browsed via a mobile phone to demonstrate the efficacy of the method. The resulting data isn’t recorded anywhere, although it can be saved as a file, if the user wishes.

What the researchers have shown is that the big array of sensors on a smartphone can be used for a variety of purposes. In another, related paper, they “demonstrate how the multitude of sensors on a smartphone can be used to construct a reliable hardware fingerprint of the phone. Such a fingerprint can be used to de-anonymize mobile devices as they connect to web sites, and as a second factor in identifying legitimate users to a remote server. We present two implementations: one based on analyzing the frequency response of the speakerphone-microphone system, and another based on analyzing device-specific accelerometer calibration errors.”

Although currently the trick only works on Android devices, researchers say it’s only a matter of time until the technology is rigged to work with an iPhone (whose own gyro sensor works only with frequencies below 100Hz).

The discovery is just another chapter in the already controversial scandalous saga of communications surveillance with tools as simple as the smartphone’s microphone being turned on remotely. It became more pertinent with the recent revelations offered by former US government intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, who is now resident in Russia after having his US passport invalidated a year ago and US prosecutors demanding his return to the States.

In late June, Russia’s Kaspersky Lab, one of the world’s top information security firms, reported on legal malware produced by an Italian company, Hacking Team, which since 2001 has offered its clients the opportunity to snoop on their targets. Their product is said to be the first Remote Control Systems (RCS) malware with a positive link to mobile phones, opening them up to new potential security threats.

However, internet companies have also been said to store information on users for a while now, with fears that mobile apps may merely be fronts for private information mining, as your email, photos, numbers and addresses are picked up each time you punch them in.

Turnabout’s fair play? Germany intercepts Hillary Clinton phone call

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Germany’s foreign intelligence agency intercepted at least one phone call made by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, according to German media reports. Her phone was tapped “accidentally” while she was on a US government plane.

Daily newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung (SZ) and regional public broadcasters NDR and WDR said they learned of the hacking from documents that were passed to the CIA by one of its moles inside the German intelligence network. It is unclear when Clinton’s phone call was intercepted, as no date was given.

The Federal Intelligence Service, known by its German acronym BND, picked up the call “by accident,” government sources told the media outlets. But the German officials deny systematic spying on the United States, and claim they have never intentionally eavesdropped on their NATO ally. “The fact that the recording wasn’t deleted immediately was called ‘idiocy’ by a member of the government in Berlin,” NDR reported.

Clinton wasn’t the only person whose phone calls the BND hacked. “[A]pparently, phone calls by US politicians and from other friendly nations have been repeatedly recorded and submitted to the respective BND President as instructed,” NDR wrote. The German Chancellery instructs such material to be deleted immediately, however. It’s an order dating back to last summer.

The CIA mole, identified only as Markus R., was arrested in July, the first of two suspected spies to be uncovered in Germany. The resulting scandal led Berlin to expel the US spy agency’s bureau chief from the country. The German double agent confessed to giving his American contact 218 secret documents over the course of two years. In return, he received more than $34,000.

Markus R. also passed along a copy of the Mission Statement of the Federal Government (APB) for the German Intelligence Service. The document specifies which topics the BND is to take care of and which countries are to be spied on. The 2009 mission statement does not list the United States, but does include another NATO country, according to NDR. Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière told Bild newspaper in July that Germany may scrap its decades-old policy of not spying on key NATO allies in response to the arrest of the 31-year-old double agent and the investigation into a second potential US spy. That man worked at the Federal Ministry of Defense, and the US has denied employing him.

One of the prime objectives for Markus R. was to gather information on Berlin’s investigation into the alleged spying by the US National Security Agency on Chancellor Angela Merkel and other German citizens.

Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel (L) and U.S. President Barack Obama (R) (Reuters / Kevin Lamarque)Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel (L) and U.S. President Barack Obama (R) (Reuters / Kevin Lamarque)

In October, the Guardian newspaper published an internal NSA memo sourced from whistleblower Edward Snowden, which revealed that at least 35 heads of state, including Merkel, had their phones tapped by American intelligence officials. The German chancellor called President Barack Obama over the issue, and demanded an explanation. She made clear to him that, if the information proved true, it would be “completely unacceptable” and represent a “grave breach of trust,” Steffen Seibert, a German government spokesman, said at the time.

Clinton visited Germany in July, just after Markus R. was arrested. On that trip, she sat down for an interview with Der Spiegel news magazine, and answered questions about the strained relationship between the US and Germany over the various spying scandals.

“Clearly, the surveillance on Chancellor Merkel’s phone was absolutely wrong. The president said that. I think that he made it very clear it was unacceptable,” Clinton said.

“I’m not in the government anymore, but I’m sorry,” she added.

The former secretary of state also stressed the need to prevent further tensions between the two countries.

“[W]e have to do a much better job in working together between Germany and the United States to sort out what the appropriate lines of cooperation are on intelligence and security,” Clinton said. “I think the cooperation is necessary for our security, but we don’t want to undermine it by raising doubts again and again.”

US officials, including current Secretary of State John Kerry and White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, have confronted Berlin over the tapping of Clinton’s cell phone, NDR reported. Kerry spoke with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, while McDonough broached the subject when visiting German Chancellery Minister Peter Altmaier.

The German government declined to comment to the three media outlets about the phone hacking, citing the ongoing investigations against Markus R.

Satellites may soon be able to snap photographs of your face


Satellites run by Google and other private companies may soon have the ability to capture images of a person’s face and other sensitive information if federal restrictions continue to loosen from lobbying.

According to Motherboard, North America’s largest satellite company, DigitalGlobe, is currently lobbying the government to relax federal regulations regarding what’s permissible to show in photographs taken from space, despite the fact that these rules were just loosened in June.

Two months ago, the Commerce Department cleared the way for satellites to begin capturing images of objects larger than 25 centimeters. Previously, objects had to be bigger than 50 centimeters in order to be shown legally in photographs.

This week, DigitalGlobe is launching a new satellite, dubbed the “Worldview-3,” in order to take advantage of the new rules, but just as noteworthy is that the company is hoping the Commerce Department will lower the threshold once again, this time to 10 centimeters.

“At 25 centimeters,” Motherboard’s Elyse Wanshel writes, “the images will be detailed enough to classify the make of a car. If the restrictions relax further, the plate number or owner’s face could come into clear view.”

About half a year from now, companies like Google and Microsoft, as well as government departments like the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, will be able to start paying DigitalGlobe to incorporate the Worldview-3’s detailed photos into their services. This is expected to significantly improve Google services like Maps, Street View, and Earth, but the idea that satellites may be able to capture sensitive information like license plates could raise the eyebrows of privacy advocates around the country.

After the regulations on satellite images were reduced in June, Google purchased the satellite company Skybox Imaging. As RT reported then, the company issued a statement saying the purchase would not just bolster Maps, but also improve internet speeds and aid in disaster relief efforts.

Motherboard reports that Google is probably not out to scan individual faces or track license plates, but rather it’s likely going to use Skybox to establish a global cloud service. However, Wanshel noted the company may still find other ways to profit from being able to do so, and the intentions of other companies with access to the imagery – be it from Google or DigitalGlobe – may be tougher to decipher.

“What kind of companies will utilize this ‘cloud for the Earth?’” she asked. “What could they potentially create with this vast amount of knowledge that, until now, seemed only obtainable and appropriate for super powers or leather-clad spies in action movies? If Google can make out your face from space, will it? And how might it capitalize on that ability?”

Elite US hackers shut down Syrian internet trying to snoop on traffic – Snowden


An elite team of US government hackers left Syria without internet, when they tried to hack one of the cores routers but instead crashed it, NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden said.

The three-day nationwide internet blackout in war-torn Syria in November 2012, which was blamed on either the government or the rebels, depending on who you listened to, was actually the doing of the Tailored Access Operations (TAO), a group of hackers in the employment of the US National Security Agency.

NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden told the story to Wired magazine as it was preparing its cover story on MonsterMind, a US software designed to detect cyber-attacks and hit back in response.

NSA bot MonsterMind can wage cyberwar on its own – Snowden

According to his account, TAO attempted to remotely install malware in one of the core routers at a major Syrian internet service provider. The NSA launched the operation to snoop on virtually all internet traffic from Syria.

But instead of infecting the router the hackers ‘bricked’ it, effectively cutting the country from the web. Snowden called it an ‘oh shit’ moment for TAO, who tried to remotely repair the router hoping to cover up their tracks. They tensely joked that if they could “always point the finger at Israel,” if they got caught.

Luckily for them, the Syrian authorities were apparently too busy getting the country back online to get to the bottom of the incident. Damascus blamed ‘terrorists’ for the blackout while the rebels (and Washington) said the government had done it to hamper their communications.

Syria experienced two major internet blackouts since it went into turmoil in 2011, the second one reported in May 2013.