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Are Whistleblowers heroes or traitors?


By Marivel Guzman

Patriots and heroes fall in the same category; a patriot is a person who vigorously supports their country and is prepared to defend it against enemies or detractors. And a hero is a person noted for courageous acts or nobility of character.
Secrets that should not be hidden from the people. In this era of government’s secrecy, whistleblowers are patriots no less important than heroes that take the risk on their lives to expose the darkest secrets of governments. Edward Snowden, the 29-year-old former NSA technician is my favorite whistleblower and hero because his revelations have the most benefit for the people not just in the US but for the whole world.
Snowden’s Twitter’s status says in few words his motivations to expose
the NSA’s spying program.

He told the Guardian he worked for a major U.S. government contractor in Hawaii, earning a six-figure salary and enjoying the scenic state with his girlfriend. And he chose to leave everything behind to alert the public of the massive government surveillance program.
Snowden said that governments should be a transparent agency that work for the people and should be accountable and hiding secrets is not the best way to serve the people.
He is a hero in all the extension of the word and he should to be protected, defended, and supported for what they endeavor; in doing so, we will be defending ourselves, our privacy, security and most importantly defending our constitutional rights that, ultimately, are the only protection we have.
Some of Snowden’s leaks suggested the NSA had misled Congress about the scope of its domestic spying activities.

In a Senate hearing, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper lied when asked if NSA collects information on Millions of Americans. We only know that NSA spy on all of us thanks to Snowden’s revelations.
Now we know better not to say things in the phone that can be heard by prying ears.
Julian Assange, editor of WikiLeaks, although not a whistleblower in my opinion is an extraordinary journalist who has tasked himself with serving as a vehicle for whistleblowers to leak governments’ secrets and publish them WikiLeaks.
Recently President Donald Trump said the government will prosecute those who leak government secrets, in my opinion Trump is trying to instill fear in journalists, not only on whistleblowers.
Remember it was the New York Times who revealed the Pentagon Papers and The Guardian that published Snowden’s revelations.

At one point Director of National Intelligence Mike Pompeo called for Snowden execution, “He should be brought back from Russia and given due process, and I think that the proper outcome would be that he would be given a death sentence for having put friends of mine, friends of yours, in the military today, at enormous risk because of the information he stole and then released to foreign powers.”

I believe whistleblowers feel people deserve to know the truth, even as the government hides and denies the facts. Whistleblowers put their lives at risk for the sake of other people making more informed decision, which is an heroic act.

Revealed: how Microsoft handed the NSA access to encrypted messages


Posted on July 11, 2013 by Akashma Online News

July 11, 2013 By Edward Snowden News

Hours after CNBC reported that ValueAct Capital Management threw nearly $2 billion into Microsoft Corporation, April 22, 2013

ValueAct Capital, LLC is a San Francisco based hedge fund. The firm offers its services to high net worth individuals and institutions while investing in the public equity and hedging markets of the United States.

• Files released show scale of Silicon Valley co-operation on Prism
• Outlook.com encryption unlocked even before official launch
• Skype worked to enable Prism collection of video calls
• Company says it is legally compelled to comply

Microsoft has collaborated closely with US intelligence services to allow users’ communications to be intercepted, including helping the National Security Agency to circumvent the company’s own encryption, according to top-secret documents obtained by the Guardian.

The files provided by Edward Snowden illustrate the scale of co-operation between Silicon Valley and the intelligence agencies over the last three years. They also shed new light on the workings of the top-secret Prism program, which was disclosed by the Guardian and the Washington Post last month.

The documents show that:

• Microsoft helped the NSA to circumvent its encryption to address concerns that the agency would be unable to intercept web chats on the new Outlook.com portal;

• The agency already had pre-encryption stage access to email on Outlook.com, including Hotmail;

• The company worked with the FBI this year to allow the NSA easier access via Prism to its cloud storage service SkyDrive, which now has more than 250 million users worldwide;

• Microsoft also worked with the FBI’s Data Intercept Unit to “understand” potential issues with a feature in Outlook.com that allows users to create email aliases;

Skype has been acquired by Microsoft for a whopping $8.5 billion. News.com

• Skype, which was bought by Microsoft in October 2011, worked with intelligence agencies last year to allow Prism to collect video of conversations as well as audio;

• Material collected through Prism is routinely shared with the FBI and CIA, with one NSA document describing the program as a “team sport”.

The latest NSA revelations further expose the tensions between Silicon Valley and the Obama administration. All the major tech firms are lobbying the government to allow them to disclose more fully the extent and nature of their co-operation with the NSA to meet their customers’ privacy concerns. Privately, tech executives are at pains to distance themselves from claims of collaboration and teamwork given by the NSA documents, and insist the process is driven by legal compulsion.

In a statement, Microsoft said: “When we upgrade or update products we aren’t absolved from the need to comply with existing or future lawful demands.” The company reiterated its argument that it provides customer data “only in response to government demands and we only ever comply with orders for requests about specific accounts or identifiers”.

In June, the Guardian revealed that the NSA claimed to have “direct access” through the Prism program to the systems of many major internet companies, including Microsoft, Skype, Apple, Google, Facebook and Yahoo.

Blanket orders from the secret surveillance court allow these communications to be collected without an individual warrant if the NSA operative has a 51% belief that the target is not a US citizen and is not on US soil at the time. Targeting US citizens does require an individual warrant, but the NSA is able to collect Americans’ communications without a warrant if the target is a foreign national located overseas.

Since Prism’s existence became public, Microsoft and the other companies listed on the NSA documents as providers have denied all knowledge of the program and insisted that the intelligence agencies do not have back doors into their systems.

Microsoft’s latest marketing campaign, launched in April, emphasizes its commitment to privacy with the slogan: “Your privacy is our priority.”

Similarly, Skype’s privacy policy states: “Skype is committed to respecting your privacy and the confidentiality of your personal data, traffic data and communications content.”

But internal NSA newsletters, marked top secret, suggest the co-operation between the intelligence community and the companies is deep and ongoing.

The latest documents come from the NSA’s Special Source Operations (SSO) division, described by Snowden as the “crown jewel” of the agency. It is responsible for all programs aimed at US communications systems through corporate partnerships such as Prism.

The files show that the NSA became concerned about the interception of encrypted chats on Microsoft’s Outlook.com portal from the moment the company began testing the service in July last year.

Within five months, the documents explain, Microsoft and the FBI had come up with a solution that allowed the NSA to circumvent encryption on Outlook.com chats

A newsletter entry dated 26 December 2012 states: “MS [Microsoft], working with the FBI, developed a surveillance capability to deal” with the issue. “These solutions were successfully tested and went live 12 Dec 2012.”

Two months later, in February this year, Microsoft officially launched the Outlook.com portal.

Another newsletter entry stated that NSA already had pre-encryption access to Outlook email. “For Prism collection against Hotmail, Live, and Outlook.com emails will be unaffected because Prism collects this data prior to encryption.”

Microsoft’s co-operation was not limited to Outlook.com. An entry dated 8 April 2013 describes how the company worked “for many months” with the FBI – which acts as the liaison between the intelligence agencies and Silicon Valley on Prism – to allow Prism access without separate authorization to its cloud storage service SkyDrive.

The document describes how this access “means that analysts will no longer have to make a special request to SSO for this – a process step that many analysts may not have known about”.

The NSA explained that “this new capability will result in a much more complete and timely collection response”. It continued: “This success is the result of the FBI working for many months with Microsoft to get this tasking and collection solution established.”

A separate entry identified another area for collaboration. “The FBI Data Intercept Technology Unit (DITU) team is working with Microsoft to understand an additional feature in Outlook.com which allows users to create email aliases, which may affect our tasking processes.”

The NSA has devoted substantial efforts in the last two years to work with Microsoft to ensure increased access to Skype, which has an estimated 663 million global users.

One document boasts that Prism monitoring of Skype video production has roughly tripled since a new capability was added on 14 July 2012. “The audio portions of these sessions have been processed correctly all along, but without the accompanying video. Now, analysts will have the complete ‘picture’,” it says.

Eight months before being bought by Microsoft, Skype joined the Prism program in February 2011.

According to the NSA documents, work had begun on smoothly integrating Skype into Prism in November 2010, but it was not until 4 February 2011 that the company was served with a directive to comply signed by the attorney general.

The NSA was able to start tasking Skype communications the following day, and collection began on 6 February. “Feedback indicated that a collected Skype call was very clear and the metadata looked complete,” the document stated, praising the co-operation between NSA teams and the FBI. “Collaborative teamwork was the key to the successful addition of another provider to the Prism system.”

 

Janus Friis-Niklas Zennstrom founders

ACLU technology expert Chris Soghoian said the revelations would surprise many Skype users. “In the past, Skype made affirmative promises to users about their inability to perform wiretaps,” he said. “It’s hard to square Microsoft’s secret collaboration with the NSA with its high-profile efforts to compete on privacy with Google.”

The information the NSA collects from Prism is routinely shared with both the FBI and CIA. A 3 August 2012 newsletter describes how the NSA has recently expanded sharing with the other two agencies.

The NSA, the entry reveals, has even automated the sharing of aspects of Prism, using software that “enables our partners to see which selectors [search terms] the National Security Agency has tasked to Prism”.

The document continues: “The FBI and CIA then can request a copy of Prism collection of any selector…” As a result, the author notes: “these two activities underscore the point that Prism is a team sport!”

In its statement to the Guardian, Microsoft said:

We have clear principles which guide the response across our entire company to government demands for customer information for both law enforcement and national security issues. First, we take our commitments to our customers and to compliance with applicable law very seriously, so we provide customer data only in response to legal processes.

Second, our compliance team examines all demands very closely, and we reject them if we believe they aren’t valid. Third, we only ever comply with orders about specific accounts or identifiers, and we would not respond to the kind of blanket orders discussed in the press over the past few weeks, as the volumes documented in our most recent disclosure clearly illustrate.

Finally when we upgrade or update products legal obligations may in some circumstances require that we maintain the ability to provide information in response to a law enforcement or national security request. There are aspects of this debate that we wish we were able to discuss more freely. That’s why we’ve argued for additional transparency that would help everyone understand and debate these important issues.

In a joint statement, Shawn Turner, spokesman for the director of National Intelligence, and Judith Emmel, spokeswoman for the NSA, said:

The articles describe court-ordered surveillance – and a US company’s efforts to comply with these legally mandated requirements. The US operates its programs under a strict oversight regime, with careful monitoring by the courts, Congress and the Director of National Intelligence. Not all countries have equivalent oversight requirements to protect civil liberties and privacy.

They added: “In practice, US companies put energy, focus and commitment into consistently protecting the privacy of their customers around the world, while meeting their obligations under the laws of the US and other countries in which they operate.”

Edward Snowden Der Spiegel Interview


Posted on July 11, 2013 by Akashma Online News

Interview Translated from the original Der Spiegel Magazine interview  German Version by Anonymous

Just before Edward Snowden became a world famous whistleblower, he answered an extensive catalog of questions. These came from, amongst others, Jacob Appelbaum, 30, a developer of encryption and security software. Appelbaum educates international human rights groups and journalists on how to work with the Internet in safe and anonymous way.
He became more publicly know in 2010, when he represented WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange speaking at a hacker conference in New York. Along with Assange and other co-authors he has recently published the interview recording “Cypher Punks: Our Freedom and the future of the Internet.”
In the course of investigations into the WikiLeaks disclosures, Appelbaum came to the attention of American authorities, who demanded companies such as Twitter and Google to divulge his accounts. He himself describes his attitude to WikiLeaks as “ambivalent” – and describes below how it came about that he was able to ask Snowden these questions.

In mid-May I was contacted by the documentary-maker Laura Poitras. She told me, that at this time she was in contact with an anonymous NSA source, which had consented to be interviewed by her.
She put together questions and asked me to contribute questions. This was, among other reasons, to determine whether she was really dealing with a NSA whistleblower. We sent our questions via encrypted e-mails. I did not know that the interlocutor was Edward Snowden until he revealed himself as such in public in Hong Kong. He did not know who I was. I had expected that he was someone in their sixties.
The following is an excerpt from a extensive interview which dealt with further points, many of them technical in nature. Some of the questions now appear in a different order to understand the context.
The discussion focused almost exclusively on the activities of the National Security Agency. It is important to know that these questions were not asked as relating to the events of the past week or the last month. They were entirely asked without any unrest, since, at that point, Snowden was still in Hawaii.
At a later stage I was again in direct contact with Snowden, at which time I also revealed my own my identity. He told me then that he gave consent to publish his statements.

+++++
Question: What is the mission of the National Security Agency (NSA) – and how is their job in accordance with the law?
Snowden: It is the mission of the NSA, to be aware of anything of importance going on outside of the United States. This is a considerable task, and the people there are convinced that not knowing everything about everyone could lead to some existential crisis. So, at some point, you believe it’s all right is to bend the rules a little. Then, if people hate it that you can bend the rules, it suddenly becomes vital even to to break them.

Question: Are German authorities or politicians involved in the monitoring system ?
Snowden: Yes of course. They (the NSA people — ed.) are in cahoots with the Germans, as well as with the most other Western countries. We (in the U.S. intelligence apparatus — ed.) warn the others, when someone we want to catch, uses one of their airports – and they then deliver them to us. The information on this, we can for example pull off of the monitored mobile phone of a suspected hacker’s girlfriend — who used it in an entirely different country which has nothing to do with the case. The other authorities do not ask us where got the leads, and we do not ask them anything either. That way, they can protect their political staff from any backlash if it came out how massive the global violation of people’s privacy is.

Question: But now as details of this system are revealed, who will be put before a court over this?
Snowden: Before U.S. courts? You’re not serious, are you? When the last large wiretapping scandal was investigated – the interception without a court order, which concerned millions of communications – that should really have led to the longest prison sentences in world history. However, then our highest representatives simply stopped the investigation. The question, who is to be accused, is theoretical, if the laws themselves are not respected. Laws are meant for people like you or me – but not for them.

Question: Does the NSA cooperate with other states like Israel?
Snowden: Yes, all the time. The NSA has a large section for that, called the FAD – Foreign Affairs Directorate.

Question: Did the NSA help to write the Stuxnet program? (the malicious program used against the Iranian nuclear facilities — ed.)
Snowden: The NSA and Israel wrote Stuxnet together.

Question: What are the major monitoring programs active today, and how do international partners  help the NSA?
Snowden: The partners in the “Five Eyes” (behind which are hidden the secret services of the Americans, the British, the Australians, New Zealanders and Canadians — ed.) sometimes go even further than the NSA people themselves. Take the Tempora program of the British intelligence GCHQ for instance. Tempora is the first “I save everything” approach (“Full take”) in the intelligence world. It sucks in all data, no matter what it is, and which rights are violated by it. This buffered storage allows for subsequent monitoring; not a single bit escapes. Right now, the system is capable of saving three days’ worth of traffic, but that will be optimized. Three days may perhaps not sound like a lot, but it’s not just about connection metadata. “Full take” means that the system saves everything. If you send a data packet and if makes its way through the UK, we will get it. If you download anything, and the server is in the UK, then we get it. And if the data about your sick daughter is processed through a London call center, then … Oh, I think you have understood.

Question: Can anyone escape?
Snowden: Well, if you had the choice, you should never send information over British lines or British servers. Send even the Queen’s selfies with her lifeguards would be recorded, if they existed.

Question: Do the NSA and its partners apply some kind of wide dragnet method to intercept phone calls, texts and data?
Snowden: Yes, but how much they can record, depends on the capabilities of the respective taps. Some data is held to be more worthwhile, and can therefore be recorded more frequently. But all this is rather a problem with foreign tapping nodes, less with those of the U.S. This makes the monitoring in their own territory so terrifying. The NSA’s options are practically limitless – in terms of computing power, space or cooling capacity for the computers.

Question: The NSA is building a new data center in Utah. What is it for?
Snowden: These are the new mass data storage facilities.

Question: For how long will the information there be stored?
Snowden: Right now it is still so, that the full text of collected material ages very quickly, within a few days, especially given its enormous amount. Unless an analyst marked a target or a particular communication. In that case the communication is saved for all eternity, one always get an authorization for that anyway. The metadata ages less quickly. The NSA at least wants all metadata to be stored forever. Often the metadata is more valuable than the contents of the communication, because in most cases, one can retrieve the content, if there is metadata. And if not, you mark all future communications that fits this metadata and is of interest, so that henceforth it will be recorded completely. The metadata tells you what you actually want from the broader stream.

Question: Do private companies help the NSA?
Snowden: Yes. But it’s hard to prove that. The names of the cooperating telecom companies are the crown jewels of the NSA… Generally you can say that multinationals with headquarters in the USA should not be trusted until they prove otherwise. This is unfortunate, because these companies have the ability to deliver the world’s best and most reliable services – if they wanted to. To facilitate this, civil rights movements should now use these revelations as a driving force. The Companies should write enforceable clauses into their terms, guaranteeing their clients that they are not being spied on. And they should include technical guarantees. If you could move even a single company to do such a thing, it would improve the security of global  communications. And when this appears to not be feasible, you should consider starting one such company yourself.

Q: Are there companies that refuse to to cooperate with the NSA?
Snowden: Yes, but I know nothing of a corresponding list that would meet this. However, there would surely be more companies of this type, if the companies working with the NSA would be punished by the customer. That should be the highest priority of all computer users who believe in the freedom of thoughts.

Question: What are the sites you should beware, if you do not want to become targeted by the NSA?
Snowden: Normally one is marked as a target because of a Facebook profile or because of your emails. The only place which I personally know where you can become a target without this specific labeling, are jihadist forums.

Question: What happens if the NSA has a user in its sights?
Snowden: The target person is completely monitored. An analyst will get a daily report about what has changed in the computer system of the targeted person. There will also be… packages with certain data which the automatic analysis systems have not understood, and so on. The analyst can then decide what he wants to do – the computer of the target person does not belong to them anymore, it then more or less belongs to the U.S. government.

This is 2013 Not 1984


Posted on July 06, 2013 by Akashma Online News

By Marivel Guzman

This is 2013 No 1984

Dear All:

To understand the scope of whats is going on, on “politics and in the world of government”, we must understand what really is government and the entities behind it.
The entities that manage the governments are just a bunch of leaches or parasites living out of the resources of the country they control, and for that, they set up entities or companies that exploit those resources, these entities known as corporations control every action taken by the governments, and it is really no brainier to see that the great majority of the people of every country lives under the worse conditions.
How these entities get away with the pillage of the resources? They are ghost companies with no liability or accountability on its own damage because their CEOS do not live in the countries they exploit. The corporations are set up on such way, that they can only be trace to a small boxes somewhere in the Canary Islands. They pay no taxes, they follow no laws. The governments pretend they control them, but the truth is, that corporations control the governments.
This is no news at all, had happened all the times, people had complain all the time, but people was not organized with the speed that they do now, with the use of the social networks.
An analysis of the social networks was done by Professor Zeynep Tufekci- She is a fellow at the Center for Information Technology Policy at Princeton University and an assistant professor at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hillthat explain how the process works, and why it works. You can read her article explaining with surgical eye the behavior of people and government in the internet and social networks era.

Corporate World

Every government has a groups of “workers”, namely government officials that are in charge of deliver every action agreed behind the doors of these corporations.
In the US, the executive, the legislative and the judicial each one of these wing of government are in charge of the policies set up by the corporations.
So, when Edward Snowden leaked or better said, told the world, -not just the American public,- but the whole world, that The US is spying on everyone of us, it did open a door for the world to see what in reality our governments are and what they are capable of.

If you see the commotion caused in other government’s countries by this leaked information, you saw that was minimal, but the “People, We the people were and still outraged, but the other governments just showed a little bit of distress, not really a big deal for them, Why? because they all know about it, they also spy on their own people. But, the US spy on E V E R Y B O D Y, INCLUDING THE OTHER GOVERNMENTS OR GROUP OF LEACHES.

Follow every step this whole affairs has taken. The moment Snowden revealed the information to us, immediately every one in position of power grabbed their microphones and say that they all agree with the behavior of the government, meaning that they do not care if the government is spying on them. Well they might not care now because they are on the other side of the fence, but as soon as they end their term, I want to see them supporting the surveillance on them.
If we analyze the history of men kind, we see that since there is written history we clearly see that since the beginning there has been the top class and the bottom and off course the Class that plays the role of government, which is the one that protects the interest, and the well being of the top class.
And off course, once we know what this group of leaches are doing, of course every one is a potential enemy, because the Government do not know how each of us is going to react.

These images were taken in both  Cairo and Alexandria
Images from Paul Zholdra, Sally Zohney and D.L Mayfield via Twitter
Biggest Protest Egypt History

Egypt protests 3

Protesters opposing Egyptian President Mursi shout slogans and make fireworkes during a protest in Tahrir square in Cairo

There is really a concern for the governments of the world since the Arab Springs started to flourish. It does not matter that the Government spread information or better say, spread misinformation telling the world that is not the people that is outpouring into the streets by the millions on their own will but  the US who is controlling the revolutions.

NO way, The Governments are really scare of the people, they might control few hundreds thousands but they can not control millions. It is impossible with 100,000 thousands soldiers to control 33 millions angry, starving people.
If the time comes that the whole world stand up in their feet and demand justice and equality, there is the possibility that the same army personal will raise with the people. There are just a little number of high ranking army, and navy people that make enough to have a relaxed life, but the great majority are living on a very stretched income.
And the governments would be suicide if they even thinking on using weapons of mass destruction to control millions of people protesting on the streets, they would be shooting their own feet, because wanted or not, the arm forces of the stronger governments of the world are men of honor and they would not commit to murder their own citizens.

Stop Watching US


Stop Watching Us.

Source: Stop Watching Us

The revelations about the National Security Agency’s surveillance apparatus, if true, represent a stunning abuse of our basic rights. We demand the U.S. Congress reveal the full extent of the NSA’s spying programs.

Dear Members of Congress,

We write to express our concern about recent reports published in the Guardian and the Washington Post, and acknowledged by the Obama Administration, which reveal secret spying by the National Security Agency (NSA) on phone records and Internet activity of people in the United States.

The Washington Post and the Guardian recently published reports based on information provided by a career intelligence officer showing how the NSA and the FBI are gaining broad access to data collected by nine of the leading U.S. Internet companies and sharing this information with foreign governments. As reported, the U.S. government is extracting audio, video, photographs, e-mails, documents, and connection logs that enable analysts to track a person’s movements and contacts over time. As a result, the contents of communications of people both abroad and in the U.S. can be swept in without any suspicion of crime or association with a terrorist organization.

Leaked reports also published by the Guardian and confirmed by the Administration reveal that the NSA is also abusing a controversial section of the PATRIOT Act to collect the call records of millions of Verizon customers. The data collected by the NSA includes every call made, the time of the call, the duration of the call, and other “identifying information” for millions of Verizon customers, including entirely domestic calls, regardless of whether those customers have ever been suspected of a crime. The Wall Street Journal has reported that other major carriers, including AT&T and Sprint, are subject to similar secret orders.

This type of blanket data collection by the government strikes at bedrock American values of freedom and privacy. This dragnet surveillance violates the First and Fourth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution, which protect citizens’ right to speak and associate anonymously and guard against unreasonable searches and seizures that protect their right to privacy.

We are calling on Congress to take immediate action to halt this surveillance and provide a full public accounting of the NSA’s and the FBI’s data collection programs. We call on Congress to immediately and publicly:

  1. Enact reform this Congress to Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act, the state secrets privilege, and the FISA Amendments Act to make clear that blanket surveillance of the Internet activity and phone records of any person residing in the U.S. is prohibited by law and that violations can be reviewed in adversarial proceedings before a public court;
  2. Create a special committee to investigate, report, and reveal to the public the extent of this domestic spying. This committee should create specific recommendations for legal and regulatory reform to end unconstitutional surveillance;
  3. Hold accountable those public officials who are found to be responsible for this unconstitutional surveillance.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.

Sincerely,

US Citizens

This letter was accompanied by the launch of StopWatching.us, a global petition calling on Congress to provide a public accounting of the United States’ domestic spying capabilites and to bring an end to illegal surveillance.

Sign your name to the petition to demand the government to stop spying on us

National Security Letters


Posted on June 11, 2013 by Akashma Online News

National Security Letters

Source: Electronic Frontier Foundation

Defending Your Rights in the Digital World

Spying EyesOf all the dangerous government surveillance powers that were expanded by the USA PATRIOT Act the National Security Letter (NSL) power under 18 U.S.C. § 2709 as expanded by PATRIOT Section 505 is one of the most frightening and invasive. These letters served on communications service providers like phone companies and ISPs allow the FBI to secretly demand data about ordinary American citizens’ private communications and Internet activity without any meaningful oversight or prior judicial review. Recipients of NSLs are subject to a gag order that forbids them from ever revealing the letters’ existence to their coworkers to their friends or even to their family members much less the public.

The FBI’s systemic abuse of this power has been documented both by a Department Of Justice investigation and in documents obtained by Electronic Frontier Foundation through a Freedom of Information Act request.

EFF has fought for years to spread awareness of National Security Letters and add accountability and oversight to the process.

In 2007 EFF filed Freedom of Information Act litigation seeking documentation of National Security Letter misuse by the FBI. Thousands of pages of documents were released over a period of four years leading to repeated revelations of government abuses of power. An EFF report based on these documents led to tough questions for the FBI before Congress. The documents also helped prompt the Senate Judiciary Committee to investigate whether Attorney General Alberto Gonzales lied to Congress.

In 2008 EFF defended the Internet Archive from an inappropriate National Security Letter. Because NSLs come with a gag order most recipients are unable to ever reveal their existence. However with the help of EFF and the ACLU the Internet
Archive fought back and won the right to speak publicly about the letter. As a result it’s become one of the few well-documented and publicly-known cases of NSL use.

And in 2013, EFF won a landmark decision in the Northern District of California in which Judge Susan Illston declared one of the statutes unconstitutional in its entirety. EFF’s petition, brought on behalf of an unidentified telephone service provider, challenged both the underlying authority to obtain customer records as well as the concurrent gag provision that prevented the recipient from disclosing even that it had receiving an NSL.

EFF has been fighting in Congress for legislative reform of National Security Letters since 2005. In 2009 many hoped that President Obama having run for office promising to reform Bush-era surveillance abuses would work with Congress to curb NSL abuse. Unfortunately the Obama Administration has instead continued to block reform and has even sought to expand NSL powers.

What We Don’t Know About Spying on Citizens: Scarier Than What We Know


The NSA’s surveillance of cell-phone calls show how badly we need to protect the

whistle-blowers who provide transparency and accountability.

Jun 6 2013, 12:24 PM ET
NSAdishes.banner.reuters.jpg.jpg
Jason Reed/Reuters

Yesterday, we learned that the NSA received all calling records from Verizon customers for a three-month period starting in April. That’s everything except the voice content: who called who, where they were, how long the call lasted — for millions of people, both Americans and foreigners. This “metadata” allows the government to track the movements of everyone during that period, and a build a detailed picture of who talks to whom. It’s exactly the same data the Justice Department collected about AP journalists.

The Guardian delivered this revelation after receiving a copy of a secret memo about this — presumably from a whistle-blower. We don’t know if the other phone companies handed data to the NSA too. We don’t know if this was a one-off demand or a continuously renewed demand; the order started a few days after the Boston bombers were captured by police.

We don’t know a lot about how the government spies on us, but we know some things. We know the FBI has issued tens of thousands of ultra-secret National Security Letters to collect all sorts of data on people — we believe on millions of people — and has been abusing them to spy on cloud-computer users. We know it can collect a wide array of personal data from the Internet without a warrant. We also know that the FBI has been intercepting cell-phone data, all but voice content, for the past 20 years without a warrant, and can use the microphone on some powered-off cell phones as a room bug — presumably only with a warrant.

We know that the NSA has many domestic-surveillance and data-mining programs with codenames like Trailblazer, Stellar Wind, and Ragtime — deliberately using different codenames for similar programs to stymie oversight and conceal what’s really going on. We know that the NSA is building an enormous computer facility in Utah to store all this data, as well as faster computer networks to process it all. We know the U.S. Cyber Command employs 4,000 people.

We know that the DHS is also collecting a massive amount of data on people, and that local police departments are running “fusion centers” to collect and analyze this data, and covering up its failures. This is all part of the militarization of the police.

Remember in 2003, when Congress defunded the decidedly creepy Total Information Awareness program? It didn’t die; it just changed names and split into many smaller programs. We know that corporations are doing an enormous amount of spying on behalf of the government: all parts.

We know all of this not because the government is honest and forthcoming, but mostly through three backchannels — inadvertent hints or outright admissions by government officials in hearings and court cases, information gleaned from government documents received under FOIA, and government whistle-blowers.

There’s much more we don’t know, and often what we know is obsolete. We know quite a bit about the NSA’s ECHELON program from a 2000 European investigation, and about the DHS’s plans for Total Information Awareness from 2002, but much less about how these programs have evolved. We can make inferences about the NSA’s Utah facility based on the theoretical amount of data from various sources, the cost of computation, and the power requirements from the facility, but those are rough guesses at best. For a lot of this, we’re completely in the dark.

And that’s wrong.

The U.S. government is on a secrecy binge. It overclassifies more information than ever. And we learn, again and again, that our government regularly classifies things not because they need to be secret, but because their release would be embarrassing.

Knowing how the government spies on us is important. Not only because so much of it is illegal — or, to be as charitable as possible, based on novel interpretations of the law — but because we have a right to know. Democracy requires an informed citizenry in order to function properly, and transparency and accountability are essential parts of that. That means knowing what our government is doing to us, in our name. That means knowing that the government is operating within the constraints of the law. Otherwise, we’re living in a police state.

We need whistle-blowers.

Leaking information without getting caught is difficult. It’s almost impossible to maintain privacy in the Internet Age. The WikiLeaks platform seems to have been secure — Bradley Manning was caught not because of a technological flaw, but because someone he trusted betrayed him — but the U.S. government seems to have successfully destroyed it as a platform. None of the spin-offs have risen to become viable yet. The New Yorker recently unveiled its Strongbox platform for leaking material, which is still new but looks good. This link contains the best advice on how to leak information to the press via phone, email, or the post office. The National Whistleblowers Center has a page on national-security whistle-blowers and their rights.

Leaking information is also very dangerous. The Obama Administration has embarked on a war on whistle-blowers, pursuing them — both legally and through intimidation — further than any previous administration has done. Mark Klein, Thomas Drake, and William Binney have all been persecuted for exposing technical details of our surveillance state. Bradley Manning has been treated cruelly and inhumanly — and possibly tortured — for his more-indiscriminate leaking of State Department secrets.

The Obama Administration’s actions against the Associated Press, its persecution of Julian Assange, and its unprecedented prosecution of Manning on charges of “aiding the enemy” demonstrate how far it’s willing to go to intimidate whistle-blowers — as well as the journalists who talk to them.

But whistle-blowing is vital, even more broadly than in government spying. It’s necessary for good government, and to protect us from abuse of power.

We need details on the full extent of the FBI’s spying capabilities. We don’t know what information it routinely collects on American citizens, what extra information it collects on those on various watch lists, and what legal justifications it invokes for its actions. We don’t know its plans for future data collection. We don’t know what scandals and illegal actions — either past or present — are currently being covered up.

We also need information about what data the NSA gathers, either domestically or internationally. We don’t know how much it collects surreptitiously, and how much it relies on arrangements with various companies. We don’t know how much it uses password cracking to get at encrypted data, and how much it exploits existing system vulnerabilities. We don’t know whether it deliberately inserts backdoors into systems it wants to monitor, either with or without the permission of the communications-system vendors.

And we need details about the sorts of analysis the organizations perform. We don’t know what they quickly cull at the point of collection, and what they store for later analysis — and how long they store it. We don’t know what sort of database profiling they do, how extensive their CCTV and surveillance-drone analysis is, how much they perform behavioral analysis, or how extensively they trace friends of people on their watch lists.

We don’t know how big the U.S. surveillance apparatus is today, either in terms of money and people or in terms of how many people are monitored or how much data is collected. Modern technology makes it possible to monitor vastly more people — yesterday’s NSA revelations demonstrate that they could easily surveil everyone — than could ever be done manually.

Whistle-blowing is the moral response to immoral activity by those in power. What’s important here are government programs and methods, not data about individuals. I understand I am asking for people to engage in illegal and dangerous behavior. Do it carefully and do it safely, but — and I am talking directly to you, person working on one of these secret and probably illegal programs — do it.

If you see something, say something. There are many people in the U.S. that will appreciate and admire you.

For the rest of us, we can help by protesting this war on whistle-blowers. We need to force our politicians not to punish them — to investigate the abuses and not the messengers — and to ensure that those unjustly persecuted can obtain redress.

Our government is putting its own self-interest ahead of the interests of the country. That needs to change.

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