Edward Snowden

updated 01-27-2014

The police cannot spy on anyone without a court order but the NSA has become a new Gestapo spying on everyone, breaking the law and lying about it.

Update: Polls Continue to Show Majority of Americans Against NSA Spying
January 22, 2014 | By Mark Jaycox

Update, January 2014: Polls continue to confirm the trend. In a poll conducted in December 2013 by the Washington Post, 66% of Americans were concerned “about the collection and use of [their] personal information by the National Security Agency.” Americans aren’t only concerned about the collection. A recent Pew poll found—yet again—that a majority of Americans oppose the government’s collection of phone and Internet data as a part of anti-terrorism efforts.
. . .

By Barton Gellman, Published: December 23, 2013

The government does not just crush people trying to improve our lives, they spy on everyone.

The NSA lies about their activity: “NSA does not profile everyday Americans…”
The White House: “White House press secretary Jay Carney stressed that same position.”
as does the President. Jan.17th: “…we are not after the information of ordinary Americans,”
– FoxNews.com, Published January 27, 2014

NSA spying through Angry Birds, Google Maps, leaked documents reportedly reveal
FoxNews.com, Published January 27, 2014
new reports from the New York Times

Citing confidential documents provided by whistleblower Edward Snowden, the reports detail efforts to supplement data collection from cell phone carriers and smartphones by tapping into “leaky” apps themselves.

Both spy agencies showed a particular interest in Google Maps, which is accurate to within a few yards or better in some locations and would clearly pass along data about a phone owner’s whereabouts.

The N.S.A. and Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters were working together on how to collect and store data from dozens of smartphone apps by 2007, according to the documents, provided by Edward J. Snowden, the former N.S.A. contractor. Since then, the agencies have traded recipes for grabbing location and planning data when a target uses Google Maps, and for vacuuming up address books, buddy lists, telephone logs and the geographic data embedded in photographs when someone sends a post to the mobile versions of Facebook, Flickr, LinkedIn, Twitter and other Internet services.

The scale and the specifics of the data haul are not clear. The documents show that the N.S.A. and the British agency routinely obtain information from certain apps, particularly those introduced earliest to cellphones. With some newer apps, including Angry Birds, the agencies have a similar ability, the documents show, but they do not make explicit whether the spies have put that into practice. Some personal data, developed in profiles by advertising companies, could be particularly sensitive: A secret British intelligence document from 2012 said that spies can scrub smartphone apps to collect details like a user’s “political alignment” and sexual orientation.

President Obama announced new restrictions this month to better protect the privacy of ordinary Americans and foreigners from government surveillance, including limits on how the N.S.A. can view the metadata of Americans’ phone calls – the routing information, time stamps and other data associated with calls. But he did not address the information that the intelligence agencies get from leaky apps and other smartphone functions.

In charts showing how information flows from smartphones into the agency’s computers, analysts included questions to be answered by the data, like “Where was my target when they did this?” and “Where is my target going?” … One profile notes whether the user is currently listening to music or making a call, and another has an entry for household income.

Smartphones almost seem to make things too easy. Functioning as phones to make calls and send texts and as computers to surf the web and send emails, they both generate and rely on data. One secret report showed that just by updating Android software, a user sent more than 500 lines of data about the phone’s history and use onto the network.

One secret British document from 2010 suggested that the agencies collected such a huge volume of “cookies” – the digital traces left on a mobile device or a computer when a target visits a website – that classified computers were having trouble storing it all.

“They are gathered in bulk, and are currently our single largest type of events,” the document said.

It’s Not Just The Government
Another ad company creates far more intrusive profiles that the agencies can retrieve, the report said. The names of the apps that generate those profiles were not given, but the company was identified as Millennial Media, which has its headquarters in Baltimore.

In securities filings, Millennial documented how it began working with Rovio in 2011 to embed ad services in Angry Birds apps running on iPhones, Android phones and other devices.

According to the report, the profiles created by Millennial contain much of the same information as others, but several categories that are listed as “optional,” including ethnicity, marital status and sexual orientation, suggest that much wider sweeps of personal data may take place.

There is no explanation of precisely how the ad company defined the categories, whether users volunteered the information or whether the company inferred it by other means. Nor is there any discussion of why all that information would be useful for marketing – or intelligence.

“All I wanted was for the public to be able to have a say in how they are governed,”
Edward Snowden

He had come to believe that a dangerous machine of mass surveillance was growing unchecked. Closed-door oversight by Congress and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court was a “graveyard of judgment,” he said, manipulated by the agency it was supposed to keep in check. Classification rules erected walls to prevent public debate.

The NSA’s business is “information dominance,” the use of other people’s secrets to shape events. At 29, Snowden upended the agency on its own turf.

The cascading effects have made themselves felt in Congress, the courts, popular culture, Silicon Valley and world capitals. The basic structure of the Internet itself is now in question, as Brazil and members of the European Union consider measures to keep their data away from U.S. territory and U.S. technology giants including Google, Microsoft and Yahoo take extraordinary steps to block the collection of data by their government.

For months, Obama administration officials attacked Snowden’s motives and said the work of the NSA was distorted by selective leaks and misinterpretations.

On Dec. 16, in a lawsuit that could not have gone forward without the disclosures made possible by Snowden, U.S. District Judge Richard J. Leon described the NSA’s capabilities as “almost Orwellian” and said its bulk collection of U.S. domestic telephone records was probably unconstitutional.

The next day, in the Roosevelt Room, an unusual delegation of executives from old telephone companies and young Internet firms told President Obama that the NSA’s intrusion into their networks was a threat to the U.S. information economy. The following day, an advisory panel appointed by Obama recommended substantial new restrictions on the NSA, including an end to the domestic call-records program.

Beginning in October 2012, he said, he brought his misgivings to two superiors in the NSA’s Technology Directorate and two more in the NSA Threat Operations Center’s regional base in Hawaii. For each of them, and 15 other co-workers, Snowden said he opened a data query tool called BOUNDLESSINFORMANT, which used color-coded “heat maps” to depict the volume of data ingested by NSA taps.

His colleagues were often “astonished to learn we are collecting more in the United States on Americans than we are on Russians in Russia,” he said. Many of them were troubled, he said, and several said they did not want to know any more.

Each year, NSA systems collected hundreds of millions of e-mail address books, hundreds of billions of cellphone location records and trillions of domestic call logs.

Most of that data, by definition and intent, belonged to ordinary people suspected of nothing.

The agency followed orders from President George W. Bush to begin domestic collection without authority from Congress and the courts. When the NSA won those authorities later, some of them under secret interpretations of laws passed by Congress between 2007 and 2012, the Obama administration went further still.

Using PRISM, the cover name for collection of user data from Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, Apple and five other U.S.-based companies, the NSA could obtain all communications to or from any specified target. The companies had no choice but to comply with the government’s request for data.

But the NSA could not use PRISM, which was overseen once a year by the surveillance court, for the collection of virtually all data handled by those companies. To widen its access, it teamed up with its British counterpart, Government Communications Headquarters, or GCHQ, to break into the private fiber-optic links that connected Google and Yahoo data centers around the world.

That operation, which used the cover name MUSCULAR, tapped into U.S. company data from outside U.S. territory. The NSA, therefore, believed it did not need permission from Congress or judicial oversight. Data from hundreds of millions of U.S. accounts flowed over those Google and Yahoo links, but classified rules allowed the NSA to presume that data ingested overseas belonged to foreigners.

‘Persistent threat’

Disclosure of the MUSCULAR project enraged and galvanized U.S. technology executives. They believed the NSA had lawful access to their front doors – and had broken down the back doors anyway.

Microsoft general counsel Brad Smith took to his company’s blog and called the NSA an “advanced persistent threat” – the worst of all fighting words in U.S. cybersecurity circles, generally reserved for Chinese state-sponsored hackers and sophisticated criminal enterprises.

“For the industry as a whole, it caused everyone to ask whether we knew as much as we thought,” Smith recalled in an interview. “It underscored the fact that while people were confident that the U.S. government was complying with U.S. laws for activity within U.S. territory, perhaps there were things going on outside the United States . . . that made this bigger and more complicated and more disconcerting than we knew.”

They wondered, he said, whether the NSA was “collecting proprietary information from the companies themselves.”

Led by Google and then Yahoo, one company after another announced expensive plans to encrypt its data traffic over tens of thousands of miles of cable. It was a direct – in some cases, explicit – blow to NSA collection of user data in bulk. If the NSA wanted the information, it would have to request it or circumvent the encryption one target at a time.

As these projects are completed, the Internet will become a less friendly place for the NSA to work. The agency can still collect data from virtually anyone, but collecting from everyone will be harder.

The industry’s response, Smith acknowledged, was driven by a business threat. U.S. companies could not afford to be seen as candy stores for U.S. intelligence. But the principle of the thing, Smith said, “is fundamentally about ensuring that customer data is turned over to governments pursuant to valid legal orders and in accordance with constitutional principles.”


Former government contractor Edward Snowden has been widely credited with kick-starting a debate about government surveillance programs when he began his massive series of disclosures about government spying programs in June.

“I will say that our nation’s defense depends in part on the fidelity of those entrusted with our nation’s secrets,” Mr. Obama said. “If any individual who objects to government policy can take it in their own hands to publicly disclose classified information, then we will never be able to keep our people safe, or conduct foreign policy.”
– Pres. Obama

In reaction to Mr. Obama’s speech, Julian Assange, the founder of anti-secrecy organization Wikileaks who helped publish a previous series of unauthorized disclosures, defended Snowden on CNN and said the president had been dragged “kicking and screaming” into the surveillance debate.

Assange argued the president would not have given his speech – or significantly altered U.S. surveillance practices – “were it not for the actions of Edward Snowden.”


January 17, 2014
A Major Victory for Snowden and N.S.A. Reformers
Posted by Ryan Lizza

It’s reasonable to suspect that the modifications to the N.S.A.’s telephone-metadata program that Obama announced on Friday are simply cosmetic changes meant to short-circuit the pressure for substantive reform. For example, Obama made it clear that he wanted the “capability” of the telephone metadata “preserved.” But Obama’s speech was undoubtedly a victory for the reform side of this debate. He not only adopted the critique of those who are most troubled by the metadata program-he also adopted their central policy recommendation. The N.S.A.’s bulk collection of telephone metadata is dead, or it will be soon.

Until now, the government Since July, many of the polls not only confirm the American people think the NSA’s actions violates their privacy, but think the surveillance should be stopped. For instance in an AP poll, nearly 60 percent of Americans said they oppose the NSA collecting data about their telephone and Internet usage. In another national poll by the Washington Post and ABC News, 74 percent of respondents said the NSA’s spying intrudes on their privacy rights. This majority should come as no surprise, as we’ve seen a sea change in opinion polls on privacy since the Edward Snowden revelations started in June.

What’s also important is that it crosses political party lines. The Washington Post/ABC News poll found 70 percent of Democrats and 77 percent of Republicans believe the NSA’s spying programs intrude on their privacy rights. This change is significant, showing that privacy is a bipartisan issue. In 2006, a similar question found only 50 percent of Republicans thought the government intruded on their privacy rights.

Americans also continue their skepticism of the federal government and its inability to conduct proper oversight. In a recent poll, Rasmusson—though sometimes known for push polling—revealed that there’s been a 30 percent increase in people who believe it is now more likely that the government will monitor their phone calls. Maybe even more significant is that this skepticism carries over into whether or not Americans believe the government’s claim that it “robustly oversees” the NSA’s programs. In a Huffpost/You Gov poll, 53 percent of respondents said they think “the federal courts and rules put in place by Congress” do not provide “adequate oversight.” Only 18 percent of people agreed with the statement.

Americans seem to be waking up from its surveillance state slumber as the leaks around the illegal and unconstitutional NSA spying continue. The anger Americans—especially younger Americans—have around the NSA spying is starting to show. President Obama has seen a 14-point swing in his approval and disapproval rating among voters aged 18-29 after the NSA spying. has defended the program as essential, and it has been dismissive-and sometimes contemptuous-of those who charged that it was never properly debated in public, is not under rigorous oversight, and is ripe for potential abuse.

Indeed, in my conversations with intelligence officials this past year, their general attitude was that smart, well-meaning, Ivy League-educated lawyers were on the front lines at the intelligence agencies making sure that the privacy rights of Americans were protected, and, therefore, the concerns about abuse were not only unfounded but also bordered on paranoia. In his speech today, Obama reversed the intelligence-community paternalism that has dominated the government’s rhetoric about the metadata program. “Given the unique power of the state, it is not enough for leaders to say, Trust us, we won’t abuse the data we collect,” he said, unironically critiquing the very argument that he and his top officials have been making for months. “For history has too many examples when that trust has been breached. Our system of government is built on the premise that our liberty cannot depend on the good intentions of those in power; it depends on the law to constrain those in power.”

Before today, when skeptics made this same argument about needing a new law to constrain the government, they were met with puzzled expressions and condescending explanations of the ways in which law already constrained the government. Look no further than the Obama Administration’s official white paper, released last August, which defended the phone-metadata program as a model of democratic governance, saying that the program had been endorsed by Congress, which repeatedly reauthorized the Patriot Act, and reviewed by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which routinely extends the program’s judicial mandate. In recent months, numerous government officials have told the public that the program meets, in the word of the former N.S.A. director Michael Hayden, the “Madisonian” test of being created and reviewed by all three branches of government.

Today, Obama reversed course, acknowledging that all of that wasn’t enough. He has now adopted the language of the reformers: “I believe critics are right to point out that without proper safeguards, this type of program could be used to yield more information about our private lives, and open the door to more intrusive bulk collection programs in the future,” he said. “They’re also right to point out that although the telephone bulk collection program was subject to oversight by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court and has been reauthorized repeatedly by Congress, it has never been subject to vigorous public debate.”

So where did this newfound skepticism about government secrecy and the frightening implications of collecting an enormous amount of data abut private citizens lead the President? To the same conclusion as the civil libertarians-Rand Paul, Ron Wyden, James Sensenbrenner, Edward Snowden-who have been the most concerned about the Section 215 program: the N.S.A. should no longer collect our phone records. That is a major policy change for this President and his Administration, and it’s an incredible victory for the often maligned community of whistle-blowers, journalists, news organizations, and members of Congress who have called on Obama to end this policy.

What about the fine print? Obama’s speech was filled with caveats, calls for further study, and pained sympathizing with each side of the debate. He was insistent that some entity should continue to collect this information, so that it is available it a search-ready format. There are enormous privacy implications to such a database existing anywhere-whether inside or outside the government-and the details of how such a system is set up will be crucial. Many critics of the metadata program insist that the government shouldn’t create the database at all, arguing that if it wants telephone records, it should go get a warrant and ask the telecom communities for the information. As with his intelligence-review panel, Obama has tried to find a middle ground: the data will still be consolidated in one place, but searches will require judicial approval or “a true emergency.”

But these caveats should not overshadow the fact that Obama has sided with his fiercest critics on two of the most important reforms that have been demanded since Snowden’s first revelations: the N.S.A. should no longer collect this data and the spy agency should generally be required to have court approval when it wants to search Americans’ phone records.

Politically, this speech was a major boost for people like Pat Leahy and James Sensenbrenner, who have written the leading reform bills in their respective chambers, and a rebuke to intelligence officials like the N.S.A. director Keith Alexander and politicians like Diane Feinstein, who have fought to preserve the status quo. (Indeed, Feinstein’s own legislation, which passed the Senate Intelligence Committee last year, does not meet the criteria for reform set out in the President’s speech.)

Obama’s cautious, infuriating speech won’t reform the system in all the ways that N.S.A. critics want, but it just might help Congress do so.


Why Snowden’s Disclosures of Foreign Surveillance Are Legitimate
Posted: 01/13/2014 9:23 am
Bea Edwards
Executive & International Director, Government Accountability Project

In arguing against clemency for Edward Snowden, Fred Kaplan cites the disclosure of documents that reveal putatively legitimate anti-terrorist attacks in Pakistan. Based on those documents, Barton Gellman and Greg Miller of the Washington Post wrote a story about NSA/CIA collaboration in the killing of a target with a drone strike in Pakistan in 2012.

Kaplan argues that revealing this information exposed legitimate anti-terrorist actions of U.S. intelligence agencies and compromised the security of the nation. But it’s worth asking why the American public should not know about this? Our government now implements a strategy and technology that includes the targeted killing of foreign nationals in countries with which we are not at war, more than 10 years after the Al Qaeda attack on the US. Shouldn’t an informed public in a democratic country know a) the rationale, b) the consequences c) the effectiveness surrounding this campaign?

Kaplan claims that these activities are neither illegal nor immoral and should not have been disclosed. That’s a sweeping judgment to make on behalf of the international community. Moreover, the drone operation in question killed an Al Qaeda operative who led U.S. agents to Osama Bin Laden’s courier, and ultimately to Bin Laden himself. We’re already pretty well-informed about parts of this tale. Why? Because CIA Director Leon Panetta told Zero Dark Thirty scriptwriter Matthew Boal about it in 2011 during a speech at CIA headquarters. The speech contained classified information. So did the movie.

Two things. First, if we live in a country that allows us only the official line about an extremely controversial story that involves torture and death, then we live in an authoritarian state, not a democracy. We are obliged to base our opinion on official propaganda rather than the full array of relevant facts. Second, we have not only a right but an obligation to know that our government is frequently killing people in another country. We should know this because our government’s actions may involve us in yet another war or destabilize an already dangerously unstable country in a region equipped with nuclear weapons.

Conor Friedersdorf made this argument in The Atlantic. He pointed out that the debate about Snowden’s disclosures has to do with democracy vs. authoritarianism, not privacy vs. security. Framing the controversy as a need to balance personal privacy and national security trivializes the concept of individual freedom and forces us to weigh petty inconveniences against mortal danger. Because of Edward Snowden’s disclosures about NSA/CIA collaboration on the drone program in Pakistan, we now know that the real balancing act may well be about an informed awareness of our country’s foreign policy vs. unquestioning support for the murder of civilians abroad, whoever they are.

Bea Edwards is Executive & International Director of the Government Accountability Project, the nation’s leading whistleblower protection organization.

Keep in mind that Edward Snowden did not give away secrets, he exposed commonly believed to be unconstitutional policies, including spying on innocent citizens and allies. … without a court order. …


It has been reported before:

NSA bugging AT&T

–Mark Klein, April 6, 2006

the Bush administration spying on ALL U.S. citizens without obtaining a FISA warrant

For 22 and 1/2 years I worked as an AT&T technician, first in New York and then in California.

In 2002, when I was working in an AT&T office in San Francisco, the site manager told me to expect a visit from a National Security Agency agent, who was to interview a management-level technician for a special job. The agent came, and by chance I met him and directed him to the appropriate people.

In January 2003, I, along with others, toured the AT&T central office on Folsom Street in San Francisco – actually three floors of an SBC building. There I saw a new room being built adjacent to the 4ESS switch room where the public’s phone calls are routed. I learned that the person whom the NSA interviewed for the secret job was the person working to install equipment in this room. The regular technician work force was not allowed in the room.

In October 2003, the company transferred me to the San Francisco building to oversee the Worldnet Internet room, which included large routers, racks of modems for customers’ dial-in services, and other equipment. I was responsible for troubleshooting problems on the fiber optic circuits and installing new circuits.

While doing my job, I learned that fiber optic cables from the secret room were tapping into the Worldnet circuits by splitting off a portion of the light signal. I saw this in a design document available to me, entitled “Study Group 3, LGX/Splitter Wiring, San Francisco” dated Dec. 10, 2002. I also saw design documents dated Jan. 13, 2004 and Jan. 24, 2003, which instructed technicians on connecting some of the already in-service circuits to the “splitter” cabinet, which diverts some of the light signal to the secret room. The circuits listed were the Peering Links, which connect Worldnet with other networks and hence the whole country, as well as the rest of the world.

One of the documents listed the equipment installed in the secret room, and this list included a Narus STA 6400, which is a “Semantic Traffic Analyzer”. The Narus STA technology is known to be used particularly by government intelligence agencies because of its ability to sift through large amounts of data looking for preprogrammed targets. The company’s advertising boasts that its technology “captures comprehensive customer usage data … and transforms it into actionable information…. (It) provides complete visibility for all internet applications.”

My job required me to connect new circuits to the “splitter” cabinet and get them up and running. While working on a particularly difficult one with a technician back East, I learned that other such “splitter” cabinets were being installed in other cities, including Seattle, San Jose, Los Angeles and San Diego.

What is the Significance, and Why Is It Important to Bring These Facts to Light?

Based on my understanding of the connections and equipment at issue, it appears the NSA is capable of conducting what amounts to vacuum-cleaner surveillance of all the data crossing the Internet – whether that be peoples’ e-mail, Web surfing or any other data.

Given the public debate about the constitutionality of the Bush administration’s spying on U.S. citizens without obtaining a FISA warrant, I think it is critical that this information be brought out into the open, and that the American people be told the truth about the extent of the administration’s warrantless surveillance practices, particularly as it relates to the Internet.

Despite what we are hearing, and considering the public track record of this administration, I simply do not believe their claims that the NSA’s spying program is really limited to foreign communications or is otherwise consistent with the NSA’s charter or with FISA. And unlike the controversy over targeted wiretaps of individuals’ phone calls, this potential spying appears to be applied wholesale to all sorts of Internet communications of countless citizens.

Attorney contact information:

Miles Ehrlich
Ramsey & Ehrlich LLP


also read a few books


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