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Snowden should be ‘hanged’ if convicted for treason, says ex-CIA chief


Former director of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency James Woolsey at the Conservative Political Action Conference, 2011. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

“I think giving [NSA leaker Edward Snowden] amnesty is idiotic. He should be prosecuted for treason. If convicted by a jury of his peers, he should be hanged by his neck until he is dead."

Former CIA Director James Woolsey, speaking to Faux News with former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Hugh Shelton.

Merry Christmas!

NSA's bulk phone data collection ruled unconstitutional, 'almost Orwellian,' by federal judge


Judge Richard Leon (dcd.uscourts.gov)

In the nation's capital today, a federal judge has ruled that the National Security Agency's program of bulk phone record collection violates the reasonable expectation of privacy guaranteed to Americans by the Constitution. The judge ordered the federal government to stop gathering call data on two plaintiffs, and to destroy all previously-collected records of their call histories.

The ruling by Judge Richard Leon (PDF Link), a US district judge in the District of Columbia, is stayed pending a likely appeal--which may take months. In his 68-page memorandum, Leon wrote that the NSA's vast collection of Americans' phone metadata constitutes an unreasonable search or seizure under the Fourth Amendment.

"Father of the Constitution" James Madison would be “aghast” at the NSA's actions if he were alive today, wrote Leon.

Read the rest

Leaked NSA report reveals push for new surveillance powers

A new report in the New York Times by James Risen and Laura Poitras details how National Security Agency officials seeking dominance in intelligence collection, "pledged last year to push to expand surveillance powers," according to a top-secret strategy document leaked by Edward Snowden.

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Update on WikiLeaks grand jury: no indictment yet, but grand jury continues


Julian Assange. Image: Reuters.

A story in the Washington Post today quotes unnamed "senior law enforcement sources" as saying that US prosecutors haven't yet filed a sealed indictment against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, but the nearly three-year grand jury investigation continues.

The report follows weeks of rumors that an indictment was imminent, after the unsealing of an indictment for Edward Snowden. One source quoted in the story says, “Nothing has occurred so far. If Assange came to the U.S. today, he would not be arrested. But I can’t predict what’s going to happen. He might be in six months.”

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Germany wants Snowden to testify on US spying--but in Moscow, not Berlin


A general view of the large former monitoring base of the U.S. intelligence organization National Security Agency (NSA) in Bad Aibling south of Munich, June 18, 2013. Reuters/Michaela Rehle

Lawmakers in Germany want former NSA contractor Edward Snowden to give evidence on previously-secret U.S. surveillance of Angela Merkel's mobile phone. Snowden has communicated a desire to travel to Germany or France, but Wednesday they said they would instead try to take his testimony from Moscow without compromising his asylum there. More at Reuters.

Snowden's status in Russia is not without conditions, however: Putin said early on that the most important of those is that Snowden not take further actions to "harm" the United States. Speaking to Germany about covert ops conducted by the US could be interpreted as doing just that.

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Press freedom case of NYT reporter James Risen may go to Supreme Court

"A federal appeals court will not reconsider a decision compelling a journalist to identify a source who disclosed details of a secret CIA operation," reports the AP:

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Revealed in Snowden documents, details on how NSA is involved in drone assassination program

The U.S. government has never publicly acknowledged killing Hassan Ghul, identified as an Al Qaeda operative amd close associate of Osama Bin Laden. But in documents provided to the Washington Post by Edward Snowden, confirmation that he died in October 2012, along with revelation of the NSA’s "extensive involvement in the targeted killing program that has served as a centerpiece of President Obama’s counterterrorism strategy."

NSA chief and top deputy expected to depart by early 2014

Reuters today reported that Keith Alexander, the director of the U.S. National Security Agency, is expected to step down in the next few months along with his second-in-command.

Greenwald leaves Guardian for new venture backed by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar (updated)


Journalist Glenn Greenwald in Rio de Janeiro, July 2013. Sergio Moraes / Reuters

Blogger and journalist Glenn Greenwald, who along with Laura Poitras broke the story of Edward Snowden's NSA leaks, announced today that he is departing the Guardian newspaper to join a "new news venture backed by eBay founder and philanthropist Pierre Omidyar," reports Paul Farhi at The Washington Post.

The new, as-yet-unnamed news site has also sought to hire Laura Poitras, the documentary filmmaker who was instrumental in linking former NSA contractor Edward Snowden to Greenwald and Barton Gellman of The Washington Post, and national security reporter Jeremy Scahill of the Nation magazine, said a person familiar with the venture.

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Report: The NSA collects half a million buddy lists and inboxes a day. Is one of them yours?


Not an actual National Security Agency agent. Or, you know, maybe it is.

At the Washington Post, Barton Gellman and Ashkan Soltani report on a new finding in the top secret documents provided by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden: The NSA is gathering "hundreds of millions of contact lists" from personal e-mail and IM accounts. Many of these accounts belong to Americans. Maybe one of them belongs to you.

The collection program had not previously been publicly revealed. According to the Washington Post story, here's how it works: the NSA intercepts e-mail address books and “buddy lists” from IM services as that data transits through the global network, for instance at session log-on and log-off. And all of this is made possible with help from compliant carriers.

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Defending NSA, director says it's not that what we're doing is wrong, we just did a bad job explaining


A view from helicopter of the National Security Agency at Ft. Meade, Maryland, Photo: Reuters/Larry Downing

Ladies and gentlemen, General Keith Alexander, who insists that the NSA's only problem is a public misunderstanding about what information the agency does and does not collect, not the programs of mass data collection themselves:

“The way we’ve explained it to the American people has gotten them so riled up that nobody told them the facts of the program and the controls that go around it.”

[NYTimes.com]

Lavabit files opening brief in important online privacy case

Kevin Poulsen, Wired News: "Secure email provider Lavabit just filed the opening brief in its appeal of a court order demanding it turn over the private SSL keys that protected all web traffic to the site."

Patriot Act author pushes bill to put NSA's data dragnet 'out of business'

"Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, who worked with president George W. Bush to give more power to US intelligence agencies after the September 11 terrorist attacks, said the intelligence community had misused those powers by collecting telephone records on all Americans, and claimed it was time 'to put their metadata program out of business." [theguardian.com]

NSA chiefs confiding in their allies: Obama is hanging us out to dry


General Keith Alexander arrives at a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing in Washington, June 2013. Photo: Reuters.

At Foreign Policy, Shane Harris writes about leaders within the National Security Agency who "are angry and dispirited by what they see as the White House's failure to defend the spy agency against criticism of its surveillance programs, according to four people familiar with the NSA chiefs' thinking."

Stewart Baker, the NSA's former general counsel, said he had not discussed the administration's response to the NSA scandal with officials in government, but that it was the "general perception" that it had been weak. "The President is uncomfortable defending this. Maybe he spends too much time reading blogs on the left," Baker said. "That's fatal in cases like this. You have to make the case because nobody else will."

Reactions on Twitter to this piece are colorful.

Edward Snowden’s dad visits his son in Moscow

"Mr. Snowden said that he did not expect his son to return to the United States, where the 30-year-old former intelligence contractor is wanted on espionage charges, and did not give any indication that he would try to persuade him to do so.'I’m not sure that my son will be returning to the U.S. again,' Mr. Snowden said. 'That’s his decision you know. He’s an adult.” More in the New York Times.

'How Lavabit Melted Down'

There's an excellent tick-tock of the Lavabit saga in the New Yorker, by Michael Phillips and Matt Buchanan. Lavabit founder Ladar Levison says he believes even if he hadn’t hosted an email account for Edward Snowden, "Lavabit would eventually have found itself in the position that it’s in now because it 'constitutes a gap' in the government’s intelligence." And that should worry all of us. Read: How Lavabit Melted Down : The New Yorker.

Russian tabloid publishes picture said to be Edward Snowden shopping for groceries

I mean, who knows. [lifenews.ru. HT: @adrianchen]

NSA and UK intel agency GCHQ target online anonymity tool Tor, according to leaked Snowden documents


Despite the fact that online anonymity tool Tor was developed with US government funds, the NSA really does not like Tor.

Top-secret documents leaked to the Guardian by former US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden reveal details of repeated attempts by the US and UK governments to crack Tor, the "onion router" that was originally funded in by the US government, and used widely by dissidents and activists around the world. Tor's core network security remains intact, but the NSA has had some success attacking users' computers, according to the report.

Who uses Tor? According to one of the slides in the leaked presentations, "Terrorists!" The NSA is fond of the generous use of exclamation points in these things.

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Ex-NSA director jokes of placing Edward Snowden on kill list, Rep. Mike Rogers offers to help


Former NSA Director Michael Hayden.

Brendan Sasso of The Hill reports that during a Washington Post cybersecurity summit today, former National Security Agency Director Michael Hayden made a joke about putting Edward Snowden on a kill list.

Snowden, who leaked secret NSA documents to news reporters, has been nominated for the "Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought," considered to be Europe's most prominent human rights award.

According to Sasso Hayden quipped, "I must admit, in my darker moments over the past several months, I'd also thought of nominating Mr. Snowden, but it was for a different list."

"I can help you with that," added his fellow panel member Rep. Mike "CISPA" Rogers (R-MI), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and longtime NSA ally. 

[The Hill's Hillicon Valley]

At least a dozen 'Loveint' episodes identified by NSA Inspector General

How do I love thee? Let the National Security Agency count the ways. On at least twelve occasions in the past ten years, NSA employees illegally listened in on phone calls of girlfriends, boyfriends, husbands, wives, spouses, and engaged in other "intentional" authority abuses, according to a letter just released from the agency's inspector general. Michael Isikoff at NBC News reports that the NSA also has two open investigations into alleged misuse of its eavesdropping authorities and is reviewing a third one for possible investigation.

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Senators back bipartisan NSA reform bill to curb US surveillance

Four senators working on efforts to limit US government spying programs have announced a comprehensive package of surveillance reforms.

"The draft bill represented the first sign that key Republican and Democratic figures in the Senate are beginning to coalesce around a raft of proposals to roll back the powers of the National Security Agency in the wake of top-secret disclosures made by whistleblower Edward Snowden." [theguardian.com]

A bipartisan group of lawmakers including Senators Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Mark Udall (D-Colo.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) are leading the efforts. Read more at Wyden's website.

Rally against mass surveillance, DC, Oct. 26--'Stop Watching Us'

The team behind Stop Watching Us says:

"Since the Snowden leaks started, more than 569,000 people from all walks of life have signed the StopWatching.us petition telling the U.S. Congress that we want them to rein in the NSA. On October 26th, the 12th anniversary of the signing of the US Patriot Act, we're taking the next step and holding the largest rally yet against NSA surveillance. We’ll be handing the half-million petitions to Congress to remind them that they work for us -- and we won’t tolerate mass surveillance any longer."

You can donate to the organizational costs here.

Organizers are in a reddit AMA right now.

Snowden said to be in disguise


*Not* Edward Snowden (probably). Walter White (Bryan Cranston) in Episode 16 of Breaking Bad. Photo by Ursula Coyote/AMC.

Edward Snowden, the NSA leaker who is currently a fugitive in Russia, "walks freely in the streets in disguise while in hiding," AFP reports his lawyer as saying, "but his security is under such threat that a visit from his family could lead American agents right to his door." So, he "walks freely around the streets” in low cover.

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Spiegel: UK spy agency GCHQ hacked Belgian telecom, Snowden docs reveal

Today, in Der Spiegel:
Documents from the archive of whistleblower Edward Snowden indicate that Britain's GCHQ intelligence service was behind a cyber attack against Belgacom, a partly state-owned Belgian telecoms company. A "top secret" Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) presentation seen by SPIEGEL indicate that the goal of project, conducted under the codename "Operation Socialist," was "to enable better exploitation of Belgacom" and to improve understanding of the provider's infrastructure.

John Cusack: Will the US allow NSA reporters like Greenwald and Poitras to return to the US without harassment?


Trevor Timm of EFF.org and FPF working with John on this op-ed, a few weeks ago. Photo: XJ.

Activist and filmmaker John Cusack, in the Guardian, asks if US attorney general Eric Holder will guarantee the first amendment rights of American journalists like Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras, who have reported on information from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, and fear detainment or harassment if they return to the United States:

[W]e learned a few days later that the United States had been given a "heads up" by their British counterparts that they were planning on detaining Miranda. The US government did not lift a finger to stop this blatant attack on journalism and press freedom – even as it has been moving heaven and earth to bring Edward Snowden back to the US. That should be a scandal in its own right.

Now, the US owes its citizens and the international community another "heads up": on whether the United States will do the same to journalists working on NSA stories who are entering the United States. Put simply, will Attorney General Eric Holder, the US State Department, and the FBI promise safe passage to journalists, their spouses and loved ones, and vow not to interfere with their reporting on these NSA stories?

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Latest reporting from Snowden leaks: How NSA watches international bank transactions

In Spiegel today, Laura Poitras, Marcel Rosenbach and Holger Stark report on how the National Security Agency monitors banks and credit card transactions, sometimes in apparent violation of national laws and global regulations. Documents from the NSA leaked to the reporters by former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden show that the European SWIFT financial transaction network is being spied on in various ways. [SPIEGEL ONLINE]

DNI chief and FISC judge agree Snowden leaks prompted important civil debate

Even the NSA's boss and a lead judge in the secret intel courts admit Edward Snowden's leaks were in the public interest. “The unauthorized disclosure in June 2013 of a Section 215 order, and government statements in response to that disclosure, have engendered considerable public interest and debate about Section 215,” wrote FISC Judge F. Dennis Saylor IV in an opinion today. And yesterday, US Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said, “I think it’s clear that some of the conversations this has generated, some of the debate, actually needed to happen." [Secrecy News]

Secret spy spy court demands government transparency on surveillance programs

Over at Wired.com, David Kravets writes about an order by a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) judge demanding that the US government begin to declassify its opinions related to the Patriot Act. The order "means the government likely will have to make public opinions surrounding the court’s legal interpretations of Section 215 of the Patriot Act," a controversial provision that allows FISC "to authorize broad warrants for most any type of 'tangible' records, including those held by banks, doctors and phone companies."

Radio interview with Washington Post's Barton Gellman on Snowden NSA leaks

This Terri Gross interview with Washington Post reporter Barton Gellman on WHYY's "Fresh Air," which is syndicated by NPR, is really terrific. I caught it while driving home yesterday, and had a genuine "driveway moment" -- I sat in my car a good 15 minutes after I parked to hear the whole thing. Gellman speaks about the process of reporting on Edward Snowden's leaks about the NSA's spying programs. What he says is as interesting as what he can't.

Amid NSA spying scandal, Yahoo releases transparency report on gov data requests

The Internet company Yahoo! has released a Transparency Report today, detailing the requests it receives for user information from government agencies. Yahoo said today it received 12,444 requests for data from the U.S. government so far this year, covering the accounts of a total 40,322 users. Some good analysis at WaPo.