Boing Boing 

Obama’s Justice Department secretly helped kill FOIA transparency bill

U.S. President Barack Obama looks toward Attorney General Eric Holder. Justice Department investigators have engaged in aggressive tactics against journalists in recent months. [Reuters]


U.S. President Barack Obama looks toward Attorney General Eric Holder. Justice Department investigators have engaged in aggressive tactics against journalists in recent months. [Reuters]

We’ve long known the Justice Department’s stance on transparency has been hypocritical and disingenuous. But they’ve really outdone themselves this time.

Read the rest

US official backs Marines' request to classify photos of forces urinating on Taliban corpses

A still from a 2011 video posted online that showed Marines urinating on dead bodies. [Reuters]


A still from a 2011 video posted online that showed Marines urinating on dead bodies. [Reuters]

"In an apparent expansion of the government’s secrecy powers, the top official in charge of the classification system has decided that it was legitimate for the Marines to classify photographs that showed American forces posing with corpses of Taliban fighters in Afghanistan," reports the NYT's Charlie Savage.

Read the rest

House approves 'media shield' amendment, as reporter reveals 2011 subpoena fight

houseofrep232way_wide-4bac6d92f39d630d0f94f3c708ca06710a717d2f-s6-c30The House of Representatives today voted 225-183 to approve an appropriations bill amendment that bars the Justice Department from forcing reporters to testify about their confidential sources.

Read the rest

Obama administration proves why we need someone to leak CIA Torture Report

image: Reuters


image: Reuters

It’s now been over a month since the Senate Intelligence Committee voted to force the Obama administration to declassify parts of the Committee’s landmark report on CIA torture, and the public still has not seen a word of the 6,000 page investigation.

Read the rest

US intel chief's insane new secrecy directive forbids intel employees from "unauthorized" contact with reporters


U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

The US Director of National Intelligence has issued a Directive [PDF] that forbids most intelligence community employees from talking to journalists about “intelligence-related information” unless they have explicit authorization to do so.

Intelligence community employees “must obtain authorization for contacts with the media” on any intel-related matters, and “must also report… unplanned or unintentional contact with the media on covered matters,” according to the Directive signed by James Clapper.

Read the rest

London Heathrow customs agent interrogates Edward Snowden's attorney Jesselyn Radack

Jesselyn Radack, an attorney who represents NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, was detained and interrogated while transiting customs at Heathrow airport in London. Kevin Gosztola reports:

Read the rest

UK Tories send "WebCameron" YouTube channel down the memory hole, too

Yesterday, we learned that the UK Conservative party had purged its website of 10 years' archives of David Cameron speeches and set a robots.txt file in place that triggered purges on Google and Archive.org's caches. Today, the Guardian reports that the party has removed the videos from the "WebCameron" YouTube channel, that were originally billed as "behind-the-scenes" access to Cameron, and marketed as part of his campaign for political transparency. The party has declined to comment on the deletions.

Read the rest

Secret Cold War docs show NSA spied on senators



President Lyndon B. Johnson meeting with members of his civil rights cabinet on 18 January including, from left to right, Martin Luther King Jr., Whitney Young, and James Farmer. King and Young were both future targets of the NSA watch list system. (Photo from Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library, On-line Photo Archive, W425-21).

New, historic NSA weirdness, as reported by Matthew M. Aid and William Burr at Foreign Policy:
As Vietnam War protests grew, the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) tapped the overseas communications of prominent American critics of the war -- including a pair of sitting U.S. senators. That's according to a recently declassified NSA history, which called the effort "disreputable if not outright illegal."
The identities of the NSA's surveillance targets were kept secret for decades, but an Interagency Security Classification Appeals Panel decision in response to an appeal by the National Security Archive at George Washington University, has resulted in the declassification of these NSA records for the first time.

Read more at the National Security Archives (not to be confused with the National Security Administration, also known as the NSA).

Worth reading: NYT on jailed 'journalist-agitator' Barrett Brown, and silence surrounding his case

"Barrett Brown makes for a pretty complicated victim," writes David Carr in his recent profile of the Dallas-based journalist "obsessed with the government’s ties to private security firms." Brown, 32 has been in jail for a year. He faces charges that carry a combined penalty of more than 100 years in prison. Why does the gag order on his case matter to all of us? Carr explains.

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]

What Is ‘Top Secret’?

David E. Sanger at the New York Times: "When far too much information gets classified, nothing is really classified. Respect for the system erodes when information readily available in open sources is ostensibly guarded with high-level classification."

The argument for a "secrecy beat" in news organizations

Dan Froomkin at Columbia Journalism review: "It’s hardly been a secret among national security reporters and civil libertarians that the sort of intelligence activity we’re hearing about via the leaks was long part of the Bush-Cheney surveillance regime, and that the Obama administration picked up the ball and ran with it. The Washington press corps just no longer considered such activities newsworthy."

Not all secrets are alike: nuclear culture and fear of the next Snowden

Anthropologist and "nuclear culture" expert Hugh Gusterson has an interesting column in a recent edition of Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists on the nature of national security and secrets. There are many types of secrets, he writes; strict military secrets, and public secrets, denied and yet known by many. The state's greatest rage is often directed at individuals who reveal the latter, like Edward Snowden and Bradley Manning.
American leaders say they will avoid future Mannings and Snowdens by segmenting access to information so that individual analysts cannot avail themselves of so much, and by giving fewer security clearances, especially to employees of contractors such as Booz Allen Hamilton, where Snowden worked. This will not work. Segmentation of access runs counter to the whole point of the latest intelligence strategy, which is fusion of data from disparate sources.

Not all secrets are alike | Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

Who is America at war with? Sorry, that's classified

The Pentagon has classified the list of groups that the USA believes itself to be at war with. They say that releasing a list of the groups that it considers to itself to be fighting could be used by those groups to boast about the fact that America takes them seriously, and thus drum up recruits. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the most transparent administration in history.

Read the rest

Journalists at Bradley Manning trial report hostile conditions for press


UPDATE: Bradley Manning trial judge increased press security "because of repeat violations of the rules of court.”


Journalists and bloggers covering closing arguments in the military trial of Wikileaks source Bradley Manning are reporting a far more intense security climate at Ft. Meade today, as compared to the past 18 months of pre-trial hearings and court proceedings.

@carwinb, @kgosztola, @nathanLfuller, and @wikileakstruck have tweeted about armed guards standing directly behind them as they type into laptops in the designated press area, being "screamed at" for having "windows" open on their computers that show Twitter in a browser tab, and having to undergo extensive, repeated, invasive physical searches.

I visited the trial two weeks ago. While there were many restrictions for attending press that I found surprising (reporters couldn't work from the courtroom, mobile devices weren't allowed in the press room), it wasn't this bad. I was treated respectfully and courteously by Army Public Affairs Officers and military police, and was only grumped at a few times for stretching those (silly) restrictions. I was physically searched only once, when entering the courtroom, and that's standard for civilian or military trials.

But the vibe is very different today in the Smallwood building where reporters are required to work, about a quarter mile away from the actual courtroom. Tweets from some of the attending journalists are below; there are about 40-50 of them present and not all are tweeting. Internet access is spotty today. Oh, wait; as I type this blog post, I'm now seeing updates that they're being told they are not allowed to access Twitter at all. Why has the climate changed so much in the final few days of the trial? What is the Army afraid of?

Read the rest

MIT blocking release of Aaron Swartz's Secret Service files

My friend Aaron Swartz's suicide, just over six months ago, brought attention to MIT's role in his prosecution over downloading scholarly articles from their network. JSTOR, the service that hosted the files Aaron was accused of downloading, dropped its case against him, and it was widely reported that the only reason the Justice Department was able to go ahead with its threats of decades of time in prison for Aaron was MIT's insistence on pressing the case against him. MIT's administration was so shaken by the negative publicity following Aaron's death that they commissioned professor Hal Abelson (a good guy, in my experience) to investigate the university's role in his prosecution.

Now, though, MIT has blocked a Freedom of Information Act suit by Wired's Kevin Poulsen aimed at forcing the Secret Service to release their files on Aaron. A court recently ordered the Secret Service to stop screwing around and release Aaron's file, but before that could happen, MIT intervened, arguing that if the world could see the files, they would know the names of the MIT employees who insisted that Aaron deserved to go to jail for what amounted to checking too many books out of the library. MIT argues that its employees would potentially face retaliation (though not, presumably, threats of felony prosecutions, million-dollar fines, and decades in prison) if their names were known.

Read the rest

Snowden's Run

Click to enlarge.

Based on this classic movie poster. Photoshopped by Rob Beschizza. Read coverage of NSA leaker Edward Snowden in Boing Boing's archives.

U.S. backtracks on nuclear stockpile secrecy


Still from an important 1964 documentary on nuclear one-upsmanship.

Steven Aftergood of Secrecy News writes, "In May 2010, the Department of Defense disclosed that the U.S. nuclear weapons arsenal consisted of 5,113 warheads (as of September 30, 2009). This was a disclosure of great significance," and "an unprecedented breakthrough in secrecy reform," being the first time America had disclosed the current size of its nuclear arsenal. 

The Obama Administration’s promise to be “the most transparent Administration ever” is often viewed ironically in view of the perceived prevalence of overclassification. But when it comes to nuclear stockpile secrecy (and at least a few other important topics), that promise was fulfilled quite literally.
How so? Today, the size of the U.S. nuclear arsenal today is once again classified. Read more: Pentagon Reverts to Nuclear Stockpile Secrecy - Secrecy News.

Wired News publishes encrypted message to Edward Snowden

In the one unencrypted line of this publication, Kevin Poulsen of Wired News writes, "Don’t read this if you aren’t him.."

NYT profiles NSA leaker Edward Snowden

A lengthy profile in the New York Times of former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, who recently leaked information about the agency's secret domestic spying program, paints the young man as an self-driven but drifting autodidact.
From Mr. Snowden’s friends and his own voluminous Web postings emerges a portrait of a talented young man who did not finish high school but bragged online that employers “fight over me.”...“Great minds do not need a university to make them any more credible: they get what they need and quietly blaze their trails into history,” he wrote online at age 20.

FBI's use of Patriot Act to collect US citizens' records up 1,000 percent

Michael Isikoff at NBC News reports that the FBI has "dramatically increased its use of a controversial provision of the Patriot Act to secretly obtain a vast store of business records of U.S. citizens under President Barack Obama." The FBI filed 212 requests for this kind of data in a national security court last year, which represents a 1,000-percent increase from the number of similar requests four years prior.

David Rohde on the ‘secrecy industrial complex’

"An odd thing is happening in the world’s self-declared pinnacle of democracy," writes David Rohde at Reuters. "No one — except a handful of elected officials and an army of contractors — is allowed to know how America’s surveillance leviathan works."

Schneier: what we need the whistleblowers to tell us about America's surveillance apparatus

Bruce Schneier writes in The Atlantic to comment on the leaked court order showing that the NSA has been secretly engaged in bulk domestic surveillance, recording who everyone is talking to, when, for how long, and where they are when they do. Schneier points out -- as many have -- that this is the tip of the iceberg, and lays out a set of government secrets that we need whistleblowers to disclose in order to grasp the full scope of the new, total surveillance state:

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.

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

Back issues of the NSA's secret, in-house mag


The National Security Agency has released an archive of back issues of Cryptolog, its secret, in-house magazine, in a repository spanning 1974 to 1997. The issues are heavily redacted in places, but still look like a promising source of interesting and curious facts.

Cryptologs

Mirror

(via Schneier)

Yochai Benkler: The dangerous logic of the Bradley Manning Case

Yochai Benkler, in The New Republic, on an exchange that took place in a military courtroom in January during pre-trial hearings in the Bradley Manning/Wikileaks case:
The judge, Col. Denise Lind, asked the prosecutors a brief but revealing question: Would you have pressed the same charges if Manning had given the documents not to WikiLeaks but directly to the New York Times?

The prosecutor’s answer was simple: 'Yes Ma'am.' The question was crisp and meaningful, not courtroom banter. The answer, in turn, was dead serious. I should know. I was the expert witness whose prospective testimony they were debating.

That "Yes ma'am," argues Benkler, makes Manning's prosecution "a clear and present danger to journalism in the national security arena." Read the rest.

Bradley Manning's statement

Alexa O'Brien transcribed the statement that Pvt. Bradley Manning read to the court yesterday. Manning pleaded guilty to exfiltrating classified documents, but not to a more serious charge of aiding the enemy. In his statement, Manning described his motivations for leaking the information, and said that he tried to contact other news media before Wikileaks, but was ignored.

Bradley Manning military trial updates: live-blogs, who to follow on Twitter, and analysis

Army private Bradley Manning pleaded guilty on Thursday to 10 of the 19 total charges made by the US that he leaked unprecedented amounts of classified material to Wikileaks, the anti-secrecy organization run by Julian Assange.

Manning entered a not guilty plea to the government's more serious charge of "aiding the enemy," which carries a possible maximum sentence of life in prison. In a statement before the military court today, Manning said he leaked the classified information to "spark a domestic debate."

Liveblog coverage of his trial: Mother Jones, Reuters.

Ed Pilkington at the Guardian reports Manning first contacted the Washington Post about providing them with some of the classified material while he was on leave in January 2010; the the woman who answered the phone said the "paper would only be interested [in the documents] subjected to vetting by senior editors."

Read the rest

NSA’s secret domestic spying program, code named "Ragtime," uncloaked in new book

According to Marc Ambinder and D.B. Grady's new book Deep State: Inside the Government Secrecy Industry, the secretive National Security Agency spying programs have become institutionalized, and have grown, since 9/11.

Shane Harris at the Washingtonian read through the book's account of these sweeping and controversial surveillance programs, conducted under the code name "Ragtime":

Ragtime, which appears in official reports by the abbreviation RT, consists of four parts.

Ragtime-A involves US-based interception of all foreign-to-foreign counterterrorism-related data; Ragtime-B deals with data from foreign governments that transits through the US; Ragtime-C deals with counterproliferation actvities; and then there's Ragtime-P, which will probably be of greatest interest to those who continue to demand more information from the NSA about what it does in the United States.

P stands for Patriot Act. Ragtime-P is the remnant of the original President’s Surveillance Program, the name given to so-called "warrantless wiretapping" activities after 9/11, in which one end of a phone call or an e-mail terminated inside the United States. That collection has since been brought under law, but civil liberties groups, journalists, and legal scholars continue to seek more information about what it entailed, who was targeted, and what authorities exist today for domestic intelligence-gathering.

Harris, who is an experienced national security reporter, analyzes some of those findings in his Washingtonian item. You can buy a copy of the book here (released Feb. 14, 2013).

(HT: Laura Poitras/Freedom of the Press Foundation)

Army releases some documents on Bradley Manning case

In response to Freedom of Information Act requests, the military today released 84 court documents related to the case of Bradley Manning. As is routine, many of the documents are redacted.

The Army private is charged with being the source of classified documents published by WikiLeaks, the anti-secrecy organization headed by Julian Assange.

The documents released today include court orders, and various rulings read aloud in court. The DoD says more documents will be released, pending review and redaction.

Read the rest

Appeals Court affirms state secrecy in Twitter/WikiLeaks case

In Virginia today, a federal appeals court has ruled that the government can maintain secrecy around its efforts to obtain the private information of internet users, without a warrant. The appeal originated from a legal battle over the Twitter user records of three activists the government is investigating for connections to WikiLeaks: security researcher Jacob Appelbaum (@ioerror), Dutch hacker Rop Gonggrijp (@rop_g), and Icelandic parliament member Birgitta Jonsdottir (@birgittaj). The ruling effectively says the three do not have the right "to know from which companies, other than Twitter, the government sought to obtain their records," as Kim Zetter reports in Wired News:

Read the rest