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.
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.
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.
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
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)
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
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
The National Security Archive, a nonprofit founded by journalists and scholars in 1985 "to check rising government secrecy," has published all of the available official government documents about the mission to kill the leader of al-Qaeda.
Read the rest
A long-read you may have missed in the New York Times by Scott Shane
, on the story of John Kiriakou, a former CIA analyst and case officer who is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 25 to 30 months in prison for leaking classified government info to a reporter. With this sentencing, the Obama administration reaffirms its role as one of the most staunchly anti-leak administrations in history.
Read the rest
I'm proud to serve as a board member for the newly-launched Freedom of the Press Foundation, dedicated to helping promote and fund aggressive, public-interest journalism focused on exposing mismanagement, corruption, and law-breaking in government. The project accepts tax-deductible donations to an array of journalism organizations dedicated to government transparency and accountability. The board includes Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, EFF co-founder John Perry Barlow, actor and activist John Cusack, and other journalists and activists with whom I'm honored to serve.
Early news coverage: New York Times, Huffington Post, Firedoglake.
An op-ed by Barlow and Ellsberg is here. A press release on the launch is here. A list of beneficiary organizations here. Twitter: @FreedomofPress.
At CNET, Declan McCullagh reports on a federal judge's rejection of the FBI's attempts to withhold information about its efforts to make backdoors for government surveillance mandatory for internet firms.
CNET has learned that U.S. District Judge Richard Seeborg ruled on Tuesday that the government did not adequately respond to a Freedom of Information Act request from the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
Seeborg, in San Francisco, ordered (PDF) a "further review of the materials previously withheld" in the lawsuit, which seeks details about what the FBI has dubbed "Going Dark" -- the bureau's ongoing effort to force companies including Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, Yahoo, and Google to alter their code to ensure their products are wiretap-friendly.
One almost-entirely-redacted document that the FBI turned over.
Read more: at CNET News.
The Guardian reports that the Ecuadorean government will grant asylum to embattled Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. The New York Times notes that the president of Ecuador denies this.
A number of journalists I know believe the Obama administration is the most secretive administration yet.
When I read news like this, I am inclined to believe them: the Naval Criminal Investigative Service is going after our pals at Danger Room, over a 5-year-old leak about a weapon that was never built.
"Federal agents are also chasing a leaker who gave Danger Room a document asking for a futuristic laser weapon that could set insurgents’ clothes on fire from nine miles away."
It's obvious to anyone who's paying attention that the US secrecy system, by which government documents are classified "secret," "top secret," etc, is totally broken. J. William Leonard, who served as GW Bush's secrecy czar, called it "dysfunctional" and warned that it "clearly lacks the ability to differentiate between trivial information and that which can truly damage our nation’s well-being."
So why is the Obama administration, which promised to be the "most transparent in history," arguing for more secrecy? Good question -- it's one the EFF wants to know the answer to.
The controversy over leaks has spilled into the Presidential race, and instead of pointing out the obvious and systemic problems of withholding too many secrets, Mitt Romney and President Obama are arguing about who would be a more secretive president.
Meanwhile, the government is busy creating still more secrets under a bigger umbrella. Spending on classification is now approaching $11 billion, double what it was ten years ago. That’s also a 10 percent increase from last year and a 30 percent increase since Obama took office. And as the New York Times pointed out, that total “does not include the costs incurred by the Central Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency and other spy agencies, whose spending is—you guessed it—classified.”
Additionally, a new intelligence report to Congress shows that the US issued a staggering 4.8 million classified security clearances last year—which comes out to about one in every 50 Americans. That number is a 3 percent increase on the year before, and as Steven Aftergood remarked, the 2010 number “astonished observers because it surpassed previous estimates by more than a million.”
As Secrecy System Veers Into Absurdity, Politicians Argue For More
Mike Scarcella in The Legal Times
writes about The Justice Department defending the government's refusal to discuss, or acknowledge the existence of, "any cooperative research and development agreement between Google and the National Security Agency."
The Washington based advocacy group Electronic Privacy Information Center sued in federal district court here to obtain documents about any such agreement between the Internet search giant and the security agency.
The NSA responded to the suit with a so-called “Glomar” response in which the agency said it could neither confirm nor deny whether any responsive records exist. U.S. District Judge Richard Leon in Washington sided with the government last July.
Read more: DOJ Asks Court To Keep Secret Any Partnership Between Google, NSA.(via Oxblood Ruffin)