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Edward Snowden: "Vladimir Putin must be called to account on surveillance just like Obama"


Vladimir Putin during the nationwide phone-in in Moscow. Photograph: RIA Novosti/Reuters

Today's question-and-answer session on Russian TV between NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden and Russian President Vladimir Putin did not go as Snowden had hoped. "I questioned the Russian president live on TV to get his answer on the record, not to whitewash him," Snowden says in an op-blog in the Guardian:

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NSA and GHCQ targeted WikiLeaks and supporters with surveillance, international pressure, LOLcats


A slide from the NSA document on psychology tactics to be used against Wikileaks and supporters suggests the extent to which LOLcats have entered the zeitgeist: they're even used by America's top spies. Also note that on this slide, the word "psychology" is misspelled.

The Intercept today published documents leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden which show that the NSA and Britain's GCHQ targeted WikiLeaks with an array of surveillance tactics and spied on supporters.

From the report by Glenn Greenwald and Ryan Gallagher:

The efforts – detailed in documents provided previously by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden – included a broad campaign of international pressure aimed not only at WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, but at what the U.S. government calls “the human network that supports WikiLeaks.” The documents also contain internal discussions about targeting the file-sharing site Pirate Bay and hacktivist collectives such as Anonymous.

ACLU deputy legal director Jameel Jaffer, responding to the report:

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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:

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Black History Month, and the history of America spying on Black civil rights leaders


Rev. Martin Luther King and Malcolm X waiting for a press conference to begin. Both were the targets of covert US domestic surveillance operations, including COINTELPRO.

"February is Black History Month and that history is intimately linked with surveillance by the federal government in the name of 'national security," writes Nadya Kayyali at an Electronic Frontier Foundation blog post today. 

"Indeed, the history of surveillance in the African-American community plays an important role in the debate around spying today and in the calls for a congressional investigation into that surveillance. Days after the first NSA leaks emerged last June, EFF called for a new Church Committee. We mentioned that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was one of the targets of the very surveillance that eventually led to the formation of the first Church Committee." "This Black History Month, we should remember the many African-American activists who were targeted by intelligence agencies. Their stories serve as cautionary tales for the expanding surveillance state.

Read: The History of Surveillance and the Black Community. [EFF.org]

Guilty plea in Fox News leak case shows why Espionage Act prosecutions are unfair to reporters' sources


Stephen Jin-Woo Kim. Image: Stephen Kim Legal Defense Trust.

Former State Department official Stephen Kim announced today he will plead guilty to leaking classified information to Fox News journalist James Rosen and will serve 13 months in jail.

The case sparked controversy last year when it was revealed the Justice Department named Rosen a “co-conspirator” in court documents for essentially doing his job as a journalist. But a largely ignored ruling in Kim’s case may have far broader impact on how sources interact with journalists in the future.

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Chaos Computer Club sues spies for civil rights violations


German Chancellor Merke in Berlin. A hacker organization based in Berlin named her and other world leaders in an anti-spying lawsuit filed today. Photo: Reuters

From the CCC:
On Monday, the Chaos Computer Club (CCC) and the International League for Human Rights (ILMR), have filed a criminal complaint with the Federal Prosecutor General’s office. The complaint is directed against the German federal government, the presidents of the German secret services, namely Bundesnachrichtendienst, Militärischer Abschirmdienst, Bundesamt für Verfassungschutz, and others. We accuse US, British and German secret agents, their supervisors, the German Minister of the Interior as well as the German Chancelor of illegal and prohibited covert intelligence activities, of aiding and abetting of those activities, of violation of the right to privacy and obstruction of justice in office by bearing and cooperating with the electronic surveillance of German citizens by NSA and GCHQ.

[via Wired.com]

Navy cyberwar expert is Obama's choice for new NSA director

"In nominating Vice Adm. Michael S. Rogers as the new director of the National Security Agency on Thursday, President Obama chose a recognized expert in the new art of designing cyberweapons, but someone with no public track record in addressing the kinds of privacy concerns that have put the agency under a harsh spotlight." Read the full New York Times article here.

California Assembly approves bills limiting use of drones by police, public agencies


An octocopter drone hovers in front of vapor trails left by aircrafts during a demonstration. REUTERS/Srdjan Zivulovic

In California, state assembly lawmakers approved a number of bills today, including a measure to limit how law enforcement and public agencies can use drones:

The bill, by Assemblymembers Jeff Gorell (R-Camarillo), Steven Bradford (D-Gardena) and Bill Quirk (D-Hayward), would require public agencies to destroy data collected by drones within six months and would ban the weaponization of drones in California.

It also would require law enforcement to obtain a warrant to use a drone, except in certain emergency situations.

More: California Assembly approves limits on drones, paparazzi - latimes.com.

Did you use TorMail? If so, 'the FBI Has Your Inbox'

Kevin Poulsen at Wired News: "While investigating a hosting company known for sheltering child porn last year the FBI incidentally seized the entire e-mail database of a popular anonymous webmail service called TorMail. Now the FBI is tapping that vast trove of e-mail in unrelated investigations." [Threat Level]

If Snowden returned to US for trial, could court admit any NSA leak evidence?


Image: Reuters

There seems to be a new talking point from government officials since a federal judge ruled NSA surveillance is likely unconstitutional last week: if Edward Snowden thinks he's a whistleblower, he should come back and stand trial.

National Security Advisor Susan Rice said on 60 Minutes Sunday, “We believe he should come back, he should be sent back, and he should have his day in court.” Former CIA deputy director Mike Morell made similar statements this weekend, as did Rep. Mike Rogers (while also making outright false claims about Snowden at the same time). Even NSA reform advocate Sen. Mark Udall said, "He ought to stand on his own two feet. He ought to make his case. Come home, make the case that somehow there was a higher purpose here.”

These statements belie a fundamental misunderstanding about how Espionage Act prosecutions work.

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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.

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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] Xeni 3

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. Xeni 11

Spy animals of the Cold War

Animal intelligence accoustic kitty model 4

During the Cold War, the CIA sent cats outfitted with electronic gear to eavesdrop on the enemy. This and other amazing stories in BB pal Tom Vanderbilt's excellent Smithsonian feature "The CIA’s Most Highly-Trained Spies Weren’t Even Human." Tom's guide through this strange history was Bob Bailey who trained dolphins, chickens, and the aforementioned cats, all for the military.

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