US appeals court rules a warrant is required for cell phone location tracking

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Big news in the fight for security and privacy in the US: the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals this week ruled that a warrant is required for cell phone location tracking.

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'NSA vs. USA,' anti-spying dance music video

An anti-mass-surveillance music video by Shahid Buttar, director of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee.

Download the extended dance floor mix. Read the lyrics (annotated with hyperlinks to help you learn more). [HT: Rainey Reitman]

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.

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NBC airs Edward Snowden's first US TV interview

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NBC released a preview clip from a widely-promoted Brian Williams interview with whistleblower Edward Snowden, which airs tonight, Wednesday May 28, at 10pm EDT. The hour-long interview is the former NSA contractor’s first US television interview since leaking NSA documents to reporters.

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US gov may block Chinese nationals from Defcon hacker event

A map of China is seen through a magnifying glass on a computer screen showing binary digits in Singapore in this January 2, 2014 photo illustration. Picture taken January 2, 2014. REUTERS/Edgar Su

The US government may use visa restrictions to ban hackers from China from participating in the 2014 Defcon hacker conference in Las Vegas. The move is part of a larger effort by the US to combat Chinese internet espionage.

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New NYT editor spiked NSA spying story

Dean Baquet.


Dean Baquet.

Mostly lost in the past week's media gossip around NYT executive editor Jill Abramson's ouster, and Dean Baquet's promotion to her role: Baquet is the former LA Times editor who killed the biggest NSA leak pre-Edward Snowden.

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The lie about Edward Snowden that just won't die

Edward Snowden

We’ve fact-checked statements in the media about Edward Snowden and the NSA before, but by far the biggest falsehood being spread by government advocates is the alleged fact that he took 1.7 million documents from the NSA.

All the parties involved—Snowden, the journalists, and even the government—either deny it or have said they have no reason to believe it is true, yet it has become the go-to number when discussing Snowden's case. It's time news organizations start issuing corrections.

Glenn Greenwald wrote about this last week, showing that news outlets have taken the statement by an NSA official on 60 Minutes that Snowden—at one point or another in his career—“accessed” or “touched” millions of documents and warped it into a claim that he’d stolen that many:

Ever since then, that Snowden “stole” 1.7 or 1.8 million documents from the NSA has been repeated over and over again by US media outlets as verified fact. The Washington Post‘s Walter Pincus, citing an anonymous official source, purported to tell readers that “among the roughly 1.7 million documents he walked away with — the vast majority of which have not been made public — are highly sensitive, specific intelligence reports”. Reuters frequently includes in its reports the unchallenged assertion that “Snowden was believed to have taken 1.7 million computerized documents.” Just this week, the global news agency told its readers that “Snowden was believed to have taken 1.7 million computerized documents.”

As Greenwald pointed out, in an interview given to the Australian Financial Review, former NSA chief Keith Alexander was asked point blank if the NSA can really say how many documents Snowden took. Here's what he said:

Well, I don’t think anybody really knows what he actually took with him, because the way he did it, we don’t have an accurate way of counting. What we do have an accurate way of counting is what he touched, what he may have downloaded, and that was more than a million documents.

Read that again. They do not know how many documents he took. But this actually isn’t anything new, we’ve known this for months. After the New York Times reported Snowden “accessed” 1.7 million files in February, they also wrote, albeit a dozen paragraphs later, that DIA head General Michael Flynn admitted in Congressional testimony they still had “a great deal of uncertainty about what Mr. Snowden possessed. ‘Everything that he touched, we assume that he took,’ said General Flynn.” In other words, they have no idea.

Despite these known facts, even this week, the Wall Street Journal has published an incredibly irresponsible piece by Edward Jay Epstein, who based an entire op-ed around the false 1.7 million statement as a way to claim that Snowden is working for a foreign goverment. And look what happens when you Google the phrase “Snowden 1.7 million”: He either “took,” “has,” or “stole” nearly 2 million documents is all over the entire front page.

So to sum up, Edward Snowden has said the number is made up, the journalists involved deny they have 1.7 million documents, and the government has stated multiple times they do not know how many documents he took. Literally no party in the NSA story believes the 1.7 million number is true, yet most media organizations claim it’s a fact.

We look forward to Reuters, the Wall Street Journal, and others who have been peddling this fictitious number issuing corrections.

Former NSA head Keith Alexander interviewed by John Oliver

On "Last Week Tonight With John Oliver," a new HBO show starring the former Daily Show contributor, an interview with General Keith Alexander. There are a number of really weird and interesting thing about this interview with the former head of the US National Security Administration, one of which is that it was a hell of a lot more hard-hitting than an earlier interview with Alexander by "60 Minutes."
Alexander: I am the biggest advocate of freedom of the networks, the internet. If we could come up with a way of segregating all the terrorist communications, it would really help us, and civil liberties and privacy....There was a great statement by someone, all the bad guys need to be on this section of the internet and they only operate over here, and all good people operate over here.

Oliver: You mean Pinterest?

And the other is this.

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NYT to SCOTUS: Cops should get warrant before searching your cellphone after arrest

From an editorial by the New York Times editorial board:

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court will consider whether law enforcement officers during an arrest may search the contents of a person’s mobile phone without a warrant. The court should recognize that new technologies do not alter basic Fourth Amendment principles, and should require a judicial warrant in such circumstances.

Read: "Smartphones and the 4th Amendment." NYTimes.com

US federal judges resisting law enforcement demands for electronic evidence

(Photo courtesy of Stephen Smith) - One of the shirts that Judge James Orenstein of Brooklyn designed.


Photo via Washington Post, courtesy of magistrate judge Stephen Smith: A t-shirt designed by Judge James Orenstein of Brooklyn.

"Judges at the lowest levels of the federal judiciary are balking at sweeping requests by law enforcement officials for cellphone and other sensitive personal data, declaring the demands overly broad and at odds with basic constitutional rights," reports the Washington Post.

"This rising assertiveness by magistrate judges — the worker bees of the federal court system — has produced rulings that elate civil libertarians and frustrate investigators, forcing them to meet or challenge tighter rules for collecting electronic evidence."

An interesting footnote observed by Freedom of the Press Foundation's Trevor Timm: "All federal magistrate judges are on a giant email list where they ask each other legal questions."

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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