The lie about Edward Snowden that just won't die

The biggest falsehood spread by government advocates about Edward Snowden is that he took 1.7 million documents from the NSA.

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. Read the rest

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."

Read the rest

US federal judges resisting law enforcement demands for electronic evidence

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." Read the rest

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:

Read the rest

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: 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

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. [] Read the rest

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. Read the rest

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] Read the rest

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. Read the rest

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 - Read the rest

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] Read the rest

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. Read the rest

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! Read the rest

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

Judge Richard Leon (

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

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." [] Read the rest

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