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.

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!

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.

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." [theguardian.com]

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.

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.

Read the rest

John Cusack: Will the US allow NSA reporters like Greenwald and Poitras to return to the US without harassment?


Trevor Timm of EFF.org and FPF working with John on this op-ed, a few weeks ago. Photo: XJ.

Activist and filmmaker John Cusack, in the Guardian, asks if US attorney general Eric Holder will guarantee the first amendment rights of American journalists like Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras, who have reported on information from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, and fear detainment or harassment if they return to the United States:

[W]e learned a few days later that the United States had been given a "heads up" by their British counterparts that they were planning on detaining Miranda. The US government did not lift a finger to stop this blatant attack on journalism and press freedom – even as it has been moving heaven and earth to bring Edward Snowden back to the US. That should be a scandal in its own right.

Now, the US owes its citizens and the international community another "heads up": on whether the United States will do the same to journalists working on NSA stories who are entering the United States. Put simply, will Attorney General Eric Holder, the US State Department, and the FBI promise safe passage to journalists, their spouses and loved ones, and vow not to interfere with their reporting on these NSA stories?

Read the rest

Secret spy spy court demands government transparency on surveillance programs

Over at Wired.com, David Kravets writes about an order by a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) judge demanding that the US government begin to declassify its opinions related to the Patriot Act. The order "means the government likely will have to make public opinions surrounding the court’s legal interpretations of Section 215 of the Patriot Act," a controversial provision that allows FISC "to authorize broad warrants for most any type of 'tangible' records, including those held by banks, doctors and phone companies."

Hardware hacker learns his E-ZPass is being read all over NYC, not just at toll booths

Over at Forbes, Kashmir Hill has an item about an electronics tinkerer who goes by the nom de net Puking Monkey. Stranger than his handle, his discovery: the RFID-enabled EZ Pass (automatic toll paying system) affixed to his car was being read all over New York City, as he drove around. Not just at toll booths. For what purpose? And, is this a violation of reasonable privacy expectations, in the most heavily surveilled city in the US?

Amid NSA spying scandal, Yahoo releases transparency report on gov data requests

The Internet company Yahoo! has released a Transparency Report today, detailing the requests it receives for user information from government agencies. Yahoo said today it received 12,444 requests for data from the U.S. government so far this year, covering the accounts of a total 40,322 users. Some good analysis at WaPo.

When Google and Microsoft "Stand Together" against US spying, you know stuff just got real

"To followers of technology issues, there are many days when Microsoft and Google stand apart." Quite an understatement, but so begins a recent blog post by Microsoft's General Counsel and Legal/Corporate Affairs EVP Brad Smith. Why are the two tech arch-enemies joining forces? "The Government’s continued unwillingness to permit us to publish sufficient data relating to Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) orders."

Read the rest