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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?

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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." Xeni 1

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? Xeni 34

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. Xeni 2

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."

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Docs leaked by Snowden show NSA spied on Al Jazeera


Al Jazeera's newsroom in Doha, Qatar.

The US National Security Agency spied on Qatar-based broadcaster Al Jazeera, according to documents "seen by SPIEGEL," the German news agency today reports. "The US intelligence agency hacked into protected communication, a feat that was considered a particular success."

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Facebook says 74 governments, including USA, demanded data on 38K users

In the first half of 2013, agents of 74 different governments including our own demanded the personal data related to about 38,000 Facebook users. About half of these demands came from authorities in the United States. Facebook "is the latest technology company to release figures on how often governments seek information about its customers," reports AP, "Microsoft and Google have done the same. Xeni 2

Science says government spying makes you boring

"Science, alone, can lay claim to a wealth of empirical evidence on the psychological effects of surveillance," writes Chris Chambers in the Guardian today. "Studying that evidence leads to a clear conclusion and a warning: indiscriminate intelligence-gathering presents a grave risk to our mental health, productivity, social cohesion, and ultimately our future." Xeni 3

How, technically, might the US have snooped on Lavabit?

Ars Technica interviews Ladar Levison, founder of the recently-shuttered secure-er email service. They focus on the logistics and architecture of fed snooping. Levison: "I don't know if I'm off my rocker, but 10 years ago, I think it would have been unheard of for the government to demand source code or to make a change to your source code or to demand your SSL key. What I've learned recently makes me think that's not as crazy an assumption as I thought." Xeni 3

New Snowden NSA revelations in Der Spiegel: 'How America Spies on Europe and the UN'

Laura Poitras, Marcel Rosenbach and Holger Stark have an (English-language) article in Der Spiegel today on Codename 'Apalachee,' the secret program revealed in leaked National Security Agency documents tasked with surveilling Europe, the United Nations, and various foreign nations. The argument put forth by the Obama administration is the NSA's formidably vast spying capabilities are aimed at preventing terrorist attacks, but this latest revelation would seem to indicate otherwise. Xeni 13

Obama asks Supreme Court to allow warrantless cellphone searches

If the police arrest you, can they poke around on your cellphone and capture the data it holds without a warrant? "Courts have been split on the question. Last week the Obama administration asked the Supreme Court to resolve the issue and rule that the Fourth Amendment allows warrantless cellphone searches." [WaPo] Xeni 34

UK intel officials enter Guardian offices, destroy hard drives with Snowden docs


Glenn Greenwald, left, with David Miranda, who was held for nine hours at Heathrow under schedule 7 of Britain's terror laws. Photograph: Ricardo Moraes/Reuters

The Guardian's editor-in-chief, Alan Rusbridger, explains that he is now forced to work on stories about the US National Security Administration from New York City, because UK intelligence officials went into the Guardian's headquarters and destroyed hard drives that had copies of some of documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

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NSA bribed UK spooks GBP100M for spying privileges

"The top secret payments are set out in documents which make clear that the Americans expect a return on the investment, and that GCHQ has to work hard to meet their demands. 'GCHQ must pull its weight and be seen to pull its weight,' a GCHQ strategy briefing said." -The Guardian Cory 8

Critics of NSA spying, including Glenn Greenwald, to testify before Congress

Democratic congressman Alan Grayson is leading a bipartisan group of representatives concerned about "constant misleading information" from the intelligence community. They're holding a hearing Wednesday, at which critics of the National Security Agency's spying programs will speak. One of them is Glenn Greenwald, who will participate remotely from Brazil. I'm sure the NSA will want to listen in on that line. Xeni 5

Feds tell major internet companies to hand over users' account passwords

At CNET, Declan McCullagh reports that the U.S. government has demanded that large Internet companies provide them with users' stored passwords. The move represents "an escalation in surveillance techniques that has not previously been disclosed," he writes. "If the government is able to determine a person's password, which is typically stored in encrypted form, the credential could be used to log in to an account to peruse confidential correspondence or even impersonate the user." [CNET News] Xeni 28