Boing Boing 

Wired News publishes encrypted message to Edward Snowden

In the one unencrypted line of this publication, Kevin Poulsen of Wired News writes, "Don’t read this if you aren’t him.."

NYT profiles NSA leaker Edward Snowden

A lengthy profile in the New York Times of former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, who recently leaked information about the agency's secret domestic spying program, paints the young man as an self-driven but drifting autodidact.
From Mr. Snowden’s friends and his own voluminous Web postings emerges a portrait of a talented young man who did not finish high school but bragged online that employers “fight over me.”...“Great minds do not need a university to make them any more credible: they get what they need and quietly blaze their trails into history,” he wrote online at age 20.

Senators skip classified briefing on NSA spying so they can fly home for Father's Day weekend

A briefing offered to US senators by senior intelligence officials on the NSA surveillance programs "failed to attract even half of the Senate, showing the lack of enthusiasm in Congress for learning about classified security programs." [TheHill.com]

The secret behind NSA's Prism program? "Even bigger data seizure."

Amy Fiscus of the AP tweets, "Worried by Prism? It's actually part of a bigger effort. Not worried by Prism? It's actually part of a bigger effort." She's referring to this AP story, a good explainer of Prism and the NSA practices that preceded it post-9/11.
Inside Microsoft, some called it "Hoovering" - not after the vacuum cleaner, but after J. Edgar Hoover, the first FBI director, who gathered dirt on countless Americans. This frenetic, manual process was the forerunner to Prism, the recently revealed highly classified National Security Agency program that seizes records from Internet companies.

Related: In Vanity Fair, Eichenwald writes "I can't stand it any more," and details what he claims are "falsehoods" in coverage of the surveillance scandal, to date.

Spying On The Home Front: A 2007 PBS FRONTLINE worth revisiting

Given the recent news about the NSA's domestic surveillance programs, this PBS FRONTLINE documentary hour from 2007 is worth revisiting: "Spying On The Home Front. In the report, Former CIA Assistant General Counsel Suzanne Spaulding tells correspondent Hedrick Smith, "So many people in America think this does not affect them. They've been convinced that these programs are only targeted at suspected terrorists. I think that's wrong. Our programs are not perfect, and it is inevitable that totally innocent Americans are going to be affected by these programs."

Watch 2013 Obama debate 2006 Biden on NSA surveillance

Watch then-Senator Joe Biden from 2006 directly refute each point made by his now-boss, President Barack Obama, about the NSA surveillance program at a news conference last week.

Dave Maass and Trevor Timm at the Electronic Frontier Foundation write:

After a leaked FISA court document revealed that the National Security Agency (NSA) is vacuuming up private data on millions of innocent Americans by collecting all the phone records of Verizon customers, President Obama responded by saying "let's have a debate" about the scope of US surveillance powers.

At EFF, we couldn't agree more. It turns out, President Obama's most formative debate partner over the invasiveness of NSA domestic surveillance could his Vice President Joe Biden.

Read the rest

FBI's use of Patriot Act to collect US citizens' records up 1,000 percent

Michael Isikoff at NBC News reports that the FBI has "dramatically increased its use of a controversial provision of the Patriot Act to secretly obtain a vast store of business records of U.S. citizens under President Barack Obama." The FBI filed 212 requests for this kind of data in a national security court last year, which represents a 1,000-percent increase from the number of similar requests four years prior.

David Rohde on the ‘secrecy industrial complex’

"An odd thing is happening in the world’s self-declared pinnacle of democracy," writes David Rohde at Reuters. "No one — except a handful of elected officials and an army of contractors — is allowed to know how America’s surveillance leviathan works."

Wired profiles NSA's Keith Alexander, the general leading America into cyberwar


Illustration for WIRED by Mark Weaver

"Infiltration. Sabotage. Mayhem. For years four-star general Keith Alexander has been building a secret Army capable of launching devastating cyberattacks. Now it's ready to unleash hell."

In this month's Wired Magazine, James Bamford profiles Keith Alexander, the man who runs cyberwar efforts for the United States, "an empire he has built over the past eight years by insisting that the US’s inherent vulnerability to digital attacks requires him to amass more and more authority over the data zipping around the globe."

The claims in Edward Snowden's leaks are the tip of one big, secret iceberg.

Read: NSA Snooping Was Only the Beginning. Meet the Spy Chief Leading Us Into Cyberwar (Wired.com)

Jack Shafer: Edward Snowden and the selective targeting of leaks

"The willingness of the government to punish leakers is inversely proportional to the leakers’ rank and status, which is bad news for someone so lacking in those attributes as Edward Snowden," writes media critic Jack Shafer at Reuters. As the US moves to prosecute Snowden, Shafer says we should ask "Why Snowden is singled out for punishment when he’s essentially done what the insider dissenters did when they spoke with Risen and Lichtblau in 2005 about an invasive NSA program. He deserves the same justice and the same punishment they received."

The IRS is in your internets, watching your financial transactions

Richard Satran at US News has a scary little piece out about how The Internal Revenue Service collects more than your taxes: "It's also acquiring a huge volume of personal information on taxpayers' digital activities, from eBay auctions to Facebook posts and, for the first time ever, credit card and e-payment transaction records, as it expands its search for tax cheats to places it's never gone before."

Rep. Peter King calls for prosecution of journalists covering NSA whistleblower story

On the CNN program "AC 360" Tuesday night, Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) said reporters who publish stories that reference leaked classified information should be prosecuted by the state. That same day, King appeared on Fox News to demand that the state prosecute Glenn Greenwald, the journalist who broke the Edward Snowden story.

Read the rest

Moxie Marlinspike on the NSA spying revelations: We Should All Have Something To Hide

"If the federal government had access to every email you’ve ever written and every phone call you’ve ever made, it’s almost certain that they could find something you’ve done which violates a provision in the 27,000 pages of federal statues or 10,000 administrative regulations. You probably do have something to hide, you just don’t know it yet."—Moxie Marlinspike, who has worked as a software engineer, hacker, sailor, captain, and shipwright, writes eloquently about why privacy matters.

Not much political will to change NSA's no-longer-secret phone spying program

Buried in this bummer of a piece in the Wall Street Journal about how our spineless US lawmakers aren't likely to fight for the privacy rights of Americans in the wake of the NSA spying scandal, this depressing factoid:
A survey by the Washington Post and the Pew Research Center, conducted after the NSA news broke, found that 56% believe that broad-based government tracking of telephone records is acceptable as a way to investigate terrorism. More Democrats than Republicans found it acceptable, a reversal of findings in a similar poll taken when George W. Bush was president and conducted warrantless wiretapping.

Shia LaBeouf, a prescient phone surveillance whistleblower

Oh, if only we'd listened to Shia LaBeouf. CBC News reports that back in 2008, while the actor was promoting his film Eagle Eye, (about a mysterious stranger who spies on other people's phone calls), he told Tonight Show host Jay Leno the movie's FBI consultant warned him the government was doing just that, on a grand scale, with innocent Americans. "He told me that one in five phone calls that you make are recorded and logged, and I laughed at him and then he played back a phone conversation I'd had two years prior," said LaBeouf. And we ignored him.

The Verizon order, the NSA, and what call records might reveal about psychiatric patients

"Dissent," an anonymous-pseudonymous blogger who is a mental health care practitioner, has an interesting post about one tangential consequence of the announcement that Verizon and other communications providers have been ordered to turn over records to the NSA.  
I started thinking about what those records and metadata could reveal.  Because my phone is used mainly for calls to and from patients and clients, can the NSA figure out who my patients are?  And could they, with just a query or bit of analysis, figure out when my patients were going into crisis or periods of symptom worsening?  I suspect that they can. And because I am nationally and internationally known as an expert on a particular disorder, could the government also deduce the diagnosis or diagnoses of my patients or their family members? Probably.

"Dissent" hopes someone will "come up with some point-and-click instructions for doctors and lawyers to use to protect our calls and e-mails better so that the identity of those calling or e-mailing us has better protection." Tor and burner phones for shrinks!

Read more: The Verizon order, the NSA, and what call records might reveal about psychiatric patients [PHIprivacy.net]

That NSA Prism PowerPoint deck: A better-designed version, and what's in the missing slides?

"Dear NSA, let me take care of your slides," writes Emiland, in a redesigned version of the Prism leak. "Do whatever with my data. But not with my eyes. Those slides are hideous."

Related: What's in the missing slides? Hacker and journalist Kevin Poulsen at Wired News explores what's missing from Snowden's PowerPoint deck. There are 41 slides, but the Guardian and the Washington Post would only publish 5 of them.

Read the rest

Google denies giving NSA back-door access to user data

Larry Page: "Press reports that suggest that Google is providing open-ended access to our users’ data are false, period." (Previously)

The CONET Project: spy station recordings reissued

NewImage

In 1999, I wrote an article for the bOING bOING Digital site about the CONET Project, a multi-CD collection of mysterious "numbers stations" heard on shortwave. For decades, intelligence organizations have reportedly broadcast one-way messages to their agents in the field via shortwave, and the transmissions happen to sound weirder than any Stockhausen score or minimalist electronica you've ever heard -- a child's voice, or the obviously synthesized intonation on what's known as the "Lincolnshire Poacher" station, named for the folk song accompanying the numbers. Wilco's album Yankee Hotel Foxtrot is named for, and samples, a numbers station. The CONET Project has been available for several years for free download from various places online, including Archive.org. Now, the original compilers, Irdial-Discs MMX, have re-released The Conet Project in a special CD edition that includes the four original discs plus a fifth CD containing recordings of very strange "noise stations."

"The CONET Project: Recordings of Shortwave Numbers Stations / 1111"

"Spy vs. Spy: The Soundtrack" (bOING bOING Digital)

Space spy? NASA researcher, a Chinese national, arrested on plane bound for China

Aerospace contractor Bo Jiang, who is accused by U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) of being a spy, made a first appearance in federal court on Monday. The Chinese national worked on contract at NASA's Langley's Research Center in Hampton, VA.

Federal agents grabbed him over the weekend just as he was boarding a flight from Dulles airport (in DC) to Beijing. He is charged with making false statements to U.S. authorities by failing to disclose all of the electronic devices he was carrying on his one-way flight, and has since been jailed.

Read the rest

Texas judge questions tools that grab cellphone data from innocent people

The Wall Street Journal reports that a Texas judge is asking questions about whether investigators are providing courts with sufficient detail details on technlogies that allow them to grab data on all cellphones in a given area, including those of people who are most certainly innocent of any crime. Snip:
One of the investigative tools in question is something called a “cell tower dump,” which allows law enforcement to get information on all the phones in a given area at a given time.

In two cases, Magistrate Judge Brian Owsley rejected federal requests to allow the warrantless use of “stingrays” and “cell tower dumps,” two different tools that are used for cellphone tracking. The judge said the government should apply for warrants in the cases, but the attorneys had instead applied for lesser court orders.

Among the judge’s biggest concerns: that the agents and U.S. attorneys making the requests didn’t provide details on how the tools worked or would be used — and even seemed to have trouble explaining the technology.

Petraeus let down guard, pants; Broadwell revealed CIA ops as self-appointed mouthpiece

At Wired Danger Room, Noah Shachtman and Spencer Ackerman have an update this morning on the Petraeus/Broadwell mess. The focus: what the hell was Broadwell doing, apparently leaking CIA operational secrets at a public appearance she gave at an October 26 alumni symposium at the University of Denver?

Read the rest

Petraeus outed by Gmail

As reported earlier today, CIA chief David Petraeus has resigned after an FBI probe into whether someone else was using his email led to the discovery he was having an extramarital affair.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the investigation focused on his Gmail account, and that the traffic they observed "led agents to believe the woman or someone close to her had sought access to his email." The woman in question has now been identified as West Point graduate Paula Broadwell, author of "All In: The Education of General David Petraeus."

While Mr. Petraeus was still a general, he had email exchanges with the woman, but there wasn't a physical relationship, the person said. The affair began after Mr. Petraeus retired from the Army in August 2011 and ended months ago, the person said.

Previously: CIA chief Petraeus steps down, having failed to keep his drone in his pants

Judge prods FBI over plans for Internet spying

At CNET, Declan McCullagh reports on a federal judge's rejection of the FBI's attempts to withhold information about its efforts to make backdoors for government surveillance mandatory for internet firms.

CNET has learned that U.S. District Judge Richard Seeborg ruled on Tuesday that the government did not adequately respond to a Freedom of Information Act request from the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Seeborg, in San Francisco, ordered (PDF) a "further review of the materials previously withheld" in the lawsuit, which seeks details about what the FBI has dubbed "Going Dark" -- the bureau's ongoing effort to force companies including Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, Yahoo, and Google to alter their code to ensure their products are wiretap-friendly.

One almost-entirely-redacted document that the FBI turned over.

Read more: at CNET News.

New Orleans cancels plans for Super Bowl drone, after indie paper investigates

Above, "The Bravo 300," a tactical drone man­u­fac­tured in New Or­leans by Cres­cent Un­manned Sys­tems. Weeks after New Orleans local investigative paper The Lens began digging into city of­fi­cials’ plans to use a U.S. Home­land Se­cu­rity De­part­ment aer­ial drone to mon­i­tor crowds at the upcoming Super Bowl, a spokesman for Mayor Mitch Lan­drieu announced that the city is no longer pursuing those plans.

Spokesman Ryan Berni of­fered no rea­son for drop­ping the eye-in-the-sky tech­nol­ogy, telling a re­porter to sub­mit a pub­lic-records re­quest. In a brief phone in­ter­view, he would say only that the de­ci­sion to ditch the drone was made “over the past sev­eral days.” In a fol­low-up email, Berni said Home­land Se­cu­rity would be pro­vid­ing a manned he­li­copter, equipped with a cam­era, and that “the City learned by phone in the last few weeks” about the switch.

Read more: City cancels plans for Super Bowl drone despite enthusiasm and interest from NOPD, others (TheLensNola.org).

NSA to AT&T customers who believe wiretapping violates their rights: neener neener neener

Courthouse News Service has an extensive explainer on the state of a legal battle between The National Security Agency and a group of non-terrorist AT&T customers who claim that warrantless wiretapping violates their rights. The short version: NSA argues it is immune from their federal lawsuit because REASONS.

If this law passes, cops may finally need a warrant to read your Gmail

Cyrus Farivar at Ars Technica: "Right now, if the cops want to read my e-mail, it’s pretty trivial for them to do so. All they have to do is ask my online e-mail provider. But a new bill set to be introduced Thursday in the Senate Judiciary Committee by its chair, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), seems to stand the best chance of finally changing that situation and giving e-mail stored on remote servers the same privacy protections as e-mail stored on one's home computer."

Watch the watchers with this homebrew map of surveillance cams in Tampa at RNC convention

Tampa, Florida web developer Jon Gales mapped the city's new network of downtown surveillence cameras installed for the Republican convention, to empower fellow citizens to become aware of the encroaching surveillance society. City authorities have not responded to his queries about what will happen to the cameras once the convention ends.

Read the rest

Military spy blimps used in Afghanistan will now patrol US-Mexico border

The Wall Street Journal reports that the U.S. military and border-patrol officials are teaming up on a new initiative to bring dozens of surveillance blimps from Afghanistan war zones to the Mexican border.

Over the next few weeks, the military will oversee a test in south Texas to determine if a 72-foot-long, unmanned surveillance blimp—sometimes called "the floating eye" when used to spot insurgents in Afghanistan—can help find drug runners and people trying to cross illegally into the U.S.

The project is part of a broader attempt by U.S. officials to establish a high-tech surveillance network along the border and find alternative uses for expensive military hardware that will be coming back from Afghanistan, along with the troops.

In other words, hardware recycling. Read more: Battlefield Blimps to Patrol U.S.-Mexico Borders (WSJ).

Image: REUTERS. A US military blimp carrying surveillance imaging equipment flies over eastern Afghanistan, September 2011. Devices like this are being tested along the US-Mexico border.

New virus targets online banking systems in Mideast

Russian security firm Kaspersky Lab claims to have uncovered a new "cyber-espionage toolkit" designed by the same people behind the state-sponsored Flame malware that infiltrated machines in Iran. The researchers claim this new malware has been found infecting systems in other countries in the Middle East, and targets online financial systems. More at Wired Threat Level and Reuters. They're calling this one "Gauss."