Skip navigation

Category Archives: Media

How Covert Agents Infiltrate the Internet to Manipulate, Deceive, and Destroy Reputations

By 24 Feb 2014, 6:25 PM EST
Featured photo - How Covert Agents Infiltrate the Internet to Manipulate, Deceive, and Destroy Reputations A page from a GCHQ top secret document prepared by its secretive JTRIG unit

One of the many pressing stories that remains to be told from the Snowden archive is how western intelligence agencies are attempting to manipulate and control online discourse with extreme tactics of deception and reputation-destruction. It’s time to tell a chunk of that story, complete with the relevant documents.

Over the last several weeks, I worked with NBC News to publish a series of articles about “dirty trick” tactics used by GCHQ’s previously secret unit, JTRIG (Joint Threat Research Intelligence Group). These were based on four classified GCHQ documents presented to the NSA and the other three partners in the English-speaking “Five Eyes” alliance. Today, we at the Intercept are publishing another new JTRIG document, in full, entitled “The Art of Deception: Training for Online Covert Operations”.

By publishing these stories one by one, our NBC reporting highlighted some of the key, discrete revelations: the monitoring of YouTube and Blogger, the targeting of Anonymous with the very same DDoS attacks they accuse “hacktivists” of using, the use of “honey traps” (luring people into compromising situations using sex) and destructive viruses. But, here, I want to focus and elaborate on the overarching point revealed by all of these documents: namely, that these agencies are attempting to control, infiltrate, manipulate, and warp online discourse, and in doing so, are compromising the integrity of the internet itself.

Among the core self-identified purposes of JTRIG are two tactics: (1) to inject all sorts of false material onto the internet in order to destroy the reputation of its targets; and (2) to use social sciences and other techniques to manipulate online discourse and activism to generate outcomes it considers desirable. To see how extremist these programs are, just consider the tactics they boast of using to achieve those ends: “false flag operations” (posting material to the internet and falsely attributing it to someone else), fake victim blog posts (pretending to be a victim of the individual whose reputation they want to destroy), and posting “negative information on various forums. Here is one illustrative list of tactics from the latest GCHQ document we’re publishing today:

Other tactics aimed at individuals are listed here, under the revealing title “discredit a target”:

Then there are the tactics used to destroy companies the agency targets:

GCHQ describes the purpose of JTRIG in starkly clear terms: “using online techniques to make something happen in the real or cyber world”, including “information ops (influence or disruption)”.

Critically, the “targets” for this deceit and reputation-destruction extend far beyond the customary roster of normal spycraft: hostile nations and their leaders, military agencies, and intelligence services. In fact, the discussion of many of these techniques occurs in the context of using them in lieu of “traditional law enforcement” against people suspected (but not charged or convicted) of ordinary crimes or, more broadly still, “hacktivism”, meaning those who use online protest activity for political ends.

The title page of one of these documents reflects the agency’s own awareness that it is “pushing the boundaries” by using “cyber offensive” techniques against people who have nothing to do with terrorism or national security threats, and indeed, centrally involves law enforcement agents who investigate ordinary crimes:

No matter your views on Anonymous, “hacktivists” or garden-variety criminals, it is not difficult to see how dangerous it is to have secret government agencies being able to target any individuals they want – who have never been charged with, let alone convicted of, any crimes – with these sorts of online, deception-based tactics of reputation destruction and disruption. There is a strong argument to make, as Jay Leiderman demonstrated in the Guardian in the context of the Paypal 14 hacktivist persecution, that the “denial of service” tactics used by hacktivists result in (at most) trivial damage (far less than the cyber-warfare tactics favored by the US and UK) and are far more akin to the type of political protest protected by the First Amendment.

The broader point is that, far beyond hacktivists, these surveillance agencies have vested themselves with the power to deliberately ruin people’s reputations and disrupt their online political activity even though they’ve been charged with no crimes, and even though their actions have no conceivable connection to terrorism or even national security threats. As Anonymous expert Gabriella Coleman of McGill University told me, “targeting Anonymous and hacktivists amounts to targeting citizens for expressing their political beliefs, resulting in the stifling of legitimate dissent.” Pointing to this study she published, Professor Coleman vehemently contested the assertion that “there is anything terrorist/violent in their actions.”

Government plans to monitor and influence internet communications, and covertly infiltrate online communities in order to sow dissension and disseminate false information, have long been the source of speculation. Harvard Law Professor Cass Sunstein, a close Obama adviser and the White House’s former head of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, wrote a controversial paper in 2008 proposing that the US government employ teams of covert agents and pseudo-”independent” advocates to “cognitively infiltrate” online groups and websites, as well as other activist groups.

Sunstein also proposed sending covert agents into “chat rooms, online social networks, or even real-space groups” which spread what he views as false and damaging “conspiracy theories” about the government. Ironically, the very same Sunstein was recently named by Obama to serve as a member of the newly created NSA review panel announced by the White House, one that – while disputing key NSA claims – proceeded to propose many cosmetic reforms to the agency’s powers (most of which were ignored by the President who appointed them).

But these GCHQ documents are the first to prove that a major western government is using some of the most controversial techniques to disseminate deception online and harm the reputations of targets. Under the tactics they use, the state is deliberately spreading lies on the internet about whichever individuals it targets, including the use of what GCHQ itself calls “false flag operations” and emails to people’s families and friends. Who would possibly trust a government to exercise these powers at all, let alone do so in secret, with virtually no oversight, and outside of any cognizable legal framework?

Then there is the use of psychology and other social sciences to not only understand, but shape and control, how online activism and discourse unfolds. Today’s newly published document touts the work of GCHQ’s “Human Science Operations Cell”, devoted to “online human intelligence” and “strategic influence and disruption”:

Under the title “Online Covert Action”, the document details a variety of means to engage in “influence and info ops” as well as “disruption and computer net attack”, while dissecting how human being can be manipulated using “leaders”, “trust, “obedience” and “compliance”:

The documents lay out theories of how humans interact with one another, particularly online, and then attempt to identify ways to influence the outcomes – or “game” it:

We submitted numerous questions to GCHQ, including: (1) Does GCHQ in fact engage in “false flag operations” where material is posted to the Internet and falsely attributed to someone else?; (2) Does GCHQ engage in efforts to influence or manipulate political discourse online?; and (3) Does GCHQ’s mandate include targeting common criminals (such as boiler room operators), or only foreign threats?

As usual, they ignored those questions and opted instead to send their vague and nonresponsive boilerplate: “It is a longstanding policy that we do not comment on intelligence matters. Furthermore, all of GCHQ’s work is carried out in accordance with a strict legal and policy framework which ensures that our activities are authorised, necessary and proportionate, and that there is rigorous oversight, including from the Secretary of State, the Interception and Intelligence Services Commissioners and the Parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee. All our operational processes rigorously support this position.”

These agencies’ refusal to “comment on intelligence matters” – meaning: talk at all about anything and everything they do – is precisely why whistleblowing is so urgent, the journalism that supports it so clearly in the public interest, and the increasingly unhinged attacks by these agencies so easy to understand. Claims that government agencies are infiltrating online communities and engaging in “false flag operations” to discredit targets are often dismissed as conspiracy theories, but these documents leave no doubt they are doing precisely that.

Whatever else is true, no government should be able to engage in these tactics: what justification is there for having government agencies target people – who have been charged with no crime – for reputation-destruction, infiltrate online political communities, and develop techniques for manipulating online discourse? But to allow those actions with no public knowledge or accountability is particularly unjustifiable.

Brad Paisley & Carrie Underwood Slam ObamaCare

HILARIOUS

Video Shows Syrian Rebels Firing Chemical Weapons

Footage coincided with August 21 attack

Paul Joseph Watson
Infowars.com
September 18, 2013

A new video purportedly shows jihadist rebels in Syria firing chemical weapons just hours after the August 21 attack on the Damascus suburb of Ghouta, an incident which stoked global condemnation and was blamed on Bashar Al-Assad’s forces.

The footage shows opposition militants firing shells and rockets at night. They are wearing gas masks and are surrounded by jihadist garb. The video was shot in the early hours of August 21, coinciding with the alleged chemical weapons attack on Ghouta.

The name of the militant group is the Islam Battalion, which is based in eastern Ghouta. The operation is dubbed “al-Reeh al-Sarsar” (Almighty Wind), and the shells are being launched towards the Damascus suburb of al-Qaboun.

As blogger Eretz Zen points out, “The name of ‘al-Reeh al-Sarsar’ is coincidentally the name of the “chemical brigade” that posted videos threatening the use of chemicals on Syrian government supporters, especially Alawites, while testing the chemicals on rabbits.”

The video was highlighted by blogger Brown Moses, who has been routinely cited by the mainstream media as an accurate source on chemical weapons. The blogger is by no means an apologist for the Assad regime since his analysis almost always points the finger at the Syrian government for using chemical weapons.

As we highlighted last month, a story by Associated Press correspondent Dale Gavlak featured interviews with rebels who admitted being responsible for the August 21 chemical weapons attack. According to the militants, they mishandled chemical weapons provided to them by Saudi Arabia, causing an explosion which led to the incident that killed hundreds of people.

Leaked phone conversations that emerged earlier this year between two members of the Free Syrian Army contained details of a plan to carry out a chemical weapons attack capable of impacting an area the size of one kilometer. Footage was also leaked showing opposition militants testing what appeared to be nerve agents on laboratory rabbits.

Earlier this month, we featured a video of an FSA militant apparently confessing to using chemical weapons in order to follow Osama Bin Laden’s mantra of killing women and children.

Pro-opposition journalists who were kidnapped by rebels and released last week told the media that they had heard rebels discussing the fact that the August 21 attack was not launched by Assad’s forces.

Phone calls intercepted by Germany’s BND intelligence also indicate that Assad was not behind last month’s attack nor any other alleged chemical weapons incident.

Russia is set to provide the UN Security Council with data, “proving that the chemical weapons near Damascus were used by the opposition,”according to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.

Facebook @ https://www.facebook.com/paul.j.watson.71
FOLLOW Paul Joseph Watson @ https://twitter.com/PrisonPlanet

*********************

Paul Joseph Watson is the editor and writer for Infowars.com and Prison Planet.com. He is the author of Order Out Of Chaos. Watson is also a host for Infowars Nightly News.

This article was posted: Wednesday, September 18, 2013 at 12:47 pm

“Highly Redacted” Documents Confirm Michael Hastings Under FBI Investigation

FBI maintains files to “memorialize controversial reporting”

Julie Wilson
Infowars.com
September 10, 2013

Despite the FBI’s denial they were investigating Michael Hastings, newly released “heavily redacted” documents on the journalist prove otherwise. Al-Jazeera and FOIA research specialist, Ryan Shapiro, acquired the documents after he and journalist Jason Leopold filed a lawsuit against the FBI for neglecting to respond to their FOIA requests within the required 20 work day period.
MH4
Hastings suspiciously died when his Mercedes C250 Coupe reportedly crashed into a palm tree traveling 75 mph in Los Angeles last June. Just fifteen hours before his death, the 33-year old sent an email to a handful of close friends revealing he believed the FBI was after him for a story he was working on.

A few days after his death, WikiLeaks tweeted that Hastings contacted WikiLeaks’ lawyer Jennifer Robinson claiming the FBI was investigating him.

Prior to his death, Hastings was investigating CIA Director John Brennan and was set to release his report in Rolling Stone magazine in the following weeks. Infowars picked up a report from San Diego 6 News that cited a Stratfor email hacked by Wikileaks which described Brennan as being “behind the witch hunts of investigative journalists learning information from inside the beltway sources.”

The FBI’s investigation is so secret, even the title of the case file was withheld from the FOIA request. FBI documents reveal the agency considers Hastings’ work to be “highly sensitive.”

The FBI operated under exemptions when it redacted entire parts of the file, claiming it necessary to “protect national security.” The agency reportedly marked parts with “S” for secret and “Per Army” to conceal components of the file.

The documents also reveal the FBI opened a file that contained “unclassified media articles” in June 2012 in order to “memorialize controversial reporting by Rolling Stone magazine on June 7, 2012.”

Articles in the file included Hastings’ report entitled “America’s Last Prisoner of War,” a story about a 27-year old US soldier who was captured by the Taliban in 2009 while on deployment in Afghanistan. The soldier, Bowe Bergdahl, is still believed to be in captivity, according to Al-Jazeera.

The documents prompted a response from Rolling Stone’s managing editor, Will Dana, who admits he’s “concerned” and doesn’t understand the FBI’s interest in Hastings’ report.

FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said on June 21, “At no time was Michael Hastings under investigation by the FBI.” She stands by her statement claiming just because Hastings was referenced in an FBI file, does not mean he was the “subject” of an investigation.

A letter sent with the redacted documents said:

“A search of the FBI Headquarters electronic surveillance indices has been conducted, and no responsive record which indicates that Michael Hastings has ever been the target of electronic surveillance was located.”

Click here for the FBI’s redacted documents.

 

FBI gives telecom provider spying devices

Press TV
August 3, 2013
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is secretly pressurizing telecommunications providers into installing spying devices inside internal networks of companies in order to facilitate espionage programs.

Photo: Glyn Baker via Wikimedia Commons

Photo: Glyn Baker via Wikimedia Commons

Citing the authorization of the move under the Patriot Act, FBI officials have been discussing with carriers in their effort to deploy government-supplied software, which will enable intercepting and analyzing all communications streams, CNET reported.

The software, now identified as “port reader”, used to be known internally as the “harvesting program.”

The FBI spokesman has said the agency has the legal authority to use alternate methods to collect Internet metadata. “In circumstances where a provider is unable to comply with a court order utilizing its own technical solution(s), law enforcement may offer to provide technical assistance to meet the obligation of the court order.”

But, police cannot intercept the contents of real-time communication streams, including email bodies, Facebook messages or streaming video unless a wiretap order from a judge is obtained.

Notwithstanding, “The statute hasn’t caught up with the realities of electronic communication,” says Colleen Boothby, a partner at the Washington, D.C. firm of Levine, Blaszak, Block & Boothby who represents technology companies and industry associations.

Boothby said judges cannot always comprehend how technology has outpaced the law.

In the past, judges drew this conclusion that they have no ability to reject pen register and trap and trace requests as a federal magistrate judge in Florida, in reference to pen register law, wrote “The court under the Act seemingly provides nothing more than a rubber stamp.”

“If magistrates knew more, they would approve less,” said an industry participant, adding, it’s “an interception device by definition”.

The participant, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said carriers are “extra-cautious” resisting installation of the software, as they say it poses privacy and security risks against a sensitive internal network.

This article was posted: Saturday, August 3, 2013 at 9:55 am

 

XKeyscore: Instrument of Mass Surveillance

Stephen Lendman
August 3, 2013

stasi20

Evidence mounts. America crossed the line. It operates lawlessly. It reflects police state ruthlessness. Big Brother’s real. It’s not fiction. It watches everyone.

It’s about control, espionage and intimidation. It targets fundamental freedoms. It has nothing to do with national security. America’s only threats are ones it invents. It does so for political advantage.

On July 31, London’s Guardian headlined “XKeyscore: NSA tool collects ‘nearly everything a user does on the Internet.’ ”

It “gives ‘widest reading’ collection of online data. NSA analysts require no prior authorizations for searches.” They sweep up “emails, social media and browsing history.”

Every keystroke enters a database. NSA training materials call XKeyscore its “widest-reaching” online intelligence gathering tool. Agency officials call it their Digital Network Intelligence (DNI).

It collects “nearly everything a typical user does on the internet.” Virtually nothing escapes scrutiny.

London’s Guardian used classified information. It’s sourced from a February 2008 presentation. It’s about meta-data mining. It’s chilling. It’s worst than previously thought.

It explains what Edward Snowden meant, saying:

“I, sitting at my desk, (can) wiretap anyone, from you or your accountant, to a federal judge or even the president, if I had a personal email” address.

At the time, US officials scoffed. House Republican Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence chairman Mike Rogers said:

“He’s lying. It’s impossible for him to do what he was saying he could do.”

According to Guardian contributor Glenn Greenwald:

XKeyscore lets analysts “mine enormous agency databases by filling in a simple on-screen form giving only a broad justification for the search.”

“The request is not reviewed by a court or any NSA personnel before it is processed.”

Agency personnel use XKeyscore and other systems for “real-time” interception of personal online activity.

US statutes require FISA warrants when targeting a “US person.” It doesn’t matter. NSA operates extrajudicially. XKeyscore permits doing so with technological ease.

It lets analysts search meta-data, emails, and other online activity. They can do it with “no known email account (a ‘selector’) in NSA parlance) associated with the individual being targeted.”

“Analysts can also search by name, telephone number, IP address, keywords, the language in which the internet activity was conducted or the type of browser used.”

A December 2012 slide titled “plug-ins” explains easily accessed information fields.

They include “every email address seen in a session by both username and domain, every phone number seen in a session (eg address book entries or signature block), and user activity.”

It includes webmail, usernames, buddylists, and machine specific cookies, etc.

According to Snowden, XKeyscore lets analysts conduct “searches within bodies of emails, webpages and documents.”

They can access “To, From, CC, BCC, (and) ‘Contact Us’ pages on websites.” Analysts can monitor anyone. They can read and save their personal communications.

Doing so simply requires “clicking a few simple pull-down menus designed to provide both legal and targeting justifications.”

Virtually nothing online escapes scrutiny. Fourth Amendment rights don’t matter. Privacy no longer exists.

Amounts of information collected are “staggeringly large.” One – two billion records are added daily. Information gathered is so voluminous, it can only be stored for three to five days. Meta-data is kept 30 days.

NSA solves the problem by “creat(ing) a multi-tiered system that allows analysts to store ‘interesting’ content in other databases.” One’s called Pinwale. It stores information up to five years.

In 2012, over 40 billion records were collected and stored monthly. Americans are lawlessly monitored. Warrant authorization isn’t gotten.

NSA lied telling the Guardian:

Its “activities are focused and specifically deployed against – and only against – legitimate foreign intelligence targets in response to requirements that our leaders need for information necessary to protect our nation and its interests.”

“XKeyscore is used as a part of NSA’s lawful foreign signals intelligence collection system.”

“Allegations of widespread, unchecked analyst access to NSA collection data are simply not true.”

“Access to XKeyscore, as well as all of NSA’s analytic tools, is limited to only those personnel who require access for their assigned tasks.”

“In addition, there are multiple technical, manual and supervisory checks and balances within the system to prevent deliberate misuse from occurring.”

“Every search by an NSA analyst is fully auditable, to ensure that they are proper and within the law.”

“These types of programs allow us to collect the information that enables us to perform our missions successfully – to defend the nation and to protect US and allied troops abroad.”

It bears repeating. NSA operates extrajudicially. It’s an out-of-control agency. Rule of law principles don’t matter.

At issue is control, espionage and intimidation. Fundamental freedoms are targeted. Claiming national security priorities doesn’t wash. It’s one of many big lies. They mask police state lawlessness.

Greenwald’s article was published the same day the White House released heavily redacted NSA “bulk collection program” reports and a FISA court order. It included domestic telephone call monitoring procedures.

Obama officials lied. They claim surveillance isn’t authorized without demonstrable suspicions. Monitoring, they say, is subject to FISA court oversight.

It’s virtually rubber stamp. It’s a kangaroo court. It’s illegitimate. It authorizes virtually all requests. It operates extrajudicially. It’s been around for 35 years. No case ever went to the Supreme Court.

It’s findings are secret. A single judge signs surveillance orders. Challenges are virtually impossible. Police state justice is assured.

Things are getting worse, not better. Freedom’s disappearing in plain sight. Congress and federal courts are co-conspirators. They’re in lockstep with lawless surveillance.

Congressional committee hearings reflect show, not tell. Senators and House member criticisms ring hollow. Legislation prohibiting lawless spying could stop it. Nothing with teeth is planned.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper committed perjury. He lied to Congress. He was caught red-handed. He said NSA doesn’t spy on Americans.

Clear evidence proves otherwise. Holding him accountable won’t follow. It never does. It won’t this time. Congress approves lawlessness. So do federal courts.

Big Brother is official policy. Political Washington supports it. Claims otherwise don’t wash.

A Final Comment

August 4 is 1984 Day. Nationwide rallies are planned. Thousands are expected to participate. “Big Brothers has seen enough,” they say.

Sustained public pressure’s essential. Congressional inaction demands it. On July 31, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) headlined “Huge Global Coalition Stands Against Unchecked Surveillance.”

Over 100 organizations endorsed 13 protect human rights principles. Doing so challenges lawless spying. They advise “on how surveillance laws should respect the law, due process, and include public oversight and transparency.”

Privacy matters. It’s time legislation with teeth assures it. According to EFF’s Danny O’Brien:

“It’s time to restore human rights to their place at the very heart of the surveillance debate.”

“Widespread government spying on communications interferes with citizens’ ability to enjoy a private life, and to freely express themselves – basic rights we all have.”

“But the mass metadata collected in the US surveillance program, for example, makes it extraordinarily easy for the government to track what groups we associate with and why we might contact them.”

“These principles announced today represent a global consensus that modern surveillance has gone too far and must be restrained.”

Organizations involved represent over 40 nations. “International human rights law binds every country across the globe to a basic respect for freedom of expression and personal privacy,” said EFF’s Katitza Rodriguez.”

“The pervasiveness of surveillance makes standing up for our digital rights more important than ever.”

“And we need those rights to survive in a digital world, where any state can spy on us all, in more detail than ever before.”

“We know that surveillance laws need to be transparent and proportionate, with judicial oversight, and that surveillance should only be used when absolutely necessary.”

“Everything we’ve heard about the NSA programs indicate that they fall far outside these international human rights principles.”

Operating this way assures tyranny. It’s practically full-blown. Police states operate this way. America’s by far the worst.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. He can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net.

This article was posted: Saturday, August 3, 2013 at 10:06 am

XKeyscore: NSA tool collects ‘nearly everything a user does on the internet’

• XKeyscore gives ‘widest-reaching’ collection of online data
• NSA analysts require no prior authorization for searches
• Sweeps up emails, social media activity and browsing history
NSA’s XKeyscore program – read one of the presentations

theguardian.com, Wednesday 31 July 2013 08.56 EDT

XKeyscore map

One presentation claims the XKeyscore program covers ‘nearly everything a typical user does on the internet’

A top secret National Security Agency program allows analysts to search with no prior authorization through vast databases containing emails, online chats and the browsing histories of millions of individuals, according to documents provided by whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The NSA boasts in training materials that the program, called XKeyscore, is its “widest-reaching” system for developing intelligence from the internet.

The latest revelations will add to the intense public and congressional debate around the extent of NSA surveillance programs. They come as senior intelligence officials testify to the Senate judiciary committee on Wednesday, releasing classified documents in response to the Guardian’s earlier stories on bulk collection of phone records and Fisa surveillance court oversight.

The files shed light on one of Snowden’s most controversial statements, made in his first video interview published by the Guardian on June 10.

“I, sitting at my desk,” said Snowden, could “wiretap anyone, from you or your accountant, to a federal judge or even the president, if I had a personal email”.

US officials vehemently denied this specific claim. Mike Rogers, the Republican chairman of the House intelligence committee, said of Snowden’s assertion: “He’s lying. It’s impossible for him to do what he was saying he could do.”

But training materials for XKeyscore detail how analysts can use it and other systems to mine enormous agency databases by filling in a simple on-screen form giving only a broad justification for the search. The request is not reviewed by a court or any NSA personnel before it is processed.

XKeyscore, the documents boast, is the NSA’s “widest reaching” system developing intelligence from computer networks – what the agency calls Digital Network Intelligence (DNI). One presentation claims the program covers “nearly everything a typical user does on the internet”, including the content of emails, websites visited and searches, as well as their metadata.

Analysts can also use XKeyscore and other NSA systems to obtain ongoing “real-time” interception of an individual’s internet activity.

Under US law, the NSA is required to obtain an individualized Fisa warrant only if the target of their surveillance is a ‘US person’, though no such warrant is required for intercepting the communications of Americans with foreign targets. But XKeyscore provides the technological capability, if not the legal authority, to target even US persons for extensive electronic surveillance without a warrant provided that some identifying information, such as their email or IP address, is known to the analyst.

One training slide illustrates the digital activity constantly being collected by XKeyscore and the analyst’s ability to query the databases at any time.

KS1 

The purpose of XKeyscore is to allow analysts to search the metadata as well as the content of emails and other internet activity, such as browser history, even when there is no known email account (a “selector” in NSA parlance) associated with the individual being targeted.

Analysts can also search by name, telephone number, IP address, keywords, the language in which the internet activity was conducted or the type of browser used.

One document notes that this is because “strong selection [search by email address] itself gives us only a very limited capability” because “a large amount of time spent on the web is performing actions that are anonymous.”

The NSA documents assert that by 2008, 300 terrorists had been captured using intelligence from XKeyscore.

Analysts are warned that searching the full database for content will yield too many results to sift through. Instead they are advised to use the metadata also stored in the databases to narrow down what to review.

A slide entitled “plug-ins” in a December 2012 document describes the various fields of information that can be searched. It includes “every email address seen in a session by both username and domain”, “every phone number seen in a session (eg address book entries or signature block)” and user activity – “the webmail and chat activity to include username, buddylist, machine specific cookies etc”.

Email monitoring

In a second Guardian interview in June, Snowden elaborated on his statement about being able to read any individual’s email if he had their email address. He said the claim was based in part on the email search capabilities of XKeyscore, which Snowden says he was authorized to use while working as a Booz Allen contractor for the NSA.

One top-secret document describes how the program “searches within bodies of emails, webpages and documents”, including the “To, From, CC, BCC lines” and the ‘Contact Us’ pages on websites”.

To search for emails, an analyst using XKS enters the individual’s email address into a simple online search form, along with the “justification” for the search and the time period for which the emails are sought.

KS2 

KS3edit2 

The analyst then selects which of those returned emails they want to read by opening them in NSA reading software.

The system is similar to the way in which NSA analysts generally can intercept the communications of anyone they select, including, as one NSA document put it, “communications that transit the United States and communications that terminate in the United States”.

One document, a top secret 2010 guide describing the training received by NSA analysts for general surveillance under the Fisa Amendments Act of 2008, explains that analysts can begin surveillance on anyone by clicking a few simple pull-down menus designed to provide both legal and targeting justifications. Once options on the pull-down menus are selected, their target is marked for electronic surveillance and the analyst is able to review the content of their communications:

KS4 

Chats, browsing history and other internet activity

Beyond emails, the XKeyscore system allows analysts to monitor a virtually unlimited array of other internet activities, including those within social media.

An NSA tool called DNI Presenter, used to read the content of stored emails, also enables an analyst using XKeyscore to read the content of Facebook chats or private messages.

KS55edit 

An analyst can monitor such Facebook chats by entering the Facebook user name and a date range into a simple search screen.

KS6 

Analysts can search for internet browsing activities using a wide range of information, including search terms entered by the user or the websites viewed.

KS7 

As one slide indicates, the ability to search HTTP activity by keyword permits the analyst access to what the NSA calls “nearly everything a typical user does on the internet”.

KS8 

The XKeyscore program also allows an analyst to learn the IP addresses of every person who visits any website the analyst specifies.

KS9 

The quantity of communications accessible through programs such as XKeyscore is staggeringly large. One NSA report from 2007 estimated that there were 850bn “call events” collected and stored in the NSA databases, and close to 150bn internet records. Each day, the document says, 1-2bn records were added.

William Binney, a former NSA mathematician, said last year that the agency had “assembled on the order of 20tn transactions about US citizens with other US citizens”, an estimate, he said, that “only was involving phone calls and emails”. A 2010 Washington Post article reported that “every day, collection systems at the [NSA] intercept and store 1.7bn emails, phone calls and other type of communications.”

The XKeyscore system is continuously collecting so much internet data that it can be stored only for short periods of time. Content remains on the system for only three to five days, while metadata is stored for 30 days. One document explains: “At some sites, the amount of data we receive per day (20+ terabytes) can only be stored for as little as 24 hours.”

To solve this problem, the NSA has created a multi-tiered system that allows analysts to store “interesting” content in other databases, such as one named Pinwale which can store material for up to five years.

It is the databases of XKeyscore, one document shows, that now contain the greatest amount of communications data collected by the NSA.

KS10 

In 2012, there were at least 41 billion total records collected and stored in XKeyscore for a single 30-day period.

KS11 

Legal v technical restrictions

While the Fisa Amendments Act of 2008 requires an individualized warrant for the targeting of US persons, NSA analysts are permitted to intercept the communications of such individuals without a warrant if they are in contact with one of the NSA’s foreign targets.

The ACLU’s deputy legal director, Jameel Jaffer, told the Guardian last month that national security officials expressly said that a primary purpose of the new law was to enable them to collect large amounts of Americans’ communications without individualized warrants.

“The government doesn’t need to ‘target’ Americans in order to collect huge volumes of their communications,” said Jaffer. “The government inevitably sweeps up the communications of many Americans” when targeting foreign nationals for surveillance.

An example is provided by one XKeyscore document showing an NSA target in Tehran communicating with people in Frankfurt, Amsterdam and New York.

KS12 

In recent years, the NSA has attempted to segregate exclusively domestic US communications in separate databases. But even NSA documents acknowledge that such efforts are imperfect, as even purely domestic communications can travel on foreign systems, and NSA tools are sometimes unable to identify the national origins of communications.

Moreover, all communications between Americans and someone on foreign soil are included in the same databases as foreign-to-foreign communications, making them readily searchable without warrants.

Some searches conducted by NSA analysts are periodically reviewed by their supervisors within the NSA. “It’s very rare to be questioned on our searches,” Snowden told the Guardian in June, “and even when we are, it’s usually along the lines of: ‘let’s bulk up the justification’.”

In a letter this week to senator Ron Wyden, director of national intelligence James Clapper acknowledged that NSA analysts have exceeded even legal limits as interpreted by the NSA in domestic surveillance.

Acknowledging what he called “a number of compliance problems”, Clapper attributed them to “human error” or “highly sophisticated technology issues” rather than “bad faith”.

However, Wyden said on the Senate floor on Tuesday: “These violations are more serious than those stated by the intelligence community, and are troubling.”

In a statement to the Guardian, the NSA said: “NSA’s activities are focused and specifically deployed against – and only against – legitimate foreign intelligence targets in response to requirements that our leaders need for information necessary to protect our nation and its interests.

“XKeyscore is used as a part of NSA’s lawful foreign signals intelligence collection system.

“Allegations of widespread, unchecked analyst access to NSA collection data are simply not true. Access to XKeyscore, as well as all of NSA’s analytic tools, is limited to only those personnel who require access for their assigned tasks … In addition, there are multiple technical, manual and supervisory checks and balances within the system to prevent deliberate misuse from occurring.”

“Every search by an NSA analyst is fully auditable, to ensure that they are proper and within the law.

“These types of programs allow us to collect the information that enables us to perform our missions successfully – to defend the nation and to protect US and allied troops abroad.”

Hackers Demonstrate How Easy it is to Carjack a Vehicle Remotely

Demonstration supports theory that journalist Michael Hastings car was remotely hijacked

Adan Salazar
Infowars.com
July 25, 2013

Forbes Magazine has produced a short video report demonstrating how easy it is for computer hackers to assume control of a vehicle remotely, a fascinating revelation in light of theories claiming Rolling Stone journalist Michael Hastings may have been assassinated using remote carjacking technology already well within the government’s disposal.

Forbes journalist Andy Greenburg recently met with two hackers who re-wired a Toyota Prius to be controlled via an Apple MacBook. Once the pair of hackers attached to the correct set of ports, they were able to input commands spoofing the car’s various sensors, making it to perform a wide range of seemingly impossible stunts.

“They sent commands from their laptops that killed power steering, spoofed the GPS and made pathological liars out of speedometers and odometers,” wrote Greenberg. “Finally they directed me out to a country road, where Valasek showed that he could violently jerk the Prius’ steering at any speed, threatening to send us into a cornfield or a head-on collision.”

Map outlines a few of the features that can be controlled via computer commands. / image courtesy of Forbes Magazine.

Map outlines a few of the features that can be controlled via computer commands. / Image courtesy of Forbes Magazine.

One of the digital carjackers, Chris Valasek, 31, is a director of security intelligence at the Seattle computer security services consulting firm IOActive, a company specializing in industrial smart grid technologies and software assurance. The company recently received an $80,000 grant from the Department of Defense’s DARPA program to “root out security vulnerabilities in automobiles,” according to Greenburg.

“Imagine you’re driving down a highway at 80,” Valasek says. “You’re going into the car next to you or into oncoming traffic. That’s going to be bad times.”

The hackers are also able to kill or initiate the car’s brakes and control the car’s horn and headlights, as well as tighten the passengers’ and driver’s seat belts at will.

Despite the relative ease by which the hackers are able to take command of the vehicle, car companies have remained virtually silent regarding their automobiles’ potential to be remotely accessed and manipulated.

The hackers’ road test not only highlights the serious vulnerabilities built-in to modern cars, it also lends credence to statements made by Former U.S. National Coordinator for Security, Infrastructure Protection, and Counter-terrorism Richard Clarke.

As learned last month, Clarke told The Huffington Post that Rolling Stone journalist Michael Hastings’ car crash was “consistent with a car cyber attack.”

“What has been revealed as a result of some research at universities is that it’s relatively easy to hack your way into the control system of a car, and to do such things as cause acceleration when the driver doesn’t want acceleration, to throw on the brakes when the driver doesn’t want the brakes on, to launch an air bag,” Clarke told The Huffington Post. “You can do some really highly destructive things now, through hacking a car, and it’s not that hard.”

“I’m not a conspiracy guy. In fact, I’ve spent most of my life knocking down conspiracy theories,” said Clarke. “But my rule has always been you don’t knock down a conspiracy theory until you can prove it

. And in the case of Michael Hastings, what evidence is available publicly is consistent with a car cyber attack. And the problem with that is you can’t prove it.”

33-year-old BuzzFeed and Rolling Stone reporter Michael Hastings died in a fiery car wreck in Hollywood on June 20 when his Mercedes C250 Coupe allegedly hit a tree at high speed, supposedly causing his engine to fly out 100 feet from the site of the crash.

Friends of Hastings say the circumstances surrounding his death don’t add up as he drove “like a grandma,” making the explanation that he would barrel down the road in the middle of the night at high speed highly suspicious.

According to one of his books, Hastings had been the target of multiple death threats following his coverage of the war in Afghanistan, which ultimately led to the resignation of Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal.

The deceased writer is said to have been working on his “biggest story yet” about the CIA, according to his close friend Staff Sgt. Joe Biggs.

Report: Michael Hastings’ Body Cremated Against Family’s Wishes

Journalist feared big story could make him a target

Paul Joseph Watson
Infowars.com
July 17, 2013

Rolling Stone journalist Michael Hastings’ body was cremated against his family’s wishes, destroying potential evidence that could have contradicted the explanation that he died as a result of an accident, according to San Diego 6 reporter Kimberly Dvorak.

Hastings was killed in the early hours of June 18 in the Hancock Park neighborhood of Los Angeles when his Mercedes crashed into a tree at high speed and exploded into flames, sparking theories that the journalist, who was working on a major exposé of the CIA, could have been assassinated.

Stating that she had spoken with several close friends of the family, including Alex Jones Show guest Staff Sergeant Joe Biggs, Dvorak said, “A close family friend did confirm that Michael’s body was sent home in an urn, meaning he was cremated and it wasn’t the request of the family….in fact the family wanted Michael’s body to go home.”

Dvorak said the decision to cremate Hastings against his family’s wishes was “shocking” because it ensured that evidence of any substance (or indeed the absence of any substance) inside his body was lost. According to Hastings’ family, the journalist had not drunk alcohol for five years.

Dvorak added that Hastings had spoken with an attorney before his death who has all the details about the story Hastings was working on. Hastings refrained from telling his wife about the story “because he said he wanted to protect her from knowing anything so if anything were to happen to him nothing could happen to her,” said Dvorak.

Hastings wife has now hired a private investigator to look into the writer’s death, according to Dvorak.

Dvorak also revealed that she had personally been threatened as a result of her efforts to investigate Hastings’ death on behalf of San Diego 6. Aside from Infowars, the news channel is the only media organization asking questions about what happened.

“Despite the LAPD’s categorization of the Hasting fatal accident as a “no (evidence of) foul play,” LAPD continues to ignore FOIA (CPRA in Calif.) requests made by San Diego 6 News for the police report, 9/11 call, autopsy, bomb squad and toxicology reports, or make the Mercedes available for inspection which only fuels conjecture,” writes Dvorak.

As we reported earlier this month, Dvorak’s investigation also uncovered the fact that police and firefighters in the area have been given a gag order and told not to talk to the media about Hastings’ death.

Although the LAPD ruled out foul play days after the incident, automotive experts questioned why Hastings’ brand new Mercedes exploded into flames with such ferocity and why the engine was found 150 feet behind the vehicle.

Former counter-terror czar Richard Clarke reacted to the news by telling the Huffington Post that the fatal crash was “consistent with a car cyber attack.” Academic studies show that it is relatively easy to hack and remote control a modern day vehicle.

Hastings sent out an email to friends and colleagues 15 hours before his car crash stating he was “onto a big story” and needed “to go off the rada[r] for a bit.”

According to colleagues, Hastings was “incredibly tense and very worried, and was concerned that the government was looking in on his material,” and also a “nervous wreck” in response to the surveillance of journalists revealed by the AP phone tapping scandal and the NSA PRISM scandal.

After Wikileaks reported that Hastings had contacted them a few hours before his death complaining that he was under FBI investigation, other friends confirmed that the journalist was “very paranoid” about the feds watching him.

Hastings routinely received death threats as a result of his hard-hitting journalism, particularly in relation to his 2010 exposé of Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal.

Hastings’ close friend Staff Sergeant Joe Biggs, who told Fox News that the journalist “drove like a grandma” and was working on “the biggest story yet” about the CIA before his death, joined Alex Jones yesterday to discuss latest developments and his plans to personally investigate Hastings’ death on behalf of Infowars.

*********************

Paul Joseph Watson is the editor and writer for Infowars.com and Prison Planet.com. He is the author of Order Out Of Chaos. Watson is also a host for Infowars Nightly News.

Police, Firefighters Ordered Not To Speak About Michael Hastings Crash

LAPD refuses to release police report to journalists

Paul Joseph Watson
Infowars.com
July 9, 2013

Police and firefighters in Los Angeles have been ordered not to speak to the media about the deadly crash involving Rolling Stone journalist Michael Hastings, fueling speculation that some form of cover-up could be underway.

San Diego 6 journalist Kimberly Dvorak says she was unable to obtain the police report concerning the crash despite the fact that the LAPD already ruled out “foul play” days after the incident.

A gag order has also been placed on cops and firefighters who both responded to and investigated the crash, which occurred in the early hours of June 18 in the Hancock Park neighborhood of Los Angeles.

“When you go to the LA police department and you go to the fire department….they all said they couldn’t comment and some of them said they were told not to comment on this story,” said Dvorak.

The journalist added that she talked to “military personnel” who commented that the inferno which consumed Hastings’ Mercedes was an extremely hot fire that “is not something you normally see with a car like this,” and that Mercedes itself was waiting to hear from the LAPD but has not been contacted.

Dvorak also noted that the engine from Hastings’ vehicle was found 150 feet behind the car, contradicting testimony from two university physics professors who said that “the engine would go with the forward velocity of the (vehicle).”

HIghlighting the absence of skid marks on the road, Dvorak said she was inclined to surmise that the car either malfunctioned or “there was something on the car that allowed that to trigger and blow up,” noting that Mercedes denied their vehicle could have exploded in the manner seen in the incident that killed Hastings.

Dvorak also mentioned two separate academic studies out of the University of Washington and the University of California, San Diego which both detail how modern cars can easily be hacked and remote controlled, a premise also raised by former counter-terror czar Richard Clarke, who told the Huffington Post that the fatal crash of Hastings’ Mercedes C250 Coupe was “consistent with a car cyber attack.”

As we previously reported, questions surrounding Hastings’ untimely death have emerged primarily because the journalist was working on “the biggest story yet” about the CIA before he was killed.

The writer also sent out an email 15 hours before his car crash stating he was “onto a big story” and needed “to go off the rada[r] for a bit.”

According to colleagues, Hastings was “incredibly tense and very worried, and was concerned that the government was looking in on his material,” and also a “nervous wreck” in response to the surveillance of journalists revealed by the AP phone tapping scandal and the NSA PRISM scandal.

After Wikileaks reported that Hastings had contacted them a few hours before his death complaining that he was under FBI investigation, other friends confirmed that the journalist was “very paranoid” about the feds watching him.

Another close friend of Hastings, Staff Sergeant Joseph Biggs, told Fox News that Hastings “drove like a grandma” and that it was totally out of character for him to be speeding in the early hours of the morning.

Hastings had made numerous powerful enemies as a result of his exposure of Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal in 2010, receiving several death threats in the process.

*********************

Paul Joseph Watson is the editor and writer for Infowars.com and Prison Planet.com. He is the author of Order Out Of Chaos. Watson is also a host for Infowars Nightly News.

This article was posted: Tuesday, July 9, 2013 at 5:49 am

%d bloggers like this: