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Tag Archives: domestic spying

Government Spies On Innocent People Via Webcams, Laptops, Xbox

Latest Snowden Leak confirms story Infowars first broke EIGHT YEARS AGO

Steve Watson
Infowars.com
February 27, 2014

The latest revelation concerning mass government spying confirms an issue that Infowars has been covering for close to a decade. British and American governments are spying on people in their own homes via web cams, laptop microphones and devices such as the X-box.

The London Guardian has the details in a report based on information leaked by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The British surveillance agency GCHQ, with help from the NSA, actively spied on nearly 2 million Yahoo users via webcams built into their computers. The documents show that the agency intercepted millions of images as part of a secret program codenamed OPTIC NERVE.

The report also states that Americans were almost certainly targeted as part of the bulk collection of data, and that there is no law to prevent such activity in Britain.

NSA ragout 4

The documents show that images were collected from webcams at regular intervals, one image every five minutes, and were used by the spy agency to trial automated facial recognition programs.

The Guardian describes the process as “eerily reminiscent of the telescreens evoked in George Orwell’s 1984.”

NSA ragout 3

The documents dub the practice as “bulk access to Yahoo webcam images/events”, and spies working at GCHQ compared it to a police database of mugshots. “Face detection has the potential to aid selection of useful images for ‘mugshots’ or even for face recognition by assessing the angle of the face,” the papers read. “The best images are ones where the person is facing the camera with their face upright.”

Essentially, the spy agency appear to have been building a huge digital database containing the faces of Yahoo users.

The documents advise employees at GCHQ on how to use the system, noting “[I]f you search for similar IDs to your target, you will be able to request automatic comparison of the face in the similar IDs to those in your target’s ID”.

In one presentation contained within the documents, more technologically advanced systems, such as iris recognition cameras, are discussed as potential surveillance tools. The paper even chillingly states “think Tom Cruise in Minority Report”.

The documents state that Yahoo users were specifically singled out because “Yahoo webcam is known to be used by GCHQ targets”.

The papers also note that a large quantity of the data collected contained nudity or sexually explicit imagery. The spy agency seemingly made no effort to prevent the collection of such images.

Yahoo described the practice as “a whole new level of violation of our users’ privacy,” and strenuously denied having any knowledge of the program.

Infowars first reported in 2006, EIGHT YEARS AGO, that innocent people were being spied on through their computers. We specifically described the practice as Minority Report style technology, as the GCHQ had done.

We have since covered the issue consistently, warning that “Hundreds of millions of Internet-active Americans will all be potential targets for secret surveillance.”

Of course, some quarters dismissed our reports as “conspiracy theories”, while worried internet users questioned whether the reports were accurate.

The GCHQ program was seemingly not limited to Yahoo user web cams either. Another presentation within the leaked internal papers discusses the capabilities of the Xbox 360′s Kinect camera, saying it generated “fairly normal webcam traffic” and that it was being evaluated as a potential surveillance tool.

We have also documented the potential use of Xbox for surveillance purposes, noting that Skype calls made on the devices can be intercepted. We have also warned that the ‘always on’ camera of the new Xbox One, which is so powerful it can see through clothing, is wide open to abuse by hackers and government agencies.

According to the leaked documents, the OPTIC NERVE program began as a prototype in 2008 and was still active in 2012. There is no indication that the program has been deactivated.

Security expert Bruce Schneier writes that this latest revelation highlights how there is no distinction between actively spying on a person and what he called “Eavesdropping by algorithm”, in other words, automated computer surveillance. The NSA and the Obama administration have attempted to argue that what they are doing cannot be called “spying” or even “collecting” data, because when the data is gathered, a person is not looking at it. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper still uses this explanation to claim he never lied to Congress when he answered ‘no’ to the question “Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?”

The fallout from the OPTIC NERVE program, the creation of facial recognition databases, and the fact that spooks provably looked at images of people, even NAKED images of people, highlights the fact, Schneier argues, that the “NSA’s definition of ‘collect’ makes no sense whatsoever”, and that our governments are indeed actively spying on us.

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Steve Watson is the London based writer and editor for Alex Jones’ Infowars.com, and Prisonplanet.com. He has a Masters Degree in International Relations from the School of Politics at The University of Nottingham, and a Bachelor Of Arts Degree in Literature and Creative Writing from Nottingham Trent University.

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Snowden Level Documents Reveal Stealth DHS Spy Grid

Government documents obtained exclusively by Infowars expose massive DHS domestic spy grid designed to track citizens in real time through mega government databases.

Anthony Gucciardi & Mikael Thalen
Infowars.com
November 12, 2013

Exclusive documents obtained by Infowars from an insider government source have revealed the true origin and nature of the highly secretive ‘mesh network’ spy grid that has garnered massive media attention due to the fact that the network’s strange downtown Seattle spy boxes can track the last 1,000 GPS locations of cellphone users. But as new documents reveal, the grid is far deeper than the media is telling you. The Seattle DHS spy system ultimately ties in with an enormous stealth database that acts as an intelligence hub for all of your personal data.

On page 55 of the “Port Security Video Surveillance System with Wireless Mesh Network” project document that we have obtained, a diagram reveals the system’s basic communication abilities in regards to the Port of Seattle that the DHS has refused to comment on despite funding with millions in taxpayer dollars:

DHS spy system’s basic communication abilities in regards to the Port of Seattle ‘mesh network’ tracking system.

The Infowars team is closely reviewing the document and will publish it in whole soon. More images seen in the extensive documentation:

dhs-spy-pdf-2

A documented image of the actual spy system put in place, highlighted in the original document itself.

seattle-dhs-spy-1

A further breakdown of the spy operation.

The wireless mesh network, which allows for private communication between wireless devices including cell phones and laptops, was built by California-based Aruba Networks, a major provider of next-generation mobile network access solutions.

Labeled by their intersection location such as “1st&University” and “2nd& Seneca,” the multiple network devices are easily detected in Seattle’s downtown area through a simple Wi-Fi enabled device, leading many residents to wonder if they are being detected in return.

“How accurately can it geo-locate and track the movements of your phone, laptop, or any other wireless device by its MAC address? Can the network send that information to a database, allowing the SPD to reconstruct who was where at any given time, on any given day, without a warrant? Can the network see you now?” asked Seattle newspaper The Stranger.

According to reports from Kiro 7 News, the mesh network devices can capture a mobile user’s IP address, mobile device type, apps used, current location and even historical location down to the last 1,000 places visited.

So far Seattle police have been tight-lipped about the network’s roll-out, even denying that the system is operational. Several groups including the ACLU have submitted requests to learn the programs intended use, but days have turned to months as the mesh network continues its advancement.

According to The Stranger’s investigation, Seattle Police detective Monty Moss claims the department has no plans to use the mesh network for surveillance… unless given approval by city council. Despite a recently passed ordinance requiring all potential surveillance equipment to be given city council approval and public review within 30 days of its implementation, the network has remained shrouded in secrecy.

Unknown to the public until now, information regarding the system has been hiding in plain view since last February at minimum. Diagrams attached to a March 2012 proposal request (# DIT-2996), which have since been approved, updated and finalized, are publicly viewable at the Seattle.gov website.

Several connections can be made by studying the diagram, including its now apparent link to Seattle’s public waterfront. The recent instillation of 30 Department of Homeland Security-funded surveillance cameras on Seattle’s popular waterfront, complete with mesh network devices attached, were purported to increase the Port of Seattle’s protection against such acts as terrorism. Residents soon discovered multiple cameras facing inward toward Seattle homes, not towards the coast line as allegedly intended. The “accident” was later remedied by city officials.

While unknown members of multiple law enforcement agencies will have access to the mesh network, so will the Seattle Fusion Center, where FBI and Homeland Security gather data on Americans deemed “extremist” for such crimes as “loving liberty.” Incredibly, even the U.S. Senate called the Fusion Centers a “useless and costly effort that tramples on civil liberties” in a 2012 bi-partisan report.

Page 65 of the public document details the information-collecting capabilities of the Mesh Network Mesh System (NMS), revealing its ability to collect identifying data of anyone “accessing the network.” Although the document details an alert system for reporting unauthorized access, a public user guide from a similar Aruba software program lists the ability to collect “a wealth of information about unassociated devices,” validating fears of local residents who walk through the mesh network’s perimeter.

“The NMS also collects information about every Wi‐Fi client accessing the network, including its MAC address, IP address, signal intensity, data rate and traffic status,” the document reads. “Additional NMS features include a fault management system for issuing alarms and logging events according to a set of customizable filtering rules, along with centralized and version‐controlled remote updating of the Aruba Mesh Operating System software.”

The bottom left of the diagram shows what may be the Seattle Department of Transportation Intelligent Transportation Systems Network, linked directly into the mesh network. According to the Department of Transportation website, the system controls several surveillance related items such as license plate readers and closed circuit TV (CCTV) systems.

An early draft of the diagram appears to show Seattle police vehicle’s ability to receive and “control” certain aspects of the mesh network. Whether police were originally intended to control surveillance cameras from their vehicles, including their panning, tilting and zooming abilities, remains unclear. According to statements made by Seattle’s Assistant Chief Paul McDonagh last February regarding the waterfront cameras specifically, “only a few people would have that capability, so the officer on the street would just have the ability to view it.”

In reality, Seattle is only one of countless cities across the country being flooded with a sea of surveillance equipment. While the public has focused mainly on surveillance issues relating to the NSA, the federal government has continued its 20-plus year dragnet surveillance grid roll out of covert conversation-recording microphones.

As recently reported by Storyleak, multiple cities including Las Vegas have begun using “Intellistreets” light fixtures capable of recording conversations. The device has received increased scrutiny since 2011 when their “Homeland Security” application, which shouts government messages from a loudspeaker system, was widely revealed to the public.

Other audio recording devices like the ShotSpotter microphones, allegedly used to analyze the location of gun shots, have been found to record conversations of unsuspecting city residents.

Despite the federal government’s constant justification of throwing away civil liberties in the name of fighting terrorism, which kills less Americans than bee stings, continued NSA revelations show that the federal government’s continued surveillance system build-up is aimed at everyday Americans, not foreign Al Qaeda admittedly supported by the U.S. government in Syria.

<p  style=” margin: 12px auto 6px auto; font-family: Helvetica,Arial,Sans-serif; font-style: normal; font-variant: normal; font-weight: normal; font-size: 14px; line-height: normal; font-size-adjust: none; font-stretch: normal; -x-system-font: none; display: block;”>   <a title=”View “Port Security Video Surveillance System with Wireless Mesh Network” –
Seattle on Scribd” href=”http://www.scribd.com/doc/183600279″  style=”text-decoration: underline;” >“Port Security Video Surveillance System with Wireless Mesh Network” –
Seattle</a></p>

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Anthony Gucciardi is the acting Editor and Founder of alternative news website Storyleak.com. He is also a news media personality and analyst who has been featured on top news, radio, and television organizations including Drudge Report, Michael Savage’s Savage Nation, Coast to Coast AM, and RT.

Mikael is an accomplished writer and lead features writer at Storyleak whose articles have been featured on sites such as the Drudge Report and others. During his time at Examiner.com, he was frequently ranked the number one political writer.

This article was posted: Tuesday, November 12, 2013 at 12:54 pm

Spy Grid Can Now Record Your Conversations in Real Time

Hidden in plain site: The next level of NSA snooping will detect dissent via ubiquitous audio sensors

Paul Joseph Watson & Alex Jones
Infowars.com
November 11, 2013

The revelations of Edward Snowden shone fresh light on NSA spying targeting the American people, but what has gone largely unnoticed is the fact that a network of different spy systems which can record real time conversations are already in place throughout many urban areas of the United States, as well as in the technology products we buy and use on a regular basis.

These systems are no secret – they are hiding in plain view – and yet concerns about the monolithic potential for their abuse have been muted.

That lack of discussion represents a massive lost opportunity for the privacy community because whereas polls have shown apathy, indifference, or even support for NSA spying, anecdotal evidence suggests that people would be up in arms if they knew the content of their daily conversations were under surveillance.

The dystopian movie V for Vendetta features a scene in which goons working for the totalitarian government drive down residential streets with spy technology listening to people’s conversations to detect the vehemence of criticism against the state.

Such technology already exists or is rapidly being introduced through a number of different guises in America and numerous other developed countries.

The Washington Post recently published a feature length article on gunshot detectors, known as ShotSpotter, which detailed how in Washington DC there are now, “at least 300 acoustic sensors across 20 square miles of the city,” microphones wrapped in a weather-proof shell that can detect the location of a sound down to a few yards and analyze the audio using a computer program.

While the systems are touted as “gunshot detectors,” as the New York Times reported in May 2012, similar technology is already installed in over 70 cities around the country, and in some cases it is being used to listen to conversations.

“In at least one city, New Bedford, Mass., where sensors recorded a loud street argument that accompanied a fatal shooting in December, the system has raised questions about privacy and the reach of police surveillance, even in the service of reducing gun violence,” states the report.

Frank Camera, the lawyer for Jonathan Flores, a man charged with murder, complained that the technology is “opening up a whole can of worms.”

“If the police are utilizing these conversations, then the issue is, where does it stop?” he said.

This led the ACLU to warn that the technology could represent a clear violation of the Fourth Amendment if misused.

The ACLU’s Jay Stanley asked, “whether microphones can be remotely activated by police who want to listen to nearby conversations,” noting that it was illegal for police “to make audio recordings of conversations in which they are not a participant without a warrant.”

“If the courts start allowing recordings of conversations picked up by these devices to be admitted as evidence, then it will provide an additional incentive to the police to install microphones in our public spaces, over and above what is justified by the level of effectiveness the technology proves to have in pinpointing gun shots,” wrote Stanley.

Eventually, if indeed it is not already happening in some major metropolitan areas, voices will be linked to biometric facial profiles via the Trapwire system, which allows the government to monitor citizens via public and private CCTV networks.

As we have also previously highlighted, numerous major cities in the Unites States are currently being fitted with Intellistreets ‘smart’ street lighting systems that also have the capability of recording conversations and sending them directly to authorities via wi-fi.

As we reported on Sunday, the Las Vegas Public Works Department has begun testing the devices, which act as surveillance cameras, Minority Report-style advertising hubs, and Homeland Security alert systems. As ABC 7 reported in 2011, they are “also capable of recording conversations.”

Televisions, computers and cellphones are already utilizing technology that records conversations in order to bombard users with invasive targeted advertising. Last year, Verizon followed Google’s lead and officially filed a patent for a set-top box that will actively spy on Americans in their own homes by turning TVs into wiretaps.

The patent application says that the technology will be capable of detecting “ambient action” including “cuddling, fighting and talking” in people’s living rooms.

The box will even listen to your conversations, according to the communication giant’s patent.

“If detection facility detects one or more words spoken by a user (e.g., while talking to another user within the same room or on the telephone), advertising facility may utilize the one or more words spoken by the user to search for and/or select an advertisement associated with the one or more words,” the document states.

In an article we published back in 2006, we highlighted the fact that, “Digital cable TV boxes, such as Scientific Atlanta, have had secret in-built microphones inside them since their inception in the late 1990′s.”

This technology is now commonplace, with products like the Xbox utilizing in-built microphones to allow voice control. Microsoft promises that it won’t use the microphones to record your conversations, which is a fairly hollow guarantee given that Microsoft collaborated with the NSA to allow the federal agency to bypass its encryption services in order to spy on people.

App providers on the Android network also now require users to agree to a condition that, “Allows the app to record audio with the microphone,” on cellphones and other ‘smart’ devices. “This permission allows the app to record audio at any time without your confirmation,” states the text of the agreement.

Virtually every new technological device now being manufactured that is linked to the Internet has the capability to record conversations and send them back to a central hub. Is it really any wonder therefore that former CIA director David Petraeus heralded the arrival of the “smart home” as a boon for “clandestine statecraft”?

Whistleblowers such as William Binney have warned that the NSA has virtually every US citizen under surveillance, with the ability to record all of their communications. The agency recently completed construction of a monolithic heavily fortified $2 billion facility deep in the Utah desert to process and analyze all of the information collected.

If the revelations of Edward Snowden taught us one thing then it’s that if the NSA has the capability to use a technology to spy on its primary target – the American people – then it is already doing so.

This network of computer programs, urban wi-fi infrastructure and technological products inside our homes that all have the capability of recording our conversations represents an even more invasive and Orwellian prospect than anything Edward Snowden brought to light, and yet discussion of its threat to fundamental privacy has been virtually non-existent.

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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: Monday, November 11, 2013 at 11:41 am

Snowden: A Manifesto for the Truth

From:  http://meriksson.net/snowden-a-manifesto-for-the-truth

This article by Edward Snowden was published today in Der Spiegel. Since I could not find a translation online, I decided to publish one (suggestions for improvements are welcome). I previously published the full text in German.

In a very short time, the world has learned much about unaccountable secret agencies and about sometimes illegal surveillance programs. Sometimes the agencies even deliberately try to hide their surveillance of high officials or the public. While the NSA and GCHQ seem to be the worst offenders – this is what the currently available documents suggest – we must not forget that mass surveillance is a global problem in need of global solutions.

Such programs are not only a threat to privacy, they also threaten freedom of speech and open societies. The existence of spy technology should not determine policy. We have a moral duty to ensure that our laws and values limit monitoring programs and protect human rights.

Society can only understand and control these problems through an open, respectful and informed debate. At first, some governments feeling embarrassed by the revelations of mass surveillance initiated an unprecedented campaign of persecution to supress this debate. They intimidated journalists and criminalized publishing the truth. At this point, the public was not yet able to evaluate the benefits of the revelations. They relied on their governments to decide correctly.

Today we know that this was a mistake and that such action does not serve the public interest. The debate which they wanted to prevent will now take place in countries around the world. And instead of doing harm, the societal benefits of this new public knowledge is now clear, since reforms are now proposed in the form of increased oversight and new legislation.

Citizens have to fight suppression of information on matters of vital public importance. To tell the truth is not a crime.

This text was written by Edward Snowden on November 1, 2013 in Moscow. It was sent to SPIEGEL staff over an encrypted channel.

Edward Snowden Releases “A Manifesto For The Truth”

zerohedge.com
November 3, 2013

While Edward Snowden may be reviled at the top echelons of Western developed nations and is wanted in his native US on espionage charges for peeling back the curtain on how the gargantuan government machine truly works when it is not only engaged in chronic spying on anyone abroad, but worse, on its own people, the reality is that his whistleblowing revelations have done more to shift the narrative to the topic of dwindling individual liberties abused pervasively in the US and elsewhere, than anything else in recent years. And alongside that, have led to the first reform momentum of a system that is deeply broken. Which also happens to be the topic of a five-paragraph opinion piece he released today in German weekly Der Spiegel titled “A Manifesto For The Truth” in which he writes that his revelations have been useful and society will benefit from them and that he was therefore justified in revealing the methods and targets of the US secret service.

In the Op-Ed we read that “Instead of causing damage, the usefulness of the new public knowledge for society is now clear because reforms to politics, supervision and laws are being suggested.”

RT adds: “Spying as a global problem requires global solutions, he said, stressing that “criminal surveillance programs” by secret services threaten open societies, individual privacy and freedom of opinion.

“Citizens have to fight against the suppression of information about affairs of essential importance for the public,” Snowden said in his five-paragraph manifesto. Hence, “those who speak the truth are not committing a crime.”
Even with the existence of mass surveillance, spying should not define politics, Snowden said.

We have a moral duty to ensure that our laws and values limit surveillance programs and protect human rights,” he wrote.

The type of persecution campaigns that governments started after being exposed, and threats of prosecution against journalists, who blew the whistle, were “a mistake” and did not “serve the public interest,” Snowden concluded.

But “at that time the public was not in a position to judge the usefulness of these revelations. People trusted that their governments would make the right decisions,” he said.

Needless to say, all of the above points are spot on, which is why one hopes that Snowden does not intend on returning to the US to defend himself with only truth and justice to lean on, because the US Judicial system is just as broken, if not more, as every other aspect of a tentacular government, intent on growing to even more epic proportions and silencing anyone and everyone who stands in its way.

This article by Edward Snowden was published Sunday in Der Spiegel.

In a very short time, the world has learned much about unaccountable secret agencies and about sometimes illegal surveillance programs. Sometimes the agencies even deliberately try to hide their surveillance of high officials or the public. While the NSA and GCHQ seem to be the worst offenders – this is what the currently available documents suggest – we must not forget that mass surveillance is a global problem in need of global solutions.

Such programs are not only a threat to privacy, they also threaten freedom of speech and open societies. The existence of spy technology should not determine policy. We have a moral duty to ensure that our laws and values limit monitoring programs and protect human rights.

Society can only understand and control these problems through an open, respectful and informed debate. At first, some governments feeling embarrassed by the revelations of mass surveillance initiated an unprecedented campaign of persecution to supress this debate. They intimidated journalists and criminalized publishing the truth. At this point, the public was not yet able to evaluate the benefits of the revelations. They relied on their governments to decide correctly.

Today we know that this was a mistake and that such action does not serve the public interest. The debate which they wanted to prevent will now take place in countries around the world. And instead of doing harm, the societal benefits of this new public knowledge is now clear, since reforms are now proposed in the form of increased oversight and new legislation.

Citizens have to fight suppression of information on matters of vital public importance. To tell the truth is not a crime.

Translated by Martin Eriksson. This text was written by Edward Snowden on November 1, 2013 in Moscow. It was sent to SPIEGEL staff over an encrypted channel.

This article was posted: Sunday, November 3, 2013 at 7:13 pm

NSA broke privacy rules thousands of times per year, audit finds – The Washington Post.

“In one instance, the NSA decided that it need not report the unintended surveillance of Americans. A notable example in 2008 was the interception of a “large number” of calls placed from Washington when a programming error confused the U.S. area code 202 for 20, the international dialing code for Egypt, according to a “quality assurance” review that was not distributed to the NSA’s oversight staff.

In another case, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which has authority over some NSA operations, did not learn about a new collection method until it had been in operation for many months. The court ruled it unconstitutional.”

 

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.

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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.

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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:

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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.

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

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

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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”.

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

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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.

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

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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.

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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.”

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