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Visiting Websites About Privacy Gets You Put in an NSA Database of “Extremists”

Posted By Paul Joseph Watson On July 3, 2014

Searching for online articles about privacy is enough to get someone put in an NSA database of “extremists,” according to new revelations published today.

In an article for German news outlet Tagesschau (translation here), Lena Kampf, Jacob Appelbaum and John Goetz reveal how the NSA’s “deep packet inspection” rules, which it uses to determine who to target for deep surveillance, include looking for web users who search for articles about Tor and Tails, an anonymous browser and a privacy-friendly operating system.

Those whose Internet traffic patterns suggest merely an interest in Tor or Tails are immediately put on a list of “extremists,” as is anyone who actually uses the Tor network.

 “Tor and Tails have been part of the mainstream discussion of online security, surveillance and privacy for years. It’s nothing short of bizarre to place people under suspicion for searching for these terms,” writes Boing Boing’s Cory Doctorow, adding that the NSA’s goal is, “to split the entire population of the Internet into “people who have the technical know-how to be private” and “people who don’t” and then capture all the communications from the first group.”

The revelation once again highlights the fact that the NSA’s data dragnet has little to do with catching terrorists and everything to do with targeting anyone who values their right to privacy. The mass collection of such information only serves to make it easier for actual bad guys to evade detection since the federal agency is building such vast and unwieldy databases.

Earlier this week, journalist Glenn Greenwald announced that he was set to release new information based on leaked documents obtained by whistleblower Edward Snowden which would reveal which individuals and institutions were the targets of NSA spying.

However, at the last minute Greenwald said the story would be postponed as a result of the U.S. government, “suddenly began making new last-minute claims which we intend to investigate before publishing.”

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Paul Joseph Watson is the editor at large of Infowars.com and Prison Planet.com.

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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.

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.”

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.”

Role Reversal: How the US Became the USSR

Paul Craig Roberts
Infowars.com
July 24, 2013

I spent the summer of 1961 behind the Iron Curtain. I was part of the US-USSR student exchange program. It was the second year of the program that operated under auspices of the US Department of State. Our return to the West via train through East Germany was interrupted by the construction of the Berlin Wall. We were sent back to Poland. The East German rail tracks were occupied with Soviet troop and tank trains as the Red Army concentrated in East Germany to face down any Western interference.

Fortunately, in those days there were no neoconservatives. Washington had not grown the hubris it so well displays in the 21st century. The wall was built and war was avoided. The wall backfired on the Soviets. Both JFK and Ronald Reagan used it to good propaganda effect.

In those days America stood for freedom, and the Soviet Union for oppression. Much of this impression was created by Western propaganda, but there was some semblance to the truth in the image. The communists had a Julian Assange and an Edward Snowden of their own. His name was Cardinal Jozef Mindszenty, the leader of the Hungarian Catholic Church.

Mindszenty opposed tyranny. For his efforts he was imprisoned by the Nazis. Communists also regarded his as an undesirable, and he was tortured and given a life sentence in 1949.

Freed by the short-lived Hungarian Revolution in 1956, Mindszenty reached the American Embassy in Budapest and was granted political asylum by Washington. However, the communists would not give him the free passage that asylum presumes, and Mindszenty lived in the US Embassy for 15 years, 79% of his remaining life.

In the 21st century roles have reversed. Today it is Washington that is enamored of tyranny. On Washington’s orders, the UK will not permit Julian Assange free passage to Ecuador, where he has been granted asylum. Like Cardinal Mindszenty, Assange is stuck in the Ecuadoran Embassy in London.

Washington will not permit its European vassal states to allow overflights of airliners carrying Edward Snowden to any of the countries that have offered Snowden asylum. Snowden is stuck in the Moscow airport.

In Washington politicians of both parties demand that Snowden be captured and executed. Politicians demand that Russia be punished for not violating international law, seizing Snowden, and turning him over to Washington to be tortured and executed, despite the fact that Washington has no extradition treaty with Russia.

Snowden did United States citizens a great service. He told us that despite constitutional prohibition, Washington had implemented a universal spy system intercepting every communication of every American and much of the rest of the world. Special facilities are built in which to store these communications.

In other words, Snowden did what Americans are supposed to do–disclose government crimes against the Constitution and against citizens. Without a free press there is nothing but the government’s lies. In order to protect its lies from exposure, Washington intends to exterminate all truth tellers.

The Obama Regime is the most oppressive regime ever in its prosecution of protected whistleblowers. Whistleblowers are protected by law, but the Obama Regime insists that whistleblowers are not really whistleblowers. Instead, the Obama Regime defines whistleblowers as spies, traitors, and foreign agents. Congress, the media, and the faux judiciary echo the executive branch propaganda that whistleblowers are a threat to America. It is not the government that is violating and raping the US Constitution that is a threat. It is the whistleblowers who inform us of the rape who are the threat.

The Obama Regime has destroyed press freedom. A lackey federal appeals court has ruled that NY Times reporter James Risen must testify in the trial of a CIA officer charged with providing Risen with information about CIA plots against Iran. The ruling of this fascist court destroys confidentiality and is intended to end all leaks of the government’s crimes to media.

What Americans have learned in the 21st century is that the US government lies about everything and breaks every law. Without whistleblowers, Americans will remain in the dark as “their” government enserfs them, destroying every liberty, and impoverishes them with endless wars for Washington’s and Wall Street’s hegemony.

Snowden harmed no one except the liars and traitors in the US government. Contrast Washington’s animosity against Snowden with the pardon that Bush gave to Dick Cheney aide, Libby, who took the fall for his boss for blowing the cover, a felony, on a covert CIA operative, the spouse of a former government official who exposed the Bush/Cheney/neocon lies about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.

Whatever serves the tiny clique that rules america is legal; whatever exposes the criminals is illegal.

That’s all there is to it.

Dr. Paul Craig Roberts is the father of Reaganomics and the former head of policy at the Department of Treasury. He is a columnist and was previously the editor of the Wall Street Journal. His latest book, “How the Economy Was Lost: The War of the Worlds,” details why America is disintegrating.

 

Statement from Edward Snowden in Moscow

Monday July 1, 21:40 UTC

One week ago I left Hong Kong after it became clear that my freedom and safety were under threat for revealing the truth. My continued liberty has been owed to the efforts of friends new and old, family, and others who I have never met and probably never will. I trusted them with my life and they returned that trust with a faith in me for which I will always be thankful.

On Thursday, President Obama declared before the world that he would not permit any diplomatic “wheeling and dealing” over my case. Yet now it is being reported that after promising not to do so, the President ordered his Vice President to pressure the leaders of nations from which I have requested protection to deny my asylum petitions.

This kind of deception from a world leader is not justice, and neither is the extralegal penalty of exile. These are the old, bad tools of political aggression. Their purpose is to frighten, not me, but those who would come after me.

For decades the United States of America has been one of the strongest defenders of the human right to seek asylum. Sadly, this right, laid out and voted for by the U.S. in Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, is now being rejected by the current government of my country. The Obama administration has now adopted the strategy of using citizenship as a weapon. Although I am convicted of nothing, it has unilaterally revoked my passport, leaving me a stateless person. Without any judicial order, the administration now seeks to stop me exercising a basic right. A right that belongs to everybody. The right to seek asylum.

In the end the Obama administration is not afraid of whistleblowers like me, Bradley Manning or Thomas Drake. We are stateless, imprisoned, or powerless. No, the Obama administration is afraid of you. It is afraid of an informed, angry public demanding the constitutional government it was promised — and it should be.

I am unbowed in my convictions and impressed at the efforts taken by so many.

Edward Joseph Snowden

Monday 1st July 2013

 

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