One year ago, most people on either side of Atlantic had scant or no knowledge of the NSA and its
activities. Edward Snowden’s revelations changed all that and rocked one of the pillars of transatlantic
relations. Now the same process is repeated with CIA.
One of the biggest issues that WikiLeaks
sought to bring to light in its release was that the CIA’s secret hacking division had produced
malware and other means of hacking iPhones, Android phones, Samsung Smart TVs. some
encrypted apps like WhatsApp, Signal, and Telegram were also targeted. At some point CIA lost control of their
whole arsenal of highly advanced hacking tools and malware. This is more than a gross incompetence.
It shows clearly that CIA again is was totally out of control (and crossed the boundaries with NSA)
for duration of Bush II and two terms of Obama administration. May be longer. And the
fact that after Snowden scandal Obama tried to swipe the dirt under the carpet tell something: he
was not in charge. There are several good YouTube presentation on the topic. Among them:
As Binney and Shaefler mentioned in these interview on Fox (Vault
7 Former Intelligence Officials Binney Shaeffer On Surveillance Tactics Leaks ) mentions
that on operational level this is questionable, but form legal standpoint this is illegal.
Especially if false flag operation was mounted to get warrant to get wiretaps on Trump. This is like
living in a police state. It could well be that disgruntled intelligence operative used tools
of Russian origin or created with Russian "fingerprints" -- they specially put Russian fingerprints
as a smokescreen to hack DNC and Podesta (in case of Podestra this probably not true -- the attack
was so primitive that it is far below level of professionals to suppose that they were involved; he
had fallen the victim of his own blunder).
This first part in the series has 8,761 documents and files from a high-security network at
Langley. WikiLeaks explained that it didn’t hack the CIA. Somehow, the CIA lost control of most of
its hacking arsenal (malware, viruses, Trojans, etc.) — amounting to several hundred million lines
of code — in an archive that was circulated among former U.S. government hackers and contractors.
WikiLeaks was given “portions” of the archive.
Here are direct quotes from WikiLeaks describing Vault 7 (Heavy.com)
By the end of 2016, the CIA’s hacking division, which formally falls under the
agency’s Center for Cyber Intelligence (CCI), had over 5,000 registered users and
had produced more than a thousand hacking systems, trojans, viruses, and other
“weaponized” malware. Such is the scale of the CIA’s undertaking that by 2016, its
hackers had utilized more code than that used to run Facebook. The CIA had
created, in effect, its ‘own NSA’ with even less accountability and without
publicly answering the question as to whether such a massive budgetary spend on
duplicating the capacities of a rival agency could be justified. In a statement to
WikiLeaks the source details policy questions that they say urgently need to be
debated in public, including whether the CIA’s hacking capabilities exceed its
mandated powers and the problem of public oversight of the agency. The source
wishes to initiate a public debate about the security, creation, use,
proliferation and democratic control of cyberweapons.”
These techniques permit the CIA to bypass the encryption of WhatsApp, Signal,
Telegram, Wiebo, Confide and Cloackman by hacking the ‘smart’ phones that they run
on and collecting audio and message traffic before encryption is applied.”
The U.S. government’s commitment to the Vulnerabilities Equities Process came
after significant lobbying by US technology companies, who risk losing their share
of the global market over real and perceived hidden vulnerabilities. The
government stated that it would disclose all pervasive vulnerabilities discovered
after 2010 on an ongoing basis. ‘Year Zero’ documents show that the CIA breached
the Obama administration’s commitments. Many of the vulnerabilities used in the
CIA’s cyber arsenal are pervasive and some may already have been found by rival
intelligence agencies or cyber criminals.”
WikiLeaks redacted and anonimized some of the information before releasing it,
including CIA targets throughout the U.S. and the world.
Here are just some highlights about how the hacks worked, according to WikiLeaks:
Samsung Smart TVs are vulnerable due to a Weeping Angel hack
that puts the TV in a “Fake-Off” mode. The owner believes the TV is off when it’s
actually on, allowing the CIA to record conversations in the room and send them
through the internet to a covert CIA server.
Vehicle Control Systems of Cars and Trucks: It’s not known if
these were hacked, but in 2014 the CIA was looking into infecting vehicle control
systems used by modern cars and trucks. Motivation was unknown.
Remotely Hack Smart Phones: Infected phones would send the
user’s geolocation, audio, and texts. It could covertly activate the camera and
mic of the phone. A special division was devoted to hacking iOS products, like
iPhones and iPads. Android phone were also targeted.
Bypassing Encrypted Apps: The CIA used techniques to
bypass encrypted apps. WikiLeaks listed the following: WhatsApp, Signal,
Telegram, Wiebo, Confide, and Clockman. The smart phones would be hacked first,
and then audio and message traffic was collected before encryption was
applied through the apps.
Targeting Microsoft, Linux, and OSx with Malware: The CIA’s
efforts also focused on infecting Microsoft Windows users with malware. Microsoft
was targeted via viruses injected through CDs/DVDs, USBs, data hidden in images,
covert disk areas, and other types of malware. Malware attacks were also aimed at
Mac OS X, Solaris, Linus, and more.
Phones Running Presidential Twitter Accounts: Interestingly,
WikiLeaks wrote that “specific CIA malware revealed in Year Zero is able to
penetrate, infest and control both the Android phone and iPhone software that runs
or has run presidential Twitter accounts.” As WikiLeaks mentioned, if the CIA can
hack these phones, so can anyone else who obtained or discovered the
vulnerability. When WikiLeaks obtained the hack, it had been distributed to others
Router Exploitations: Hundreds of router exploitations are
listed in the document.
The CIA Can Misdirect Their Cyber Attacks to Look Like Someone Else:
According to WikiLeaks,
the CIA collects attack techniques ‘stolen’ from malware produced in other states
including Russia via a project called UMBRAGE. The CIA does this for many reasons,
but one use they can do is leave behind fingerprints that misdirect attribution,
making it look like their cyber attack was done by someone else. (Note: It’s
unclear at this time if the misdirection is WikiLeaks’ interpretation of one thing
the CIA could do, or if there’s a specific place in the document where
the CIA mentions this use of UMBRAGE.)
Because the CIA kept the vulnerabilities hidden, even after they were exposed,
WikiLeaks said this put the population at large at risk, including members of the
U.S. government, Congress, top CEOs, and engineers. Without letting Apple and Google
know about their vulnerabilities, the companies had no means to fix the hacks after
According to WikiLeaks, an archive with the malware and other exploits was being circulated and
some of it was given over to WikiLeaks by an unnamed source. But because the CIA didn’t tell the
companies about its capabilities, they weren’t able to close the holes. According to WikiLeaks, the
CIA even found ways to access phones that had used Presidential Twitter accounts and were looking
into hacking into cars and trucks.
Antivirus Hack Details
So what are some of the takeways from this? There are many. But essentially,
because the CIA was targeting Android devices, iOS devices, Smart TVs, and even
Microsoft and Mac OSX and Linus systems, it seems that almost anything is vulnerable
— especially any device that is microphone- and camera-equipped and connects to the
Internet. These seem to be the biggest targets.
And antivirus systems really won’t stop them. According to WikiLeaks, “CIA hackers
developed successful attacks against most well known anti-virus programs. These are
documented in AV
Detecting and defeating PSPs and
Avoidance.” Some of the antivirus and security programs that they may have found
defeats or workaround for included (Note: It’s unclear if these were all bypassed,
because some files were redacted by WikiLeaks):
Microsoft Security Essentials
They even discussed how the NSA got some things wrong and how they could do it
There are other aspects to Vault 7 that are still being deciphered. For example,
some are concerned that the CIA was infiltrating online games,
because of one page’s reference to League of Legends, Hearthstone, and Heroes of
Clinton’s Missing Emails or the FBI’s Vault on Clinton
Some believed this was about a seventh “vault” of FBI emails, since the FBI had
released six sets of Clinton emails and information at the time that the tweets were
published. But this was less than likely, since the FBI just released Part 7 of its
here. Others believed that it was related to Clinton’s missing 33,000 emails.
This theory gained new traction after a federal court hearing about Anthony Weiner
and Huma Abedin’s laptop emails, scheduled for Tuesday March 7, was postponed on
March 6. However, it’s unclear at this time if the postponement happened before or
after WikiLeak’s announcement. Read the press release from Judicial Watch, where they
mention the hearing was postponed, here.
Because of President Donald Trump’s recent tweets claiming President Barack Obama
“wiretapped” him, some believe that Vault 7 is about this. However, the wiretapping
suspicion so far is unsubstantiated.
Others theorized this was somehow related to a longstanding conspiracy theory
about “pizzagate,” which involves the idea that high-ranking politicians are involved
in a pedophile ring. So far no conclusive evidence has been found to support this
theory. It gained traction after WikiLeaks released John Podesta’s emails.
Still others believed that Vault 7 was related to September 11, 2001. In the third
#Vault7 tweet, the engine was an F119 which is “911” backwards. The fifth tweet
featured a photo of someone welding, which some believe is a reference to a
conspiracy theory about an angled cut on a World Trade Center beam.
There is a huge fallout. For example this is a strict entitlement of Obama personally and his
did lost moral high ground and looks more like an employee of a three letter agency rather then the
president of the country. Public is alarmed. As one commenter stated: "it's easy to poke fun
at the Snowden affair from many angles, but I, for one, do not like the idea of any Agency anywhere,
governmental or private, reading my e-mails and monitoring my calls. "
CIA surveillance and hacking tools not eroded transatlantic trust but also reveals internal political
struggle within intelligence CIA, with some forces consider CIA too dangerous and out of control and
ready to risk their life to cut CIA influence. There is huge annalist with Snowden revelations
-- this is another game changer:
Guardian started reporting on the largest disclosure of secret NSA files in the history of the
agency in June, it was only a question of time before the information spill reached America's allies
overseas. That's because the NSA's prime duty is to monitor and collect global signals intelligence.
The agency is by law prohibited from conducting electronic surveillance on Americans except under
In the Guardian's first story on how the NSA was collecting the metadata of phone calls from Verizon,
a major US carrier, it was clear that data of European citizens would be involved, since the NSA's
secret court order included all calls made from and to the US.
But it was the second scoop on the NSA's
program that really blew the story wide open. It revealed that the agency was siphoning off personal
data like email, chats and photos from the world's biggest Internet companies including Google, Microsoft,
Apple and Yahoo.
This also reveals the real danger of modern smartphones and PC.
There will be angry voices like they were in case of Snowden:
Peter Schaar, Germany's freedom of information commissioner, told Reuters he wanted "clarity"
from the United States "regarding these monstrous allegations of total monitoring of various
telecommunications and Internet services." Another German official has called for a boycott
of the companies. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is running for reelection, has said she will
raise the issue with Obama this week either at Lough Erne or in Berlin.
"The most upset party in all of this, I think, is the Germans," said Michael J. Geary, an assistant
professor at Maastricht University in the Netherlands and an expert on Europe. "The Germans were
the most snooped-upon country, apparently, in March. In a country where memories of the former East
German Stasi are still quite fresh, the response has been quite critical." Geary described Europeans
as "peeved" and "quite annoyed" at the U.S. actions and said they have the potential to set
back sensitive trade negotiations and do damage to transatlantic relations. "It's a major PR
disaster for the administration," he said. "Now, they have really lost the moral high ground."
Total surveillance of phone is PC and the fact the vulnerabilities are literally planted into popular
operating system and applications caused public outrage. It also might speed up t balkanization of Internet,
started after Snowden revelations, as foreign countries now clearly want to control information flows
that are going overseas.
How it affect US manufactures of hardware, espcially Pc and smartphone we can only guess.
Officials say disclosures about targeting of Joaquín Almunia was 'not the type of behaviour
that we expect from strategic partners'
The latest disclosures from the Snowden files provoked exasperation at the
with officials saying they intended to press the British and American governments for answers about
the targeting of one its most senior officials.
Reacting shortly after an EU summit had finished in Brussels, the commission said disclosures
about the targeting of Joaquín Almunia, a vice-president with responsibility for competition policy,
was "not the type of behaviour that we expect from strategic partners, let alone from our own member
A spokesman added: "This piece of news follows a series of other revelations which, as we clearly
stated in the past, if proven true, are unacceptable and deserve our strongest condemnation."
In Britain, Sir Malcolm Rifkind, the chair of the parliamentary committee that provides oversight
of GCHQ, said he was "disturbed by these allegations." He added he could be "examining them in due
course as part of the intelligence and security committee's wider investigation into the interception
A prominent German MP, Hans-Christian Ströbele, who met
Edward Snowden in Moscow
in October, told the Guardian it was becoming "increasingly clear that Britain has been more than
the US' stooge in this surveillance scandal". He suggested the snooping by GCHQ on German government
buildings and embassies was unacceptable.
"Great Britain is not just any country. It is a country that we are supposed to be in a union
with. It's incredible for one member of the
European Union to spy on another
– it's like members of a family spying on each other. The German government will need to raise this
with the British government directly and ask tough questions about the victims, and that is the right
word, of this affair."
The Liberal Democrats have been inching towards calling for an independent commission to investigate
the activities of Britain's spy agencies and the party president, Tim Farron, said that "spying on
friendly governments like this is not only bad politics, it is bad foreign policy".
"These nations are our allies and we should work together on issues from terrorism to Iran and
climate change," he said. "But we seem to be spying on them in conjunction with the NSA in what seems
like an industrial basis."
In its strongest statement yet on the issue, Labour called for the ISC to be given beefed up powers,
with Douglas Alexander, shadow foreign secretary, saying it was time for Britain to follow the lead
of the US and start a more vigorous debate about surveillance.
"I think we should also consider whether the ISC should be empowered to subpoena and to compel
witnesses to appear before them as is the case for the other parliament select committees," he said.
Nicolas Imboden, head of the Geneva-based Ideas Centre, said he believed his work in Africa had
been the reason he was targeted. "It's about cotton," he told Der Spiegel. "That is clearly economic
espionage and politically motivated." For the past 10 years his group has advised and represented
African countries such as Chad, Mali and Benin in their fight against high cotton subsidies in western
countries including the US. "This was clearly about them trying to gain advantages during WTO negotiations
by illegal means," Imboden told Der Spiegel.
But the strongest condemnation came from one of the groups named in the documents, Médecins du
Leigh Daynes, UK executive director of the organisation said: "If substantiated, snooping on aid
workers would be a shameful waste of taxpayers' money. Our doctors, nurses and midwives are not a
threat to national security. We're an independent health charity with over 30 years' experience in
delivering impartial care in some of the world's poorest and most dangerous places.
"Our medical professionals, many of whom are volunteers, risk their lives daily in countries like
Mali and Somalia, and in and around Syria. There is absolutely no reason for our operations to be
secretly monitored. We are also gravely concerned about any breach of doctor-patient confidentiality,
which would be an egregious impingement on medical ethics."
Nick Pickles, Director of Big Brother Watch, said it appeared GCHQ has "become a law unto itself".
Eric King, head of research at Privacy International, added: "The targeting of the international
actors tasked with caring for the most vulnerable people, particularly children, is one of the most
distressing revelations yet."
Downing Street has repeatedly refused to comment on the allegations in any detail saying it is
not comment on security issues. The Israeli government said it would not comment on leaks.
Secret documents reveal more than 1,000 targets of American and British surveillance in recent
years, including the office of an Israeli prime minister, heads of international aid organizations,
foreign energy companies and a European Union official involved in antitrust battles with American
While the names of some political and diplomatic leaders have previously emerged as targets, the
newly disclosed intelligence documents provide a much fuller portrait of the spies' sweeping interests
in more than 60 countries.
Britain's Government Communications Headquarters, working closely with the National Security Agency,
monitored the communications of senior European Union officials, foreign leaders including African
heads of state and sometimes their family members, directors of United Nations and other relief programs,
and officials overseeing oil and finance ministries, according to the documents. In addition to Israel,
some targets involved close allies like France and Germany, where
tensions have already erupted over recent revelations about spying by the N.S.A.
Details of the surveillance are described in documents from the N.S.A. and Britain's eavesdropping
agency, known as GCHQ, dating from 2008 to 2011. The target lists appear in a set of GCHQ reports
that sometimes identify which agency requested the surveillance, but more often do not. The documents
were leaked by the former N.S.A. contractor Edward J. Snowden and shared by The New York Times,
The Guardian and
The reports are spare, technical bulletins produced as the spies, typically working out of British
intelligence sites, systematically tapped one international communications link after another, focusing
especially on satellite transmissions. The value of each link is gauged, in part, by the number of
surveillance targets found to be using it for emails, text messages or phone calls. More than 1,000
targets, which also include people suspected of being terrorists or militants, are in the reports.
It is unclear what the eavesdroppers gleaned. The documents include a few fragmentary transcripts
of conversations and messages, but otherwise contain only hints that further information was available
elsewhere, possibly in a larger database.
Some condemned the surveillance on Friday as unjustified and improper. "This is not the type of
behavior that we expect from strategic partners," Pia Ahrenkilde Hansen, a spokeswoman for the European
Commission, said on the latest revelations of American and British spying in Europe.
Some of the surveillance relates to issues that are being scrutinized by President Obama and a
panel he appointed in Washington that on Wednesday
recommended tighter limits on the N.S.A., particularly on spying of foreign leaders, especially
The reports show that spies monitored the email traffic of several Israeli officials, including
one target identified as "Israeli prime minister," followed by an email address. The prime minister
at the time, in January 2009, was Ehud Olmert. The next month, spies intercepted the email traffic
of the Israeli defense minister, Ehud Barak, according to another report. Two Israeli embassies also
appear on the target lists.
Mr. Olmert said in a telephone interview on Friday that the email address was used for correspondence
with his office, which he said staff members often handled. He added that it was unlikely that any
secrets could have been compromised.
"This was an unimpressive target," Mr. Olmert said. He noted, for example, that his most sensitive
discussions with President George W. Bush took place in person. "I would be surprised if there was
any attempt by American intelligence in Israel to listen to the prime minister's lines," he said.
Mr. Barak, who declined to comment, has said publicly that he used to take it for granted that
he was under surveillance.
Despite the close ties between the United States and Israel, the record of mutual spying is long:
Israeli spies, including Jonathan Jay Pollard, who was sentenced in 1987 to life in prison for passing
intelligence information to Israel, have often operated in the United States, and the United States
has often turned the abilities of the N.S.A. against Israel.
Mr. Olmert's office email was intercepted while he was dealing with fallout from
Israel's military response to rocket attacks from Gaza, but also at a particularly tense time
in relations with the United States. The two countries were simultaneously at odds on Israeli preparations
to attack Iran's nuclear program and cooperating on a
wave of cyberattacks on Iran's major nuclear enrichment facility.
A year before the interception of Mr. Olmert's office email, the documents listed another target,
the Institute of Physics at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, an internationally recognized center
for research in atomic and nuclear physics.
Also appearing on the surveillance lists is Joaquín Almunia, vice president of the European
Commission, which, among other powers, has oversight of antitrust issues in Europe. The commission
has broad authority over local and foreign companies, and it has punished a number of American companies,
including Microsoft and Intel, with heavy fines for hampering fair competition. The reports say that
spies intercepted Mr. Almunia's communications in 2008 and 2009.
Italian communications have been targeted through the US's Special Collection Service sites in
Rome and Milan, according to Italy's l'Espresso. The same service allegedly tapped into German Chancellor
Angela Merkel's cellphone.
The new leak, revealed by Glenn Greenwald with l'Espresso, alleges that the National Security
Agency subjected Italy's leadership to surveillance, although not specifying which people within
the country's "leadership" were monitored, via US diplomatic missions in Rome and Milan.
The spying went on from 1988 to at least 2010.
The NSA conducted snooping in Italy via its Special Collection Service, which came under scrutiny
after the snooping
scandal involving Chancellor Angela Merkel. The
report on Friday reveals the service kept whole two sites running in Italy: one in Milan, the
country's main economic hub, and one in Rome (staffed with agents). Of all European nations, only
Italy and Germany had two SCS sites working simultaneously, according to the leak.
"The NSA partners with the CIA in the SCS construct in which NSA employees under diplomatic covert
conduct SIGINT collection," reads the telling line in the newly published file. SIGNIT is the
NSA's Signal Intelligence service, which intercepts communications between people.
SCS is one of the most sensitive units in US intelligence. It has teams working in US embassies around
the world, including in Berlin, Athens, Mexico City, New Delhi and Kiev, according to a recent Cryptome
leak. In NSA revelations
on Germany it was alleged that the US embassy in Berlin provided its roof for the service's intercepting
According to the l'Espresso documents, the SCS "in 1988 had 88 sites, our peak." Despite
the number of sites being reduced following the fall of the Berlin Wall and the official end of the
Cold War with the Soviet Union, by 2010 the SCS had up to 80 sites, two of which were the Rome and
Milan sites in Italy. The document states that the SCS has always "opened or closed sites based
The new report provided appears to directly contradict official statements which have been dismissive
of earlier spying allegations. In November, Italian PM Enrico Letta stated that "we are not aware
that the security of the Italian government and embassies has been compromised."
PRIME Minister Tony Abbott could be constrained in responding to Indonesia over spying claims
because of concerns there could be more damaging revelations still
Josh Frydenberg, parliamentary secretary to Prime Minister Tony Abbott, said the Guardian newspaper
had stated that just one per cent of the information from US intelligence leaker Edward Snowden was
in the public arena.
Similarly, the head of the United States National Security Agency, where Snowden worked, suggested
as many as 200,000 files could have gone missing, he said.
"This could be a very slow burn. Today it could be Indonesia," Mr Frydenberg told the ABC's Q
and A program.
"I would be astounded if, with only one per cent of that information out there, if there will
not be more damaging revelations for Australia and its allies in due course. I don't know."
Mr Frydenberg said as Snowden was now in Russia, the intelligence files he took could now be in
the possession of the Russians.
"This may be part of a bigger play out there," he said.
A week ago, the Guardian Australia and ABC reported that Australian intelligence had monitored
the mobile phones of Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, his wife and other leaders.
These revelations outraged Indonesia which suspended all co-operation with Australia in terms
of strategic partnerships, including in combating people smuggling, intelligence gathering and anti-terrorism
efforts and halted some joint defence activities.
Mr Frydenberg said it was a longstanding tradition of both sides of politics not to comment on
on intelligence matters and Mr Abbott had adopted exactly the right approach in expressing regret
but not an apology.
Former US assistant secretary of state Kurt Campbell said this was the very beginning of a whole
string of revelations.
"So you just don't know what to expect so you have to be very careful how you handle this," he
Conceptually speaking, we've never seen anything like the National
Security Agency's urge to surveil, eavesdrop on, spy on, monitor, record, and save every communication
of any sort on the planet-to keep track of humanity, all of humanity, from its major leaders to obscure
figures in the backlands of the planet. And the fact is that, within the scope of what might be technologically
feasible in our era, they seem not to have missed an opportunity.
The NSA, we now know, is everywhere, gobbling up emails, phone calls, texts, tweets, Facebook
credit card sales, communications and transactions of every conceivable sort. The NSA and
British intelligence are feeding off the fiber optic cables that carry Internet and phone activity.
The agency stores records ("metadata") of
every phone call made in the United States. In various ways, legal and otherwise, its
operatives long ago slipped through the conveniently ajar backdoors of media giants like
Yahoo, Verizon, and Google-and also in conjunction with British intelligence they have been
secretly collecting "records" from the "clouds" or private networks of Yahoo and Google to the
181 million communications in a single month, or more than two billion a year.
privately hired corporate hackers have systems that, among other things, can slip inside your
computer to count and see every keystroke you make. Thanks to that mobile phone of yours (even when
off), those same hackers can also locate you just about anywhere on the planet. And that's just to
begin to summarize what we know of their still developing global surveillance state.
In other words, there's my email and your phone metadata, and his tweets and her texts, and the
swept up records of billions of cell phone calls and other communications by
Spaniards (thank you,
Spanish intelligence, for lending the NSA such a hand!), and don't forget the Chinese, Vietnamese,
Burmese, among others (thank you,
Australian intelligence, for lending the NSA such a hand!), and it would be a reasonable bet
to include just about any other nationality you care to mention. Then there are the NSA
listening posts at all those U.S. embassies and consulates around the world, and the reports
on the way the NSA listened in
on the U.N.,
bugged European Union
offices "on both sides of the Atlantic,"
accessed computers inside the Indian embassy in Washington D.C. and that country's U.N. mission
in New York, hacked into the computer network of and
spied on Brazil's largest oil company,
hacked into the Brazilian president's emails and the emails of two Mexican presidents, monitored
the German Chancellor's
mobile phone, not to speak of those of dozens,
possibly hundreds, of other German leaders, monitored the phone calls of at least
35 global leaders, as well as U.N. Secretary-General
Ban Ki-Moon, and-if you're keeping score-that's just a partial list of what we've learned so
far about the NSA's surveillance programs, knowing that, given the Snowden documents still to come,
there has to be so much
When it comes to the "success" part of the NSA story, you could also play a little numbers game:
the NSA has at least 35,000 employees, possibly as many as
55,000, and an almost $11 billion budget. With
up to 70 percent of that budget possibly going to private contractors, we are undoubtedly talking
about tens of thousands more "employees" indirectly on the agency's payroll. The Associated Press
estimates that there are 500,000 employees of private contractors "who have access to the government's
most sensitive secrets." In Bluffdale, Utah, the NSA is
$2 billion to build what may be one of the largest data-storage facilities on the planet (with its
bizarre fireworks), capable of storing almost inconceivable yottabytes of information. And keep
in mind that since 9/11,
according to the New York Times, the agency has also built or expanded major data-storage
facilities in Georgia, Texas, Colorado, Hawaii, Alaska, and Washington State.
But success, too, can have its downside and there is a small catch when it comes to the NSA's
global omniscience. For everything it can, at least theoretically, see, hear, and search, there's
one obvious thing the agency's leaders and the rest of the intelligence community have proven remarkably
un-omniscient about, one thing they clearly have been incapable of taking in-and that's the most
essential aspect of the system they are building. Whatever they may have understood about the
rest of us, they understood next to nothing about themselves or the real impact of what they were
doing, which is why the revelations of Edward Snowden caught them so off-guard.
Along with the giant Internet corporations, they have been involved in a process aimed at taking
away the very notion of a right to privacy in our world; yet they utterly failed to grasp the basic
lesson they have taught the rest of us. If we live in an era of no privacy, there are no exemptions;
if, that is, it's an age of no-privacy for us, then it's an age of no-privacy for them, too.
The word "conspiracy" is an interesting one in this context. It comes from the Latin conspirare
for "breathe the same air." In order to do that, you need to be a small group in a small room.
Make yourself the largest surveillance outfit on the planet, hire tens of thousands of private contractors-young
computer geeks plunged into a situation that would have boggled the mind of George Orwell-and organize
a system of storage and electronic retrieval that puts much at an insider's fingertips, and you've
just kissed secrecy goodnight and put it to bed for the duration.
There was always going to be an Edward Snowden-or rather Edward Snowdens. And no matter what the
NSA and the Obama administration do, no matter what they threaten, no matter how fiercely they
attack whistleblowers, or who they
put away for
how long, there will be more. No matter the levels of
classification and the desire
to throw a penumbra of secrecy over government operations of all sorts, we will eventually know.
They have constructed a system potentially riddled with what, in the Cold War days, used to be
called "moles." In this case, however, those "moles" won't be spying for a foreign power, but
There is no privacy left. That fact of life has been embedded, like so much institutional DNA, in
the system they have so brilliantly constructed. They will see us, but in the end, we will see them,
With our line-ups in place, let's turn to the obvious question: How's it going? How's the game
of surveillance playing out at the global level? How has success in building such a system translated
into policy and power? How useful has it been to have
advance info on just what the U.N. general-secretary will have to say when he visits you at the
White House? How helpful is it to store endless tweets, social networking interactions, and phone
from Egypt when it comes to controlling or influencing actors there, whether the Muslim Brotherhood
or the generals?
We know that
1,477 "items" from the NSA's PRISM program (which
taps into the central servers of nine major American Internet companies) were cited in the president's
Daily Briefing in 2012 alone. With all that help, with all that advanced notice, with all that insight
into the workings of the world from but one of so many NSA programs, just how has Washington been
Though we have very little information about how intelligence insiders and top administration
officials assess the effectiveness of the NSA's surveillance programs in maintaining American global
power, there's really no need for such assessments. All you have to do is look at the world.
Long before Snowden walked off with those documents, it was clear that things weren't exactly
going well. Some
breakthroughs in surveillance techniques were, for instance, developed in America's war zones
in Iraq and
Afghanistan, where U.S. intelligence outfits and spies were clearly capable of locating and listening
in on insurgencies in ways never before possible. And yet, we all know what happened in Iraq and
is happening in Afghanistan. In both places, omniscience visibly didn't translate into success. And
by the way, when the Arab Spring hit, how prepared was the Obama administration? Don't even bother
to answer that one.
In fact, it's reasonable to assume that, while U.S. spymasters and operators were working at the
technological frontiers of surveillance and cryptography, their model for success was distinctly
antiquated. However unconsciously, they were still living with a World War II-style mindset. Back
then, in an all-out military conflict between two sides, listening in on enemy communications had
been at least one key to winning the war. Breaking the German
meant knowing precisely where the enemy's U-boats were, just as breaking
Japan's naval codes
ensured victory in the Battle of Midway and elsewhere.
Unfortunately for the NSA and two administrations in Washington, our world isn't so clear-cut
any more. Breaking the codes, whatever codes, isn't going to do the trick. You may be able to pick
up every kind of communication in
Pakistan or Egypt, but even if you could listen to or read them all (and the NSA doesn't have
the linguists or the time to do so), instead of simply drowning in useless data, what good would
it do you?
Given how Washington has fared since September 12, 2001, the answer would undoubtedly range from
not much to none at all-and in the wake of Edward Snowden, it would have to be in the negative. Today,
the NSA formula might go something like this: the more communications the agency intercepts, the
more it stores, the more it officially knows, the more information it gives those it
calls its "external customers" (the White House, the State Department, the CIA, and others),
the less omnipotent and the more impotent Washington turns out to be.
In scorecard terms, once the Edward Snowden revelations began and the vast conspiracy to capture
a world of communications was revealed, things only went from bad to worse. Here's just a partial
list of some of the casualties from Washington's point of view:
European near-revolt against American power in living memory (former French leader Charles
de Gaulle aside), and a phenomenon that is
still growing across that continent along with an upsurge in distaste for Washington.
shudder of horror in Brazil and across Latin America, emphasizing a growing distaste for the
not-so-good neighbor to the North.
China, which has its own sophisticated surveillance network and was being
pounded for it by Washington, now looks like Mr. Clean.
Russia, a country run by a former secret police agent, has in the post-Snowden era been miraculously
transformed into a
global peacemaker and a land that provided a
haven for an
important western dissident.
The Internet giants of Silicon valley, a beacon of U.S. technological prowess, could in the
end take a
monstrous hit, losing billions of dollars and
possibly their near monopoly status globally, thanks to the revelation that when you email,
tweet, post to Facebook, or do anything else through any of them, you automatically put yourself
in the hands of the NSA. Their CEOs are
shuddering with worry, as well they should be.
And the list of post-Snowden fallout only seems to be growing. The NSA's vast
global security state is now visibly an edifice of negative value, yet it remains so deeply embedded
in the post-9/11 American national security state that seriously paring it back, no less dismantling
it, is probably inconceivable. Of course, those running that state within a state claim success by
focusing only on counterterrorism operations where, they swear,
potential terror attacks on or in the United States have been thwarted, thanks to NSA surveillance.
Based on the relatively minimal information available to us, this
like a major case of threat and credit inflation, if not pure balderdash. More important, it
doesn't faintly cover the ambitions of a system that was meant to give Washington a jump on every
foreign power, offer an economic edge in just about every situation, and enhance U.S. power globally.
A First-Place Line-Up and a Last-Place Finish
What's perhaps most striking about all this is the inability of the Obama administration and its
intelligence bureaucrats to grasp the nature of what's happening to them. For that, they would need
to skip those daily briefs from an intelligence community which, on the subject, seems blind, deaf,
and dumb, and instead take a clear look at the world.
As a measuring stick for pure tone-deafness in Washington, consider that it took our secretary
of state and so, implicitly, the president, five painful months to finally agree that the NSA had,
in certain limited areas, "reached
too far." And even now, in response to a global uproar and changing attitudes toward the U.S.
across the planet, their response has been laughably modest.
According to David Sanger of the New York Times, for instance, the administration believes
that there is "no workable alternative to the bulk collection of huge quantities of 'metadata,' including
records of all telephone calls made inside the United States."
On the bright side, however, maybe, just maybe, they can store it all for a mere three years,
rather than the present five. And perhaps, just perhaps, they might consider giving up on listening
in on some friendly world leaders, but only after a major rethink and reevaluation of the complete
NSA surveillance system. And in Washington, this sort of response to the Snowden debacle is
considered a "balanced" approach to security versus privacy.
In fact, in this country each post-9/11 disaster has led, in the end, to more and worse of the
same. And that's likely to be the result here, too, given a national security universe in which everyone
assumes the value of an increasingly para-militarized, bureaucratized, heavily funded creature we
continue to call "intelligence," even though remarkably little of what would commonsensically be
called intelligence is actually on view.
No one knows what a major state would be like if it radically cut back or even wiped out its intelligence
services. No one knows what the planet's sole superpower would be like if it had only one or, for
the sake of competition, two major intelligence outfits rather than
17 of them, or if those agencies
essentially relied on open source material. In other words, no one knows what the U.S. would be like
if its intelligence agents stopped trying to collect the planet's communications and mainly used
their native intelligence to analyze the world. Based on the recent American record, however, it's
hard to imagine we could be anything but better off. Unfortunately, we'll never find out.
In short, if the NSA's surveillance lineup was classic New York Yankees, their season is shaping
up as a last-place finish.
Here, then, is the bottom line of the scorecard for twenty-first century Washington: omniscience,
maybe; omnipotence, forget it; intelligence, not a bit of it; and no end in sight.
When German Chancellor Angela Merkel celebrated the opening of the new U.S. embassy in Berlin in
2008, she could not have imagined that she was blessing the workplace for the largest and most effective
gaggle of American spies anywhere outside of the U.S.
It seems straight out of a grade-B movie,
but it has been happening for the past eleven years: The NSA has been using Merkel as an instrument
to spy on the president of the United States.
We now know that the NSA has been listening to and recording Merkel's cellphone calls since 2002.
Angela Merkel was raised in East Germany, and she has a personal revulsion at the concept of omnipresent
In 2008, when the new embassy opened, the NSA began using more sophisticated techniques that included
not only listening, but also following her.
Merkel uses her cellphone more frequently than her landline, and she uses it to communicate with
her husband and family members, the leadership of her political party, and her colleagues and officials
in the German government.
She also uses her cellphone to speak with foreign leaders, among whom have been President George
W. Bush and President Obama.
Thus, the NSA -- which Bush and Obama have unlawfully and unconstitutionally authorized to obtain
and retain digital copies of all telephone conversations, texts and emails of everyone in the U.S.,
as well as those of hundreds of millions of persons in Europe and Latin America -- has been listening
to the telephone calls of both American presidents whenever they have spoken with the chancellor.
One could understand the NSA's propensity to listen to the conversations of those foreign leaders
who wish us ill. And one would expect that it would do so. But the urge to listen to the leadership
of our allies serves no discernible intelligence-gathering purpose.
Rather, it fuels distrust between our nations and in the case of Merkel exacerbates memories of
the all-seeing and all-hearing Stasi, which was the East German version of the KGB that ruled that
police state from the end of World War II until it collapsed in 1989.
Merkel was raised in East Germany, and she has a personal revulsion at the concept of omnipresent
Obama apparently has no such revulsion. One would think he's not happy that his own spies have
been listening to him.
One would expect that he would have known of this.
Not from me, says Gen. Keith Alexander, the director of the NSA, who disputed claims in the media
that he told Obama of the NSA spying network in Germany last summer.
Either the president knew of this and has denied it, or he is invincibly ignorant of the forces
he has unleashed on us and on himself.
When Susan Rice, Obama's national security advisor, was confronted with all of this by her German
counterpart, she first told him the White House would deny it. Then she called him to say that the
White House could not deny it, but the president would deny that he personally knew of it.
How did we get here? What are the consequences of a president spying on himself? What does this
mean for the rest of us?
Neither Bush nor Obama has had a strong fidelity to the Constitution. They share the views of
another odd couple of presidents from opposing political parties, Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson,
in that the Constitution is not the supreme law of the land as it proclaims to be, but rather a guideline
that unleashes the president to do all that it does not expressly forbid him to do.
In the progressive era 100 years ago, that presidential attitude brought us the Federal Reserve,
the federal income tax, Prohibition, World War I, prosecutions for speech critical of the government
and the beginnings of official modern government racial segregation.
That same attitude in our era has brought us the Patriot Act, which allows federal agents to write
their own search warrants, government borrowing that knows no end -- including the $2 trillion Bush
borrowed for the war in Iraq, a country which is now less stable than before Bush invaded, and the
$7 trillion Obama borrowed to redistribute -- and an NSA that monitors all Americans all the time.
In the case of the NSA spying, this came about by the secret orders of Bush and Obama, animated by
that perverse TR/Wilsonian view of the Constitution and not by a congressional vote after a great
Just as people change when they know they are being watched, the government changes when it knows
no one can watch it.
Just as we can never be ourselves when we fear that we may need to justify our most intimate thoughts
to an all-knowing government, so, too, the government knows that when we cannot see what it is doing,
it can do whatever it wants. And it is in the nature of government to expand, not shrink. Thomas
Jefferson correctly predicted that 175 years ago.
But spying on yourself is truly asinine and perhaps criminal. You see, the president can officially
declassify any secrets he wants, but he cannot -- without official declassification -- simply reveal
them to NSA agents.
One can only imagine what NSA agents learned from listening to Bush and Obama as they spoke to
Merkel and 34 other friendly foreign leaders, as yet unidentified publicly.
Now we know how pervasive this NSA spying is: It not only reaches the Supreme Court, the Pentagon,
the CIA, the local police and the cellphones and homes of all Americans; it reaches the Oval Office
itself. Yet when the president denies that he knows of this, that denial leads to more questions.
The president claims he can start secret foreign wars using the CIA, secretly kill Americans using
drones, and now secretly spy on anyone anywhere using the NSA.
Is the president an unwitting dupe to a secret rats' nest of uncontrolled government spies and
Or is he a megalomaniacal, totalitarian secret micromanager who lies regularly, consistently and
systematically about the role of government in our lives?
Which is worse? What do we do about it?
Andrew P. Napolitano joined Fox News Channel (FNC) in January 1998 and currently serves as
the senior judicial analyst. He provides legal analysis on both FNC and Fox Business Network (FBN).
A four-page internal précis regarding a visit to Washington by two top French intelligence officials
denies the NSA or any US intelligence agency was behind the May 2012 attempted break-in – which sought
to implant a monitoring device inside the Elysee Palace's communications system – but instead fingers
the Israelis, albeit indirectly:
The visit by Barnard Barbier, head of the DGSE's technical division, and Patrick Pailloux, a top
official with France's National Information Systems Security, was intended to elicit an explanation
for the break-in, which the French media blamed on the Americans. The NSA's inquiries to the British,
Canadians, Australians, New Zealanders, and other US allies all turned up negative. However, one
such close ally wasn't asked.
As Glenn Greenwald and Jacques Follorou, citing the NSA document,
put it in their Le Monde piece: the NSA "'intentionally did not ask either the Mossad
or the ISNU (the technical administration of the Israeli services) whether they were involved' in
this espionage operation against the head of the French government."
An interesting omission, to say the least, one justified by the author of the memo with some odd
phraseology: "France is not an approved target for joint discussion by Israel and the United States."
Meaning – exactly what? This is a job for Marcy
Wheeler! But I'll hazard a guess: the US is well aware of Israeli spying on France and wants
nothing to do with it, and/or the author of the memo is simply invoking some obscure protocol in
order to justify going any farther.
In any case, the Israeli connection to the NSA's global spying network – including its all-pervasive
surveillance inside the US – has been well-established by Greenwald's previous reporting on the subject:
a September 11
article detailing how the NSA shares raw intercepts from its data-dragnet with Israeli intelligence,
scooping up purloined emails and other data – in effect giving the Mossad a "back door" into a treasure
trove of information on the private lives and activities of American citizens.
published a five-page memorandum of understanding between Tel Aviv and Washington, provided to
Greenwald by Snowden: rife with references to the legal and constitutional constraints "pertaining
to the protection of US persons," it goes on to state forthrightly that the Israelis are permitted
access to "raw Sigint" – unredacted and unreviewed transcripts, Internet metadata, and the content
of emails and telephonic communications. While the Israelis supposedly solemnly swear to not "deliberately"
target any American citizen, the agreement explicitly rules out a legal obligation on the part of
the Israelis to follow the rules:
"This agreement is not intended to create any legally enforceable rights and shall not be construed
to be either an international agreement or a legally binding instrument according to international
The Israelis are allowed to retain raw NSA data on American citizens for up to a year, as long
as they inform the NSA, but when it comes to US government communications – those must be destroyed
"upon recognition." This interdict presumably covers the internal communications of our law enforcement
officers, but as both
Bamford and Fox News's
have reported, Israeli penetration of this vital sector is already an accomplished fact.
New submitter badzilla writes with a story from ZDnet that says a vote is scheduled in the
European Parliament for today, U.S. Independence Day, on "whether existing data sharing agreements
between the two continents should be suspended, following allegations that U.S. intelligence spied
on EU citizens." One interesting scenario outlined by the article is that it may disrupt air travel
between the U.S. and EU: "In the resolution, submitted to the Parliament on Tuesday, more than
two-dozen politicians from a range of political parties call the spying 'a serious violation of
the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations,' and call on the suspension of the Passenger Name
Records (PNR) system. Prior to leaving the airport, airlines must make passenger data available
to the U.S. Names, dates of birth, addresses, credit or debit card details and seat numbers are
among the data - though critics say the information has never helped catch a suspected criminal
or terrorist before. Should the PNR system be suspended, it could result in the suspension of
flights to the U.S. from European member states."
Let me get this right
The British GCHQ taps fibre connections, collects data on EU citizens and shares it with US
intelligence services. In response the EU wants to stop sharing information on passenger records
for people flying between the EU and the USA. .... Well I suppose its easier than suggesting that
EU governments should not spy on its citizens.
Re:Let me get this right
The British are not the EU, in fact they are viewed by most as an US shill inside the EU. In
the area of surveillance they are ahead US by quite a bit.
We need another De Gaulle. He gave the finger to the US and to NATO in the sixties, and he
absolutely didn't want the UK in the CEE (later to be known as the EU). We don't need Turkey nor
Israel in the EU and we certainly don't need the 51st american state either (aka the UK).
Please don't make us (the UK) leave! The EU's the only thing with a chance of preventing further
erosion of British citizens' working rights, civil liberties, environment, etc.
Unfortunately, many of the uninformed voters here want to leave :-(
Re:Let me get this right
Britain and the EU have an odd relationship unlike almost any other country in the EU.
Yes, technically, we are part of it. But we're exempt from other parts associated with it (we
don't use the Euro, etc.). We pump more money in than some others and, as compensation, we're
allowed to opt-out of certain things.
Also, if you ask people in Britain what it means to go to Europe, it doesn't include touring
around Britain. Britain and the EU are - to the British - two separate entities. Even more confusing
you have things like the EC and the continent of Europe and lots of other definitions over the
years that we are sometimes in, sometimes out.
However, GCHQ has hit a LOT of flak for its actions. The question really is - if what the US
does is illegal, and the EU is doing it back, why do we have a formal legal statement of something
else entirely? Why bother? Why not just legalise what we do or not? But, ultimately, the attitude
is - if we DO share things with you, why distrust us and find things out illegally for your self?
And if you do that, why should we bother to trust you or give you anything anyway?
The GCHQ involvement is a side-issue, and you can guarantee that whatever sanctions the US
has imposed on it, those on GCHQ will be worse.
But, politics what it is, I find it hard to believe that anything will happen, certainly anything
that will affect air travel. More likely a few trade agreements will have more lenient terms than
they would have otherwise and promises to clean up, and that'll be the end of it.
Though, I swore off going to the US many years ago after they basically took liberties with
what rights they think they have (which include this EU passenger data crap). If I was forced
to enter the US now, I'd do so for as short a time as possible and carry no electronic equipment
whatsoever and encrypt all communications home. That's the only sensible business choice and has
been for years, and it just happens to be the complete antithesis of the intention to collect
that data in the first place.
The British GCHQ taps fibre connections, collects data on EU citizens and shares it with US
intelligence services. In response the EU wants to stop sharing information on passenger records
for people flying between the EU and the USA
Well, it's right there in the article:
Meanwhile, Reuters reports that the European Commission is examining if the U.K. broke
EU law, which could lead to an infringement procedure against the British government. This
could lead to financial sanctions imposed by the European Court of Justice.
That the UK did this is also something they're looking at.
Well I suppose its easier than suggesting that EU governments should not spy on its citizens.
That's exactly what they're suggesting.
There's also this:
I can not understand why a U.S. citizen has the right to redress in the EU, but an EU citizen
does not have the right to redress in the U.S.
As usual, the US won't sign an agreement which says a US entity would have to face laws in
other countries, but expect they will get access to those laws when convenient.
It's a one-sided arrangement that isn't working for anyone but the US, and I believe you're
going to start seeing countries deciding they're not going to sign up for any more of those. I
think people are getting fed up with having terms dictated to them, and aren't going to be willing
to keep doing it.
There is an interesting side effect about this data problem: the cloud.
Currently, the biggest cloud providers are based in US. But due to the NSA disclosure,
most companies cannot afford to give their data to outside countries, especially since it's now
clear that NSA spied european companies economically.
So local cloud providers will quickly emerge, and this will directly impact Google and Amazon's
services. US clouds cannot be trusted anymore.
Re: Side effects
Recently I had the need of a virtual server - just to run my web site, host my documents, and
various other tasks. So searching for this I specifically searched for local Hong Kong companies
(which is where I live), to host such a server. And a short search later I found one that offers
cloud servers, just what I needed.
A few months ago I was thinking about the same issue - and then I was considering Amazon. I
am a customer of Amazon already, for their glacier cold storage service, where I keep back-ups
(all encrypted before they leave my systems). They have a good reputation, and overall very good
prices, however it being a US company made me not even consider them now.
And that's a direct result of Snowden's revelations.
US clouds cannot be trusted anymore.
They never could, only difference is that now it is confirmed and I can enjoy of saying "I
told you so!". However, I would not trust any cloud service regardless of its country of origin
with important data.
What should Europeans expect from the European Commission in response to the
Prism scandal? Not a lot, unfortunately, because it's mostly a matter for individual countries.
When it emerged that the U.S. was spying on foreign users of Google (GOOG),
and other services, the first reaction to come out of the commission was an unfortunately phrased
placeholder that suggested the global surveillance scheme was "an internal U.S. matter." After
a few hours of consideration, Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmström put out something slightly
weightier, expressing concern for "possible consequences on EU citizens' privacy" and explaining
that the commission would "get in contact with our U.S. counterparts to seek more details on these
Since then, EU sources have told me that the commission already knew about Prism before the current
leaks and has raised it "systematically" when talking to U.S. authorities about EU-U.S. data protection
agreements, particularly in the context of police and judicial cooperation. Justice Commissioner
Viviane Reding apparently spoke about the matter with U.S. Attorney General Holder Eric Holder at
a meeting in Washington in April.
It is certainly the case that the EU has previously
"any data-at-rest formerly processed 'on premise' within the EU, which becomes migrated into
Clouds, becomes liable to mass-surveillance-for purposes of furthering the foreign affairs of
the U.S. (as well as the expected purposes of terrorism, money-laundering etc.)."
It doesn't look, however, as if the Commission can or will issue any blanket direction on what
should happen now or whether it is acceptable for EU member states to allow their citizens to be
monitored under Prism, as appears to be the case in the U.K. That is because, under the legal principles
governing the European Union, national security remains a matter for member states.
As the Commission said in a statement:
"Where the rights of an EU citizen in a Member State are concerned, it is for a national judge
to determine whether the data can be lawfully transmitted in accordance with legal requirements
(be they national, EU or international)."
Still, according to the Commission, Reding will raise the issue in ministerial talks with the
U.S. on Friday (June 14) in Dublin. Reding views this debacle as a matter of data protection principles
that need to be firmed up, as she said in this statement:
"This case shows that a clear legal framework for the protection of personal data is not a
luxury or constraint but a fundamental right. This is the spirit of the EU's data protection reform.
These proposals have been on the table for 18 months now. In contrast, when dealing with files
[that] limit civil liberties online, the EU has a proven track record of acting fast: The Data
Retention Directive was negotiated by Ministers in less than six months. It is time for the Council
to prove it can act with the same speed and determination on a file [that] strengthens such rights."
It's not entirely clear from that statement whether stronger data protection rules can preclude
the sort of monitoring of EU citizens that we're talking about here. With member states having the
final say on national security, that may not be possible.
The path taken now by those member states will of course depend on their existing cooperation
with the U.S. on Prism. This is only starting to come out, and of course it raises huge questions
about governments using a U.S. scheme to accomplish what their own national laws might forbid them
In as a seemingly offhand remark by the president of Bolivia, who suggested during a visit to
Moscow that he might be happy to host Edward J. Snowden, the fugitive former security contractor
who is desperate to find asylum. It escalated into a major diplomatic scramble in which the Bolivian
president's plane was rerouted on Tuesday, apparently because of suspicions that Mr. Snowden was
Evo Morales, president of Bolivia, was attending an energy conference in Moscow when he was asked
in an interview if he would consider giving asylum to Edward J. Snowden.
By day's end, outraged Bolivian officials, insisting that Mr. Snowden was not on the plane, were
accusing France and Portugal of acting under American pressure to rescind permission for President
Evo Morales's plane to traverse their airspace on the way back to Bolivia. Low on fuel, the plane's
crew won permission to land in Vienna.
"They say it was due to technical issues, but after getting explanations from some authorities
we found that there appeared to be some unfounded suspicions that Mr. Snowden was on the plane,"
the Bolivian foreign minister, David Choquehuanca, told reporters after the plane touched down in
Vienna, where Mr. Morales was spending the night.
"We don't know who invented this big lie," the foreign minister said at a news conference in La
Paz, Bolivia. "We want to express our displeasure because this has put the president's life at risk."
Rubén Saavedra, the defense minister, who was on the plane with Mr. Morales, accused the Obama
administration of being behind the action by France and Portugal, calling it "an attitude of sabotage
and a plot by the government of the United States."
There was no immediate response by officials in Paris, Lisbon or Washington.
"We were in flight; it was completely unexpected," Mr. Saavedra said on the Telesur cable network.
"The president was very angry."
Speaking by phone with Telesur, Mr. Saavedra said that Mr. Snowden was not on the plane. Later,
Reuters cited an unidentified Austrian Foreign Ministry official as saying the same thing.
Bolivian officials said they were working on a new flight plan to allow Mr. Morales to fly home.
But in a possible sign of further suspicion about the passenger manifest, Mr. Saavedra said that
Italy had also refused to give permission for the plane to fly over its airspace. Later he said that
France and Portugal had reversed course and offered to allow the plane to fly through their airspace
On Monday, Mr. Morales, who was attending an energy conference in Moscow, was asked in an interview
on the Russia Today television network if he would consider giving asylum to Mr. Snowden, 30, who
has been holed up at Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport for more than a week, his passport revoked by
the United States.
"Yes, why not?" Mr. Morales responded. "Of course, Bolivia is ready to take in people who denounce
- I don't know if this is espionage or monitoring. We are here."
He said, though, that Bolivia had not received a request from Mr. Snowden, despite news reports
to the contrary.
It was already clear by then that the Moscow conference had been overshadowed by the drama of
Mr. Snowden and his disclosures about American intelligence programs, which have deeply embarrassed
the Obama administration.
President Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela, who was also at the conference, had suggested he might
offer Mr. Snowden asylum but did not plan to fly him to Venezuela.
But Mr. Morales's remarks appeared to open the door. At least that was the way they were interpreted.
The problems began even before Mr. Morales left Moscow, Mr. Choquehuanca said. On Monday, Portugal,
without explanation, had withdrawn permission for Mr. Morales's plane to stop in Lisbon to refuel,
the foreign minister said. That required Bolivian officials to get permission from Spain to refuel
in the Canary Islands.
The next day, after taking off from Moscow, Mr. Morales's plane was just minutes from entering
French airspace, according to Mr. Saavedra, when the French authorities informed the pilot that the
plane could not fly over France.
There was also plenty of confusion in Moscow over how Mr. Snowden could possibly have left undetected
on a government aircraft.
Government planes carrying foreign officials to diplomatic meetings in Moscow typically arrive
and depart from Vnukovo Airport, which is also the main airfield used by the Russian government,
rather than from Sheremetyevo, where Mr. Snowden arrived from Hong Kong on June 23 hours after American
officials had sought his extradition there.
The speculation that Mr. Snowden would hitch a ride on a government jet was discounted by the
fact that the plane would have to first make a quick flight from one Moscow airport to the other.
In an interview with the television station Russia Today, Mr. Maduro said he would consider any
request by Mr. Snowden. Then, ending the interview with a dash of humor, he said, "It's time for
me to go; Snowden is waiting for me."
Irrespective of whether Mr Snowdon is a hero or villain, his actions have exposed to what extent
US government agencies collect and analyse data, which those who produced them thought personal
and private. We now know that they are not. To suggest we knew about this all along is confusing
hypothesis with established knowledge, which Mr Snowdon seems to have provided.
The ongoing debate of what will happen to Mr Snowdon only seems to distract from the questions
that should be posed.
First the ethical question, to what degree can the breach of trust by the US agencies towards
individuals and foreign governments be justified in the light of national security?
Second the practical question. Given the national and international outrage about the agencies'
activities and the associated degradation of US esteem, trust and influence, should we not question
the competence of these agencies to enhance our national security.
They seem to enjoy spying for spying's sake and not consider the implications when found
For every article about Snowden, that's one less articlee about the spying programs. This dysfunctional
congress will change nothing and the public continues to yawn. How far we've fallen since the
post-Watergate era when people were shocked and politicians made responded with corrective action.
What is interesting to me as a foreigner is that everybody is down on america and its government
on the NSA issue. Where have you been people: Where were you when it mattered?
1. The patriot act had widespread public support at the time. So do not say you did not see it
coming. Blame yourselves, not the government or at least take part of the responsibility.
2. People stil believe we go to war to "save the people against oppression" and never not protest
against going to war because "America is always right" attitude.
"[S]urveillance isn't about Big Brother, it's about trying to contain terrorism
using an alternate way to war."
It's stunning that some people are willing to allow the government to violate their Fourth
Amendment rights. If folks think that the electronic data collection of 300 million innocent
people (and everyone abroad) is about finding "a terrorist," think again.
"This executive fiat of 2001 violated not just the fourth amendment, but also Fisa rules at
the time, which made it a felony – carrying a penalty of $10,000 and five years in prison for
each and every instance. The supposed oversight, combined with enabling legislation – the Fisa
court, the congressional committees – is all a KABUKI DANCE, predicated on the national security
claim that we need to find a threat.
"The reality is, they just want it all, period.
"To an NSA with these unwarranted powers, we're all potentially guilty; we're all potential
suspects until we prove otherwise. That is what happens when the government has all the data.
"The NSA is wiring the world; they want to own internet. I didn't want to be part of the dark
blanket that covers the world, and Edward Snowden didn't either.
"What Edward Snowden has done is an amazingly brave and courageous act of civil disobedience."
CathySan Jose, Costa Rica
"Low on fuel" ? The Bolivian plane was denied airspace. Snowden must have incredible information
for the US government to be this desperate!
jjames at replicountsPhiladelphia, PA
In the U.S. in 21st century so far, terrorists have killed fewer than 1% of the people killed
in traffic accidents -- and this comparison includes all of the murders on September 11, 2001.
We must protect ourselves, but not out of all proportion to the risk.
NSA spying and other security excesses are not harmless if you have nothing to hide. This level
of spying and infrastructure can easily result in a tiny, secret, self-interested group controlling
the real direction of this society, with no serious accountability.
Just when the Snowden spy saga needs comic relief to counter Washington's bad-tempered diplomacy,
in walks Russian president Vladimir Putin with his own way of describing what might be in the whole
deal for Moscow – "it's like shearing a pig – lots of screams, but little wool."
Clearly the Russian leader thought he could indulge in such colourful language because for the
benefit of the international throngs following the story, he had just answered the 'where's Wally'
question – indeed, Mr Snowden was still at Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport; though in the transit area
which, technically, meant he was not in the country.
... ... ...
There were signs that Washington is issuing chill pills to senior officials.
Couching his words in the terms in which indignant Chinese and Russian officials used to reject
his hot-headed comments of Monday, a more measured US Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters
in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia: "We're not looking for a confrontation. We're not ordering anybody. We are
simply requesting under a very normal procedure for the transfer of somebody.
"I would simply appeal for calm and reasonableness at a moment when we don't need to raise the
level of confrontation over something as frankly basic and normal as this."
With so many people in different time zones having their tuppence worth, it was though everyone
was speaking at once. And in that context Kerry's Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov, wasn't buying
the new Mr Kerry tone.
"We consider the attempts to accuse Russia of violations of US laws and even some sort of conspiracy
which, on top of all that, are accompanied by threats, as absolutely ungrounded and unacceptable,"
Mr Lavrov told reporters in Moscow.
"There are no legal grounds for such conduct [by] US officials."
The president arrives in Northern Ireland early Monday morning to begin an intense three days
of behind-the-scenes diplomacy and very-public speechmaking to culminate in what the White House
hopes is a spectacular address at the eastern side of the historic Brandenburg Gate in Berlin. The
crowd for that could top 200,000. But more important for Obama may be the smaller one-on-one sessions
when he is expected to face tough questions about the surveillance disclosures and the evolving U.S.
policy on Syria.
Those would come at Lough Erne Resort, a golf resort nestled between two lakes near Enniskillen
in Northern Ireland, site of this year's G-8 Summit. Obama is almost certain to hear complaints from
several of the allied leaders upset at public disclosure that the FBI and National Security Agency
collected data on private calls made by citizens, including those using major internet servers in
Europe. Since the disclosure, the complaints have been loudest in Germany, France and Italy. But
a nerve was struck across the continent, with Europe long more concerned about privacy than the United
States and long annoyed that Europeans had to rely on Internet servers maintained by U.S. companies
such as Google and Facebook.
Peter Schaar, Germany's freedom of information commissioner, told Reuters he wanted "clarity"
from the United States "regarding these monstrous allegations of total monitoring of various
telecommunications and Internet services." Another German official has called for a boycott
of the companies. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is running for reelection, has said she will
raise the issue with Obama this week either at Lough Erne or in Berlin.
"The most upset party in all of this, I think, is the Germans," said Michael J. Geary, an assistant
professor at Maastricht University in the Netherlands and an expert on Europe. "The Germans were
the most snooped-upon country, apparently, in March. In a country where memories of the former East
German Stasi are still quite fresh, the response has been quite critical." Geary described Europeans
as "peeved" and "quite annoyed" at the U.S. actions and said they have the potential to set back
sensitive trade negotiations and do damage to transatlantic relations. "It's a major PR disaster
for the administration," he said. "Now, they have really lost the moral high ground."
Among the questions Obama will face, said Geary, is how much of this information was gathered
"simply for security or is it being used for economic advantage in the United States?"
Heather Conley, director of the Europe Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies,
said she expects the European leaders to be "extremely vocal about their concerns" privately. She
said the disclosures could prove to be "a major stumbling block" for successful trade talks and revive
European concerns about privacy. "Public opinion on this is actually quite strong in Europe," she
The White House anticipates the questions. "We certainly understand that, like the United States,
countries in Europe have significant interests in privacy and civil liberties," said Ben Rhodes of
the National Security Council.
"So we will want to hear their questions and have an exchange about these programs and other
counterterrorism programs that we pursue in the United States and in partnership." But Rhodes
stressed to reporters at the White House that the president will defend the program as "a tool
that is essential to our shared security."
"He'll be able to discuss with the other leaders the importance of these programs in terms
of our counterterrorism efforts in particular, the constraints and safeguards that we place on
these programs so that they have oversight against potential abuses."
No meeting with another leader at the summit is more eagerly anticipated than Obama's session
with Vladimir Putin, who is back as president of Russia and back at the G-8 summit for the first
time since George W. Bush was the U.S. president. Putin and Obama have had a particularly rocky relationship,
with Putin never missing a chance to tweak or embarrass Obama. And when they sit down Monday evening
at Lough Erne, they will face a crowded agenda, including the surveillance program, Syria, Afghanistan,
trade, human rights and arms control.
In his comments this week, Putin has offered a modest defense of the surveillance program, suggesting
it is understandable if done legally. But he cast the Kremlin as more law-abiding and more sensitive
to privacy concerns than his American counterparts. "Such methods are in demand," Putin told RT,
Russia's English-language satellite news channel.
"But you can't just listen to the phone call in Russia; you need a special order from court.
This is how it should be done in civilized society while tackling terrorism with the use of any
technical means. If it is in the framework of the law, then it's OK. If not, it is unacceptable."
Massive data collection by the NSA comes down much heavier on the cost side of the ledger than
Senator Frank Church, spied on by the NSA
Polls show that a majority of Americans rhetorically oppose the extensive domestic surveillance
conducted by the National Security Agency (NSA). But the outrage is far less than one might expect,
considering the agency's profound intrusion into people's private spheres.
One explanation for this might be that, in the age of Facebook and Google, people are simply used
to the massive sharing of information as a condition for using social media services. The currency
is information, not money-a price many citizens seem to be very willing to pay.
Many might also think that they are simply not affected by the extensive collection of data-and
even if they are, it is unclear why they, innocent citizens with "nothing to hide," should be concerned.
After all, the collection is done for the sake of security, a value many are willing to pay for with
But the many recent revelations fueled
by the documents provided by Edward Snowden have cast serious doubt on these arguments. Even for
people who hold the very modern assumption that privacy is not a value in itself-as "old fashioned"
people might argue-there are much broader consequences of the intrusion that must be considered.
Let's first look at the domestic problems of the massive data collection.
Even for ordinary Americans, assenting to this massive intrusion of privacy requires enormous
trust in the government, which is not supported by historic experience with the NSA. As it increasingly
becomes an independent actor, surveillance can become a purpose in and of itself, or even a political
Only 50 years ago, the NSA massively spied on protesters who organized against the Vietnam War.
The NSA - yes, the very same institution we are discussing today - even spied on
two sitting U.S. senators who criticized the war. You don't even have to agree with the anti-war
movement of the 60s and 70s to be deeply appalled that the NSA previously spied on elected representatives
of the American people.
"If there's a lesson to be learned from all this, when we are dealing with a non-transparent society
such as the intelligence community that has a vast amount of power, then abuses can and usually do
Matthew Aid, an intelligence historian specializing in the NSA.
There is no guarantee your data can't be used against you in the future. And unlike paper documents
back then that could be burned, the Internet hardly forgets.
This massive data collection also weakens the Fourth Estate and civil society, two key institutions
in the separation of power in liberal democracies. It becomes harder for journalists to provide credible
protection of sources when informants must always be afraid that each digital move is being monitored
and even phone records could be seized, as has been the case for the
Civil society loses its ability to challenge the government when citizens no longer have untapped
channels to speak truth to power as whistleblowers. Given what torments whistleblowers are now made
to endure, will the next Daniel Ellsberg or Chelsea Manning lose the courage to speak up? By prosecuting
an unprecedented number of whistleblowers, the Obama administration has sent a clear signal about
what it is willing to do when someone reveals a secret connected to the massively collected data.
Moreover, besides these potential domestic threats, the costs of the NSA's "institutional
obsession" with surveillance have today reached an international scale.
The documents released by Edward Snowden helped reveal that the U.S. was spying on
35 world leaders, as well as
institutions like the UN, the EU, and millions of foreign citizens.
The cost in U.S. credibility and soft power must not be underestimated. Brazil's president canceled
a recent meeting with the President Obama, and Germany and Brazil are pushing for a
UN resolution, obviously addressed at the United States, to outlaw state intrusion on private
If the U.S. ever had any credibility in criticizing other countries for violating privacy
and misusing intelligence, it is now irreversibly gone. Several diplomatic initiatives, like the
trade talks with the EU, could be hampered as fallout of the revelations.
For all these costs, how much security did the program actually bring to the American people?
It is important to note that even the core argument of the NSA and the Obama Administration-security-is
on shaky ground.
"We've heard over and over again the assertion that 54 terrorist plots were thwarted" by the two
said Sen. Patrick Leahy, who had the opportunity to read a classified list concerning the benefits
of the NSA's surveillance. "That's plainly wrong, but we still get it in letters to members of Congress,
we get it in statements. These weren't all plots and they weren't all thwarted. The American people
are getting left with the inaccurate impression of the effectiveness of NSA programs."
It is the very narrow dominant security narrative since 9/11
that irrationally portrays external terroristic threats as the major danger for security and aggressive
measures like extensive spying as solutions. This overlooks the fact that human security has many
more facets like shelter, healthcare and a sustainable environment. The Institute for Policy Studies
uses the term "just
security" to draw attention to this.
In the political climate in the U.S., even the right to carry a weapon for self-defense-against
one's fellow citizens as well as, its backers say, the government itself - is so sacrosanct that
thousands of deaths are accepted for it each year. It seems absurd that the right to privacy enjoys
so little priority.
So the massive collection of data weakens the media and civil society, concentrates the power
of information in the hands of few, and creates a powerful secretive institution that damages America's
standing on the diplomatic stage. In return the American people get some unverifiable claims about
terrorist plots that may have been disrupted, and even that seems like a stretch.
Not convinced about the highly problematic nature of massive data collection and the NSA? We will
see what revelations are yet to come.
Moritz Laurer is an intern at Foreign Policy in Focus.
In a big data world, we have our first global big data scandal. It seems the 'Basketballer-in-chief'
who was a liberal dream in 2008, would make an Orwellian bureaucrat from 1984 blush with his ambitious
Presented with the most unpalatable development in a generation, President Hollande
of France has led vitriolic condemnation of the USA's addiction to espionage.
There are those who might argue that being a mono-superpower world, the American empire, at, or
around, the height of its unchallenged superpower status, has a right to collate whatever data it
can. This, after all was standard practice in the 19th century, why not scale the same thing for
the digital era? Meanwhile, allies cry with the sort of anguish which demonstrates a real concern
on their part. Mostly it is the concern that voters might oust, say, Mrs Merkel in her looming general
election as all her claims of being a great US ally have proven as vapid as her supposed European
crisis resolution skills.
Widespread spying is nothing new. It's just the scale of digital equipment in the age of big data
that makes it appear so remarkable. Only a couple of decades ago, the British government, while negotiating
with Ulster's terrorists to bring peace to the province, chided their Irish counterparts to improve
security standards as their codes were so simple London found it easy to read sensitive Dublin government
LONDON (AP) -- The saga of Edward Snowden and the NSA makes
one thing clear: The United States' central role in developing the Internet and hosting its most
powerful players has made it the global leader in the surveillance game.
Other countries, from dictatorships to democracies, are also avid snoopers, tapping into the high-capacity
fiber optic cables to intercept Internet traffic, scooping their citizens' data off domestic servers,
and even launching cyberattacks to win access to foreign networks.
But experts in the field say that Silicon Valley has made America a surveillance superpower,
allowing its spies access to massive mountains of data being collected by the world's leading communications,
social media, and online storage companies. That's on top of the United States' fiber optic
infrastructure - responsible for just under a third of the world's international Internet capacity,
according to telecom research firm TeleGeography - which allows it to act as a global postmaster,
complete with the ability to peek at a big chunk of the world's messages in transit.
"The sheer power of the U.S. infrastructure is that quite often data would be routed though
the U.S. even if it didn't make geographical sense," Joss Wright, a researcher with the Oxford
Internet Institute, said in a telephone interview. "The current status quo is a huge benefit to the
The status quo is particularly favorable to America because online spying drills into people's
private everyday lives in a way that other, more traditional forms of espionage can't match. So countries
like Italy, where a culture of rampant wiretapping means that authorities regularly eavesdrop on
private conversations, can't match the level of detail drawn from Internet searches or email traffic
"It's as bad as reading your diary," Wright said. Then he corrected himself: "It's FAR WORSE
than reading your diary. Because you don't write everything in your diary."
Although the details of how the NSA's PRISM program draws its data from these firms remain shrouded
in secrecy, documents leaked by spy agency systems analyst Edward Snowden to the Guardian and The
Washington Post newspapers said its inside track with U.S. tech firms afforded "one of the most valuable,
unique, and productive" avenues for intelligence-gathering. How much cooperation America's Internet
giants are giving the government in this inside track relationship is a key unanswered question.
Whatever the case, the pool of information in American hands is vast. Redmond, Washington-based
Microsoft Corp. accounts for more than 90 percent of the world's desktop computer operating systems,
according to one industry estimate. Mountain View, California-based Google Inc. carries two-thirds
of the world's online search traffic, analysts say. Menlo Park, California-based Facebook Inc. has
some 900 million users - a figure that accounts for a third of the world's estimated 2.7 billion
The pool of information in American hands is vast. Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft Corp. accounts
for more than 90 percent of the world's desktop computer operating systems, according to one industry
estimate. Mountain View, California-based Google Inc. carries two-thirds of the world's online search
traffic, analysts say. Menlo Park, California-based Facebook Inc. has some 900 million users - a
figure that accounts for a third of the world's estimated 2.7 billion Internet-goers.
Electronic eavesdropping is, of course, far from an exclusively American pursuit. Many other nations
pry further and with less oversight.
China and Russia have long hosted intrusive surveillance regimes. Russia's "SORM," the Russian-language
acronym for System for Operational-Investigative Activities, allows government officials to directly
access nearly every Internet service provider in the country. Initially set up to allow the FSB,
the successor organization to the KGB, unfettered access to Russia's Internet traffic, the scope
of SORM has grown dramatically since Vladimir Putin took power in 2000 and now allows a wide range
law enforcement agencies to monitor Russians' messages.
In China, surveillance is "pervasive, extensive, but perhaps not as high-tech" as in the United
States, said Andrew Lih, a professor of journalism at American University in Washington. He said
major Internet players such as microblogging service Sina, chat service QQ, or Chinese search giant
Baidu were required to have staff - perhaps as many as several hundred people - specially tasked
with carrying out the state's bidding, from surveillance to censorship.
What sets America apart is that it sits at the center of gravity for much of world's social media,
communications, and online storage.
Americans' "position in the network, the range of services that they offer globally, the size
of their infrastructure, and the amount of bandwidth means that the U.S. is in a very privileged
position to surveil internationally," said Wright. "That's particularly true when you're talking
about cloud services such as Gmail" - which had 425 million active users as of last year.
Many are trying to beat America's tech dominance by demanding that U.S. companies open local branches
- something the Turkish government recently asked of San Francisco-based Twitter Inc., for example
- or by banning them altogether. Santa Clara, California-based WhatsApp, for example, may soon be
prohibited in Saudi Arabia.
Governments are also racing to capture traffic as it bounces back and forth from California, importing
bulk surveillance devices, loosening spy laws, and installing centralized monitoring centers to offer
officials a one-stop shop for intercepted data.
"Eventually, it won't just be Big Brother," said Richard J. Aldrich, the author of a book about
Britain's GCHQ eavesdropping agency. "There will be hundreds of little brothers."
But the siblings have a lot of catching up to do if they want to match surveillance powers of
the United States, and some have turned to cyberespionage to try to even the playing field. A high-profile
attack on Gmail users in 2010, for example, was blamed on Chinese hackers, while suspicion for separate
2011 attack on various U.S. webmail services fell on Iran.
But even in the dark arts of cyberespionage, America seems to have mastered the field. Washington
is blamed for launching the world's first infrastructure-wrecking super worm, dubbed Stuxnet, against
Iran and for spreading a variety of malicious software programs across the Middle East. One U.S.
general recently boasted of hacking his enemies in Afghanistan.
In his comments to the South China Morning Post, Snowden said Americans had broken into computer
systems belonging to a prominent Chinese research university, a fiber optic cable company and Chinese
"We hack everyone everywhere," Snowden said.
U.S. officials haven't exactly denied it.
"You're commuting to where the information is stored and extracting the information from the adversaries'
network," ex-NSA chief Michael Hayden told Bloomberg Businessweek earlier this year. "We are the
best at doing it. Period."
Politicians in Germany, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Belgium, and Romania are among those
to have called for an investigation into PRISM at a European level. German privacy chief Peter Schaar
has demanded that the U.S. government "provide clarity" regarding what he described as "monstrous
allegations of total monitoring of various telecommunications and Internet services." And Schaar
has been backed up by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who plans to raise the issue when she meets
in Berlin with President Obama next week. Further afield, Canadian and Australian officials have
also been voicing their concerns-with Ontario privacy chief Ann Cavoukian calling the disclosures
about PRISM "breathtaking" and "staggering."
For decades, spy agencies have conducted surveillance of overseas communications as part of their
intelligence-gathering mission. But as the U.N. special envoy on free speech noted in an unprecedented
report published last week, new technologies have changed the game. Tools available to governments
today enable a more ubiquitous form of surveillance than ever before-all happening under a veil of
intense secrecy and beyond public oversight-and that is precisely the danger with PRISM. U.S. companies
have been strong-armed into complying with U.S. espionage, undermining the civil liberties of everyone
who uses these services. No longer is foreign surveillance targeted at specific channels of diplomatic
communication or aimed at particular suspects-it is much broader than that, capable of sweeping up
data on millions or even billions of citizens' communications. Edward Snowden, the NSA whistle-blower
behind the disclosure of PRISM, has alleged that the agency "specifically targets the communications
Clapper, the U.S. director of national intelligence, said Thursday that the intelligence community
was "committed to respecting the civil liberties and privacy of all American citizens." But the U.S.
government claims to endorse the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which makes it clear that
all citizens-not just American citizens-have a right not to be subjected to "arbitrary interference"
with "privacy, family, home or correspondence." And that is exactly the problem with the NSA's PRISM:
it puts the universal right to privacy through the shredder, and encourages other governments to
do the same.
Angela Merkel and Barack Obama: 'It is the responsibility of the German government to see to it that
the programmes of the NSA and GCHQ no longer process the data of German citizens.' Photograph: Breul-Bild/Juri
"Germany's security is being defended in the Hindu Kush, too," said Peter Struck,
who was Germany's defence minister at the time,
in 2002. If that's
true, then the government should also be expected to defend the security of its people at their own
doorstep. Because the massive
sniffing out and saving of data of all kinds – that of citizens and businesses, newspapers, political
parties, government agencies – is in the end just that: a question of security. It is about the principles
of the rule of law. And it is a matter of national security.
We live in changing times. At the beginning of last week, we thought after the announcement of
the American Prism programme that President Barack Obama was the sole boss of the largest and most
extensive control system in human history. That was an error.
Since Friday, we have known that the British intelligence agency GCHQ is "worse
than the United States". Those are the words of Edward Snowden, the IT expert who uncovered the
most serious surveillance scandal of all time. American and British intelligence agencies are monitoring
all communication data. And what does our chancellor do? She says: "The internet is uncharted territory
for us all."
That's not enough. In the coming weeks, the German government needs to show that it is bound to
its citizens and not to an intelligence-industrial complex that abuses our entire lives as some kind
of data mine. The justice minister, Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, hit the right note when
she said she was shocked by this "Hollywood-style nightmare".
We have Snowden to thank for this insight into the interaction of an uncanny club, the
Alliance of Five Eyes. Since the second world war, the five Anglo-Saxon countries of Great Britain,
the United States, Australia, New Zealand and Canada have maintained close intelligence co-operation,
which apparently has got completely out of control.
It may be up to the Americans and the British to decide how they handle questions of freedom and
the protection of their citizens from government intrusion. But they have no right to subject
the citizens of other countries to their control. The shoulder-shrugging explanation by Washington
and London that they have operated within the law is absurd. They are not our laws. We didn't make
them. We shouldn't be subject to them.
The totalitarianism of the security mindset protects itself with a sentence: if you have nothing
to hide, you have nothing to fear. But first, that contains a presumption: we have not asked
the NSA and GCHQ to "protect" us. And second, the sentence is a stupid one: because we all have something
to hide, whether it pertains to our private lives or to our business secrets.
Thus the data scandal doesn't pertain just to our legal principles, but to our security as well.
We were lucky that Snowden, who revealed the spying to the entire world, is not a criminal, but an
idealist. He wanted to warn the world, not blackmail it. But he could have used his information for
criminal purposes, as well. His case proves that no agency in the world can guarantee the security
of the data it collects – which is why no agency should collect data in such abundance in the first
That is the well-known paradox of totalitarian security policy. Our security is jeopardised
by the very actions that are supposed to protect it.
So what should happen now? European institutions must take control of the data infrastructure
and ensure its protection. The freedom of data traffic is just as important as the European freedom
of exchange in goods, services and money. But above all, the practices of the Americans and British
must come to an end. Immediately.
It is the responsibility of the German government to see to it that the programmes of the NSA
and GCHQ no longer process the data of German citizens and companies without giving them the opportunity
for legal defense. A government that cannot make that assurance is failing in one of its fundamental
obligations: to protect its own citizens from the grasp of foreign powers.
Germans should closely observe how Angela Merkel now behaves. And if the opposition Social Democrats
and Green party are still looking for a campaign issue, they need look no further.
'Shut the F***! UP or we will black bag you and drag your arse off to Guantanamo'
Wrapped in a democratic wrapper. Report Share this comment on Twitter Share this comment on
Good post except for the democratic bit.
I don't think anyone thinks that the USA is a democracy anymore.
It isn't one and it never has been as the constitution makes pretty clear.
Since 1941 the US has been more of an Empire and less of a Republic.
The Republic died sometime between the years 1962 and 1975.
The US and Britain claim they have operated within the law. But they are not our laws and we
shouldn't be subject to them This is a punishable transgression and attempt to corrupt the relationship
between 'LORDS' and vassals!
I vaugely recall reading that in some EU negotiaion or other, in the 80's, Britain's casue
was helped by having a suspiciously accurate insight into what the German position was.
F##k fibre interception. Time machines!
before Tempora there was Echelon
I think that the majority of rational people in Western countries have rejected the Guardian/Greenwald
base delusional perception that a majority of people will be offended by this relatively unobtrusive
intelligence gathering which is so clearly designed to prevent terrorist atrocities.
Strange that The Guardian doesn't see that it is flogging a dead horse.
Strummered -> RueTheDay
I think you really must try harder. Look around you at the global response to these revelations,
not least from national governments.
kagaka -> DavidC012
Its my technical understanding that snooping happened at data exchanges in the UK which are
governed by EU law.
Same for us here in Canada but the Government is way to scared of the USA to do anything against
USA laws. USA laws supercede any International Laws.
Anything 'we' do is intelligence gathering and necessary for self-defence. Anything 'they'
do is spying.
The Germans may be a little more sensitive to Governments compiling information on them as
the Stasi would have embraced the internet and sought to monitor social networking sites.
However the problem is that the information is in free flow on the internet for anyone with
access. PRISM is a little different and the EU will probably be looking at how EU citizens' data
might be better protected if stored in the EU and not anywhere else and to which the USA et al
couldn't have access.
No doubt China, Russia, etc will also be reviewing the state of play.
Can data be corralled that easily, or does it tend to slosh around the world willy nilly, flaunting
itself for anyone who might want a peep?
Data flows like water on the internet, so as best to avoid obstacles. It's perfectly possible
for Germany to keep internal German data within Germany, or for the rest of Europe to keep their
internal data routed within Europe, away from the US and UK, in the same way a company can keep
it's communications internal. However they'd also have to set up internal alternative services
such as social media.
A better approach may be to teach encryption, computer security and privacy practices at school.
To understand the full scope of this (it far exceeds "metadata") requires inclusion of the
role of Britain's spy agency GCHQ
Essentially it is the greatest theft of property (communications are property) in human
"One key innovation has been GCHQ's ability to tap into and store huge volumes of data drawn
from fibre-optic cables for up to 30 days so that it can be sifted and analysed. That operation,
codenamed Tempora, has been running for some 18 months.
GCHQ and the NSA are consequently able to access and process vast quantities of communications
between entirely innocent people, as well as targeted suspects.
This includes recordings of phone calls, the content of email messages, entries on Facebook
and the history of any internet user's access to websites – all of which is deemed legal, even
though the warrant system was supposed to limit interception to a specified range of targets."
His case proves that no agency in the world can guarantee the security of the data it collects
– which is why no agency should collect data in such abundance in the first place. Well, quite.
What's more amazing is the fact that they are calling him a spy -- for revealing the fact that
the NSA and GCHQ have been, for all intents and purposes, spying. It's rather sad that of all
the people who had access to the stuff Snowdon had access to over the past decade, he's the only
one to have blown the whistle. Didn't George Orwell say something along the lines that when you
live in a time of universal deceit, even simple truth-telling becomes (or seems) an act of revolutionary
insurgency? What a world we live in.
If we really are spying on the Germans, we should be able to construct a profitable manufacturing
TucholskyfuerArme -> simbasdad
Remember, the UK has a service based economy. So your 1% are selling it to the highest bidder
and then evade any taxes on it....
GM Potts -> simbasdad
Given that Boeing had full access to Airbus communications then they must be really shit engineers
to have built the Bad Dreamliner.
Is there no end to these articles that appeal to the hysteria and mob-think here?
In the USA the whole Snowden affair is largely being treated as a "where in the world is Waldo?"
paper chase. Americans have discovered that there is indeed life after the NSA reads - or doesn't
read - their e-mails, and the whole overwrought response is simply ludicrous.
All that remains to know now is whether (a) Snowden actually had access to information that
could really result in significant risk to others (b) if so, will he reveal it in a final flame-out?
In the meantime, his reliance on beacons of transparency, fair play, internet access, and democracy
such as China, Russia, Cuba (perhaps) and Ecuador (perhaps) has made him into a joke.
PeopleOverWallSt -> SantaMoniker
"This is old news and is not a threat - therefore Snowden should be prosecuted as a spy, because
he revealed nothing that is important at all! "
SantaMoniker -> PeopleOverWallSt
No - he should be prosecuted for revealing state secrets after he took an oath not to do so,
regardless of the degree to which his revelations are important.
So far, I have seen nothing that he has revealed that makes me feel less secure or that could
have aided anyone interested in attacking America.
Only an idiot - and there seem to be many of them on these threads - would assume that the
spy agency (or agencies) was (were) not spying.
Anyone able to mount a credible threat to the USA would certainly assume they are, and they
could not care one way or another whether the program was called PRISM or anything else, or what
the Fisa documents say or permit. It is so reminiscent of the Casablanca line - "I'm shocked
- shocked" that it really quite funny.
The only question remaining is whether, in order to enhance his reputation as a danger to the
US, he - or Greenwald - actually reveals names of operatives or other information that could seriously
endanger someone or impede security activity.
In the meantime - the media will simply play "where in the World is Waldo Snowden?" since there
really isn't much else going on except the slaughter in Syria and the riots in Brazil - the latter
something I note that ex-pat Greenwald remains studiously indifferent to.
Germans should closely observe how Angela Merkel now behaves. And if the opposition Social
Democrats and Green party are still looking for a campaign issue, they need look no further.
We read, here in America, that German luxury cars are given as gifts to especially pernicious
Face it: all the governments of the world have declared war- against their own citizens.
Well that may be so, LakerFan, and it's easy to poke fun at the Snowden affair from many
angles, but I, for one, do not like the idea of any Agency anywhere, governmental or private,
reading my e-mails and monitoring my calls. The mantra 'If something can be done it will
be done' plus Moore's Law suggests to me that it may not be a bad idea to take President Obama
up on his 'Welcome a debate' remark.
So the British Empire never died - it just went online. Hurrah for the five eyes on which the
sun never sets....
CC0564 -> Paul_lgnotus
They stopped gold digging and started data mining.
And for fun they shoot at paper tigers. Or maybe that is the whole point of this new empire:
create new enemies. It is a great money spinner.
But they have no right to subject the citizens of other countries to their control.
The problem, though, is that this inference is actually an open question and has been since
the Treaty of Westphalia ... especially with respect to spying
While one can argue that the "binding customary principles of territorial sovereign equality
and nonintervention, by the comity of nations," as one Canadian court put it, prohibits the collection
of intelligence by one nation-state against another without its consent ... there are few treaties
on the books where states have explicitly abrogated their powers to collect foreign intelligence.
More importantly, I'm not aware of any treaties that have established an enforcement mechanism
to see to it that countries are punished when they spy against one another.
Indeed most treaties that recognize the broad principal that "No one shall be subjected
to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence." See Article
12, Declaration of Human Rights and Article 8 of the ECHR also recognize the broad principle that
"Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person." The tension between liberty
and security that we see in domestic law is right there in international law. Yet, that tension
has come about without the member states completely ceding their individual liberty to breach
any of these rights that we see reflected in domestic law.
For example, the Rome Statute that established the ICC explicitly excludes delicts against
privacy from its jurisdiction.
Which returns us to sovereignty--IT is the core problem here. In a system of international
anarchy, governments are effectively at liberty to keep secrets from one another and they are
at liberty to try to discover each others' secrets. Until they are willing to yield both liberties
to a higher authority, your protestations against individual citizens getting caught up in the
mix of international espionage will not be remedied ...
truthpleasestoplies -> Comrade2070
And we come back to Adolf Hitler:
Right, Law, Justice, agreements are for the weak. The powerful one does not need them as he
and his power authorize themselves. (in the Nietzschean version of it adopted by Nazism)
But was then Nazism defeated only to occupy the ueberalles place it had outlined and the principles
it had chosen? Was eventually Adolf Hitler right in the concept but wrong in the identity of the
one country which would incarnate it? The power-and-no-rights followers and countries, though
not me, are on his side and his heirs.
Is the truth even more simple and Nazism the real engine of the empires of 19th century which
existed before and continued after Hitler?
Despite the formal explanation, Hong Kong officials also indicated displeasure over Mr. Snowden's
revelation that the semi-autonomous Chinese city had been a target of American hacking. The government
noted that it asked the U.S. for more information on the issue, suggesting it played some role in
Some observers believe the move to allow Mr. Snowden to leave Hong Kong was orchestrated by China
to avoid a prolonged diplomatic tussle with the U.S. over his extradition. Mr. Snowden also claimed
that the U.S. accessed private text messages after hacking into mobile phone companies in China.
The U.S. has long complained that it has been a victim of Chinese computer-based attacks.
Hong Kong lawmaker and lawyer Albert Ho, who had represented Mr. Snowden, said an intermediary
who claimed to represent the government had relayed a message to Mr. Snowden saying he was free to
leave and should do so.
"The entire decision was probably made in Beijing and Beijing decided to act on its best interests,"
he told reporters. "However, Beijing would not want to be seen on stage because it would affect Sino-U.S.
relations. That's why China has somebody acting in the background."
What is Snowden's life like in hiding?
The cramped conditions of staying in the home of a local Hong Kong supporter didn't bother Mr.
Snowden, his lawyer told The New York Times – so long as he had access to his computer.
In fact, Mr. Ho said, the one thing that scares him most about the idea of prison is of losing
his computer. "If you were to deprive him of his computer, that would be totally intolerable," Mr.
Was Snowden hiding in plain sight?
Though Mr. Snowden is going to great lengths to avoid detection (Mr. Ho told The New York Times,
for example, that all visitors are asked to hide their cellphones in the refrigerator to prevent
eavesdropping), at least a few journalists have had better luck.
Even while fleeing extradition, Mr. Snowden has granted interviews to The Guardian and The South
China Morning Post newspapers – essentially hiding in plain sight of officials.
For The Guardian, he even agreed to be filmed on video and then last week participated in a live
"Q&A" session with Guardian readers.
"I believe in freedom of expression," he told the Post. "I acted in good faith but it is only
right that the public form its own opinion."
Journalists strike out on Aeroflot Flight 180
After word leaked that Mr. Snowden would fly from Moscow to Havana on Monday, journalists who
had been searching for him at Sheremetyevo International Airport rushed to book seats on Aeroflot
Flight 180. However, he was not on board.
To make matters worse, there are no alcohol sales aboard the nearly 12-hour flight and the reporters
must spend three days in Cuba before they can leave because of the country's travel rules.
The WikiLeaks connection
The ongoing NSA drama has led to a strategic alliance between Mr. Snowden and the anti-secrecy
activist group WikiLeaks. The arrangement has allowed WikiLeaks – whose founder Julian Assange
has been in refuge at the Ecuadorian embassy for over a year – to share in Mr. Snowden's media spotlight,
and also given Mr. Snowden access to the expertise and resources that the international organization
has gained over the years.
Mr. Assange said that Mr. Snowden had approached the activist group over a week ago for its help,
and they have since been providing legal and logistical support. On Sunday, Ecuadorean foreign minister
Ricardo Patiño Aroca said the country had received an asylum application from Mr. Snowden.
new series, Comment is free writers and editors want to highlight some of the best comments on
the site. Each week, either an editor or the author of a recent piece will pick a comment that they
think contributes to the debate. Hopefully, it will give staff and readers an opportunity to see
how thought-provoking such contributions can be and allow great posts the chance to be seen by a
Where is the outrage over Prism in Australia? In the same place as Australian outrage over
Echelon. Next to the US, Australia is probably the second most insular "western" democracy in
the world. And even more ready to believe that it's all about foreigners, which doesn't include
them but does include anybody slightly brown tinged or with a funny accent on the continent, than
I was talking to a (typically) frighteningly casual racist Australian yesterday. And he was
genuinely convinced that NSA would only be spying on "immigrant darkies" in Australia. He couldn't
grasp the concept that TCP/IP and the ISO communications model don't have an ethnic identification
layer. And the NSA don't (can't) racially profile meta data.
Antony explains why he picked this comment:
One of the constant refrains about the Snowden revelations, from supporters of unaccountable
surveillance, is that the state and authorities would never peek into lives that have no connection
to terrorism. Or that Washington has a watertight court oversight (Glenn Greenwald
demolished that lie recently). The commenter understands that the post 9/11 world has seen
development of a massive, privatised system of monitoring and gathering metadata on us all. Alas,
I have to agree that insularity is an Australian speciality (not unique to us, alas). These Prism
revelations should alarm politicians and media but far too many of them are sucking on the drip-feed
of sanctioned US government and intelligence leaks and information to care. The online rage against
the Obama administration recently shows that many in the public are demanding action.
○ concerning the NSA revelations, media blackout has been very successful
only reporting on the US charging Snowden was allowed
you wouldn't be mistaken to assume that news outlets are run directly from NSA offices. technology
is making this possibility a piece of cake ○
in this 'free country' one is only free to acquiesce unquestionably to the instructions coming
ChaseChubby -> Spatial
in this 'free country' one is only free to acquiesce unquestionably to the instructions
coming from Washington
Indeed. Not like the socialist paradises of Venezuela and Cuba. There a person can say what
he thinks without fear. Report Share this comment on Twitter Share this comment on Facebook
Not like the socialist paradises of Venezuela and Cuba. There a person can say what
he thinks without fear
good on you! very 'rational' and adequate response. it doesn't stink of acquiescence at all.
Even accounting for the third party doctrine, how can FISA ordering call data on ALL US calls
be squared with the Fourth Amendment, statutory protections, common law privileges and the rights
of the third parties themselves?
As with the City, so with GCHQ:
Britain's feeble public institutions combined with the global reach of ambitious British-based
interests menace the entire world, not just the basic rights of the British population.
The poorly regulated activities of GCHQ appear to undermine the constitutional protections
enjoyed by citizens in other sovereign states.
The sudden loss of 'plausible deniability' creates for governments around the world a legal
obligation to act.
Voting is of no avail if the population is uninformed or if the activity emanates from another,
As Mr Snowdon put it, it is a case of 'turn-key tyranny', but on a global scale.
Meanwhile, Britain, with its lax constitutional arrangement, serves as the Loophole of the
world, through which other governments circumvent their constitutional protections.
MobiusLoop -> RueTheDay
I prefer to live in a safe society, free of criminals and terrorists. The trade off of
allowing government snooping across the board, to keep me safe is acceptable to me.
The central assumption here is that governments and their agencies always act in a benign manner
yet this very story, the Hillsborough, Lawrence and Tomlinson cases are all clear examples of
areas where there is the danger of and actual misuse of power and where public scrutiny is therefore
essential. Looking at the history of Northern Ireland, Bloody Sunday with subsequent cover up
then internment can seen as examples of the misuse of powers that had the impact of taking a volatile
situation and making it more dangerous. In this case a far greater level of safety was achieved
through open dialogue and an acknowledgement of the underlying economic and political drivers.
For society to remain balanced and safe, there must be limits on power, scrutiny and accountability.
Without checks there is a tendency to drift towards an ever more draconian and I would argue truly
Sentinel001 -> libertarianSW
Good comments, they ( gove, media etc ) are still portraying using Microsoft Windows or Apple
Mac OSX as viable business operating systems.
This is where they capture all of your data from; remember, they ( Microsoft and Apple) gave
the NSA / GCHQ, Five-Eyes Nations, access to zero-day exploits and other Operating System errors
to exploit for commercial gain before telling the public ( whole world who use those operating
systems for their businesses ) about these exploits.
The whole business community around the world need to remove the back-door enabled operating
systems from Microsoft and Apple; Windows and OSX, as this is the only way to guarantee their
own data privacy locally.
Message needs to be spread
libertarianSW -> Sentinel001
Exactly, the US is facing a massive backslash, as you pointed, no body knows the extent and
what else PRISM involved.
It's funny because the US was issuing security warnings about Chinese TELCO's and Chinese made
equipment because of possible back-doors and illegal data collection ...now the US seems to follow
a similar pattern.
I was talking to a (typically) frighteningly casual racist Australian yesterday. And
he was genuinely convinced that NSA would only be spying on "immigrant darkies" in Australia.
This was a great post, and I particularly admire how the poster addressed head-on the most
disturbing essence of this Orwellian dynamic. The sad truth is that the racism expressed in the
quotation is the purest distillation of Martin Niemöller's axiom about who they come for first.
Virtually everything that has unfolded in the post 9/11 world has been an invitation to pit "Us"
against "Them." As long as it is happening to them, the vast majority has not cared how outrageous
the transgressions are or how horrendous the suffering is. I am still struggling with my disappointment
that it took having one's precious cellphone or Facebook page effected to wake up the slumbering
masses to what is going on, but keep coming back to the thought that at least they are waking
Many people use the future tense when talking about what "can" or "might" go wrong if we don't
put a stop to this. That view studiously ignores the thousands who have been tortured and imprisoned,
without trial, and the hundreds of thousands killed in an illegal war.
We should be outraged, but the source of that rage should be fueled by our awareness that others
are already suffering in our name. If we don't want them to come for us, we need to care passionately
that they've already come for others.
I'm always bemused when I see that NSA picture, with it's massive car park. A serious transportation
breakdown would just about scuttle the place. They call that security.
Virtually everything that has unfolded in the post 9/11 world has been an invitation
to pit "Us" against "Them."
By now my dear AhBrightWings you should not be hide bound by that paradigm. I lectured you
enough at Salon to get smart about 9/11Truth. So by now you should have realized that 9/11 was
so arranged by Them, that yahoo nation would be happy with Them pitting themselves against Us.
And now what they were too stupid to see they were sowing - now must yahoo nation reap.
Talk about yahoo, sure to appear:
I prefer to live in a safe society, free of criminals and terrorists. The trade off
of allowing government snooping across the board, to keep me safe is acceptable to me. I
will vote for someone who has my physical security as a primary interest.
I didn't know whether to laugh, spit or cry with despair reading your garbage. The State doesn't
give a flying fuck about your "physical security." They sent many into war to be killed or maimed
on false pretenses didn't they? They put the frightners on you in order that you'll be happily
stupid enough to keep up the protection payments.
There's one born every minute - but I really, really wish there wasn't.
American intelligence whistleblower Edward Snowden may expose top secret Australian intelligence
gathering operations and embarrass Australia's relations with neighbouring Asian countries, Australian
intelligence officials fear.
Former Labor Defence Minister John Faulkner has confirmed that the heads of the Australian Security
Intelligence Organisation and Australia's signals intelligence agency, the Defence Signals Directorate,
David Irvine and Ian McKenzie, have briefed the federal parliament's intelligence committee on the
US PRISM internet surveillance program.
The Australian government would not comment yesterday on whether Mr Snowden's exposés of top secret
US and British intelligence and surveillance programs have been the subject of diplomatic exchanges
between Canberra and Washington. Foreign Minister Bob Carr's office would not say whether he has
had any exchanges with US Secretary of State John Kerry on the subject.
However Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus's office has confirmed that a high level interagency taskforce
is monitoring events and coordinating the government's response.
... ... ...
"Disclosure of highly sensitive collection operations and methodology will damage Australia's
intelligence capabilities. It already has done so. But there's also risk of serious complications
in our relations with our neighbours," one official said.
"The US may be able to brush aside some of the diplomatic fallout from the Snowden leak, but that
may not be the case for Australia. China, Malaysia, other countries may respond to us in ways that
they would not to Washington."
Heh. The govt. was spying on their own people. Snowden's a traitor only if you regard your
citizens as the enemy ..
Nicho, the citizen is always the enemy of the State. The biggest weakness resides within. That
is why a modern political State will move to control the means and methods of violence, to minimise
Today was released that the National Security Agency and the FBI have access to audio, video calls,
pictures, e-mails, documents and connections. The information was revealed by The Washington Post,
this is the first time that something of this scale has become public. The announcement came, unfortunately
for the White House, the same day that [...]
There is outrage over an NSA program that records billions of phone calls by wireless phone users.
Some of the anger is from Congressmen who approved the plan, but never believed it would be exposed.
A far more invasive program, called PRISM, was created by George W. Bush to obtain more power over
the American [...]
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