Hello one and all. This is just a very brief advisory that we are going to be doing some updating to Emptywheel blog today. It should start in the next 30 minutes to hour from the time of this post. The site may be down briefly. Frankly we think we have it slicked out pretty well, but you never know when things hop off the drawing board and into practice.
Even if things go smoothly, as hoped, I am sure there will be some refining and testing to do throughout the day. In that regard, please bear with us and help us by giving us feedback. As always, we are doing the update to give you a better overall experience, so your input is valuable.
Thank you for your patience and assistance. Exciting times!
Also: McCaffrey is our engineer. May be more trouble than originally anticipated.
There was a fascinating panel of Telecom execs and bloggers discussing human rights at RightsCon yesterday. Among others, Verizon Executive Vice President and General Counsel Randal Milch spoke.
As I noted in passing, Verizon published an update to their Transparency Report the other day. Particularly as compared to AT&T’s bogus report, the Verizon report was laudable for its explanation of what it couldn’t show, such as when it acknowledged that its report did not include the hundreds of millions of customers whose records got turned over under Section 215.
We note that while we now are able to provide more information about national security orders that directly relate to our customers, reporting on other matters, such as any orders we may have received related to the bulk collection of non-content information, remains prohibited.
It also acknowledged something obvious but that which should be explicit: when the government obtains content from Verizon, it sometimes gets metadata as well.
Some FISA orders that seek content also seek non-content; we counted those as FISA orders for content and to avoid double counting have not also counted them as FISA orders for non-content.
All this is useful information that lends the report itself credibility.
So when I first approached Milch, I thanked him for the quality of his report.
Which is why I was so surprised when he said the government should be in the business of transparency reports, not the providers. I challenged that, noting that an easy comparison of AT&T and Verizon’s reports strongly suggests that Verizon demands more legal process for requests than AT&T. He dismissed that, suggesting any differences arise from the different kind of client base the providers have.
Granted, Milch was talking about your average consumer, not … me.
But it seemed bizarre. Or perhaps it was a testament that Milch and Verizon generally don’t want to have to compete in this front.
Milch answered one other question of mine: I asked whether the Verizon/Vodaphone split affected Verizon’s obligations to the UK (that is, to GCHQ). He claims it didn’t affect it at all, that it was more an investment stake and that none of Verizon’s cell call records were in the UK. (No, I didn’t point out that the records are right where GCHQ wants them, in places accessible under Tempora).
So at least according to Milch’s claims, my theory laid out here is wrong.
After several days of warnings from both sides not to expect too much from the current round of talks between the P5+1 group of countries and Iran on Iran’s nuclear program, we have word today that the two sides have agreed to the framework under which the negotiations are to proceed. Furthermore, the date for the next formal session has been announced and the head negotiator for the P5+1 side will visit Tehran a week before the full session.
Iran and six world powers ended the opening round of nuclear talks on an upbeat note Thursday, with both sides saying they had agreed on a plan for further negotiations meant to produce a comprehensive deal to set limits on Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.
In a joint statement, they said the next round of negotiations would begin in Vienna on March 17, continuing a process likely to take at least six months and probably longer.
Expectations had been modest as the talks started Tuesday, and the upbeat tone on a framework for future talks appeared aimed in part to encourage skeptics inside and outside Iran that the negotiations had a chance to succeed despite huge gaps between the Iranians and the six powers.
More from Reuters:
“We have had three very productive days during which we have identified all of the issues we need to address in reaching a comprehensive and final agreement,” EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton told reporters.
“There is a lot to do. It won’t be easy but we have made a good start,” said Ashton who speaks on behalf of the six powers – the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany.
Senior diplomats from the six nations, as well as Ashton and Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif will meet again on March 17, also in Vienna, and hold a series of further discussions ahead of the July deadline.
Tehran says its nuclear program has no military aims and has signaled repeatedly it would resist dismantling its nuclear installations as part of any deal.
“I can assure you that no-one had, and will have, the opportunity to impose anything on Iran during the talks,” Zarif told reporters after the Vienna meeting.
A senior U.S. official cautioned their discussions will be “difficult” but the sides were committed to reach a deal soon.
“This will be a complicated, difficult and lengthy process. We will take the time required to do it right,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. “We will continue to work in a deliberate and concentrated manner to see if we can get that job done.”
It is reported in multiple sources (including Fars News), that Catherine Ashton will visit Tehran March 9-10, ahead of the March 17-20 negotiations that will take place in Vienna. It appears that Ashton and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif will be holding monthly meetings as the talks progress.
There are a number of upbeat stories at Mehr News, Fars News and PressTV today about the agreement, although there also is still a story from the head of the IGRC noting that the negotiations are “prone to problems“.
Zarif spoke to reporters in remarks that appear to have been delivered after the press conference:
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif reiterated that Tehran and the world powers didn’t discuss military and scientific issues in their talks, and underlined that Iran will not dismantle any of its nuclear installations.
“We are focused merely on the nuclear issues and the negotiations don’t include defensive and scientific issues and everyone has accepted that Iran’s defensive capability is no the subject for the negotiations,” Zarif said, addressing Iranian reporters in Vienna on Thursday after meeting EU Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton who heads the Group 5+1 (the US, Russia, China, Britain and France plus Germany) delegations in the talks with Iran.
“We won’t close any (nuclear) site and have announced that no one should prescribe anything or dictate a solution to the Iranian nation; the way to ensure the peaceful nature of our program is not closing the sites, rather its peaceful nature should be displayed openly, transparently and based on the international regulations and supervision,” he added.
From those remarks, it appears that Zarif feels that it has been agreed that Iran’s missile program will not be a part of the negotiations. Note also that Iran considers the Parchin site to be a defense installation, so this comment first referring to defense issues being off the table but then talking about openness and transparency seems to be dancing between keeping Parchin off limits to inspectors and opening it. Despite these uncertainties, though, another article from Fars News describing this part of Zarif’s comments has a very interesting passage:
“We agreed that no one ‘surprises’ the other side with new claims,” Zarif said.
That bit must come as a huge disappointment to the crews in Israeli and US intelligence operations who “find” new documents whenever they need to disrupt diplomatic progress.
Last month, I noted that ODNI failed to redact a reference to Verizon in one of the phone dragnet primary orders, which helped to confirm that Verizon was the provider ordered to provide only its domestic or one-end domestic call records to NSA under this order.
I’d like to look at another redaction fail (also, IIRC, pointed out to me Michael) from that document dump.
In the February 25, 2010 order, part of the footnote describing what identifiers NSA can use to contact chain was left unredacted.
The footnote starts on the previous page; this is the end of the description (the big redaction below it modifies one of the terms in the list of terror groups associations).
Given all the discussion about whether NSA does or does not collect cell phone data, I think it of particular interest that IMSI and IMEI — two ways to identify cell phone users — appear in this footnote. It’s actually not clear whether their inclusions mean they can or cannot be used as identifiers.
But there’s reason to believe the footnote says they can be used as identifiers.
The footnote first appeared in the March 5, 2009 order — the first written after Judge Reggie Walton started trying to clean up the dragnet mess.
By that point, NSA had informed Walton that an additional querying tool had regularly accessed the 215 dragnet to perform analysis of certain identifiers.
If an analyst conducted research supported by [redacted] the analyst would receive a generic notification that NSA’s signals intelligence (“SIGINT”) databases contained one or more references to the telephone identifier in which the analyst was interested; a count of how many times the identifier was present in SIGINT databases; the dates of the first and last call events associated with the identifier; a count of how many other unique telephone identifiers had direct contact with the identifier that was the subject of the analyst’s research; the total number of calls made to or from the telephone identifier that was the subject of the analyst’s research; the ratio of the count of total calls to the count of unique contacts; and the amount of time it took to process the analyst’s query.
But this was before NSA explained it treated all correlated identifiers for a particular RAS-approved person as RAS-approved,
The end-to-end review revealed the fact that NSA’s practice of using correlated selectors to query the BR FISA metadata had not been fully described to the Court. A communications address or selector, is considered correlated with other communications addresses when each additional address is shown to identify the same communicant(s) as the original address.
Though it had provided some kind of description of this practice in an August 18, 2008 filing that almost certainly served as back-up for the August 19, 2008 order that first started specifically ordering IMSI and IMEI data.
A description of how [redacted] is used to correlate [redacted] was included in the government’s 18 August 2008 filing to the FISA Court, While NSA previously described to the FISC the ractice of using correlated selectors as seeds, the FISC never addressed whether [redacted] correlated selectors met the RAS standard when any one of the correlated selectors met the RAS standard. A notice was filed with the FISC can this issue on 15 June 2009.
All of which is to say that several of the items discussed during the 2009 review pertained to how NSA tracked identities over time, particularly phone-based identities that spanned multiple cell phones.
Which would explain why it would want to track both phone numbers themselves, but especially the handset and SIM identifiers (though in the case of burner phone “correlation,” those details wouldn’t help to make a match).
None of this should be surprising. As I said, it would be shocking if the nation’s counterterrorism professionals accepted a dragnet with less functionality than the one available to DEA under AT&T’s Hemisphere program, and a key part of that program involves matching cell phone identities (though remember, Hemisphere at least used to permit tracking of geolocation, too).
But assuming that footnote defining “identifier” affirmatively includes IMSI and IMEI as potential identifiers, which would seem logical, it’s yet one more data point showing how central the use of cell phones is to the dragnet.
That still doesn’t mean the NSA collected cell phone data, or collected it from providers besides AT&T and Sprint. But it sure seems to indicate an priority on such data.
It turns out that Mark Kirk — not Bernie Sanders — was the first member of Congress to raise concerns about the NSA spying on Senators after Edward Snowden’s leaks started being published. Kirk did so less than a day after the Guardian published the Verizon order from the phone dragnet, in an Appropriations Committee hearing on the Department of Justice’s budget (see at 2:00). After Susan Collins raised the report in the context of drone killing, Kirk asked for assurances that members of Congress weren’t included in the dragnet.
Kirk: I want to just ask, could you assure to us that no phones inside the Capitol were monitored, of members of Congress, that would give a future Executive Branch if they started pulling this kind of thing up, would give them unique leverage over the legislature?
Holder: With all due respect, Senator, I don’t think this is an appropriate setting for me to discuss that issue–I’d be more than glad to come back in an appropriate setting to discuss the issues that you’ve raised but in this open forum–
Kirk: I’m going to interrupt you and say, the correct answer would say, no, we stayed within our lane and I’m assuring you we did not spy on members of Congress.
The first substantive question Congress asked about the dragnet was whether they were included in it.
After that, a few moments of chaos broke out, as other Senators — including NSA’s representative on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Barb Mikulski — joined in Kirk’s concerns, while suggesting the need for a full classified Senate briefing with the AG and NSA. Richard Shelby jumped in to say Mikulski should create the appropriate hearing, but repeated that what Senator Kirk asked was a very important question. Mikulski agreed that it’s the kind of question she’d like to ask herself. Kirk jumped in to raise further separation of powers concerns, given the possibility that SCOTUS had their data collected.
The very first concern members of Congress raised about the dragnet was how it would affect their power.
And then there was a classified briefing and …
… All that noble concern about separation of power melted away. And some of the same people who professed to have real concern became quite comfortable with the dragnet after all.
It’s in light of that sequence of events (along with Snowden’s claim that Members of Congress are exempt, and details about how data integrity analysts strip certain numbers out of the phone dragnet before anyone contact-chains on it) that led me to believe that NSA gave some assurances to Congress they need not worry that their power was threatened by the phone dragnet.
The best explanation from external appearances was that Congress got told their numbers got protection the average citizen’s did not, perhaps stripped out with all the pizza joints and telemarketers (that shouldn’t have alleviated their concerns, as some of that data has been found sitting on wayward servers with no explanation, but members of Congress can be dumb when they want to be).
And they were happy with the dragnet.
Then, 7 months later, Bernie Sanders started asking similar — but not the same –questions. In a letter to Keith Alexander, he raised several issues:
He even defined what he meant by spying.
“Spying” would include gathering metadata on calls made from official or personal phones, content from websites visited or emails sent, or collecting any other data from a third party not made available to the general public in the regular course of business.
In response, Alexander rejected Sanders’ definition of spying (implicitly suggesting it wasn’t fair), while using a dodge he repeatedly has: the Americans in question are not being targeted, even while they might be collected “incidentally.”
Nothing NSA does can fairly be characterized as “spying on Members of Congress or other American elected officials.”
NSA may not target any American for foreign intelligence collection without a finding of probable cause that the proposed target of collection is a foreign power or an agent of a foreign power. Moreover, as you are aware, whenever an NSA activity results in the incidental collection of information about Americans, that information is handled pursuant to the very robust procedures designed to protect privacy interests — procedures that must be approved by the Attorney general or the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, as appropriate. All those protections apply to members of Congress, as they do to all Americans.
Alexander then addressed just one of the three kinds of spying Sanders raised: phone data (which, if I’m right that NSA strips Congressional numbers at the data integrity stage, is the one place Alexander can be fairly sure Sanders’ contacts won’t be found).
Your letter focuses on NSA’s acquisition of telephone metadata…
And used the controls imposed on the raw data of the phone dragnet as an excuse for not answering Sanders’ question.
Among those protections is the condition that NSA can query the metadata only based on phone numbers reasonably suspected to be associated with specific foreign terrorist groups. For that reason, NSA cannot lawfully search to determine if any records NSA has received under the program have included metadata of the phone calls of any member of Congress, other American elected officials, or any other American without that predicate.
Alexander totally ignored Sanders’ two other specified concerns: emails sent and websites visited.
Which is mighty convenient, because for a very large segment of that collection (the internet metadata collected under EO 12333 and via PRISM, though not the data collected domestically before 2011 or domestic upstream collection), NSA believes it doesn’t even need Reasonable Articulable Suspicion to search on US person identifiers. Continue reading
Well, it is that time of year again. We have reached another Christmas eve here at the Wheelhouse. Here at Casa de Bmaz we are still finishing up some shopping, doing some cooking and getting ready for happy hour. Marcy and Mr. Wheel are in the Keystone state visiting family and Jim White and family are preparing for a sunny Christmas day down in Florida.
Don’t have a lot to say here, just a hello and thanks for making this forum the best in the blogosphere. Times change, but the consistency and quality of our friends, colleagues and commenters is amazing. Thank you.
One last note, today marks the second anniversary of the passing of our colleague and friend Mary Perdue, or as she was simply known here “Mary”. There are two days that I will forever associate with Mary, Kentucky Derby day because of her love for horses and Christmas Eve. So, as we did last year at this time, raise a glass, have a laugh, think of the Constitution and salute.
If you are around, chime in with what you are up to, what you are eating and cooking, what you are drinking and what you are thinking.
Have a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays folks!
Well, Trash is harder to gin up for without the regular season college games in action. And, no, the Royal Purple Bowl was not enough to overcome that fact. The only bowl game even halfway interesting between now and next weekend is Boise State versus Oregon State in the Hawaii Bowl on Christmas Eve. Take Boise.
The NFL game that most interests me is, of course, the Packers and Steelers on the Frozen Tundra of Lambeau. The Cheese has won two in a row with Matt Flynn at the helm, but have looked shaky doing so. At least they are scoring points, which is good because their defense is atrocious. The Steelers have rebounded to be very respectable. Pittsburgh’s defensive secondary is pretty good, so Green Bay will have to hope for a huge game from Eddie Lacy. Big Ben and the Stillers will score on the Pack, and I will take them in only the mildest of upsets.
Probably the best game today is Baltimore hosting New England. The Ravens have won four in a row and seem to be on a playoff run that seemed unlikely mid season. And the Pats always have a tough time in Baltimore. Plus Brady is throwing to the midget brigade again. Oh, and Justin Tucker has not missed a field goal since the second week of the season. Kenbrell Thompkins and Nate Solder have been downgraded to OUT & will not play. I am trying to find the positive note here that points to Brady and Belichick winning this game, because I think they will. But I sure don’t see it on paper.
The ‘Boys at Skins could be a fascinating game to see which sad sack team manages to pull out the win and how. Mostly, it will be interesting to see how Kirk Cousins plays in his second straight start. Take the ‘Boys I guess but, really, who cares? Colts at Chefs also interesting. Colts are sliding and Trent Richardson has been none of the help he was brought in to be. Chefs on the other hand are starting to open their offense up for Alex Smith and still have that great defense. Chefs smoke some horsehide.
Bears are at the Iggles and Giants at the Lions. This weekend really seems to favor the Lions. Both the Pack and Bears have to play tough games, and the Kittehs draw the hapless Giants and Bad Eli Manning’s ever more contorted dour face. At home in Deetroit. Card and Squawks would be a great game….if it were anywhere but Seattle. A hellish place to play. Cards are a pretty solid team, but no way they will win in the Squawk Palace. Which will probably put an end to the Cards’ playoff hopes for the year.
The final Monday Night game of the year is also the final game ever in famed (or infamous as the case may be) Candlestick Park. Cleveland may talk about their Mistake By The Lake, but, damn, they got nuthin on San Francisco and the Stick. The old story was that the only real site survey was done at a time of day when all was calm there, and no one ever told Horace Stoneham and the other poohbahs that it was a swirling wind hell during afternoons and nights when most games would be played. Ooops! At any rate, take the Niners big over the hapless Falcons (sad end for Tony Gonzales’ storied career). Here, thanks to PJ Evans, is a great photo history of the Stick.
DOJ has been boasting to the press for weeks that it will give Jamshid Muhtorov (though they didn’t name him) notice that they used NSA spook authorities to catch him in his alleged support for Uzbekistan’s Islamic Jihad Union. Now that they have released his name, there are a lot of reasons to be cynical about that: the possibility they’ll try to implicate Human Rights Watch, the possibility they’ll tie him to Najibullah Zazi (like Muhtorov) living in Aurora, CO, the apparent fact that they have no other evidence against him except intercepts.
But here’s what this notice constitutes. Here’s the notice they filed in February 2012.
Comes now the United States of America, by John F. Walsh, United States Attorney, and Gregory Holloway, Assistant United States Attorney, both for the District of Colorado and Jason Kellhofer and Erin Creegan, Trial Attorneys United States Department of Justice, National Security Division, Counterterrorism Section, and hereby provides notice to this Court and the defendant, Jamshid Muhtorov that pursuant to Title 50, United States Code, Sections 1806(c) and 1825(d), the government intends to offer into evidence or otherwise use or disclose in any proceedings in the above-captioned matter, information obtained and derived from electronic surveillance and physical search conducted pursuant to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978, as amended, 50 U.S.C. §§ 1801-1811, 1821-1829.
And here’s the notice they filed today, in their big bid for transparency.
Comes now the United States of America, by John Walsh, United States Attorney, and Gregory Holloway, Assistant United States Attorney, both for the District of Colorado and Erin Creegan, Trial Attorney United States Department of Justice, National Security Division, Counterterrorism Section, and hereby provides notice to this Court and the defense, pursuant to 50 U.S.C. ” 1806(c) and 1881e(a), that the government intends to offer into evidence or otherwise use or disclose in proceedings in the above-captioned matter information obtained or derived from acquisition of foreign intelligence information conducted pursuant to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978, as amended, 50 U.S.C. ‘ 1881a. Dated this 25th day of October, 2013.
That is, their idea of “transparency” is to notice 50 USC 1881a, which is Section 702 of FAA (wiretapping based off a foreign target), instead of 50 USC 1825(d) which is physical search. (See here and here for just two of the instances where I note they’re calling dragnet searches physical ones.)
That’s it. For years, they’ve been telling defendants they were subjects of a physical search, when in fact they were subjects of a dragnet.
And this is their gleeful new exhibit of transparency.
In a report issued today (pdf), SIGAR provides details on how a project to build a courthouse at the Parwan complex languished with incompetent construction and poor oversight. It was only after SIGAR provided a draft version of their report that the contracting authority changed the status of their stop-work order from one that would have allowed the contractor to receive the rest of the funds without completing the work to a status that prevented a huge financial reward for shoddy and incomplete work.
But this courthouse project does not sit in isolation. The Parwan complex, and its predecessor, the prison at Bagram, have a deep history that provides a microcosm of the atrocities and incompetence that the US war in Afghanistan has come to represent. Never forget that it was at Bagram where Joshua Claus murdered innocent taxi driver Dilawar. Dilawar was murdered at Bagram only a few short days after Habibullah was murdered there, as well. But the US had grand plans for the Bagram air base complex. From the background section of the SIGAR report:
The U.S. and Afghan governments signed a Letter of Agreement in 2006 that committed to improve governance by enhancing the administration of justice and rule of law. A key element in implementing this strategy was the development of a criminal justice facility known as the Justice Center in Parwan (JCIP). JCIP was designed to provide a secure facility for transferring Afghan combatants from U.S. military custody into the Afghan criminal justice system. The U.S. government was to assist with building, equipping, and operating the JCIP, as well as mentoring and training Afghan government personnel assigned to the facility. JCIP was planned as a complex of 11 buildings—a courthouse, offices, laboratory facilities, meeting hall, and housing—located adjacent to the existing Parwan Detention Facility, which is next to the Bagram Airfield north of Kabul. The courthouse was expected to be the centerpiece for Afghan national security trials.
But even though there was a detention facility at Parwan when that agreement was signed in 2006, the US quickly saw that its plans to detain thousands of Afghan citizens meant that a much bigger prison was needed. And indeed, a shiny new $60 million prison was opened in 2010. And yet, the contract on the courthouse at Parwan wasn’t signed until 2011:
On June 13, 2011, DOD’s Bagram Regional Contracting Center (BRCC) 3 awarded a $2.38 million firm fixedprice contract (W91B4N-11-C-8066) to CLC Construction Company (CLC) to build a courthouse at the JCIP complex.4 The design documents called for construction of a 2-story courthouse, including 4 courtrooms, 6 judge’s chambers, 23 individual offices, and 4 holding cells. CLC was given 155 days to complete the project after the notice to proceed was issued on July 16, 2011. The contract also required CLC to perform engineering, review, verification, and concept design functions. On November 11, 2011, the contract was modified to increase the height of the courthouse ceilings and, as a result, the contract value was increased from $2.38 million to $2.67 million.
It does seem that 155 days is a very short time frame for a construction project of over $2 million, especially if engineering and concept design are also included. But CLC fell behind immediately and what work they did was ridiculously incompetent: Continue reading
Today marks the third time that I have used this photo that remarkably still resides on ISAFMedia’s Flickr photostream. The caption, in full, as it has always been carried by ISAFMedia:
CAMP DARULAMAN, Afghanistan – Brig. Gen. Saffiullah, Afghan National Army Military Police Brigade commander, holds a certificate presented by Vice Adm. Robert Harward, Joint Task Force 435 commander. The certificate was presented during a ceremony here April 5 in front of an ANA Military Police brigade. The brigade will complete the extensive training program prior to their assumption of detention facility security operations at the Detention Facility in Parwan. The brigade already conducts detention and corrections operations at the Afghan National Detention Facility in Pol-e-Charkhi. The event was another step toward the transition of the detention facility from the United States to the Afghan government. (Photo by U.S. Air Force 1st Lt. Joost Verduyn)
The date of April 5 on the photo refers to the year 2010. Of particular importance today is the bit where, on that date, the caption states that the Afghan National Army (after training by Robert Harward’s JSOC team) was “already” in charge of the Afghan prison facility at Pol-e-Charkhi. That prison is in Kabul. And that documentation of US-trained personnel controlling that prison is very important for this story published yesterday by the Daily Mail:
The Mail on Sunday has delivered a decisive blow against the creeping new culture of ‘secret justice’ after forcing the disclosure of a classified High Court judgment about torture in Afghanistan.
After a ten-month legal battle, we can at last reveal horrifying allegations over the treatment of prisoners captured by British forces in Afghanistan – evidence the Ministry of Defence wanted to keep secret.
More details from the article:
We can reveal the secret ruling concerns a supposed Taliban leader, described only as Detainee 806.
When he was held by UK troops in January 2010, there was already a moratorium banning the transfer of prisoners to the NDS in Kabul, because its interrogation centre there – codenamed Department 17 – had gained a sinister reputation for torture and British forces found it impossible to gain access.
The prisoner at the heart of this particular case pursued by the Daily Mail was arrested in January of 2010 and sent, against normal British procedures, to the Kabul prison, where he was hidden from British personnel for about a month while he was tortured: Continue reading