WikiLeaks

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Judge in WikiLeaks FOIA Cites “Events that Have Transpired,” Government Claims FOIA Is “Improper”

Back in 2011, the Electronic Privacy Information Center sued to enforce a FOIA for documents on FBI’s investigation of WikiLeaks supporters. In response, the government cited an ongoing investigation exemption. But they also cited a statutory exemption, claiming some law prevented them from releasing the records on investigations into WikiLeaks supporters. Unusually, DOJ refused to name the law in question. For that reason, and because my suspicions of how Section 215 gets used suggested it would make a spectacular tool for investigating a group of WikiLeaks supporters, I suggested that the statute was likely Section 215.

Since then, we’ve seen indications of NSA involvement in the investigation into WikiLeaks, though without any details from before EPIC’s FOIA.

And until March 11, that’s where things stood, with the government claiming it couldn’t release records about its investigation into completely innocent supporters of a publishing outlet and the judge (who had been newly assigned to the case in April 2013) doing nothing with the government’s motion for summary judgement.

On March 11, however, Judge Barbara Jacobs Rothstein ordered DOJ and EPIC to submit briefs updating her on the status of the investigation into WikiLeaks and with it the government’s ongoing investigation exemption, but not its claimed statutory exemption.

The Court takes judicial notice that events have transpired during that time that may cause the government’s position to to have changed. Therefore, the Court instructs the government to update its position regarding Plaintiff’s FOIA request, particularly with respect to the government’s invocation of exemption 7(A).

The language of her order suggests two things. First, if Rothstein is asking whether the 7(A) ongoing investigation exemption remains active, it suggests she’s may not accept the government’s statutory exemption 3 to completely withhold these documents. And she doesn’t say what the “events” that “have transpired” are, but it’s probably not any developments in the WikiLeaks investigation, as that’s what she says she doesn’t know. That makes it likely the Snowden leaks and related official disclosures have made the exemption 3, the basis for which she knows about from classified declarations, moot.

That’s all tea leaf reading. And even if I’ve read the tea leaves correctly, it doesn’t mean I’m right about Section 215. After all, back door searches on collection targeted at Julian Assange (who, as a foreign citizen and alleged spy, would be a legal target under Section 702 or even generally) would be a useful investigation into WikiLeaks supporters as well, though there’s abundant reason to believe dragnet queries serve as the basis for back door searches. Still, I think it’s likely that something that has been released and declassified since last April has mooted the government’s secret statutory claims.

The government, having sat on Judge Rothstein’s April 11 deadline from March 11 until Tuesday, is now stalling for time. (h/t JG; links to come shortly) On Tuesday, the lawyer who inherited this case claimed she has another case that prevents her from writing 10 pages on the status of the WikiLeaks investigation. But also that she needs more time to consult with the “defendant agencies.”

In addition, the draft supplemental brief will require review within the Department of Justice and defendant agencies before it may be filed.

EPIC’s not buying it, citing from the judge’s previous orders warning against extensions and stating clearly that business in other matters is not a good excuse. EPIC also described DOJ’s sleazy post-business hours effort to provide notice. and noted this is precisely the kind of thing Judge Rothstein had said would get a motion summarily denied.

Ms. Zeidner Marcus also did not timely notify Plaintiff’s counsel of her plans to file this Motion for Extension of Time. Ms. Zeidner Marcus first contacted Ms. McCall on April 8, 2014, the date that the filing was due, after ordinary business hours. Ms. Zeidner Marcus first emailed Ms. McCall on April 8, 2014 at 5:01 PM and followed up at approximately 5:30 PM that day with a telephone call. This did not give Ms. McCall sufficient time to consider Ms. Zeidner Marcus’ request or to consult with Ms. McCall’s co-counsel ,Mr. Rotenberg, regarding that request. Ms. Zeidner Marcus then filed her Motion for Extension of Time at 11:23 PM on the same day (April 8, 2014).

To which DOJ responded by accusing EPIC of filing an “improper” FOIA.

This case involves plaintiff’s attempts to improperly use the Freedom of Information Act to seek information about ongoing criminal investigations.

Remember, the underlying issue here is that DOJ shouldn’t be investigating innocent supporters of a publishing outlet. But DOJ believes trying to learn how and why they are doing so is an improper FOIA.

Meanwhile, DOJ sources admitted last November that they can’t really charge Assange without charging the NYT as well.

Justice officials said they looked hard at Assange but realized that they have what they described as a “New York Times problem.” If the Justice Department indicted Assange, it would also have to prosecute the New York Times and other news organizations and writers who published classified material, including The Washington Post and Britain’s Guardian newspaper, according to the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

Which, I guess, explains the rudeness and urgent need for one more month. Because if the government loses both its ongoing investigation and its statutory exemptions, they might have to explain why they used national security tools against people exercising free speech.

Update: The Judge gave the government half the extension they requested, to April 25.

In light of the fact that the motion was not timely filed and that press of business is not an adequate reason for an extension, the Court will not grant the request for a thirty day extension. Instead, the Court will grant an extension to and including April 25, 2014. Plaintiff’s opposition shall be filed on or before May 12, 2014. The reply shall be file on or before May 19, 2014. In the future, the Court expects the parties to comply with the terms of the Standing Order in this case.

Chelsea Manning Wonders Whether She Could Have Gotten Anwar al-Awlaki’s Treatment

In accepting the Sam Adams prize, Chelsea Manning raised the ACLU/NYT lawsuits for the OLC memo authorizing the killing of Anwar al-Awlaki. (h/t Kevin Gosztola)

In doing so, she borrows an argument about separation of power and secrecy Judge Colleen McMahon made in her opinion on the FOIA.

Here’s McMahon:

As they gathered to draft a Constitution for their newly liberated country, the Founders – fresh from a war of independence from the rule of a King they styled a tyrant- were fearful of concentrating power in the hands of any single person or institution, and  most particularly in the executive. That concern was described by James Madison in Federalist No. 47 (1788):

The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, selfappointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny ….

The magistrate in whom the whole executive power resides cannot of himself … administer justice in person, though he has the appointment of those who do administer it.

[snip]

The Framers — who were themselves susceptible to being hanged as traitors by the King of England during the Revolutionary War — were as leery of accusations of treason as they were of concentrating power in the hands of a single person or institution. As a result, the Constitution accords special protections to those accused of the most heinous of capital crimes; Article 3, Sec. 3 sets the procedural safeguard that, “No Person shall be convicted of treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.”

Interestingly, the Treason Clause appears in the Article of the Constitution concerning the Judiciary — not in Article 2, which defines the powers of the Executive Branch. This suggests that the Founders contemplated that traitors would be dealt with by the courts of law, not by unilateral action of the Executive. As no less a constitutional authority than Justice Antonin Scalia noted, in his dissenting opinion in Hamdi, 542 U.S. at 554, “Where the Government accuses a citizen of waging war against it, our constitutional tradition has been to prosecute him in federal court for treason or some other crime.”

Here’s Manning:

The founders of America – fresh from a war of independence from King George lll – were particularly fearful of concentrating power. James Madison wrote that “the accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.”(1)

[snip]

When drafting Article III of the American Constitution, the founders were rather leery of accusations of treason, and accorded special protections for those accused of such a capital offense, providing that “[n]o person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.”

For those of you familiar with the American Constitution, you may notice that this provision is under the Article concerning the Judiciary, Article III, and not the Legislative or Executive Articles, I and II respectively. And, historically, when the American government accuses an American of such crimes, it has prosecuted them in a federal criminal court.

After having repeated McMahon’s lesson on the checks our Founders gave Article III courts over the President, Manning described how frustrated McMahon was in not being able to release the OLC memo to ACLU and NYT.

In a recent Freedom of Information Act case(2) – a seemingly Orwellian “newspeak” name for a statute that actually exempts categories of documents from release to the public – a federal district court judge ruled against the New York Times and the American Civil Liberties Union. The Times and the ACLU argued that documents regarding the practice of “targeted killing” of American citizens, such as the radical Sunni cleric Anwar Nasser al-Aulaqi were in the public’s interest and were being withheld improperly.

The government first refused to acknowledge the existence of the documents, but later argued that their release could harm national security and were therefore exempt from disclosure. The court, however, felt constrained by the law and “conclud[ed] that the Government [had] not violated the FOIA by refusing to turn over the documents sought in the FOIA requests, and [could not] be compelled . . . to explain in detail the reasons why [the Government's] actions do not violate the Constitution and laws of the United States.”

However, the judge also wrote candidly about her frustration with her sense that the request “implicate[d] serious issues about the limits on the power of the Executive Branch under the Constitution and laws of the United States,” and that the Presidential “Administration ha[d] engaged in public discussion of the legality of targeted killing, even of [American] citizens, but in cryptic and imprecise ways.” In other words, it wasn’t that she didn’t think that the public didn’t have a right to know – it was that she didn’t feel that she had the “legal” authority to compel disclosure.

Against that background, Manning notes that she was charged with treasonable offense, and wonders whether under the Awlaki precedent she could have been drone killed, just like Awlaki.

I was accused by the Executive branch, and particularly the Department of Defense, of aiding the enemy – a treasonable offense covered under Article III of the Constitution.
Granted, I received due process. I received charges, was arraigned before a military judge for trial, and eventually acquitted. But, the al-Aulaqi case raises a fundamental question: did the American government, and particularly the same President and Department, have the power to unilaterally determine my guilt of such an offense, and execute me at the will of the pilot of an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle?

She then compares (I think, though the timing on this is perhaps understandably murky) the release of both the OLC memo and follow-up speeches — and its revelation of the powers claimed by the President — with her own releases.

Until documents held by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel were released after significant political pressure in mid-2013, I could not tell you. And, very likely, I do not believe I could speak intelligently of the Administration’s policy on “targeted killing” today either.

There is a problem with this level of secrecy, obfuscation, and classification or protective marking, in that they supposedly protect citizens of their nation; yet, it also breeds a unilateralism that the founders feared, and deliberately tried to prevent when drafting the American Constitution. Now, we have a “disposition matrix,” classified military commissions, and foreign intelligence and surveillance courts – modern Star Chamber equivalents.

I am now accepting this award, through my friend, former school peer, and former small business partner, Aaron, for the release of a video and documents that “sparked a worldwide dialogue about the importance of government accountability for human rights abuses,” it is becoming increasingly clear to me that the dangers of withholding documents, legal interpretations, and court jurisprudence from the public that pertain to the right to “life, liberty, and property” of a state’s citizens is as fundamental and important to protecting against such human rights abuses.

Of course, we still don’t know what happened to Anwar al-Awlaki; the White Paper leaves many of the key details obscure. Even as the government prepares to execute another of its citizens.

But in comparing her own releases with the government’s refusal to reveal precisely how they decided to execute an American with no due process, Manning points to where this has already gone.

And she makes a compelling case that the government’s claims of secrecy cannot be trusted.

Between Two Ends of the WikiLeaks Investigation: Parallel Constructing the FBI’s Secret Authorities

Two pieces of news on the government’s investigation of WikIleaks came out yesterday.

At the Intercept, Glenn Greenwald reported:

  • In 2010, a “Manhunting Timeline” described efforts to get another country to prosecute what it called the “rogue” website
  • In a targeting scenario dating to July 25, 2011, the US’ Targeting and General Counsel personnel responded to a question about targeting WikiLeaks’ or Pirate Bay’s server by saying they’d have to get back to the questioner
  • In 2012, GCHQ monitored WikiLeaks — including its US readers — to demonstrate the power of its ANTICRISIS GIRL initiative

Screen Shot 2014-02-19 at 9.42.54 AM
Also yesterday, Alexa O’Brien reported (and contextualized with links back to her earlier extensive reporting):

  • The grand jury investigation of WikiLeaks started at least as early as September 23, 2010
  • On January 4, 2011 (21 days after the December 14, 201 administrative subpoena for Twitter records on Appelbaum and others), DOJ requested Jacob Appelbaum’s Gmail records
  • On April 15, 2011, DOJ requested Jacob Appelbaum’s Sonic records

Now, as O’Brien lays out in her post, at various times during the investigation of WikiLeaks, it has been called a Computer Fraud and Abuse investigation, an Espionage investigation, and a terrorism investigation.

Which raises the question why, long after DOJ had deemed the WikiLeaks case a national security case that under either the terrorism or Espionage designation would grant them authority to use tools like National Security Letters, they were still using subpoenas that were getting challenged and noticed to Appelbaum? Why, if they were conducting an investigation that afforded them all the gagged orders they might want, were they issuing subpoenas that ultimately got challenged and exposed?

Before you answer “parallel construction,” lets reconsider something I’ve been mulling since the very first Edward Snowden disclosure: the secret authority DOJ and FBI (and potentially other agencies) used to investigate not just WikiLeaks, but also WikiLeaks’ supporters.

Back in June 2011, EPIC FOIAed DOJ and FBI (but not NSA) for records relating to the government’s investigation of WikiLeaks supporters.

EPIC’s FOIA asked for information designed to expose whether innocent readers and supporters of WikiLeaks had been swept up in the investigation. It asked for:

  1. All records regarding any individuals targeted for surveillance for support for or interest in WikiLeaks;
  2. All records regarding lists of names of individuals who have demonstrated support for or interest in WikiLeaks;
  3. All records of any agency communications with Internet and social media companies including, but not limited to Facebook and Google, regarding lists of individuals who have demonstrated, through advocacy or other means, support for or interest in WikiLeaks; and
  4. All records of any agency communications with financial services companies including, but not limited to Visa, MasterCard, and PayPal, regarding lists of individuals who have demonstrated, through monetary donations or other means, support or interest in WikiLeaks. [my emphasis]

In their motion for summary judgment last February, DOJ said a lot of interesting things about the records-but-not-lists they might or might not have and generally subsumed the entire request under an ongoing investigation FOIA exemption.

Most interesting, however, is in also claiming that some statute prevented them from turning these records over to EPIC, they refused to identify the statute they might have been using to investigate WikiLeaks’ supporters.

All three units at DOJ — as reflected in declarations from FBI’s David Hardy, National Security Division’s Mark Bradley, and Criminal Division’s John Cunningham – claimed the files at issue were protected by statute.

None named the statute in question. All three included some version of this statement, explaining they could only name the statute in their classified declarations.

The FBI has determined that an Exemption 3 statute applies and protects responsive information from the pending investigative files from disclosure. However, to disclose which statute or further discuss its application publicly would undermine interests protected by Exemption 7(A), as well as by the withholding statute. I have further discussed this exemption in my in camera, ex parte declaration, which is being submitted to the Court simultaneously with this declaration

In fact, it appears the only reason that Cunningham submitted a sealed declaration was to explain his Exemption 3 invocation.

And then, as if DOJ didn’t trust the Court to keep sealed declarations secret, it added this plaintive request in the motion itself.

Defendants respectfully request that the Court not identify the Exemption 3 statute(s) at issue, or reveal any of the other information provided in Defendants’ ex parte and in camera submissions.

DOJ refuses to reveal precisely what EPIC seems to be seeking: what kind of secret laws it is using to investigate innocent supporters of WikiLeaks.

Invoking a statutory exemption but refusing to identify the statute was, as far as I’ve been able to learn, unprecedented in FOIA litigation.

The case is still languishing at the DC District.

I suggested at the time that the statute in question was likely Section 215; I suspected at the time they refused to identify Section 215 because they didn’t want to reveal what Edward Snowden revealed for them four months later: that the government uses Section 215 for bulk collection.

While they may well have used Section 215 (particularly to collect records, if they did collect them, from Visa, MasterCard, and PayPal — but note FBI, not NSA, would have wielded the Section 215 orders in that case), they couldn’t have used the NSA phone dragnet to identify supporters unless they got the FISC to approve WikiLeaks as an associate of al Qaeda (update: Or got someone at NSA’s OGC to claim there were reasons to believe WikiLeaks was associated with al Qaeda). They could, however, have used Section 215 to create their own little mini WikiLeaks dragnet.

Continue reading

GCHQ DDoS Hackers Hang Out with NSA’s Audit-Free Techies

Yesterday, I noted NBC’s report that GCHQ conducted a DDoS attack against Anonymous IRC chat.

There’s a subtle point that deserves more attention: GCHQ presented the underlying Powerpoint to NSA’s SIGDEV conference.

The documents, from a PowerPoint presentation prepared for a 2012 NSA conference called SIGDEV, show that the unit known as the Joint Threat Research Intelligence Group, or JTRIG, boasted of using the DDOS attack – which it dubbed Rolling Thunder — and other techniques to scare away 80 percent of the users of Anonymous internet chat rooms.

[snip]

In the presentation on hacktivism that was prepared for the 2012 SIGDEV conference, one official working for JTRIG described the techniques the unit used to disrupt the communications of Anonymous and identify individual hacktivists, including some involved in Operation Payback. Called “Pushing the Boundaries and Action Against Hacktivism,” the presentation lists Anonymous, Lulzsec and the Syrian Cyber Army among “Hacktivist Groups,” says the hacktivists’ targets include corporations and governments, and says their techniques include DDOS and data theft.

SIGDEV is NSA’s term for the agency’s efforts to develop new signals intelligence techniques and sources. Thus, GCHQ presented the attack as the cutting edge of what NSA does.

Goodie.

But remember: NSA’s SIGDEV analysts have access to raw data outside of normal channels. This shows up repeatedly in the primary orders for the dragnet. And, as Bart Gellman noted (and I elaborated on here), Obama specifically exempted these folks from his Presidential Policy Directive limiting our spying (though his PPD did say foreigners could be spied on for cybersecurity reasons).

In other words, the people GCHQ boasted of their attack on Anonymous to are the people who have some of the least oversight within NSA.

The State Monopoly on DDoS

One reason I harped on the way Ken Dilanian referred to the “official position” that hacking other governments was acceptable was because I suspected the government does what NBC just reported they do: engage in hacking against other targets, in this case, hackers like Anonymous.

[A] division of Government Communications Headquarters Communications (GCHQ), the British counterpart of the NSA, shut down communications among Anonymous hacktivists by launching a “denial of service” (DDOS) attack – the same technique hackers use to take down bank, retail and government websites – making the British government the first Western government known to have conducted such an attack.

As I noted on Twitter, the report that GCHQ targeted Anonymous should raise questions (that have already been raised) whether either GCHQ or NSA was behind the DDoS attack on noted publishing site WikiLeaks in 2010.

So the NSA (and GCHQ) believe some hacks are legitimate and some are not. But in addition, both are effectively asserting that the state should have a monopoly on hacking, just as it asserts a monopoly on violence. As some of the people involved have been commenting on Twitter, they got charged for DDoSing, even as the Brits were engaging in precisely the same behavior. Particularly troubling, there’s no indication NSA or GCHQ believe they need warrants to exercise their monopoly on hacks against their own citizens (FBI has in the past gotten a warrant to bring down a botnet, so there is precedent).

Of course, therein lies part of the problem: that intelligence is bleeding into law enforcement, and the tools of inter-state spying are being wielded against criminals (and dissidents).

None of this is surprising. It arises directly out of the way the government has gone after terrorists, and this treatment of an IRC channel is directly parallel to the same kind of guilt by association used against terrorists.

The Institutional Subjectivity of the White Affluent US Nation

In a really worthy read, Bill Keller and Glenn Greenwald debate the future of journalism.

Sadly, however, in his first response to Keller’s self-delusion of belonging to the journalistic tradition of “newspapers that put a premium on aggressive but impartial reporting[] that expect reporters and editors to keep their opinions to themselves,” Greenwald seemed to cede that such journalism constitutes, “concealing one’s subjective perspectives.” That permitted Keller to continue his self-delusion that his journalism — at both the level of reporter and that reporter’s larger institution — achieved that silence about opinions until they started fighting about the role of national allegiance and national security.

That argument developed this way.

Greenwald: Former Bush D.O.J. lawyer Jack Goldsmith in 2011 praised what he called “the patriotism of the American press,” meaning their allegiance to protecting the interests and policies of the U.S. government. That may (or may not) be a noble thing to do, but it most definitely is not objective: it is quite subjective and classically “activist.”

[snip]

Keller: If Jack Goldsmith, the former Bush administration lawyer, had praised the American press for, in your words, “their allegiance to protecting the interests and policies of the U.S. government” then I would strongly disagree with him. We have published many stories that challenged the policies and professed interests of the government. But that’s not quite what Goldsmith says. He says that The Times and other major news outlets give serious consideration to arguments that publishing something will endanger national security — that is, might get someone killed.

For what it’s worth, I think Keller is clinging to the first thing Goldsmith said,

Glenn Greenwald complained that “the NYT knew about Davis’ work for the CIA (and Blackwater) but concealed it because the U.S. Government told it to” (my emphasis).  That is inaccurate.  The government asked the Times not to publish, as it often does, and the Times agreed to the request, which it sometimes does.  The final decision rested with the Times, which listens to the government’s claims about national security harm and risk to individual lives, and then makes its own decision.   The Timesdoes not, in my opinion, always exercise this discretion wisely.

And ignoring what Goldsmith went on to say,

I interviewed a dozen or so senior American national security journalists to get a sense of when and why they do or don’t publish national security secrets.  They gave me different answers, but they all agreed that they tried to avoid publishing information that harms U.S. national security with no corresponding public benefit. Some of them expressly ascribed this attitude to “patriotism” or “jingoism” or to being American citizens or working for American publications.   This sense of attachment to country is what leads the American press to worry about the implications for U.S. national security of publication, to seek the government’s input, to weigh these implications in the balance, and sometimes to self-censor.  (This is a natural and prudent attitude in a nation with the fewest legal restrictions in the world on the publication of national security secrets, but one abhorred by critics like Greewald.)  The Guardian, al Jazeera, and Wikileaks, by contrast, worry much less, if at all, about U.S. national security interests.

That is, Goldsmith noted both that at an institutional level US news outlets entertained the requests of the government, and that at a reportorial level, individuals prioritized US “national security.”

And from there, Keller repeatedly ignored or dismissed the efforts Greenwald, in his Edward Snowden reporting, or WikiLeaks, in its Cablegate publications, made to protect lives of individuals.

It’s not until Greenwald’s response where he gets to the crux of the issue.

As for taking into account dangers posed to innocent life before publishing: nobody disputes that journalists should do this. But I don’t give added weight to the lives of innocent Americans as compared to the lives of innocent non-Americans, nor would I feel any special fealty to the U.S. government as opposed to other governments when deciding what to publish. Continue reading

NYPD Sends Violent Undercover Officer to Spy on Occupy as It Helps Sandy Victims

On Twitter yesterday, various Occupy Wall Street participants started buzzing as Wojciech Braszczok appeared in court for his role in assaulting Alexian Lien. They realized Braszczok had infiltrated Occupy Wall Street over the course of several years.

Gothamist has all the details of Braszczok’s undercover presence at Occupy, including the possibility that he worked events outside of NYC, which would be sure to piss of those other jurisdictions.

But I’m particularly appalled that he continued to track the group during Occupy Sandy.

Braszczok’s surveillance apparently extended beyond political demonstrations to the hurricane recovery work of Occupy Sandy. In November, the detective tweeted about an Occupy Sandy meeting in the Financial District. Participants remember him as a regular presence at Occupy Sandy’s operations as well.

“He was at 520 Clinton and Sunset Park,” an occupier named Casper recalls, referring to Occupy Sandy’s two main distribution hubs. “I saw him there a lot.”

Rather than helping Sandy victims, the NYPD was surveilling those who were.

But don’t worry. NYPD hasn’t gone overboard or anything.

I Con the Record Admits All This Spying Also Serves Counterintelligence

Screen shot 2013-10-04 at 6.02.34 PMJames Clapper has a statement up at I Con the Record trying to dismiss any concerns that the US is using the same kind of technologies as China uses against its people to crack Tor.

As per usual, Clapper complains that the stories don’t paint the Intelligence Community in the light they’d like to be described.

In particular, he complains that — notwithstanding the Guardian’s publication of NSA’s graphic suggesting every Tor communication hides a bearded terrorist — the stories haven’t emphasized the “very naughty” targets of this spying.

However, the articles fail to make clear that the Intelligence Community’s interest in online anonymity services and other online communication and networking tools is based on the undeniable fact that these are the tools our adversaries use to communicate and coordinate attacks against the United States and our allies.

But that complaint comes with a new admission, one that has been all but unmentioned since when, on June 10, Clapper’s most impressive PRISM success story pertained to cybersecurity. For the first time in quite a while, Clapper today acknowledged NSA uses this not only for counterterrorism and other foreign targets, but also counterintelligence.

The articles fail to mention that the Intelligence Community is only interested in communication related to valid foreign intelligence and counterintelligence purposes and that we operate within a strict legal framework that prohibits accessing information related to the innocent online activities of US citizens.

Within our lawful mission to collect foreign intelligence to protect the United States, we use every intelligence tool available to understand the intent of our foreign adversaries so that we can disrupt their plans and prevent them from bringing harm to innocent Americans. [my emphasis]

The admission is important not just because Clapper and Keith Alexander have consistently been trying to hide the cybersecurity application of this. But because it makes clear that NSA requires no foreign nexus to target Tor communications.

Which they couldn’t well require in any case, since the design of Tor ensures the government can’t know whether an encrypted message is a domestic or foreign communication.

Of course, once you include counterintelligence (and threats to property) as a valid excuse to keep encrypted communications indefinitely and even to compromise people’s computers (see slide 16), particularly in an environment where leaks of even unclassified information are treated as spying, then the distinction between “citizens” and “targets” crumbles.

As with Manning Leak, Snowden Leak Reveals DOD Doesn’t Protect Security

MSNBC has an update to the continuing saga of “Omigod the NSA has inadequate security.” It explains why the “thin client” system the NSA had (one source calls it 2003 technology) made it so easy for Edward Snowden to take what he wanted.

In a “thin client” system, each remote computer is essentially a glorified monitor, with most of the computing power in the central server. The individual computers tend to be assigned to specific individuals, and access for most users can be limited to specific types of files based on a user profile.

But Snowden was not most users.

[snip]

As a system administrator, Snowden was allowed to look at any file he wanted, and his actions were largely unaudited. “At certain levels, you are the audit,” said an intelligence official.

He was also able to access NSAnet, the agency’s intranet, without leaving any signature, said a person briefed on the postmortem of Snowden’s theft. He was essentially a “ghost user,” said the source, making it difficult to trace when he signed on or what files he accessed.

If he wanted, he would even have been able to pose as any other user with access to NSAnet, said the source.

The story goes on to note that being in Hawaii would have allowed Snowden to access Fort Meade’s computers well after most users were gone.

I’m particularly interested in the assertion that Snowden could pose as any other user with access to NSAnet.

Any other user. Presumably, that includes at least Cybercommander Keith Alexander’s aides.

In a world in which the NSA is increasingly an offensive organization, certain figures within NSA would be engaged in some very interesting communications and compartments, I’d imagine.

Ah well. The US won’t learn. They’ll continue to neglect these holes until someone publicly demonstrates their negligence, all the while leaving them open for whatever paid agents of foreign governments choose to exploit them.

The Importance of Being Earnest

Q Why was the United States given a heads-up by the British government on this detention?

MR. EARNEST: Again, that heads-up was provided by the British government, so you can direct that question to them.

Q Right. But was this heads-up given before he was detained or before it went public that he was detained?

MR. EARNEST: Probably wouldn’t be a heads-up if they would have told us about it after they detained him.

Q So it’s fair to say they told you they were going to do this when they saw that he was on a manifest?

MR. EARNEST: I think that is an accurate interpretation of what a heads-up is.

Q Is this gentleman on some sort of watch list for the United States? Can you look that up?

MR. EARNEST: You’d have to check with the TSA because they maintain the watch list. And I don’t know if they’d tell you or not, but you can ask them.

Q If he’s on a watch list for the U.K., would it be safe to assume then that he’s been put on a watch list in the United States?

MR. EARNEST: The level of coordination between counterterrorism and law enforcement officials in the U.K. and counterterrorism and law enforcement officials in the United States is very good. But in terms of who is on different watch lists and how our actions and their actions are coordinated is not something I’m in a position to talk about from here.

Q Did the United States government — when given the heads-up, did the United States government express any hesitancy about the U.K. doing it — about the U.K. government doing this?

MR. EARNEST: Well, again, this is the British government making a decision based on British law, on British soil, about a British law enforcement action.

Q Did the United States, when given the heads-up, just said okay?

MR. EARNEST: They gave us a heads-up, and this is something that they did not do at our direction and it’s not something that we were involved with. This is a decision that they made on their own.

Q Did the United States discourage the action?

White House Deputy Spokesperson Josh Earnest wants you to know that the decision to detain Glenn Greenwald’s partner David Miranda was done by the British on their own.

Q Josh, you’ve talked about the Mubarak detention as being a Egyptian legal matter. You’ve talked about Morsi’s politically motivated detention. And then with regard to Mr. Greenwald’s partner, you called it a “mere law enforcement action.” Given that the White House has never been shy about criticizing detention policies overseas, do you have any concerns at all about the U.K.’s law enforcement actions in this case?

MR. EARNEST: Well, what I can say is I don’t have a specific reaction other than to observe to you that this is a decision that was made by the British government and not one that was made at the request or with the involvement of the United States government.

But he’s not going to tell you anything about the secret conversations the US have with the British.

MR. EARNEST: To be honest with you, Steve, I don’t have a way to characterize for you any of the conversations between the British government and the U.S. government on this matter other than to say that this is a decision that they made on their own and not at the request of the United States. But in terms of the kinds of classified, confidential conversations that are ongoing between the U.S. and our allies in Britain, I’m not able to characterize that for you.

Q But there are consultations on this matter taking place?

MR. EARNEST: I’m telling you I’m not able to provide any insight into those conversations at all.

Ah well, perhaps this “US security official,” rather bizarrely given anonymity to pass on this British thuggish comment, offers better insight into those conversations.

One U.S. security official told Reuters that one of the main purposes of the British government’s detention and questioning of Miranda was to send a message to recipients of Snowden’s materials, including the Guardian, that the British government was serious about trying to shut down the leaks.

Josh Earnest may not want to admit to the close collaboration here, but American security officials sure seem privy to the message being sent.

 

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