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.
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.”
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. →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
U.S. Army Private First Class Bradley Manning stands convicted of crimes under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). The convictions result from two events. The first was a voluntary plea of guilty by Pvt. Manning to ten lesser included charges in February, and the remainder from a verdict of guilty after trial entered by Judge Denise Lind on July 30.
The maximum possible combined sentence originally stood at 136 years for the guilty counts, but that was reduced to a maximum possible sentence of 90 years after the court entered findings of merger for several of the offenses on August 6. The “merger” resulted from the partial granting of a motion by Mr. Manning’s attorney arguing some of the offenses were effectively the same conduct and were therefore multiplicitous. The original verdict status, as well as the revised verdict status after the partial merger of offenses by the court, is contained in a very useful spreadsheet created by Alexa O’Brien (whose tireless coverage of the Manning trial has been nothing short of incredible).
Since the verdict and merger ruling, there have been two weeks of sentencing witnesses, testimony and evidence presented by both the government and defense to the court. It is not the purpose of this post to detail the testimony and evidence per se, but rather the mechanics of the sentencing process and how it will likely be carried out. For detailed coverage of the testimony and evidence, in addition to Alexa O’Brien, the reportage of Kevin Gosztola at FDL Dissenter, Julie Tate at Washington Post, Charlie Savage at New York Times and Nathan Fuller at the Bradley Manning Support Network has been outstanding.
All that is left are closing arguments and deliberation by Judge Lind on the final sentence she will hand down. So, what exactly does that portend for Bradley Manning, and how will it play out? Only Judge Lind can say what the actual sentence will be, but there is much guidance and procedural framework that is known and codified in rules, practice and procedure under the UCMJ.
Glenn Greenwald’s partner, David Miranda, got detained at Heathrow for 9 hours and had his electronic devices confiscated.
David Miranda, who lives with Glenn Greenwald, was returning from a trip to Berlin when he was stopped by officers at 8.30am and informed that he was to be questioned under schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000. The controversial law, which applies only at airports, ports and border areas, allows officers to stop, search, question and detain individuals.
The 28-year-old was held for nine hours, the maximum the law allows before officers must release or formally arrest the individual. According to official figures, most examinations under schedule 7 – over 97% – last under an hour, and only one in 2,000 people detained are kept for more than six hours.
Miranda was then released without charge, but officials confiscated electronics equipment including his mobile phone, laptop, camera, memory sticks, DVDs and games consoles.
Aside from the outrage over the treatment of a partner of a British newspaper’s employee, consider what it means that the UK used their terrorism law to detain Miranda (had he been transiting the US, they wouldn’t have needed to use the transparently false claim of terrorism — they can and do subject people to this treatment for no reason all the time).
Does this mean the US and UK are both treating the investigation into the leak of classified information as terrorism now? If so, does that mean the US is using its counterterrorism authorities to investigate Greenwald and Snowden? Have they used the dragnet database to find their contacts?
That might explain why they apparently used the FISA Court — not an Title III warrant — to go after Lavabit.
But it significantly discredits both their effort to counter Greenwald and their counterterrorism efforts. If they’ll use terrorism to prevent further embarrassment, it’s really just a tool to go after dissidents.
Two more thoughts. First, remember that someone already stole a laptop from Greenwald’s home in Rio. I thought it unlikely then that the US or an ally did so. I think the chances are slightly higher now.
Also, I wonder how Dilma Rousseff will respond to this, especially with growing actions in Brazil against US spying. She had been moving away from the sphere of the Bolivarists in Latin America (and has a US state visit planned for this fall). But the British just treated a Brazilian citizen with the same kind of egregious treatment Europe gave to Evo Morales. Will she respond?
Update: In Glenn’s piece on this, he makes it clear that fairly high level Brazilian officials were involved in this, and none too happy about it.
I immediately contacted the Guardian, which sent lawyers to the airport, as well various Brazilian officials I know. Within the hour, several senior Brazilian officials were engaged and expressing indignation over what was being done. The Guardian has the full story here.
Despite all that, five more hours went by and neither the Guardian’s lawyers nor Brazilian officials, including the Ambassador to the UK in London, were able to obtain any information about David.
Update: Here’s the statement the Brazilian government has released.
The Brazilian government expresses grave concern about the episode that happened today in London, where a Brazilian citizen was held without communication at Heathrow airport for 9 hours, in an action based in the British anti-terrorism legislation. This measure is without justification since it involves an individual against whom there are no charges that can legitimate the use of that legislation. The Brazilian Government expects that incidents such as the one that happened to the Brazilian citizen today do not repeat.
As you no doubt heard yesterday, Obama called off a planned meeting with Putin after the G20 next month in response to a number of things (including Russia’s increasing persecution of gays), but largely triggered by Russia’s offer of asylum to Edward Snowden.
In addition to this piece applauding that decision, Julia Ioffe wrote up all the things about our approach to Snowden in Russia that Lawrence O’Donnell deemed unfit for MSNBC last night, which echo what I said back in June. The key bullet points are:
- You can’t back Putin into a corner and leave him no options. If you are a world leader worth your salt, and have a good diplomatic team working for you, you would know that. You would also know that when dealing with thugs like Putin, you know that things like this are better handled quietly. Here’s the thing: Putin responds to shows of strength, but only if he has room to maneuver. You can’t publicly shame him into doing something, it’s not going to get a good response. Just like it would not get a good response out of Obama.
- The Obama administration totally fucked this up. I mean, totally. Soup to nuts. Remember the spy exchange in the summer of 2010? Ten Russian sleeper agents—which is not what Snowden is—were uncovered by the FBI in the U.S. Instead of kicking up a massive, public stink over it, the Kremlin and the White House arranged for their silent transfer to Russia in exchange for four people accused in Russia of spying for the U.S. Two planes landed on the tarmac in Vienna, ten people went one way, four people went the other way, the planes flew off, and that was it. That’s how this should have been done if the U.S. really wanted Snowden back.
You don’t back ego-driven world leaders into corners — whether it is Putin or Obama — and succeed in achieving your goals.
All that said, Reuters reported a far more interesting development than Obama blowing off the Putin meeting yesterday. The Saudis have offered to bribe Putin to back off his support of Bashar al-Assad.
Saudi Arabia has offered Russia economic incentives including a major arms deal and a pledge not to challenge Russian gas sales if Moscow scales back support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Middle East sources and Western diplomats said on Wednesday.
Syrian opposition sources close to Saudi Arabia said Prince Bandar offered to buy up to $15 billion of Russian weapons as well as ensuring that Gulf gas would not threaten Russia’s position as a main gas supplier to Europe.
In return, Saudi Arabia wanted Moscow to ease its strong support of Assad and agree not to block any future Security Council Resolution on Syria, they said.
Finally, America’s allies (and it’s unclear how involved the US was in this deal, though Bandar usually plays nicely with us) are speaking to Putin in terms of Russia’s interests, rather than insisting Assad’s overthrow benefits everyone.
I’m especially interested in Bandar’s promise to “ensur[e] that Gulf gas would not threaten Russia’s position as a main gas supplier to Europe.” That, frankly, is probably the biggest carrot on the table here. But I can imagine no way Bandar could guarantee it (did the Qataris buy in? can Bandar control fracking in Europe? and what happens if and when the Saudis succeed in getting us to overthrow the Iranians?).
It appears the Saudis are more impressed with the meeting than Putin.
One Lebanese politician close to Saudi Arabia said the meeting between Bandar and Putin lasted four hours. “The Saudis were elated about the outcome of the meeting,” said the source, without elaborating.
Putin’s initial response to Bandar’s offer was inconclusive, diplomats say. One Western diplomat in the Middle East said the Russian leader was unlikely to trade Moscow’s recent high profile in the region for an arms deal, however substantial.
He said Russian officials also appeared skeptical that Saudi Arabia had a clear plan for stability in Syria if Assad fell.
But it at least appears to suggest that Putin would respond to discussions that acknowledged Russia’s interests, for a change. Even if Bandar can’t yet present a plan that seems plausible.
Does Putin really have to be the grown-up in the room who points out that Syria without Assad will not be stable anytime soon?
No matter what happens with Snowden, very few have acknowledged that, in addition to details of spying on Americans, he has also mapped out the backbone of our increasingly fragile hegemony over the world. We have responded only by ratcheting up pressure, rather than attempting persuasion.
It will be interesting to see, first, whether this Saudi initiative has any better effect. And if it does, whether we’ve been included in implementing it.
Update: Washington Institute’s Simon Henderson says we weren’t part of this scheme.
The Saudi diplomatic push shows Riyadh’s determination to force the Assad regime’s collapse, which the kingdom hopes will be a strategic defeat for Iran, its regional rival in both diplomatic and religious terms. It also reflects Riyadh’s belief, shared by its Gulf Arab allies, that U.S. diplomacy on Syria lacks the necessary imagination, commitment, and energy to succeed.
Meanwhile, the United States is apparently standing on the sidelines — despite being Riyadh’s close diplomatic partner for decades, principally in the hitherto successful policy of blocking Russia’s influence in the Middle East. In 2008, Moscow agreed to sell tanks, attack helicopters, and other equipment to the kingdom, but the deal never went through. Instead, in 2010, Washington and Riyadh negotiated a huge $60 billion defense deal (including attack helicopters), the details of which are still being finalized. The events of the past week suggest that the U.S.-Saudi partnership — which covers regional diplomacy, the Middle East peace process, the global economy, and weapons sales — is, at best, being tested. It would be optimistic to believe that the Moscow meeting will significantly reduce Russian support for the Assad regime. But meanwhile Putin will have pried open a gap between Riyadh and Washington. The results of the latest U.S.-Russian spat will be watched closely, particularly in Saudi Arabia.
When James “Least Untruthful” Clapper released the first version of PRISM success stories and the most impressive one involved thwarting specific cyberattacks, I noted that the NSA spying was about hackers as much as terrorists.
When “Lying Keith” Alexander answered a question about hacking China from George Stephanopoulos by talking about terror, I warned that these programs were as much about cybersecurity as terror. “Packets in flight!”
When the Guardian noted that minimization procedures allowed the circulation of US person communications collected incidentally off foreign targets if they were “necessary to understand or assess a communications security vulnerability,” I suggested those procedures fit cybersecurity targets better than terror ones.
When Ron Wyden and Mark Udall caught Lying Keith (again) in a lie about minimization, I speculated that the big thing he was hiding was that encrypted communications are kept until they are decrypted.
When I compared minimization procedures with the letter of the law and discovered the NSA had secretly created for itself the ability to keep US person communications that pose a serious threat to property (rather than life or body), I suggested this better targeted cyber criminals than terrorists.
When Joel Brenner suggested Ron Wyden was being dishonorable for asking James Clapper a yes or no question in March 2013, I noted that Wyden’s question actually referred to lies Lying Alexander had told the previous year at DefCon that hid, in part, how hackers’ communications are treated.
When the Guardian happened to publish evidence the NSA considers encryption evidence of terrorism the same day that Keith Alexander spokes to a bunch of encrypters exclusively about terrorism, I suggested he might not want to talk to those people about how these programs are really used.
And when I showed how Lying Keith neglected his boss’ earlier emphasis on cyber in his speech to BlackHat in favor of terror times 27, I observed Lying Keith’s June exhortation that “we’ve got to have this debate with our country,” somehow didn’t extend to debating with hackers.
I told you it would come to this:
U.S. officials say NSA leaks may hamper cyber policy debate
Over two months after Edward Snowden’s first disclosures, the cyberwarriors are now admitting disclosures about how vast is NSA’s existing power — however hidden behind the impetus of terror terror terror — might lead Congress to question further empowering NSA to fight cyberwar.
I told you so. →']);" class="more-link">Continue reading