In a recent court decision the National Security Agency acknowledged working "with a broad range of commercial partners and research associates" but it obtained from the court the right to keep secret documents that may, or may not, show a working relationship with Google.
- NSA spooks win fight to keep secret possible ties to Google, by Mike Doyle, Suits & Sentences legal affairs blog, McClatchy Newspapers (July 13, 2011).
In a decision made public Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Richard J. Leon denied a Freedom of Information Act request filed by the curious souls at the Electronic Privacy Information Center. EPIC sought documents relating to NSA's possible relationship with Google following news of an alleged cyber attack by hackers in China and of a subsequent cooperation agreement between Google and NSA.
- EPIC v. NSA: Agency Can "Neither Confirm Nor Deny" Google Ties, EPIC (July 13, 2011).
Secrecy News has details and documents about the plea deal in the case of former National Security Agency official Thomas A. Drake who says he shared NSA information with The Baltimore Sun in an attempt to save taxpayers' money and strengthen national security:
- Settlement Reached in Thomas Drake “Leak” Case, by Steven Aftergood, Secrecy News (June 10th, 2011).
See a detailed report on the case here:
- The Secret Sharer: Is Thomas Drake an enemy of the state?, by Jane Mayer New Yorker (May 23, 2011).
Binney expressed terrible remorse over the way some of his algorithms were used after 9/11. ThinThread, the "little program" that he invented to track enemies outside the U.S., "got twisted," and was used for both foreign and domestic spying: "I should apologize to the American people. It's violated everyone's rights. It can be used to eavesdrop on the whole world." According to Binney, Drake took his side against the N.S.A.'s management and, as a result, became a political target within the agency.
Back on September 18, 2007, the House Judiciary Committee chaired by John Conyers (D-Michigan) held a hearing entitled "Warrantless Surveillance and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act". In that hearing, Conyers posed some questions to the Justice Department to get at the Department’s views on the legal framework governing electronic surveillance under the amended Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) -- we've been tracking FISA for some time on FGI. The Committee hearing volume (pdf) was published in June 2008 without the Justice Department’s answers to these questions, because they were provided to Congress too late to be included in the published record.
As you might remember, back in December, 2005 the NY Times broke a story about the Bush administration secretly authorized the National Security Agency (NSA) to eavesdrop on Americans and others inside the United States to search for evidence of terrorist activity without the court-approved warrants ordinarily required for domestic spying, according to government officials. FAS as well as the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and other civil liberties organizations have been tracking the NSA warrantless surveillance controversy.
Many thanks to Steven Aftergood and the Federation of American Scientists (FAS) for submitting a FOIA request to make public Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Wainstein's written responses to those questions posed about this important program and bringing to light the legal perspective that held sway within the Bush administration's Justice Department.
“If the so-called Terrorist Surveillance Program (TSP) was perfectly legal as has been claimed, why would companies who cooperated in it need immunity?” the Committee asked. (To protect classified information, among other reasons, the Department responded.) “Is the President free to disregard any provisions of FISA with which he disagrees?” (No, not exactly.) “If an individual in the United States is suspected of working in collusion with persons outside the United States–such that an investigation of one is in effect the investigation of the other–under what circumstances, generally, would you use criminal or other FISA wiretaps?” (Targeting of persons in the United States can only be done under FISA procedures.)
The recent "alliance" between the National Security Agency, (one of the most secret and secretive members of the U.S. intelligence community), and Google has brought up more questions than answers. Here are some recent stories:
- Google to enlist NSA to help it ward off cyberattacks, By Ellen Nakashima, Washington Post (February 4,
"The world's largest Internet search company and the world's most powerful electronic surveillance organization are teaming up in the name of cybersecurity."
- Google Asks Spy Agency for Help With Inquiry Into Cyberattacks, By JOHN MARKOFF, New York Times (February 4, 2010).
'By turning to the N.S.A., which has no statutory authority to investigate domestic criminal acts, instead of the Department of Homeland Security, which does have such authority, Google is clearly seeking to avoid having its search engine, e-mail and other Web services regulated as part of the nation’s "critical infrastructure."'
- 'Don't Be Evil,' Meet 'Spy on Everyone': How the NSA Deal Could Kill Google, By Noah Shachtman, Wired (February 4, 2010).
"The company pinkie-swears that its agreement with the NSA won’t violate the company's privacy policies or compromise user data. Those promises are a little hard to believe, given the NSA's track record of getting private enterprises to cooperate, and Google’s willingness to take this first step."
- Google, NSA ‘alliance’ has privacy advocate alarmed, By Stephen C. Webster, Raw Story, (February 4th, 2010).
- EPIC Seeks Records on Google-NSA Relationship, Electronic Privacy Information Center (February 4, 2010).
See also: Privacy: "I have nothing to hide".
Oral History Interviews, National Security Agency.
Yesterday, the National Security Archive (NSA) released documents that recounted the abuses committed by the Colombian Army. According to the NSA article, these documents describe how the Colombian military officers collaborated with the drug-trafficking paramilitary groups and used death squad tactics to tackle guerrillas.
The National Security Archive published Mixed Signals, Mixed Results: How President Bush's Executive Order on FOIA Failed to Deliver. The briefing claims that two years later, the FOI Executive Order still hasn't produced all that is promised. The FOI system did improve customer service at federal agencies, but has failed to make progress on backlogs and improved compliance with electronic FOIA requirements.
"Many of the same old scofflaw agencies are still shirking their responsibilities to the public," said Tom Blanton, director of the Archive. "I'm reminded of how many psychiatrists it takes to change a light bulb — only one, but the light bulb has to really want to change."
Today, Siobhan Gorman of The Wall Street Journal reported that the National Security Agency has assembled what some intelligence officials admit is a driftnet for domestic and foreign communications. According to Gorman: into the NSA's massive database goes data collected by the Justice Department, Department of Homeland Security, and the Department of Treasury. This information includes data about email (recipient and sender address, subject, time sent), internet searches (sites visited and searches conducted), phone calls (incoming and outgoing numbers, length of call, location), financial information (wire transfers, credit-card use, information about bank accounts), and information from the DHS about airline passengers.
The only problem is, the Total Information Awareness Program (TIA) was supposed to have been killed by Congress in 2003. The ACLU responded to the report and said it would be filing a FOIA request to get more information.
The American Civil Liberties Union responded today to a stunning new report that the NSA has effectively revived the Orwellian ""Total Information Awareness"" domestic-spying program that was banned by Congress in 2003. In response, the ACLU said that it was filing a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for more information about the spying. And, the group announced that it was moving its "Surveillance Clock" one minute closer to midnight.
"Congress shut down TIA because it represented a massive and unjustified governmental intrusion into the personal lives of Americans,” said Caroline Fredrickson, Director of the Washington Legislative Office of the ACLU. “Now we find out that the security agencies are pushing ahead with the program anyway, despite that clear congressional prohibition. The program described by current and former intelligence officials in Monday's Wall Street Journal could be modeled on Orwell’s Big Brother."
The ACLU said the new report confirmed its past warnings that the NSA was engaging in extremely broad-based data mining that was violating the privacy of vast numbers of Americans.
Singel's article provides an intriguing history lesson on internet architecture and the US role as an international communications hub. Too bad it's not just a history lesson, but an explanation of current legislation making its way through Congress to give the NSA permanent eavesdropping capabilities on both foreign and domestic communication traffic.
The RESTORE Act (.pdf) (RESTORE = "Responsible Electronic Surveillance That is Overseen, Reviewed, and Effective") would extend the NSA's power indefinitely but would "include some safeguards against abuse" (IMHO, an audit trail described in Sec 7 and 8 of the bill does little to safeguard against abuse!). Ironically, President Bush has vowed to veto RESTORE because it doesn't extend retroactive legal immunity to telephone companies who cooperated in the NSA's domestic surveillance before it was legalized. Of course the telecoms are lobbying hard for this immunity clause -- AT&T is facing a class-action lawsuit for allegedly wiretapping the internet at the behest of the NSA. Need to protect the industrial hand that feeds you eh?
A lucky coincidence of economics is responsible for routing much of the world's internet and telephone traffic through switching points in the United States, where, under legislation introduced this week, the U.S. National Security Agency will be free to continue tapping it.
Leading House Democrats introduced the so-called RESTORE Act Tuesday that allows the nation's spies to maintain permanent eavesdropping stations inside United States switching centers. Telecom and internet experts interviewed by Wired News say the bill will give the NSA legal access to a torrent of foreign phone calls and internet traffic that travels through American soil on its way someplace else.
But contrary to recent assertions by Bush administration officials, the amount of international traffic entering the United States is dropping, not increasing, experts say.
Many of you will remember a little over a year ago when it was disclosed that certain phone companies -- specifically ATT, Verizon, and BellSouth -- were providing assistance to the National Security Agency in their illegal domestic spying. In a bizarre example of scratching each others' backs, today the Department of Justice came out against Net neutrality. That's right, since the telcos helped the federal government with their illegal wiretapping, the federal government felt it needed to make a statement again net neutrality. We've been tracking the net neutrality issue for a while, and find this blatent example of political favors very unseemly.
The Justice Department on Thursday said Internet service providers should be allowed to charge a fee for priority Web traffic. The agency told the Federal Communications Commission, which is reviewing high-speed Internet practices, that it is opposed to "Net neutrality," the principle that all Internet sites should be equally accessible to any Web user. Several phone and cable companies, such as AT&T Inc., Verizon Communications Inc. and Comcast Corp., have previously said they want the option to charge some users more money for loading certain content or Web sites faster than others. The Justice Department said imposing a Net neutrality regulation could hamper development of the Internet and prevent service providers from upgrading or expanding their networks. It could also shift the "entire burden of implementing costly network expansions and improvements onto consumers," the agency said in its filing.