U.S. forces Net firms to cooperate – act or NSA will

Editor’s Note – Once again we have to ask, do you believe what Washington tells you or do you need a new, more reliable source to understand what is taking place affecting our liberties and privacy? Then ask, why does our government need such widespread investigative tools when it clearly crosses the line on our freedoms?

How the U.S. forces Net firms to cooperate on surveillance

Officially, Uncle Sam says it doesn’t interfere.

But behind the scenes, the feds have been trying to browbeat Internet firms into helping with surveillance demands.

By wielding a potent legal threat, the U.S. government is often able to force Internet companies to aid its surveillance demands. The threat? Comply or we’ll implant our own eavesdropping devices on your network.nsa-square

Under federal law, the National Security Agency can serve real-time “electronic surveillance” orders on Internet companies for investigations related to terrorism or national security.

These orders, authorized by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, are used to feed data into the NSA’s PRISM software program that was revealed last month by former intelligence analyst Edward Snowden. PRISM documents indicate that the NSA can receive “real-time notifications” of user log-ins.

Some Internet companies have reluctantly agreed to work with the government to conduct legally authorized surveillance on the theory that negotiations are less objectionable than the alternative — federal agents showing up unannounced with a court order to install their own surveillance device on a sensitive internal network. Those devices, the companies fear, could disrupt operations, introduce security vulnerabilities, or intercept more than is legally permitted.

“Nobody wants it on-premises,” said a representative of a large Internet company who has negotiated surveillance requests with government officials. “Nobody wants a box in their network…[Companies often] find ways to give tools to minimize disclosures, to protect users, to keep the government off the premises, and to come to some reasonable compromise on the capabilities.”

Precedents were established a decade or so ago when the government obtained legal orders compelling companies to install custom eavesdropping hardware on their networks.

One example, which has not been previously disclosed, arose out of a criminal investigation in which the Drug Enforcement Administration suspected a woman of trafficking in 1,4-Butanediol. The butane-derived chemical is used industrially as a solvent and recreationally as a date rape drug or sedative.

The DEA’s Special Operations Division, which includes FBI representatives, obtained a real-time intercept order — sometimes called a Title III order — against EarthLink and WorldCom, a network provider that’s now part of Verizon Business. Both companies were targeted by the order because EarthLink routed outgoing e-mail messages through equipment leased from WorldCom.

WorldCom technicians were required to help the DEA install surveillance equipment that the agency had purchased and provided. Over the course of the wiretap, the government’s hardware vacuumed up over 1,200 e-mail messages from the targeted account. EarthLink did not respond to a request for comment this week.

TECH-articleLargeFISA gives the government a powerful club to wield against Internet companies. The law requires the firms to “furnish all information, facilities, or technical assistance necessary to accomplish the electronic surveillance” as long as it can be done with a “minimum of interference” with other users.

In another case that was closely watched within the industry, the FBI invoked similar language to force EarthLink to install a Carnivore network monitoring device, over the company’s strenuous objections. EarthLink challenged the surveillance order in court because it was concerned that Carnivore would vacuum up more user metadata than the court order authorized.

It lost. A federal magistrate judge sided with the government, despite the fact that “Carnivore would enable remote access to the ISP’s network and would be under the exclusive control of government agents,” Robert Corn-Revere, an attorney for EarthLink, told Congress at the time.

Those legal victories allowed the government to strong-arm Internet companies into reworking their systems to aid in surveillance — under the threat of having the FBI install NarusInsight or similar devices on their networks. “The government has a lot of leverage,” including contracts and licenses, said a representative for an Internet company. “There is a lot of pressure from them. Nobody is willingly going into this.”

Jennifer Granick, director of civil liberties at Stanford University’s Center for Internet and Society, said, referring to the government’s pressure tactics:

They can install equipment on the system. And I think that’s why companies are motivated to cooperate [and] use their own equipment to collect for the government. They would rather help than let any government equipment on their service, because then they lose oversight and control.

In 1994, then-President Bill Clinton signed into law the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act, or CALEA, which required telephone companies to configure their systems to perform court-authorized lawful intercepts in a standard way. In 2004, that requirement was extended to cover broadband providers, but not Web companies.

A survey of earlier litigation shows, however, that the Justice Department was able to convince courts to force companies to take steps to permit surveillance through their networks long before CALEA became law.

In 1977, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that surveillance law is a “direct command to federal courts to compel, upon request, any assistance necessary to accomplish an electronic interception.”

Other courts followed suit. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit concluded in 1979 that the Bell Telephone Company of Pennsylvania must comply with a surveillance order because it would cause only “a minimal disruption of normal operations.” The Ninth Circuit ruled against Mountain Bell a year later, saying a surveillance order “recognized the practical fact that the actions ordered were technical ones which only that company could perform.”

If an Internet company offers encryption designed in such a way that even its engineers can’t access users’ files or communications, it would be unable to comply with a FISA or other surveillance order.

But with a few exceptions, such as SpiderOak and Fogpad, nearly all companies use encryption only in transit, meaning data stored on servers remains unencrypted.

That’s why Microsoft could be compelled to work with the NSA and the FBI’s Data Intercept Technology Unit to aid in surveillance of Outlook.com and Hotmail messages, a situation the Guardian disclosed yesterday, citing documents provided by Snowden.

Internet companies have, on occasion, created “teams of in-house experts” to figure out how to respond to FISA surveillance orders, The New York Times reported last month.

Microsoft’s engineers have quietly designed a system to comply with government orders, which manages to avoid having a surveillance device implanted on a internal network. (Microsoft declined to comment for this article.)

One case that used it arose out of a probe into illegal drug sales in Philadelphia. As part of that investigation, the government obtained a court order for a real-time wiretap against a Hotmail account.

Microsoft’s wiretap compliance system worked by forwarding a copy of two suspects’ e-mail messages to a “shadow account” located elsewhere on Hotmail’s servers. Each address under surveillance had a separate “shadow account” associated with it.

Every 15 minutes, an automated process logged in to these shadow accounts and transferred the retrieved e-mails into “case folders” on computers at a DEA office in Lorton, Va.

Homeland Security agents separately obtained a real-time wiretap of a Hotmail account used by a man suspected of possessing pornography involving minors. A case associated with that criminal prosecution, which might reveal more about surveillance techniques used by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, remains under seal in a New Jersey federal court.

A Google spokesman declined to say this week whether the company could comply with a wiretap order targeting a Google Hangout or Google Talk conversation.

The government’s ability to perform surveillance even when armed with a court order depends in large part on the decisions engineers made when designing a product. “Many implementations include an ability to monitor sessions as a debugging tool,” one government official said this week. “Depending on how things have been built, a real-time wiretap may be nothing more than turning that on. As an example, all enterprise-grade Ethernet switches include a monitor port — not because the FBI demands it, but because sysadmins need it.”

Christopher Soghoian, principal technologist for the ACLU’s Speech, Privacy and Technology Project, said the PRISM disclosures show Internet companies should embrace strong encryption for their users. “This is a place where the companies have an opportunity to do something that doesn’t hurt their ability to make money and [that wins] them praise,” he said.

Klayman – Class Action Suit on NSA/PRISM – Extortion 17 Parents

Editor’s Note – Larry Klayman, the noted attorney involved in some of the most important litigation in freedom/liberty cases as well as big government issues has filed a class action suit over the PRISM/NSA revelations and has included one very important point.

That point goes to ‘Standing’ – was an individual aggrieved or injured? In this case it is one significant couple, parents of a dead warrior hero. A former DoJ lawyer, Klayman knows their game.

Now the door is open to people to join the class action should the court agree and the court will have to concede that there is ‘Standing’ This was a major issue in so many cases against several named in the suit where courts threw cases out for lack of standing. Court after court failed to allow citizens to redress their government for grievances through the courts in the past, now they must answer.

The specific persons named in the suit as litigants are Charley and Mary Ann Strange on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

They are named because of some very curious and illegal activities they endured, and you will soon learn what happened to them, and that it is directly attributable to the federal government and its overreach into the privacy of their communications.

This is doubly significant because Charley and Mary Ann are the parents of SEAL Team VI member Michael Strange – part of the group killed in Afghanistan on the Chinook CH-47 helicopter with call sign ‘Extortion 17’.

This is the incident they and other family members have been investigating in what is one of the earlier scandals committed by the Obama Administration in 2011 that remains unsolved but is beginning to become well known. Were there a few less egregious scandals, this one scandal would rise to the top where it should be in the hearts and minds of all Americans.

In the suit filed yesterday, one section stands out on ‘Standing’:

24. Plaintiffs and members of the class bring this action because they have been directly affected, victimized and severely damaged by the unlawful conduct complained herein. Their injuries are proximately related to the egregious, illegal and criminal acts of Defendants Obama, Holder, Alexander, McAdam, Vinson, Verizon, the DOJ, and the NSA, each and every one of them, jointly and severely.

The release this week of the PRISM/NSA leaks may be challenged by the government as not having gone after private citizens in public statements, but now they will have to do so under oath with the full weight of perjury and obstruction of justice hanging over their heads.

Here is the PDF of the suit as it was filed: PRISM-class action suit

For more on this, click here at Wired.

Klayman Expands Obama- NSA-Verizon Suit Into Class Action

Senator Rand Paul Expresses Support for Klayman’s Class Action Lawsuit

Posted at Yahoo News

WASHINGTON, June 10, 2013 /PRNewswire/ — Larry Klayman, the founder of Judicial Watch and now Freedom Watch and a former Justice Department prosecutor, today announced that he has expanded his lawsuit against President Barack Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder, the heads of the National Security Agency (NSA) and Verizon, the entities themselves, and the federal judge, Roger Vinson, who signed the warrant allowing for the alleged illegal violation of the constitutional rights of well over a hundred million subscribers and users, to be a class action lawsuit.

The complaint, which can be found at www.freedomwatchusa.org, was amended yesterday in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. (Case No.  1:13-cv-OO851).

Importantly, and also yesterday on Fox News Sunday, Senator Rand Paul, a strict constitutionalist, expressed support for a class action lawsuit, obviously knowing that Klayman had already filed one since it has been widely reported.

“I applaud Senator Paul for effectively endorsing our lawsuit, and agree with him that it will serve as a vehicle to have tens and perhaps hundreds of millions of Americans rise up against government tyranny, which has grown to historic proportions. Even the New York Times has recently opined that the Obama administration has lost all credibility.

For this venerable newspaper to make such a strong statement shows just how serious the Obama administration’s alleged violation of the constitutional rights of citizens has become. For the issue of the preservation of civil liberties is not a left or right issue, but one for all Americans to rise up and fight for. We cannot allow a ‘Big Brother’, Orwellian government spy on the American people to access their confidential communications to effectively turn ‘citizens into its prisoners.’

That is why this class action lawsuit, which all Verizon users are welcome to join, no matter what their political persuasion, will serve as the vehicle for a second American revolution, one that is carried out peacefully and legally – but also forcefully. It now falls on a ‘jury of our peers’ to make sure that justice is done to end this illegal and coercive power grab – before it, like a malignant cancerous tumor, destroys the body politic of our great nation. Our Founding Fathers would be proud,” stated Klayman.

For information contact Klayman Lawfirm: daj142182@gmail.com or (424) 274 2579.

Media Contact: Adrienne Mazzone, 561-750-9800 ext 210, amazzone@transmediagroup.com

NSA Leaker Identified by Guardian – Edward Snowden

Editor’s Note – NSA contractor Edward Snowden gave a video interview to the UK’s Guardian which exposed the NSA PRISM story – today they revealed his name and the interview.

This came a day after the DNI James Clapper filed a criminal complaint to the DoJ which you can read here. It’s also interesting to read about clause 215 of the Patriot Act that gave such broad authority.

Here are two more links we recommend:

Edward Snowden: the whistleblower behind the NSA surveillance revelations

The 29-year-old source behind the biggest intelligence leak in the NSA’s history explains his motives, his uncertain future and why he never intended on hiding in the shadows

Q&A with NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden: ‘I do not expect to see home again’

By  and  in Hong Kong – UK Guardian

Watch video interview of Edward Snowden here.

The individual responsible for one of the most significant leaks in US political history is Edward Snowden, a 29-year-old former technical assistant for theCIA and current employee of the defence contractor Booz Allen Hamilton. Snowden has been working at the National Security Agency for the last four years as an employee of various outside contractors, including Booz Allen and Dell.

The Guardian, after several days of interviews, is revealing his identity at his request. From the moment he decided to disclose numerous top-secret documents to the public, he was determined not to opt for the protection of anonymity. “I have no intention of hiding who I am because I know I have done nothing wrong,” he said.

Snowden will go down in history as one of America’s most consequential whistleblowers, alongside Daniel Ellsberg and Bradley Manning. He is responsible for handing over material from one of the world’s most secretive organisations – the NSA.

In a note accompanying the first set of documents he provided, he wrote: “I understand that I will be made to suffer for my actions,” but “I will be satisfied if the federation of secret law, unequal pardon and irresistible executive powers that rule the world that I love are revealed even for an instant.”

Despite his determination to be publicly unveiled, he repeatedly insisted that he wants to avoid the media spotlight. “I don’t want public attention because I don’t want the story to be about me. I want it to be about what the US government is doing.”

NSA Contractor Edward Snowden leaked the PRISM story

He does not fear the consequences of going public, he said, only that doing so will distract attention from the issues raised by his disclosures. “I know the media likes to personalise political debates, and I know the government will demonise me.”

Despite these fears, he remained hopeful his outing will not divert attention from the substance of his disclosures. “I really want the focus to be on these documents and the debate which I hope this will trigger among citizens around the globe about what kind of world we want to live in.” He added: “My sole motive is to inform the public as to that which is done in their name and that which is done against them.”

He has had “a very comfortable life” that included a salary of roughly $200,000, a girlfriend with whom he shared a home in Hawaii, a stable career, and a family he loves. “I’m willing to sacrifice all of that because I can’t in good conscience allow the US government to destroy privacy, internet freedom and basic liberties for people around the world with this massive surveillance machine they’re secretly building.”

‘I am not afraid, because this is the choice I’ve made’

Three weeks ago, Snowden made final preparations that resulted in last week’s series of blockbuster news stories. At the NSA office in Hawaii where he was working, he copied the last set of documents he intended to disclose.

He then advised his NSA supervisor that he needed to be away from work for “a couple of weeks” in order to receive treatment for epilepsy, a condition he learned he suffers from after a series of seizures last year.

As he packed his bags, he told his girlfriend that he had to be away for a few weeks, though he said he was vague about the reason. “That is not an uncommon occurrence for someone who has spent the last decade working in the intelligence world.”

On May 20, he boarded a flight to Hong Kong, where he has remained ever since. He chose the city because “they have a spirited commitment to free speech and the right of political dissent”, and because he believed that it was one of the few places in the world that both could and would resist the dictates of the US government.

In the three weeks since he arrived, he has been ensconced in a hotel room. “I’ve left the room maybe a total of three times during my entire stay,” he said. It is a plush hotel and, what with eating meals in his room too, he has run up big bills.

He is deeply worried about being spied on. He lines the door of his hotel room with pillows to prevent eavesdropping. He puts a large red hood over his head and laptop when entering his passwords to prevent any hidden cameras from detecting them.

Though that may sound like paranoia to some, Snowden has good reason for such fears. He worked in the US intelligence world for almost a decade. He knows that the biggest and most secretive surveillance organisation in America, the NSA, along with the most powerful government on the planet, is looking for him.

Since the disclosures began to emerge, he has watched television and monitored the internet, hearing all the threats and vows of prosecution emanating from Washington.

And he knows only too well the sophisticated technology available to them and how easy it will be for them to find him. The NSA police and other law enforcement officers have twice visited his home in Hawaii and already contacted his girlfriend, though he believes that may have been prompted by his absence from work, and not because of suspicions of any connection to the leaks.

“All my options are bad,” he said. The US could begin extradition proceedings against him, a potentially problematic, lengthy and unpredictable course for Washington. Or the Chinese government might whisk him away for questioning, viewing him as a useful source of information. Or he might end up being grabbed and bundled into a plane bound for US territory.

“Yes, I could be rendered by the CIA. I could have people come after me. Or any of the third-party partners. They work closely with a number of other nations. Or they could pay off the Triads. Any of their agents or assets,” he said.

“We have got a CIA station just up the road – the consulate here in Hong Kong – and I am sure they are going to be busy for the next week. And that is a concern I will live with for the rest of my life, however long that happens to be.”

Having watched the Obama administration prosecute whistleblowers at a historically unprecedented rate, he fully expects the US government to attempt to use all its weight to punish him. “I am not afraid,” he said calmly, “because this is the choice I’ve made.”

He predicts the government will launch an investigation and “say I have broken the Espionage Act and helped our enemies, but that can be used against anyone who points out how massive and invasive the system has become”.

The only time he became emotional during the many hours of interviews was when he pondered the impact his choices would have on his family, many of whom work for the US government. “The only thing I fear is the harmful effects on my family, who I won’t be able to help any more. That’s what keeps me up at night,” he said, his eyes welling up with tears.

‘You can’t wait around for someone else to act’

Snowden did not always believe the US government posed a threat to his political values. He was brought up originally in Elizabeth City, North Carolina. His family moved later to Maryland, near the NSA headquarters in Fort Meade.

By his own admission, he was not a stellar student. In order to get the credits necessary to obtain a high school diploma, he attended a community college in Maryland, studying computing, but never completed the coursework. (He later obtained his GED.)

In 2003, he enlisted in the US army and began a training program to join the Special Forces. Invoking the same principles that he now cites to justify his leaks, he said: “I wanted to fight in the Iraq war because I felt like I had an obligation as a human being to help free people from oppression”.

He recounted how his beliefs about the war’s purpose were quickly dispelled. “Most of the people training us seemed pumped up about killing Arabs, not helping anyone,” he said. After he broke both his legs in a training accident, he was discharged.

After that, he got his first job in an NSA facility, working as a security guard for one of the agency’s covert facilities at the University of Maryland. From there, he went to the CIA, where he worked on IT security. His understanding of the internet and his talent for computer programming enabled him to rise fairly quickly for someone who lacked even a high school diploma.

By 2007, the CIA stationed him with diplomatic cover in Geneva, Switzerland. His responsibility for maintaining computer network security meant he had clearance to access a wide array of classified documents.

That access, along with the almost three years he spent around CIA officers, led him to begin seriously questioning the rightness of what he saw.

He described as formative an incident in which he claimed CIA operatives were attempting to recruit a Swiss banker to obtain secret banking information. Snowden said they achieved this by purposely getting the banker drunk and encouraging him to drive home in his car. When the banker was arrested for drunk driving, the undercover agent seeking to befriend him offered to help, and a bond was formed that led to successful recruitment.

“Much of what I saw in Geneva really disillusioned me about how my government functions and what its impact is in the world,” he says. “I realised that I was part of something that was doing far more harm than good.”

He said it was during his CIA stint in Geneva that he thought for the first time about exposing government secrets. But, at the time, he chose not to for two reasons.

First, he said: “Most of the secrets the CIA has are about people, not machines and systems, so I didn’t feel comfortable with disclosures that I thought could endanger anyone”. Secondly, the election of Barack Obama in 2008 gave him hope that there would be real reforms, rendering disclosures unnecessary.

He left the CIA in 2009 in order to take his first job working for a private contractor that assigned him to a functioning NSA facility, stationed on a military base in Japan. It was then, he said, that he “watched as Obama advanced the very policies that I thought would be reined in”, and as a result, “I got hardened.”

The primary lesson from this experience was that “you can’t wait around for someone else to act. I had been looking for leaders, but I realised that leadership is about being the first to act.”

Over the next three years, he learned just how all-consuming the NSA’s surveillance activities were, claiming “they are intent on making every conversation and every form of behaviour in the world known to them”.

He described how he once viewed the internet as “the most important invention in all of human history”. As an adolescent, he spent days at a time “speaking to people with all sorts of views that I would never have encountered on my own”.

But he believed that the value of the internet, along with basic privacy, is being rapidly destroyed by ubiquitous surveillance. “I don’t see myself as a hero,” he said, “because what I’m doing is self-interested: I don’t want to live in a world where there’s no privacy and therefore no room for intellectual exploration and creativity.”

Once he reached the conclusion that the NSA’s surveillance net would soon be irrevocable, he said it was just a matter of time before he chose to act. “What they’re doing” poses “an existential threat to democracy”, he said.

A matter of principle

As strong as those beliefs are, there still remains the question: why did he do it? Giving up his freedom and a privileged lifestyle? “There are more important things than money. If I were motivated by money, I could have sold these documents to any number of countries and gotten very rich.”

For him, it is a matter of principle. “The government has granted itself power it is not entitled to. There is no public oversight. The result is people like myself have the latitude to go further than they are allowed to,” he said.

His allegiance to internet freedom is reflected in the stickers on his laptop: “I support Online Rights: Electronic Frontier Foundation,” reads one. Another hails the online organisation offering anonymity, the Tor Project.

Asked by reporters to establish his authenticity to ensure he is not some fantasist, he laid bare, without hesitation, his personal details, from his social security number to his CIA ID and his expired diplomatic passport. There is no shiftiness. Ask him about anything in his personal life and he will answer.

He is quiet, smart, easy-going and self-effacing. A master on computers, he seemed happiest when talking about the technical side of surveillance, at a level of detail comprehensible probably only to fellow communication specialists. But he showed intense passion when talking about the value of privacy and how he felt it was being steadily eroded by the behaviour of the intelligence services.

His manner was calm and relaxed but he has been understandably twitchy since he went into hiding, waiting for the knock on the hotel door. A fire alarm goes off. “That has not happened before,” he said, betraying anxiety wondering if was real, a test or a CIA ploy to get him out onto the street.

Strewn about the side of his bed are his suitcase, a plate with the remains of room-service breakfast, and a copy of Angler, the biography of former vice-president Dick Cheney.

Ever since last week’s news stories began to appear in the Guardian, Snowden has vigilantly watched TV and read the internet to see the effects of his choices. He seemed satisfied that the debate he longed to provoke was finally taking place.

He lay, propped up against pillows, watching CNN’s Wolf Blitzer ask a discussion panel about government intrusion if they had any idea who the leaker was. From 8,000 miles away, the leaker looked on impassively, not even indulging in a wry smile.

Snowden said that he admires both Ellsberg and Manning, but argues that there is one important distinction between himself and the army private, whose trial coincidentally began the week Snowden’s leaks began to make news.

“I carefully evaluated every single document I disclosed to ensure that each was legitimately in the public interest,” he said. “There are all sorts of documents that would have made a big impact that I didn’t turn over, because harming people isn’t my goal. Transparency is.”

He purposely chose, he said, to give the documents to journalists whose judgment he trusted about what should be public and what should remain concealed.

As for his future, he is vague. He hoped the publicity the leaks have generated will offer him some protection, making it “harder for them to get dirty”.

He views his best hope as the possibility of asylum, with Iceland – with its reputation of a champion of internet freedom – at the top of his list. He knows that may prove a wish unfulfilled.

But after the intense political controversy he has already created with just the first week’s haul of stories, “I feel satisfied that this was all worth it. I have no regrets.”