The current revelations on the NSA’s spying are just the tip of the iceberg and affect “almost every country in the world,” said Glenn Greenwald. He stressed the NSA stores data for “as long as it can,” so they can target a citizen whenever they want.
Glenn Greenwald, the man behind the reports on the NSA global spy program, spoke to El Mundo journalist German Aranda and stressed that the US espionage activities went much further than just Europe.
“There are a lot of countries, and journalists in a lot of different countries, who have been asking for stories and to work on documents for a long time,” Greenwald said. He added that he was working as fast as possible to “make sure that all of these documents get reported in every single country there are documents for, which is most countries in the world.”
Shedding light on the NSA’s motives in compiling metadata on citizens, he said the spy organization’s main aim was to store the information to be able to dip into it whenever necessary.
“The very clear objective of the NSA is not just to collect all this, but to keep it for as long as they can,” said Greenwald.
“So they can at any time target a particular citizen of Spain or anywhere else and learn what they’ve been doing, in terms of who they have been communicating with.”
‘Preparing the terrain’
Referencing reports leaked from former CIA worker Edward Snowden regarding the millions of phone calls tapped by the NSA in the EU, German Aranda stated that French reaction was “important to prepare the terrain in Spain.”
“With all the countries around Europe and around the world, it will be the same. The more countries [that] see documents about them, the more interest the other countries will have to see what is happening with them,” said Aranda.
Last week the Spanish Prime Minister, Manuel Rajoy, summoned the US Ambassador to account for the reports of spying, echoing the reactions of France, Germany and a handful of other countries. Spain has so far resisted calls from Germany to sign an EU no-spying treaty against the US in the wake of the revelations; however this may be set to change.
“As in previous occasions, we’ve asked the U.S. ambassador to give the government all the necessary information on an issue which, if it was to be confirmed, could break the climate of trust that has traditionally been the one between our two countries,” said Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo, at a joint news conference in Warsaw last week.
In response to European leaders’ furor over NSA espionage, the White House has launched an internal review into the NSA’s activities. The EU Parliament has also threatened to halt the sharing of data on the SWIFT banking system, which provides information on the transfer of funds by suspected terrorists.
A delegation from the EU parliament is currently in Washington to discuss what has been described as a “breakdown in trust” between traditional allies.
The Obama administration earlier said the controversial intelligence gathering procedures that have attracted international scrutiny in recent months may require “additional constraints.” White House spokesperson Jay Carney said that a “number of efforts [are] underway that are designed to increase transparency.”
Dianne Feinstein, the NSA’s biggest defender in the Senate (which is ridiculous since she’s also in charge of “oversight”) has finally had enough. It’s not because she finally understands how crazy it is that the NSA is spying on every American, including all of her constituents in California. It’s not because she finally realized that the NSA specifically avoided letting her know about their widespread abuses. No, it’s because she just found out that the NSA also spies on important people, like political leaders around the globe. It seems that has finally ticked off Feinstein, who has released a scathing statement about the latest revelations:
“Unlike NSA’s collection of phone records under a court order, it is clear to me that certain surveillance activities have been in effect for more than a decade and that the Senate Intelligence Committee was not satisfactorily informed. Therefore our oversight needs to be strengthened and increased.
“With respect to NSA collection of intelligence on leaders of U.S. allies—including France, Spain, Mexico and Germany—let me state unequivocally: I am totally opposed.
“Unless the United States is engaged in hostilities against a country or there is an emergency need for this type of surveillance, I do not believe the United States should be collecting phone calls or emails of friendly presidents and prime ministers. The president should be required to approve any collection of this sort.
There are so many different possible reactions to this. Let’s go to list form to go through a few:
- Most people seem a hell of a lot less concerned about spying on political leaders than the public. After all, you kind of expect espionage to target foreign leaders. It seems incredibly elitist for Feinstein to show concern about spying on political leaders, and not the public. It shows how she views the public as opposed to people on her level of political power. One of them doesn’t matter. The other gets privacy.
- For all the bluster and anger from Feinstein about this, the Senate Intelligence Committee’s mandate is only about intelligence activities that touch on US persons, so it’s not even clear that she has any power over their activities strictly in foreign countries targeting foreign individuals. Why she seems to have expected the NSA to let her know about that when the NSA itself has been pretty explicit that avoids telling Congress about anything it can reasonably avoid telling them.
- Feinstein has referred to Ed Snowden’s leak as “an act of treason.” Now that they’ve revealed something that she believes is improper and deserving of much greater scrutiny, is she willing to revisit that statement?
- Given that Feinstein has been angrily banging the drum for months about how her oversight of the intelligence community shows that everything’s great, and there’s no risk of rogue activity — yet now she’s finally admitting that perhaps the oversight isn’t particularly comprehensive, is she willing to admit that her earlier statements are reasonably considered hogwash and discredited? She even says in her statement: “Congress needs to know exactly what our intelligence community is doing. To that end, the committee will initiate a major review into all intelligence collection programs.” And yet she’s been claiming that oversight has been more than enough for years?
- The cynical viewpoint: Feinstein knows the USA Freedom Act is coming out Tuesday, and that it has tremendous political momentum. Sooner or later she was going to have to admit that NSA surveillance was going to be curbed. Did she just happen to choose this latest bit of news for a bit of political theater to join the “time to fix the NSA” crowd?
There are plenty of other things that could be added to the list, but the whole situation seems fairly ridiculous considering about whom we’re talking.
Rep. Alan Grayson has been among the most outspoken members of Congress about the NSA’s surveillance efforts, and his latest is an op-ed in the Guardian, in which he notes that Congressional “oversight” is really Congressional “overlook,” and that he learns much more about the NSA from the press than from the House intelligence briefings:
Despite being a member of Congress possessing security clearance, I’ve learned far more about government spying on me and my fellow citizens from reading media reports than I have from “intelligence” briefings. If the vote on the Amash-Conyers amendment is any indication, my colleagues feel the same way. In fact, one long-serving conservative Republican told me that he doesn’t attend such briefings anymore, because, “they always lie”.
Many of us worry that Congressional Intelligence Committees are more loyal to the “intelligence community” that they are tasked with policing, than to the Constitution. And the House Intelligence Committee isn’t doing anything to assuage our concerns.
We’ve covered in detail how House Intelligence chair Mike Rogers had blocked other Reps. from learning information about the spying program, refusing to answer questions or provide more access to certain Congressional Reps, as well as generally making sure that curious Reps can’t find out the answers to their questions. Grayson goes into more detail:
I’ve requested classified information, and further meetings with NSA officials. The House Intelligence Committee has refused to provide either. Supporters of the NSA’s vast ubiquitous domestic spying operation assure the public that members of Congress can be briefed on these activities whenever they want. Senator Saxby Chambliss says all a member of Congress needs to do is ask for information, and he’ll get it. Well I did ask, and the House Intelligence Committee said “no”, repeatedly. And virtually every other member not on the Intelligence Committee gets the same treatment.
Recently, a member of the House Intelligence Committee was asked at a town hall meeting, by his constituents, why my requests for more information about these programs were being denied. This member argued that I don’t have the necessary level of clearance to obtain access for classified information. That doesn’t make any sense; every member is given the same level of clearance. There is no legal justification for imparting secret knowledge about the NSA’s domestic surveillance activities only to the 20 members of the House Intelligence Committee. Moreover, how can the remaining 415 of us do our job properly, when we’re kept in the dark – or worse, misinformed?
This is even more important than just a few concerned Congressional Reps. Just recently, we wrote about the FISA Court’s defense of its latest renewal on the bulk metadata collection of phone records under Section 215 of the Patriot Act. A very key piece of that decision had to do with the FISA Court’s belief that Congress was well-informed about the programs when it voted to renew Section 215 — thus, arguing that Congress approves of such things. Grayson’s comments (along with those of many other House Representatives — not to mention the 207 Reps who voted for the Amash Amendment against such bulk collection) suggest that the FISA Court is simply wrong on this, but doesn’t seem to care enough to find out the truth.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights says there has been “systematic violation of human rights” at the notorious US-run Guantanamo prison in Cuba.
“The information we have indicates that there was a general and systematic violation of human rights” at Guantanamo, said Rodrigo Escobar Gil, one of the seven commissioners at the Washington-based body.
The commission also called on the US government to explain the alleged abuses, especially the force-feeding of prisoners on hunger strike.
Protesting harsh conditions and indefinite detention without charge or trial, Guantanamo prisoners began a hunger strike in early February, which US authorities say ended in late September.
Images from the detention center published in June showed how prisoners were force fed by military guards, being strapped to a metal restraint chair and fed through the nose with plastic tubing.
In July, a federal judge ruled that the practice of force-feeding the Guantanamo hunger strikers amounted to torture, but said she did not have the jurisdiction to stop the practice.
Escobar Gil, who described force-feeding at Guantanamo as “cruel and inhumane treatment,” said the IACHR’s requests for visits to the prison complex without pre-conditions have all been rejected by US authorities.
“We have reports of torture and degrading treatment. But all our requests for visits without conditions have been denied. We want to know when they are going to allow visits without pre-conditions,” he said.
Shutting down Guantanamo was a central theme of Obama’s presidential campaign in 2008 as he acknowledged that the detention camp was a symbol of the US government’s violation of human rights.
Brazil is urging a plan to introduce local data storage for Internet giants like Facebook and Google in order to keep the information they get from Brazilian users safe –as part of a complex of measures to oppose US spying.
The new law could impact Google, Facebook, Twitter and other Internet global companies that operate in Brazil, Latin America’s biggest country and one of the world’s largest telecommunications markets.
The country’s president, Dilma Rousseff, is urging lawmakers to vote as early as this week on the law, according to Reuters who have seen the draft of the legislation.
“The government can oblige Internet service companies … to install and use centers for the storage, management and dissemination of data within the national territory,” the draft of the document read.
Rousseff’s calls come after surveillance leaks by the US in Brazil that went as far as tracking the personal phone calls and e-mails of the President herself.
Last month, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff canceled a scheduled meeting at the White House after leaked documents showed the NSA spied on her country’s state oil company.
“We are not regulating the way information flows, just requiring that data on Brazilians be stored in Brazil so it is subject to the jurisdiction of Brazilian courts,” Rousseff spokesman Thomas Traumann said. “This has nothing to do with global communications.”
However, the companies disagree saying that the legislation will increase costs of services, and damage the economic activity connected with information.
Last week a coalition of business groups representing dozens of Internet companies including Facebook, Google, Microsoft and eBay sent a letter to Brazilian lawmakers.
“In-country data storage requirements would detrimentally impact all economic activity that depends on data flows,” the letter read, Reuters reported.
Many also threatened the law will scare the companies, while others, nevertheless, were of the opinion that the companies would comply if faced with no other options.
This week, Brazil is expected to vote on a cyber-security bill to create a state system to protect the country’s citizens from spying.
When the news on the bill emerged two weeks ago, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff tweeted the news, stressing the need for greater security “to prevent possible espionage.”
The latest legislation project comes against a backdrop of Brazil set to host a conference next April to debate ways to guard Internet privacy from espionage.
The meeting is to be held by ICAAN, the body that manages web domain names. It is thought to be neutral and includes governments, civil society and industry.
Meanwhile, BRICS companies are working to create a “new Internet”.
In particular, Brazil has been reported to be building a “BRICS cable” that will create an independent link between Brazil, South Africa, India, China and Russia, in order to bypass NSA cables and avoid spying.
The cable is set to go from the Brazilian town of Fortaleza to the Russian town of Vladivostok via Cape Town, Chennai and Shantou.
The length of the fiber-optic cable will be almost 35,000 kilometers, making it one of the most ambitious underwater telecom projects ever attempted.
Last week, most of the BRICS countries joined talks to hammer out a UN resolution that would condemn “indiscriminate” and “extra-territorial” surveillance, and ensure “independent oversight” of electronic monitoring.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that “contacts [between Moscow and Washington] never stop,” when asked if the latest publication of secret files leaked by the former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor would affect relations between Russia and the US.
Also, Lavrov made it clear that the situation surrounding Snowden is irrelevant to Russia.
“We have formulated our position on Snowden and have said everything,” he said.
- China echoes Brazil’s call for cyberspace guidelines (thebricspost.com)
An Oakland, CA activist says local police officers sent surveillance footage of him participating in a protest last week to his employer, resulting in his firing Monday.
The activist, who goes by @Anon4Justice on Twitter, tweeted the details Monday morning in what appears to be police use of surveillance footage in combination with private and public records that identified @Anon4Justice and led to his employer.
The activist had called in sick to work Friday to take part in a protest of Urban Shield, an expo for SWAT teams, military contractors and police officers from all over the world.
Urban Shield, coordinated by the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office, exists under the guise of fighting terrorism and “disaster preparedness” in heavily-populated areas. The event is partly a trade show for a myriad of militarized tactical gear and weapons, but there are also training exercises and war-game competitions that teams from California to Guam to Qatar took part in over the weekend. The exercises include protest suppression techniques and SWAT-team-raid simulations.
As the activist protested the militarized police event, paid for by the Department of Homeland Security, Oakland police produced surveillance footage of his participation in the demonstration and photos of his truck, which they sent to the his employer. The police called the employer, as well, to tell them though he said he was out sick, he was really taking part in a protest, which led to his firing.
The instance of @Anon4Justice’s tracking and firing, comes amid news that Oakland received $7 million, again from the Department of Homeland Security, for port security. Yet in addition to the use for ports, Oakland plans to spend the money on a vast surveillance “Domain Awareness Center,” as the ACLU of Massachusetts’ Privacy SOS blog pointed out Monday.
“From a central location, it will electronically gather data around the clock from a variety of sensors and databases, analyze that data and display some of the information on a bank of giant monitors,” the New York Times reported two weeks ago.
The city maintains the center will help reduce crime in a city that sees more than its share. Yet critics told the Times the program “will create a central repository of surveillance information” and “gather data about the everyday movements and habits of law-abiding residents,” calling into question the legality and ethics of such an operation.
As one Oakland City Council member told the Times, the center would have the capabilities to “paint a pretty detailed picture of someone’s personal life, someone who may be innocent.”
The Oakland City Council voted unanimously on July 31 to adopt the plan to build the surveillance center, which officials have said will be staffed 24 hours a day. Lawmakers voted at the same meeting to ban hammers and spray paint cans at local protests in fear that the items will be used as weapons. Waiting outside, protesters admonished council members with chants of “Shame! Shame! Shame!”
The Times reported that this project is not the first time Oakland has sought to develop such technology. A city audit viewed by the paper revealed that lawmakers spent nearly $2 million in 2012 on police tools that did not work or could not be used for a variety of reasons.
The center will be operational by July 2014, and will eventually cost $10.9 million in federal grants, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
Oakland has been the site of contentious, at times violent, confrontations between police and protesters in recent years, and beyond.
The City of Oakland and Alameda County agreed in June to settle a class action lawsuit by paying out $1.025 million to 152 people arrested in 2010 while protesting the leniency of sentence for a white transit officer who shot dead an unarmed black man, Oscar Grant.
Occupy Oakland and police clashed many times, most notably in late October, 2011 as Oakland police attempted to clear its encampment and disperse hundreds of protesters, later leading to Iraq war veteran Scott Olsen suffering a skull fracture caused by a non-lethal projectile shot by police.
Tear gas was also used on protesters during May Day 2012.
On top of the centralized surveillance operation, as Privacy SOS wrote, the allegations that surveillance data was used to undermine the exercise of free speech by @Anon4Justice could have a chilling effect among other activists.
“This kind of government action sends a chilling message to all Oakland residents: If you protest the police, they will use the powerful surveillance tools at their disposal to come after you and interfere with your life — regardless of whether or not you’ve done anything wrong.
“Was the compilation of photographs of @Anon4Justice part of the Urban Shield exercise the activist was protesting? Is it OPD policy to use photographs of people exercising their First Amendment rights to get them in trouble with their employers? Is this kind of McCarthyite political repression how Oakland residents — or the rest of the country — want their tax dollars spent?”
Which is Worse…Obama is Lying about Not Knowing NSA Eavesdropping Details or that he Really Didn’t Know?
Did he know, or didn’t he? That’s the question surrounding President Barack Obama since it was revealed that the National Security Agency (NSA) had spied on the private communications of German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Obama has been put in the embarrassing position of either admitting that he authorized the NSA to tap into the cell phone and email communications of the leaders of Germany and other allied countries, or that during his presidency spy agencies have been allowed to do as they wish without his knowledge even though many of their programs were already in place before Obama entered the White House.
Media reports out of Germany over the weekend indicated that Obama did know what the NSA was doing, going back several years in fact.
The German tabloid Bild alleged that Obama was personally briefed in 2010 about the operation to target Merkel’s phone by the NSA’s director, Keith Alexander, and that he authorized it to continue.
Another story, published in Der Spiegel, said the U.S. had been spying on Germans from the U.S. embassy in Berlin since 2008, and that surveillance of Merkel may have began as early as 2002.
In response to the stories, the NSA denied that Alexander met with Obama to discuss the controversial program.
The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) cited numerous unnamed sources who said the White House didn’t learn of the NSA spying until this past summer, when the operation against Merkel was shut down. It quoted a senior NSA official as saying, “These decisions are made at NSA. The president doesn’t sign off on this stuff.”
But that could mean Obama was in the dark for years about NSA activities.
“Officials said the NSA has so many eavesdropping operations under way that it wouldn’t have been practical to brief him on all of them,” the WSJ’s Siobhan Gorman and Adam Entous reported.
If that’s the best spin the administration can put on the scandal, it still leaves Obama open to criticism that he’s allowed a multi-billion-dollar spy agency to run amok and pry into the communications of whomever it wishes.
To Learn More:
If Obama Didn’t Know About Merkel Spying, Who Was It For? (by Jon Queally, Common Dreams)
Obama Unaware as U.S. Spied on World Leaders: Officials (by Siobhan Gorman and Adam Entous, Wall Street Journal)
Barack Obama ‘Approved Tapping Angela Merkel’s Phone 3 Years Ago’ (by Philip Sherwell and Louise Barnett, The Telegraph)