The United Nations is set to carry out an investigation into the spying activities of the US and UK, a senior judge has said. The probe will examine the espionage programs and assess whether they conform to UN regulations.
UN special rapporteur Ben Emmerson QC told British newspaper The Guardian that the UN will conduct an inquiry into the NSA and the GCHQ’s spying antics. Following Edward Snowden’s revelations, which blew the whistle on both agencies’ intelligence gathering programs, Emmerson said the issue was at “the very apex of public interest and concerns.”
The report will broach a number of contentious issues, said Emmerson, including whether Snowden should be granted the legal protection afforded to a whistleblower, whether the data he handed over to the media did significant harm to national security, whether intelligence agencies need to scale down their surveillance programs and whether the UK government was misled about the extent of intelligence gathering.
“When it comes to assessing the balance that must be struck between maintaining secrecy and exposing information in the public interest, there are often borderline cases,” Emmerson told The Guardian.
Emmerson also mentioned the raid this summer on The Guardian’s London offices in search of hard drives containing data from Snowden. Addressing the allegations made by the chiefs of British spy agencies MI5, GCHQ and MI6, that publishing Snowden’s material was “a gift to terrorists,” Emmerson said it was the media’s job to hold governments to account for their actions.
“The astonishing suggestion that this sort of responsible journalism can somehow be equated with aiding and abetting terrorism needs to be scotched decisively,” said Emmerson, who will present the conclusions of his inquiry to the UN General Assembly next autumn.
Guardian editor-in-chief Alan Rusbridger is set to appear before a Commons home affairs committee in a hearing about the newspaper publishing of Snowden’s security leaks. British Prime Minister David Cameron issued a statement in September, warning of a possible crackdown if media continued to publish information on covert intelligence gathering programs.
He said the government had not yet been “heavy-handed” in its dealings with the press, but it would be difficult not to act if the press does not “demonstrate some social responsibility.” Cameron added that the UK was a more dangerous place after the Guardian published Snowden’s material.
Snowden’s revelations of the international spying activities of the UK and US have embarrassed the White House and Downing Street. Recent leaks show that the NSA and GCHQ not only monitored millions of civilian communications using programs such as PRISM and Tempora, but also eavesdropped on high-profile businessmen and politicians. Moreover, it was revealed that the NSA also spied on the UN’s headquarters in New York.
Both nations have sought to justify their intelligence gathering programs as being in the interests of national security.
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.”
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)
Everyday communications of Italians are also on the watch list of the US National Security Agency, a new report has revealed. While an Italian parliamentary committee seeks clarification of NSA activities, local security sources defend the snooping.
Italy’s spy watchdog COPASIR has recently learned details of large-scale monitoring of Italians by the US intelligence agency NSA, according to a report published by Corriere della Sera.
COPASIR stands for Parliamentary Committee for the Intelligence and Security Services and for State Secret Control, and is tasked with overseeing the activities of Italy’s own spy agencies. The body has free access to intelligence agencies’ offices and documents and has the authority to overcome judicial and banking secrecy.
In order to confirm the snooping on Italians, the committee members had to go to the United States and meet with US intelligence agency directors, as well as with congressional committee chairs.
A delegation of parliamentarians from the COPASIR confirmed their concerns regarding the extent of the NSA’s PRISM surveillance program during an official visit to the US three weeks ago, the media said. As part of the program, phone calls and computer communications of “millions of Italians” are reportedly being gathered.
Moreover, Corriere della Sera added that the implications extended to “a monitoring network that started years ago and is still active,” of which the Italian government and spy agencies might have been well aware of.
Such discoveries have prompted uneasy questions to officials, with leading members of COPASIR now seeking clarification from the government, and reportedly awaiting the junior minister for the intelligence services, Marco Minniti, to visit the committee’s offices on Wednesday afternoon.
Meanwhile, Italian intelligence sources quoted in the report rushed to justify the surveillance activities of their partners.
The acquisition of the sensitive private information “has as its sole aim the fight against terrorism,” one source was quoted as saying, while another denied that the NSA’s spying ever breached Italy’s sovereignty.
“We have never had any evidence that this kind of monitoring might have involved political spying on Italian public figures. All our investigations into any such eventuality have proved negative,” the source maintained.
However, such explanations did not satisfy COPASIR, nor did the NSA deputy director’s promise of “a complete overview of communications to and from the United States.”
According to the Italian media, the committee member Claudio Fava from Left Ecology Freedom (SEL) party, was “openly perplexed” as he commented on such statements.
“It’s a data trawling system based on various sensors. US intelligence experts explained that their main concern was to comply with American data protection laws and intervene to safeguard national security. Whether this conflicts with other countries’ laws is of no concern to them but it should be to us,” Fava was quoted as saying.
Another COPASIR member, Felice Casson of the Democratic Party (PD), said that the replies the committee received from top Italian intelligence officials were “far from reassuring.”
“It is clear that the United States has acquired information on individuals and institutions across Europe. What concrete elements exist to rule out that this has happened to politicians and institutions in Italy?” Casson questioned.
Leading Democratic Party (PD) politician Ettore Rosato also demanded an explanation from the government, saying that “a few months ago, when the first [NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden’s] revelations emerged, both the prime minister, Enrico Letta, and the foreign minister, Emma Bonino, professed astonishment at what came out.”
So far, the documents obtained by various world media from the former NSA contractor Snowden have revealed that the Italian embassy in Washington was subject to spying along with the diplomatic missions of other countries. Italian intelligence sources have been careful to deny the claims only “off the record,” Corriere della Sera says.
Right before the NSA scandal emerged, the collaboration between Italian and American intelligence services was “at its peak,” and, according to the media, included sharing of communications through the SIGINT interception system. However, such cooperation appeared to have been justified by the ongoing allied wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the search for western hostages there, the media adds.
But in the wake of recent revelations on the US spying activities in France, which triggered a media frenzy and public outrage, the media speculates Italy may find it difficult to maintain the same “stance” towards the NSA programs.
Canada, as well as the US, infiltrated and spied on the Brazilian Energy Ministry, a new leak by Edward Snowden has revealed. The leaked documents show how the data gleaned through espionage was shared with international spy network the ‘Five Eyes.’
Newly-released documents handed over to Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald by former CIA employee Edward Snowden describe in detail how Canadian intelligence infiltrated Brazil’s Energy and Mines Ministry.
“I was overwhelmed by the power of the tools used. The Ministry of Energy and Mines was totally dissected,” security expert Paulo Pagliusi told Brazilian program Fantastico, which first reported on the leak.
The program showed documents from a meeting of the ‘Five Eyes’ spy network, comprising the US, UK, Canada, New Zealand and Australia, in June of last year. In a presentation the Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSRC) – the Canadian version of the NSA – outlined how they used a program called Olympia to break through the Brazilian ministry’s encryption.
The information gleaned from the ministry was then shared with all of the members of the ‘Five Eyes.’
“They [Five Eyes] are sharing all the information, handing over documents to let other countries know exactly what they are doing,” said Glen Greenwald.
As a result of the infiltration of the ministry over an unspecified period, the CSCE developed a detailed map of the institution’s communications. As well as monitoring email and electronic communications, the CSCE also eavesdropped on telephone conversations. Able to identify mobile numbers, SIM card registrations and the make of a phone, Olympia even snooped on former Brazilian ambassador to Canada Paulo Cordeiro.
Canada has so far refused to comment on the reports of its spy program. Brazil’s Minister of Mines and Energy Edison Lobao told Fantastico that the reports were “serious” and should be condemned.
Canada is one of the world’s leading energy producers and has significant economic interests in Brazil.
“Canada has interests in Brazil, especially in the mining sector. Does this spying serve the commercial interests of select groups? I cannot say,” observed Lobao.
‘No economic espionage’
Previously, Brazilian newspaper Globo News reported that the NSA was monitoring Brazil’s state oil giant Petrobras. Washington reacted to the allegations, stating that the US “does not engage in economic espionage.” The Obama administration has said on a number of occasions that US covert surveillance is in the interests of protecting US national security.
Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff has condemned the reports of the NSA’s surveillance of Brazil and demanded the US account for its actions.
As a consequence, the Brazilian head of state postponed an official visit to Washington in October. Rousseff has also taken measures to tighten Brazilian internet security.
“I have sent an internet draft bill to Congress, an initiative that will protect the privacy of Brazilians,” Rousseff wrote on Twitter on Sunday. The government is expected to vote on the bill in the coming weeks.
Back in September, Rousseff slammed the US for “economic espionage,” dismissing US claims the NSA spying is a preventative measure to ensure national security. Addressing the UN General Assembly, President Rousseff stated that state-run Petrobras is “no threat to the security of any country. Rather, it represents one of the greatest assets of the world’s oil and the heritage of the Brazilian people.”
Iranian officials say they have completed decoding the surveillance data and software extracted from the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) drone that the United States lost possession of nearly two years ago near the city of Kashmar.
Hossein Salami, the lieutenant commander general of Iran’s Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution, told the country’s Fars news agency that analysts have finally cracked the systems used within the RQ-170 Sentinel drone obtained in December 2011.
Iranians claimed previously that they brought the drone down after it entered Iranian airspace without permission. Roughly one week later, CIA officials admitted the drone was conducting a reconnaissance mission over Afghanistan when it went missing.
When the US asked Iran to return the unmanned aerial vehicle, Salami told Fars news agency, “No nation welcomes other countries’ spy drones in its territory, and no one sends back the spying equipment and its information back to the country of origin.”
Nearly two years later, Salami is now celebrating Iran’s latest accomplishment with regards to the UAV.
“All the memories and computer systems of this plane have been decoded and some good news will be announced in the near future not just about the RQ-170 and the optimizations that our forces have done on the reverse engineered model of this drone, but also in area of other important defense achievements,” Fars quoted him.
When the Iranian military gained control over the drone, the unmanned aerial vehicle’s (UAV) erase sequence allegedly failed to delete sensitive data from it. Since then, Iranian experts have been decoding the captured data, occasionally reporting their progress.
Although the CIA has not admitted the extent of the drone’s capabilities, experts have said previously that reverse engineering the Sentinel could be a significant event for any nation-state looking to learn more about the technologies utilized by American spy planes.
“It carries a variety of systems that wouldn’t be much of a benefit to Iran, but to its allies such as China and Russia, it’s a potential gold mine,” robotics author Peter Singer told the Los Angeles Times in 2011.
“It’s bad — they’ll have everything” an unnamed US official added to the Times then. “And the Chinese or the Russians will have it too.”
Meanwhile, a report in the New York Times this weekend suggested that Chinese researchers have been busy on their own attempting to emulate American drones. Edward Wong wrote in the Times on Friday that Chinese hackers working for the state-linked Comment Crew cybergroup have targeted no fewer than 20 foreign defense contractors during the last two years in hopes of pilfering secrets that would be useful in programming their own UAVs.
“I believe this is the largest campaign we’ve seen that has been focused on drone technology,” Darien Kindlund, manager of threat intelligence at California-based FireEye, told Wong. “It seems to align pretty well with the focus of the Chinese government to build up their own drone technology capabilities.”
Vice’s Motherboard website reported this week that at least 123 cyberattacks waged at American drone companies have been spotted by security researchers since 2011, and quoted Kindlund as saying the attacks have been “largely successful.”
The NSA used ‘man in the middle’ hack attacks to impersonate Google and fool web users, leaks have revealed. The technique circumvents encryption by redirecting users to a copycat site which relays all the data entered to NSA data banks.
Brazilian television network Globo News released a report based on classified data divulged by former CIA worker Edward Snowden on Sunday. The report itself blew the whistle on US government spying on Brazilian oil giant Petrobras, but hidden in amongst the data was information the NSA had impersonated Google to get its hands on user data.
Globo TV showed slides from a 2012 NSA presentation explaining how the organization intercepts data and re-routes it to NSA central. One of the convert techniques the NSA uses to do this is a ‘man in the middle’ (MITM) hack attack.
This particular method of intercepting internet communications is quite common among expert hackers as it avoids having to break through encryption. Essentially, NSA operatives log into a router used by an internet service provider and divert ‘target traffic’ to a copycat MITM site, whereupon all the data entered is relayed to the NSA. The data released by Edward Snowden and reported on by Globo News suggests the NSA carried out these attacks disguised as Google.
When the news broke about the NSA gathering information through internet browsers, tech giants such as Google and Yahoo denied complicity, maintaining they only handover data if a formal request is issued by the government.
“As for recent reports that the US government has found ways to circumvent our security systems, we have no evidence of any such thing ever occurring. We provide our user data to governments only in accordance with the law,” said Google spokesperson Jay Nancarrow to news site Mother Jones.
Google, along with Microsoft, Facebook and Yahoo, has filed a lawsuit against the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA) to allow them to make public all the data requests made by the NSA.
“Given the important public policy issues at stake, we have also asked the court to hold its hearing in open rather than behind closed doors. It’s time for more transparency,” Google’s director of law enforcement and information security, Richard Salgado, and the director of public policy and government affairs, Pablo Chavez, wrote in a blog post on Monday.
The tech giants implicated in NSA’s global spying program have denied criticism that they could have done more to resist NSA spying. Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo, claimed that speaking out about the NSA’s activities would have amounted to ‘treason’ at a press conference in San Francisco on Wednesday.
In Yahoo’s defense, she argued that the company had been very skeptical of the NSA’s requests to disclose user data and had resisted whenever possible. Mayer concluded that it was more realistic to work within the system,” rather than fight against it.
Despite earlier US assurances that its Department of Defense does not “engage in economic espionage in any domain,” a new report suggests that the intelligence agency NSA spied on Brazilian state-run oil giant Petrobras.
Brazil’s biggest television network Globo TV reported that the information about the NSA spying on Petroleo Brasileiro SA came from Glenn Greenwald, the American journalist who first published secrets leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden.
Globo TV aired slides from an NSA presentation from 2012 that revealed the agency’s ability to gain access to private networks of companies such as Petrobras and Google Inc.
One slide specified an ‘economic’ motive for spying, along with diplomatic and political reasons.
This seems to contradict a statement made by an NSA spokesman to the Washington Post on August 30, which said that the US Department of Defense “does not engage in economic espionage in any domain, including cyber.”
An official from the NSA told Globo that the agency gathers economic information not to steal secrets, but to watch for financial instability.
Petrobras is known to have discovered some of the world’s biggest offshore oil reserves in recent years.
Some of the new reserves are estimated to be around as 100 billion barrels of oil, according to Rio de Janeiro State University.
None of the leaked slides went into the reasons behind the NSA spying on the Brazilian firm.
The US spy agency then reportedly shared the gathered information with the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
The new report about US spying on Brazil could intensify the already existing tensions between Brazil and US.
The relationship between the two countries became tense as Globo reported about allegations that NSA has intercepted private communications of Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff and her Mexican counterpart Enrique Pena Nieto.
Brazil responded by canceling preparations for the presidential visit to the United States and beginning a probe into telecommunications companies to see if they illegally shared data with the NSA. Also, Brazil has asked for a formal apology.
During the G20 summit US tried to address the issue by US President Barack Obama pledging to work with Brazil and Mexico to address their concerns over US spying revealed in recent NSA leaks.
The French external intelligence agency spies on French citizen’s phone calls, emails and social media activity and web use, the Le Monde newspaper has reported.
France’s external intelligence agency the DGSE, intercepts signals from computers and telephones in France and between France and other countries in order to get a picture of who is talking to whom, although, apparently, they do not randomly spy on the content of phone calls, the daily revealed on Thursday.
Emails, text messages, telephone records, access to Facebook and Twitter are stored for years. “All of our communications are spied on,” read the article quoting unnamed sources in the intelligence services as well as remarks made publicly by intelligence officials.
The DGSE allegedly stores the metadata from private communications in a basement under its Paris headquarters. All of France’s seven other intelligence services have access to the data and can tap into it freely as a means to spot people’s suspicious communications. Individuals can then be targeted by more intrusive techniques such as phone-tapping, it was reported.
Le Monde pointed out the activities were illegal, but the French national security commission whose job it is to authorize targeted spying, and the parliamentary intelligence committee, challenged the papers report. It said that it works within the law and that the only body in France that collected communication information was a government agency controlled by the Prime Minister’s office to monitor for security breaches.
The report comes after revelations that America’s NSA regularly spies on its own people as well as on European citizens and embassies.
The allegations were leaked by Edward Snowden and published in the German magazine Der Spiegel, and have sparked a furious response from European governments just as a major US-EU trade talks are about to get underway.
The Guardian newspaper reported last month that Britain has a similar spying program and shares vast quantities of information with the NSA through its Prism program.
A former cybersecurity advisor to President George W. Bush says a sophisticated computer hack could have been the cause of the automobile accident that claimed the life of journalist Michael Hastings last week in Los Angeles.
Richard Clarke, a State Department official-turned-special advisor to several United States presidents, said the early morning auto crash last Tuesday was “consistent with a car cyberattack,” raising new questions about the death of the award-winning journalist.
Hastings died last week when his 2013 Mercedes C250 coupe collided with a tree in Los Angeles, California on the morning of June 18. He was reportedly traveling at a high rate of speed and failed to stop at a red light moments before the single-car crash. He was only 33.
Speaking to Huffington Post this week, Clarke said that a cyberattack waged at the vehicle could have caused the fatal collision.
“What has been revealed as a result of some research at universities is that it’s relatively easy to hack your way into the control system of a car, and to do such things as cause acceleration when the driver doesn’t want acceleration, to throw on the brakes when the driver doesn’t want the brakes on, to launch an air bag,” Clarke told The Huffington Post. “You can do some really highly destructive things now, through hacking a car, and it’s not that hard.”
“So if there were a cyberattack on the car — and I’m not saying there was,” Clarke continued, “I think whoever did it would probably get away with it.”
The Los Angeles Police Department said they don’t expect foul play was involved in the crash, but an investigation has been opened nonetheless.
In an email reportedly sent by Hastings hours before the crash, he told colleagues that he thought he was the target of a federal investigation.
“Hey [redacted}, the Feds are interviewing my ‘close friends and associates,’” Hastings wrote 15 hours before the crash.
“Also: I’m onto a big story, and need to go off the rada[r] for a bit,” he added. “All the best, and hope to see you all soon.”
The email was supplied to KTLA News in Los Angeles by Staff Sgt. Joseph Biggs, who says he met Hastings while the journalist was embedded in Afghanistan in 2008. It was reportedly send to a handful of Hastings’ associates and was blind-copied to Biggs.
“I just said it doesn’t seem like him. I don’t know, I just had this gut feeling and it just really bothered me,” Biggs told KTLA.
Reporters at Buzzfeed where Hastings worked say they received an email from their colleague, but the Federal Bureau of Investigation issued a statement two days after Hastings’ death to quash rumors that they had been looking into the reporter.
“At no time was Michael Hastings under investigation by the FBI,” FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said.
According to the Associated Press, however, Hastings’ fingerprints were on file with the FBI and were used by the bureau to identify his body after flames consumed much the auto wreckage last week.
“I believe the FBI when they say they weren’t investigating him,” Clarke told the Huffington Post. “That was very unusual, and I’m sure they checked very carefully before they said that.”
“I’m not a conspiracy guy. In fact, I’ve spent most of my life knocking down conspiracy theories,” he said. “But my rule has always been you don’t knock down a conspiracy theory until you can prove it [wrong]. And in the case of Michael Hastings, what evidence is available publicly is consistent with a car cyberattack. And the problem with that is you can’t prove it.”
Clarke, 62, spent nearly two decades at the Pentagon before relocating to the White House where he served under President Ronald Reagan and both Presidents Bush. He served as special advisor to President George W. Bush on cybersecurity until leaving the administration in 2003 and is currently the chairman and CEO of Good Harbor Security Risk Management, LLC.
US government has been hacking Chinese mobile operator networks to intercept millions of text messages, as well as the operator of region’s fibre optic cable network, South China Morning Post writes citing Edward Snowden.
More information on National Security Agency activity in China and Hong Kong has been revealed by SCMP on Sunday, shedding light on statements Snowden made in an interview on June 12.
“The NSA does all kinds of things like hack Chinese cell phone companies to steal all of your SMS data,” Snowden was quoted as saying on the SCMP website.
In a series of reports the paper claims Snowden has provided proof of extensive US hacking activity in the region.
The former CIA technician and NSA contractor reportedly provided to the paper the documents detailing specific attacks on computers over a four-year period, including internet protocol (IP) addresses, dates of attacks and whether a computer was still being monitored remotely. SCMP however did not reveal any supporting documents.
The US government has been accused of a security breach at the Hong Kong headquarters of the operator of the largest regional fibre optic cable network operator, Pacnet. Back in 2009, the company’s computers were hacked by the NSA but since then the operation has been shut down, according to the documents the paper claims to have seen.
Pacnet’s network spans across Hong Kong, China, Korea, Japan, Taiwan, the Philippines and Singapore and provides connections to 16 data centers for telecom companies, corporations and governments across the region.
The whistleblower has also allegedly revealed the US had viewed millions of text messages by hacking Chinese mobile phone companies. That is a significant claim since the Chinese sent almost billion text messages in 2012 and China Mobile is the world’s largest mobile network carrier.
In his very first leak to the media, Snowden had already exposed the scale of the American government spying operation on its domestic mobile network operators. He later revealed that the US and the UK possessed technology to access the Blackberry phones of delegates at two G20 summit meetings in London in 2009.
In a third article, SCMP claims that the US on a regular basis has been attacking the servers at Tsinghua University, one of country’s biggest research institutions. The whistleblower said that information obtained pointed to hacking activities, because it contained such details as external and internal IP addresses in the University’s network, which could only have been retrieved by a security breach.
Tsinghua University is host to one of Chinas’ six major backbone networks, the China Education and Research Network (CERNET) containing data about millions of Chinese citizens.
Thousands of US tech, finance, and manufacturing firms have secret agreements with national security agencies to trade sensitive information in return for classified intelligence, Bloomberg’s sources revealed.
The firms involved are referred to as ‘trusted partners’ by US intelligence organizations such as the National Security Agency (NSA), Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and branches of US military.
In fact, thousands of US companies voluntarily provide US agencies with data (i.e. equipment specifications), Bloomberg’s four sources, who either worked for the government or in companies that have these agreements, said. And the information received can be used to gain access to computers of America’s rivals.
Cooperation between companies and intelligence agencies is legal, reported Bloomberg. And the fact that the companies provide information voluntarily means there is no need for US agencies to get court orders and no oversight is required under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, one out of four sources said.
Also, some of the companies’ executives are guaranteed immunity from civil actions related to transfer of information.
For example, Microsoft passes on information about bugs in its software before it publicly releases a fix to the problem, two sources confirmed. This kind of information can protect US government computers, as well as help to infiltrate those used by foreign governments by exploiting vulnerabilities in the Microsoft’s system.
Microsoft is reportedly not told how the US government uses the information passed on down to it, according to one official. Spokesman for Microsoft Frank Shaw confirmed such releases and stated that they give the government a chance to get “an early start: on risk assessment and mitigation.”
McAfee, America’s global computer security software company, is another ‘trusted partner’ and is known for its cooperation with the NSA, CIA, and FBI. It can share valuable data including malicious internet traffic, one of the sources said.
The company’s worldwide chief technology officer, Michael Fey, rebuffed the claim that the company does not share any personal information with the government.
“McAfee’s function is to provide security technology, education, and threat intelligence to governments … [including] emerging new threats, cyber-attack patterns and hacker group activity,” he stated.
Due to the sensitivity of information being traded, these kinds of agreements are usually made strictly between companies’ chief executive officers and heads of the US agencies. At times the chief executives could clear a few trusted people to work directly with the agencies.
Sharing info: Out of ‘patriotism’ or for ‘classified’ info?
In return for their cooperation, companies are showered with attention and gratitude.
“If I were the director and had a relationship with a company who was doing things that were not just directed by law, but were also valuable to the defense of the Republic, I would go out of my way to thank them and give them a sense as to why this is necessary and useful”, Michael Hayden, former director of the NSA and the CIA said.
One of the sources said that public would be surprised how much help the government is seeking in terms of collecting information. Reportedly, it is currently implementing a new expensive program called Einstein 3. The program was developed by the NSA to protect the government from hackers by analyzing billions of emails being sent to the government computers.
Five of America’s major internet companies, including AT&T and Verizon, have agreed to install the program on their servers and have received immunity guarantees, which specify that they would not be held liable under US wiretap laws, one of the sources revealed.
In the past companies like AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth were already reportedly involved for eavesdropping on behalf of the NSA. In 2006 sources revealed that the companies collected call records of tens of millions of Americans and shared them with NSA.
US companies are willing to participate in these kinds of agreements because they either believe they are helping to protect the nation and/or helping to advance their own interests by receiving classified information in return, sources said.
Google’s co-founder Sergey Brin, for example, was given sensitive government information a year into its data sharing agreement with NSA. The info provided linked the 2010 attack on Google to a specific unit within the Chinese military – the People’s Liberation Army – one of the sources confirmed. Brin was even given a classified clearance to attend a secret briefing on the subject.
Google was reportedly one of the participants in the secret NSA PRISM program that was revealed by ex-CIA staffer and whistleblower Edward Snowden. The program uses data mining surveillance to access emails, videos, chats, photos and search queries from nine worldwide tech giants.
Snowden also disclosed a secret NSA program called Blarney, which gathers metadata on computers and devices that send emails or browse the Internet through principal data routes, known as a backbone.
The whistleblower was last seen Monday, checking out of his hotel in Hong Kong, where he stayed for three weeks after leaving the US.
Snowden is hoping that staying in Hong Kong would help him avoid any extradition attempts on behalf of the US. In terms of the US-Hong Kong Extradition Treaty, both Hong Kong and Beijing have the power to stymie Snowden’s extradition. China for its part has no extradition treaty with the United States.
China has thus far refrained from making statements on the Snowden case. But a popular Chinese Communist Party-backed newspaper has printed an article demonstrating the benefits of not sending Snowden back to US, arguing that his knowledge of US surveillance programs are key to China’s national interest.
The article comes after Snowden resurfaced and gave an exclusive interview to the South China Morning Post, revealing top-secret US government records that show dates and IP addresses of computers in Hong Kong and on the mainland that were hacked by the NSA over a four-year period.
In the meantime, the FBI has launched an investigation into Snowden leaking US top secret surveillance tactics and has promised to hold the whistleblower accountable.
- Snowden Shows South China Morning Post Details of NSA Hacking in China (nakedcapitalism.com)