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.
‘Don’t take away our freedom’
Thousands of people protested in Tokyo against a bill that would see whistleblowing civil servants jailed for up to 10 years. Activists claim the law would help the government to cover up scandals, and damage the country’s constitution and democracy.
A 3,000-seat outdoor theater in a park in downtown Tokyo, near the parliament, was not enough to contain everyone who came on Thursday to denounce government plans to considerably broaden the definition of classified information.
For photos of the Tokyo protests, see RT’s Gallery.
According to organizers’ estimates, about 10,000 people crowded shoulder-to-shoulder in the isles of the theater and outside of it, holding banners that read: “Don’t take away our freedom.”
The adoption of the law, proposed by the government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, would enable the authorities to put civil servants responsible for information leaks behind bars for up to 10 years.
This would seriously threaten the freedom of the press, as Japanese media would face serious problems gathering information on burning issues, because state employees would be reluctant to share information for fear of prosecution.
That’s why a group of Japanese journalists gathered at the Nagatacho District, close to the country’s parliament, to protest the proposed bill.
Currently, long prison terms for whistleblowers only apply to those Japanese citizens who leak classified data that came from the US military.
“The definition of what will be designated as secrets is not clear, and bureaucrats will make secrets extremely arbitrarily,” TV journalist Soichiro Tahara told Japan Daily Press.
Protesting journalists have submitted a petition to the Cabinet Office, calling for the bill to be scrapped.
The proposed law is conceived in such broad terms it allows wide interpretation and could be used for many purposes, for example such as hiding information about the situation at the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant.
The bill could be adopted as soon as next week, because the ruling Liberal Democrat Party has a majority in both houses of the Japanese parliament.
“If this law comes to pass, our constitution is nothing more than a scrap of paper,” Reuters reported Yasunari Fujimoto, an activist with the Peace Forum NGO, as saying. “Without the right to know, democracy cannot exist.”
Many Japanese have been suspicious of the legislation, since it reminds them of the tough military secrecy laws that existed before World War II, when Japan’s hardline militarist government was engaged on an expansionist policy throughout Asia, until its defeat in 1945.
PM Shinzo Abe says that the new legislature is extremely important to secure cooperation with Japan’s major ally, the US, as well as other countries.
The data security bill resembles laws targeting whistleblowers in the US, and Abe is also considering setting up an American-style National Security Council, too, Reuters reports.
The protesters do not support Abe’s eagerness to copy repressive foreign laws.
“We have a right to know everything,” said Akio Hirose, a 54-year-old transport worker, adding that the proposed law is “absolutely unacceptable.”
- Fuk-’hush’-ima: Japan’s new state secrets law gags whistleblowers, raises press freedom fears (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- #Japan Likely To Pass New Secrecy Law That Would Put Whistleblowers & Journalists in Jail (techdirt.com)
- Journalists hold protest action against Japan’s state secrets bill (japandailypress.com)
Dozens of Texas drivers have been stopped at a police road block, where they were then directed into a parking lot and forced into surrendering blood, saliva and breath samples in a study that has upset civil liberties advocates.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration admitted it was attempting to conduct a government study meant to determine the number of drunk or drug-impaired drivers on the road at any given time.
“It just doesn’t seem right that you can be forced off the road when you’re not doing anything wrong,” Kim Cope, who said she was forced to the side of the road while making her way to lunch, told NBCDFW.com. “I gestured to the guy in front that I just wanted to go straight, but he wouldn’t let me and forced me into the parking spot.”
The tests were made even more mysterious when reporters, alerted to the situation by concerned drivers, were unable to find any officers in the Fort Worth Police Department who had been involved. The NHTSA only admitted its involvement after local media sought answers.
The department, which says its mission is to “save lives, prevent injuries, and reduce vehicle-related crashes,” maintains that participation in the research was completely voluntary. But Ms. Cope said she felt trapped during what seemed to be an investigation.
“I finally did the breathalyzer test just because I thought it would be the easiest way to leave,” she said. “It just doesn’t seem right that they should be able to do any of it. If it’s voluntary, it’s voluntary, and none of it felt voluntary.”
When pressed, the FWPD said it was “reviewing the actions of all police personnel involved to ensure that FWPD policies and procedures were followed.” The NBC affiliate was able to determine that the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation, a government contractor, was hired to conduct the check.
An NHTSA spokesperson admitted similar programs were being conducted in 30 other cities throughout the US.
But civil liberties attorney Frank Colosi does not accept the rationale.
“You can’t just be pulled over randomly or for no reason,” he said. “They’re essentially lying to you when they say it’s completely voluntary, because they’re testing you at that moment.”
He added that drivers who refused may have been targeted by police for inadvertently giving the impression they were operating a vehicle under the influence. He also told NBC that fine print on the form told drivers their breath was being tested by “passive alcohol sensor readings before the consent process has been completed.”
This oddity comes just months after Texas state troopers were caught on video conducting vaginal and cavity searches on female drivers at the side of the road. The videos quickly went viral, and attorneys for the women filed federal lawsuits against the troopers.
“It’s ridiculous,” Peter Schulte, a former Texas police officer and prosecutor, told the New York Daily News earlier this year. “I was a law enforcement officer for 16 years and I never saw anything like it.”
Indonesia is recalling its ambassador to Australia over allegations that Canberra listened in on phone conversations of the Indonesian president.
Indonesia said the ambassador was being called to Jakarta for “consultations”.
The move by Jakarta comes as the Australian Department of Defence and the Defence Signals Directorate, or DSD, (now known as the Australian Signals Directorate), has been accused of monitoring the phone calls of Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, his wife Kristiani Herawati, as well as eight other high-ranking officials, including the vice president, Boediono.
The latest leak, provided in May 2013 by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, was released jointly by The Guardian newspaper and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation on Monday, and will likely aggravate another diplomatic firestorm between Canberra and Jakarta.
The top secret material from the DSD is in the form of a slide presentation, dated November 2009, and divulges information on the monitoring of mobile phones just as 3G technology was being introduced in Asia.
In one of the presentations, entitled Indonesian President Voice Events, a graphic of calls is given on Yudhoyono’s Nokia handset over a 15-day period in August 2009. The data provides CDRs – call data records – which record the numbers called, the duration of communications, and whether the transmission was a voice call or SMS.
The Australian spy agency “appears to have expanded its operations to include the calls of those who had been in touch with the president,” the report indicated. Another slide, entitled Way Forward, gives the simple command: “Must have content,” perhaps a reference to encrypted material.
Attached to the bottom of each slide in the 2009 presentation is the DSD slogan: “Reveal their secrets – protect our own.”
Also named in the surveillance slides are Dino Patti Djalal, then-foreign affairs spokesman for the president, who recently resigned as Indonesia’s ambassador to the US and is seeking the candidacy in next year’s presidential election for Yudhoyono’s Democratic party, and Hatta Rajasa, current minister for economic affairs and potential presidential candidate for the National Mandate party. Hatta served at the time of the surveillance as minister for transport; his daughter is the wife of the president’s youngest son.
Other high-level officials on the list of “IA Leadership Targets” are: Jusuf Kalla, the former vice-president who ran as the Golkar party presidential candidate in 2009; Sri Mulyani Indrawati, then a reforming finance minister and since 2010 one of the managing directors of the World Bank Group; Andi Mallarangeng, who was at the time the president’s spokesman, and later minister for youth and sports; Sofyan Djalil, who served until October 2009 as minister for state-owned enterprises; Widodo Adi Sucipto, a former head of the Indonesian military who served until October 2009 as security minister.
Another slide, entitled DSD Way Forward, acknowledges that the Australian spy agency’s must “capitalise on UKUSA and industry capability”, apparently a reference to assistance from telecom and internet companies, the same method that the NSA used to collect data on millions of individuals around the planet.
News of Australia’s high-level snooping on the Indonesian president and his top aides is certain to provoke a harsh response from Jakarta, especially considering this is not Australia’s first breach of trust between the Pacific Rim countries.
Tensions between Canberra and Jakarta began in October when top secret files revealed by the German newspaper Der Spiegel and published by Fairfax newspapers showed that Australian diplomatic posts across Asia were being used to intercept communications.
Marty Natalegawa, the Indonesian foreign minister, issued a harsh response and threatened to review bilateral initiatives on issues important to Australia, including people smuggling and terrorism.
During a visit last week to the Australian city of Perth, Vice president Boediono – not yet privy to information that his own Blackberry device had been compromised by Australian spy agencies – briefly mentioned the long-standing spying controversy.
“I think we must look forward to come to some arrangement which guarantees that intelligence information from each side is not used against the other,” he said. “There must be a system.”
Yudhoyono is the latest in a growing list of global leaders who have had their personal communications listened to by the American intelligence service.
It has recently been reported that the leaders of Germany, Brazil and Mexico have been listened to by the so-called Five Eyes, the collective name for the intelligence agencies of the United States, Britain, Australia, Canada and New Zealand, who share information.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel in late October demanded a personal explanation from US President Barack Obama as to why the NSA had tapped her mobile phone. The White House attempted to reassure the chancellor that her phone was “not currently being tapped and will not be in the future”.
It will be interesting at this point to see if the diplomatic backlash in wake of the recent wave of revelations will curb the Five Eyes’ surveillance program, or if it will just go deeper underground.
The Guardian then reported that the DSD worked together with the NSA to stage a massive surveillance operation in Indonesia during a UN climate change conference in Bali in 2007.
On Monday a spokesman for Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said: “Consistent with the long-standing practice of Australian governments, and in the interest of national security, we do not comment on intelligence matters.”
Mass surveillance isn’t something only being conducted by the likes of the National Security Agency anymore. Despite growing concerns brought on by the Summer of Snowden, cities around America are adopting high tech spy tools.
Never mind the negative press the NSA has received in recent weeks after Edward Snowden began leaking top-secret documents to the media pertaining to the United States’ spy group’s broadly scoped surveillance programs. Law enforcement agencies and local leaders in major American cities are nevertheless signing on to install new systems that are affording officials the power to snoop on just about anyone within range.
Seattle, Washington and Las Vegas, Nevada are among the latest locales in the US to acquire surveillance tools, the likes of which were both discussed in regional media reports over the weekend that are making their rounds across the Web and causing privacy advocates around the world to raise their voice.
Neither West Coast city has announced plans to acquire telephone metadata or eavesdrop on email traffic, and combined their operations likely pale in comparison to what the NSA has accomplished. Civil liberties activists are sounding the alarm regardless, however, after new reports revealed what kind of information city officials could collect using newly installed equipment.
In Seattle, a city of around 635,000, the police department recently used a Department of Homeland Security grant for $2.6 million to purchase and put up a number of wireless access devices that together create “mesh networks” which law enforcement officials can connect to and in turn more quickly share large chunks of data, such as surveillance camera recordings and other high-res information.
Those access points, or APs, do more than just transfer data from one node to another, though, and actually spend large amounts of time scouring for every Internet-capable device in the area that may be searching for a Wi-Fi signal — such as any smart phone that can connected to the Web. Although the mesh network is being made for emergency responders to be able to interact with ease and provide them with a widespread wireless system to share information, the APs acquire basic information about every electronic device that even momentarily makes a connection, in theory allowing officials to see much more than the average Washingtonian might want to willfully hand over.
The Stranger, a Seattle alternative-weekly, spoke to the city’s police department about the recently installed mesh network but wasn’t given many answers. Law enforcement officials insisted that the system isn’t fully functioning yet — and little more — but the Stranger learned that authorities can log the MAC (media access control) address of any iPhone, Android, laptop or Internet-able device that’s within reach of its signal, which could then provide authorities with information that even a seasoned investigator might have a hard time obtaining otherwise. Just as how telecommunication companies ping devices almost constantly from nearby towers to test signals, learning the specific location of a MAC address at any given date and time can then be coupled with other location data in order to triangulate a subject’s movements up to even just a few inches away.
Speaking to the Stranger, the Seattle Police Department admitted it does not yet have a policy to govern the use of the multi-million dollar system, but said it is “actively collaborating” with the American Civil Liberties Union, contrary to claims made by the ACLU that the SPD has been anything but speedy when responding to its questions and concerns.
“We definitely feel like the public doesn’t have a handle on what the capabilities are,” Jamela Debelak of Seattle’s ACLU office said to The Stranger. “We’re not even sure the police department does.”
Should a policy not be put in place quickly enough, many fear the results could be ravaging for the privacy of the city’s half-a-million-plus residents, many of whom surely wouldn’t suspect that the phone in their pocket it silently sending personalized information to the Seattle Police Department anytime they walk within reach of an AP’s signal.
In Las Vegas, the latest tool there might be even more Orwellian.
Sin City is one of the latest locales to purchase a line of highly-functional lampposts sold by Michigan’s Illuminating Concepts under the branding of “IntelliStreets.” As RT has reported in the past, however, the devices do much more than light up sidewalks. These lampposts are also Wi-Fi-ready to stream passers-by localized information and even audio and graphics, but it’s what Intellistreets collect that’s really shocking. In addition to broadcasting information, the lampposts are equipped with microphones and cameras that can record anything within an earshot and send it to a server to be analyzed.
On the IntelliStreets website, the company says, “Intellistreets provides a platform and many developed applications to assist DHS in protecting its citizens and natural resources.”
“We want to develop more than just the street lighting component,” Neil Rohleder of the city’s Public Works Department told KSNV News. “We want to develop an experience for the people who come downtown.”
As the technology spreads in cities unopposed, however, it could lead the other towns to journey down a slippery slope that ends with relinquishing even more personal information down the road.
“This technology, you know is taking us to a place where, you know, you’ll essentially be monitored from the moment you leave your home till the moment you get home,” local civil rights activist Daphne Lee told the network.
“At what point do we say this is the land of the free,” Lee said. “People have a right to a reasonable amount of privacy.”
As the NSA scandal has shown the world, however, one person’s idea of privacy might vastly differ from another’s. Revelations made possible through Mr. Snowden’s leaks have shown that the US government routinely collects information about the dialer and recipient of nearly every phone call made in the country, and even America’s allies, such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel, are subject to NSA-issued surveillance.
Meanwhile, other cities along the West Coast are seeing a surge in surveillance tools that started before the first Snowden leak but are still being set in place. Federal grants totaling around $7 million to Oakland, California are being used to ensure that the city has an eye on seemingly everything by next summer, and requests by a growing number of law enforcement agencies for spy drones is expected to involve eventually equipping bureaus across the country with unmanned aerial vehicles by the dawn of the next decade.
Congress has taken the first step towards expanding the abilities of the United States intelligence community by advancing a draft bill that will ensure the government’s spy budget stays intact into next year.
A Senate commitee approved the 2014 Intelligence Authorization Act during a closed door session on Tuesday, a bill that if signed into law will allow the US National Security Agency and other departments to keep receiving funding amid an international scandal that has caused calls for reform and even abolishment of the NSA both in the US and abroad in recent months.
Notwithstanding the backlash brought on by an array of secret NSA documents disclosed to the media by contractor-turned-leaked Edward Snowden since June, the Senate Intelligence Committee passed the draft bill by a 13-2 vote. Next, the full chamber will weigh in on the matter before it is reconciled with a sister act by way of the House of Representatives and sent to President Barack Obama to be signed into law.
If approved with all of its current provisions in place, the law will let the government continue to fund programs operated for purposes of counterterrorism and nuclear weapon proliferation prevention, authorizing initiatives within more than a dozen federal departments, including the NSA and others that deal in covert, intelligence-gathering operations.
In a press release issued Tuesday by the committee, however, its members also acknowledged that the bill expands certain intelligence community operations, including in particular the very programs enacted to prevent the unauthorized disclosure of classified information.
The bill, the committee wrote, “includes important provisions to enhance the conduct, accountability and oversight of the intelligence activities of the United States,” such as one intended “to protect against insider threats by adding necessary funds to deploy information technology detection systems across the intelligence community.”
The bill would also empower the Director of National Intelligence to “improve the government’s process to investigate . . . individuals with security clearances to access classified information,” while at same time “Instituting new statutory protections that protect the ability of legitimate whistleblowers to bring concerns directly to the attention of lawmakers, inspectors general and intelligence community leaders.”
Since the identity of the NSA leaker was revealed to be 30-year-old Edward Snowden, opponents of his actions have suggested that alternative, legal routes to questions the intelligence community’s tactics could have been taken, such as appealing to an inspector general. History, however, suggests that recent whistleblowers before him had a nearly impossible time doing as much, including Thomas Drake, a former senior NSA executive who was charged under the Espionage Act after he attempted to draw attention to waste, fraud and abuse within his agency years earlier. Speaking at an anti-NSA rally in Washington last month, Drake told a crowd of a couple thousand, “Any domestic surveillance legislation must include whistleblower protection for the credibility and enforcement of any reform effort, otherwise secrecy enforced by repression will turn into a faux reform passed into simply an honor system” for the NSA.
In a statement released on Tuesday, Committee Vice Chairman Saxby Chambliss (R-Georgia said, “This year’s intelligence authorization bill achieves both objectives by providing clear guidance and appropriate resources to the intelligence community, while enhancing the committee’s oversight of vital intelligence activities.”
If signed into law, the act will allow for funding to continue with regards to a number of intelligence-gathering operations conducted not just by the likes of the NSA, but also the Central Intelligence Agency, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Departments of Defense, State, Treasury, Energy and Justice, among others.
An independent report has charged that medical personnel, working under the direction of the Department of Defense and CIA in military defense facilities, violated medical ethics by participating in the torture of detainees.
The services provided by American doctors and psychologists included “designing, participating in, and enabling torture and cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment” of detainees, according to the report.
The 19-member task force concluded that since September 11, 2001, the Department of Defense (DoD) and CIA ordered medical professionals to assist in intelligence gathering, as well as forced-feeding of hunger strikers, in a way that inflicted “severe harm” on detainees in US custody.
The authors of the 269-page report, entitled “Ethics Abandoned: Medical Professionalism and Detainee Abuse in the ‘War on Terror’” is based on information from unclassified, publicly available information.
The task force revealed that a “theory of interrogation” emerged in US detention facilities, including Guantanamo Bay detention camp, that was based on “personality disintegration” as a means of breaking down the resistance of the detainees in an effort to extract confessions and information.
Over time, new interrogation methods were developed by interrogators and psychologists from techniques used in the pre-9/11 Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape (SERE) program that was designed for training US troops to withstand interrogation and mistreatment techniques in the event they were captured.
The interrogators and medical professionals transformed torture-resistant tactics into abusive methods of interrogation, which they employed on detainees. This included so-called ‘enhanced interrogation’ techniques, such as waterboarding, which involves covering a restrained detainee’s face with a towel and then soaking it with water. The technique is said to induce a feeling of drowning and complete helplessness.
The detainees are not permitted to receive treatment for the mental anguish caused by their torture.
The report also gave special mention to the Bush administration, which declared that the legal safeguards regarding the treatment of prisoners of war set down in the Geneva Convention did not apply to the “unlawful combatants” (i.e. terrorists) in the War on Terror.
The lack of any judicial restraints on the part of the military and medical personnel involved opened the door to “cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment” of prisoners at GITMO under both the Bush and Obama administrations.
Task Force member, Dr. Gerald Thomson, Professor of Medicine Emeritus at Columbia University, said physicians violated medical code of conduct by willingly becoming “agents of the military.”
“The American public has a right to know that the covenant with its physicians to follow professional ethical expectations is firm regardless of where they serve,” Dr. Thomson said in a released statement. “It’s clear that in the name of national security the military trumped that covenant, and physicians were transformed into agents of the military and performed acts that were contrary to medical ethics and practice.”
The medical community has “a responsibility to make sure this never happens again,” he added.
The authors cited a number of sources that informed their study, including recently published accounts of force-feeding hunger-striking detainees, a 2008 Senate report on the treatment of terrorists in custody, and a Red Cross probe of CIA interrogation measures that was leaked to the New York Times.
Dr. Thomson summarized the feelings of many people when he called the participation of physicians in the torture and interrogation of detainees a “big striking horror.”
“This covenant between society and medicine has been around for a long, long time — patient first, community first, society first, not national security, necessarily,” he continued. “If we just ignore this and satisfy ourselves with the (thought that), ‘Well, they were trying to protect us,’ when it does happen again we’ll all be complicit in that.”
Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Department of Defense, Lt. Col. J. Todd Breasseale, reviewed the charges contained in the report and called them “wholly absurd.”
“The health care providers at the Joint Strike Force who routinely provide not only better medical care than any of these detainees have ever known, but care on par with the very best of the global medical profession, are consummate professionals working under terrifically stressful conditions, far from home and their families, and with patients who have been extraordinarily violent,” Breasseale told NBC News.
Arthur Caplan, head of the division of medical ethics at NYU Langone Medical Center, said the medical personnel working at Gitmo may believe they are doing something valuable for society.
“What I’ve seen over the years is that people (doctors) who don’t want to do that, don’t. They find ways to avoid it, get out of it, or get reassigned,” Caplan told NBC News. “But for someone who does it, that doctor’s impulse may be to say: ‘I want to fight terrorism. I want to get information that protects the American people.’ They think they’re doing the right thing.”
British intelligence agency GCHQ has helped counterpart entities in France, Germany, Spain, and Sweden develop methods of mass surveillance of internet and phone traffic in the last five years, a new report reveals.
Documents supplied by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden to the Guardian show the UK Government Communications Headquarters’ (GCHQ) enormous influence throughout Europe. The documents detail how the agency developed and promoted spying processes, built relationships with telecommunication companies, and evaded national laws that constrain the surveillance powers of intelligence agencies.
In the wake of outrage expressed over the past week across Europe regarding newly exposed NSA surveillance of European countries – including intercepted communications and the monitoring of phones belonging to officials such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel – documents released Friday by the Guardian show major European countries’ culpability in mass surveillance efforts shepherded by the GCHQ.
The GCHQ is part of the ‘Five Eyes’ intelligence-sharing partnership between Australia, Britain, Canada, New Zealand, and the United States.
US intelligence officials said the monitoring that received so much indignation from powers like Germany and France was carried out by those countries’ own intelligence agencies and later shared with the US.
In June, the Guardian revealed the GCHQ’s Tempora program, in which the agency tapped into transatlantic fiber-optic cables to execute bulk surveillance. Germany’s justice minister, Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, said at the time that the program sounded “like a Hollywood nightmare” and warned that free societies and actions hidden under “a veil of secrecy” are not compatible.
A nation-by-nation scorecard
In a 2008 survey of European partners, the GCHQ marveled at Germany’s capabilities to produce Tempora-like surveillance. The British service said the Federal Intelligence Service (BND) had “huge technological potential and good access to the heart of the internet – they are already seeing some bearers running at 40Gbps and 100Gbps.” The term ‘bearers’ refers to the fiber-optic cables. Gigabits per second (Gbps) measures the speed at which data runs through them.
The documents also show the British were advising German counterparts on how to change or evade laws that restricted advanced surveillance efforts. “We have been assisting the BND (along with SIS [Secret Intelligence Service] and Security Service) in making the case for reform or reinterpretation of the very restrictive interception legislation in Germany,” the survey says.
The report also lauds the GCHQ’s French partner, the General Directorate for External Security (DGSE), especially for its cozy relationship with an unnamed telecommunications company.
“DGSE are a highly motivated, technically competent partner, who have shown great willingness to engage on IP [internet protocol] issues, and to work with GCHQ on a ‘cooperate and share’ basis.”
The GCHQ expressed desire to benefit from the DGSE’s relationship with the company.
“We have made contact with the DGSE’s main industry partner, who has some innovative approaches to some internet challenges, raising the potential for GCHQ to make use of this company in the protocol development arena.”
The GCHQ’s work with its French counterpart led to improved capabilities to carry out bulk surveillance, despite growing commercial emphasis on encryption.
“Very friendly crypt meeting with DGSE in July,” British officials said. French intelligence officials were “clearly very keen to provide presentations on their work which included cipher detection in high-speed bearers. [GCHQ's] challenge is to ensure that we have enough UK capability to support a longer term crypt relationship.”
New opportunities in future partnerships
GCHQ ties to Spain’s intelligence service, the National Intelligence Centre (CNI), were bolstered by Spain’s connections to an unnamed British telecom company, giving them “fresh opportunities and uncovering some surprising results.
“GCHQ has not yet engaged with CNI formally on IP exploitation, but the CNI have been making great strides through their relationship with a UK commercial partner. GCHQ and the commercial partner have been able to coordinate their approach. The commercial partner has provided the CNI some equipment whilst keeping us informed, enabling us to invite the CNI across for IP-focused discussions this autumn,” the survey said. It reported that the GCHQ “have found a very capable counterpart in CNI, particularly in the field of Covert Internet Ops.”
When Sweden passed a 2008 law allowing its National Defence Radio Establishment (FRA) to execute Tempora-like surveillance via fiber-optic cables, the GCHQ said in the report that “FRA have obtained a…probe to use as a test-bed and we expect them to make rapid progress in IP exploitation following the law change.” The GCHQ went on to express delight in future partnerships with FRA after the law passed.
The survey found strong ties between the GCHQ and Dutch external and internal intelligence services MIVD and AIVD, respectively.
“Both agencies are small, by UK standards, but are technically competent and highly motivated,” British officials said.
The GCHQ also helped AIVD in handling legal constraints to spying.
“The Dutch have some legislative issues that they need to work through before their legal environment would allow them to operate in the way that GCHQ does. We are providing legal advice on how we have tackled some of these issues to Dutch lawyers.”
Contrary to the other nations’ positive marks, the GCHQ country-by-country scorecard shows Italy’s intelligence agencies to be riddled with internal strife.
“GCHQ has had some CT [counter-terrorism] and internet-focused discussions with both the foreign intelligence agency (AISE) and the security service (AISI), but has found the Italian intelligence community to be fractured and unable/unwilling to cooperate with one another,” the report said.
A follow-up six months later noted the GCHQ still saw legal constraints in Italy as hampering AISI’s ability to cooperate.
This latest disclosure calls into question how involved the countries were in the overall surveillance of global citizens and world leaders led by the NSA and GCHQ.
US intelligence agencies are using Australian embassies throughout Asia to intercept data and gather information across the continent, according to the latest report based on documents leaked by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.
Data collection facilities operate out of the embassies in Jakarta, Bangkok, Hanoi, Bejing, and Dili, according to Fairfax media. There are also units in the Australian High Commission in Kuala Lumpur, the most populated city in Malaysia, and Port Moresby, the capital of Papua New Guinea.
More intelligence collection occurs at US embassies and consulates, as well as at the diplomatic outposts of other ‘Five Eye’ nations, particularly Britain and Canada. The Defence Signals Directorate, which falls under the Australian Defence Agency, conducts the surveillance missions, and most Australian diplomatic officers are completely unaware of such activity, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.
The ‘Five Eyes’ is an alliance for intelligence cooperation that includes the United States, Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
The document released by Der Spiegel, codenamed ‘STATEROOM,’ indicates the outfits “are small in size and in number of personnel staffing them… They are covert, and their true mission is not known by the majority of the diplomatic staff at the facility where they are assigned.”
The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs refused comment on the story, saying it is against government policy to speak on intelligence activity.
The NSA document viewed by Der Spiegel also proves that the intelligence missions are hidden: “For example antennas are sometimes hidden in false architectural features or roof maintenance sheds.”
The Jakarta unit, in particular, is a hotbed of information. “The huge growth of mobile phone networks has been a great boon and Jakarta’s political elite are a loquacious bunch; even when they think their own intelligence services are listening they just keep talking,” a source said.
The disclosure comes as US President Barack Obama is reportedly considering suspending all surveillance efforts against American allies. He is facing growing pressure from the international community after reports questioned whether the NSA monitored the personal cell phone of German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Another leak this week revealed that the US swept up more than 60 million phone calls from Spain in one month alone.
European leaders, once reluctant to demonize the surveillance, now openly wonder if the surveillance was ever employed to stop terrorism, as US leaders have maintained all along. German leaders have suggested renegotiating a deal known as the SWIFT pact, which allows the US to track the flow of what it suspects are terrorist finances.
“It really isn’t enough to be outraged,” German Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schanarrenberger told rbb-Inforadio this week. “This would be a signal that something can happen and make clear to the Americans that the [EU’s] policy is changing.”
Yet intelligence officers speaking to Fairfax Media now say that it is good to stop terrorism and international crime, “but the main focus is political, diplomatic and economic intelligence.”
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)
Many issues of national importance to Japan, probably including the state of the Fukushima power plant, may be designated state secrets under a new draft law. Once signed, it could see whistleblowers jailed for up to 10 years.
Japan has relatively lenient penalties for exposing state secrets compared to many other nations, but that may change with the introduction of the new law. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government has agreed on draft legislation on the issue on Friday and expects the parliament to vote on it during the current session, which ends on December 6.
With a comfortable majority in both chambers, the ruling coalition bloc would see no problems overcoming the opposition. Critics say the new law would give the executive too much power to conceal information from the public and compromise the freedom of the press.
Currently only issues of defense can be designated state secrets in Japan, and non-military leakers face a jail term of up to one year. Defense officials may be sentenced to five years for exposing secrets, or 10 years, if the classified information they leaked came from the US military.
The new law would enact harsher punishment to leakers, but more importantly, it would allow government branches other than defense ministry to designate information as state secrets. The bill names four categories of ‘special secrets’, which would be covered by protection – defense, diplomacy, counter-terrorism and counter-espionage.
Under the new legislation a ministry may classify information for a five-year term with a possibility of prolongation to up to 30 years. After that a cabinet ruling would be needed for the secret to be treated as such, but there is no limit for how long information may be kept under a lid.
“Basically, this bill raises the possibility that the kind of information about which the public should be informed is kept secret eternally,” Tadaaki Muto, a lawyer and member of a task force on the bill at the Japan Federation of Bar Associations, told Reuters.
“Under the bill, the administrative branch can set the range of information that is kept secret at its own discretion.”
Media watchdogs in Japan fear the bill would allow the government to cover up serious blunders, like the collusion between regulators and utilities, which was a significant factor in the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster. The quake- and tsunami-hit nuclear power plant went into meltdown and continues to leak contaminated water as its operator TEPCO failed to contain it.
TEPCO has long been accused of obscuring the crisis and Fukushima. Many details on its development were first published in the media before going to governmental or corporate reports.
Critics of the state secrets bill say it would undermine media’s ability to act as the public’s eye on the actions of the government and whoever it would choose to shield.
“It seems very clear that the law would have a chilling effect on journalism in Japan,” said Lawrence Repeta, a law professor at Meiji University.
In a bid to address those concerns the cabinet added a provision to the draft which gives “utmost considerations” to citizens’ right to know and freedom of the press. The addition came at the request of the New Komeito party, the coalition partner of Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party. The added provisions also state that news reporting is legitimate if its purpose is to serve the public good and the information is not obtained in unlawful or extremely unjust ways.
The clause is based on the 1970s scandal in Japan, in which a reporter was charged and found guilty of unlawfully obtaining secret information about the government. The reporter, Takichi Nishiyama, revealed a secret US-Japanese pact under which Tokyo paid some $4 million of the cost of transferring Okinawa Island from the US back to Japanese rule in 1972.
Nishiyama’s report, which was revealed to have been truthful in 2000, was based on documents he received from a married Foreign Ministry clerk with whom he had an affair. The scandal ultimately ruined his career and dealt a serious blow to the newspaper he worked for.
Japanese law has no clear definition of what kind of new gathering could be deemed ‘grossly inappropriate’. The bill introduces a jail sentence of up to five years for non-officials, including media professionals, using such methods to obtain information. But it does not clearly state that if a journalist reporting on a state secret is found to have obtained the information legitimately, he or she would not be punished. This has led critics to dismiss the ‘freedom of press’ provisions as political window dressing.
Despite criticisms, the Japanese cabinet insists that the law be adopted promptly. It is needed for the planned establishment of a national security council, which would involve members from different ministries and agencies. The law would protect information exchanged through the new body from being leaked, the government says.
Abe’s party has sought unsuccessfully to enact a harsher law on state secrets in the past. The effort had been given a boost after a leaking of a video in 2010, which showed a collision between a Chinese fishing boat and a Japanese patrol vessel near disputed isles in the East China Sea. The government led by the now-opposition Democratic Party wanted to keep the video under wraps, fearing that its publication would harm the already tense relations with Beijing.
Japan had harsh state secret legislation before and during World War II, so in the post-war period government secrecy has been viewed with suspicion, along with militaristic traditions and other things associated with the Imperial past. Abe’s LDP is among the political circles in Japan, which seek change to some of those policies.
- Cabinet to OK state secrets bill (japantimes.co.jp)
- State secrets act feared to have ‘chilling effect on journalism’ in Japan (japandailypress.com)