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NSA Can Neither Confirm Nor Deny Anything Without Causing ‘Exceptionally Grave Damage’ To National Security

By Tim Cushing | techdirt | June 26, 2013

When you find out your own government is harvesting your phone metadata and internet activity, what do you do? If you’re Jeff Larson at ProPublica, you file a FOIA request in hopes of getting the NSA to cough up some of the info it’s collected on you.

Shortly after the Guardian and Washington Post published their Verizon and PRISM stories, I filed a freedom of information request with the NSA seeking any personal data the agency has about me. I didn’t expect an answer, but yesterday I received a letter signed by Pamela Phillips, the Chief FOIA Officer at the agency (which really freaked out my wife when she picked up our mail).

Yes, Larson received three pages of unredacted excuses and explanations as to why the NSA would not be letting him in on what it had gathered, as well as some circuitous explanations as to why it was unable to confirm the existence of the data he requested.

The letter, a denial, includes what is known as a Glomar response — neither a confirmation nor a denial that the agency has my metadata. It also warns that any response would help “our adversaries”:

Any positive or negative response on a request-by-request basis would allow our adversaries to accumulate information and draw conclusions about the NSA’s technical capabilities, sources, and methods. Our adversaries are likely to evaluate all public responses related to these programs. Were we to provide positive or negative responses to requests such as yours, our adversaries’ compilation of the information provided would reasonably be expected to cause exceptionally grave damage to the national security.”

“Reasonably be expected to cause exceptionally grave damage to the national security…” That’s a beauty, as is the entire paragraph. Instead of “Yes, we have some stuff but we can’t let you look at it,” or “No, we don’t have your stuff, but thanks for asking,” we get “We can neither confirm nor deny we have your stuff because a simple yes or no would give terrorists the upper hand.” Alternately: “Sorry we can’t be more specific. Can I offer you some fear instead?” Fortunately, as Larson notes, he won’t be charged a fee for this non-answer to his request.

The NSA’s FOIA responder takes a little time to imply that the media possibly has all the facts wrong.

As you may be also be aware, there has been considerable speculation about two NSA intelligence programs in the press /media.

If by “considerable speculation,” she means “actual document leaks,” then we’re on the right track. Yes, there’s been plenty of speculation but there are several exposed documents that give this speculation a solid starting point. The non-confirmation/non-denial continues, spilling onto the next page after a brief respite where the NSA rolls out the talking points and proclaims everything to be firmly above-board.

Therefore, your request is denied because the fact or the existence or non-existence of responsive records is a currently and properly classified matter in accordance with Executive order 13526, as set forth in subparagraph of section 1.4.

The NSA: so secure even non-existing records are classified.

The response letter explains the other reasons everything remains under wraps. Larson is welcome to file an appeal but the lengthy list of exemptions included in this response gives the indication that actually doing so would be a waste of everyone’s time. This leaves Larson with only one legitimate option, the same option the ACLU and EFF find themselves pursuing with increasing frequency.

So where does this leave me? According to Aaron Mackey, a staff attorney at the Reporter’s Committee for Freedom of the Press, “If you wanted to see those records you would have to file a lawsuit.”

That’s the way it goes in the surveillance state. Information doesn’t want to be free. It wants to be litigated.

June 26, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , | 2 Comments

UK spying on Germany’s major data cable to US triggers media storm

RT | June 25, 2013

A wave of outraged comments have swept the German media after it was revealed Monday that British secret Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) wiretapped the dataflow of Germany’s major transatlantic cable.

The northern German public broadcaster NDR and Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper reported late on Monday that Germany’s external intelligence service BND (Bundesnachrichtendienst) has been in the dark about GCHQ wiretapping Transatlantic Telephone Cable No. 14 (TAT-14) connecting Germany with the US via UK, in the framework of its Tempora data collection project.

The TAT-14 fiber optic cables entered service in 2001. It is operated by private consortium German Telekom and used by around 50 international communication companies for phone calls, internet connection, data transfer etc.

Countries like Denmark, France, the Netherlands, and the UK itself also use this cable for internet connection to North America.

The capacity of the 15,000km TAT-14 is enormous; it transfers hundreds of gigabytes of data per second in both directions. The report claimed British GCHQ has already had access to 21,600 terabytes of private and business German data transferred through the cable.

‘We haven’t asked NSA and GCHQ to protect us’

The initial reaction from official Berlin concerning Edward Snowden’s revelations about British intelligence straddling Germany’s major fiber optics cables without Berlin’s knowledge was rather moderate.

Senior German Interior Ministry official Ulrich Weinbrenner admitted to the Bundestag committee that it was known “in general form” that foreign tapping programs – like American PRISM and British Tempora – existed.

Having met American President Barack Obama last week, German Chancellor Angela Merkel cautiously commented that collecting information needs ‘proportionality’ and that “the free democratic order is based on people feeling safe.”

However, German government spokesman Steffen Seibert announced that Berlin wanted explanations from NATO allies “on what legal basis and to which extent” surveillance had been conducted.

The head of the Free Democratic Party parliamentary group, Rainer Brüderle, demanded an investigation.

“A comprehensive monitoring of citizens in the network cannot and will not be accepted ,” he told Passau Neue Presse.

“We need to step back here and say clearly: mass surveillance is not what we want,” said Jan Philipp Albrecht, a German Green member in charge of a planned overhaul of the European Union’s data protection laws.

“We urge the Federal Government and the EU Commission to initiate an infringement proceedings against the UK government,” which would have to deal with the matter, Albrecht said to Berliner Zeitung.

“The Federal Government and the Commission must take the issue of protecting fundamental rights seriously,” the rapporteur added in the Judiciary Committee.

Albrecht’ thoughts were echoed by CSU MEP Manfred Weber who told Berliner Zeitung that “If European law has been broken, such as in relation to the retention, the Commission must act.”

The harshest comment came from German Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, who dubbed the total eavesdropping from a NATO ally a “Hollywood nightmare.”

Federal Commissioner for Data Protection Peter Schaar called on the federal government to proceed on an international level against data espionage from abroad.

“The federal government must insist that our emails will not be penetrated by foreign intelligence services,” he demanded according to Bild newspaper.

The methods used by the American NSA and British GCHQ agencies are “secret, but lawful” and “subject to proper UK statutory controls and safeguards,” stated UK Foreign Secretary William Hague.

But such statements have produced little effect on the public or within expert communities.

“How much and which data of German citizens and companies had been secretly accessed by the Anglo-American intelligence services NSA and GCHQ, for example by tapping glass fiber cables?” questioned Greens party parliamentarian Hans-Christian Ströbele, as quoted by Deutsche Welle (DW).
‘Not our laws’

“The shoulder-shrugging explanation by Washington and London that they have operated within the law is absurd. They are not our laws. We didn’t make them. We shouldn’t be subject to them,” Spiegel online columnist Jakob Augstein. “We have not asked the NSA and GCHQ to ‘protect’ us,” he said.

Gisela Pilz, a data protection expert with the parliamentary group of the liberal FDP, the junior partner in the governing coalition, agrees.

“We observe with a great deal of concern and dismay the amount of data that has been collected and stored,” she told DW.

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition government was caught in the crossfire of criticism for not ensuring national digital security.

It is the responsibility of the German government to see that foreign agencies no longer process the data of German citizens and companies, Augstein stressed, because “a government that cannot make that assurance is failing in one of its fundamental obligations: to protect its own citizens from the grasp of foreign powers,” he concluded. “Germans should closely observe how Angela Merkel now behaves.”

The head of the Bundestag’s intelligence supervisory committee, opposition Social Democrats deputy Thomas Oppermann, called to speed up the elaboration of data privacy legislation currently being drafted in the EU.

June 26, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Corruption, Deception, Economics | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Obama called “war criminal” & “hypocrite of the century” in Irish Parliament

Published on June 21, 2013

Clare Daly in Irish Parliament: https://twitter.com/ClareDalyTD
Email her at http://www.claredaly.ie/contact/

June 26, 2013 Posted by | Progressive Hypocrite, Video, War Crimes | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Anti-War Activists Targeted as ‘Domestic Terrorists’

Shocking new revelations come as activists prepare to sue the U.S. military for unlawful spying

By Sarah Lazare | Common Dreams | June 24, 2013

Anti-war activists who were infiltrated and spied on by the military for years have now been placed on the domestic terrorist list, they announced Monday. The shocking revelation comes as the activists prepare to sue the U.S. military for unlawful spying.

“The fact that a peaceful activist such as myself is on this domestic terrorist list should be cause for concern for other people in the US,” declared Brendan Maslauskas Dunn, plaintiff in the lawsuit. “We’ve seen an increase in the buildup of a mass surveillance state under the Obama and Bush Administrations.”

The discovery is the latest development in a stunning saga that exposes vast post-9/11 spying networks in which military, police, and federal agencies appear to be in cahoots.

Documents declassified in 2009 reveal that military informant John Towery, going by the name ‘John Jacob,’ spent over two years infiltrating and spying on Olympia, Washington anti-war and social justice groups, including Port Militarization Resistance, Students for a Democratic Society, the Industrial Workers of the World, and Iraq Veterans Against the War.

Towery admitted to the spying and revealed that he shared information with not only the military, but also the police and federal agencies. He claimed that he was not the only spy.

The activists, who blast the snooping as a violation of their First and Fourth Amendment rights, levied a lawsuit against the military in 2009.

“The spying resulted in plaintiffs and others being targeted for repeated harassment, preemptive and false arrest, excessive use of force, and malicious prosecution,” reads a statement by the plaintiffs.

The Obama Administration attempted to throw out the litigation, but in December 2012 the 9th Circuit Court ruled that the case could continue.

When the plaintiffs were preparing their deposition for the courts two weeks ago, they were shocked to discover that several Olympia anti-war activists were listed on the domestic terrorist list, including at least two plaintiffs in the case.

The revelations prompted them to amend their lawsuit to include charges that the nonviolent activists were unlawfully targeted as domestic terrorists.

“The breadth and intensity of the spying by U.S. Army officials and other law enforcement agents is staggering,” said Larry Hildes, National Lawyers Guild attorney who filed the lawsuit in 2009. “If nonviolent protest is now labeled and treated as terrorism, then democracy and the First Amendment are in critical danger.”

Plaintiffs say this case takes on a new revelevance as vast NSA dragnet spying sparks widespread outrage.

“I think that there is a huge potential for the case to set precedent,” declared plaintiff Julianne Panagacos. “This could have a big impact on how the U.S. military and police are able to work together.”

She added, “I am hopeful we will win.”

June 26, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , , , | Comments Off on Anti-War Activists Targeted as ‘Domestic Terrorists’

California man faces 13 years in jail for scribbling anti-bank messages in chalk

RT | June 26, 2013

Jeff Olson, the 40-year-old man who is being prosecuted for scrawling anti-megabank messages on sidewalks in water-soluble chalk last year now faces a 13-year jail sentence. A judge has barred his attorney from mentioning freedom of speech during trial.

According to the San Diego Reader, which reported on Tuesday that a judge had opted to prevent Olson’s attorney from “mentioning the First Amendment, free speech, free expression, public forum, expressive conduct, or political speech during the trial,” Olson must now stand trial for on 13 counts of vandalism.

In addition to possibly spending years in jail, Olson will also be held liable for fines of up to $13,000 over the anti-big-bank slogans that were left using washable children’s chalk on a sidewalk outside of three San Diego, California branches of Bank of America, the massive conglomerate that received $45 billion in interest-free loans from the US government in 2008-2009 in a bid to keep it solvent after bad bets went south.

The Reader reports that Olson’s hearing had gone as poorly as his attorney might have expected, with Judge Howard Shore, who is presiding over the case, granting Deputy City Attorney Paige Hazard’s motion to prohibit attorney Tom Tosdal from mentioning the United States’ fundamental First Amendment rights.

“The State’s Vandalism Statute does not mention First Amendment rights,” ruled Judge Shore on Tuesday.

Upon exiting the courtroom Olson seemed to be in disbelief.

“Oh my gosh,” he said. “I can’t believe this is happening.”

Tosdal, who exited the courtroom shortly after his client, seemed equally bewildered.

“I’ve never heard that before, that a court can prohibit an argument of First Amendment rights,” said Tosdal.

Olson, who worked as a former staffer for a US Senator from Washington state, was said to involve himself in political activism in tandem with the growth of the Occupy Wall Street movement.

On October 3, 2011, Olson first appeared outside of a Bank of America branch in San Diego, along with a homemade sign. Eight days later Olson and his partner, Stephen Daniels, during preparations for National Bank Transfer Day, the two were confronted by Darell Freeman, the Vice President of Bank of America’s Global Corporate Security.

A former police officer, Freeman accused Olson and Daniels of “running a business outside of the bank,” evidently in reference to the National Bank Transfer Day activities, which was a consumer activism initiative that sought to promote Americans to switch from commercial banks, like Bank of America, to not-for-profit credit unions.

At the time, Bank of America’s debit card fees were among one of the triggers that led Occupy Wall Street members to promote the transfer day.

“It was just an empty threat,” says Olson of Freeman’s accusations. “He was trying to scare me away. To be honest, it did at first. I even called my bank and they said he couldn’t do anything like that.”

Olson continued to protest outside of Bank of America. In February 2012, he came across a box of chalk at a local pharmacy and decided to begin leaving his mark with written statements.

“I thought it was a perfect way to get my message out there. Much better than handing out leaflets or holding a sign,” says Olson.

Over the course of the next six months Olson visited the Bank of America branch a few days per week, leaving behind scribbled slogans such as “Stop big banks” and “Stop Bank Blight.com.”

According to Olson, who spoke with local broadcaster KGTV, one Bank of America branch claimed it had cost $6,000 to clean up the chalk writing.

Public records obtained by the Reader show that Freeman continued to pressure members of San Diego’s Gang Unit on behalf of Bank of America until the matter was forwarded to the City Attorney’s office.

On April 15, Deputy City Attorney Paige Hazard contacted Freeman with a response on his persistent queries.

“I wanted to let you know that we will be filing 13 counts of vandalism as a result of the incidents you reported,” said Hazard.

Arguments for Olson’s case are set to be heard Wednesday morning, following jury selection.

June 26, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Corruption, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Senators say the NSA is still lying to Congress – NSA removes fact sheets

RT | June 25, 2013

Two Democrats on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence say the National Security Agency provided “inaccurate” and “misleading” information to the American public about the government’s vast surveillance operations.

Senators Ron Wyden and Mark Udall sent a letter to NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander on Monday asking him to make revisions to a set of fact sheets that were released by his agency to quell concerns about domestic surveillance in the wake of leaked documents attributed to former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden earlier this month.

The Guardian newspaper has been publishing top-secret documents provided by Snowden that he says proves the NSA operates secretive spying programs that retain information on United States citizens under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) and Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act. Snowden claims those two statutes are abused in order to surveil American citizens, an argument Gen. Alexander’s office recently attempted to counter by releasing a four-page set of bullet points outlining what the US government can and can’t do under federal law.

According to Sens. Wyden and Udall, the NSA’s response isn’t in-tune with what they’ve been told of the programs. “We were disappointed to see that this fact sheet contains an inaccurate statement about how the Section 702 authority has been interpreted by the US government,” they write Gen. Alexander. “In our judgment this inaccuracy is significant, as it portrays protections for Americans’ privacy as being significantly stronger than they actually are.”

But while the fact sheets have been made available online, Wyden and Udall can’t explain in their public letter what their allegations are in reference to since the lawmakers’ own knowledge of the clandestine operations are not allowed to be discussed, even among the constituents who elected them to the Senate. Instead, they wrote that they’ve “identified this inaccurate statement in the classified attachment” sent to Alexander.

Elsewhere, the lawmakers rejected the NSA’s claim that, “Any inadvertently acquired communication of or concerning a US person must be promptly destroyed if it is neither relevant to the authorized purpose nor evidence of a crime.”

“We believe that this statement is somewhat misleading,” replied the senators, “in that it implies that the NSA has the ability to determine how many American communications it has collected under Section 702, or that the law does not allow the NSA to deliberately search for the records of particular Americans. In fact, the intelligence community has told us repeatedly that it is ‘not reasonably possible to identify the number of people located in the United States whose communications may have been reviewed under the authority’ of the FISA Amendments Act.”

In a tweet sent out Monday evening, Sen. Wyden again said the FISA fact sheet included a “significant inaccuracy.”

Nowhere does the senators’ response include allegations of any discrepancies in the Section 215 fact sheet, but both Wyden and Udall have raised questions about how the government interprets that provision previously. “We believe most Americans would be stunned to learn the details of how these secret court opinions have interpreted Section 215,” they wrote in a joint letter to Attorney General Eric Holder last year. “As we see it, there is now a significant gap between what most Americans think the law allows and what the government secretly claims the law allows. This is a problem, because it is impossible to have an informed public debate about what the law should say when they public doesn’t know what its government thinks the law says.”

In their letter to Gen. Alexander this week, both Udall and Wyden wrote that they believe the US government should have “broad authorities to investigate terrorism and espionage,” and that it’s possible to “aggressively pursue terrorists without compromising the constitutional rights of ordinary Americans.”

“Achieving this goal depends not just on secret courts and secret congressional hearings, but on informed public debate as well,” they wrote.

But while Sens. Udall and Wyden have been long critical of surveillance powers provided through FISA and the PATRIOT Act, their take on the revelations exposed by Mr. Snowden differs drastically with that of President Barack Obama and many leading figures of his administration. Mr. Obama, Gen. Alexander and Mr. Holder have all defended the practices used by the NSA and say that no constitutional violations occur due to privacy safeguards in place, as have Senate Intelligence Chair Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.).

“I think it’s important to recognize that you can’t have 100 percent security and also then have 100 percent privacy and zero inconvenience,” President Obama said earlier this month.

With respect to Section 702 and Section 215, Obama said, “These are programs that have been authorized by broad bipartisan majorities repeatedly since 2006. And so I think at the onset it is important to understand that your duly elected representatives have been consistently informed on exactly what we’re doing.”

Edward Snowden revealed himself as the contractor responsible for the leaks published by The Guardian less than one week after the paper first began releasing information on the programs. He gave several interviews in Hong Kong before flying to Moscow where he remains today, according to both the US and Russian presidents. The anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks announced Monday that Snowden has asked for asylum from several countries, including Iceland and Ecuador.

June 26, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception, Full Spectrum Dominance, Progressive Hypocrite | , , , , , , | Comments Off on Senators say the NSA is still lying to Congress – NSA removes fact sheets

Richard Clarke: Hastings crash ‘consistent with a car cyberattack’

RT | June 25, 2013

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

. 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.

June 26, 2013 Posted by | Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , | 1 Comment