by Mike Masnick
Thu, Jun 20th 2013 4:16am
by Mike Masnick
Wed, Jun 12th 2013 2:04pm
from the confirms-what-they-said dept
The NSA programs that Snowden has revealed are nothing new: they date back to the days and weeks after 9/11. I had direct exposure to similar programs, such as Stellar Wind, in 2001. In the first week of October, I had an extraordinary conversation with NSA's lead attorney. When I pressed hard about the unconstitutionality of Stellar Wind, he said:Drake also highlights how he did use the "official" whistleblower channels that many are saying Snowden should have used, and look what happened to him:"The White House has approved the program; it's all legal. NSA is the executive agent."It was made clear to me that the original intent of government was to gain access to all the information it could without regard for constitutional safeguards. "You don't understand," I was told. "We just need the data.
I differed as a whistleblower to Snowden only in this respect: in accordance with the Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act, I took my concerns up within the chain of command, to the very highest levels at the NSA, and then to Congress and the Department of Defense. I understand why Snowden has taken his course of action, because he's been following this for years: he's seen what's happened to other whistleblowers like me.The end result was that his whistleblowing didn't do much, but he got arrested because he accidentally kept an almost entirely meaningless document about meeting participants in his home. And, when he was arrested, for just having the list of meeting attendees, he was smeared for causing "exceptionally grave damage to US national security."
By following protocol, you get flagged – just for raising issues. You're identified as someone they don't like, someone not to be trusted. I was exposed early on because I was a material witness for two 9/11 congressional investigations. In closed testimony, I told them everything I knew – about Stellar Wind, billions of dollars in fraud, waste and abuse, and the critical intelligence, which the NSA had but did not disclose to other agencies, preventing vital action against known threats. If that intelligence had been shared, it may very well have prevented 9/11.
But as I found out later, none of the material evidence I disclosed went into the official record. It became a state secret even to give information of this kind to the 9/11 investigation.
Separately, former AT&T technician, Mark Klein, who revealed that he helped install NSA equipment directly within AT&T's network is speaking out about how Snowden, rather than the telcos, deserve retroactive immunity. The telcos broke the law and had to have Congress go back and retroactively make what they did -- which clearly broke the law at the time -- legal. Klein points out how his revelations were brushed off and ignored, while Snowden's revelations confirm a lot of what he said:
"It was clear that the NSA was looking at everything," Klein said. "It wasn't limited to foreign communications."
On Tuesday, Klein said that for a number of reasons, Snowden's disclosures sparked more public outrage than his own revelations did more than seven years ago.
For one thing, Klein said, Snowden had direct access to a secret court order and details of the program, while Klein pieced together the government's surveillance through internal AT&T documents and in discussions with colleagues who worked on the project.
"The government painted me as a nobody, a technician who was merely speculating," said Klein, who made his disclosures after he accepted a buyout and retired from AT&T in 2004. "Now we have an actual copy of a FISA court order. There it is in black and white. It's undisputable. They can't deny that."
by Mike Masnick
Tue, Jun 11th 2013 3:54am
from the leakers-are-needed dept
by Mike Masnick
Wed, May 15th 2013 10:44am
from the national-security? dept
The AP quickly hit back by calling bullshit on the DOJ's claims of a "narrowly" focused subpoena:
The scope of the subpoena was overbroad under the law, given that it involved seizing records from a broad range of telephones across AP’s newsgathering operation. More than 100 journalists work in the locations served by those telephones. How can we consider this inquiry to be narrowly drawn?Furthermore, the AP claims that while the DOJ says that only some records were obtained, the original notification it received indicated a very broad swath of phone records.
However, the real question that's beginning to come out is whether or not this was really such a serious issue that the DOJ needed to sweep in and grab a bunch of phone records, likely revealing protected journalistic sources. We've discussed in the past how the Obama administration has been the most aggressive in history in going after whistleblowers and anyone who leaks to the press -- and, because of that, many are rightly wondering if that's what's driving the DOJ here. As more details come out, there is a very strong indication that the investigation had absolutely nothing to do with security at all.
A few years ago, we wrote about how Daniel Ellsberg (one of the most famous whistleblower/leakers of all time) speculated that President Obama's unprecedented attacks on whistleblowers were really out of embarrassment about questionable things his administration was doing being revealed. That may be the case with this particular leak and investigation as well. The AP has pointed out repeatedly that the report they published -- concerning the thwarting of another underwear bomber -- had been held back, but they only published it after the government had said there was no more threat:
We held that story until the government assured us that the national security concerns had passed. Indeed, the White House was preparing to publicly announce that the bomb plot had been foiled.But the issue appears to go deeper than that. Eric Holder made some extreme claims about the leak to defend the collection of the phone records:
This was a very serious leak. A very, very serious leak. I’ve been a prosecutor since 1976, and I have to say that this is among, if not the most serious, it is within the top two or three most serious leaks I’ve ever seen. It put the American people at risk. And that is not hyperbole. It put the American people at risk.However, as emptywheel points out in the link above, John Brennan, now head of the CIA, apparently was the one who revealed to the press the fact that the bomber was a US agent and that there was no real risk to anyone. During his appointment hearings, when questioned about leaking that info to the press, Brennan explained:
I think what you're referring to, Senator, is when I had a teleconference with some individuals, former government officials from previous administrations who were going to be out on talk shows on the night that a IED was intercepted.When asked more specifically about this, Brennan again insisted that there was no threat because the US was in control. As emptywheel asks, if this particular leak of information -- which it seems Brennan did directly -- was really so much of a threat that "put people at risk," then why would Brennan be appointed and approved to head the CIA?
And so I discussed with them some of the aspects of that, because I was going on the news network shows the following day, I wanted to make sure they understood the nature of the threat and what it was and what it wasn't.
And so what I said, at the time, because I said I couldn't talk about any operational details, and this was shortly after the anniversary of the Bin Laden takedown, I said there was never a threat to the American public as we had said so publicly, because we had inside control of the plot and the device was never a threat to the American public.
So, now we have a situation where the AP reported on information which it's pretty clear the government told them was no security risk. That resulted in the eventual "outing" that the guy who had the bomb was a US controlled agent, which is apparently why the US government was upset. But that outing seems to have come not from these reporters, but from the now head of the CIA directly to members of the press. And yet it's the reporters that are being aggressively investigated, while Brennan gets the job at the top of the CIA?
Once again, this points to an administration cracking down on leaks not because of any real risk or threat, but out of embarrassment.
by Mike Masnick
Tue, Mar 5th 2013 10:01am
Bradley Manning Nominated For Nobel Peace Prize As People Begin Realizing How Damaging His Case Is To A Free Press
from the wake-up-people dept
A country's constitutional culture is made up of the stories we tell each other about the kind of nation we are. When we tell ourselves how strong our commitment to free speech is, we grit our teeth and tell of Nazis marching through Skokie. And when we think of how much we value our watchdog press, we tell the story of Daniel Ellsberg. Decades later, we sometimes forget that Ellsberg was prosecuted, smeared, and harassed. Instead, we express pride in a man's willingness to brave the odds, a newspaper’s willingness to take the risk of publishing, and a Supreme Court’s ability to tell an overbearing White House that no, you cannot shut up your opponents.Yet, in the case of Manning, the government is going much, much, much further. It is trying to make leaking information to the press the equivalent of espionage and aiding the enemy -- a capital offense. If you want to create chilling effects on free speech and a free press, this is how you do it. If you believe in the stories above, about the fundamental respect for the First Amendment, then the nature of the prosecution should worry you a great deal.
As for those who claim that leaking to Wikileaks is not like the Pentagon Papers or leaking something to the press, Benkler's detailed analysis shows why that's bunk. Since Wikileaks released some of the material that Manning sent them, the organization has been painted as being this evil anti-American organization, and there's also been a big spotlight on Julian Assange, who is certainly not presented as a particularly likeable character. But, as Benkler points out, before Wikileaks got that material, it was regularly seen as an upstart media property, and a great place for whistleblowers to go to expose fraud and corruption. In other words, the idea that Manning chose to go to Wikileaks to harm the US seems quite unlikely. His story of exposing wrongdoing by the US and forcing a debate on how to have America live up to its principles has more credibility when you realize just how Wikileaks was portrayed prior to Manning's material being submitted:
The reputation that WikiLeaks has been given by most media outlets over the past two and a half years, though, obscures much of this—it just feels less like “the press” than the New York Times. This is actually the point on which I am expected to testify at the trial, based on research I did over the months following the first WikiLeaks disclosure in April 2010. When you read the hundreds of news stories and other materials published about WikiLeaks before early 2010, what you see is a young, exciting new media organization. The darker stories about Julian Assange and the dangers that the site poses developed only in the latter half of 2010, as the steady release of leaks about the U.S. triggered ever-more hyperbolic denouncements from the Administration (such as Joe Biden's calling Assange a “high-tech terrorist”), and as relations between Assange and his traditional media partners soured.It's sometimes difficult to remember that, given everything that happened in the past two and a half years.
In early 2010, when Manning did his leaking, none of that had happened yet. WikiLeaks was still a new media phenom, an outfit originally known for releasing things like a Somali rebel leader’s decision to assassinate government officials in Somalia, or a major story exposing corruption in the government of Daniel Arap Moi in Kenya. Over the years WikiLeaks also exposed documents that shined a light on U.S. government practices, such as operating procedures in Camp Delta in Guantanamo or a draft of a secretly negotiated, highly controversial trade treaty called the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement. But that was not the primary focus. To name but a few examples, it published documents that sought to expose a Swiss Bank’s use of Cayman accounts to help rich clients avoid paying taxes, oil related corruption in Peru, banking abuses in Iceland, pharmaceutical company influence peddling at the World Health Organization, and extra-judicial killings in Kenya. For its work, WikiLeaks won Amnesty International's New Media award in 2009 and the Freedom of Expression Award from the British magazine, Index of Censorship, in 2008.
Benkler goes on to point out that the "precedents" that the US tries to rely on to argue that whistleblowing to the press is a form of aiding the enemy are ancient, obsolete and laughable. Many of the arguments go back to some Civil War-era precedents, and even then, when you look at the details you realize they were discussing something extremely different than what happened with Manning (i.e., the cases involved using the press to send coded messages about confidential info, not releasing the info to the public).
In the end, Benkler makes a powerful point:
If Bradley Manning is convicted of aiding the enemy, the introduction of a capital offense into the mix would dramatically elevate the threat to whistleblowers. The consequences for the ability of the press to perform its critical watchdog function in the national security arena will be dire. And then there is the principle of the thing. However technically defensible on the language of the statute, and however well-intentioned the individual prosecutors in this case may be, we have to look at ourselves in the mirror of this case and ask: Are we the America of Japanese Internment and Joseph McCarthy, or are we the America of Ida Tarbell and the Pentagon Papers? What kind of country makes communicating with the press for publication to the American public a death-eligible offense?Given all of that, you can see why some have nominated Manning for the Nobel Peace Prize. While it is highly unlikely that Manning will be given serious consideration for the prize, the more you look at the case, the more you realize how dangerous the US government's own argument is here, and how much of an attack it is on fundamental principles we supposedly believe in and fight for here in the US.
What a coup for Al Qaeda, to have maimed our constitutional spirit to the point where we might become that nation.
by Mike Masnick
Thu, Feb 28th 2013 12:53pm
Bradley Manning Pleads Guilty To Some Charges: Reveals That Major Newspapers Ignored His Offer To Leak Collateral Murder Video
from the that's-big-news dept
However, the much more interesting revelation is that prior to releasing the information to Wikileaks, Manning claims that he approached both the NY Times and the Washington Post to see if they were interested in the infamous Collateral Murder video. Both ignored him. According to Manning's claims, he felt that the data and information he had collected showed that the US strategy in Iraq and Afghanistan was problematic and doing more harm than good:
He thought about what to do and was convinced that the United States was "risking so much for people who felt so unwilling to cooperate with us" and it was "leading to hatred and frustration on both sides." Manning was upset with counterinsurgency operations that consisted of the "capture and killing of human targets."So he felt that revealing the information he had collected might "spark a domestic debate on the role of the military and our foreign policy in general." In order to do that, he reached out to a few publications:
He called the Washington Post. A woman answered who seemed to not take him seriously, even though he suggested the information would be valuable to the American public. Then, he decided to contact the New York Times. Nobody answered the phone so he left a message explaining he had information that was "very important." He left the Times his email and a Skype address but never received a reply.That's a pretty big revelation, and once again, shows how Wikileaks was providing a service where the mainstream press completely fell down on the job. People -- including the judge in the case -- have wondered that if the NY Times had published this kind of information, rather than Wikileaks, would there still be the same hysteria and prosecution over the leak. The prosecutors have insisted they would have gone after Manning just as much in that case, but their own actions following other NY Times-published leaks suggests otherwise.
For what it's worth, the NY Times denies that Manning contacted them:
"This is the first we're hearing of it. We have no record of Manning contacting The Times in advance of WikiLeaks."Separately, it's worth pointing out that Manning also noted that the information he leaked was hardly secret, and was available to tons and tons of people.
"I view the SIGACTS as historical data," Manning stated. It is a "first look impression of a past event." They show IED attacks, small arms fire engagement or engagement with hostile forces.Either way, it seems likely that the government will continue to go after him on those bigger charges, so this case is far, far, far from over.
The reports are "not very sensitive." The "events encapsulated involve enemy casualties," that are "publicly reported" by the Public Affairs Office of the military or reported by "embedded media pools." They are like a daily journal or log that captures "what happened on an immediate day or time and they are constantly updated."
by Mike Masnick
Thu, Nov 15th 2012 3:25am
from the good-for-him dept
Thankfully, Senator Wyden has now put a hold on the bill, noting his concern about how it would impact free speech issues, especially as it pertained to the media reporting on national security:
"I think Congress should be extremely skeptical of any anti-leaks bills that threaten to encroach upon the freedom of the press, or that would reduce access to information that the public has a right to know," Wyden said in a floor statement publicly announcing his hold. "Without transparent and informed public debate on foreign policy and national security topics, American voters would be ill-equipped to elect the policymakers who make important decisions in these areas."Of course, part of the issue here is that Feinstein sees any form of whistleblowing or commentary as "leaks," while Wyden properly recognizes that a functioning democracy means allowing the press to report on questionable behavior by the government.
by Mike Masnick
Tue, Oct 23rd 2012 11:36am
from the shameful dept
In a sane society, such whistleblowing would receive a hero's welcome, and the people involved in torture would be in jail. President Obama has said that waterboarding is torture, as has Attorney General Eric Holder, who runs the DOJ. Given that, combined with Obama's repeated insistence that his administration must encourage whistleblowing, you would think that the administration, led by the DOJ, would celebrate a CIA agent who exposes such practices, and seek to punish those who carried them out.
Instead, we have the reverse. This morning, Kiriakou plead guilty, though to a much lesser charge -- that of "revealing an undercover operative's identity." Similar to the Drake case, they found narrow grounds for a guilty plea. The plea document and the associated "statement of facts" are embedded below for your horror. They tell... uh... a very one-sided view of the story, leaving out all the pesky little details about torture. Kiriakou was more or less forced into taking the deal after a judge had ridiculously ruled that you didn't have to intend to harm the US to be guilty under the Espionage Act. How is it possibly espionage against a country if you don't intend to harm that country?
The whole proceeding (and all of these other cases) have seriously called into question the Obama administration's supposed support of whistleblowers. It's clear that was a horrible joke played on the public when Obama insisted he wanted to encourage whistleblowing. Before these latest events, Bloomberg had an absolutely scathing story and editorial about the administrations abuse of power under the Espionage Act to beat down any whistleblowers.
As the Government Accountability Project notes, the tragedy in all of this is that Kiriakou goes to jail, while the actual torturer, remains free. They note that this plea lets the case be over, and makes sure that Kiriakou will be out of jail in 2.5 years -- and will get to see his children grow up. But the whole claim of "outing" is ridiculous:
"Outing" is quotes because the charge is not that Kiriakou's actions resulted in a public disclosure of the name, but that through a Kevin Bacon-style chain of causation, GITMO torture victims learned the name of one of their possible torturers. Regardless, how does outing a torturer hurt the national security of the U.S.? It's like arguing that outing a Nazi guarding a concentration camp would hurt the national security of Germany.They further note that the CIA agent "outed," Thomas Fletcher, was widely known to reporters well before Kiriakou mentioned his name to reporters. As GAP notes:
An effectively-forced plea from John Kiriakou will be the tragic bookend to the torture narrative: Kiriakou will be going to jail, while Fletcher happily enjoys retirement in Vienna VA, safe with protection from "the most transparent administration in history."Oh, and not just that, but:
The only person to be criminal prosecuted, and now likely jailed, as a result of the Bush-era torture regime is John Kiriakou, who refused to participate in torture, helped expose the program, and said on national television that torture was wrong.Shameful. Oh, and as an aside to folks here who have spent time following the Megaupload case, the guy who headed up this case for the DOJ, Neil MacBride... is the same guy who's heading up the Megaupload prosecution.
by Mike Masnick
Tue, Aug 28th 2012 1:59pm
from the unfortunate dept
Binney expressed terrible remorse over the way some of his algorithms were used after 9/11. ThinThread, the "little program" that he invented to track enemies outside the U.S., "got twisted," and was used for both foreign and domestic spying: "I should apologize to the American people. It's violated everyone's rights. It can be used to eavesdrop on the whole world."Now, the NY Times has something of a following, including a short documentary feature about Binney and his whistleblowing over the NSA's domestic spying. It's really worth watching as it very simply highlights how vast the domestic spying effort is, however powerful it can be -- and also how the NSA dances around the fact that it's not allowed to spy on Americans. They claim that as long as they're not actually looking at the content they record and store directly, it's just collecting the info and not actually spying on people. That is, they think that acquiring all this data is fine, so long as they don't directly query the info. But... as Binney explains, his algorithms (which have likely been updated quite a bit) can still go through all this info and build basic "profiles" of just about anyone. It's really worth watching, if only to wonder how anyone thinks this is acceptable.
I'd embed the video here, except the geniuses over at the NY Times seem to have not figured out how to allow embeds with their video player.
The documentary was put together by Laura Poitras, who notes that thanks to some over-aggressive surveillance she, too, is on a "watch-list," thanks to a documentary she did about Iraq.
I have been detained at the border more than 40 times. Once, in 2011, when I was stopped at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York and asserted my First Amendment right not to answer questions about my work, the border agent replied, “If you don’t answer our questions, we’ll find our answers on your electronics.”’ As a filmmaker and journalist entrusted to protect the people who share information with me, it is becoming increasingly difficult for me to work in the United States. Although I take every effort to secure my material, I know the N.S.A. has technical abilities that are nearly impossible to defend against if you are targeted.All of this attention, by the way, is to question why Congress is so intent on re-authorizing the FISA Amendments Act (FAA) which is what gives the NSA a pass on much of this spying, thanks to a "secret interpretation" of the law, which the public is not allowed to even know about. If this sounds like the sort of thing that shouldn't be allowed in a free and open society, you're just beginning to grasp the problem.
by Mike Masnick
Thu, Aug 9th 2012 9:29am
from the papers-blazing dept
The latest? The Daily Show, which did a hilarious interview with Drake, complete with Jason Jones' attempt to turn his story into a spy thriller movie, only to be disappointed by the lack of anything remotely spy-like happening (and, yes, I know, non-US viewers can't see this, blame Viacom):