by Mike Masnick
Tue, Jul 30th 2013 4:35am
by Mike Masnick
Wed, Jul 17th 2013 6:47am
Ed Snowden Explains To Former Senator, Who Emailed In Support, That No Foreign Gov't Can Access His Documents
from the aiding-the-enemy? dept
Think about this for a second. Here is a former US Senator -- a member of the Foreign Relations, Armed Services and Judiciary Committees -- telling Snowden that he supports his effort, agrees that the surveillance program is a "massive violation" of the Constitution, and wishes him well in finding a country that will protect him from the US. That's really rather incredible, but it shows just how far the current US government is taking things in trying to demonize Snowden. Humphrey recognizes that the leak helped expose a questionable program, hasn't "aided our enemies" and is supporting Snowden remaining outside the hands of US law enforcement.
Provided you have not leaked information that would put in harms way any intelligence agent, I believe you have done the right thing in exposing what I regard as massive violation of the United States Constitution.
Having served in the United States Senate for twelve years as a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, the Armed Services Committee and the Judiciary Committee, I think I have a good grounding to reach my conclusion.
I wish you well in your efforts to secure asylum and encourage you to persevere.
Kindly acknowledge this message, so that I will know it reached you.
Gordon J. Humphrey
Former United States Senator
Snowden's response, by the way, is quite eloquent, and presents Snowden's arguments even better than I've seen him express them elsewhere. He also, strongly, refutes the claim that many have made that Snowden must have given the contents of the documents he copied to the Chinese or the Russians. He notes that keeping such things secret is his specialty, and he set things up carefully to avoid anyone else getting their hands on the documents:
Of course, it's one thing to claim that they cannot get access to the documents, and a different thing to actually keep those documents safe. However, given everything Snowden has done so far, it's shown that he was exceptionally careful in how he's acted with the release of the documents to date, and I have little doubt that he's taken significant precautions to keep them out of the hands of those governments, contrary to the claims of those who are seeking to tar and feather him.
Thank you for your words of support. I only wish more of our lawmakers shared your principles - the actions I've taken would not have been necessary.
The media has distorted my actions and intentions to distract from the substance of Constitutional violations and instead focus on personalities. It seems they believe every modern narrative requires a bad guy. Perhaps it does. Perhaps, in such times, loving one's country means being hated by its government.
If history proves that be so, I will not shy from that hatred. I will not hesitate to wear those charges of villainy for the rest of my life as a civic duty, allowing those governing few who dared not do so themselves to use me as an excuse to right these wrongs.
My intention, which I outlined when this began, is to inform the public as to that which is done in their name and that which is done against them. I remain committed to that. Though reporters and officials may never believe it, I have not provided any information that would harm our people - agent or not - and I have no intention to do so.
Further, no intelligence service - not even our own - has the capacity to compromise the secrets I continue to protect. While it has not been reported in the media, one of my specializations was to teach our people at DIA how to keep such information from being compromised even in the highest threat counter-intelligence environments (i.e. China).
You may rest easy knowing I cannot be coerced into revealing that information, even under torture.
With my thanks for your service to the nation we both love,
Separately, Greenwald contacted Humphrey to confirm the email, and Humphrey provided even more on his thoughts about Snowden which are worth publishing:
It seems unfortunate that we live in a country where the reaction to Snowden is considered reasonable by some. Yes, the government is clearly embarrassed by the leaks, but that's because it's now clear they were hiding things that either they shouldn't not have done in the first place, or which should never have been hidden. Embarrassment is a terrible feeling, but it's no excuse for turning a whistleblower into a fugitive.
Yes. It was I who sent the email message to Edward Snowden, thanking him for exposing astonishing violations of the US Constitution and encouraging him to persevere in the search for asylum.
To my knowledge, Mr. Snowden has disclosed only the existence of a program and not details that would place any person in harm's way. I regard him as a courageous whistle-blower.
I object to the monumentally disproportionate campaign being waged by the U.S. Government against Edward Snowden, while no effort is being made to identify, remove from office and bring to justice those officials who have abused power, seriously and repeatedly violating the Constitution of the United States and the rights of millions of unsuspecting citizens.
Americans concerned about the growing arrogance of our government and its increasingly menacing nature should be working to help Mr. Snowden find asylum. Former Members of Congress, especially, should step forward and speak out.
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Jun 10th 2013 2:25am
NSA Whistleblower Ed Snowden: From My Desk I Could Wiretap Anyone: You, A Federal Judge Or The President Of The US
from the well-that's-comforting dept
"I, sitting at my desk, certainly had the authorities to wiretap anyone, from you, or your accountant, to a federal judge, to even the President if I had a personal email.The wording here is a little unclear, since "wiretap" generally means capturing voice conversations, but saying that he would need a personal email address from the President to wiretap him suggests he's talking specifically about access their emails. Either way, given that we keep being told that the NSA is only supposed to cover non-US persons, the fact that a 29-year-old computer guy working for the NSA claims he could get access to anyone's email just by having their email address suggests, certainly, that there isn't much (if any) oversight, and the NSA is clearly not careful about the data it's scooping up.
Later in the interview, he explains why the people who say "I don't care, because I've got nothing to hide" are complete and total idiots:
"Because even if you're not doing anything wrong, you're being watched and recorded. And the storage capability of these systems increases every year consistently by orders of magnitude to where it's getting to the point where you don't have to have done anything wrong, you simply have to eventually fall under suspicion from somebody, even by a wrong call. And then they can use the system to go back in time and scrutinize every decision you've ever made. Every friend you've ever discussed something with. And attack you on that basis, to derive suspicion from an innocent life, and paint anyone in the context of a wrongdoer."There's a lot more in the interview, which is absolutely worth watching. No one ever got to hear Bradley Manning speak before he got whisked away. Ed Snowden appears to have put a lot more thought and planning into what he was doing than Manning, and here we actually get to hear his thoughts.
by Mike Masnick
Sun, Jun 9th 2013 3:03pm
from the boom dept
The individual responsible for one of the most significant leaks in US political history is Edward Snowden, a 29-year-old former technical assistant for the CIA and current employee of the defence contractor Booz Allen Hamilton. Snowden has been working at the National Security Agency for the last four years as an employee of various outside contractors, including Booz Allen and Dell.The Guardian piece explains what he did and why ("My sole motive is to inform the public as to that which is done in their name and that which is done against them"). It also notes that he feels that his case is one of pure whistleblowing, distinguished from, say, Bradley Manning, in that he carefully chose which documents to reveal for the sole purpose of exposing a surveillance system that he (correctly) blew the whistle on a surveillance infrastructure that appears to go well beyond what the public believed was appropriate or within the bounds of the 4th Amendment.
The Guardian, after several days of interviews, is revealing his identity at his request. From the moment he decided to disclose numerous top-secret documents to the public, he was determined not to opt for the protection of anonymity. "I have no intention of hiding who I am because I know I have done nothing wrong," he said.
The companion interview is probably even more interesting than the initial Guardian article.
Q: Why did you decide to become a whistleblower?Snowden left Hawaii, recently, where he lived to travel to Hong Kong, where he's been hiding out in a hotel. He appears to be fully aware that a lot of people are going to find him and that "nothing good" is about to happen to him, but he felt that he couldn't stay silent.
A: "The NSA has built an infrastructure that allows it to intercept almost everything. With this capability, the vast majority of human communications are automatically ingested without targeting. If I wanted to see your emails or your wife's phone, all I have to do is use intercepts. I can get your emails, passwords, phone records, credit cards.
"I don't want to live in a society that does these sort of things … I do not want to live in a world where everything I do and say is recorded. That is not something I am willing to support or live under."
Q: What do the leaked documents reveal?There is some additional scary stuff about the culture within the intelligence community concerning how they feel about due process and the Constitution. It's been widely reported that a foreign affairs analyst overheard some intelligence officials in an airport lounge discussing how the leaker and the reporters involved in these leaks should be "disappeared" -- and Snowden responded to that by nothing that he's not surprised, because this is how things work:
A: "That the NSA routinely lies in response to congressional inquiries about the scope of surveillance in America. I believe that when [senator Ron] Wyden and [senator Mark] Udall asked about the scale of this, they [the NSA] said it did not have the tools to provide an answer. We do have the tools and I have maps showing where people have been scrutinised most. We collect more digital communications from America than we do from the Russians."
"Someone responding to the story said 'real spies do not speak like that'. Well, I am a spy and that is how they talk. Whenever we had a debate in the office on how to handle crimes, they do not defend due process – they defend decisive action. They say it is better to kick someone out of a plane than let these people have a day in court. It is an authoritarian mindset in general."And, like Bradley Manning -- who Snowden calls "a classic whistleblower... inspired by the public good," -- Snowden appears to believe strongly that his actions are not to hurt the US, but to help it.
"I think the sense of outrage that has been expressed is justified. It has given me hope that, no matter what happens to me, the outcome will be positive for America. I do not expect to see home again, though that is what I want."There's plenty more in both the article and the interview that's worth reading. I'm sure there will be much more on this, but this truly does seem like a classic whistleblower case, though I doubt that's how Snowden will be portrayed by many in power.
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Jan 18th 2013 12:19am
from the motive-limited dept
Basically, Manning's legal team won't be able to raise his motives for most of the charges, though they will be able to raise motives during any sentencing. They will be able to raise motives, narrowly focused, on the question of whether or not he was "aiding the enemy" and to show that he was not "dealing with the enemy." That's at least a small step in the right direction. However, there are multiple other charges where he cannot raise his motive -- including charges around whether or not he had "good faith" in releasing the documents and that he "wrongfully and wantonly caused to be published on the internet intelligence belonging to the United States government." Basically, the judge is saying that those charges require an objective standard, rather than Manning's specific viewpoint.
The other issue that Manning's team appears to have lost on was their desire to show the lack of harm from all of the leaks. The court ruled that this really doesn't matter in the trial, because it's all after the fact, and Manning did not know beforehand the results and whether or not it resulted in harm. Of course, part of Manning's defense is that he chose documents that would not cause harm on purpose -- but the judge apparently disagreed.
All in all, this definitely increases the likelihood that Manning will lose in court.
by Mike Masnick
Thu, Aug 2nd 2012 10:14am
from the the-next-chapter dept
Drake's story intertwines with that of a Congressional staffer named Diane Roark, who plays a role in his story. A snippet from that New Yorker piece:
Not long after Binney quit the N.S.A., he says, he confided his concerns about the secret surveillance program to Diane Roark, a staff member on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, which oversees the agency. Roark, who has flowing gray hair and large, wide-set eyes, looks like a waifish poet. But in her intelligence-committee job, which she held for seventeen years, she modeled herself on Machiavelli’s maxim that it is better to be feared than loved. Within the N.S.A.’s upper ranks she was widely resented. A former top N.S.A. official says of her, “In meetings, she would just say, ‘You’re lying.’ ”While Roark was not charged in the same process that resulted in charges against Drake, there was a search conducted, and computers taken. She's now sued the US government, seeking the return (many years later) of the computers seized, as well as findings that the feds actions were unconstitutional.
Roark agrees that she distrusted the N.S.A.’s managers. “I asked very tough questions, because they were trying to hide stuff,” she says. “For instance, I wasn’t supposed to know about the warrantless surveillance. They were all determined that no one else was going to tell them what to do.”
Plaintiff asks that the Court find unconstitutional the following Government actions and claims:To be honest, these kinds of lawsuits rarely get very far, but it should be interesting to watch either way...the Government's activities and assertions... that infringe on citizen speech and communications under the First Amendment to the Constitution and on property rights under the Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Amendments.
the manner in which the Government investigated, managed and prolonged her case. Plaintiff contends that the actions taken against her constitute retaliation for her whistleblower activities and execution of her Congressional oversight responsibilities that revealed inefficenicy, contract fraud, the persistent waste of billions of dollars on a single ill-conceived program that was never built, plus illegal and unconstitutional operations.
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Jul 16th 2012 7:31am
from the and-it-may-have-just-made-new-critics dept
What began as a narrow investigation into the possible leaking of confidential agency information by five scientists quickly grew in mid-2010 into a much broader campaign to counter outside critics of the agency’s medical review process, according to the cache of more than 80,000 pages of computer documents generated by the surveillance effort.The details show that the FDA installed key logger software on the computers of their own scientists, tracked the personal emails they wrote to others, and tracked documents they copied to key drives. Now, you can make a reasonable argument that since these were work laptops, the FDA has every right to track the usage, but it seems pretty clear that the FDA went really far here, and it wasn't just about stopping leaks, but about trying to stifle criticism and whistleblowing.
Moving to quell what one memorandum called the “collaboration” of the F.D.A.’s opponents, the surveillance operation identified 21 agency employees, Congressional officials, outside medical researchers and journalists thought to be working together to put out negative and “defamatory” information about the agency.
In fact, much of the evidence suggests that this absolutely was an attempt to blow the whistle on faulty review procedures by the FDA, that resulted in the approval of medical imaging devices that weren't actually safe. And, apparently, the complaints by the whistleblowers were convincing enough that there's now a Congressional investigation into "a substantial and specific danger to public safety" from this activity.
If the FDA were functioning as it was supposed to, it would have seen these complaints as a reason to investigate its own activities. Instead, in the supposed attempt to "stop leaks," the FDA used this info to try to squelch the attempt to have its own practices investigated.
by Mike Masnick
Wed, Jul 11th 2012 9:25am
NSA Chief Says NSA Doesn't Need Access To Your Info... As Whistleblowers Say They're Already Getting It
from the cyber-security? dept
In fact, in a story that has received almost no attention, the EFF was able to get three whistleblowers to speak out on the NSA's massive spying infrastructure:
In a motion filed today, the three former intelligence analysts confirm that the NSA has, or is in the process of obtaining, the capability to seize and store most electronic communications passing through its U.S. intercept centers, such as the "secret room" at the AT&T facility in San Francisco first disclosed by retired AT&T technician Mark Klein in early 2006.So it's interesting to pay attention to what Alexander has to say in pushing for cybersecurity legislation. You can watch the full video below, if you'd like:
He does insist that worse attacks are coming, but provides no basis for that (or, again, why the NSA needs your info). In fact, according to a much more believable study, the real risks are not outside threats and hackers, but internal security screwups and disgruntled inside employees. None of that requires NSA help. At all.
But it sure makes for a convenient bogeyman to get new laws that take away privacy rights.
Alexander, recognizing the civil liberties audience he was talking to, admits that the NSA neither needs nor wants most personal info, such as emails, and repeatedly states that they need to protect civil liberties (though, in the section quoted below, you can also interpret his words to actually mean they don't care about civil liberties -- but that's almost certainly a misstatement on his part):
One of the things that we have to have then [in cybersecurity legislation], is if the critical infrastructure community is being attacked by something, we need them to tell us... at network speed. It doesn't require the government to read their mail -- or your mail -- to do that. It requires them -- the internet service provider or that company -- to tell us that that type of event is going on at this time. And it has to be at network speed if you're going to stop it.Now all that's interesting, because if that's true, then why is he supporting legislation that would override any privacy rules that protect such info? If he really only needs limited information sharing, then why isn't he in favor of more limited legislation that includes specific privacy protections for that kind of information? He goes back to insisting they don't care about this info later on in the talk, but never explains why he doesn't support legislation that continues to protect the privacy of such things:
It's like a missile, coming in to the United States.... there are two things you can do. We can take the "snail mail" approach and say "I saw a missile going overhead, looks like it's headed your way" and put a letter in the mail and say, "how'd that turn out?" Now, cyber is at the speed of light. I'm just saying that perhaps we ought to go a little faster. We probably don't want to use snail mail. Maybe we could do this in real time. And come up with a construct that you and the American people know that we're not looking at civil liberties and privacy, but we're actually trying to figure out when the nation is under attack and what we need to do about it.
Nice thing about cyber is that everything you do in cyber, you can audit. With 100% reliability. Seems to be there's a great approach there.
The key thing in information sharing that gets, I think, misunderstood, is that when we talk about information sharing, we're not talking about taking our personal emails and giving those to the government.So make that explicit. Rather than supporting cybersecurity legislation that wipes out all privacy protections why not highlight what kind of information sharing is blocked right now and why it's blocked? Is it because of ECPA regulations? Something else? What's the specific problem? Talking about bogeymen hackers and malicious actors makes for a good Hollywood script, but there's little evidence to support the idea that it's a real threat here -- and in response, Alexander is asking us all to basically wipe out all such privacy protections... because he insists that the NSA doesn't want that kind of info. And, oh yeah, this comes at the same time that three separate whistleblowers -- former NSA employees -- claim that the NSA is getting exactly that info already.
So, this speech is difficult to square up with that reality. If he really believes what he's saying, then why not (1) clearly identify the current regulatory hurdles to information sharing, (2) support legislation that merely amends those regulations and is limited to just those regulations and (3) support much broader privacy protections for the personal info that he insists isn't needed? It seems like a pretty straightforward question... though one I doubt we'll get an answer to. Ever. At least not before cybersecurity legislation gets passed.
by Mike Masnick
Wed, Jun 13th 2012 12:26pm
from the priorities,-people dept
Soon after that story came out, the issue of "good leaks" and "bad leaks" became a huge political football, as it gave the President's opponents an angle to attack him for leaking classified info. The President himself had to shoot back and insist that there were no such leaks happening from the White House -- which is clearly not true. Some of the information could have only come from administration officials.
And, of course, it wasn't just limited to Stuxnet, but other "leaks" of classified info, such as stories around the unmanned drone strike program, which lots of people have reported on, but which is still "classified." Of course, we've now seen grandstanding on both sides of the aisle decrying these leaks -- but not the actions that were exposed by them!
Instead, they all seem to be upset about the leaks themselves, rather than the fact that these questionable activities were secret in the first place. As John Cook recently wrote, these kinds of "leaks" are important because they let us know what our government is doing in our name. That's why these aren't leaks, so much as whistleblowing. And that's an important distinction. That's doubly true as we see to what ridiculous lengths the very same administration goes to in order to attack anyone who reveals information that makes it look bad.
One person's leak is another person's whistleblowing. To treat them all as "leaks" that must be punished (often severely) creates a significant chilling effect on reporting on key issues -- and (worse) gives the government a bubble in which it gets to abuse its power. Rather than condemning all these "leaks," we should be trying to (a) celebrate those who blew the whistle and (b) understand the details behind why such things were secret in the first place.
by Mike Masnick
Wed, Jun 6th 2012 12:21pm
from the questions,-questions dept
And that brings up an interesting point. Is this really a trial of Manning... or a trial-by-proxy of Wikileaks itself?
That said, I'm not convinced it would have made a huge difference, but the overall attention level might have been different. If we went back a decade, perhaps it would have been an issue. However, starting under the Bush (the younger) administration and certainly ramping up under the Obama administration, the federal government has been pretty aggressive in going after whistleblowers -- even when they are going to the press (including some specific cases involving the NY Times).
Where I think it might have made a bigger difference is in how the case finally works out. There seems to be this presumption that Wikileaks is obviously "evil" and therefore anyone working with them must be trouble by association. The concern if the leaks had merely been to the NY Times perhaps wouldn't have been nearly as strong.