Wednesday, 30 November 2016

FBI and NSA Poised to Gain New Surveillance Powers Under Trump Chris Strohm

  • Attorney general, CIA picks oppose Apple, Google on spying
  • New rule in effect Dec. 1 gives FBI greater hacking authority
The FBI, National Security Agency and CIA are likely to gain expanded surveillance powers under President-elect Donald Trump and a Republican-controlled Congress, a prospect that has privacy advocates and some lawmakers trying to mobilize opposition.
Trump’s first two choices to head law enforcement and intelligence agencies -- Republican Senator Jeff Sessions for attorney general and Republican Representative Mike Pompeo for director of the Central Intelligence Agency -- are leading advocates for domestic government spying at levels not seen since the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.from our technology reporters around the world.
The fights expected to play out in the coming months -- in Senate confirmation hearings and through executive action, legislation and litigation -- also will set up an early test of Trump’s relationship with Silicon Valley giants including Apple Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google. Trump signaled as much during his presidential campaign, when he urged a consumer boycott of Apple for refusing to help the FBI hack into a terrorist’s encrypted iPhone.
An “already over-powerful surveillance state” is about to “be let loose on the American people,” said Daniel Schuman, policy director for Demand Progress, an internet and privacy advocacy organization.

New Hacking Rule

In a reversal of curbs imposed after Edward Snowden’s revelations in 2013 about mass data-gathering by the NSA, Trump and Congress may move to reinstate the collection of bulk telephone records, renew powers to collect the content of e-mails and other internet activity, ease restrictions on hacking into computers and let the FBI keep preliminary investigations open longer.
A first challenge for privacy advocates comes this week: A new rule is set to go into effect on Dec. 1 letting the FBI get permission from a judge in a single jurisdiction to hack into multiple computers whose locations aren’t known.
“Under the proposed rules, the government would now be able to obtain a single warrant to access and search thousands or millions of computers at once; and the vast majority of the affected computers would belong to the victims, not the perpetrators, of a cybercrime,” Senator Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat who serves on the Intelligence Committee, said in a statement.
Wyden is one of seven senators, including libertarian Republican Rand Paul, who have introduced a bill, S. 3475, to delay the new policy until July to give Congress time to debate its merits and consider amendments.

Orlando, San Bernardino

Sessions, Pompeo and officials with national security and law enforcement agencies have argued that expanded surveillance powers are needed, especially because of the threat of small, deadly terrorist plots that are hard to detect, like the killing of 49 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, in June and 14 people in San Bernardino, California, last year.
The FBI had at one point opened a preliminary investigation into the Orlando killer, Omar Mateen, but didn’t have the authority to keep it going for lack of evidence of wrongdoing.
“What’s needed is a fundamental upgrade to America’s surveillance capabilities,” Pompeo and a co-author wrote in a Wall Street Journal commentary in January. “Legal and bureaucratic impediments to surveillance should be removed.”
Pompeo and Sessions want to repeal a 2015 law that prohibits the FBI and NSA from collecting bulk phone records -- “metadata” such as numbers called and dates and times -- on Americans who aren’t suspected of wrongdoing.
"Congress should pass a law re-establishing collection of all metadata, and combining it with publicly available financial and lifestyle information into a comprehensive, searchable database," Pompeo wrote.
Press aides for Sessions and Pompeo declined to comment.

Warrantless Interceptions

Sessions has opposed restraints on NSA surveillance and said in June that he supported legislation to expand the types of internet data the FBI can intercept without warrants.
Congress is also expected to consider legislation early next year that would renew the government’s ability to collect the content of e-mail and other internet activity from companies such as Google and Facebook Inc.
Under the Prism program, investigators pursuing suspected terrorists can intercept the content of electronic communications believed to come from outside the U.S. without specific warrants even if one end of the communications is inside the country or involves an American.

Patriot Act

Prism came under criticism when it was exposed by Snowden, the former NSA contractor who stole hundreds of thousands of documents on agency surveillance programs. Section 702 of the USA Patriot Act, under which Prism and other spy programs are conducted, is set to expire at the end of 2017 if it isn’t reauthorized by Congress.
James Comey, director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, has said he also wants to renew a debate early next year about whether Apple and other companies can resist court warrants seeking to unlock encrypted communications. The agency went to court trying to force Apple to create new software to crack password protection on a phone used by the shooter in San Bernardino.
“Boycott Apple until they give up the information,” Trump said at a rally in South Carolina in February. He said Tim Cook, Apple’s chief executive officer, “is looking to do a big number, probably to show how liberal he is. Apple should give up.”
While the FBI dropped that case against Apple after buying a tool to hack into the phone, the increasing use of encryption on mobile devices and messaging services remains a challenge to national security and law enforcement agencies.

Browsing History

Republicans led by Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr of North Carolina are expected to re-introduce legislation requiring companies to give investigators access to encrypted communications.
The FBI is also seeking legislation that would allow it to obtain “non-content electronic communication transactional records,” such as browsing histories and computer Internet Protocol addresses, without court oversight or a warrant.
Sessions and Burr supported the legislation earlier this year, while it was opposed by major technology groups as well as Google and Facebook.

Dutch anti-terrorism proposals may violate human rights – Council of Europe

Dutch bills that could curtail the freedom of movement of terrorist suspects and strip them of their Dutch citizenship for joining terrorist organizations may violate human rights, the Council of Europe said, while asking the Netherlands for clarification.
In a letter to the Dutch government, the Council of Europe’s commissioner for human rights, Nils Muiznieks, expressed concern about three legislative proposals passed this year by Holland’s lower house parliament, the Tweede Kamer, warning that they may violate international human rights treaties.
Included in the legislation under scrutiny is the Temporary Administrative Measures Bill, which would allow restrictions to be placed on a suspect’s freedom of movement and private and family life, the Council wrote in a statement.
In the letter, Muiznieks wrote that he is concerned that the bill directly undermines the “rights enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR),” noting that it includes restrictions that could require a person to report to the authorities or “ban a person’s presence in certain areas or near certain objects.”
The bill would ban individuals thought to be connected with terrorist activities from traveling abroad, and Muiznieks is worried that such restrictions could be imposed based solely on a person’s behavior.
Noting that the wording of the bill is “open to a very expansive interpretation,” he asked the Dutch authorities to explain “how this provision is or can be brought in line with the aforementioned ECHR standards.”
Muiznieks went on to express concern about the Nationality Act, which would allow dual nationals to be stripped of their Dutch citizenship if it is apparent that they pose a threat to national security or have joined an organization that the government deems to be party to an internal or international conflict. A minister could revoke a suspect’s citizenship without needing to go to court if the bill becomes law.
The commissioner stated that such revocations must not be allowed to “unduly affect religious or ethnic groups and social cohesion” and be accompanied by an “effective remedy.” He also asked for clarification of some of the vague language contained in the bill.
Lastly, the bill would expand the authorities’ power to conduct blanket online surveillance on large groups, which could affect individuals that are in no way connected to crimes or activities endangering national security. Muiznieks noted that, with such overarching authority, “strong oversight is crucial,” given the “expansive natures of the powers involved.”
While acknowledging that terrorism is a genuine threat, the commissioner insisted that repressive measures are not the answer.
“Prevention is key. Governments have the duty to ensure that their responses to terrorism uphold human rights standards and are accompanied by systematic, inter-religious and cross-cultural dialogue fostering a cohesive society,” he wrote.
The Tweede Kamer has defended the bills, however, with CDA parliamentarian Madeleine van Toorenburg telling Algemeen Dagblad that “all the arguments that the Council brings, we also considered.”
“The reason why we are not taking away the passport of every terrorist is precisely because we want to adhere to international conventions: people must not be stateless,” she said.
Both bills must still be passed by the Eerste Kamer, the Dutch Senate, to become law.

Taliban Offers to Defend Afghan Mine, Gas Pipeline

Leadership Orders Forces to Defend National Projects

by Jason Ditz,

While the Taliban’s 15 year insurgency doesn’t appear any closer to ending, the group has made a surprising move in announcing that they not only endorse efforts to exploit Afghanistan’s natural resources, but are ordering their fighters to defend such projects as “in the national interest.”
This includes some large government projects,including a copper mine and an international gas pipeline.The pledge also raises hope that further projects involving Afghanistan’s substantial natural resources, in particular rare earth elements.
A US study suggested Afghanistan has as much as $1 trillion in natural resources to be exploited, but the nation’s constant states of warfare have made projects trying to extract them virtually impossible. The Taliban’s move suggests that such development could happen independent of the war.
It’s unclear, however, how far this Taliban offer of protection extends. It is unlikely that their view of “the national interest” will allow for projects involving significant foreign investors, particularly from nations involved in the US-led occupation.

Iran: US Forces ‘Unprofessional’ in Gulf Operations

Notes US the Only One That Ever Seems to Have Problems With Their Boats

by Jason Ditz,

Responding to yesterday’s Pentagon condemnation of the Iranian navy as “unprofessional and unsafe” over claims that they’d pointed a gun at a US helicopter looming off the Iranian coast, but didn’t shoot at it, Iranian officials today insisted that the US forces are the “unprofessional” ones.
An official with the Iranian Revolutionary Guards told the nation’s Tasnim news agency that “everybody knows that the main problem in the Persian Gulf is the US presence,” noting that everyone else seems to be able to get their ships through the Strait of Hormuz with no difficulty, and the US is the only one constantly complaining.
The US ships and helicopters largely aren’t passing through the strait, of course. Rather, the US has made it a matter of policy to park ships off Iran’s coast for years, as they constantly threaten to attack Iran over various grievances. Whenever those US military ships or helicopters get too close to Iran’s territorial waters, Iranian boats move into the same general area, which outrages the Pentagon to no end.
Iran does have a point, however. Despite many of the Gulf states being openly hostile to Iran, none of them ever seems to have these problems with Iran’s navy of small coastal boats, and have to come up with whole different reasons to be mad at them.

Bipartisan Hawks Push for US Attacks Against Syrian Govt

Attack Opponents of Escalation as 'Isolationist'

by Jason Ditz,

While President-elect Donald Trump has indicated he intends to shift US military involvement in Syria toward a focus on fighting ISIS, and away from propping up rebel factions to attack the Assad government. This has been a subject of debate among US officials for awhile, with the Pentagon and CIA arguing intensely over who the US should be at war with in Syria.
Top hawks from both parties seem to be trying to undercut Trump’s shift toward fighting ISIS with their latest comments, as former Clinton Secretary of State Madeline Albright and former Bush National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley getting together to push for a shift toward direct US military attacks against the Syrian government.
The two offered a report which argued that focusing on ISIS was “isolationism,” and that the US needs to prepare to attack Syria outright both to prevent the Assad government from getting control over Aleppo and from retaining control over the nation’s west.
This plan is largely the plan Hillary Clinton ran on in the 2016 election, as she overtly talked about military action even if it meant getting the US in a shooting war with Russia as well. Trump, however, rejected this idea repeatedly, insisting that a war with Russia is not in America’s interest.
Incredibly, Hadley talked to Reuters about the plan, and conceded that it might well make the situation in Syria even worse than it already is, but insisting it was worth a try because “what’s now going on isn’t working.”

Goal Is to Oust Rebels From Aleppo by Trump’s Inauguration

Officials Say Russia Urging Sped Up Timetable

by Jason Ditz,

Major gains in recent days by the Syrian military in Aleppo have seen them seizing roughly a third of the Nusra Front-held eastern portion of the major city. Officials are now saying that the goal is to take the rest of the city by the January 20 inauguration of US President-elect Donald Trump.
The exact reasoning behind this goal is unclear, but officials did say that the Russian government had pushed them on the matter, hoping to get the major fighting in the city wrapped up before Trump comes to power. Trump is said to be seeking a rapprochement with Russia, and has planned to scrap support for the Syrian rebels.
That could suggest that Russia wants the Aleppo flashpoint removed from the table before Trump is in place so as to avoid any obstacles to this major shift in US policy. France and some other nations are pushing for the US to “do something” to prevent Nusra’s loss in Aleppo.
Since Nusra is a thinly rebranded al-Qaeda affiliate, it’s unlikely Trump is going to be eager to go to bat for them, particularly at the expense of a potential normalization deal with Russia. At the same time, the US hawks pushing for intervention against the Syrian government will lose a big talking point if the siege of Aleppo has already been resolved.

​Spy v Spy in Senate, climate change terrorism, CIA whistleblower harassed in prison

Abby Martin remarks on the Senator Dianne Feinstein’s accusation that the CIA potentially violated the constitution when obstructing the Senate Intelligence Committee’s oversight of the agency. A recent op-ed by former CIA analyst John Kiriakou regarding the unjust nature of his prison sentence for blowing the whistle on Bush’s torture program. Tom Weiss, president of Climate Crisis Solutions, talks about the Pentagon’s statement that climate change will increase terrorism, as well as the Senate Democrat’s ‘all-nighter’ to raise awareness about the issue. Offshore tax havens for multinational corporations and the 1 percent – we cite the $21 trillion missing from the global economy and the lack of progress made to get that money back. Finally, the state of the Fukushima nuclear power plant three years after the massive earthquake and tsunami that led to the meltdown with Kevin Kamps, radioactive waste watchdog of, and Tim Judson, executive director at the Nuclear Information and Resource Center.
LIKE Breaking the Set @
FOLLOW Manuel Rapalo @
FOLLOW Abby Martin @

‘Sniffers & taps on journalists’: WikiLeaks publishes emails as whistleblower Brown is paroled

Thousands of leaked emails from a US cybersecurity contractor were published by WikiLeaks to mark the release of whistleblowing journalist Barrett Brown from federal prison. Among other things, the emails discussed targeting journalists and governments.
Emails belonging to HBGary Federal were first obtained by hacktivist collective Anonymous in February 2011. WikiLeaks published them for the first time on Tuesday in the form of a searchable database comprised of some 60,000 emails. 
The release was dedicated to Brown, a Texas journalist who spent almost two years in federal prison for his work in reporting on the HBGary leaks and the 2012 hack of the private intelligence company Stratfor. Some 5.5 million emails from that hack were published by WikiLeaks between 2013 and 2014.
In January 2014, Brown was sentenced to 63 months behind bars for obstruction of justice, threatening a federal officer and being an accessory after the fact. He was paroled Tuesday.
Among the revelations contained in the HBGary Federal emails was the company’s proposal to spy on Russia using mobile telephony and wireless “sniffers,” hinting at capabilities of the NSA before they were disclosed by whistleblower Edward Snowden in 2013.

Sniffing and fake personas

In a July 2010 email exchange, HBGary executive Greg Hoglund proposed “sniffing” operations in Russia, targeting cell phone operators Mobile TeleSystems (MTS) and Vimpelcom.
“NSA has all the collection resources you could imagine, CIA likewise has operatives coming out the wazooo. What they don't have is an ability to manage complex campaigns,” Hoglund wrote.
HBGary CEO Aaron Barr built upon the proposal by discussing the plan to infiltrate governments and groups using social media, by setting up fake “personas.”
“I will create a few personas for the executive members of the company so there can be some email traffic. You will at some point be able to use this guys [sic] accounts as compromised,” Barr wrote.
“If this looks too big we could probably pitch this as a whitepaper to either a large defense contractor like Mantech,” he added. After the 2011 hack and the resulting scandal, Barr had to resign, HBGary was sold to the Virginia-based ManTech, and the HBGary Federal subsidiary was shut down.

Collusion with Palantir

HBGary also worked with Palantir Technologies on a project targeting WikiLeaks and its volunteers, pitched to Bank of America before the whistleblowing organization released some of the bank’s documents.
Palantir, a big data analysis company serving the US military and intelligence communities, was founded by Peter Thiel – now a major backer of President-elect Donald Trump and member of his transition team.
Part of the strategy was to go after journalists who supported the work of WikiLeaks – specifically naming Glenn Greenwald (now editor of The Intercept and instrumental in publishing the Snowden disclosures).
“Without the support of people like Glenn [WikiLeaks] would fold,” said a presentation by HBGary, Palantir and Berico Technologies.
A December 2010 email from Barr to Palantir engineer Matthew Steckman gives a glimpse into how the presentation was put together.
These are established proffessionals [sic] that have a liberal bent, but ultimately most of them if pushed will choose professional preservation over cause,” Barr wrote. That exact line made it into the presentation, which also contained a detailed dossier on WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange.
Among the proposed strategies were “disinformation” and creating messages intended to “sabotage or discredit the opposing organization.”
“Submit fake documents and then call out the error,” the presentation proposed – a tactic used against WikiLeaks when it began publishing emails from Hillary Clinton’s campaign chair John Podesta in October.