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 Post subject: PRISM plan shows internet firms give NSA everything
PostPosted: Mon Jun 10, 2013 9:12 am 
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Forget phones, PRISM plan shows internet firms give NSA everything

Microsoft, Google, Apple and Yahoo! and others open their legs servers

By Iain Thomson - The Register

It has been a rough 24 hours for the US National Security Agency. First a leaked court order (and the [url]political reaction[/url]) showed that the agency routinely harvests US mobile-use data, and now a new document has been uncovered that claims to show the larger internet companies do the same thing.

A 41-page presentation, given in April this year and obtained by the Washington Post, details the PRISM project, a system described as being the largest single source of information for NSA analytic reports. PRISM apparently gives the NSA access to email, chat logs, any stored data, VoIP traffic, files transfers, social networking data, and the ominously named "Special Projects".

Nine companies are currently part of PRISM. Microsoft was the first firm to sign up on Sept 11, 2007, with Yahoo! coming in the following year, the presentation states. Google and Facebook joined in 2009, the following year YouTube got on board, followed by Skype (before Redmond took it over) and AOL in 2011.

Apple held out for five years, but signed up in October last year, and video chat room provider PalTalk is also on board, with DropBox billed as coming soon. Twitter is conspicuous in its absence from the presentation's list – which is reassuring – but given the other big names apparently playing ball, the social networking firm's stand makes little difference.

The claimed PRISM participants

According to the Post, the presentations states that data from PRISM made it into 1,477 presidential briefing articles last year and is used in one out of seven NSA intelligence reports. The NSA's searches are supposed to target non-US citizens, it appears, but an analyst was told "it's nothing to worry about" if US data was purloined.

El Reg has contacted companies named in the report and has receive few answers. Microsoft says a statement is being prepared and only Google was prepared to go on the record.

"Google cares deeply about the security of our users' data. We disclose user data to government in accordance with the law, and we review all such requests carefully. From time to time, people allege that we have created a government 'back door' into our systems, but Google does not have a 'back door' for the government to access private user data," it said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Apple told CNBC "We have never heard of PRISM. We do not provide any government agency with direct access to our servers," with Facebook also denying it allows "direct access" to its servers.

But you can do a lot of twisting with language – as Bill Clinton showed with his quibbling over the meaning of the word "is" during the Monica Lewinsky saga. Every government agent this hack has talked to says the US government never spies on its own people, but is it spying if this data collection is legal?

The Verizon scandal, and not the accusations of PRISM, makes a statement by the Director of National Intelligence James Clapper in congressional testimony somewhat suspect.

Clapper was asked by Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) if the NSA collected information on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans. "Not wittingly," was Clapper's reply. "There are cases where they could inadvertently perhaps collect, but not wittingly." Those words now sound rather hollow.

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 Post subject: Re: PRISM plan shows internet firms give NSA everything
PostPosted: Mon Jun 10, 2013 9:16 am 
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UK gathering secret intelligence via covert NSA operation

Exclusive: UK security agency GCHQ gaining information from world's biggest internet firms through US-run Prism programme

Nick Hopkins -

Documents show GCHQ (above) has had access to the NSA's Prism programme since at least June 2010. Photograph: David Goddard/Getty Images

The UK's electronic eavesdropping and security agency, GCHQ, has been secretly gathering intelligence from the world's biggest internet companies through a covertly run operation set up by America's top spy agency, documents obtained by the Guardian reveal.

The documents show that GCHQ, based in Cheltenham, has had access to the system since at least June 2010, and generated 197 intelligence reports from it last year.

The US-run programme, called Prism, would appear to allow GCHQ to circumvent the formal legal process required to seek personal material such as emails, photos and videos from an internet company based outside the UK.

The use of Prism raises ethical and legal issues about such direct access to potentially millions of internet users, as well as questions about which British ministers knew of the programme.

In a statement to the Guardian, GCHQ, insisted it "takes its obligations under the law very seriously".

The details of GCHQ's use of Prism are set out in documents prepared for senior analysts working at America's National Security Agency, the biggest eavesdropping organisation in the world.

Dated April this year, the papers describe the remarkable scope of a previously undisclosed "snooping" operation which gave the NSA and the FBI easy access to the systems of nine of the world's biggest internet companies. The group includes Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Apple, Yahoo and Skype.

The documents, which appear in the form of a 41-page PowerPoint presentation, suggest the firms co-operated with the Prism programme. Technology companies denied knowledge of Prism, with Google insisting it "does not have a back door for the government to access private user data". But the companies acknowledged that they complied with legal orders.

The existence of Prism, though, is not in doubt.

Thanks to changes to US surveillance law introduced under President George W Bush and renewed under Barack Obama in December 2012, Prism was established in December 2007 to provide in-depth surveillance on live communications and stored information about foreigners overseas.

The law allows for the targeting of any customers of participating firms who live outside the US, or those Americans whose communications include people outside the US.

The documents make clear the NSA has been able to obtain unilaterally both stored communications as well as real-time collection of raw data for the last six years, without the knowledge of users, who would assume their correspondence was private.

The NSA describes Prism as "one of the most valuable, unique and productive accesses" of intelligence, and boasts the service has been made available to spy organisations from other countries, including GCHQ.

It says the British agency generated 197 intelligence reports from Prism in the year to May 2012 – marking a 137% increase in the number of reports generated from the year before. Intelligence reports from GCHQ are normally passed to MI5 and MI6.

The documents underline that "special programmes for GCHQ exist for focused Prism processing", suggesting the agency has been able to receive material from a bespoke part of the programme to suit British interests.

Unless GCHQ has stopped using Prism, the agency has accessed information from the programme for at least three years. It is not mentioned in the latest report from the Interception of Communications Commissioner Office, which scrutinises the way the UK's three security agencies use the laws covering the interception and retention of data.

Asked to comment on its use of Prism, GCHQ said it "takes its obligations under the law very seriously. Our work is carried out in accordance with a strict legal and policy framework which ensures that our activities are authorised, necessary and proportionate, and that there is rigorous oversight, including from the secretary of state, the interception and intelligence services commissioners and the intelligence and security committee".

The agency refused to be drawn on how long it had been using Prism, how many intelligence reports it had gleaned from it, or which ministers knew it was being used.

A GCHQ spokesperson added: "We do not comment on intelligence matters."

The existence and use of Prism reflects concern within the intelligence community about access it has to material held by internet service providers.

Many of the web giants are based in the US and are beyond the jurisdiction of British laws. Very often, the UK agencies have to go through a formal legal process to request information from service providers.

Because the UK has a mutual legal assistance treaty with America, GCHQ can make an application through the US department of justice, which will make the approach on its behalf.

Though the process is used extensively – almost 3,000 requests were made to Google alone last year – it is time consuming. Prism would appear to give GCHQ a chance to bypass the procedure.

In its statement about Prism, Google said it "cares deeply about the security of our users' data. We disclose user data to government in accordance with the law, and we review all such requests carefully. From time to time, people allege that we have created a government 'back door' into our systems, but Google does not have a back door for the government to access private user data".

Several senior tech executives insisted they had no knowledge of Prism or of any similar scheme. They said they would never have been involved in such a programme.

"If they are doing this, they are doing it without our knowledge," one said. An Apple spokesman said it had "never heard" of Prism.

In a statement confirming the existence of Prism, James Clapper, the director of national intelligence in the US, said: "Information collected under this programme is among the most important and valuable intelligence information we collect, and is used to protect our nation from a wide variety of threats."

A senior US administration official said: "The programme is subject to oversight by the foreign intelligence surveillance court, the executive branch, and Congress. It involves extensive procedures, specifically approved by the court, to ensure that only non-US persons outside the US are targeted, and that minimise the acquisition, retention and dissemination of incidentally acquired information about US persons."

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 Post subject: Re: PRISM plan shows internet firms give NSA everything
PostPosted: Mon Jun 10, 2013 9:27 am 
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Edward Snowden: the whistleblower behind the NSA surveillance revelations

The 29-year-old source behind the biggest intelligence leak in the NSA's history explains his motives, his uncertain future and why he never intended on hiding in the shadows

• Q&A with NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden: 'I do not expect to see home again'

Glenn Greenwald, Ewen MacAskill and Laura Poitras -

Link to video: NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden: 'I don't want to live in a society that does these sort of things'

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, 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.

Snowden will go down in history as one of America's most consequential whistleblowers, alongside Daniel Ellsberg and Bradley Manning. He is responsible for handing over material from one of the world's most secretive organisations – the NSA.

In a note accompanying the first set of documents he provided, he wrote: "I understand that I will be made to suffer for my actions," but "I will be satisfied if the federation of secret law, unequal pardon and irresistible executive powers that rule the world that I love are revealed even for an instant."

Despite his determination to be publicly unveiled, he repeatedly insisted that he wants to avoid the media spotlight. "I don't want public attention because I don't want the story to be about me. I want it to be about what the US government is doing."

He does not fear the consequences of going public, he said, only that doing so will distract attention from the issues raised by his disclosures. "I know the media likes to personalise political debates, and I know the government will demonise me."

Despite these fears, he remained hopeful his outing will not divert attention from the substance of his disclosures. "I really want the focus to be on these documents and the debate which I hope this will trigger among citizens around the globe about what kind of world we want to live in." He added: "My sole motive is to inform the public as to that which is done in their name and that which is done against them."

He has had "a very comfortable life" that included a salary of roughly $200,000, a girlfriend with whom he shared a home in Hawaii, a stable career, and a family he loves. "I'm willing to sacrifice all of that because I can't in good conscience allow the US government to destroy privacy, internet freedom and basic liberties for people around the world with this massive surveillance machine they're secretly building."
'I am not afraid, because this is the choice I've made'

Three weeks ago, Snowden made final preparations that resulted in last week's series of blockbuster news stories. At the NSA office in Hawaii where he was working, he copied the last set of documents he intended to disclose.

He then advised his NSA supervisor that he needed to be away from work for "a couple of weeks" in order to receive treatment for epilepsy, a condition he learned he suffers from after a series of seizures last year.

As he packed his bags, he told his girlfriend that he had to be away for a few weeks, though he said he was vague about the reason. "That is not an uncommon occurrence for someone who has spent the last decade working in the intelligence world."

On May 20, he boarded a flight to Hong Kong, where he has remained ever since. He chose the city because "they have a spirited commitment to free speech and the right of political dissent", and because he believed that it was one of the few places in the world that both could and would resist the dictates of the US government.

In the three weeks since he arrived, he has been ensconced in a hotel room. "I've left the room maybe a total of three times during my entire stay," he said. It is a plush hotel and, what with eating meals in his room too, he has run up big bills.

He is deeply worried about being spied on. He lines the door of his hotel room with pillows to prevent eavesdropping. He puts a large red hood over his head and laptop when entering his passwords to prevent any hidden cameras from detecting them.

Though that may sound like paranoia to some, Snowden has good reason for such fears. He worked in the US intelligence world for almost a decade. He knows that the biggest and most secretive surveillance organisation in America, the NSA, along with the most powerful government on the planet, is looking for him.

Since the disclosures began to emerge, he has watched television and monitored the internet, hearing all the threats and vows of prosecution emanating from Washington.

And he knows only too well the sophisticated technology available to them and how easy it will be for them to find him. The NSA police and other law enforcement officers have twice visited his home in Hawaii and already contacted his girlfriend, though he believes that may have been prompted by his absence from work, and not because of suspicions of any connection to the leaks.

"All my options are bad," he said. The US could begin extradition proceedings against him, a potentially problematic, lengthy and unpredictable course for Washington. Or the Chinese government might whisk him away for questioning, viewing him as a useful source of information. Or he might end up being grabbed and bundled into a plane bound for US territory.

"Yes, I could be rendered by the CIA. I could have people come after me. Or any of the third-party partners. They work closely with a number of other nations. Or they could pay off the Triads. Any of their agents or assets," he said.

"We have got a CIA station just up the road – the consulate here in Hong Kong – and I am sure they are going to be busy for the next week. And that is a concern I will live with for the rest of my life, however long that happens to be."

Having watched the Obama administration prosecute whistleblowers at a historically unprecedented rate, he fully expects the US government to attempt to use all its weight to punish him. "I am not afraid," he said calmly, "because this is the choice I've made."

He predicts the government will launch an investigation and "say I have broken the Espionage Act and helped our enemies, but that can be used against anyone who points out how massive and invasive the system has become".

The only time he became emotional during the many hours of interviews was when he pondered the impact his choices would have on his family, many of whom work for the US government. "The only thing I fear is the harmful effects on my family, who I won't be able to help any more. That's what keeps me up at night," he said, his eyes welling up with tears.
'You can't wait around for someone else to act'

Snowden did not always believe the US government posed a threat to his political values. He was brought up originally in Elizabeth City, North Carolina. His family moved later to Maryland, near the NSA headquarters in Fort Meade.

By his own admission, he was not a stellar student. In order to get the credits necessary to obtain a high school diploma, he attended a community college in Maryland, studying computing, but never completed the coursework. (He later obtained his GED.)

In 2003, he enlisted in the US army and began a training program to join the Special Forces. Invoking the same principles that he now cites to justify his leaks, he said: "I wanted to fight in the Iraq war because I felt like I had an obligation as a human being to help free people from oppression".

He recounted how his beliefs about the war's purpose were quickly dispelled. "Most of the people training us seemed pumped up about killing Arabs, not helping anyone," he said. After he broke both his legs in a training accident, he was discharged.

After that, he got his first job in an NSA facility, working as a security guard for one of the agency's covert facilities at the University of Maryland. From there, he went to the CIA, where he worked on IT security. His understanding of the internet and his talent for computer programming enabled him to rise fairly quickly for someone who lacked even a high school diploma.

By 2007, the CIA stationed him with diplomatic cover in Geneva, Switzerland. His responsibility for maintaining computer network security meant he had clearance to access a wide array of classified documents.

That access, along with the almost three years he spent around CIA officers, led him to begin seriously questioning the rightness of what he saw.

He described as formative an incident in which he claimed CIA operatives were attempting to recruit a Swiss banker to obtain secret banking information. Snowden said they achieved this by purposely getting the banker drunk and encouraging him to drive home in his car. When the banker was arrested for drunk driving, the undercover agent seeking to befriend him offered to help, and a bond was formed that led to successful recruitment.

"Much of what I saw in Geneva really disillusioned me about how my government functions and what its impact is in the world," he says. "I realised that I was part of something that was doing far more harm than good."

He said it was during his CIA stint in Geneva that he thought for the first time about exposing government secrets. But, at the time, he chose not to for two reasons.

First, he said: "Most of the secrets the CIA has are about people, not machines and systems, so I didn't feel comfortable with disclosures that I thought could endanger anyone". Secondly, the election of Barack Obama in 2008 gave him hope that there would be real reforms, rendering disclosures unnecessary.

He left the CIA in 2009 in order to take his first job working for a private contractor that assigned him to a functioning NSA facility, stationed on a military base in Japan. It was then, he said, that he "watched as Obama advanced the very policies that I thought would be reined in", and as a result, "I got hardened."

The primary lesson from this experience was that "you can't wait around for someone else to act. I had been looking for leaders, but I realised that leadership is about being the first to act."

Over the next three years, he learned just how all-consuming the NSA's surveillance activities were, claiming "they are intent on making every conversation and every form of behaviour in the world known to them".

He described how he once viewed the internet as "the most important invention in all of human history". As an adolescent, he spent days at a time "speaking to people with all sorts of views that I would never have encountered on my own".

But he believed that the value of the internet, along with basic privacy, is being rapidly destroyed by ubiquitous surveillance. "I don't see myself as a hero," he said, "because what I'm doing is self-interested: I don't want to live in a world where there's no privacy and therefore no room for intellectual exploration and creativity."

Once he reached the conclusion that the NSA's surveillance net would soon be irrevocable, he said it was just a matter of time before he chose to act. "What they're doing" poses "an existential threat to democracy", he said.
A matter of principle

As strong as those beliefs are, there still remains the question: why did he do it? Giving up his freedom and a privileged lifestyle? "There are more important things than money. If I were motivated by money, I could have sold these documents to any number of countries and gotten very rich."

For him, it is a matter of principle. "The government has granted itself power it is not entitled to. There is no public oversight. The result is people like myself have the latitude to go further than they are allowed to," he said.

His allegiance to internet freedom is reflected in the stickers on his laptop: "I support Online Rights: Electronic Frontier Foundation," reads one. Another hails the online organisation offering anonymity, the Tor Project.

Asked by reporters to establish his authenticity to ensure he is not some fantasist, he laid bare, without hesitation, his personal details, from his social security number to his CIA ID and his expired diplomatic passport. There is no shiftiness. Ask him about anything in his personal life and he will answer.

He is quiet, smart, easy-going and self-effacing. A master on computers, he seemed happiest when talking about the technical side of surveillance, at a level of detail comprehensible probably only to fellow communication specialists. But he showed intense passion when talking about the value of privacy and how he felt it was being steadily eroded by the behaviour of the intelligence services.

His manner was calm and relaxed but he has been understandably twitchy since he went into hiding, waiting for the knock on the hotel door. A fire alarm goes off. "That has not happened before," he said, betraying anxiety wondering if was real, a test or a CIA ploy to get him out onto the street.

Strewn about the side of his bed are his suitcase, a plate with the remains of room-service breakfast, and a copy of Angler, the biography of former vice-president Dick Cheney.

Ever since last week's news stories began to appear in the Guardian, Snowden has vigilantly watched TV and read the internet to see the effects of his choices. He seemed satisfied that the debate he longed to provoke was finally taking place.

He lay, propped up against pillows, watching CNN's Wolf Blitzer ask a discussion panel about government intrusion if they had any idea who the leaker was. From 8,000 miles away, the leaker looked on impassively, not even indulging in a wry smile.

Snowden said that he admires both Ellsberg and Manning, but argues that there is one important distinction between himself and the army private, whose trial coincidentally began the week Snowden's leaks began to make news.

"I carefully evaluated every single document I disclosed to ensure that each was legitimately in the public interest," he said. "There are all sorts of documents that would have made a big impact that I didn't turn over, because harming people isn't my goal. Transparency is."

He purposely chose, he said, to give the documents to journalists whose judgment he trusted about what should be public and what should remain concealed.

As for his future, he is vague. He hoped the publicity the leaks have generated will offer him some protection, making it "harder for them to get dirty".

He views his best hope as the possibility of asylum, with Iceland – with its reputation of a champion of internet freedom – at the top of his list. He knows that may prove a wish unfulfilled.

But after the intense political controversy he has already created with just the first week's haul of stories, "I feel satisfied that this was all worth it. I have no regrets."

A conclusion is the place where you got tired of thinking.


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 Post subject: Re: PRISM plan shows internet firms give NSA everything
PostPosted: Mon Jun 10, 2013 9:38 am 
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2nd UPDATE: Conservatives Tell Congress About IRS Targeting

--Conservatives describe facing harassment from the IRS

--One conservative leader repeats details about confidential donor information leaking out

--Some conservative group leaders testify their free-speech rights were abridged

(Updates with comments from lawmakers.)

By Siobhan Hughes and John McKinnon

WASHINGTON--Conservatives who faced sometimes years-long delays in applying to the Internal Revenue Service for non-profit status on Tuesday told Congress they faced "harassment" from tax agents--and in one case had their confidential donor information leaked out to the public.

Testifying before the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee, the leaders of conservative groups recounted their experiences in dealing with the IRS. Some described a time-consuming application process; others testified their free-speech rights were abridged.

Two witnesses said they lost donations because of the scrutiny; another came close to tears. Several said they had begun to be afraid of the U.S. government.

It marked the first hearing at which applicants themselves testified. Until now, Congress has been mostly focused on the IRS leadership, whose top officials have stepped down since revelations last month the IRS gave special scrutiny to applications from conservative groups.

Rep. Jim McDermott (D., Wash.) gave the hearing a jolt when he questioned whether the conservatives were being unreasonable by claiming that they were entitled to a tax-advantaged status on a fast-track basis for political work. "Each of your groups is highly political," Mr. McDermott said. "You are all entrenched in some of the most controversial political issues in the country and with your applications you were asking the American public to pay for that work."

"I get the feeling that many of you...just don't believe that you should be free from political targeting, but that you should be free from any scrutiny at all," Mr. McDermott said.

That prompted a strong reaction from Rep. Paul Ryan (R., Ohio).

"We have not heard any testimony that this is happening to groups that have the opposing views," Mr. Ryan said, looking at Mr. McDermott. "So to suggest that these citizens are to blame for applying--I don't understand how anyone can make that conclusion."

In prepared testimony, the chairman of the National Organization for Marriage, John Eastman, repeated the group's allegation that IRS employees leaked NOM's confidential tax-return information, including donor information showing Mitt Romney's political action committee made a donation. NOM opposes legalization of same-sex marriage. Its tax-return data was published by a group supporting gay marriage.

Mr. Eastman also alleges federal authorities have adopted a "bizarre" and "Orwellian" interpretation of federal privacy rules in refusing to disclose results of their investigation into the alleged leaking. Disclosure of taxpayer information is a felony, but federal authorities have told NOM they cannot disclose their investigation results because that would also entail disclosing taxpayer information, Mr. Eastman said.

The most recent response from a federal inspector general "declines even to acknowledge the existence of the investigation for which NOM had previously been given a complaint number," Mr. Eastman said. "Worse, that latest non-responsive 'response' from [the inspector general] even adopts the Orwellian position that the same statute which prohibits the disclosure of a taxpayer's confidential tax return information prevents any disclosure of the culprit of that felony."

Susan Martinek, the president of Coalition for Life of Iowa, said the IRS showed "intolerance" for her group's message. The pro-life coalition applied to be a non-profit under section 501(c)(3) of the tax code, which allows donors to qualify for tax deductions but bans any engagement in political campaigns.

She said in 2009, as the group's application was pending, an IRS agent contacted her to get assurances her group would not picket outside of Planned Parenthood. The group got a lawyer to "explain to the IRS that our constitutional rights could not be so impaired" --winning IRS approval within a week.

"We were fortunate," Ms. Martinek said. "But not all are."

Kevin Kookogey, the founder of Linchpins of Liberty, said he is still waiting for approval from the IRS, about two and a half years after he first submitted an application to be treated as a 501(c)(3). In the interim, Mr. Kookogey said he lost a $30,000 grant and faced dozens of questions from tax agents.

One letter contained more than 90 questions, including asking him to identify the political affiliation of his mentors and reveal his political position on "virtually every issue of importance to me." The group devotes itself to educating students in conservative political philosophy.

"I also lost and continue to lost multiple thousands of my own money, and had to cease any further official activity for fear the IRS would target me further for harassment," Mr. Kookogey said.

A representative of the San Fernando Valley Patriots, Karen Kenney, said she stopped the "costly and exhausting" process of responding to IRS inquiries in July of 2012, more than 18 months after the group applied for 501(c)(4) status. "We survive on my credit card and donations in our cake tin," she said. "Like patriots before us, we persevere."

She identified her group as a "tea party" group affiliated with the national Tea Party Patriots.

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PostPosted: Mon Jun 10, 2013 9:44 am 
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Is Obama at war with journalists?

Martha T. Moore and Aamer Madhani - USA TODAY

The rift between the White House and the media is palpable in the wake of revelations that the Justice Department secretly obtained journalists' phone records while investigating media leaks.

Ari Fleischer (Photo: Ron Edmonds, AP)

Story Highlights

Ari Fleischer says White House responded to leaks appropriately
Justice Department has argued that it followed the letter of the law in investigating leaks
Attorney General Eric Holder is set to meet with journalists to discuss the issue

WASHINGTON — President George W. Bush's former spokesman Ari Fleischer doesn't agree with the Obama administration very often. But when it comes to the Justice Department's war on leaks of classified information, he's on the same page.

"Frankly, I think the White House has given the right answers and best answers," Fleischer says of Obama spokesman Jay Carney's defense of two ongoing leak investigations. "The problem is the answers that Jay is giving are ones that the White House press corps doesn't want to hear."

Reporters who have battled with both Republican and Democratic administrations on matters of government secrecy don't see it that way. In the wake of the Justice Department's actions, President Obama finds himself battling charges that his administration has effectively launched a war on journalists.

"There's a red line that no other administration has crossed before that the Obama administration has blown right past,'' says Josh Meyer, a former national security reporter for the Los Angeles Times and co-author of a book on the hunt for the architect of the 9/11 attacks, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

The debate over leak investigations that have ensnared reporters from the Associated Press and Fox News has cast light on the often tense relationship between the government and the news media in a way that's reminiscent of the Watergate years and President Richard Nixon's enemies list.

What's at stake in the pitched battle between a president and journalists is nothing less than the government's obligation to protect Americans without trampling on the First Amendment's protection of a free press.

News organizations and media experts say the rift between administration officials and the journalists who cover them had been growing long before the Justice Department obtained AP phone records and a Fox News reporter's phone records, e-mail and other personal information as part of its effort to find out who leaked secret information.

Part of the reason has been President Obama's promise to lead a more open and transparent administration — a vow some media organizations say he has failed to meet. Now the tension between the government and the media is developing into a more serious conflict, and the strain is palpable.

"The intrusion into the whole reporting process is something we haven't seen on the kind of basis that we have here,'' says Martha Joynt Kumar, a political scientist at Towson University in Maryland and an expert on relations between the president and the media. "I can't think of any other administration that has been following down leaks in the same way this one has."

Under Obama's watch, the Justice Department has filed six leak-related investigations, more than all other administrations combined. Those charged with crimes include two CIA officers, an FBI linguist, a State Department analyst, a National Security Agency official and a U.S. Army soldier.

Since fury erupted over the AP and Fox News incidents, the Justice Department has argued that it followed the letter of the law and secretly obtained records from reporters only after exhausting all other investigative means.

Obama himself has underscored the importance of investigative journalism in a democratic society, while stressing his legal obligation to pursue leakers of classified material. Carney, the president's spokesman and a former journalist, has acknowledged in the aftermath of the revelations that "questions surrounding these issues are legitimate."

Defenders of press freedom say the reason is clear: If sources believe their identities cannot be protected, they will not speak up.

"Ultimately, the biggest impact is in the message it sends to sources: If you talk to a journalist, we will get you," says Lucy Dalglish, dean of the Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland and former executive director of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. "The risk is that the public won't have access to the information it needs to make informed decisions at the ballot box about how this country should be run."


The latest debate centers on two classified leak investigations:

•The Justice Department obtained records this year for 20 phone lines belonging to the Associated Press. The department won't address the investigation directly, but, according to the AP, it's part of an administration effort to track down the source of a May 7, 2012, article about a foiled Yemen-based terrorist plot to bomb an airliner.

The report exposed a CIA informant inside al-Qaeda, taking a valuable asset out of play for the agency. The AP held off publishing the story until government officials indicated any sources were out of imminent danger.

Federal authorities first interviewed about 550 people, including officials who would have been aware of the informer in Yemen, and scoured the documentary record without success before secretly obtaining the AP phone records.

•In the second case, Justice Department officials obtained e-mails and phone records and tracked the movements of Fox News reporter James Rosen as part of an ongoing investigation of former State Department analyst Stephen Kim, who is charged with leaking a classified report on North Korea. The Justice Department has indicated it notified Fox's parent company, News Corp., of its subpoena of Rosen's records three years ago. Company officials said they have no record of such notification, The New York Times reported Sunday.

Perhaps most troubling to journalists, a search warrant affidavit filed in the Kim case said there was probable cause to believe Rosen was an "aider, abettor and/or co-conspirator" to a crime.

"You can't look at this and see it as anything other than an attempt to basically scare anybody from ever leaking anything ever again," NBC chief White House correspondent Chuck Todd said on air last week. "So they want to criminalize journalism, and that's what it's coming down to."

The White House refuses to comment directly about the probes involving the AP or Fox News because the investigations are ongoing. Administration officials note they aren't alone in their push to plug leaks. Republicans clamored for investigations after two intelligence leaks last year.

Thirty-one GOP senators, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., called for the appointment of a special counsel to investigate who leaked to the AP that the CIA had foiled a Yemen-based plot to destroy a U.S.-bound airliner. Lawmakers also raised questions about a June 2012 report in The New York Times that divulged Obama had secretly ordered sophisticated attacks on computer systems at Iran's main nuclear enrichment facilities.

"The president has a responsibility as commander in chief to prevent the release of sensitive information," said one senior administration official who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on the matter. "Frankly, a lot of the discussion, public discussion, has been focused on certain instances where these are investigations that were called for by Congress, as well."
Obama Holder

President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder attend the National Peace Officers' Memorial Service at the U.S. Capitol on May 15.(Photo: Chip Somodevilla, Getty Images)


Since the revelations of the AP and Fox News cases, the Justice Department has underscored that it never has charged a reporter for publishing classified material. And although Obama arguably has taken a tougher tack on leaks, the shift to a more aggressive stance dates back well before his administration.

•President Nixon's White House "plumbers" were tasked with stopping leaks of classified information to the press after The New York Times' publication of the Pentagon Papers in 1971. The report was a detailed look at U.S. involvement in Vietnam over the prior decades.

•In 1983, Ronald Reagan expanded the ability of the government to require employees to take lie detector tests in leak investigations.

•In 2006, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and his deputies raised the possibility that journalists could be prosecuted for publishing national security information after New York Times reporter James Risen revealed the National Security Agency's surveillance of terrorist-related calls between the USA and abroad.

When the Bush administration investigated who leaked the identity of CIA Agent Valerie Plame, administration employees were asked to sign waivers releasing journalists from any obligation to keep their sources secret.

Carney was Time magazine's bureau chief at the time of the Plame affair, and one of his reporters faced the threat of jail time if he didn't reveal a source who told him that Plame was a covert operative.

But the AP and Fox News cases mark the first time the government has acknowledged seizing reporters' phone and e-mail records or monitoring a reporter's daily movements.


In an effort to ease the strain with reporters, Obama announced last week that he had directed the Justice Department to review its guidelines for investigations that involve reporters. He instructed Attorney General Eric Holder to meet with journalists to discuss the issue. Holder is due to report back by July 12.

"I am troubled by the possibility that leak investigations may chill the investigative journalism that holds government accountable," Obama said.

The president called on Congress to pass a media shield law to help protect reporters from subpoenas in federal investigations. It is unlikely the law, as written, would have prevented federal prosecutors from secretly obtaining records.

Some reporters and journalism advocates are skeptical of White House efforts they see as little more than damage control.

"I'm not sure what conversation we could have that would really change the fundamental issue, which is at the end of the day … they're still empowered by law to pull records we don't want them to pull,'' says Stephen Engelberg, editor in chief of the investigative journalism organization ProPublica.

ABC News reporter Ann Compton said Obama's requirement that the Justice Department report back to him relatively quickly raises expectations for action.

"National security exceptions are to be expected, and I would imagine neither of these cases would escape that,'' said Compton, who started covering the White House during Gerald Ford's administration in the 1970s. "I took the president to mean ... that straightforward reporting should not be risky business.''

Contributing: Kevin Johnson and Richard Wolf

A conclusion is the place where you got tired of thinking.


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 Post subject: Re: PRISM plan shows internet firms give NSA everything
PostPosted: Mon Jun 10, 2013 10:03 am 
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NSA Prism: Why I'm boycotting US cloud tech - and you should too

'Not subject to American law' - the next desirable IT feature

By Trevor Pott - The Register

Opinion So, America's National Security Agency has been tapping up US internet giants to gather information about foreigners online, allegedly sharing that data with Britain's GCHQ - and gobbling up details about US citizens' phone calls.

When I was a kid my world was full of pro-America propaganda; I never once questioned American exceptionalism and I cheered for the "good guys" in red, white and blue.

Somewhere along the way I became disillusioned with the US, but I'd always figured that a vague sense of unease and a few ethical qualms were as far as that disgruntlement would ever go.

After the past month's privacy scandal after privacy scandal and liberty scandal after liberty scandal involving the NSA and the American administration, I'm rapidly moving from being "uncomfortable hosting my data in a US-controlled cloud" to "feeling ethically bound to vote with my wallet in order to send a message".

While I do not believe in overarching conspiracies of evil, I do believe that the structure and format of the American political system has become so damaged that the corruption of some individuals in positions of power is inevitable.

Transparency is virtually non-existent, accountability laughable and at the end of the day people unworthy of the power and responsibility they obtain are repeatedly given absolute control over the lives of millions: let's not forget that the US Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act forces internet giants to share their users' data with government agents and forbids those companies from talking about it.

For all that I am frequently accused of being "anti-American" I hold the US Constitution up as one of the most sacred documents ever written by mankind. (The United Nations Declaration of Human Rights would be the item I consider to be the single most important document in our history as a species.)

The creation of the US Constitution was a symbol of a radically different way of thinking about our place in the world. Others had believed in the same ideals that were embedded in the Constitution long before the founding fathers, but none had ever made it stick. It was perhaps the most important turning point in the social evolution of our species since the development of agriculture.

The Constitution of the United States of America is not a declaration of rights and freedoms granted to its citizens by the government. That document is a declaration of the limitations of powers granted to the government by the people that allow said government to exist.

According to the founders of the US, rights are not something that natural persons are given; that which is given can be easily taken away. Rights are innate and inalienable. All human beings are born with them and they cannot be taken from us.

Governments and businesses, however, have no rights which the people do not grant them. Governments and businesses exist at the sufferance of natural persons only, or at least such was the original grand design. In the intervening years since that document's creation the US has got itself all turned around and gone back to an attitude that the people exist only at the sufferance of the government - and all in the name of "freedom".

Liberty versus freedom

Allow me to expand on my thoughts for a moment and pull up the preamble of the US Constitution: "We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America." (My emphasis.)

I have always maintained that there exists a distinction between "freedom" and "liberty", at least as words are used in the modern USA. Freedom has become closely tied to commerce and ultimately to property rights: freedom is wrapped up in the American psyche as a word tied to ownership of a home and the right to be king of one's own little castle.

More commonly (especially in politics) it is the right of an individual to form a company and set rules within his company however he chooses.

"Liberty" – a word very rarely used any more – seems to have largely retained its original meaning: the innate right of an individual to live life without interference. Liberty is the right to do, say, purchase, love, laugh, live, cry and whatever else they can think of as they see fit. This is the liberty of which the founding fathers spoke when writing the US Constitution. It is a word whose utterance – and certainly whose meaning – has all but vanished from modern American politics.

This distinction is relevant to today's privacy, political targeting and "war on journalism" scandals because of the power that the word "freedom" has over the American people. Americans are willing to die for this word because they have been conditioned all their lives to do so.

Somewhere along the way Americans - and frankly, I could argue this about the UK and a few other places as well - stopped asking if "freedom" still represents the belief we have all been raised to defend. Is the word as it is used by the politicians and corporations who wield so glibly truly still connected to our ideals?

The dichotomy of liberty and freedom illustrates how over time the populace can be - and has been - manipulated to support an ideology antithetical to those who defend it. The behaviour of nations changed simply by redefining a word through its real-world use.

While both concepts are used and abused with abandon, for the past thirty or so years, when liberty comes into conflict with freedom, freedom has won every time. How much that is a good or bad thing in your personal politics seems to depend entirely on whether or not you actually have any "freedom" to defend.

Those with more to lose are far more willing to reduce the liberty of all in the vain hope of defending their monetisable assets. This is perhaps an explanation for why so many have come to associate freedom with "security at all costs".

Nowhere is this more evident than in the words of politicians themselves. Representative Xavier Becerra (D-CA) crystalises the viewpoint evidenced by those governing the US over the past few decades in just a few words: "To me, what makes us such as great country, is that we cherish freedom so much. But you can't have freedom without security. So you have to find the balance."

Some things are worth dying for

"They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." – Benjamin Franklin

Canadians, for I am one, are viewed by the world as timid and meek. We cheekily disagree (usually via beer commercials) but our ancestors have bled and died fighting for what they believed in, the same as anyone else's.

Many of those brave men and women sacrificed themselves for a dream given form by the American founding fathers. We have our own history – and we're damned proud of it, thank you very much – but the truth of the matter is that the entire Western world owes the very foundation of its modern beliefs to the US Constitution, in my opinion.

Our place in the world, our relationship with our nation, the role of our government, military, law enforcement and intelligence services were informed by the belief in an inalienable personal liberty that said "governments are beholden to their people". Many of the laws of not only Canada but most of the Western world can be traced back to these beliefs.

The definition of words changes over time, but when our ancestors died with the word freedom on their lips they did not mean "protection of material property and security theatre". They meant "the liberty of individuals to live the lives they choose free of interference". Look across dozens of nations and you will see a history of people fighting and dying for that same liberty, thousands of years before pen was put to paper to immortalise it. Liberty – ours and those of our loved ones – is not only worth dying for, it may well be one of the only things that is.

A conclusion is the place where you got tired of thinking.


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