Jun 092013
 

Source for the Guardian’s NSA files on why he carried out the biggest intelligence leak in a generation – and what comes next

The Guardian
Ewen MacAskill

Edward Snowden was interviewed over several days in Hong Kong by Glenn Greenwald and Ewen MacAskill.

Q: Why did you decide to become a whistleblower?

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: But isn’t there a need for surveillance to try to reduce the chances of terrorist attacks such as Boston?

A: “We have to decide why terrorism is a new threat. There has always been terrorism. Boston was a criminal act. It was not about surveillance but good, old-fashioned police work. The police are very good at what they do.”

Q: Do you see yourself as another Bradley Manning?

A: “Manning was a classic whistleblower. He was inspired by the public good.”

Q: Do you think what you have done is a crime?

A: “We have seen enough criminality on the part of government. It is hypocritical to make this allegation against me. They have narrowed the public sphere of influence.”

Q: What do you think is going to happen to you?

A: “Nothing good.”

Q: Why Hong Kong?

A: “I think it is really tragic that an American has to move to a place that has a reputation for less freedom. Still, Hong Kong has a reputation for freedom in spite of the People’s Republic of China. It has a strong tradition of free speech.”

Q: What do the leaked documents reveal?

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.”

Snowden is a 29-year-old former technical assistant for the CIA
Q: What about the Obama administration’s protests about hacking by China?

A: “We hack everyone everywhere. We like to make a distinction between us and the others. But we are in almost every country in the world. We are not at war with these countries.”

Q: Is it possible to put security in place to protect against state surveillance?

A: “You are not even aware of what is possible. The extent of their capabilities is horrifying. We can plant bugs in machines. Once you go on the network, I can identify your machine. You will never be safe whatever protections you put in place.”

Q: Does your family know you are planning this?

A: “No. My family does not know what is happening … My primary fear is that they will come after my family, my friends, my partner. Anyone I have a relationship with …

I will have to live with that for the rest of my life. I am not going to be able to communicate with them. They [the authorities] will act aggressively against anyone who has known me. That keeps me up at night.”

Q: When did you decide to leak the documents?

A: “You see things that may be disturbing. When you see everything you realise that some of these things are abusive. The awareness of wrong-doing builds up. There was not one morning when I woke up [and decided this is it]. It was a natural process.

“A lot of people in 2008 voted for Obama. I did not vote for him. I voted for a third party. But I believed in Obama’s promises. I was going to disclose it [but waited because of his election]. He continued with the policies of his predecessor.”

Q: What is your reaction to Obama denouncing the leaks on Friday while welcoming a debate on the balance between security and openness?

A: “My immediate reaction was he was having difficulty in defending it himself. He was trying to defend the unjustifiable and he knew it.”

Q: What about the response in general to the disclosures?

A: “I have been surprised and pleased to see the public has reacted so strongly in defence of these rights that are being suppressed in the name of security. It is not like Occupy Wall Street but there is a grassroots movement to take to the streets on July 4 in defence of the Fourth Amendment called Restore The Fourth Amendment and it grew out of Reddit. The response over the internet has been huge and supportive.”

Q: Washington-based foreign affairs analyst Steve Clemons said he overheard at the capital’s Dulles airport four men discussing an intelligence conference they had just attended. Speaking about the leaks, one of them said, according to Clemons, that both the reporter and leaker should be “disappeared”. How do you feel about that?

A: “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.”

Q: Do you have a plan in place?

A: “The only thing I can do is sit here and hope the Hong Kong government does not deport me … My predisposition is to seek asylum in a country with shared values. The nation that most encompasses this is Iceland. They stood up for people over internet freedom. I have no idea what my future is going to be.

“They could put out an Interpol note. But I don’t think I have committed a crime outside the domain of the US. I think it will be clearly shown to be political in nature.”

Q: Do you think you are probably going to end up in prison?

A: “I could not do this without accepting the risk of prison. You can’t come up against the world’s most powerful intelligence agencies and not accept the risk. If they want to get you, over time they will.”

Q: How to you feel now, almost a week after the first leak?

A: “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.” Continue reading »

Jun 072013
 

 
Internet Users Targeted In Massive NSA Spy Program

According to a report released by The Washington Post, the National Security Agency and the FBI have been partnering up to take user data from nine major Internet companies. Meghan Lopez explains the PRISM program.

 

POLICE STATE: Obama Administration Caught Spying on your emails, phones calls, bank records & Internet usage.

 

In what could be one of the largest scandals, and breach of public trust to come out of the white house, information is coming today suggesting that our government is involved in one of the largest collections of private American public data in the history of our country.

 

They’re Specifically Targeting Americans

 

The National Security Agency has long argued that their power allows them to spy on those outside the United States, while always maintaining that private American Communications were off limits. But it looks like the latest Obama Administration scandal has The FBI, on the NSA’s behalf, forcing Verizon Communications to turn over data on millions of U.S. customers.

 

The order specifically targeted American Citizens, and explicitly excluded those outside of America.

 

The Obama administration, who had to respond to yet another scandal this morning, tried to defend the actions by claiming that the massive amount of telephone records were part of U.S. counterterrorism efforts that were critical to protecting Americans from attacks.

 

Do they really expect us to believe that millions of Americans are terrorists?

 

So based on the Obama administration’s admission, one would have to believe that millions of Americans are now in some way taking part in terrorist activity or plotting to attack America. Do they really think that people are going to buy this crap.

http://offgridsurvival.com/obamaadministration-caughtspying/

Phone Sex, Banks & Google for Emails: The NSA Spying Is Bigger Than Verizon

“And the NSA isn’t just collecting the things we say. It’s also tracking what we buy and where we go”

http://www.theatlanticwire.com/politics/2013/06/nsa-spying-verizon-analysis/65963/

CIA Chief: We’ll Spy on You Through Your Dishwasher…

CIA Director David Petraeus cannot wait to spy on you through Smart Products.

Earlier this month, Petraeus mused about the emergence of an “Internet of Things” — that is, wired devices — at a summit for In-Q-Tel, the CIA’s venture capital firm.

All those new online devices are a treasure trove of data if you’re a “person of interest” to the spy community. Once upon a time, spies had to place a bug in your chandelier to hear your conversation. With the rise of the “smart home,” you’d be sending tagged, geolocated data that a spy agency can intercept in real time when you use the lighting app on your phone to adjust your living room’s ambiance.

http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2012/03/petraeus-tv-remote/

Whistleblowers: NOT JUST VERIZION.. NSA DEMANDED records from Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile

http://www.kval.com/news/national/Whistleblowers-NSA-wanted-phone-records-from-Verizon-ATT-T-Mobile-210458811.html

Continue reading »

Apr 112013
 

WHTC
Jared Taylor

MCALLEN, Texas (Reuters) – Two agents with the Department of Homeland Security assigned to root out corruption in other law enforcement agencies have been charged in Texas with faking records, federal prosecutors said on Wednesday.

Eugenio Pedraza served as special agent in charge of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General in McAllen, Texas, where he was responsible for rooting out corruption in other federal agencies that work along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Pedraza and an agent who reported to him falsified records from seven investigations into Customs and Border Protection officers and Border Patrol agents accused of accepting bribes to allow drug shipments and illegal immigrants through international ports of entry between 2009 and 2011, the indictment states.

The indictment alleges Pedraza, 49, covered up “severe lapses” in investigative standards ahead of an internal review of the McAllen office, the Justice Department said in its statement.

Also charged in the case is Special Agent Marco Rodriguez, 40, accused of following Pedraza’s orders to falsify records in ongoing investigations. The indictment shows Rodriguez worked on two of seven cases identified in the indictment as containing false information.

Both Rodriguez and Pedraza appeared in federal court in Brownsville, Texas, on Wednesday and pleaded not guilty, according to court documents. Bond was set at $50,000 each. No defense attorneys were listed in court documents for either defendant.

Five other agents under Pedraza were assigned to other cases under scrutiny, but were not named in the indictment.

Pedraza was accused of directing his subordinates to draft and place backdated memos into investigative files showing progress in cases that never occurred, as well as records involving case reviews that were never performed.

Pedraza also is accused of failing to promptly notify the FBI that one of its agents was under investigation.

The Justice Department said Pedraza concocted the alleged scheme to make it appear to investigators reviewing his office that cases were being worked properly.

A third former special agent, Wayne Ball, has already pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to falsify records in federal investigations. His sentencing is set for July 31.

The most severe charges carry maximum sentences of 20 years in prison, as well as a maximum fine of $250,000 on each count.

(Reporting by Jared Taylor; Editing by Mary Wisniewski, Sofina Mirza-Reid, Greg McCune and Lisa Shumaker) Continue reading »

Feb 192013
 

Information Liberation
Phillip Smith



An Arizona appeals court has ruled that marijuana users don’t need to be actually impaired to be successfully prosecuted for driving under the influence. The common sense-defying ruling came Tuesday in the case of a man who tested positive for an inactive marijuana metabolite that remains in the body for weeks after the high from smoking marijuana has worn off.

The ruling in Arizona v. Shilgevorkyan overturned a decision by a superior court judge who said that it didn’t make sense to prosecute people for driving under the influence if they’re not actually under the influence.

The ruling turned on a close reading of legislative intent in writing the state’s DUID law. The legislation specified the presence of “the metabolite” of THC, and Shilgevorkyan had argued that lawmakers meant “hydroxy-THC, the metabolite which would indicate current impairment, not carboxy-THC, an inactive metabolite that indicates only usage some time in the past.

The appeals court disagreed, citing its decisions on earlier challenges to the DUID. “The legislature intended to create a ‘per se prohibition’ and a ‘flat ban on driving with any proscribed drug in one’s system,” the court noted. “We determined that the legislative ban extends to all substances, whether capable of causing impairment or not.”

Because the law was drafted to protect public safety, the appeals court said, it should be interpreted broadly to include inactive as well as active compounds.

But Superior Court Commissioner Myra Harris, who had ruled on Shilgevorkyan’s behalf, warned in her earlier opinion that the appeals court’s interpretation of the law would result in people, including out of state medical marijuana patients, being charged with DUI when they are not impaired.

“Residents of these states, particularly those geographically near Arizona, are likely to travel to Arizona,” Harris said in her 2012 ruling upholding the dismissal. “It would be irrational for Arizona to prosecute a defendant for an act that might have occurred outside of Arizona several weeks earlier.”

Shilgevorkyan’s attorney said he plans to appeal to the state Supreme Court. Continue reading »

Dec 162012
 

Wired
Kim Zetter

 

In a secret government agreement granted without approval or debate from lawmakers, the U.S. attorney general recently gave the National Counterterrorism Center sweeping new powers to store dossiers on U.S. citizens, even if they are not suspected of a crime, according to a news report.

Earlier this year, Attorney General Eric Holder granted the center the ability to copy entire government databases holding information on flight records, casino-employee lists, the names of Americans hosting foreign-exchange students and other data, and to store it for up to five years, even without suspicion that someone in the database has committed a crime, according to the Wall Street Journal, which broke the story.

Whereas previously the law prohibited the center from storing data compilations on U.S. citizens unless they were suspected of terrorist activity or were relevant to an ongoing terrorism investigation, the new powers give the center the ability to not only collect and store vast databases of information but also to trawl through and analyze it for suspicious patterns of behavior in order to uncover activity that could launch an investigation.

The changes granted by Holder would also allow databases containing information about U.S. citizens to be shared with foreign governments for their own analysis.

A former senior White House official told the Journal that the new changes were “breathtaking in scope.”

But counterterrorism officials tried to downplay the move by telling the Journal that the changes come with strict guidelines about how the data can be used.

“The guidelines provide rigorous oversight to protect the information that we have, for authorized and narrow purposes,” Alexander Joel, Civil Liberties Protection Officer for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, told the paper.

The NCTC currently maintains the Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment database, or TIDE, which holds data on more than 500,000 identities suspected of terror activity or terrorism links, including friends and families of suspects, and is the basis for the FBI’s terrorist watchlist.

Under the new rules issued in March, the NCTC can now obtain almost any other government database that it claims is “reasonably believed” to contain “terrorism information.” This could conceivably include collections of financial forms submitted by people seeking federally backed mortgages or even the health records of anyone who sought mental or physical treatment at government-run hospitals, such as Veterans Administration facilities, the paper notes.

The Obama administration’s new rules come after previous surveillance proposals were struck down during the Bush administration, following widespread condemnation.

In 2002, the Pentagon’s Total Information Awareness program proposed to scrutinize both government and private databases, but public outrage killed the program in essence, though not in spirit. Although Congress de-funded the program in 2003, the NSA continued to collect and sift through immense amounts of data about who Americans spoke with, where they traveled and how they spent their money.

The Federal Privacy Act prohibits government agencies from sharing data for any purpose other than the reason for which the data was initially collected, in order to prevent the creation of dossiers, but agencies can do an end-run around this restriction by posting a notice in the Federal Register, providing justification for the data request. Such notices are rarely seen or contested, however.

The changes to the rules for the NCTC were sought in large part after authorities failed to catch Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab before he boarded a plane on Christmas Day in 2009 with explosives sewn into his underwear. Abdulmutallab wasn’t on the FBI watchlist, but the NCTC had received tips about him, and yet failed to search other government databases to connect dots that might have helped prevent him from boarding the plane.

As the NCTC tried to remedy that situation for later suspects, legal obstacles emerged, the Journal reports, since the center was only allowed to query federal databases for a specific name or a specific passenger list. “They couldn’t look through the databases trolling for general ‘patterns,’” the paper notes.

But the request to expand the center’s powers led to a heated debate at the White House and the Department of Homeland Security, with Mary Ellen Callahan, then-chief privacy officer for the Department of Homeland Security, leading the charge to defend civil liberties. Callahan argued that the new rules represented a “sea change” and that every interaction a citizen would have with the government in the future would be ruled by the underlying question, is that person a terrorist?

Callahan lost her battle, however, and subsequently left her job, though it’s not known if her struggle over the NCTC debate played a role in her decision to leave.

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Nov 022012
 

CNET
Declan McCullagh

In latest case to test how technological developments alter Americans’ privacy, federal court sides with Justice Department on police use of concealed surveillance cameras on private property.

Police are allowed in some circumstances to install hidden surveillance cameras on private property without obtaining a search warrant, a federal judge said yesterday.
CNET has learned that U.S. District Judge William Griesbach ruled that it was reasonable for Drug Enforcement Administration agents to enter rural property without permission — and without a warrant — to install multiple “covert digital surveillance cameras” in hopes of uncovering evidence that 30 to 40 marijuana plants were being grown.
This is the latest case to highlight how advances in technology are causing the legal system to rethink how Americans’ privacy rights are protected by law. In January, the Supreme Court rejected warrantless GPS tracking after previously rejecting warrantless thermal imaging, but it has not yet ruled on warrantless cell phone tracking or warrantless use of surveillance cameras placed on private property without permission.
Yesterday Griesbach adopted a recommendation by U.S. Magistrate Judge William Callahan dated October 9. That recommendation said that the DEA’s warrantless surveillance did not violate the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits unreasonable searches and requires that warrants describe the place that’s being searched.
“The Supreme Court has upheld the use of technology as a substitute for ordinary police surveillance,” Callahan wrote.
Two defendants in the case, Manuel Mendoza and Marco Magana of Green Bay, Wis., have been charged with federal drug crimes after DEA agent Steven Curran claimed to have discovered more than 1,000 marijuana plants grown on the property, and face possible life imprisonment and fines of up to $10 million. Mendoza and Magana asked Callahan to throw out the video evidence on Fourth Amendment grounds, noting that “No Trespassing” signs were posted throughout the heavily wooded, 22-acre property owned by Magana and that it also had a locked gate.
U.S. Attorney James Santelle, who argued that warrantless surveillance cameras on private property "does not violate the Fourth Amendment."

U.S. Attorney James Santelle, who argued that warrantless surveillance cameras on private property “does not violate the Fourth Amendment.”

(Credit: U.S. Department of Justice)

Callahan based his reasoning on a 1984 Supreme Court case called Oliver v. United States, in which a majority of the justices said that “open fields” could be searched without warrants because they’re not covered by the Fourth Amendment. What lawyers call “curtilage,” on the other hand, meaning the land immediately surrounding a residence, still has greater privacy protections.
“Placing a video camera in a location that allows law enforcement to record activities outside of a home and beyond protected curtilage does not violate the Fourth Amendment,” Justice Department prosecutors James Santelle and William Lipscomb told Callahan.
As digital sensors become cheaper and wireless connections become more powerful, the Justice Department’s argument would allow police to install cameras on private property without court oversight — subject only to budgetary limits and political pressure.
About four days after the DEA’s warrantless installation of surveillance cameras, a magistrate judge did subsequently grant a warrant. But attorneys for Mendoza and Magana noticed that the surveillance took place before the warrant was granted.
“That one’s actions could be recorded on their own property, even if the property is not within the curtilage, is contrary to society’s concept of privacy,” wrote Brett Reetz, Magana’s attorney, in a legal filing last month. “The owner and his guest… had reason to believe that their activities on the property were not subject to video surveillance as it would constitute a violation of privacy.”
A jury trial has been scheduled for January 22.

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Oct 192012
 

The Daily Bell

Large Cash Transactions Banned In Mexico … Outgoing Mexican President Felipe Calderon has signed into law a ban on large cash transactions. The ban will take effect in about 90 days and it is part of a broader effort to control monetary flows within the country. Under the law, a Specialized Unit in Financial Analysis operating within the Attorney General’s Office will be created to investigate financial operations “that are related to resources of unknown origin.” For real estate transactions, cash payments of more than a half million pesos ($38,750) will be forbidden and, for automobiles or items like jewelry, art, and lottery tickets, cash payments of more than 200,000 pesos ($15,500) will be forbidden. The law carries a minimum penalty of five years in prison. – Forbes

Dominant Social Theme: Terrorism must be combated by controlling people’s money.

Free-Market Analysis: What we consider to be the “phony” war on terror is the gift that keeps on giving to those who run our governments.

The phony war on drugs only adds to the rationales for telling people what they can and cannot do with their resources.
What is going on is a pattern, not a series of defensive moves taken out of desperation. The power elite intends to lock down the world, it seems, in order to track every monetary transaction of any significance.

We wrote about this trend previously in “Spain Bans Cash.” Here’s an excerpt:

… As we have long predicted, the phony “sovereign debt” crisis in Europe is being used to justify all sorts ofauthoritarian measures.

It is government pols that gladly borrowed what European banks threw at them. And somehow the upshot earlier this week is that Spanish citizens now lose the right to conduct many transactions in cash.

Spectacularly, the reports such as this one, excerpted above, don’t even both to hide the real point. The Spanish government wants to ensure that it can “track transactions and make sure that people and businesses are paying taxes.”
Of course, anyone who has visited Spain of late knows that the tax burden in Spain is onerous indeed, and is one reason that the truculent tribes that have co-existed uneasily with Madrid are again beginning to beat the drums of secession.
The taxes that the central government levies on small businesses especially are verging on punitive. But there are no apologies. The official position is one of unflinching demands.

And now Mexico is going the way of Spain. Always there is a justification. But the reality of the project is much broader and has to do with a power elite wish, apparently, to create a world government that is fully in charge of what people can and cannot transact. Here’s some more from the Forbes article excerpted above:

In 2010, Mexico instituted strict limits on foreign exchange cash transactions to $1,500 per person per month, which caused several cash dollar exchanges to withdraw from the business and had the effect of penalizing tourists.

Of course, US dollars are a huge portion of the actual paper cash that this effort is aimed at, but the Mexican peso is the 12th most traded currency in the world and by far the most traded currency in Latin America.

Reuters reported that, “Sales of drugs from marijuana to cocaine and methamphetamine in the United States are worth about $60 billion annually, according to the United Nations. About half of that amount is estimated to find its way back to cartels in Mexico.”

The Woodrow Wilson International Center For Scholars’ Mexico Institute published a comprehensive study in May 2012 entitled “It’s All about the Money.” The report recommended tight integration and coordination with the United States in the areas of legal framework, financial institution regulation, intelligence on cross-border currency flows, and non-conviction based asset forfeiture.

Two years in the making, the new law also requires notaries, real estate brokers, and other dealers to report the forms of payment for transactions above the respective limits. Financial institutions will also be required to report monthly credit card balances in excess of 50,000 pesos ($3,875).

The article mentions that Italy has also banned cash transactions above a certain amount. Certainly this is a growing trend.

The Forbes article mentions the prevalence of the Mexican drug trade but it is well known at this point in alternative news circles that US Intel is behind much Western drug trade in order to fund various black and gray ops. Presumably, MI6 and the Mossad are also involved.

The British Crown made a fortune in the 1800s selling opium to the Chinese. Government drug trafficking is an ancient business. In order for something to be maximally profitable, it has to be in short supply. Making something illegal is one way to damp supplies and raise profits.

Conclusion: We figure at some point gold and silver will also come under attack, as that’s the way the world is trending. But in the meantime, these national bans continually pressure more and more freedoms, including the freedom of shielding one’s wealth from prying eyes. And that’s just the point …

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Oct 182012
 

Engineer and student discover spyware from UK company targeting political activists.

By Rene Millman
SpywareSpyware developed and sold by a UK-based company has been used to snoop on dissidents in autocratic regimes, according to two security researchers.
The software, legitimately produced and sold by British firm Gamma International, has somehow managed to find its way into the hands of some of the most repressive governments in the world.

According to Google security researcher Morgan Marquis-Boire and Berkeley student Bill Marczak, the spyware was found in email attachments sent to several activists in Bahrain.
Their investigation found the spyware infected not just PCs but a range of devices running popular mobile operating systems, such as iOS, Android, RIM, Symbian, and Windows Phone 7.

The spyware boasts capabilities such as live surveillance via “silent calls” and location tracking. It also has the ability to track all forms of communication, including emails and voice calls as well as cameras and microphones.

A study carried out by University of Toronto Munk School of Global Affairs’ Citizen Lab found an application that purports to be FinSpy, a piece of commercial spyware sold to countries for criminal investigations.

Gamma Group, the German parent of UK-based Gamma International, developed FinSpy. Gamma’s managing director Martin Muench told Bloomberg that the company had no involvement whatsoever in selling the software to despotic regimes.

“We don’t normally discuss our clients but given this unique situation it’s only fair to say that Gamma has never sold their products to Bahrain,” said Muench.

“It is unlikely that it was an installed system used by one of our clients but rather that a copy of an old FinSpy demo version was made during a presentation and that this copy was modified and then used elsewhere.”

Muench said his company could not confirm that software analysed by Citizen Lab was Gamma’s product. He added that a modification would have been made to the software as “no message sent to our server when the demo product was used against a real target.”

Marquis-Boire and Marczak told the New York Times that they found a connection to Gamma in these code samples. The spyware running on Symbian phones uses a certificate issued to Cyan Engineering, a website registered in the name of Johnny Geds.

Muench confirmed that Gamma employs someone of that name in sales but declined to make further comment.

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Oct 102012
 
EFF
By Mark M. Jaycox and Trevor Timm

The Department of Homeland Security’s 70 counterterrrorism “fusion centers” produce“predominantly useless information,” “a bunch of crap,” while “running afoul of departmental guidelines meant to guard against civil liberties” and are “possibly in violation of the Privacy Act.”
These may sound like the words of EFF, but in fact, these conclusions come from a new report issued by a US Senate committee. At the cost of up to $1.4 billion, these fusion centers are supposed to facilitate local law enforcement sharing of valuable counterterrorism information to DHS, but according to the report, they do almost everything but.
DHS described its fusion centers as “one of the centerpieces of [its] counterterrorism strategy” and its database was supposed to be a central repository of known or “appropriately suspected” terrorists. In theory, local law enforcement officers, in conjunction with DHS officials, conduct surveillance and write up a report—known as a Homeland Intelligence Report (HIR)—for DHS to review. If credible, DHS would then spread the information to the larger intelligence community.
Yet, the Senate report found the fusion centers failed uncover a single terrorist threat. Instead, like so many post-9/11 surveillance laws passed under the vague guise of “national security,” the system was overwhelmingly used for ordinary criminal investigations, while at the same time facilitating an egregious amount of violations of innocent Americans’ rights.
An entire section of the Senate report is dedicated to Privacy Act violations and the collection of information completely unrelated to any criminal or terrorist activity in the HIRs. In one instance, a DHS intelligence officer filed a draft report about a US citizen who appeared at a Muslim organization to deliver a day-long motivational talk and a lecture on positive parenting.
In another, one intelligence officer decided to report on two men who were fishing at the US-Mexican border. A reviewer commented, “I…think that this should never have been nominated for production, nor passed through three reviews.” A report was even initiated on a motorcycle group for passing out leaflets informing members of their legal rights. A reviewer commented, “The advice given to the groups’ members is protected by the First Amendment.”
Over and over again the Senate report quotes reviewers chastising DHS officials for recording constitutionally protected activities and for publishing such reports. One reviewer wrote, “The number of things that scare me about this report are almost too many to write into this [review] form.” In some cases, DHS retained cancelled draft reports that may have contained information in violation of the Privacy Act for a year or more after the date of the reports’ cancellation. Worse, the intelligence officials responsible “faced no apparent sanction for their transgressions.”
While it’s commendable the Senate exposing these civil liberties violations, the problems detailed in the report are not new. Since the government started its various information sharing programs after 9/11, media organizations have extensively documented how, when they’re not being outright abused by local law enforcement, are overwhelmingly used for ordinary investigations that had nothing to do with terrorism. EFF has long warned that completely innocent Americans’ privacy has become collateral damage in the government’s thirst to collect more and more digital information on its own citizens.
Even DHS’ own internal audits of the fusion centers showed they didn’t work, according to the Senate report. The privacy disaster is also a boondoggle for taxpayers: DHS can’t account for much of the money it spent on the program, estimating they spent between $289 million and $1.4 billion—a discrepancy of more than $900 million dollars.
Despite these facts, Attorney General Eric Holder issued new guidelines in March for the National Counter Terrorism Center (NCTC) that  dramatically expanded the NCTC’s information sharing powers. The NCTC can now mirror entire federal databases containing personal information and hold onto the information for ten times longer than they could before—even if the person is not suspected of any involvement in terrorism. Journalist Marcy Wheeler summed up the new guidelines at the time, saying, “So…the data the government keeps to track our travel, our taxes, our benefits, our identity? It just got transformed from bureaucratic data into national security intelligence.”
Now that the Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations has issued this unusually harsh report lambasting the same type of information sharing centers, Eric Holder should also rescind his new data retention guidelines for NCTC counterterrorism centers until new safeguards are put in place. EFF also joins the ACLU’s call for full Congressional hearings on the DHS fusion centers.
In fact, the government should issue a moratorium on all fusion centers until this problem is fixed. Local governments can also prevent their law enforcement agencies from participating.
While “information sharing” centers were sold to the American people as providing “a vital role in keeping communities safe all across America,” it’s clear all they’ve done is play a vital role in violating American’s civil liberties.

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Sep 182012
 

One of the main issues many Occupy Wall Street protesters spoke of during the last year was their concern that they were being watched by the police. The American Civil Liberties Union has obtained documents they had to file a lawsuit to get their hands on, and in these paper they’ve found proof that federal surveillance targeted protesters at Occupy encampments. J D Tuccille, managing director for Reason 24-7 News, joins RT’s Kristine Frazao to discuss the matter.

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