Eavesdropping

  • SurveillanceArizona lawmaker pushes measure to limit NSA operations in the state

    Arizona State Senator Kelli Ward, a tea party Republican representing the Lake Havasu area, is pushing a bill in the State Senate which would impose limits on the ability of the NSA to operate in Arizona. In December Ward became the first legislator in the nation to declare she would introduce legislation to limit NSA activities in the state, and so far legislators in twelve other states have introduced similar bills. Arizona SB 1156 would. Among other things, prohibit local and state law enforcement officials from cooperating with the NSA and would prevent state or local prosecutors from using NSA-collected information which had not been obtained with a warrant. The bill would also withhold funds from state universities and colleges supporting the NSA with research or recruitment. Legal scholars say the courts would in all likelihood strike down Ward’s measure because Arizona, in essence, is trying to regulate the federal government.

  • SurveillanceA first: Constitutionality of NSA warrantless surveillance challenged by terrorism suspect

    Jamshid Muhtorov, a refugee from Uzbekistan now facing terrorism charges in Colorado, is the first criminal defendant who, as part of his lawyers’ defense strategy, is challenging the constitutionality of the NSA’s warrantless surveillance program. Muhtorov filed a motion Wednesday in federal court in Denver to suppress any evidence obtained through the agency’s surveillance program on grounds that it was unlawful. In July 2013 the Justice Department reversed an earlier policy, and now informs defendants whether the case against them, in whole or in part, is based on information obtained through warrantless surveillance. To date, six months after the review process at Justice was launched, Muhtorov and Mohamed Mohamud, a Portland, Oregon teenager who had been convicted after an FBI sting operation of attempting to detonate a bomb at a Christmas tree lighting ceremony, are the only defendants to receive such a disclosure.

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  • SurveillanceA first: Judge in terrorism case rules defense may examine government secret FISA application

    U.S. District Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman ruled yesterday (Wednesday) that the U.S. government cannot keep secret its request to conduct clandestine surveillance of an accused would-be terrorist. The ruling gives defense attorneys an unprecedented access to a request made to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court for permission to spy on an American citizen. Judge Coleman said her ruling is the first time a defendant’s lawyers will be given access to an application prosecutors submitted to the FISA court. Security experts warned that opening FISA applications to review in a criminal case may set a dangerous precedent.

  • SurveillanceMinnesota wants to limit law-enforcement use of wireless tracking devices

    The Minnesota Department of Public Safety’s acquisition of Kingfish and Stingray II wireless surveillance devices has come under scrutiny as the department’s Bureau of Criminal Apprehension(BCA) has used the devices in investigations. Some legislators are considering placing limits on law enforcement’s use of the data captured by the devices because of concerns over who has access to the data and how long it is being kept.

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  • SurveillanceExpert calls for “surveillance minimization” to restore public trust

    Surveillance minimization — where surveillance is the exception, not the rule — could help rebuild public trust following revelations about the collection of personal data, according to an expert on privacy and surveillance. “Surveillance minimization requires surveillance to be targeted rather than universal, controlled and warranted at the point of data gathering rather than of data access, and performed for the minimum necessary time on the minimum necessary people,” he says.

  • SurveillanceObama announces reforms of U.S. intelligence data collection practices

    President Barack Obama on Friday called for a “new approach” by the U.S. intelligence community to the collection of Americans’ phone metadata. The major changes in current practices involve storage of and access to bulk metadata; the presence of a public advocate during FISA court deliberations; new privacy protections for non-Americans; and new restrictions on spying on leaders of allied countries. Obama offered a robust defense of the U.S. intelligence services, saying that there was no evidence they had abused their power, and that many of their methods were necessary to protect Americans. “We will not apologize simply because our services may be more effective,” he said. The president pointedly noted that some countries that “have loudly criticized the NSA privately acknowledge that America has special responsibilities as the world’s only superpower . . . and that they themselves have relied on the information we obtain to protect their own people.”

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  • SurveillanceNSA’s bulk collection programs’ contribution to thwarting terrorism minimal: study

    There are two questions about the NSA’s bulk information collection programs: are these programs legal? Are they effective? On the second questions, supporters of the programs say these surveillance measures are essential, and as proof they claim these programs helped thwart more than fifty potential terrorist attacks in more than twenty countries around the world. A new in-depth analysis shows, however, that these claims are overblown and even misleading. The study of 225 individuals recruited by al-Qaeda, or a like-minded group, or inspired by al-Qaeda’s ideology, and charged in the United States with an act of terrorism since 9/11, demonstrates that traditional investigative methods provided the initial impetus for investigations in the majority of cases, while the contribution of NSA’s bulk surveillance programs to these cases was minimal.

  • SurveillanceReview panel calls for prohibiting NSA bulk collection of phone metadata

    A 300-page report prepared for President Barack Obama made forty-six recommendations for better management of, and different guiding rules for, U.S. surveillance programs. Among the report’s recommendations: The NSA should be banned from attempting to undermine the security of the Internet and prohibited from collecting telephone records in bulk; spying on foreign leaders should require an authorization from a higher level then is currently the case; the government should be banned from undermining encryption. The president will announce by 28 January which of the forty-six recommendations he would accept.

  • SurveillanceNSA planted sleeper malware in 50,000 computer networks

    The NSA has planted 50,000 sleeper malware packages – in effect, digital sleeper agents – in more than 50,000 computer networks around the world. The agents, controlled by the NSA’s Tailored Access Operations (TAO) unit, can be activated on command to harvest information of cause disruption. To plant the digital agents, the NSA employed methods typically used by Internet scammers and fraudsters.

  • Sound protectionDoD sound protection standards for secret spaces are insufficient

    What is the best place to conduct a conversation about a confidential or even classified matter? Surprisingly, probably not a conference room designed in accordance with acoustical criteria approved by the Department of Defense (DOD). While such “secret” rooms — intended to keep sensitive information out of the earshot of unauthorized listeners — might meet DOD standards, they offer less protection against snooping than is found in a luxury condo.

  • CybersecurityDigital privacy services enjoying a surge in demand

    Digital privacy services such as encrypted e-mail, secure instant messaging, and services that provide hard-to-track IP addresses are enjoying a surge in demand as individuals and businesses seek to protect information from spies and hackers in the wake of the National Security Agency’s (NSA) surveillance program revelations. These services promise security, but may also slow down computer performance. Moreover, they are not likely to deter those who are determined to hack into a particular computer network.

  • SurveillanceExploring “culture of surveillance” in the United States

    Recent revelations that the National Security Agency (NSA) has been analyzing the communication records of all U.S. citizens have many talking about the topic of “mass surveillance” by the government. A University of Kansas sociologist who has been documenting what he calls our “culture of surveillance” for nearly twenty years argues, however, that these developments are part of deeper social and cultural changes going on for quite some time. Professor William Staples focuses his attention on the relatively mundane techniques of keeping a close watch of people — what he has dubbed the “Tiny Brothers” — which are increasingly present in the workplace, school, home, and community.

  • SurveillanceNSA surveillance leads to San Diego conviction of al-Shabaab supporters

    Three Somali men residing in San Diego were sentenced to prison on Monday for aiding al-Shabaab, a Somali terrorist organization. The sentencing hearing in a San Diego federal court came four days after the men lost their bid for a new trial, requested after discovering that the charges were supported by evidence from theNational Security Agency’s (NSA) surveillance program.U.S. District Judge Jeffrey Miller denied the defense’s request to dismiss the NSA surveillance-generated evidence, saying the collection of the evidence did not amount to a warrantless search, and that while the agency’s surveillance programs were controversial, the protocol that was followed aligns with the law.

  • SurveillanceWeakening cybersecurity to facilitate NSA surveillance is dangerous: experts

    In the wake of revelations about the NSA surveillance programs, an expert on surveillance and cybersecurity recommended a re-evaluation of those surveillance practices that weaken commercial products and services. These practices include weakening standards and placing “back doors” into products that are accessible to U.S. government agencies. The expert – Jon Peha, former chief technology officer of the FCC and assistant director of the White House’s Office of Science and Technology — said deliberately weakening commercial products and services may make it easier for U.S. intelligence agencies to conduct surveillance, but “this strategy also inevitably makes it easier for criminals, terrorists and foreign powers to infiltrate these systems for their own purposes.”

  • SurveillanceU.S. tech companies could go “dark” to regain trust

    By David Glance

    With each new revelation of the scope of the American National Security Agency’s spying, perceptions of the importance of privacy are hardening around the world. There is thus a motivation for major technology companies to provide a verifiably secure means of allowing users to communicate securely without an ability for the companies to provide access to security agencies, even if requested to. Two companies, Silent Circle and Lavabit, have come together to form the Dark Mail alliance in an attempt to do exactly this.