Intelligence gathering / analysis

  • TorturePublic support for torture declines as people learn the explicit details of torture techniques

    Does the American public condone torture when the goal is to prevent terrorist attacks? News headlines reporting the results of a Pew Research Center poll released on 9 December indicate more than half of Americans do. That finding, however, is not necessarily valid, says Tufts University’s Richard Eichenberg, who argues that the poll is flawed because it is based on a faulty premise. A more accurate picture of the nation’s attitude can be found in responses to polls conducted by Pew, Gallup, and other news organizations and analyzed in a 2010 report. These surveys explained in graphic detail what interrogation techniques were being judged. So while response to more general questions on the use of torture may continue to produce mixed reactions, Eichenberg says public support for torture will decline as more people become aware of the explicit details of torture techniques contained in the Senate report.

  • CybersecurityDOJ’s new cyber unit to provide legal guidance on electronic surveillance

    The Justice Department is creating a cybersecurity unit within its Computer Crime & Intellectual Property Section (CCIPS) to provide legal guidance on electronic surveillance investigations.The unit will also work with Congress on cybersecurity legislation and focus on cybercrime prevention.

  • CybersecurityA malware more sophisticated than Stuxnet discovered

    Security experts at Symantechave discovered the world’s most sophisticated computer malware, Regin. Thought to have been created by a Western intelligence agency, and in many respects more advanced than Stuxnet — which was developed by the U.S. and Israeli government in 2010 to hack the Iranian nuclear program — Regin has targeted Russian, Saudi Arabian, Mexican, Irish, and Iranian Internet service providers and telecoms companies. “Nothing else comes close to this … nothing else we look at compares,” said one security expert.

  • SurveillanceGOP senators block NSA surveillance reform bill

    The USA Freedom Act, a bill introduced last year aiming to curtail some of the NSA’s data collection programs, especially those focusing on U.S. phone data, failed last night to reach the 60-vote threshold required to cut off debate and move to a vote. Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), the Republican leader, and other leading GOP senators worked hard to defeat the bill. Nearly a year-and-a-half after the Edward Snowden’s revelations, the act was considered the most politically viable effort in four decades to place curbs on NSA activities. Civil libertarians and technology companies supported the bill, as did the White House and the intelligence community – although the latter two did so more out of fear that a failure of the bill would jeopardize the extension of Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which expires next June.

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  • Law enforcement technologyFBI: Lawmakers should mandate surveillance “backdoors” in apps, operating systems

    FBI director James Comey said that the agency was pushing lawmakers to mandate surveillance functions in apps, operating systems, and networks, arguing that privacy and encryption prevent or disrupt some of the agency’s investigations. According to Comey, new privacy features implemented by Google and Apple in the wake of the Snowden revelations, automatically encrypt user communication and data, making it difficult for law enforcement to gather evidence and connect links among suspected criminals and terrorists.

  • SurveillanceJudges question claims that NSA metadata collection poses threat to ordinary citizens

    A panel of three judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia challenged arguments made earlier this week by Larry Klayman, a conservative lawyer arguing on his own behalf, and Cindy Cohn, an attorney representing the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), that the National Security Agency’s (NSA) mass-surveillance program is a breach of the Fourth Amendment, which protects against unreasonable searches.The case, Klayman v. Obama, is one of three currently at the appeals-court level regarding the NSA surveillance program.In the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, Judges Stephen Williams and David Sentelle voiced skepticism about claims that collecting metadata posed a threat to ordinary citizens.

  • SurveillanceICE offices subscribed to national license-plate database in violation of DHS policy

    In February, DHS officials dropped a controversial bidwhich would have allowed the department to access a national license-plate database, citing possible violation of Americans’ civil liberties. Soon after, DHS officials established a policy which required similar plans to be reviewed by department privacy officers. Roughly two months after that policy was put in place, officials with DHS’s Newark and Houston field offices of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement(ICE) agency purchased subscriptions for a commercially run national license-plate database without approval from DHS’ privacy office.

  • SurveillancePeekaboo, I see you: Government authority intended for terrorism is used for other purposes

    By Mark M. Jaycox

    The Patriot Act continues to wreak its havoc on civil liberties. Section 213 was included in the Patriot Act over the protests of privacy advocates and granted law enforcement the power to conduct a search while delaying notice to the suspect of the search. Known as a “sneak and peek” warrant, law enforcement was adamant Section 213 was needed to protect against terrorism. But the latest government report detailing the numbers of “sneak and peek” warrants reveals that out of a total of over 11,000 sneak and peek requests, only fifty-one were used for terrorism. Yet again, terrorism concerns appear to be trampling our civil liberties.

  • SurveillanceLaw enforcement: Apple iOS 8 software would hinder efforts to keep public safety

    With its new iOS 8 operating software, Apple is making it more difficult for law enforcement to engage in surveillance of users of iOS8 smartphones. Apple has announced that photos, e-mail, contacts, and other personal information will now be encrypted, using the user’s very own passwords — meaning that Apple will no longer be able to respond to government warrants for the extraction of data.

  • CanadaCanada considering expanding powers of its security agencies

    The Harper government is considering legislation which would expand the powers of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) to investigate, apprehend, and detain homegrown terrorists. CSIS wants the power to take advantage of the so-called “Five Eyes” spy network to which Canada, the United Kingdom, America, Australia, and New Zealand all belong. CSIS is also asking for more power to track Canadians believed to have been radicalized, and to take more advantage of anonymous sources. Ottawa officials are talking about whether to give CSIS explicit legislative permission to engage in “threat-diminishment” — a power which the intelligence agency’s watchdog recently pointed out that CSIS already uses, but the law does not explicitly permit.

  • CybersecurityFBI wants Congress to mandate backdoors in tech devices to facilitate surveillance

    In response to announcements by Appleand Googlethat they would make the data customers store on their smartphones and computers more secure and safer from hacking by law enforcement, spies, and identity thieves, FBI director James Comey is asking Congress to order tech companies to build their devices with “backdoors,” making them more accessible to law enforcement agencies.Privacy advocates predict that few in Congress will support Comey’s quest for greater surveillance powers.

  • SurveillanceGrowing scrutiny of police use of Stingray surveillance technology

    IMSI-catcher (International Mobile Subscriber Identity), aka Stingray, is a surveillance technology which simulates cell phone towers in order to intercept mobile phone calls and text messages. Privacy advocates have scrutinized the use of Stingrays in U.S. cities because, when the device tracks a suspect’s cell phone, it also gathers information about the phones of bystanders within the target range. Additionally, police use Stingrays without properly identifying the technology when requesting search warrants has raised concerns.

  • TerrorismU.S. intelligence, leaders unclear on exact danger posed by ISIS

    Considerable discrepancies in the reporting from U.S. intelligence services regarding the strength of the Islamic State (IS) have led critics to the conclusion that the U.S. intelligence community knows little about the terrorists’ actual strength as the United States is in the process of developing a military strategy to defeat the Islamist organization.

  • PrivacySensors everywhere might mean privacy nowhere: Expert

    Just as we are coming to grips with having less privacy in our lives thanks to the Internet, a new use of the technology is poised to present new questions about security and privacy — and create a new threat to society. The so-called “Internet of Things” will see small microprocessors and sensors placed seemingly everywhere, and these devices will collect much data about us — often without our knowledge. A second concern with the Internet of Everything is that we may have already crossed a threshold where a large event that would cripple these devices would mean that our current civilization would come to an immediate stop. An occurrence of a massive solar flare, like the 1859 Carrington Event, could disable all the devices on which we have come to depend. “If something like that were to happen, the Amish would become the only people without a major life upheaval,” says one researcher.

  • TransportationAtlanta’s rapid transit deploys AI video analytics to bolster public safety

    The Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) is deploying Behavioral Recognition Systems’ AISight, an artificial intelligence-based analytics solution that teaches itself to recognize and alert on unexpected patterns within massive volumes of data.