Surveillance

  • U.K. detains, questions NSA revelations journalist’s partner

    David Miranda, the partner of Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald who interviewer Edward Snowden and who wrote several stories based on documents provided by Snowden, was detained for nine hours by U.K. authorities at Heathrow Airport and questioned under schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000. Miranda was released – schedule 7 allows a suspect to be held for a maximum of nine hours, and then the police must release or formally arrest the individual. – but the electronic equipment he was carrying with him, including his mobile phone, laptop, camera, memory sticks, DVDs, and games consoles were confiscated by the authorities.

  • NSA revelations hobble pursuit of a comprehensive cyberdefense initiative

    NSA director General Keith Alexander has proposed a digital version of Ronald Reagan’s space-based Star Wars missile defense program, which Reagan unveiled in 1983. In Alexander’s vision, when a cyberattack is launched at the United States, the defense system would intercept and thwart the attack before it caused any damage. Intercepting a cyberattack would require the NSA to tap, track, and scan all cyber traffic entering the United States. The technology needed to intercept cyberattacks, however, is strikingly similar to the technology the NSA uses for the types of surveillance Snowden exposed. Post-Snowden, it is doubtful that the administration would pursue a comprehensive cyberdefense initiative, or that lawmakers would accept it.

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  • Teams compete in challenging robotic helicopter competition

    A U Michigan student team took part in an autonomous aerial vehicle competition. Their task: build a 3-pound flying machine that can, under its own control, take off, fly through a window into a model building, avoid security lasers, navigate the halls, recognize signs, enter the correct room, find a flash drive in a box on a desk, pick it up, leave a decoy, exit, and land in under ten minutes. Beyond military uses, autonomous vehicle they built could one day be used to survey collapsed buildings or inspect hard-to-get-to parts of bridges and other infrastructure. An offshoot group from a previous U-M team is working to commercialize the U-M technology through a startup called SkySpecs, which inspects windmills.

  • Israeli drone strike, in coordination with Egypt, destroys militants’ rockets deployed on Egyptian territory

    The growing intelligence cooperation between Egypt and Israel was in evidence earlier today (Friday) when the Israel Air Force (IAF), in coordination with the Egyptian military, used drone strikes to destroy ready-to-launch rockets and rocket launchers on Egyptian territory, killing five Egyptian militants in the process. The rockets were deployed on Thursday in a desert area near the town  of Rafah, and were discovered by an Egyptian surveillance fly-over.

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  • Navy uses drones for help with radar, communications

    Scientists recently launched unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) from a research vessel in a significant experiment that could help boost the U.S. Navy’s radar and communications performance at sea.

    Sailing off Virginia Beach, Virginia, from 13 to 18 July, the Office of Naval Research’s (ONR) Research Vessel (R/V) Knorr explored ocean and atmospheric weather variations that can change the angle that radar and radio waves bend, making it more difficult for ships to remain undetected and hindering their ability to communicate or locate adversaries.

  • DEA uses NSA surveillance information to make arrests

    The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has benefitted from multiple tips from the National Security Administration’s (NSA) surveillance programs – although not necessarily the programs revealed by Edward Snowden. DEA officials in a secret office known as the Special Operations Division (SOD) are assigned to handle incoming tips from the NSA. The information exchanged between the two agencies includes intelligence intercepts, wiretaps, informants, and a massive database of telephone records.

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  • The FBI uses hackers’ methods in its surveillance programs

    The U.S. government is planning to expand its suspect surveillance programs to include tactics which are commonly used by computer hackers.The FBI typically uses hacking in cases involving organized crime, child pornography, or counterterrorism, a former U.S. official said. The agency is less inclined to use these tools when investigating hackers, out of fear the suspect will discover and publicize the technique.

  • Locating criminals by tracking their cell phones’ digital fingerprints

    To keep from being tracked and getting caught, criminals use evasion tactics such as modifying the built-in ID code in their cell phone or swapping out SIM cards, making it impossible for law enforcement to track the criminals down by relying solely on cell phone signals. German engineers found, however, that the radio hardware in a cellphone — a collection of components like power amplifiers, oscillators, and signal mixers — all introduce radio signal inaccuracies. When these inaccuracies, or errors, are taken together, as seen in the digital signal sent to a cell tower, the result can be read as a unique digital signal –a digital fingerprint. These digital fingerprints do not change even if the built-in ID code has been modified, or the SIM card has been swapped out.

  • Russia grants Snowden a 1-year temporary refugee status (updated)

    Edward Snowden has left Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport and has entered Russia after he had been granted temporary asylum – the official language: a temporary refugee status — for one year. U.S. lawmakers said Russia’s decision had damaged U.S.-Russian relations. “Russia has stabbed us in the back,” said Senator Charles Schumer (D-New York). “Each day that Mr. Snowden is allowed to roam free is another twist of the knife.” The White House said the United States was “extremely disappointed that the Russian government would take this step,” a step which “undermines a long-standing record of law enforcement cooperation.

  • NSA director faces tough crowd at Black Hat conference

    The National Security Agency (NSA) director General Keith Alexander was met with some applause but mostly skepticism – and even boos — when he spoke during a Black Hat conference in Las Vegas earlier this week. Alexander said that there are only twenty-two people who work at the NSA who can approve the surveillance of a specific phone number, and thirty-five analysts who can review the inquiries.

  • Russia grants Snowden a 1-year temporary refugee status

    Edward Snowden has left Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport and has entered Russia after he had been granted temporary asylum – the official language: a temporary refugee status — for one year. It is not yet known whether Snowden’s plan is to stay in Russia permanently, or whether he will try to move on to one of the four Latin American countries — Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua, and Ecuador – which last month had offered him asylum. U.S. lawmakers said Russia’s decision had damaged U.S.-Russian relations, and the White House hinted that President Obama may cancel a planned summit meeting with Putin in Moscow in September.

  • U.S. Appeals Court: govt. does not need search warrant to track cellphones

    Law enforcement agencies have won a victory Tuesday when a federal appeals court ruled that government authorities could extract historical location data directly from telecommunications carriers without a search warrant. The ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit is the first ruling directly to address the constitutionality of warrantless searches of historical location data stored by cellphone service providers. He appeals court said that historical location data is a business record which is the property of the cellphone provider. The appeals court also said that the collection of such data by authorities does not have to meet a probable cause standard as outlined under the Fourth Amendment, which protects against unlawful search and seizure and requires a search warrant.

  • Two Chicago terrorism cases bring the issue of expanded surveillance to the fore

    A Chicago attorney representing a teenager facing terrorism charges raised concerns during a pre-trial hearing about whether expanded surveillance methods were used in her client’s case. This is the second time in less than a month that the issue of expanded surveillance methods was brought up in a Chicago terrorism case.

  • Manning found guilty of violating the Espionage Act, acquitted of aiding the enemy (updated)

    A military judge earlier this afternoon (Tuesday) found Private Manning Pfc. Bradley Manning guilty of more than twenty counts of violating the Espionage Act. The judge, Army Col. Denise Lind, found Manning not guilty of aiding the enemy. Manning admitted to being to source of the massive leaks of U.S. government documents and videos, leaks which came to be called WikiLeaks. In all, Manning has leaked more than 700,000 documents. The sentencing phase will begin Wednesday. The conviction for violating several aspects of the Espionage Act, and for stealing government property, could lead to punishment of up to 136 years in prison.

  • Manning found guilty of violating the Espionage Act, acquitted of aiding the enemy

    A military judge earlier this afternoon (Tuesday) found Private Manning Pfc. Bradley Manning guilty of more than twenty counts of violating the Espionage Act. The judge, Army Col. Denise Lind, found Manning not guilty of aiding the enemy. Manning admitted to being to source of the massive leaks of U.S. government documents and videos, leaks which came to be called WikiLeaks. In all, Manning has leaked more than 700,000 documents. The sentencing phase will begin Wednesday. Violating several aspects of the Espionage Act could lead to punishment of up to 100 years in prison.