Surveillance

  • U.S. worries about proliferation of drone technology

    A new Amnesty International report about U.S. drone use in the war on terror says that the drone campaign is killing so many civilians, that it does not only violate international law, but may be a war crime. The report also says that the growing use of drones by the United States in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia encourages their use by other states and groups. The United States rejects the figures of civilian casualties cited in the Amnesty report as unreliable, and says that the research methodology the report’s authors used is deeply flawed. The United States does agree, however, that there is a reason to worry about the proliferation of drone technology. “Going forward this is a technology that we know more people will probably get access to,” a State Department spokeswoman said.

  • 2008 drone killing of al Shabab leader used phone info collected by NSA

    Court documents filed in the case of Basaaly Moalin, a San Diego cab driver of Somali origin accused of aiding al Shabab, reveal that the 2008 killing by a CIA drone strike of al Shabab leader Aden Hashen Ayrow was aided by information collected by the NSA metadata collection program. The NSA was able to pinpoint Ayrow’s real-time location by tracking calls between him and Moalin. Lawyers for Moalin are appealing the conviction on grounds that he was unconstitutionally targeted by the NSA’s surveillance program.

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  • MI6 asks for more spies in Afghanistan to fight terrorism after NATO withdrawal

    MI6, the U.K. Secret Intelligence Service, is calling for reinforcements from other agencies in order to strengthen the U.K. intelligence presence in Afghanistan after NATO forces withdraw from the country in 2014. Intelligence analysts warn that Afghanistan will become an “intelligence vacuum” which will allow terrorists to pose an increased threat to Britain. Intelligence sources said that Britain’s intelligence agencies were already “very stretched” and focused on potential threats from Yemen and Somalia, a fact which might persuade al Qaeda to seek to exploit the lack of attention to Afghanistan.

  • Police departments adopt sophisticated, cheap-to-operate surveillance technology

    Advancements in surveillance technology have been adopted not only by the National Security Agency (N.S.A) or other federal intelligence agencies. Local police departments have also incorporated the latest surveillance technologies into their work, allowing them to track individuals for different purposes.

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  • Backlash: growing interest in counter-surveillance tools

    The revelations about the NSA surveillance programs has prompted what some see as high-tech civil disobedience: a growing number of products and applications aiming to limit the NSA’s ability to access encrypted e-mails, obtain phone records, and listen to phone conversations.

  • Turkey exposed Israeli spy network in Iran

    Israel and Turkey used to be close allies, but the relationship began to deteriorate in 2003, when Recep Tayyip Erdogan became prime minister after his Islamic party won the parliamentary elections the year before. The relationship reached its low point in 2010, when nine Turks were killed by Israeli commandos on a ship carrying supplies to the Gaza Strip. This was also the year that Hakan Fidan became the head of Milli Istihbarat Teskilati, or MIT, the Turkish intelligence service. Fidan is known for advocating a closer Turkey-Iran relationship – the Wall Street Journal wrote that “he rattled Turkey’s allies by allegedly passing to Iran sensitive intelligence collected by the U.S. and Israel.” Stories now emerge that in early 2012 Turkey deliberately blew the cover of an Israeli spy ring working inside Iran to collect information on Iran’s nuclear program.

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  • Director of U.K. intelligence spiritedly defends surveillance programs

    The chief of MI5, Britain’s domestic intelligence agency, said last week that recent leaks of government surveillance capabilities had given “the advantage to the terrorists.” Andrew Parker said that “What we know about the terrorists, and the detail of the capabilities we use against them, together represent our margin of advantage. That margin gives us the prospect of being able to detect their plots and stop them. But that margin is under attack.”

  • Web sites secretly track users without relying on cookies

    Device fingerprinting, also known as browser fingerprinting, is the practice of collecting properties of PCs, smartphones, and tablets to identify and track users. For the vast majority of browsers, the combination of these properties is unique, and thus functions as a “fingerprint” that can be used to track users without relying on cookies. Researchers have discovered that 145 of the Internet’s 10,000 top Web sites use device fingerprinting to track users without their knowledge or consent.

  • Virginia police built massive data base of political rallies participants

    From 2010 until last spring, the Virginia State Police (VSP) used automatic license plate readers (ALPRs) to collect information about – and build a massive data base of — political activities of law-abiding people. The VSP, for example, recorded the license plates of vehicles attending President Obama’s 2009 inauguration, as well as campaign rallies for Obama and vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin. Following a strong opinion by Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, the VSP discontinued the practice, and the agency says it has purged its license plate database, and now disposes of ALPR-obtained information within twenty-four hours of collection, unless it is relevant to a clearly defined criminal investigation.

  • U.S. keeping too much data on too many people for too long: report

    A new study surveys five methods of data collection by U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies, and finds that these agencies not only collect massive amounts of innocent Americans’ data, but can share and store this data for up to seventy-five years or more, creating opportunities for abuse and clogging government databases.

  • NSA tried to crack Tor anonymity tool

    In its efforts to gather more intelligence, and overcome obstacles to this effort, the National Security Agency (NSA) has repeatedly tried to develop attacks against people using Tor, a software tool designed to protect online anonymity – and which is primarily funded and promoted by the U.S. government itself to help political activists, whistleblowers, militaries, and law enforcement. The NSA’s determined effort to crack Tor raises questions about whether the agency, deliberately or inadvertently, acted against Internet users in the United States when attacking Tor. One of the main functions of Tor is to hide the country of all of its users, meaning any attack could be hitting members of Tor’s large U.S. user base.

  • Greater role for Pentagon in next phase of U.S. war on terror

    The Obama administration had dramatically increased the use of drones in the war against terrorists. The number of drone strike has declined this year relative to the high levels of 2010-11. The number of drone strikes may increase again, but this past weekend’s Special Forces raids in Somalia and Libya are an indication that the next phase in the U.S. war on terrorism would see, in relative terms, less of a reliance on CIA-operated drones and a greater role for the Pentagon.

  • Number of U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen significantly reduced

    In the past several months, the United States has reduced the number of drone strikes on terrorist targets in Pakistan and Yemen. The United States launched 117 drone strikes in Pakistan in 2010, compared to twenty-one so far this year. Representative Mike Rogers (R-Michigan), chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, is concerned. “[The threat of terrorism is] not diminishing,” he said. “There have been counterterrorism changes made by the administration that have concerned us all, things that we’ve been working on for a period of months that we’re trying to work through that are very, very concerning. This is no time to retreat.”

  • Al Qaeda increases efforts to defeat U.S. drones

    Drone attacks have been an important part of America’s war against terrorism. These airstrikes have considerably limited the movements and operational freedom of al Qaeda operatives and other militants in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, and Somalia. Al Qaeda has been exploring strategies and experts to allow it to counter America’s drone campaign.

  • More Americans see their electronic equipment seized by DHS at the border

    The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has released details of an investigation showing how U.S. law enforcement and other agencies exceed their powers in the name of homeland security. The ACLU points to the practice of the U.S. border agents searching and seizing the electronic devices of Americans at the border. Public data shows that more Americans are having their electronic devices searched.