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Paul Merrell

WASHINGTON: CIA admits it broke into Senate computers; senators call for spy chief's ouster | National Security & Defense | McClatchy DC - 0 views

  • An internal CIA investigation confirmed allegations that agency personnel improperly intruded into a protected database used by Senate Intelligence Committee staff to compile a scathing report on the agency’s detention and interrogation program, prompting bipartisan outrage and at least two calls for spy chief John Brennan to resign.“This is very, very serious, and I will tell you, as a member of the Committee, someone who has great respect for the CIA, I am extremely disappointed in the actions of the agents of the CIA who carried out this breach of the Committee’s computers,” said Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., the Committee’s vice chairman.
  • The rare display of bipartisan fury followed a three-hour private briefing by Inspector General David Buckley. His investigation revealed that five CIA employees, two lawyers and three information technology specialists improperly accessed or “caused access” to a database that only committee staff were permitted to use.Buckley’s inquiry also determined that a CIA crimes report to the Justice Department alleging that the panel staff removed classified documents from a top-secret facility without authorization was based on “inaccurate information,” according to a summary of the findings prepared for the Senate and House intelligence committees and released by the CIA.In other conclusions, Buckley found that CIA security officers conducted keyword searches of the emails of staffers of the committee’s Democratic majority _ and reviewed some of them _ and that the three CIA information technology specialists showed “a lack of candor” in interviews with Buckley’s office.
  • The inspector general’s summary did not say who may have ordered the intrusion or when senior CIA officials learned of it.Following the briefing, some senators struggled to maintain their composure over what they saw as a violation of the constitutional separation of powers between an executive branch agency and its congressional overseers.“We’re the only people watching these organizations, and if we can’t rely on the information that we’re given as being accurate, then it makes a mockery of the entire oversight function,” said Sen. Angus King, an independent from Maine who caucuses with the Democrats.The findings confirmed charges by the committee chairwoman, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., that the CIA intruded into the database that by agreement was to be used by her staffers compiling the report on the harsh interrogation methods used by the agency on suspected terrorists held in secret overseas prisons under the George W. Bush administration.The findings also contradicted Brennan’s denials of Feinstein’s allegations, prompting two panel members, Sens. Mark Udall, D-Colo., and Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., to demand that the spy chief resign.
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  • Another committee member, Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and some civil rights groups called for a fuller investigation. The demands clashed with a desire by President Barack Obama, other lawmakers and the CIA to move beyond the controversy over the “enhanced interrogation program” after Feinstein releases her committee’s report, which could come as soon as next weekMany members demanded that Brennan explain his earlier denial that the CIA had accessed the Senate committee database.“Director Brennan should make a very public explanation and correction of what he said,” said Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich. He all but accused the Justice Department of a coverup by deciding not to pursue a criminal investigation into the CIA’s intrusion.
  • “I thought there might have been information that was produced after the department reached their conclusion,” he said. “What I understand, they have all of the information which the IG has.”He hinted that the scandal goes further than the individuals cited in Buckley’s report.“I think it’s very clear that CIA people knew exactly what they were doing and either knew or should’ve known,” said Levin, adding that he thought that Buckley’s findings should be referred to the Justice Department.A person with knowledge of the issue insisted that the CIA personnel who improperly accessed the database “acted in good faith,” believing that they were empowered to do so because they believed there had been a security violation.“There was no malicious intent. They acted in good faith believing they had the legal standing to do so,” said the knowledgeable person, who asked not to be further identified because they weren’t authorized to discuss the issue publicly. “But it did not conform with the legal agreement reached with the Senate committee.”
  • Buckley’s findings clashed with denials by Brennan that he issued only hours after Feinstein’s blistering Senate speech.“As far as the allegations of, you know, CIA hacking into, you know, Senate computers, nothing could be further from the truth. I mean, we wouldn’t do that. I mean, that’s _ that’s just beyond the _ you know, the scope of reason in terms of what we would do,” he said in an appearance at the Council on Foreign Relations.White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest issued a strong defense of Brennan, crediting him with playing an “instrumental role” in the administration’s fight against terrorism, in launching Buckley’s investigation and in looking for ways to prevent such occurrences in the future.Earnest was asked at a news briefing whether there was a credibility issue for Brennan, given his forceful denial in March.“Not at all,” he replied, adding that Brennan had suggested the inspector general’s investigation in the first place. And, he added, Brennan had taken the further step of appointing the accountability board to review the situation and the conduct of those accused of acting improperly to “ensure that they are properly held accountable for that conduct.”
  • Feinstein called Brennan’s apology and his decision to submit Buckley’s findings to the accountability board “positive first steps.”“This IG report corrects the record and it is my understanding that a declassified report will be made available to the public shortly,” she said in a statement.“The investigation confirmed what I said on the Senate floor in March _ CIA personnel inappropriately searched Senate Intelligence Committee computers in violation of an agreement we had reached, and I believe in violation of the constitutional separation of powers,” she said.It was not clear why Feinstein didn’t repeat her charges from March that the agency also may have broken the law and had sought to “thwart” her investigation into the CIA’s use of waterboarding, which simulates drowning, sleep deprivation and other harsh interrogation methods _ tactics denounced by many experts as torture.
  • The allegations and the separate CIA charge that the committee staff removed classified documents from the secret CIA facility in Northern Virginia without authorization were referred to the Justice Department for investigation.The department earlier this month announced that it had found insufficient evidence on which to proceed with criminal probes into either matter “at this time.” Thursday, Justice Department officials declined comment.
  • In her speech, Feinstein asserted that her staff found the material _ known as the Panetta review, after former CIA Director Leon Panetta, who ordered it _ in the protected database and that the CIA discovered the staff had it by monitoring its computers in violation of the user agreement.The inspector general’s summary, which was prepared for the Senate and the House intelligence committees, didn’t identify the CIA personnel who had accessed the Senate’s protected database.Furthermore, it said, the CIA crimes report to the Justice Department alleging that panel staffers had removed classified materials without permission was grounded on inaccurate information. The report is believed to have been sent by the CIA’s then acting general counsel, Robert Eatinger, who was a legal adviser to the interrogation program.“The factual basis for the referral was not supported, as the author of the referral had been provided inaccurate information on which the letter was based,” said the summary, noting that the Justice Department decided not to pursue the issue.
  • Christopher Anders, senior legislative counsel with the American Civil Liberties Union, criticized the CIA announcement, saying that “an apology isn’t enough.”“The Justice Department must refer the (CIA) inspector general’s report to a federal prosecutor for a full investigation into any crimes by CIA personnel or contractors,” said Anders.
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    And no one but the lowest ranking staffer knew anything about it, not even the CIA lawyer who made the criminal referral to the Justice Dept., alleging that the Senate Intelligence Committee had accessed classified documents it wasn't authorized to access. So the Justice Dept. announces that there's insufficient evidence to warrant a criminal investigation. As though the CIA lawyer's allegations were not based on the unlawful surveillance of the Senate Intelligence Committee's network.  Can't we just get an official announcement that Attorney General Holder has decided that there shall be a cover-up? 
Paul Merrell

In Hearing on Internet Surveillance, Nobody Knows How Many Americans Impacted in Data Collection | Electronic Frontier Foundation - 0 views

  • The Senate Judiciary Committee held an open hearing today on the FISA Amendments Act, the law that ostensibly authorizes the digital surveillance of hundreds of millions of people both in the United States and around the world. Section 702 of the law, scheduled to expire next year, is designed to allow U.S. intelligence services to collect signals intelligence on foreign targets related to our national security interests. However—thanks to the leaks of many whistleblowers including Edward Snowden, the work of investigative journalists, and statements by public officials—we now know that the FISA Amendments Act has been used to sweep up data on hundreds of millions of people who have no connection to a terrorist investigation, including countless Americans. What do we mean by “countless”? As became increasingly clear in the hearing today, the exact number of Americans impacted by this surveillance is unknown. Senator Franken asked the panel of witnesses, “Is it possible for the government to provide an exact count of how many United States persons have been swept up in Section 702 surveillance? And if not the exact count, then what about an estimate?”
  • Elizabeth Goitein, the Brennan Center director whose articulate and thought-provoking testimony was the highlight of the hearing, noted that at this time an exact number would be difficult to provide. However, she asserted that an estimate should be possible for most if not all of the government’s surveillance programs. None of the other panel participants—which included David Medine and Rachel Brand of the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board as well as Matthew Olsen of IronNet Cybersecurity and attorney Kenneth Wainstein—offered an estimate. Today’s hearing reaffirmed that it is not only the American people who are left in the dark about how many people or accounts are impacted by the NSA’s dragnet surveillance of the Internet. Even vital oversight committees in Congress like the Senate Judiciary committee are left to speculate about just how far-reaching this surveillance is. It's part of the reason why we urged the House Judiciary committee to demand that the Intelligence Community provide the public with a number. 
  • The lack of information makes rigorous oversight of the programs all but impossible. As Senator Franken put it in the hearing today, “When the public lacks even a rough sense of the scope of the government’s surveillance program, they have no way of knowing if the government is striking the right balance, whether we are safeguarding our national security without trampling on our citizens’ fundamental privacy rights. But the public can’t know if we succeed in striking that balance if they don’t even have the most basic information about our major surveillance programs."  Senator Patrick Leahy also questioned the panel about the “minimization procedures” associated with this type of surveillance, the privacy safeguard that is intended to ensure that irrelevant data and data on American citizens is swiftly deleted. Senator Leahy asked the panel: “Do you believe the current minimization procedures ensure that data about innocent Americans is deleted? Is that enough?”  David Medine, who recently announced his pending retirement from the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, answered unequivocally:
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  • Senator Leahy, they don’t. The minimization procedures call for the deletion of innocent Americans’ information upon discovery to determine whether it has any foreign intelligence value. But what the board’s report found is that in fact information is never deleted. It sits in the databases for 5 years, or sometimes longer. And so the minimization doesn’t really address the privacy concerns of incidentally collected communications—again, where there’s been no warrant at all in the process… In the United States, we simply can’t read people’s emails and listen to their phone calls without court approval, and the same should be true when the government shifts its attention to Americans under this program. One of the most startling exchanges from the hearing today came toward the end of the session, when Senator Dianne Feinstein—who also sits on the Intelligence Committee—seemed taken aback by Ms. Goitein’s mention of “backdoor searches.” 
  • Feinstein: Wow, wow. What do you call it? What’s a backdoor search? Goitein: Backdoor search is when the FBI or any other agency targets a U.S. person for a search of data that was collected under Section 702, which is supposed to be targeted against foreigners overseas. Feinstein: Regardless of the minimization that was properly carried out. Goitein: Well the data is searched in its unminimized form. So the FBI gets raw data, the NSA, the CIA get raw data. And they search that raw data using U.S. person identifiers. That’s what I’m referring to as backdoor searches. It’s deeply concerning that any member of Congress, much less a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Senate Intelligence Committee, might not be aware of the problem surrounding backdoor searches. In April 2014, the Director of National Intelligence acknowledged the searches of this data, which Senators Ron Wyden and Mark Udall termed “the ‘back-door search’ loophole in section 702.” The public was so incensed that the House of Representatives passed an amendment to that year's defense appropriations bill effectively banning the warrantless backdoor searches. Nonetheless, in the hearing today it seemed like Senator Feinstein might not recognize or appreciate the serious implications of allowing U.S. law enforcement agencies to query the raw data collected through these Internet surveillance programs. Hopefully today’s testimony helped convince the Senator that there is more to this topic than what she’s hearing in jargon-filled classified security briefings.
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    The 4th Amendment: "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and *particularly describing the place to be searched, and the* persons or *things to be seized."* So much for the particularized description of the place to be searched and the thngs to be seized.  Fah! Who needs a Constitution, anyway .... 
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

Gallo report: Copyright dogmatism wins a battle, not the war Submitted on 01 June 2010 | La Quadrature du Net - 1 views

  • Brussels, June 1st 2010 - The vote, in JURI committee of the European Parliament on the Gallo report "Enforcement of intellectual property", including the rapporteur's repressive amendments, reflects the asphyxiating influence of corporate lobbies on EU policy-making. The ALDE group, which had stood for fundamental freedoms on several occasions, this time sided with the entertainment industries. This vote should make EU citizens react and convince MEPs about the stakes of our evolving digital societies. Beyond the vote of the Gallo report in plenary session, there are other upcoming legislative battles where the public interest of creativity and access to knowledge can be upheld against an obsolete vision of copyright.
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    Gallo Report on the future of EU copyright: repression or reflexion ? Submitted on 25 May 2010 in * copyright * proposals * Gallo * press release * Read more * Twitter * Facebook * Delicious * Digg * MySpace * Français Paris, May 25th, 2010 - The Gallo Report on the future of "intellectual property rights" (IPR) enforcement will be voted on June 1st, at 9 AM,1 in the Committee for Legal Affairs (JURI) of the European Parliament. Since no compromise was found between the members of the Committee, two visions will frontally oppose. While the rapporteur -- French sarkozyst EPP member Marielle Gallo -- is pushing for more repression to tackle online file-sharing, some positive amendments from all the other political groups2 seek to end the dogmatic repression and call for the consideration of alternative schemes to fund creation. Every citizen concerned by the future of copyright in Europe and by the open nature of the Internet should express their views to the Members of the JURI Committee3. 1. 1. http://www.europarl.europa.eu/activities/Committees/calendarCom.do?langu... 2. 2. http://www.laquadrature.net/wiki/Rapport_Gallo_Amendments 3. 3. La Quadrature's wiki-based tool Political Memorycan be used for this purpose.
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    Perhaps The (Only One) Association that cares about Internet Citizens' Freedoms here in Europe...
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

Important victories on ACTA! Moving on to Final Steps | La Quadrature du Net - 0 views

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    [Submitted on 31 May 2012 - 08:53 ACTA copyright Karel De Gucht David Martin Marielle Gallo Brussels, May 31st 2012 - Votes were cast in three of the four parliamentary committees preparing the EU Parliament's final decision on ACTA. Citizens' concerns, as well as Internet innovators & start-ups' interests have been upheld in "Civil Liberties" (LIBE) and the "Industry" (ITRE) committees. Even the "Legal affairs" (JURI) committee, usually very conservative and keen to support repression on copyright issues, rejected Marielle Gallo's pro-ACTA opinion. Citizens should rejoice but keep up the pressure for the upcoming steps, up until the final vote scheduled for early July. A massive rejection of ACTA would create a political symbol of global scale.]
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

Europe's net neutrality law gets breathing space as industry committee delays vote - Tech News and Analysis - 0 views

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    [* #Our Time, Let's #Go!] "Summary: The two-week delay is apparently down to technicalities over translations, but those opposed to anti-neutrality amendments made by some in the committee say it will give everyone a chance to better examine the details of the text."
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

EU Parliament Committee to Cast Crucial Vote on Net Neutrality | La Quadrature du Net - 1 views

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    "Submitted on 14 Mar 2014 - 15:30 Kroes Telecoms Package Net neutrality Neelie Kroes Catherine Trautmann Pilar del Castillo Vera press release Printer-friendly version Send by email Français Paris, 14 March 2014 - On Tuesday, 18 March at 10 a.m., the "Industry" (ITRE) committee of the European Parliament will take a crucial decision for the future of Net Neutrality in Europe. The adoption of the report could mark a point of no return. Two conflicting visions for the future of the Internet oppose the two largest political groups in the EU Parliament, the social democratic party (S&D) and the conservative party (EPP). The outcome of the vote might be decided by the MEPs of the liberal group (ALDE) who appear not to have chosen which vision they will support, although their rapporteur, Jens Rohde, is pushing for the adoption of anti-Net Neutrality provisions. If adopted, these provisions would end the Internet as we know it, harming the freedom of communication and innovation."
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

Counter-Arguments Against ACTA - La Quadrature du Net - 0 views

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    [Below are arguments that can help you debunk the EU Commission's lies on ACTA, which are also relayed by pro-ACTA members of the EU Parliament. v · d · m Current main action: phone the Members of the European Parliament in the committees working on ACTA, INTA in particular. Ask them to commit to rejecting it, and ask that their committee do the same! The MEPs have been given a "fact-sheet" on ACTA's supposed inoffensiveness to reassure concerned citizens (that's you). You can find a debunking of these lies here.]
Paul Merrell

USA Freedom Act Passes House, Codifying Bulk Collection For First Time, Critics Say - The Intercept - 0 views

  • After only one hour of floor debate, and no allowed amendments, the House of Representatives today passed legislation that opponents believe may give brand new authorization to the U.S. government to conduct domestic dragnets. The USA Freedom Act was approved in a 338-88 vote, with approximately equal numbers of Democrats and Republicans voting against. The bill’s supporters say it will disallow bulk collection of domestic telephone metadata, in which the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court has regularly ordered phone companies to turn over such data. The Obama administration claims such collection is authorized by Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act, which is set to expire June 1. However, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit recently held that Section 215 does not provide such authorization. Today’s legislation would prevent the government from issuing such orders for bulk collection and instead rely on telephone companies to store all their metadata — some of which the government could then demand using a “specific selection term” related to foreign terrorism. Bill supporters maintain this would prevent indiscriminate collection.
  • However, the legislation may not end bulk surveillance and in fact could codify the ability of the government to conduct dragnet data collection. “We’re taking something that was not permitted under regular section 215 … and now we’re creating a whole apparatus to provide for it,” Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., said on Tuesday night during a House Rules Committee proceeding. “The language does limit the amount of bulk collection, it doesn’t end bulk collection,” Rep. Amash said, arguing that the problematic “specific selection term” allows for “very large data collection, potentially in the hundreds of thousands of people, maybe even millions.” In a statement posted to Facebook ahead of the vote, Rep. Amash said the legislation “falls woefully short of reining in the mass collection of Americans’ data, and it takes us a step in the wrong direction by specifically authorizing such collection in violation of the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution.”
  • “While I appreciate a number of the reforms in the bill and understand the need for secure counter-espionage and terrorism investigations, I believe our nation is better served by allowing Section 215 to expire completely and replacing it with a measure that finds a better balance between national security interests and protecting the civil liberties of Americans,” Congressman Ted Lieu, D-Calif., said in a statement explaining his vote against the bill.
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  • Not addressed in the bill, however, are a slew of other spying authorities in use by the NSA that either directly or inadvertently target the communications of American citizens. Lawmakers offered several amendments in the days leading up to the vote that would have tackled surveillance activities laid out in Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and Executive Order 12333 — two authorities intended for foreign surveillance that have been used to collect Americans’ internet data, including online address books and buddy lists. The House Rules Committee, however, prohibited consideration of any amendment to the USA Freedom Act, claiming that any changes to the legislation would have weakened its chances of passage.
  • The measure now goes to the Senate where its future is uncertain. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has declined to schedule the bill for consideration, and is instead pushing for a clean reauthorization of expiring Patriot Act provisions that includes no surveillance reforms. Senators Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Rand Paul, R-Ky., have threated to filibuster any bill that extends the Patriot Act without also reforming the NSA.
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    Surprise, surprise. U.S. "progressive" groups are waging an all-out email lobbying effort to sunset the Patriot Act. https://www.sunsetthepatriotact.com/ Same with civil liberties groups. e.g., https://action.aclu.org/secure/Section215 And a coalition of libertarian organizations. http://docs.techfreedom.org/Coalition_Letter_McConnell_215Reauth_4.27.15.pdf
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

Pro-Privacy Senator Wyden on Fighting the NSA From Inside the System | WIRED - 1 views

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    "Senator Ron Wyden thought he knew what was going on. The Democrat from Oregon, who has served on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence since 2001, thought he knew the nature of the National Security Agency's surveillance activities. As a Committee member with a classified clearance, he received regular briefings to conduct oversight."
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    I'm a retired lawyer in Oregon and a devout civil libertarian. Wyden is one of my senators. I have been closely following this government digital surveillance stuff since the original articles in 1988 that first broke the story on the Five Eyes' Echelon surveillance system. E.g., http://goo.gl/mCxs6Y While I will grant that Wyden has bucked the system gently (he's far more a drag anchor than a propeller), he has shown no political courage on the NSA stuff whatsoever. In the linked article, he admits keeping his job as a Senator was more important to him than doing anything *effective* to stop the surveillance in its tracks. His "working from the inside" line notwithstanding, he allowed creation of a truly Orwellian state to develop without more than a few ineffective yelps that were never listened to because he lacked the courage to take a stand and bring down the house that NSA built with documentary evidence. It took a series of whistleblowers culminating in Edward Snowden's courageous willingness to spend the rest of his life in prison to bring the public to its currently educated state. Wyden on the other hand, didn't even have the courage to lay it all out in the public Congressional record when he could have done so at any time without risking more than his political career because of the Constitution's Speech and Debate Clause that absolutely protects Wyden from criminal prosecution had he done so. I don't buy arguments that fear of NSA blackmail can excuse politicians from doing their duty. That did not stop the Supreme Court from unanimously laying down an opinion, in Riley v. California, that brings to an end the line of case decisions based on Smith v. Maryland that is the underpinning of the NSA/DoJ position on access to phone metadata without a warrant. http://scholar.google.com/scholar_case?case=9647156672357738355 Elected and appointed government officials owe a duty to the citizens of this land to protect and defend the Constitution that legallh
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

Committee begins review of High Priority Projects list -- your input is needed - Free Software Foundation - working together for free software - 0 views

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    "by Free Software Foundation - Published on Dec 08, 2014 11:57 AM Send your suggestions for projects of strategic importance to the goal of freedom for all computer users. High Priority Projects logo This announcement was written by the FSF's volunteer High Priority Projects Committee."
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

Copyright Reform: The European Parliament Must Follow the Reda Report! | La Quadrature du Net * - 0 views

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    "Submitted on 26 Jan 2015 - 11:47 copyright creative contribution Andrus Ansip Günther Oettinger press release Printer-friendly version Send by email Français Paris, January 26, 2015 - Yesterday, MEP Julia Reda presented in the Committee on Legal Affairs (JURI) of the European Parliament a report on the harmonization of copyright in Europe. She tables modest but welcome proposals for a reform of copyright, several of which have been supported by La Quadrature du Net." [# ! And You can still take part... https://www.discuto.io/en/consultation/6240?page=2]
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    "Submitted on 26 Jan 2015 - 11:47 copyright creative contribution Andrus Ansip Günther Oettinger press release Printer-friendly version Send by email Français Paris, January 26, 2015 - Yesterday, MEP Julia Reda presented in the Committee on Legal Affairs (JURI) of the European Parliament a report on the harmonization of copyright in Europe. She tables modest but welcome proposals for a reform of copyright, several of which have been supported by La Quadrature du Net." [# ! And You can still take part... https://www.discuto.io/en/consultation/6240?page=2]
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    "Submitted on 26 Jan 2015 - 11:47 copyright creative contribution Andrus Ansip Günther Oettinger press release Printer-friendly version Send by email Français Paris, January 26, 2015 - Yesterday, MEP Julia Reda presented in the Committee on Legal Affairs (JURI) of the European Parliament a report on the harmonization of copyright in Europe. She tables modest but welcome proposals for a reform of copyright, several of which have been supported by La Quadrature du Net." [# ! And You can still take part... https://www.discuto.io/en/consultation/6240?page=2]
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

TTIP expected to fail after US demands revealed in unprecedented leak | Ars Technica UK - 1 views

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    "Bernd Lange, the chairman of the European Parliament's important trade committee, has indicated that he now expects the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations will probably fail, following a major leak of confidential documents from the talks."
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    "Bernd Lange, the chairman of the European Parliament's important trade committee, has indicated that he now expects the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiations will probably fail, following a major leak of confidential documents from the talks."
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

Take action to stop secret lobbying | Democracy International e.V. - 0 views

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    "On 12 September, members of the European Parliament (MEPs) who sit on the committee on constitutional affairs (AFCO) will presumably vote on the report on "Transparency, integrity and accountability in the EU institutions". The report includes important proposals on how to make decision-making in Brussels more transparent and ethical."
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    "On 12 September, members of the European Parliament (MEPs) who sit on the committee on constitutional affairs (AFCO) will presumably vote on the report on "Transparency, integrity and accountability in the EU institutions". The report includes important proposals on how to make decision-making in Brussels more transparent and ethical."
Paul Merrell

Commentary: Don't be so sure Russia hacked the Clinton emails | Reuters - 0 views

  • By James Bamford Last summer, cyber investigators plowing through the thousands of leaked emails from the Democratic National Committee uncovered a clue.A user named “Феликс Эдмундович” modified one of the documents using settings in the Russian language. Translated, his name was Felix Edmundovich, a pseudonym referring to Felix Edmundovich Dzerzhinsky, the chief of the Soviet Union’s first secret-police organization, the Cheka.It was one more link in the chain of evidence pointing to Russian President Vladimir Putin as the man ultimately behind the operation.During the Cold War, when Soviet intelligence was headquartered in Dzerzhinsky Square in Moscow, Putin was a KGB officer assigned to the First Chief Directorate. Its responsibilities included “active measures,” a form of political warfare that included media manipulation, propaganda and disinformation. Soviet active measures, retired KGB Major General Oleg Kalugin told Army historian Thomas Boghart, aimed to discredit the United States and “conquer world public opinion.”As the Cold War has turned into the code war, Putin recently unveiled his new, greatly enlarged spy organization: the Ministry of State Security, taking the name from Joseph Stalin’s secret service. Putin also resurrected, according to James Clapper, the U.S. director of national intelligence, some of the KGB’s old active- measures tactics. On October 7, Clapper issued a statement: “The U.S. Intelligence community is confident that the Russian government directed the recent compromises of emails from U.S. persons and institutions, including from U.S. political organizations.” Notably, however, the FBI declined to join the chorus, according to reports by the New York Times and CNBC.A week later, Vice President Joe Biden said on NBC’s Meet the Press that "we're sending a message" to Putin and "it will be at the time of our choosing, and under the circumstances that will have the greatest impact." When asked if the American public would know a message was sent, Biden replied, "Hope not." Meanwhile, the CIA was asked, according to an NBC report on October 14, “to deliver options to the White House for a wide-ranging ‘clandestine’ cyber operation designed to harass and ‘embarrass’ the Kremlin leadership.”But as both sides begin arming their cyberweapons, it is critical for the public to be confident that the evidence is really there, and to understand the potential consequences of a tit-for-tat cyberwar escalating into a real war. 
  • This is a prospect that has long worried Richard Clarke, the former White House cyber czar under President George W. Bush. “It’s highly likely that any war that began as a cyberwar,” Clarke told me last year, “would ultimately end up being a conventional war, where the United States was engaged with bombers and missiles.”The problem with attempting to draw a straight line from the Kremlin to the Clinton campaign is the number of variables that get in the way. For one, there is little doubt about Russian cyber fingerprints in various U.S. campaign activities. Moscow, like Washington, has long spied on such matters. The United States, for example, inserted malware in the recent Mexican election campaign. The question isn’t whether Russia spied on the U.S. presidential election, it’s whether it released the election emails.Then there’s the role of Guccifer 2.0, the person or persons supplying WikiLeaks and other organizations with many of the pilfered emails. Is this a Russian agent? A free agent? A cybercriminal? A combination, or some other entity? No one knows.There is also the problem of groupthink that led to the war in Iraq. For example, just as the National Security Agency, the Central Intelligence Agency and the rest of the intelligence establishment are convinced Putin is behind the attacks, they also believed it was a slam-dunk that Saddam Hussein had a trove of weapons of mass destruction. Consider as well the speed of the political-hacking investigation, followed by a lack of skepticism, culminating in a rush to judgment. After the Democratic committee discovered the potential hack last spring, it called in the cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike in May to analyze the problem.
  • CrowdStrike took just a month or so before it conclusively determined that Russia’s FSB, the successor to the KGB, and the Russian military intelligence organization, GRU, were behind it. Most of the other major cybersecurity firms quickly fell in line and agreed. By October, the intelligence community made it unanimous. That speed and certainty contrasts sharply with a previous suspected Russian hack in 2010, when the target was the Nasdaq stock market. According to an extensive investigation by Bloomberg Businessweek in 2014, the NSA and FBI made numerous mistakes over many months that stretched to nearly a year. “After months of work,” the article said, “there were still basic disagreements in different parts of government over who was behind the incident and why.”  There was no consensus­, with just a 70 percent certainty that the hack was a cybercrime. Months later, this determination was revised again: It was just a Russian attempt to spy on the exchange in order to design its own. The federal agents also considered the possibility that the Nasdaq snooping was not connected to the Kremlin. Instead, “someone in the FSB could have been running a for-profit operation on the side, or perhaps sold the malware to a criminal hacking group.” Again, that’s why it’s necessary to better understand the role of Guccifer 2.0 in releasing the Democratic National Committee and Clinton campaign emails before launching any cyberweapons.
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  • t is strange that clues in the Nasdaq hack were very difficult to find ― as one would expect from a professional, state-sponsored cyber operation. Conversely, the sloppy, Inspector Clouseau-like nature of the Guccifer 2.0 operation, with someone hiding behind a silly Bolshevik cover name, and Russian language clues in the metadata, smacked more of either an amateur operation or a deliberate deception.Then there’s the Shadow Brokers, that mysterious person or group that surfaced in August with its farcical “auction” to profit from a stolen batch of extremely secret NSA hacking tools, in essence, cyberweapons. Where do they fit into the picture? They have a small armory of NSA cyberweapons, and they appeared just three weeks after the first DNC emails were leaked. On Monday, the Shadow Brokers released more information, including what they claimed is a list of hundreds of organizations that the NSA has targeted over more than a decade, complete with technical details. This offers further evidence that their information comes from a leaker inside the NSA rather than the Kremlin. The Shadow Brokers also discussed Obama’s threat of cyber retaliation against Russia. Yet they seemed most concerned that the CIA, rather than the NSA or Cyber Command, was given the assignment. This may be a possible indication of a connection to NSA’s elite group, Tailored Access Operations, considered by many the A-Team of hackers.“Why is DirtyGrandpa threating CIA cyberwar with Russia?” they wrote. “Why not threating with NSA or Cyber Command? CIA is cyber B-Team, yes? Where is cyber A-Team?” Because of legal and other factors, the NSA conducts cyber espionage, Cyber Command conducts cyberattacks in wartime, and the CIA conducts covert cyberattacks. 
  • The Shadow Brokers connection is important because Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, claimed to have received identical copies of the Shadow Brokers cyberweapons even before they announced their “auction.” Did he get them from the Shadow Brokers, from Guccifer, from Russia or from an inside leaker at the NSA?Despite the rushed, incomplete investigation and unanswered questions, the Obama administration has announced its decision to retaliate against Russia.  But a public warning about a secret attack makes little sense. If a major cyber crisis happens in Russia sometime in the future, such as a deadly power outage in frigid winter, the United States could be blamed even if it had nothing to do with it. That could then trigger a major retaliatory cyberattack against the U.S. cyber infrastructure, which would call for another reprisal attack ― potentially leading to Clarke’s fear of a cyberwar triggering a conventional war. President Barack Obama has also not taken a nuclear strike off the table as an appropriate response to a devastating cyberattack.
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    Article by James Bamford, the first NSA whistleblower and author of three books on the NSA.
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

Appeals Court Tells Government It Must Extend Educational Institution FOIA Fee Price Break To Students | Techdirt - 0 views

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    "The perennial FOIA Reform Masquerade Ball is again under way, with legislators attempting to dodge blustery requests to "cut in" by administration officials and similarly-motivated federal agencies. The dance usually ends with Congressional committee chairmen yanking needles from records and booting everyone out of the dancehall. Meanwhile, limited headway is being made in another branch of the government, far from the muffled protests of overwhelming majorities who have been shouted down by parties of one. The DC Appeals Court has just ruled that the government must extend its FOIA fee discounts to students at educational institutions, rather than just to instructors and administration. "
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    "The perennial FOIA Reform Masquerade Ball is again under way, with legislators attempting to dodge blustery requests to "cut in" by administration officials and similarly-motivated federal agencies. The dance usually ends with Congressional committee chairmen yanking needles from records and booting everyone out of the dancehall. Meanwhile, limited headway is being made in another branch of the government, far from the muffled protests of overwhelming majorities who have been shouted down by parties of one. The DC Appeals Court has just ruled that the government must extend its FOIA fee discounts to students at educational institutions, rather than just to instructors and administration. "
Paul Merrell

House Passes Cellphone Unlocking Bill While New Provision Causes Withdrawals | Bloomberg BNA - 0 views

  • On Feb. 25, the House of Representatives passed by a vote of 295-114 under suspension of the rules a bill aimed at creating a statutory right for owners of cellphones to be able to “unlock” their phones so that they can use the same phone with a different service provider.The Unlocking Consumer Choice Act (H.R. 1123), which was introduced in March by Rep. Robert W. Goodlatte (R-Va.), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, was widely supported by members on both sides of the aisle.However, some representatives expressed objections to the current form of the legislation and even suggested that statutory protection of unlocking was no longer necessary, given that the Federal Communications Commission had in December persuaded the wireless industry to allow unlocking on a voluntary basis (241 PTD, 12/16/13).
  • On the morning of the day that the vote was to take place, several representatives who had previously supported the bill, issued a letter to their colleagues urging that H.R. 1123 be defeated on the floor of the House. The letter--signed by Reps. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), Anna G. Eshoo (D-Calif.), Thomas H. Massie (R-Ky.), and Jared S. Polis (D-Colo.)--objected to a provision added to the bill after its approval by the full committee in July (148 PTD, 8/1/13).The new provision would exempt from protection “bulk unlocking” of phones. This provision might have something to with concerns expressed by some members of the Judiciary committee in last year's hearings on the bill that permitting individual consumers to unlock their phones should not extend to businesses who charge consumers to unlock their phones for them.The letter referred to statements by the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Public Knowledge, consumer groups that had both supported the bill in the past, in which they withdrew their support because of the appearance of the new provision.
Paul Merrell

NSA head: We need bulk collection | TheHill - 0 views

  • The head of the National Security Agency on Thursday told Senate lawmakers that preventing his agency from collecting Americans’ information in bulk would make it harder to do its job.Under questioning before the Senate Intelligence Committee, Adm. Michael Rogers agreed that ending bulk collection would “significantly reduce [his] operational capabilities.”ADVERTISEMENT“Right now, bulk collection gives us the ability ... to generate insights as to what’s going on,” Rogers told the Committee.The NSA head also referenced a January report from the National Academy of Sciences that concluded there is “no software technique that will fully substitute for bulk collection” because of the ability to search through the storehouse of old information. “That independent, impartial, scientifically-founded body came back and said no, under the current structure there is no real replacement,” Rogers said.Rogers was questioned on Thursday by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), a member of the Intelligence Committee who has become its most vocal privacy hawk.
  • In response to the NSA head’s comments, Wyden pointed to a 2013 White House review group, which found that one controversial NSA bulk collection program “was not essential to preventing attacks” and that the information obtained by the NSA “could readily have been obtained in a timely manner using” other means.The debate follows on a congressional clash earlier this year over the NSA’s bulk collection of records about the phone calls of millions of Americans. The records contained information about whom people called and when but not what they talked about.
  • After a brief lapsing of some portions of the Patriot Act, Congress eventually reined in the NSA by forcing it to go through the courts to search private phone companies’ records for a narrower set of records. Many privacy advocates treated the new law, called the USA Freedom Act, as a significant victory, through national security hawks worried that it would make it harder for the NSA to track terrorists.Under the new system — which has not gone into effect yet — the amount of time it takes to obtain those records “is probably going to be longer I suspect,” Rogers said.Though the phone records database has been the NSA’s most prominent bulk collection program, it is not the only one. The agency’s collection of vast amounts of Internet data has alarmed many privacy advocates and is the target of a current lawsuit from Wikipedia and the American Civil Liberties Union. 
Paul Merrell

Bankrolled by broadband donors, lawmakers lobby FCC on net neutrality | Ars Technica - 1 views

  • The 28 House members who lobbied the Federal Communications Commission to drop net neutrality this week have received more than twice the amount in campaign contributions from the broadband sector than the average for all House members. These lawmakers, including the top House leadership, warned the FCC that regulating broadband like a public utility "harms" providers, would be "fatal to the Internet," and could "limit economic freedom."​ According to research provided Friday by Maplight, the 28 House members received, on average, $26,832 from the "cable & satellite TV production & distribution" sector over a two-year period ending in December. According to the data, that's 2.3 times more than the House average of $11,651. What's more, one of the lawmakers who told the FCC that he had "grave concern" (PDF) about the proposed regulation took more money from that sector than any other member of the House. Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR) was the top sector recipient, netting more than $109,000 over the two-year period, the Maplight data shows.
  • Dan Newman, cofounder and president of Maplight, the California research group that reveals money in politics, said the figures show that "it's hard to take seriously politicians' claims that they are acting in the public interest when their campaigns are funded by companies seeking huge financial benefits for themselves." Signing a letter to the FCC along with Walden, who chairs the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, were three other key members of the same Committee: Reps. Fred Upton (R-MI), Robert Latta (R-OH), and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN). Over the two-year period, Upton took in $65,000, Latta took $51,000, and Blackburn took $32,500. In a letter (PDF) those representatives sent to the FCC two days before Thursday's raucous FCC net neutrality hearing, the four wrote that they had "grave concern" over the FCC's consideration of "reclassifying Internet broadband service as an old-fashioned 'Title II common carrier service.'" The letter added that a switchover "harms broadband providers, the American economy, and ultimately broadband consumers, actually doing so would be fatal to the Internet as we know it."
  • Not every one of the 28 members who publicly lobbied the FCC against net neutrality in advance of Thursday's FCC public hearing received campaign financing from the industry. One representative took no money: Rep. Nick Rahall (D-WV). In all, the FCC received at least three letters from House lawmakers with 28 signatures urging caution on classifying broadband as a telecommunications service, which would open up the sector to stricter "common carrier" rules, according to letters the members made publicly available. The US has long applied common carrier status to the telephone network, providing justification for universal service obligations that guarantee affordable phone service to all Americans and other rules that promote competition and consumer choice. Some consumer advocates say that common carrier status is needed for the FCC to impose strong network neutrality rules that would force ISPs to treat all traffic equally, not degrading competing services or speeding up Web services in exchange for payment. ISPs have argued that common carrier rules would saddle them with too much regulation and would force them to spend less on network upgrades and be less innovative.
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  • Of the 28 House members signing on to the three letters, Republicans received, on average, $59,812 from the industry over the two-year period compared to $13,640 for Democrats, according to the Maplight data. Another letter (PDF) sent to the FCC this week from four top members of the House, including Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), and Republican Conference Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), argued in favor of cable companies: "We are writing to respectfully urge you to halt your consideration of any plan to impose antiquated regulation on the Internet, and to warn that implementation of such a plan will needlessly inhibit the creation of American private sector jobs, limit economic freedom and innovation, and threaten to derail one of our economy's most vibrant sectors," they wrote. Over the two-year period, Boehner received $75,450; Cantor got $80,800; McCarthy got $33,000; and McMorris Rodgers got $31,500.
  • The third letter (PDF) forwarded to the FCC this week was signed by 20 House members. "We respectfully urge you to consider the effect that regressing to a Title II approach might have on private companies' ability to attract capital and their continued incentives to invest and innovate, as well as the potentially negative impact on job creation that might result from any reduction in funding or investment," the letter said. Here are the 28 lawmakers who lobbied the FCC this week and their reported campaign contributions:
Paul Merrell

CISA Security Bill: An F for Security But an A+ for Spying | WIRED - 0 views

  • When the Senate Intelligence Committee passed the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act by a vote of 14 to 1, Committee chairman Senator Richard Burr argued that it successfully balanced security and privacy. Fifteen new amendments to the bill, he said, were designed to protect internet users’ personal information while enabling new ways for companies and federal agencies to coordinate responses to cyberattacks. But critics within the security and privacy communities still have two fundamental problems with the legislation: First, they say, the proposed cybersecurity act won’t actually boost security. And second, the “information sharing” it describes sounds more than ever like a backchannel for surveillance.
  • On Tuesday the bill’s authors released the full, updated text of the CISA legislation passed last week, and critics say the changes have done little to assuage their fears about wanton sharing of Americans’ private data. In fact, legal analysts say the changes actually widen the backdoor leading from private firms to intelligence agencies. “It’s a complete failure to strengthen the privacy protections of the bill,” says Robyn Greene, a policy lawyer for the Open Technology Institute, which joined a coalition of dozens of non-profits and cybersecurity experts criticizing the bill in an open letter earlier this month. “None of the [privacy-related] points we raised in our coalition letter to the committee was effectively addressed.” The central concern of that letter was how the same data sharing meant to bolster cybersecurity for companies and the government opens massive surveillance loopholes. The bill, as worded, lets a private company share with the Department of Homeland Security any information construed as a cybersecurity threat “notwithstanding any other provision of law.” That means CISA trumps privacy laws like the Electronic Communication Privacy Act of 1986 and the Privacy Act of 1974, which restrict eavesdropping and sharing of users’ communications. And once the DHS obtains the information, it would automatically be shared with the NSA, the Department of Defense (including Cyber Command), and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
  • In a statement posted to his website yesterday, Senator Burr wrote that “Information sharing is purely voluntary and companies can only share cyber-threat information and the government may only use shared data for cybersecurity purposes.” But in fact, the bill’s data sharing isn’t limited to cybersecurity “threat indicators”—warnings of incoming hacker attacks, which is the central data CISA is meant to disseminate among companies and three-letter agencies. OTI’s Greene says it also gives companies a mandate to share with the government any data related to imminent terrorist attacks, weapons of mass destruction, or even other information related to violent crimes like robbery and carjacking. 
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  • The latest update to the bill tacks on yet another kind of information, anything related to impending “serious economic harm.” All of those vague terms, Greene argues, widen the pipe of data that companies can send the government, expanding CISA into a surveillance system for the intelligence community and domestic law enforcement. If information-sharing legislation does not include adequate privacy protections, then...It’s a surveillance bill by another name. Senator Ron Wyden
  • “CISA goes far beyond [cybersecurity], and permits law enforcement to use information it receives for investigations and prosecutions of a wide range of crimes involving any level of physical force,” reads the letter from the coalition opposing CISA. “The lack of use limitations creates yet another loophole for law enforcement to conduct backdoor searches on Americans—including searches of digital communications that would otherwise require law enforcement to obtain a warrant based on probable cause. This undermines Fourth Amendment protections and constitutional principles.”
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    I read the legislation. It's as bad for privacy as described in the aritcle. And its drafting is incredibly sloppy.
Gonzalo San Gil, PhD.

House Judiciary Committee Hears Concerns From Silicon Valley About Copyright Law | Techdirt - 0 views

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    "Unfortunately, this aspect of the tour seems to reinforce the silly idea that copyright law is a battle between "Silicon Valley" vs. "Hollywood" -- and that what's good for one is bad for the other. "
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    "Unfortunately, this aspect of the tour seems to reinforce the silly idea that copyright law is a battle between "Silicon Valley" vs. "Hollywood" -- and that what's good for one is bad for the other. "
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