Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Freedom of the Press Becomes Issue as NSA Leaks Continue to Create Headlines

Thank you Scott, Anne, Paul, Spencer and Stephen!

Posted by Stephen Cook/ Golden Age Gaia 

British Prime Minister David Cameron (AFP Photo / Alexey Filippov)British Prime Minister David Cameron (AFP Photo / Alexey Filippov)
British Prime Minister David Cameron (AFP Photo / Alexey Filippov
Stephen: Seems when the media keeps exposing the truth and writing about it – just as The Guardian newspaper has been doing with regards the NSA/Snowden leaks -  our ‘fearless’ elected leaders don’t seem to like it, at all. So they start saying things like “it’s not in the national interest” and “it’s a national security issue”. It may only be ‘veiled threats’ at this stage, but the veil is lifting: censorship is passed its ‘use by’ date. That’s how we got into this mess in the first place.
Meanwhile, Dianne Feinstein, chair of the US Senate intelligence committee, appears to be demonstrating that attitudes to spying may be changing among US politicians (see second story below) as the President says he had no idea of the scope of spying by the NSA (Story 3).

Cameron Hints at ‘Tougher Measures’ if Media Continues Publishing Snowden Leaks

British Prime Minister David Cameron has issued a veiled threat against media organizations, calling on The Guardian and other outlets to stop publishing the disclosures leaked by National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden.
The Guardian first began its ongoing series based on the Snowden leaks in June, when far-reaching clandestine activity of the American NSA and British Government Communication Headquarters (GCHQ) were made public. UK lawmakers have not yet been “heavy handed,” the prime minister said, but if media does not cease such publication soon the government could soon crack down.
He suggested the government may employ D-Notices, official requests asking editors not to publish news items for national security reasons, if the coverage goes on.
“We live in a free country so newspapers are free to publish what they want,” Cameron told the House of Commons Monday, adding that The Guardian, in particular, has made “this country less safe.”
“I don’t want to have to use injunctions or D-Notices or other tougher measures. I think it’s much better to appeal to newspapers’ sense of social responsibility. But if they don’t demonstrate some social responsibility it would be very difficult for government to stand back and not to act.”
The NSA and GCHQ revelations have proved embarrassing for both Washington and London, with national leaders consistently pointing to far-reaching oversight only to have those claims refuted. Recent disclosures, in particular, revealing that the US and UK have quietly monitored international allies have laid the seeds for what appears to be growing hostility between friendly nations.
But Cameron, who was answering questions from MPs regarding last week’s meeting between European leaders, implied the surveillance has saved countless lives.
“Our intelligence has also allowed us to warn our EU allies of plots against their people,” he said.
In July of this year GCHQ raided The Guardian’s offices and demanded the destruction of hard drives containing the Snowden files. While Alan Rusbridger, editor-in-chief of the paper, said the destruction would have no effect because The Guardian would continue publication from its offices in New York, the destruction continued anyway. UK lawmakers threatened to issue an injunction to block further publication before the event in question.
“I explained to the man from Whitehall about the nature of international collaborations and the way in which, these days, media organisations could take advantage of the most permissive legal environments,” Rusbridger wrote at the time. “Bluntly, we did not have to do our reporting from London. Already most of the NSA stories were being reported and edited out of New York. And had it occurred to him that Greenwald lives in Brazil?”
“The man was unmoved,” the editor continued. “And so one of the more bizarre moments in The Guardian’s long history occurred – with two GCHQ security experts overseeing the destruction of hard drives in The Guardian’s basement just to make sure there was nothing in the mangled bits of metal which could possibly be of any interest to passing Chinese agents…Whitehall was satisfied, but it felt like a peculiarly pointless piece of symbolism that understood nothing about the digital age.”
Along with following the European summit, the prime minister also spoke after Tory MP Julian Smith quoted a report in the Sun of British intelligence analysts saying the Snowden leaks have impacted their ability to do their job.
“Following the Sun’s revelations this morning about the impact of the Snowden leaks,” Smith asked, “is it not time that any newspaper that may have crossed the line on national security comes forward and voluntarily works with the government to mitigate further risks to our citizens?”
Cognizant of the obvious implications on press freedom, some British media outlets have repeated their commitment to publishing information that does not harm national security and is relevant to the public.
“We have a free press,” Cameron said Monday. “It’s very important the press feels it is not pre-censored from what it writes and all the rest of it.”
From – October 29, 2013

Dianne Feinstein: ‘I am Totally Opposed’ to NSA Surveillance of US Allies

'It is abundantly clear that a total review of all intelligence programs is necessary,' Feinstein said. Photo: J Scott Applewhite /AP
‘It is abundantly clear that a total review of all intelligence programs is necessary,’ Feinstein said. Photo: J Scott Applewhite /AP

The chair of the Senate intelligence committee, who has been a loyal defender of the National Security Agency, dramatically broke ranks on Monday, saying she was “totally opposed” to the US spying on allies and demanding a total review of all surveillance programs.

California Democratic senator Dianne Feinstein strongly criticised the NSA’s monitoring of the calls of friendly world leaders such as German chancellor Angela Merkel.
Feinstein, who has steadfastly defended the NSA’s mass surveillance programs, added that both Barack Obama and members of her committee, which is supposed to received classified briefings, had been kept in the dark about operations to target foreign leaders.
“It is abundantly clear that a total review of all intelligence programs is necessary so that members of the Senate Intelligence Committee are fully informed as to what is actually being carried out by the intelligence community,” Feinstein said in a statement to reporters.
“Unlike NSA’s collection of phone records under a court order, it is clear to me that certain surveillance activities have been in effect for more than a decade and that the Senate Intelligence Committee was not satisfactorily informed.
“With respect to NSA collection of intelligence on leaders of US allies – including France, Spain, Mexico and Germany – let me state unequivocally: I am totally opposed,” she said..
Feinstein also provided the first official confirmation of a German report that indicated Merkel’s phone had been monitored for more than a decade. “It is my understanding that President Obama was not aware Chancellor Merkel’s communications were being collected since 2002,” Feinstein said. “That is a big problem.”
The senator’s dramatic intervention comes as the White House struggles to contain the diplomatic fallout from a series of revelations about the NSA’s spy operations abroad. They include a report in the Guardian, based on documents leaked by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, that at least 35 world leaders have been monitored by the agency.
“Unless the United States is engaged in hostilities against a country or there is an emergency need for this type of surveillance, I do not believe the United States should be collecting phone calls or emails of friendly presidents and prime ministers. The president should be required to approve any collection of this sort,” Feinstein added.
“The White House has informed me that collection on our allies will not continue, which I support. But as far as I’m concerned, Congress needs to know exactly what our intelligence community is doing. To that end, the committee will initiate a major review into all intelligence collection programs.”
Feinstein’s statement comes at a crucial time for the NSA. Legislation will be introduced in Congress on Tuesday that would curtail the agency’s powers, and there are the first signs that the White House may be starting to distance itself from security chiefs. On Monday, the White House’s chief spokesman, Jay Carney, said the administration “acknowledged the tensions” caused by Snowden’s disclosures.
“The president clearly feels strongly about making sure we are not just collecting information because we can, but because we should,” Carney said. “We recognize there needs to be additional constraints on how we gather and use intelligence.”
Obama told ABC News on Monday evening that he would not discuss classified information but accepted that security operations were being reassessed to ensure proper oversight of the NSA’s technical abilities.
He said: “The national security operations, generally, have one purpose and that is to make sure the American people are safe and that I’m making good decisions. I’m the final user of all the intelligence that they gather. But they’re involved in a whole wide range of issues.
“We give them policy direction. But what we’ve seen over the last several years is their capacities continue to develop and expand, and that’s why I’m initiating now a review to make sure that what they’re able to do doesn’t necessarily mean what they should be doing.”
On Tuesday morning, James Sensenbrenner, the Wisconsin Republican and author of the 2001 Patriot Act, will introduce a bill called the USA Freedom Act that will ban warrantless bulk phone metadata collection and prevent the NSA from querying its foreign communications databases for identifying information on Americans. Patrick Leahy, the Vermont Democrat who chairs the Senate judiciary committee, will introduce the bill’s Senate counterpart that same day.
Also on Tuesday, the two most senior intelligence leaders are due to testify before the House intelligence committee. Both are now expected to be grilled on why they appear not to have informed either the White House or congressional oversight committees about the spying activities directed at foreign leaders.
James Clapper, the director of national intelligence who is under fire for misleading Congress on bulk domestic collection, will testify about surveillance reform Tuesday afternoon. He will be accompanied by General Keith Alexander, the director of the NSA, who last week mused to a Pentagon blog that “we ought to come up with a way of stopping” reporters’ stories about the NSA’s bulk collection programs.
Their performance is likely to be influential towards members of Congress on the fence about bulk domestic collection ahead of a vote on Sensenbrenner’s bill. A July predecessor came within seven votes of passage.
Feinstein’s shifting position was not the only emerging challenge confronting the NSA late Monday. A new disclosure from the Electronic Frontier Foundation added to the agency’s woes by suggesting that it began testing means to gather location data on cellphones inside the US before informing the secret surveillance court that oversees it.
A short document apparently written in 2011 by an NSA lawyer discussed a 2010 “mobility testing effort” involving “cell site locations.” The lawyer, whose name was redacted in a document obtained by the group under the Freedom of Information Act, said that the Justice Department was believed to have “orally advised” the so-called Fisa Court that “we had obtained a limited set of test data sampling of cellular mobility data (cell site location information) pursuant to the Court-authorized program” under section 215 of the Patriot Act, which the NSA uses to justify collecting Americans’ phone records in bulk.
Alexander recently conceded that the so-called “pilot program” for cellular geolocation collection existed and said it was potentially a “future requirement for the country.” It was previously unknown that the pilot program proceeded before the Fisa Court knew of it.
Just a month ago, in her own committee, Feinstein, delivered a full-throated and unequivocal defence of every surveillance activity conducted by the NSA.
“It is my opinion that the surveillance activities conducted under FISA, and other programs operated by the National Security Agency, are lawful, they are effective, and they are conducted under careful oversight within the NSA, by the Department of Justice and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and by the FISA Court and the Congress,” Feinstein said on September 26.
In August, following disclosures that the NSA had improperly collected data on thousands of Americans, Feinstein accused the Washington Post of misquoting her, saying her committee “has never identified an instance in which the NSA has intentionally abused its authority to conduct surveillance for inappropriate purposes”.
Feinstein is bringing her own legislation to enable superficial reforms of the NSA and the secret court system, but stops short of curbing the intelligence community’s powers, is being marked up at her committee on Tuesday.
Feinstein’s about-face presents the major challenge for the White House, which perceives the California Democrat as a key Senate surrogate on surveillance issues.
Obama has yet to take a position on the Leahy and Sensenbrenner bills. Congressional aides expect a major push by the NSA to defeat the bills, but are unsure how vigorously the White House will oppose them.
Carney’s remarks on Monday, prompted by a growing sense of diplomatic backlash against the US over the NSA, provide additional uncertainty. US officials have distanced Obama from the foreign-leader spying in anonymous comments to the Wall Street Journal.
By Paul Lewis and Spencer Ackerman in Washington, The Guardian – October 28, 2013

Obama Didn’t Know About Surveillance of US-allied World Leaders

Obama Merkel

In the midst of the controversy over U.S. surveillance this summer, top intelligence officials held a briefing for President Obama at the White House — one that would provide him with a broad inventory of programs being carried out by the National Security Agency.
Some of those programs, including the collection of e-mails and other communications from overseas, had already been disclosed because of leaks from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. But Obama was also informed of at least one program whose scope surprised him: “head of state collection.”
That program, whose targets included the communications of U.S. allies such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel, began in 2002, according to administration officials. Obama never knew that the program targeted American allies, officials said, adding that he was aware of collection efforts aimed at leaders of “adversarial countries.”
Officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe still-classified activities in general terms, declined to outline the scope of the “head of state” collection program. They added that although Obama ordered the curtailing of some of the program and informed Merkel that the United States was not currently monitoring her calls, he was not angered that intelligence officials had not told him sooner about the extent of the eavesdropping.
“Their job is to get as much information for policymakers as possible,” a senior administration official said. “They’re used to coming at this from the other direction — that is, being criticized for not knowing enough. This is a new dynamic for them.”
If Obama and senior officials at the White House were unaware of the scope of the program, so, too, were key lawmakers, including Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the head of the Senate Intelligence Committee, who said Monday that her panel had not been properly informed of activities going back a decade or more.
“With respect to NSA collection of intelligence on leaders of U.S. allies — including France, Spain, Mexico and Germany — let me state unequivocally: I am totally opposed,” Feinstein said in a statement, adding that her committee would “initiate a major review into all intelligence collection programs.”
“Unless the United States is engaged in hostilities against a country or there is an emergency need for this type of surveillance,” she said, “I do not believe the United States should be collecting phone calls or emails of friendly presidents and prime ministers. The president should be required to approve any collection of this sort.”
White House officials said Obama was not told about the extent of the world leader surveillance program before this summer because briefings are tailored to the president’s priorities. Iran, China, counterterrorism and other concerns ranked ahead of an accounting of intelligence collected about leaders of allied nations such as Germany, the officials said.
They said the issue came up only after news reports of NSA spying in Brazil and in Mexico, among other countries. Obama asked for information on what exactly the agency was doing in those allied countries and in others.
By Scott Wilson and Anne Gearan, The Washington Post – October 29, 2013

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