NSA controversy just expanded dramatically.
Glenn Greenwald: A top secret National Security Agency program allows analysts to search with no prior authorization through vast databases containing emails, online chats and the browsing histories of millions of individuals, according to documents provided by whistleblower Edward Snowden.
The latest revelations will add to the intense public and congressional debate around the extent of NSA surveillance programs. They come as senior intelligence officials testify to the Senate judiciary committee on Wednesday, releasing classified documents in response to the Guardian’s earlier stories on bulk collection of phone records and Fisa surveillance court oversight.
The files shed light on one of Snowden’s most controversial statements, made in his first video interview published by the Guardian on June 10.
"I, sitting at my desk," said Snowden, could "wiretap anyone, from you or your accountant, to a federal judge or even the president, if I had a personal email".
Greenwald reports that XKeyscore’s capabilities were denied by congressional leaders; “US officials vehemently denied this specific claim. Mike Rogers, the Republican chairman of the House intelligence committee, said of Snowden’s assertion: ‘He’s lying. It’s impossible for him to do what he was saying he could do.’”
It would seem that either Rogers himself was lying or that the full extent of the NSA’s snooping was kept even from him.
The system is ripe for abuse. “Under US law, the NSA is required to obtain an individualized Fisa warrant only if the target of their surveillance is a ‘US person’, though no such warrant is required for intercepting the communications of Americans with foreign targets,” according to the report. “But XKeyscore provides the technological capability, if not the legal authority, to target even US persons for extensive electronic surveillance without a warrant provided that some identifying information, such as their email or IP address, is known to the analyst.”
In other words, it’s illegal to use XKeyscore to snoop on your ex-wife, but there are no other safeguards to guarantee it won’t be abused. The program creates a database that allows you to “search by name, telephone number, IP address, keywords, the language in which the internet activity was conducted or the type of browser used.” So pretty much any sliver of information will bring you a pile of data.The potential for blackmailers or stalkers is tremendous and, as I’ve pointed out before, even if you trust this president completely with all this info, he’s not the only one who has access. After all, Eric Snowden himself was just some low-level guy and look what he had access to. Human nature is such that you can’t trust everyone. Someone will abuse this system, if they haven’t already.
UK’s Cameron announces internet censorship plan.
Could it inspire the American right?
BBC: Most households in the UK will have pornography blocked by their internet provider unless they choose to receive it, David Cameron has announced.
In addition, the prime minister said possessing online pornography depicting rape would become illegal in England and Wales - in line with Scotland.
Mr Cameron warned in a speech that access to online pornography was “corroding childhood”.
The new measures will apply to both existing and new customers.
Cameron says he expects service providers to push back against the plan, but that he could “force action” by changing the law — yes, this is some sort of non-democratic decree or demand., not legislation. He also makes it clear he has no idea how to go about doing this, telling ISP to figure it out. As the BBC put it, “if there were ‘technical obstacles,’ firms should use their ‘greatest brains’ to overcome them.” In addition to websites being blocked, he said that “horrific” search terms would be “blacklisted,” so they return no results.
It’s interesting though; here in America, the last big push to censor adult content on the internet was way back when the public net was still young, during the Clinton administration. Since then, the idea’s come up from time to time, but no serious effort has ever been made. You wonder if the religious right in America, already freaking out about the rapidly expanding acceptance of gay rights, will renew their calls for censorship, inspired by Cameron’s move here — after all, they argue that homosexuality is the result of being “turned,” not an aspect of yourself you were born with. It would make sense that some would believe that gay porn will turn you gay and therefore want to limit exposure. In any case, the thought of fifth graders giggling while they google up “butts” has got to scare the bejeezus out of the rightwing bejeezus-fearing crowd.
Back in the Clinton years, one of the things that defeated censorship was the fact that filtering software was largely imaginary and wholly unworkable. That’s probably not the case now. Any challenge to an American push for censorship would likely be based on the First Amendment. One would hope the Tea Partiers would be as diligent in defending the First Amendment as they are over-the-top in defending the Second, resulting in a break among the Tea Party and the religious right. But, frankly, I have my doubts. They’re all for liberty until they’re for oppression — and they’re for oppression one helluva lot more often.
Justice Dept. targeting retired general in leak probe.
Washington Post: A retired four-star Marine Corps general who served as the nation’s second-ranking military officer is a target of a Justice Department investigation into a leak of information about a covert U.S.-Israeli cyberattack on Iran’s nuclear program, a senior Obama administration official said.
Retired Gen. James E. “Hoss” Cartwright served as deputy chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and was part of President Obama’s inner circle on a range of critical national security issues before he retired in 2011.
The administration official said that Cartwright is suspected of revealing information about a highly classified effort to use a computer virus later dubbed Stuxnet to sabotage equipment in Iranian nuclear enrichment plants.
Stuxnet was part of a broader cyber campaign called Olympic Games that was disclosed by the New York Times last year as one of the first major efforts by the United States to use computer code as a destructive weapon against a key adversary.
So what’s the difference between being a “target” and being a “the accused”? Practically none, apparently. “A target is a suspect in a criminal case who has not yet been indicted but is expected to be,” the paper informs us. “Federal prosecutors are not required to tell targets that they are under investigation but it is not uncommon for them to do so in cases when an indictment is likely.”
What’s not clear is why Cartwright would leak this information. The report gives no motive.
You might remember that Stuxnet spread from Iran’s networks, where it was “believed to have destroyed as many as 1,000 of Iran’s 6,000 centrifuges,” to the internet, where it raised “concern about the potential that government-sponsored viruses could cause widespread and unintentional harm.”