Tag Archives: Glenn Greenwald

NSA spying on foreign embassies helped US ‘develop’ strategy

The National Security Agency in 2010 provided the US ambassador to the United Nations with background information on several governments and their embassies that were undecided on the question of Iranian sanctions.

In May 2010, as the UN Security Council was attempting to win support for sanctions against Iran over its nuclear-energy program, which some say is a front for a nuclear weapons program, several members were undecided as to how they would vote. At this point, the US ambassador to the world body, Susan Rice, asked the NSA for assistance in her efforts to “develop a strategy,” leaked NSA documents reveal.

The NSA swung into action, aiming their powerful surveillance apparatus at the personal communications of diplomats from four non-permanent Security Council members — Bosnia, Gabon, Nigeria and Uganda. This gave Rice an apparent upper-hand in the course of the negotiations.

In June, 12 of the 15-member Security Council voted in favor of new sanctions.

Later, Rice extended her gratitude to the US spy agency, saying its surveillance had helped her to know when diplomats from the other permanent representatives — China, England, France and Russia — “were telling the truth … revealed their real position on sanctions … gave us an upper hand in negotiations … and provided information on various countries’ ‘red lines’.”

The information comes from a new book by journalist Glenn Greenwald, ‘No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the US Surveillance State’, the New York Times reported.

Rice’s request for assistance was discovered in an internal report by the security agency’s Special Source Operations division, which cooperates with US telecommunications companies in the event a request for information is deemed necessary.

Greenwald’s book goes on sale Tuesday.

The book also provides a list of embassies around the world that had been infiltrated by the US spy agency, including those of Brazil, Bulgaria, Colombia, the European Union, France, Georgia, Greece, India, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Slovakia, South Africa, South Korea, Taiwan, Venezuela and Vietnam.

United States Vice President Joe Biden (R) sits with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon (L) as U.S. Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice stands (C) before the start of the United Nations Security Council High-Level Meeting on Iraq at U.N. headquarters in New York, December 15, 2010

News of the NSA’s vast surveillance network, which targets friends and enemies of the United States with equanimity, were revealed in June when former NSA contractor Edward Snowden provided Greenwald with thousands of files on the program.

Despite promises by President Obama for greater safeguards on the invasive system, which has infuriated people around the world, the NSA seems determined not to let international public opinion block its spying efforts.

“While our intelligence agencies will continue to gather information about the intentions of governments — as opposed to ordinary citizens — around the world, in the same way that the intelligence services of every other nation do, we will not apologize because our services may be more effective,” according to a White House statement.

The latest revelations detailing how the NSA gives American diplomats an unfair advantage raises the question as to how such orders passed legal muster in the first place.

According to the documents, a legal team went to work on May 22 building the case to electronically eavesdrop on diplomats and envoys from Bosnia, Gabon, Nigeria and Uganda whose embassies were apparently not yet covered by the NSA.

A judge from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court approved the request on May 26.

The Obama administration has faced fierce criticism following revelations of the global surveillance program, which was used not simply to identify potential terrorists, but to eavesdrop on the communications of world leaders.

Following revelations that German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s private cell phone communications were being hacked by the NSA, Germany pushed for a ‘no-spy’ agreement with the United States to restore the trust.

The Obama administration, however, rejected the offer.

Now Europe has announced plans to construct a new Internet network that bypasses the United States and the NSA, a move the US Trade Representative labeled “draconian.”

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NSA embedded surveillance tools within exported US computer hardware

While the United States has warned against buying Chinese routers due to surveillance concerns, a new book about the Edward Snowden revelations states America has been intercepting and tinkering with routers intended for foreign customers.

According to Glenn Greenwald – one of the journalists entrusted with Snowden’s leaked documents – the National Security Agency has been implanting devices into routers headed overseas since at least 2010.

In an extract from Greenwald’s new book, titled “No Place to Hide,” the journalist states the NSA “routinely receives – or intercepts – routers, servers, and other computer network devices being exported from the US before they are delivered to the international customers.”

Once the agency gets its hands on these products, it embeds devices that are linked to the NSA’s own system, giving officials access to foreign networks and information from all the users connected to that network.

“In one recent case, after several months a beacon implanted through supply-chain interdiction called back to the NSA covert infrastructure,” a 2010 NSA report states, according to Greenwald. “This call back provided us access to further exploit the device and survey the network.”

The revelation comes after US officials and lawmakers spent years criticizing Chinese telecommunications companies like ZTE and Huawei for potentially looking to sell their products to Americans while collecting data for the Chinese government.

Glenn Greenwald.

In 2012, a report by the House Intelligence Committee stated the companies “may be violating United States laws” and have “not followed United States legal obligations or international standards of business behavior”.

Although no evidence was uncovered to back up the allegations, the committee still pushed American companies to reject products from ZTE and Huawei.

“Private-sector entities in the United States are strongly encouraged to consider the long-term security risks associated with doing business with either ZTE or Huawei for equipment or services,” the committee stated.

“US network providers and systems developers are strongly encouraged to seek other vendors for their projects. Based on available classified and unclassified information, Huawei and ZTE cannot be trusted to be free of foreign state influence and thus pose a security threat to the United States and to our systems.”

The news also comes less than two months after it was revealed that the NSA spied on Huawei, as well as the China’s Trade Ministry, banks, companies, and top political officials. As RT reported in March, the campaign against Huawei took place a few years before lawmakers urged American companies to stay away from Chinese products, and was intended to explore potential links to China’s cyber warfare units.

Whether or not it discovered any evidence for this, however, remains unknown.

According to Greenwald, it is “quite possible” that Chinese companies are tampering with their products in order to install surveillance technology, but it wouldn’t be any different from what the US is doing on its own.

Meanwhile, hacktivist group Anonymous has called for a protest against Greenwald as he sets out on his book tour for “No Place to Hide.” The ire directed at Greenwald comes from the journalist’s relationship with Pierre Omidyar, Greenwald’s boss at First Look Media and the ultimate owner of PayPal. Omidyar’s PayPal was hacked three years ago by those now deemed the “PayPal 14” for refusing to process donations to WikiLeaks after the online organization published classified US government documents given to it by US Army leaker Chelsea Manning.

Omidyar, Anonymous says, allowed the blocked donations as a “means of control,” and he and Greenwald have since only expressed “tepid ‘support’ for the PayPal 14” as the group faces jail time and $80,000 in court-ordered restitution.

Anonymous also criticizes Greenwald’s – and Omidyar’s – place as the possessor of a major cache of public documents regarding National Security Agency surveillance supplied by leaker Edward Snowden. Anonymous said that, nearly a year after the NSA leaks were first published, Greenwald has positioned himself in a cozy, lucrative spot by forming a partnership with billionaire Omidyar while hawking his book – promised to have more NSA leaks – for a profit. Greenwald’s handling of the leaks has kept “aggressive, non-celebrity journalists from finding answers and pro-freedom hackers from building better defenses.”

The protest, Anonymous wrote, should aim to explain the relationship between the journalist and his financial benefactor.

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Snowden leak: NSA plans to infect ‘millions’ of computers

The Threat Operations Center inside the National Security Agency (NSA)

Yet more previously secret surveillance operations waged by the United States National Security Agency were made public Wednesday morning thanks to leaked documents supplied by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

The files — published first by The Intercept this week and dissected over the course of a 3,000-word article attributed to journalists Glenn Greenwald and Ryan Gallagher — bring to light a number of previously unreported programs undertaken by the secretive US spy agency, including operations that have given the NSA the potential to infect millions of computers around the world by relying on malicious software that’s sent to targets through surreptitious means.

In recent years, however, the NSA has reportedly made adjustments to these operations that enable them to by carried out automatically without the direct aid of human spies — a decision that experts say is undermining the internet as it is known today,

“Top-secret documents reveal that the National Security Agency is dramatically expanding its ability to covertly hack into computers on a mass scale by using automated systems that reduce the level of human oversight in the process,” the journalists wrote.

That automated system named “TURBINE,” they said later, is designed to “allow the current implant network to scale to large size (millions of implants) by creating a system that does automated control implants by groups instead of individually.”

NSA presentation from theintercept.com

According to The Intercept, the NSA has escalated offensive cyber operations significantly since 2004 in order to spy on targets, and has used an array of tactics and “implants” that were previously undisclosed in order to carry out these missions.

The website reported that the agency’s British counterpart, the GCHQ, “appears to have played an integral role” with regards to developing these implants, which have grown in number exponentially in recent years from only 100 or so to tens-of-thousands, according to the report.

These implants, the journalists wrote, allow the NSA “to break into targeted computers and to siphon out data from foreign Internet and phone networks.” They can also be combined with a number of specialized plugins to provide analysts with additional surveillance options, the likes of which could likely leave many thinking staying secure on the Web seem impossible after reading the Greenwald and Gallagher report.

NSA presentation from theintercept.com

n one example cited by The Intercept, the NSA disguised itself as a fake Facebook server in order to intercept connections attempted to be made between account holders and the social networking site’s real computers. Instead, however, the NSA sends those unsuspecting Facebook users to a real site embedded with malware that then has the ability to infect that target’s computer.

That program — QUANTUMHAND — became operational in October 2010, The Intercept reported, after it successfully allowed the NSA to gain access to “about a dozen targets.”

A spokesperson for Facebook told The Intercept he had “no evidence of this alleged activity,” but QUANTUMHAND is far from the only program that, thanks to Edward Snowden, have linked the NSA to relying on already established websites and programs to pry into the communications of targets.

In another example, The Intercept included images from an internal NSA slideshow presentation that indicates surveillance missions can be waged by the agency against targeted email addresses, IP addresses and the “cookies” created by websites like Google, Yahoo, YouTube and countless others to track visitors, often for advertisement and user experience purposes.

NSA presentation from theintercept.com

Ashkan Soltani, a DC-based independent security researcher, remarked on Twitter that the information in that presentation “looks a lot like a catalog of ad tracking tech.” Instead of being used by the likes of Google to give YouTube users a more “personalized” browsing experience, however, the NSA and GCHQ can use these selectors to spy on the habits of unknowing subjects of investigation.

GCHQ targeting sheet looks a lot like a catalog of ad tracking tech: UDIDs, Google prefIDs, doubleclickID, WiFi MAC pic.twitter.com/oOMl0yJj4k

— ashkan soltani (@ashk4n) March 12, 2014

Other programs disclosed by Mr. Snowden and described by The Intercept include CAPTIVATEDAUDIENCE (“used to take over a targeted computer’s microphone and record conversations”, GUMFISH (“can covertly take over a computer’s webcam and snap photographs”), FOGGYBOTTOM (“records logs of Internet browsing histories and collects login details and passwords”), GROK (“used to log keystrokes”) and SALVAGERABBIT to exfiltrate data from removable flash drives connected to a target’s computer.

To infect computers with these implants, The Intercept said, the NSA can avoid trying to trick targets into going to fake websites by instead spamming them with unsolicited email containing links to malware.

If we can get the target to visit us in some sort of web browser, we can probably own them,” an NSA employee wrote in one of the previously secret documents. “The only limitation is the ‘how.’”

NSA presentation from theintercept.com

The Intercept’s latest report was published only two days after Snowden spoke remotely to the audience of the SXSW Interactive tech conference in Austin, Texas and urged attendees to use encryption — a tactic, he said, that is still relatively successful with regards to thwarting snooping like the kind carried out by the NSA.

Encryption, Snowden said on Monday, makes it“very difficult for any sort of mass surveillance”to occur.

If The Intercept’s report is anywhere close to representative of the NSA’s actual capabilities though, then the agency’s operations are expanding regardless and relying on new tricks and techniques to track down and monitor persons of interest in the name of national security.

“When they deploy malware on systems,” malware expert Mikko Hypponen told The Intercept, “they potentially create new vulnerabilities in these systems, making them more vulnerable for attacks by third parties.”

RT USA.

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Snowden, Assange and Greenwald scheduled to address Texas tech conference from abroad

Glenn Greenwald, Edward Snowden, Julian Assange.

Three of the top presenters scheduled to speak at a technology conference in Texas next week will deliver their remarks remotely due to leak investigations that have left them all unable or unwilling to come to the United States.

Former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden will discuss the impact of the National Security Agency’s spy efforts at the South by Southwest Interactive Festival in Austin, Texas next Monday, organizers announced this week.

Planners for SXSW said on Tuesday that Snowden, the 30-year-old ex-systems analyst who leaked secret NSA documents to the media last year, will participate in a live discussion at the festival via teleconference from Russia. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and journalist Glenn Greenwald have both previously agreed to speak at this year’s event as well.

“Hear directly from Snowden about his beliefs on what the tech community can and must do to secure the private data of the billions of people who rely on the tools and services that we build,” festival organizers said in a statement.

Ben Wizner — the director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Speech, Privacy and Technology Project and a legal advisor to Snowden — will moderate the conversation between Snowden and the ACLU’s chief technologist, Christopher Soghoian. The event will be broadcast online courtesy of the Texas Tribune.

Previously unpublished documents disclosed to the media by Snowden since last summer have exposed an array of NSA programs involving the United States spy agency’s efforts to acquire seemingly all digital communications across the world. He’s been accused of espionage and theft by the US Department of Justice for leaking that information, but the approval by Moscow last August of an asylum request there has allowed him to so far deter being prosecuted in America.

Assange, the founder of anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks who is also under investigation for disclosing classified documents, previously agreed to speak at the conference remotely for an event scheduled for this Saturday morning. The 42-year-old Australian publisher has been confined to the Ecuadorian Embassy in London for over a year, and cannot leave the facility without facing immediate arrest at the hands of British authorities. He’s wanted for questioning in Sweden.

On Monday, American journalist Glenn Greenwald will also speak about the ongoing NSA controversy at the festival, but from Brazil. He’s a confidant of Snowden and has worked closely with the former systems analyst on the NSA documents, but on advice of counsel has avoided returning to the US since the first stories involving the intelligence leaks were published last June.

“Surveillance and online privacy look to be one of the biggest topics of conversation at the 2014 SXSW Interactive Festival,” reads a statement released this week by individuals involved in the event.. “As organizers, SXSW agrees that a healthy debate with regards to the limits of surveillance is vital to the future of the online ecosystem.”

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Anti-leaks legislation coming within weeks, says NSA chief

U.S. General Keith Alexander

The head of the National Security Agency, General Keith Alexander, alluded to unspecified legislation on media leaks as being forthcoming, potentially within weeks, during remarks at a cybersecurity panel on Tuesday.

During an event at Georgetown University Alexander commented that leaks by former NSA contractor by Edward Snowden, which have subsequently been published by media outlets around the world, had compromised the country’s ability to secure against cybersecurity threats.

Alexander also alluded to making “headway” on forthcoming policy by the government encompassing such media leaks, which has caught most by surprise.

“We’ve got to handle media leaks first. I think we are going to make headway over the next few weeks on media leaks. I am an optimist. I think if we make the right steps on the media leaks legislation, then cyber legislation will be a lot easier,” said Alexander.

According to The Guardian, which cited contacts at the Project on Government Oversight and the Federation of American Scientists, the specific legislation to which the NSA head referred to is unclear.

Alexander has been vocal in the past about clamping down on media leaks related to US intelligence. In a December interview with a Defense Department publication, the head of the NSA suggested that the US government find a way to end the divulging of internal information.

“We ought to come up with a way of stopping it. I don’t know how to do that. That’s more of the courts and the policymakers but, from my perspective, it’s wrong to allow this to go on,” the NSA director declared.

On Tuesday, Alexander doubled down on his belief that Snowden’s intelligence leaks to the media, most notably former Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald, have been detrimental to the US.

“My personal opinion: these leaks have caused grave, significant and irreversible damage to our nation and to our allies. It will take us years to recover,” said Alexander.

During the same panel the outgoing NSA head, due to retire within weeks, slammed the perceived inability by journalists to withhold secrets which would prove damaging to the country.

“It’s interesting: journalists have no standing when it comes to national security issues. They don’t know how to weigh the fact of what they’re giving out and saying, is it in the nation’s interest to divulge this,” Alexander said.

The intelligence official’s criticism of journalistic scruples came after being prompted on the detention of Greenwald’s partner, David Miranda, who was detained for nine hours while in transit through Heathrow airport in the UK last August.

As for Miranda’s detention itself, which was the subject of heated debate and a legal challenge which failed last month, Alexander seemed satisfied at the UK’s invocation of its Terrorism Act, which authorities attempted to use to extract materials provided by Snowden which they suspected Miranda of transporting.

The lack of transparency over whatever “media leaks” may be on the way means that their substance is the subject of speculation. Potentially, as Firedoglake reports, the White House may push for legislation resembling previous attempts to clamp down on leaks, such as a set of measures proposed in 2012 by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

That previous legislation, which was to be carried as part of an intelligence authorization bill and ultimately defeated, would have required the Director of National Intelligence to enact stringent control on contact by intelligence agencies personnel to members of the media, along with greater disciplinary action against anyone making “unauthorized disclosures.”

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Putin: I envy Obama, because he can ‘spy’ and get away with it

“I envy Obama because he can spy on his allies without any consequences,” said Putin when asked about how his relations had changed with the US following Snowden’s espionage revelations.

During an annual question-and-answer session with journalists, Putin praised Edward Snowden’s actions, saying that he was working for a “noble cause.” At the same time he accepted the importance of espionage programs in the fight against global terrorism, but said the NSA needed guidelines to limit its powers.

“There is nothing to be upset about and nothing to be proud of, spying has always been and is one of the oldest professions,” said Putin.

Referring to the vast amounts of metadata gathered on citizens by the NSA, Putin said it is impossible to sift through all of that information. It is “useless” to look at the analysis of spy agencies because it is the opinion of analysts and not facts and as such can be misleading.

“You need to know the people who analyze them, I know, I did it,” said Putin, harking back to his career as a KGB agent.

The Russian president described Snowden as a “curious character” and said it was not clear why the former CIA contractor had decided to blow the whistle on the NSA’s international espionage program at such a young age.

Russia is not working with Snowden and has not received classified documents from him, Putin said. The whistleblower has been allowed to reside in Russia but only on the condition he does not “engage in anti-American propaganda.”

Snowden fled to Russia from Hong Kong back in June after leaking a trove of classified information on Washington’s espionage activities. He disseminated the documents to international media outlets who published them in articles blowing the whistle on the NSA’s espionage activities.

The spy revelations triggered massive diplomatic backlash and have had an adverse effect on the Obama administration’s foreign policy. Europe in particular reacted angrily after it was found that the NSA had been monitoring high-ranking political figures, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties and Home Affairs met Wednesday to discuss what action the EU should take in the wake of the spy revelations. Glenn Greenwald, the former Guardian journalist renowned for publishing Edward Snowden’s leaks, testified at the meeting. Greenwald claimed that the NSA’s activities had nothing to do with the fight against terrorism and are instead aimed at the elimination of privacy worldwide.

“What a lot of this spying is about has nothing to do with terrorism and national security. That is the pretext. It is about diplomatic manipulation and economic advantage,” said Greenwald.

In the wake of the spy scandal Washington has defended the NSA, saying their work has foiled over 50 terror plots in the US and EU.

Putin: I envy Obama, because he can ‘spy’ and get away with it — RT News.