With the latest WikiLeaks revelations about the CIA – is privacy really dead? | The Guardian

ComeyBy Olivia Solon

Comey, has said that Americans should not have expectations of “absolute privacy”.

“There is no such thing as absolute privacy in America: there is no place outside of judicial reach,” Comey said at a Boston College conference on cybersecurity. The remark came as he was discussing the rise of encryption since Edward Snowden’s 2013 revelations of the NSA’s mass surveillance tools, used on citizens around the world.

Both the Snowden revelations and the CIA leak highlight the variety of creative techniques intelligence agencies can use to spy on individuals, at a time when many of us are voluntarily giving up our personal data to private companies and installing so-called “smart” devices with microphones (smart TVs, Amazon Echo) in our homes.

So, where does this leave us? Is privacy really dead, as Silicon Valley luminaries such as Mark Zuckerberg have previously declared?

Not according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s executive director, Cindy Cohn.

“The freedom to have a private conversation – free from the worry that a hostile government, a rogue government agent or a competitor or a criminal are listening – is central to a free society,” she said.

While not as strict as privacy laws in Europe, the fourth amendment to the US constitution does guarantee the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures.

That doesn’t mean citizens have “absolute privacy”.

“I don’t think there’s been absolute privacy in the history of mankind,” said Albert Gidari, director of privacy at the Stanford Center for Internet and Society. “You walk out in public and it’s no longer private. You shout from one window to another and someone will hear you in conversation.”

“At the same time things are more intrusive, persistent, searchable, they never die. So our conception of what is or isn’t risk from a privacy perspective does change and evolve over time.”

The law hasn’t kept pace with digital technologies. For example, there is a legal theory called the “third-party doctrine” that holds that people who give up their information to third parties like banks, phone companies, social networks and ISPs have “no reasonable expectation of privacy”. This has allowed the US government to obtain information without legal warrants.

Unlike the NSA techniques revealed by Snowden, the CIA appears to favour a more targeted approach: less dragnet, more spearfishing.

The WikiLeaks files show that the CIA has assembled a formidable arsenal of cyberweapons designed to target individuals’ devices such as mobile phones, laptops and TVs by targeting the operating systems such as Android, iOS and Windows with malware.

It’s encouraging to note that the government has yet to crack the encryption of secure messaging apps such as WhatsApp, Signal and Confide. However, it does not need to if it can instal malware on people’s devices that can collect audio and message traffic before encryption is applied.

Gidari isn’t that surprised. “It confirms what everyone saw in last week’s episode of 24. People expect these tools to exist,” he said, adding that people were more surprised that the FBI was initially incapable of breaking into the San Bernardino killer’s iPhone.

“People expect the government to have these magic tools,” he said.

American citizens should not be lulled into a false sense of security that the CIA only targets foreign nationals. The “Vault 7” documents show a broad exchange of tools and information between the CIA, the National Security Agency, and other US federal agencies, as well as intelligence services of close allies Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.

“We can’t spy on our own citizens but we can spy on anyone else’s,” explained Neil Richards, a law professor from Washington University. “If agencies are friends with each other, they have everybody else do their work for them and they just share the data.”

“Dividing the world into American citizens and non-American citizens is a false dichotomy,” Gidari added. “We don’t have a monopoly on spy tools.”

This leaves us with a terrifying new prospect: government spies essentially deploying viruses and trojans against their own citizens.

The onus is now on the companies that make the devices to plug any holes in their operating systems – something they do regularly through bug bounty programs, where security researchers disclose vulnerabilities in return for rewards.

It’s clear from the CIA files that the US government has flouted this custom in order to stockpile “zero days” – undisclosed exploits – for its own advantage. This is a practice the US government has previously publicly denied.

“If companies aren’t aware that a vulnerability exists they can’t patch it. If it exists it can be exploited by any malicious actor – whether that’s a hacker, foreign state or criminal enterprise,” said Neema Singh Guliani, legislative counsel with the American Civil Liberties Union.

“I have a big problem with the government leaving us vulnerable to the same tools in hand so other nation states and hackers could exploit them,” Gidari said. “That isn’t protecting American citizens.”

Gidari’s view echoes Apple’s stance when the FBI demanded the company build a backdoor to the iPhone so they could access data on the San Bernardino killer’s phone.

“Apple believes deeply that people in the United States and around the world deserve data protection, security and privacy. Sacrificing one for the other only puts people and countries at greater risk,” the company said at the time. The iPhone maker was more muted in its response to the Vault 7 dump, vowing to “rapidly address” any security holes.

“There is nearly universal consensus from technologists that it’s impossible to build weaknesses or access mechanisms into technology that can only be used by the good guys and not the bad,” Cohn said.

This week’s revelations are sure to increase the strain on relations between Silicon Valley and the US government. While some of the older telephony companies such as AT&T and Verizon, which rely heavily on government contracts, have a history of compliance with government requests, tech giants Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Apple have proved to be less compliant.

It’s not possible to meaningfully participate in modern life without relationships with some or all of these technology companies processing our data, Richards added. So it’s important to know where their loyalties lie – to their customers or to government.

Since Snowden’s revelations of mass surveillance, companies such as Apple, Google and Microsoft have been working hard to rebuild trust with consumers through strengthening security, fighting government data requests and releasing transparency reports highlighting when and how many requests are made.

“It’s a very encouraging development if we care about civil liberties and the right to privacy, but at the same time it’s unsatisfying if the discretion of a company is the only real protection for our data,” Richards said.

“We need to build the digital society we want rather than the one handed to us by default,” he added.

This will require a complete overhaul of the laws relating to when the government can collect location and content information, something civil liberty campaigners have been pushing for.

“These decisions need to be made by the public, not by law enforcement or tech executives sitting in private,” Richards said.

Source:  The Guardian

Snowden (Film Review) | The Guardian

Review By Wendy Ide

For a director who customarily tackles subjects with the approach of a gorilla playing American football, Oliver Stone’s take on whistleblower Edward Snowden seems curiously muted. Audiences who are already familiar with Citizenfour, Laura Poitras’s exemplary documentary on the same subject, will be struck by the fact that, in dramatising Snowden’s story, Stone seems to have leached out much of the drama. The aim was clearly to create an All the President’s Men for the age of cyber-surveillance. But somehow the sense of peril is downplayed, diluted by too much inert exposition and pacing that could be tighter.

Playing Edward Snowden, Joseph Gordon-Levitt is one of the film’s main assets. His character’s ferocious intelligence is signposted with cheap details – he is forever fiddling with a Rubik’s cube and has a nerd’s enthusiasm for arcane enciphering equipment. But Snowden’s intellect is most effectively conveyed in Gordon-Levitt’s eyes – watchful, sober and clouded by doubt, they are a window into his impossible ethical quandary.

Melissa Leo is somewhat underused as Poitras. And playing Guardian reporter Glenn Greenwald, Zachary Quinto is tonally jarring. It feels as though Stone realised that some of the scenes were flagging, so got Quinto to shout angrily at random moments, to keep the audience on their toes.

There are some fun elements, many involving Rhys Ifans’s ruthlessly unprincipled CIA trainer Corbin O’Brian (the fact the character shares a surname with the villain of Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four is no accident). I particularly enjoyed a scene in which O’Brian’s massive glowering face is beamed into a conference room to berate Snowden. His carnivorous snarl fills the immense screen; he looks like a malevolent version of the Wizard of Oz. There’s a playful visual flair to this moment that is sadly lacking elsewhere in the film.

Source: The Guardian

Europe Drops Charges Against Edward Snowden, Offers Asylum And Protection | Filming Cops

fcsnowdenBy John Vibes | The Free Thought Project

The European Parliament voted to offer Edward Snowden asylum and protection and drop all criminal charges against him.

When at one time most of the world was bullied by the US government into pressing charges against Snowden and forcing him into exile, the entire European continent has now officially given him a pass.

Thursday’s 285 – 281 vote officially recognized Snowden as an “international human rights defender” and ensured that he would be free from arrest within European borders.

The final resolution mentioned that “too little has been done to safeguard citizens’ fundamental rights following revelations of electronic mass surveillance.”

Snowden is currently living in asylum in Russia and is wanted in the United States for charges under the federal Espionage Act, but Russia has declined to extradite him.

He has been unable to leave due to the fear of being kidnapped by the US military when he left the country, but now it may be possible for him to travel to Europe.

Snowden posted on his Twitter page that this could be a good sign of a shift in attitude towards his cause.

Earlier this year, it was reported that a federal appeals court ruled that the controversial NSA spy program which collects phone records is actually illegal. Snowden recently joined Twitter, making himself more visible and approachable to the general population than ever before.

Within a day of opening his first social media account since leaking information about the NSA spy program, Snowden gained over one million subscribers.

However, there was only one account that he decided to follow, the NSA.

The whistleblower’s first tweet read, “Can you hear me now?

John Vibes is an author, researcher and investigative journalist who takes a special interest in the counter-culture and the drug war. In addition to his writing and activist work, he organizes a number of large events including the Free Your Mind Conference, which features top caliber speakers and whistle-blowers from all over the world. You can contact him and stay connected to his work at his Facebook page. You can find his 65 chapter Book entitled “Alchemy of the Timeless Renaissance” at bookpatch.com.

Source: Filming Cops

‘Citizenfour’: Documentary with Edward Snowden Released | RT

Edward Snowden is not “skulking” in a secret Russian bunker but is living an ordinary life in Moscow with his longtime girlfriend, Lindsay Mills. “Citizenfour,” a documentary about the whistleblower, premiered Friday at the New York Film Festival.

It has been three months since Lindsay Mills, whom Snowden had to leave behind in Hawaii in May 2013, was reunited with him in Moscow in July, “Citizenfour” reveals. The documentary was directed by investigative journalist and filmmaker Laura Poitras, an associate of former Guardian reporter Glenn Greenwald, who has been Snowden’s primary media contact throughout the NSA revelations campaign.

Source: Russia Today

Russia’s New Ability To Evade NSA Surveillance Is Either A Crazy Coincidence Or Something Much Worse | Business Insider

By Michael Kelley

Snowden1U.S. officials think that Russia recently obtained the ability to evade U.S. eavesdropping equipment while commandeering Crimea and amassing troops near Ukraine’s border.The revelation reportedly has the White House “very nervous,” especially because it’s unclear how the Kremlin hid its plans from the National Security Agency’s snooping on digital and electronic communications.

One interesting fact involved is the presence of Edward Snowden in Russia, where he has been living since flying to Moscow from Hong Kong on June 23.

In July, primary Snowden source Glenn Greenwald told The Associated Press that Snowden “is in possession of literally thousands of documents that contain very specific blueprints that would allow somebody who read them to know exactly how the NSA does what it does, which would in turn allow them to evade that surveillance or replicate it.”

So it’s either a coincidence that the Russians figured out how to evade NSA surveillance while hosting the NSA-trained hacker, or else it implies that Snowden may have provided the Russians with access to the NSA’s blueprint.

Snowden told James Risen of The New York Times that he gave all of the classified documents he had taken from the NSA’s internal systems to the journalists he met in Hong Kong and kept no copies himself. However, there are clear issues with that claim and it is still unknown when he gave up access to the cache.

It is also unclear how many documents Snowden ended up taking — officials say he accessed 1.7 million files — or whether the “vast majority” of the intel he took is related to military operations (as opposed to strictly surveillance).

One official told The Wall Street Journal that the Russian camouflage in Ukraine situation is “uncharted territory,” and that a primary concern now is the question of whether Russia could cloak their next move by shielding more communications from the U.S.

Snowden’s detractors seem to have made up their minds about how Russia learned to evade the NSA leading up to and during the invasion of Crimea.

Source: Business Insider

Sunshine Week: Transparency issues persist with Obama administration | Washington Post

By Josh Hicks

ObamaLipsSunday marked the start of Sunshine Week, a time when government-transparency advocates promote their cause and issue reports gauging the openness of federal agencies.

The findings have never been great for the current administration, which promised to be the most transparent in history on the day President Obama took office. In recent years, most agencies have not fully complied with Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requirements.

This year’s reports show improvement in some areas, but still much to be desired by news organizations and open-government groups such as the Center for Effective Government and the National Security Archive.

An Associated Press analysis of federal data found that the Obama administration has grown more secretive over time, last year censoring or outright denying FOIA access to government files more than ever since Obama took office.

The administration has also cited more legal exceptions to justify withholding materials and refused to turn over newsworthy files quickly, and most agencies took longer to answer records requests, according to the AP study.

A separate report this week from the National Security Archives found that 54 percent of all agencies have ignored directives that Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder issued in 2009 calling for a “presumption of disclosure” with FOIA requests. The good news: That number is down from about 70 percent of agencies last year.

The National Security Archives also found that nearly half of all federal agencies have not updated their FOIA regulations to comply with 2007 amendments Congress made to the law. The changes require agencies to cooperate with a new FOIA ombudsman in the Office of Government Information Services and report specific data on FOIA output, among other provisions.

The National Security Archive, which claims to file more FOIA requests than any other group, gathers and publishes declassified U.S. government files, with a focus on U.S. foreign policy documents.

In a third analysis, the Center for Effective Government released its annual government-transparency report card on Monday, handing out failing grades to seven of the 15 agencies it reviewed. The scores are based on three metrics: processing requests for information, establishing rules for answering requests and creating user-friendly Web sites.

The White House has put forward an action plan that could help the administration improve its marks by creating one core FOIA regulation and a common set of practices to help requesters and federal agencies better understand the guidelines.

In Congress, the House has passed a bipartisan bill that would require agencies to update their regulations within 180 days.

Source: Washington Post

Sen. Paul announces ‘historic’ class-action suit over NSA spying | Fox News

RandPaulSen. Rand Paul on Wednesday announced what he described as one of the largest class-action lawsuits in history, taking President Obama and top intelligence officials to court over National Security Agency surveillance.

“This, we believe, will be a historic lawsuit,” the Kentucky Republican said. The suit, joined by conservative advocacy group FreedomWorks, was filed in U.S. District Court in the District of Columbia.

It alleges that the NSA program that sweeps up and stores massive amounts of telephone “metadata” — which includes where and when calls are made, but not the contents of the calls — violates the Fourth Amendment. The suit asks the court to rule the program unconstitutional and forbid the government from continuing it.

“There’s a huge and growing swell of protest in this country of people who are outraged that their records would be taken without suspicion, without a judge’s warrant and without individualization,” Paul said, at a press conference in Washington.

He said hundreds of thousands of people have joined, and predicted the suit could “conceivably represent hundreds of millions of people who have phone lines in this country.”

The administration has insisted that Americans’ privacy is protected under NSA programs, and Obama recently announced a set of proposed reforms to rein in NSA surveillance.

“We remain confident that the program is legal, as at least 15 judges have previously found,” a Justice Department spokesperson said Wednesday, referring to prior court decisions in separate cases.

But the lawsuit argues that the bulk metadata that is routinely collected nevertheless “reveals a wealth of detail” about Americans’ personal and professional associations “that are ordinarily unknown to the government.”

The suit named Obama, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, NSA Director Keith Alexander, and FBI Director James Comey.

Source: Fox News