Mame Biram Diouf

NSA Whistleblower: Edward Snowden (Surveillance/Spying)

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One of the biggest intelligence leeks of all time, so many articles/views/re-actions happening hard to keep up with it.

Boundless Informant: the NSA's secret tool to track global surveillance data

 

The National Security Agency has developed a powerful tool for recording and analysing where its intelligence comes from, raising questions about its repeated assurances to Congress that it cannot keep track of all the surveillance it performs on American communications.

 

The Guardian has acquired top-secret documents about the NSA datamining tool, called Boundless Informant, that details and even maps by country the voluminous amount of information it collects from computer and telephone networks.

 

The focus of the internal NSA tool is on counting and categorizing the records of communications, known as metadata, rather than the content of an email or instant message.

 

The Boundless Informant documents show the agency collecting almost 3 billion pieces of intelligence from US computer networks over a 30-day period ending in March 2013. One document says it is designed to give NSA officials answers to questions like,

 

"What type of coverage do we have on country X" in "near real-time by asking the SIGINT [signals intelligence] infrastructure."

 

An NSA factsheet about the program, acquired by the Guardian, says: "The tool allows users to select a country on a map and view the metadata volume and select details about the collections against that country."

 

Under the heading "Sample use cases", the factsheet also states the tool shows information including: "How many records (and what type) are collected against a particular country."

 

A snapshot of the Boundless Informant data, contained in a top secret NSA "global heat map" seen by the Guardian, shows that in March 2013 the agency collected 97bn pieces of intelligence from computer networks worldwide.

 

Iran was the country where the largest amount of intelligence was gathered, with more than 14bn reports in that period, followed by 13.5bn from Pakistan. Jordan, one of America's closest Arab allies, came third with 12.7bn, Egypt fourth with 7.6bn and India fifth with 6.3bn.

 

The heatmap gives each nation a color code based on how extensively it is subjected to NSA surveillance. The color scheme ranges from green (least subjected to surveillance) through yellow and orange to red (most surveillance).

 

The disclosure of the internal Boundless Informant system comes amid a struggle between the NSA and its overseers in the Senate over whether it can track the intelligence it collects on American communications. The NSA's position is that it is not technologically feasible to do so.

 

At a hearing of the Senate intelligence committee In March this year, Democratic senator Ron Wyden asked James Clapper, the director of national intelligence: "Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?"

"No sir," replied Clapper.

 

Judith Emmel, an NSA spokeswoman, told the Guardian in a response to the latest disclosures: "NSA has consistently reported – including to Congress – that we do not have the ability to determine with certainty the identity or location of all communicants within a given communication. That remains the case."

 

Other documents seen by the Guardian further demonstrate that the NSA does in fact break down its surveillance intercepts which could allow the agency to determine how many of them are from the US. The level of detail includes individual IP addresses.

 

IP address is not a perfect proxy for someone's physical location but it is rather close, said Chris Soghoian, the principal technologist with the Speech Privacy and Technology Project of the American Civil Liberties Union. "If you don't take steps to hide it, the IP address provided by your internet provider will certainly tell you what country, state and, typically, city you are in," Soghoian said.

 

That approximation has implications for the ongoing oversight battle between the intelligence agencies and Congress.

 

On Friday, in his first public response to the Guardian's disclosures this week on NSA surveillance, Barack Obama said that that congressional oversight was the American peoples' best guarantee that they were not being spied on.

 

"These are the folks you all vote for as your representatives in Congress and they are being fully briefed on these programs," he said. Obama also insisted that any surveillance was "very narrowly circumscribed".

 

Senators have expressed their frustration at the NSA's refusal to supply statistics. In a letter to NSA director General Keith Alexander in October last year, senator Wyden and his Democratic colleague on the Senate intelligence committee, Mark Udall, noted that "the intelligence community has stated repeatedly that it is not possible to provide even a rough estimate of how many American communications have been collected under the Fisa Amendments Act, and has even declined to estimate the scale of this collection."

 

At a congressional hearing in March last year, Alexander denied point-blank that the agency had the figures on how many Americans had their electronic communications collected or reviewed. Asked if he had the capability to get them, Alexander said: "No. No. We do not have the technical insights in the United States." He added that "nor do we do have the equipment in the United States to actually collect that kind of information".

 

Soon after, the NSA, through the inspector general of the overall US intelligence community, told the senators that making such a determination would jeopardize US intelligence operations – and might itself violate Americans' privacy.

 

"All that senator Udall and I are asking for is a ballpark estimate of how many Americans have been monitored under this law, and it

is disappointing that the inspectors general cannot provide it," Wyden told Wired magazine at the time.

 

The documents show that the team responsible for Boundless Informant assured its bosses that the tool is on track for upgrades.

 

The team will "accept user requests for additional functionality or enhancements," according to the FAQ acquired by the Guardian.

 

"Users are also allowed to vote on which functionality or enhancements are most important to them (as well as add comments). The BOUNDLESSINFORMANT team will periodically review all requests and triage according to level of effort (Easy, Medium, Hard) and mission impact (High, Medium, Low)."

 

Emmel, the NSA spokeswoman, told the Guardian: "Current technology simply does not permit us to positively identify all of the persons or locations associated with a given communication (for example, it may be possible to say with certainty that a communication traversed a particular path within the internet. It is harder to know the ultimate source or destination, or more particularly the identity of the person represented by the TO:, FROM: or CC: field of an e-mail address or the abstraction of an IP address).

 

"Thus, we apply rigorous training and technological advancements to combine both our automated and manual (human) processes to characterize communications – ensuring protection of the privacy rights of the American people. This is not just our judgment, but that of the relevant inspectors general, who have also reported this."

 

She added: "The continued publication of these allegations about highly classified issues, and other information taken out of context, makes it impossible to conduct a reasonable discussion on the merits of these programs."

 

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Many internet users will be feeling slightly bemused by the worldwide reaction to the revelations about US surveillance technology. As President Obama, the UK foreign secretary, William Hague, and many other senior politicians have said, what do the innocent have to fear? Why would the National Security Agency (NSA), or anyone else, care about your search history, Facebook updates, Skype calls, emails, instant messages, and so on?

 

Data mining tools have developed quickly over the past decade, and a detailed picture can now be painted of people's lives with even small amounts of such information. This picture can ultimately have real-world consequences. Ever had problems getting an electronic visa to travel to countries such as the US and Australia, who pre-screen foreign visitors, or had to go through lengthy additional security at the airport? Thought about getting a job with a government agency or contractor that will do background checks first? Or perhaps you've had difficulty getting medical insurance or credit despite a healthy lifestyle and prompt payment of your bills?

 

So-called "big data" approaches are revolutionising the way these processes work, in government and the private sector. By crunching through large quantities of data, all sorts of interesting patterns can be found inside people's everyday activities. You might already realise that fatty and sugary foods showing up on your supermarket loyalty card could be interesting to insurers, financial service providers, and even employers concerned about sick days – but did you know significant time spent commuting and watching television are also good predictors of a shorter lifespan?

 

One phone call to a country such as Pakistan might not in itself say much, but what if three of your own phone and email contacts had made one in the past year, and you also browsed through some quite radical websites protesting at the "war on terror" last month? Or bought three philosophy and history books that have previously been found in the collections of terrorism suspects? Much more complex patterns are generally being sought out by data analysts, in the way that Google (for example) uses more than 200 different "signals" about the quality of a web page to generate its search rankings.

 

These approaches need huge amounts of both computing power and data. We know that the NSA has both, with its new $2bn Utah Data Centre, due to open in September, reportedly capable of processing trillions of terabytes. Former NSA staff members have explained that the agency has systems that can process trillions of data points to test the strength of connections between them. This explains why Verizon and seemingly other telephone companies have been ordered to hand over complete lists of all telephone calls made – to find suspicious patterns, especially of individuals linked over time to people that have come under suspicion in other ways.

 

Other such similarly large collections of data about communications ("metadata") are no doubt being analysed by intelligence agencies. Who is talking to whom when, from which location, combined with data about websites visited, can be just as revealing as intercepts of call and email contents, but generally receives much lower legal protection. It is unclear precisely how the Prism system is being used to access data held by companies including Microsoft, Google, Facebook and Apple, but US law regarding foreign surveillance is entirely clear: non-US persons outside the US are fair game, with no constitutional protections. Nor is such monitoring limited to narrow national security and counter-terrorism purposes.

 

The Guardian's revelations have made clear that we now need a global debate about just how far intelligence agencies should go in undertaking this very broad surveillance and analysis, and what legal protections and oversight mechanisms should be in place – beyond behind-closed-doors scrutiny by officials, secret courts and security-cleared committees. Is it acceptable that one of the main authors of the US Patriot Act, Republican congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, thinks the order to Verizon is not consistent with that act? What should the rest of the world think about their data being held in a country that gives almost no legal protections against government surveillance?

 

It may no longer be true that "gentlemen don't read each other's mail", as the former US secretary of state Henry L Stimson said. We are certainly unlikely to see a repeat with the NSA of Stimson's 1929 closure of the US Cipher Bureau. But we need much better mechanisms for reassurance that data collection and analysis does not go beyond that required for legitimate government responsibilities, such as preventing future terrorist attacks.

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Google. Apple. Facebook. Microsoft: they are the brands that want the world to trust them with personal information, emails, photos, documents – yet they are now facing a battle to maintain that trust after disclosures that the US government was given access to their customers' data online via the Prism programme operated by the NSA.

 

The companies involved – Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, Apple – vigorously deny giving the Obama administration backdoor access to users' internet information, but the potential damage to their brand reputation has left the companies floundering for a way to respond.

Viktor Mayer-Schonberger, professor of internet governance and regulation at the Oxford Internet Institute, believes there could be serious consequences for the collective reputations of all internet companies who have meticulously built their trade on trust.

 

He cites Amazon – not one of the companies involved in Prism – as a case in point when the company took the side of consumers after publishers protested about bad reviews. "It may have dissuaded someone to buy a book, but it instilled trust in Amazon which was far more important to it long-term," said Mayer-Schonberger. "If you violate that trust, it is difficult to re-establish. Even if it turned out to be a hoax, trust has been destroyed because everyone is talking about it."

 

He added: "These companies depend on their users being sufficiently trusting to give them personal data. Many of us are perfectly fine for these companies to use this information for their own commercial benefit, to place more relevant adverts on the right hand side, but we do not want it passed on to the government or to tax authorities for instance."

 

Greg Nojeim, senior counsel at Centre for Democracy and Technology in New York said that for Google – a company which has Don't be Evil as an informal company slogan and has pioneered online openess, "more transparency would be helpful". He said: "An important step would be for these companies to exert even more pressure; pressure on the intelligence authorities to disclose more information about intelligence related surveillance that they are compelled to conduct."

 

In his statement following the Prism revelations, Google CEO Larry Page indicated this was the tack his company would be taking to protect its brand reputation. "The level of secrecy around the current legal procedures undermines the freedoms we all cherish," he said.

 

Civil liberty activists have also been alarmed. In the UK, the US surveillance, even of high level data, has raised questions about breaches of domestic data protection laws.

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Leading Europeans, from Angela Merkel down to information chiefs across the continent, are lining up to grill American counterparts on the Prism surveillance programmes, amid mounting fury that the private information of EU nationals will have been caught up in the data dragnet.

 

With Merkel set to bring up the issue with Barack Obama next week, and the European commission vice-president, Viviane Reding, eager to grill US officials at a meeting in Dublin on Friday, the issue looks set to dominate a week of summitry. Reding, who is responsible for data protection in Europe, is to seek clarification on whether the access to personal data in the Prism programme is limited to individual cases, is based on concrete suspicion or if wider sets of data are being accessed.

 

Peter Schaar, Germany's federal data protection commissioner, told the Guardian that it was unacceptable for the US authorities to have access to EU citizens' data and that the level of protection was lower than that guaranteed to US citizens.

 

"So far, the US has no adequate level of data protection guaranteed in law and with independent oversight, like in Europe," he told the Guardian. "It's essential for me that we cannot ignore anymore the question of what happens with the data of the private sector if it's collected by US or third-party companies and public authorities want to surveil this data.

 

"I don't know how far European governments are informed over the details of US authorities to the data, but one problem might be that the data gathered by the US authorities comes back from the US to Europe and is used by European authorities. We have to discuss this with our governments."

 

Michael Hartmann, spokesman on domestic issues for Germany's opposition Social Democratic Party (SPD), said he would be seeking clarifications on Wednesday from the German secret service on what the government knew and when. "We want to know what the government knew about it and whether there was any benefit for the German authorities in what the US authorities did," he told the Guardian. "We can't accept this although we know that after 9/11 there were new rules and we have to be careful and well informed, but you can't defend our free society by destroying it."

 

Antonello Soro, head of the Italian data-protection authority, said he was "very concerned" by the consequences of the surveillance on the privacy of European and Italian citizens.

 

"A gathering of data of this capacity, so indiscriminate and generalised, going beyond any evidence of crime, would not be legal in Italy and, if it were to happen, would be contrary to the principles of our legislation and would represent a very serious violation," he told the Guardian in a statement.

 

EU commission officials say that where the privacy rights of a European citizen are concerned, it is for a judge in their member state to determine whether the data can be lawfully transmitted. They warn that simply relying on US or other "third-country" law may be breach international law. They say that such transmission of personal data should be done through established official channels such as mutual legal-assistance agreements.

 

The EU's new proposed data-protection regime makes it clear that companies, such as US internet firms, providing services to people in Europe would be bound by the obligations of European law.

 

EU officials have already raised the issue with the Americans and have been pressing for European citizens to have the same rights of access to judicial redress if their personal data is mishandled, as is afforded to US residents. They say they have repeatedly raised the issue of European citizens' data held by private companies, including internet and phone companies, being accessed by US law-enforcement agencies under the Patriot Act and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

 

Reding said the EU's data-protection proposals had been on the table for 18 months now, with many EU states stalling on their implementation. She contrasted the fact noted that it took only six months for EU ministers to bring in "data retention" powers requiring phone and internet firms to store users' records for 12 months.

The Italian government came under pressure to establish the extent to which Italian citizens had been affected by the surveillance system. Franco Pizzetti, chairman of the digital development group Internet Alliance and Italy's former data protection authority chief, wrote to the prime minister, Enrico Letta, demanding he respond to the revelations.

 

"If what we are reading is, either partially or wholly true, this is a question of very serious violations of Italian and European citizens' basic rights," he wrote. Pizzetti told the Guardian that he believed it was "impossible" that Italian citizens' data had not been caught up in the US National Security Agency's activities. "Both the Italian government and the European commission should ask the United States for clarification," he said. "The Italian and European authorities should ask for information and explanations from [the technology giants] because they allowed access to European citizens' data without informing European citizens, violating the rules on personal data protection."

 

The French Socialist Euro MP, Françoise Castex, said she was shocked that the Americans had been snooping on European citizens even while negotiating with the European Union for the right to do so. "Even before we had said yes or no, they had decided to do it anyway," Castex told the Guardian.

 

"We in Europe had been arguing that personal information of our citizens should not be freely used by American businesses. We felt this should not happen; we should not say yes to this. We were under a lot of pressure and lobbying from the American Chamber of Commerce and giant American companies like Google, Facebook and Apple to ease the restrictions over the use of personal data. And there they were taking it anyway.

 

"I suppose we cannot say we are terribly surprised but it's still a shock. A shock that they have gone outside all agreements, even before those agreements are reached."Of course you can try to justify these things by saying 'well, if you're not a terrorist you have nothing to worry about' and of course there are security concerns that require some information. But you and I know full well that as soon as this information is gathered it won't be used for security or defence ends, it will be used for commercial ends.

 

"Personal data is the material of the 21st century and is worth a lot. People who say it doesn't matter are being naive.

 

"There is a serious threat to public liberty here. This is information that should rest confidential. I don't want my sexual orientation, any addictions like gambling I might have, any illnesses collected and sold to anyone. These are things that could be used against us by an employer or insurance company." Kai Biermann, a journalist at the German weekly newspaper, Die Zeit, said: "It surprised nobody, because everyone assumes the NSA had been doing something like this for a long time. It's almost a meme – the idea that the NSA has the whole world under surveillance. It doesn't surprise me but it is still frightening when you see it laid out in front of you.

"There were two recent cases in Germany, where tip-offs from the USA led to terror warnings and investigations. It was said that they received information from the FBI, that was the statement, from captured emails. The idea that Prism could've been behind that is not a far-fetched one."

 

Russian authorities remained mute on the revelations, a silence that analysts said reflected their own approach towards internet privacy.

 

Andrei Soldatov, an analyst who focuses on Russia's secret services and the internet, said: "The main point for me in all this is that it provides ammunition to those who argue for sovereign internet in their countries – Russia, China, Iran, African states and so forth. I don't think in practical terms it's a real big danger for Russian government bodies, because of the Russian policy to count on Russian-made technology in government communications, or on western technology licensed by the secret services. But it does provide new arguments for regionalists."

 

Canada's privacy commissioner, Jennifer Stoddart, said she has had significant concerns about the NSA surveillance programme and was proposing an international summit of privacy watchdogs to mount a concerted defence of personal information that is being collected using the computer and telephone usage records of private companies. The fear is acute in Canada, where the border between the two countries means Canadians are foreign citizens and likely to have their communications intercepted, but geography and economics dictate that vast amounts of metadata will continue to flow through US servers.A newspaper report on Monday revealed that the NSA's Ottawa-based sister agency, the Communications Security Establishment, had in 2011 obtained secret authority to resurrect its made-in-Canada data-surveillance programme, which was created in 2005 but fell dormant in 2008. The CSE monitors foreign intelligence for the Canadian military, police and spy agencies, but says that any Canadian information caught in its net is rendered anonymous by law.

 

In Pakistan, attention focused on the extraordinary volume of data being gathered from computers and telephone networks by the NSA.

In one sample month, March 2013, Pakistan was second only to Iran in the snooped-on top 10. "US stole 13.5bn Pak secret reports," was one headline on The News, a right-of-centre newspaper known for its anti-Americanism.Pakistanis are already used to their country being of intense interest to the US intelligence community but there are concerns about what the NSA's electronic spying means for non-US citizens who do not enjoy rights under the US constitution.

"For those of us living outside the US, the concern should be that, in the future, a simple internet search could potentially be used to build a damning case," an editorial

in Monday's Express Tribune said.

 

"Given the manner in which the US has pursued terror suspects – imprisoning some on very flimsy evidence – this should set off alarm bells."

 

In Egypt, Amr Gharbeia, a prominent campaigner for internet freedom and civil liberties director at the Egyptian Institute for Personal Rights, said it was surprising how much Egyptian data had been gathered (7.6bn pieces of information in March 2013).

 

"What struck me is that knowing how people use the internet in Egypt, and what the rate of penetration is like – which is not as much as you get in a developed country – the amount of times they have come here and looked for information is staggering.

 

"One can only wonder who the entity is that is making use of this kind of information. Is it only the NSA or CIA, or are there links to the Egyptian intelligence agencies?

 

Given that the Egyptian intelligence and CIA have a long history of co-operation in their war against terrorism … one can only extrapolate from that and assume safely

that there is a very good relationship between the two countries' national security agencies."

 

In sub-Saharan Africa, Dale McKinley, a spokesman for South Africa's Right2Know campaign, a civil society group defending freedom of information, said: "We're not at all surprised. It's been known for some time that this kind of snooping and surveillance of electronic communications was happening. But it's good to have it confirmed."

 

He warned: "South Africans should be worried. Africa is now an area of increasing strategic and economic importance and will become more so. The intelligence to carry out policy is going to be even more necessary."

 

Louise Mushikiwabo, foreign minister of Rwanda, said: "Does it surprise anybody that the United States' NSA would access information of internet users, and otherwise? For Rwanda, we believe state and other actual 'secrets' are better handled away from the internet, but, oh well ... it is almost inevitable to be on the internet these days."

 

Bitange Ndemo, former permanent secretary in Kenya's information ministry, said: "It is a cause for concern since it touches on the privacy of the people. Our national security will look at the matter before making a substantive statement."

 

George Charamba, press secretary to Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe, said it was an unsurprising aspect of US attempts at "world domination". He added: "When we went to the UN World Summit on Information Society in Geneva, there was a very strong pursuit to look at the governance of ICT [information and communications technology]. The Americans were very robust in rejecting that. They were very belligerent about it.

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William Hague's statement to the House of Commons offered a straightforward and robust defence of GCHQ, the legal framework in which it operates, and the challenges the intelligence agencies face in their efforts to stop terrorist attacks.

 

But the foreign secretary did nothing to address the long-standing concerns of campaigners and academics over the regulatory system in which those agencies work; neither did he try to draw a distinction between the different types of data being gathered, or why the laws in this area are now deemed to be verging on irrelevant.

 

Refusing to be drawn on specifics, he also declined to comment on the leaked documents that showed GCHQ has had long-standing access to the Prism programme, set up by America's National Security Agency to garner information about "foreigners", including Britons.

 

Hague began with reference to the parliamentary intelligence and security committee, which will receive a preliminary report on GCHQ and the Prism programme on Tuesday. By coincidence, the ISC, which is chaired by Sir Malcolm Rifkind, is in Washington this week and will see officials from the NSA on Wednesday.

 

Read what he said here;

 

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jun/10/william-hague-spying-scandal-nsa-statement

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An ex-CIA employee who leaked details of US top-secret phone and internet surveillance has disappeared from his hotel in Hong Kong.

 

Edward Snowden, 29, checked out from his hotel on Monday. His whereabouts are unknown, but he is believed to be still in Hong Kong.

 

Earlier, he said he had an "obligation to help free people from oppression".

 

It emerged last week that US agencies were gathering millions of phone records and monitoring internet data.

 

A spokesman for the US Office of the Director of National Intelligence said the case had been referred to the Department of Justice as a criminal matter.

Continue reading the main story

 

Hong Kong's broadcaster RTHK said Mr Snowden checked out of the Mira hotel on Monday.

 

Reuters news agency quoted hotel staff as saying that he had left at noon.

 

Ewen MacAskill, a Guardian journalist, told the BBC he believed Mr Snowden was still in Hong Kong.

 

Hong Kong - a Chinese territory - has an extradition treaty with the US, although analysts say any attempts to bring Mr Snowden to America may take months and could be blocked by Beijing.

 

Mr Snowden is believed to have arrived in Hong Kong on 20 May. A standard visa on arrival in the territory for a US citizen lasts for 90 days.

 

His revelations have caused transatlantic political fallout, amid allegations that the UK's electronic surveillance agency, GCHQ, used the US system to snoop on British citizens.

 

Foreign Secretary William Hague cancelled a trip to Washington to address the UK parliament on Monday and deny the claims.

Mr Snowden is described by the Guardian as an ex-CIA technical assistant, currently employed by Booz Allen Hamilton, a defence contractor for the US National Security Agency (NSA).

 

He told the newspaper: "The NSA has built an infrastructure that allows it to intercept almost everything. With this capability, the vast majority of human communications are automatically ingested without targeting.

 

"If I wanted to see your emails or your wife's phone, all I have to do is use intercepts. I can get your emails, passwords, phone records, credit cards.

 

"I don't want to live in a society that does these sort of things. I do not want to live in a world where everything I do and say is recorded."

 

Mr Snowden said he did not believe he had committed a crime: "We have seen enough criminality on the part of government. It is hypocritical to make this allegation against me."

 

But he admitted that he could end up in jail and feared for people who knew him.

In a statement, Booz Allen Hamilton confirmed Mr Snowden had been an employee for less than three months.

"If accurate, this action represents a grave violation of the code of conduct and core values of our firm," the statement said.

At a daily press briefing on Monday, White House press secretary Jay Carney said he could not comment on the Snowden case, citing an ongoing investigation.

The first of the leaks came out on Wednesday night, when the Guardian reported a US secret court ordered phone company Verizon to hand over to the NSA millions of records on telephone call "metadata".

 

The metadata include the numbers of both phones on a call, its duration, time, date and location (for mobiles, determined by which mobile signal towers relayed the call or text).

 

Major US security leaks

Pentagon papers, 1971: Daniel Ellsberg leaks study showing the government had knowledge it was unlikely to win Vietnam war

Watergate, 1972: Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein reveal extent of cover-up over burglary at Democrat National Committee HQ

Iran-Contra affair, 1986: Iranian cleric reveals illegal US arms sales to Iran, the proceeds of which are later used to fund Nicaraguan Contras

Valerie Plame, 2003: Ms Plame is revealed to be an undercover CIA agent, ending her covert career

Abu Ghraib, 2004: Publication of pictures showing abuse of detainees at Iraq prison by US officials turns initial media reports of abuse into full-blown scandal

Bradley Manning, 2010: The soldier downloads thousands of classified documents from military servers and hands them over to Wikileaks

US leaks that shook the world

On Thursday, the Washington Post and Guardian said the NSA tapped directly into the servers of nine internet firms including Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Yahoo to track online communication in a programme known as Prism.

 

All the internet companies deny giving the US government access to their servers.

 

Prism is said to give the NSA and FBI access to emails, web chats and other communications directly from the servers of major US internet companies.

The data is used to track foreign nationals suspected of terrorism or spying. The NSA is also collecting the telephone records of American customers, but said it is not recording the content of their calls.

 

US director of national intelligence James Clapper's office said information gathered under Prism was obtained with the approval of the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Court (Fisa).

 

Prism was authorised under changes to US surveillance laws passed under President George W Bush, and renewed last year under Barack Obama.

Mr Obama has defended the surveillance programmes, assuring Americans that nobody was listening to their calls.

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The White House has said that it welcomes media interest in US surveillance practices, despite confirming that the Department of Justice is in the early stages of a leak investigation that may lead to criminal prosecutions of whistleblowers who revealed them.

 

As the second of two secret US monitoring programmes was partially declassified in response to leaked disclosures this week, officials speaking at a presidential summit in California told the Guardian that the ensuing public debate was necessary.

 

Deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes said: "The debate that's been sparked by these revelations – while we do not think that the revelation of secret programmes is in the national security interest of the US – the broader debate about privacy and civil liberties [is something Obama] went out of his way to identify as one of the trade-offs we have to wrestle with.

 

"We'll have that debate. We welcome congressional interest in these issues, we welcome the interest of the American people and of course the media in these issues but we feel confident we have done what we need to do strike a balance between privacy and security by building in rigorous oversight mechanisms."

 

His comments follow a decision late on Saturday by the intelligence community to declassify parts of its Prism programme – revealed by the Guardian and the Washington Post on Thursday – so that it could explain how its collection of data from internet companies was supervised by Congress.

 

The statement confirmed that Prism was "an internal government computer system used to facilitate the government's statutorily authorised collection of foreign intelligence information from electronic communication service providers under court supervision".

 

Director of national intelligence James Clapper said the Guardian and Washington Post had failed to adequately convey how much constitutional oversight the programme received. "Over the last week, we have seen reckless disclosures of intelligence community measures used to keep Americans safe," he said in a separate statement. "In a rush to publish, media outlets have not given the full context, including the extent to which these programmes are overseen by all three branches of government to these effective tools."

 

But the question of how effective such oversight has been was brought into question this weekend by growing numbers of congressmen, who claim they had not been made aware of the Prism programme or an earlier disclosure by the Guardian of court orders forcing phone companies to hand over US phone records.

 

And Obama's chief national security adviser, Tom Donilon, was forced to reject suggestions that the oversight process had been undermined because data was being withheld from Congress.

 

This followed the disclosure of a third programme by the Guardian, codenamed Boundless Informant, that appeared to contradict recent assurances given to Congress that there was no record of how much data was gathered from US computers.

 

"These programmes are very important to the United States and its ability to protect itself," Donilon told the Guardian in response. "They are subject to very careful procedures to ensure particularly that privacies and civil liberties are protected, but are also subject to very careful oversight by a court and careful and persistent oversight by the Congress."

 

Officials in Washington have yet to make their mind up to how to respond to the leaks to the Guardian and other newspapers, particularly after a storm of protest followed the surveillance of phone records belonging to Associated Press reporters in pursuit of other leaks.

 

"What we are focused on [now] is doing an assessment of the damage that is being done to US national security by the revelation of this information, which is necessarily secret because we need to be able to conduct intelligence activities without those methods being revealed to the world," said Rhodes.

 

"As relates to any potential investigations, we are still in the early stages of this. This is something that will be addressed by the Justice Department and intelligence community in the coming days in consultation with the agencies that have been affected by these very disturbing leaks of national security."

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Guy's gone missing now, PISSED!!!

 

Surely they can't just wipe him out like this

 

But it's been done before

 

But boyy

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I hear what your saying g

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Basically a very early form of Echelon in "Echelon Conspiracy".

 

It's bait all this data was going somewhere though, if you don't plan on throwing away your phone or internet then what can you do?

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should of been suspected..its actually scary that most people are not surprised and are pretty indifferent to the whole charade...

 

the way most people live out their life on social networks these days is madness in itself...its like folk have to document every iota of their lives as if its not seen, tweeted ,posted or commented on it didnt happen or it doesnt have any credence unless the whole world is able to view that in the last minute you have uploaded your bacon butty. as if eating.the bacon butty was a pointless a exercise in your life until it was announced on net and social media...

 

we are a little to quick and free to divulge our every breath ,this isnt normal on so many levels the constant need to have every minute and pointless details of our life certified by a bunch of strangers is scary and madness.

 

so we cant really be suprised when certain unscrupulous bodies take it just that step far...

 

we need to rid ourselves of this sociopathic need for our life online to be  substantiated by no one and everyone 

 

you cant expect to shout out about yours kids every movement ,exam s,chool picture and dinner time meal and upload provocative pictures every 2 hours and post every waking minute of your day at work then in the same breath expect dodgy government bodies not  to search for a little more on top.....youve given them cow already you cant ask for the milk back

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Been trying to keep up, so bait now he's gone missing.

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theyve killed him off and now they saying hes gone missing

 

ahhhrgh boy... wot are we gonna do in this bloody world man...

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u think governments arent going to companies like yahoo, google, microsoft, aol etc and saying to them "yeah yeah ill give u an extra 10billion a year if we can/you give us access to your data so we can track niggas"

 

"mark zukerberg"... aite kool why not...

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An ex-CIA employee who leaked details of US top-secret phone and internet surveillance has disappeared from his hotel in Hong Kong.

 

Edward Snowden, 29, checked out from his hotel on Monday. His whereabouts are unknown, but he is believed to be still in Hong Kong.

 

Earlier, he said he had an "obligation to help free people from oppression".

 

It emerged last week that US agencies were gathering millions of phone records and monitoring internet data.

 

A spokesman for the US Office of the Director of National Intelligence said the case had been referred to the Department of Justice as a criminal matter.

Continue reading the main story

 

Hong Kong's broadcaster RTHK said Mr Snowden checked out of the Mira hotel on Monday.

 

Reuters news agency quoted hotel staff as saying that he had left at noon.

 

Ewen MacAskill, a Guardian journalist, told the BBC he believed Mr Snowden was still in Hong Kong.

 

Hong Kong - a Chinese territory - has an extradition treaty with the US, although analysts say any attempts to bring Mr Snowden to America may take months and could be blocked by Beijing.

 

Mr Snowden is believed to have arrived in Hong Kong on 20 May. A standard visa on arrival in the territory for a US citizen lasts for 90 days.

 

His revelations have caused transatlantic political fallout, amid allegations that the UK's electronic surveillance agency, GCHQ, used the US system to snoop on British citizens.

 

Foreign Secretary William Hague cancelled a trip to Washington to address the UK parliament on Monday and deny the claims.

Mr Snowden is described by the Guardian as an ex-CIA technical assistant, currently employed by Booz Allen Hamilton, a defence contractor for the US National Security Agency (NSA).

 

He told the newspaper: "The NSA has built an infrastructure that allows it to intercept almost everything. With this capability, the vast majority of human communications are automatically ingested without targeting.

 

"If I wanted to see your emails or your wife's phone, all I have to do is use intercepts. I can get your emails, passwords, phone records, credit cards.

 

"I don't want to live in a society that does these sort of things. I do not want to live in a world where everything I do and say is recorded."

 

Mr Snowden said he did not believe he had committed a crime: "We have seen enough criminality on the part of government. It is hypocritical to make this allegation against me."

 

But he admitted that he could end up in jail and feared for people who knew him.

In a statement, Booz Allen Hamilton confirmed Mr Snowden had been an employee for less than three months.

"If accurate, this action represents a grave violation of the code of conduct and core values of our firm," the statement said.

At a daily press briefing on Monday, White House press secretary Jay Carney said he could not comment on the Snowden case, citing an ongoing investigation.

The first of the leaks came out on Wednesday night, when the Guardian reported a US secret court ordered phone company Verizon to hand over to the NSA millions of records on telephone call "metadata".

 

The metadata include the numbers of both phones on a call, its duration, time, date and location (for mobiles, determined by which mobile signal towers relayed the call or text).

 

Major US security leaks

Pentagon papers, 1971: Daniel Ellsberg leaks study showing the government had knowledge it was unlikely to win Vietnam war

Watergate, 1972: Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein reveal extent of cover-up over burglary at Democrat National Committee HQ

Iran-Contra affair, 1986: Iranian cleric reveals illegal US arms sales to Iran, the proceeds of which are later used to fund Nicaraguan Contras

Valerie Plame, 2003: Ms Plame is revealed to be an undercover CIA agent, ending her covert career

Abu Ghraib, 2004: Publication of pictures showing abuse of detainees at Iraq prison by US officials turns initial media reports of abuse into full-blown scandal

Bradley Manning, 2010: The soldier downloads thousands of classified documents from military servers and hands them over to Wikileaks

US leaks that shook the world

On Thursday, the Washington Post and Guardian said the NSA tapped directly into the servers of nine internet firms including Facebook, Google, Microsoft and Yahoo to track online communication in a programme known as Prism.

 

All the internet companies deny giving the US government access to their servers.

 

Prism is said to give the NSA and FBI access to emails, web chats and other communications directly from the servers of major US internet companies.

The data is used to track foreign nationals suspected of terrorism or spying. The NSA is also collecting the telephone records of American customers, but said it is not recording the content of their calls.

 

US director of national intelligence James Clapper's office said information gathered under Prism was obtained with the approval of the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Court (Fisa).

 

Prism was authorised under changes to US surveillance laws passed under President George W Bush, and renewed last year under Barack Obama.

Mr Obama has defended the surveillance programmes, assuring Americans that nobody was listening to their calls.

 

reh that was quick

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Old news

Was telling you lot years ago they was doing this

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go on

 

get the quote

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not exactly ground breaking

 

Sorry can you post the link to the revelation of an official source who came forward that worked for them and was directly involved in the gathering and analysis of data

 

Or 

 

You just going to link to a conspiracy theory which there was strong signs of this happening but no concrete proof?

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