Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Snowden in Moscow airport - Putin says "Nyet."

Edward Snowden is at a Moscow airport, and no, you can’t have him.
Russian President Vladimir Putin gave the first official acknowledgment of the whereabouts of National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden yesterday, and promptly rejected U.S. pleas to turn him over.
Snowden, who is charged with violating American espionage laws, fled Hong Kong over the weekend, touching off a global guessing game over where he went and frustrating U.S. efforts to bring him to justice.
Putin said Snowden is in the transit zone of Sheremetyevo Airport and has not passed through Russian immigration, meaning he technically is not in Russia and thus is free to travel wherever he wants.
After arriving Sunday on a flight from Hong Kong, Snowden registered for a Havana-bound flight Monday en route to Venezuela and then possible asylum in Ecuador, but he didn’t board the plane.

Speculation has been rife that Russian security services have been talking to Snowden and might want to keep him in Russia for a more thorough debriefing, but Putin denied that.
“Our special services never worked with Mr. Snowden and aren’t working with him today,” Putin said at a news conference during a visit to Finland.

Because Moscow has no extradition agreement with Washington, it cannot meet the U.S. request, he said.

“Mr. Snowden is a free man, and the sooner he chooses his final destination the better it is for us and for him,” Putin said. “I hope it will not affect the businesslike character of our relations with the U.S., and I hope that our partners will understand that.”
Secretary of State John Kerry said yesterday that the United States wants Russia to show respect for the rule of law and comply with common practices when it comes to fugitives from justice.

Putin’s staunch refusal to consider deportation shows his readiness to further challenge Washington at a time when U.S.-Russian relations are already strained over Syria and other issues, including a Russian ban on adoptions by Americans.

“Just showing America that we don’t care about our relations, we are down to basically a Cold War pattern: The enemy of your government is our friend,” said Masha Lipman of the Carnegie Moscow Center.
“The Russian administration has not come that far, but we don’t know what it’s up to,” she said.

Despite Putin’s denial, security experts believe Russia’s special services wouldn’t miss the chance to question a man who is believed to hold reams of classified U.S. documents and could shed light on how the U.S. intelligence agencies collect information.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

TWA FLIGHT 800 - was it a bomb?

A group of whistleblowers, including a number of aviation experts, have come forward in a new documentary to claim that the official explanation for the crash of TWA Flight 800 was wrong and a gas tank explosion did not bring down the flight off the coast of Long Island 17 years ago.

However, the six whistleblowers, all part of the original investigation team, stopped short of saying the plane was shot down.

Flight 800, a Boeing 747, had just taken off from JFK airport with 230 people aboard on July 17, 1996 enroute to Paris when it exploded and crashed off the coast of nearby East Moriches, Long Island, killing everyone on the plane.

“..This team of investigators who actually handled the wreckage and victims’ bodies, prove that the officially proposed fuel-air explosion did not cause the crash,” reads a statement by the producers of the film, which will debut on cable network EPIX next month. “They also provide radar and forensic evidence proving that one or more ordinance explosions outside the aircraft caused the crash.” However, the statement said they did not speculate about the source or sources of any ordinance explosions.

The whistleblower team, which includes investigators-at the time-from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), TWA, and the Airline Pilots Association, have since retired from their positions. They claim that at the time, they were placed under a gag order by the NTSB, which they charged falsified the official conclusion of the cause of the crash. They indicated they would elaborate more in a Wednesday media briefing.

The NTSB report, the culmination of a four-year investigation, suggested the cause of the explosion was due to an explosion in the gas tank caused by a short circuit.

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/us/2013/06/18/twa-flight-800-investigators-break-silence-in-new-documentary-claim-original/#ixzz2Wd8WHnlSå

NSA "PRISM" program detailed

The Washington Post: 

The National Security Agency and the FBI are tapping directly into the central servers of nine leading U.S. Internet companies, extracting audio and video chats, photographs, e-mails, documents, and connection logs that enable analysts to track foreign targets, according to a top-secret document obtained by The Washington Post.

The program, code-named PRISM, has not been made public until now. It may be the first of its kind.

The NSA prides itself on stealing secrets and breaking codes, and it is accustomed to corporate partnerships that help it divert data traffic or sidestep barriers. But there has never been a Google or Facebook before, and it is unlikely that there are richer troves of valuable intelligence than the ones in Silicon Valley.Equally unusual is the way the NSA extracts what it wants, according to the document: “Collection directly from the servers of these U.S. Service Providers: Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, Apple.”

London’s Guardian newspaper reported Friday that GCHQ, Britain’s equivalent of the NSA, also has been secretly gathering intelligence from the same internet companies through an operation set up by the NSA.

According to documents obtained by The Guardian, PRISM would appear to allow GCHQ to circumvent the formal legal process required in Britain to seek personal material such as emails, photos and videos from an internet company based outside of the country.

PRISM was launched from the ashes of President George W. Bush’s secret program of warrantless domestic surveillance in 2007, after news media disclosures, lawsuits and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court forced the president to look for new authority.

Congress obliged with the Protect America Act in 2007 and the FISA Amendments Act of 2008, which immunized private companies that cooperated voluntarily with U.S. intelligence collection. PRISM recruited its first partner, Microsoft, and began six years of rapidly growing data collection beneath the surface of a roiling national debate on surveillance and privacy. Late last year, when critics in Congress sought changes in the FISA Amendments Act, the only lawmakers who knew about PRISM were bound by oaths of office to hold their tongues.

The court-approved program is focused on foreign communications traffic, which often flows through U.S. servers even when sent from one overseas location to another. Between 2004 and 2007, Bush administration lawyers persuaded federal FISA judges to issue surveillance orders in a fundamentally new form. Until then the government had to show probable cause that a particular “target” and “facility” were both connected to terrorism or espionage.

In four new orders, which remain classified, the court defined massive data sets as “facilities” and agreed to certify periodically that the government had reasonable procedures in place to minimize collection of “U.S. persons” data without a warrant.

In a statement issue late Thursday, Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper said “information collected under this program is among the most important and valuable foreign intelligence information we collect, and is used to protect our nation from a wide variety of threats. The unauthorized disclosure of information about this important and entirely legal program is reprehensible and risks important protections for the security of Americans.”

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Leak hints at China's design for next-gen stealth bomber

FP: You're looking at what some people are speculating is China's design for a stealth bomber. It may look like a simple model right now. But these Chinese models have a habit of turning into working airplanes. And if that happens in this case, watch out. Because it could potential give these Chinese the ability to penetrate deep, deep into enemy territory without the opponents ever knowing what hit them.
click to enlarge
Remember, designs very similar to China's J-31 stealth fighter and its Li Jian stealthy-ish drone appeared as trade show models only two years before full-size versions of the planes were revealed in the past year.
The latest plane resembles a cross between Russia's PAK DA stealth bomber design, it'sT-50 PAK FA stealth fighter and Northrop's YF-23 Black Widow -- the stealth jet that lost the contest to be the world's first fifth-generation fighter to Lockheed Martin's YF-22 Raptor. (The cockpit also resembles this fictional monstrosity.)
What could such a plane be used for? It would likely serve as a penetrating bomber designed to keep an enemy far from China's shores by sneaking past enemy radar and attacking enemy bases and ships with cruise missiles. Some have speculated that China'sJ-20, which is huge for a fighter, was meant to fulfill this role; similar to a stealthy version of the F-111 Aardvark or F-15E Strike Eagle. However, we're seeing the J-20 conducting flight tests with air-to-air missiles; a possible indication that it may be a high-speed interceptor -- similar to the Soviet Union's giant MiG-25 Foxbat and MiG-31 Foxhound interceptors -- designed to steak out and shoot down approaching bombers.
Chinese Web forums claim the new stealth bomber might have a length of 91-feet and a wingspan of 72-feet. This is smaller than all of the U.S. and Russia's strategic bombers such as the B-1 Lancer or Tu-22M but slightly larger than the U.S.'s F-15E Strike Eagle tactical bomber. The jet is also rumored to have an operational radius of just under 2000-miles.
It should be pointed out that earlier rumors about China investing in a fleet of Russian-designed Tu-22M supersonic bombers were reportedly untrue. Rather than field the supersonic jets, China is developing a new version of its H-6 bomber -- which is based on the Soviet Tu-16 Badger that was designed in the 1950s and retired by Russia in the early 1990s.
Chinese military officials have even said that buying a 1970s-design like the Tu-22M makes little sense given the fact that U.S. radars could spot the planes coming from a long way off. This could be taken as a hint that the PLA navy or air force recognizes the need for a stealthy-bomber capable of keeping adversaries at bay.
Basically, it costs a ton of money and time to develop and field an effective bomber force. It's not just the cost of building and buying stealth planes. The Chinese will need to develop an entire support network of maintenance crews, basing infrastructure capable of handling the planes, a large aerial tanker fleet to refuel them and perhaps most importantly learning how to effectively use them.
One interesting thing to note about the design shown above is that its engine exhaust outlets appear to be square -- a stealthier design than the traditional round nozzles seen on China's current version of stealthy planes. This could be a sign that China is making progress in the extremely challenging art of jet engine design. This could also be an indication that it will be a long time before China gets the technological knowhow to develop this aircraft. Current reports indicate that China has a long way to go when it comes to engine-making.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Gov contractor blows whistle on NSA

By RUSSELL GOLDMAN (@GoldmanRussell)
June 10, 2013

When a light was beamed into the shadowy corners of the NSA, the United States' largest and perhaps least understood secret intelligence agency, the public did not see James Bond smiling back with a martini in hand. Instead, they saw a 29-year-old high school dropout, a security guard turned freelancer at consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton entrusted with the nation's most guarded secrets.

Ed Snowden, a government contractor, who last week blew the whistle on the secret data mining operation known as PRISM, is today in hiding. His last known whereabouts were a Hong Kong hotel.

Before anyone knew Snowden was the source of the leak, the documents he provided The Guardian newspaper, were headline making. He provided the paper with warrants issued by a secret federal court allowing for the wholesale collection of communications data, mined from countless telephone calls and emails by U.S. citizens.

His leak opened the door on a vast secret agency many Americans have never heard of, but his resume made them further wonder who is minding the store.

The National Security Agency is the largest of the major intelligence agencies, bigger than the FBI or CIA.

"The NSA has two missions," said James Lewis, the director of the Technology and Public Policy Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. "They collect signal intelligence and they defend U.S. government computer systems from attack."

Basically, they are computer nerds. NSA agents crack codes, which allow the government to intercept and read communications, and create codes to protect U.S. secrets.

The agency's precursor was a World War I group of naval intelligence officers called the "Black Chamber" charged with intercepting diplomatic telegrams. In 1929, then Secretary of State Henry Stimson shut down the office of code breakers, famously saying "Gentlemen don't read other gentlemen's mail."

By World War II, the agency was up and running and by the 1970s, U.S. spies had perfected the science of intercepting a few hundred foreign messages annually, each read by a human analyst, Lewis said.

Digital technology changed everything, exponentially adding to the data that needed to be reviewed. The threat from non-state actors, like terrorist groups, only added to the burden.

In the wake of 9/11, the NSA expanded the scope of the communications it would collect and review. The agency is completing a $1.2 billion data farm located in the Utah desert in which thousands of computers will collect information from billions of pieces of communication, according to government reports.

All of the intelligence agencies, including the NSA, also began hiring contractors, like Snowden, to help carry some of that new load.

Like contracted mercenaries hired to fight the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, intelligence contractors were given access to government information and resources.

"There are millions of contractors inside the nation's intelligence agencies," said Angela Canterbury, director of public policy at the Project on Government Oversight. "The U.S. intelligence community is rife with outsourcing."

A 2010 Washington Post report found "close to 30 percent of the workforce in the intelligence agencies is contractors."

Friday, June 7, 2013

DHS forced to release list of social network keywords

The Department of Homeland Security has been forced to release a list of keywords and phrases it uses to monitor social networking sites and online media for signs of terrorist or other threats against the U.S.

The intriguing the list includes obvious choices such as 'attack', 'Al Qaeda', 'terrorism' and 'dirty bomb' alongside dozens of seemingly innocent words like 'pork', 'cloud', 'team' and 'Mexico'.

Released under a freedom of information request, the information sheds new light on how government analysts are instructed to patrol the internet searching for domestic and external threats.

The words are included in the department's 2011 'Analyst's Desktop Binder' used by workers at their National Operations Center which instructs workers to identify 'media reports that reflect adversely on DHS and response activities'.

Department chiefs were forced to release the manual following a House hearing over documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit which revealed how analysts monitor social networks and media organisations for comments that 'reflect adversely' on the government.

However they insisted the practice was aimed not at policing the internet for disparaging remarks about the government and signs of general dissent, but to provide awareness of any potential threats.

As well as terrorism, analysts are instructed to search for evidence of unfolding natural disasters, public health threats and serious crimes such as mall/school shootings, major drug busts, illegal immigrant busts.

The list has been posted online by the Electronic Privacy Information Center - a privacy watchdog group who filed a request under the Freedom of Information Act before suing to obtain the release of the documents.

In a letter to the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Counter-terrorism and Intelligence, the centre described the choice of words as 'broad, vague and ambiguous'.

Read the full keywords and phrases list and the rest of this article HERE: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2150281/REVEALED-Hundreds-words-avoid-using-online-dont-want-government-spying-you.html#ixzz2VYhizXa0
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Thursday, June 6, 2013

NSA "PRISM" program secretly gathering information for nearly six years

WASHINGTON NYTIMES:  — The federal government has been secretly gathering information from the nation’s largest Internet companies going back nearly six years — including Google, Facebook and, most recently, Apple — according to documents that emerged on Thursday. A senior government official confirmed the program, but said it targeted only foreigners abroad.

While the data provided varies according to the online provider, it could include e-mail, chat services, videos, photos, stored data, file transfers, video conferencing and logins — according to an apparently highly classified document describing the National Security Agency program called Prism.

The program is authorized under law and was recently reauthorized by Congress, said the senior official, who said it minimizes the collection and retention of information “incidentally acquired” about Americans and permanent residents. Several of the Internet companies issued statements strongly denying knowledge of or participation in the program.

“The law does not allow the targeting of any U.S. citizen or of any person located within the United States,” said the official, who insisted on anonymity to discuss a highly classified program. “Information collected under this program is among the most important and valuable intelligence information we collect, and is used to protect our nation from a wide variety of threats.”

But the disclosure of the documents by American and British newspapers came just hours after government officials acknowledged a separate seven-year effort to sweep up records of telephone calls inside the United States. Together, the unfolding disclosures opened an extraordinary window into the growth of government surveillance that began under the Bush administration after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and has clearly been embraced and even expanded under the Obama administration.

The extraordinary revelations, in rapid succession, also suggested that someone with access to high-level intelligence secrets had decided to unveil them in the midst of furor over leak investigations. Both were reported by Britain’s Guardian newspaper, while The Washington Post, relying upon the same presentation, simultaneously reported the Internet company tapping. The Post said a disenchanted intelligence official provided it with the documents to expose government overreach.

Before the disclosure of the alleged Internet company surveillance program late Thursday, the White House and Congressional leaders defended the phone program, saying it was legal and necessary to protect national security.

Josh Earnest, a White House spokesman, told reporters aboard Air Force One that the kind of surveillance at issue “has been a critical tool in protecting the nation from terror threats as it allows counterterrorism personnel to discover whether known or suspected terrorists have been in contact with other persons who may be engaged in terrorist activities, particularly people located inside the United States.” He added: “The president welcomes a discussion of the trade-offs between security and civil liberties.”

The Guardian and The Post posted several slides from the 41-page presentation about the Internet program, listing the companies involved — which included Yahoo, Microsoft, Paytalk, AOL, Skype and YouTube — and the dates they joined the program, as well as listing the types of information collected under the program.

The N.S.A. and other government agencies declined to comment about the disclosures. The possibility of a broad government sweep of domestic telephone data in pursuit of potential terrorists has long been suspected by civil liberties advocates and even hinted at by members of Congress. But the public disclosure of a secret court order confirmed it in a more concrete way than ever before.

The reports came as President Obama was traveling to meet President Xi Jinping of China at an estate in Southern California, a meeting intended to address among other things complaints about Chinese cyberattacks and spying. Now that conversation will take place amid discussion of America’s own vast surveillance operations on its own citizens.

Watch The Spy Factory on PBS. See more from NOVA.


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