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ACLU's Blog of Rights: Edward Snowden – This Saturday, Demand an End to the Surveillance State
Stop Watching Us Rally Berlin, July 2013
Image via aktion-freiheitstattangst.org
Tomorrow, the Stop Watching Us coalition is organizing a large protest in Washington, DC, demanding that the federal government stop the NSA surveillance programs. GAP client and NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake will be speaking, along with Rep. Justin Amash (R-Wi), security technologist Bruce Schneier, former Governor Gary Johnson, former Congressman Dennis Kucinich, and many others. Ahead of this rally, NSA surveillance whistleblower Edward Snowden has released a public statement of support through the ACLU, disputing Senator Dianne Feinstein's (D-Ca) stance that NSA spying is not surveillance.
Snowden's statement reads:
In the last four months, we've learned a lot about our government.
We've learned that the U.S. intelligence community secretly built a system of pervasive surveillance. Today, no telephone in America makes a call without leaving a record with the NSA. Today, no internet transaction enters or leaves America without passing through the NSA's hands. Our representatives in Congress tell us this is not surveillance. They're wrong.
Now it's time for the government to learn from us. On Saturday, the ACLU, EFF, and the rest of the StopWatching.Us coalition are going to D.C. Join us in sending the message: Stop Watching Us.
Related Article: US News & World Report
The Guardian: NSA Monitored Calls of 35 World Leaders after US Official Handed Over Contacts
The latest blockbuster disclosure from Snowden details how the NSA monitored the phone conversations of 35 world leaders after obtaining their phone numbers from officials at the White House, Department of State, and the Pentagon. The explosive findings are detailed in an NSA memo, which also reveals that the “eavesdropping” on the phone numbers yielded "little reportable intelligence."
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Reuters: Germany Says U.S. May Have Monitored Merkel’s Phone
The German government has reportedly obtained information showing that the NSA bugged Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cell phone, a charge that immediately made Merkel call President Obama to demand a clarification. At the White House, spokesman Jay Carney said that the U.S. "is not monitoring and will not monitor" Merkel’s phone, but dodged a question on whether or not such monitoring had taken place in the past.
Related Articles: New York Times, The Guardian, USA Today
ProPublica: Claim on “Attacks Thwarted” by NSA Spreads Despite Lack of Evidence
This piece challenges the oft-repeated sound bite used by intelligence officials and President Obama to justify the NSA surveillance programs – namely that more than 50 attacks have been thwarted because of information obtained. The article points out that “It's impossible to assess the role NSA surveillance played in the 54 cases because, while the agency has provided a full list to Congress, it remains classified” while also noting that “officials have openly discussed only a few of the cases (see below), and the agency has identified only one.”
The piece also lists the four-publicly known terrorist-related episodes the NSA has claimed the surveillance programs helped foil, and details three of them with findings showing the surveillance programs weren’t necessarily required.
Key Quote: Earlier this month, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., pressed Alexander on the issue at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.
“Would you agree that the 54 cases that keep getting cited by the administration were not all plots, and of the 54, only 13 had some nexus to the U.S.?” Leahy said at the hearing. “Would you agree with that, yes or no?”
“Yes,” Alexander replied, without elaborating.
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New York Times: New Leaks, New Repercussions
In the wake of more disclosures from NSA surveillance whistleblower Edward Snowden – namely the French surveillance issue – this masthead editorial from the New York Times states that “the very scale of America’s clandestine electronic operations appears to be undercutting America’s ‘soft power’ — its ability to influence global affairs through example and moral leadership.”
In news related to the French affair, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper has called the Le Monde report “misleading.” He told the Associated Press that the French newspaper's reporting "contain[s] inaccurate and misleading information regarding U.S. foreign intelligence activities." Clapper also stated "The allegation that the National Security Agency collected more than 70 million 'recordings of French citizens' telephone data' is false.” It must be noted that Clapper intentionally lied in his testimony before the U.S. Senate about these NSA activities in March, months prior to the initial Snowden disclosures.
Le Monde is standing by its story.
TechNewsWorld: Strong Encryption, Natural Language Search Make Potent Cocktail
The Freedom of the Press Foundation launch of SecureDrop – technology that will give whistleblowers a safe online place to communicate sensitive information to news outlets – is coming at a critical time for those seeking to get the truth out. Many are speculating that the launch of SecureDrop has to do with the Obama administration’s notorious crackdown on revealers of state secrets.
Key Quote: "It's worse than all other administrations in terms of national security whistleblowing," Louis Clark, president of the Government Accountability Project, told TechNewsWorld.
"I think it's the best administration in terms of corporate whistleblowers," he continued. "So it's a schizophrenic administration."
In the current agency climate technologies like SecureDrop have become a necessity for whistleblowers, Clark noted.
"The treatment of whistleblowers has angered some people in the national security agencies," he said. "Whistleblowers feel like they have nowhere to go in their agencies, and when that happens, there's no place they can go except for the public if they want to raise their concerns."
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Washington Post: Richard Cohen – Edward Snowden is No Traitor
Prominent and widely-distributed columnist Richard Cohen has admitted that he was incorrect in his initial judgment of NSA surveillance whistleblower Edward Snowden. Cohen claimed in June that the computer expert was not really a whistleblower, also calling him “ridiculously cinematic” and “narcissistic.” In this column, which has run in several major newspapers, Cohen writes “my judgments were just plain wrong.” He goes on to say that Snowden:
a.) is not a traitor,
b.) “has bent over backward to ensure that the information he has divulged has done as little damage as possible,”
c.) has resisted selling out in any way,
d.) is staying in Russia because it “has been forced upon him,”
e.) has “been careful with his info,” and
f.) that he has “instigated a worthwhile debate.”
GAP welcomes the change of heart from Cohen, having supported Snowden as a whistleblower since the disclosures about NSA surveillance first began in June. GAP has released a statement outlining exactly what makes Snowden a whistleblower here, and also responding to the Espionage Act charges against him here.
CTV News Channel: Spying on Allies
In related news, GAP National Security & Human Rights Director Jesselyn Radack appeared on 24-hour Canadian News channel CTV yesterday to discuss the French citizen surveillance revelations.
Key Quote: I think as with many of Mr. Snowden’s allegations, the sheer mass dragnet surveillance of an entire population that’s completely innocent is really beyond the pale. Of course other countries spy on each other and even on allies but in one year collecting 760.3 million communications of perfectly innocent French citizens is not necessary for the national security of the United States.
Huffington Post: Walter Tamosaitis, Hanford Site Whistleblower – ‘I Was Fired Because I Raised Nuclear Safety Issues’
More on 44-year employee Walt Tamosaitis of URS Corp. – a subcontractor for the Hanford Nuclear Site – who was laid off earlier this month after he repeatedly raised concerns about unsafe building plans for a radioactive waste treatment plant in 2011. Though his concerns were validated and the poor safety practices of the Hanford site are notorious, the whistleblower was ostracized and eventually lost his job.
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Der Spiegel: Fresh Leak on US Spying – NSA Accessed Mexican President’s Email
Another disclosure from NSA surveillance whistleblower Edward Snowden has revealed that the US has been eavesdropping on the Mexican government for years – in particular former President Felipe Calderon, whose email messages have been targeted. According to the report, the spying has allowed for “deep insight into policymaking and the political system.” An NSA division for “particularly difficult missions” called the “Tailored Access Operations” handled the operation. The Mexican foreign ministry has responded that the program “is unacceptable, illegitimate and against Mexican and international law."
In related news, today Le Monde published another big revelation from Snowden disclosures – that the NSA has been engaged in widespread phone surveillance of French citizens. Glenn Greenwald co-wrote this article. The report claims that during a 30 day period from late 2012 to early 2013, the NSA recorded 70.3 million French phone calls. France is demanding answers from the US.
Finally, The Guardian – which unleashed the initial Snowden documents – has won two online journalism awards for its coverage of the NSA programs.
Tech Crunch: WikiLeaks in a Box – Secure Drop is Whistleblower Communication Tool for Media
In light of the NSA's expansive surveillance programs, SecureDrop – launched this month by the Freedom of the Press Foundation but developed initially by the late hacktivist Aaron Swartz – seeks to relay encrypted documents from whistleblower sources via safe and confidential channels to journalists. According to the article, the program has been updated to account for recent NSA spying operations.
Related Articles: Time
CBS: Nuclear Waste Whistleblower Now Out of a Job
Walt Tamosaitis – a long-time scientist at the Hanford nuclear site who was permanently laid off this month after years of raising concerns about a building project – will take his case of wrongful termination to court next month. Hanford has been under intense scrutiny by federal and local oversight bodies for decades, as investigations have validated Tamosaitis’s concerns. The subcontractor where Tamosaitis worked for over forty years, URS Corp, is unwilling to go into details about the layoff. The whistleblower has been a featured speaker on GAP’s American Whistleblower Tour stops at Whitman College and Portland State University in the past.
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New York Times: Snowden Says He Took No Secret Files to Russia
The New York Times' James Risen has conducted an “extensive interview” with Snowden, in which the whistleblower reveals several key points about his actions. These include:
• He took no secret NSA documents with him to Russia
• He gave all classified documents to journalists in Hong Kong, and he has no copies
• He protected such documents from the Chinese, as he was already intimately familiar with that country’s intelligence abilities
• He has never considered defecting to another country
• His decision to become a whistleblower was one that was made gradually, dating back to working for the CIA. He believes that working through the chain-of-command would have led to retaliation. According to Snowden, this belief was buttressed by the treatment of GAP client and whistleblower Tom Drake, who was charged with Espionage by the Obama administration for helping to reveal a program that sacrificed Americans' security and privacy, and was laden with massive waste.
• He decided to act after finding a 2009 classified IG report on the Geroge W. Bush administration warrantless wiretapping program. After reading the document and realizing that programs were illegal, he thought ‘If the highest officials in government can break the law without fearing punishment or even any repercussions at all ... secret powers become tremendously dangerous.’
Key Quote: “In the interview, he said he believed he was a whistle-blower who was acting in the nation’s best interests by revealing information about the N.S.A.’s surveillance dragnet and huge collections of communications data, including that of Americans.
He argued that he had helped American national security by prompting a badly needed public debate about the scope of the intelligence effort. “The secret continuance of these programs represents a far greater danger than their disclosure,” he said. He added that he had been more concerned that Americans had not been told about the N.S.A.’s reach than he was about any specific surveillance operation.
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Prominent National Security Whistleblowers Coming to FIU
On Oct. 24, GAP’s American Whistleblower Tour will make a stop in Miami at Florida International University (FIU) for a discussion of national security and surveillance issues with two whistleblowers who met last week with Edward Snowden in Russia. NSA whistleblower Thomas Drake and DOJ whistleblower Jesselyn Radack were part of a coalition of whistleblowers that presented NSA surveillance whistleblower Snowden with the Sam Adams prize – awarded to intelligence workers who exhibit outstanding integrity in their jobs. At FIU, they will share their stories and take questions from an audience of students, faculty and interested members of the public.
Drake was a senior official at the NSA who used internal channels to disclose serious wrongdoing about a data collection program that was overly costly, ineffective and unconstitutional. He was prosecuted under the Espionage Act and the case against him collapsed in 2011. Radack served as an Ethics Advisor at the Department of Justice in 2001, when she advised FBI agents against illegally interrogating so-named “American Taliban” John Walker Lindh. She is now GAP’s National Security & Human Rights Director.
Washington Post: Documents Reveal NSA’s Extensive Involvement in Targeted Killing Program
The latest explosive revelation from the Snowden disclosures details how the CIA relies heavily on NSA programs in carrying out its drone assassination program. The article illustrates how an al Qaeda operative was killed by a CIA drone strike days after the NSA was able to collect information on him from emails.
In related news, NSA head Keith Alexander is expected to retire by March or April of next year, while his deputy, John Inglis, will leave in the next couple of months.