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The Guardian: NSA and GCHQ Target Tor Network that Protects Anonymity of Web Users
The latest disclosures from NSA surveillance whistleblower Edward Snowden reveal that the agency has repeatedly attempted to attack a specific software program, Tor, that aims to protect online anonymity for its users. The attacks come “despite the fact the software is primarily funded and promoted by the US government itself.”
The new disclosures reveal that the NSA faces several problems in cracking Tor, and that the software may be relatively effective against decryption efforts. But the releases show the agency tries to break into Tor users’ computers in multiple ways, including targeting “the Firefox web browser used with Tor, giving the agency full control over targets' computers, including access to files, all keystrokes and all online activity.”
Cybersecurity activist Bruce Schneier, who is listed as an author on this article (along with Glenn Greenwald), also penned a corresponding opinion piece for The Guardian arguing that the NSA revelations from the past several months show that by turning the Internet into a “massive surveillance tool,” the agency is “making us all less safe, because its eavesdropping mission is degrading its ability to protect the US.”
Associated Press: Snowden Documents Show Canada Spied on Brazil’s Mining and Energy Sector – Report
Glenn Greenwald also contributed to a report coming out of Brazil (from Globo) stating that the Canadians have targeted Brazil’s “Mines and Energy Ministry.” The report is based on disclosures from Snowden. The disclosure makes Canada the third reported country to be spying on Brazil, after the US and Britain.
Whistleblower protections and issues at the United Nations don’t get nearly the amount of media attention they should. Whistleblower disclosures involving UN peacekeeping missions get even less. So, when a new report is to be published that looks into these important topics, GAP takes notice. Transparency International UK is distributing a report on this very topic next week.
The report, Corruption & Peacekeeping: Strengthening Peacekeeping and the United Nations, is due out next Wednesday. GAP's International program has long advocated on behalf of UN whistleblowers and supported strengthening the internal justice system. Since late 2012, we've made strides in advocating for better peacekeeper/whistleblower treatment. We represented UN peacekeeping operations whistleblower James Wasserstrom on advocacy issues (who's also been consulted on for the upcoming report), brought film protagonist Kathryn Bolkovac to speak to University of Houston-Clear Lake students on our American Whistleblower Tour, and released our own report detailing how the UN Justice System allows serious wrongdoing in the peacekeeping missions to continue (actual report here: Tipping the Scales: Is the United Nations Justice System Promoting Accountability in the Peacekeeping Missions or Undermining It?).
GAP International program staff looks forward to reviewing the report and commenting on it next week.
Dylan Blaylock is Communications Director for the Government Accountability Project, the nation's leading whistleblower protection and advocacy organization.
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In a recent blog post, GAP sister organization POGO (the Project on Government Oversight) raises an excellent point that's getting lost in all the media coverage of the federal government shutdown. The Office of Special Counsel – the agency charged with investigating whistleblower disclosures and providing strong protections for those who speak the truth in the workplace – has closed its doors, except for a few employees who will be monitoring disclosures that might reveal "a substantial and serious risk to public health or safety or those requiring emergency action to protect property." So, a skeleton staff over at the OSC isn't going to be handling new or existing intakes that may involve gross fraud or other types of corruption and wrongdoing. This is unacceptable.
You'd think that accountability – in this case, malfeasance involving the federal government – should be a protected pillar of government funding. Polls certainly indicate that protecting whistleblowers in government is a no-brainer. Alas, during the length of the shutdown, it looks like a maximum of 14 employees (out of 110) are retained at the OSC offices across the country. Let's hear it for 12.7% accountability of government activities!
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Los Angeles Times: Company Fires Scientist Who Warned of Hanford Waste Site Problems
A new report from the Energy Department’s Inspector General shows that Bechtel – the firm behind the minimum $12+ billion waste-treatment project at the Hanford Nuclear Site in Washington state – has been obtaining important parts without subjecting the purchases to required quality assurance standards. This is an essential step to insure that Hanford's vitrification plant – which mixes glass with highly radioactive nuclear waste – will operate safely in the future. The Hanford cleanup project has long been shrouded in notorious scandal involving safety lapses, causing years of delay and billions of overspent dollars.
Hanford is the most contaminated environmental site in the country, and GAP has been involved in holding firms like Bechtel accountable for years. GAP spin-off Hanford Challenge does just that. The most recent Hanford controversy was a report from earlier this year that 177 underground storage tanks are leaking toxic waste. In 2006, GAP released documents from whistleblowers showing that Bechtel knowingly installed a defective major plant component in order to receive a $15 million bonus for hitting an installation deadline.
The recent report only comes as further vindication for Walt Tamosaitis, a featured speaker on GAP’s American Whistleblower Tour who warned repeatedly of design flaws in the Bechtel waste treatment facility at Hanford. Unfortunately, after 44 years of working for a Hanford contrator, San Francisco-based URS which oversees much of the facility production at the site, Tamosaitis lost his job on Wednesday. The action comes as a final blow of retaliation for a senior scientist that once directed a staff of 100 workers and has slowly been demoted for speaking out about safety concerns at the plant. With Tamosaitis gone and reports concerning the hazardous wrongdoing at the facility still pouring out, hope for real accountability within the nuclear industry is dwindling.
Key Quote: But Tom Carpenter, executive director of Hanford Challenge, a watchdog group that assisted a number of whistle-blowers at the federal complex, said the dismissal was "clearly another act of retribution against Walter Tamosaitis."
Tamosaitis was among several Hanford complex managers who raised concerns about the safety culture. The Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board, an independent federal agency that oversees the nuclear weapons complex, raised its own concerns about similar issues and in 2011 backed up Tamosaitis' concerns. On Thursday, Tamosaitis, 66, said he was unsure what he would do next.
"I enjoyed working and trying to do something for the country," he said. "They killed my career. It sends a message to everybody else that they shouldn't raise issues. Forty-four years of service, a PhD, a recognized expert in nuclear engineering — none of that mattered."
PogoBlog: Open Government Closed Watchdogs Shut Out
This article comments on all of the federal outlets of government oversight that usually work to protect whistleblowers, but are currently inaccessible due to the government shutdown. Besides a skeleton crew working on limited disclosures at the Office of Special Counsel (the agency responsible for investigating whistleblower disclosures and protecting truth-tellers), the Merit Systems Protection Board, Department of Defense Office of Inspector General, and Government Accountability Office are all sitting on cases looking into fraud, waste and abuse for the time being.
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New York Times: In Test Project, NSA Tracked Cellphone Locations
Sen Wyden (D - Or)
In 2010 and 2011, the NSA conducted a data collection program that sought the location of Americans, apparently relying on information from cellphone towers. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper confirmed this at a Senate hearing yesterday, saying that the “data was not used for any other purpose” than to test the ability of its systems, adding that the NSA planned to notify Congress before any location data was collected. According to agency officials, the NSA never moved ahead with such a program. An agency official commented that it was uncertain how many Americans’ locational data was picked up as a result of the test project and whether that data exists within the grasp of the NSA today.
Senator Ron Wyden (D-Or) has asserted that Clapper is misleading the public on this issue. Senator Wyden famously questioned Clapper on the privacy violations of the NSA in March long before the disclosures from NSA surveillance whistleblower Edward Snowden would prove the senator’s assertions correct.
Key Quote: But Senator Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat who receives classified briefings as a member of the Intelligence Committee and who has raised concerns about cellphone location tracking, said in a statement that there was more to know about the matter than the government had now declassified.
“After years of stonewalling on whether the government has ever tracked or planned to track the location of law-abiding Americans through their cellphones, once again, the intelligence leadership has decided to leave most of the real story secret — even when the truth would not compromise national security,” Mr. Wyden said
Related Article: The Guardian
The Guardian: Lavabit Founder Raises $20,000 to Fund Court Battle
Ladar Levinson – the owner of Lavabit, the encrypted email service that NSA surveillance whistleblower Edward Snowden used, which Levinson himself shut down rather than comply with a government order to keep it open and share information – has raised $20,000 for his defense.
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MarineTimes: Marine Commandant’s Lawyer: Whistleblower’s Email a Red Flag After Navy Yard Massacre
A senior Marine Corps adviser is defending last week’s decision to fire an officer who filed a complaint with the Department of Defense IG, saying the “bizarre” whistleblower complaint raised concerns for the safety of his clients in the aftermath of the Navy Yard shooting. The whistleblower complaint alleged that top military brass intervened in legal proceedings to protect their own during the scandal that involved various Marines urinating on the bodies of Taliban soldiers. The officer’s firing was the final action taken in a series of retaliatory measures since his complaint had been filed.
NSA whistleblower J. Kirk Wiebe Testifies Before EU Committee
GAP client and NSA whistleblower J. Kirk Wiebe joined fellow client and whistleblower Tom Drake and GAP National Security & Human Rights Director Jesselyn Radack in giving a statement at the EU Parliament Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) Monday condemning the actions of the NSA and offering words of warning for all EU citizens. A video of Wiebe reading his statement from Washington can be found here.
Financial Times: CFTC Scrambles to Protect Whistleblower’s Identity
Lawyers for the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) accidentally revealed the identity of a key whistleblower in the case against London-based Arcadia Petroleum dealing with a 2008 oil price spike. The firm is accused of creating a false impression of oil scarcity through misconduct surrounding oil tanks in Oklahoma, which were filled and emptied rapidly in 2008 to manipulate futures prices and boost immediate profits. If the CFTC is not successful in protecting insider identities, it could have dire implications for future whistleblowers in the industry.
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New York Times: Message Said to be from Edward Snowden Read to European Parliament Rights Panel
Yesterday, GAP National Security & Human Rights Director Jesselyn Radack, along with GAP clients and NSA whistleblowers Tom Drake and J. Kirk Wiebe, testified to a committee of the European Parliament about the impact of NSA surveillance on EU citizens.
Radack read a direct statement from NSA surveillance whistleblower Edward Snowden, in which he stated "when I began my work, it was with the sole intention of making possible the debate we see occurring here in this body and in many other bodies around the world." Snowden called the mass surveillance of whole populations “the greatest human rights challenge of our time” and eloquently emphasized the importance of creativity and curiosity for the continued success of developed and developing nations and most importantly the privacy that is necessary that creativity to occur.
A video of that statement can be watched here.
Videos of Drake reading his statement, and Wiebe reading his can also be found on the GAP blog.
Key Quote: (New York Times): Ms. Radack, who works for the Government Accountability Project, a Washington-based advocacy group, said by telephone from Brussels on Tuesday that the Snowden case showed the importance of credible government oversight bodies where whistle-blowers could turn. “When government bodies are functioning the way they are supposed to, whistle-blowers are willing to go through them,” she said.
The hearing was also attended by Thomas A. Drake, a former senior executive at the N.S.A. who leaked information to the media in 2006 about wasteful government spending and alleged snooping on American citizens.
He told the committee that the N.S.A. was “not just eavesdropping on all Americans and building the architecture for a police state in the U.S., it has created the largest set of mass surveillance programs in the history of the world.”
Related Articles: The Guardian, Fire Dog Lake, ARS Technica, Help-Net Security, Info Security Magazine