Snowden Reveals NSA Program Described as 'Last Straw' Before Leak

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Snowden tells investigative journalist James Bamford that NSA was behind 2012 internet blackout in Syria

Published on Wednesday, August 13, 2014 by Common Dreams by Lauren McCauley, staff writer

In an in-depth interview published by Wired Magazine on Wednesday, Edward Snowden discloses what government activities proved to be the "last straw," prompting the whistleblower to expose the depths of the National Security Agency's secret surveillance operation.

Speaking with investigative journalist James Bamford—who blew the whistle on a government eavesdropping program when stationed in Hawaii during the Vietnam War and later wrote a number of best-selling books about government secrecy and the NSA—Snowden reveals how a botched U.S. government hacking operation caused Syria's 2012 internet blackout.

Bamford writes:

One day an intelligence officer told him that TAO—a division of NSA hackers—had attempted in 2012 to remotely install an exploit in one of the core routers at a major Internet service provider in Syria, which was in the midst of a prolonged civil war. This would have given the NSA access to email and other Internet traffic from much of the country. But something went wrong, and the router was bricked instead—rendered totally inoperable. The failure of this router caused Syria to suddenly lose all connection to the Internet—although the public didn't know that the US government was responsible.

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The Feinstein Syndrome: “The Fourth Amendment for Me, But Not for Thee”

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by Norman Solomon

Who knows, soon we might see headlines and cable TV shows asking: "Is Dianne Feinstein a whistleblower or a traitor?"

A truthful answer to that question could not possibly be “whistleblower.” It may already be a historic fact that Senator Feinstein’s speech on March 11, 2014 blew a whistle on CIA surveillance of the Senate intelligence committee, which she chairs. But if that makes her a whistleblower, then Colonel Sanders is a vegetarian evangelist.

In her blockbuster Tuesday speech on the Senate floor, Feinstein charged that the CIA’s intrusions on her committee’s computers quite possibly “violated the Fourth Amendment.” You know, that’s the precious amendment that Feinstein—more than any other senator—has powerfully treated like dirt, worthy only of sweeping under the congressional rug.

A tidy defender of the NSA’s Orwellian programs, Feinstein went on the attack against Edward Snowden from the outset of his revelations last June. Within days, she denounced his brave whistleblowing as “an act of treason”—a position she has maintained.

Snowden and other genuine whistleblowers actually take risks to defend the civil liberties and human rights of others, including the most vulnerable among us. Real whistleblowers choose to expose serious wrongdoing. And, if applicable, they renounce their own past complicity in doing those wrongs.

Dianne Feinstein remains in a very different place. She’s 180 degrees from a whistleblower orientation; her moral compass is magnetized with solipsism as a leading guardian of the surveillance state.

This week, Feinstein stepped forward to tweak her tap dance—insisting that intrusive surveillance, so vile when directed at her and colleagues with august stature, must only be directed at others.

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Western Spy Agencies Infiltrating, Warping World Of Online Activism

 

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Latest Snowden documents show extent to which GCHQ has gone to 'manipulate, deceive, and destroy reputations' of online targets
By February 26, 2014 CommonDreams.org

According to newly published documents, Western spy agencies like the GCHQ and NSA have developed sophisticated online operations in which covert agents infiltrate online communities, networks and forums in order to “manipulate, deceive”—even destroy the reputations of—targeted individuals and groups even if those people have not be charged, or necessarily accused, of a crime.

“Who would possibly trust a government to exercise these powers at all, let alone do so in secret, with virtually no oversight, and outside of any cognizable legal framework?”

—Glenn Greenwald

Building on his previous reporting about so-called “dirty tricks” used by GCHQ to ensare, trap, and discredit online hacktivists and other digital networks, journalist Glenn Greenwald late Monday published a new series of internal agency slides—leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden—which show how a special unit, called JTRIG (Joint Threat Research Intelligence Group), has attempted “to control, infiltrate, manipulate, and warp online discourse” for its own ends. In so doing, writes Greenwald, these operations are disrupting “the integrity of the internet itself.”

Using sophisticated psychological templates, the slides show how the intelligence service believes it can use subversion to disrupt online networks by using various tactics, of which Greenwald descibes two as key: “(1)to inject all sorts of false material onto the internet in order to destroy the reputation of its targets; and (2)to use social sciences and other techniques to manipulate online discourse and activism to generate outcomes it considers desirable.”

In just one example, a slide titled “Disruption” offers a playbook for some of the tactics used to discredit a target. Those possible tactics include: infiltration, false flag, false rescue, and sting operations.

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Cut a Deal for the Whistleblower: NYT Goes to Bat for Snowden

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Published on Thursday, January 2, 2014 by Common Dreams - Jon Queally, staff writer

'Considering the enormous value of the information he has revealed, and the abuses he has exposed, Mr. Snowden deserves better than a life of permanent exile, fear and flight.'

Taking a break from being a sometimes mouthpiece for the National Security Agency or acting in a too deferential manner towards government claims, the New York Times Editorial Board on Tuesday took a strikingly clear position on the case of former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden by declaring his leaks of internal NSA documents the act of a "whistle-blower" and called on the United States to offer him "a plea bargain or some form of clemency that would allow him to return home" without the threat of decades or life in prison.

"Considering the enormous value of the information he has revealed, and the abuses he has exposed, Mr. Snowden deserves better than a life of permanent exile, fear and flight," the editorial states. "He may have committed a crime to do so, but he has done his country a great service."

Though progressive supporters have considered Snowden a whistleblower from the outset—an argument his defenders see bolstered by each successive revelation—the weight of the New York Times Editorial Board makes the development significant in terms of wider public opinion and in the halls of more elite power where the paper holds sway.

To defend its call for clemency or a plea agreement, the Times argues that "Mr. Snowden was clearly justified in believing that the only way to blow the whistle on this kind of intelligence-gathering was to expose it to the public" and cataloged "just a few" of the violations by the NSA his revelations brought to light and some of the legal challenges they've already provoked:

■ The N.S.A. broke federal privacy laws, or exceeded its authority, thousands of times per year, according to the agency’s own internal auditor.

■ The agency broke into the communications links of major data centers around the world, allowing it to spy on hundreds of millions of user accounts and infuriating the Internet companies that own the centers. Many of those companies are now scrambling to install systems that the N.S.A. cannot yet penetrate.

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Beyond Criminals & Terrorists: NSA/GCHQ Targeted Humanitarian Groups

GCHQ and NSA targeted charities, Germans, Israeli PM and EU chief

by James Ball and Nick Hopkins

British and American intelligence agencies had a comprehensive list of surveillance targets that included the EU's competition commissioner, German government buildings in Berlin and overseas, and the heads of institutions that provide humanitarian and financial help to Africa, top-secret documents reveal.

The details of GCHQ and NSA targets are the latest revelations from documents leaked by Edward Snowden. (Photograph: Guardian)The papers show GCHQ, in collaboration with America's National Security Agency (NSA), was targeting organisations such as the United Nations development programme, the UN's children's charity Unicef and Médecins du Monde, a French organisation that provides doctors and medical volunteers to conflict zones. The head of the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) also appears in the documents, along with text messages he sent to colleagues.

The latest disclosures will add to Washington's embarrassment after the heavy criticism of the NSA when it emerged that it had been tapping the mobile phone of the German chancellor, Angela Merkel.

One GCHQ document, drafted in January 2009, makes clear that the agencies were targeting an email address listed as belonging to another important American ally – the "Israeli prime minister". Ehud Olmert was in office at the time.

Three further Israeli targets appeared on GCHQ documents, including another email address understood to have been used to send messages between the then Israeli defence minister, Ehud Barak, and his chief of staff, Yoni Koren.

Prominent names that appear in the GCHQ documents include Joaquín Almunia, a Spaniard who is vice-president of the European commission with responsibility for competition policy.

Britain's targeting of Germany may also prove awkward for the prime minister, David Cameron: in October, he endorsed an EU statement condemning NSA spying on world leaders, including Merkel.

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