Stories Around The World
(1) Last week it was revealed that Belgium's largest telecom, Belgacom, was the victim of a massive hacking attack which systematically compromised its system for as long as two years. Media outlets suspected that the NSA was behind it, and the country's Prime Minister condemned the attack as a "violation of a public company's integrity."
But last week, using documents obtained from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, Laura Poitras and other der Spiegel journalists reported in that paper that it was the GCHQ, Britain's intelligence agency, that was behind the attack on its ally. According to that report, the attack was carried out by targeting individual engineers at the telecom with malware that allowed GCHQ agents to "own" their computer and thus exploit their access to the telecommunications system.
It's worth remembering that as the US and UK run around the world protesting the hacking activities of others and warning of the dangers of cyber-attacks, that duo is one of the most aggressive and malicious, if not the most aggressive and malicious, perpetrators of those attacks of anyone on the planet. As Slate's Ryan Gallagher put it in a typically excellent analysis of this report:
Nobody hacks as prolifically and aggressively as the two countries who most vocally warn of the dangers of hacking.
(2) Along with reporter Shobhan Saxena, I have an article this morning in the Indian daily The Hindu revealing that "in the overall list of countries spied on by NSA programs, India stands at fifth place, with billions of pieces of information plucked from its telephone and internet networks just in 30 days."
(3) The report on which I worked for the Brazilian television program Fantastico, regarding the NSA's targeting of the oil company Petrobras, received attention in Latin America and elsewhere primarily because it gave the lie to the repeated claim of US officials that its electronic surveillance is devoted only to national security and counter-terrorism and not to industrial and commercial espionage. But several of the documents we published detail some rather extreme NSA and GCHQ tactics of deception, including taking on the identity of Google to launch "man in the middle attacks" on unsuspecting internet users.
(4) The New York Times had a quite good editorial yesterday on the domestic dangers posed by the NSA's efforts to break internet encryption. The Editorial details numerous ways that we have learned that the NSA jeopardizes the privacy rights of Americans and the security of the internet, and calls for serious limits on the NSA's hacking powers. Are there really people who can read that and think to themselves: I sure do wish Edward Snowden had let us remain ignorant about all of this?
(5) There has long been a glaring contradiction at the heart of the case for the NSA made by its apologists (the most devoted of whom, as of January 20, 2009, are Democrats). They insist that the NSA's spying activities are legal and constitutional (even though a 2011 FISA court opinion - released only in the wake of the last three months of scandal - found the opposite). But the real contradiction is that there have been almost no rulings on the legality or constitutionality of these spying laws and the activities conducted under them because the Obama DOJ - exactly like the Bush DOJ before it - repeatedly raised claims of standing and secrecy to prevent any such adjudication (the Obama DOJ relied on the five right-wing Supreme Court justices to win that argument earlier this year and prevent any constitutional or legal challenge to their domestic surveillance program).
Yet now, as the Hill reports, those arguments used by the DOJ to prevent judicial rulings are being gutted by all of the revelations in the wake of Snowden-enabled reporting. The Hill article quotes the ACLU's Alex Abdo as follows:
Does anyone disagree with that? Is there anyone who thinks things were better pre-Snowden when the DOJ could successfully block legal challenges to the US government's spying activities by invoking secrecy and standing claims?
(6) Haaretz this weekend ran a long article on the work I've done in the NSA case, with a lengthy interview. It was by the excellent Israeli writer Noam Sheizaf, and is one of the better and more informative articles of this sort to have been published.
(7) The Guardian's Readers' Editor Chris Elliott (the British equivalent of the ombudsman) has an interesting article assessing some of the critiques made about our NSA reporting.
(8) A coalition called "Stop Watching Us" has been formed by privacy and civil liberties groups from across the political spectrum, including the ACLU, EFF, Free Press, Freedom Works, Occupy Wall Street, Demand Progress and others. It has the support of a wide swath individuals such as internet pioneer Tim Berners-Lee, Daniel Ellsberg, Gabriella Coleman, Xeni Jardin, the actor Wil Wheaton, Reddit founder Alexis Ohanian, and Anil Dash.
On October 26, the 12th anniversary of the enactment of the Patriot Act, they will hold an anti-surveillance rally in Washington DC. Anyone able is encouraged to attend.
One item I neglected to include: much ado was made when President Obama announced several weeks ago that he would create an "independent" review board to monitor NSA spying for civil liberties abuses. But as Associated Press detailed this weekend, the five members he put on the board are largely Democratic loyalists if not hard-core Obama loyalists:
Beyond that, it's controlled by Obama's top national security official. As AP put it: "with just weeks remaining before its first deadline to report back to the White House, the review panel has effectively been operating as an arm of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which oversees the NSA and all other U.S. spy efforts. . . . Even the panel's official name suggests it's run by Clapper's office: 'Director of National Intelligence Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies.'" Read the full AP article for what a total farce this all is.
UPDATE II [Tues.]
Two other items that may be of interest: first, Guardian editor-in-chief Alan Rusbridger was the guest for the full hour yesterday on Democracy Now, discussing the paper's role in reporting the NSA stories, and the video and transcript of the interview are here; second, marking our collaboration on a series of articles about spying on Indians, the Hindu has a long interview with me on a variety of related topics, here.
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