Aletho News


US NSA Spied on Venezuela When President Chavez Died, Documents Reveal

By Tamara Pearson | Venezuelanalysis | July 9, 2013

Mérida – Brazilian daily O Globo, reporting jointly with Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald informed today that according to the leaked National Security Agency (NSA) documents, the United States has also been spying on Venezuela’s petroleum industry. The information comes as governments confirm that whistleblower Edward Snowden has applied for asylum in Venezuela.

According to the leaked documents, the NSA also spied on other Latin American countries such as Mexico, Argentina, Colombia, and Ecuador.

O Globo reports that, “The United States doesn’t seem to be only interested in military affairs, but also in commercial secrets, such as Venezuela’s petroleum”.

According to the documents, NSA spied on Latin America through at least two programs, the Prism program from 2-8 of February this year, and the “Informant Without Limits” program from January to March.

One document describes Operation Silverzephyr, which accessed information through partnerships with private satellite and phone operators, focusing on Latin American countries. The document shows that the NSA agency collected information through telephone calls, faxes and emails, possibly using the program Fairview.

According to O Globo and the leaked NSA documents, Venezuela was also observed in 2008 through the X-Keyscore program, which identifies the presence of foreigners according to the language they use in emails. Further, in March this year it appears that Venezuela was a priority for the NSA’s spying. President Hugo Chavez died on 5 March, and presidential elections were called for 14 April.

U.S. reacts to Venezuela’s asylum offer

On Sunday U.S. legislators suggested sanctioning countries which grant asylum to Edward Snowden, who leaked the NSA documents to The Guardian. The chair of the U.S. House of Representative’s intelligence committee, Mike Rogers, said Latin American countries are “using Snowden as a public relations tool… we shouldn’t allow this… it’s a serious issue… some Latin American companies enjoy trade benefits from the United States and we’re going to have to revise that”.

Legislator Robert Menendez also said that any “acceptance of Snowden” would put that country “directly against the United States”. The Venezuelan government formally offered Snowden asylum on 5 July. Nicaragua and Bolivia have also done so.

“We’ve made very clear that he [Snowden] has been charged with felonies and as such, he should not be allowed to proceed in any further international travel other than travel that would result in him returning to the United States,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters yesterday at his daily news conference.

Yesterday Maduro said that Venezuela has also formally received an asylum request from Snowden, who agencies report to have been in the Moscow airport since 23 June.

Russian legislator Alexei Pushkov also confirmed yesterday (via a Tweet that he later deleted) that Snowden had accepted Venezuela’s offer of political asylum. “It seems that that is the option he feels is safest,” Pushkov wrote. However, later today Wikileaks also tweeted that Snowden had not formally accepted asylum in Venezuela, but also deleted the tweets a few minutes later.

July 9, 2013 Posted by | Corruption, Deception | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

For Future Reactor Meltdowns, EPA Means “Extra Pollution Allowed”

By JOHN LaFORGE |  July 9, 2013

As the nuclear power industry struggles against collapse from skyrocketing costs, bankrupting repair bills and investor flight (four operating reactors were permanently closed this year, more than in any previous 12 month period), the government seems to have capitulated to political pressure to weaken radiation exposure standards and save nuclear utilities billions. On April 15, the EPA issued new Protective Action Guides (PAGs) for dealing with large scale radiation releases — like the catastrophic triple reactor meltdowns at Fukushima, Japan that spread cesium and radio-iodine worldwide. The new PAGs are like a government bailout, saving reactor owners the gargantuan costs of comprehensive cleanup. And eerily, the new PAGs seem to presume the inevitability of radiation disasters that the industry — with its fleet of 100 rickety 40-year-old units — can’t currently afford to withstand.

According to Daniel Hirsch, President of Committee to Bridge the Gap, the latest PAGs took effect in April but can be amended — and EPA is taking comments. Hirsch says that the National Council on Radiation Protection’s plans for implementing the new PAGs “would allow the public to be exposed to extraordinarily higher levels of radiation than previously permitted” during reactor accident emergencies. The new PAGs also allow extremely high contamination of food, he says. “In essence,” Hirsch reports, the PAGs say “nuclear power accidents could be so widespread and produce such immense radiation levels that the government would abandon cleanup obligations” forcing people to absorb and live with far more cancers.

To cut costs, industry has long pushed for weakening radiation exposure rules. In 2002, Roger Clarke president of the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP) warned in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, “Some people think that too much money is being spent to achieve low levels of residual contamination.” The ICRP recommends exposure standards to governments for nuclear industry workers and the public.

Permissible radiation doses established by polluters

There is no exposure to ionizing radiation that’s safe. Even the smallest exposures have cellular-level effects that can lead to immune dysfunction, birth defects, cancer and other diseases. The National Academy of Sciences’ 7th book-length on the biological effects of ionizing radiation, BEIR-VII, declared that any exposure, regardless of how small, may cause the induction of cancer. BEIR-VII also explicitly refuted and repudiated the pop culture “hormesus” theory, promoted by industry boosters, that a little radiation is good for us and acts like a vaccination.

Today, the nuclear industry — military, industrial and medical — is required to keep radiation exposures only “as low as reasonably achievable.” This tragicomic standard is neither a medical nor scientific concept. It’s not based on health physics or biology. It’s merely the formal admission that radiation producers cannot keep worker or public exposures to a level that is safe — that is zero.

Exposure limits have been established at the convenience of the military and industrial producers of radioactive pollution, not by medical doctors of health physicists. The late Dr. Rosalie Bertell made clear 36 years ago in Robert Del Tredici’s book At Work In the Fields of the Bomb, “The people with the highest vested interest are the ones that are making the nuclear bombs. And it turns out they have complete control over setting the permissible [radiation exposure] levels.” Since then, little has changed in the regulatory world (although scientists have found that far more damage is caused by low dose radiation than was earlier thought possible): the ICRP’s 1990 recommendations to reduce worker and public exposures by three-fifths has yet to be adopted by the United States.

We can thank industrial and political roadblocks for that, yet in spite of them the government’s permissible dose (lazy reporters often write “safe” dose) of radiation has dramatically decreased over the years — as we’ve come to better understand the toxic, carcinogenic and mutagenic properties of low-level exposures. In the 1920s the permissible dose was 75 rem (radiation equivalent man) per year for nuclear industry workers. In 1936, the limit was reduced to 50 rem per year; then 20-25 in 1948; 15 in 1954; and down to 5 rem per year in 1958. The general public is officially allowed to be exposed to one-tenth the workers’ dose, or 0.5 rem per year. The ICRP’s 1990 suggestion was to cut this to 2 and 0.2 respectively.

With cancer rates at pandemic proportions, adding higher radiation exposures to the effects of 80,000 chemicals that contaminate our air, water and food only makes our chance of avoiding the dread disease slimmer. Rather than permitting increased doses of dangerous and sometimes deadly radiation, especially following reactor disasters, the government should be acting to prevent them — like Germany, Italy and Japan — by preparing the phase-out of the country’s accident-prone nukes.


July 9, 2013 Posted by | Nuclear Power | | Comments Off on For Future Reactor Meltdowns, EPA Means “Extra Pollution Allowed”

US and Israel did create Stuxnet attack code

Mehr News Agency | July 9, 2013

TEHRAN – NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden has confirmed that the Stuxnet malware used to attack Iranian nuclear facilities was created as part of a joint operation between the Israelis and the NSA’s Foreign Affairs Directorate (FAD).

“The NSA and Israel cowrote it,” he told Der Spiegel in an email interview conducted before he publicly outed himself as the NSA mole. Snowden is currently in Russia and a “free man” according to Vladimir Putin – as long as there are no further NSA leaks.

The Stuxnet code, which has been deployed since 2005, is thought to be the first malware aimed specifically at damaging specific physical infrastructure*, and was inserted into the computer networks of the Iranian nuclear fuel factory in Natanz shortly after it opened.

Early variants attempted to contaminate uranium supplies by interfering with the flow of gas to the fuel being processed, potentially causing explosive results in the processing factory. Later a more advanced variant attacked the centrifuges themselves, burning out motors by rapidly starting and stopping the units and contaminating fuel production, although it may actually have encouraged the Iranians.

Last year an unnamed US official said that Stuxnet was part of a program called Operation Olympic Games, started under President Bush and continued under the current administration, aimed at slowing down the Iranian nuclear effort without having to resort to risky airstrikes. General James Cartwright, a former vice-chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is currently under investigation by the US government for allegedly leaking details of Operation Olympic Games.

July 9, 2013 Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

A Secret Court Making Secret Laws? That’s No Democracy

By Mike Masnick | TechDirt | July 8th 2013

Last December, well before the Ed Snowden leaks revealed some information about the FISA court (FISC) and its rulings, we had already noted that the court itself was almost certainly unconstitutional. More recently, we talked about how the fact that all the court’s judges are appointed by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court means that the court has turned into a rubber stamp made in the image of some of the most “law and order”-minded Chief Justices from the past few decades. Ezra Klein has since expanded on that to discuss the oddity of how current Chief Justice John Roberts is basically the Chief Justice of the Surveillance State, answerable to absolutely no one: “You have exclusive, unaccountable, lifetime power to shape the surveillance state.”

Over the weekend, the NY Times put out a powerful piece discussing how FISC has basically become a shadow Supreme Court, doling out all sorts of important rulings in total secrecy. It rules on cases where it only hears one side, and where there are no appeals, no guarantee that the full story is presented, and involves a bunch of judges who tend to have law enforcement backgrounds before being appointed to the court. In the end, you have a secret court issuing secret rulings by ex-law enforcement officials, allowing their former colleagues ever greater power to spy on everyone.

The 11-member Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, known as the FISA court, was once mostly focused on approving case-by-case wiretapping orders. But since major changes in legislation and greater judicial oversight of intelligence operations were instituted six years ago, it has quietly become almost a parallel Supreme Court, serving as the ultimate arbiter on surveillance issues and delivering opinions that will most likely shape intelligence practices for years to come, the officials said.

[….] Unlike the Supreme Court, the FISA court hears from only one side in the case — the government — and its findings are almost never made public. A Court of Review is empaneled to hear appeals, but that is known to have happened only a handful of times in the court’s history, and no case has ever been taken to the Supreme Court. In fact, it is not clear in all circumstances whether Internet and phone companies that are turning over the reams of data even have the right to appear before the FISA court.

As an example of how FISC has basically completely overturned the rules of surveillance in secret, the NY Times reveals the details of some of its thinking, taking a extremely narrow ruling meant to apply in special cases, and turning it into a general rule that has allowed the vast capture of information:

In one of the court’s most important decisions, the judges have expanded the use in terrorism cases of a legal principle known as the “special needs” doctrine and carved out an exception to the Fourth Amendment’s requirement of a warrant for searches and seizures, the officials said.

The special needs doctrine was originally established in 1989 by the Supreme Court in a ruling allowing the drug testing of railway workers, finding that a minimal intrusion on privacy was justified by the government’s need to combat an overriding public danger. Applying that concept more broadly, the FISA judges have ruled that the N.S.A.’s collection and examination of Americans’ communications data to track possible terrorists does not run afoul of the Fourth Amendment, the officials said.

That legal interpretation is significant, several outside legal experts said, because it uses a relatively narrow area of the law — used to justify airport screenings, for instance, or drunken-driving checkpoints — and applies it much more broadly, in secret, to the wholesale collection of communications in pursuit of terrorism suspects. “It seems like a legal stretch,” William C. Banks, a national security law expert at Syracuse University, said in response to a description of the decision. “It’s another way of tilting the scales toward the government in its access to all this data.”

I don’t care where you come down on the importance of widespread surveillance — I just don’t see how you can possibly square the above interpretation of the law with the 4th Amendment. If “special needs” can be used to justify mass collection of data on just about everyone “just in case” it might stop some sort of terrorist attack, then you no longer have a 4th Amendment. At all.

But, the bigger issue here is just the fact that we have a secret court issuing secret interpretations of the law that have a massive impact on our privacy. This is supposed to be an open democracy. An open democracy doesn’t involve secret courts and secret laws. We have laws that everyone knows, and which the public can discuss and weigh in on through their elected officials. When you set up a secret court, making secret rules with no oversight, and with all of the judges appointed by a single Supreme Court Justice with a particular bias, you no longer have a functioning democracy at all. And that’s downright scary.

This is a point that some Senators have been making for years now, but the leaks from Ed Snowden have really made it that much clearer just how insane the situation is. Earlier, it had seemed like perhaps there was one or two rulings from FISC that had some oddities in the interpretation, and which should probably be revealed to the public. However, the various revelations so far suggest that the issue is much, much bigger, and we have a secret “shadow court” system that is systematically obliterating the 4th Amendment and helping to create and then “legitimize” the vast surveillance state.

The Snowden leaks have shone a number of lights on various bad things within our government, but one thing that they have made abundantly clear is that the FISC needs to go. Whether that means it needs to be opened up, or to have greater oversight, or just be done away with completely, could be up for discussion. But if it remains the way it is, it’s clear that we’ve thrown away our basic democratic principles, and moved towards the same sorts of autocratic regimes with secret courts that the US has always presented itself as being against.

July 9, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Corruption, Deception, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on A Secret Court Making Secret Laws? That’s No Democracy

Federal Judge Allows EFF’s NSA Mass Spying Case to Proceed

Rejects Government’s State Secret Privilege Claims in Jewel v. NSA and Shubert v. Obama

EFF | July 8, 2013

San Francisco – A federal judge today rejected the U.S. government’s latest attempt to dismiss the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s (EFF’s) long-running challenge to the government’s illegal dragnet surveillance programs. Today’s ruling means the allegations at the heart of the Jewel case move forward under the supervision of a public federal court.

“The court rightly found that the traditional legal system can determine the legality of the mass, dragnet surveillance of innocent Americans and rejected the government’s invocation of the state secrets privilege to have the case dismissed,” said Cindy Cohn, EFF’s Legal Director. “Over the last month, we came face-to-face with new details of mass, untargeted collection of phone and Internet records, substantially confirmed by the Director of National Intelligence. Today’s decision sets the stage for finally getting a ruling that can stop the dragnet surveillance and restore Americans’ constitutional rights.”

In the ruling, Judge Jeffrey White of the Northern District of California federal court agreed with EFF that the very subject matter of the lawsuit is not a state secret, and any properly classified details can be litigated under the procedures of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). As Judge White wrote in the decision, “Congress intended for FISA to displace the common law rules such as the state secrets privilege with regard to matter within FISA’s purview.” While the court allowed the constitutional questions to go forward, it also dismissed some of the statutory claims. A status conference is set for August 23.

EFF’s Jewel case is joined in the litigation with another case, Shubert v. Obama.

“We are pleased that the court found that FISA overrides the state secrets privilege and look forward to addressing the substance of the illegal mass surveillance,” said counsel for Shubert, Ilann Maazel of Emery Celli Brinckerhoff & Abady LLP. “The American people deserve their day in court.”

Filed in 2008, Jewel v. NSA is aimed at ending the NSA’s dragnet surveillance of millions of ordinary Americans and holding accountable the government officials who illegally authorized it. Evidence in the case includes undisputed documents provided by former AT&T telecommunications technician Mark Klein showing AT&T has routed copies of Internet traffic to a secret room in San Francisco controlled by the NSA. The case is supported by declarations from three NSA whistleblowers along with a mountain of other evidence. The recent blockbuster revelations about the extent of the NSA spying on telecommunications and Internet activities also bolster EFF’s case.

For the full decision:

For more on Jewel v. NSA:

July 9, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Corruption, Deception, Full Spectrum Dominance, Progressive Hypocrite | 1 Comment

Parents of Tristan Anderson, US activist critically wounded following West Bank protest, appeal to High Court of Israel

Parents of US Activist: Police Investigation was Shockingly Negligent

International Solidarity Movement | July 9, 2013

Jerusalem – Tristan Anderson (41, of Oakland, CA) was severely wounded after having been shot in the head with a high velocity tear gas grenade* (made in the USA) fired by Israeli Border Police following a protest in the West Bank Village of Ni’lin, resulting in severe permanent brain damage and paralysis to half his body.

Tristan Anderson with his parents

Tristan Anderson with his parents

Attorneys for Anderson’s family, along with Israeli NGO Yesh Din, will appear before the Israeli High Court of Justice on Wednesday, JULY 10. The petition challenges the investigation that they claim was blatantly inadequate, with the identity of the shooter still being actively withheld to this day.

“Tristan will live the rest of his life with serious mental and physical limitations and chronic pain. This has devastated his life and profoundly affected our family forever,” said Nancy Anderson, Tristan’s mother.

No criminal charges have been brought against any police or military personnel involved in the 2009 shooting of their son. Video evidence uncovered during the course of an ongoing civil lawsuit (trial begins November 10, 2013 in Jerusalem for the civil suit) raises further questions on the credibility of State witnesses, who in contradiction to sworn testimony, are clearly seen shooting tear gas directly at protesters from close range in the video, which was taken earlier that day. The video also raises serious questions relating to the true locations of the various squads of Border Police present at the time of the shooting, with investigators opting only to question those squads that were on the other side of the town at the time the shooting occurred, while failing to question the squad that was stationed on the nearby hill where activist witnesses say the shots came from. As well, investigators failed to visit the scene of the shooting and made no attempts to collect physical evidence.

See “Perpetrators of the Shooting of Tristan Anderson”.

See “Aftermath of the shooting of Tristan Anderson Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 for further video.

Michael Sfard and Emily Schaeffer, attorneys for the Anderson family commented:

“The astonishing negligence of this investigation and of the prosecutorial team that monitored its outcome is unacceptable, but it epitomizes Israel’s culture of impunity. Tristan’s case is actually not rare; it represents hundreds of other cases of Palestinian victims whose investigations have also failed.”

Tristan joined the ranks of scores of other protesters who have been seriously injured or killed during demonstrations in the Occupied Palestinian Territories in recent years. On March 13, 2009 he was in Ni’alin demonstrating against the annexation of village lands to build the controversial “Separation Wall” when he was shot. Witnesses insist there was no stone throwing in his immediate surroundings at the time when he was shot, and that the shooting was “unexpected and unprovoked”.

“Tristan’s shooting is part of a pattern of deadly violence being used against protesters in the Occupied Territories, who are not recognized as having a fundamental right to political self-determination,” said Gabrielle Silverman, Tristan’s girlfriend, and a witness to his shooting. “We need real accountability and a high standard of human rights, but instead what we get is the military running cover for their soldiers.”

The family of Tristan Anderson is calling the investigation “a cover up and a sham”.

*Tristan Anderson was shot with a High Velocity Tear Gas grenade- sometimes also called “Extended Range Tear Gas”- which is manufactured by Combined Systems Inc in Jamestown, Pennsylvania.

July 9, 2013 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Solidarity and Activism, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , | 1 Comment

Foreign-backed Syrian opposition-assigned ‘prime minister’ resigns

Press TV – July 9, 2013

A foreign-backed Syrian opposition figure, Ghassan Hitto, who had been proclaimed by the divided Syrian National Coalition (SNC) as “prime minister” and tasked to form an “interim government,” has resigned.

On Monday, Hitto announced his resignation in a statement only four months after his appointment, citing his inability to form the “interim government,” amid the escalating divisions and the infighting within the SNC.

The foreign-backed opposition formed the SNC back in November 2012 with Moaz al-Khatib as its head.

Khatib also announced his resignation a few months after his appointment.

George Sabra became acting president of the SNC in April 2013, shortly after Khatib had resigned.

On Saturday, the SNC elected a Saudi-linked member, Ahmad Assi Jarba, as its new president during its latest meeting in the Turkish city of Istanbul.

Jarba received 55 votes, defeating Mustafa al-Sabbagh, Qatar’s point man in the opposition, in the second round of the election at the group’s meeting in Istanbul, where the foreign-backed Syrian opposition group is based.

Jarba is a tribal figure from the eastern Hasaka Province with connections to Saudi Arabia, which has been supporting the militants in Syria.

The divisions within the foreign-backed opposition comes as the Syrian army has been gaining further ground against the militants. Syrian forces drove out militants from Ghouta, Zamalka and Irbin neighborhoods, inflicting heavy losses on the armed groups.

On July 6, Syrian army restored security to the industrial area of al-Qaboun, east of the capital. The army also retook control of the northwestern part of the Sayyida Zeinab camp near Damascus.

The foreign-sponsored militancy in Syria has taken its toll on the lives of many people, including large numbers of Syrian soldiers and security personnel, since March 2011.

In an interview with Syrian daily Al-Thawra published on July 4, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said the opposition and their foreign supporters have “exhausted all their tools” in a conspiracy against Syria.

July 9, 2013 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , , | Comments Off on Foreign-backed Syrian opposition-assigned ‘prime minister’ resigns

Dozens wounded in Beirut blast on the eve of Ramadan

Al-Akhbar | July 9, 2013

At least 53 people were wounded after a bomb exploded Tuesday morning in a parking lot in the densely-populated area of Dahiyeh in Beirut’s southern suburb.

The bomb went off around 10:15 am local time.

Al-Manar television station said the explosion was from a car rigged with explosives stationed in a public parking lot of the Islamic Coop supermarket. The blast comes on a busy shopping day on the eve of the holy month of Ramadan.

Live footage from the station showed at least a dozen cars in the parking lot charred from the fire, as firefighters attempted to put out the flames.

Local news channels aired images of heavy black smoke rising over buildings on Muawad street in the Bir al-Abed neighborhood.

Residents of the area attempted to disperse the crowd gathered around the scene for fear of second bomb nearby, el-Nashra said.

Of the 53 people who were admitted to hospitals, 41 have been released while another 12 are still receiving treatment, Minister of Health Ali Khalil told reporters.

Politicians of all stripes quickly issued statements condemning the blast.

Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam called on Lebanese to remain “vigilant.”

“The ugly crime that took place in the Southern Suburb of Beirut is part of an evil scheme targeting Lebanon’s stability and the security of the Lebanese,” he said in a statement. “It is a barefaced attempt to foment strife.”

It remains unclear who was behind Tuesday’s blast, but there is no shortage of suspects.

Hezbollah MP Ali Ammar pointed the finger at Israel, which launched a 34-day war on Lebanon in 2006 which reduced much of Dahiyeh to rubble.

But Salafi radicals affiliated with Syria’s anti-government rebels are also suspected to have been behind a series of recent attacks on Lebanon.

The bomb was the second major attack on Beirut’s southern suburbs, where Hezbollah maintains strong support, in recent weeks.

Suspected rebels have upped a campaign against Lebanon in what they claim is retaliation for Hezbollah’s intervention in the Syrian conflict.

In May, two rockets launched from hills above the capital struck Beirut’s southern Chiyah district, injuring four Syrian workers.

Dozens of rockets fired from Syria have hit Lebanon in recent weeks, killing and wounding a number of people since they began over the course of the Syrian conflict, now over two years old.

And two roadside bombs detonated late last month targeted a convoy that reportedly belonged to Hezbollah in East Lebanon near the Syrian border.

The last deadly car bomb in Beirut occurred on 19 October 2012, when Internal Security Forces Brigadier General Wissam al-Hassan was killed in a massive blast in the Ashrafieh neighborhood.

In the summer of 2006, the Bir al-Abed area in Beirut’s southern suburb received the heaviest air bombardment during the Israeli war on Lebanon.

One of the deadliest attacks in Bir al-Abed history was the 1985 attempted assassination of Sayyid Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah, which killed more than 80 civilians.

A string of bombings between 2004 and 2008 killed a number of high-profile military and political figures in Lebanon.

July 9, 2013 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , , | Comments Off on Dozens wounded in Beirut blast on the eve of Ramadan

Five unanswered questions about the NSA’s surveillance programs

By Brendan Sasso | The Hill | 07/07/13

Leaks by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden have provided new insight into how the government monitors domestic and foreign communications for threats to national security.

Although the government has disclosed some additional details about the programs in response to the leaks, important questions remain about the nature and scope of the surveillance programs.

Without that additional information, it is impossible to know the extent to which the government is peering into the lives of Americans in the name of national security, according to privacy advocates.

1. What other data is being collected under the Patriot Act?

The first leak from Snowden was a secret court order demanding that Verizon turn over vast batches of “metadata” on its U.S. customers. The data included the time and duration of calls, as well as the phone numbers involved, but not the contents of the conversations. The data collection was authorized under Section 215 of the Patriot Act.

The Director of National Intelligence (DNI) clarified that while the government does obtain data on millions of U.S. phone calls (and from more companies than just Verizon), it only “queries” the database a limited number of times for specific national security reasons.

Michelle Richardson, a legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), questioned whether the NSA is using Section 215 to collect more than just phone records.

“Is it also financial data or Internet records or other things?” she asked. “Knowing now that the court has been so broad in its interpretation, it’s even more important to figure out what else they’re getting.”

Greg Nojeim, a senior counsel for the Center for Democracy and Technology, said the NSA is likely using the Patriot Act to collect the credit card records and IP addresses of millions of people within and outside of the United States.

2. How broad are the programs?

How many people have been spied on through the NSA programs remains unclear. According to the NSA, it queried its massive database of phone records fewer than 300 times in 2012. But the agency did not disclose figures on other years or how many phone numbers were accessed in those queries.

Richardson explained that a single query could be an algorithm that scans the database and returns information on many people.

The other major program revealed by Snowden is the NSA’s Internet surveillance program, called PRISM. Unlike the phone record collection program under the Patriot Act, the NSA uses PRISM to access the contents of communications, such as emails, video chats, photographs and other information.

According to the DNI, the NSA only accesses those online records if there is a “foreign intelligence purpose” and the target is “reasonably believed” to be outside of the U.S. The program is authorized by Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, and the searches require approval by a secret FISA court.

The NSA has not disclosed how many people it has targeted under Section 702 or how many people were spied on incidentally as part of the program.

“We have no idea how many U.S. persons have had their communications swept up,” said Sharon Bradford Franklin, senior counsel for the Constitution Project.

3. What’s the legal rationale?

The NSA has insisted the surveillance programs comply with the law and are overseen by independent FISA courts. But the opinions of those courts are secret, so little is known about how the courts are enforcing privacy protections or why they signed off on certain surveillance methods.

Section 215 of the Patriot Act allows the government to collect business records if they are “relevant” to a terrorism investigation. The FISA courts have determined that that provision allows the NSA to collect records on virtually all phone calls within and outside of the U.S. Why the court determined that so much data is “relevant” to a terrorism investigation remains unclear.

“Generally we don’t know the legal rationale being offered by the administration and being accepted by the FISA court to justify these particular types of surveillance programs,” Bradford Franklin said. “We should not have secret law in a democracy.”

4. Is the NSA still collecting email records?

One of the latest leaks revealed that beginning in 2001, the NSA collected vast amounts of email records. The NSA was able to identify the email accounts that sent and received messages, as well as IP addresses. The data collection did not include the contents of the emails.

The Obama administration confirmed the existence of the program, but said it ended in 2011 for “operational and resource reasons.”

One major question, according to privacy advocates, is whether the government is still able to obtain similar email records through a separate program.

5. Are there other programs that we don’t know about?

Although the NSA has provided some details about the programs leaked by Snowden, it is unclear what other programs exist and how they work together as part of a broad surveillance strategy.

“There’s this giant surveillance superstructure out there that we’re finally getting glimpses of, but there’s still a lot of questions of how does the whole thing work,” Richardson said.

July 9, 2013 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Five unanswered questions about the NSA’s surveillance programs

New Snowden leak: Australia’s place in US spying web

RT | July 8, 2013

Ex-NSA contractor and whistleblower Edward Snowden has disclosed his first set of documents outlining Australia’s role in NSA surveillance programs, picking out four facilities in the country that contribute heavily to US spying.

The locations of dozens of the US’s and associated countries signal collection sites have been revealed by Snowden, who leaked classified National Security Agency maps to US journalist Glenn Greenwald, which were then published in the Brazilian newspaper O Globo.

The sites all play a role in the collection of data and interception of internet traffic and telecommunications on a global level.

Australian centers involved in the NSA’s data collection program, codenamed X-Keyscore, include Joint Defence Facility Pine Gap in central Australia and three Australian Signals Directorate facilities: the Shoal Bay Receiving Station in the country’s north, the Australian Defence Satellite Communications Facility on the west coast, and the naval communications station HMAS Harman outside the capital, Canberra.

New Zealand also plays a role, with the Government Security Communications Bureau facility at Waihopai, on the northern point of South Island, also contributing to the program.

X-Keyscore is described as a “national Intelligence collection mission system” by US intelligence expert William Arkin, according to Australian newspaper The Age. It processes all signals prior to being delivered to various “production lines” that deal with more specific issues including the exploration of different types of data for close scrutiny.

The different subdivisions are entitled Nucleon (voice), Pinwale (video), Mainway (call records) and Marina (internet records).

A spokesman for Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd declined to comment on the revelatory map, saying that it was not government practice to comment on intelligence matters, according to national broadsheet The Australian.

Australia is one of the “Five Eyes” – an alliance of intelligence-sharing countries which include of the US, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

When documents were published pertaining to the British signal intelligence agency, GCHQ’s “Tempora” program, Snowden reportedly commented that the other partners in the “Five Eyes” intelligence “sometimes go even further than the [National Security Agency] people themselves.”

“If you send a data packet and if it makes its way through the UK, we will get it. If you download anything, and the server is in the UK, then we get it,” he said.

In an interview published online last weekend in advance of its printing in German magazine Der Speigel this week, Snowden argued that the NSA was ‘in bed with the Germans’ commenting that the organization of intelligence gathering in countries involved with the organization is such that political leaders are insulated from the backlash, going on to denounce “how grievously they’re violating global privacy.”

Germany reacted to the report on Monday, with German chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman, Steffen Seibert, telling Reuters that the Federal Intelligence Agency’s (BND) cooperation with the NSA “took place within strict legal and judicial guidelines and is controlled by the competent parliamentary committee.”

The US and its affiliates have intelligence facilities distributed worldwide in a variety of US embassies, consulates and military facilities. In an earlier report by Der Spiegel, also based on revelations by Snowden, it was revealed that the NSA bugged EU diplomatic offices and gained access to EU internal computer networks.

July 9, 2013 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on New Snowden leak: Australia’s place in US spying web

Mexico: Nine Indigenous Prisoners Released in Chiapas

Weekly News Update on the Americas | July 7, 2013

The southeastern Mexican state of Chiapas released nine indigenous prisoners from its Los Llanos prison near San Cristóbal de las Casas in the state’s highland region on July 4. State governor Manuel Velasco Coello arrived at the prison from Tuxtla Gutiérrez, the state capital, to deliver the release papers in person. The nine prisoners, described as adherents of the 2006 Other Campaign of the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN), had participated in hunger strikes and other actions over several years to win their freedom. Rosa López Díaz, the only woman in the group, was pregnant when she was arrested in 2007; she lost her child, reportedly as a result of torture.

Under pressure from Mexican and international groups, the state appears to have started releasing EZLN allies imprisoned on questionable charges. Francisco Sántiz López was freed on Jan. 25 [see Update #1161]. But the best known of the prisoners, the schoolteacher Alberto Patishtán Gómez [see Update #1173], remains at Los Llanos, along with a prisoner named Alejandro Díaz Sántiz. Patishtán was allowed to take part in the release of the nine prisoners on July 4. He walked a few meters out of the prison and told the relatives, with a smile: “I’m turning the compañeros over to you here; I’m still staying here, but one shouldn’t lose hope.” He then walked back into the prison with Gov. Velasco Coello and various officials. “We’ll go on struggling until we achieve the release of compañero Alberto and all the compañeros who are still prisoners,” former prisoner Rosario Díaz Méndez promised after his release. (La Jornada (Mexico) 7/5/13)

July 9, 2013 Posted by | Solidarity and Activism, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , , | Comments Off on Mexico: Nine Indigenous Prisoners Released in Chiapas