Sunday, May 31, 2015

U.N. REPORT ASSERTS ENCRYPTION AS A HUMAN RIGHT IN THE DIGITAL AGE




U.N. REPORT ASSERTS ENCRYPTION AS A HUMAN RIGHT IN THE DIGITAL AGE

BY DAN FROOMKIN
THURSDAY AT 6:46 PM


Encryption is not the refuge of scoundrels, as Obama administration law-enforcement officials loudly proclaim – it is an essential tool needed to protect the right of freedom of opinion and expression in the digital age, a new United Nations report concludes.
Encryption that makes a communication unintelligible to anyone but the intended recipient creates “a zone of privacy to protect opinion and belief,” says the report from David Kaye, who as Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression is essentially the U.N.’s free speech watchdog.

The significance of encryption extends well beyond political speech, Kaye writes. “The ability to search the web, develop ideas and communicate securely may be the only way in which many can explore basic aspects of identity, such as one’s gender, religion, ethnicity, national origin or sexuality.”

Encryption, like anonymity, is essential to artists, journalists, whistleblowers, and many other classes of people, the report says.

And far from banning or weakening encryption, governments should embrace and strengthen it, Kaye writes. He specifically urges the U.S. Congress to “prohibit the Government from requiring companies to weaken product security or insert back-door access measures.”

Obama administration officials have been advocating for encryption with some sort of built-in measure that law enforcement could circumvent, either an intentional weakness that creates a “back door,” or some sort of split “master key”.

Newly-installed Attorney General Loretta Lynch on Wednesday became the latest to engage in fear-mongering, saying she had “grave concerns” about encryption’s use by “people whose sworn duty is to harm Americans here and abroad.”

National Security Agency director Mike Rogers took a slightly more nuanced view on Wednesday, ZDNet reported. “You’re not going to hear me say that encryption is a bad thing. I don’t think it is a bad thing. Encryption is not bad. Encryption is a fundamental part of the future; I think it would be ridiculous to pretend otherwise,” Rogers told a cyberwarfare conference in Estonia.

ANONYMOUS FEAR MONGERING ABOUT THE PATRIOT ACT FROM THE WHITE HOUSE AND NEW YORK TIMES


https://firstlook.org/theintercept/2015/05/28/anonymous-fear-mongering-patriot-act-nyt-wh/

ANONYMOUS FEAR MONGERING ABOUT THE PATRIOT ACT FROM THE WHITE HOUSE AND NYT
BY GLENN GREENWALD
THURSDAY AT 1:00 PM

(updated below)

Several of the most extremist provisions of the 2001 Patriot Act are going to expire on June 1 unless Congress reauthorizes them in some form. Obama officials such as Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and new Attorney General Loretta Lynch have been engaged in rank fear-mongering to coerce renewal, warning that we’ll all be “less safe” if these provisions are allowed to “sunset” as originally intended, while invoking classic Cheneyite rhetoric by saying Patriot Act opponents will bear the blame for the next attack. In an interview yesterday with the Intercept, ACLU Deputy Legal Director Jameel Jaffer explained why those scare tactics are outright frivolous.

Enter the New York Times. An article this morning by Julie Hirschfeld Davis, in the first paragraph, cites anonymous Obama officials warning that “failing to [strike a deal by the deadline] would suspend crucial domestic surveillance authority at a time of mounting terrorism threats.” Behold the next two paragraphs:


“What you’re doing, essentially, is you’re playing national security Russian roulette,” one senior administration official said of allowing the powers to lapse. That prospect appears increasingly likely with the measure, the USA Freedom Act, stalled and lawmakers in their home states and districts during a congressional recess.

“We’re in uncharted waters,” another senior member of the administration said at a briefing organized by the White House, where three officials spoke with reporters about the consequences of inaction by Congress. “We have not had to confront addressing theterrorist threat without these authorities, and it’s going to befraught with unnecessary risk.”

Those two paragraphs, courtesy of the Obama White House and the Paper of Record, have it all: the principal weapons that have poisoned post-9/11 political discourse in the U.S.

We have the invocation of wholly vague but Extremely Scary and Always Intensifying Terrorism Dangers (“at a time of mounting terrorism threats”). We have the actual terror threat that failure to accede to the government’s demands for power will result in your death (“you’re playing national security Russian roulette”); compare what Bush officials spewed in 2005 about the few members of Congress who tried to enact some mild Patriot Act reforms back then (White House press secretary Scott McClellan: “In the war on terror, we cannot afford to be without these vital tools for a single moment … The time for Democrats to stop standing in the way has come”).

And we have the New York Times – in the name of reporting on White House efforts to pressure Congress to act – granting anonymity to “senior administration officials” to spew their official fear-mongering script. This isn’t even an instance where some administration “source” called the paper pretending to leak information that was really just official narrative; this was a White House-arranged call where anonymity was demanded as a condition for the honor of stenographically disseminating their words.

Worst of all, it’s all published uncritically. There’s not a syllable challenging or questioning any of these dire warnings. No Patriot Act opponent is heard from. None of the multiple facts exposing these scare tactics as manipulative and false are referenced.

It’s just government propaganda masquerading as a news article, where anonymous officials warn the country that they will die if the Patriot Act isn’t renewed immediately, while decreeing that Congressional critics of the law will have blood on their hands due to their refusal to obey. In other words, it’s a perfect museum exhibit for how government officials in both parties and American media outlets have collaborated for 15 years to enact one radical measure after the next and destroy any chance for rational discourse about it.

* * * * *

Are terror threats ever not mounting”? It’s now embedded in the journalistic slogan: Mounting Terrorism Threats.



UPDATE: Commenter Kitt argues, quite reasonably, that I omitted what may be the most darkly hilarious White House claim as helpfully laundered by the NYT, found in the last paragraph:

With the power set to expire at 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, a senior administration official said, the N.S.A. has a team on "hot standby" and has contacted telecommunications companies with an action plan. Eight hours before the deadline, at 3:59 p.m., the agency would begin shutting off the servers that run the program and revoking access to its databases.  Rebooting would take about a day, the official said, and would entail going back to the telecommunications providers and obtaining a court order.

“Hot standby“: how they must have congratulated themselves when they coined that. Note, too, that the last thing the White House and NYT tells you to make you scared is that if the Patriot Act provisions lapse, it’d mean they’d have to “obtain a court order” before getting the records they want:frightening.  [LOL!!! Its what they should have been doing all along! -AK]

Photo: Ramin Talaie/Getty Images


Email the author: glenn.greenwald@theintercept.com

HACKING ONLINE POLLS AND OTHER WAYS BRITISH SPIES SEEK TO CONTROL THE INTERNET




https://firstlook.org/theintercept/2014/07/14/manipulating-online-polls-ways-british-spies-seek-control-internet/

HACKING ONLINE POLLS AND OTHER WAYS BRITISH SPIES SEEK TO CONTROL THE INTERNET
BY GLENN GREENWALD @ggreenwald 07/14/2014


Featured photo - Hacking Online Polls and Other Ways British Spies Seek to Control the Internet
The secretive British spy agency GCHQ has developed covert tools to seed the internet with false information, including the ability to manipulate the results of online polls, artificially inflate pageview counts on web sites, “amplif[y]” sanctioned messages on YouTube, and censor video content judged to be “extremist.” The capabilities, detailed in documents provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, even include an old standby for pre-adolescent prank callers everywhere: A way to connect two unsuspecting phone users together in a call.

The tools were created by GCHQ’s Joint Threat Research Intelligence Group (JTRIG), and constitute some of the most startling methods of propaganda and internet deception contained within the Snowden archive. Previously disclosed documents have detailed JTRIG’s use of “fake victim blog posts,” “false flag operations,” “honey traps” and psychological manipulation to target online activists, monitor visitors to WikiLeaks, and spy on YouTube and Facebook users.

But as the U.K. Parliament today debates a fast-tracked bill to provide the government with greater surveillance powers, one which Prime Minister David Cameron has justified as an “emergency” to “help keep us safe,” a newly released top-secret GCHQ document called “JTRIG Tools and Techniques” provides a comprehensive, birds-eye view of just how underhanded and invasive this unit’s operations are. The documentavailable in full hereis designed to notify other GCHQ units of JTRIG’s “weaponised capability” when it comes to the dark internet arts, and serves as a sort of hacker’s buffet for wreaking online havoc.

CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE

The “tools” have been assigned boastful code names. They include invasive methods for online surveillance, as well as some of the very techniques that the U.S. and U.K. have harshly prosecuted young online activists for employing, including “distributed denial of service” attacks and “call bombing.” But they also describe previously unknown tactics for manipulating and distorting online political discourse and disseminating state propaganda, as well as the apparent ability to actively monitor Skype users in real-time—raising further questions about the extent of Microsoft’s cooperation with spy agencies or potential vulnerabilities in its Skype’s encryption. Here’s a list of how JTRIG describes its capabilities:

• “Change outcome of online polls” (UNDERPASS)
• “Mass delivery of email messaging to support an Information Operations campaign” (BADGER) and “mass delivery of SMS messages to support an Information Operations campaign” (WARPARTH) 
• “Disruption of video-based websites hosting extremist content through concerted target discovery and content removal.” (SILVERLORD)
• “Active skype capability. Provision of real time call records (SkypeOut and SkypetoSkype) and bidirectional instant messaging. Also contact lists.” (MINIATURE HERO)
• “Find private photographs of targets on Facebook” (SPRING BISHOP)
• “A tool that will permanently disable a target’s account on their computer” (ANGRY PIRATE)
• “Ability to artificially increase traffic to a website” (GATEWAY) and “ability to inflate page views on websites” (SLIPSTREAM)
• “Amplification of a given message, normally video, on popular multimedia websites (Youtube)” (GESTATOR)
• “Targeted Denial Of Service against Web Servers” (PREDATORS FACE) and “Distributed denial of service using P2P. Built by ICTR, deployed by JTRIG” (ROLLING THUNDER) 
• “A suite of tools for monitoring target use of the UK auction site eBay (www.ebay.co.uk)” (ELATE)
• “Ability to spoof any email address and send email under that identity” (CHANGELING)
• “For connecting two target phone together in a call” (IMPERIAL BARGE)

While some of the tactics are described as “in development,” JTRIG touts “most” of them as “fully operational, tested and reliable.” It adds: “We only advertise tools here that are either ready to fire or very close to being ready.”

And JTRIG urges its GCHQ colleagues to think big when it comes to internet deception: “Don’t treat this like a catalogue. If you don’t see it here, it doesn’t mean we can’t build it.”

The document appears in a massive Wikipedia-style archive used by GCHQ to internally discuss its surveillance and online deception activities. The page indicates that it was last modified in July 2012, and had been accessed almost 20,000 times.

GCHQ refused to provide any comment on the record beyond its standard boilerplate, in which it claims that it acts “in accordance with a strict legal and policy framework” and is subject to “rigorous oversight.” But both claims are questionable.

British watchdog Privacy International has filed pending legal action against GCHQ over the agency’s use of malware to spy on internet and mobile phone users. Several GCHQ memos published last fall by The Guardian revealed that the agency was eager to keep its activities secret not to protect national security, but because “our main concern is that references to agency practices (ie, the scale of interception and deletion) could lead to damaging public debate which might lead to legal challenges against the current regime.” And an EU parliamentary inquiry earlier this year concluded that GCHQ activities were likely illegal.

As for oversight, serious questions have been raised about whether top national security officials even know what GCHQ is doing. Chris Huhne, a former cabinet minister and member of the national security council until 2012, insisted that ministers were in “utter ignorance” about even the largest GCHQ spying program, known as Tempora—not to mention “their extraordinary capability to hoover up and store personal emails, voice contact, social networking activity and even internet searches.” In an October Guardian op-ed, Huhne wrote that “when it comes to the secret world of GCHQ and the [NSA], the depth of my ‘privileged information’ has been dwarfed by the information provided by Edward Snowden to The Guardian.”

Email the author: glenn.greenwald@theintercept.com
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