When WikiLeaks released more than 8,000 files about the CIA’s global hacking programs this month, it dropped a tantalizing clue: The leak came from private contractors. Federal investigators quickly confirmed this, calling contractors the likeliest sources. As a result of the breach, WikiLeaks editor Julian Assange said, the CIA had “lost control of its entire cyberweapons arsenal.”
Intelligence insiders were dismayed. Agencies “take a chance with contractors” because “they may not have the same loyalty” as officers employed by the government, former CIA director Leon Panetta lamented to NBC.
But this is a liability built into our system that intelligence officials have long known about and done nothing to correct. As I first reported in 2007, some 70 cents of every intelligence dollar is allocated to the private sector. And the relentless pace of mergers and acquisitions in the spies-for-hire business has left five corporations in control of about 80 percent of the 45,000 contractors employed in U.S. intelligence. The threat from unreliable employees in this multibillion-dollar industry is only getting worse.
WikiLeaks on Tuesday released a trove of purported CIA documents hailed by security expert Jessalyn Radack as “in same category as [the] biggest leaks of classified info by [whistleblowers] Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden.”
Indeed, Snowden himself described the leak as “genuinely a big deal” on Twitter. “Looks authentic,” the National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower added. The New York Times also described the documents’ authenticity as “likely.”
The Times went on to describe the bombshell revelations included in the trove of documents:
Among other disclosures that, if confirmed, would rock the technology world, the WikiLeaks release said that the CIA and allied intelligence services had managed to bypass encryption on popular phone and messaging services such as Signal, WhatsApp, and Telegram. According to the statement from WikiLeaks, government hackers can penetrate Android phones and collect “audio and message traffic before encryption is applied.”
Tuesday’s release of documents comprise part one of a series, WikiLeaks wrote in a press statement. This first installment, titled “Year Zero,” contains “8,761 documents and files from an isolated, high-security network situated inside the CIA’s Center for Cyber Intelligence in Langley, Va.,” according to WikiLeaks.
Newly released by WikiLeaks today is a collection of CIA documents referred to as “Vault 7,” detailing the CIA’s hacking and surveillance technology development. The current release spans “Year 0” of the program, with several more years of documents expected to be released.
Officially called “Weeping Angel,” the program sought 0-day exploits in myriad technology, including not just computers and routers, but things like smartphones and even Smart TVs, with documents showing the CIA could make a Samsung-branded TV go into a “fake-off” mode, where it would appear to be turned off, but its microphone was active and the CIA could listen in to everything happening.
The same was true of the phones targeted, with the CIA having what is said to be a large cache of exploits against both Apple and Android-based phones, exploits they carefully kept guarded from the manufacturers of the phones so that the flaws were never properly repaired. The phone breaches were focused in part on having an OS-level exploit that would render security features in encrypted applications useless,
Also among the efforts, the CIA was trying to hack into cars, with an eye toward gaining remote control over cars anywhere in the world, leading to speculation that the cars would be made to “assassinate” the drivers in an undetectable manner.
If in fact Trump Tower was wiretapped during the 2016 presidential campaign, as President Trump claimed in several tweets Saturday morning, he can do much more than say so on twitter: Presidents have the power to declassify anything at any time, so Trump could immediately make public any government records of such surveillance.
What Trump is saying seems to be a garbled version of previous reporting by the BBC, among other news outlets.
According to a report in the BBC, citing unnamed sources, a joint government task force was formed in spring of 2016 to look into an intelligence report from a foreign government that Russian money was somehow coming into the U.S. presidential race. In June the Department of Justice, part of the task force, asked the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court for a warrant to intercept electronic communications by two Russian banks.
However, the BBC’s report says, the FISA court turned the application down.. The Justice Department then asked again in July with a more narrowly drawn request, which was again turned down. Justice then made a third request for a warrant on October 15, which was granted.
Donald Trump has inherited the most powerful machine for spying ever devised. How this petty, vengeful man might wield and expand the sprawling American spy apparatus, already vulnerable to abuse, is disturbing enough on its own. But the outlook is even worse considering Trump’s vast preference for private sector expertise and new strategic friendship with Silicon Valley billionaire investor Peter Thiel, whose controversial (and opaque) company Palantir has long sought to sell governments an unmatched power to sift and exploit information of any kind. Thiel represents a perfect nexus of government clout with the kind of corporate swagger Trump loves. The Intercept can now reveal that Palantir has worked for years to boost the global dragnet of the NSA and its international partners, and was in fact co-created with American spies.
Peter Thiel became one of the American political mainstream’s most notorious figures in 2016 (when it emerged he was bankrolling a lawsuit against Gawker Media, my former employer) even before he won a direct line to the White House. Now he brings to his role as presidential adviser decades of experience as kingly investor and token nonliberal on Facebook’s board of directors, a Rolodex of software luminaries, and a decidedly Trumpian devotion to controversy and contrarianism. But perhaps the most appealing asset Thiel can offer our bewildered new president will be Palantir Technologies, which Thiel founded with Alex Karp and Joe Lonsdale in 2004.
Palantir has never masked its ambitions, in particular the desire to sell its services to the U.S. government — the CIA itself was an early investor in the startup through In-Q-Tel, the agency’s venture capital branch. But Palantir refuses to discuss or even name its government clientele, despite landing “at least $1.2 billion” in federal contracts since 2009, according to an August 2016 report in Politico. The company was last valued at $20 billion and is expected to pursue an IPO in the near future. In a 2012 interview with TechCrunch, while boasting of ties to the intelligence community, Karp said nondisclosure contracts prevent him from speaking about Palantir’s government work.
The who, what, where, and why of the Trump administration’s first major scandal — Michael Flynn’s ignominious resignation on Monday as national security advisor — have all been thoroughly discussed. Relatively neglected, and deserving of far more attention, has been the how.
The fact the nation’s now-departed senior guardian of national security was unmoored by a scandal linked to a conversation picked up on a wire offers a rare insight into how exactly America’s vaunted Deep State works. It is a story not about rogue intelligence agencies running amok outside the law, but rather about the vast domestic power they have managed to acquire within it.
We know now that the FBI and the NSA, under their Executive Order 12333 authority and using the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act as statutory cover, were actively monitoring the phone calls and reading text messages sent to and from the Russian ambassador to the United States, Sergey Kislyak.
Donald Trump has signed three executive orders to deal with “public safety”, including handing more authority to the police.
At the formal ceremony to appoint Jeff Sessions as Attorney General, the President outlined the new mandate that Mr Sessions would have, including tackling crime, drug cartels and terrorism.
He insisted that the US faced the “threat of rising crime” and that “things will get better very soon”.
“I am directing the Department of Justice to reduce crimes and crimes of violence against law enforcement officers,” he said.
“It’s a shame, what has been happening to our great, our truly great, law enforcement officers. That is going to stop today.”
- Donald Trump’s coming police state
- Is America as unsafe as President Trump thinks?
- America’s police are the safest they’ve been in decades
- Trump’s Executive Orders on Crime Foment “Dark View of Society”
- Senior law enforcement officials urge Trump to scrap ‘ineffective’ crime plan
- ACLU says Trump’s executive order on crime aims to “stop national trends that don’t exist”
- Trump Executive Order Sets Agenda for Police to Further Criminalize Protesters
- Trump breaks from Obama with crime crackdown and ‘blue lives matter’ protections
Newly released documents from the Transportation Security Administration appear to confirm the concerns of critics who say that the agency’s controversial program that relies on body language, appearance, and particular behaviors to select passengers for extra screening in airports has little basis in science and has led to racial profiling.
Files turned over to the American Civil Liberties Union under the Freedom of Information Act include a range of studies that undermines the program’s premise, demonstrating that attempts to look for physical signs of deception are highly subjective and unreliable. Also among the files are presentations and reports from the TSA and other law enforcement agencies that put forth untested theories of how to profile attackers and rely on broad stereotypes about Muslims.
The TSA has deployed behavior detection officers, or BDOs, at security checkpoints and in plainclothes throughout airports to look for travelers exhibiting behaviors that might betray fear, stress, or deception. According to the documents, these officers engage in “casual conversations” such that the passengers don’t realize they “have undergone any deliberate line of questioning.”
These spotters can pick people out for extra screening, refer them to law enforcement or immigration authorities, or block them from boarding a plane.
President Trump has inherited a vast domestic intelligence agency with extraordinary secret powers. A cache of documents offers a rare window into the FBI’s quiet expansion since 9/11.
After the famous Church Committee hearings in the 1970s exposed the FBI’s wild overreach, reforms were enacted to protect civil liberties. But in recent years, the bureau has substantially revised those rules with very little public scrutiny. That’s why The Intercept is publishing this special package of articles based on three internal FBI manuals that we exclusively obtained.
These stories illuminate how the FBI views its authority to assess terrorism suspects, recruit informants, spy on university organizations, infiltrate online chat rooms, peer through the walls of private homes, and more.
In addition to the articles collected here — which include nine new pieces and two that we previously published based on the same source material — we have annotated the manuals to highlight what we found most newsworthy in them. We redacted the sections that could be used to identify individuals or systems for the purpose of causing harm. We’re presenting the stories alongside the manuals because we believe the public has a right to know how the U.S. government’s leading domestic law enforcement agency understands and wields its enormous power.
[…] As Beutler wrote, the institutions of civil society responded with alacrity to Trump’s Muslim ban, ensnaring his executive order in the courts. But the institutions of government are withering, starting with the moribund and morally decrepit Republican Party, the wound that allowed Trump to enter the body politic and hijack it. Meanwhile, the Western world is being buffeted by immense forces, from the fallout from the 2008 financial crisis to upheaval in the Middle East—the very forces that propelled Trump to the White House and continue to upend liberal democracy as we know it. The lesson of the 2016 election is that the system failed us utterly. If President Trump can happen, anything can happen.
All of this is to say that there’s a lot of gasoline lying around and it won’t take much to spark it. This is not to say we’re looking at some imminent version of the Reichstag Fire. Like everyone else, I took heart from the demonstrations at JFK and around the country; it was evidence that America is full of good people and that we are not doomed to some Trumpian dystopia. But just consider what would have happened if the terror attack in Quebec City had occurred in the United States (even if the attack targeted Muslims). With the ban already in place, wouldn’t such an attack become instantly politicized? Would such an attack not justify the ban in the eyes of the Trump administration, and give it grounds to expand it? Can anyone say, with any certainty, that we wouldn’t see tanks in the streets? I don’t think we should succumb to hysteria. But should we be afraid? Absolutely.
The administration of the US president, Donald Trump, condemned what it called the “anti-police atmosphere” in the United States and called for more law enforcement and more effective policing in a statement on the White House website after the new president’s inauguration.
“The dangerous anti-police atmosphere in America is wrong. The Trump administration will end it,” said Friday’s statement on the White House’s official website after it was taken over by the new administration.
Trump was still committed to building a border wall to stop undocumented immigration, the statement said, adding: “Our country needs more law enforcement, more community engagement, and more effective policing.”
According to The Guardian’s The Counted database, US police forces killed at least 1,092 people in 2016.
Although African Americans make up roughly 12 percent of the US population, they represented nearly a quarter of those killed by police last year.
With mere days left before President-elect Donald Trump takes the White House, President Barack Obama’s administration just finalized rules to make it easier for the nation’s intelligence agencies to share unfiltered information about innocent people.
New rules issued by the Obama administration under Executive Order 12333 will let the NSA—which collects information under that authority with little oversight, transparency, or concern for privacy—share the raw streams of communications it intercepts directly with agencies including the FBI, the DEA, and the Department of Homeland Security, according to a report today by the New York Times.
That’s a huge and troubling shift in the way those intelligence agencies receive information collected by the NSA. Domestic agencies like the FBI are subject to more privacy protections, including warrant requirements. Previously, the NSA shared data with these agencies only after it had screened the data, filtering out unnecessary personal information, including about innocent people whose communications were swept up the NSA’s massive surveillance operations.
In the first video, we hear from Congressmember Luis Gutiérrez (D-Illinois), co-chair of the Immigration Task Force of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, and from Rev. William Barber, president of the North Carolina NAACP and Moral Mondays leader. In the second video, Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez speak to David Cole, national legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union, who is set to testify at Sessions’ Senate hearing, and with Kyle Barry, policy counsel with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and co-author their report opposing Jeff Sessions’s nomination. In the third, fourth, fifth and sixth videos, Jaisal Noor speaks to Kamau Franklin, a longtime activist and civil rights attorney and author, historian Gerald Horne, Alabama NAACP President Bernard Simelton, and veteran civil rights prosecutor Gerald Hebert, who played a key role in Sessions’s failed bid for a federal judgeship in 1986. (Democracy Now!/The Real News)
- Five Questions for Jeff Sessions
- Jeff Sessions is no misunderstood southern gentleman
- Jeff Sessions is a threat to all vulnerable Americans
- Smooth-Talking Jeff Sessions Can’t Hide Disturbing Record
- Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer will oppose Jeff Sessions for attorney general
- Cory Booker tells Senate hearing Jeff Sessions does not have the ’empathy’ required
- Sessions Defends ‘Brilliant’ David Horowitz In Confirmation Hearing
- Sessions tells Senate confirmation hearing he still opposes same-sex marriage and Roe v Wade ruling
- Trump’s attorney general pick Jeff Sessions was deemed too racist to be a federal judge
- Jeff Sessions: KKK-costumed protesters interrupt attorney general confirmation hearing
- Marijuana Industry Fears If Sessions Is Confirmed, Dispensaries Could Get Shut Down
- Jeff Sessions a ‘Nightmare’ for Marijuana and Sentencing Reform, Advocate Says
- Career Racist Jeff Sessions Is Donald Trump’s Pick For Attorney General
The hysteria about Russian hacking of the Democratic National Committee and the Republican National Committee servers and the phishing scam run on Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager, John Podesta, is short on evidence and high in self-righteousness. Much of the report issued Friday was old boilerplate about the Russia Today cable channel, which proves nothing.
My complaint is that American television news reports all this as if it is The First Time in History Anyone has Acted like This. But the head of the Republican Party in the early 1970s hired burglars to do the same thing– break into the Watergate building and get access to DNC documents in hopes of throwing an election. Dick Nixon even ordered a second break-in. And it took a long time for Republican members of Congress to come around to the idea that a crime had been committed; if it hadn’t been for the Supreme Court, Nixon might have served out his term.
In the past decade and a half, the US National Security Agency has been deployed for hacking purposes not, as the cover story would have it, for counter-terrorism (there isn’t much evidence that they’re any good at that), but to gain political advantage over allies.
Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez speak to Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, about the murder case revolving around James Andrew Bates and the police warrant that seeks to obtain data from his Amazon Echo. (Democracy Now!)
- Amazon resists warrants for Echo data in Arkansas murder case
- Alexa Is Listening, But Amazon Values Privacy And Gives You Control
- Your Honor, I’d Like to Call My Next Witness – Amazon Echo
- Murder case will test privacy rights of Amazon Echo users
- Amazon Echo search warrant could spur new prosecution methods, expert says
In late October, a group of Maryland legislators met with police officials, attorneys, privacy advocates, and policy analysts to discuss creating a legal framework to govern aerial surveillance programs such as the one the Baltimore Police Department had been using to track vehicles and individuals through the city since January.
“What, if anything, are other states doing to address this issue?” Joseph Vallerio, the committee’s chairman, asked the panel.
“Nothing,” replied David Rocah, an attorney with the ACLU. “Because no one has ever done this before.”
The Baltimore surveillance program broke new ground by bringing wide-area persistent surveillance—a technology that the military has been developing for a decade—to municipal law enforcement. The police department kept the program secret from the public, as well as from the city’s mayor and other local officials, until it was detailed in August by Bloomberg Businessweek. Privacy advocates, defense attorneys, and some local legislators called for the program to be suspended immediately, until the technology could be evaluated in public hearings.
But in the three months since the public discussion began, the police have continued to use the surveillance plane to monitor large events, such as the Baltimore Marathon, and essential questions remain unanswered. The police continue to classify the program as an ongoing trial, but the private company that operates it for the police—Persistent Surveillance Systems—doesn’t have a permanent contract and no specific regulations govern its operations.
As the looming specter of a Donald Trump presidency continues to terrify minority groups throughout the United States, one industry is greeting the new administration with open arms.
Speaking at a physical surveillance trade show on Wednesday, two representatives from the Security Industry Association (SIA) – which lobbies the government on behalf of surveillance tech manufacturers – laid out the myriad ways Trump could be great news for their members’ bottom line. Overall, the near-certainty that Trump will increase spending on defense border security means it’s a great time to be in the surveillance world.
Jake Parker, the director of government relations at SIA, and Joe Hoellerer, manager of government relations at SIA, spoke at a side event during ISC East, the largest physical surveillance trade conference in the northeast. SIA represents about 700 different companies, and although Trump hadn’t announced any cabinet appointments yet, Parker addressed some of the names that had been floated.
Kim Brown speaks to Vincent Warren, Executive Director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, who says Donald Trump’s solution of deeper investment in police forces in communities will only serve to amplify the racial divide and that Jeff Sessions “is a part. (The Real News)
They called it Project X. It was an unusually audacious, highly sensitive assignment: to build a massive skyscraper, capable of withstanding an atomic blast, in the middle of New York City. It would have no windows, 29 floors with three basement levels, and enough food to last 1,500 people two weeks in the event of a catastrophe.
But the building’s primary purpose would not be to protect humans from toxic radiation amid nuclear war. Rather, the fortified skyscraper would safeguard powerful computers, cables, and switchboards. It would house one of the most important telecommunications hubs in the United States — the world’s largest center for processing long-distance phone calls, operated by the New York Telephone Company, a subsidiary of AT&T.
The building was designed by the architectural firm John Carl Warnecke & Associates, whose grand vision was to create a communication nerve center like a “20th century fortress, with spears and arrows replaced by protons and neutrons laying quiet siege to an army of machines within.”
Construction began in 1969, and by 1974, the skyscraper was completed. Today, it can be found in the heart of lower Manhattan at 33 Thomas Street, a vast gray tower of concrete and granite that soars 550 feet into the New York skyline. The brutalist structure, still used by AT&T and, according to the New York Department of Finance, owned by the company, is like no other in the vicinity. Unlike the many neighboring residential and office buildings, it is impossible to get a glimpse inside 33 Thomas Street. True to the designers’ original plans, there are no windows and the building is not illuminated. At night it becomes a giant shadow, blending into the darkness, its large square vents emitting a distinct, dull hum that is frequently drowned out by the sound of passing traffic and wailing sirens.
For many New Yorkers, 33 Thomas Street — known as the “Long Lines Building” — has been a source of mystery for years. It has been labeled one of the city’s weirdest and most iconic skyscrapers, but little information has ever been published about its purpose.
Taya Graham and Stephen Janis report on how the Trump administration’s hostility to police accountability on the campaign trail could translate into a passive if not openly anti-reform stance says advocates. (The Real News)
Widespread social unrest will ignite when Donald Trump’s base realizes it has been betrayed. I do not know when this will happen. But that it will happen is certain. Investments in the stocks of the war industry, internal security and the prison-industrial complex have skyrocketed since Trump won the presidency. There is a lot of money to be made from a militarized police state.
Our capitalist democracy ceased to function more than two decades ago. We underwent a corporate coup carried out by the Democratic and Republican parties. There are no institutions left that can authentically be called democratic. Trump and Hillary Clinton in a functioning democracy would have never been presidential nominees. The long and ruthless corporate assault on the working class, the legal system, electoral politics, the mass media, social services, the ecosystem, education and civil liberties in the name of neoliberalism has disemboweled the country. It has left the nation a decayed wreck. We celebrate ignorance. We have replaced political discourse, news, culture and intellectual inquiry with celebrity worship and spectacle.
Fascism, as historian Gaetano Salvemini pointed out, is about “giving up free institutions.” It is the product of a democracy that has ceased to function. The democratic form will remain, much as it did during the dictatorships in the later part of the Roman Empire, but the reality is despotism, or in our case, corporate despotism. The citizen does not genuinely participate in power.
Sharmini Peries speaks to Pulitzer prize-winning journalist Chris Hedges about the election of Donald Trump. Hedges says the tools of state repression that will end up in the hands of a Trump administration were built by both Republicans and Democrats and. He also says the demonization of third parties misses the fact that roots of our current situation are austerity, deindustrialization, and the impoverishment of half the nation. (The Real News)
When Donald Trump becomes commander in chief in January, he will take on presidential powers that have never been more expansive and unchecked.
He’ll control an unaccountable drone program, and the prison at Guantanamo Bay. His FBI, including a network of 15,000 paid informants, already has a record of spying on mosques and activists, and his NSA’s surveillance empire is ubiquitous and governed by arcane rules, most of which remain secret. He will inherit bombing campaigns in seven Muslim countries, the de facto ability to declare war unilaterally, and a massive nuclear arsenal — much of which is on hair-trigger alert.
Caught off guard by Hillary Clinton’s election defeat, Democrats who defended these powers under President Obama may suddenly be having second thoughts as the White House gets handed over to a man they described — with good reason — as “unhinged,” and “dangerously unfit.”
Juan Gonzalez and Amy Goodman speak with William Hartung, director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy, and Seth Freed Wessler, reporter with The Investigative Fund, about the surge in stocks in the private prison and defense industry. (Democracy Now!)
In a little over two months, Donald Trump – after his shocking victory last night – will control a vast, unaccountable national security and military apparatus unparalleled in world history. The nightmare that civil libertarians have warned of for years has now tragically come true: instead of dismantling the surveillance state and war machine, the Obama administration and Democrats institutionalised it – and it will soon be in the hands of a maniac.
It will go down in history as perhaps President Obama’s most catastrophic mistake.
The Obama administration could have prosecuted torturers and war criminals in the Bush administration and sent an unmistakable message to the world: torture is illegal and unconscionable. Instead the president said they would “look forward, not backward”, basically turning a clear felony into a policy dispute. Trump has bragged that he will bring back torture – waterboarding and “much worse”. He has talked about killing the innocent family members of terrorists, openly telling the world he will commit war crimes.
Now that Trump will take the reins of our various Middle East wars in January, who’s going to stop him from following through on his heinous proposals?
If your Facebook News Feed is anything like mine, it’s currently a flood of check-ins at somewhere your friends have probably never been. Swarms of people are checking in at Standing Rock, North Dakota, the site of the ongoing protests against the Dakota Access oil pipeline. The check-in is an act of protest, but also intended as a form of cover for the people dedicated enough to show up in person.
On Monday, a rumor spread across the web that police in North Dakota were using Facebook to monitor activists protesting the pipeline’s construction. Tensions between police and protesters have been mounting for months in Standing Rock as officers have used pepper spray, tasers, and beanbag rounds against protesters, and arrested them in droves. The Orwellian rumor echoed the revelation from earlier this year that police had carried out secret surveillance of protesters with Black Lives Matter.
Juan Gonzalez and Amy Goodman speak to Craig Aaron, president and CEO of Free Press, about the $85 billion proposed mega-merger of telecommunications giant AT&T and Time Warner. They also speak to Adam Schwartz, a senior lawyer at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, about U.S. police departments paying AT&T millions to spy on Americans. (Democracy Now!)
FBI director James Comey set off a torrent of criticism late last week when he directly inserted himself into the presidential campaign with a vague letter to Congress about the reopening of Clinton email case. His conduct has shocked many observers across the political spectrum, but the only thing truly surprising about this episode is that people are only now realizing how power-hungry and dangerous Comey actually is.
During his stints in the Bush and Obama administration Comey has continually taken authoritarian and factually dubious public stances both at odds with responsible public policy and sometimes the law. The Clinton case is not an aberration, it’s part of a clear pattern.
Liberals were once enthralled when Obama appointed the Republican as FBI chief in 2013. They talked about Comey as if he was above reproach because of his role as acting attorney general under George W Bush, when he threatened to resign over an aspect of the president’s illegal warrantless wiretapping program.