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Apple’s New “FaceID” Could Be A Powerful Mass Spying Tool

Apple’s New “FaceID” Could Be A Powerful Mass Spying Tool

mass-survey

On Tuesday, Apple revealed their newest phone. The new line was anticipated by Apple users and is another cult favorite.  But many are rightly skeptical of the “FaceID” feature.

FaceID, is a tool that would use facial recognition to identify individuals and unlock their phones for use. Unsurprisingly, this has generated some major anxiety about mass spying and privacy concerns. Retailers already have a desire for facial recognition technology. They want to monitor consumers, and without legally binding terms and Apple could use FaceID to track consumer patterns at its stores or develop and sell data to others.

That seems minor on the surface, but the ramifications could be enormous. It’s also highly possible that police would be able to more easily unlock phones without consent by simply holding an individual’s phone up to his or her face, violating the rights of the person to privacy.

But FaceID should create fear about another form of government surveillance too. And this one is a rights violation of every person on earth: mass scans to identify individuals based on face profiles. Law enforcement is rapidly increasing their use of facial recognition; one in two American adults are already enrolled in a law enforcement facial recognition network, and at least one in four police departments has the capability to run face recognition searches. This could make Apple the target for a new mass surveillance order.

While Facebook has a powerful facial recognition system, it doesn’t maintain the operating systems that control the cameras on phones, tablets, and laptops that stare at us every day. Apple’s new system completely changes that. For the first time, a company will have a facial recognition system with millions of profiles, and the hardware to scan and identify faces throughout the world.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

How the NSA Built a Secret Surveillance Network for Ethiopia

Photo: Minasse Wondimu Hailu/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

“A WARM FRIENDSHIP connects the Ethiopian and American people,” U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson announced earlier this year. “We remain committed to working with Ethiopia to foster liberty, democracy, economic growth, protection of human rights, and the rule of law.”

Indeed, the website for the U.S. Embassy in Ethiopia is marked by press releases touting U.S. aid for farmers and support for public health infrastructure in that East African nation. “Ethiopia remains among the most effective development partners, particularly in the areas of health care, education, and food security,” says the State Department.

Behind the scenes, however, Ethiopia and the U.S. are bound together by long-standing relationships built on far more than dairy processing equipment or health centers to treat people with HIV. Fifteen years ago, the U.S. began setting up very different centers, filled with technology that is not normally associated with the protection of human rights.

In the aftermath of 9/11, according to classified U.S. documents published Wednesday by The Intercept, the National Security Agency forged a relationship with the Ethiopian government that has expanded exponentially over the years. What began as one small facility soon grew into a network of clandestine eavesdropping outposts designed to listen in on the communications of Ethiopians and their neighbors across the Horn of Africa in the name of counterterrorism.

In exchange for local knowledge and an advantageous location, the NSA provided the East African nation with technology and training integral to electronic surveillance. “Ethiopia’s position provides the partnership unique access to the targets,” a commander of the U.S. spying operation wrote in a classified 2005 report. (The report is one of 294 internal NSA newsletters released today by The Intercept.)

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Trump Administration Urges Congress To Renew Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA)

Trump Administration Urges Congress To Renew Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA)

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions is urging Congress to “promptly” reauthorize section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) scheduled to expire at the end of this year.

The Director of National Intelligence (DNI) Dan Coats also signed the letter, addressed to House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.

Section 702 of FISA “allows the Intelligence Community, under a robust regime of oversight by all three branches of government, to collect vital information about international terrorists, cyber actors, individuals and entities engaged in the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and other important foreign intelligence targets located outside the United States,” Sessions and Coats wrote.

They added: “Reauthorizing this critical authority is the top legislative priority of the Department of Justice and the Intelligence Community. As publicly reported by the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, information collected under one particular section of FAA, Section 702, produces significant foreign intelligence that is vital to protect the nation against international terrorism and other threats.”

FISA was enacted in 1978 as a response to illegal domestic surveillance operations revealed by two Senate committees in the 1970s, including President Richard Nixon’s use of federal intelligence agencies to monitor his political opponents. It was brought into law “to authorize electronic surveillance to obtain foreign intelligence information.”

The law requires the government to obtain a warrant from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court before setting up an electronic or physical wiretap targeted at foreigners and foreign agents.

Congress amended FISA in 2007 to let the government wiretap communications that either begin or end outside the United States jurisdiction without Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) approval; in a stronger  2008 overhaul, they further limited that power to non-U.S. persons. The last reauthorization of the act was in 2012, which set the current expiration date of Dec. 31, 2017.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Taking Aim at Wikileaks

Taking Aim at Wikileaks

Various scribbles have started to pepper the conversation started by the adventurous Mike Pompeo after he branded WikiLeaks a hostile intelligence agency before the Center for Strategic and International Studies.  (This would have generated a wry smile of content from Julian Assange.)

The words of the Central Intelligence Agency chief are worth retelling in their mind distorting wonder: “It’s time to call out WikiLeaks for what it is, a non-state hostile intelligence service, often abetted by state actors like Russia.”[1]

Individuals like Assange and Edward Snowden receive the necessary special treatment as history’s great turncoats: “As long as they make a splash, they care nothing about the lives they put at risk or the damage they cause to national security.” Celebrity disrupters, dangerous irritants, narcissists in pursuit of personal glory.

This wretchedly desperate sentiment – for its nothing else – has wound its way into Congressional ponderings.  Prior to the August District Work Period, the Senate Intelligence Committee took up Pompeo’s views, slotting into the Senate Intelligence Authorization Act (SB 1761) some suggestive wording:

“It is the sense of Congress that WikiLeaks and the senior leadership of WikiLeaks resembles a non-state  hostile intelligence service often abetted by state actors and should be treated as such a service by the United States.”[2]

This inventive provision passed 14-1, the only demurral coming from Democrat Ron Wyden of Oregon.  To The Hill, Wyden explained that “the use of the novel phrase ‘non-state intelligence service’ may have legal, constitutional, and policy implications, particularly should it be applied to journalists inquiring about secrets.”[3] And what, he feared, of the “unstated course of action” against those sinister non-state hostile intelligence services?

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Kafka Warned Us

Kafka Warned Us

Photo by Sébastien Bertrand | CC BY 2.0

Kafka’s The Trial can be read in retrospect as a prelude to the Twentieth/Twenty-First century. Although probably not written as prophecy, Kafka’s short unfinished book nevertheless provides a road map to the terrors of the current Surveillance State.

As readers of CounterPunch are all too familiar, modern man, as a single individual, is at the mercy of the modern state and those who, lurking in semi-secrecy, direct it.

Kafka’s The Trial superbly conveys the unease of our current existential situation.

Early one morning, The Trial’s main protagonist, Joseph K, awakes to find that, totally unexpectedly, he has been arrested. Throughout the book he endeavors to find the reason for his arrest without any definite success.

However, what he does discover is a vast semi-secret bureaucracy/organizaton whose inner workings and outward displays of power and decision making remain opaque at best.

Initally, Joseph K, believes that he lives in a “Rechtsstaat” (a state where the rule of law is respected) and thus where it is expected that all civilized norms and laws are upheld.

Yet, he soon comes to see that he has lived in a state of fundamental error and illusion about the true nature of his existence.

What appeared to him as a well ordered and just state is, all of a sudden, revealed to be a capricious omnipotent octopus capable of strangling (in this case literally) anyone deemed to be, for whatever reason, expendable.

All law is suspended or, at least, made a mockery of. All that remains are the inner, turgid demands of power.

Joseph K. is convinced of his innocence. But his conviction is no match for the monolithic power that stands against him. He is eventually crushed, if not by his enemy’s repetitive legal machinations, then by his fatalistic far-reaching administrative power.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The US Spy Hub in the Heart of Australia

A SHORT DRIVE south of Alice Springs, the second largest population center in Australia’s Northern Territory, there is a high-security compound, code-named “RAINFALL.” The remote base, in the heart of the country’s barren outback, is one of the most important covert surveillance sites in the eastern hemisphere.

Hundreds of Australian and American employees come and go every day from Joint Defence Facility Pine Gap, as the base is formally known. The official “cover story,” as outlined in a secret U.S. intelligence document, is to “support the national security of both the U.S. and Australia. The [facility] contributes to verifying arms control and disarmament agreements and monitoring military developments.” But, at best, that is an economical version of the truth. Pine Gap has a far broader mission — and more powerful capabilities — than the Australian or American governments have ever publicly acknowledged.

An investigation, published Saturday by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation in collaboration with The Intercept, punctures the wall of secrecy surrounding Pine Gap, revealing for the first time a wide range of details about its function. The base is an important ground station from which U.S. spy satellites are controlled and communications are monitored across several continents, according to classified documents obtained by The Intercept from the National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden.

Together with the NSA’s Menwith Hill base in England, Pine Gap has in recent years been used as a command post for two missions. The first, named M7600, involved at least two spy satellites and was said in a secret 2005 document to provide “continuous coverage of the majority of the Eurasian landmass and Africa.” This initiative was later upgraded as part of a second mission, named M8300, which involved “a four satellite constellation” and covered the former Soviet Union, China, South Asia, East Asia, the Middle East, Eastern Europe, and territories in the Atlantic Ocean.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Wikileaks Reveals “Dumbo”: Tool That Allows CIA To Shut Down Cameras And Microphones

Wikileaks Reveals “Dumbo”: Tool That Allows CIA To Shut Down Cameras And Microphones

Since Wikileaks began releasing classified CIA documents back in March as part of its “Vault 7” series of leaks, purportedly the largest document dump in the agency’s history, it has publicly unveiled programs with innocent sounding names like “Marble”, “Scribbles” and “Archimedes” that the agency employs to help execute its operations, or to cover its tracks.

On Thursday, the group released the 19th installment in its series by publishing a series of documents detailing how the agency uses a custom-designed hacking exploit called “Dumbo” to destroy, or manufacture, evidence during field operations, according to a Wikileaks press release.

The CIA filed a request that such a tool back in 2012, according to a powerpoint presentations describing what capabilities it would need.

In a field guide for the tool, dated July 2015, the agency says “the intelligence community has identified a need…for a capability to suspend processes utilizing webcams and corrupt any video recordings that could compromise a PAG deployment.”

Once installed on a computer running the Windows operating system via a thumb drive, Dumbo identifies webcams and microphones and stops them from recording. The program notifies its operator of any files that were actively being written so that they can be corrupted or deleted, according to the field manual.

“Dumbo works by discovering which processes have access to the physical camera device and uses that information to corrupt video files.  In some instances, programs emulate a camera input to other programs; such is the case with Fujitsu’s YouCam.exe.  When this occurs, YouCam.exe will have control of the actual webcam, and feed input to other processes that record images to files as needed.  In this scenario, Dumbo will suspend YouCam.exe but will not be able to detect the other processes to which YouCam.exe is feeding images.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

How many Americans are swept up in the NSA’s snooping programs?

How many Americans are swept up in the NSA’s snooping programs?

How many Americans are swept up in the NSA's snooping programs?
© Getty Images

Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper famously (or infamously) told Congress the National Security Agency did not “wittingly” collect data on Americans. That turned out to be false.

More recently, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) asked the current director of national intelligence, Dan Coats whether the government could use Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act “to collect communications it knows are entirely domestic.”

“Not to my knowledge. That would be illegal,” Coats responded.

However, a subsequent letter from Coats’ office to Wyden’s office suggests the director’s answer was incomplete. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence clarified that “section 702(b)(4) plainly states we ‘may not intentionally acquire any communication as to which the sender and all intended recipients are known at the time of acquisition to be located in the United States.’ The DNI interpreted Senator Wyden’s question to ask about this provision and answered accordingly.”

Wyden has since gone on record with his contention that the DNI did not answer his question, requesting the office provide a public response. The exchange offers insight into how intelligence agencies use semantics to obfuscate their activities, while also illustrating the frustration many privacy advocates and lawmakers encounter in the search for Section 702 surveillance transparency.

FISA Section 702 authorizes two major NSA snooping programs. One is “upstream” collection, a process in which the NSA collects digital communications through the internet’s backbone — undersea cables that process large volumes of internet traffic, which internet service providers send to the government. The government attempts to sort the data for foreign targets’ information and then is supposed to discard the rest.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Age of No Privacy: The Surveillance State Shifts Into High Gear [SHORT]

The Age of No Privacy: The Surveillance State Shifts Into High Gear [SHORT]

“We are rapidly entering the age of no privacy, where everyone is open to surveillance at all times; where there are no secrets from government.” ― William O. Douglas, Supreme Court Justice (1966)

The government has become an expert in finding ways to sidestep what it considers “inconvenient laws” aimed at ensuring accountability and thereby bringing about government transparency and protecting citizen privacy.

Indeed, it has mastered the art of stealth maneuvers and end-runs around the Constitution.

It knows all too well how to hide its nefarious, covert, clandestine activities behind the classified language of national security and terrorism. And when that doesn’t suffice, it obfuscates, complicates, stymies or just plain bamboozles the public into remaining in the dark.

Case in point: the National Security Agency (NSA) has been diverting “internet traffic, normally safeguarded by constitutional protections, overseas in order to conduct unrestrained data collection on Americans.”

It’s extraordinary rendition all over again, only this time it’s surveillance instead of torture being outsourced.

In much the same way that the government moved its torture programs overseas in order to bypass legal prohibitions against doing so on American soil, it is doing the same thing for its surveillance programs.

By shifting its data storage, collection and surveillance activities outside of the country—a tactic referred to as “traffic shaping” —the government is able to bypass constitutional protections against unwarranted searches of Americans’ emails, documents, social networking data, and other cloud-stored data.

The government, however, doesn’t even need to move its programs overseas. It just has to push the data over the border in order to “[circumvent] constitutional and statutory safeguards seeking to protect the privacy of Americans.”

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Report: British Intelligence Agencies, In Addition to Six Other Nations, Were All Spying on Trump

Report: British Intelligence Agencies, In Addition to Six Other Nations, Were All Spying on Trump

About a month ago, Fox suspended Judge Nap for suggesting British intelligence had spied on Donald Trump. The media went hysterical, saying the good judge was filled with UFO styled conspiracy theories.

Here was his claim.

A spokesman for the GCHQ at the time called the claims ‘nonsense’, proclaiming “They are utterly ridiculous and should be ignored.”

Lo and behold, the Guardian is out with an exclusive tonight — rebuking the GCHQ denial — confirming that Obama had received information from the British spy agency, possibly to avoid being detected by people investigating FISA warrants. In addition to Britain’s GCHQ, Mi6 was also involved, and 4 other nations —  as part of the intelligence gathering apparatus called SIGINT — who then ferried their findings to Obama. The spying nations were Germany, Estonia, Poland and Australia.

Another guardian source said both France and the Netherlands were possible contributors to the Trump spying ring too.

CNN reporting:

The GCHQ became aware of  ‘suspicious interactions’ in late 2015.

Over the next six months, until summer 2016, a number of western agencies shared further information on contacts between Trump’s inner circle and Russians, sources said.

It is understood that GCHQ was at no point carrying out a targeted operation against Trump or his team or proactively seeking information. The alleged conversations were picked up by chance as part of routine surveillance of Russian intelligence assets. Over several months, different agencies targeting the same people began to see a pattern of connections that were flagged to intelligence officials in the US.

In typical spin, the Guardian’s source posited the notion that something improper had taken place between the Russians and Trump.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The U.S. Intelligence Community’s Emphasis on Offensive Capabilities is Dangerous, Idiotic and Authoritarian

The U.S. Intelligence Community’s Emphasis on Offensive Capabilities is Dangerous, Idiotic and Authoritarian

Earlier today, Edward Snowden posted the following tweet calling attention to a very important article published at Reuters.


Huge: USG confirms cyber offense funded at 9x rate of defense. Wonder why we can’t stop foreign hacks? This is why. http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-cyber-defense-idUSKBN17013U 

Reuters reports:

When WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange disclosed earlier this month that his anti-secrecy group had obtained CIA tools for hacking into technology products made by U.S. companies, security engineers at Cisco Systems swung into action.

That a major U.S. company had to rely on WikiLeaks to learn about security problems well-known to U.S. intelligence agencies underscores concerns expressed by dozens of current and former U.S. intelligence and security officials about the government’s approach to cybersecurity.

That policy overwhelmingly emphasizes offensive cyber-security capabilities over defensive measures, these people told Reuters, even as an increasing number of U.S. organizations have been hit by hacks attributed to foreign governments.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

WikiLeaks Reveals “Marble”: Proof CIA Disguises Their Hacks As Russian, Chinese, Arabic…

WikiLeaks Reveals “Marble”: Proof CIA Disguises Their Hacks As Russian, Chinese, Arabic…

WikiLeaks’ latest Vault 7 release contains a batch of documents, named ‘Marble’, which detail CIA hacking tactics and how they can misdirect forensic investigators from attributing viruses, trojans and hacking attacks to their agency by inserted code fragments in foreign languages.  The tool was in use as recently as 2016.  Per the WikiLeaks release:

“The source code shows that Marble has test examples not just in English but also in Chinese, Russian, Korean, Arabic and Farsi. This would permit a forensic attribution double game, for example by pretending that the spoken language of the malware creator was not American English, but Chinese, but then showing attempts to conceal the use of Chinese, drawing forensic investigators even more strongly to the wrong conclusion, — but there are other possibilities, such as hiding fake error messages.”


RELEASE: CIA Vault 7 part 3 “Marble” https://wikileaks.org/vault7/?marble#Marble%20Framework 

UN Slams Mass Surveillance: “Trying To Appear Tough On Security By Legitimising Largely Useless … Measures”

UN Slams Mass Surveillance: “Trying To Appear Tough On Security By Legitimising Largely Useless … Measures”

A White House panel has previously slammed the NSA, and said that mass spying is unnecessary.

Now, the United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on the Right to Privacy notes in a new report (with our comments)

Deeply concerning … the status of the right to privacy in the surveillance area of activity has not improved since the last [UN surveillance] report. [Indeed, it’s getting worse … and will only expand unless we fight for privacy.]

***

Increasingly, personal data ends up in the same “bucket” of data which can be used and re-used for all kinds of known and unknown purposes. [Numerous high-level NSA whistleblowers say that NSA spying is about crushing dissent and blackmailing opponents … notstoppingterrorism.] This poses critical questions in areas such as requirements for gathering data, storing data, analysing data and ultimately erasing data. As a concrete example a recent study carried out by the Georgetown Center on Privacy and Technology in the United States has found that “one in two American adults is in a law enforcement face recognition network.” As the authors of the study put it: “We know very little about these systems. We don’t know how they impact privacy and civil liberties. [We have a pretty good idea.] We don’t know how they address accuracy problems.

***

While often “traditional” methods, such as the interception of phone calls and communications in general, are subject to judicial authorisation before the measure can be employed, other techniques such as the collection and analysis of metadata referring to protocols of internet browsing history or data originating from the use of smartphones (location, phone calls, usage of applications, etc.) are subject to much weaker safeguards. This is not justified since the latter categories of data are at least as revealing of a person’s individual activity as the actual content of a conversation.  [Correct.] Hence, appropriate safeguards must also be in place for these measures.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

We’ve Created A Monster – Ron Paul Says It’s “Fantastic” That WikiLeaks Exposed The CIA

We’ve Created A Monster – Ron Paul Says It’s “Fantastic” That WikiLeaks Exposed The CIA

Ron Paul, the prominent libertarian communicator and three-time US presidential candidate, declared this week in a Fox Business interview that it is “fantastic” that WikiLeaks revealed on Tuesday thousands of US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) documents and files. 

Speaking with host Kennedy, Paul further says that the information exposed “indicates that liberty is in big trouble” and states his concern about there having been insufficient media coverage of the information and outlines the potential dangers related to technology…

Paul’s discussion raises the very crucial question “do we live in a police state?” As AntiWar’s Justin Raimondo warnsthe latest wikileaks revelations tell us the answer is ‘Yes’.

WikiLeaks and Julian Assange would have gone down in history as the greatest enemies of government oppression of all kinds in any case, but their latest release – a comprehensive exposé of the US intelligence community’s cyberwar tools and techniques – is truly the capstone of their career. And given that this release – dubbed “Vault 7” – amounts to just one percent of the documents they intend to publish, one can only look forward to the coming days with a mixture of joyful anticipation and ominous fear.

Fear because the power of the Deep State is even more forbidding – and seemingly invincible – than anyone knew. Joyful anticipation because, for the first time, it is dawning on the most unlikely people that we are, for all intents and purposes, living in a police state. I was struck by this while watching Sean Hannity’s show last [Wednesday] night – yes, Fox is my go-to news channel – and listening to both Hannity and his guests, including the ultra-conservative Laura Ingraham, inveigh against the “Deep State.”

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

16 Year Congressman: CIA Leak Shows We’re “Sliding Down the Slippery Slope Toward Totalitarianism, Where Private Lives Do Not Exist”

16 Year Congressman: CIA Leak Shows We’re “Sliding Down the Slippery Slope Toward Totalitarianism, Where Private Lives Do Not Exist”

That the CIA has reached into the lives of all Americans through its wholesale gathering of the nation’s “haystack” of information has already been reported.

It is bad enough that the government spies on its own people. It is equally bad that the CIA, through its incompetence, has opened the cyberdoor to anyone with the technological skills and connections to spy on anyone else.

The constant erosion of privacy at the hands of the government and corporations has annihilated the concept of a “right to privacy,” which is embedded in the rationale of the First, Third, Fourth, Ninth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

It is becoming increasingly clear that we are sliding down the slippery slope toward totalitarianism, where private lives do not exist.

We have entered a condition of constitutional crisis that requires a full-throated response from the American people.

Before you label Kucinich as being overly-dramatic, you may want to note that  Bill Binney – the high-level NSA executive who created the agency’s mass surveillance program for digital information, the 36-year NSA veteran widely who was the senior technical director within the agency and managed thousands of NSA employees – told Washington’s Blog that America has already become a police state.

And Thomas Drake – one of the top NSA executives, and Senior Change Leader within the NSA – told us the same thing.

And Kirk Wiebe – a 32-year NSA veteran who received the Director CIA’s Meritorious Unit Award and the NSA’s Meritorious Civilian Service Award – agrees (tweet via Jesselyn Radack, attorney for many national security whistleblowers, herself a Department of Justice whistleblower):

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

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