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How Cops Can Secretly Track Your Phone

Illustration: Soohee Cho/The Intercept

HOW COPS CAN SECRETLY TRACK YOUR PHONE

A guide to stingray surveillance technology, which may have been deployed at recent protests.

SINCE MAY, AS protesters around the country have marched against police brutality and in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, activists have spotted a recurring presence in the skies: mysterious planes and helicopters hovering overhead, apparently conducting surveillance on protesters. A press release from the Justice Department at the end of May revealed that the Drug Enforcement Agency and U.S. Marshals Service were asked by the Justice Department to provide unspecified support to law enforcement during protests. A few days later, a memo obtained by BuzzFeed News offered a little more insight on the matter; it revealed that shortly after protests began in various cities, the DEA had sought special authority from the Justice Department to covertly spy on Black Lives Matter protesters on behalf of law enforcement.

Although the press release and memo didn’t say what form the support and surveillance would take, it’s likely that the two agencies were being asked to assist police for a particular reason. Both the DEA and the Marshals possess airplanes outfitted with so-called stingrays or dirtboxes: powerful technologies capable of tracking mobile phones or, depending on how they’re configured, collecting data and communications from mobile phones in bulk.

Stingrays have been used on the ground and in the air by law enforcement for years but are highly controversial because they don’t just collect data from targeted phones; they collect data from any phone in the vicinity of a device. That data can be used to identify people — protesters, for example — and track their movements during and after demonstrations, as well as to identify others who associate with them. They also can inject spying software onto specific phones or direct the browser of a phone to a website where malware can be loaded onto it, though it’s not clear if any U.S. law enforcement agencies have used them for this purpose.

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

The Empire’s War On Oppositional Journalism Continues To Escalate

The Empire’s War On Oppositional Journalism Continues To Escalate

Journalist Glenn Greenwald has been charged by the Bolsonaro government in Brazil with the same prosecutorial angle used by the US to target WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

Per The New York Times:

Citing intercepted messages between Mr. Greenwald and the hackers, prosecutors say the journalist played a “clear role in facilitating the commission of a crime.”

For instance, prosecutors contend that Mr. Greenwald encouraged the hackers to delete archives that had already been shared with The Intercept Brasil, in order to cover their tracks.

Prosecutors also say that Mr. Greenwald was communicating with the hackers while they were actively monitoring private chats on Telegram, a messaging app. The complaint charged six other individuals, including four who were detained last year in connection with the cellphone hacking.

This argument is essentially indistinguishable from the argument currently being used by the Trump administration in charging Assange with 17 counts of violating the Espionage Act. The US Department of Justice alleges that Assange attempted to provide Private Manning with advice and assistance in covering her tracks while leaking documents she already had access to, therefore making Assange party to a conspiracy against the United States.

It is not surprising that Brazil is advancing the same war on journalism we’ve been seeing in the US, UK, Australia and France. With the election of the overtly fascist Jair Bolsonaro in October 2018 (an election whose corrupt foundations were exposed by Greenwald’s reporting with The Intercept Brasil), the Brazilian government moved into full alignment with the the US-centralized empire, which was why his inauguration was enthusiastically celebrated by characters like Donald TrumpMike PompeoJohn Bolton and Benjamin Netanyahu.

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

How a Small Company in Switzerland Is Fighting a Surveillance Law — And Winning

Photo: ProtonMail

A small email provider and its customers have almost single-handedly forced the Swiss government to put its new invasive surveillance law up for a public vote in a national referendum in June.

“This law was approved in September, and after the Paris attacks, we assumed privacy was dead at that point,” said Andy Yen, co-founder of ProtonMail, when I spoke with him on the phone. He was referring to the Nachrichtendienstgesetzt (NDG), a mouthful of a name for a bill that gave Swiss intelligence authorities more clout to spy on private communications, hack into citizens’ computers, and sweep up their cellphone information.

The climate of fear and terrorism, he said, felt too overwhelming to get people to care about constitutional rights when people first started organizing to fight the NDG law. Governments around the world, not to mention cable news networks, have taken advantage of tragedy to expand their reach under the guise of protecting people, even in classically neutral Switzerland — without much transparency or public debate on whether or not increased surveillance would help solve the problem.

But thanks to the way Swiss law works — if you get together 50,000 signatures within three months of the law passing — you can force a nationwide referendum where every citizen gets a say.

“In Switzerland, and overseas, no one really thought to ask the people,” Yen said. “The public opinion, especially from the young people, has shifted to pro-privacy.”

By gathering its users and teaming up with political groups including the Green and Pirate parties, as well as technological and privacy advocates including Chaos Computer Club Switzerland and Digitale Gesellschaft Switzerland, ProtonMail was able to collect over 70,000 signatures before the deadline.

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

Why Do We Expose Ourselves?

AMONG CRITICS OF TECHNOLOGICAL SURVEILLANCE, there are two allusions so commonplace they have crossed into the realm of cliché. One, as you have probably already guessed, is George Orwell’s Big Brother, from 1984. The other is Michel Foucault’s panopticon — a vision, adapted from Jeremy Bentham, of a prison in which captives cannot tell if or when they are being watched. Today, both of these touchstones are considered chillingly prophetic. But in Exposed: Desire and Disobedience in the Digital Age, Bernard Harcourt has another suggestion: Both of them are insufficient.

1984, Harcourt acknowledges, was an astoundingly farsighted text, but Orwell failed to anticipate the role pleasure would come to play in our culture of surveillance — specifically, the way it could be harnessed, as opposed to suppressed, by powerful interests. Oceania’s “Hate Week” is nowhere to be found; instead, we live in a world of likes, favorites, and friending. Foucault’s panopticon, in turn, needs a similar update; mass incarceration aside, the panopticon — for the rest of us — has become participatory, more of an amusement park or shopping mall than a penal institution. Rather than being coerced to reveal secrets, today we seem to enjoy self-exposure, giving away “our most intimate information and whereabouts so willingly and passionately — so voluntarily.”

Exposed is a welcome addition to the current spate of books about technology and surveillance. While it covers familiar ground — it opens with brief accounts of Facebook’s methods of tracking users, USAID’s establishment of ZunZuneo (a Twitter-like social network) in Cuba, and Edward Snowden’s revelations of the NSA’s PRISM program — Harcourt’s contribution is uniquely indebted to critical theory. Riffing on the work of another French philosopher, Gilles Deleuze, and his evocative 1992 fragment “Postscript on the Societies of Control,” Harcourt settles upon the phrase “Expository Society” to describe our current situation, one in which we “have become dulled to the perils of digital transparence” and enamored of exposure.

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

Spying on Congress and Israel: NSA Cheerleaders Discover Value of Privacy Only When Their Own Is Violated

The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that the NSA under President Obama targeted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his top aides for surveillance. In the process, the agency ended up eavesdropping on “the contents of some of their private conversations with U.S. lawmakers and American-Jewish groups” about how to sabotage the Iran Deal. All sorts of people who spent many years cheering for and defending the NSA and its programs of mass surveillance are suddenly indignant now that they know the eavesdropping included them and their American and Israeli friends rather than just ordinary people.

The long-time GOP chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and unyielding NSA defender Pete Hoekstra last night was truly indignant to learn of this surveillance:

In January 2014, I debated Rep. Hoekstra about NSA spying and he could not have been more mocking and dismissive of the privacy concerns I was invoking. “Spying is a matter of fact,” he scoffed. As Andrew Krietz, the journalist who covered that debate, reported, Hoekstra “laughs at foreign governments who are shocked they’ve been spied on because they, too, gather information” — referring to anger from German and Brazilian leaders. As TechDirt noted, “Hoekstra attacked a bill called the RESTORE Act, that would have granted a tiny bit more oversight over situations where (you guessed it) the NSA was collecting information on Americans.”

But all that, of course, was before Hoekstra knew that he and his Israeli friends were swept up in the spying of which he was so fond.

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

Recently Bought a Windows Computer? Microsoft Probably Has Your Encryption Key

RECENTLY BOUGHT A WINDOWS COMPUTER? MICROSOFT PROBABLY HAS YOUR ENCRYPTION KEY

One of the excellent features of new Windows devices is that disk encryption is built-in and turned on by default, protecting your data in case your device is lost or stolen. But what is less well-known is that, if you are like most users and login to Windows 10 using your Microsoft account, your computer automatically uploaded a copy of your recovery key – which can be used to unlock your encrypted disk – to Microsoft’s servers, probably without your knowledge and without an option to opt-out.

During the “crypto wars” of the nineties, the National Security Agency developed an encryption backdoor technology – endorsed and promoted by the Clinton administration – called the Clipper chip, which they hoped telecom companies would use to sell backdoored crypto phones. Essentially, every phone with a Clipper chip would come with an encryption key, but the government would also get a copy of that key – this is  known as key escrow – with the promise to only use it in response to a valid warrant. But due to public outcry and the availability of encryption tools like PGP, which the government didn’t control, the Clipper chip program ceased to be relevant by 1996. (Today, most phone calls still aren’t encrypted. You can use the free, open source, backdoorless Signal app to make encrypted calls.)

The fact that new Windows devices require users to backup their recovery key on Microsoft’s servers is remarkably similar to a key escrow system, but with an important difference. Users can choose to delete recovery keys from their Microsoft accounts (you can skip to the bottom of this article to learn how) – something that people never had the option to do with the Clipper chip system. But they can only delete it after they’ve already uploaded it to the cloud.

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

NSA Helped British Spies Find Security Holes in Juniper Firewalls

A TOP-SECRET document dated February 2011 reveals that British spy agency GCHQ, with the knowledge and apparent cooperation of the NSA, acquired the capability to covertly exploit security vulnerabilities in 13 different models of firewalls made by Juniper Networks, a leading provider of networking and Internet security gear.

The six-page document, titled “Assessment of Intelligence Opportunity – Juniper,” raises questions about whether the intelligence agencies were responsible for or culpable in the creation of security holes disclosed by Juniper last week. While it does not establish a certain link between GCHQ, NSA, and the Juniper hacks, it does make clear that, like the unidentified parties behind those hacks, the agencies found ways to penetrate the “NetScreen” line of security products, which help companies create online firewalls and virtual private networks, or VPNs. It further indicates that, also like the hackers, GCHQ’s capabilities clustered around an operating system called “ScreenOS,” which powers only a subset of products sold by Juniper, including the NetScreen line. Juniper’s other products, which include high-volume Internet routers, run a different operating system called JUNOS.

The possibility of links between the security holes and the intelligence agencies is particularly important given an ongoing debate in the U.S. and the U.K. over whether governments should have backdoors allowing access to encrypted data. Cryptographers and security researchers have raised the possibility that one of the newly discovered Juniper vulnerabilities stemmed from an encryption backdoor engineered by the NSA and co-opted by someone else. Meanwhile, U.S. officials are reviewing how the Juniper hacks could affect their own networks, putting them in the awkward position of scrambling to shore up their own encryption even as they criticize the growing use of encryption by others.

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

‘Emergency’ Measures May Be Written Into the French Constitution

JUST HOURS INTO A TERRORIST ATTACK that started on the evening of Nov. 13, and would eventually claim 130 lives, François Hollande announced that France was reestablishing border controls, and used a 1955 law to proclaim a state of emergency.

This 60-year-old law gives French law enforcement wide and sweeping powers, freeing them from much of the normal judicial oversight. The law gives prefects, the French government’s local representatives, the ability to place people under house arrest, based merely on the suspicion of the intelligence service that they pose a threat to national security. They can also order police raids targeting any place where they think information about terrorism may be found, without a warrant.

Initially intended to last 12 days, the state of emergency was extended on November 19 for an additional three months by both chambers of parliament. During the vote in the lower house, only six MPs voted against the extension.

In some instances, the concrete consequences of the state of emergency border on the Kafkaesque. There’s this man, who was challenging the requirement that he report frequently to a police station (one of the other features of the state of emergency law). Because his court hearing to challenge the requirement was late, he showed up 40 minutes past the time he was supposed to be at the police station. He was immediately detained. Then there’s this man, who was placed under house arrest in southwestern France because he was suspected of being a radical Muslim — except he is a devout Catholic. The police also raided a halal restaurant for no apparent reason.

Since last month’s attacks, there have been some 2,500 police raids, and nearly a thousand people have been arrested or detained. French local and national press are now full of reports of questionable police raids.

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

Big Banks In a Tizzy Want to Take Their Billions and Go Home

The big banks are not taking a rare legislative defeat lying down.

Days after President Obama signed into law a highway package that finally ended an egregious, 100-year-old subsidy for big banks, two of Wall Street’s favorite legislators want to attach a last-minute rider to the end-of-the-year omnibus spending bill that lessens some of the impact of that change.

From 1913 until last week, banks received a 6 percent annual dividend on paid-in stock they had to purchase to become members of the Federal Reserve system. This was initially provided as an incentive for membership with the Fed, but membership is now mandatory for national banks, and all banks must abide by the standards of membership.

It took 100 years and a desperate need to find some way to pay for this year’s highway bill for anyone to think to take away the incentive payments.

The highway bill deal reduced the annual dividend to the rate of interest on 10-year Treasury notes, capped at 6 percent. (The current rate is around 2.2 percent). This change only affects banks with more than $10 billion in assets, but it saves the federal government around $1 billion a year.

Now, enter Republican Congressmen Randy Neugebauer of Texas and Bill Huizenga of Michigan. The crux of their proposed rider on the omnibus bill is this: If banks can’t have their free 6 percent dividend, then they shouldn’t have to pay for any stock at all.

Right now, banks must purchase Fed stock equal to 6 percent of their total capital. But under the proposal, first reported by the Wall Street Journal, banks with over $10 billion in assets would be able to cut that to 3.5 percent of capital, and the Fed would have to return excess money to the member banks, estimated at $25 billion. The Fed would also be restricted from forcing banks to purchase additional stock in the future.

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

Edward Snowden Explains How to Reclaim Your Privacy

LAST MONTH, I met Edward Snowden in a hotel in central Moscow, just blocks away from Red Square. It was the first time we’d met in person; he first emailed me nearly two years earlier, and we eventually created an encrypted channel to journalists Laura Poitras and Glenn Greenwald, to whom Snowden would disclose overreaching mass surveillance by the National Security Agency and its British equivalent, GCHQ.

This time around, Snowden’s anonymity was gone; the world knew who he was, much of what he’d leaked, and that he’d been living in exile in Moscow, where he’s been stranded ever since the State Department canceled his passport while he was en route to Latin America. His situation was more stable, the threats against him a bit easier to predict. So I approached my 2015 Snowden meeting with less paranoia than was warranted in 2013, and with a little more attention to physical security, since this time our communications would not be confined to the internet.

Our first meeting would be in the hotel lobby, and I arrived with all my important electronic gear in tow. I had powered down my smartphone and placed it in a “faraday bag” designed to block all radio emissions. This, in turn, was tucked inside my backpack next to my laptop (which I configured and hardened specifically for traveling to Russia), also powered off. Both electronic devices stored their data in encrypted form, but disk encryption isn’t perfect, and leaving these in my hotel room seemed like an invitation to tampering.

Most of the lobby seats were taken by well-dressed Russians sipping cocktails. I planted myself on an empty couch off in a nook hidden from most of the action and from the only security camera I could spot.

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

Erasing Mossville: How Pollution Killed a Louisiana Town

Erasing Mossville: How Pollution Killed a Louisiana Town

ALLEN LEBLANC LED A VIGOROUS LIFE as a young man growing up in Mossville, Louisiana. He had a sheet-rocking business, drove trucks, and worked at the Conoco oil refinery. He helped his mother and stepfather run their nightclub, where Tina Turner and James Brown used to play. He also helped out at home with his five children, and he would paint, fix broken windows, and mow lawns for neighbors who couldn’t afford to maintain their houses. Now, at 71, LeBlanc is on disability, and for most of the last decade he has refused to leave his house. Seizures, liver problems, a stroke, tremors, insomnia, fatigue, and depression plague him. He can no longer drive, and he can’t walk from his front door to the sidewalk without collapsing.

Allen LeBlanc sits on his front porch in Mossville, La., Oct. 22, 2015.

Allen LeBlanc sits on his front porch in Mossville, La., Oct. 22, 2015.

LeBlanc attributes his debilitation not to heredity or unhealthy habits but to the toxic emissions from industrial plants that have proliferated in the neighboring town of Westlake. Just beyond the curtain of pines and cypress trees surrounding Mossville sits an oil refinery, several petrochemical plants, and one of the country’s largest concentrations of manufacturers of vinyl chloride, a main ingredient in polyvinyl chloride, the plastic known as PVC. As a matter of course — and most often within permitted levels — these facilities emit millions of pounds of toxins into the air, water, and soil each year. “Living here has messed me up,” LeBlanc said. Although his appearance was disheveled, he spoke clearly and coherently, upright in his chair. “If I could have another life, I’d take it. This one ain’t worth 10 cents to me,” he said in his thick Louisiana drawl. “I’d like to do things for myself again — I’d give everything I’ve got for that.”

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

Why NYT Dissed the ‘Drone Papers’

Why NYT Dissed the ‘Drone Papers’


For that slice of the American public that still depends heavily on major daily newspapers as their main source of news, they might not even know that the on-line publication The Intercept has published a package of alarming drone-assassination articles based on secret military documents provided by an anonymous intelligence whistleblower.

These “Drone Papers” show, among other disclosures, that the U.S. government has been lying about the number of civilian deaths caused by drone strikes in Afghanistan, Yemen and Somalia. For every targeted individual assassinated, another five or six non-targeted individuals are killed — giving the lie to the Obama administration’s long-standing claims of careful, precision killing of specific targets in order to avoid killing civilians.

A Predator drone firing a missile.

The Intercept, relying on a cache of slides provided to it by its whistleblower source, posted its package of eight articles on Oct. 15, 2015. Among those picking up on the stories was the Huffington Post (which ran excerpts), and other outlets — including The Guardian, Newsweek, New York Magazine, NPR, the PBS NewsHour, CNN — which generally cited some of The Intercept’s main findings or speculated about a “second [Edward] Snowden” coming forth as a national security whistleblower.

As of this writing, the premier mainstream publications that carry influence beyond their own immediate readership in setting the nation’s news agenda — The New York Times and The Washington Post — have carried virtually nothing about what is in these explosive documents, which cover the 2011-2013 period. The documents show the inner workings, and the deadly failures, of the Joint Special Operations Command’s targeted killing programs, a/k/a assassinations, which President Obama signs off on.

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

U.K. Government Proposes More, Not Less, Electronic Snooping

Two years after NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed the vast reach of U.S. and U.K. surveillance, the U.S. Congress rolled back the most manifestly unconstitutional element: the bulk collection of domestic phone data.

The U.K. government, on Wednesday, chose to double down instead.

The newly unveiled text of what critics are calling a proposed “Snooper’s Charter” or “Hacker’s License” would explicitly authorize the bulk collection of domestic data, require telecommunications companies to store records of websites visited by every citizen for 12 months for access by the government, approve the government’s right to hack into and bug computers and phones, severely restrict the ability of citizens to raise questions about secret surveillance warrants or evidence obtained through bulk surveillance presented in court, and oblige companies to assist in bypassing encryption.

Prime Minister David Cameron has said terrorists should have no “safe space” to communicate online, and Britain’s Home Office — charged with law enforcement, prisons, and border security — has presented in recent years several draft bills with that idea in mind.

The United Kingdom’s Home Secretary Theresa May, who is similar to the secretary of state for the U.S., insisted that the engines of Britain’s spy agencies would hum along as usual — just more efficiently, and with even more oversight, if the law passed. She answered questions from Parliament about the bill in the House of Commons in London on Wednesday.

There are some new limits in the bill. For example, if police wanted to use phone call information to try and track down a journalist’s source, those efforts would now have to be approved by a judicial commissioner. In fact, most warrants would need approval by a judicial commissioner, after the U.K. secretary of state signs off.

But overall, the bill, which May described as “world-leading” in its oversight provisions, remains a concern for privacy advocates because of its massive surveillance authorities and vague language and loopholes.

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

EPA Used Monsanto’s Research to Give Roundup a Pass

EPA Used Monsanto’s Research to Give Roundup a Pass

THE ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY concluded in June that there was “no convincing evidence” that glyphosate, the most widely used herbicide in the U.S. and the world, is an endocrine disruptor.

On the face of it, this was great news, given that some 300 million poundsof the chemical were used on U.S. crops in 2012, the most recent year measured, and endocrine disruption has been linked to a range of serious health effects, including cancer, infertility, and diabetes. Monsanto, which sells glyphosate under the name Roundup, certainly felt good about it. “I was happy to see that the safety profile of one of our products was upheld by an independent regulatory agency,” wrote Steve Levine on Monsanto’s blog.

But the EPA’s exoneration — which means that the agency will not require additional tests of the chemical’s effects on the hormonal system — is undercut by the fact that the decision was based almost entirely on pesticide industry studies. Only five independently funded studies were considered in the review of whether glyphosate interferes with the endocrine system. Twenty-seven out of 32 studies that looked at glyphosate’s effect on hormones and were cited in the June review — most of which are not publicly available and were obtained by The Intercept through a Freedom of Information Act request — were either conducted or funded by industry. Most of the studies were sponsored by Monsanto or an industry group called the Joint Glyphosate Task Force. One study was by Syngenta, which sells its own glyphosate-containing herbicide, Touchdown.

Findings of Harm Were Dismissed

Who pays for studies matters, according to The Intercept’s review of the evidence used in the EPA’s decision. Of the small minority of independently funded studies that the agency considered in determining whether the chemical poses a danger to the endocrine system, three of five found that it did.

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

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