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Snowden to Make Pre-Recorded Video Appearance at European Parliament Mass Surveillance Inquiry

In Archive, EU, GCHQ, LIBE, NSA, NSA Files, Snowden, Surveillance on December 7, 2013 at 10:12 PM



EU Observer:

Former US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden is set to make a pre-recorded video appearance at the European Parliament’s civil liberties committee, which could take place by January.

“The meeting will be live-streamed but the statement will be recorded answers of our questions, which will we send in advance,” said German Green MEP Jan Phillip Albrecht on Friday (6 December).

Albrecht noted that a live stream of Snowden himself would risk revealing his location.

MEPs are in contact with Snowden via his lawyer, who had made an appearance at an earlier committee inquiry into the spying allegations.

“Our secretariat had contacted him via her,” said Albrecht.

Albrecht said Snowden has been following the parliament hearings “because it is one of the only places where a real debate is taking place, at the moment.”

The deputies are currently putting together their list of questions.

“That’s the plan at the moment and hopefully it will be possible,” said Albrecht.

Related Link:

Human Rights Attorneys Working with Germany on Possible Asylum for Snowden in Exchange for Testimony

Security Firm Found 88 Bugs/65 Interceptors in Gov’t/Business Offices Across Australia/Asia Between 2005-2011

In Archive, Australia, Surveillance on December 7, 2013 at 9:24 PM




An Australian surveillance executive whose firm was contracted by several clients to sweep for hidden mobile interceptors and other spying devices in Australia and Asia has found dozens of them.

Les Goldsmith, chief executive of ESD Group, told Fairfax Media his company found about 20 physical bugs when conducting sweeps in Australian business and local government offices, and another 68 in Asia between 2005 and 2011.

The firm found 47 bugs in Papua New Guinea, ten in Singapore, three in the Philippines, five in Thailand, two in India and one in Fiji in several searches.

Mr Goldsmith, who is now based in Las Vegas and sells secure mobile phones, also detected about 65 mobile phone interceptors in Asia. Mobile phone interceptors typically cost about $100,000 each and are used to listen in on mobile calls.


Mr Goldsmith wanted to come forward with the information because he was concerned only Indonesia and East Timor were highlighted in recent spying allegations.

“All governments are falling victim to surveillance and some governments are falling victim to it but not saying anything,” he said.

Mr Goldsmith no longer conducts sweeps, saying he grew tired of crawling through roofs with his team and sleeping on client’s premises.

He declined to say whether Australian agencies were responsible for any of the bugs found.

“Australia might be conducting spying operations but, from what we’ve seen, many other governments are doing spying operations across Asia as well and the majority of those operations are for economic reasons, not for criminal. It’s not about national security,” he said.

Devices with microphones and/or hidden cameras were usually found in power points, telephone outlets, lighting fixtures, inside doors, walls and furniture such as in couches, keyboards, computer mice, clocks and in lamps.

Two bugs found in Australia were planted in local government offices and the rest in businesses, he said. The reverse applied in Asia, where most were found in government offices. In Australia they were mainly found in premises in the mining, media and law sectors.

Newgen, Gigamon, Endace & Splunk: Some of the Players in the Surveillance Industrial Complex

In Archive, ASD, ASIO, Australia, Big Brother, Surveillance, Technology on December 7, 2013 at 10:44 AM


Philip Dorling/TheAge:

Australia’s leading telecommunications company, Telstra, has installed highly advanced surveillance systems to “vacuum” the telephone calls, texts, social media messages and internet metadata of millions of Australians so that information can be filtered and given to intelligence and law enforcement agencies.

The Australian government’s electronic espionage agency, the Australian Signals Directorate, is using the same technology to harvest data flows carried by undersea fibre-optic cables in and out of Australia.


Confidential documents obtained by Fairfax Media reveal the secret technology used to trawl Australians’ telecommunications and internet data for analysis by ASIO, the ASD and law enforcement agencies.

All Australian telecommunications and internet service providers by law must maintain interception and data-collection capabilities for government.

The leaked documents reveal that a little-known Melbourne-based company is a key provider of the secret monitoring technology.

Newgen Systems, owned and managed by local telecommunications engineer Robert Perin, is the sole Australian supplier for Gigamon, a large Silicon Valley-based information technology firm that specialises in what it terms “network traffic visibility solutions”.

Gigamon’s hardware enables telecommunications and IT network administrators to track, inspect and analyse all data flows undetected without affecting the performance of networks.

A key application of the technology is interception of telecommunications and internet data.

In the words of a former Newgen employee, “Gigamon’s systems are designed to find not just a needle in a haystack, but bits of needles in many haystacks. We do that by taking all the hay, all the time. We take everything.”

Confidential Newgen documents describe the Gigamon technology as “a vacuum cleaner” that “sucks up unsynchronised and disaggregated data, filters and sorts it to re-create the original puzzle”.

Established in mid-2006, Newgen – now based in Hawthorn – targeted major telecommunications companies and internet service providers, as well as the ASD and ASIO, as potential customers.

Telstra quickly emerged as Newgen’s main customer with the first sales of Gigamon hardware occurring in early 2007. Although Telstra has bought a variety of Gigamon systems, a key purpose is “lawful interception” to provide data to ASIO, the Australian Federal Police and state law enforcement agencies.

In April 2010, Newgen submitted a proposal to Telstra’s “special projects” group for the installation of Gigamon hardware at 24 metropolitan locations around Australia to meet “a government-mandated regulatory requirement” for interception coverage as Telstra upgraded its network.

An initial rollout of Gigamon systems for Telstra’s top 10 exchanges was costed at $2.7 million, and Telstra’s purchases from Newgen in 2010 were worth more than $3.5 million.

Newgen’s first sales to the Defence Department were in 2008 and now total more than $3 million. Gigamon hardware has been acquired by the Defence Intelligence and Security Group, which includes the top-secret ASD, and by the Defence Materiel Organisation’s electronic warfare branch.

The Defence Department’s purchases include GigaVUE “traffic visibility nodes” – the standard building block for network monitoring – as well as GigaSMART technology, which modifies captured data, for example by screening out certain types of identity, financial or medical information.

The leaked Newgen documents show that the company provided briefings on new Gigamon hardware to ASD personnel in March 2011, after which Defence purchases increased significantly.

Mr Perin told Fairfax Media that Defence officials “asked a lot of questions [about Gigamon technology] but wouldn’t say how or where they are applying it”.

Newgen’s efforts to win business from Defence intelligence were supported by a partnership with New Zealand company Endace, a leading provider of advanced fibre-optic probes and network recording technology. The Defence Department began buying Endace products in 2008.

Newgen’s consultations with the ASD canvassed combining Gigamon and Endace systems with analytical software from Californian software company Splunk in a “technology stack” to produce “real time … intelligence”.

Splunk software is used by the US National Security Agency and Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters and enables organisations to analyse “massive streams of machine data generated by websites, applications, servers, networks, mobile and other devices”.

Australian Defence intelligence has been buying Splunk software since at least 2009.

A Telstra spokesperson said the company was ”required to provide reasonable assistance to law enforcement and national security agencies in response to lawful requests from these agencies … we only disclose information to these agencies when we are legally required or authorised to do so.”


Philip Dorling/TheAge:

Newgen Systems isn’t exactly a household name. The Melbourne-based information technology company is a modest enterprise, virtually unknown outside the world of telecommunications and IT professionals.

The company’s publicity brochures and industry presentations are bland and not particularly informative. They describe Newgen as “a systems integration and network communications company” and a “niche player” providing “innovative solutions for complex networking and IT problems”.

Robert Perin, the Australian telecommunications engineer who founded and still owns the firm may be a little more forthcoming, describing Newgen as a “network analytics, monitoring and security organisation”, but he still doesn’t give much away.

What Newgen lacks in public profile, however, it enjoys in strategic positioning.

It sits in the shadows between the Australian government, Australia’s big telecommunications and internet service providers, especially Telstra, and the supplier of some of the most advanced mass surveillance technology available in the global marketplace. Business has been good for Newgen.

Until recently, you wouldn’t find the name Newgen emblazoned on the front of any corporate office. For six years the company’s principal place of business was Perin’s home in suburban Doncaster. Only in May this year did the company acquire a modest front office in an office block on Burwood Road in Hawthorn East.

Leaked Newgen documents show early company meetings between Perin and his close colleagues, fellow IT industry veterans Bill Crocaris and Brad Hill, were held at the “Nook” at the Matthew Flinders Hotel in Chadstone.

Behind these modest beginnings was Newgen’s alliance with the Silicon Valley-based company Gigamon, developer of some of the world’s most advanced IT network monitoring technology.

Gigamon was established in 2003 and began shipping its distinctive “orange boxes”, highly sophisticated modules that switch and copy data flows within large telecommunication and computer networks, two years later.

The company describes itself as “a world leader in Traffic Visibility Fabric solutions”, enabling network managers to achieve “complete network traffic visibility” through “100 per cent packet capture” without impacting on network performance.

The language describing Gigamon’s products is often highly technical, if not impenetrable to non-IT specialists. Put simply, Gigamon’s technology addresses a basic problem for modern network managers and intelligence agencies: how to look into vast torrents of data flowing through computer networks, data centres and along high-speed fibre-optical cables without impeding the performance of such networks.

In short, how do you find a needle in a haystack? Or more to the point, how do you find a few bits of a needle scattered among many, many haystacks? The answer is to vacuum up all the haystacks, and do so without creating bottlenecks or other problems. To achieve this, data flows are mirrored, copied and then subjected to filtering and analysis using a wide variety of tools without impeding the efficiency of networks.

Confidential Newgen documents describe the Gigamon technology as “a vacuum cleaner” that “sucks up unsynchronised and disaggregated data, filters and sorts it to recreate the original puzzle”.

This novel technology has a wide range of applications, including network security and management, but significantly includes telecommunications and internet data interception.

Being one of the first to bring a new product into the marketplace is a huge advantage and the past decade has been a boom time for Gigamon.

The company’s success has been fuelled by the global explosion of telecommunications traffic and the rapidly growing number and scale of data centres. Growth has also been driven by what Gigamon describes as “unrelenting” government demands for “unrestricted access for lawful interception in all manners of digital communications.”

Gigamon now exports its hardware to more than 40 countries. The company has offices in the US, the UK, Russia, China, Hong Kong and Singapore as well as in Australia, where Newgen acts as its representative.

Gigamon is coy about its clients but leaked Newgen documents show they include major US telecommunications and internet service providers, including AT&T, Sprint, Comcast and Time Warner Cable; computer and networking companies including Apple and eBay; and major financial institutions such as MasterCard and Merrill Lynch.

Government agencies and defence contractors are also prominent among Gigamon’s customers, which in the US include the Defence Department, the National Security Agency, the Defence Advanced Projects Research Agency and the Defence Information Systems Agency as well as aerospace giants Raytheon and Lockheed Martin; and telecommunications equipment supplier Harris. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police is another customer.

Interestingly, Gigamon began to move into the Russian market in 2009 with a company spokesperson declaring “there is a bright future for Gigamon in the Russian Federation”. The company hasn’t revealed its Russian customer list, but at a trade show in the US in late 2011 Gigamon representatives gave a presentation in which they mentioned “they’d just done a huge install with Russia . . . allowing the government to monitor data of its citizens.”

When Gigamon listed on the New York Stock Exchange in June this year the company was valued at more than $680 million.

Robert Perin won’t go into the details of how Newgen became the sole supplier of Gigamon technology in Australia and New Zealand other than to say he benefited from “industry contacts”.

Whatever the precise connections, Newgen secured access to a highly innovative technology that was in demand as Australia’s telecommunications sector was undergoing rapid expansion and change and as Australia’s intelligence agencies were ramping up operations in the “war on terrorism”.

Early Newgen business plans show telecommunications and surveillance were the firm’s top marketing priorities.

Industry contacts helped and Telstra quickly emerged as Newgen’s main customer with the first sales of Gigamon hardware taking place in early 2007.

Defence’s published contract lists are uninformative, referring only to purchases from Newgen of “computer equipment and accessories”, “communications devices” and “data access switches”.

Only in one case is there a public reference, apparently inadvertent, to the acquisition of “Gigamon hardware”.

When interviewed by Fairfax Media, Perin said that he doesn’t know what the Defence Department does with Newgen’s products. “They interrogate us about the technology, but they don’t tell us,” he says. However, he also said that on one occasion Newgen had “tracked” the movement of a piece of Gigamon equipment and using Google Maps discovered it was being used at “a Defence facility in Western Australia”.

Moreover, notes written by another Newgen representative involved in training Defence personnel do refer to the Australian Signals Directorate’s use of Gigamon equipment for “LI” [lawful interception] including in the context of “HC [high capacity fibre]-optic cables – o/s [overseas] links 10 Gbps [gigabits per second], 40 Gbps, 100 Gbps.”

In May last year, Gigamon congratulated Newgen for supporting its “leadership position” in the Australian market “with a strong emphasis on telcos”.

Both companies hope for bigger things. “With the history of accomplishment that we share with Newgen, we know they have the expertise, knowledge and support infrastructure to continue our expansion in the region,” Gigamon’s vice-president of sales in the Asia Pacific and Japan, David Sajoto, said.

Having maintained a low profile, Newgen probably won’t appreciate much public attention, and it should be emphasised that the company is a legitimate enterprise providing products that, in Australia, support lawful government intelligence operations.

Whether such all-encompassing collection efforts are justifiable is, however, a very legitimate matter of public debate.

Some commentators to talk of the emergence of a “surveillance industrial complex” and there’s no doubt that today’s modern intelligence machinery could not achieve its all-pervasive reach, across the globe and into intimate details of individual lives, without the assistance of the companies that provide the foundations of the ongoing IT revolution.

Newgen and Gigamon are just a small part of a multibillion dollar a year trade in which private firms are selling spying tools and mass surveillance technologies to governments of all persuasions to scoop up millions of emails, text messages and phone calls.

Research by Privacy International, an independent watchdog group focused on the proliferation of surveillance technology, has found more than 338 companies offering a total of 97 different technologies worldwide.

US Navy Submarine Launches Drone from Underwater

In Archive, Drones, Military, Navy, Technology on December 7, 2013 at 8:14 AM
XFC Unmanned Aerial System

Deployed from the submerged submarine USS Providence, the NRL developed XFC unmanned aircraft is vertically launched from a ‘Sea Robin’ launch vehicle (bottom right). The folding wing UAS autonomously deploys its X-wing airfoil and after achieving a marginal altitude, assumes horizontal flight configuration.



The U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) with funding from SwampWorks at the Office of Naval Research (ONR) and the Department of Defense Rapid Reaction Technology Office (DoD/RRTO) demonstrated the launch of an all-electric, fuel cell-powered, unmanned aerial system (UAS) from a submerged submarine. From concept to fleet demonstration, this idea took less than six years to produce results at significant cost savings when compared to traditional programs often taking decades to produce results.

Deployed from the submerged submarine USS Providence, the NRL developed XFC unmanned aircraft is vertically launched from a ‘Sea Robin’ launch vehicle (bottom right). The folding wing UAS autonomously deploys its X-wing airfoil and after achieving a marginal altitude, assumes horizontal flight configuration.

“Developing disruptive technologies and quickly getting them into the hands of our sailors is what our SwampWorks program is all about,” said Craig A. Hughes, Acting Director of Innovation at ONR.

The successful submerged launch of a remotely deployed UAS offers a pathway to providing mission critical intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities to the U.S. Navy’s submarine force.

Operating under support of the Los Angeles class USS Providence (SSN 719) and the Naval Undersea Warfare Center-Newport Division (NUWC-NPT), the NRL developed XFC UAS—eXperimental Fuel Cell Unmanned Aerial System—was fired from the submarine’s torpedo tube using a ‘Sea Robin’ launch vehicle system. The Sea Robin launch system was designed to fit within an empty Tomahawk launch canister (TLC) used for launching Tomahawk cruise missiles already familiar to submarine sailors.

Once deployed from the TLC, the Sea Robin launch vehicle with integrated XFC rose to the ocean surface where it appeared as a spar buoy. Upon command of Providence Commanding Officer, the XFC then vertically launched from Sea Robin and flew a successful several hour mission demonstrating live video capabilities streamed back to Providence, surface support vessels and Norfolk before landing at the Naval Sea Systems Command Atlantic Undersea Test and Evaluation Center (AUTEC), Andros, Bahamas.

“The creativity and resourcefulness brought to this project by a unique team of scientists and engineers represents an unprecedented paradigm shift in UAV propulsion and launch systems,” said Dr. Warren Schultz, program developer and manager, NRL.

The NRL Chemistry and Tactical Electronic Warfare Divisions team includes the design-builder of the Sea Robin, Oceaneering International Inc., Hanover, Md.; the fuel cell developer Protonex Technology Corp., Southborough, Mass.; and NUWC-NPT’s Autonomous and Defensive Systems Department for Temporary Alteration (TEMPALT) and test demonstration support.

The XFC is a fully autonomous, all electric fuel cell powered folding wing UAS with an endurance of greater than six hours. The non-hybridized power plant supports the propulsion system and payload for a flight endurance that enables relatively low cost, low altitude, ISR missions. The XFC UAS uses an electrically assisted take off system which lifts the plane vertically out of its container and therefore, enables a very small footprint launch such as from a pickup truck or small surface vessel.

Details on New Classified RQ-180 Stealth Spy Drone Being Tested by US Air Force at Area 51

In Air Force, Archive, Drones, Military, Technology on December 7, 2013 at 7:48 AM

Aviation Week constructed concept image of the RQ-180 based on its attributes



A large, classified unmanned aircraft developed by Northrop Grumman is now flying—and it demonstrates a major advance in combining stealth and aerodynamic efficiency. Defense and intelligence officials say the secret unmanned aerial system (UAS), designed for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) missions, is scheduled to enter production for the U.S. Air Force and could be operational by 2015.

Funded through the Air Force’s classified budget, the program to build this new UAS, dubbed the RQ-180, was awarded to Northrop Grumman after a competition that included Boeing and Lockheed Martin. The aircraft will conduct the penetrating ISR mission that has been left unaddressed, and under wide debate, since retirement of the Lockheed SR-71 in 1998.

Neither the Air Force nor Northrop Grumman would speak about the classified airplane. When queried about the project, Air Force spokeswoman Jennifer Cassidy said, “The Air Force does not discuss this program.”

The RQ-180 carries radio-frequency sensors such as active, electronically scanned array (AESA) radar and passive electronic surveillance measures, according to one defense official. It could also be capable of electronic attack missions.

This aircraft’s design is key for the shift of Air Force ISR assets away from “permissive” environments—such as Iraq and Afghanistan, where Northrop Grumman’s non-stealthy Global Hawk and General Atomics’ Reaper operate—and toward operations in “contested” or “denied” airspace. The new UAS underpins the Air Force’s determination to retire a version of the RQ-4B Global Hawk after 2014, despite congressional resistance. The RQ-180 eclipses the smaller, less stealthy and shorter-range RQ-170 Sentinel.

If the previous patterns for secret ISR aircraft operations are followed, the new UAV will be jointly controlled by the Air Force and the CIA, with the program managed by the Air Force’s Rapid Capabilities Office and flight operations sustained by the Air Force. This arrangement has been used for the RQ-170, which is operated by the Air Force’s 30th Reconnaissance Sqdn., according to a fact sheet the Air Force released after one of the aircraft turned up in Iran.

Northrop Grumman’s financial reports point to a possible award of a secret UAS contract in 2008, when the company disclosed a $2 billion increase in the backlog in its Integrated Systems division. This is the operating unit responsible for building the B-2 bomber, Global Hawk and Fire Scout UAS and X-47B unmanned combat air system (UCAS) demonstrator. This year, Northrop Grumman financial reports acknowledged that an unnamed aircraft program entered low-rate initial production, the Pentagon term for low-volume deliveries that begin as testing nears completion and before the program is approved for full production.

Beyond the financial disclosures, publicly available overhead imagery shows new shelters and hangars sized for an aircraft with a 130-ft.-plus wing span at Northrop’s Palmdale, Calif., plant and at Area 51, the Air Force’s secure flight-test center at Groom Lake, Nev.

The company also pushed for a substantial expansion of its Palmdale production facilities in 2010, perhaps to support work on the RQ-180 (AW&ST Nov. 22, 2010, p. 28).

The new aircraft’s existence explains an inconsistency: Air Force officials have frequently called for a new, penetrating ISR capability. Yet there has been no public evidence that the service has been planning to develop such an aircraft.

While there is apparently agreement on the need for a small “silver-bullet” force for special military and CIA missions, a larger fleet could be an enabler for fighters and bombers against a wide range of targets. A 2009 report by the influential think tank the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments recommends a force of five 10-aircraft squadrons of high-altitude, stealthy, ISR unmanned penetrators. But such a large fleet would be costly and could compete for funding with the Joint Strike Fighter, the Long-Range Strike Bomber and other high-priority programs.

In addition, if the U.S. procures more than a few of the secret RQ-180 aircraft, it will be harder to keep them under wraps. Historically, the Air Force has resisted establishing operational units at Area 51, its most secure known operating base, because maintaining compartmentalization there between multiple secret programs becomes difficult. For example, workers are usually confined to their buildings when a classified program other than their own is performing tests outside. The disruption to work grows if one program is running at an operational tempo.

In April, Otto’s predecessor as deputy chief of staff for ISR, Lt. Gen. Larry James, acknowledged that the Air Force had learned lessons about the need to more widely disseminate information on classified programs to ensure operational commanders are fully aware of their capabilities. Responding to a question from Aviation Week at a Stimson Center event in Washington, James said, “We have a whole host of programs covering all the different environments, and we ensure that as we develop new capabilities we are in conversations with people at the right levels. We are much better today than we were 10-15 years ago, [when] you’d have this new super-secret thing and you’d turn up at the combatant commander’s door at the start of an operation. That’s not a good place to be.”

It is not clear whether the RQ-180 will conduct strike missions. It is similar in size and endurance to the Global Hawk, which weighs 32,250 lb. and can stay on station for 24 hr. 1,200 nm from its base. The much smaller RQ-170 is limited to 5-6 hr. of operation.



In 2009-2010, as the RQ-180 neared flight-testing, shelters were built over ramps and engine test pits in Palmdale, Calif., where Northrop’s classified aircraft are developed


Completed between 2006-2009 and shielded from view behind an earthen berm, this hangar at Area 51 is most likely the home of the new RQ-180 drone


Click image for interactive timeline/family tree, highlighting evolution of U.S. stealth UASs

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