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Snowden Leaks Journalist Barton Gellman Told His Phone Records Obtained at One Point Through National Security Letter

In Archive, FBI, Gellman, NSA, NSA Files, NSL, Snowden, Surveillance on February 27, 2014 at 5:48 PM



Darren Samuelsohn/POLITICO:

Washington Post reporter Barton Gellman said Tuesday he’s aware of the legal risks that come with his reporting on Edward Snowden’s stolen documents.

“I’ve certainly given a lot of consideration, so has the Washington Post, to legal risks and exposure and staying on the right side of the line,” Gellman explained during a panel discussion at the Georgetown University Law Center. “And I don’t rule out that there is legal exposure either criminally in an unlikely case or rather more likely civil compulsion. Just because Edward Snowden has outted himself doesn’t mean every part of my interaction or my reporting around these documents has been disclosed or I’d be willing to disclose any more of it.”

While Attorney General Eric Holder has recently said the U.S. government won’t prosecute American journalists doing their job, Gellman cautioned “there’s lots of wiggle room there” for the Justice Department to continue investigations into the media.

He noted Director of National Intelligence James Clapper’s prepared testimony last month to the House and Senate intelligence committees threatening legal action against Snowden and his “accomplices.”

“In context it could mean nothing else than the journalists who are writing the stories,” Gellman said.

Faced with so much legal scrutiny — Gellman said he’s been told his phone records were obtained at one point through a National Security Letter — he said his reporting process now requires more time dealing with “technical and operational security.


Julian Sanchez/JustSecurity:

If this is true, the NSL in question would need to have been issued pursuant to 18 U.S.C. §2709, the only NSL statute providing for access to telecommunications records.  But there are at least two ways in which such an NSL would appear to strain the limits of that authority.

First, §2709 may only be used in connection with an “authorized investigation to protect against international terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities.”  Assuming Bart is not suspected of plotting to blow up any airplanes, it seems probable that we’re dealing here with an investigation of leaks of classified information to press. Yet such leaks—even when they clearly involve a violation of the law—do not obviously satisfy the traditional definition of “clandestine intelligence activities.”

The FBI’s own operation manual defines “intelligence activities” as “any activity conducted for intelligence purposes or to affect political or governmental processes by, for, or on behalf of a foreign power.” A report on NSL authorities from the Congressional Research Service characterizes them as tools to “protect against international terrorism or foreign spying,” where “clandestine intelligence activities” and “foreign spying” are clearly understood to be equivalent phrases. Notwithstanding a few wild speculations, we’ve seen no real evidence to indicate that Edward Snowden acted “by, for, or on behalf of a foreign power.”

It’s possible, of course, that the instance Gellman is referencing relates to a pre-Snowden leak investigation. A 2008 Inspector General report on NSL abuses references a case in which the phone records of at least two unnamed Washington Post reporters were improperly obtained, and it would not be terribly shocking if one of them had been Gellman.

Even assuming a media leak investigation has the appropriate “foreign power” nexus, there’s a second potential problem—though this one may be a problem with the underlying statute. A clause added to the NSL provisions by the USA Patriot Act—to compensate for the elimination of the requirement that NSLs target suspected agents of a foreign power—provides that they may be used for an authorized investigation “provided that such an investigation of a United States person is not conducted solely on the basis of activities protected by the first amendment to the Constitution of the United States.” The sole basis for seeking Gellman’s records would, of course, be his First Amendment–protected newsgathering and reporting activities.

The obvious rejoinder here is that the investigation to which Gellman’s phone records were relevant was not an investigation “of” Gellman, but rather of Snowden (or some other source), whose misappropriation and disclosure of classified documents is not protected by the First Amendment. The new language is thus inapplicable so long as Gellman himself is not the subject of the investigation. Note that no such loophole would be available if the government had wished to “search or seize” documents related to Gellman’s journalism, since the Privacy Protection Act of 1980 mostly bars such seizures unless the journalist is the one suspected of criminal conduct. (It was precisely to circumvent this prohibition that the Justice Department notoriously claimed Fox reporter James Rosen was engaged in a criminal conspiracy with one of his sources—only to later insist to an outrage press that they’d never had any intention of charging him.)

Since current law does not count the compelled production of phone records as a “search or seizure,”  a strictly literal reading of the text would appear to permit  that loophole here—but it is surely worth noting that this renders the protective clause in the NSL statute rather pointless. After all, an investigation of a U.S. person conducted solely on the basis of First Amendment protected activity should never be opened in the first place.

Related Link: Journalism After Snowden: A Conversation About Digital Privacy, State Surveillance, and First Amendment Rights of Journalists

U.S. Prosecutors: Barrett Brown & Anonymous “Secretly Plotted Overthrow of Government” … lol

In Anonymous, Archive, Barrett Brown on February 27, 2014 at 1:34 PM


Andrew Blake/RT:

Last week, attorneys for imprisoned author, activist and journalist Barrett Brown asked the court that they be able to reply to arguments made earlier this month by federal prosecutors in the case against their client — a 32-year-old Dallas, TX man expected to stand trial in May to face several felony counts, including making internet threats, retaliating against a federal official, fraud, identity theft and concealment of evidence. Brown has been in the custody of law enforcement since being arrested in September 2012.

Of argument, his attorneys wrote in the Feb. 21 filing, are statements the prosecution made earlier this month when they replied to a January 31 motion in which the defense asked the court to dismiss one of three indictments against Brown.

The government predictably opposed the defense’s request two weeks later on Feb. 14, but — like much of the nearly two-year-old case— that paperwork is not included among the publicly available files hosted on the online, federal PACER court system, which supporters of Brown presume means it was filed under seal. Whatever its contents, though, the prosecution’s filing compelled the defense to request permission from the court to respond. Now according to that latest, public document, information about the prosecution’s case — as well as their secret interpretation of Anonymous — is widely available.

According to the newest motion, it’s now known that the government wrote in response that Brown’s “past association with Anonymous is crucial to understanding the significance of his threatening comments and conduct,” all but equating the hacktivist group with a streetgang capable of causing immense fear in a public official — in this case, Federal Bureau of Investigation Special Agent-in-Charge Robert Smith, whom Brown berated in a series of videos uploaded to YouTube shortly before his September 2012 arrest.

But the government hasn’t establish a connection between Anonymous and “any form of violent conduct,” the defense fired back last week, nor was Brown ever accused of conspiring with the group to carry out the alleged threats.

[T]he government alleges no meaningful nexus between an association with Anonymous and any form of violent conduct,” the defense argued. “Nor is Mr. Brown charged as a ‘member’ of ‘Anonymous.’ Nor does the Indictment allege any conspiracy between Mr. Brown and ‘Anonymous,’ let alone one to threaten the physical assault of [Smith]. Nor does the government allege that Mr. Brown’s affiliation with ‘Anonymous’ … was in any way violent in nature, or that he conveyed such information to [Smith].”

“As such, the government fails to show a reasonable basis upon which a juror could find that ‘Anonymous’ was a violent group or partook in violent activities.”

Quoting from the prosecution’s paperwork, the defense says the government believes Brown and Anonymous “secretly plotted the overthrow of the government.”

A tweet posted by Brown before his arrest and cited in the first criminal indictment includes one where he encouraged followers to overthrow the US government. That tweet though — likely the impetus for the prosecution’s latest claims—should likely be taken with a grain of salt. In it Brown concluded his alleged plea with the internet abbreviation “lol” and then linked to a music video of 80s rock group Blondie.

“This is exactly the type of political hyperbole that the First Amendment was meant to protect,” the defense counsel lashed back with.

The government is aware that they can’t succeed in convicting Brown for his speech, so in order to prevent a just dismissal of the charges they are implying his guilt by association,” the group Free Barrett Brown responded in a statement published on Wednesday.

“This is not just preposterous, as the majority of Anonymous are citizens engaged in ordinary, constitutionally-protected political expression, but lays bare the cartoon level of ridiculousness that has been the hallmark of this prosecution,” added the support group, which has raised roughly $85,000 for Brown since he was first imprisoned.

Law Enforcement & Hacking: When Cops Control Your Webcam

In Archive, Hacking, Malware, Surveillance on February 26, 2014 at 4:29 PM




Without any public debate or explicit congressional authorization, US law enforcement agencies are now in the hacking business. Federal law enforcement agencies have acquired sophisticated tools which they can, and regularly do use to hack into the computers of targets, remotely enabling webcams, turning on microphones, and downloading documents and other files from the infected computers. Less sophisticated, off-the-shelf hacking and surveillance tools will inevitably be purchased by local and state law enforcement agencies, if they don’t already have them. 

The serious legal, policy and technology issues associated with use of such hacking tools is the focus of this two-panel conference at Yale Law School; Levinson Auditorium.

Moderator: Jennifer Valentino-Devries, The Wall Street Journal

Panel 1: The Hacking Technologies Used by Law Enforcement

Christopher Soghoian, Principal Technologist, ACLU
Related: Backdoors, Government Hacking, and the Next Crypto Wars – Christopher Soghoian @ 30c3

Matt Blaze, Associate Professor, University of Pennsylvania

Axel Arnbak, Researcher, Institute for Information Law, University of Amsterdam
Related: 9 Problems of Government Hacking: Why IT-Systems Deserve Constitutional Protection

Panel 2: The Legal and Policy Implications of Hacking by Law Enforcement

Magistrate Judge Steve Smith
Related: Opinion – In re Warrant to Search a Target Computer at Premises Unknown – April 2013

Professor Laura Donahue, Georgetown University Law Center

Ahmed Ghappour, Clinical Instructor, The National Security Clinic, UT Law School

Stephanie Pell, Principal, SKP Strategies LLC

Justin Rood, Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs

@4m Hacking Team Video
@22m Gamma Video

Related Links:

To Protect and Infect: The Militarization of the Internet – Claudio Guarnieri, Morgan Marquis-Boire, Jacob Appelbaum @ 30c3

WikiLeaks: The Spy Files

Privacy International’s Surveillance Industry Index: 338 Vendors, 35 Countries, 1203 Documents, 97 Technologies

Project PM

Mapping Hacking Team’s “Untraceable” Spyware

“Network Investigative Techniques”: Court Documents Show How FBI Uses Malware for Surveillance

FBI’s “Wireless Intercept & Tracking Team” Revealed in Declassified Documents

Law Enforcement Using Methods From NSA Playbook

(GCHQ/JTRIG) The Art of Deception: Training for a New Generation of Online Covert Operations

In Anonymous, Archive, GCHQ, JTRIG, NSA, NSA Files, Surveillance on February 25, 2014 at 9:13 AM


Glenn Greenwald/TheIntercept:

One of the many pressing stories that remains to be told from the Snowden archive is how western intelligence agencies are attempting to manipulate and control online discourse with extreme tactics of deception and reputation-destruction. It’s time to tell a chunk of that story, complete with the relevant documents.

Over the last several weeks, I worked with NBC News to publish a series of articles about “dirty trick” tactics used by GCHQ’s previously secret unit, JTRIG (Joint Threat Research Intelligence Group). These were based on four classified GCHQ documents presented to the NSA and the other three partners in the English-speaking “Five Eyes” alliance. Today, we at the Intercept are publishing another new JTRIG document, in full, entitled “The Art of Deception: Training for Online Covert Operations”.


Morwell Open Cut Fire – keeps on burning

In Activism, Al Jazeera NEWSHOUR, Archive, ASIO, Australia, China, Environment, footage, Google, leaksource, LEAKSOURCE ORIGINAL NEWS, LeakSourceRadio, News, Occupy, Politics, Science & Technology, Technology on February 24, 2014 at 9:39 PM

via digitalfolklore

Morwell is a city located in the Latrobe Valley area of Gippsland in the east of the state of Victoria in Australia approximately 149 km east of the state capital.

It has a population of about fourteen thousand people.

Since February 10th the Hazelwood open cut coal mine has been on fire as result of  arson in the area.     Mor2 morwell

The coal mine, which support Hazelwood power station, has been burning for two weeks and the smoke is effecting the health of the towns people.

The State Government spent $20,000 on “breathing masks”.

The immediate effects of this event will slowly abate, but in the long term this could possibly reduce the life expectancy of effected people by as much as 10 years.

The state’s Chief Health Officer,Rosemary Lester, said the air quality had not reached the trigger point for evacuating the town, but she said it was “a wise thing to take breaks from the smoke”.

Morwell schools and child care centres have stopped children going outside due to poor air quality. The Environment Protection Authority’s air quality index for Morwell East peaked at 459 at the weekend, and at times on Monday it exceeded 200. The worst rating, “very poor”, is 150-plus.

Fire Services Commissioner Craig Lapsley said the northerly wind would help disperse the smoke around Morwell on Tuesday, but would make the fire-fighting effort more difficult in the open-cut mine.

He said the fire was about 50 per cent “out”, but this could change depending on the conditions and fire-fighting efforts on Tuesday.

video below is from February 10th 2014

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