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Hacking Team Hacked: 400GB Data Dump of Internal Documents/Emails/Source Code from Notorious Spyware Dealer

In Archive, Hacking, Hacking Team, Malware, Surveillance, WikiLeaks on July 7, 2015 at 9:07 AM

hacked-team

07/05-09/2015

The controversial Italian surveillance company Hacking Team, which sells spyware to governments all around the world, including agencies in Ethiopia, Morocco, the United Arab Emirates, as well as the US Drug Enforcement Administration, has been seriously hacked.

Hackers have made 400GB of client files, contracts, financial documents, and internal emails, some as recent as 2015, publicly available for download.

What’s more, the unknown hackers announced their feat through Hacking Team’s own Twitter account.

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Torrent Links:
https://mega.nz/#!Xx1lhChT!rbB-LQQyRypxd5bcQnqu-IMZN20ygW_lWfdHdqpKH3E
http://infotomb.com/eyyxo.torrent
Mirror:
https://ht.transparencytoolkit.org/
Source Codes:
https://github.com/hackedteam?tab=repositories

Last year, a hacker who only went by the name “PhineasFisher” hacked the controversial surveillance tech company Gamma International, a British-German surveillance company that sells the spyware software FinFisher. He then went on to leak more than 40GB of internal data from the company, which has been long criticized for selling to repressive governments.

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That same hacker has now claimed responsibility for the breach of Hacking Team, that sells a similar product called Remote Control System Galileo.

Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai/Motherboard:

On Sunday night, I reached out to the hacker while he was in control of Hacking Team’s Twitter account via a direct message to @hackingteam. Initially, PhineasFisher responded with sarcasm, saying he was willing to chat because “we got such good publicity from your last story!” referring to a recent story I wrote about the company’s CEO claiming to be able to crack the dark web.

Afterwards, however, he also claimed that he was PhineasFisher. To prove it, he told me he would use the parody account he used last year to promote the FinFisher hack to claim responsibility.

“I am the same person behind that hack,” he told me before coming out publicly.

The hacker, however, declined to answer to any further questions.

The leak of 400GB of internal files contains “everything,” according to a person close to the company, who only spoke on condition of anonymity. The files contain internal emails between employees; a list of customers, including some, such as the FBI, that were previously unknown; and allegedly even the source code of Hacking Team’s software, its crown jewels.

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HIGHLIGHTS:

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Screenshot shows an email dated 2014 from Hacking Team’s founder and CEO David Vincenzetti to another employee. In the email, titled “Yet another Citizen Lab attack,” Vincenzetti links to a report from the online digital rights research center Citizen Lab, at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs, which has exposed numerous cases of abuse from Hacking Team’s clients.

hacking-team-citizen-lab

Hacking Team has never revealed a list of its clients, and has always and repeatedly denied selling to sketchy governments, arguing that it has an internal procedure to address human rights concerns about prospective customers.

The email about Citizen Lab is filed in a folder called “Anti HT activists.”

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via Thomas Fox-Brewster/Forbes:

In-depth notes on the level of exploitation across a number of Android devices, from the likes of Samsung, HTC and Huawei. It appears the exploits weren’t always successful in accessing voice or texts on phones.

Hacking Team operations manager Daniele Milan’s email from January indicated some imminent features in Hacking Team’s tools included “physical infection of BitLocker protected disks”, thereby bypassing the much-used Microsoft disk encryption technology, as well as “extraction of information from pictures posted on Facebook and Twitter”. It will also soon be able to “capture of documents edited using Google Docs or Office 365”, the roadmap suggested.

Another email from Milan, dated 15 May, indicated the security-focused messaging application Wickr was on the target list too, thanks to a request from the US government. “I had a call this morning with an agent from Homeland Security Investigations [a body within the Department of Homeland Security], and he told me he got some requests to intercept suspects using this application, Wickr… we may want to keep an eye on it and eventually evaluate to add support.”

via Dan Goodin/ArsTechnica:

Another document boasts of Hacking Team’s ability to bypass certificate pinning and the HTTP strict transport security mechanisms that are designed to make HTTPS website encryption more reliable and secure. “Our solution is the only way to intercept TOR traffic at the moment,” the undated PowerPoint presentation went on to say.

Elsewhere, the document stated: “HTTPS Everywhere enforces https and could send rogue certificates to the EFF SSL Observatory.” HTTPS Everywhere is a browser extension developed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation that ensures end users use HTTPS when connecting to a preset list of websites. The statement appears to be a warning that any fraudulent certificates Galileo relies on could become public if used against HTTPS Everywhere users when they have selected an option to send anonymous copies of HTTPS certificates to EFF’s SSL Observatory database.

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Renowned cryptographer Bruce Schneier: “The Hacking Team CEO, David Vincenzetti, doesn’t like me:”

In another [e-mail], the Hacking Team CEO on 15 May claimed renowned cryptographer Bruce Schneier was “exploiting the Big Brother is Watching You FUD (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt) phenomenon in order to sell his books, write quite self-promoting essays, give interviews, do consulting etc. and earn his hefty money.”

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Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai/Motherboard:

After suffering a massive hack, the controversial surveillance tech company Hacking Team is scrambling to limit the damage as well as trying to figure out exactly how the attackers hacked their systems.

But the hack hasn’t just ruined the day for Hacking Team’s employees. The company has told all its customers to shut down all operations and suspend all use of the company’s spyware, Motherboard has learned.

“They’re in full on emergency mode,” a source who has inside knowledge of Hacking Team’s operations told Motherboard.

Hacking Team notified all its customers on Monday morning with a “blast email,” requesting them to shut down all deployments of its Remote Control System software, also known as Galileo, according to multiple sources. The company also doesn’t have access to its email system as of Monday afternoon, a source said.

A source told Motherboard that the hackers appears to have gotten “everything,” likely more than what the hacker has posted online, perhaps more than one terabyte of data.

It’s unclear how the hackers got their hands on the stash, but judging from the leaked files, they broke into the computers of Hacking Team’s two systems administrators, Christian Pozzi and Mauro Romeo, who had access to all the company’s files, according to the source.

In a series of tweets on Monday morning, which have been since deleted, Pozzi said that Hacking Team was working closely with the police, and warned everyone who was downloading the files and commenting on them.

“Be warned that the torrent file the attackers claim is clean has a virus,” he wrote. “Stop seeding and spreading false info.”

The future of the company, at this point, it’s uncertain.

Employees fear this might be the beginning of the end, according to sources. One current employee, for example, started working on his resume, a source told Motherboard.

It’s also unclear how customers will react to this, but a source said that it’s likely that customers from countries such as the US will pull the plug on their contracts.

Hacking Team asked its customers to shut down operations, but according to one of the leaked files, as part of Hacking Team’s “crisis procedure,” it could have killed their operations remotely.

The company, in fact, has “a backdoor” into every customer’s software, giving it ability to suspend it or shut it down—something that even customers aren’t told about.

To make matters worse, every copy of Hacking Team’s Galileo software is watermarked, according to the source, which means Hacking Team, and now everyone with access to this data dump, can find out who operates it and who they’re targeting with it.

Hacking Team did not answer to repeated requests for comment, both to its US spokesperson Eric Rabe as well as directly to its office in Milan, Italy.

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When asked about the identity of the person or group who carried out the attack, Rabe indicated that he believed the attack was the work of a nation state or a criminal gang, and not the work of an activist as many have speculated:

“Doing our own forensics here, we think this was a very sophisticated attack, and certainly not the work of an amateur. The press seems to take the view that this was some sort of human rights activist but I think that is far from certain and it could easily have been criminal activity or some government activity,” adding that “this is almost certainly an international crime”.

When it was pointed out that if a government or criminal group was behind the attack then posting all the information online seems a strange move, Rabe said: “I am not sure why anybody would do that, but part of the effort here was to disrupt our operations as much as possible so I think that would be a motive for many different people.”

When asked if this could be the work of one of Hacking Team’s competitors such as UK-based Gamma International or Israeli NSO Group, Rabe said: “I think that is unlikely” though he admitted that just like everyone else he was speculating.

While some media reports have suggested the company is working with the Italian police to investigate the attack, Rabe says that all he will say is that the company is “working with law enforcement” reiterating that this was an international attack.

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*This post will be continuously updated as there is much more new information emerging. Post anything you find in the comments below and I will add them to the article. LAST UPDATE: 07/13/2015 @ 8PM EST

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Related Links:

WikiLeaks SpyFiles on HackingTeam

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

Secret Manuals Show the Spyware Sold to Despots and Cops Worldwide

WikiLeaks NSA Docs: Surveillance of France Presidents & Economic Espionage; Investigation Underway for New Whistleblower

In Archive, Assange, France, NSA, NSA Files, Surveillance, WikiLeaks on June 30, 2015 at 3:17 AM

wikielaks-nsa-spying-france-presidents

06/23/2015

WikiLeaks:

Today, 23 June 2015, WikiLeaks began publishing “Espionnage Élysée“, a collection of TOP SECRET intelligence reports and technical documents from the US National Security Agency (NSA) concerning targeting and signals intelligence intercepts of the communications of high-level officials from successive French governments over the last ten years.

The top secret documents derive from directly targeted NSA surveillance of the communications of French Presidents Francois Hollande (2012–present), Nicolas Sarkozy (2007–2012), and Jacques Chirac (1995–2007), as well as French cabinet ministers and the French Ambassador to the United States. (Related: Snowden Document Reveals NSA Programs Used to Spy on France Embassies in US)

The documents also contain the “selectors” from the target list, detailing the cell phone numbers of numerous officials in the Elysee up to and including the direct cell phone of the President.

Prominent within the top secret cache of documents are intelligence summaries of conversations between French government officials concerning some of the most pressing issues facing France and the international community, including the global financial crisis, the Greek debt crisis, the leadership and future of the European Union, the relationship between the Hollande administration and the German government of Angela Merkel, French efforts to determine the make-up of the executive staff of the United Nations, French involvement in the conflict in Palestine and a dispute between the French and US governments over US spying on France.

A founding member state of the European Union and one of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, France is formally a close ally of the United States, and plays a key role in a number of US-associated international institutions, including the Group of 7 (G7), the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the World Trade Organization (WTO).

The revelation of the extent of US spying against French leaders and diplomats echoes a previous disclosure in the German press concerning US spying on the communications of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other German officials. That disclosure provoked a political scandal in Germany, eventuating in an official inquiry into German intelligence co-operation with the United States, which is still ongoing.

While the German disclosures focused on the isolated fact that senior officials were targeted by US intelligence, WikiLeaks’ publication today provides much greater insight into US spying on its allies, including the actual content of intelligence products deriving from the intercepts, showing how the US spies on the phone calls of French leaders and ministers for political, economic and diplomatic intelligence.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said: “The French people have a right to know that their elected government is subject to hostile surveillance from a supposed ally. We are proud of our work with leading French publishers Liberation and Mediapart to bring this story to light. French readers can expect more timely and important revelations in the near future.”

Documents Released 06/23/2015:

wikileaks-nsa-france-global-sigint-highlights

wikileaks-nsa-france-target-list-selectors

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06/24/2015

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06/24/2015

RT (1) (2):

French President Francois Hollande has described reports from WikiLeaks that Washington spied on three French presidents as “unacceptable.” The French Foreign Ministry is summoning the US ambassador to shed light on the allegations.

Hollande released the statement following an emergency meeting with key heads of intelligence and ministers at the Elysee Palace in the French capital.

“France will not tolerate actions that threaten its security and the protection of its interests,” the president’s office said, adding that allegations of spying on French interests had been made in the past.

“Commitments were made by the US authorities. They need to be recalled and strictly respected,” Reuters reported.

A French government spokesman said Paris will send a senior intelligence official to the US to discuss the spying reports.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius has also summoned the US ambassador to France, Jane Hartley, to explain reports from WikiLeaks.

Before the hastily scheduled conference, Stephane Le Foll, a politician with the Socialist Party, lashed out at Washington.

“It is difficult to accept that between allies… there can be this kind of activity, particularly related to wiretapping linked to the president of the Republic,” Le Foll told iTele.

“When we are fighting terrorism, one has trouble imagining or understanding what would motivate an ally to spy on his allies,” he added. “There are enough dangerous crises in the world today.”

US President Barack Obama has assured his French counterpart Francois Hollande that Washington was not tapping his communications, the White House says.

In the phone call, Obama“reiterated that we have abided by the commitment we made to our French counterparts in late 2013 that we are not targeting and will not target the communications of the French president,” the White House said in a statement.

Nothing was said about the period beween 2006 and 2012, wwhich was mentioned by Wikileaks, though.

The statement released by Hollande’s office after the conversation, said in turn that “President Obama reiterated unequivocally his firm commitment … to end the practices that may have happened in the past and that are considered unacceptable among allies.”

Despite the surveillance scandal, the statement then said that French intelligence officials will soon go to Washington to “strengthen cooperation.”

US media cited a statement from the NSA saying it was not targeting and would not target Hollande’s communications. The statement did not deny spying had taken place in the past.

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06/24/2015

Mark Hosenball/Reuters:

U.S. and European security authorities are investigating whether a previously unknown leaker provided sensitive intelligence documents to WikiLeaks about alleged U.S. spying on French politicians, according to sources familiar with the matter.

U.S. and European security sources said the United States and allied governments were actively considering the possibility that someone other than former NSA contractor Edward Snowden provided the latest documents to WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange.

Two people familiar with documentation which Snowden acquired when he worked as an NSA contractor and later supplied to media outlets said that they do not recall seeing these kind of reports among those materials.

But some sources familiar with the investigations said it was still possible that these documents originated with Snowden.

The U.S. and European sources cautioned that they did not know for sure that Assange had developed a source other than Snowden inside U.S. intelligence. Assange has been in contact with associates of Snowden and helped arrange for him to flee from Hong Kong to Russia, where he was later granted asylum.

But until now, Assange, who three years ago took refuge in Ecuador’s Embassy in London, has published few if any documents directly attributed to either Snowden’s leaks or to the NSA.

Associates of Snowden have said that they believe he deliberately avoided giving sensitive U.S. documents to Assange.

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wikileaks-nsa-france-economic-espionage

06/29/2015

WikiLeaks:

Today, 29 June 2015, WikiLeaks continues “Espionnage Élysée”, our ongoing publication of a collection of TOP SECRET documents from United States surveillance operations against France.

Today’s publication comprises seven top secret documents detailing how the US has had a decade- long policy of economic espionage against France, including the interception of all French corporate contracts and negotiations valued at more than $200 million. The documents demonstrate that the US National Security Agency, far from being a rogue organisation, is carrying out an economic espionage policy created by the US Director of National Intelligence. The documents detail the intelligence process, from the tasking of the NSA with collection of desired economic information to the production of developed intelligence reports, which are sent to “Supported Elements” of the US government, including the US Department of Commerce, the US Trade Represenative, the US Treasury and the Central Intelligence Agency.

Central within the cache of documents are two long-term spying orders (“collection requirements”) which define the kinds of intelligence the NSA is tasked with collecting in its surveillance operations against France.

The documents make clear that the NSA has been tasked with obtaining intelligence on all aspects of the French economy, from government policy, diplomacy, banking and participation in international bodies to infrastructural development, business practices and trade activities. The documents establish that the US economic intelligence operations against France have run for more than a decade and started as early as 2002.

Some of the documents are authorised for sharing with the “Five Eyes” partners – the group of Anglophone countries in close intelligence co-operation with the United States: Canada, New Zealand, Australia and France’s fellow member state of the European Union, the United Kingdom, strongly suggesting that the United Kingdom has also benefited from the United States’ economic espionage activities against France.

The cache also includes five TOP SECRET intelligence summaries from US spying on the conversations and communications of French officials. The documents show US spying on the French Finance Minister, a French Senator, officials within the Treasury and Economic Policy Directorate, the French ambassador to the United States, and officials with direct responsibility for EU trade policy. The intercepts reveal internal French deliberation and policy on the World Trade Organization, the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, the G7 and the G20, the 2013 French budget, the decline of the automotive industry in France, and the involvement of French companies in the Oil for Food programme in Iraq during the 1990s.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said: “The United States has been conducting economic espionage against France for more than a decade. Not only has it spied on the French Finance Minister, it has ordered the interception of every French company contract or negotiation valued at more than $200 million. That covers not only all of France’s major companies, from BNP Paribas, AXA and Credit Agricole to Peugeot and Renault, Total and Orange, but it also affects the major French farming associations. $200 million is roughly 3,000 French jobs. Hundreds of such contracts are signed every year. The United States not only uses the results of this spying itself, but swaps these intercepts with the United Kingdom. Do French citizens deserve to know that their country is being taken to the cleaners by the spies of supposedly allied countries? Mais oui!”

Documents Released 06/29/2015:

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Related Links:

NSA Spying on France: 70.3 Million Phone Calls Intercepted in 30 Days; Average of 3 Million Data Intercepts Per Day

NSA Document: 2012 “Flame” Cyberattack on France Presidential Computer Network; US Denies Involvement, Israel May Be Culprit

Unsealed Court Docs Reveal How U.S. Secretly Forced Google to Hand Over Email Data of Journalist Jacob Appelbaum as Part of WikiLeaks Investigation

In Appelbaum, Archive, DOJ, Google, Surveillance, USA, WikiLeaks on June 20, 2015 at 8:12 PM

06/20/2015

Ryan Gallagher/TheIntercept:

Newly unsealed court documents obtained by The Intercept reveal the Justice Department won an order forcing Google to turn over more than one year’s worth of data from the Gmail account of Jacob Appelbaum (pictured above), a developer for the Tor online anonymity project who has worked with WikiLeaks as a volunteer. The order also gagged Google, preventing it from notifying Appelbaum that his records had been provided to the government.

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The surveillance of Appelbaum’s Gmail account was tied to the Justice Department’s long-running criminal investigation of WikiLeaks, which began in 2010 following the transparency group’s publication of a large cache of U.S. government diplomatic cables.

According to the unsealed documents, the Justice Department first sought details from Google about a Gmail account operated by Appelbaum in January 2011, triggering a three-month dispute between the government and the tech giant. Government investigators demanded metadata records from the account showing email addresses of those with whom Appelbaum had corresponded between the period of November 2009 and early 2011; they also wanted to obtain information showing the unique IP addresses of the computers he had used to log in to the account.

The Justice Department argued in the case that Appelbaum had “no reasonable expectation of privacy” over his email records under the Fourth Amendment, which protects against unreasonable searches and seizures. Rather than seeking a search warrant that would require it to show probable cause that he had committed a crime, the government instead sought and received an order to obtain the data under a lesser standard, requiring only “reasonable grounds” to believe that the records were “relevant and material” to an ongoing criminal investigation.

Google repeatedly attempted to challenge the demand, and wanted to immediately notify Appelbaum that his records were being sought so he could have an opportunity to launch his own legal defense. Attorneys for the tech giant argued in a series of court filings that the government’s case raised “serious First Amendment concerns.” They noted that Appelbaum’s records “may implicate journalistic and academic freedom” because they could “reveal confidential sources or information about WikiLeaks’ purported journalistic or academic activities.”

However, the Justice Department asserted that “journalists have no special privilege to resist compelled disclosure of their records, absent evidence that the government is acting in bad faith,” and refused to concede Appelbaum was in fact a journalist. It claimed it had acted in “good faith throughout this criminal investigation, and there is no evidence that either the investigation or the order is intended to harass the … subscriber or anyone else.”

Google’s attempts to fight the surveillance gag order angered the government, with the Justice Department stating that the company’s “resistance to providing the records” had “frustrated the government’s ability to efficiently conduct a lawful criminal investigation.”

The Justice Department wanted to keep the surveillance secret largely because of an earlier public backlash over its WikiLeaks investigation. In early 2011, Appelbaum and other WikiLeaks volunteers’ – including Icelandic parlimentarian Birgitta Jonsdottirwere notified by Twitter that the Justice Department had obtained data about their accounts. This disclosure garnered widepread news coverage and controversy; the government says in the unsealed court records that it “failed to anticipate the degree of  damage that would be caused” by the Twitter disclosure and did not want to “exacerbate this problem” when it went after Appelbaum’s Gmail data.

The court documents show the Justice Department said the disclosure of its Twitter data grab “seriously jeopardized the [WikiLeaks] investigation” because it resulted in efforts to “conceal evidence” and put public pressure on other companies to resist similar surveillance orders. It also claimed that officials named in a subpeona ordering Twitter to turn over information were “harassed” after a copy was published by Intercept co-founder Glenn Greenwald at Salon in 2011.

The only specific evidence of the alleged harassment cited by the government is an email that was sent to an employee of the U.S. Attorney’s office that purportedly said: “You guys are fucking nazis trying to controll [sic] the whole fucking world. Well guess what. WE DO NOT FORGIVE. WE DO NOT FORGET. EXPECT US.”

Google accused the government of hyperbole and argued that the backlash over the Twitter order did not justify secrecy related to the Gmail surveillance. “Rather than demonstrating how unsealing the order will harm its well-publicized investigation, the government lists a parade of horribles that have allegedly occurred since it unsealed the Twitter order, yet fails to establish how any of these developments could be further exacerbated by unsealing this order,” wrote Google’s attorneys. “The proverbial toothpaste is out of the tube, and continuing to seal a materially identical order will not change it.”

But Google’s attempt to overturn the gag order was denied by magistrate judge Ivan D. Davis in February 2011. The company launched an appeal against that decision, but this too was rebuffed, in March 2011, by District Court judge Thomas Selby Ellis, III.

The government agreed to unseal some of the court records on Apr. 1 this year, and they were apparently turned over to Appelbaum on May 14 through a notification sent to his Gmail account. The files were released on condition that they would contain some redactions, which are bizarre and inconsistent, in some cases censoring the name of “WikiLeaks” from cited public news reports.

Not all of the documents in the case – such as the original surveillance orders in the case contested by Google – were released as part of the latest disclosure. Some contain “specific and sensitive details of the investigation” and “remain properly sealed while the grand jury investigation continues,” according to the court records from April this year.

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Appelbaum, who is based in Berlin, called the case “a travesty that continues at a slow pace” and said he felt it was important to highlight “the absolute madness in these documents.”

He told The Intercept: “After five years, receiving such legal documents is neither a shock nor a needed confirmation. … Will we ever see the full documents about our respective cases? Will we even learn the names of those signing so-called legal orders against us in secret sealed documents? Certainly not in a timely manner and certainly not in a transparent, just manner.”

The 32-year-old, who has recently collaborated with Intercept co-founder Laura Poitras to report revelations about National Security Agency surveillance for German news magazine Der Spiegel, said he plans to remain in Germany “in exile, rather than returning to the U.S. to experience more harassment of a less than legal kind.”

“My presence in Berlin ensures that the cost of physically harassing me or politically harassing me is much higher than when I last lived on U.S. soil,” Appelbaum said. “This allows me to work as a journalist freely from daily U.S. government interference. It also ensures that any further attempts to continue this will be forced into the open through [a Mutal Legal Assistance Treaty] and other international processes. The German goverment is less likely to allow the FBI to behave in Germany as they do on U.S. soil.”

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The Justice Department’s WikiLeaks investigaton is headed by prosecutors in the Eastern District of Virginia. Since 2010, the secretive probe has seen activists affiliated with WikiLeaks compelled to appear before a grand jury and has involved the FBI attempting to infiltrate the group with an informant. Earlier this year, it was revealed that the government had obtained the contents of three core WikiLeaks staffers’ Gmail accounts as part of the investigation.

A dozen outstanding search warrants and court orders have been issued in the WikiLeaks inquiry, says attorney Ahmed Ghappour, who is representing independent journalist Alexa O’Brien in her effort to have the documents unsealed. That is on top of the three disclosed earlier this year, the orders disclosed by Twitter and one more revealed by a small Internet provider, Sonic, for data about whom Appelbaum e-mailed.

1971: The Story of “Citizens’ Commission to Investigate the FBI” Activists Who Exposed COINTELPRO

In Activism, Archive, FBI, Surveillance, USA on May 19, 2015 at 6:40 AM

1971

Air Date: 05/18/2015

via PBS (mirrored by LeakSource due to geographic restrictions of source video and limited viewing time)

In the past several decades, whistleblowers have helped shape the nation’s history, from Deep Throat exposing President Nixon’s Watergate scandal to Edward Snowden’s revelations about the NSA’s surveillance. But long before the dawning of the digital age, one group of citizens risked everything when they uncovered illegal government spying programs.

The FBI, established in 1908, was for 60 years held unaccountable and untouchable until March 8, 1971, when The Citizens’ Commission to Investigate the FBI, as they called themselves, broke into a small FBI office in Media, Pennsylvania, took every file, and shared them with the American public. After the break-in, the group sent the files to journalists at the Washington Post, which published them and shed light on the FBI’s widespread abuse of power. These actions exposed COINTELPRO, the FBI’s illegal surveillance program that involved the intimidation of law-abiding Americans, and helped lead to the country’s first congressional investigation of U.S. intelligence agencies.

The activist-burglars then disappeared into anonymity for forty years. Until now. Never caught, these previously anonymous Americans — parents, teachers and citizens — publicly reveal themselves for the first time and share their story in the documentary 1971. Using a mix of dramatic re-enactments and candid interviews with all involved, the film vividly brings to life one of the more important, yet relatively unexplored, chapters in modern American history.

Second Circuit Court of Appeals Rules NSA Bulk Collection of American’s Phone Records Unlawful

In ACLU, Archive, Greenwald, NSA, Snowden, Surveillance, USA on May 8, 2015 at 1:46 PM

05/07/2015

Patrick Toomey/Noa Yachot/ACLU:

In a landmark victory for privacy, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York ruled unanimously today that the mass phone-records program exposed two years ago by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden is illegal because it goes far beyond what Congress ever intended to permit when it passed Section 215 of the Patriot Act.

The ruling in ACLU v. Clapper is enormously significant, and not only because the program in question — the first to be revealed by Edward Snowden — is at the heart of a legislative reform effort playing out right now, or because it sparked the most significant debate about government surveillance in decades. The decision could also affect many other laws the government has stretched to the breaking point in order to justify dragnet collection of Americans’ sensitive information.

Under the program, revealed in the Guardian on June 5, 2013, telecommunications companies hand over to the NSA, on a daily basis, records relating to the calls of all of their customers. Those records include information about who called whom, when, and for how long. The ACLU sued the NSA over the program just days after it was revealed, and we took the case to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals after it was dismissed by a district court.

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A few points on what makes the decision so important.

1. It recognizes that Section 215 of the Patriot Act does not authorize the government to collect information on such a massive scale. Section 215 allows the government to demand from third parties “any tangible thing” relevant to foreign intelligence or terrorism investigations. “Relevant” is a pretty abstract term, but the government employed a pretty fantastical interpretation to argue that every single call record in America is “relevant” because some of those records might come in handy in a future investigation.

The decision says:

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2. The decision’s significance extends far beyond the phone records program alone. It implicates other mass spying programs that we have learned about in the past two years and — almost certainly ­— others that the government continues to conceal from the public. For example, we know that the Drug Enforcement Administration, for decades, employed a similar definition of “relevance” to amass logs of every call made from the United States to as many as 116 different countries. The same theory was also used to justify the collection of email metadata. Both those programs have been discontinued, but the legal reasoning hasn’t, and it could very well be the basis for programs the government has never acknowledged to the public, including the CIA’s bulk collection of Americans’ financial records.

The judges wrote:

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3. Metadata is incredibly sensitive and revealing. The government has long argued that the phone records program doesn’t reveal the contents of calls, and as such, it is not an invasion of privacy. But metadata, especially in aggregate, can be just as revealing as content, painting a detailed picture of a person’s life.  The decision reads:

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4. The importance of adversarial review. The court recognized that public, adversarial litigation concerning the lawfulness of this spying program was vitally important to its decision — and it drew a direct contrast to the secret, one-sided proceedings that occur in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

The FISC operates in near-total secrecy, in which it almost always hears only from the government. It oversees a wide variety of broad surveillance programs without any public participation or input, approving a body of secret law that has no place in a democracy. This decision affirms the role that federal courts — and the public — have in overseeing practices with such sweeping constitutional implications.

5. The congressional reforms under consideration just don’t cut it. Ahead of Section 215’s sunset on June 1, Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is trying to push through a straight reauthorization of the provision, extending its life by another five years. After today’s decision came down, he took to the floor to defend the program — a position altogether at odds with the appeals court decision, with the conclusions of multiple executive-branch review groups who found the program hasn’t been effective in stopping terrorism, and with the clear consensus that supports far-reaching surveillance reform. Another bill in play (which the ACLU neither supports nor opposes), the USA Freedom Act of 2015, doesn’t go nearly far enough, most notably in ensuring that the government cannot engage in broad collection of innocent Americans’ private information.

We hope that today’s ruling prompts Congress to consider and enact legislation that’s more robust than what’s currently on the table. Short of that, we continue to believe that Congress should seize the June 1 expiration date as an opportunity to let Section 215 die.

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A district court judge had previously dismissed a lawsuit filed by the ACLU in June 2013 that said the program violates people’s privacy, less than a week after documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden revealed that the agency has regularly collected records of phone calls pertaining to millions of Americans. The ACLU appealed that ruling in January 2014 and its suit has been remanded back to the district court upon this week’s decision.

U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said on Thursday the Department of Justice was reviewing the court decision that revived ACLU’s lawsuit. “We are reviewing that decision,” Lynch said at a Senate budget hearing. She said the collection was a “vital tool in our national security” and that she was not aware of any privacy violations under the revised program.

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The ruling aligns with the lower court decision in a similar lawsuit in Washington, Klayman v. Obama, in which U.S. District Judge Richard J. Leon found the NSA program to be likely unconstitutional.

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Dan Froomkin/TheIntercept:

The panel rejected the government’s argument that the ACLU lacked standing because it couldn’t prove that any one person’s records, sitting in a searchable database, had been reviewed by government officials. But whether it’s a machine or a person doing the searching doesn’t matter, Lynch wrote:

[T]he government admits that, when it queries its database, its computers search all of the material stored in the database in order to identify records that match the search term. In doing so, it necessarily searches appellants’ records electronically, even if such a search does not return appellants’ records for close review by a human agent. There is no question that an equivalent manual review of the records, in search of connections to a suspect person or telephone, would confer standing even on the government’s analysis. That the search is conducted by a machine might lessen the intrusion, but does not deprive appellants of standing to object to the collection and review of their data.

This could become an important precedent in a legal review of the NSA’s ability to automatically turn voice into text, which I disclosed on Tuesday, based on more documents from the Snowden archive.

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During an appearance on MSNBC Thursday afternoon, journalist Glenn Greenwald told Alex Wagner he has spoken to Edward Snowden about the ruling and that the exiled whistleblower is “thrilled” with the decision.

“It took Edward Snowden to come forward and he came forward in large part because he heard Director [James] Clapper, the senior U.S. national security official, tell the Senate and the American people falsely that the government was not doing exactly the program that the court today said was illegal,” Greenwald added, saying it was “very gratifying” to hear the decision today.

Later, when Wagner asked if Greenwald believes this ruling will mean the end of James Clapper’s career, he said we now know the director was “lying and hiding a program that was against the law,” adding, “If that doesn’t get you fired by the Obama Administration, let alone prosecuted, what does? If that’s not a firing offense, then nothing is.”

Finally, when Wagner asked Greenwald if he thinks the ruling could lead to Snowden’s return to the U.S., he replied, “It should.”

“How can anybody say that we would be better off if Edward Snowden had just kept quiet and let us remain ignorant of the spying program that a federal court now said is illegal? It’s classic whistleblowing,” Greenwald said. “I think he deserves our national gratitude, not a life in prison.”

05/08/2015


Snowden gave his first public reaction to the ruling at the Nordic Media Festival. He was interviewed on livestream by Tor expert and Forbes contributor Runa Sandvik, who first met Snowden while he was still an NSA contractor when they threw a cryptoparty together in Hawaii.

“This is significant. The importance of it in the U.S. legal community—the policy community–can’t be overstated,” Snowden said, when asked about the ruling. “This decision will not affect only the phone metadata program. It will affect every other mass surveillance program in the U.S. going forward.”

Snowden highlighted the impact that the information he leaked to Glenn Greenwald and other journalists has had on the court’s ability to respond to check  government surveillance. “What’s extraordinary about this is the fact that in 2013 before the leaks, the same issues had been tried to be reviewed by the courts,” Snowden said. “Another NGO called Amnesty International brought the same challenge against the same individual. They threw it out of court because Amnesty could not prove it had been spied upon.”

Snowden explained that Greenwald’s story involved a “secret order from a secret court” authorized to monitor phone calls and collect metadata from U.S. citizens. “Metadata [is] analogous to the kind of information a Private Eye would collect if they were following you around. Not necessarily a record of every word you said in conversation with someone else, because you would notice them, but where you had traveled and who you met with,” Snowden said. “What makes this surveillance so dangerous is that it targeted all Americans, regardless of—and before–any suspicion of criminal activity,” he added.

“This being struck down is really a radical sea change in the level of resistance that the United States government has placed thus far. So far, courts have said basically, it’s not our place or our role to tell the executive branch of the government how to do their job,” Snowden said. “It is extraordinarily encouraging to see the court are beginning to change their thinking to say ‘if Congress will not pass reasonable laws, if the executive will not act as a responsible steward of liberty and rights in how they execute the laws, it falls to the courts to say this has gone too far.’”

Related Links:

Privacy & Civil Liberties Oversight Board Report on NSA Telephone Records Program: Illegal, Ineffective, Should End

UN Special Rapporteur on Counter-Terrorism & Human Rights Issues Scathing Report on Mass Surveillance

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