Later On

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Archive for the ‘Obama administration’ Category

The Surveillance Engine: How the NSA Built Its Own Secret Google

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ICReach

An article with astonishing content. We should start a pool of how soon this tool will be used to stifle dissent. Ryan Gallagher reports in The Intercept:

The National Security Agency is secretly providing data to nearly two dozen U.S. government agencies with a “Google-like” search engine built to share more than 850 billion records about phone calls, emails, cellphone locations, and internet chats, according to classified documents obtained by The Intercept.

The documents provide the first definitive evidence that the NSA has for years made massive amounts of surveillance data directly accessible to domestic law enforcement agencies. Planning documents for ICREACH, as the search engine is called, cite the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Drug Enforcement Administration as key participants.

ICREACH contains information on the private communications of foreigners and, it appears, millions of records on American citizens who have not been accused of any wrongdoing. Details about its existence are contained in the archive of materials provided to The Intercept by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.

Earlier revelations sourced to the Snowden documents have exposed a multitude of NSA programs for collecting large volumes of communications. The NSA has acknowledged that it shares some of its collected data with domestic agencies like the FBI, but details about the method and scope of its sharing have remained shrouded in secrecy.

architecture

ICREACH has been accessible to more than 1,000 analysts at 23 U.S. government agencies that perform intelligence work, according to a 2010 memo. A planning document from 2007 lists the DEA, FBI, Central Intelligence Agency, and the Defense Intelligence Agency as core members. Information shared through ICREACH can be used to track people’s movements, map out their networks of associates, help predict future actions, and potentially reveal religious affiliations or political beliefs.

The creation of ICREACH represented a landmark moment in the history of classified U.S. government surveillance, according to the NSA documents.

“The ICREACH team delivered the first-ever wholesale sharing of communications metadata within the U.S. Intelligence Community,” noted a top-secret memo dated December 2007. “This team began over two years ago with a basic concept compelled by the IC’s increasing need for communications metadata and NSA’s ability to collect, process and store vast amounts of communications metadata related to worldwide intelligence targets.”

The search tool was designed to be the largest system for internally sharing secret surveillance records in the United States, capable of handling two to five billion new records every day, including more than 30 different kinds of metadata on emails, phone calls, faxes, internet chats, and text messages, as well as location information collected from cellphones. Metadata reveals information about a communication—such as the “to” and “from” parts of an email, and the time and date it was sent, or the phone numbers someone called and when they called—but not the content of the message or audio of the call.

ICREACH does not appear to have a direct relationship to the large NSA database, previously reported by The Guardian, that stores information on millions of ordinary Americans’ phone calls under Section 215 of the Patriot Act. Unlike the 215 database, which is accessible to a small number of NSA employees and can be searched only in terrorism-related investigations, ICREACH grants access to a vast pool of data that can be mined by analysts from across the intelligence community for “foreign intelligence”—a vague term that is far broader than counterterrorism.

large-scale-expansion

Data available through ICREACH appears to be primarily derived from surveillance of foreigners’ communications, and planning documents show that it draws on a variety of different sources of data maintained by the NSA. Though one 2010 internal paper clearly calls it “the ICREACH database,” a U.S. official familiar with the system disputed that, telling The Intercept that while “it enables the sharing of certain foreign intelligence metadata,” ICREACH is “not a repository [and] does not store events or records.” Instead, it appears to provide analysts with the ability to perform a one-stop search of information from a wide variety of separate databases.

In a statement to The Intercept, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence confirmed that the system shares data that is swept up by programs authorized under Executive Order 12333, a controversial Reagan-era presidential directive that underpins several NSA bulk surveillance operations that target foreign communications networks. The 12333 surveillance takes place with no court oversight and has received minimal Congressional scrutiny because it is targeted at foreign, not domestic, communication networks. The broad scale of 12333 surveillance means that some Americans’ communications get caught in the dragnet as they transit international cables or satellites—and documents contained in the Snowden archive indicate that ICREACH taps into some of that data.

Legal experts told The Intercept they were shocked to learn about the scale of the ICREACH system and are concerned that law enforcement authorities might use it for domestic investigations that are not related to terrorism.

“To me, this is extremely troublesome,” said Elizabeth Goitein, co-director of the Liberty and National Security Program at the New York University School of Law’s Brennan Center for Justice. “The myth that metadata is just a bunch of numbers and is not as revealing as actual communications content was exploded long ago—this is a trove of incredibly sensitive information.”

Brian Owsley, a federal magistrate judge between 2005 and 2013, said he was alarmed that traditional law enforcement agencies such as the FBI and the DEA were among those with access to the NSA’s surveillance troves. . .

Continue reading. There’s more, and you can practically see democracy go down the drain and authoritarian thought police gain control. I would think the small-government people (i.e., the GOP) would be all over this.

Written by LeisureGuy

25 August 2014 at 10:36 am

Thought control in the military

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The military mind operates according to rules that I do not understand. I probably should advise those readers who are in the military that they should not read this post, since it quotes from a source guilty of quoting documents that describe how the Federal watchlist functions, and (apparently) very few are supposed to know that. Ryan Gallagher reports at The Intercept:

The U.S. military is banning and blocking employees from visiting The Intercept in an apparent effort to censor news reports that contain leaked government secrets.

According to multiple military sources, a notice has been circulated to units within the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps warning staff that they are prohibited from reading stories published by The Intercept on the grounds that they may contain classified information. The ban appears to apply to all employees—including those with top-secret security clearance—and is aimed at preventing classified information from being viewed on unclassified computer networks, even if it is freely available on the internet. Similar military-wide bans have been directed against news outlets in the past after leaks of classified information.

A directive issued to military staff at one location last week, obtained by The Intercept, threatens that any employees caught viewing classified material in the public domain will face “long term security issues.” It suggests that the call to prohibit employees from viewing the website was made by senior officials over concerns about a “potential new leaker” of secret documents.

The directive states:

We have received information from our higher headquarters regarding a potential new leaker of classified information.  Although no formal validation has occurred, we thought it prudent to warn all employees and subordinate commands.  Please do not go to any website entitled “The Intercept” for it may very well contain classified material.

As a reminder to all personnel who have ever signed a non-disclosure agreement, we have an ongoing responsibility to protect classified material in all of its various forms.  Viewing potentially classified material (even material already wrongfully released in the public domain) from unclassified equipment will cause you long term security issues.  This is considered a security violation.

A military insider subject to the ban said that several employees expressed concerns after being told by commanders that it was “illegal and a violation of national security” to read publicly available news reports on The Intercept.

“Even though I have a top secret security clearance, I am still forbidden to read anything on the website,” said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the subject.  “I find this very disturbing that they are threatening us and telling us what websites and news publishers we are allowed to read or not.”

(If you work for the military or the government and have received similar instructions, please let us know.)

On Monday, staff within the Navy, Army, and Marine Corps separately confirmed that they could not access The Intercept from work computers. Two Navy sources said that if they tried to view the site they were served with the insignia of the Strategic Command and a warning that they were “attempting to access a blocked website” that had been barred for “operational reasons” by a Department of Defense filtering system.

An Army spokesman had not responded to a request for comment at the time of this article’s publication. Marine Corps spokesman Capt. Eric Flanagan admitted that Marine Corps staff were notified “as a precautionary measure that theintercept.com may contain classified information.” The Navy and Air Force both referred requests for comment to the Department of Defense.

In an emailed statement, Defense Department spokeswoman Lt. Col. Valerie Henderson said that she had not been able to establish whether the DoD had been the source of “any guidance related to your website.” Henderson added, however, that “DoD personnel have an obligation to safeguard classified information. Classified information, whether made public by unauthorized disclosure, remains classified until declassified by an appropriate government authority. DoD is committed to preventing classified information from being introduced onto DoD’s unclassified networks.”

Earlier this month, after the publication of two Intercept stories revealing classified details about the vast scope of the government’s watchlisting program, Reuters reported that “intelligence officials were preparing a criminal referral” over the leaks.

The ban on The Intercept appears to have come in the aftermath of those stories, representing the latest in a string of U.S. military crackdowns on news websites that have published classified material. Last year, the Army admitted that it was blocking parts of The Guardian’s website after it published secret documents from former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden. In 2010, WikiLeaks and several major news organizations were subject to similarmeasures after the publication of leaked State Department diplomatic files.

Flanagan, the Marine Corps spokesman, told The Intercept that The Washington Post was also blocked by some military agencies last year after it published documents from Snowden revealing covert NSA surveillance operations. . .

Continue reading. And note the insanity: even those who have clearance to read the materials—and who indeed may have already read the materials as part of their military job—are not allowed to read the same materials in public. This strikes me as blindingly insane. I probably would have had a short career in the military.

Written by LeisureGuy

20 August 2014 at 8:08 am

Paul Krugman was snookered—or snookered us

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Very interesting post by Pam Martens and Russ Martens at Wall Street on Parade:

Two weeks ago, Paul Krugman used some expensive media real estate to write a propaganda piece on the unsupportable proposition that the Dodd-Frank financial reform legislation passed in 2010 is “a success story” and that its bank wind-down program known as Ordinary Liquidation Authority has put an end to “bailing out the bankers.”

Wall Street On Parade took Krugman to taskover this fanciful ode to accomplishments by the President the day after his piece ran in the New York Times’ opinion pages and suggested he do proper research on this subject before opining in the future. That was the morning of August 5.

By late in the afternoon of August 5, Krugman had a reality smack-down on his Dodd-Frank success fairy tale by two Federal regulators. Every major media outlet was running with the news that eleven of the biggest banks in the country, including the mega Wall Street banks, had just had their wind-down plans (known as living wills) rejected by the Federal Reserve and FDIC for not being credible or rational. The eleven banks are: Bank of America, Bank of New York Mellon, Barclays, Citigroup, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, State Street and UBS.

Yesterday, Krugman’s Dodd-Frank fantasy lost further credibility when Senator Elizabeth Warren released a letter that she and eleven of her Congressional colleagues had sent to the Federal Reserve, warning that one of its Dodd-Frank proposed rules “invites the same sort of backdoor bailout we witnessed five years ago.”

To refresh any forgetful minds at the Fed over its unprecedented hubris in connecting a giant feeding tube to Wall Street during the last financial crisis, the Senators and Congressional Reps wrote:

During the financial crisis, the Board invoked its emergency lending authority for the first time in 75 years. The scope of the Board’s program was staggering. Between 2007 and 2009, the Board’s emergency lending facilities provided over $23 trillion in loans to large domestic and foreign financial institutions.

These loans were another bailout in all but name. Of the nearly $9 trillion the Board provided through its largest facility – the Primary Dealer Credit Facility – over two-thirds went to just three institutions: Citigroup, Merrill Lynch, and Morgan Stanley. Those institutions and others had access to the Board’s credit facilities for an average of 22 months. And the interest rates the Board offered were typically very low – in many cases, under 1%.

Think about this for a moment. Citigroup was insolvent during the crisis – as Federal insiders have now acknowledged in books and media interviews. In an efficient market system, Citigroup would not have been able to borrow at all, much less at a rate for a AAA-borrower of less than 1 percent. The Federal Reserve is forbidden from making loans to insolvent institutions – but it did it anyway.

Contrast the Fed’s largess to serial miscreants like Citigroup against homeowners at the time whose credit was flawed but they had a job and were still paying their bills.

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

19 August 2014 at 5:27 pm

Something big is brewing when you read something like this in a NY Times story

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From a report by David Carr in the NY Times.For context, read the story to which this is a parenthesis:

(In one bit of irony in the aftermath of the events on Wednesday, President Obama said, “Here in the United States of America, police should not be bullying or arresting journalists who are just trying to do their job and report to the American people what they see on the ground.” This from an administration that has aggressively sought to block reporting and in some instances criminalize it.)

And you can see here how Twitter exploded.

And do read the story at that first link. It’s an important account of events that show how we’re headed.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 August 2014 at 12:40 pm

The FDA is failing us: Will Obama even mention this?

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Kimberly Kindy writes in the Washingon Post:

The explosion of new food additives coupled with an easing of oversight requirements is allowing manufacturers to avoid the scrutiny of the Food and Drug Administration, which is responsible for ensuring the safety of chemicals streaming into the food supply.

And in hundreds of cases, the FDA doesn’t even know of the existence of new additives, which can include chemical preservatives, flavorings and thickening agents, records and interviews show.

“We simply do not have the information to vouch for the safety of many of these chemicals,” said Michael Taylor, the FDA’s deputy commissioner for food.

The FDA has received thousands of consumer complaints about additives in recent years, saying certain substances seem to trigger asthmatic attacks, serious bouts of vomiting, intestinal-tract disorders and other health problems.

At a pace far faster than in previous years, companies are adding secret ingredients to everything from energy drinks to granola bars. But the more widespread concern among food-safety advocates and some federal regulators is the quickening trend of companies opting for an expedited certification process to a degree never intended when it was established 17 years ago to, in part, help businesses.

A voluntary certification system has nearly replaced one that relied on a more formal, time-consuming review — where the FDA, rather than companies, made the final determination on what is safe. The result is that consumers have little way of being certain that the food products they buy won’t harm them.

“We aren’t saying we have a public health crisis,” Taylor said. “But we do have questions about whether we can do what people expect of us.”

In the five decades since Congress gave the FDA responsibility for ensuring the safety of additives in the food supply, . . .

Continue reading.

We all know exactly how well voluntary guidelines work for corporations: they simply do not work. Profit is more important. The reasons corporations like voluntary guidelines instead of laws that exactly match the guidelines, is that if it is a law, they will have to observe the guidelines, something none of them intend to do, so they all object to the law.

The importance of the safety of our food should be obvious to everyone, but obviously it is not.  It’s as if we’re in Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

FDA

Written by LeisureGuy

18 August 2014 at 12:00 pm

Gil Kerlikowske has his job cut out for him at US Border Patrol

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Take a look at what the recently removed head of Internal Affairs at the US Border Patrol has to say in this article by Andrew Becker at the Center for Investigative Reporting:

More than two dozen people have died in violent clashes with U.S. Customs and Border Protection since 2010. Despite public outrage over some of the killings, no agent or officer has faced criminal charges – or public reprimand – to date.

Yet at least a quarter of the 28 deaths were “highly suspect,” said James F. Tomsheck, the agency’s recently removed head of internal affairs. In a sweeping and unauthorized interview with The Center for Investigative Reporting, he said the deaths raised serious questions about whether the use of lethal force was appropriate.

Instead, Tomsheck said, Border Patrol officials have consistently tried to change or distort facts to make fatal shootings by agents appear to be “a good shoot” and cover up any wrongdoing.

“In nearly every instance, there was an effort by Border Patrol leadership to make a case to justify the shooting versus doing a genuine, appropriate review of the information and the facts at hand,” he said.

Those comments and others represent the most scathing public criticism ever lodged against Customs and Border Protection from a high-ranking official at the nation’s largest law enforcement agency. Although Tomsheck was removed from the internal affairs office, he is assigned to the Border Patrol as its executive director for national programs.

Tomsheck said border politics, internal policy and the Border Patrol’s warped view of itself hampered his efforts to investigate shootings while he was head of internal affairs.

He said the Border Patrol suffers from “institutional narcissism,” a view that it is the premier federal law enforcement agency. It’s part of a broader culture of impunity at its parent agency, Customs and Border Protection, which sees itself as above reproach and “constitutional constraints” and aims to shield agents’ misconduct and a massive corruption problem from outside scrutiny, he said.

“It has been suggested by Border Patrol leadership that they are the Marine Corps of the U.S. law enforcement community,” Tomsheck said. “The Border Patrol has a self-identity of a paramilitary border security force and not that of a law enforcement organization.”

Tomsheck, who was reassigned June 9 after serving eight years as the assistant commissioner for internal affairs, has given closed-door briefings to Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs and House Oversight and Government Reform committee leaders. Committee representatives declined to comment on the nature of those briefings.

Tomsheck recently filed a whistleblower retaliation complaint with the federal Office of Special Counsel, which is under review. A spokesman for the special counsel had no comment.

A former U.S. Secret Service agent for 23 years, Tomsheck said he believed that between 5 and 10 percent of border agents and officers are actively corrupt or were at some point in their career. Those crimes include stealing government property, leaking sensitive information and taking bribes to look the other way when smugglers bring drugs or people into the country.

“To a large degree, it (corruption) was an undetected problem and far more severe than the actual number of arrests,” he said.

Other high-ranking officials have backed up Tomsheck’s accusations.

In briefings to the FBI in fall 2012, senior Customs and Border Protection leaders outside of internal affairs had pegged the corruption rate among employees at one time or another in their career as high as 20 percent or more. Shocked by that “integrity gap,” the FBI adjusted its priorities to focus its anti-corruption efforts on federal employees, with an emphasis on border agents and officers, said Ronald Hosko, a retired FBI assistant director for the criminal investigative division who attended the briefings. . . .

Continue reading. There’s quite a bit more.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 August 2014 at 7:56 am

History Repeating Itself? U.S. Bombing Iraq While Jockeying to Oust Leader It Once Favored

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You recall those grip-and-grin photos of Donald Rumsfeld with Saddam Hussein when the US really liked Saddam Hussein a lot (and got a lot of our support) before he turned into Hitler. So we threw him out, and George W. Bush installed Maliki, a really good leader, only now we don’t like him (though he’s not yet at the Hitler level of rhetoric) and we’re back to bombing Iraq.

Does it strike anyone else that the US doesn’t seem to have a clue about what it’s doing? We pretty much ruined Iraq, and now it’s totally coming apart. But of course the US always has a ready answer: “Bomb them!” That apparently seems like a good solution in DC.

Amy Goodman has a program worth watching—and there’s a transcript at the link. The blurb:

As a U.S. bombing campaign in northern Iraq enters its fifth day, Baghdad is in a state of political crisis. Eight years ago, Nouri al-Maliki rose to prime minister with the help of the United States. Now the United States has helped pick his replacement. But al-Maliki is refusing to go — deploying his forces around Baghdad and accusing critics of staging a coup. The political crisis is worsening as U.S. airstrikes continue on Islamic State militants in the north. President Obama authorized the strikes last week in what he called an effort to halt the militants’ advance on Erbil, where the U.S. has a consulate and military personnel, as well as to prevent a massacre of the Yazidi minority. U.S. officials have confirmed the CIA is also secretly sending arms and ammunition directly to Kurdish forces known as the Peshmerga. We are joined by Spencer Ackerman, national security editor at The Guardian.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 August 2014 at 11:59 am

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