Tag Archives | Spying

United States Secretly Built “Cuban Twitter” To Gather Personal Data And Foment Unrest

cubaA Cuban social media platform called ZunZuneo with tens of thousands of users was in fact an espionage project concocted by the U.S. government. Although, what social network isn’t about covert data mining? The Independent reports:

In an apparent throwback to the Cold War, the US government spent $1.6m building a social media network with the aim of undermining the communist government in Cuba, it has emerged.

Documents obtained during an investigation by the Associated Press show that the project, which lasted more than two years and drew thousands of subscribers, was built with secret shell companies and was financed through foreign banks.

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) was reportedly behind the project which saw the creation of a ‘Cuban Twitter’ dubbed “ZunZuneo” – slang for a Cuban hummingbird’s tweet. Users of “ZunZuneo” were entirely unaware of the involvement of the United States government agency and that American contractors were gathering personal data about them.

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Former President Jimmy Carter Uses Snail Mail to Thwart NSA Spies

PIC: NARA (PD)

PIC: NARA (PD)

During a recent appearance on Meet the Press, President Jimmy Carter prefers snail mail over email when it comes to sensitive communications with foreign leaders because he suspects the NSA monitors his email. Perhaps he’s right, but what makes him think that Washington’s spooks won’t intercept and steam open his physical correspondence, too?

Via Slate:

Because of privacy concerns, former President Jimmy Carter has returned to snail mail to avoid surveillance. Carter told NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday that he thinks the NSA may be monitoring his email.

“I have felt that my own communications were probably monitored,” he said. “And when I want to communicate with a foreign leader privately, I type or write the letter myself, put it in the post office and mail it. … I believe if I sent an email, it will be monitored.”

Carter said in the interview that he thought the government has “abused our own intelligence agencies.”

Read the rest at Slate or watch the video after the jump.

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Otis Pike, First Congressman to Battle NSA, Dies Unnoticed

Screen Shot 2014-02-06 at 12.55.10 PMAt possibly the most poignant time in the last 30 years,  the man who valiantly did battle with the US intelligence octopus in the 1970s, Otis Pike,  has died.  All liberty-minded Americans should be celebrating his character and accomplishments, but there is a pervasive and undeserved lull.   Mark Ames of Pando.com writes:

Pike asked questions never asked or answered since the start of the Cold War: What was America’s intelligence budget? What was the purpose of the CIA, NSA and other intelligence agencies and programs? Were they succeeding by their own standards? Were taxpayers getting their money’s worth? Were they making America safer?…The problem was that Pike asked the right questions—and that led him to some very wrong answers, as far as the powers that be were concerned.

…Today, there’s an underlying assumption that exposing dark government secrets is somehow transformative in itself, even without a wider politics to frame it.

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Documents Reveal NSA Targets “Leaky” Apps Such As Angry Birds To Spy On Smartphone Users

Are virally popular, addictive phone games nothing more than a fiendish plot to get us to install spyware on our devices?The latest from the Snowden document trove via the Guardian:

The National Security Agency and its UK counterpart GCHQ have been developing capabilities to take advantage of “leaky” smartphone apps, such as the wildly popular Angry Birds game, that transmit users’ private information across the internet.

The data ranges from phone model to personal details such as age, gender, current location (through geolocation), education level, sexual orientation – one app recorded even specific sexual preferences such as whether or not the user may be a swinger.

One mobile ad platform, Millennial Media, appeared to offer particularly rich information. Millennial Media’s has partnered with Rovio on a special edition of Angry Birds; with Farmville maker Zynga; with Call of Duty developer Activision, and many other major franchises.

games

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A Running List of What We Know the NSA Can Do. So Far.

Jody Avirgan of The Brian Lehrer Show on NPR is compiling a list of the NSA’s fearsome powers to spy on us. All of us. Here’s a sample of what he’s got on his list so far:

  • It can track the numbers of both parties on a phone call, as well location, time and duration. (More)
  • It can hack Chinese phones and text messages. (More)
  • It can set up fake internet cafes. (More)
  • It can spy on foreign leaders’ cell phones. (More)
  • It can tap underwater fiber-optic cables. (More)
  • It can track communication within media organizations like Al-Jazeera. (More)
  • It can hack into the UN video conferencing system. (More)
  • It can track bank transactions. (More)
  • It can monitor text messages. (More)
  • It can access your email, chat, and web browsing history. (More)
  • It can map your social networks.
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NSA Can Spy On Computers Even If They Are Not Connected To Internet

NSA-squareYou have to hand it to the hackers at the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA), they have some devious tricks. The New York Times details their technique for accessing computers that are kept offline:

The National Security Agency has implanted software in nearly 100,000 computers around the world that allows the United States to conduct surveillance on those machines and can also create a digital highway for launching cyberattacks.

While most of the software is inserted by gaining access to computer networks, the N.S.A. has increasingly made use of a secret technology that enables it to enter and alter data in computers even if they are not connected to the Internet, according to N.S.A. documents, computer experts and American officials.

The technology, which the agency has used since at least 2008, relies on a covert channel of radio waves that can be transmitted from tiny circuit boards and USB cards inserted surreptitiously into the computers.

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Is The NSA Blackmailing U.S. Politicians?

PROBLEM?

PROBLEM?

David Harris Gershon writes at Daily Kos:

Jay Stanley is a measured, rational policy analyst. He is a man of facts, not given over to wild speculation or sensationalization. Which is why, before offering his theory that the NSA may currently be blackmailing certain politicians to support the agency’s efforts, he sounds almost apologetic.

He sounds apologetic because he doesn’t like what he’s about to say, not having the unmistakable, absolute data necessary to back it up:

Sometimes when I hear public officials speaking out in defense of NSA spying, I can’t help thinking, even if just for a moment, “What if the NSA has something on that person?”Of course it’s natural, when people disagree with you, to at least briefly think, “They couldn’t possibly really believe that, there must be some outside power forcing them to take that position.” Mostly I do not believe that anything like that is now going on.

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Putin: ‘I Envy’ Obama’s Spy Program

Vladimir_Putin_12015And Vladimir, I envy your forthrightness, notably not a quality that Mr. Obama shares with you. USA Today reports on the Russian President’s latest unscripted statements:

Russia President Vladimir Putin says his government is not working with National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden, and defended President Obama over his spying program — sort of.

“How do I feel about Obama after Snowden’s revelations? I envy him, because he can get away with it,” Putin said during a Thursday news conference in Russia.

Speaking a day after a White House advisory panel released a report recommending changes in NSA programs, Putin defended espionage in general.

He called it “one of the oldest professions in the world, just like some other well-known professions — we won’t mention them here,” an apparent reference to prostitution.

But Putin did say regulations, such as those envisioned for the NSA, are necessary: “On political level, it’s necessary to limit the appetite of special services with certain rules.”

As for Snowden — granted political asylum by Russia earlier this year — Putin said: “To speak in professional jargon, operatively speaking, we are not working with him, and we never worked with him…

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Missing Ex-FBI Agent Was CIA Spy On Unauthorized Mission In Iran

Robert Levinson

Robert Levinson

For those of you staying current with hit TV series Homeland, a CIA spy caught while on an unofficial mission in Iran sounds awfully familiar. AP reports that there is in fact a real life CIA agent – Robert Levinson – who is the fall guy in exactly the type of scandal that is at the heart of Homeland’s current plot:

An American who vanished nearly seven years ago in Iran was working for the CIA on an unapproved intelligence-gathering mission that, when it came to light inside the government, produced one of the most serious scandals in the recent history of the CIA — but all in secret, an Associated Press investigation found.

The CIA paid Robert Levinson’s family $2.5 million to head off a revealing lawsuit. Three veteran analysts were forced out of the agency and seven others were disciplined.

The U.S. publicly has described Levinson as a private citizen.

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NSA And CIA Infiltrated World Of Warcraft And Second Life To Spy On Gamers

gamesIs that elf watching you? ProPublica reports on fascinating classified documents unearthed from Edward Snowden’s trove revealing that NSA and CIA spies have placed numerous avatars in popular virtual realms:

Not limiting their activities to the earthly realm, American and British spies have infiltrated the fantasy worlds of World of Warcraft and Second Life, conducting surveillance and scooping up data in the online games played by millions of people across the globe, according to newly disclosed classified documents.

Fearing that terrorist or criminal networks could use the games to communicate secretly, move money or plot attacks, the documents show, intelligence operatives have entered terrain populated by digital avatars that include elves, gnomes and supermodels.

The spies have created make-believe characters to snoop and to try to recruit informers, while also collecting data and contents of communications between players.

But for all their enthusiasm — so many CIA, FBI and Pentagon spies were hunting around in Second Life, the document noted, that a “deconfliction” group was needed to avoid collisions — the intelligence agencies may have inflated the threat.

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