Tag Archives | Spying

CIA’s Secret Fear: High-Tech Border Checks Will Blow Spies’ Cover

EyeScanThe Watchmen’s tools working against the Watchers? Jeff Stein writes on WIRED’s Danger Room:

When Tom Cruise had to break into police headquarters in Minority Report, the futuristic crime thriller, he got past the iris scanners with ease: He just swapped out his eyeballs.

CIA agents may find that just a little beyond the call of duty. But meanwhile, they’ve got to come up with something else: The increasing deployment of iris scanners and biometric passports at worldwide airports, hotels and business headquarters, designed to catch terrorists and criminals, are playing havoc with operations that require CIA spies to travel under false identities.

Busy spy crossroads such as Dubai, Jordan, India and many EU points of entry are employing iris scanners to link eyeballs irrevocably to a particular name. Likewise, the increasing use of biometric passports, which are embedded with microchips containing a person’s face, sex, fingerprints, date and place of birth, and other personal data, are increasingly replacing the old paper ones.

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U.S. National Reconnaissance Office Launches New Spy Satellite

National Reconnaissance Office“NROL” is the designation for a series of classified satellites operated by the United States National Reconnaissance Office. As Ryan Gallagher reports on Slate:

Last week, a new U.S. spy satellite was launched into orbit as part of a secretive military program enabling the surveillance of Earth from space.

A live webcast showing the Delta IV rocket blast into the sky from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on Tuesday was blacked out just three minutes after liftoff due to the sensitive nature of the mission, dubbed “NROL-25.”

An official at the Vandenberg base told the Los Angeles Times that the NROL-25 was part of a “national security payload,” which could mean it is to be used for any number of purposes, possibly including domestic surveillance. The Wall Street Journal reported in 2007 that U.S. intelligence agencies, in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, had approved the use of spy satellites for domestic purposes, such as for monitoring border security.

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American Universities Infected by Foreign Spies

Photo: Lovelac7 (CC)

Photo: Lovelac7 (CC)

An alarming (or is it alarmist?) report by Daniel Golden for Bloomberg News:

Michigan State University President Lou Anna K. Simon contacted the Central Intelligence Agency in late 2009 with an urgent question.

The school’s campus in Dubai needed a bailout and an unlikely savior had stepped forward: a Dubai-based company that offered to provide money and students.

Simon was tempted. She also worried that the company, which had investors from Iran and wanted to recruit students from there, might be a front for the Iranian government, she said. If so, an agreement could violate federal trade sanctions and invite enemy spies.

The CIA couldn’t confirm that the company wasn’t an arm of Iran’s government. Simon rejected the offer and shut down undergraduate programs in Dubai, at a loss of $3.7 million.

Hearkening back to Cold War anxieties, growing signs of spying on U.S. universities are alarming national security officials.

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Police Can Copy Your Cell Phone’s Contents In Under Two Minutes

Cellebrite UFEDMatt Brian writes on The Next Web:
It has emerged that Michigan State Police have been using a high-tech mobile forensics device that can extract information from over 3,000 models of mobile phone, potentially grabbing all media content from your iPhone in under two minutes. The CelleBrite UFED is a handheld device that Michigan officers have been using since August 2008 to copy information from mobile phones belonging to motorists stopped for minor traffic violations. The device can circumvent password restrictions and extract existing, hidden, and deleted phone data, including call history, text messages, contacts, images, and geotags. In short, it can copy everything on your smartphone in a matter of minutes. Learning that the police had been using mobile forensic devices, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has issued freedom of information requests which demand that state officials open up the data collected, to better assess if penalised motorists warrant having their data copied...
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These Are The Prices AT&T, Verizon and Sprint Charge For Cellphone Wiretaps

Reports Andy Greenberg on Forbes:
If Americans aren’t disturbed by phone carriers’ practices of handing over cell phone users’ personal data to law enforcement en masse–in many cases without a warrant–we might at least be interested to learn just how much that service is costing us in tax dollars: often hundreds or thousands per individual snooped. Earlier this week the American Civil Liberties Union revealed a trove of documents it had obtained through Freedom of Information Requests to more than 200 police departments around the country. They show a pattern of police tracking cell phone locations and gathering other data like call logs without warrants, using devices that impersonate cell towers to intercept cellular signals, and encouraging officers to refrain from speaking about cell-tracking technology to the public, all detailed in a New York Times story...
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Ex-CIA Spy-in-Training Goes Public on Twitter

Ex CIA Trainee“I was with the CIA for about three and a half months before I was sent to their secret psychiatric prison in Northern Virginia. I was a clandestine service trainee in their program so I wasn’t officially a spy yet. I was training to be a spy,” says Lynnae Williams. Reports Eli Lake on the Daily Beast:

The Twitter feed belonging to Lynnae Williams at first glance looks like most Twitter feeds. There are tweets about what she is reading (Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Madame Bovary); tweets about politics (leans toward the Occupy movement); and tweets about food (tuna casserole, carrot-cake muffins).

But on closer inspection, the feed features something rare for Twitter and even the Internet: detailed disclosures about the CIA. On Tuesday for example, Williams tweeted, “The #Farm is #CIA’s training center near #Williamsburg, Virginia. I think it’s the Kisevalter Center or something.”

In other tweets, Williams, who in 2009 spent nearly four months training to be a CIA spy, details her own experiences with CIA case officers, psychiatrists, and the special security division of the agency that serves as the CIA’s police force.

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Facebook Accused Of Reading Users’ Text Messages

DislikeMike Butcher writes on TechCrunch:

Ahead of Mobile World Congress and an appearance by Facebook to explain its next moves in mobile, the social networking giant is coming under increasing strain over its use of users’ personal information. Mobile startups and operators are both fretting over the issue this week, as smartphones and the apps that come with them increasingly eclipse the feature phones of old. We’ve already seen how Path ignited the debate around privacy by uploading iPhone address books to its servers without explicit permission, just as many other apps have done without anyone realizing for some time. Path was by no means the only offender.

The latest accusation is being leveled at Facebook. In today’s Sunday Times newspaper, published out of London, a story (behind a paywall) alleges that Facebook has “admitted” to “reading text messages” during a trial to launch its own messaging service.

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WikiLeaks Accuses Swedish Foreign Minister Of Being U.S. Spy

4034569140_cfcd205886WikiLeaks takes on Sweden’s elite? Russia Today writes:

The world famous whistleblowing group WikiLeaks claims it has documents exposing Sweden’s FM Carl Bildt as an American spy and is promising to publish them soon. The documents prove that Bildt has been a US informer since 1973 and that he collaborated with the US government in ways that contradict Swedish law, the Swedish tabloid Expressen reports.

It also reports that publication of the materials will inevitably lead to the resignation of the foreign minister and the end of his political career. The Swedish Foreign Ministry said that it first needs to see the documents before issuing any comments on the case.

Some say that WikiLeaks threats to Swedish officials are directly connected to the case of the website’s founder, Julian Assange, who is wanted in Sweden over rape and sexual assault allegations. Assange is currently in Britain fighting extradition to Sweden. His supporters say that if he is sent to Sweden he will then be extradited to the US.

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LAPD To Crack Down On Use Of Unmanned Drones By Real Estate Agents

dronerIn a nightmarish scenario from the future, technology ostensibly created to spy on our “enemies” is now being turned against us by the most nefarious of forces — real estate brokers. The Los Angeles Times reveals:

The Los Angeles Police Department is warning real estate agents not to use images of properties taken from unmanned aircraft, saying the flying drones pose a potential safety hazard and could violate federal aviation policy.

The warning was issued this week after officers saw a television news report showing a basketball-sized object with multiple rotors hovering over an expansive Westside residence.

Real estate agents have been posting aerial photos and video of homes for sale in the Los Angeles area, according to the LAPD. The pictures have been taken from several hundred feet off the ground in the city’s crowded airspace — an altitude at which police helicopters often fly.

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Iran Calls Video Games Part Of CIA Plot

Amir Mirzaei Hekmati

Amir Mirzaei Hekmati

Robert Mackey writes for the New York Times:

According to Iranian state television, a former United States marine who was convicted of spying on Iran and sentenced to death on Monday was also involved in a nefarious plot to brainwash the youth of the Middle East using an unlikely tool: video games.

In a video report broadcast last month, Amir Mirzaei Hekmati, the former marine of Iranian descent who was arrested during a visit to Tehran in August, allegedly confessed to a career in American intelligence that included a stint at a video game company in New York that was “a cover for the C.I.A.”

According to an English translation of the report published by The Tehran Times, an Iranian state-run newspaper, about one-third of the way through the report, Mr. Hekmati said he had worked for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or Darpa, after he left the Marine Corps in 2005.

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