Tag Archives | Surveillance

U.S. Federal Judge Rules NSA Phone Surveillance Lawful

o-NSA-PHONE-RECORD-COLLECTION-facebookLooks like the U.S. Supreme Court will be taking a look at the NSA’s dubious activities. From AFP:

A US judge ruled Friday that the National Security Agency’s mass surveillance of telephone calls is lawful, igniting a legal conflict that the Supreme Court may ultimately have to resolve.

Federal judge William Pauley in New York threw out a petition from the American Civil Liberties Union and said the program was vital in preventing an Al-Qaeda terror attack on American soil.

Ten days earlier, however, another federal judge in Washington declared that this “almost Orwellian” surveillance is probably unconstitutional, laying the groundwork for a protracted legal fight.

“The question for this court is whether the government’s bulk telephony metadata program is lawful. This court finds it is,” said the 54-page ruling published in New York on Friday.

Edward Snowden, a former NSA contractor, sent shockwaves around the world this year by revealing the extent of Washington’s electronic eavesdropping on millions of private calls.

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The UK Surveillance State’s Finest Export: Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR)

Alexandria VA Dodge Charger Police Car ANPR

A City of Alexandria Dodge Charger police car equipped with mobile ANPR. Two forward facing ANPR units are mounted on the trunk of this vehicle. Photo: Something Original (CC)

Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) might not sound quite as invasive to your privacy as it actually is. James Bridle, perhaps flush with worldwide attention from his much admired Surveillance Spaulder, has written a tremendous history of ANPR, starting in Britain 30 years ago and now aggressively used around the world. In this portion of his lengthy essay at Medium, he discusses ANPR in the United States:

In the United States, implementations have multiplied many times over in recent years. Thanks to lobbying and financial support from insurance companies, Oklahoma and Arizona, among other states, have introduced extensive ANPR networks aimed at catching uninsured drivers. Other deployments, meanwhile, have a more familiar feeling.

When the city of San Leandro, California, purchased ANPR cameras for its police force in 2009, local resident Michael Katz-Lacabe, using a Freedom of Information request, discovered that his car had been captured by the system more than 100 times in a matter of months.

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Surveillance Spaulder Device Alerts Wearer To Surveillance Cameras

Not surprisingly, a wearable “Surveillance Spaulder” hails from the surveillance capital of the western world: London. James Bridle made the CCTV surveillance detector for Wearable Futures’ Futures 10 exhibition. He explains at his blog:

The spaulder is a traditional component of medieval plate armour, designed to protect the wearer from unexpected and unseen blows from above. The Surveillance Spaulder continues this tradition into the present day – and the electromagnetic spectrum – alerting the wearer to the violence of ubiquitous surveillance.

Surveillance Spaulder from stml on Vimeo.

The spaulder contains a CCTV detector, based on a design by anonymous security researcher Puking Monkey. The detector filters the light it collects through a 730nm bandpass filter to isolate the infrared lighting used in most commonly-deployed CCTV cameras. When it receives a signal, it pulses electric current through a pair of transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) pads attached to the wearer’s shoulder, causing them to twitch sharply.

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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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Under the Global Shadow of Big Brother, Journalism Must Light Up the Political Sky

GSM base station 2Every new revelation about the global reach of the National Security Agency underscores that the extremism of the surveillance state has reached gargantuan proportions. The Washington Post just reported that the NSA “is gathering nearly 5 billion records a day on the whereabouts of cellphones around the world.” Documents provided by whistleblower Edward Snowden have forced top officials in Washington to admit the indefensible while defending it. One of the main obstacles to further expansion of their Orwellian empire is real journalism.

Real journalism is “subversive” of deception that can’t stand the light of day. This is a huge problem for the Obama administration and the many surveillance-state flunkies of both parties in Congress. What they want is fake journalism, deferring to government storylines and respectful of authority even when it is illegitimate.

In motion now, on both sides of the Atlantic, are top-down efforts to quash real journalism when and how it matters most.… Read the rest

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NSA’s Secret Plan To Spy On Radicals’ Internet Porn Habits

In the recently published satirical novel by Dave Eggers The Circle, any politician or opponent of the omnipotent social media monolith that is at the center of the plot is derailed with revelations of their Internet porn habits. As it turns out, that was exactly the plan of the good ole NSA (National Security Agency), at least until Edward Snowden screwed things up. From Huffington Post:

The National Security Agency has been gathering records of online sexual activity and evidence of visits to pornographic websites as part of a proposed plan to harm the reputations of those whom the agency believes are radicalizing others through incendiary speeches, according to a top-secret NSA document. The document, provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, identifies six targets, all Muslims, as “exemplars” of how “personal vulnerabilities” can be learned through electronic surveillance, and then exploited to undermine a target’s credibility, reputation and authority.

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China’s Smog Problem Is Reportedly Impairing the Country’s Surveillance Networks

chinaKatie Drummond writing at the Verge:

The dense clouds of smog that sometimes blanket cities in China have myriad ramifications: they close businesses and schools, force residents indoors for days at a time, and are a notorious health hazard. They’re reportedly also, as the Chinese government is now acutely aware, a danger to national security.

Extensive networks of surveillance cameras in major Chinese cities are essentially useless during severe bouts of smog, according to a new report from the South China Morning Post. An estimated 20 million cameras have become a pervasive presence in the country, but they can’t operate through thick layers of particulate matter that characterize smog pollution. And as smoggy days become more common, authorities reportedly worry that criminal and terror activity will increase.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean officials are looking to curb pollution levels. Rather, they’re funding two research programs to design new security cameras that can cut through all that haze — and looking for solutions within four years.

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America’s Plan to Kill Online Privacy Rights Everywhere

Dilma Roussef graffitiThe United States of America is shaping up as the evil totalitarian state of the 21st Century if this report from Foreign Policy‘s The Cable is correct:

The United States and its key intelligence allies are quietly working behind the scenes to kneecap a mounting movement in the United Nations to promote a universal human right to online privacy, according to diplomatic sources and an internal American government document obtained by The Cable.

The diplomatic battle is playing out in an obscure U.N. General Assembly committee that is considering a proposal by Brazil and Germany to place constraints on unchecked internet surveillance by the National Security Agency and other foreign intelligence services. American representatives have made it clear that they won’t tolerate such checks on their global surveillance network. The stakes are high, particularly in Washington — which is seeking to contain an international backlash against NSA spying – and in Brasilia, where Brazilian President Dilma Roussef is personally involved in monitoring the U.N.

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NSA Files: Decoded

Leave it to a foreign news organization to really dig into the National Security Agency’s surveillance files. One imagines that the NSA and other US government agencies would make it “impractical” for American purveyors of “news” to attempt anything similar. Great multimedia presentation too, from The Guardian:

When Edward Snowden met journalists in his cramped room in Hong Kong’s Mira hotel in June, his mission was ambitious. Amid the clutter of laundry, meal trays and his four laptops, he wanted to start a debate about mass surveillance. He succeeded beyond anything the journalists or Snowden himself ever imagined. His disclosures about the NSA resonated with Americans from day one. But they also exploded round the world. For some, like Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren, it is a vitally important issue, one of the biggest of our time: nothing less than the defence of democracy in the digital age.

Guardian NSA

But the intelligence agencies dismiss such claims, arguing that their programs are constitutional, and subject to rigorous congressional and judicial oversight.

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CIA Grabbing Data On Money Transfers Using Patriot Act

CIAOne senses that this is only the tip of the iceberg, but nonetheless the CIA’s bulk collection of international money transfer details is making headlines today; this report from CNN:

The CIA is collecting bulk records on international money transfers, using the same Patriot Act legal authority that has become the center of controversy in U.S. surveillance programs, a source told CNN.

A person familiar with the program said the agency’s efforts are an outgrowth of terror finance-tracking programs that were established in the wake of the September 11, 2001, terror attacks and revealed that al Qaeda funded the hijackers using methods such as smuggled cash, money transfers, and credit and debit cards.

The Treasury Department and the National Security Agency have other programs that similarly focus on financial transaction data. The CIA program provides some redundancies intended to catch transactions that may not draw attention in other programs.

The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times first reported the existence of the CIA program Thursday night, saying it has sparked concerns from lawmakers.

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