The NSA spy scandal and the attack on press freedom

Chris Marsden

Recently released police documents on the August 18 arrest and questioning at London’s Heathrow airport of David Miranda, the domestic partner of journalist Glenn Greenwald, are a serious warning on the advanced stage of the decay of democracy in Britain and internationally.

They show that Miranda was held on blatantly trumped up terrorism charges, aiming to block reporting on the NSA spying scandal. While British, US, and European intelligence agencies have developed the mass electronic spying apparatus of a police state—as Greenwald and whistleblower Edward Snowden have revealed—the internal security forces have developed the legal and police apparatus of an authoritarian regime.

A document from the Metropolitan Police HQ at Scotland Yard, released as a result of a court action taken out by Miranda, states: “Intelligence indicates that Miranda is likely to be involved in espionage activity which has the potential to act against the interests of UK national security... Additionally the disclosure, or threat of disclosure, is designed to influence a government and is made for the purpose of promoting a political or ideological cause. This therefore falls within the definition of terrorism.”

Such remarks could easily be made by officials of any police-state dictatorship. Under such a broad definition, virtually any genuine reporting on the conduct of the state—which could embarrass or expose criminal behavior by state officials, and is written with distrust towards them—can be pursued as terrorism.


Police State Britain

Stephen Lendman

Equating journalism with terrorism shows how low Britain has sunk.

Britain's Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) operates like NSA. They work cooperatively. They're out-of-control rogue agencies. They spy on their own populations. They do it globally. They conduct espionage. They collect enormous amounts of personal information. They do it illegally.

Obama wages war on freedom. He targets whistleblowers and investigative journalists exposing government wrongdoing. So does Britain. It equates doing so with terrorism.

London's Guardian is threatened. Its offices were raided. Hard drive stored information was destroyed. Its editor, Alan Rusbridger, was warned. Cease and desist or else. He asked if steps would be taken "to close down the Guardian's reporting through a legal route - by going to court to force the surrender of the material on which we were working." "The official confirmed that, in the absence of handover or destruction, this was indeed the government's intentions." It was "one of the more bizarre moments in the Guardian's long history," he said. It was likely the most chilling.

Two GCHQ security experts oversaw the destruction of Guardian hard drives. They checked to be sure nothing but "mangled bits of metal" remained. Whitehall was satisfied.

Freedom in Britain sustained another body blow. It's fast disappearing like in America. Both nations are more police states than democracies. They mock virtually all democratic principles. They govern lawlessly. They do it ruthlessly. Sweeping surveillance is official policy.

So is suppressing information about government wrongdoing. Journalists involved in exposing it are threatened. Guardian disclosures fall under parliament's Intelligence and Security Committee's remit. It reinforces government claims about compromising national security. When good journalism is equated with doing it, freedom dies. Guardian contributors are targeted for doing their job. Doing so amounts to state censorship. Warnings about prosecutions and imprisonments follow. Free expression is the most important of all rights. Without it, all others at risk. On the bogus pretext of fighting terrorism, America and Britain want none of their lawless activities exposed.


Bill Keller defends role of New York Times in concealing government crimes

Barry Grey

Last Sunday, the web site of the New York Times carried an exchange of comments between the newspaper's former executive editor and current columnist Bill Keller and Glenn Greenwald, the journalist who has played the central role in publishing revelations of illegal National Security Agency spying based on documents provided by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

In an introduction and in the course of his comments, Keller presents the exchange with Greenwald as a debate between “traditional” journalism, represented by himself and the Times, and the “more activist, more partisan brand of journalism” that he attributes to Greenwald.

In fact, the exchange is an attempt by Keller to whitewash his role and that of the Times in withholding information at the behest of the government and publishing state propaganda in the guise of “news.”

The Times column appears in the midst of a deepening crisis facing the Obama administration and the entire political and military/intelligence establishment over continuing exposures of massive state spying on the people of the United States and populations all around the world.

The Times and the rest of the establishment media have sought to contain the crisis while attacking Snowden and other whistle-blowers such as Julian Assange and Chelsea (Bradley) Manning, aiding and abetting the efforts of the US government to witch-hunt and silence them. Journalists such as Greenwald who have helped disseminate Snowden's revelations have been vilified as criminals and traitors.


Secret NSA program gains “bulk access” to Google, Yahoo data centers

Alex Lantier

The US military-intelligence complex has developed through criminal means the surveillance infrastructure of a global police state.

The National Security Agency (NSA) is spying on hundreds of millions of users of Google and Yahoo services, according to a report yesterday in the Washington Post based on internal documents provided by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

The NSA has broken into the main communication links connecting Yahoo and Google data servers worldwide. In a program codenamed “MUSCULAR,” operated jointly with Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), the agencies collect and monitor all communications—involving US and non-US citizens alike—between these servers.

Because the data culling is indiscriminate, the NSA refers to it as “full take,” “bulk access” and “high-volume.” After the communications are collected, they are searched based on undisclosed criteria, with much of it sent on to permanent locations run by the NSA.

The report shatters claims by the Obama administration and American legislators that US agencies respect privacy rights and operate under strict legal oversight. Testimony by spy agency chiefs before the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee on Wednesday, aimed at defusing the diplomatic crisis over the exposure of US spying on German Chancellor Angela Merkel and hundreds of millions of phone and SMS communications in Europe, consisted of disinformation and lies.

A top secret NSA document shows that in the one-month period ending January 9, 2013 the MUSCULAR program sent back more than 181 million new records for storage at NSA headquarters in Fort Meade, Maryland. These records include both “metadata” information—such as the identity or location of the sender and receiver of messages—and the content of text, audio and video communications.


The global NSA spying scandal

Joseph Kishore

There is no constituency within the American political establishment or military-intelligence apparatus that retains any commitment to democratic rights. The mentality of a police state pervades official political circles, in the US and internationally.

Over the course of the past week, the Obama administration has been rocked by an escalating international diplomatic scandal sparked by a new series of leaks from Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor-turned whistleblower.

At the heart of the crisis is the exposure of an American intelligence apparatus that operates without any legal constraints, international or domestic. Thanks to these and previous revelations from Snowden, the world now has concrete evidence that the NSA sweeps up communications records—including telephone calls and emails—of hundreds of millions of people all over the world.

While European governments have shown little concern about NSA spying on their own populations—and, indeed, have collaborated with the US in this—reports that the NSA has been wiretapping German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s personal cell phone have produced warnings of a rupture in US-German relations. The monitoring began in 2002, when Merkel was still in the opposition as the chairperson of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU).


Le Monde: France in NSA's Crosshairs

Stephen Lendman

On October 1, French newspaper Le Monde headlined "France in the NSA's crosshair: phone networks under surveillance." More on that below.

Previous articles explained. NSA operates lawlessly. It does so by rules it invents. It spies globally. Enormous amounts of data are collected. It's longstanding. It's been ongoing for decades.

Post-9/11, it intensified. It's out-of-control today. It doesn't matter. NSA is a rogue agency. It's a power unto itself. Congressional leaders support it. So does Obama.

Spying domestically isn't for national security. Nor is monitoring allies. It's old-fashioned espionage using state-of-the-art technology. It's about control. It's for economic advantage.

It's to be one up on foreign competitors. It's for information used advantageously in trade, political, and military relations. Foreign embassies, consulates and missions are bugged. NSA calls them "targets."


The witch-hunt of Britain’s Guardian newspaper

Julie Hyland

Ultimately, the mass impoverishment determined upon by the ruling elite can be implemented only through dictatorial means.

The campaign of vilification and intimidation against the Guardian newspaper for publishing the disclosures of former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden is without precedent in a supposedly democratic country.

Raids on newspaper offices, the forced destruction of computer drives and threats to arrest journalists are actions more commonly associated with military dictatorships. But this is exactly what has been meted out against the Guardian, with threats of worse to come.

On Tuesday, a parliamentary debate is scheduled, instigated by Conservative backbencher Julian Smith, on whether the newspaper is guilty of treason for reporting the illegal surveillance programmes operated by the NSA and Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ). Smith has already written to the Metropolitan Police calling for the Guardian to be prosecuted under the Official Secrets Act and the Terrorism Act 2000.


NSA feeds raw intelligence data to Israel

Bill Van Auken


Avraham Shalom, Ami Ayalon, Yaakov Peri, Yuval Diskin,
Avi Dichter and Carmi Gillon
(Sony/Allstar Picture Library)

A secret memo provided by former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden to the British Guardian newspaper reveals that the US spy agency is funneling raw intelligence data, including information from intercepted communications of US citizens, to Israeli intelligence.

“The National Security Agency routinely shares raw intelligence with Israel without first sifting it to remove information about US citizens,” the Guardian article by Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras and Ewen MacAskill reports.

The undated five-page memo records an agreement reached between the NSA and its Israeli counterpart, the ISNU (Israeli Sigint National Unit), in March 2009, during the first months of the Obama administration.

Entitled “Protection of US Persons,” it purports to lay out a protocol for the Israeli spy agency’s handling of “signals intelligence information that has not been reviewed for foreign intelligence purposes or minimized,” i.e., raw intercepts provided without any filtering by the NSA itself. “Minimization” refers to an ostensible policy of determining whether phone calls, emails and other communications intercepted from American citizens are “essential to assess or understand the significance of the foreign intelligence.”

The memo states that the terms of the agreement are designed to ensure that the handling of such material by Israeli intelligence is “consistent with the requirements upon NSA by US law and Executive Order to establish safeguards protecting the rights of US persons under the Fourth Amendment of the US Constitution.”

The Fourth Amendment, part of the Bill of Rights, protects against “unreasonable searches and seizures,” barring searches without narrowly defined warrants based on probable cause. It has been ripped to shreds by the NSA’s domestic spying operations, which amount to the wholesale seizure of personal records from virtually every American citizen and millions of people abroad, with no specific warrants whatsoever.

While insisting that the Israelis operate with deference to the US Constitution and law, the memo adds, “This agreement is not intended to create any legally enforceable rights and shall not be construed to be either an international agreement or a legally binding instrument according to international law.” In other words, in practice ISNU and the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad are free to do as they please.


British court ruling on data seized from Miranda paves way for criminal prosecutions

Jordan Shilton


Gwendolen Morgan, a lawyer for David Miranda, speaks to
journalists outside the Royal Courts of Justice in London.

Both this ruling and Miranda’s latest hearing demonstrate the vast erosion of democratic and legal principles which has taken place under the so-called war on terror.

Britain’s high court ruled Friday that the government could continue to examine data seized from David Miranda, the partner of Guardian journalist Glen Greenwald, when he was detained at Heathrow airport earlier in August. The order will remain in force until a full judicial hearing scheduled for late October.

The judgement allows investigations of data in order to determine if Miranda had committed a criminal offence under the Terrorism Act 2000, the Official Secrets Act 1911, or the Official Secrets Act 1989. The ruling expanded the powers of the police, who had previously only been able to consider offences under the Terrorism Act, creating the conditions for the preparation of charges against Miranda and his partner Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald.

The aim of such a prosecution would be to launch a further clampdown on democratic rights. British ruling circles have responded furiously to the exposure of their criminal spying operations carried out in collaboration with the United States and are intent on intimidating into silence anyone seeking to reveal further details. This has already been shown by their aggressive actions towards the Guardian newspaper, which had possession of thousands of classified documents leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden.


NSA used decryption technology to spy on the United Nations

Thomas Gaist

The German news magazine Der Spiegel reported over the weekend that documents supplied by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden prove the NSA spied on internal communications at the United Nations headquarters in New York City during the summer of 2012. The NSA has also targeted the European Union and the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), according to Der Spiegel.

Documents published by Der Spiegel show that the NSA tapped into the UN’s internal video conferencing system and deployed decryption technology to gain access to the video stream. Within weeks of penetrating the video stream, the NSA ramped up the number of communications being decrypted and monitored from 12 to 458.

“The data traffic gives us internal video teleconferences of the United Nations (yay!),” read one of the documents quoted in the report.

Der Spiegel further reported on a US intelligence program called the “Special Collection Service,” which operates in diplomatic facilities across the globe. “The surveillance is intensive and well organized and has little or nothing to do with warding off terrorists,” the magazine wrote.

Previous revelations have shown systematic spying by the US on EU governments. American intelligence operatives apparently gained access to the virtual private network (VPN) relied on by EU embassies in the US. Files copied from NSA servers by Snowden include detailed plans of the EU’s information technology infrastructure and other internal EU documents.

The latest revelations of the massive and international scope of the US government’s illegal spying operations come only two weeks after a White House press conference in which President Obama repeated the official lies about the supposedly limited and legally sanctioned character of the secret NSA programs.


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