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Yes the Government is Spying on You Through Your Webcam – Another “Conspiracy Theory” Proven True | A Lightning War for Liberty

Yes the Government is Spying on You Through Your Webcam – Another “Conspiracy Theory” Proven True | A Lightning War for Liberty.

I still remember many years ago in response to becoming aware of the possibility that my computer webcam could be accessed remotely I decided to put a piece of duct tape over the camera. I also remember the look on some of my friends’ faces upon seeing this. They thought I was nuts. It wasn’t even a conversation I was comfortable having since the idea that the government or NSA could or would peep on innocent Americans through their webcams was beyond preposterous for the vast majority of people

This topic is not exactly new, and I addressed it last April in my piece: A Look into the Malware the FBI Uses to Spy Through Webcams.

Now, thanks to Edward Snowden, we know more. Much, much more.

From the Guardian:

Britain’s surveillance agency GCHQ, with aid from the US National Security Agency, intercepted and stored the webcam images of millions of internet users not suspected of wrongdoing, secret documents reveal.

GCHQ files dating between 2008 and 2010 explicitly state that a surveillance program codenamed Optic Nerve collected still images of Yahoo webcam chats in bulk and saved them to agency databases, regardless of whether individual users were an intelligence target or not.

In one six-month period in 2008 alone, the agency collected webcam imagery – including substantial quantities of sexually explicit communications – from more than 1.8 million Yahoo user accounts globally.

GCHQ does not have the technical means to make sure no images of UK or US citizens are collected and stored by the system, and there are no restrictions under UK law to prevent Americans’ images being accessed by British analysts without an individual warrant.

The system, eerily reminiscent of the telescreens evoked in George Orwell’s 1984, was used for experiments in automated facial recognition, to monitor GCHQ’s existing targets, and to discover new targets of interest. Such searches could be used to try to find terror suspects or criminals making use of multiple, anonymous user IDs.

Rather than collecting webcam chats in their entirety, the program saved one image every five minutes from the users’ feeds, partly to comply with human rights legislation, and also to avoid overloading GCHQ’s servers. The documents describe these users as “unselected” – intelligence agency parlance for bulk rather than targeted collection.

While the documents do not detail efforts as widescale as those against Yahoo users, one presentation discusses with interest the potential and capabilities of the Xbox 360′s Kinect camera, saying it generated “fairly normal webcam traffic” and was being evaluated as part of a wider program. 

It’s interesting that they were considering using the Kinect camera for spying, something I wrote about last spring in my post: What’s in Your Xbox? A Lot of Surveillance Capabilities.

Documents previously revealed in the Guardian showed the NSA were exploring the video capabilities of game consoles for surveillance purposes.

Beyond webcams and consoles, GCHQ and the NSA looked at building more detailed and accurate facial recognition tools, such as iris recognition cameras – “think Tom Cruise in Minority Report”, one presentation noted.

Don’t forget: Your Government Loves You. Particularly your nude webcam pics.

Full article here.

In Liberty,
Michael Krieger

How Covert Agents Infiltrate the Internet to Manipulate, Deceive, and Destroy Reputations – The Intercept

How Covert Agents Infiltrate the Internet to Manipulate, Deceive, and Destroy Reputations – The Intercept.

By 24 Feb 2014, 6:25 PM EST289
Featured photo - How Covert Agents Infiltrate the Internet to Manipulate, Deceive, and Destroy ReputationsA page from a GCHQ top secret document prepared by its secretive JTRIG unit

One of the many pressing stories that remains to be told from the Snowden archive is how western intelligence agencies are attempting to manipulate and control online discourse with extreme tactics of deception and reputation-destruction. It’s time to tell a chunk of that story, complete with the relevant documents.

Over the last several weeks, I worked with NBC News to publish a series of articles about “dirty trick” tactics used by GCHQ’s previously secret unit, JTRIG (Joint Threat Research Intelligence Group). These were based on four classified GCHQ documents presented to the NSA and the other three partners in the English-speaking “Five Eyes” alliance. Today, we at the Intercept are publishing another new JTRIG document, in full, entitled “The Art of Deception: Training for Online Covert Operations”.

By publishing these stories one by one, our NBC reporting highlighted some of the key, discrete revelations: the monitoring of YouTube and Blogger, the targeting of Anonymous with the very same DDoS attacks they accuse “hacktivists” of using, the use of “honey traps” (luring people into compromising situations using sex) and destructive viruses. But, here, I want to focus and elaborate on the overarching point revealed by all of these documents: namely, that these agencies are attempting to control, infiltrate, manipulate, and warp online discourse, and in doing so, are compromising the integrity of the internet itself.

Among the core self-identified purposes of JTRIG are two tactics: (1) to inject all sorts of false material onto the internet in order to destroy the reputation of its targets; and (2) to use social sciences and other techniques to manipulate online discourse and activism to generate outcomes it considers desirable. To see how extremist these programs are, just consider the tactics they boast of using to achieve those ends: “false flag operations” (posting material to the internet and falsely attributing it to someone else), fake victim blog posts (pretending to be a victim of the individual whose reputation they want to destroy), and posting “negative information” on various forums. Here is one illustrative list of tactics from the latest GCHQ document we’re publishing today:

 

 

Other tactics aimed at individuals are listed here, under the revealing title “discredit a target”:

 

 

Then there are the tactics used to destroy companies the agency targets:

 

 

GCHQ describes the purpose of JTRIG in starkly clear terms: “using online techniques to make something happen in the real or cyber world”, including “information ops (influence or disruption)”.

 

 

Critically, the “targets” for this deceit and reputation-destruction extend far beyond the customary roster of normal spycraft: hostile nations and their leaders, military agencies, and intelligence services. In fact, the discussion of many of these techniques occurs in the context of using them in lieu of “traditional law enforcement” against people suspected (but not charged or convicted) of ordinary crimes or, more broadly still, “hacktivism”, meaning those who use online protest activity for political ends.

The title page of one of these documents reflects the agency’s own awareness that it is “pushing the boundaries” by using “cyber offensive” techniques against people who have nothing to do with terrorism or national security threats, and indeed, centrally involves law enforcement agents who investigate ordinary crimes:

 

 

No matter your views on Anonymous, “hacktivists” or garden-variety criminals, it is not difficult to see how dangerous it is to have secret government agencies being able to target any individuals they want – who have never been charged with, let alone convicted of, any crimes – with these sorts of online, deception-based tactics of reputation destruction and disruption. There is a strong argument to make, as Jay Leiderman demonstrated in the Guardianin the context of the Paypal 14 hacktivist persecution, that the “denial of service” tactics used by hacktivists result in (at most) trivial damage (far less than the cyber-warfare tactics favored by the US and UK) and are far more akin to the type of political protest protected by the First Amendment.

The broader point is that, far beyond hacktivists, these surveillance agencies have vested themselves with the power to deliberately ruin people’s reputations and disrupt their online political activity even though they’ve been charged with no crimes, and even though their actions have no conceivable connection to terrorism or even national security threats. As Anonymous expert Gabriella Coleman of McGill University told me, “targeting Anonymous and hacktivists amounts to targeting citizens for expressing their political beliefs, resulting in the stifling of legitimate dissent.” Pointing to this study she published, Professor Coleman vehemently contested the assertion that “there is anything terrorist/violent in their actions.”

Government plans to monitor and influence internet communications, and covertly infiltrate online communities in order to sow dissension and disseminate false information, have long been the source of speculation. Harvard Law Professor Cass Sunstein, a close Obama adviser and the White House’s former head of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, wrote a controversial paper in 2008 proposing that the US government employ teams of covert agents and pseudo-”independent” advocates to “cognitively infiltrate” online groups and websites, as well as other activist groups.

Sunstein also proposed sending covert agents into “chat rooms, online social networks, or even real-space groups” which spread what he views as false and damaging “conspiracy theories” about the government. Ironically, the very same Sunstein was recently named by Obama to serve as a member of the NSA review panel created by the White House, one that – while disputing key NSA claims – proceeded to propose many cosmetic reforms to the agency’s powers (most of which were ignored by the President who appointed them).

But these GCHQ documents are the first to prove that a major western government is using some of the most controversial techniques to disseminate deception online and harm the reputations of targets. Under the tactics they use, the state is deliberately spreading lies on the internet about whichever individuals it targets, including the use of what GCHQ itself calls “false flag operations” and emails to people’s families and friends. Who would possibly trust a government to exercise these powers at all, let alone do so in secret, with virtually no oversight, and outside of any cognizable legal framework?

Then there is the use of psychology and other social sciences to not only understand, but shape and control, how online activism and discourse unfolds. Today’s newly published document touts the work of GCHQ’s “Human Science Operations Cell”, devoted to “online human intelligence” and “strategic influence and disruption”:

 

 

 

 

Under the title “Online Covert Action”, the document details a variety of means to engage in “influence and info ops” as well as “disruption and computer net attack”, while dissecting how human beings can be manipulated using “leaders”, “trust, “obedience” and “compliance”:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The documents lay out theories of how humans interact with one another, particularly online, and then attempt to identify ways to influence the outcomes – or “game” it: 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We submitted numerous questions to GCHQ, including: (1) Does GCHQ in fact engage in “false flag operations” where material is posted to the Internet and falsely attributed to someone else?; (2) Does GCHQ engage in efforts to influence or manipulate political discourse online?; and (3) Does GCHQ’s mandate include targeting common criminals (such as boiler room operators), or only foreign threats?

As usual, they ignored those questions and opted instead to send their vague and nonresponsive boilerplate: “It is a longstanding policy that we do not comment on intelligence matters. Furthermore, all of GCHQ’s work is carried out in accordance with a strict legal and policy framework which ensures that our activities are authorised, necessary and proportionate, and that there is rigorous oversight, including from the Secretary of State, the Interception and Intelligence Services Commissioners and the Parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee. All our operational processes rigorously support this position.”

These agencies’ refusal to “comment on intelligence matters” – meaning: talk at all about anything and everything they do – is precisely why whistleblowing is so urgent, the journalism that supports it so clearly in the public interest, and the increasingly unhinged attacks by these agencies so easy to understand. Claims that government agencies are infiltrating online communities and engaging in “false flag operations” to discredit targets are often dismissed as conspiracy theories, but these documents leave no doubt they are doing precisely that.

Whatever else is true, no government should be able to engage in these tactics: what justification is there for having government agencies target people – who have been charged with no crime – for reputation-destruction, infiltrate online political communities, and develop techniques for manipulating online discourse? But to allow those actions with no public knowledge or accountability is particularly unjustifiable.

PROOF of Internet Censorship by Security Agencies – Here’s How » The Epoch Times

PROOF of Internet Censorship by Security Agencies – Here’s How » The Epoch Times.

By , https://unseen.is/ | February 9, 2014

Last Updated: February 9, 2014 3:22 pm
(*Shutterstock.com)

(*Shutterstock.com)

We had a real eye opener last week.  Many people had trouble reaching Unseen.is (get your free account today), our new private and secure communications system, but some people had no problems whatsoever.  It’s becoming more popular because the superstrong encryption is built in for ease of use (chatting, email, voice). The servers were all operating normally;  what could cause this problem?  I won’t get overly technical, but I think you’ll find the evidence to be persuasive that we’re now entering a new stage of internet censorship, done a bit differently than you might have expected.

It turns out that three network routers, the devices that sit in the data centers that make up the backbone of the internet, flaked out at the same time and dropped many of the packets some of our users were sending to the Unseen.is servers.  Routers are usually computers that are based on Linux and most of them can be hacked by the big security agencies.  That three of them would have a problem like this isn’t just highly unusual, it’s actually something suspicious and indicates that they were being targeted to degrade our service and make our customers upset.  Here’s a story that came out yesterday (Feb 7th) that talks about this exact subject…the NSA and GCHQ have programs to do precisely this sort of thing and HERE’s the PROOF!  If you ever doubted it, this is how they will censor the web in the future (before they go to full lockdown of the internet).

In China, they just blockade the whole thing, to show people who’s really in charge and it’s up to groups like Falun Gong to break through it to let people in China know the truthor get blamed for a fault in the Great Firewall (when they didn’t do anything).  In the West, they’ll need to be more subtle, the peasants might get restless because they still believe they have human rights.

Based on screen grabs from our computers, it appears they can target certain sites, web pages (we’ve seen this with Before It’s News, but finally here’s the proof), individuals and regions and degrade the performance of the internet to prevent access.  Most people will just assume “the Internet is having a bad day” because they will talk to friends who can still get to a site or story and assume something is wrong with their computer or local connection.  If you can’t see or get something, you might assume it doesn’t exist, like an email you never received.  You don’t miss something you never had.

I call this a “soft” Great Firewall and we’d been warned about this by several former military intelligence people.  The switch can be flipped at any time and to any degree.  To do this you’d need to control or be able to hack your way in to any router on the internet, including those owned by individuals.  You should assume the major national security services all have this capability.  Some services have their own switching gear at critical locations, I’ve known this since 1997, as our ISP at the time pointed out “the NSA room” that was intercepting and duplicating email and web site visit data.  Things have definitely advanced since that time and there is now a Shadow Internet, controlled by these spy services that not only hoovers up data and sends it back to the big data center in the sky.  They now actively degrade the internet to censor it.

First, let’s look at the traceroute, the program we use to see if the internet is behaving or not.  This program sends packets to the final destination, and receives delivery confirmation from every stop along the way.  Doing this, we’ll know how fast it goes, as well as how many packets are lost along the way.  Once you go over about 30% packet loss, we have a hard time connecting to the Unseen.is server in Iceland.

The first thing you’ll notice on line 10 (London) and line 17 (the last router in Iceland) are the large percentage of lost packets.  This degrades the performance getting to the server in Iceland.  Line 17 is the last router you touch at our data center in Iceland, it’s just a few feet away from our servers and you can see the other hops are all behaving normally.  According to our ISP, the only customer that was having problems with their switch was Unseen.is.  That shows targeting of packets based on a web site.

Notice the high percentage of dropped packets at the same time in London, over 40%.

Once our ISP made a fix to the router in Iceland, the next morning, notice what happened to the router in London:

Now, 88% of the packets were being dropped in London!!  Try to get through that!!

Kind of interesting that as soon as one of the routers got repaired that the other one acted up even more?!?  This is definitely a good way to block traffic to a site, just degrade the performance until people can’t get through, but don’t make it a 100% blockage.  It would be a good bet that they also have tools to see exactly who and how many people are getting bounced from a web page or site.

We had another user in the Midwest run a traceroute a couple of hours later (they are on Central Time, we’re on Pacific) to see what was happening from there, as they had problems reaching the site earlier:

That’s a Cable and Wireless switch in Germany dropping 27% of the packets (line 10) and it had been acting a lot worse earlier in the day, this was the screen grab they captured.  We had THREE routers dropping a lot of packets at the same time.  Some other users didn’t have any glitches at all, people in India were not affected, but people in Thailand were affected.

Things are now back to normal today.  The London hop is still a bit high and we’ve notified our ISP about this.  Performance to Iceland is normally quite good, so this is definitely an anomaly.

What does this attack mean for Unseen.is?

First, we’re encouraged about the state of our encryption.  It must be pretty good because it takes a lot of work for a security agency to do a truck roll in Finland to hack into our new product manager’s computer and then to control these routers to degrade the traffic to our web site.  They wouldn’t waste their time on easily broken “military grade” encryption.

The other point is we will need to make a priority of developing our anti-blocking technology.  It’s becoming obvious that the internet in the West is becoming more like China’s every day.   In China, because of the lack of transparency, they have managed to hide a large scale live organ harvesting program.  We certainly don’t want to see anything like that happen anywhere else.  Watch this video:

One thing is for certain — protecting communications and free and open communications are critical for the future of the world.

We’re on the right track with Unseen.  Get your free account at Unseen.is today.

Spy Agency Engaged In Internet “False Flag” Attacks Washington’s Blog

Spy Agency Engaged In Internet “False Flag” Attacks Washington’s Blog.

Spy Agency “Masqueraded As An Enemy In A ‘False Flag’ Operation”

We’ve warned since 2009 (and see this) that the government could be launching cyber “false flag attacks” in order to justify a crackdown on the Internet and discredit web activists.

A new report from NBC News – based on documents leaked by Edward Snowden – appear to confirm our fears, documenting that Britain’s GCHQ spy agency has carried out cyber false flag attacks:

In another document taken from the NSA by Snowden and obtained by NBC News, a JTRIG official said the unit’s mission included computer network attacks, disruption, “Active Covert Internet Operations,” and “Covert Technical Operations.”Among the methods listed in the document were jamming phones, computers and email accounts and masquerading as an enemy in a “false flag” operation. The same document said GCHQ was increasing its emphasis on using cyber tools to attack adversaries.

Postscript:  We await further revelations of “false flag” attacks by spy agencies.

NASA and Britain’s GCHQ Mapping “Political Alignments” of Millions of Smartphone Users Worldwide. | Global Research

NASA and Britain’s GCHQ Mapping “Political Alignments” of Millions of Smartphone Users Worldwide. | Global Research.

New information made public by Edward Snowden reveals that the governments of the United States and United Kingdom are trawling data from cellphone “apps” to accumulate dossiers on the “political alignments” of millions of smartphone users worldwide.

According to a 2012 internal UK Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) document, the National Security Agency (NSA) and GCHQ have been accumulating and storing hundreds of millions of user “cookies” —the digital footprints left on a cellphone or computer each time a user visits a web site—in order to accumulate detailed personal information about users’ private lives.

This confirms that the main purpose of the programs is not to protect the population from “terrorism,” but to facilitate the state repression of working class opposition to widening social inequality and social counterrevolution. The programs do not primarily target “terrorists,” but workers, intellectuals, and students.

The collection of data regarding the “political alignment” of cellphone users also suggests that the governments of the US and UK are keeping lists of those whose “political alignments” are of concern to the government. Previous revelations have shown how the NSA and GCHQ “flag” certain “suspects” for additional surveillance: the most recent revelation indicates that suspects are “flagged” at least in part based on their “political alignment.”

The legal rationale behind this process points to a growing movement to criminalize political thought in the US and UK.

If, as the revelations indicate, determining a user’s “political alignment” is a primary goal of this program, then it is also likely a factor in determining whether the government has a “reasonable, articulable suspicion” that the user is a “terrorist suspect.” If this is the case, the web sites a user visits may raise the government’s level of suspicion that the user is engaged in criminal activity, and may thereby provide the government with the pseudo-legal pretext required to unlock the content of all his or her phone calls, emails, text messages, etc.

Such a rationale would amount to a flagrant violation of both the First and Fourth Amendments to the United States Constitution. Not only does the Fourth Amendment protect against “unreasonable searches and seizures,” but the First Amendment also proscribes the government from monitoring individuals based on their political beliefs. The elimination of such a fundamental democratic right would be a dangerous step towards the imposition of a police state dictatorship.

The new report also details the depth of the mobile-app spying operation.

A 2009 “brute-force” analysis test performed by the NSA and GCHQ of what the New York Timesdescribes as a “tiny sliver of their cellphone databases” revealed that in one month, the NSA collected cellphone data of 8,615,650 cellphone users. Data from the GCHQ test revealed that in three months, the British had spied on 24,760,289 users. Expanded to a full year, this data shows that in 2009, the NSA collected data from over 103,000,000 users, while GCHQ collected data from over 99,000,000 users: and this coming from only a “tiny sliver” of a month’s data!

“They are gathered in bulk, and are currently our single largest type of events,” one leaked document reads.

The program—referred to in one NSA document as “Golden Nugget!”—also allows the governments to receive a log of users’ Google Maps application use. Such information allows the intelligence apparatus to track the exact whereabouts of surveillance victims worldwide. One chart from an internal NSA slideshow asks: “Where was my target when they did this?” and “Where is my target going?”

An NSA report from 2007 bragged that so much geo-data could be gathered that the intelligence agencies would “be able to clone Google’s database” of all searches for directions made via Google Maps.

“It effectively means that anyone using Google Maps on a smartphone is working in support of a GCHQ system,” a 2008 GCHQ report noted.

Additional presentation material leaked by Snowden shows that in 2010 the NSA explained that its “perfect scenario” was to “target uploading photo to a social media site taken with a mobile device.” The same slide asks, “What can we get?” The answer, according to the same presentation, includes the photographs of the user, buddy lists, emails, phone contacts, and “a host of other social networking data as well as location.”

The agencies also use information provided by mobile apps to paint a clear picture of the victim’s current location, sexual orientation, marital status, income, ethnicity, education level, and number of children.

GCHQ has an internal code-name system for grading their ability to snoop on a particular cellphone user. The codes are based on the television show “The Smurfs.” If the agencies can tap the phone’s microphone to listen to conversations, the codename “Nosey Smurf” is employed. If the agencies can track the precise location of the user as he or she moves, the codename “Tracker Smurf” is used. The ability to track a phone that is powered off is named “Dreamy Smurf,” and the ability to hide the spy software is coded “Paranoid Smurf.”

That the intelligence agencies have cheekily nicknamed codes in an Orwellian surveillance program after animated characters from a children’s show is a telling indication of the contempt with which the ruling class views the democratic rights of the population of the world.

Additionally, the agencies have been tracking and storing data from a series of cellphone game applications, including the popular “Angry Birds” game, which has been downloaded over 1.7 billion times.

The tracking of data from online games like “Angry Birds” further reveals that these programs are not intended to protect the population from “terrorism.” It would be indefensible for the NSA and GCHQ to explain that they suspected to glean information about looming Al Qaeda plots from a mindless cellphone game.

Yet this is precisely how the NSA has attempted to justify these programs.

“The communications of people who are not valid foreign intelligence targets are not of interest to the National Security Agency,” an agency spokeswoman said. “Any implication that NSA’s foreign intelligence collection is focused on the smartphone or social media communications of everyday Americans is not true. Moreover, NSA does not profile everyday Americans as it carries out its foreign intelligence mission.”

In an added indication of its anti-democratic character, the US government is therefore employing the technique of the “Big Lie” by denying what has just been proven true.

In reality, the revelations have further exposed President Barack Obama’s January 17 speech as a celebration of lies.

The president told the nation that the spying programs do “not involve the NSA examining the phone records of ordinary Americans.” He also said that the US “is not abusing authorities to listen to your private phone calls or read your emails,” and that “the United States is not spying on ordinary people who don’t threaten our national security.”

He added in reference to the “folks” at the NSA that “nothing I have learned [about the programs] indicated that our intelligence community has sought to violate the law or is cavalier about the civil liberties of their fellow citizens.”

But the evidence is mounting that the governments of the US and UK are compiling information regarding the “political alignments” of hundreds of millions across the globe. All those responsible for carrying out such a facially anti-democratic campaign—including President Obama, David Cameron, their aides, and the leaders of the security apparatus—must face criminal charges and immediate removal from office.

GCHQ and NSA targeted charities, Germans, Israeli PM and EU chief | UK news | The Guardian

GCHQ and NSA targeted charities, Germans, Israeli PM and EU chief | UK news | The Guardian.

Edward Snowden composite with GCHQ and fibre optics

The details of GCHQ and NSA targets are the latest revelations from documents leaked by Edward Snowden. Photograph: Guardian

British and American intelligence agencies had a comprehensive list ofsurveillance targets that included the EU’s competition commissioner, German government buildings in Berlin and overseas, and the heads of institutions that provide humanitarian and financial help to Africa, top-secret documents reveal.

The papers show GCHQ, in collaboration with America’s National Security Agency (NSA), was targeting organisations such as the United Nations development programme, the UN’s children’s charity Unicef andMédecins du Monde, a French organisation that provides doctors and medical volunteers to conflict zones. The head of the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) also appears in the documents, along with text messages he sent to colleagues.

The latest disclosures will add to Washington’s embarrassment after the heavy criticism of the NSA when it emerged that it had been tapping the mobile phone of the German chancellor, Angela Merkel.

One GCHQ document, drafted in January 2009, makes clear that the agencies were targeting an email address listed as belonging to another important American ally – the “Israeli prime minister”. Ehud Olmert was in office at the time.

Three further Israeli targets appeared on GCHQ documents, including another email address understood to have been used to send messages between the then Israeli defence minister, Ehud Barak, and his chief of staff, Yoni Koren.

Prominent names that appear in the GCHQ documents include Joaquín Almunia, a Spaniard who is vice-president of the European commissionwith responsibility for competition policy.

Britain’s targeting of Germany may also prove awkward for the prime minister, David Cameron: in October, he endorsed an EU statementcondemning NSA spying on world leaders, including Merkel.

They have both been in Brussels, attending an EU summit that concludes on Friday.

The names and details are the latest revelations to come from documents leaked by the whistleblower Edward Snowden. They provoked a furious reaction from the European commission, Almunia and others on the target lists.

• The commission said the disclosures “are unacceptable and deserve our strongest condemnation. This is not the type of behaviour that we expect from strategic partners, let alone from our own member states.” Almunia said he was “very upset” to discover his name was on GCHQdocuments.

• Leigh Daynes, UK executive director of Médecins du Monde, said he was “bewildered by these extraordinary allegations of secret surveillance. Our doctors, nurses and midwives are not a threat to national security. There is absolutely no reason for our operations to be secretly monitored.”

• Another target, Nicolas Imboden, the head of an NGO that provides help to African countries, said the spying on him was “clearly economic espionage and politically motivated”.

• Human Rights Watch, Privacy International and Big Brother Watch condemned the targeting.

• Labour said the committee that oversees GCHQ should be given extra powers.

The disclosures reflect the breadth of targets sought by the agencies, which goes far beyond the desire to intercept the communications of potential terrorists and criminals, or diplomats and officials from hostile countries. Asked about this activity, a spokesman for GCHQ said it was “longstanding policy that we do not comment on intelligence matters”, but the official maintained the agency “takes its obligations under the law very seriously”.

The new information is published after a joint investigation by the Guardian, the German news magazine Der Spiegel and the New York Times. According to documents, the targeting efforts involved programmes run from GCHQ’s listening post near the small Cornish seaside resort of Bude. This is a key listening facility that receives substantial funding from the NSA to undertake shared transatlantic surveillance operations.

Among other activities, the base was tasked with monitoring satellite communications between Europe and Africa, and the papers show that Bude tested the value of new “carriers” used by telecoms companies to judge whether they would be worth intercepting.

According to documents, dated from 2008 to 2011, a unit at Bude did this by testing samples of data to see whether surveillance targets already on GCHQ and NSA databases were making use of the new connections.

If GCHQ analysts identified a carrier they thought could be useful, they would be asked: “Can this carrier be tasked on collection system?”

Providing more permanent surveillance would often depend on whetherGCHQ had suitable software and, if not, whether it was possible to upgrade systems to make it possible.

Almunia is in charge of major anti-monopoly investigations and approving mergers of companies with significant presence in the EU. He has been involved in a long-running investigation into Google over complaints about the company’s alleged stranglehold on online advertising. He has also clashed with Google and Microsoft over privacy concerns and was prominent in the EU’s response to the global financial crisis.

Surveillance on such a senior EU official with a major role in economic affairs is bound to alarm other European nations, and raise concerns as to whether intelligence produced from Almunia or others is shared with the US – the NSA has a number of personnel at the base in Bude and contributes millions of pounds to its budget.

Another target was the French defence and logistics giant Thales Group, which is part-owned by the French government.

In all, communications from more than 60 countries were targeted in this particular operation, with other names listed in the GCHQ documents including Mohamed Ibn Chambas, the current African Union-United Nations joint special representative for Darfur, as well as multiple African heads of state.

Imboden, from the non-profit Ideas Centre in Geneva, and Solomon Asamoah, deputy head of the Africa Finance Corporation, also appeared on GCHQ’s lists.

The documents do not give any insight into why GCHQ deemed them worthy of surveillance.

In 2009, Chambas was president of Ecowas. He had been closely involved in efforts to bring peace to Liberia, and GCHQ picked up text messages he sent while in the country to receive an award.

One message read: “Thanks Kwame. Glad to know all is well. Am in Liberia for receive National Award … inde celebration.” A second added: “What machine gun sounds? Am in Gbanga former HQ of Charles Taylor …”

Offices operated by the UN development programme, which administers financial relief to poor nations, and of the World Health Organisation were also among listed targets.

The targeting of German government buildings may prove the biggest political headache for the UK. The documents show GCHQ targeting German government networks in Berlin, and official communications between Germany and Georgia and Germany and Turkey. Germany’s embassy in Rwanda was also a target.

The papers seen by the Guardian do not disclose the extent of any surveillance or for how long any collection took place.

However, each individual or group had a specific ID number in the agency’s “target knowledge base”. This indicates they had been a deliberate target of surveillance efforts, rather than accidentally caught in a dragnet.

Unlike its US counterpart, GCHQ is entitled to engage in spying relating to economic matters, but only if it is linked to national security issues.

The 1994 Intelligence and Security Act says the agency can work “in the interests of national security, with particular reference to the defence and foreign policies of Her Majesty’s government; in the interests of the economic wellbeing of the United Kingdom; and in support of the prevention and the detection of serious crime”. However, critics have repeatedly called for a proper definition of “national security”, and raised questions about what should be permitted to protect “economic wellbeing” beyond the need to help UK companies defend themselves against the theft of intellectual property or from cyber-attacks.

Documents show GCHQ has also been keen to break into global roaming exchanges (known as GRXs), which are centres that handle routing international mobile calls to the appropriate countries and phone networks. Belgacom, which Der Spiegel revealed this year was the victim of GCHQ hacking efforts, is one such international exchange.

One 2010 presentation referring to the agency’s efforts against GRXs went on to note that “diplomatic targets from all nations have an MO [modus operandi] of using smartphones” and added the agency had “exploited this use at the G20 meetings last year”. The Guardian in Junerevealed GCHQ had engaged in extensive surveillance efforts against G20 delegates in 2009, including in order to secure advantages in trade talks and bilaterals.

On Monday, the Guardian, Der Spiegel and the New York Times jointly approached GCHQ for comment. The agency would not go into any details but said: “One of the purposes for which GCHQ may be authorised to intercept communications is where it is necessary for the purpose of safeguarding the economic wellbeing of the UK.” However, the code of practice made clear this had to be “directly related to state security. Interception under this purpose is categorically not about industrial espionage.”

The NSA said: “As we have previously said, we do not use our foreign intelligence capabilities to steal the trade secrets of foreign companies on behalf of – or give intelligence we collect to – US companies to enhance their international competitiveness or increase their bottom line. The United States collects foreign intelligence just as many other governments do.

“The intelligence community’s efforts to understand economic systems and policies, and monitor anomalous economic activities, are critical to providing policymakers with the information they need to make informed decisions that are in the best interest of our national security. As the administration also announced several months ago, the US government is undertaking a review of our activities around the world – looking at, among other issues, how we co-ordinate with our closest allies and partners.”

 

Edward Snowden revelations prompt UN investigation into surveillance | World news | The Guardian

Edward Snowden revelations prompt UN investigation into surveillance | World news | The Guardian.

Ben Emmerson

Ben Emmerson: ‘The Guardian has revealed an extensive programme of surveillance which potentially affects every one of us.’ Photograph: Sarah Lee for the Guardian

The UN’s senior counter-terrorism official is to launch an investigation into the surveillance powers of American and British intelligence agencies following Edward Snowden’s revelations that they are using secret programmes to store and analyse billions of emails, phone calls and text messages.

The UN special rapporteur Ben Emmerson QC said his inquiry would also seek to establish whether the British parliament had been misled about the capabilities of Britain’s eavesdropping headquarters, GCHQ, and whether the current system of oversight and scrutiny was strong enough to meet United Nations standards.

The inquiry will make a series of recommendations to the UN general assembly next year.

In an article for the Guardian, Emmerson said Snowden had disclosed “issues at the very apex of public interest concerns”. He said the media had a duty and right to publish stories about the activities of GCHQ, and its American counterpart the National Security Agency.

“The astonishing suggestion that this sort of responsible journalism can somehow be equated with aiding and abetting terrorism needs to be scotched decisively,” said Emmerson, who has been the UN’s leading voice on counter-terrorism and human rights since 2011.

“It is the role of a free press to hold governments to account, and yet there have even been outrageous suggestions from some Conservative MPs that the Guardian should face a criminal investigation. It has been disheartening to see some tabloids giving prominence to this nonsense.”

Emmerson’s intervention comes ahead of Tuesday’s hearing of the home affairs select committee, which is conducting its own inquiry into counter-terrorism.

The Guardian’s editor in chief, Alan Rusbridger, will give evidence to MPs on the committee on Tuesday afternoon, followed by the Metropolitan police commissioner, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, and assistant commissioner Cressida Dick.

Over the last six months the Guardian, along with other international media organisations, has revealed the existence of mass surveillance programmes, such as GCHQ’s Tempora, which taps into the cables that carry internet traffic in and out of the UK.

Last month, the heads of Britain’s three intelligence agencies, MI5, GCHQ and MI6, gave evidence before parliament’s intelligence and security committee.

During a 90-minute hearing, they accused Snowden of leaking material that had been “a gift to terrorists”.

But Emmerson said such claims “need to be subjected to penetrating scrutiny”.

He said his inquiry will be requiring further testimony from GCHQ’s director, Sir Iain Lobban, the director of MI5, Andrew Parker, and MI6 chief Sir John Sawers.

“I will be seeking a far more detailed explanation than security chiefs gave the (ISC) committee. They must justify some of the claims they have made in public, because as matters stand, I have seen nothing in the Guardian articles which could be a risk to national security. In this instance, the balance of public interest is clear.”

He added: “When it comes to assessing the balance that must be struck between maintaining secrecy and exposing information in the public interest there are often borderline cases. This isn’t one of them. The Guardian’s revelations are precisely the sort of information that a free press is supposed to reveal.”

Emmerson said nobody had suggested the Mail on Sunday should be prosecuted when it published revelations from the former MI5 officer,David Shayler, and that the attorney general had rightly abandoned a prosecution against Katharine Gun, the GCHQ whistleblower who in 2003 revealed the US and UK were trying to manipulate a vote at the UN security council in favour of military intervention in Iraq.

No jury would ever have convicted her even though she had broken the Official Secrets Act, Emmerson said.

“The Guardian has revealed there is an extensive programme of mass surveillance which potentially affects every one of us, but has been assiduous in avoiding the revelation of any detail which could put sources at risk. The Mail on Sunday, on the other hand, published material that was of less obvious public interest.”

Emmerson said the Snowden disclosures had caused reverberations across the world.

“There can be no doubt the revelations concern matters of international public interest. Wholescale reviews have been mooted by President Obama, Chancellor Merkel and Nick Clegg. In the US, a number of the revelations have already resulted in legislation.

“In Europe, the political class is incandescent. Many states have registered serious objections at the UN, and there are diplomatic moves towards an international agreement to restrict surveillance activity.”

Chaired by Keith Vaz, the home affairs select committee called for the Guardian to give evidence following the ISC hearing.

However, a number of civil liberties groups and campaigners have raised concerns about the intense political pressure put on the Guardian, and condemned the UK government’s demand that it destroy the Snowden files it was researching in the UK.

The freedom of expression group Article 19 and the Open Rights Group are among two signatories to a letter sent to Vaz ahead of Tuesday’s session. They describe their deep concerns that the review of the Guardian “could restrict media freedom in the UK by discouraging future reporting on important matters of public interest”.

The letter calls on MPs to take into account “international human rights standards, and in particular those that relate to the right to freedom of expression and media freedom”.

 

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