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PRISM - The US Govt Caught Out, Yet Again

Updated Feb 28, 2014

For complete run down, please visit The Guardians NSA Files

The Prism program allows the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA), the world's largest surveillance organisation, to obtain targeted communications without having to request them from the service providers and without having to obtain individual court orders.

With this program, the NSA (a military defined organisation) is able to reach directly into the servers of the participating companies and obtain both stored communications as well as perform real-time collection on users.

We have recently been hearing reports from American politicians, Embassy staff (Yes, looking at you Jeff Bleich), and U.S. cloud service providers, and security experts all claiming the worlds fear of U.S. Laws, like the Patriot Act when it comes to hosting data in the U.S., is just FUD, even as recent as two days ago I read a report from a U.S. cloud expert in Europe trying to show the world it is safe to host data in the U.S., claiming there is oversight, court orders are in fact needed (something that we have known for along time is utter rubbish - google FISA warrant), and this expose about PRISM proves it.

Prominent world renowned media organisation, The Guardian, has blown the lid after obtaining highly classified documents

The United States National Security Agency has obtained direct access to the systems of Google, Facebook, Apple and other US internet giants (like Microsoft), according to a top secret document obtained by the Guardian.

The NSA access is part of a previously undisclosed program called Prism, which allows officials to collect material including search history, the content of emails, file transfers and live chats, the document says
Read the full story at The Guardian

Only five slides from the presentation have been published. The other 36 remain a mystery. Both the Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald and the Post’s Barton Gellman have made it clear that the rest of the PowerPoint is dynamite stuff … which we’re not going to be seeing any time soon.
Greenwald wrote on Twitter, “but we’re not publishing NSA tech methods.”
Gellman wrote on Twitter “If you saw all the slides you wouldn’t publish them,” adding “I know a few absolutists, but most people would want to defer judgment if they didn’t know the full contents.”

One of the PRISM slides suggests NSA has international cable taps in South America, East Africa, and Indian Ocean (at least) offering up the rough location of NSA fiber optic taps on cables

World-wide disbelief and condemnation continues as U.S. President Obama's response to the revelations was This does not apply to US citizens and it does not apply to people living in the United States completely disregarding the privacy of the innocent citizens of the entire world who just happen to use US-based Internet services or have their traffic routed via the U.S. transiting to other parts of the world, I have long considered Asia and Europe's connecting paths favouring via the U.S. to be a horrible redundant-less idea, and more undersea cables between Asia Pacific and Europe are needed, and this is just one more example of why.

Australian Senator Scott Ludlam says “Australians use these services to the point of ubiquity. Does the Australian Government believe it is appropriate that the US intelligence agencies appear to be engaged in warrantless realtime surveillance of the entire online population?"

Opposition Communications spokesman Malcolm Turnbull has also been outspoken and demanded explanations from the U.S. Govt embassy reps in Australia saying “These reports have potentially very significant commercial implications,” , “There is a massive global trend to cloud services. The vast majority of the cloud service providers are US companies. These companies have, with US Government support and endorsement, been promoting their services globally, and have sought to allay concerns that data hosted by them would have less privacy protection than it would in Australia.”

“Today’s reports elevate those concerns to an even higher level especially since it has been alleged that foreign-owned data hosted by US Internet companies has lesser protection than data belonging to US citizens.”

Germany's federal commissioner for data protection said "Given the large number of German users of Google, Facebook, Apple or Microsoft services, I expect the German government... is committed to clarification and limitation of surveillance.

In addition, the reports illustrate the importance of strengthening the European data protection law. The dilatory attitude of the EU Interior and Justice Ministers towards the Privacy Policy reform package is a completely wrong signal.

The European privacy advocate, Alexander Hanff, is calling for the US's "safe harbor" status to be revoked. The European Commission's Directive on Data Protection went into effect in October of 1998, and would prohibit the transfer of personal data to non-European Union countries that do not meet the European Union (EU) "adequacy" standard for privacy protection. While the United States and the EU share the goal of enhancing privacy protection for their citizens, the United States takes a different approach to privacy from that taken by the EU.

In order to bridge these differences in approach and provide a streamlined means for U.S. organizations to comply with the Directive, the U.S. Department of Commerce in consultation with the European Commission developed a "Safe Harbor" framework and this website to provide the information an organization would need to evaluate -- and then join -- the U.S.-EU Safe Harbor program.

Sir Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web, has released a statement about Prism on behalf of the World Wide Web Foundation calling Prism “deeply concerning"

“Today’s revelations are deeply concerning. Unwarranted government surveillance is an intrusion on basic human rights that threatens the very foundations of a democratic society.

“I call on all Web users to demand better legal protection and due process safeguards for the privacy of their online communications, including their right to be informed when someone requests or stores their data. Over the last two decades, the Web has become an integral part of our lives. A trace of our use of it can reveal very intimate personal things. A store of this information about each person is a huge liability: Whom would you trust to decide when to access it, or even to keep it secure?”

The dissemination may also be more widespread than we first thought, the UK's electronic eavesdropping and security agency, GCHQ, has also been secretly gathering covert intelligence data shared by America's top spy agency. So, is Australia's ASIO, ASIS, or the incompetent clowns at DSD also privy to this information? Possibly not given the ties are not as strong as those with the U.K., but it does pose the question, who else?

Britain's spy agency GCHQ has secretly gained access to the network of cables which carry the world's phone calls and internet traffic and has started to process vast streams of sensitive personal information which it is sharing with its American partner, the National Security Agency (NSA).

The sheer scale of the agency's ambition is reflected in the titles of its two principal components: Mastering the Internet and Global Telecoms Exploitation, aimed at scooping up as much online and telephone traffic as possible. This is all being carried out without any form of public acknowledgement or debate.

One key innovation has been GCHQ's ability to tap into and store huge volumes of data drawn from fibre-optic cables for up to 30 days so that it can be sifted and analysed. That operation, codenamed Tempora, has been running for some 18 months.

GCHQ and the NSA are consequently able to access and process vast quantities of communications between entirely innocent people, as well as targeted suspects.

This includes recordings of phone calls, the content of email messages, entries on Facebook and the history of any internet user's access to websites – all of which is deemed legal, even though the warrant system was supposed to limit interception to a specified range of targets.

Personally I am less concerned about local authorities spying on me, hell, I pity the poor bastards if they ever decided to spy on me, they'd be bored shitless in no time, but what is a concern, far far far more of a concern is the fact a foreign government agency may also be doing the same.

I think a lot of questions need answers, and a lot of countries are now demanding them, since as you're surely aware, the likes of Google, Microsoft, and Facebook and others not only accept users from anywhere in the world, but also have data centres outside the U.S., and that data is also indeed subject to NSA surveillance since they are U.S. incorporated organisations.

We have all known for along time the U.S. government is completely out of control when it comes to demanding power and information, NSA procedures give a little insight, maybe this is why Hillary Clinton came to the aid of us aussies defending our right to not be censored when our own government tried to pull the mandatory inet filter crap, was it because it is in the U.S.'s best interest that we are not filtered, so they can see everything we are doing too, paranoia? Who the hell knows.

Is it any wonder why I don't place my users content in the U.S., I mean, sure, I might have a secondary and (not controlled by me) tertiary DNS server over there (like in EU), but good luck sniffing anything of interest out of that NSA :-P Ohh, and no, I don't really use facebook, myspace, google+, gmail, hotmail, skype, or .... other privacy invading hordes like them. Twitter is extent of my social media really - nothing private about that, long live IRC!

I also must ask the question as to why mainstream media in Australia are not saying much about it? A 10 second snippet with Obama saying "hey we gotta do it, National Security" type bullshit, without mentioning anything about the actual affects or actions, like spying on world wide users emails and other personal content hosted in U.S. or by a U.S. company outside the U.S., kind of astounded me, not even a mention of Ludlam or Turnbulls outrage. I thought journos are supposed to rock the boat to keep the bastards honest? my bad - I must be wrong, or may it be they, like the current gutless labor government we have, are too scared to upset the bully boys in Washington.

...and to think the United States is outraged by China's attempted hackings and spying, well Obama, one thing comes to mind - POT KETTLE BLACK

Another little known Dangerous U.S. Govt Act is the Stored Communications Act, that classifies data older than 180 days as abandoned, this means it can be accessed at any time, without warrant or just reason, so if you thought those messages in your gmail or hotmail/live inbox's over 180 days old are covered by privacy, then think again, the U.S. Govt interprets this data as abandoned and can read to their hearts content.

I have previously wrote about cloud concerns before at

Avoid the cloud hype
Life without Facebook

So, maybe all those companies, governments and educational institutions conned into moving email to Gmail, or Microsofts Hotmail, Live, or 365, will now think again and do some real due diligence.

World renown security expert Kevin Mitnick has had much to say on Twitter about this, but one of evins recent tweets sums it all up nicely:

.... and I bet you though I was just another privacy paranoid, well... now who is laughing :-D

"I don't want public attention because I don't want the story to be about me. I want it to be about what the US government is doing."

The individual responsible for one of the most significant leaks in US political history is Edward Snowden, a 29-year-old former technical assistant for the CIA and current employee of the defence contractor Booz Allen Hamilton. Snowden has been working at the National Security Agency for the last four years as an employee of various outside contractors, including Booz Allen and Dell.

The Guardian, after several days of interviews, is revealing his identity at his request. From the moment he decided to disclose numerous top-secret documents to the public, he was determined not to opt for the protection of anonymity. "I have no intention of hiding who I am because I know I have done nothing wrong," he said.

Snowden will go down in history as one of America's most consequential whistleblowers, alongside Daniel Ellsberg and Bradley Manning. He is responsible for handing over material from one of the world's most secretive organisations – the NSA.

Read on for the complete story and video interview at The Guardian

Statement by Edward Snowden to human rights groups at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport on Friday, July 12, 2013, at 15:00 UTC

Hello. My name is Ed Snowden. A little over one month ago, I had family, a home in paradise, and I lived in great comfort. I also had the capability without any warrant to search for, seize, and read your communications. Anyone's communications at any time. That is the power to change people's fates.

It is also a serious violation of the law. The 4th and 5th Amendments to the Constitution of my country, Article 12 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and numerous statutes and treaties forbid such systems of massive, pervasive surveillance. While the US Constitution marks these programs as illegal, my government argues that secret court rulings, which the world is not permitted to see, somehow legitimize an illegal affair. These rulings simply corrupt the most basic notion of justice – that it must be seen to be done. The immoral cannot be made moral through the use of secret law.

I believe in the principle declared at Nuremberg in 1945: "Individuals have international duties which transcend the national obligations of obedience. Therefore individual citizens have the duty to violate domestic laws to prevent crimes against peace and humanity from occurring."

Accordingly, I did what I believed right and began a campaign to correct this wrongdoing. I did not seek to enrich myself. I did not seek to sell US secrets. I did not partner with any foreign government to guarantee my safety. Instead, I took what I knew to the public, so what affects all of us can be discussed by all of us in the light of day, and I asked the world for justice.

That moral decision to tell the public about spying that affects all of us has been costly, but it was the right thing to do and I have no regrets.

Since that time, the government and intelligence services of the United States of America have attempted to make an example of me, a warning to all others who might speak out as I have. I have been made stateless and hounded for my act of political expression. The United States Government has placed me on no-fly lists. It demanded Hong Kong return me outside of the framework of its laws, in direct violation of the principle of non-refoulement – the Law of Nations. It has threatened with sanctions countries who would stand up for my human rights and the UN asylum system. It has even taken the unprecedented step of ordering military allies to ground a Latin American president's plane in search for a political refugee. These dangerous escalations represent a threat not just to the dignity of Latin America, but to the basic rights shared by every person, every nation, to live free from persecution, and to seek and enjoy asylum.

Yet even in the face of this historically disproportionate aggression, countries around the world have offered support and asylum. These nations, including Russia, Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua, and Ecuador have my gratitude and respect for being the first to stand against human rights violations carried out by the powerful rather than the powerless. By refusing to compromise their principles in the face of intimidation, they have earned the respect of the world. It is my intention to travel to each of these countries to extend my personal thanks to their people and leaders.

I announce today my formal acceptance of all offers of support or asylum I have been extended and all others that may be offered in the future. With, for example, the grant of asylum provided by Venezuela's President Maduro, my asylee status is now formal, and no state has a basis by which to limit or interfere with my right to enjoy that asylum. As we have seen, however, some governments in Western European and North American states have demonstrated a willingness to act outside the law, and this behavior persists today. This unlawful threat makes it impossible for me to travel to Latin America and enjoy the asylum granted there in accordance with our shared rights.

This willingness by powerful states to act extra-legally represents a threat to all of us, and must not be allowed to succeed. Accordingly, I ask for your assistance in requesting guarantees of safe passage from the relevant nations in securing my travel to Latin America, as well as requesting asylum in Russia until such time as these states accede to law and my legal travel is permitted. I will be submitting my request to Russia today, and hope it will be accepted favorably.

If you have any questions, I will answer what I can.

Thank you.

Update Aug 9
If you ever needed more reason why it is dangerous to do business in or with a US firm, whilst the government of United States of America is completely out of control, and if the botched destruction of Megaupload with its vast majority of innocent users data wrongfully withheld from them, and its eventual destruction, overnight news from Lavabit must now present you with clear waters when it comes to protection of your data, including Email, and why you must never do business with a U.S. based company.

My Fellow Users,
I have been forced to make a difficult decision: to become complicit in crimes against the American people or walk away from nearly ten years of hard work by shutting down Lavabit. After significant soul searching, I have decided to suspend operations. I wish that I could legally share with you the events that led to my decision. I cannot. I feel you deserve to know what’s going on--the first amendment is supposed to guarantee me the freedom to speak out in situations like this. Unfortunately, Congress has passed laws that say otherwise. As things currently stand, I cannot share my experiences over the last six weeks, even though I have twice made the appropriate requests.

What’s going to happen now? We’ve already started preparing the paperwork needed to continue to fight for the Constitution in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. A favorable decision would allow me resurrect Lavabit as an American company.

This experience has taught me one very important lesson: without congressional action or a strong judicial precedent, I would strongly recommend against anyone trusting their private data to a company with physical ties to the United States.

Ladar Levison
Owner and Operator, Lavabit LLC

So, 400,000 email accounts gone - all of them victims of the out-of-control US government.

Update Aug 19 2013

What can only be described as beyond despicably bullying, the UK Security Services, likely in direct partnership with the US Govt, has illegally detained and attempted to intimidate Greenwalds partner

At 6:30 am this morning my time - 5:30 am on the East Coast of the US - I received a telephone call from someone who identified himself as a "security official at Heathrow airport." He told me that my partner, David Miranda, had been "detained" at the London airport "under Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act of 2000."

David had spent the last week in Berlin, where he stayed with Laura Poitras, the US filmmaker who has worked with me extensively on the NSA stories

Extreme abuse of powers

But they obviously had zero suspicion that David was associated with a terrorist organization or involved in any terrorist plot. Instead, they spent their time interrogating him about the NSA reporting which Laura Poitras, the Guardian and I are doing, as well the content of the electronic products he was carrying. They completely abused their own terrorism law for reasons having nothing whatsoever to do with terrorism: a potent reminder of how often governments lie when they claim that they need powers to stop "the terrorists", and how dangerous it is to vest unchecked power with political officials in its name.

Read the fulll report here

In his first interview since returning to his home in Rio de Janeiro early on Monday, Miranda said the authorities in the UK had pandered to the US in trying to intimidate him and force him to reveal the passwords to his computer and mobile phone.

"They were threatening me all the time and saying I would be put in jail if I didn't co-operate," said Miranda. "They treated me like I was a criminal or someone about to attack the UK … It was exhausting and frustrating, but I knew I wasn't doing anything wrong."

During that time, he said, he was not allowed to call his partner, who is a qualified lawyer in the US, nor was he given an interpreter, despite being promised one... read more...

Will it ever end...
One must wonder when this madness will ever stop, a reminder to the U.S and U.K, we have seen civil uprisings in many countries in past two years, don't think you are immune, people can see right this lame bullshit terrorism excuse, people have been seeing through it since your illegal invasion of Iraq with "they have weapons of mass destruction" bullshit we all knew to be false, so tell me, why don't other countries invade the U.S. - after all, the United States has weapons of mass destruction, who are they to be treated differently from a European or Middle Eastern country?

Lets look at history...
Hitler: Warmongering, murderer of innocent civilians, dictating, imperialist one world views.
Obama/Bush: Warmongering, murderer of innocent civilians, dictating, imperialist one world views.

So, where's the difference?

Why is the U.S govt not on trial for war crimes, as has been well published via Wikileaks, no-one forgets the video they exposed with the US military targeting civilians and having fun about it.

WHY are these U.S murderers not before the Hague? Please, someone explain it to me.

Update Oct 12 2013

U.S. Feds begged Washington Post reporter not to name companies involved with PRISM because they were worried they'd stop cooperating.

The thing that the government most wanted us to remove was the names of the nine companies. The argument, roughly speaking, was that we will lose cooperation from companies if you expose them in this way. And my reply was "that's why we are including them." Not in order to cause a certain result, or to get you to lose your cooperation but if the harm that you are describing consists of reputational or business damage to a company because the public doesn't like what it's doing or you're doing, that's the accountability we are supposed to be promoting

U.S. Patriot Act co-author says James Clapper should be fired and prosecuted and plans Law code named The Freedom Act, to stop NSA overreach.

Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, who worked with president George W Bush to give more power to US intelligence agencies after the September 11 terrorist attacks, said the intelligence community had misused those powers by collecting telephone records on all Americans, and claimed it was time "to put their metadata program out of business".

Mike Rogers isn't overseeing the Intelligence Community, he's conspiring to cover up its activities Mike Rogers, the head of the House Intelligence Committee seems to have gone out of his way to withhold information from Congress.

Read more at The Guardian.....

Update Oct 27 2013

German spy chiefs will travel to the United States next week to demand answers following allegations that US intelligence has been tapping Chancellor Angela Merkel's mobile phone, as a row over US snooping threatened to hurt transatlantic ties. But the furore has intensified further after allegations that world leaders including the presidents of Brazil and Mexico have been among spying targets.

"Spying on friends, that's just not done," Chancellor Merkel said

Germany and Brazil are also working on a UN General Assembly resolution to highlight international anger at US data snooping in other countries, diplomats said Friday.

The resolution would not mention the United States (It should though, and should name UK's GCHQ as well) but would call for extending the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to Internet activities.

"The aim is to send a message to those who abuse the system," said a UN diplomat involved in the talks.

The Bavarian daily Suddeutsche Zeitung meanwhile suggested that France had an ambiguous role in international surveillance, having signed an accord with the "Five Eyes" grouping of Australia, Britain, Canada, New Zealand and the United States whose members share virtually all intelligence -- and have pledged not to spy on one another. (yeah right, like that doesnt happen)

Thousands of Americans marched Saturday, October 26, in Washington DC to protest the out of control power tripping U.S. Govt mass surveillance program, former NSA contractor and whistleblower Edward Snowden had a statement read at the “Stop Watching Us” Rally read by Justice Department whistleblower and attorney with the Government Accountability Project, Jesselyn Radack.

Snowden says:
In the last four months, we’ve learned a lot about our government. We’ve learned that the US Intelligence Community secretly built a system of pervasive surveillance.

Today, no telephone in America makes a call without leaving a record with the NSA. Today, no Internet transaction enters or leaves America without passing through the NSA’s hands. Our representatives in Congress tell us this is not surveillance. They’re wrong.

We’ve also learned this isn’t about red or blue party lines. Neither is it about terrorism.

It is about power, control, and trust in government; about whether you have a voice in our democracy or decisions are made for you rather than with you. We’re here to remind our government officials that they are public servants, not private investigators.

This is about the unconstitutional, unethical, and immoral actions of the modern-day surveillance state and how we all must work together to remind government to stop them. It’s about our right to know, to associate freely, and to live in an open society.

We are witnessing an American moment in which ordinary people from high schools to high office stand up to oppose a dangerous trend in government.

We are told that what is unconstitutional is not illegal, but we will not be fooled. We have not forgotten that the Fourth Amendment in our Bill of Rights prohibits government not only from searching our personal effects without a warrant but from seizing them in the first place.

Holding to this principle, we declare that mass surveillance has no place in this country.

It is time for reform. Elections are coming and we’re watching you.

Update Oct 31 , 2013

The National Security Agency has secretly broken into the main communications links that connect Yahoo and Google data centers around the world, according to documents obtained from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden and interviews with knowledgeable officials.

By tapping those links, the agency has positioned itself to collect at will from hundreds of millions of user accounts, many of them belonging to Americans. The NSA does not keep everything it collects, but it keeps a lot.

According to a top-secret accounting dated Jan. 9, 2013, the NSA’s acquisitions directorate sends millions of records every day from Yahoo and Google internal networks to data warehouses at the agency’s headquarters at Fort Meade, Md. In the preceding 30 days, the report said, field collectors had processed and sent back 181,280,466 new records — including “metadata,” which would indicate who sent or received e-mails and when, as well as content such as text, audio and video.

Read the report at The Washington Post

Update Dec 2 , 2013

A senior IT official has left open the prospect that parliamentary communications in Australia could be monitored by US intelligence through a “back door” provided by Microsoft operating systems.

Eija Seittenranta, who is responsible for ensuring network security in Australia’s parliamentary IT systems, told the Senate finance and public administration committee on Monday that no specific action had been taken to secure the parliamentary network against surveillance by US agencies under the Prism program.

No we wouldn’t have taken any specific action” Seittenranta told the committee.

Greens senator Scott Ludlam asked Seittenranta whether, given that answer, Australian MPs and staff should assume their IT communications were exposed routinely to intrusion.

She replied: “Yes, I suppose you should be able to assume that. It probably should be noted that our network is not a protected network, it is unclassified.”
Full story at The Guardian

Update Dec 6 , 2013
Amongst the almost daily revelation of the American power crazed Govt and NSA, today, Ed Snowdens release shows that the United States of America's NSA considered spying on Australian citizens without the knowledge or consent of the Australian intelligence organisations it partners with, according to a draft 2005 NSA directive kept secret from other countries.

The draft directive leaked by the US whistleblower Edward Snowden reveals how the NSA considered the possibility of "unilaterally" targeting citizens and communication systems of Australia, New Zealand and Canada – all "5-Eyes" partners which it refers to as “second party” countries.

Under certain circumstances, it may be advisable and allowable to target second party persons and second party communications systems unilaterally when it is in the best interests of the US

The draft 2005 directive, which was published in the Guardian in November, goes on to state that the U.S. could conduct the targeting without the knowledge of Australian, Canadian or New Zealand authorities, and even if the countries had rejected a "collaboration proposal" for the operation.

Read the full story at The Guardian

Update Feb 28 , 2014

Well, I stopped updating this because I just don't have the time to add to it every day, and since The Guardian does the perfect job with its Edward Snowden NSA Files releases there's little point I think, but, today's release is worth a mention, the amazing story of breach of innocent users privacy, through recording data off webcams, and although this report names from intercepted Yahoo sessions, well, you know what they say, if there's one, there's a whole lot more!

Between 2008 and 2010, Britain's GCHQ, in cooperation with the U.S. National Security Agency, ran the "Optic Nerve" program which covertly intercepted and collected webcam imagery from more than 1.8 million Yahoo user accounts globally

Images were taken as often as once every five minutes, a limit issued to avoid overloading GCHQ systems, as well as to "partly comply" with human rights legislation.

As much as between 3 percent and 11 percent of the snapped imagery was considered "explicit."

Such blatant disrespect and wholesale abuse of power, puts repressive regimes in communist dictatorship led countries to shame, makes them seem like angels compared to the out of control UK and US governments and their spy agencies.

Read on over at The Guardian for full story.

Q.How many terrorist plots have been foiled by the NSA with this massive blanket surveillance?

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