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The Truth About Metadata

The ACLU has a post today showing just how much metadata reveals about your life and associations.

Why this is important: In the attempt to justify the NSA surveillance program, the President and some in Congress resort to claims like "It's just metadata, not content."

"This is just metadata," Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein assured the American people, referring to the NSA's bulk collection of Americans call records. "There is no content involved." President Obama and his national security officials have made similar assurances.

Using a program called Immersion, developed by MIT Media Lab, he reviews almost 9 years of his own emails. Immersion examines the From, To, Cc and Timestamp fields-- from a Gmail account and visualizes it.


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Amash Amendment to End NSA Program Will Get Vote

The Amash Amendment to end NSA's bulk electronic surveillance program will be voted on this week.

"The amendment would prevent the NSA, the FBI and other agencies from relying on Section 215 of the Patriot Act "to collect records, including telephone call records, that pertain to persons who are not subject to an investigation under Section 215."">will get a vote, probably Thursday. Debate is expected late today.

The vote by itself will not restrict the surveillance, it would simply include Amash's amendment in the annual Defense appropriations bill, which the House is considering this week; the Senate must also approve the bill before it goes to President Obama's desk.

The House Intelligence Committee supports it, the House Judiciary Committee opposes it.

Go here and see how your rep is voting. Send them a tweet urging them to pass the Amendment

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After DOMA and Prop 8

The ACLU has published a handy resource guide, After DOMA: What it Means for You.

Implementation of federal rights, benefits, and protections will vary from state to state and on an individual basis.

The Supreme Court's decision in Windsor v United States is here. The ACLU says: [More...]

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New Snowden Release: U.S. and U.K. Spied on Allies During G-20

The Guardian disclosed more information from Edward Snowden today. The U.S. and U.K. spied on their allies at the G-20 summit in 2009, by intercepting telephone lines and email.

Foreign politicians and officials who took part in two G20 summit meetings in London in 2009 had their computers monitored and their phone calls intercepted on the instructions of their British government hosts, according to documents seen by the Guardian. Some delegates were tricked into using internet cafes which had been set up by British intelligence agencies to read their email traffic.

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Dick Cheney Defends NSA Surveillance...Again

Dick Cheney came out of the woodwork today to defend warrantless NSA surveillance.

The former No. 2 in the Bush administration defended the NSA's ability to monitor phone and email data, and labeled as a "traitor" the analyst who has admitted to having leaked details about the classified program.

He's concerned Edward Snowden will become a Chinese spy. Same old Cheney. Defending our rights under the Constitution was never his strong suit.

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FB, Google Get Limited Disclosure Approval

The Government has agreed to let Facebook and other web companies publish some details about the number of surveillance requests it has received.

Facebook has already posted their numbers. For the last six months of 2012, it received between 9,000 and 10,000 requests for user data pertaining to 18,000 to 19,000 of user accounts. This includes requests from all government entities in the U.S. (local, state, and federal, and including criminal and national security-related requests)

Here is Facebook's statement on the release. What's allowed to be disclosed: [More...]

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EFF Launches "Stop Watching Us"

86 civil liberties groups and Internet companies have joined EFF in demanding an end to NSA spying.

bq. In an open letter to lawmakers sent today, the groups call for a congressional investigatory committee, similar to the Church Committee of the 1970s. The letter also demands legal reforms to rein in domestic spying and demands that public officials responsible for this illegal surveillance are held accountable for their actions.

The letter says the NSA program is illegal:

This type of blanket data collection by the government strikes at bedrock American values of freedom and privacy. This dragnet surveillance violates the First and Fourth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution, which protect citizens’ right to speak and associate anonymously and guard against unreasonable searches and seizures that protect their right to privacy.

EFF also lauched "Stop Watching Us" -- "a global petition calling on Congress to provide a public accounting of the United States' domestic spying capabilites and to bring an end to illegal surveillance." You can add your name here.

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ACLU Files Suit Over NSA Dragnet Program

Via the ACLU:

The American Civil Liberties Union and the New York Civil Liberties Union today filed a constitutional challenge to a surveillance program under which the National Security Agency vacuums up information about every phone call placed within, from, or to the United States. The lawsuit argues that the program violates the First Amendment rights of free speech and association as well as the right of privacy protected by the Fourth Amendment. The complaint also charges that the dragnet program exceeds the authority that Congress provided through the Patriot Act.


Yesterday, the ACLU and Yale Law School's Media Freedom and Information Access Clinic filed a motion with the FISA Court, requesting that it to publish its opinions on the meaning, scope, and constitutionality of Patriot Act Section 215. The ACLU is also currently litigating a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, filed in October 2011, demanding that the Justice Department release information about the government's use and interpretation of Section 215.

Also big news: The FISA Court has published its first public docket -- of an EFF lawsuit seeking disclosure. Pleadings are here.

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Google Seeks Permission to Publish Number of NSA Requests

Google sent a letter today to AG Eric Holder and the FBI seeking permission to disclose the number of national security and FISA requests it has received, the types of data covered by the requests, and the number of user accounts affected by the requests.

We therefore ask you to help make it possible for Google to publish in our Transparency Report aggregate numbers of national security requests, including FISA disclosures—in terms of both the number we receive and their scope. Google’s numbers would clearly show that our compliance with these requests falls far short of the claims being made. Google has nothing to hide.

The letter references the permission it received in March to publish this information about National Security Letters.

Most reaction from media and privacy groups seems to be positive. But Christopher Soghoian tweets:

If Google's FISA numbers are shockingly high, asking for permission to publish if they know it won't be given would be a very savvy move.

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Tuesday PRISM News

Huffington Post reports that Congress was briefed 22 times on the PRISM program and provides the dates.

Glenn Greenwald tells the AP we ain't seen nothing yet.

"We are going to have a lot more significant revelations that have not yet been heard over the next several weeks and months," Greenwald said.
Greenwald claims "dozens" of stories can be generated from the documents, and that the Guardian plans to pursue all of them.

CBS reports the feds are prepping charges against Edward Snowden, who has gone underground in Hong Kong. He told the Guardian he may go to Iceland.

Maybe he should go to New Zealand and hang out at the Dot Com mansion. NZ might not be so willing to provide mutual assistance in arresting Snowden after the debacle of the Kim Dotcom raid.

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PRISM, "Five Eyes" and Kim Dotcom

The PRISM story keeps growing -- now there are reports the NSA has shared data on Kim Dotcom obtained via PRISM with the international spy group "Five Eyes," (background here -- it includes representatives from the U.S., U.K., New Zealand, Canada and Australia,) and that Five Eyes may have given the intercepted data on Kim Dotcom to New Zealand's GSB, which in turn gave it to a specialized New Zealand police group, that used the information to assist the FBI and facilitate his arrest on U.S. charges.

"Five Eyes" met in New Zealand just 2 days before the Prime Minister announced the illegal interception of Kim Dotcom's communications on Sept. 17. Who was at the meeting? Reportedly, Intelligence Co-ordination Group director Roy Ferguson, a former ambassador to the US,along with representatives from the US Central Intelligence Agency, National Security Agency, Britain's Communications Headquarters, Canada's Communications Security Establishment and the Australian Secret Intelligence Service. [More...]

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NSA Leak Source Comes Forward

Edward Snowden has come forward as the source of the recent NSA leaks.

Edward Snowden, a 29-year-old system administrator and former undercover CIA employee, unmasked himself Sunday as the principal source of recent Washington Post and Guardian disclosures about top-secret NSA programs, denouncing what he described as systematic surveillance of innocent citizens and saying in an interview, “it’s important to send a message to government that people will not be intimidated.”

He intends to seek asylum in another country.

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Timeline Of U.S. Surveillance Under Bush and Obama

The Washington Post has a graphic timeline of electronic surveillance under Presidents Bush and Obama from 2001 through 2013.

But there are many more examples. In 2010, the FBI got the phone records of WAPO journalists. See, FBI Illegally Collected Thousands of Phone Records Through Fake Terror Emergencies. [More...]

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Guardian Exposes NSA's "The Boundless Informant"

Glenn Greenwald strikes again. In the Guardian today, he writes about another classified NSA surveillance tool, The Boundless Informant.

By extracting information from every DNI and DNR metadata record, the tool is able to create a near realtime snapshot of GAO's collection capability at any given moment. The tool allows users to select a country on a map and view the metadata volume and select details about the collection against that country. The tool also allows users to view high level metrics by organization and then drill down to a more actionable level- down to the program and cover term.

The program slides are here and the three page document is here.

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PRISM and Stellar Wind Programs

CBS reports that the PRISM program is an arm of the Stellar Wind program.

A top-secret arm of the controversial Stellar Wind program set up in the wake of 9/11 is allowing the National Security Agency and the FBI to tap directly into the central servers of nine major Internet companies to extract audio, video, photos, emails and documents that let analysts track an individual's communication, CBS News has learned.

The program, called PRISM, was established in 2007, according to The Washington Post, which broke the story Thursday evening. CBS News senior correspondent John Miller said it doesn't deal with names but was designed as a way for the government to track suspected terrorists. It culls metadata from Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube and Apple and will soon include Dropbox.

The Stellar Wind program was revealed a few years ago by NSA Whistleblower William Binney and James Banford. (video here.) He says it is a domestic spying program: [More...]

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