According to former NSA analyst Russell B Tice, in the summer of 2004,”a 40-some-year-old wanna-be senator from Illinois” was a target of NSA surveillance. The target lives in “a big, white house in Washington, DC…the President of the United States, now.” [full Russ Tice interview]
This morning, the Guardian has a summary of Edward Snowden’s online chat comments yesterday, as well as an overview of the number of government data requests various Internet service providers have been receiving—Yahoo reports c. 2,000/month; Apple, c. 750; Facebook, c. 1,500; Microsoft, c. 1,000. They were unable legally to break out how many of those were Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) requests as opposed to the more numerous requests related to criminal investigations.
In an unprecedented bow to citizen journalism, for about an hour and a half this morning, Edward Snowden answered 18 questions submitted online. The questions and answers are republished in full at http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jun/17/edward-snowden-nsa-files-whistleblower?commentpage=6
While he did not get to my specific questions, Snowden provided useful clarification about the difference between policy restrictions and technical capabilities for accessing communication content.
While he made it clear that he was divulging information only to journalists, not governments, the mainstream media did not fare well:
Initially I was very encouraged. Unfortunately, the mainstream media now seems far more interested in what I said when I was 17 or what my girlfriend looks like rather than, say, the largest program of suspicionless surveillance in human history.
I loved his witty response to the question of whether he was supplying China with information in exchange for asylum:
Ask yourself: if I were a Chinese spy, why wouldn’t I have flown directly into Beijing? I could be living in a palace petting a phoenix by now.
The Guardian has published a helpful “Online privacy and PRISM news and teaching resources round up.” It includes many of the Guardian articles I’ve been linking, plus teaching materials (anyone have Dick Cheney’s email?) and a lot more.
Snowden’s latest revelations in the Guardian make me reevaluate my recent quip about the Brits not wanting to get involved. Snowden disclosed that during the 2009 G20 summit in London, British agents were monitoring the computers and intercepting the phone calls of foreign officials and even set up an internet café so they could read their email. This is getting to look more and more like an episode of MI5, the BBC high-tech spy series that kept public TV viewers on the edge of their seats for several years. Snowden’s and the Guardian‘s timing is pretty good; the Brits are hosting a G8 summit Monday.
An Observer/Opinium poll of 1,942 Brits was released yesterday:
Hong Kong Escape!
Has someone been reading my blog?!
You don’t have to have done something wrong; you simply have to eventually fall under suspicion from somebody, even by a wrong call. Then they can use the system to go back in time and scrutinize every decision you’ve ever made, every friend you’ve ever discussed something with, and attack you on that basis, to sort of derive suspicion from an innocent life and paint anyone into the context of a wrongdoer. —Edward Snowden
Lest you doubt Edward Snowden’s explanation of how the NSA’s dragnet might ensnare the innocent, Gail Collins’ column in today’s New York Times, “The Other Side of the Story” cites the Kafkaesque example of Brandon Mayfield of Portland, WA:
Based on a database mismatch of a suspicious fingerprint on a plastic bag tied to the Madrid bombing in Spain, where Mayfield had never set foot, agents obtained a secret warrant, broke into and searched his home. His 12-year-old daughter was terrified; she noticed someone had been in her room and had messed with her computer. The family became paranoid—for good reason. FBI agents walked into Mayfield’s office one day, handcuffed and took him away. He spent weeks in jail, imagining the worst. Spanish authorities, doubtful of the US fingerprint match, found the culprit who was the real match, and Mayfield was released.
What could possibly be more compelling than the fact that no one in the family had been to Spain? Well, the sophisticated government database that mismatched his fingerprint, correctly showed that Mayfield, who grew up in Kansas, after graduating from college, law school and serving in the Army, married an Egyptian immigrant and converted to Islam. He eventually got a rare FBI apology and $2 million for his trouble. “But you never quite get over these things,” Mayfield said. “It was a harrowing ordeal. It was terrifying.”
For more on the Brandon Mayfield case:
Here are a couple links to more info:
…a New York Times piece about Ed Snowden’s daring adventures in Hong Kong and what we might call the Chinese gambit:
…and the week-old Guardian story detailing the NSA PRISM program, which goes much further than the metadata surveillance described in Snowden’s first revelations. NSA began directly accessing Microsoft servers in 2007 and has expanded the program to include all of the major Internet service providers—Yahoo, Google, Facebook, YouTube, Skype, Apple and probably whatever servers this connection we’re sharing right now is going through: