Spy vs Spy

I have been meaning to start this blog entry for sometime, and now is the time.  The surveillance state.  Being watched continuously, online and offline.

“There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork. It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time. But at any rate they could plug in your wire whenever they wanted to. You have to live – did live, from habit that became instinct – in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every movement scrutinized.” — George Orwell, 1984

“I think mass surveillance is a bad idea because a surveillance society is one in which people understand that they are constantly monitored, and when people understand that they are constantly monitored they are more conformist, they are less willing to take up controversial positions, and that kind of mass conformity is incompatible with democracy … mass surveillance creates a dramatic power imbalance between citizens and government. In a democracy the citizens are supposed to have all the power and the government is supposed to be the means by which the citizens exercise that power. But when you have a surveillance state, the state has all the power and citizens have very little. In a democratic society you should have a state with maximum transparency and maximum civil liberties for citizens. But in a surveillance state the exact opposite is true.” — Trevor Paglen, photographer and sleuth, documenting the hidden world of governmental surveillance, from drone bases to “black sites”

But first … some music.  A little ditty I wrote and recorded called “Watching the Watchers.”

[youtube NmNsd_bDJIw 480 295]

Here are some of the references I have collected.  Obviously, this is a hot topic with lots of content.  I’ll try to keep it brief and relevant:

  • Google is testing a program that uses your phone’s location services to continuously  track your location.  If you enter a store, Google will cross-reference your location with that of the business and serve up ads specific to that enterprise.
  • Meet “badBios, malware that permanently invades your PC … ie forever.  The malware establishes itself in the bios.  You can change drives and the operating system, but it will still be there.  insidious bugger.
  • NSA & GCHQ: twin sons of different mothers.  The US and British spy agencies carry out seamless signal collection and sharing activies.  Effectively operating as a single unit.  No wonder the Brits nabbed David Miranda enroute from Berlin to Rio.  Miranda was in Berlin visiting Laura Poitras, the US film-maker who has been working on the Snowden files with Greenwald and the Guardian.
  • The NY Times is hosting a short film by Brian Knappenberger that asks whether people should be concerned with the NSA’s data collection activities.  The answer is, “yes”, of course.  The idea that what NSA is doing is legal is untrue, as courts have found some of their activities to be unconstitutional.  But that hasn’t stopped the surveillance.  From the video: “There is a real difference between secret operations and secret law.  The American people have a right to know how their laws are being interpreted. Right now there are, in effect, two patriot acts.  There is the one that you read when you sit down at your laptop, and there is the other that is the secret interpretation used by the intelligence community.”
  • NSA illegally spied on G20/G8 meetings on Canadian soil in Toronto with Canadian Government consent.  While John Forster, chief of the Communications Security Establishment of Canada (CSEC), and Defence Minister Rob Nicholson insist CSEC is innocent of any wrongdoing, and concede that such spying would be illegal without a warrant,  noone will come clean with who authorized it.  Per Forster at question period in the Canadian Parliament: “Under law, CSEC cannot target Canadians anywhere in the world or anyone in Canada, including visitors. I cannot ask my international partners to do anything that I am not allowed by law to do.”  The question remains open as to who exactly authorized this illegal venture.
  • The NSA may have worked with a company called Level 3 to hack into fiber-optic cables that connect Google and Yahoo data centers, thus, quite literally, entering  through the back door.
  • A presidential review of the NSA’s surveillance activities has raised what, to my mind, is the scariest invasion yet — that the NSA was manipulating bank accounts.  Nothing has yet been revealed by Snowden or in the report, but recommendation 31 states “Governments should not use their cyber capabilities to change the amounts held in financial accounts or otherwise manipulate financial systems.”  The fact that the report calls this out suggests the NSA may have been doing just that.  Regardless of the outcome of the proposed sanctions on the NSA, Pandora’s box has been hacked and compromised.  There is no safety or security on anything electronic.  Mindboggling.
  • The NSA appears to have hacked or bought its way into just about every system connected to the internet.  Der Spiegel has published an expose on the NSA’s hacking toolkit.   The NSA’s “digital plumbers” even offer their services through a catalog, reproduced here on Zerohedge.
  • Of particular note in Der Spiegel’s latest round of NSA revelations is the complicity of technology companies.  Within NSA, ANT (Advanced Technology Network [group]) offers malware and hardware for use on computers made by Cisco, Dell, Juniper, Hewlett-Packard and Chinese company Huawei.  What becomes clear is that the NSA doesn’t actually hack as much as they collaborate with technology providers on backdoor access into their technology. Apple’s devices were singled out by Jacob Applebaum at a recent presentation to the 30th Chaos Communication Forum as being wholly compromised.  Apple has since denied complicity, but this strikes me as hollow, given the extent of the NSA’s work on the Apple platform.
  • Here is the NSA’s ANT catalog. Leaked by Snowden, the catalogue lists and pictures devices that agents can use to spy on a target’s computer or phone. The technologies include fake base stations for hijacking and monitoring cellphone calls and radio-equipped USB sticks that transmit a computer’s contents.  The catalogue also lists a number of mysterious computer-implantable devices called “retro reflectors” that boast a number of different surreptitious skills, including listening in on ambient sounds and harvesting keystrokes and on-screen images.  A group of security researchers have not only figured out how these devices work, but also recreated them.  Having figured out how the NSA bugs work, hackers have turned their attention to defending against them, and they have launched a website to collate such knowledge, called NSAPlayset.org.
  • Jacob Applebaum on the militarization of the internet (by the NSA and the five eyes, of course). The presentation is over an hour with some dense technology discussion.  But Jacob conveniently puts many key ideas in one place.
  • “… the heavy-handed prosecution of whistleblowers show that truth-telling is kryptonite to the National Security State’s power” – an interesting opEd piece about the “Deep State”.  The security-industrial complex is increasingly not answerable to the government or to the people.  If not, who really runs the government?  Their obsessive secrecy, disregard for its citizens, and willingness to mislead or outright lie in order to get what they want demonstrate that they are allowed to exist outside or above the rule of law (see here and here) without fear of prosecution. If you lied to Congress, what would happen to you?  We no longer have a functioning democracy (per Jimmy Carter, who also believes the NSA is monitoring his e-mail), and are drifting towards fascism.
  • In a 1955 study of the US State Department, Hans Morgenthau discussed the existence of a ‘dual state’, which comprises a ‘regular state hierarchy’ (the democratic state) that acts according to the rule of law and a hidden ‘security hierarchy’, the ‘security state’ or ‘deep state’.  The  deep state acts in parallel to the former, but also monitors and exerts control over it.  In Morgenthau’s view, the deep state is able to ‘exert an effective veto over the decisions’ of the regular state governed by the rule of law.  True then and truer now.  Here is a link to an essay on the deep state and its troubling implications.  Here is a more recent essay on the deep state.
  • There is clearly a state within a state, a deep state.  At the heart of the deep state sits the CIA, right next to the NSA.  The intel community operates with impunity above the law and beyond the scrutiny of its overseers.
  • From the preceding article, in 2000, US Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger (1981–87) confirmed that during the Cold War the US had specifically tasked units to play the role of enemy forces. These units would secretly attack Western defences worldwide in order to ‘regularly’ and ‘frequently’ test their capabilities and increase their state of readiness, so that counter-forces to potential Soviet capabilities could be developed prior to their emergence.  These operations were kept secret from the public, who would only learn of an incursion by the Soviets or other bad guys, further enhancing the necessity of the security state.  We continue to see such “false flag” events, which  are used to validate and increase anti-terror and surveillance programs.  Amongst the conspiracy community, 9-11 and the Boston bombing look suspiciously like false flag events.
  • Apple secretly installed tracking technology in its iPhones since 2010, starting with the iPhone 4.  The technology tracks and records your micro-location down to inches.  On the device, iBeacon uses Bluetooth LE to broadcast the information on your whereabouts to receivers, such as a store you walk by (much like cell phone grids, but with a very short range).  The receiver tracks your presence, and possibly broadcasts its own information to your device, such as special deals you might want to take advantage of.  e.g. perhaps you walk into your favorite big-box store.  Receivers/listeners identify you when you enter and track your path through the store, again perhaps broadcasting specials that might interest you, but also tracking what parts of the store you are perusing and where you stop.  Sound appealing?  Not to me.  Yet another example that the primary purpose of your SmartPhone is to track and surveil you.  If that is the cost, perhaps consumers should be given a free phone and opt in, rather than having to buy a phone or contract and opt out of this surveillance.  hmm …
  • CSEC (Communications Security Establishment Canada) used information from the free internet service at a major Canadian airport to track the wireless devices of thousands of airline passengers for days after they left the terminal, per a new Snowden NSA document released.  A cyber-security expert who reviewed the document says, “I can’t see any circumstance in which this would not be unlawful, under current Canadian law, under our Charter, under CSEC’s mandates.” CSEC chief John Forster recently stated: “I can tell you that we do not target Canadians at home or abroad in our foreign intelligence activities, nor do we target anyone in Canada … in fact, it’s prohibited by law. Protecting the privacy of Canadians is our most important principle.”  umm … sure about that John?
  • Paul Calandra, Harper’s Parliamentary Secretary shills for CSEC on the latest Snowden revelations that CSEC was tracking travelers through WiFi use at a Canadian airport (see previous bullet).  Seriously, is this the best they can do?  CSEC broke Canadian law and the government tries to disparage Snowden and Greenwald without honestly answering the question.  But then again, we know the intelligence heads in the US lie to Congress and their oversight committees. (see here and here)  What reason do we have to believe that CSEC would behave any differently?  The spy agencies never attack the substance of the documents released, because they have all been shown to be true.  So, Mr Calandra, let’s hear some real evidence that refutes the revelations, not some fluffy claim that an oversight committee is watching over the spies.  Let’s see some proof.
  • Feb04 – CSEC chief John Forster fesses up and acknowledges CSEC collected data from travelers use of WiFi at a Canadian airport, likely Toronto’s Pearson airport.  This is after Harper’s national security adviser, Stephen Rigby, insists he is “not totally persuaded” that Canada’s spy agencies tapped into airport Wi-Fi.  And also less than a week after Paul Calandra’s tirade in Parliament following release of the NSA document which blew the whistle on the collection.  The exercise involved capturing metadata on the users’ device, once it connected to the WiFi network at the airport, and then tracking subsequent use of public WiFi networks throughout the city.  Despite earlier denials that CSEC was even engaged in this practice, Forster’s defense now is that the agency was only collecting metadata, not personal information.  However, it is well understood that metadata can be used to identify individuals.  Even the mass collection of metadata on Canadians appears to be illegal, though the spy agencies and the government hide behind the ambiguity of the law since it does not identify metadata specifically.
  • Here is a (growing) compilation of known NSA surveillance capabilities
  • GCSB, the New Zealand spy agency which illegally monitored Kim Dotcom’s communications, has admitted deleting possible evidence Dotcom’s lawyers requested in the upcoming $6 million damages hearing.  This in spite of a claim by the agency that it archives information, and does not delete it.
  • A high-ranking US diplomat has her phone tapped and the audio release on YouTube, revealing a possible negotiating strategy with the EU on the Ukraine: “F&!K the EU.”  The leaked recording of a telephone conversation between US Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, Victoria Nuland, and the US envoy to the Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt, discussing who should be in Ukraine’s next government, made its way onto YouTube. Its authenticity has been confirmed by the US State Dept.  I can’t imagine US govt officials would even mind if their calls were tapped, since they do it to everyone else.  It shouldn’t matter if they have nothing to hide.  Certainly that is what we are always told when average citizens question state surveillance. It wasn’t even the NSA that released the conversation. The administration blames the Russians.  You have to wonder how the phone was tapped.  Did this conversation take place over an insecure line?  That would be incredibly amateurish.  The best part is the USG spokes person that says: “It’s concerning that private conversation was recorded.”  Too funny.  What a maroon.
  • TomDispatch on “The Golden Age of Spying” – a very disheartening read of the dystopian world we now live in.
  • Attorney-client privilege is out the window too.  “National Security” is used to trump the privacy of attorney-client conversations. Honestly, the only ending is when everyone (except the spies and the government) are surveilled 24/7.
  • Anonymous is now officially an enemy of the state.  The British GCHQ implemented distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks on the internet relay chat (IRC) rooms used by Anonymous, as well as implanted malware to out the personal identity details of specific participants. These are both illegal activities, but not something the spy agencies are concerned about.  Clearly, the NSA must be implicated, due to the known tight relationship between these spy agencies (and in fact the five eyes).
  • In Canada, oppose ANY pipelines, become enemy of the state.  Pipeline opposers get spied upon by RCMP and CSIS.  My position is unequivocal =>there is no justification under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms that this spying activity is legal.  We have truly entered into the Twilight Zone =>  THIS IS FASCISM.  WAKE UP PEOPLE!!
  • Apple iOS security flaw looks suspiciously like it was an NSA backdoor inserted by an Apple developer.  The flaw, called “Gotofail,” allowed hackers or other actors — e.g. spies — access to theoretically secure data transmitted through wireless connections or along a shared network. Such data includes credit card numbers and other personal information passed on when establishing a connection between a customer and a merchant’s point of sale.  The flaw was a simple one, an “if” clause nested deep within lines of code.  Apple has vehemently asserted that it did not cooperate with the NSA to create backdoors in its devices.  This could have been an Apple employee operating on behalf of the NSA but unbeknownst to Apple, or Apple was, in fact, complicit with the NSA.  Who knows.
  • Since NSA can’t bug Merkel’s phone (per Obama), it bugs everyone else in the German politocracy.  This clearly has nothing to do with the crock “war on terror” and everything to with collecting intelligence on anything and everything.  When will it end?  When people stand up to the en mass collection of “metadata.”  I won’t hold my breath ie never gonna happen.
  • Daniel Ellsberg on the US security state, and in fact the global surveillance state.
  • Time to tape over your webcam.  A new Snowden document release identifies  the GCHQ surveillance program “Optic Nerve”.  GCHQ, with help from the NSA, intercepted and stored the webcam images of millions of internet users not suspected of wrongdoing.  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.  The GCHQ program saved one image every five minutes from the users’ feeds.
  • Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan was recorded using a private, government secure phone.  The audio of a damning conversation with his son was released, revealing some very corrupt scheming going on involving hiding tens of millions of dollars in physical cash in order to evade discovery by Turkish police raids on the houses and offices of members of the Erdogan government, businessmen and their families.  Because of the security of the phones, it is likely the recordings were made and released by a government agency.  The reality is that ALL communications are being monitored.  In this case, Erdogan was being monitored by actors within his own government.  The best part of the call, by the way, is as follows:

“Whatever you have in the house, get rid of it, OK?” the prime minister can be heard telling Bilal, “it will be good if you completely ‘zero’ it.”  Later in the evening, Bilal says he had almost “zeroed” out the money, but that there were some 30 million euros (about $39 million) left. When his father asks why he didn’t transfer all the money to Mehmet Gur, a contractor who was building the Erdogan family villa, Bilal responds: “because it takes a lot of space.”

  • In yet another bugged and released diplomatic call, this time between the EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton and Estonian foreign affairs minister Urmas Paet, Paet alleges there is reason to believe snipers who shot at protesters and police in Kiev were hired by Maidan leaders, members of the new coalition government, not Yanukovych.  As with the Nuland call, the audio appeared on YouTube.  The story seems to have first been covered on VoiceOfRussia.com, and then on The Guardian.  Embarrassing to backers of the new (and illegal) coalition government (i.e. the US, much of the west).  Certainly looks like the work of Russian intelligence. Pretty funny, actually.
  • Another amusing spy story — the CIA has been spying on Senate staffers of the Senate Intelligence Committee investigating the CIA torture program.  Over the course of the investigation, the CIA has allegedly been suppressing and destroying evidence and lying to Senate investigators.  The Senate committee is poised to release a damning report on CIA torture, clearly terrifying the CIA.  But to be spying on the committee investigating them??  Senator Mark Udall, who sits on a CIA oversight committee and whose staff was spied on by the CIA, alleges this was done with Obama’s knowledge and consent.   The Snowden releases pulled the veil off of NSA skullduggery, and it keeps getting worse.  Things are clearly out of control.  Even the spooks and government are turning on each other.  Serves them right.
  • In case there is any doubt about the privacy of your e-mail, Microsoft, Google, Apple, and Yahoo all claim the right to snoop in your e-mail accounts on their services. No warrant necessary.
  • Operation Gladio is the codename for a clandestine NATO “stay-behind” operation in Europe during the Cold War. Its purpose was to continue anti-communist actions in the event of a Soviet invasion and conquest.  The existence of these clandestine NATO armies remained a closely guarded secret throughout the Cold War until 1990, when the first branch of the international network was discovered in Italy. It was code-named Gladio, the Italian word for a short double-edged sword.  Although Gladio specifically refers to the Italian branch of the NATO stay-behind organizations, “Operation Gladio” is used as an informal name for all stay-behind organizations.  The main function of the Gladio-style groups is to discredit left-wing groups and politicians through the use of “the strategy of tension,” including false-flag terrorism.
  • I am convinced that the war on terror is a ruse that is used to justify unfettered expansion of the surveillance state, and further entrench the power and control of the deep state.  The fear of terror and genuine economic fear help keep citizens complacent.
  • Russell Tice, the first NSA whistleblower, talks about the dark secrets Snowden did not have access to.  Tice told PBS and other media that the NSA is spying on – and blackmailing – top government officials and military officers, including Supreme Court Justices, highly-ranked generals, Colin Powell and other State Department personnel, and many other top officials. Further, Cheney, through his lawyer David Addington, directed some/much of the NSA intel collection on such individuals.  Sounds a lot like the kind of surveillance J Edgar Hoover conducted and used.  But lots more.  As an amusing and telling side note, the Washington Times reported in 2006 that, when Tice offered to testify to Congress about this illegal spying, he was informed by the NSA that the Senate and House intelligence committees were not cleared to hear such information.  And thus his tale fell on deaf ears.
  • New NSA disclosure lists tracking rules for XKeyscore. If you have ever searched for privacy tools, your IP is logged and on the list.  Original article is in German, here is a translationHere is another article on the disclosure.  The German article claims that two German regional public broadcasting institutions, the WDR and the NDR, have access to parts of the XKEYSCORE source code.  Apparently, this includes actual filter rules. There is some speculation that this latest disclosure is not from Snowden, but from a second leaker.
  • GHCS’s bag of dirty tricks has been published.  The  JTRIG Manual (Joint Threat Research Intelligence Group) is similar to the NSA Tailored Access Operations catalog.  JTRIG are the toolsmiths and hackers in GCHQ.  The manual provides details on how the agency manipulates public opinion, censors Youtube, games pageview statistics, spy on Ebay use, conduct DDoS attacks, and connect two unsuspecting parties with one another by phone.  So, what else is new?
  • COINTELPRO Techniques for dilution, misdirection and control of a internet forum.  Apparent sister program of JTRIG above. Whom is one to believe anymore if you can’t believe what you read on internet forums?