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  • Tomgram: Engelhardt, Creating an Un-Intelligence Machine The Fog of Intelligence Or How to Be Eternally “Caught Off Guard” in the Greater Middle East

    Van nieuwsblog.burojansen.nl


    That figure stunned me. I found it in the 12th paragraph of a front-page New York Times story about “senior commanders” at U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) playing fast and loose with intelligence reports to give their air war against ISIS an unjustified sheen of success: “CENTCOM’s mammoth intelligence operation, with some 1,500 civilian, military, and contract analysts, is housed at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, in a bay front building that has the look of a sterile government facility posing as a Spanish hacienda.”

    Think about that. CENTCOM, one of six U.S. military commands that divide the planet up like a pie, has at least 1,500 intelligence analysts (military, civilian, and private contractors) all to itself. Let me repeat that: 1,500 of them. CENTCOM is essentially the country’s war command, responsible for most of the Greater Middle East, that expanse of now-chaotic territory filled with strife-torn and failing states that runs from Pakistan’s border to Egypt. That’s no small task and about it there is much to be known. Still, that figure should act like a flash of lightning, illuminating for a second an otherwise dark and stormy landscape.

    And mind you, that’s just the analysts, not the full CENTCOM intelligence roster for which we have no figure at all. In other words, even if that 1,500 represents a full count of the command’s intelligence analysts, not just the ones at its Tampa headquarters but in the field at places like its enormous operation at al-Udeid Air Base in Qatar, CENTCOM still has almost half as many of them as military personnel on the ground in Iraq (3,500 at latest count). Now, try to imagine what those 1,500 analysts are doing, even for a command deep in a “quagmire” in Syria and Iraq, as President Obama recently dubbed it (though he was admittedly speaking about the Russians), as well as what looks like a failing war, 14 years later, in Afghanistan, and another in Yemen led by the Saudis but backed by Washington. Even given all of that, what in the world could they possibly be “analyzing”? Who at CENTCOM, in the Defense Intelligence Agency, or elsewhere has the time to attend to the reports and data flows that must be generated by 1,500 analysts?

    Of course, in the gargantuan beast that is the American military and intelligence universe, streams of raw intelligence beyond compare are undoubtedly flooding into CENTCOM’s headquarters, possibly overwhelming even 1,500 analysts. There’s “human intelligence,” or HUMINT, from sources and agents on the ground; there’s imagery and satellite intelligence, or GEOINT, by the bushelful. Given the size and scope of American global surveillance activities, there must be untold tons of signals intelligence, or SIGINT; and with all those drones flying over battlefields and prospective battlefields across the Greater Middle East, there’s undoubtedly a river of full motion video, or FMV, flowing into CENTCOM headquarters and various command posts; and don’t forget the information being shared with the command by allied intelligence services, including those of the “five eyes“ nations, and various Middle Eastern countries; and of course, some of the command’s analysts must be handling humdrum, everyday open-source material, or OSINT, as well — local radio and TV broadcasts, the press, the Internet, scholarly journals, and god knows what else.

    And while you’re thinking about all this, keep in mind that those 1,500 analysts feed into, and assumedly draw on, an intelligence system of a size surely unmatched even by the totalitarian regimes of the twentieth century. Think of it: the U.S. Intelligence Community has — count ‘em — 17 agencies and outfits, eating close to $70 billion annually, more than $500 billion between 2001 and 2013. And if that doesn’t stagger you, think about the 500,000 private contractors hooked into the system in one way or another, the 1.4 million people (34% of them private contractors) with access to “top secret” information, and the 5.1 million — larger than Norway’s population — with access to “confidential and secret” information.

    Remember as well that, in these years, a global surveillance state of Orwellian proportions has been ramped up. It gathers billions of emails and cell phone calls from the backlands of the planet; has kept tabs on at least 35 leaders of other countries and the secretary general of the U.N. by hacking email accounts, tapping cell phones, and so on; keeps a careful eye and ear on its own citizens, including video gamers; and even, it seems, spies on Congress. (After all, whom can you trust?)

    In other words, if that 1,500 figure bowls you over, keep in mind that it just stands in for a far larger system that puts to shame, in size and yottabytes of information collected, the wildest dreams of past science fiction writers. In these years, a mammoth, even labyrinthine, bureaucratic “intelligence” structure has been constructed that is drowning in “information” — and on its own, it seems, the military has been ramping up a smaller but similarly scaled set of intelligence structures.

    Surprised, Caught Off Guard, and Left Scrambling

    The question remains: If data almost beyond imagining flows into CENTCOM, what are those 1,500 analysts actually doing? How are they passing their time? What exactly do they produce and does it really qualify as “intelligence,” no less prove useful? Of course, we out here have limited access to the intelligence produced by CENTCOM, unless stories like the one about top commanders fudging assessments on the air war against the Islamic State break into the media. So you might assume that there’s no way of measuring the effectiveness of the command’s intelligence operations. But you would be wrong. It is, in fact, possible to produce a rough gauge of its effectiveness. Let’s call it the TomDispatch Surprise Measurement System, or TSMS. Think of it as a practical, news-based guide to the questions: What did they know and when did they know it?

    Let me offer a few examples chosen almost at random from recent events in CENTCOM’s domain. Take the seizure at the end of September by a few hundred Taliban fighters of the northern provincial Afghan capital of Kunduz, the first city the Taliban has controlled, however briefly, since it was ejected from that same town in 2002. In the process, the Taliban fighters reportedly scattered up to 7,000 members of the Afghan security forces that the U.S. has been training, funding, and arming for years.

    For anyone following news reports closely, the Taliban had for months been tightening its control over rural areas around Kunduz and testing the city’s defenses. Nonetheless, this May, based assumedly on the best intelligence analyses available from CENTCOM, the top U.S. commander in the country, Army General John Campbell, offered this predictive comment: “If you take a look very closely at some of the things in Kunduz and up in [neighboring] Badakhshan [Province], [the Taliban] will attack some very small checkpoints… They will go out and hit a little bit and then they kind of go to ground… so they’re not gaining territory for the most part.’”

    As late as August 13th, at a press briefing, an ABC News reporter asked Brigadier General Wilson Shoffner, the U.S. deputy chief of staff for communications in Afghanistan: “There has been a significant increase in Taliban activity in northern Afghanistan, particularly around Kunduz. What is behind that? Are the Afghan troops in that part of Afghanistan at risk of falling to the Taliban?”

    Shoffner responded, in part, this way: “So, again, I think there’s been a lot of generalization when it comes to reports on the north. Kunduz is — is not now, and has not been in danger of being overrun by the Taliban, and so — with that, it’s kind of a general perspective in the north, that’s sort of how we see it.”

    That General Cambell at least remained of a similar mindset even as Kunduz fell is obvious enough since, as New York Times reporter Matthew Rosenberg reported, he was out of the country at the time. As Goldstein put it:

    “Mostly, though, American and Afghan officials appeared to be genuinely surprised at the speedy fall of Kunduz, which took place when Gen. John F. Campbell, the commander of coalition forces, was in Germany for a defense conference… Though the Taliban have been making gains in the hinterlands around Kunduz for months, American military planners have for years insisted that Afghan forces were capable of holding onto the country’s major cities.

    “‘This wasn’t supposed to happen,’ said a senior American military officer who served in Afghanistan, speaking on the condition of anonymity. ‘The Afghans are fighting, so it’s not like we’re looking at them giving up or collapsing right now. They’re just not fighting very well.’”

    It’s generally agreed that the American high command was “caught off guard” by the capture of Kunduz and particularly shocked by the Afghan military’s inability to fight effectively. And who would have predicted such a thing of an American-trained army in the region, given that the American-backed, -trained, and -equipped Iraqi Army on the other side of the Greater Middle East had a similar experience in June 2014 in Mosul and other cities of northern Iraq when relatively small numbers of Islamic State militants routed its troops?

    At that time, U.S. military leaders and top administration officials right up to President Obama were, as the Wall Street Journal reported, “caught off guard by the swift collapse of Iraqi security forces” and the successes of the Islamic State in northern Iraq. Peter Baker and Eric Schmitt of the Times wrote in retrospect, “Intelligence agencies were caught off guard by the speed of the extremists’… advance across northern Iraq.” And don’t forget that, despite that CENTCOM intelligence machine, something similar happened in May 2015 when, as Washington Post columnist David Ignatius put it, U.S. officials and American intelligence were “blindsided again” by a very similar collapse of Iraqi forces in the city of Ramadi in al-Anbar Province.

    Or let’s take another example where those 1,500 analysts must have been hard at work: the failed $500 million Pentagon program to train “moderate” Syrians into a force that could fight the Islamic State. In the Pentagon version of the elephant that gave birth to a mouse, that vast effort of vetting, training, and arming finally produced Division 30, a single 54-man unit of armed moderates, who were inserted into Syria near the forces of the al-Qaeda-aligned al-Nusra Front. That group promptly kidnapped two of its leaders and then attacked the unit. The result was a disaster as the U.S.-trained fighters fled or were killed. Soon thereafter, the American general overseeing the war against the Islamic State testified before Congress that only “four or five” armed combatants from the U.S. force remained in the field.

    Here again is how the New York Times reported the response to this incident:

    “In Washington, several current and former senior administration officials acknowledged that the attack and the abductions by the Nusra Front took American officials by surprise and amounted to a significant intelligence failure. While American military trainers had gone to great lengths to protect the initial group of trainees from attacks by Islamic State or Syrian Army forces, they did not anticipate an assault from the Nusra Front. In fact, officials said on Friday, they expected the Nusra Front to welcome Division 30 as an ally in its fight against the Islamic State.

    “‘This wasn’t supposed to happen like this,’ said one former senior American official, who was working closely on Syria issues until recently, and who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss confidential intelligence assessments.”

    Now, if accurate, this is wild stuff. After all, how anyone, commander or intelligence analyst, could imagine that the al-Nusra Front, classified as an enemy force in Washington and some of whose militants had been targeted by U.S. air power, would have welcomed U.S.-backed troops with open arms is the mystery of all mysteries. One small footnote to this: McClatchy News later reported that the al-Nusra Front had been poised to attack the unit because it had been tipped off in advance by Turkish intelligence, something CENTCOM’s intelligence operatives evidently knew nothing about.

    In the wake of that little disaster and again, assumedly, with CENTCOM’s full stock of intelligence and analysis on hand, the military inserted the next unit of 74 trained moderates into Syria and was shocked (shocked!) when its members, chastened perhaps by the fate of Division 30, promptly handed over at least a quarter of their U.S.-supplied equipment, including trucks, ammunition, and rifles, to the al-Nusra Front in return for “safe passage.” Al-Nusra militants soon were posting photos of the weapons online and tweeting proudly about them. CENTCOM officials initially denied that any of this had happened (and were clearly in the dark about it) before reversing course and reluctantly admitting that it was so. (“‘If accurate, the report of NSF [New Syrian Forces] members providing equipment to al-Nusra Front is very concerning and a violation of Syria train-and-equip program guidelines,’ U.S. Central Command spokesman Colonel Patrick Ryder said.”)

    To turn to even more recent events in CENTCOM’s bailiwick, American officials were reportedly similarly stunned as September ended when Russia reached a surprise agreement with U.S. ally Iraq on an anti-ISIS intelligence-sharing arrangement that would also include Syria and Iran. Washington was once again “caught off guard” and, in the words of Michael Gordon of the Times, “left… scrambling,” even though its officials had known “that a group of Russian military officers were in Baghdad.”

    Similarly, the Russian build-up of weaponry, planes, and personnel in Syria initially “surprised” and — yes — caught the Obama administration “off guard.” Again, despite those 1,500 CENTCOM analysts and the rest of the vast U.S. intelligence community, American officials, according to every news report available, were “caught flat-footed” and, of course, “by surprise” (again, right up to the president) when the Russians began their full-scale bombing campaign in Syria against various al-Qaeda-allied outfits and CIA-backed opponents of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. They were even caught off guard and taken aback by the way the Russians delivered the news that their bombing campaign was about to start: a three-star Russian general arrived at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad to offer an hour’s notice. (Congressional lawmakers are now considering “the extent to which the spy community overlooked or misjudged critical warning signs” about the Russian intervention in Syria.)

    The Fog Machine of American Intelligence

    You get the point. Whatever the efforts of that expansive corps of intelligence analysts (and the vast intelligence edifice behind it), when anything happens in the Greater Middle East, you can essentially assume that the official American reaction, military and political, will be “surprise” and that policymakers will be left “scrambling” in a quagmire of ignorance to rescue American policy from the unexpected. In other words, somehow, with what passes for the best, or at least most extensive and expensive intelligence operation on the planet, with all those satellites and drones and surveillance sweeps and sources, with crowds of analysts, hordes of private contractors, and tens of billions of dollars, with, in short, “intelligence” galore, American officials in the area of their wars are evidently going to continue to find themselves eternally caught “off guard.”

    The phrase “the fog of war” stands in for the inability of commanders to truly grasp what’s happening in the chaos that is any battlefield. Perhaps it’s time to introduce a companion phrase: the fog of intelligence. It hardly matters whether those 1,500 CENTCOM analysts (and all those at other commands or at the 17 major intelligence outfits) produce superlative “intelligence” that then descends into the fog of leadership, or whether any bureaucratic conglomeration of “analysts,” drowning in secret information and the protocols that go with it, is going to add up to a giant fog machine.

    It’s difficult enough, of course, to peer into the future, to imagine what’s coming, especially in distant, alien lands. Cobble that basic problem together with an overwhelming data stream and groupthink, then fit it all inside the constrained mindsets of Washington and the Pentagon, and you have a formula for producing the fog of intelligence and so for seldom being “on guard” when it comes to much of anything.

    My own suspicion: you could get rid of most of the 17 agencies and outfits in the U.S. Intelligence Community and dump just about all the secret and classified information that is the heart and soul of the national security state. Then you could let a small group of independently minded analysts and critics loose on open-source material, and you would be far more likely to get intelligent, actionable, inventive analyses of our global situation, our wars, and our beleaguered path into the future.

    The evidence, after all, is largely in. In these years, for what now must be approaching three-quarters of a trillion dollars, the national security state and the military seem to have created an un-intelligence system. Welcome to the fog of everything.

    Tom Engelhardt is a co-founder of the American Empire Project and the author of The United States of Fear as well as a history of the Cold War, The End of Victory Culture. He is a fellow of the Nation Institute and runs TomDispatch.com. His latest book is Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World.

    [Note: Nick Turse was my co-conspirator on this piece and I thank him for all his help.]

    Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Book, Nick Turse’s Tomorrow’s Battlefield: U.S. Proxy Wars and Secret Ops in Africa, and Tom Engelhardt’s latest book, Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World.

    Posted by Tom Engelhardt at 7:29am, October 15, 2015.
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    By Tom Engelhardt

    Find this story at 15 October 2015

    Copyright 2015 Tom Engelhardt

    A DEATH IN ATHENS Did a Rogue NSA Operation Cause the Death of a Greek Telecom Employee?

    Van nieuwsblog.burojansen.nl

    JUST OUTSIDE THE MAIN DOWNTOWN part of Athens lies Kolonos, an old Athenian neighborhood near the archaeological park of Akadimia Platonos, where Plato used to teach. Along the maze of narrow streets, flower-filled balconies hang above open-air markets, and locals gather for hours at lazy sidewalk cafes, sipping demitasse cups of espresso and downing shots of Ouzo in quick gulps.

    It was a neighborhood Costas Tsalikidis knew well. He lived at No. 18 Euclid Street, a loft apartment just down the hall from his parents. Slim and dark-haired, with a strong chin and a sly smile, he was born in Athens 38 years earlier to a middle-class family in the construction business. Talented in math and physics from an early age, he earned a degree in electrical engineering from the National Technical University of Athens, considered the most prestigious college in Greece, where he specialized in telecommunications, and later obtained his master’s in computer science in England. Putting his skills to good use, for the last 11 years he had worked for Vodafone-Panafon, also known as Vodafone Greece, the country’s largest cell phone company, and was promoted in 2001 to network-planning manager at the company’s headquarters in the trendy Halandri section of Athens.

    On March 9, 2005, Costas’ brother, Panagiotis, dropped by the apartment. He thought he’d have a coffee before a business meeting scheduled for that morning. But as he entered the building, he found his mother, Georgia, running up and down the corridor yelling for help.

    “Cut him down!” she was saying. “Cut him down!”

    Panagiotis had no idea what she was talking about until he went inside his brother’s apartment and saw Costas hanging from a rope tied to pipes above the lintel of his bathroom door, an old wooden chair nearby. He and his mother cut the rope and laid Costas down on the bed.

    Costas Tsalikidis Photo: Courtesy of the Tsalikidis familyThe day before his death, Costas’ boss at Vodafone had ordered that a newly discovered code — a powerful and sophisticated bug — be deactivated and removed from its systems. The wiretap, placed by persons unknown, targeted more than 100 top officials, including then Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis and his wife, Natassa; the mayor of Athens; members of the Ministerial Cabinet; as well as journalists, capturing not only the country’s highest secrets, but also its most intimate conversations. The question was, who did it?
    For a year, the eavesdropping case remained secret, but when the affair finally became public, it was regarded as Greece’s Watergate. One newspaper called it “a scandal of monumental proportions.” And at its center was the dark underside of the 2004 Summer Olympic Games in Athens. While the athletes were competing for medals as millions watched, far in the shadows spies had hacked into the country’s major telecom systems to listen and record.

    A decade later, Costas’ death is caught up in an investigation into what now appears to have been a U.S. covert operation in Greece. Last February, Greek authorities took the extraordinary step of issuing an international arrest warrant for a CIA official the Greeks believe was a key figure in the operation while based in Athens. Unnoticed by the U.S. press, the warrant was a nearly unprecedented action by an allied country. The intelligence official, identified as William George Basil, was accused of espionage and eavesdropping. But by then he had already left the country, and the U.S. government, as it has done for the past 10 years, continues to stonewall Greek authorities on the agency’s involvement.

    The Greek charges only touch the surface, however, and Basil may be less a key figure than simply a spy guilty of poor tradecraft. An investigation by The Intercept has uncovered not only the role of the CIA, but also that of the NSA, as well as how and why the operation was carried out. The investigation began while I was producing a documentary for PBS NOVA on cyberwarfare, scheduled to air on October 14, for which some of the interviews were conducted. In addition, I have had exclusive access to highly classified and previously unreported NSA documents released by Edward Snowden.

    The Intercept, along with the Greek newspaper Kathimerini, interviewed over two dozen people familiar with the wiretapping case, ranging from U.S. intelligence officials and Greek government officials to those involved in the investigation and its aftermath. Many of those interviewed agreed to talk on condition that their names not be used, fearing criminal prosecution for speaking on intelligence matters or professional retribution. While some questions remain, the evidence points to a massive illegal eavesdropping program that may have led to Costas’ tragic death.

    “COSTAS WAS ENGAGED,” his brother, Panagiotis, told me last year. “He was planning to get married.” Like Costas, who was three years younger, Panagiotis spoke fluent English, the product of frequent trips to the U.S., both on business and vacation.

    After a dinner of lamb and hummus at a restaurant not far from the apartment where Costas died, Panagiotis spoke emotionally about his brother. “He had met the woman of his life and they were planning to get married really soon. And for that reason, they were looking to get a house and they had already started buying things that they could use in their new household. Costas was happy and optimistic and things had been working out really good for him.”

    At the time, Panagiotis couldn’t understand what had happened; Costas was in good health and, at least until recently, seemed to love his job at Vodafone. “I thought there was no reason for him to commit suicide,” he said, although he acknowledged Costas had been under more pressure than usual. “In the last year of his life, he was working very hard because Greece had undertaken the Olympic Games of 2004,” he said. “And that meant a lot of hours at work and a lot of planning to beef up the networks.”

    Given the enormous numbers of journalists and tourists who were planning to attend the events, all wanting to communicate, Costas’ workload increased enormously in the months before the games were to begin. Eventually, the technical infrastructure created by the Athens Olympics Organizing Committee for staff and media involved more than 11,000 computers, 23,000 fixed-line telephone devices, and 9,000 mobile phones. But the Olympics ended more than six months before Costas’ death, so there had to be another reason.

    At work, things suddenly began to change. Costas told his brother that he wanted to quit. “He tendered his resignation to the company, but it wasn’t accepted,” Panagiotis told me. “He wanted to get out.” And he sent a text to his fiancée, a piano teacher named Sara Galanopoulou, saying he had to leave his job, adding cryptically that it was a “matter of life and death.”

    As Costas Tsalikidis and his colleagues at Vodafone worked overtime in the months leading up to the games, thousands of miles away another group was also getting ready for the Summer Olympics in Greece: members of the U.S. National Security Agency. But rather than communicating, they were far more interested in listening. According to previously undisclosed documents from the Snowden archive, NSA has a long history of tapping into Olympic Games, both overseas and within the U.S. “NSA has had an active role in the Olympics since 1984 Los Angeles games,” according to a classified document from 2003, “and has seen its involvement increase with the recent games in Atlanta, Sydney, and Salt Lake City. During the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, the focus was on counterterrorism, and NSA acted largely in support of the FBI in a fusion cell known as the Olympics Intelligence Center (OIC). … NSA’s support to the 2004 Olympics in Athens will be much more complicated.”

    In 2004, for the first time since the 9/11 attacks of 2001, the Summer Olympic Games would be held outside the U.S., and thus the difficulties would be far greater. “Several factors will make the Athens Olympics vastly different,” the document continued, “not the least of which is the fact these Olympics will not be held at a domestic location. Also different is that the security organization that NSA will support is the EYP, or Greek National Intelligence Service. NSA will gather information and tip off the EYP of possible terrorist or criminal actions. Without a doubt, the communication between NSA and EYP will take some coordination, and for that reason preparations are already underway.”

    According to a former senior U.S. intelligence official involved with the operation, there was close cooperation between NSA and the Greek government. “The Greeks identified terrorist nets, so NSA put these devices in there and they told the Greeks, OK, when it’s done we’ll turn it off,” said the source. “They put them in the Athens communications system, with the knowledge and approval of the Greek government. This was to help with security during the Olympics.”

    The Olympic Games ran smoothly — there were no serious terrorist threats and Greece had its best medal tally in more than a century. On August 29, 16 days after the games began, closing ceremonies were held at the Athens Olympic Stadium. As 70,000 people watched, Greek performers displayed traditional dances, a symbolic lantern was lit with the Olympic Flame, and Dr. Jacques Rogge, president of the International Olympics Committee, gave a short speech and then officially closed the games.

    Two weeks later, the Paralympics ended, and at that point, keeping their promise to the Greek government, the NSA employees should have quietly disconnected their hardware and deleted their software from the local telecommunications systems, packed up their bugging equipment, and boarded a plane for Fort Meade. The problem was, they didn’t. Instead, they secretly kept the spying operation active, but instead of terrorists, they targeted top Greek officials. According to the former U.S. intelligence official involved with the operation, the NSA began conducting the operation secretly, without the approval or authorization of the CIA chief of station in Athens, the U.S. ambassador, or the Greek government.

    “We had a huge problem right after the Greek Olympics,” the source said. “They [NSA] said when the Olympics is over, we’ll turn it off and take it away. And after the Olympics they turned it off but they didn’t take it away and they turned it back on and the Greeks discovered it. They triangulated some signals, anonymous signals, and it all pointed back to the embassy.”

    At that point, the source said, someone from the Greek government called Richard Eric Pound, the CIA chief of station at the embassy in Athens and the person officially responsible for all intelligence operations in the country. Pound had arrived in May 2004, replacing Michael F. Walker, the agency’s former deputy director of the paramilitary Special Activities Division, as chief of station in Athens. Describing himself as “a small town boy from Indiana who set off to see the world,” Pound had joined the agency in 1976. Hefty and mustachioed, he was a veteran of the agency’s backwater posts in Africa.

    Pound, according to the source, knew nothing about the operation having been turned back on, so he called his boss at CIA headquarters to ask about it. “He says, ‘What in God’s name is this all about?’” said the source (Pound declined to speak to The Intercept). Pound’s boss then immediately called his NSA counterpart. “Oh, yeah, we were going to tell you about that,” the NSA official told Pound’s CIA boss, according to the source. “They didn’t take it out and they turned it back on.”

    National Security Agency Deputy Director John Chris Inglis testifies before the House Select Intelligence Committee on the NSA’s PRISM program, which tracks web traffic and US citizens’ phone records, during a hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, June 18, 2013. AFP PHOTO / Saul LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images) National Security Agency Deputy Director John Chris Inglis in Washington, D.C., June 18, 2013. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty ImagesNot informing the chief of station and the ambassador was an enormous breach of protocol. The chain of events surprised another source, a long-time veteran of the CIA’s National Clandestine Service, who was once a colleague of Basil in Athens. “I can’t think of another time in my experience when that ever happened, that’s how unusual it is,” the source said. “I’m astounded by that.”
    In 2006, Chris Inglis became the NSA’s deputy director, the agency’s No. 2 official, who was thus in a position to discover what had happened. In an interview, I questioned him about the scandal and the illegal bugging operation. “Was the NSA involved?” I asked. Inglis offered no denial. “I couldn’t say whether NSA was involved in that or any other activity that might have been alleged to be conducted by an intelligence service, let alone NSA.”

    Inglis did confirm, however, that NSA operations in foreign countries would normally have the approval of the CIA chief of station. “The chief of station,” he said, “would speak on intelligence matters for the nation, or essentially be expected to adjudicate matters on behalf of the nation.” He added, “So if NSA was expected to conduct an intelligence operation physically in some particular place of the world, I would expect that the chief of mission — the ambassador — and that the chief of station — the intelligence rep — would have some influence on that, some kind of ability to understand what it was and to ensure that it was done in the proper way.”

    I also put the question to Gen. Michael Hayden, the NSA director at the time. “Do you remember the incident that came up involving Greece?” I asked. “Not anything we’re going to talk about here,” he said. “Did that come to your attention?” I pressed. “Not something I can talk about,” he replied.

    At the time of the Greek bugging operation, Hayden was also secretly running the NSA’s illegal warrantless eavesdropping and metadata dragnet surveillance programs, the largest domestic spying operations in U.S. history.

    FILE – In this Dec. 6, 2002 an aerial file photo of the US embassy in Athens, Greece. Theodoros Pangalos a former foreign minister of Greece said on Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2013 the U.S. is not the only country eavesdropping on foreign diplomats: his country’s secret services did that to U.S. ambassadors in Athens and Ankara in the 1990s. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis, File) An aerial file photo of the U.S. Embassy in Athens, Greece, Dec. 6, 2002. Photo: Thanassis Stavrakis/AP
    Stonewalled by the U.S., over the past decade Greek investigators were nevertheless able to follow a digital trail right to the front door of the U.S. Embassy in Athens, and then to William George Basil, a mysterious embassy official with a Greek background.

    Although very little is publicly known about Basil, interviews with his relatives and childhood friends in Greece, as well as fellow embassy employees and intelligence officials in Athens and the U.S., shed light on his background.

    Basil was born on December 10, 1950, in Baltimore, where many of his relatives had settled after emigrating from Greece. Much of his extended family came from the small Greek island of Karpathos in the Aegean Sea, a port of call for the Argonauts traveling between Libya and Crete, and mentioned in Homer’s Iliad. There, his ancestors worked as stonemasons and as farmhands in mountainside wheat fields.

    His father, George, had emigrated to the U.S. where Basil and his sister, Maria, spent their early years. But when Basil was 9, his now-divorced father became engaged to a woman from Karpathos and they all traveled to the island for the wedding. An old snapshot shows a young Basil in a suit jacket sitting uneasily on the back of a donkey. After a few months, the family returned to the U.S., then in the 1960s, when Basil was in his early teens, moved back to Karpathos for good.

    Today, childhood friends there still remember Basil as “Billy,” an Americanized youth who liked to spend time on the beach. His cousin Nikos Kritikos often played sports with him. “He played rugby when he was young,” Nikos said. “He was amazingly smart. … We grew up in the same house; his stepmother, Marigoula, raised us.” And Basil’s uncle Manolis Kritikos, a local schoolteacher, remembered him as “a happy kid who smiled.” “He was always restless as a young man, he searched things,” he said. “Most of all he liked the history of this place, the folklore. … And he loved Greece and [the Karpathos village of] Olympos more than anything.”

    Basil 9 years old attending his father’s wedding on Karpathos Basil, 9 years old, attending his father’s wedding on Karpathos. After graduating from high school at the American Community Schools in Athens in 1968, Basil joined the Army for five years and was posted to Alaska. Then, according to Basil’s former CIA colleague, he took a job as a Baltimore County deputy sheriff and later joined the CIA’s Office of Security as a polygraph expert. But, after nearly two decades, said the colleague, he grew bored with strapping recruits and potential agents to lie detector machines and sought a position in the agency’s Directorate of Operations. Largely based on his Greek heritage and fluency in the language, he was accepted and quickly disappeared behind the agency’s heavy black curtain, emerging undercover as a Foreign Service Officer with the State Department.
    With a black diplomatic passport in his pocket, he was soon on his way to Athens, a city he knew well; he had owned an apartment in the city for many years, which he rented out. Soon after arriving, he moved into an apartment near the beach in Glyfada, one of the most exclusive areas of the city, home to ship owners and wealthy business executives. A long-time biker, he would often cruise around the city on his motorcycle.

    At the U.S. Embassy in Athens, he was officially a second secretary in the regional affairs section, later promoted to first secretary. In reality, he joined the CIA station as a terrorism expert. The station, located on the embassy’s top floor (with the forgery section in the basement), was one of the largest in Europe, because it often served smaller Middle East stations with logistical help and temporary personnel. Protected by a bulletproof vest under his shirt, a 9 mm pistol strapped to his belt, and a small M38 handgun on his ankle, Basil, who had a reputation as an Olympic-level shooter, drove around the city in an armored car looking for informants to recruit and liaising with the Greek police organization. According to a confidential report by Greek prosecutor Yiannis Diotis, obtained by The Intercept, Basil played a role in a March 2003 operation — just prior to the U.S. invasion of Iraq — that involved an informant recruited by the embassy’s CIA station. The operation, code-named “Net,” led to the discovery, by a joint U.S.-Greek team, of a small cache of guns and explosives in the basement of the Iraq Embassy in Athens.

    While most CIA assignments to Athens were two years, Basil kept extending his tour, giving him an opportunity to spend time on Karpathos, visiting friends and relatives and playing backgammon. “He never withheld where he was working or what he was doing,” recalled his cousin Nikos. “A lot of times we would call each other and he would tell me, ‘I am in the Middle East.’ His job was to report on the sentiment of those countries’ society. … From what he said he had a lot of friends in high places. I understood that he was acquainted with Ministers of Interior and Ministers of Public Order in Greece.”

    One person who knew Basil in passing was John Brady Kiesling, a now-retired career Foreign Service Officer who had worked as the embassy’s political officer from July 2000 to March 2003. I spoke to him in his apartment in the historic Plaka section of Athens, a labyrinth of winding streets and colorful shops in the shadow of the Acropolis. After leaving his post at the embassy, he decided to remain in Greece, where he has followed the bugging case closely. When I brought up the possibility of the NSA conducting a covert operation out of the embassy, without the knowledge of either the ambassador or the CIA chief of station, he looked surprised. “I would say that a rogue agency was performing it if it was performed without the prior clearance with the ambassador, as the president’s representative in Greece,” he said. “It definitely is something that is hanging as a sort of swinging sword blade over the U.S.-Greek relationship.”

    But according to Basil’s former CIA colleague in Athens, there are occasions when an ambassador is not informed by the agency because of the sensitivity of the operation. However, there was never a time when a chief of station was kept in the dark. “There were times we didn’t inform the ambassador — it was just too sensitive — and we would have to get a waiver signed,” the source said.

    william-george-basil Visa from U.S. passport of William George Basil. A half-dozen miles southwest of Athens is the city of Piraeus. The largest passenger port in Europe and the third largest in the world, it services about 20 million passengers a year. Piraeus is to ships what Chicago’s O’Hare Airport is to planes. There are long rows of ferries, endless quays, hydrofoils and mega-yachts, tankers and cruise ships. It was here, not far from the pier for ferries to Karpathos that the planning ended and the operation began. According to the Greek prosecutor’s report, on June 8, 2004, someone entered the Mobile Telecommunication Center at 31 Akti Miaouli Street, and in the name of a “Markos Petrou,” purchased the first four of what would eventually be 14 prepaid cell phones.
    They would become the “shadow” phones. As normal calls from Vodafone went to and from legitimate parties, a parallel stream of digitized voice and data — an exact copy — was directed to the NSA’s shadow phones. The data would then be automatically transferred miles away to NSA receivers and computers for monitoring, analysis, and storage.

    Not long after, according to the Snowden documents I reviewed, the NSA contingent began arriving at US-966G, the surveillance agency’s code for the Athens embassy. The planning had already been underway. “Although the first race, dive, and somersault are still a year away,” noted a Signals Intelligence Directorate document, “SID Today,” dated August 15, 2003, “in truth, NSA has been gearing up for the 2004 Olympics for quite some time, in anticipation of playing a larger role than ever before at the international games.” The document then noted that NSA would be sending “the largest contingent of personnel in support of the games in our history. A team of 10 NSA analysts will arrive in Greece anywhere from 30-45 days before the Olympics and stay until the flame is extinguished. … The scope of the Olympics is tremendous, and so will be the support of SID [Signals Intelligence Directorate] and NSA.”

    Then, in a note of unintended irony, the writer added, “The world will be watching and so will NSA!”

    A key part of the operation would be obtaining secret access to the Greek telecom network. And it is here that Costas Tsalikidis may have entered the picture. As a senior engineer in charge of network planning, working for the country’s largest cellular service provider, he would have been one of those in a position to become the team’s inside person. But he was also far from the only one. “Of course, it could have even been me,” said another Vodafone technician interviewed.

    The operation could have been accomplished a number of ways. At the beginning, the installation of the bugging software, while illegal according to Greek law, had been secretly authorized by the Greek government. Thus, an inside person would have been operating outside the law in providing assistance to U.S. intelligence, but with the patriotic objective of helping protect Greece from terrorists. Also, the person may never have been told that the software was supposed to be removed following the conclusion of the games. In any case, it is unlikely that the person would have known who the targets were since they were just lists of phone numbers.

    In fact, recruiting a foreign telecom employee as an “inside person” for a major bugging operation was standard operating procedure for both the NSA and the CIA, according to the senior intelligence official involved with the Athens operation. “What the NSA really doesn’t like to admit, about 70 percent of NSA’s exploitation is human enabled,” the former official said. “For example, at a foreign Ministry of Post and Telecommunications, if NSA determines it needs to get access to that system, NSA and/or the CIA in coordination would come up with a mechanism that would allow them to replicate the existing switch to be swapped out. The CIA would then go and seek out the person who had access to that switch — like a Nortel switch or a router — go in there, and then it would be the CIA that would effect the operation. And then the take from it would be exploited by the NSA.”

    And according to a highly classified NSA document provided by Snowden and previously published by The Intercept, covertly recruiting employees in foreign telecom companies has long been one of the NSA’s deepest secrets. A program code-named “Sentry Owl,” for example, deals with “foreign commercial platform[s]” and “human asset[s] cooperating with the NSA/CSS [Central Security Service].” The document warns that information related to Sentry Owl must be classified at an unusually high level, known as ECI, or Exceptionally Controlled Information, well above top secret.

    “Human intelligence guys can provide sometimes the needed physical access without which you just can’t do the signals intelligence activity,” Gen. Hayden, the NSA head at the time of the Athens bugging, who later ran the CIA, told me.

    Basil’s ties to Greece made him very good at developing local agents. “He was the best recruiter the station had, the best,” said the former CIA associate in Athens. “[Basil] may have been in charge of recruiting the guy on the inside. He may have made the initial recruitment.”

    With an agent in place inside the network, the next step would be to implant spyware capable of secretly transmitting the conversations of the NSA’s targets to the shadow phones where they could be resent to NSA computers. Developing such complex malware is the job of the NSA’s Tailored Access Operations (TAO) organization. And, according to the previously undisclosed Snowden documents, members of the group “performed CNE [Computer Network Exploitation] operations against Greek communications providers” as part of the preparations for the Olympics. In lay terms, this means they developed malware to secretly extract communications data. Also involved were members of the Special Source Operations (SSO) group, the specialists who work covertly with telecom companies, such as AT&T — or in this case Vodafone — to get secret access to their networks.

    The key to the operation was hijacking a particular piece of software, the “lawful intercept” program. Installed in most modern telecom systems, it gave a telecom company the technical capability to respond to a legal warrant from the local government to monitor a suspect’s communications. Vodafone’s central switching equipment was made by Ericsson, the large Swedish company, and on January 31, 2002, Ericsson delivered to Vodafone an upgrade containing the lawful intercept program, a piece of software known as the Remote Control Equipment Subsystem (RES). According to a report by Greece’s Authority for Communication Security and Privacy (ADAE), Costas was the Vodafone employee who accepted delivery of the upgrade.

    Normally, when a lawful warrant is submitted to a company such as Vodafone Greece, the information, including the target phone numbers, would first be logged into a program called the Interception Management System (IMS). This creates a permanent record of the request that can later be audited. The information is then sent to the RES, which initiates the actual monitoring by secretly creating a duplicate communications stream for the targeted number. That duplicate stream is then transmitted, along with the metadata — date, time, and number calling or being called — to the law enforcement agency.

    But despite having the capability to initiate wiretaps with the RES program, at the time of the Olympics Greece did not have laws in place to permit them. As a result, Vodafone never paid the additional fee to Ericsson for the IMS program and the digital key to activate the system. Far behind the NSA, the Greek government had only simple wiretap technology. “All they had was some primitive suitcase methods that would allow very limited surveillance of very specific targets,” said Kiesling, the former U.S. Embassy official. “From an American point of view, that was terrifyingly primitive.”

    Thus, according to Greek sources, prior to the Olympics U.S. officials began asking the Greek government for permission to secretly activate the lawful intercept program, which led to the government agreeing to the U.S. bugging operation. Ironically, the presidential decree permitting widespread eavesdropping was finally enacted on March 10, 2005, the day after Costas’ death.

    For NSA, the missing IMS program was the technical opening its operatives needed. In essence, they created malware that would secretly turn on the RES program and begin tapping. But without the IMS program there would be no audit trail, no indication or evidence that eavesdropping was going on as the target numbers were being tapped and transmitted to the shadow phones by the RES. “It was a very complex system, because it was invisible to detection,” Vodafone Greece CEO George Koronias told investigators. “It functioned independently of whether the lawful interception system was activated, and bypassed the security alarm.”

    Exploiting the weaknesses associated with lawful intercept programs was a common trick for NSA. According to a previously unreleased top-secret PowerPoint presentation from 2012, titled “Exploiting Foreign Lawful Intercept Roundtable,” the agency’s “countries of interest” for this work included, at that time, Mexico, Indonesia, Egypt, and others. The presentation also notes that NSA had about 60 “Fingerprints” — ways to identify data — from telecom companies and industry groups that develop lawful intercept systems, including Ericsson, as well as Motorola, Nokia, and Siemens.

    There are also a variety of “Access Methods” used to penetrate other countries’ lawful intercept programs. These include using the highly secret Special Collection Service. Known internally as “F-6,” it is described in another Snowden document as “a joint NSA-CIA organization whose mission is to covertly collect SIGINT [Signals Intelligence] from official U.S. establishments abroad, such as embassies and consulates.” The organization’s job, according to the PowerPoint, is to intercept microwaves, the thousands of communications-packed signals that crisscross a city. The PowerPoint also suggested using the Special Source Operations unit, the people who work out secret arrangements with the local telecom companies. And with the Tailored Access Operations unit, techniques could be developed to hack into the country’s telecom systems. For the Athens Olympics operation, it would be a full house.

    With the malware installed, the NSA was set to go, with more than a dozen shadow phones purchased and a contingent of employees from at least 11 different NSA organizations poised to begin eavesdropping during “24-hour watches.” According to the ADAE report, the tappers first activated the malware at Vodafone’s communications centers on August 4, 2004, and five days later they began inserting the target phone numbers. Then on September 28, following the conclusion of the Paralympic Games, some of the malware was removed. But less than a week later, long after the Olympic Torch had been extinguished, new malware was implanted.

    “And then,” said Kiesling, looking both troubled and perplexed, “the mystery becomes why it continued after the Olympics, and that’s a mystery that still has not been solved.” It was a question I asked a former senior NSA official with long involvement in worldwide eavesdropping operations. “They never [remove it],” the official said with a laugh. “Once you have access, you have access. You have the opportunity to put implants in, that’s an opportunity.”

    “FEVER,” COSTAS WROTE. Several of the antennas used for the bugging operation were heating up, and to Costas, it was as if they had a fever. After the Olympic Games concluded, Costas started having problems at work. In the weeks following Costas’ death, his brother discovered one of his notebooks, dating from October and November 2004, after the Olympics, and it described a number of incidents. “In his notes he said that at certain points in time certain antennas seemed to get overworked and they were trying to figure out why that was happening,” said Panagiotis. “Now it turned out that those antennas were the same antennas that were connected with the system of the wiretapping.” In another entry, which Panagiotis submitted to the prosecutor, Costas wrote about a month before he died: “Something is not right at the company.”

    Then, at 7:56 p.m. on January 24, 2005, someone installed a routine update in the NSA’s bugging software at Vodafone’s facility in the Paiania section of the city. It would turn out to be anything but routine. Within seconds, errors appeared, which caused hundreds of text messages from customers to go undelivered, and people began complaining. At the same time, an automatic failure report was sent to Vodafone management. It was as if a burglar alarm had gone off during a robbery. As normally happens, Vodafone sent the voluminous logs and data dumps to Ericsson for analysis, while those involved quietly waited — and worried. The once cheerful and upbeat Costas turned glum and angry. “We have heard that Costas was in meetings inside the company, in meetings that were very loud and a lot of people were arguing,” said Panagiotis. “He tendered his resignation to the company, but it wasn’t accepted. … He wanted to get out.”

    On March 4, after weeks of investigation, Ericsson notified Vodafone that it had discovered a sophisticated piece of malware, containing a hefty 6,500 lines of code — evidence of a large bugging operation. The company also turned up the target phone numbers of the prime minister and his wife, the mayor of Athens, members of the Ministerial Cabinet, and scores of high officials, as well as the numbers for the shadow phones and the metadata describing when the calls were made.

    Three days later, Vodafone technicians isolated the malware. Then on March 8, before law enforcement had an opportunity to get involved, Koronias, the Vodafone Greece CEO, ordered the software deactivated and removed, thus hampering any future investigation. Apparently alerted, those involved in the bugging operation immediately turned off their shadow phones. “Vodafone’s decision to deactivate the software meant our hands were tied,” Yiannis Korandis, the chief of the EYP, the Greek National Intelligence Service, told investigators.

    The next morning Panagiotis discovered his brother’s body hanging from a white rope tied to a pipe above the bathroom doorway. To this day, he is convinced that Costas was murdered to keep him quiet and prevent him from quitting and going public with the details. “He probably wanted answers there and then and I think that led to his demise,” he said. The bugging, Panagiotis suspects, may have been the reason Costas sent the text to his fiancée about leaving his job being a “matter of life and death.”

    Athens, GREECE: Vodafone Greece Chief Executive Officer George Koronias holds documents 06 April 2006 before the start of a parliamentary committee hearing investigating the case of a phone-tapping scandal, which targeted Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and top officials during and after the 2004 Athens Olympics games. AFP PHOTO / Louisa Gouliamaki (Photo credit should read LOUISA GOULIAMAKI/AFP/Getty Images) Vodafone Greece CEO George Koronias holds documents in April 2006 before the start of a parliamentary committee hearing investigating the phone-tapping scandal. Photo: Louisa Gouliamaki /AFP/Getty ImagesWithin hours of Costas’ death, Ericsson prepared a formal “Incident Case Description,” outlining technical details about the malware and how it worked. It contained the warning: “This document is to be treated as highly confidential and … all necessary steps to protect this information must be taken, including the mandatory use of Entrust encryption within Ericsson.” After seven pages of technical detail, the report concluded that someone had loaded unauthorized “corrections,” i.e. malware implants, “designed to introduce RES functionality in such a way that it is not visible to any observer. Neither Ericsson nor Vodafone have any knowledge of the corrections. Nor is it known who supplied the correction, who loaded them or how long they have been loaded in the network.” In other words, someone had introduced malware to secretly activate the lawful intercept’s tapping function while at the same time hiding the fact that it had been turned on. On March 10, the report was turned over to Vodafone Greece CEO Koronias.
    The Tsalikidis family’s former lawyer, Themistoklis Sofos, believes that Costas discovered the spy software by chance and then reported it. “Some people were afraid that he would talk so they killed him in a professional manner,” he told a Greek newspaper. Although the official coroner’s report said he took his own life, no suicide note was ever found, and the initial forensic report was inconclusive.

    Nevertheless, Supreme Court prosecutor Dimitris Linos said that Costas’ death was clearly tied to the eavesdropping operation. “If there had not been the phone tapping, there would not have been a suicide,” he said in June 2006. In his report, prosecutor Yiannis Diotis also said that Costas had knowledge of the illegal phone-tapping software. And Giorgos Constantinopoulos, a former colleague in charge of communications security for Vodafone, reportedly told prosecutors that he was sure Costas was in a position to know about the spy software, and that his death was likely connected to that discovery.

    THROUGHOUT THIS PAST SUMMER in Athens as the debt crisis mounted, crowds of pro-government demonstrators filled Syntagma Square shouting angry chants against European creditors. A few blocks away on Panepistimiou Street, an anarchy symbol was spray-painted on the walls of the headquarters of the Bank of Greece. And behind the Doric columns and yellow neo-classical façade of the Parliament Building, nervous politicians huddled and debated what to do next.

    But a mile and a half away, in a heavily guarded compound near Pedion tou Areos, one of the largest parks in Athens, prosecutors were finally bringing to a close a decade of investigations. And on June 26 the finger of guilt was pointed directly at America’s Central Intelligence Agency. Now it is up to the Justices’ Council to decide how to proceed, and it may prove very embarrassing for the United States.

    From the very start, according to a former senior Greek official involved in the investigation, there was no doubt within the highest levels of government that the U.S. was behind the bugging. On Friday, March 25, 2005, two weeks after Panagiotis cut the rope from his brother’s neck, Greeks celebrated Independence Day, followed by a weekend of festivities. But in Maximos Mansion, the Greek White House, the talk was far from jubilant. As Greek Navy helicopters flew low over the Acropolis during a military parade, members of the Greek inner circle were meeting with Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis about the bugging scandal that had targeted him and his wife.

    A few days before, Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis was in Washington engaged in high-level meetings with top officials. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice spoke of the “excellent state of relations between Greece and the United States,” and President George W. Bush issued a proclamation declaring “our special ties of friendship, history, and shared values with Greece.” He noted, “Our two Nations are founded on shared ideals of liberty.” But based on the investigation up to that point, close aides, including Foreign Minister Molyviatis, were convinced that U.S. intelligence was behind the operation. Although at least one member of the group wanted to bury the whole matter rather than cause a rupture in relations with the U.S., Karamanlis disagreed, according to the source. “No way,” Karamanlis said. “If they find this on us 10 years from now, things will prove really difficult.”

    The decision was made to have the police and the EYP intelligence service launch an investigation. Although far from exhaustive, with many questions left unanswered, Minister of Public Order George Voulgarakis and several other officials finally held a televised press conference in February 2006. Scribbling with a blue marker on a white board, they noted that the 14 shadow cell phones were using four mobile phone antennas with a radius of about 2 kilometers in central Athens.

    Within that area was the U.S. Embassy on Vassilissis Sofias Avenue, which turned out to be a matter of great embarrassment for both the U.S. and Greek governments. “The U.S. has been fingered in the media as the culprit,” U.S. Ambassador Charles P. Ries noted in a classified memo to Washington, released by WikiLeaks. Ries suspected Voulgarakis of the leak. Calling him “a less reliable ally,” Ries said Voulgarakis “has allowed rumors to circulate that the U.S. is behind [the] major eavesdropping case in Greece.” Nevertheless, both sides wanted to pretend all was normal. Thus, Foreign Minister Molyviatis suggested to Ries that they move a previously scheduled meeting between them from the ambassador’s residence to the very public Grande Bretagne Hotel in central Athens. There, Ries noted in his memo, “All could see that the U.S.-Greece relationship was unimpaired.”

    It was an odd lunch. Molyviatis was sitting across from the man whose embassy, he believed, had been listening in on his cell phone for months. And Ries, out of the loop because it was a rogue NSA/CIA operation, still may not have known of his embassy’s involvement. “Addressing the eavesdropping case,” Ries said in his memo, “Molyviatis gave his opinion that the whole hullabaloo [the press conference] had been unnecessary. It would have been sufficient to hand the matter to the judicial authorities for investigation and, if appropriate, prosecution, he said. But now, both he and the Prime Minister were keen to show that the current hysteria did not detract from excellent U.S.-Greece relations.”

    For some, however, the cozy relations only seemed to increase the anger. In May, a Greek terrorist organization, “Revolutionary Struggle,” attempted to assassinate Voulgarakis with a remote-controlled bomb. Pointing to the wiretapping scandal and weakening Greek sovereignty as a key reason for the attack, the group said it opposed state-sponsored “terrorism of mass surveillance.” At the U.S. Embassy, the deputy chief of mission sent a classified cable to Washington, released by WikiLeaks, with a warning. “This group is to be taken seriously,” he said. “While there is no mention thus far of targeting foreign ‘capitalist-imperialists,’ it would not be a leap of faith for RS to focus its attention on the U.S. presence in Greece.” Ten months later, the group fired a rocket at the embassy.

    Around the time the eavesdropping was discovered, Basil left the country, apparently with a quick reassignment by CIA to Sudan. Then, according to Greek documents obtained by The Intercept, on August 4, as things quieted down, he obtained a visa at the Greek Embassy in Khartoum and returned 10 days later to Athens and his cover job as first secretary for regional affairs. The diplomatic position gave him immunity from arrest.

    The investigation was the first of what would be five major probes stretching over a decade in which more than 500 witnesses would be questioned, including agents of the EYP. Evidence built up slowly as investigators picked apart the telltale computer logs, traced the cell phone signals, and dissected layers and layers of software. Over the years, piece after piece, the puzzle began to come together.

    In his testimony, Ericsson’s managing director for Greece, Bill Zikou, laid out the “how,” describing the method by which the bugging was accomplished. “What happened in this incident,” he said, “is that a complex, sophisticated, non-Ericsson intruder piece of software was planted into the Vodafone Greece network,” which by activating the RES function “thus made illegal interceptions possible.”

    william-basil200 William George Basil. Date unknown. Photo: FacebookThen investigators turned to the “who.” At the conclusion of its operation, the NSA was hoping that it could disappear into the night without leaving a trace. “Unlike the athletes, when the Olympics are over, the NSA team is hoping you won’t even know they were there,” said one of the classified documents. It bore the ironic title, “Another Successful Olympics Story.” But as a result of sloppy intelligence tradecraft by the American spies, each step pointed the investigators closer and closer to the U.S.
    One person who spent a great deal of time buying shadow phones was William Basil. “We used to call him the telephone man,” said the former CIA colleague in Athens. “All we do is we buy burner phones. Just drive in any direction you want and go to a random phone store and just buy a phone, make a call, and throw the phone away.”

    But Basil wasn’t the only one buying shadow phones. According to the prosecutor’s confidential report, issued June 26, 2015 and obtained by The Intercept, investigators traced four of the shadow cell phones to the shop in Piraeus. There, the prosecutor showed pictures of Basil and his wife, Irene, to the store’s manager. “She is known” to the store, the manager said. The prosecutor then noted in his report that Irene was “acting as designated by him [Basil] and on his behalf.” And according to registered deeds, the family of Irene Basil has long owned a home in Piraeus just a few miles from the shop.

    Things got even sloppier. After purchasing the four shadow phones, meant to be untraceable, the SIM card from one of them was removed and placed in a cell phone registered to the U.S. Embassy. It was a direct link between the covert operation and the U.S. government. Investigators then traced more than 40 calls to and from the U.S. Embassy involving the phone. The numbers listed in the ADAE report include the embassy’s main number, the emergency after-hours number, the Marine guard, and the FBI office. There was even a call to a women’s clothing store in Athens, Rouge Paris.

    Then, on the same shadow phone using another SIM card, investigators found calls to Maryland. Based on the phone numbers, The Intercept was able to determine that those calls were made to Ellicott City, where Basil and his wife used to own property, and to neighboring Cantonsville, both bedroom communities for NSA. The implications greatly worried the investigators. “We were scared,” one told a parliamentary committee. “This is something that the Foreign and Justice Ministries should investigate.”

    Finally, after years of slow, ineffective, and politically hindered investigations that produced more fog than clarity, the determined work of the ADAE and a few others began paying off. The evidence pointed at the U.S. Embassy, and with a bit of luck and thanks to the American spies’ mistakes, prosecutors came up with a name, William Basil, and the international arrest warrant was issued last February.

    But by then, he was long gone. After Athens, Basil was promoted to deputy chief of station in Islamabad, Pakistan, then sent back to a desk job at headquarters, that of director of human resources at the agency’s Counterterrorism Center. Now retired and no longer protected by diplomatic immunity, he may never see Greece again, the country where his wife currently lives in her family’s home in Piraeus. In 2012, according to a petition he signed protesting a planned marine park on Karpathos, he wrote, “I own property in Karpathos and plan to retire there next year.”

    Today the two-story house near the beach in Diafani sits empty; construction materials are stacked on the porch, its exterior unpainted. Nearby, friends and relatives can’t believe that Billy from Karpathos could have secretly wiretapped their top officials, or spied on their government. “There’s no way he did what they say he did,” said Basil’s cousin Nikos. “Because of his love [for] Greece, they would know that if that thing [the wiretapping] needed to be done, they would most certainly ask somebody else to do it. No way he did it. It is well known that he was first and foremost a Greek patriot.”

    Months before the arrest warrant was issued, Basil had been in touch by phone with a prominent criminal lawyer in Athens, Ilias G. Anagnostopoulos, according to a Greek source, who asked not to be named because of the confidential nature of the information. When asked by the attorney if he would be willing to testify if it came to that, Basil, according to the source, replied: “If there are questions, of course I can answer them.” The attorney met with the prosecutor, but after leaks to the press, Basil told Anagnostopoulos to drop the matter for the time being. Complicating matters, the prosecutor has filed the eavesdropping case alongside a much larger, but unconnected, conspiratorial case involving an assassination attempt on former Prime Minister Karamanlis, a key target of the wiretapping operation.

    CIA Chief of Station Eric Pound left Athens in 2007, returning to headquarters to become chief of the External Operations and Cover Division, the organization responsible for creating front companies overseas for clandestine officers masquerading as business executives or other occupations. After he retired in September 2009, Pound mentioned to a college audience that the CIA has an obsession to learn the truth. He added, “But obsession does not always lead to success.”

    Costas Tsalikides March 9, 2005 Costas Tsalikidis, March 9, 2005.
    Panagiotis and other family members also want the truth. In 2011, Costas’ family asked two coroners to reexamine the medical records. One was Dr. Steven Karch, a forensic pathologist and former medical examiner in San Francisco, and the other was Dr. Theodoros Vougiouklakis, an associate professor of forensic medicine in Greece. Karch called the original autopsy “farcical.” Based on pictures of the body, the coroners concluded that the marks to Costas’ neck couldn’t have come from simply jumping off the chair. “Something was done to him prior,” Karch told The Intercept.
    The family agrees with this conclusion. “I believe there are people who know what happened, what exactly and who exactly did it and they will give us those facts,” said Panagiotis. “I believe that as time goes by the reasons for protecting the perpetrators will fade and mouths will open.” Last March, on the 10th anniversary of Costas’ death, his mother spoke to a local Greek reporter for the first time. “I want to know what happened to my child and nobody that investigated until now, 10 years [later], gave me the slightest response,” she said. “As long as I live I will live with this suffering. I want to punish those who are guilty for what happened, and those who know [but] do not speak.”

    There appears little chance that her questions will be answered, however. It is extremely unlikely the Obama administration will ever allow Basil, or any other intelligence official, to be extradited. Nor is it likely that Basil will return to Greece voluntarily with an arrest warrant waiting for him. Around 2009 he appeared in a Facebook picture, seemingly in disguise, sporting a long white beard and moustache. “Dude, Santa’s job isn’t available for what … another seven months,” a friend joked on Facebook. Though he has not responded to requests for an interview, pictures online show him in Greece in 2013 attending his daughter’s wedding, without the beard, in the Glyfada section of Athens. Multiple attempts to reach Basil by phone, and through family members, were unsuccessful. Both the CIA and NSA declined to comment on any issue surrounding the Athens wiretapping, including Basil’s indictment.

    As for the NSA, a classified review of the Greek Olympics asked the now ironic question, “After this year’s gold medal performance, what comes next?” Next will certainly be the Olympics scheduled for Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, next summer. According to a previously published top-secret NSA slide, the agency has already planted malware throughout the country’s telecommunications system. And, if history is any guide, in the weeks leading up to the start of the games, teams from the SCS, SSO, TAO, and other organizations will arrive once again to begin 24/7 eavesdropping. And as in Greece, they may just happen to leave some of their monitoring equipment behind.

    Sitting in his apartment overlooking Athens’ Plaka, John Brady Kiesling could make little sense of it all. “I don’t see a shred of evidence that this wiretapping did the U.S. government any good,” he said. “I think it’s just important to underscore that intelligence gathering is never free. It always comes at a human and political cost to someone. In this case it was paid by an innocent Vodafone technician.”

    Aggelos Petropoulos of the Athens-based newspaper Kathimerini contributed reporting from Greece, and Ryan Gallagher, senior reporter at The Intercept, contributed research and reporting from the Snowden Archive.

    Documents published with this story:

    Another Successful Olympics Story
    Exploiting Foreign Lawful Intercept Roundtable
    Gold Medal Support for Olympic Games
    NSA Team Selected for Olympics Support
    SID Trains for Athens Olympics

    James Bamford
    Sep. 29 2015, 4:01 a.m.

    Find this story at 29 September 2015
    Copyright https://theintercept.com/

    BEHIND THE CURTAIN A Look at the Inner Workings of NSA’s XKEYSCORE (II)

    Van nieuwsblog.burojansen.nl

    The sheer quantity of communications that XKEYSCORE processes, filters and queries is stunning. Around the world, when a person gets online to do anything — write an email, post to a social network, browse the web or play a video game — there’s a decent chance that the Internet traffic her device sends and receives is getting collected and processed by one of XKEYSCORE’s hundreds of servers scattered across the globe.

    In order to make sense of such a massive and steady flow of information, analysts working for the National Security Agency, as well as partner spy agencies, have written thousands of snippets of code to detect different types of traffic and extract useful information from each type, according to documents dating up to 2013. For example, the system automatically detects if a given piece of traffic is an email. If it is, the system tags if it’s from Yahoo or Gmail, if it contains an airline itinerary, if it’s encrypted with PGP, or if the sender’s language is set to Arabic, along with myriad other details.

    This global Internet surveillance network is powered by a somewhat clunky piece of software running on clusters of Linux servers. Analysts access XKEYSCORE’s web interface to search its wealth of private information, similar to how ordinary people can search Google for public information.

    Based on documents provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, The Intercept is shedding light on the inner workings of XKEYSCORE, one of the most extensive programs of mass surveillance in human history.

    How XKEYSCORE works under the hood

    It is tempting to assume that expensive, proprietary operating systems and software must power XKEYSCORE, but it actually relies on an entirely open source stack. In fact, according to an analysis of an XKEYSCORE manual for new systems administrators from the end of 2012, the system may have design deficiencies that could leave it vulnerable to attack by an intelligence agency insider.

    XKEYSCORE is a piece of Linux software that is typically deployed on Red Hat servers. It uses the Apache web server and stores collected data in MySQL databases. File systems in a cluster are handled by the NFS distributed file system and the autofs service, and scheduled tasks are handled by the cron scheduling service. Systems administrators who maintain XKEYSCORE servers use SSH to connect to them, and they use tools such as rsync and vim, as well as a comprehensive command-line tool, to manage the software.

    John Adams, former security lead and senior operations engineer for Twitter, says that one of the most interesting things about XKEYSCORE’s architecture is “that they were able to achieve so much success with such a poorly designed system. Data ingest, day-to-day operations, and searching is all poorly designed. There are many open source offerings that would function far better than this design with very little work. Their operations team must be extremely unhappy.”

    Analysts connect to XKEYSCORE over HTTPS using standard web browsers such as Firefox. Internet Explorer is not supported. Analysts can log into the system with either a user ID and password or by using public key authentication.

    As of 2009, XKEYSCORE servers were located at more than 100 field sites all over the world. Each field site consists of a cluster of servers; the exact number differs depending on how much information is being collected at that site. Sites with relatively low traffic can get by with fewer servers, but sites that spy on larger amounts of traffic require more servers to filter and parse it all. XKEYSCORE has been engineered to scale in both processing power and storage by adding more servers to a cluster. According to a 2009 document, some field sites receive over 20 terrabytes of data per day. This is the equivalent of 5.7 million songs, or over 13 thousand full-length films.

    This map from a 2009 top-secret presentation does not show all of XKEYSCORE’s field sites.
    When data is collected at an XKEYSCORE field site, it is processed locally and ultimately stored in MySQL databases at that site. XKEYSCORE supports a federated query system, which means that an analyst can conduct a single query from the central XKEYSCORE website, and it will communicate over the Internet to all of the field sites, running the query everywhere at once.

    There might be security issues with the XKEYSCORE system itself as well. As hard as software developers may try, it’s nearly impossible to write bug-free source code. To compensate for this, developers often rely on multiple layers of security; if attackers can get through one layer, they may still be thwarted by other layers. XKEYSCORE appears to do a bad job of this.

    When systems administrators log into XKEYSCORE servers to configure them, they appear to use a shared account, under the name “oper.” Adams notes, “That means that changes made by an administrator cannot be logged.” If one administrator does something malicious on an XKEYSCORE server using the “oper” user, it’s possible that the digital trail of what was done wouldn’t lead back to the administrator, since multiple operators use the account.

    There appears to be another way an ill-intentioned systems administrator may be able to cover their tracks. Analysts wishing to query XKEYSCORE sign in via a web browser, and their searches are logged. This creates an audit trail, on which the system relies to assure that users aren’t doing overly broad searches that would pull up U.S. citizens’ web traffic. Systems administrators, however, are able to run MySQL queries. The documents indicate that administrators have the ability to directly query the MySQL databases, where the collected data is stored, apparently bypassing the audit trail.

    AppIDs, fingerprints and microplugins

    Collecting massive amounts of raw data is not very useful unless it is collated and organized in a way that can be searched. To deal with this problem, XKEYSCORE extracts and tags metadata and content from the raw data so that analysts can easily search it.

    This is done by using dictionaries of rules called appIDs, fingerprints and microplugins that are written in a custom programming language called GENESIS. Each of these can be identified by a unique name that resembles a directory tree, such as “mail/webmail/gmail,” “chat/yahoo,” or “botnet/blackenergybot/command/flood.”

    One document detailing XKEYSCORE appIDs and fingerprints lists several revealing examples. Windows Update requests appear to fall under the “update_service/windows” appID, and normal web requests fall under the “http/get” appID. XKEYSCORE can automatically detect Airblue travel itineraries with the “travel/airblue” fingerprint, and iPhone web browser traffic with the “browser/cellphone/iphone” fingerprint.

    PGP-encrypted messages are detected with the “encryption/pgp/message” fingerprint, and messages encrypted with Mojahedeen Secrets 2 (a type of encryption popular among supporters of al Qaeda) are detected with the “encryption/mojaheden2” fingerprint.

    When new traffic flows into an XKEYSCORE cluster, the system tests the intercepted data against each of these rules and stores whether the traffic matches the pattern. A slideshow presentation from 2010 says that XKEYSCORE contains almost 10,000 appIDs and fingerprints.

    AppIDs are used to identify the protocol of traffic being intercepted, while fingerprints detect a specific type of content. Each intercepted stream of traffic gets assigned up to one appID and any number of fingerprints. You can think of appIDs as categories and fingerprints as tags.

    If multiple appIDs match a single stream of traffic, the appID with the lowest “level” is selected (appIDs with lower levels are more specific than appIDs with higher levels). For example, when XKEYSCORE is assessing a file attachment from Yahoo mail, all of the appIDs in the following slide will apply, however only “mail/webmail/yahoo/attachment” will be associated with this stream of traffic.

    To tie it all together, when an Arabic speaker logs into a Yahoo email address, XKEYSCORE will store “mail/yahoo/login” as the associated appID. This stream of traffic will match the “mail/arabic” fingerprint (denoting language settings), as well as the “mail/yahoo/ymbm” fingerprint (which detects Yahoo browser cookies).

    Sometimes the GENESIS programming language, which largely relies on Boolean logic, regular expressions and a set of simple functions, isn’t powerful enough to do the complex pattern-matching required to detect certain types of traffic. In these cases, as one slide puts it, “Power users can drop in to C++ to express themselves.” AppIDs or fingerprints that are written in C++ are called microplugins.

    Here’s an example of a microplugin fingerprint for “botnet/conficker_p2p_udp_data,” which is tricky botnet traffic that can’t be identified without complicated logic. A botnet is a collection of hacked computers, sometimes millions of them, that are controlled from a single point.

    Here’s another microplugin that uses C++ to inspect intercepted Facebook chat messages and pull out details like the associated email address and body of the chat message.

    One document from 2009 describes in detail four generations of appIDs and fingerprints, which begin with only the ability to scan intercepted traffic for keywords, and end with the ability to write complex microplugins that can be deployed to field sites around the world in hours.

    If XKEYSCORE development has continued at a similar pace over the last six years, it’s likely considerably more powerful today.

    Illustration for The Intercept by Blue Delliquanti

    Documents published with this article:

    Advanced HTTP Activity Analysis
    Analyzing Mobile Cellular DNI in XKS
    ASFD Readme
    CADENCE Readme
    Category Throttling
    CNE Analysis in XKS
    Comms Readme
    DEEPDIVE Readme
    Email Address vs User Activity
    Free File Uploaders
    Finding and Querying Document Metadata
    Full Log vs HTTP
    Guide to Using Contexts in XKS Fingerprints
    HTTP Activity in XKS
    HTTP Activity vs User Activity
    Intro to Context Sensitive Scanning With XKS Fingerprints
    Intro to XKS AppIDs and Fingerprints
    OSINT Fusion Project
    Phone Number Extractor
    RWC Updater Readme
    Selection Forwarding Readme
    Stats Config Readme
    Tracking Targets on Online Social Networks
    Unofficial XKS User Guide
    User Agents
    Using XKS to Enable TAO
    UTT Config Readme
    VOIP in XKS
    VOIP Readme
    Web Forum Exploitation Using XKS
    Writing XKS Fingerprints
    XKS Application IDs
    XKS Application IDs Brief
    XKS as a SIGDEV Tool
    XKS, Cipher Detection, and You!
    XKS for Counter CNE
    XKS Intro
    XKS Logos Embedded in Docs
    XKS Search Forms
    XKS System Administration
    XKS Targets Visiting Specific Websites
    XKS Tech Extractor 2009
    XKS Tech Extractor 2010
    XKS Workflows 2009
    XKS Workflows 2011
    UN Secretary General XKS

    Micah Lee, Glenn Greenwald, Morgan Marquis-Boire
    July 2 2015, 4:42 p.m.
    Second in a series.

    Find this story at 2 July 2015

    Copyright https://theintercept.com/

    XKeyscore: A Dubious Deal with the NSA

    Van nieuwsblog.burojansen.nl

    Internal documents show that Germany’s domestic intelligence agency, the BfV, received the coveted software program XKeyscore from the NSA – and promised data from Germany in return.

    The agents from the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV), Germany’s domestic intelligence agency, were deeply impressed. They wanted to be able to do that too. On Oct. 6, 2011, employees of the US intelligence agency NSA were in the Bavarian town of Bad Aibling to demonstrate all that the spy software XKeyscore could do. To make the demonstration as vivid as possible, the Americans fed data into their program that the BfV had itself collected during a warranted eavesdropping operation. An internal memo shows how enthusiastic the German intelligence agents were: Analyzing data with the help of the software, the memo reads in awkward officialese, resulted in “a high recognition of applications used, Internet applications and protocols.” And in the data, XKeyscore was able to “recognize, for example, Hotmail, Yahoo or Facebook. It was also able to identify user names and passwords.” In other words, it was highly effective.

    It was far beyond the capabilities of the BfV’s own system. In response, then-BfV President Heinz Fromm made a formal request five months later to his American counterpart, NSA head Keith Alexander, for the software to be made available to the German intelligence agency. It would, he wrote, superbly complement the current capabilities for monitoring and analyzing Internet traffic.

    But fully a year and a half would pass before a test version of XKeyscore could begin operating at the BfV facility in the Treptow neighborhood of Berlin. It took that long for the two agencies to negotiate an agreement that regulated the transfer of the software in detail and which defined the rights and obligations of each side.

    The April 2013 document called “Terms of Reference,” which ZEIT ONLINE and DIE ZEIT has been able to review, is more than enlightening. It shows for the first time what Germany’s domestic intelligence agency promised their American counterparts in exchange for the use of the coveted software program. “The BfV will: To the maximum extent possible share all data relevant to NSA’s mission,” the paper reads. Such was the arrangement: data in exchange for software.

    It was a good deal for the BfV. Being given the software was a “proof of trust,” one BfV agent exulted. Another called XKeyscore a “cool system.” Politically and legally, however, the accord is extremely delicate. Nobody outside of the BfV oversees what data is sent to the NSA in accordance with the “Terms of Reference,” a situation that remains unchanged today. Neither Germany’s data protection commissioner nor the Parliamentary Control Panel, which is responsible for oversight of the BfV, has been fully informed about the deal. “Once again, I have to learn from the press of a new BfV-NSA contract and of the impermissible transfer of data to the US secret service,” complains the Green Party parliamentarian Hans-Christian Ströbele, who is a member of the Parliamentary Control Panel. The Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, for its part, insists that it has adhered strictly to the law.

    Interne Dokumente belegen, dass der Verfassungsschutz vom amerikanischen Geheimdienst NSA die begehrte Spionagesoftware XKeyscore bekam. Dafür versprachen die Verfassungsschützer, so viele Daten aus deutschen G-10-Überwachungsmaßnahmen an die NSA zu liefern, wie möglich.

    Lesen Sie dazu:

    Der Datendeal: Was Verfassungsschutz und NSA miteinander verabredeten – was Parlamentarier und Datenschützer dazu sagen

    Read the english version here: A Dubious Deal with the NSA

    Dokument: Die Übereinkunft zwischen Verfassungsschutz und NSA im Wortlaut

    Read the english version here: XKeyscore – the document

    Die Software: Der Datenknacker “Poseidon” findet jedes Passwort

    The data in question is regularly part of the approved surveillance measures carried out by the BfV. In contrast, for example, to the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), Germany’s foreign intelligence agency, the BfV does not use a dragnet to collect huge volumes of data from the Internet. Rather, it is only allowed to monitor individual suspects in Germany — and only after a special parliamentary commission has granted approval. Because such operations necessarily imply the curtailing of rights guaranteed by Article 10 of Germany’s constitution, they are often referred to as G-10 measures. Targeted surveillance measures are primarily intended to turn up the content of specific conversations, in the form of emails, telephone exchanges or faxes. But along the way, essentially as a side effect, the BfV also collects mass quantities of so-called metadata. Whether the collection of this data is consistent with the restrictions outlined in Germany’s surveillance laws is a question that divides legal experts. Well-respected constitutional lawyers are of the opinion that intelligence agencies are not allowed to analyze metadata as they see fit. The agencies themselves, naturally, have a different view.

    It is clear, after all, that metadata also enables interesting conclusions to be drawn about the behavior of those under surveillance and their contacts, just as, in the analog world, the sender and recipient written on an envelope can also be revealing, even if the letter inside isn’t read. Those who know such data can identify communication networks and establish movement and behavioral profiles of individuals. Prior to 2013, Germany’s domestic intelligence agency was only able to analyze metadata by hand — and it was rarely done as a result. But that changed once the agency received XKeyscore. The version of the software obtained by the BfV is unable to collect data on the Internet itself, but it is able to rapidly analyze the huge quantities of metadata that the agency has already automatically collected. That is why XKeyscore is beneficial to the BfV. And, thanks to the deal, that benefit is one that extends to the NSA.

    In practice, it assumedly works as follows: When an Islamist who is under surveillance by the BfV regularly receives calls from Afghanistan, for example, then the telephone number is likely exactly the kind of information that is forwarded on to the NSA. That alone is not necessarily cause for concern; after all, combatting terrorism is the goal of intelligence agency cooperation. But nobody outside of the BfV knows whose data, and how much of it, is being shared with the NSA. Nobody can control the practicalities of the data exchange. And it is completely unclear where political responsibility lies.

    In 2013 alone, the BfV began 58 new G-10 measures and continued 46 others from the previous year. Who was targeted? What information was passed on to the NSA? Was information pertaining to German citizens also shared? When confronted with such questions, the BfV merely responded: “The BfV is unable to publicly comment on the particulars of the cooperation or on the numbers of data collection operations.”

    How important XKeyscore has become for the BfV can also be seen elsewhere. Not long ago, the website Netzpolitik.org published classified budget plans for 2013 which included the information that the BfV intended to create 75 new positions for the “mass data analysis of Internet content.” Seventy-five new positions is a significant amount for any government agency. A new division called 3C was to uncover movement profiles and contact networks and to process raw data collected during G-10 operations. The name XKeyscore does not appear in the documents published by Netzpolitik.org. But it is reasonable to suspect that the new division was established to deploy the new surveillance software.

    Germany’s domestic intelligence agency is itself also aware of just how sensitive its deal with the Americans is. Back in July 2012, a BfV division warned that even the tests undertaken with XKeyscore could have “far-reaching legal implications.” To determine the extent of the software’s capabilities, the division warned, employees would have to be involved who didn’t have the appropriate security clearance to view the data used in the tests. The BfV has declined to make a statement on how, or whether, the problem was solved.

    Germany’s data protection commissioner was apparently not informed. “I knew nothing about such an exchange deal,” says Peter Schaar, who was data protection commissioner at the time. “I am also hearing for the first time about a test with real data.” He says he first learned that BfV was using XKeyscore after he asked of his own accord in 2013 — in the wake of revelations about the program from whistleblower Edward Snowden.

    Schaar is of the opinion that the agency was obliged to inform him. Because real data was used during the tests, Schaar says, it constituted data processing. The BfV, by contrast, is of the opinion that the use of XKeyscore has to be controlled solely by the G-10 commission. It is a question that has long been the source of contention. In testimony before the parliamentary investigative committee that is investigating NSA activities in Germany, Schaar has demanded that the G-10 law be more clearly formulated to remove the ambiguity.

    The fact that the BfV recognized the problems with its NSA cooperation can be seen elsewhere in the files as well. During the negotiations over the XKeyscore deal, the BfV noted: “Certain NSA requests … cannot be met insofar as German law prevents it.” But the Americans insisted that the software finally be “used productively.” The NSA wants “working results,” the German agents noted. There is, they wrote, apparently “high internal pressure” to receive information from the Germans.

    Ultimately, the BfV arrived at the conclusion that transferring information obtained with the help of XKeyscore to the NSA was consistent with German law. Insights gathered by way of G-10 operations were already being “regularly” shared with “foreign partner agencies.” That, at least, is what the BfV declared to the German Interior Ministry in January 2014. Furthermore, the agency declared, a special legal expert would approve each data transfer.

    That, it seems, was enough oversight from the perspective of the BfV. The agency apparently only partially informed its parliamentarian overseers about the deal. The Parliamentary Control Panel learned that the BfV had received XKeyscore software and had begun using it. But even this very general briefing was only made after the panel had explicitly asked following the Snowden revelations. The deal between the intelligence agencies, says the Green Party parliamentarian Ströbele, “is undoubtedly an ‘occurrence of particular import,’ about which, according to German law, the German government must provide sufficient information of its own accord.” He intends to bring the issue before the Parliamentary Control Panel. The NSA investigative committee in German parliament will surely take a closer look as well.

    Translated by Charles Hawley
    Von Kai Biermann und Yassin Musharbash
    26. August 2015, 18:11 Uhr

    Find this story at 26 August 2015

    copyright http://www.zeit.de/

    An Attack on Press Freedom SPIEGEL Targeted by US Intelligence

    Van nieuwsblog.burojansen.nl

    Revelations from WikiLeaks published this week show how boundlessly and comprehensively American intelligence services spied on the German government. It has now emerged that the US also conducted surveillance against SPIEGEL.

    Walks during working hours aren’t the kind of pastime one would normally expect from a leading official in the German Chancellery. Especially not from the head of Department Six, the official inside Angela Merkel’s office responsible for coordinating Germany’s intelligence services.

    But in the summer of 2011, Günter Heiss found himself stretching his legs for professional reasons. The CIA’s station chief in Berlin had requested a private conversation with Heiss. And he didn’t want to meet in an office or follow standard protocol. Instead, he opted for the kind of clandestine meeting you might see in a spy film.

    Officially, the CIA man was accredited as a counsellor with the US Embassy, located next to Berlin’s historic Brandenburg Gate. Married to a European, he had already been stationed in Germany once before and knew how to communicate with German officials. At times he could be demanding and overbearing, but he could also be polite and courteous. During this summer walk he also had something tangible to offer Heiss.

    The CIA staffer revealed that a high-ranking Chancellery official allegedly maintained close contacts with the media and was sharing official information with reporters with SPIEGEL.

    The American provided the name of the staffer: Hans Josef Vorbeck, Heiss’ deputy in Department Six. The information must have made it clear to Heiss that the US was spying on the German government as well as the press that reports on it.

    The central Berlin stroll remained a secret for almost four years. The Chancellery quietly transferred Vorbeck, who had until then been responsible for counterterrorism, to another, less important department responsible dealing with the history of the BND federal intelligence agency. Other than that, though, it did nothing.

    Making a Farce of Rule of Law

    Officials in the Chancellery weren’t interested in how the CIA had obtained its alleged information. They didn’t care to find out how, and to which degree, they were being spied on by the United States. Nor were they interested in learning about the degree to which SPIEGEL was being snooped on by the Americans. Chancellery officials didn’t contact any of the people in question. They didn’t contact members of the Bundestag federal parliament sitting on the Parliamentary Control Panel, the group responsible for oversight of the intelligence services. They didn’t inform members of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, the agency responsible for counterintelligence in Germany, either. And they didn’t contact a single public prosecutor. Angela Merkel’s office, it turns out, simply made a farce of the rule of law.

    As a target of the surveillance, SPIEGEL has requested more information from the Chancellery. At the same time, the magazine filed a complaint on Friday with the Federal Public Prosecutor due to suspicion of intelligence agency activity.

    Because now, in the course of the proceedings of the parliamentary investigative committee probing the NSA’s activities in Germany in the wake of revelations leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden, details about the event that took place in the summer of 2011 are gradually leaking to the public. At the beginning of May, the mass-circulation tabloid Bild am Sonntag reported on a Chancellery official who had been sidelined “in the wake of evidence of alleged betrayal of secrets through US secret services.”

    Research conducted by SPIEGEL has determined the existence of CIA and NSA files filled with a large number of memos pertaining to the work of the German newsmagazine. And three different government sources in Berlin and Washington have independently confirmed that the CIA station chief in Berlin was referring specifically to Vorbeck’s contacts with SPIEGEL.

    An Operation Justified by Security Interests?

    Obama administration sources with knowledge of the operation said that it was justified by American security interests. The sources said US intelligence services had determined the existence of intensive contacts between SPIEGEL reporters and the German government and decided to intervene because those communications were viewed as damaging to the United States’ interests. The fact that the CIA and NSA were prepared to reveal an ongoing surveillance operation to the Chancellery underlines the importance they attached to the leaks, say sources in Washington. The NSA, the sources say, were aware that the German government would know from then on that the US was spying in Berlin.

    As more details emerge, it is becoming increasingly clear that representatives of the German government at best looked away as the Americans violated the law, and at worst supported them.

    Just last Thursday, Günter Heiss and his former supervisor, Merkel’s former Chief of Staff Ronald Pofalla, were questioned by the parliamentary investigative committee and attempted to explain the egregious activity. Heiss confirmed that tips had been given, but claimed they hadn’t been “concrete enough” for measures to be taken. When asked if he had been familiar with the issue, Pofalla answered, “Of course.” He said that anything else he provided had to be “in context,” at which point a representative of the Chancellery chimed in and pointed out that could only take place in a meeting behind closed doors.

    In that sense, the meeting of the investigative committee once again shed light on the extent to which the balance of power has shifted between the government and the Fourth Estate. Journalists, who scrutinize and criticize those who govern, are an elementary part of the “checks and balances” — an American invention — aimed at ensuring both transparency and accountability. When it comes to intelligence issues, however, it appears this system has been out of balance for some time.

    Government Lies

    When SPIEGEL first reported in Summer 2013 about the extent of NSA’s spying on Germany, German politicians first expressed shock and then a certain amount of indignation before quickly sliding back into their persona as a loyal ally. After only a short time and a complete lack of willingness on the part of the Americans to explain their actions, Pofalla declared that the “allegations are off the table.”

    But a number of reports published in recent months prove that, whether out of fear, outrage or an alleged lack of knowledge, it was all untrue. Everything the government said was a lie. As far back as 2013, the German government was in a position to suspect, if not to know outright, the obscene extent to which the United States was spying on an ally. If there hadn’t already been sufficient evidence of the depth of the Americans’ interest in what was happening in Berlin, Wednesday’s revelations by WikiLeaks, in cooperation with Süddeutsche Zeitung, filled in the gaps.

    SPIEGEL’s reporting has long been a thorn in the side of the US administration. In addition to its reporting on a number of other scandals, the magazine exposed the kidnapping of Murat Kurnaz, a man of Turkish origin raised in Bremen, Germany, and his rendition to Guantanamo. It exposed the story of Mohammed Haydar Zammar, who was taken to Syria, where he was tortured. The reports triggered the launch of a parliamentary investigative committee in Berlin to look also into the CIA’s practices.

    When SPIEGEL reported extensively on the events surrounding the arrest of three Islamist terrorists in the so-called “Sauerland cell” in Germany, as well as the roles played by the CIA and the NSA in foiling the group, the US government complained several times about the magazine. In December 2007, US intelligence coordinator Mike McConnell personally raised the issue during a visit to Berlin. And when SPIEGEL reported during the summer of 2009, under the headline “Codename Domino,” that a group of al-Qaida supporters was believed to be heading for Europe, officials at the CIA seethed. The sourcing included a number of security agencies and even a piece of information supplied by the Americans. At the time, the station chief for Germany’s BND intelligence service stationed in Washington was summoned to CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia.

    The situation escalated in August 2010 after SPIEGEL, together with WikiLeaks, the Guardian and the New York Times, began exposing classified US Army reports from Afghanistan. That was followed three months later with the publication of the Iraq war logs based on US Army reports. And in November of that year, WikiLeaks, SPIEGEL and several international media reported how the US government thinks internally about the rest of the world on the basis of classified State Department cables. Pentagon officials at the time declared that WikiLeaks had “blood on its hands.” The Justice Department opened an investigation and seized data from Twitter accounts, e-mail exchanges and personal data from activists connected with the whistleblowing platform. The government then set up a Task Force with the involvement of the CIA and NSA.

    Not even six months later, the CIA station chief requested to go on the walk in which he informed the intelligence coordinator about Vorbeck and harshly criticized SPIEGEL.

    Digital Snooping

    Not long later, a small circle inside the Chancellery began discussing how the CIA may have got ahold of the information. Essentially, two possibilities were conceivable: either through an informant or through surveillance of communications. But how likely is it that the CIA had managed to recruit a source in the Chancellery or on the editorial staff of SPIEGEL?

    The more likely answer, members of the circle concluded, was that the information must have been the product of “SigInt,” signals intelligence — in other words, wiretapped communications. It seems fitting that during the summer of 2013, just prior to the scandal surrounding Edward Snowden and the documents he exposed pertaining to NSA spying, German government employees warned several SPIEGEL journalists that the Americans were eavesdropping on them.

    At the end of June 2011, Heiss then flew to Washington. During a visit to CIA headquarters in Langley, the issue of the alleged contact with SPIEGEL was raised again. Chancellery staff noted the suspicion in a classified internal memo that explicitly names SPIEGEL.

    One of the great ironies of the story is that contact with the media was one of Vorbeck’s job responsibilities. He often took part in background discussions with journalists and even represented the Chancellery at public events. “I had contact with journalists and made no secret about it,” Vorbeck told SPIEGEL. “I even received them in my office in the Chancellery. That was a known fact.” He has since hired a lawyer.

    It remains unclear just who US intelligence originally had in its scopes. The question is also unlikely to be answered by the parliamentary investigative committee, because the US appears to have withheld this information from the Chancellery. Theoretically, at least, there are three possibilities: The Chancellery — at least in the person of Hans Josef Vorbeck. SPIEGEL journalists. Or blanket surveillance of Berlin’s entire government quarter. The NSA is capable of any of the three options. And it is important to note that each of these acts would represent a violation of German law.

    Weak Arguments

    So far, the Chancellery has barricaded itself behind the argument that the origin of the information had been too vague and abstract to act on. In addition, the tip had been given in confidentiality, meaning that neither Vorbeck nor SPIEGEL could be informed. But both are weak arguments, given that the CIA station chief’s allegations were directed precisely at SPIEGEL and Vorbeck and that the intelligence coordinator’s deputy would ultimately be sidelined as a result.

    And even if you follow the logic that the tip wasn’t concrete enough, there is still one committee to whom the case should have been presented under German law: the Bundestag’s Parliamentary Control Panel, whose proceedings are classified and which is responsible for oversight of Germany’s intelligence services. The nine members of parliament on the panel are required to be informed about all intelligence events of “considerable importance.”

    Members of parliament on the panel did indeed express considerable interest in the Vorbeck case. They learned in fall 2011 of his transfer, and wanted to know why “a reliable coordinator in the fight against terrorism would be shifted to a post like that, one who had delivered excellent work on the issue,” as then chairman of the panel, Social Demoratic Party politician Thomas Oppermann, criticized at the time.

    But no word was mentioned about the reasons behind the transfer during a Nov. 9, 2011 meeting of the panel. Not a single word about the walk taken by the CIA chief of station. Not a word about the business trip to Washington taken by Günter Heiss afterward. And not a word about Vorbeck’s alleged contacts with SPIEGEL. Instead, the parliamentarians were told a myth — that the move had been made necessary by cutbacks. And also because he was needed to work on an historical appraisal of Germany’s foreign intelligence agency, the BND.

    Deceiving Parliament

    Officials in the Chancellery had decided to deceive parliament about the issue. And for a long time, it looked as though they would get away with it.

    The appropriate way of dealing with the CIA’s incrimination would have been to transfer the case to the justice system. Public prosecutors would have been forced to follow up with two investigations: One to find out whether the CIA’s allegations against Vorbeck had been true — both to determine whether government secrets had been breached and out of the obligation to assist a longtime civil servant. It also would have had to probe suspicions that a foreign intelligence agency conducted espionage in the heart of the German capital.

    That could, and should, have been the case. Instead, the Chancellery decided to go down the path of deception, scheming with an ally, all the while interpreting words like friendship and partnership in a highly arbitrary and scrupulous way.

    Günter Heiss, who received the tip from the CIA station chief, is an experienced civil servant. In his earlier years, Heiss studied music. He would go on as a music instructor to teach a young Ursula von der Leyen (who is Germany’s defense minister today) how to play the piano. But then Heiss, a tall, slightly lanky man, switched professions and instead pursued a career in intelligence that would lead him to the top post in the Lower Saxony state branch of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution. Even back then, the Christian Democrat was already covering up the camera on his laptop screen with tape. At the very least “they” shouldn’t be able to see him, he said at the time, elaborating that the “they” he was referring to should not be interpreted as being the US intelligence services, but rather the other spies – “the Chinese” and, “in any case, the Russians.” For conservatives like Heiss, America, after all, is friendly territory.

    ‘Spying Among Friends Not Acceptable’

    If there was suspicion in the summer of 2011 that the NSA was spying on a staff member at the Chancellery, it should have set off alarm bells within the German security apparatus. Both the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, which is responsible for counter-intelligence, and the Federal Office for Information Security should have been informed so that they could intervene. There also should have been discussions between the government ministers and the chancellor in order to raise government awareness about the issue. And, going by the maxim the chancellor would formulate two years later, Merkel should have had a word with the Americans along the lines of “Spying among friends is not acceptable.”

    And against the media.

    If it is true that a foreign intelligence agency spied on journalists as they conducted their reporting in Germany and then informed the Chancellery about it, then these actions would place a huge question mark over the notion of a free press in this country. Germany’s highest court ruled in 2007 that press freedom is a “constituent part of a free and democratic order.” The court held that reporting can no longer be considered free if it entails a risk that journalists will be spied on during their reporting and that the federal government will be informed of the people they speak to.

    “Freedom of the press also offers protection from the intrusion of the state in the confidentiality of the editorial process as well as the relationship of confidentiality between the media and its informants,” the court wrote in its ruling. Freedom of the press also provides special protection to the “the secrecy of sources of information and the relationship of confidentiality between the press, including broadcasters, and the source.”

    Criminalizing Journalism

    But Karlsruhe isn’t Washington. And freedom of the press is not a value that gives American intelligence agencies pause. On the contrary, the Obama administration has gained a reputation for adamantly pursuing uncomfortable journalistic sources. It hasn’t even shied away from targeting American media giants.

    In spring 2013, it became known that the US Department of Justice mandated the monitoring of 100 telephone numbers belonging to the news agency Associated Press. Based on the connections that had been tapped, AP was able to determine that the government likely was interested in determining the identity of an important informant. The source had revealed to AP reporters details of a CIA operation pertaining to an alleged plot to blow up a commercial jet.

    The head of AP wasn’t the only one who found the mass surveillance of his employees to be an “unconstitutional act.” Even Republican Senators like John Boehner sharply criticized the government, pointing to press freedoms guaranteed by the Bill of Rights. “The First Amendment is first for a reason,” he said.

    But the Justice Department is unimpressed by such formulations. New York Times reporter James Risen, a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, was threatened with imprisonment for contempt of court in an effort to get him to turn over his sources — which he categorically refused to do for seven years. Ultimately, public pressure became too intense, leading Obama’s long-time Attorney General Eric Holder to announce last October that Risen would not be forced to testify.

    The Justice Department was even more aggressive in its pursuit of James Rosen, the Washington bureau chief for TV broadcaster Fox. In May 2013, it was revealed that his telephone was bugged, his emails were read and his visits to the State Department were monitored. To obtain the necessary warrants, the Justice Department had labeled Rosen a “criminal co-conspirator.”

    The strategy of criminalizing journalism has become something of a bad habit under Obama’s leadership, with his government pursuing non-traditional media, such as the whistleblower platform WikiLeaks, with particular aggression.

    Bradley Manning, who supplied WikiLeaks with perhaps its most important data dump, was placed in solitary confinement and tormented with torture-like methods, as the United Nations noted critically. Manning is currently undergoing a gender transition and now calls herself Chelsea. In 2013, a military court sentenced Manning, who, among other things, publicized war crimes committed by the US in Iraq, to 35 years in prison.

    In addition, a criminal investigation has been underway for at least the last five years into the platform’s operators, first and foremost its founder Julian Assange. For the past several years, a grand jury in Alexandria, Virginia has been working to determine if charges should be brought against the organization.

    Clandestine Proceedings

    The proceedings are hidden from the public, but the grand jury’s existence became apparent once it began to subpoena witnesses with connections to WikiLeaks and when the Justice Department sought to confiscate data belonging to people who worked with Assange. The US government, for example, demanded that Twitter hand over data pertaining to several people, including the Icelandic parliamentarian Brigitta Jonsdottir, who had worked with WikiLeaks on the production of a video. The short documentary is an exemplary piece of investigative journalism, showing how a group of civilians, including employees of the news agency Reuters, were shot and killed in Baghdad by an American Apache helicopter.

    Computer security expert Jacob Appelbaum, who occasionally freelances for SPIEGEL, was also affected at the time. Furthermore, just last week he received material from Google showing that the company too had been forced by the US government to hand over information about him – for the time period from November 2009 until today. The order would seem to indicate that investigators were particularly interested in Appelbaum’s role in the publication of diplomatic dispatches by WikiLeaks.

    Director of National Intelligence James Clapper has referred to journalists who worked with material provided by Edward Snowden has his “accomplices.” In the US, there are efforts underway to pass a law pertaining to so-called “media leaks.” Australia already passed one last year. Pursuant to the law, anyone who reveals details about secret service operations may be punished, including journalists.

    Worries over ‘Grave Loss of Trust’

    The German government isn’t too far from such positions either. That has become clear with its handling of the strictly classified list of “selectors,” which is held in the Chancellery. The list includes search terms that Germany’s foreign intelligence agency, the BND, used when monitoring telecommunications data on behalf of the NSA. The parliamentary investigative committee looking into NSA activity in Germany has thus far been denied access to the list. The Chancellery is concerned that allowing the committee to review the list could result in uncomfortable information making its way into the public.

    That’s something Berlin would like to prevent. Despite an unending series of indignities visited upon Germany by US intelligence agencies, the German government continues to believe that it has a “special” relationship with its partners in America — and is apparently afraid of nothing so much as losing this partnership.

    That, at least, seems to be the message of a five-page secret letter sent by Chancellery Chief of Staff Peter Altmaier, of Merkel’s Christian Democrats, to various parliamentary bodies charged with oversight. In the June 17 missive, Altmaier warns of a “grave loss of trust” should German lawmakers be given access to the list of NSA spying targets. Opposition parliamentarians have interpreted the letter as a “declaration of servility” to the US.

    Altmaier refers in the letter to a declaration issued by the BND on April 30. It notes that the spying targets passed on by the NSA since 2005 include “European political personalities, agencies in EU member states, especially ministries and EU institutions, and representations of certain companies.” On the basis of this declaration, Altmaier writes, “the investigative committee can undertake its own analysis, even without knowing the individual selectors.”

    Committee members have their doubts. They suspect that the BND already knew at the end of April what WikiLeaks has now released — with its revelations that the German Economics Ministry, Finance Ministry and Agriculture Ministry were all under the gaze of the NSA, among other targets. That would mean that the formulation in the BND declaration of April 30 was intentionally misleading. The Left Party and the Greens now intend to gain direct access to the selector list by way of a complaint to Germany’s Constitutional Court.

    The government in Berlin would like to prevent exactly that. The fact that the US and German intelligence agencies shared selectors is “not a matter of course. Rather, it is a procedure that requires, and indicates, a special degree of trust,” Almaier writes. Should the government simply hand over the lists, Washington would see that as a “profound violation of confidentiality requirements.” One could expect, he writes, that the “US side would significantly restrict its cooperation on security issues, because it would no longer see its German partners as sufficiently trustworthy.”

    Altmaier’s letter neglects to mention the myriad NSA violations committed against German interests, German citizens and German media.

    By SPIEGEL Staff
    07/03/2015 06:05 PM

    Find this story at 3 July 2015


    Code Blue: U.N. Accused of Giving Immunity to Peacekeepers Who Commit Sexual Abuse

    Van nieuwsblog.burojansen.nl

    The United Nations is coming under criticism for failing to investigate allegations of sexual exploitation of children by French peacekeeping troops in the Central African Republic between December 2013 and June 2014. The Guardian obtained a leaked report that says French soldiers raped and sodomized starving and homeless young boys who they were supposed to be protecting at a center for internally displaced people during intense fighting in the country. Even after the exploitation was brought to the attention of senior U.N. officials, the U.N. never reported it to French authorities — nor did it do anything to immediately stop the abuse. So far, the only person to be punished is a U.N. aid worker, Anders Kompass, who stepped outside official channels to alert French authorities about the sexual exploitation. Kompass has since been accused of leaking the confidential report in breach of U.N. protocols and now faces dismissal. We speak to Paula Donovan, co-director of AIDS-Free World, which has launched the Code Blue campaign.
    This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
    NERMEEN SHAIKH: The United Nations is coming under criticism for failing to investigate allegations of sexual exploitation of children by French peacekeeping troops in the Central African Republic between December 2013 and June 2014. The Guardian obtained a leaked report that says French soldiers raped and sodomized starving and homeless young boys who they were suppose to be protecting at a center for internally displaced people during intense fighting in the country. Even after the exploitation was brought to the attention of senior U.N. officials, the U.N. never reported it to French authorities, nor did it do anything to immediately stop the abuse. So far, the only person to be punished is a U.N. aid worker, Anders Kompass, who stepped outside official channels to alert French authorities to the sexual exploitation occurring. Kompass has since been accused of leaking a confidential report in breach of U.N. protocols and now faces dismissal.
    The Guardian obtained the leaked report from Paula Donovan, who will join us shortly. She and other activists have just launched a new campaign called Code Blue, which seeks to hold the United Nations accountable for sexual misconduct. Earlier this month, the group held a press conference to announce the campaign. This is Stephen Lewis of AIDS-Free World, followed by Theo Sowa of the African Women’s Development Fund and Ambassador Anwarul Chowdhury of Bangladesh.
    STEPHEN LEWIS: Never, but never, can sexual exploitation and abuse be subject to immunity. That’s the first step. The second step flows logically. Once the immunity is removed from non-military personnel, then the military will be under tremendous pressure to expunge sexual exploitation and abuse from their ranks.
    THEO SOWA: When the U.N. becomes the protectors of predators instead of the prosecutors of predators, that destroys me, because I believe in the U.N.
    AMBASSADOR ANWARUL CHOWDHURY: Transparency, I think, is the keyword here. We need to be open about how many such cases are there of sexual abuse and exploitation, which countries are involved in it, what they are doing, and how the cases now being sent by the U.N. to them are being handled.
    AMY GOODMAN: United Nations peacekeeping missions have long been dogged by allegations of sexual abuse, from the Democratic Republic of Congo to Kosovo to Bosnia, also Burundi, Haiti and Liberia. In March, the U.N. came under criticism for ignoring an internal report that called sexual exploitation, quote, “the most significant risk” to peacekeeping missions across the globe. The leaked document described a culture of “impunity” when dealing with sexual misconduct cases among U.N. peacekeepers, saying, quote, “UN personnel in all the missions we visited could point to numerous suspected or quite visible cases of [sexual exploitation and abuse] that are not being counted or investigated.”
    For more, we go to Boston, Massachusetts, where we are joined by Paula Donovan, co-director of AIDS-Free World, which has launched the Code Blue campaign.
    Paula Donovan, in the last two weeks, you’ve issued major findings. You first held a news conference at the U.N. and now released another report. Tell us what you have found.
    PAULA DONOVAN: What we’ve found overall, Amy, is that there is a tremendous amount of lip service given to the zero tolerance for sexual exploitation and abuse policy by the United Nations. And that really came to light over the past month or so, when we received leaked documents about this U.N. official, Anders Kompass, who was under fire, ostensibly for having leaked a document that demonstrated how serious, very serious, documented cases of the rape and sodomy of children, of young boys in the Central African Republic, had been known to the U.N., had been documented by the U.N., and had been completely ignored by them for eight months. And what it shows is that when the United Nations learns of these abuses, it seems to be that the first—the first response is to simply lie low and see whether or not they can get away with not reporting it to governments and not alerting the public about the danger, the imminent danger that they’re in, and just sort of maintaining almost a forensic view that “we’ll watch as these abuses go on and develop, and maybe record them, but we have no obligation to intervene.”
    And the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and UNICEF were taking these horrible testimonies from children, as the abuse was continuing, mainly by French soldiers, also by Equatorial Guinean and Chadian soldiers, and simply sitting on the reports for a month at a time, continuing to take these documented cases and testimonies from the children, and then eventually sending them on to Geneva to the headquarters of the human rights office, where only one person stepped up and said, “I need to alert the French right away and get an investigation started.” He’s now, months and months later, under review for having handed over the document with the information about the kids and the soldiers they described to the authorities who could—in France, who could take things into hand.
    NERMEEN SHAIKH: And how have the French authorities responded since this has come to light?
    PAULA DONOVAN: They have—initially, they opened an investigation, a preliminary investigation, in July of 2014, when Anders Kompass first handed the document over to them. It seems as though that was stalled almost immediately by the refusal of the United Nations to allow them to—to allow the police to talk to the people who had interviewed—the U.N. staff who had interviewed the children and could give them more information about their whereabouts and about the soldiers. Then there was a long period of silence, when no one appears to have done anything. And once AIDS-Free World exposed this to the media—and that was only on April 29th, 2015—then things kicked into gear, and the French have now taken up their investigation again in earnest.
    AMY GOODMAN: Paula Donovan, we only have about two minutes to go. You’re leading a campaign to get rid of immunity in the United Nations around sexual abuse and exploitation. Explain how the U.N. shields its own members from due process when they are accused of sexual assault.
    PAULA DONOVAN: Under an ancient convention from 1946, the U.N. staff are all protected from being involved in any sort of legal process. So whether they’re witnesses, whether they have evidence, whether they’re the perpetrators themselves, if it has to do with sexual exploitation and abuse, then the secretary-general has to, on a case-by-case basis, decide to waive their immunity and allow them to be subject to what the rest of the world is subject to—called in to testify, cooperating with a criminal investigation, or actually arrested, in the case of perpetrators. And this just infects the entire U.N. system, and the way they deal with sexual exploitation and abuse is such a sham that we’re essentially saying it needs an external, independent investigation from top to bottom.
    NERMEEN SHAIKH: And so, what do you think the U.N.—what kinds of internal changes are you calling for within the U.N. so that these allegations can be dealt with in a better way in the future?
    PAULA DONOVAN: I think—right, so as the Central African Republic case shows, serious member states of the United Nations have to take hold of things, and they need to move in and figure out: When an allegation of sexual abuse is first brought to light, what are the—what are the mandated protocols? How do we respond? And then, what do the various agencies and institutions within the entities within the U.N. have to do? Should UNICEF—and my answer is absolutely yes—should they have to move in immediately to protect—
    AMY GOODMAN: Five seconds.
    PAULA DONOVAN: —children from further abuse? The whole U.N. needs to be looked at from top to bottom by an external commission.
    AMY GOODMAN: Paula Donovan, thanks so much for being with us, co-director of AIDS-Free World, which has launched the Code Blue campaign, seeking to end sexual exploitation and abuse by U.N. military and non-military peacekeeping personnel.
    FRIDAY, MAY 29, 2015
    Find this story at 29 May 2015


    Van nieuwsblog.burojansen.nl

    On April 29, 2015, the world learned of disturbing accounts of sexual abuse of young boys by French, Chadian, and Equatorial Guinean peacekeepers at a displaced persons camp in the Central African Republic (CAR). The interviews, which had been conducted nearly a year earlier by staff from the UN’s Office of the High Commission for Human Rights and UNICEF, were leaked to the Guardian newspaper by AIDS-Free World. The resulting article also detailed the account of Anders Kompass, a career human rights official from Sweden, who had been suspended and was being investigated by the UN for his role in passing details of the abuse to the French government.
    For the past month, Anders Kompass has remained silent on his role in this affair, even as the UN publicly blamed him for ‘leaking’ the report. AIDS-Free World has since obtained and is releasing today a series of incriminating internal UN documents, memos and email correspondence—including Kompass’ own account of the events—that expose the UN’s inaction. They also point to efforts by several senior UN officials to silence a staff member who could expose their failure to sound the alarm or protect children from imminent harm.
    This is the untold story.
    In early May of 2014, an international NGO requested help from MINUSCA, the UN’s peacekeeping mission in the Central African Republic: several displaced children in the capital, Bangui, had reported that they and their friends were being raped by international forces in exchange for food.
    On May 19, 2014, a junior OHCHR Human Rights Officer on temporary assignment with MINUSCA and a UNICEF staff member conducted an interview with an 11-year-old boy. The child reported that a French soldier promised him food in exchange for oral sex, negotiated with a guard to bring him onto the base, raped him, and then gave him biscuits and cash. The boy gave a detailed description of the soldier and said he could positively identify him in a photo.
    The human rights officer ‘immediately’ relayed her interview notes to a MINUSCA official who acted as her supervisor in the Central African Republic. By all accounts, Renner Onana, Chief of Human Rights and Justice, did not take action: No warning was sent out to soldiers, no effort was made to inform the French or other authorities, nothing was done to prevent ongoing abuse, no alert was issued to the tens of thousands of internally displaced adults in the camp that sexual predators were disguised as protectors and posed imminent danger to children and other civilians. There is no record that on May 19th, 2014 that first child interviewed was offered the immediate protection he required.
    Over the next five weeks, the Human Rights Officer and UNICEF staff members interviewed multiple known child victims as they were tracked down by a volunteer for the NGO that had requested the UN’s assistance. Several child victims known to the volunteer couldn’t be located. After each interview—on May 19th, May 20th, June 5th, June 17th, June 18th, and June 24th—the OHCHR human rights officer delivered her notes to MINUSCA; the UNICEF staff members wrote up their own notes of forced oral sex and anal rape of boys aged 8 to 15—and still no action was taken.
    During the June 18th interview, a 13-year-old boy said he couldn’t number all the times he’d been forced to perform oral sex on soldiers but the most recent had been between June 8th and 12th, 2014—several weeks after the UN’s first interview. Even with solid proof that the crimes were still occurring as they gathered additional testimonies from children, MINUSCA, OHCHR, and UNICEF took no action. (UNICEF is cited in the human rights officer’s reports as having plans to attend to the interviewees’ education, family reunification, and psycho-social needs. UNICEF spokespeople have since been directed, ‘if asked,’ to state that those needs were met. No specifics are included about which children received assistance, or how many in total.)
    Leaked documents show that additional UN officials in MINUSCA, Geneva, and New York received the human rights officer’s official final report of interviews with child victims before her departure from CAR, on July 14th, 2014. It is not known which UNICEF officials received final reports. In total, the interviews document sexual abuse of 13 children by a total of 16 peacekeepers: 11 were French, 3 were from Chad, and 2 were from Equatorial Guinea. Another 7 peacekeepers solicited children or acted as accomplices. The report implicates 23 soldiers in all.
    By agreeing to be interviewed by the UN, the children expected the abuse to stop and the perpetrators to be arrested. When children report sexual abuse, adults must report it to the authorities. A child needs protection and, by definition, does not have the agency to decide whether to press charges. They deserved the protection they assumed they would receive once the UN knew of their abuse.
    Instead, more than a year passed before their stories came to light, and the investigations began in earnest.
    By mid-July 2014, at least 12 UN staff had received the human rights officer’s report. All were aware that no action had been taken, no authorities had been alerted, and the abuse was ongoing. One of the 12 recipients, Roberto Ricci, brought the report directly to the attention of his supervisor in Geneva, Anders Kompass. It was then that Mr. Kompass informed French diplomatic authorities, who requested a copy of the report in order to launch an investigation. Kompass delivered the report to the French authorities in July with a written and signed cover note and received written acknowledgement and thanks on July 30th from the French government, informing him that an investigation was underway. That official letter was stamped as received on August 5th and entered into the OHCHR correspondence log.
    French investigators arrived in CAR’s capital, Bangui, on August 1st and questioned Renner Onana, MINUSCA’s Chief of Human Rights and Justice—the official who had received a summary report from the Human Rights Officer after each interview. The investigators were referred by MINUSCA to the Human Rights Officer, who asked first Renner Onana, and then Cecile Aptel, OHCHR’s Senior Legal Advisor, about whether to speak to the police. After consultation with the Office of Legal Affairs in New York, Aptel instructed her to reply to the French authorities that they should present any questions in writing through UN lawyers; the legal office would convey written answers.
    The Human Rights Officer’s UN immunity from legal process had been invoked. The UNICEF staff members who had taken part in the interviews were similarly approached by French investigators. They too referred investigators to the Office of Legal Affairs.
    The French investigation stalled.
    Anders Kompass. UN Photo/ Violaine Martin
    Anders Kompass. UN Photo/ Violaine Martin
    On August 7th, 2014, Anders Kompass briefed OHCHR Deputy High Commissioner Flavia Pansieri and emailed the report to her on August 8th. The Deputy High Commissioner’s assistant, acknowledging receipt, informed Mr. Kompass by email that same day that the Executive Office of the Secretary-General had been briefed.
    Despite Kompass’ definitive assertion and reference to an August 8th email, Pansieri testified in her official account of events—submitted months later to ‘inform’ the investigation into Kompass’ actions—that she first “became aware of the situation some time in early fall, most probably September 2014 (I regret I do no[t] recall the exact date)” through Cecile Aptel, in the context of a leak. Pansieri expressed regrets for having failed to follow up once she learned about the abuses in CAR, (citing a ‘very hectic’ period dealing with budget cuts and the inherent staff tensions and stresses), and attests that her attention was only turned to it again many months later, in early March 2015.
    In his statement to the UN’s Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS), UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein also claims to have learned about the allegations of sexual abuse in CAR in “Autumn of 2014,” shortly after he took over the post.
    Around the same time, OHCHR formally requested that the UN’s Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) investigate Anders Kompass regarding ‘leaked cables’ in an incident involving Western Sahara.
    On December 22, 2014, just before the UN offices closed for the holiday break, the Secretary-General submitted the final report of the International Commission of Inquiry on the Central African Republic (S/2014/928). While the commission did not reference the MINUSCA/OHCHR/UNICEF report of abuse by international peacekeepers, it did provide a very specific recommendation: “The Secretary-General’s periodic reports on peacekeeping operations in the CAR should include an analysis of any violations that are alleged to have been committed by both UN peace-keepers and non-UN peacekeepers authorized by the Security Council.”
    Three months later, when the Secretary-General submitted his annual report on the UN’s response to sexual exploitation and abuse for 2014, it contained no mention whatsoever of the reports of child sexual abuse in the Central African Republic.
    In early March 2015, High Commissioner Zeid learned informally from UN Chef de Cabinet Susanna Malcorra that Anders Kompass had been cleared of wrongdoing in the Western Sahara case because the investigation “could not substantiate any responsibility for Kompass.”
    On March 6th, a full eight months after she’d last heard any news about the CAR case, the Human Rights Officer who had interviewed the child victims spoke with two senior OHCHR lawyers. They questioned her about her report and her assignment in CAR, and then they briefed both Zeid and his deputy, Flavia Pansieri.
    On March 12th, on Zeid’s orders and at the request of UN Peacekeeping head Hervé Ladsous, Deputy High Commissioner Flavia Pansieri asked Anders Kompass to resign.
    In demanding Kompass’ resignation, the UN made a grave tactical error: a career human rights official from Sweden, Kompass was so trusted that he’d been put in charge of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) just weeks before his abrupt dismissal, when the High Commissioner and Deputy High Commissioner were both absent from the office. The sudden move to terminate him stunned Kompass; the reasons given outraged him. He was being accused of having inappropriately alerted the government of France, nearly a year earlier, to the discovery by OHCHR and UNICEF staff of rampant child sex abuse by French soldiers who’d been sent to protect civilians in the war-ravaged Central African Republic.
    Kompass refused to resign, and he threatened to go to the press.
    On March 13th, Pansieri briefed High Commissioner Zeid about her interaction with Kompass. Zeid decided that the situation was serious and that they should brief Chef de Cabinet Susanna Malcorra and “other senior colleagues” in person.
    High Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein. Photo: UN Photo/Violaine Martin
    High Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein. Photo: UN Photo/Violaine Martin
    The following week, at the Secretary-General’s Senior Staff Retreat in Turin, Italy on March 19-20, 2015, Chef de Cabinet Susanna Malcorra arranged a meeting between Zeid, Deputy High Commissioner Flavia Pansieri, Under-Secretary-General (USG) for OIOS Carman Lapointe, and the UN’s Director of Ethics, Joan Dubinsky, to discuss Anders Kompass.
    At the meeting, these senior UN officials decided to open an investigation into Kompass—a fact made even more striking by the knowledge that OIOS and the UN Ethics Office are meant to operate at arm’s-length from the rest of the UN system, in order to ensure accountability and transparency.
    The High Commissioner for Human Rights, the Deputy High Commissioner, and the most senior officials of the UN in New York had known for many, many months about Kompass’ ‘inappropriate’ emergency transmittal of a report documenting the child abuse. And they knew that it was only thanks to his transmission of that report to the government of France that the French had immediately reacted and sent an investigation team to the CAR.
    With the High Commissioner’s ill-considered demand that Kompass resign, and Kompass’ unexpected refusal to do so, the UN’s most senior officials were finally forced to pay long-overdue attention to the contents of the document they were claiming he had leaked. That was enough to instill panic: clearly, they had all ignored and neglected the appalling crisis it described. If their negligence became public, the UN would face questions for which there were no reasonable answers.
    In Turin, it was decided that Zeid and Pansieri would collect statements from a select group and would send them on with a request for a formal OIOS investigation. Pansieri asked Kompass to write an account of his role in passing documents to the French and suggested he send it to her at her personal email account, rather than her UN account. When Kompass gave his statement, he was not informed that it was intended to be used as part of an investigation against him.
    On April 7th, the Deputy Swedish Ambassador to the UN called Chef de Cabinet Susanna Malcorra. Unable to reach her, he called Joan Dubinsky, Director of the UN Ethics Office. He told her he was informed about an OHCHR report about paedophilia alleged against French soldiers in MINUSCA. Furious that Kompass had been asked to resign without any trace of an investigation or due diligence, he warned that “it would not be a good thing if the High Commissioner for Human Rights forced Mr. Kompass to resign. If that occurred, it would go public, and a harmful and ugly debate would occur.”
    Following the initial meeting in Turin, the group continued corresponding via email about an investigation into Kompass. Two weeks later, on April 9, 2015, Zeid formally requested an OIOS investigation into Kompass for his ‘leak’ of the report of sexual abuse in the Central African Republic.
    Attached to the High Commissioner’s official request for an investigation into Kompass’ actions are six statements: a statement from Anders Kompass, the subject of the investigation; a long and a short statement from the Human Rights Officer who conducted the interviews; a statement from High Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein; a statement from Deputy High Commissioner Flavia Pansieri; and a joint statement from two OHCHR lawyers recounting their conversation with the Human Rights Officer about her request from the French investigators and the fact that the request had immediately been turned over to the UN Office of Legal Affairs. The request for investigation and the statements were sent together as one package, first to the Director of Ethics, then to OIOS.
    The statements conflict dramatically, with one exception: throughout the period when the abuse of African children first came to the attention of numbers of people within the UN, senior officials who were informed seem to have kept no records of meetings or discussions, and recollections are vague. The child victims receive no mention in the statements, nor are there any expressions of concern or curiosity about their welfare. No one providing testimony claims to have inquired about the status of any investigations, about any protection measures enacted, or about any tracing, prevention or support provided to child victims; those omissions are neither noted nor explained. The sole focus of concerted attention is on the alleged ‘leak’ by Anders Kompass.
    During the week of April 13, 2015, a month after his refusal to resign, Kompass was suspended with pay and escorted from his office. He challenged OHCHR’s actions against him before the UN’s Dispute Tribunal; a judge subsequently found in his favor and demanded his reinstatement—pending the outcome of the investigation that is now under way.
    The Director of the Investigations Unit in the Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS), who would normally oversee such a case, recused himself from involvement in the investigation. He had protested in writing to his supervisor, OIOS USG Carman Lapointe, that a decision had been made at the highest levels to investigate Kompass, that the requisite intake process to first determine whether an investigation was warranted had been bypassed, that due process had been abridged, and because of this, any investigation would be prejudiced and improper. The USG for OIOS replied that while she agreed that such processes are usual, the senior management had decided to bypass these processes, and the Director of the Investigative Unit should abide by senior staff’s wishes. She wrote, “Agreed; however in this case I have decided.”
    When questioned by Member States in mid-May about why her Director of Investigations had recused himself from the investigation of Kompass, OIOS Under-Secretary-General Lapointe responded that she did not know why.
    Since the Guardian reported on the information provided by AIDS-Free World, the High Commissioner, his spokesperson, a UNICEF spokesperson, the Secretary-General’s spokespersons, and officials from Peacekeeping have addressed the media. There is ample reason for Member States to question the answers given.
    UNICEF statements regarding the agency’s involvement in the interviews raise grave questions about UNICEF protocols and mandatory disclosure regulations when dealing directly with children in general, and with child victims of sexual abuse in particular. The fact that a child victim of sex abuse by soldiers still at-large was interviewed in the MINUSCA offices, ushered past military and civilian peacekeepers—many of whom could have been perpetrators, their accomplices, or friends—raises critically important questions about the training and skills of all involved. Also of concern is the fact that there appear to have been no ‘mandated disclosure’ guidelines for OHCHR or UNICEF staff, making clear the obligation to report, without delay, any allegations or suspicions of child sexual abuse to law enforcement authorities. The interviewing also raises questions about whether protocols exist regarding the interviewing, by UNICEF and OHCHR staff, of minors who are unaccompanied by an appropriate adult and whose legal parents or guardians may not have consented to the interview.
    The investigation is currently underway to determine whether Kompass is guilty of any wrongdoing. Susana Malcorra, who occupies one of the most powerful positions in the UN system as Chef de Cabinet for the Secretary-General, is publicly stating to governments and the media that Kompass is being investigated because he is guilty of wrongdoing. This suggests a pre-determined, inevitable outcome of the investigation and calls into question the judgment of the Chef de Cabinet regarding public statements. More seriously still, it should cause Member States to wonder whether the entire system of adjudication in the UN has become a kangaroo court.
    The account above, the leaked documents linked to it, and the strong implications of misconduct and impunity at the very highest levels of the UN may come as a shock to many readers. The grim reality is that those with experience within the UN system are unlikely to be surprised. They know that this is not an unusual case; it is simply one that has come, partially, to light. For those of us who are staunch believers in the UN’s critical purpose and noble ideals, this case is deeply troubling because it is not unique. It is part of a continuing and disturbing pattern afflicting and endangering the entire UN system. That pattern is never more overtly on display than in the UN’s handling of sexual exploitation and abuse. The starkest miscarriages of justice and disregard for victims of UN sexual abuse occur within peacekeeping operations.
    The UN secretariat exists to serve the collective interest of the world’s governments, to uphold their highest standards, and to implement their agreed actions.
    Today, those Member States are balanced on a precipice, in imminent danger of losing all control over a UN secretariat that acts without discretion, without governments’ full knowledge, with no real oversight, and with increasing levels of impunity.
    Member States must commission an external investigation into the whole UN system, at every level, in headquarters and country offices, to review all components related to sexual exploitation and abuse in peacekeeping, the UN’s most costly undertaking. Investigating this CAR case is critically important, but insufficient; the external investigation must focus on the handling by the UN system of sexual exploitation and abuse allegations in all peacekeeping operations. That investigation must comprise—and be administratively supported by—entirely external, totally independent, impartial experts, with no past or current conflicts of interests, and no future interests that would hamper their ability to judge, critique, demand accountability, and recommend harsh sanctions if and where necessary.
    This account raises the tragic spectre of countless children in the Central African Republic who will be scarred for life by sexual abuse. They were betrayed when they disclosed to the UN, and it failed to protect them. In the life of a 9- or 12-year-old, a year waiting for protection from an abuser is an eternity. In the life of a serial rapist, a year provides countless opportunities to abuse and exploit more children and become more practiced at escaping detection.
    The events and their gross mishandling have done tremendous damage to civilians, and to the UN’s reputation and credibility. They call into question the top leadership, while casting a dark shadow on the many thousands of principled, hard-working UN staff who report to them.
    If these dreadful revelations aren’t enough to press Member States to initiate an external investigation and take back control of the United Nations, nothing will.
    POSTSCRIPT: On June 3, 2015, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced plans for an external independent review to examine events following the sexual abuse of children in the Central African Republic. AIDS-Free World welcomed the UN’s response and issued the following statement:
    The announcement from the Secretary-General today of plans for an external, independent review to examine events following the sexual abuse of children in the Central African Republic is to be welcomed. It responds to one of the urgent demands that AIDS-Free World has been making over the last several weeks, and since we launched our Code Blue campaign.
    The Secretary-General has three challenges.
    First, this must be a truly external and independent inquiry. No member of existing UN staff should be appointed to investigate nor to act as the investigators’ secretariat.
    Second, it must be understood that top members of the Secretary-General’s own staff will have to be subject to investigation. This must go right up to the level of Under-Secretaries General. No one can be excluded, whether the Director of the Ethics Office or the USG of the Office of Internal Oversight Services or the Secretary-General’s own Chef de Cabinet. It would appear that all of them and more acted inappropriately in response to the dreadful events in CAR.
    Third, the reference in the Secretary-General’s announcement of a review to ‘the broad range of systemic issues’ is crucial to the inquiry. What happened in the Central African Republic was an atrocity, but the fact that the UN stood silent for nearly a year after its own discovery of widespread peacekeeper sexual abuse (even if by non-UN troops) is itself a bitter commentary on the Secretary-General’s declared policy of ‘zero tolerance’.
    If Mr. Ban Ki-moon and Member States want to rescue zero tolerance, they must cleanse the UN system of negligence and misconduct once and for all.
    May 29, 2015
    Editor’s note: For the full list of internal UN documents leaked to AIDS-Free World, visit: www.codebluecampaign.com/undocuments
    Download the PDF version of the statement here.
    Find this story at 29 May 2015

    The officer who saw behind the top-secret curtain

    Van nieuwsblog.burojansen.nl

    From supporting Yemeni Royalists to a proposal for the assassination Iran’s Khomenei, former military intelligence officer Yossi Alpher had a behind-the-scenes look at some of the IDF’s most classified operations; now he explains the covert strategies that guided Israeli intelligence for decades.

    In the mid-1960s, Lieutenant Yossi Alpher served as a junior officer in one of the Israel Defense Forces’ most classified units – the Military Intelligence unit responsible for liaising with Israel’s other intelligence bodies, the Shin Bet security service and the Mossad.

    He was entrusted with a secret task: “I had to go under the cover of darkness to the Israel Air Forces’ Tel-Nof base,” he recalls during an interview, “and meticulously check through huge piles of military equipment, and weapons and ammunition in particular, to ensure they bore no distinguishing Israeli marks – no IDF symbol, no Hebrew letters, nothing that would be able to link the equipment to us even if someone were to go through it with a fine-tooth comb.”

    On completing his inspection, Alpher signed off on a document to confirm that everything was in order, and the equipment and weapons were then loaded onto an IAF cargo aircraft and flown to a destination that only very few in Israel knew of. Even the name of the operation, Rotev (Hebrew for gravy) was top secret.

    In those days, as is the case now too, Yemen was embroiled in a fierce civil war – between the Royalists (the Shia Zaidis, the Houthis of today) and the so-called Republican rebels, who were being supported by Egypt and the Soviets. Back then in the mid-1960s, however, the Royalists had the backing in fact of Saudi Arabia.

    “The Saudis didn’t care that they were Shia, whose descendants are the ones supporting Iran today,” Alpher says. “It was important for them to preserve their influence in Yemen and oppose the Soviet-Egyptian intervention.”

    The Saudis turned for help to Britain, where former members of the Special Air Service (SAS) – the elite British army unit- were recruited for the mission. Operating out of their headquarters in London and bases in Aden, Yemen, the SAS veterans sought help in turn from Israel, the strongest power in the region and Egypt’s main enemy.

    At the same time, a representative of Imam al-Badr, leader of the Royalists in Yemen, made direct contact with Mossad operatives in Europe and was even brought to Israel for a visit. The operation was conducted over a period of slightly more than two years, during which an IAF Stratocruiser cargo aircraft made 14 dangerous nighttime sorties from Tel-Nof to Yemen – a 14-hour round trip. From an altitude of some 3,600 meters, Egyptian weapons seized during the 1956 Sinai Campaign were accurately parachuted into wadis surrounded by high mountains controlled by the Royalists.

    Alpher says that in order to carry out the initial parachute drops in the proper fashion, and to ensure that the equipment ended up in the right place and right hands, two members of Caesarea, the Mossad’s special-operations division, were sent to Yemen in coordination with the British intelligence services. One of the Caesarea operatives fell ill on the way and was forced to pull out. The second made it to the drop site and guided the aircraft in for the initial deliveries.

    Once everything was running smoothly, the Mossad stepped back and the logistics of the remaining drops were handled by the British. Even now, years later, it’s easy to grasp the intensity of the drama, the risk, the secrecy and the significance of the Israeli-British-Saudi-Yemeni operation of that time.

    The operation was coordinated in Israel by Nahum Admoni, who went on to become Mossad chief from 1982 to 1989; the British, for their part, sent two senior SAS members to Israel, one by the name of the Gene and the other Tony – and hence the unofficial codename for the operation, “Gin and Tonic”.

    Alpher: “Presumably, only a very few in Saudi Arabia knew of Israel’s involvement. The Yemenis didn’t know who was parachuting equipment to them, but it had a big impact on the war there and the damage caused to the rebels and the Egyptian forces.”

    What was the objective of the operation from Israel’s perspective?

    “The main objective was to pin down and wear out Egyptian forces. We’re talking about the period between the Sinai Campaign and the Six-Day War. We knew there was another war coming. We also knew that the Egyptians were using mustard gas in Yemen. That frightened us a great deal. We were concerned that we would struggle to cope with such an army and such a weapon in the next military campaign.

    “And lo and behold, we were presented with the opportunity to strike at them and wear them down in a place where they least expected us to appear. In addition, we ended up with some intelligence from the Mossad’s activities in Yemen and better relations with the British and the Saudis. Not bad, right? Moreover, we didn’t invest all that much; the weapons were Egyptian spoils-of-war that fell into our hands in the 1956 war.”

    The operation was going ahead so successfully that at one stage the IAF considered carrying out an attack on Egyptian aircraft stationed at their bases in Yemen, as an act of deterrence that would damage the reputation of then-Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser. The plan was eventually scrapped.

    “And good that it was,” Alpher says, “because it allowed us to notch up a complete surprise later on, when the IAF carried out strikes on the Egyptian aircraft at their bases in Egypt on the morning of June 5, 1967.”

    That said, Alpher believes that the operation can be crowned a big success, as it pinned down Egyptian forces in Yemen and severely undermined the fighting spirit of the Egyptian Army ahead of the Six-Day War. “We learned from prisoners we captured in the Sinai,” he says, “just how much the events in Yemen negatively impacted the mood and readiness of the Egyptian Army.”

    The full extent of Operation Rotev, from the mouths of Israeli sources, has been released for publication and appears for the first time in Alpher’s book, Periphery: Israel’s Search for Middle East Allies (Rowman & Littlefield, 2015; the Hebrew edition has a slightly different title).

    A long-serving Mossad official who went on to head the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University, Alpher has written a comprehensive study, in part as an active player with firsthand knowledge, and in part based on interviews he conducted and documents he collected about the “Periphery doctrine” – Israel’s covert strategy in the region, with the Mossad operations at its center.

    The general strategy of the “Periphery doctrine” was devised by Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion. Its implementation was entrusted initially to the Mossad’s founder and first director, Reuven Shiloah, and then the Mossad chiefs to follow.

    What is the so-called Periphery doctrine?

    “It was the Israeli attempt to breach the hostile Arab ring surrounding us and to forge ties further afield, with the purpose of creating deterrence, acquiring intelligence assets, and counterbalancing the Arab hostility.

    “Nasser spoke regularly of his desire to throw the Jews into the sea. The Mossad looked for allies to offset this desire and be able to say: We’re not alone. At the same time, we took advantage of these ties to gather intelligence about Arab states, in places where they least expected us to show up, to pin down and wear down Arab forces there, and to use our ties with countries in the region as an asset to present to the Americans.”

    With this strategy in mind, the Mossad sought to forge intimate intelligence ties with countries bordering on Israel’s close-quarter enemies, even if the said countries publicly toed the line with the Arab states and condemned Israel in the international arena. Israelis gathered and obtained intelligence on Arab countries in the outlying countries with which secret ties were established; and in return, Israel provided training services, information, arms and sophisticated electronic equipment.

    Alpher divides the periphery, from the Mossad’s perspective, into three categories. Included in the first were the non-Arab and/or non-Muslim states that bordered on the Arab conflict states – Iran, Ethiopia, Turkey, Eritrea, and Kenya and Uganda at the rear.

    The second comprised non-Arab and non-Muslim ethnic groups and peoples living in the Arab conflict states – the Christians in southern Sudan and in Lebanon, and the Kurds in Iraq. And the third category was made up of Arab countries on the margins of the Middle East that felt that militant Arab nationalism was a threat to them or wanted ties with Israel in light of local or regional circumstances – Morocco, some of the Gulf States, and, for a short time, Yemen.

    Alpher also talks of the ideological element that drove the system. “There were certainly instances, particularly when it came to providing help to minorities suffering at the hands of the Arabs, in which there was also an ideological component,” he says. “I remember my colleagues and I at the Mossad seeing ourselves, the Jews, as the only ethnic minority in the Middle East that has achieved self-determination and that needs to help other ethnic minorities that are up against imperialistic and extremely cruel Arab hostility. We felt a moral obligation to help them.

    “When (Mossad official) David Kimche, for example, went to meet Kurdish leader Mullah Mustafa Barzani in Iraq in 1965, what did he see? What did he encounter? Dave saw an extremely downtrodden people who were suffering terribly under shocking Arab oppression. You cannot help but identify with them.”

    Israel’s covert military and intelligence activities throughout the entire Middle East region were carried out for the most part by small forces and on a shoestring budget, in keeping with the country’s limited resources, and the jury is still out when it comes to the quality of the intelligence gathered; but as Alpher views things, these issues are dwarfed by the manner in which the Mossad’s activities were perceived by the other side. In the eyes of the enemy, the Arab states, the Mossad’s influence and capabilities increased beyond measure.

    “In talks years later with Arab officials,” Alpher says, “I got an understanding of how the other side had viewed the whole issue. They saw our presence in those countries as an extremely powerful and direct threat to themselves. Thus, for example, they viewed our presence in southern Sudan and Ethiopia as a direct threat to the source of the Nile River.

    “Israel never considered tampering with the Nile, and it’s impossible to do so from an engineering perspective too; but the Egyptians didn’t see it like that, and they interpreted the fact that the IDF and Mossad were so close to their lifeline very differently – as an Israeli attempt to say to them that we are breathing down their necks. And thus it contributed to peace: They understood that they wouldn’t be able to defeat us by means of an armed conflict.”

    The Trident alliance
    The highpoint of the “Periphery doctrine” was the tripartite intelligence pact involving Israel, Turkey and Iran – known in the Mossad as C’lil but termed Trident among the partners. The Turkish-Israeli part of the pact was sealed during a secret agreement in Ankara on August 20, 1958, between Ben-Gurion and the Turkish prime minister at the time, Adnan Menderes.

    The catalyst for the Turks occurred a month earlier: In July, a coup d’etat led by Abd al-Karim Qasim toppled the Hashemite monarchy in Iraq and brought about Iraq’s withdrawal from the Central Treaty Organization (CENTO) – a secret pro-Western alliance formed in 1955 between the United Kingdom, Turkey, Pakistan, Iran and Iraq – and its inclusion in the pro-Soviet radical camp.

    “At the first trilateral meeting between the sides that took place in Turkey in late September and early October of 1958,” Alpher reveals, “the participants – all heads of their respective countries’ spy agencies – decided on a series of joint intelligence operations that included subversive activities directed against Nasser’s influence and the influence of the Soviets. They divided the region into realms of responsibility for each of the parties. The Iranian intelligence service, for example, was entrusted with the Persian Gulf, Iraq and Morocco.”

    The American dimension was critical too. “As soon as we completed the establishment of Trident, we ran to tell the Americans about it,” Alpher says. “We bragged; look, we’ve put together a NATO pact of our own. To begin with, Ben-Gurion marketed Trident to the Eisenhower administration in Washington as an asset for the West.

    “He portrayed the alliance as an effective means to thwart Soviet infiltration into the Middle East, and also as a counterbalance against the radical Arab states, especially after Iraq’s withdrawal from the Baghdad Pact.”

    The Central Intelligence Agency didn’t remain indifferent. On a deserted hill north of Tel Aviv, the US agency financed the construction of a two-story building intended to serve as Trident headquarters. “The ground floor included a ‘Blue Wing’ for the use of the Iranians and a ‘Yellow Wing’ for the Turks, with the conference rooms on the second floor,” Alpher recalls.

    Later came accommodation facilities, a fully equipped kitchen, a swimming pool, a plush movie theater and a gym – all for the purpose of secretly hosting high-ranking foreign officials in style, in keeping at least with what Israel could offer and afford at the time. “Bobby, an excellent chef, served non-kosher Hungarian food and the guests were very satisfied,” Alpher notes.

    From the late 1950s and through to the Khomeini revolution in 1979, the meetings between the heads of the three intelligence services were held in a different country every time. Alpher attended some of the sessions. “Every meeting would begin with a festive reception that was followed by a ceremonial meeting in the presence of the heads of the services themselves,” Alpher recounts.

    “I remember the excitement that gripped me when I arrived for my first meeting and was introduced to General Nassiri, the awe-inspiring commander of the SAVAK, the shah’s intelligence agency. He showed up in uniform, surrounded by an aura of fear and mystery.

    “At the initial meetings, the heads (of the intelligence agencies) would first present their notes and papers that included matters of principle, and then the participants would break away into discussion groups in which intelligence and ideas were exchanged. It was a huge achievement for Israel, less so because of the quality of the intelligence presented – our capabilities were usually a lot higher – and more so due to the very existence of such an alliance under Israeli auspices.”

    At the same time, in 1959, Israeli and Turkish military leaders – with Israel represented by then-chief of staff Haim Laskov – met in Istanbul to plan a joint military campaign against Syria. The joint operation didn’t materialize, but cooperation between the parties grew ever stronger.

    Over and above the trilateral meetings that took place twice a year, the alliance also involved the exchange of intelligence on an almost-daily basis. “As a Military Intelligence officer, I remember we used to receive daily reports on the passage of Soviet vessels through the Dardanelles Strait,” Alpher says. “This was of dual importance – firstly, it was information about Soviet supplies to the Arab states; and secondly, it was information we could share with the CIA.”

    The Iran-Israel cooperation was even more active: Jews who had fled Iraq for Iran via the Kurdish region in northern Iraq went on from there to Israel; IDF officers trained Iranian forces and Israel sold arms to Iran; in 1958, Iranian weapons were supplied via Israel to conservative Shia groups in southern Lebanon; and on behalf of the Iranians, Israeli intelligence officials set up a body that was responsible for recruiting and handling agents, with its efforts focused on Iraq and also countering Nasser’s subversive activities among the Arabs of the Khuzestan Province in southwest Iran.

    Since the Trident building on the hilltop north of Tel Aviv remained vacant most days of the year, then-Mossad director Meir Amit decided to turn it into a training college named after Mossad agent Eli Cohen, who was executed in Damascus.

    On several occasions over the years, the Mossad requested approval to refurbish the building or even demolish it completely, but the Tel Aviv Municipality declared it a heritage site due to its unique architecture – and thus it remained standing. Those Yellow and Blue rooms, painted many times since in different colors, would go on to serve as the location for some of the most dramatic meetings in Israel’s history, both with foreign officials and among Israeli leaders.

    In 2010, the building hosted the series of lengthy and controversial discussions convened by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and then-defense minister Ehud Barak on the option of carrying out a strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities. And that’s just one example.

    CIA funding
    The intelligence cooperation with Iran fitted in well with Israel’s support of the Kurds in Iraq, one of the goals of which was to cause as much significant damage as possible to the hostile Iraqi Army.

    The CIA financed a large portion of the Mossad’s activities with the Kurds; and later, as a Mossad official, Alpher, who was born in the United States and is fluent in English, was instructed to prepare the Israeli agency’s request for additional funding from its American counterpart. “We ceremoniously presented them with all the intelligence reports the Kurds had provided, along with information on the extent of the assistance they had received, the extent of the damage they had caused to the Iraqi forces, and so on,” Alpher recalls.

    One of the tasks assigned to Alpher with respect to the Kurds left him feeling uncomfortable; he was asked to review a Kurdish request to plan the demolition of two dams in northern Iraq. “Implementation of such a plan would have led to catastrophic strategic and legal implications,” Alpher says, noting that Israeli experts he met with at the time had told that blowing up the dams would flood Baghdad entirely and cause the death of numerous people. “In the end,” he says, “we informed Barzani, via the Mossad team in Kurdistan, that we were opposed to the operation for humanitarian reasons.”

    A second task was more straightforward, from a moral standpoint at least. “I approached Colonel David Laskov (commander at the time of the Engineering Corps’ research and development unit) and asked him to build Katyusha rocket launchers that could be carried by mules,” Alpher recounts.

    “A week later, Laskov invited me to a firing range in the Negev. On arrival, I found a mule with a sled-like metal frame of sorts on its back, the size of a full briefcase; and in it were Katyushas of the kind that we were about to send to the Kurds. Laskov demonstrated how to tie the ‘saddle’ to the mule, to dismantle it, to position it on the ground, to aim and to launch the rocket.”

    A month later, the Kurds deployed the launchers and rockets in Kirkuk, causing extensive damage to the Iraqi oil facilities there.

    Another major operation carried out by the Mossad during the same period, in the late 1960s, involved assistance in the form of the weapons, food, equipment and training for the Anyanya, the Christian underground in southern Sudan. Under the leadership of Mossad operative David Ben Uziel, a series of three-man Israeli delegations were sent to southern Sudan to train the separatist army, coordinate the delivery of weapons and equipment (with the support of IAF cargo aircraft), and oversee a humanitarian mission that involved the establishment of a field hospital at which an Israeli medical team treated the sick and wounded and vaccinated thousands of children in the area against smallpox and yellow fever.

    Alpher: “The operation was a resounding success. Sudanese President Nimeiri, frustrated by his army’s defeats, offered the South autonomy in 1972. A guerilla war, orchestrated by a junior commander from a minority tribe who operated with the help of Israel, laid the foundations for a new African country (from 2011) free of the Arab threat. At one point in 1970, we did the math and found that the total cost of the Israeli operation in southern Sudan was less than the price of a single Mirage III fighter plane – the French aircraft used at that time by the Israel Air Force against Egypt and Sudan on the Suez Canal front.”

    Rabin in a blonde wig
    Israel’s relations with Morocco are another layer in the Periphery alliance. Israel helped the Moroccan intelligence agency to set up its bodyguards unit and others, including a sophisticated technologically division. And in return, the Moroccans provided Israel with first-grade intelligence, including intimate access to the deliberations of the Arab Summit Conference in Casablanca in September 1965.

    Another important element in the ties with Morocco came some 12 years later, when the North African state served as the stage for arranging then-Egyptian President Anwar Sadat’s historic visit to Jerusalem, with Morocco’s King Hassan as the mediator.

    Alpher: “A meeting between the king and Mossad chief Yitzhak Hofi led to another royal meeting, this time with Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who arrived in Morocco incognito and wearing a blonde wig. Rabin left Hassan with a series of questions for Egyptian President Anwar Sadat with regard to the possibility of a breakthrough towards peace.

    At the next meeting, Hofi held talks with Hassan Tuhami, Sadat’s deputy, and this paved the way for a meeting between Tuhami and Moshe Dayan, foreign minister in (Menachem) Begin’s government. For his secret trip to Morocco, Dayan removed his eye patch and wore a fedora hat. Mossad officials who saw his passport photo couldn’t believe it was Dayan.”

    Following the signing of the peace treaty with Egypt, one of Alpher’s assignments in the Mossad’s research division involved efforts to identify “signs of peace” among other Arab entities – a lesson learned after portions of the intelligence community were caught by surprise by Sadat’s daring initiative.

    Alpher didn’t really find any signs of peace to speak of; but he did discover Israeli blindness in another region under his purview – Iran. “We were so obsessed about trying to preserve our ties with the Iranian shah, who blew hot and cold in his attitude towards us,” Alpher says, “and we so wanted to woo and appease him that we didn’t think about or try to understand what was really happening in Iran – whether the opposition movement stands a chance, or whether we could link up with them not at the expense of our relations with the shah. It was a terrible mistake. We should have known much more about our allies in the periphery, especially when it came to dictatorships.”

    “Terrible ignorance”
    With the fires of the revolution growing ever-more intense in Tehran and elsewhere in the country, Alpher was put in charge of the Iranian file in the Mossad’s research unit. “And that’s when I discover the terrible ignorance,” he says. “Despite the fact that we were invested up to our necks in that country, with 1,500 Israelis working and living there, we knew almost nothing about the opposition – a long line of high-ranking Israeli officials who had served in Iran and were sure they knew it like the back of their hand and that Iran would always remain friendly towards us.”

    In mid-January, Alpher was summoned urgently to the office of Mossad chief Hofi. “They told me to come immediately – right now, drop everything and go up to Hofi,” he recalls.

    With several of the intelligence agency’s top brass in attendance, Hofi briefly laid out the reason for the meeting. A little while earlier, the director said, the secular prime minister appointed by the shah to govern Iran in his stead, Shapour Bakhtiar, had approached the head of the Mossad’s Tehran branch, Eliezer Tsafrir, with a plain and simple request – for the Mossad to assassinate Khomeini.

    At the time, the radical Islamic leader was somewhere near Paris, following his deportation to France from Iraq, to which he was exiled from Iran in the 1960s. Iraq had suggested killing Khomeini, but the shah rejected the idea at the time. Saddam Hussein subsequently deported him, and Khomeini found refuge in a town near Paris from where he successfully orchestrated the revolution by phone and telex machine.

    Khomeini (C) in Paris before his return to Iran (Photo: AFP)
    Khomeini (C) in Paris before his return to Iran (Photo: AFP)

    Tsafrir passed on Bakhtiar’s request to Mossad headquarters in Tel Aviv, where the heads of the agency convened to discuss the matter.

    “Mossad chief Hofi declared at the start of the meeting that because he was opposed in principle to the use of assassination against political leaders, he was inclined to reject the request; but he asked for the thoughts of those in attendance,” Alpher recounts. “Hofi looked at me quizzically. I was frustrated due to the dearth of information that I had about Khomeini. In a split second, I ran through all we knew about him in my mind.

    “But before I get a chance to respond, one division dead butts in and says: ‘Let Khomeini return to Tehran. He won’t last. The army and the SAVAK will deal with him and the clergy who are demonstrating in the streets. He represents Iran’s past, not its future.’

    “Hofi looked at me again. I thought about the positions of Washington and Moscow, about the implications of the success of such an operation for the Middle East, and the consequences of its failure vis-à-vis our relations with France and the Muslim world. I took a deep breath and said: We don’t have enough information about Khomeini’s viewpoints and his chances to realize them, so I cannot accurately assess whether the risk is justified.”

    And indeed, the Mossad rejected the request to assassinate Khomeini. Alpher says he “deeply regrets” not supporting the Iranian prime minister’s request and the fact that the Mossad chose not to kill the Islamic leader. “Just two months after that meeting, I realized who we were dealing with, and already then I regretted not supporting Bakhtiar’s request,” Alpher says.

    Bakhtiar ended up in exile in Paris, where he was assassinated a decade later by Iranian intelligence agents.

    Taken for a ride
    The Periphery strategy has also known its fair share of setbacks and disappointments; but above all, according to Alpher’s book, hovers the shadow of the terrible failure in connection with the Christian Maronites in Lebanon.

    “They took the Mossad and all of Israel for a ride with deceit and terrible lies,” Alpher says. “They knew exactly how to take advantage of us, of our desire to support persecuted minorities; and they led very senior officials in the security establishment and Mossad to believe that they would side with us in the event of a military invasion of Lebanon.

    “I was less enamored with them at the time, perhaps because I was born in the United States and I was familiar with traditional Catholic anti-Semitism, into which they too were born. The heavy blow Israel suffered in the Lebanon War and its aftermath led to a pullback, perhaps excessive, in our desire to support persecuted minorities in the years to follow.”

    Alpher warns against undertaking to intervene militarily on behalf of a different minority because of the existence of a lobby within Israel itself. Israel’s Druze citizens are an important minority with a very strong parliamentary and government lobby, Alpher says, adding: “I am concerned by the statement of former chief of staff Benny Gantz, who for some reason made a commitment to the Druze dignitaries that the State of Israel would act to safeguard their fellow Druze across the border during the civil war in Syria.

    “This could push us into a very hazardous adventure. We need to think things over very carefully based on our past experience. What are the risks? What is the extent of our moral obligation towards another minority in the region that runs into trouble with radical Islam?”

    The successes and failures aside, what about the moral issue? After all, as part of the Periphery strategy, the Mossad forged tied with a series of dark regimes, terrible dictatorships, actively supporting them and sometimes tipping the scales in their favor.

    “And to all of that you can add the fact that we knew that the issue of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion plays a very important role for them. To a certain degree even, we played that card, so they’d think we have immense influence over the world, and could manipulate US policy in their favor in particular. The Moroccans, the Iranians, the Turks, Idi Amin – they were all sure that one word from us would change Washington’s position towards them.

    “What did we say to ourselves? A. It allows us to survive; B. It allows us to deter Arab aggression; C. It gives us the money, in the case of Iran for example, to launch arms development programs we couldn’t otherwise afford. Without it, you have no military industry and you cannot survive.”

    “We knew we were dealing with unpleasant, oppressive, anti-Semitic regimes – call them what you want. Of course we knew. But was there an alternative? In other words, the alternative was to remain an isolated state, to wallow in our solitude in the face of a ring of Arab hostility.

    “Now, even if you accept Professor Shimon Shamir’s thesis (presented in the book and highly critical of the Mossad’s Periphery strategy) that with a little more effort we could actually have made peace with our close neighbors, were those regimes any better than the ones of Idi Amin and the shah? This is the environment. This is the neighborhood in which we live. It demands tough decisions sometimes.”

    Ronen Bergman
    Published: 06.21.15, 23:52 / Israel News

    Find this story at 21 June 2015

    Copyright © Yedioth Internet.

    Defense Department anthrax error triggers anger in Congress (2015)

    Van nieuwsblog.burojansen.nl

    The Pentagon wouldn’t say which labs received the live anthrax by mistake or who might have been exposed. The shipments went to facilities in nine states.

    Military officials said Thursday that the Pentagon was in close contact with officials at research labs in California, Texas and seven other states that received potentially live anthrax spores, but they refused to identify the labs or to disclose how many people were being treated with antibiotics to stave off the disease.

    A Defense Department spokesman, Army Col. Steven Warren, said 22 personnel at Osan Air Base in South Korea were taking the antibiotic Cipro as a precaution against anthrax exposure. But he declined to talk about whether workers at labs or other facilities in the United States were also taking Cipro.

    The lack of information was criticized by members of Congress, who demanded answers on how the mistaken shipments happened and who had been affected.

    “This incident represents a serious breach of trust in the United States Army’s obligation to keep our citizens and service members safe,” Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said in a letter to Army Secretary John McHugh. “Moreover, the shipments to a South Korea air base weaken the United States’ credibility as a global leader in chemical weapons control.”

    In a separate letter, a bipartisan group of members of the House of Representatives told Defense Secretary Ash Carter and Tom Frieden, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, that the inadvertent shipments of live anthrax “raise serious safety concerns” about the way the military handles “dangerous pathogens.”

    The letter was signed by Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., the chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and the panel’s senior Democrat, Rep. Frank Pallone of New Jersey, as well as two committee members, Republican Rep. Tim Murphy of Pennsylvania and Democratic Rep. Diana DeGette of Colorado.

    In comments to reporters Thursday, Warren acknowledged that he did not “have a whole lot of details on the exact purpose” of the anthrax shipments to Osan Air Base. In an earlier statement, Warren had said the anthrax shipments were part of a pilot program to develop a field test to identify biological threats in the environment.

    In addition to Osan, the Defense Department said it suspected that labs in nine states had received live anthrax because they had been recipients of the same “cluster” of shipments.

    In addition to facilities in California and Texas, those labs included military, university or commercial enterprises in Delaware, New Jersey, New York, Tennessee, Virginia, Maryland and Wisconsin. The anthrax was shipped from a Defense Department lab in Dugway, Utah.

    Warren said the the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was working to determine who might have handled the anthrax shipments before they reached the nine destinations.

    He declined to describe what kind of packaging was used to ship the anthrax or to confirm news reports that FedEx had transported at least some of the shipments.

    Live anthrax requires strict handling protocols, and anthrax samples are supposed to be rendered inactive before being shipped for research uses. All military, government and civilian labs that might have received such samples are now reviewing their anthrax inventories.

    “Out of an abundance of caution, DOD has stopped the shipment of this material from its labs pending completion of the investigation,” Warren said.

    “The ongoing investigation includes determining if the labs also received other live samples, epidemiological consultation, worker safety review, laboratory analysis and handling of laboratory waste,” said Jason McDonald, a spokesman for the CDC.

    Anthrax burst into the American psyche one week after the 2001 terror attacks in New York and Washington, when over the course of several weeks five people died and 17 survived infection after anthrax-laced letters were sent to several news organization and to the offices of two U.S. senators.

    Two of the dead in 2001 were postal workers who’d come in contact with anthrax when the letters containing the spores passed through the Brentwood mail facility in Washington, D.C. Another was an employee of a Florida media company that had received one of the letters. How the other two victims were exposed has never been determined.

    Over the next seven years, the FBI and other prosecutors named two men as having possible ties to those anthrax attacks, Steven Hatfill and Bruce Ivins, but the government never brought charges against either of them.

    In the current case, four Defense Department employees in the United States who’d handled the samples have been placed in post-exposure treatment in addition to the 22 in South Korea, CNN reported.

    Warren defended the speed with which the Pentagon made public the information that live anthrax had inadvertently been shipped. That notification came five days after a research lab in Maryland told the Pentagon that it had received live anthrax in a package that was supposed to contain only inactive spores.

    “We got the information out as rapidly as we could,” he said. “It’s important to have as much accurate information as possible. Once we understood that there was no threat to the public, we understood that we had additional time to gather more information and present a more complete picture.”

    Osan Air Base in South Korea said in a statement that “all personnel were provided appropriate medical precautionary measures to include examinations, antibiotics and in some instances, vaccinations. None of the personnel have shown any signs of possible exposure.”

    The base added: “Hazardous material teams immediately cordoned off the facility, decontaminated it under Centers for Disease Control protocol, and destroyed the agent.”

    28 May 2015

    Find this story at 28 May 2015

    Copyright mcclatchydc.com


    Van nieuwsblog.burojansen.nl

    RESEARCHERS WORKING with the Central Intelligence Agency have conducted a multi-year, sustained effort to break the security of Apple’s iPhones and iPads, according to top-secret documents obtained by The Intercept.

    The security researchers presented their latest tactics and achievements at a secret annual gathering, called the “Jamboree,” where attendees discussed strategies for exploiting security flaws in household and commercial electronics. The conferences have spanned nearly a decade, with the first CIA-sponsored meeting taking place a year before the first iPhone was released.

    By targeting essential security keys used to encrypt data stored on Apple’s devices, the researchers have sought to thwart the company’s attempts to provide mobile security to hundreds of millions of Apple customers across the globe. Studying both “physical” and “non-invasive” techniques, U.S. government-sponsored research has been aimed at discovering ways to decrypt and ultimately penetrate Apple’s encrypted firmware. This could enable spies to plant malicious code on Apple devices and seek out potential vulnerabilities in other parts of the iPhone and iPad currently masked by encryption.

    The CIA declined to comment for this story.

    The security researchers also claimed they had created a modified version of Apple’s proprietary software development tool, Xcode, which could sneak surveillance backdoors into any apps or programs created using the tool. Xcode, which is distributed by Apple to hundreds of thousands of developers, is used to create apps that are sold through Apple’s App Store.

    The modified version of Xcode, the researchers claimed, could enable spies to steal passwords and grab messages on infected devices. Researchers also claimed the modified Xcode could “force all iOS applications to send embedded data to a listening post.” It remains unclear how intelligence agencies would get developers to use the poisoned version of Xcode.

    Researchers also claimed they had successfully modified the OS X updater, a program used to deliver updates to laptop and desktop computers, to install a “keylogger.”

    Other presentations at the CIA conference have focused on the products of Apple’s competitors, including Microsoft’s BitLocker encryption system, which is used widely on laptop and desktop computers running premium editions of Windows.

    The revelations that the CIA has waged a secret campaign to defeat the security mechanisms built into Apple’s devices come as Apple and other tech giants are loudly resisting pressure from senior U.S. and U.K. government officials to weaken the security of their products. Law enforcement agencies want the companies to maintain the government’s ability to bypass security tools built into wireless devices. Perhaps more than any other corporate leader, Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook, has taken a stand for privacy as a core value, while sharply criticizing the actions of U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agencies.

    “If U.S. products are OK to target, that’s news to me,” says Matthew Green, a cryptography expert at Johns Hopkins University’s Information Security Institute. “Tearing apart the products of U.S. manufacturers and potentially putting backdoors in software distributed by unknowing developers all seems to be going a bit beyond ‘targeting bad guys.’ It may be a means to an end, but it’s a hell of a means.”

    Apple declined to comment for this story, instead pointing to previous comments Cook and the company have made defending Apple’s privacy record.

    Lockheed Martin Dulles Executive Plaza, Herndon, Virginia.
    SECURITY RESEARCHERS from Sandia National Laboratories presented their Apple-focused research at a secret annual CIA conference called the Trusted Computing Base Jamboree. The Apple research and the existence of the conference are detailed in documents provided to The Intercept by National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden.

    The conference was sponsored by the CIA’s Information Operations Center, which conducts covert cyberattacks. The aim of the gathering, according to a 2012 internal NSA wiki, was to host “presentations that provide important information to developers trying to circumvent or exploit new security capabilities,” as well as to “exploit new avenues of attack.” NSA personnel also participated in the conference through the NSA’s counterpart to the CIA’s Trusted Computing Base, according to the document. The NSA did not provide comment for this story.

    The Jamboree was held at a Lockheed Martin facility inside an executive office park in northern Virginia. Lockheed is one of the largest defense contractors in the world; its tentacles stretch into every aspect of U.S. national security and intelligence. The company is akin to a privatized wing of the U.S. national security state — more than 80 percent of its total revenue comes from the U.S. government. Via a subsidiary, Lockheed also operates Sandia Labs, which is funded by the U.S. government. The lab’s researchers have presented Apple findings at the CIA conference.

    “Lockheed Martin’s role in these activities should not be surprising given its leading role in the national surveillance state,” says William Hartung, director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy and author of Prophets of War, a book that chronicles Lockheed’s history. “It is the largest private intelligence contractor in the world, and it has worked on past surveillance programs for the Pentagon, the CIA and the NSA. If you’re looking for a candidate for Big Brother, Lockheed Martin fits the bill.”

    The Apple research is consistent with a much broader secret U.S. government program to analyze “secure communications products, both foreign and domestic” in order to “develop exploitation capabilities against the authentication and encryption schemes,” according to the 2013 Congressional Budget Justification. Known widely as the “Black Budget,” the top-secret CBJ was provided to The Intercept by Snowden and gives a sprawling overview of the U.S. intelligence community’s spending and architecture. The White House did not respond to a request for comment.

    As of 2013, according to the classified budget, U.S. intelligence agencies were creating new capabilities against dozens of commercially produced security products, including those made by American companies, to seek out vulnerabilities.

    Last week, CIA Director John Brennan announced a major reorganization at the agency aimed, in large part, at expanding U.S. cyber-operations. The Information Operations Center, which organized the Jamboree conferences, will be folded into a new Directorate of Digital Innovation. Notwithstanding its innocuous name, a major priority of the directorate will be offensive cyberattacks, sabotage and digital espionage. Brennan said the CIA reorganization will be modeled after the agency’s Counterterrorism Center, which runs the U.S. targeted killing and drone program.

    THE DOCUMENTS do not address how successful the targeting of Apple’s encryption mechanisms have been, nor do they provide any detail about the specific use of such exploits by U.S. intelligence. But they do shed light on an ongoing campaign aimed at defeating the tech giant’s efforts to secure its products, and in turn, its customers’ private data.

    “Spies gonna spy,” says Steven Bellovin, a former chief technologist for the U.S. Federal Trade Commission and current professor at Columbia University. “I’m never surprised by what intelligence agencies do to get information. They’re going to go where the info is, and as it moves, they’ll adjust their tactics. Their attitude is basically amoral: whatever works is OK.”

    Bellovin says he generally supports efforts by U.S. intelligence to “hack” devices — including Apple’s — used by terrorists and criminals, but expressed concern that such capabilities could be abused. “There are bad people out there, and it’s reasonable to seek information on them,” he says, cautioning that “inappropriate use — mass surveillance, targeting Americans without a warrant, probably spying on allies — is another matter entirely.”

    In the top-secret documents, ranging from 2010 through 2012, the researchers appear particularly intent on extracting encryption keys that prevent unauthorized access to data stored — and firmware run — on Apple products.

    “The Intelligence Community (IC) is highly dependent on a very small number of security flaws, many of which are public, which Apple eventually patches,” the researchers noted in an abstract of their 2011 presentation at the Jamboree. But, they promised, their presentation could provide the intelligence community with a “method to noninvasively extract” encryption keys used on Apple devices. Another presentation focused on physically extracting the key from Apple’s hardware.

    A year later, at the 2012 Jamboree, researchers described their attacks on the software used by developers to create applications for Apple’s popular App Store. In a talk called “Strawhorse: Attacking the MacOS and iOS Software Development Kit,” a presenter from Sandia Labs described a successful “whacking” of Apple’s Xcode — the software used to create apps for iPhones, iPads and Mac computers. Developers who create Apple-approved and distributed apps overwhelmingly use Xcode, a free piece of software easily downloaded from the App Store.

    The researchers boasted that they had discovered a way to manipulate Xcode so that it could serve as a conduit for infecting and extracting private data from devices on which users had installed apps that were built with the poisoned Xcode. In other words, by manipulating Xcode, the spies could compromise the devices and private data of anyone with apps made by a poisoned developer — potentially millions of people. “Trying to plant stuff in Xcode has fascinating implications,” says Bellovin.

    The researchers listed a variety of actions their “whacked” Xcode could perform, including:

    — “Entice” all Mac applications to create a “remote backdoor” allowing undetected access to an Apple computer.

    — Secretly embed an app developer’s private key into all iOS applications. (This could potentially allow spies to impersonate the targeted developer.)

    — “Force all iOS applications” to send data from an iPhone or iPad back to a U.S. intelligence “listening post.”

    — Disable core security features on Apple devices.

    For years, U.S. and British intelligence agencies have consistently sought to defeat the layers of encryption and other security features used by Apple to protect the iPhone. A joint task force comprised of operatives from the NSA and Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters, formed in 2010, developed surveillance software targeting iPhones, Android devices and Nokia’s Symbian phones. The Mobile Handset Exploitation Team successfully implanted malware on iPhones as part of WARRIOR PRIDE, a GCHQ framework for secretly accessing private communications on mobile devices.

    That program was disclosed in Snowden documents reported on last year by The Guardian. A WARRIOR PRIDE plugin called NOSEY SMURF allowed spies to remotely and secretly activate a phone’s microphone. Another plugin, DREAMY SMURF, allowed intelligence agents to manage the power system on a phone and thus avoid detection. PARANOID SMURF was designed to conceal the malware in other ways. TRACKER SMURF allowed ultra-precise geolocating of an individual phone. “[If] its [sic] on the phone, we can get it,” the spies boasted in a secret GCHQ document describing the targeting of the iPhone.

    All of the SMURF malware — including the plugin that secretly turns on the iPhone’s microphone — would first require that agencies bypass the security controls built into the iOS operating system. Spies would either need to hack the phone in order to plant their malware on it, or sneak a backdoor into an app the user installed voluntarily. That was one of the clear aims of the Apple-focused research presented at the CIA’s conference.

    “The U.S. government is prioritizing its own offensive surveillance needs over the cybersecurity of the millions of Americans who use Apple products,” says Christopher Soghoian, the principal technologist at the American Civil Liberties Union. “If U.S. government-funded researchers can discover these flaws, it is quite likely that Chinese, Russian and Israeli researchers can discover them, too. By quietly exploiting these flaws rather than notifying Apple, the U.S. government leaves Apple’s customers vulnerable to other sophisticated governments.”

    Security experts interviewed by The Intercept point out that the SMURF capabilities were already available to U.S. and British intelligence agencies five years ago. That raises the question of how advanced the current capacity to surveil smartphone users is, especially in light of the extensive resources poured into targeting the products of major tech companies. One GCHQ slide from 2010 stated that the agency’s ultimate goal was to be able to “Exploit any phone, anywhere, any time.”

    Steve Jobs unveiling the first iPhone on January 9, 2007.
    THE FIRST JAMBOREE took place in 2006, just as Apple was preparing to unveil its highly-anticipated iPhone. In March 2010, according to a top-secret document, during a talk called “Rocoto: Implanting the iPhone,” a presenter discussed efforts to target the iPhone 3G. In addition to analyzing the device’s software for potential vulnerabilities, the presentation examined “jailbreak methods,” used within the iPhone community to free phones from their built-in constraints, that could be leveraged by intelligence agencies. “We will conclude with a look ahead at future challenges presented by the iPhone 3GS and the upcoming iPad,” the abstract noted. Over the years, as Apple updates its hardware, software and encryption methods, the CIA and its researchers study ways to break and exploit them.

    The attempts to target vulnerabilities in Apple’s products have not occurred in a vacuum. Rather, they are part of a vast multi-agency U.S./U.K. effort to attack commercial encryption and security systems used on billions of devices around the world. U.S. intelligence agencies are not just focusing on individual terrorists or criminals — they are targeting the large corporations, such as Apple, that produce popular mobile devices.

    “Every other manufacturer looks to Apple. If the CIA can undermine Apple’s systems, it’s likely they’ll be able to deploy the same capabilities against everyone else,” says Green, the Johns Hopkins cryptographer. “Apple led the way with secure coprocessors in phones, with fingerprint sensors, with encrypted messages. If you can attack Apple, then you can probably attack anyone.”

    According to the Black Budget, U.S. intelligence agencies have tech companies dead in their sights with the aim of breaking or circumventing any existing or emerging encryption or antiviral products, noting the threat posed by “increasingly strong commercial” encryption and “adversarial cryptography.”

    The Analysis of Target Systems Project produced “prototype capabilities” for the intelligence community, enabled “the defeat of strong commercial data security systems” and developed ways “to exploit emerging information systems and technologies,” according to the classified budget. The project received $35 million in funding in 2012 and had more than 200 personnel assigned to it. By the end of 2013, according to the budget, the project would “develop new capabilities against 50 commercial information security device products to exploit emerging technologies,” as well as new methods that would allow spies to recover user and device passwords on new products.

    Among the project’s missions:

    — Analyze “secure communications products, both foreign and domestic produced” to “develop exploitation capabilities against the authentication and encryption schemes.”

    — “[D]evelop exploitation capabilities against network communications protocols and commercial network security products.”

    — “Anticipate future encryption technologies” and “prepare strategies to exploit those technologies.”

    — “Develop, enhance, and implement software attacks against encrypted signals.”

    — “Develop exploitation capabilities against specific key management and authentication schemes.”

    — “[D]evelop exploitation capabilities against emerging multimedia applications.”

    — Provide tools for “exploiting” devices used to “store, manage, protect, or communicate data.”

    — “Develop methods to discover and exploit communication systems employing public key cryptography” and “communications protected by passwords or pass phrases.”

    — Exploit public key cryptography.

    — Exploit Virtual Private Networks, or VPNs, which allow people to browse the Internet with increased security and anonymity.

    The black budget also noted that the U.S. intelligence community partners with “National Laboratories” to conduct the type of research presented at the CIA’s annual Jamboree conference. It confirms the U.S. government’s aggressive efforts to steal encryption and authentication keys, as occurred in the NSA and GCHQ operations against Gemalto, the world’s largest manufacturer of SIM cards, through the use of Computer Network Exploitation attacks. In that case, spy agencies penetrated Gemalto’s internal networks and cyberstalked its employees to steal mass quantities of keys used to encrypt mobile phone communications.

    The CIA’s Information Operations Center is currently the second largest of the spy agency’s specialized centers. It not only conducts cyber-ops, but has operated covertly in other nations, working to develop assets from targeted countries to assist in its cyber-surveillance programs, according to the Black Budget. At times, its personnel brief the president.

    U.S. President Barack Obama holds up an iPad.
    AT THE CIA’s Jamboree in 2011, the computer researchers conducted workshops where they revealed the specifics of their efforts to attack one of the key privacy elements of Apple’s mobile devices. These machines have two separate keys integrated into the silicon of their Apple-designed processors at the point of manufacture. The two, paired together, are used to encrypt data and software stored on iPhones and iPads. One, the User ID, is unique to an individual’s phone, and is not retained by Apple. That key is vital to protecting an individual’s data and — particularly on Apple’s latest devices — difficult to steal. A second key, the Group ID, is known to Apple and is the same across multiple Apple devices that use the same processor. The GID is used to encrypt essential system software that runs on Apple’s mobile devices.

    The focus of the security researchers, as described at the CIA conferences, was to target the GID key, which Apple implants on all devices that use the same processors. For instance, Apple’s A4 processor was used in the iPhone 4, the iPod Touch and the original iPad. All of those devices used the same GID. As Apple designs new processors and faster devices that use those processors, the company creates new GIDs. If someone has the same iPhone as her neighbor, they have the exact same GID key on their devices. So, if intelligence agencies extract the GID key, it means they have information useful to compromising any device containing that key.

    At the 2011 Jamboree conference, there were two separate presentations on hacking the GID key on Apple’s processors. One was focused on non-invasively obtaining it by studying the electromagnetic emissions of — and the amount of power used by — the iPhone’s processor while encryption is being performed. Careful analysis of that information could be used to extract the encryption key. Such a tactic is known as a “side channel” attack. The second focused on a “method to physically extract the GID key.”

    Whatever method the CIA and its partners use, by extracting the GID — which is implanted on the processors of all Apple mobile devices — the CIA and its allies could be able to decrypt the firmware that runs on the iPhone and other mobile devices. This would allow them to seek out other security vulnerabilities to exploit. Taken together, the documents make clear that researching each new Apple processor and mobile device, and studying them for potential security flaws, is a priority for the CIA.

    According to the 2011 document describing the Jamboree presentations on Apple’s processor, the researchers asserted that extracting the GID key could also allow them to look for other potential gateways into Apple devices. “If successful, it would enable decryption and analysis of the boot firmware for vulnerabilities, and development of associated exploits across the entire A4-based product-line, which includes the iPhone 4, the iPod touch and the iPad.”

    At the CIA conference in 2012, Sandia researchers delivered a presentation on Apple’s A5 processor. The A5 is used in the iPhone 4s and iPad 2. But this time, it contained no abstract or other details, instructing those interested to contact a CIA official on his secure phone or email.

    “If I were Tim Cook, I’d be furious,” says the ACLU’s Soghoian. “If Apple is mad at the intelligence community, and they should be, they should put their lawyers to work. Lawsuits speak louder than words.”

    Apple CEO Tim Cook testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, May 21, 2013.
    FOR YEARS, Apple has included encryption features in the products it sells to consumers. In 2014, the company dramatically broadened the types of data stored on iPhones that are encrypted, and it incorporated encryption by default into its desktop and laptop operating system. This resulted in criticism from leading law enforcement officials, including the FBI director. The encryption technology that Apple has built into its products — along with many other security features — is a virtual wall that separates cybercriminals and foreign governments from customer data. But now, because Apple claims it can no longer extract customer data stored on iPhones, because it is encrypted with a key the company does not know, the U.S. government can be locked out too — even with a search warrant. The FBI director and other U.S. officials have referred to the advent of the encryption era — where previously accessible data and communications may now be off limits because of the security technology protecting them — as “going dark.”

    In the face of this rising challenge to its surveillance capabilities, U.S. intelligence has spent considerable time and resources trying to find security vulnerabilities in Apple’s encryption technology, and, more broadly, in its products, which can be leveraged to install surveillance software on iPhones and Macbooks. “The exploitation of security flaws is a high-priority area for the U.S. intelligence community, and such methods have only become more important as U.S. technology companies have built strong encryption into their products,” says the ACLU’s Soghoian.

    Microsoft has, for nearly a decade, included BitLocker, an encryption technology that protects data stored on a computer, in its Windows operating system. Unlike Apple, which made encryption available to all customers, Microsoft had included this feature only in its more expensive premium and professional versions of Windows, up until a few years ago. BitLocker is designed to work with a Trusted Platform Module, a special security chip included in some computers, which stores the encryption keys and also protects against unauthorized software modification.

    Also presented at the Jamboree were successes in the targeting of Microsoft’s disk encryption technology, and the TPM chips that are used to store its encryption keys. Researchers at the CIA conference in 2010 boasted about the ability to extract the encryption keys used by BitLocker and thus decrypt private data stored on the computer. Because the TPM chip is used to protect the system from untrusted software, attacking it could allow the covert installation of malware onto the computer, which could be used to access otherwise encrypted communications and files of consumers. Microsoft declined to comment for this story.

    In the wake of the initial Snowden disclosures, Apple CEO Tim Cook has specifically denounced the U.S. government’s efforts to compel companies to provide backdoor access to their users’ data.

    “I want to be absolutely clear that we have never worked with any government agency from any country to create a backdoor in any of our products or services. We have also never allowed access to our servers. And we never will,” Cook said last September in announcing Apple’s new privacy policy. More recently, Cook said, “None of us should accept that the government or a company or anybody should have access to all of our private information. This is a basic human right. We all have a right to privacy. We shouldn’t give it up. We shouldn’t give in to scare-mongering.”

    As corporations increasingly integrate default encryption methods and companies like Apple incorporate their own indigenous encryption technologies into easy-to-use text, voice and video communication platforms, the U.S. and British governments are panicking. “Encryption threatens to lead all of us to a very dark place,” declared FBI Director James Comey in an October 2014 lecture at the Brookings Institution. Citing the recent moves by Apple to strengthen default encryption on its operating systems, and commitments by Google to incorporate such tools, Comey said, “This means the companies themselves won’t be able to unlock phones, laptops, and tablets to reveal photos, documents, e-mail, and recordings stored within.”

    Under current U.S. regulations, law enforcement agencies can get a court order to access communications channeled through major tech companies and wireless providers. But if those communications are encrypted through a process not accessible by any involved company, the data is essentially meaningless, garbled gibberish. “In a world in which data is encrypted, and the providers don’t have the keys, suddenly, there is no one to go to when they have a warrant,” says Soghoian. “That is, even if they get a court order, it doesn’t help them. That is what is freaking them out.”

    Comey alleged that “even a supercomputer would have difficulty with today’s high-level encryption,” meaning a “brute force” attempt to decrypt intercepted communications would be ineffective, and, even if successful, time-consuming.

    “Encryption isn’t just a technical feature; it’s a marketing pitch,” Comey added. “But it will have very serious consequences for law enforcement and national security agencies at all levels. Sophisticated criminals will come to count on these means of evading detection. It’s the equivalent of a closet that can’t be opened. A safe that can’t be cracked.”

    A few months after Comey’s remarks, Robert Litt, the general counsel for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, also appeared at Brookings. “One of the many ways in which Snowden’s leaks have damaged our national security is by driving a wedge between the government and providers and technology companies, so that some companies that formerly recognized that protecting our nation was a valuable and important public service now feel compelled to stand in opposition,” Litt said. He appealed to corporations to embrace “a solution that does not compromise the integrity of encryption technology but that enables both encryption to protect privacy and decryption under lawful authority to protect national security.”

    Green, the Johns Hopkins professor, argues that U.S. government attacks against the products of American companies will not just threaten privacy, but will ultimately harm the U.S. economy. “U.S. tech companies have already suffered overseas due to foreign concerns about our products’ security,” he says. “The last thing any of us need is for the U.S. government to actively undermine our own technology industry.”

    The U.S. government is certainly not alone in the war against secure communications. British Prime Minister David Cameron has suggested that if he is re-elected, he may seek to ban encrypted chat programs that do not provide backdoor access to law enforcement. “Are we going to allow a means of communications which it simply isn’t possible to read?” Cameron said in a speech in England earlier this year. “My answer to that question is: ‘No, we must not.’”

    When the Chinese government recently tried to force tech companies to install a backdoor in their products for use by Chinese intelligence agencies, the U.S. government denounced China. “This is something that I’ve raised directly with President Xi,” President Obama said in early March. “We have made it very clear to them that this is something they are going to have to change if they are to do business with the United States.” But China was actually following the U.S. government’s lead. The FBI has called for an expansion of U.S. law, which would require Apple and its competitors to design their products so that all communications could be made available to government agencies. NSA officials have expressed similar sentiments.

    “Obama’s comments were dripping with hypocrisy,” says Trevor Timm, executive director of the Freedom of the Press Foundation. “Don’t get me wrong, his actual criticism of China for attempting to force tech companies to install backdoors was spot on — now if only he would apply what he said to his own government. Since he now knows backdooring encryption is a terrible policy that will damage cybersecurity, privacy, and the economy, why won’t he order the FBI and NSA to stop pushing for it as well?”


    Documents published with this article:

    TCB Jamboree 2012 Invitation
    Strawhorse: Attacking the MacOS and iOS Software Development Kit
    TPM Vulnerabilities to Power Analysis and An Exposed Exploit to Bitlocker
    TCB Jamboree 2012
    Apple A4/A5 Application Processors Analysis
    Differential Power Analysis on the Apple A4 Processor
    Secure Key Extraction by Physical De-Processing of Apple’s A4 Processor
    Rocoto: Implanting the iPhone
    Smurf Capability – iPhone
    Black Budget: Cryptanalysis & Exploitation Services – Analysis of Target Systems

    Andrew Fishman, Alleen Brown, Andrea Jones, Ryan Gallagher, Morgan Marquis-Boire, and Micah Lee contributed to this story.

    Note: An earlier draft of this story incorrectly suggested that the iOS Group ID is used to sign software. An earlier draft also incorrectly stated that Lockheed Martin owns Sandia National Laboratories. Sandia Corporation, a wholly owned subsidiary of Lockheed Martin, operates Sandia National Laboratories as a contractor for the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration.

    Disclosure: Freedom of the Press Foundation, which Trevor Timm represents, has received grant funding from First Look Media, The Intercept’s parent company. Intercept co-founders Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras are on the board of the organization.

    Photo: Google Maps; Simon Dawson/Bloomberg/Getty Images; Tony Avelar/Getty Images; Kevin Lamarque/Reuters/Landov; J. Scott Applewhite/AP

    Email the authors: jeremy.scahill@theintercept.com, josh.begley@theintercept.com

    BY JEREMY SCAHILL AND JOSH BEGLEY @jeremyscahill@joshbegley 10 MAR 2015

    Find this story at 10 March 2015

    Copyright firstlook.org

    WikiLeaks – Chirac, Sarkozy et Hollande : trois présidents sur écoute

    Van nieuwsblog.burojansen.nl

    WIKILEAKS Les documents obtenus par WikiLeaks et que publie «Libération» révèlent que la NSA a, au moins de 2006 à mai 2012, espionné Jacques Chirac, Nicolas Sarkozy et François Hollande.
    Un adage en vogue dans les milieux du renseignement veut qu’en matière d’espionnage, on n’ait pas d’alliés – ou, à tout le moins, qu’ils ne soient pas forcément des amis. «S’espionner entre amis, cela ne se fait pas», s’était d’ailleurs indignée Angela Merkel en apprenant en octobre 2013, par des révélations du Spiegel, que l’Agence nationale de sécurité (NSA) américaine avait ciblé son téléphone portable. Une sélection de documents que publient Libération et Mediapart en collaboration avec WikiLeaks révèle qu’en France, ce sont trois présidents successifs, et certains de leurs collaborateurs, qui ont été espionnés sur une période allant au moins de 2006, lors du second mandat de Jacques Chirac, à mai 2012, juste après l’installation à l’Elysée de François Hollande.

    Ces documents obtenus par WikiLeaks – regroupés sous le titre «Espionnage Elysée» – consistent notamment en cinq rapports d’analyse émanant de la NSA, sous l’intitulé «Global SIGINT Highlights», autrement dit, des «faits marquants» tirés du renseignement d’origine électromagnétique, les interceptions de communications. Tous sont classés «Top Secret», et destinés à des responsables de la NSA et de la communauté américaine du renseignement ; seuls deux d’entre eux, les plus anciens, sont voués à être partagés au sein des «Five Eyes», l’alliance des services de renseignement des Etats-Unis, de l’Australie, du Canada, de la Nouvelle-Zélande et du Royaume-Uni, les autres étant exclusivement à usage américain. Ces comptes rendus émanent, selon des experts interrogés par WikiLeaks, d’un bureau identifié comme étant celui des Summary Services («le service des synthèses»).

    On peut y lire, notamment, comment Jacques Chirac a, en 2006, poussé son candidat pour le poste de sous-secrétaire général adjoint des Nations unies, mais aussi que, selon la NSA, le ministre des Affaires étrangères de l’époque, Philippe Douste-Blazy, avait une «propension […] à faire des déclarations inexactes ou inopportunes». On peut y lire aussi – ce qui ne surprendra personne – que Nicolas Sarkozy se voyait, en 2008, comme «le seul homme capable de résoudre la crise financière». Ou qu’il se plaignait, en 2010, du «recul de Washington sur sa proposition d’accord de coopération bilatérale sur le renseignement», accord que les deux interlocuteurs mentionnés dans la note, l’ambassadeur de France à Washington, Pierre Vimont, et le conseiller diplomatique, Jean-David Levitte, attribuaient précisément au «souhait des Etats-Unis de continuer à espionner la France»…

    Le mémo le plus récent date du 22 mai 2012 – soit après la mise en place d’un protocole d’échanges d’informations ­entre la Direction générale de la sécurité extérieure (DGSE) et la NSA, qui remonterait, selon le Monde, à la fin 2011 – et fait état de «réunions secrètes» pour discuter d’une possible sortie de la Grèce de la zone euro, mais également des inquiétudes de Jean-Marc Ayrault quant aux réactions d’Angela Merkel si elle venait à avoir vent de la rencontre entre le nouveau président et l’opposition allemande.

    A vrai dire, si le contenu des notes est classé comme hautement confidentiel, il ne révèle pas pour autant de secrets d’Etat. Il témoigne, en tout état de cause, de l’intérêt porté par la NSA à la France. A ce titre, l’autre type de document obtenu par WikiLeaks est au moins aussi frappant. Il s’agit d’un extrait d’une base de données de la NSA mentionnant une série de numéros de téléphone, fixes et mobiles, identifiés comme des «sélecteurs». Autrement dit, sur la base d’une collecte massive d’informations, l’agence identifie des cibles qui motivent par la suite des recherches précises de contenus. Le tout en fonction de «besoins d’information» formalisés à partir de 2002, qui touchent à la politique intérieure ou aux enjeux économiques.

    Extrait d’une base de données de la NSA montrant les personnalités politiques qu’ils ont ciblé.

    Dans cette liste, qui date d’après nos recoupements de l’année 2010, Libération a pu identifier les numéros de portable de membres de l’exécutif – le président Nicolas Sarkozy, les secrétaires d’Etat aux Affaires européennes et au Commerce Jean-Pierre Jouyet et Pierre Lellouche –, mais aussi des cibles plus larges : le standard du ministère des Finances, celui de l’Agriculture, ainsi que l’antenne à l’Elysée du Centre de transmissions gouvernemental, qui dépend du Secrétariat général de la défense et de la sécurité nationale (SGDSN). Ce service est précisément responsable de la sécurisation des communications de l’exécutif, ainsi que de la permanence des liaisons gouvernementales, le «téléphone rouge». Rien n’indique pour autant que les liaisons sécurisées aient, elles, été compromises.

    Parmi les autres noms, la liste témoigne d’une identification plutôt précise des interlocuteurs. Les téléphones mobiles de conseillers du Président, comme le secrétaire général de l’Elysée de l’époque, Claude Guéant, ou Jean-David Levitte, sont aussi listés. Contactés par Libération, ni l’un ni l’autre ne se disent surpris. Le premier juge le procédé «inadmissible». Le second, philosophe, indique être «toujours parti du principe [qu’il était] écouté, et pas seulement par nos amis et partenaires américains».

    On trouve aussi des membres du cabinet ou de l’administration du ministère des Affaires étrangères – son porte-parole d’alors, Bernard Valero, ainsi que Laurence Tubiana, fonctionnaire au Quai d’Orsay qui a été chargée en 2009 des négociations pour la conférence sur le climat de Copenhague. A la différence des autres cibles, cette dernière ne relève d’ailleurs pas de la branche chargée d’intercepter les communications européennes, le «S2C32» (déjà identifié dans le scandale Merkel), mais d’un bureau chargé notamment d’«améliorer l’accès à la cible», d’«accroître les efforts de ciblage et d’exploitation» et de «développer de nouvelles possibi­lités de collecte». En clair, de voir dans quelle mesure il serait possible de pirater son téléphone, voire d’installer des logiciels espions dans son ordinateur.

    Cette sélection de documents ne révèle qu’une partie des activités de la NSA en matière d’espionnage des dirigeants français : rien ne permet de connaître la quantité de comptes rendus d’écoutes ayant été communiqués aux dirigeants de la NSA, et les présidents prennent également des précautions pour évoquer les sujets les plus sensibles – rencontres bilatérales ou communications chiffrées. Mais les documents confirment, en tout état de cause, à quel point les Etats-Unis peuvent s’intéresser au détail des communications de dirigeants de pays alliés. En octobre 2013, le ­député ­socialiste Jean-Jacques Urvoas, rapporteur du projet de loi sur le renseignement, se plaignait d’ailleurs dans les colonnes du Monde que «les Etats-Unis n’ont pas d’alliés, ils n’ont que des cibles ou des vassaux».

    Reste désormais à savoir si ces pratiques se sont poursuivies au-delà de la date des derniers documents que nous publions en collaboration avec WikiLeaks. Sollicité par Libération et Mediapart, l’entourage de François Hollande assure qu’au moment de la visite d’Etat du Président à Washington, en février 2014, «l’engagement a été pris [par Barack Obama] de ne plus pratiquer d’écoutes indifférenciées concernant les services de l’Etat des pays alliés». Egalement sollicités, ni la NSA ni la Maison Blanche n’avaient encore réagi, mardi soir à l’heure du bouclage.

    L’espionnage à l’étranger est l’ultime «zone grise» du renseignement – il est d’ailleurs, en France, le véritable point aveugle du projet de loi sur le renseignement, voué à être adopté ce mercredi. En avril, une résolution de l’Assemblée parlementaire du Conseil de l’Europe préconisait la mise en place d’un «code du renseignement multilatéral». On en est évidemment encore très loin.


    Find this story at 23 June 2015

    Copyright liberation.fr

    As Internal Docs Show Major Overreach, Why Is FBI Spying on Opponents of Keystone XL Pipeline?

    Van nieuwsblog.burojansen.nl

    A new report confirms for the first time that the FBI spied on activists in Texas who tried to stop the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. Documents from the FBI reveal it failed to get approval before it cultivated informants and opened its investigation, which was run from its Houston field office. The files document “substantial non-compliance” with Department of Justice rules. The Tar Sands Blockade mentioned in that report was one of the main groups targeted by the FBI. Agents in Houston office also told TransCanada they would share “pertinent intelligence regarding any threats” to the company in advance of protests. We are joined by Adam Federman, contributing editor to Earth Island Journal and co-author of the new investigation published by The Guardian, “Revealed: FBI violated its own rules while spying on Keystone XL opponents.” In February, he also revealed how the FBI has recently pursued environmental activists in Texas, Pennsylvania, Oregon, Washington and Idaho for “little more than taking photographs of oil and gas industry installations.”

    This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

    JUAN GONZÁLEZ: A new report confirms for the first time that the FBI spied on activists in Texas who tried to stop the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. The report is based on FBI documents obtained by The Guardian and the Earth Island Journal. The documents also reveal that the FBI failed to get approval before it cultivated informants and opened its investigation, which was run from its Houston field office. The files document, quote, “substantial non-compliance” with Department of Justice rules. Much of the FBI’s surveillance took place between November of 2012 and June 2014.

    AMY GOODMAN: The Tar Sands Blockade mentioned in the report was one of the main groups targeted by the FBI. Agents in Houston also told TransCanada they would share, quote, “pertinent intelligence regarding any threats” to the company in advance of protests.

    For more, we are joined by Adam Federman, contributing editor to Earth Island Journal, co-author of this new investigation that was published by The Guardian. It’s headlined “Revealed: FBI Violated Its Own Rules While Spying on Keystone XL Opponents.” In February, he also revealed how the FBI has recently pursued environmental activists in Texas, Pennsylvania, Oregon, Washington and Idaho for, quote, “little more than taking photographs of oil and gas industry installations.”

    Adam Federman, thank you so much for joining us from Burlington, Vermont. Talk about this most recent exposé. How do you know the FBI was spying on those who are opposed to the Keystone XL?

    ADAM FEDERMAN: Yeah, the recent investigation is based on more than 80 pages of documents that we obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request. And the most striking thing about them is that they demonstrated for the first time that the FBI opened an investigation into anti-Keystone pipeline campaigners in Texas in 2012, late 2012, and that investigation continued through 2013, despite the fact that it was opened without proper approval from within the FBI. And what’s interesting about them is that they show extensive interest in Tar Sands Blockade and activists organizing in Houston, particularly in, yeah, neighborhoods in East Houston, where tar sands oil would eventually end up at the refineries that are based there.

    JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And in terms of the most surprising revelations that you found in these documents, could you talk about that?

    ADAM FEDERMAN: Yeah, there are several. I mean, the fact that the investigation was opened without proper approval is probably most noteworthy. The FBI requires approval from legal counsel and a senior agent for investigations that are described as sensitive, and those include investigations into political or religious organizations, media institutions, academic institutions, and basically they set a higher threshold for opening an investigation. So, the fact that the Houston domain failed to do that obviously violates agency protocol.

    But I think, more broadly, the documents also sort of illuminate the FBI’s characterization of environmental organizations and activism in the country. You know, the sort of opening salvo in the investigation is a synopsis of what they call environmental extremism, and that sort of undergirds the entire investigation and has also—you know, we’ve seen the same sort of language used in other contexts, not just surrounding Keystone pipeline.

    AMY GOODMAN: Adam, many of the—looking at the quotes in the FBI documents, they talk about, as you said, the environmental extremists and say, quote, “Many of these extremists believe the debates over pollution, protection of wildlife, safety, and property rights have been overshadowed by the promise of jobs and cheaper oil prices. The Keystone pipeline, as part of the oil and natural gas industry, is vital to the security and economy of the United States.” Can you explain these documents?

    ADAM FEDERMAN: Yeah, I mean, that quote is really quite amazing for a number of reasons. Mike German, a former FBI agent who’s now at the Brennan Center and who we worked with on this story, you know, said that that characterization would include just about anyone who watches the evening news. I mean, it’s such a broad brush to tar—to describe environmental activists as extremists simply for being concerned about things like pollution, wildlife and property rights.

    And then the FBI also goes on to claim that the Keystone pipeline is vital to the national security and economy of the United States, which of course is highly controversial and contested. And as I’m sure your viewers know, the State Department is still deliberating over whether to approve the northern leg of the pipeline itself. So that question remains open; however, it seems that the FBI has taken it upon its own to suggest that the pipeline is crucial to U.S. national security and financial security.

    JUAN GONZÁLEZ: I wanted to ask you about the 2010 intelligence bulletin from the FBI Domestic Terrorism Analysis Unit that you obtained. It warned that, even though the industry had encountered only low-level vandalism and trespassing, recent “criminal incidents” suggested environmental extremism was on the rise. The FBI concluded, quote, “Environmental extremism will become a greater threat to the energy industry owing to our historical understanding that some environmental extremists have progressed from committing low-level crimes against targets to more significant crimes over time in an effort to further the environmental extremism cause.”

    ADAM FEDERMAN: Yeah, it’s a fascinating document. And the story behind how I obtained it is because of the fact that that very document was used by the Pennsylvania Department of Homeland Security to justify surveillance of anti-fracking groups in the state. And it essentially captures the FBI’s thinking on, you know, the threat of environmental extremism to—specifically to the energy industry. And this is laid out, as you say, in 2010, so I think that this is sort of the foundation for the FBI’s approach to the environmental movement more broadly. And I think, with these more recent documents, we’re seeing that sort of carried out in real time. And we also know that the FBI has had high-level meetings with TransCanada and that local and state law enforcement along the pipeline route and in Pennsylvania and elsewhere has actively investigated and spied on environmental activists of, you know, all stripes. And it’s quite systematic, and I do think that the FBI is in many ways leading the charge.

    AMY GOODMAN: You report the FBI’s monitoring of Tar Sands Blockade activists failed to follow proper protocols for more than eight months. I want to read the FBI’s response: quote, “While the FBI approval levels required by internal policy were not initially obtained, once discovered, corrective action was taken, non-compliance was remedied, and the oversight was properly reported through the FBI’s internal oversight mechanism.” That’s what the FBI said, acknowledging they didn’t initially get approval. Adam, as we wrap up right now, if you can talk about what—the legality of what the FBI did, in what you released today in the Earth Island Journal and The Guardian, and also in your past reporting on FBI spying on activists?

    ADAM FEDERMAN: Well, I think, unfortunately, it’s perhaps not the exception that the FBI has opened an investigation without proper approval. In 2011, the inspector general issued a report showing widespread cheating on a test that was designed to prevent this very kind of thing from happening. So it essentially demonstrates a lack of internal control. But more broadly speaking, the question that I think we need to be asking is whether the investigation, opened properly or not, should have been conducted to begin with. I mean, Tar Sands Blockade is committed to nonviolent civil disobedience. They’ve been very open and transparent about their activism and work. And I think the question is whether this investigation should have been opened to begin with, and, quite frankly, if the FBI is actively investigating other anti-Keystone pipeline activists or anti-fracking activists in other states.

    AMY GOODMAN: Adam Federman, we want to thank you for being with us, contributing editor to Earth Island Journal, where he covers the intersection between law enforcement and the environment. He co-authored the new investigation published by The Guardian, “Revealed: FBI Violated Its Own Rules While Spying on Keystone XL Opponents.” We’ll link to that story at democracynow.org. When we come back, it’s the 30th anniversary of the MOVE bombing, when the Philadelphia police bombed a neighborhood. Stay with us.

    WEDNESDAY, MAY 13, 2015

    Find this story at 13 May 2015

    Creative Commons License The original content of this program is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. Please attribute legal copies of this work to democracynow.org. Some of the work(s) that this program incorporates, however, may be separately licensed. For further information or additional permissions, contact us.

    Keystone protesters tracked at border after FBI spied on ‘extremists’

    Van nieuwsblog.burojansen.nl

    More than 18 months after federal investigation violated internal rules, activists say they were still watchlisted at the airport, visited at home by a terrorism task force and detained for hours because they ‘seemed like protesters’

    An activist was placed on a US government watchlist for domestic flights after being swept up in an FBI investigation into protests of the Keystone XL pipeline, linking a breach of intelligence protocol with accounts of continued tracking that environmentalists fear could follow them for life.

    Revealed: FBI violated its own rules while spying on Keystone XL opponents
    Read more
    Twenty-five-year-old Bradley Stroot is one of several campaigners to go public, after the Guardian revealed an FBI investigation that labeled them “environmental extremists”, with new allegations of a continued crackdown. From an hours-long detention at the US border to a home visit by a terrorism task force and an encounter with police searching for bombs, the activists say law enforcement has tracked them from a peaceful Texas protest of the highly contentious oil project in 2012 and 2013 to the tony suburbs of Indianapolis as recently as the end of last year.

    Stroot told the Guardian that when he flew back to Texas to visit a friend last December, he learned that he was on a watchlist – known as a “Secondary Security Screening Selection” – and was subjected to more invasive airport security measures.

    The FBI’s investigation into anti-Keystone activists was closed in June 2014 due to a lack of credible intelligence regarding threats to the pipeline and extremist activity.

    According to internal agency documents obtained by the Guardian and Earth Island Journal, it was discovered in August 2013 that the FBI’s investigation had been opened without proper approval from the chief legal counsel of the agency’s Houston division and a senior agent, resulting in a report of “substantial non-compliance” with rules set out by the US Justice Department.

    But before the internal violations were discovered, information on Stroot and several other activists was included in FBI files. Now, interviews with Stroot, who was held up at Chicago’s O’Hare airport six months after the investigation was closed, and other protesters indicate that they are still being monitored by law enforcement.

    Stroot and two other people involved in the protests were described in the files as having separate, larger “Subject” files in the FBI’s Guardian Threat Tracking System, a repository for suspicious activity reports and counterterrorism threat assessments that can be searched by all FBI employees.

    How the US’s terrorism watchlists work – and how you could end up on one
    Read more
    Hugh Handeyside, an attorney with the ACLU in New York, said the government’s suspicious activity reporting program is often tied to placement on a watchlist.

    “Both label people as suspicious according to low standards that inevitably include innocent conduct,” he said. “And this case shows that the two may be linked.”

    According to a long-withheld US watchlist guidance document published last year by the Intercept, people who do not meet the criteria for inclusion on the no-fly list but who are associated with “terrorist activity” may be placed on a selectee list like the one Bradley Stroot found himself on. Some 16,000 people – 1,200 of them US citizens – have been identified as so called “selectees” who must undergo heightened screenings at border crossings or airports.

    From photos at the pipeline to a pat-down at the airport
    fbi stroot
    Bradley Stroot was one of three people detained by Houston police for taking photographs of an endpoint for the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. Four days later, a terrorism unit of the FBI reviewed the incident. Information on Stroot and other ‘suspicious individuals’ was kept in the agency’s ‘Guardian’ repository for tracking suspicious activity and terrorism-involved activities.
    On 13 December 2014, Stroot said, he prepared to board a flight from Chicago to Dallas to see an old friend – his first air travel since his 10-month involvement in a campaign in the Houston area against the proposed Keystone project.

    While in Texas the first time, he had been arrested once for trespassing after taking part in a widely publicized occupation of part of the pipeline route that included a “tree village”.

    And on 15 November 2012, Stroot and two other activists were stopped by the Houston police department while taking photos of the Valero refinery, one of the endpoints for tar sands oil. Although they were not charged with any crime, details of the incident ended up in an FBI file – part of more than 80 pages of internal FBI documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request – that described the activists as “suspicious individuals”. Four days later, the police officers met with members of the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force to discuss the incident.

    The encounter with the Houston police left Stroot somewhat shaken but determined to continue protesting. He says he had flown once to Europe – before the Keystone campaign began in Texas in 2012 – and had no issues.

    But when he printed his American Airlines plane ticket in December, he noticed four S’s in large black letters in the top left corner. So-called “Secondary Security Screening Selection” helps Transportation Security Administration and Department of Homeland Security officers single out travelers, with no explanation, for heightened screening at airports.

    bradley stroot pass
    Secondary Security Screening Selection (SSSS) led Bradley Stroot to a more invasive pat-down on both legs of his return trip to Texas. Photograph: Courtesy of Bradley Stroot
    When Stroot arrived at Chicago O’Hare, he said, he was subjected to heightened security screening – removed from the main passenger line and taken to a separate holding area where another airline security official was waiting. His bags, Stroot alleged, were carefully searched and he was subjected to a more invasive pat-down. He said the same thing happened on his return flight to Chicago.

    “They pull you out of line, swab down all of your shit with tongue depressor-like things, and check for bomb-making materials,” Stroot said.

    TSA’s failures start long before screeners fail to detect bombs in security tests
    Jason Edward Harrington
    Read more
    But there were signs that Stroot had become a subject of interest to law enforcement even before he learned he was on a watchlist.

    One night in spring 2013, just a few months after he had returned home to Indiana from Texas, Stroot said he was helping out at a makeshift homeless shelter in Bloomington, sleeping in a friend’s truck, when a police officer knocked on the window and asked for identification.

    When the officer returned from running his ID, Stroot claims that he was aggressively questioned and that the officer asked if he could look in the truck, which had an open cab. “You could see there was nothing in it,” Stroot said.

    After what he recalls as minutes more of questioning, Stroot said the officer finally asked if he had “any bomb-making materials”.

    From video in the trees to detention at the border – and at home
    Tar Sands Blockade occupy the corporate offices of TransCanada on 7 January 2013 Facebook Twitter Pinterest
    Andrew Neef took part in a January 2013 protest at the Houston offices of TransCanada, the Canadian oil giant that would oversee the Keystone XL pipeline. Internal FBI documents show the agency willing to share ‘any pertinent intelligence regarding any threats’ with the company; the documents also show Neef included in files describing ‘Threats to Keystone XL Pipeline Projects’. Photograph: Tar Sands Blockade
    Stroot is not the only anti-Keystone XL activist who has been targeted since the Texas protest campaign and parallel FBI investigation.

    Elizabeth Arce, a 27-year-old independent journalist, traveled to Texas with a friend in October 2012 to help document the tree sit-in that ended in Stroot’s arrest. After spending a week in the trees live-streaming video of the protest, she said, they ran out of batteries and descended, hoping that as journalists they might avoid arrest from the police waiting underfoot.

    I think the storyline of TransCanada and authorities communicating further than we think is plausible
    Elizabeth Arce
    Arce and her friend, Lorenzo Serna, were arrested for trespassing but all the charges were dropped.

    In April 2013, Arce was on her way to Canada for an Earth Day event hosted by an indigenous group in Ontario. At the border crossing in Minnesota, Arce said, Canadian border agents asked her about the arrest in Texas, searched her car and eventually let her pass.

    But this past August, Arce said she, Serna and another friend were driving to Canada to document the aftermath of the Mount Polley mine disaster in British Columbia and were denied entry.

    At the crossing in Sweetgrass, Montana, Arce said agents at the border asked her detailed questions about her arrest in Texas. They searched the car for “hours”, she said, going through every piece of luggage and scrap of paper, even referring to her trombone as a “noisemaker”. After being detained for five hours, she said she and her friends were told that they could not cross into Canada because, she remembered an agent telling her, they “seemed like protesters”.

    In the FBI files, the agency’s Houston office said it would share “any pertinent intelligence regarding any threats” with TransCanada, the Canadian oil giant that has been lobbying for years to oversee the transport of tar sands oil from Canada to the Texas Gulf coast. The project is still awaiting approval from the Obama administration.

    “I think the storyline of TransCanada and authorities communicating further than we think is plausible,” Arce said.

    (In a statement, TransCanada said the company does not “direct law enforcement” but that “law enforcement officials have asked us on a number of occasions about our experience along the Gulf Coast Pipeline so they can determine what they may expect when Keystone XL construction begins”.)

    Andrew Neef, a 31-year-old data archivist from Minnesota, also spent time in Texas in 2012 and 2013. He was part of a mass action on 7 January 2013, at the Houston offices of TransCanada, and was arrested for trespassing along with another activist, Alec Johnson. Because he did not have a permanent address at the time and was not living in Texas, Neef entered his parents’ address on the police report. Neef and Johnson are both referred to in the FBI files obtained by the Guardian, which detail that the FBI had advance knowledge of the TransCanada sit-in and debriefed an informant on the event after it happened.

    stroot fbi
    An internal FBI document detailing the January 2013 arrest of Andrew Neef and Alec Johnson labeled them as ‘Threats to Keystone XL Pipeline Projects’. Neef said the peaceful protest haunted him, with authorities later showing up at his parents’ front door.
    About a month after the Houston arrest, Neef said his parents were visited by members of the Indiana division of the FBI’s joint terrorism task force at their home in Carmel, an upscale Indianapolis suburb.

    According to Neef, who also works as an independent-media journalist, the agents asked his parents several questions about the people he knew, whom he was working with, and where his funding came from. They also wanted to know, Neef said, if he was involved in anti-fracking campaigns.

    “They wanted me to contact them,” Neef said, “and probably become some kind of snitch.”

    (The FBI’s Houston field office did not respond to a detailed list of questions for this article.)

    More than a year later, the FBI investigation into anti-Keystone pipeline campaigners in Texas was formally closed due to a “lack of reporting and/or extremist activity”. But the FBI retains data on individuals even if the purported threat turns out to be non-existent.

    For young activists like Bradley Stroot, the stigma of being on a government watchlist can last for years. Stroot said he was resigned to the “new reality” that he may be on the list for “the rest of my life or a very long period”.

    Once an individual has been placed on the selective screening watchlist, there is very little he or she can do to get removed from it, said Handeyside of the ACLU, or even find out why he or she was put on it in the first place.

    “There’s no due process for these people,” he said.

    Adam Federman is a contributing editor of Earth Island Journal.
    Monday 8 June 2015 13.30 BST Last modified on Wednesday 17 June 2015 21.30 BST

    Find this story at 8 June 2015

    © 2015 Guardian News and Media Limited

    Revealed: FBI violated its own rules while spying on Keystone XL opponents

    Van nieuwsblog.burojansen.nl

    Houston investigation amounted to ‘substantial non-compliance’ of rules
    Internal memo labels pipeline opponents as ‘environmental extremists’
    FBI failed to get approval before it opened files on protesters in Texas

    The FBI breached its own internal rules when it spied on campaigners against the Keystone XL pipeline, failing to get approval before it cultivated informants and opened files on individuals protesting against the construction of the pipeline in Texas, documents reveal.

    Internal agency documents show for the first time how FBI agents have been closely monitoring anti-Keystone activists, in violation of guidelines designed to prevent the agency from becoming unduly involved in sensitive political issues.

    The hugely contentious Keystone XL pipeline, which is awaiting approval from the Obama administration, would transport tar sands oil from Canada to the Texas Gulf coast.

    It has been strongly opposed for years by a coalition of environmental groups, including some involved in nonviolent civil disobedience who have been monitored by federal law enforcement agencies.

    The documents reveal that one FBI investigation, run from its Houston field office, amounted to “substantial non-compliance” of Department of Justice rules that govern how the agency should handle sensitive matters.

    One FBI memo, which set out the rationale for investigating campaigners in the Houston area, touted the economic advantages of the pipeline while labelling its opponents “environmental extremists”.

    FBI Keystone memo Facebook Twitter Pinterest
    An FBI memo labels opponents of the controversial pipeline as ‘environmental extremists’. Photograph: Guardian
    FBI Keystone memo Facebook Twitter Pinterest
    An FBI memo detailing ‘non-compliance’ by the Houston field office. Photograph: Guardian
    “Many of these extremists believe the debates over pollution, protection of wildlife, safety, and property rights have been overshadowed by the promise of jobs and cheaper oil prices,” the FBI document states. “The Keystone pipeline, as part of the oil and natural gas industry, is vital to the security and economy of the United States.”

    The documents are among more than 80 pages of previously confidential FBI files obtained by the Guardian and Earth Island Journal after a request under the Freedom of Information Act.

    Between November 2012 and June 2014, the documents show, the FBI collated inside knowledge about forthcoming protests, documented the identities of individuals photographing oil-related infrastructure, scrutinised police intelligence and cultivated at least one informant.

    It is unclear whether the source or sources were protesters-turned-informants, private investigators or hackers. One source is referred to in the documents as having had “good access and a history of reliable reporting”.

    The FBI investigation targeted Tar Sands Blockade, a direct action group that was at the time campaigning in southern Texas.

    However, the partially redacted documents reveal the investigation into anti-Keystone activists occurred without prior approval of the top lawyer and senior agent in the Houston field office, a stipulation laid down in rules provided by the attorney general.

    Confronted by evidence contained in the cache of documents, the agency admitted that “FBI approval levels required by internal policy were not initially obtained” for the investigation, but said the failure was remedied and later reported internally.

    The FBI files appear to suggest the Houston branch of the investigation was opened in early 2013, several months after a high-level strategy meeting between the agency and TransCanada, the company building the pipeline.

    For a period of time – possibly as long as eight months – agents acting beyond their authority were monitoring activists aligned with Tar Sands Blockade.

    Tar Sands Blockade appeared on the FBI’s radar in late 2012, not long after the group began organising in east Houston, the end destination for Keystone’s 1,660-mile pipeline.

    Environmental activists affiliated with the group were committed to peaceful civil disobedience that can involve minor infractions of law, such as trespass. But they had no history of violent or serious crime.

    Ron Seifert, a key organiser at Tar Sands Blockade, said dozens of campaigners were arrested in Texas for protest-related activity around that time, but not one of them was accused of violent crime or property destruction.

    The group focused on Houston’s heavily industrialised neighbourhood of Manchester, where the Valero Energy Corporation has a massive refinery capable of processing heavy crude oil.

    Between early November 2012 and June 2014, the documents show, the FBI collated inside-knowledge about forthcoming protests, documented the identities of individuals photographing oil-related infrastructure, scrutinised police intelligence and cultivated at least one informant.

    FBI memo Facebook Twitter Pinterest
    ‘The Houston Division had identified an emerging threat from environmental extremists targeting construction projects of the TransCanada Keystone XL Pipeline within the Houston Domain.’ Photograph: Guardian
    It is unclear whether the source or sources were protesters-turned-informants, private investigators or hackers. One source is referred to in the documents as having had “good access, and a history of reliable reporting”.

    At one point, the FBI’s Houston office said it would share with TransCanada “any pertinent intelligence regarding any threats” to the company in advance of a forthcoming protest.

    One of the files refers to Houston police officers who stopped two men and a woman taking photographs near the city’s industrial port, noting they were using a “large and sophisticated looking” camera.

    Two of the individuals were described as having larger subject files in the FBI’s Guardian Threat Tracking System.

    In another incident, the license plate belonging to a Silver Dodge was dutifully entered into the FBI’s database, after a “source” spotted the driver and another man photographing a building associated with TransCanada.

    Sensitive matters
    The FBI rules, laid out in the FBI’s Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide, dictate that special care should be taken over sensitive investigations such as those targeting elected officials, journalists and political organisations.

    FBI work on “sensitive investigative matters” requires prior approval of both the chief division counsel (CDC), the top lawyer in the field office, and the special agent in charge (SAC).

    Both are supposed to consider the severity of the threat and the consequences of “adverse impact on civil liberties and public confidence” should the investigation be made public.

    Keystone protest Facebook Twitter Pinterest
    Tar Sands Blockade occupy the corporate offices of TransCanada in January 2013. Photograph: Laura Borealis/Tar Sands Blockade
    However, neither Houston’s CDC or SAC were consulted in relation to the FBI’s monitoring of Tar Sands Blockade activists, the documents show.

    Explaining the breach of protocols, the FBI said in a statement that it was committed to “act properly under the law”.

    “While the FBI approval levels required by internal policy were not initially obtained, once discovered, corrective action was taken, non-compliance was remedied, and the oversight was properly reported through the FBI’s internal oversight mechanism,” it said.

    The FBI did not deny opening an investigation into anti-Keystone campaigners, and said it was compelled to “take the initiative to secure and protect activities and entities which may be targeted for terrorism or espionage”.

    But the precise nature of the FBI’s investigation, which continued for almost a year after the Houston Division acknowledged it had violated protocol, remains unclear.

    The documents appear to suggest the investigation was one branch of a wider set of investigations, possibly including anti-Keystone activists elsewhere in the country.

    The documents connect the investigation into anti-Keystone activists to other “domestic terrorism issues” in the agency and show there was some liaison with the local FBI “assistant weapons of mass destruction coordinator”.

    Mike German, a former FBI agent, who assisted the Guardian in deciphering the bureau’s documentation, said they indicated the agency had opened a category of investigation that is known in agency parlance as an “assessment”.

    Introduced as part of an expansion of FBI powers after 9/11, assessments allow agents to open intrusive investigations into individuals or groups, even if they have no reason to believe they are breaking the law.

    German, now a fellow at the Brennan Center for Justice in New York, said the documents also raised questions over collusion between law enforcement and TransCanada.

    “It is clearly troubling that these documents suggest the FBI interprets its national security mandate as protecting private industry from political criticism,” he said.

    According to the FBI documents, the FBI concluded there were “no adverse consequences” emanating from its failure to seek approval for the sensitive investigation, noting the mistake was later “remedied”.

    The investigation continued for 11 months after the mistake was spotted. It was closed after the FBI’s Houston division acknowledged its failure to find sufficient evidence of “extremist activity”.

    Before closing the case, however, agents noted the existence of a file that was to be used as a repository for future intelligence “regarding the Keystone XL pipeline”.

    Since then, at least a dozen anti-tar sands campaigners in Oregon, Washington, and Idaho have been contacted by the FBI. The agency has said they are not under investigation.

    Adam Federman is a contributing editor of Earth Island Journal
    Paul Lewis in Washington and Adam Federman
    Tuesday 12 May 2015 11.59 BST Last modified on Tuesday 12 May 2015 23.11 BST

    Find this story at 12 May 2015

    © 2015 Guardian News and Media Limited

    FBI’s Plan to Expand Hacking Power Advances Despite Privacy Fears

    Van nieuwsblog.burojansen.nl

    Google had warned that the rule change represents a “monumental” constitutional concern.

    March 16, 2015 A judicial advisory panel Monday quietly approved a rule change that will broaden the FBI’s hacking authority despite fears raised by Google that the amended language represents a “monumental” constitutional concern.

    The Judicial Conference Advisory Committee on Criminal Rules voted 11-1 to modify an arcane federal rule to allow judges more flexibility in how they approve search warrants for electronic data, according to a Justice Department spokesman.

    (RELATED: Republicans Have Less Faith in the NSA than Democrats)

    Known as Rule 41, the existing provision generally allows judges to approve search warrants only for material within the geographic bounds of their judicial district.

    But the rule change, as requested by the department, would allow judges to grant warrants for remote searches of computers located outside their district or when the location is unknown.

    The government has defended the maneuver as a necessary update of protocol intended to modernize criminal procedure to address the increasingly complex digital realities of the 21st century. The FBI wants the expanded authority, which would allow it to more easily infiltrate computer networks to install malicious tracking software. This way, investigators can better monitor suspected criminals who use technology to conceal their identity.

    But the plan has been widely opposed by privacy advocates, such as the American Civil Liberties Union, as well as some technologists, who say it amounts to a substantial rewriting of the rule and not just a procedural tweak. Such a change could threaten the Fourth Amendment’s protections against unreasonable search and seizures, they warn, and possibly allow the FBI to violate the sovereignty of foreign nations. The rule change also could let the agency simultaneously target millions of computers at once, even potentially those belonging to users who aren’t suspected of any wrongdoing.

    (RELATED: The CIA Is Trying to Hack Your iPhone)

    Google weighed in last month with public comments that warned that the tweak “raises a number of monumental and highly complex constitutional, legal and geopolitical concerns that should be left to Congress to decide.”

    In an unusual move, Justice Department lawyers rebutted Google’s concerns, saying the search giant was misreading the proposal and that it would not result in any search or seizures not “already permitted under current law.”

    The judicial advisory committee’s vote is only the first of several stamps of approval required within the federal judicial branch before the the rule change can formally take place—a process that will likely take over a year. The proposal is now subject to review by the Standing Committee on Rules of Practice and Procedure, which normally can approve amendments at its June meeting. The Judicial Conference is next in line to approve the rule, a move that would likely occur in September.

    The Supreme Court would have until May 1, 2016 to review and accept the amendment, which Congress would then have seven months to reject, modify or defer. Absent any congressional action, the rule would take place on Dec. 1, 2016.

    “I read the Tech Edge every morning.”Ashley, Senior Media AssociateSign up form for the newsletter

    Privacy groups vowed to continue fighting the rule change as it winds its way through the additional layers of review.

    “Although presented as a minor procedural update, the proposal threatens to expand the government’s ability to use malware and so-called ‘zero-day exploits’ without imposing necessary protections,” said ACLU attorney Nathan Freed Wessler in a statement. “The current proposal fails to strike the right balance between safeguarding privacy and Internet security and allowing the government to investigate crimes.”

    Drew Mitnick, policy counsel with digital rights group Access, said the policy “should only be considered through an open and accountable legislative process.”

    Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment.


    Find this story at 16 March 2015

    Copyright © 2015 by National Journal Group Inc.

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