Posts tagged NSA
Webcam Spying: All the Gov Surveillance Agencies are Doing It
Apparently the GCHQ, the British equivalent to the National Security Agency (NSA) has been watching millions of Yahoo users with their webcams.
Documents given to the press by Edward Snowden state that this scheme called operation Optic Nerve (ON) was a collaboration of the GCHQ and the NSA in order to gather 1.8 million users’ images from webcams between 2008 and 2010.
According to the report, “it would appear that a surprising number of people use webcam conversations to show intimate parts of their body to the other person. Also, the fact that the Yahoo software allows more than one person to view a webcam stream without necessarily sending a reciprocal stream means that it appears sometimes to be used for broadcasting pornography.”
The document continues: “Face detection has the potential to aid selection of useful images for ‘mugshots’ or even for face recognition by assessing the angle of the face. The best images are ones where the person is facing the camera with their face upright.”
The tech corporation stated: “We were not aware of nor would we condone this reported activity. This report, if true, represents a whole new level of violation of our users’ privacy that is completely unacceptable and we strongly call on the world’s governments to reform surveillance law consistent with the principles we outlined in December. We are committed to preserving our users’ trust and security and continue our efforts to expand encryption across all of our services.”
In 2013, Marcus Thomas, former assistant director of the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) Operational Technology Division commented : “The FBI has been able to covertly activate a computer’s camera—without triggering the light that lets users know it is recording—for several years, and has used that technique mainly in terrorism cases or the most serious criminal investigations.”
Spying via webcam is apparently quite easy.
Last December, researchers at Johns Hopkins University (JHU) discovered security vulnerabilities within the Apple iSight system in the MacBook laptop and iMac desktop units that allow an third party to disable the webcam indicator LED.
Matthew Brocker and Stephen Checkoway authored a paper entitled, “iSeeYou: Disabling the MacBook Webcam Indicator LED” which outlines the process of reprogramming the iSight camera via the microcontroller to disable the LED activation light.
The paper reads: “In the past few years, the ever-expanding set of sensors present in commodity laptops and smartphones has prompted the security and privacy community to begin searching ways to detect and limit the undesired use of sensors,” the “iSeeYou. At the same time, researchers have demonstrated attacks exploiting the presence of sensors.”
This allowed Brocker and Checkoway to take photos and video of the subject from the webcam.
Shockingly, their technique also worked on 1Mac G5 and Intel-based iMacs; as well as 2008 MacBook Pros.
According to the paper: “Our results in this paper demonstrate that, at least in some cases, people have been correct to worry about malware covertly capturing images and video. We show a vulnerability in the iSight webcam that affects a particular range of Apple computers … that can be exploited to turn on the camera and capture images and video without the indicator illuminating.”
GOP Challenging Obama’s Executive Orders?
Published by NextNewsNetwork
WASHINGTON DC | Congressional Republicans may be taking President Obama to court over the executive actions that Obama touted during the Jan. 28 State of the Union speech.
Obama’s overtures to sidestep Congress and pass laws by himself are adding fresh urgency to Republicans’ legal efforts. They say Obama is using his authority in ways never-before seen.
The Hill, a Washington journal, added: “[House] speaker John Boehner said Republicans would not sit idly by as Obama takes unilateral actions like raising the minimum wage for federal contractors to $10.10 an hour.”
GOP Sen. John McCain, an Arizona Republican, noted: “We can go to court. We haven’t got many more options except [to] tell the American people that we’re seeing an abuse of the intent of the Constitution.”
Republicans especially want to legally challenge the president on his Obamacare enactment. The National Security Agency’s spying programs also have made the GOP’s lawsuit list.
Speaker Boehner declared: “We’re going to watch very closely, because there’s a Constitution that we all take an oath to, including him, and following the Constitution is the basis for House Republicans.”
But what WHDT alone dares to ask is this: What’s what the GOP’s sudden ‘constitutional conscience’?
Take Obamacare: If constitutional checks and balances are paramount, then:
· Why did the GOP-led House allow Obamacare to become enshrined in law in the first place?
· And didn’t the 2010 vote to approve the Affordable Care Act lay the groundwork for Obama’s executive orders?
The Hill noted: “GOP lawmakers argue the administration’s selective enforcement of the healthcare law amounts to an unconstitutional exercise of power. They point to [Obama's] decisions to delay health insurance requirements, cap out-of-pocket costs and expand the employer mandate penalty. They are also challenging the healthcare law’s contraception mandate.”
That mandate requires healthcare providers to make contraception available. Eighty-eight lawmakers have signed an amicus brief filed by Senators Roy Blunt of Missouri and Rep. Randy Forbes of Virginia. It argues the Department of Health and Human Services violated the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in implementing the contraception mandate.
· Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky plans to file a class action lawsuit against the NSA.
And Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson has sued the Office of Personnel Management for allowing lawmakers and their staffs to receive federal subsidies for their Obamacare coverage.
Democrats believe Obama is acting within his authority—which is doubtful at best. They say Republican obstruction has left Obama with little choice but to issue executive orders.
The war on terror is a major excuse for continual NSA spying in the first place. Back during the Bush administration, Republicans could have demanded that U.S. troops be brought home. And we’re left to wonder whether the apparently unwinnable wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were worthwhile at all.
Congress can de-fund nearly any program it dislikes through its normal legislative functions. If Congress wanted to de-fund the NSA tomorrow, it could. If Congress does not want Obamacare improperly applied, or doesn’t want it at all, then the GOP would have to bite the proverbial bullet and repeal it.
But instead GOP lawmakers are looking to the courts, rather than harnessing their own legislative powers, to reign in an abusive president.
The very same Constitution they say Obama is abusing was abused by both parties when they launched the war on terror without the Constitutional requirement of Congress declaring war. What followed was a trillion-dollar war which, by its very nature, converted the U.S. into a spy state at home and a perceived bully abroad.
Filing lawsuits makes big headlines. Some of the lawsuits may have merit. But this approach suggests that Congress is the weakest branch of government. The nation’s founders would have expected better. A weaker executive and stronger Congress would be their advice.
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New Snowden Interview (Full Video)
Crony capitalist website Think Progress says “progregssives” shouldn’t work with libertarians to fight the NSA, Could threaten The New Deal1
Crony capitalist website Think Progress says “progregssives” shouldn’t work with libertarians to fight the NSA, Could threaten The New Deal
Fundamentally the author’s concern is about the federal government losing control over the states. If the states reassert their historical, and it should be said – constitutional authority the whole big government dream could unravel even more rapidly than it is unraveling now.
Currently there are anti-NSA “lights out” bills moving through state legislatures. In essence the states seek to penalize utilities and other contractors which supply NSA facilities with water and electricity and so on. The bills would make it illegal to do business with the NSA within the borders of the state.
This is throwing up red flags in the statist camp. Even if the NSA is spying on US citizens, addressing the constitutional violations in this way, in a way which might actually work, could undermine the New Deal which for 70 years has sought to centralize ever more power in Washington DC.
Basically what it comes down to for Think Progress is that liberty, freedom, and human dignity, are less important than an all encompassing state and the dream of what is essentially a socialist United States. Think Progress makes the case that the welfare state is a worthy price for one’s soul.
Better a police state than to have an America which is decentralized and closer to the will of the people.
Image credit: http://www.againstcronycapitalism.org
About Nick Sorrentino
Nick Sorrentino is the co-founder and editor of AgainstCronyCapitalism.org. A political and communications consultant with clients across the political spectrum, he lives just outside of Washington DC where he can keep an eye on Leviathan.
By CBC News
Edward Snowden says ‘no chance’ of fair trial in U.S.
Ex-NSA contractor living in Russia on temporary visa
National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden says he has no plans to return to the United States because he sees “no chance to have a fair trial.”
The former NSA contractor, who is now living in Russia on a temporary one-year visa, is wanted by the U.S. government under charges of espionage and theft of government property.
- Why Edward Snowden did us all a favour
- Timeline of Edward Snowden and the NSA privacy leaks
- Why whistleblowers are crucial for democracy
- 10 whistleblowers and the scandals they spurred
“Returning to the US, I think, is the best resolution for the government, the public and myself, but it’s unfortunately not possible in the face of current whistleblower protection laws, which through a failure in law did not cover national security contractors like myself,” Snowden said in an online Q&A session Thursday afternoon with the website Free Snowden.
Snowden, who is responsible for one of the largest leaks of classified government information in U.S. history, has always maintained he acted in the interest of the American public. But, he said, the law under which he was charged, the 1917 Espionage Act, doesn’t allow him to use a public interest defence in the courts.
“This is especially frustrating, because it means there’s no chance to have a fair trial, and no way I can come home and make my case to a jury,” he said.
He added he could eventually return if reforms were made to the Whistleblower Protection Act, so that it also covers contractors.
Snowden also said reports of death threats being made by unnamed U.S. intelligence officials were “concerning” and said people should be bothered by officials disregarding Fifth Amendment rights to be free from abuses by authority.
“The fact that it’s also a direct threat to my life is something I am aware of, but I’m not going to be intimidated,” he said during the Q&A. “Doing the right thing means having no regrets.”
During a speech announcing changes to U.S. surveillance programs earlier this month, President Barack Obama mentioned Snowden and said his “sensational” revelations of classified spying programs could impact U.S. operations for years to come.
Some privacy advocates have pressed Obama to grant Snowden amnesty or a plea deal if he returns to the U.S., but the White House has dismissed those ideas. If found guilty under the Espionage Act, penalties could include imprisonment or death.
With files from The Associated Press
Copyright © CBC 2014
Republished with permission
By Tim Brown
Tennessee Introduces Anti-NSA Legislation
The Volunteer State is on a roll. Siding with eight other states, Tennessee has introduced a bill to attempt to keep the National Security Agency out of its state. The legislation targets NSA warrantless data gathering in violation of the Fourth Amendment.
State Senator Stacey Campfield (R) and State Representative Andy Holt (R) have sponsored SB1849 known as the “Tennessee Fourth Amendment Protection Act.” This bill is based on the model legislation drafted by the OffNow coalition.
You may recall Campfield from his previous comment regarding “assault pressure cookers” following the Boston Bombing.
According to SB1849, the State of Tennessee would be prohibited from “providing material support to…any federal agency claiming the power to authorize the collection of electronic data or metadata of any person pursuant to any action not based on a warrant,” which is required by the Fourth Amendment of the US Constitution.
According to Campfield, “We have an out of control federal agency spying on pretty much everybody in the world. I don’t think the state of Tennessee should be helping the NSA violate the Constitution and the basic privacy rights of its citizens – and we don’t have to. This bill may not completely stop the NSA, but it will darn sure stop Tennessee from participating in unjustified and illegal activities.”
NSA researcher James Bamford said that the NSA runs most of the data it gathers “from code breaking to word captures,” through computers at an Oak Ridge, Tennessee computing facility and NSA headquarters in Ft. Meade, Maryland.
According to the Tenth Amendment Center, the legislation deals with four main areas:
- Prohibits state and local agencies from providing any material support to the NSA within their jurisdiction. Includes barring government-owned utilities from providing water and electricity.
- Makes information gathered without a warrant by the NSA and shared with law enforcement inadmissible in state court.
- Blocks public universities from serving as NSA research facilities or recruiting grounds.
- Disincentivizes corporations attempting to fill needs not met in the absence of state cooperation.
Currently, the top secret facility Multiprogram Research Facility (MRF) is located on the East Campus of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL). The ORNL is a multiprogram science and technology national laboratory managed for the United States Department of Energy by the University of Tennesse-Battelle. NSA researchers use the facility to build incredibly fast computers to crack encryption. Several sources have indicated the MRF will be working together with the massive storage facility in Utah. The content of the data stored in the Utah facility could be decrypted by the computers being developed at the MRF.
Already, there are efforts underway by grassroots activists to tackle the Utah facility, while others have suggested turning off their water, or as recent California legislation seeks to do; turn off their water and electricity.
The Tenth Amendment Center communications director Mike Maharrey says that though the Oak Ridge facility’s work is legitimate, he believes the University of Tennessee needs to not be involved in the spy business.
“The main thing to understand is that this bill denies the NSA material support from the state, and that includes state universities,” said Maharrey. “People are going to be upset because they see value in Oak Ridge. But this legislation only bans material support to those activities which are part of the warrantless mass-surveillance that the federal government has been engaging in, and not everything else. The bottom line is that the people of Tennessee don’t want the NSA consuming massive amounts of their resources so the agency can spy on them, and pretty much everybody in the world too. It has to stop.”
“When Arizona State Sen. Kelli Ward announced her plan to introduce the Fourth Amendment Protection Act a few weeks back, it was a novelty,” Maharrey said. “People had this attitude like, ‘Oh, that’s cute. But it will never amount to anything.’ Today Tennessee makes the eighth state considering action to refuse cooperation with the NSA, and mark my words – more are coming. Big ones. James Madison said that when a number of states refused to cooperate with officers of the Union, it would create roadblocks which the federal government would be unwilling to encounter. This is not symbolic. We intend to box them in and make the NSA stop violating the Constitution.”
Tennessee has taken major steps to beat back the usurpations of the federal government’s violations of the Constitution. Just last week, legislation was introduced to nullify Obamacare and all federal gun laws. It’s nice to see states exercising rights they never gave to the federal government in an attempt to bring their creature back under control.
Why Obama Speech Spells No Change to Global Surveillance| Brainwash Update
Published by breakingtheset
Abby Martin calls out Obama’s long awaited speech regarding NSA surveillance, dissecting aspects of the speech that suggest no real change to global surveillance policies.
Rating Obama’s NSA Reform Plan: EFF Scorecard Explained
[...]President Obama announced a series of reforms to address abuses by the National Security Agency. We were heartened to see Obama recognized that the NSA has gone too far in trampling the privacy rights of people worldwide. In his speech, the President ensured that National Security Letters would not come with perpetual gag orders, brought new levels of transparency and fairness to the FISA court, and ended bulk collection of telephone records by the NSA. However, there is still much more to be done.
We’ve put together a scorecard showing how Obama’s announcements stack up against 12 common sense fixes that should be a minimum for reforming NSA surveillance. Each necessary reform was worth 1 point, and we were willing to award partial credit for steps in the right direction. On that scale, President Obama racked up 3.5 points out of a possible 12.
By Adam Dick
Judge Napolitano on NSA Using Radio Waves to Track and Attack Computers
Judge Andrew Napolitano discusses with host Shepard Smith on Fox News the New York Times report that the National Security Agency has surreptitiously installed devices in nearly 100,000 computers so the agency can use radio waves to spy on and alter data in the computers – even if the computers are not connected to the internet. Napolitano, an RPI Advisory Board member, examines the new revelations and Congress’s ongoing failure to end the mass spying:
By Ron Paul
Congress Defers to President On NSA Reform
Congress’s decline from the Founders’ vision as “first among equals” in government to an echo chamber of the unitary executive, has been a slow but steady process. In the process we have seen a steady stream of unconstitutional wars and civil liberties abuses at home. Nowhere is this decline more evident than in the stark contrast between the Congressional response to intelligence agencies’ abuses during the post-Watergate era and its response to the far more serious NSA abuses uncovered in recent years.
In 1975, Senator Frank Church (D-ID) convened an historic select committee to investigate the US intelligence services for possible criminality in the wake of Watergate. Thanks in part to reporting by Seymour Hersh and others, abuses by the CIA, NSA, and FBI had come to light, including the monitoring of US peace activists.
The Church Committee played its proper Congressional role, checking the power of the executive branch as it had been spiraling out of control since the 1950s and the early CIA covert action programs. The Committee sought to protect US citizens against abuses by their government after those abuses had come to light through leaks of secret government documents.
The parallel to the present NSA scandals cannot be ignored. What is completely different, however, is that Congress is today acting as an advocate for the executive branch’s continuing abuses, and as an opponent to the civil liberties of US citizens. Not only has Congress – with a precious few exceptions – accepted the NSA’s mass spying program on American citizens, it has actually been encouraging the president to continue and expand the program!
Where once there was a Congressional committee to challenge and oppose the president’s abuse of power, today the president himself has been even allowed by a complacent Congress to hand pick his own NSA review commission!
Are we really expected to believe that a commission appointed by the president to look into the activities of the president’s intelligence services will come to anything more than a few superficial changes to give the impression of real reform?
One of the president’s commission recommendations is that the NSA cease holding our phone records and demand that the private phone companies retain those records instead – for the NSA to access as it wishes. This is supposed to be reform?
The president will make a speech this Friday to tell the rest of us which of the suggestions made by his own commission he will decide to implement. Congress has no problem with that. Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.) admitted last week that Congress has no intention of asserting itself in the process. “It’s my hope that [Obama will] do as much as he can through the executive process because the legislative process will be difficult, perilous and long.”
Senator Church famously said back in 1975:
In the need to develop a capacity to know what potential enemies are doing, the United States government has perfected a technological capability that enables us to monitor the messages that go through the air… We must know, at the same time, that capability at any time could be turned around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left… There would be no place to hide…. I know the capacity that is there to make tyranny total in America, and we must see to it that this agency and all agencies that possess this technology operate within the law and under proper supervision so that we never cross over that abyss. That is the abyss from which there is no return.”
Have we reached that point? Let us hope not. Real reform begins with the repeal of the PATRIOT Act and of the 2001 Authorization for the use of military force. If we keep our eye on that goal and not allow ourselves to become distracted with the president’s phony commissions we might force Congress to listen.