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Former FISA chief judge Bates slams key proposed NSA reforms as unnecessary, counterproductive – 1/14/2014 4:09:17 PM | Newser January 15, 2014

Posted by sandyclaus in NSA, Security, Security State.
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Speaking for the entire U.S. judiciary, U.S. District Judge John D. Bates sent a letter to the Senate Intelligence Committee saying that appointing an independent advocate to the secret surveillance court is unnecessary and possibly counterproductive, and he slammed other key reforms as adding too heavy a caseload to the secret courts work. In current FISC hearings, judges only hear from the government seeking a spy warrant.

via Former FISA chief judge Bates slams key proposed NSA reforms as unnecessary, counterproductive – 1/14/2014 4:09:17 PM | Newser.

Ten Myths About the NSA, Debunked | The Nation January 13, 2014

Posted by sandyclaus in NSA, Security, Security State.
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The debate Edward Snowden envisioned when he revealed the extent of National Security Agency NSA spying on Americans has taken a bad turn. Instead of a careful examination of what the NSA does, the legality of its actions, what risks it takes for what gains, and how effective the agency has been in its stated mission of protecting Americans, we increasingly have government officials or retired versions of the same demanding—quite literally—Snowden’s head and engaging in the usual fear-mongering over 9/11. They have been aided by a chorus of pundits, columnists, and present as well as former officials offering bumper-sticker slogans like \”If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear,\” all the while claiming our freedom is in direct conflict with our security.It’s time to face these arguments directly. So here are ten myths about NSA surveillance that need debunking. Lets sort them out.

via Ten Myths About the NSA, Debunked | The Nation.

What Glenn Greenwald Got Wrong | Popular Science January 9, 2014

Posted by sandyclaus in NSA, Security, Technology Reporting.
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The New York Times, in their own investigation, found that this locked box concept is probably what\’s going on here. The government uses FISA, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (the statute that specifies how and in what manner the government can obtain data), to demand information, and instead of the companies handing it over in individual chunks, the government requested these locked boxes so the handoff of information could be efficient and secure. It\’s sort of the internet-age equivalent of a source meeting a handler on back-to-back park benches and exchanging manila file folders while never looking at each other. These requests, by the way, are legally binding and also come with a gag order preventing the companies from discussing them.

Fogel, and many other tech types I\’ve talked to, are outraged about the media handling of this story. In their mind, the media is bungling all of the intricate technical aspects of the story due to a lack of expertise in the field. And that\’s a fair point! Journalists, even tech journalists, are trained to report and write stories, not to have the same command of tech that an IT person has.

Fogel is being kind of ridiculous by calling Greenwald\’s discussion of \”direct access\” an \”epic botch,\” though. I do think Greenwald misinterpreted the use of the word \”servers\” and in turn may have misunderstood how this program actually works–not a small thing, and in a case as sensitive as PRISM, we need to make sure we have as many of the facts as possible. (I don\’t blame Greenwald for this, by the way; this was a brand-new story and nobody quite knew the scope or effect of it, and he did a hell of a job exposing the surface of the program.)

via What Glenn Greenwald Got Wrong | Popular Science.

Officials Say U.S. May Never Know Extent of Snowden’s Leaks – NYTimes.com January 9, 2014

Posted by sandyclaus in NSA, Politics, Security.
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In recent days, a senior N.S.A. official has told reporters that he believed Mr. Snowden still had access to documents not yet disclosed. The official, Rick Ledgett, who is heading the security agency’s task force examining Mr. Snowden’s leak, said he would consider recommending amnesty for Mr. Snowden in exchange for those documents.

“So, my personal view is, yes, it’s worth having a conversation about,” Mr. Ledgett told CBS News. “I would need assurances that the remainder of the data could be secured, and my bar for those assurances would be very high. It would be more than just an assertion on his part.”

Mr. Snowden is living and working in Russia under a one-year asylum. The Russian government has refused to extradite Mr. Snowden, who was indicted by the Justice Department in June on charges of espionage and stealing government property, to the United States.

Mr. Snowden has said he would return to the United States if he was offered amnesty, but it is unclear whether Mr. Obama — who would most likely have to make such a decision — would make such an offer, given the damage the administration has claimed Mr. Snowden’s leaks have done to national security.

Because the N.S.A. is still uncertain about exactly what Mr. Snowden took, government officials sometimes first learn about specific documents from reporters preparing their articles for publication — leaving the State Department with little time to notify foreign leaders about coming disclosures.

via Officials Say U.S. May Never Know Extent of Snowden’s Leaks – NYTimes.com.

Ex-official: FBI can secretly activate an individual’s webcam without indicator light – MacDailyNews – Welcome Home January 9, 2014

Posted by sandyclaus in Computer Security, FBI, NSA, Security, Security State.
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“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, said Marcus Thomas, former assistant director of the FBI’s Operational Technology Division in Quantico, now on the advisory board of Subsentio, a firm that helps telecommunications carriers comply with federal wiretap statutes,” Timberg and Nakashima report. “The ability to remotely activate video feeds was among the issues cited in a case in Houston, where federal magistrate Judge Stephen W. Smith rejected a search warrant request from the FBI in April. In that case, first reported by the Wall Street Journal, Smith ruled that the use of such technology in a bank fraud case was ‘extremely intrusive’ and ran the risk of accidentally capturing information of people not under suspicion of any crime.

via Ex-official: FBI can secretly activate an individual’s webcam without indicator light – MacDailyNews – Welcome Home.

FBI’s search for ‘Mo,’ suspect in bomb threats, highlights use of malware for surveillance – The Washington Post January 9, 2014

Posted by sandyclaus in Computer Security, FBI, NSA, Security State.
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A federal magistrate in Denver approved sending surveillance software to Mo’s computer last year. Not all such requests are welcomed by the courts: An FBI plan to send surveillance software to a suspect in a different case — one that involved activating a suspect’s built-in computer camera — was rejected by a federal magistrate in Houston, who ruled that it was “extremely intrusive” and could violate the Fourth Amendment.

“You can’t just go on a fishing expedition,” said Laura K. Donohue, a Georgetown University law professor who reviewed three recent court rulings on FBI surveillance software, including one involving Mo. “There needs to be a nexus between the crime being alleged and the material to be seized. What they are doing here, though, is collecting everything.”

The FBI and Justice Department declined to comment on the case or the surveillance techniques used in pursuit of Mo.

But court documents related to the investigation, created when the FBI requested a search warrant before sending the surveillance software across the Internet to Mo, have offered a rare window into the bureau’s tools for tracking suspects through an online landscape replete with places to hide.

The case also shows the limits of the surveillance software, which have not yielded Mo’s arrest, and the legal complexities created when the location of a subject is unknown.

via FBI’s search for ‘Mo,’ suspect in bomb threats, highlights use of malware for surveillance – The Washington Post.

Schneier on Security: More about the NSA’s Tailored Access Operations Unit January 9, 2014

Posted by sandyclaus in FBI, NSA, Security, Security State.
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These minor disruptions in the parcel shipping business rank among the \”most productive operations\” conducted by the NSA hackers, one top secret document relates in enthusiastic terms. This method, the presentation continues, allows TAO to obtain access to networks \”around the world.\”

They can install the software implants using techniques like QUANTUM and FOXACID.

Related is this list of NSA attack tools. And here is another article on TAO from October.

Remember, this is not just about the NSA. The NSA shares these tools with the FBI\’s black bag teams for domestic surveillance, and presumably with the CIA and DEA as well. Other countries are going to have similar bags of tricks, depending on their sophistication and budgets. And today\’s secret NSA programs are tomorrow\’s PhD theses, and the next day\’s criminal hacking tools. Even if you trust the NSA to only spy on \”enemies,\” consider this an advance warning of what we have to secure ourselves against in the future.

via Schneier on Security: More about the NSA’s Tailored Access Operations Unit.

enterprisevafb.html January 9, 2014

Posted by sandyclaus in NSA, Security.
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Enterprise at SLC-6 (February 19, 1985)

via enterprisevafb.html.

Space Launch Complex 6 [SLC-6] — Vandenberg Air Force Base January 9, 2014

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The Advanced KEYHOLE [\”KH-12\”] was a driving force behind the decision to build the the Space Launch Complex 6 (SLC-6) at Vandenberg Air Force Base (VAFB). The satellite needed a polar orbit for coverage, and VAFB \”could provide near polar and retrograde azimuth launches which could not be achieved efficiently or safely from Kennedy.\”(3) The importance of accommodating the new generation reconnaissance satellite was DOD\’s underlying rationale for a West coast launch site.

However, the SLC-6 (pronounced slick six) facility was plagued by problems, including faulty construction, unanticipated operational hazards such as the weather, and the need for augmentation shuttle in order to boost the heavy KH-12. These problems delayed the initial operation of SLC-6 as well as the KH-12\’s debut, which, prior to the cancellation of West coast shuttle operations, was scheduled for the second Vandenberg shuttle flight. The expensive and problem-ridden SLC-6 complex itself came under increasing fire as critics urged rapid development of new expendable launch vehicles capable of boosting heavy payloads into polar orbit.

The SLC-6 saga illuminates the KH-12\’s impact on the space program not only regarding the decision to build the nearly three billion dollar launch site, but also because of shuttle design changes made to accommodate the satellite.

After Vandenberg was chosen as an STS launch site, the Air Force argued that conversion of SLC-6\’s partially complete Titan 3 facilities – the remains of the canceled Manned Orbiting Laboratory (MOL) program – would save over $100 million by precluding `bare ground\’ construction of Shuttle facilities.(4) Modification of existing MOL facilities nonetheless was extensive.

via Space Launch Complex 6 [SLC-6] — Vandenberg Air Force Base.

SECRET SPACE SHIPS Military Missions of the Space Shuttle January 9, 2014

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The first military Shuttle mission was launched from Pad 39A at 1500Z on 27 June 1982. Military space missions also accounted for part or all of 14 out of 37 Shuttle flights launched from the Cape between August 1984 and July 1992. While many details of those missions are not releasable, some features of Shuttle payload ground processing operations and range support requirements can be summarized for what might be termed a \”typical\” military space mission.  – SOURCE: Global Security

A military space shuttle would have been the military equivalent of NASA\’s space shuttle. Many experts believe that it is extremely unlikely that NASA, the United States Department of Defense or any other Federal agency could keep the existence of such a spacecraft secret, given the official knowledge that stated extensive technical support and launching establishment would be necessary to fly it.

It should however be noted that, early in the design phase of what eventually became the Space Shuttle, there were plans for the U.S. military to purchase some of the vehicles for its own purposes (mainly the servicing and crewing of proposed \’surveillance space stations\’). The design requirements that thus emerged (in particular, the need for a longer-range glide capability, enabling the shuttle to land at specific U.S. Air Force bases), affected the eventual design of the vehicle, increasing its complexity. However, none of these \’Blue Shuttles\’ were ever built, and the U.S. military turned to increasingly sophisticated unmanned satellites as a more viable alternative.

via SECRET SPACE SHIPS Military Missions of the Space Shuttle.