The NSA Hearing, by the Numbers BY KIM ZETTER



The NSA Hearing, by the Numbers
3:00 PM

Director of the National Security Agency (NSA), Gen. Keith B. Alexander, testifies about NSA surveillance before the Senate Appropriations Committee on Capitol Hill. Photo: Charles Dharapak/AP


A federal hearing today on NSA surveillance programs leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden produced some interesting numbers about the scope of the data collections and other issues. We’ve produced a roundup below of some of the interesting stats and intelligence gleaned from the discussion.

The hearing, before Congress’s Select Committee on Intelligence, included NSA Director, General Keith Alexander; Deputy Attorney General James Cole; Deputy Director of the FBI Sean Joyce; and General Counsel Robert Litt, from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence General Counsel.

1) NSA Only Uses Section 215 of Patriot Act to Obtain Phone records. NSA Director Keith Alexander, responding to questions about the kinds of business records the agency obtains using this power granted by the Patriot Act, said that the agency only uses it to obtain phone records from companies. This would seem to contradict a recent Wall Street Journal story, which disclosed that the agency was collecting credit card transactions. But Alexander’s statement doesn’t rule out that the FBI is collecting credit card transactions and providing data pertaining to foreign intelligence cases to the NSA. The vast majority of business records requests under Section 215 are done by the FBI and other federal agencies, not the NSA.

2) Phone Records Obtained by NSA under Section 215 Are Destroyed After 5 Years. ODNI General Counsel Robert Litt asserted that the records are not kept indefinitely. Nor are they used for general data mining and pattern analysis, according to Alexander. He stated that the records are only used to perform individual “queries” against specific phone numbers. Presumably this means that pattern analysis likely would be done on those targeted phone numbers that are under investigation in order to ascertain any and all phone numbers that have communicated with the targeted number.

3) Only 22 People at NSA Can Authorize Queries of Phone Records Database. This number includes 20 analysts and two supervisors. Among the 22 people who can authorize such queries of the phone records database are Gen. Alexander himself and Litt.

4) Records/Data Obtained under 215 and Section 702 of FISA Thwarted 50 Potential Terrorist Plots. NSA Director Alexander and FBI Deputy Director Sean Joyce said that at least 50 cases they investigated used data obtained under the two surveillance programs that Snowden exposed. Section 702 of FISA can cover real-time emails and chats, IP addresses and other data. Asked by Rep. Jim Himes (D-Connecticut), how many of these 50 episodes “would have occurred but for your ability to use 702″ (or “How essential are these authorizations to stopping these attacks?”), Alexander said that he believed that in at least half of these cases, the data obtained under Section 702 of FISA was “critical.” He said that of the cases involving the use of phone records obtained under Section 215 of the Patriot Act, a little more than 10 of these cases involved some kind of “domestic nexus” — meaning they involved a U.S. citizen overseas or in the U.S. The vast majority of these cases “had a contribution from the business records requests.”

5) Snowden Worked for the NSA for 15 Months at Time of Leaks. Although it’s been reported that Snowden had only been working for defense contractor Booz Allen Hamilton for three months at the time of the leaks, and had only been stationed at the NSA’s Hawaii facility a few weeks prior to leaking, Alexander noted that Snowden had actually been working for the NSA under a different contractor during the 12 months prior to moving to Booz Allen Hamilton, which would have given him more time to scope out the network and determine which data he wanted to take.

6) NSA Plans to Institute a Two-Person Rule to Govern Activities of SysAdmins This would presumably involve requiring a shadow for every sysadmin to ensure that no one operator can download the kind of data Snowden obtained without authorization from another operator, or change auditing and logging instructions on the system to hide their tracks. Alexander noted that Snowden, as a systems administrator, had great authority to access parts of the network that are not accessible to regular analysts. The sysadmin also has the ability to set the auditing conditions on a portion of the network. “This is a huge problem,” Alexander said. “We’re coming up with a two-person rule to make sure we have a way to block” someone from taking information out of the system. “This is a work in progress,” he said.

7) NSA Has About 1,000 SysAdmins Worldwide. Alexander said the NSA has about 1,000 system administrators that have, in certain sections, the level of authority comparable to what Snowden had to access data. This number seems small, and Alexander said they were working on trying to get a more exact figure, but he noted that the majority of these system administrators were contract workers.

Finally, something else of note that Alexander said in the hearing today. The NSA apparently doesn’t yet know how Snowden obtained access to the court order that authorized Verizon to hand over the phone records of millions of American customers. He noted that to access the kind of data collected under the program required special “certificates” or keys to gain access to areas where the data was stored. Certificates and keys can refer to digital access to walled-off areas of data on a server, but Alexander also seemed to imply that Snowden would have needed physical access to a room where the data was stored.

“To get to any data like business records under 215, that’s in controlled area,” Alexander said. “You need specific certificates to get in to that. I’m not aware that Snowden had any certificates to get into that.” He later noted that by “certificates” he meant keys, meaning presumably electronic door access keys.

“In this case, what the system administrator had access to is what we’ll call the public web forums that NSA operates, and these are the things that talk about how we do our business, not necessarily what’s being collected as a results of that,” Alexander said. “Nor does it necessarily give them the insights that the training and the other issues that training and certification process and accreditation that our folks go through to actually do this. So those are in separate programs and require other certificates to get into.”

When asked if this meant Snowden did not have the certificates necessary to leave that public forum, Alexander replied, “So each set of data that we would have, and in this case let’s say the business records, FISA, you have to have specific certificates … because this is a cordoned off, so that would be extremely difficult for him to. . . he’d have to get up to NSA and get into that room to do. Others require certificates for you to be working in this area to have that. He would have to get one of those certificates to actually enter that area…. In other words, it’s a key.”

Following the hearing, reporters in the room cornered Alexander for further explanation about this, during which Alexander reportedly said that the NSA believes Snowden obtained access to the court order while he was undergoing orientation and training at the NSA’s headquarters at Ft. Meade.

“The FISA warrant was on a web server that he had access to as an analyst coming into the Threat Operations Center,” Alexander told Politico. “It was in a special classified section that as he was getting his training he went to.”

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Enemy of the State: Europe alarmed over U.S. intel spy program




Enemy of the State: Europe alarmed over U.S. intel spy program

U.S. government official brands NSA whistleblower as a traitor. The question remains why are U.S. government agencies collecting so much private data on American citizens, as though there were all presumed ’enemies of the state’?
June 12, 2013 – WASHINGTON – The EU is demanding assurances that Europeans’ rights are not being infringed by massive, newly revealed US surveillance program. Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding plans to raise the concerns with US Attorney General Eric Holder on Friday. Last week a series of leaks by a former CIA worker led to claims the US had a vast surveillance network with much less oversight than previously thought. The US insists its snooping is legal under domestic law. The Obama administration is investigating whether the disclosures by former CIA worker Edward Snowden were a criminal offence. More revelations are promised to be released to the press in coming days about the extent of U.S. domestic spying. Mr. Snowden’s employer, defense contractor Booz Allen Hamilton, said on Tuesday it had fired the 29-year-old infrastructure analyst for violating its ethics code. Russia has offered Mr. Snowden political asylum in light of the recent revelations against the U.S. US officials say the snooping program known as Prism, revealed in last week’s leaks, is authorized under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). It gives the US National Security Agency (NSA) the power to obtain emails and phone records relating to non-US nationals. But details about the individuals targeted under the act remain secret, and there are concerns the NSA is overstepping its powers. Documents leaked to the Guardian and Washington Post newspapers claimed the US authorities had direct access to the servers of nine major US technology firms, including Apple, Facebook and Google. Mr. Snowden told the Guardian that individual operatives had the power to tap into anyone’s emails at any time. Although the firms have denied granting such access, saying they agreed only to legal requests, US officials have admitted Prism exists. And on Tuesday, Republican Senator Lindsay Graham said US surveillance of phone records allowed the government to monitor phone records for a pattern of calls, even if those numbers had no known connection to terrorism. One of the Guardian journalists who wrote the Prism stories, Glenn Greenwald, has promised “more significant revelations” to come. In the US, the controversy has focused on the possibility that conversations of US citizens may inadvertently be captured. But overseas, governments and activists point out that US law provides foreigners with no protection. The Liberation Daily in China has harsh words for President Obama: “Five years ago, Obama came to power waving an anti-George W Bush banner. Five years later, he is still exactly the same as George W Bush on invasion of privacy issues.” Russia’s Izvestiya compares the revelations to a dystopian novel: “The frightening reality of the 21st Century is that the world has become a house with glass walls, notions of ‘personal secrets’ and ‘confidential information’ are turning into fiction before our very eyes.” –BBC

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Is Snowden at Spy or a Hero?

South Orange, NJ
Saturday, July 06, 2013
By Alan Caruba

Interesting to see how Edward Snowden, former employee of a National Security Agency contractor, has dropped off the front pages; how quickly he has become “old news”.

The leaders of the European Union are shocked to learn that the U.S. spies on them. Since their own spy agencies routinely share information with the intelligence agencies of our government, it did not come as a big a surprise to them.

The real surprise is how much spying our government does on American citizens.

Even in the days when the Continental Congress sent representatives to France to negotiate deals to acquire arms and secure its support for our Revolution the British spied on them, opening their mail, and such. George Washington won the Revolution in large part to an excellent network of his own spies. Spying is as old as mankind.

Though he embarrassed the President and the National Security Agency, Edward Snowden is not likely to be granted asylum in Russia. The odds are that Snowden has been a witting or unwitting agent of what used to be called the KGB and now goes by the name of the Federal Security Services, FSB. It is responsible for internal security and counter-intelligence.

It should come as no surprise, however, that two Communist nations, Venezuela and Nicaragua, have offered Snowden asylum.

The old KGB was closely involved with another American who went to Russia. He was Lee Harvey Oswald who history records as returning to the U.S. and later assassinating President Kennedy. The highest ranking Soviet bloc intelligence official to defect to the West, Lt. Gen. Ion Mihai Pacepa, has written “Disinformation”, revealing the long history of deception perfected under Lenin, Stalin, and others among the parade of KGB agents that served as its prime minister in the wake of Stalin’s death.

In 2007, Pecepa’s book, “Programmed to Kill: Lee Harvey Oswald, the Soviet KGB, and the Kennedy Assassination” in which he revealed that Oswald had been recruited for ideological reasons when he was a U.S. Marine stationed in Japan. “When he insisted on defecting to the Soviet paradise, the KGB kept him there for three years and then persuaded him to return to the United States temporarily, in order to assassinate President Kennedy, who had badly humiliated Oswald’s idol, Khrushchev. before the whole world.” Khrushchev changed his mind, but Oswald was determined to go ahead.

Everything old is new again!

A Daniel Greenfield commentary posted on New Media notes that “Foreign intelligence agencies look for people with security clearances who go through a lot of money in short periods of time, who simmer with grudges and grievances, who are rootless and dissatisfied. These descriptions adequately cover Edward Snowden and Bradley Manning, two men who should never have been given any kind of clearance whatsoever on personality alone.”

FSB Logo

It is pure speculation, but there is reason to believe that Snowden was recruited “for ideological reasons” and given the assignment to secure access to the NSA secrets. His escape to Hong Kong and then onto Russia smacks of some real planning. I don’t know who is funding WikiLeaks, but it would not surprise me to learn that it was the FSB. What an easy way to dupe people like Bradley Manning into providing information the FSB might otherwise not be able to secure. If anyone deserves the firing squad, it is Manning.

On July 1st Snowden said “In the end the Obama administration is not afraid of whistleblowers like me, Bradley Manning or Thomas Drake. We are stateless, imprisoned, or powerless. No, the Obama administration is afraid of you. It is afraid of an informed, angry public demanding the constitutional government it was promised—and it should be.”

Former Soviet KGB officials are now the Russian Federation government, starting with Putin and including every other member of his executive team. The process of disinformation continues; reaching back to the days of the czars.

As Pacepa notes, “In a 2008 Rasmussen poll, only 53% of Americans preferred capitalism to socialism, with another 27% unsure, and 20% strongly opting for socialism.”

That was also the year a totally unknown Illinois Senator leaped from virtual anonomy to capture the presidency. Despite strong connections with radical leftists, his charm and the “slobbering love affair” that ensued from the news media put him in the Oval Office and have kept him there. Along with the White House, the FSB agents stationed here routinely leak or spin stories to these dupes.

Pacepa points out that Obama has engineered the extraordinary takeover of “the U.S. banking sector, home mortgages, school loans, automakers, and most of the healthcare industry.” If the President has not long been and continues to be a FSB agent of influence, then he is surely the greatest of what Lenin used to call his “useful idiots.”

Under the Communist premiers from Lenin to Putin, disinformation has had two goals; to undermine faith in the Judeo-Christian religions, especially the spread of anti-Semitism, and to advance communism/socialism worldwide.

Old journalists like myself will tell you that there is no such thing as a coincidence. This is particularly true on the world stage. There are always unseen hands seeking to set events in motion or to control and correct the outcome of unforeseen events. I have always been wary of conspiracy theories, but that does not mean that conspiracies do not exist.

As for Snowden, Douglas J. Hagmann, a private investigator with strong ties inside the U.S. government among people who are deeply concerned of actions taken by the Obama administration, recently wrote: “Edward Snowden made a conscious decision to expose a massive, draconian system of spying on American citizens that he believed is violating the rights of every American. He could not reconcile his responsibilities under the executive order in which he was working with his knowledge as an American citizen himself.”

I recommend you read Pacepa’s book with its astonishing revelations based on decades within the inner circles of the Rumanian and Russian secret services. At the end of his book, he says, “Let us reject the Marxist redistribution of wealth which has transformed so many once-noble countries into lands looking like giant trailer camps hit by a hurricane…” warning against “the disinformation, the glasnost, that has been used so destructively over the years to squash freedom and bankrupt countries.”

Maybe Snowden is a hero? There are such people, you know. Or a dupe? That’s possible, too.  One thing is sure, more and more Americans are coming to fear the current administration..

Alan Caruba
The National Anxiety Center
South Orange, NJ

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Snowden should be rewarded as a hero!



When National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed the criminal ways in which the U.S. government is violating the privacy rights of Americans, Big Government Democrats and Republicans immediately began to demonize him and canceled his passport while they strongarmed other countries into denying him asylum. A majority of visitors to, however, have praised Snowden as a hero and overwhelmingly advocated big, bold cuts to the government’s surveillance powers.
In poll results collected as of June 17, comprising 4,457 respondents (excluding the 695 who selected the “different combination” option), at least 88 percent advocated repealing the Patriot Act, the NDAA, FISA, and every other law that violates Americans’ Fourth Amendment rights, and at least 75 percent agreed that the NSA should be abolished.
At least 54 percent of those who took the poll thought that Snowden should be award! ed the Presidential Medal of Freedom for shining a spotlight on how our militaristic security state has grown unaccountably out of control.
The Libertarian Party is the only political party that has, since its founding 42 years ago, fought to restore the privacy rights established by the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. By electing Libertarian candidates, the American people can reclaim their privacy and be free of the threat of warrantless searches by powerful and abusive government officials.
“Edward Snowden is a hero, not a criminal,” said Kenneth Kaplan, Libertarian Party candidate for governor of New Jersey. “If elected, I will sue the U.S. government on behalf of New Jersey residents and seek damages for violations of their Fourth Amendment rights.”
View the full poll results here.

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Ron Paul: The Government Doesn’t Need to Know More About What We Are Doing. We Need to Know More About What the Government is Doing.



by Ron Paul

Last week we saw dramatic new evidence of illegal government surveillance of our telephone calls, and of the National Security Agency’s deep penetration into American companies such as Facebook and Microsoft to spy on us. The media seemed shocked.

Many of us are not so surprised.

Some of us were arguing back in 2001 with the introduction of the so-called PATRIOT Act that it would pave the way for massive US government surveillance—not targeting terrorists but rather aimed against American citizens. We were told we must accept this temporary measure to provide government the tools to catch those responsible for 9/11. That was nearly twelve years and at least four wars ago.

We should know by now that when it comes to government power-grabs, we never go back to the status quo even when the “crisis” has passed. That part of our freedom and civil liberties once lost is never regained. How many times did the PATRIOT Act need renewed? How many times did FISA authority need expanded? Why did we have to pass a law to grant immunity to companies who hand over our personal information to the government?

It was all a build-up of the government’s capacity to monitor us.

The reaction of some in Congress and the Administration to last week’s leak was predictable. Knee-jerk defenders of the police state such as Senator Lindsey Graham declared that he was “glad” the government was collecting Verizon phone records—including his own—because the government needs to know what the enemy is up to. Those who take an oath to defend the Constitution from its enemies both foreign and domestic should worry about such statements.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers tells us of the tremendous benefits of this Big Brother-like program. He promises us that domestic terrorism plots were thwarted, but he cannot tell us about them because they are classified. I am a bit skeptical, however. In April, the New York Times reported that most of these domestic plots were actually elaborate sting operations developed and pushed by the FBI. According to the Times report, “of the 22 most frightening plans for attacks since 9/11 on American soil, 14 were developed in sting operations.”

Even if Chairman Rogers is right, though, and the program caught someone up to no good, we have to ask ourselves whether even such a result justifies trashing the Constitution. Here is what I said on the floor of the House when the PATRIOT Act was up for renewal back in 2011:

“If you want to be perfectly safe from child abuse and wife beating, the government could put a camera in every one of our houses and our bedrooms, and maybe there would be somebody made safer this way, but what would you be giving up? Perfect safety is not the purpose of government. What we want from government is to enforce the law to protect our liberties.”

What most undermines the claims of the Administration and its defenders about this surveillance program is the process itself. First the government listens in on all of our telephone calls without a warrant and then if it finds something it goes to a FISA court and get an illegal approval for what it has already done! This turns the rule of law and due process on its head.

The government does not need to know more about what we are doing. We need to know more about what the government is doing. We need to turn the cameras on the police and on the government, not the other way around. We should be thankful for writers like Glenn Greenwald, who broke last week’s story, for taking risks to let us know what the government is doing. There are calls for the persecution of Greenwald and the other whistle-blowers and reporters. They should be defended, as their work defends our freedom.

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