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February 10, 2014

The NSA uses our metadata to assassinate people with drones

The assassinations lack a human element that might prevent innocent deaths. The NSA's Secret Role in the U.S. Assassination Program - The Intercept
The National Security Agency is using complex analysis of electronic surveillance, rather than human intelligence, as the primary method to locate targets for lethal drone strikes – an unreliable tactic that results in the deaths of innocent or unidentified people. According to a former drone operator for the military’s Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) who also worked with the NSA, the agency often identifies targets based on controversial metadata analysis and cell-phone tracking technologies. Rather than confirming a target’s identity with operatives or informants on the ground, the CIA or the U.S. military then orders a strike based on the activity and location of the mobile phone a person is believed to be using. The drone operator, who agreed to discuss the top-secret programs on the condition of anonymity, was a member of JSOC’s High Value Targeting task force, which is charged with identifying, capturing or killing terrorist suspects in Yemen, Somalia, Afghanistan and elsewhere. His account is bolstered by top-secret NSA documents previously provided by whistleblower Edward Snowden. It is also supported by a former drone sensor operator with the U.S. Air Force, Brandon Bryant, who has become an outspoken critic of the lethal operations in which he was directly involved in Iraq, Afghanistan and Yemen. In one tactic, the NSA “geolocates” the SIM card or handset of a suspected terrorist’s mobile phone, enabling the CIA and U.S. military to conduct night raids and drone strikes to kill or capture the individual in possession of the device. . . . One problem, he explains, is that targets are increasingly aware of the NSA’s reliance on geolocating, and have moved to thwart the tactic. Some have as many as 16 different SIM cards associated with their identity within the High Value Target system. Others, unaware that their mobile phone is being targeted, lend their phone, with the SIM card in it, to friends, children, spouses and family members. Some top Taliban leaders, knowing of the NSA’s targeting method, have purposely and randomly distributed SIM cards among their units in order to elude their trackers. “They would do things like go to meetings, take all their SIM cards out, put them in a bag, mix them up, and everybody gets a different SIM card when they leave,” the former drone operator says. “That’s how they confuse us.”

February 06, 2014

Russian official claims they are surveilling Olympic journalists as they shower

What's worse: having showers that leak or being watched while you shower by the security apparatus of Russia? Russian Officials Defend Decrepit Facilities By Citing Surveillance Footage Inside Hotel Showers | ThinkProgress
Journalists, spectators, and athletes in town for the Sochi Olympics (which start today) have been reacting to their unfinished hotel rooms, dirty water, and unfamiliar lavatory setups with a mix of amusement and frustration on social media. Less genial are the Russian officials tasked with running the games, who have begun accusing their detractors of deliberately sabotaging the Olympic village in an effort to embarrass Russia. And they can prove it too, thanks to the surveillance cameras installed in visitors’ showers. At least that seemed to be the admission from Dmitry Kozak, a deputy Prime Minister who is responsible for overseeing the Sochi Olympics. He spoke with the Wall Street Journal about the endless stream of criticism, and was eager to offer his evidence that much of it is fabricated. “We have surveillance video from the hotels that shows people turn on the shower, direct the nozzle at the wall and then leave the room for the whole day,” he told the paper. Before the Journal could inquire as to how Russian officials were able to see inside the showers of hotel guests, an aide stepped in and pulled the reporter away from Kozak. Whether or not the claim by Kozak is true, Russia’s Olympic games are already rife with privacy concerns. NBC News reporter Richard Engel filed a report from Sochi on Tuesday documenting how hackers in Russia were able to gain access to both of his computers and his cell phone in a matter of minutes, and the U.S. State Department has issued a warning to anyone traveling to the games that they should have “no expectation of privacy, even in their hotel rooms.”

January 13, 2014

German researcher discovers the NSA's security backdoors are open to anyone clever

The problem with putting backdoors into everyone's systems is that at the end of the day there are backdoors in everyone's security. Researcher describes ease to detect, derail and exploit NSA's Lawful Interception | ZDNet
While headlines from European hacking conference 30c3 featured speakers vying for U.S. National Security Agency revelation sensationalism, one notorious hacker delivered an explosive talk that dismantled one thing the NSA, law enforcement, and global intelligence agencies depend on: "Lawful Interception" systems. And German researcher Felix "FX" Lindner did exactly that, in what was stealthily 30c3's most controversial bombshell of the conference. In a talk titled CounterStrike: Lawful Interception, Lindner explained to a standing-room-only theater of 3,000 hackers how easy it is to find out if you're under legally imposed surveillance, detailing how easily a user can jam the shoddy legacy systems running Lawful Interception (LI). In explaining how LI works, Lindner revealed the shocking lack of accountability in its implementation and the "perverted incentive situation of all parties involved" that makes it easy to perform interception of communications without any record left behind.