Tuesday, February 24, 2015

OpenStack 02/25/2015 (a.m.)

  • Tags: surveillance state, FBI, NSLs, litigation, 1st Amendment, civil-liberties

    • Despite the post-Snowden spotlight on mass surveillance, the intelligence community’s easiest end-run around the Fourth Amendment since 2001 has been something called a National Security Letter.

      FBI agents can demand that an Internet service provider, telephone company or financial institution turn over its records on any number of people — without any judicial review whatsoever — simply by writing a letter that says the information is needed for national security purposes. The FBI at one point was cranking out over 50,000 such letters a year; by the latest count, it still issues about 60 a day.

      The letters look like this:

    • Recipients are legally required to comply — but it doesn’t stop there. They also aren’t allowed to mention the order to anyone, least of all the person whose data is being searched. Ever. That’s because National Security Letters almost always come with eternal gag orders. Here’s that part:
    • Despite the use of the word “now” in that first sentence, however, the FBI has yet to do any such thing. It has not announced any such change, nor explained how it will implement it, or when.

      Media inquiries were greeted with stalling and, finally, a no comment — ostensibly on advice of legal counsel.

      “There is pending litigation that deals with a lot of the same questions you’re asking, out of the Ninth Circuit,” FBI spokesman Chris Allen told me. “So for now, we’ll just have to decline to comment.”

      FBI lawyers are working on a court filing for that case, and “it will address” the new policy, he said. He would not say when to expect it.

    • That means the NSL process utterly disregards the First Amendment as well.

      More than a year ago, President Obama announced that he was ordering the Justice Department to terminate gag orders “within a fixed time unless the government demonstrates a real need for further secrecy.”

      And on Feb. 3, when the Office of the Director of National Intelligence announced a handful of baby steps resulting from its “comprehensive effort to examine and enhance [its] privacy and civil liberty protections” one of the most concrete was — finally — to cap the gag orders:

      In response to the President’s new direction, the FBI will now presumptively terminate National Security Letter nondisclosure orders at the earlier of three years after the opening of a fully predicated investigation or the investigation’s close.

      Continued nondisclosures orders beyond this period are permitted only if a Special Agent in Charge or a Deputy Assistant Director determines that the statutory standards for nondisclosure continue to be satisfied and that the case agent has justified, in writing, why continued nondisclosure is appropriate.

    • There is indeed a significant case currently before the federal appeals court in San Francisco. Oral arguments were in October. A decision could come any time.

      But in that case, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), which is representing two unnamed communications companies that received NSLs, is calling for the entire NSL statute to be thrown out as unconstitutional — not for a tweak to the gag. And it has a March 2013 district court ruling in its favor.

      “The gag is a prior restraint under the First Amendment, and prior restraints have to meet an extremely high burden,” said Andrew Crocker, a legal fellow at EFF. That means going to court and meeting the burden of proof — not just signing a letter.

      Or as the Cato Institute’s Julian Sanchez put it, “To have such a low bar for denying persons or companies the right to speak about government orders they have been served with is anathema. And it is not very good for accountability.”

    • In a separate case, a wide range of media companies (including First Look Media, the non-profit digital media venture that produces The Intercept) are supporting a lawsuit filed by Twitter, demanding the right to say specifically how many NSLs it has received.

      But simply releasing companies from a gag doesn’t assure the kind of accountability that privacy advocates are saying is required by the Constitution.

      “What the public has to remember is a NSL is asking for your information, but it’s not asking it from you,” said Michael German, a former FBI agent who is now a fellow with the Brennan Center for Justice. “The vast majority of these things go to the very large telecommunications and financial companies who have a large stake in maintaining a good relationship with the government because they’re heavily regulated entities.”

    • So, German said, “the number of NSLs that would be exposed as a result of the release of the gag order is probably very few. The person whose records are being obtained is the one who should receive some notification.”

      A time limit on gags going forward also raises the question of whether past gag orders will now be withdrawn. “Obviously there are at this point literally hundreds of thousands of National Security Letters that are more than three years old,” said Sanchez. Individual review is therefore unlikely, but there ought to be some recourse, he said. And the further back you go, “it becomes increasingly implausible that a significant percentage of those are going to entail some dire national security risk.”

      The NSL program has a troubled history. The absolute secrecy of the program and resulting lack of accountability led to systemic abuse as documented by repeated inspector-general investigations, including improperly authorized NSLs, factual misstatements in the NSLs, improper requests under NSL statutes, requests for information based on First Amendment protected activity, “after-the-fact” blanket NSLs to “cover” illegal requests, and hundreds of NSLs for “community of interest” or “calling circle” information without any determination that the telephone numbers were relevant to authorized national security investigations.

    • Obama’s own hand-selected “Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies” recommended in December 2013 that NSLs should only be issued after judicial review — just like warrants — and that any gag should end within 180 days barring judicial re-approval.

      But FBI director James Comey objected to the idea, calling NSLs “a very important tool that is essential to the work we do.” His argument evidently prevailed with Obama.

    • NSLs have managed to stay largely under the American public’s radar. But, Crocker says, “pretty much every time I bring it up and give the thumbnail, people are shocked. Then you go into how many are issued every year, and they go crazy.”

      Want to send me your old NSL and see if we can set a new precedent? Here’s how to reach me. And here’s how to leak to me.

  • Watch for massive class action product defect litigation to be filed against the phone companies.and mobile device manufacturers.  In most U.S. jurisdictions, proof that the vendors/manufacturers  knew of the product defect is not required, only proof of the defect. Also, this is a golden opportunity for anyone who wants to get out of a pricey cellphone contract, since providing a compromised cellphone is a material breach of warranty, whether explicit or implied..   

    Tags: surveillance state, Gemalto, SIM-card-keys

    • European officials are demanding answers and investigations into a joint U.S. and U.K. hack of the world’s largest manufacturer of mobile SIM cards, following a report published by The Intercept Thursday.

      The report, based on leaked documents provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, revealed the U.S. spy agency and its British counterpart Government Communications Headquarters, GCHQ, hacked the Franco-Dutch digital security giant Gemalto in a sophisticated heist of encrypted cell-phone keys.

      The European Parliament’s chief negotiator on the European Union’s data protection law, Jan Philipp Albrecht, said the hack was “obviously based on some illegal activities.”

      “Member states like the U.K. are frankly not respecting the [law of the] Netherlands and partner states,” Albrecht told the Wall Street Journal.

      Sophie in ’t Veld, an EU parliamentarian with D66, the Netherlands’ largest opposition party, added, “Year after year we have heard about cowboy practices of secret services, but governments did nothing and kept quiet […] In fact, those very same governments push for ever-more surveillance capabilities, while it remains unclear how effective these practices are.”

    • “If the average IT whizzkid breaks into a company system, he’ll end up behind bars,” In ’t Veld added in a tweet Friday.

      The EU itself is barred from undertaking such investigations, leaving individual countries responsible for looking into cases that impact their national security matters. “We even get letters from the U.K. government saying we shouldn’t deal with these issues because it’s their own issue of national security,” Albrecht said.

      Still, lawmakers in the Netherlands are seeking investigations. Gerard Schouw, a Dutch member of parliament, also with the D66 party, has called on Ronald Plasterk, the Dutch minister of the interior, to answer questions before parliament. On Tuesday, the Dutch parliament will debate Schouw’s request.

      Additionally, European legal experts tell The Intercept, public prosecutors in EU member states that are both party to the Cybercrime Convention, which prohibits computer hacking, and home to Gemalto subsidiaries could pursue investigations into the breach of the company’s systems.

    • According to secret documents from 2010 and 2011, a joint NSA-GCHQ unit penetrated Gemalto’s internal networks and infiltrated the private communications of its employees in order to steal encryption keys, embedded on tiny SIM cards, which are used to protect the privacy of cellphone communications across the world. Gemalto produces some 2 billion SIM cards a year.

      The company’s clients include AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, Sprint and some 450 wireless network providers. “[We] believe we have their entire network,” GCHQ boasted in a leaked slide, referring to the Gemalto heist.

    • While Gemalto was indeed another casualty in Western governments’ sweeping effort to gather as much global intelligence advantage as possible, the leaked documents make clear that the company was specifically targeted. According to the materials published Thursday, GCHQ used a specific codename — DAPINO GAMMA — to refer to the operations against Gemalto. The spies also actively penetrated the email and social media accounts of Gemalto employees across the world in an effort to steal the company’s encryption keys.

      Evidence of the Gemalto breach rattled the digital security community.

      “Almost everyone in the world carries cell phones and this is an unprecedented mass attack on the privacy of citizens worldwide,” said Greg Nojeim, senior counsel at the Center for Democracy & Technology, a non-profit that advocates for digital privacy and free online expression. “While there is certainly value in targeted surveillance of cell phone communications, this coordinated subversion of the trusted technical security infrastructure of cell phones means the US and British governments now have easy access to our mobile communications.”

    • For Gemalto, evidence that their vaunted security systems and the privacy of customers had been compromised by the world’s top spy agencies made an immediate financial impact. The company’s shares took a dive on the Paris bourse Friday, falling $500 million. In the U.S., Gemalto’s shares fell as much 10 percent Friday morning. They had recovered somewhat — down 4 percent — by the close of trading on the Euronext stock exchange. Analysts at Dutch financial services company Rabobank speculated in a research note that Gemalto could be forced to recall “a large number” of SIM cards.

      The French daily L’Express noted today that Gemalto board member Alex Mandl was a founding trustee of the CIA-funded venture capital firm In-Q-Tel. Mandl resigned from In-Q-Tel’s board in 2002, when he was appointed CEO of Gemplus, which later merged with another company to become Gemalto. But the CIA connection still dogged Mandl, with the French press regularly insinuating that American spies could infiltrate the company. In 2003, a group of French lawmakers tried unsuccessfully to create a commission to investigate Gemplus’s ties to the CIA and its implications for the security of SIM cards. Mandl, an Austrian-American businessman who was once a top executive at AT&T, has denied that he had any relationship with the CIA beyond In-Q-Tel. In 2002, he said he did not even have a security clearance.

    • AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon could not be reached for comment Friday. Sprint declined to comment. Vodafone, the world’s second largest telecom provider by subscribers and a customer of Gemalto, said in a statement, “[W]e have no further details of these allegations which are industrywide in nature and are not focused on any one mobile operator. We will support industry bodies and Gemalto in their investigations.”

      Deutsche Telekom AG, a German company, said it has changed encryption algorithms in its Gemalto SIM cards.

      “We currently have no knowledge that this additional protection mechanism has been compromised,” the company said in a statement. “However, we cannot rule out this completely.”

    • Update: Asked about the SIM card heist, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said he did not expect the news would hurt relations with the tech industry:

      “It’s hard for me to imagine that there are a lot of technology executives that are out there that are in a position of saying that they hope that people who wish harm to this country will be able to use their technology to do so. So, I do think in fact that there are opportunities for the private sector and the federal government to coordinate and to cooperate on these efforts, both to keep the country safe, but also to protect our civil liberties.”


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