The Weight of Thought

Spiegel Online has a lengthy new report out today detailing the exploits of an elite and secretive NSA hacking unit called Tailored Access Operations, or TAO. The group is tasked with gaining access to electronic devices by any means necessary.
According to the report, TAO dabbles in a lot of spying activities, but there are a few that stand out as especially invasive. 
First, the TAO program can intercept hardware like laptops before they’re shipped to a user and install malware on the devices that let spies track the owner. The process is called “interdiction” and allows the NSA to divert shipments of consumer devices to secret workshops where agents carefully open the packing so it looks like nothing was tampered with before installing the malware.

studiesinforcedoptimism:

afortunateson2:

Micro-Drones Combined With DNA Hacking Could Create A Very Scary Future
An insect spy drone for urban areas, already in production, funded by the US Government. It can be remotely controlled and is equipped with a camera and a microphone. It can land on you, and it may have the potential to take a DNA sample or leave RFID tracking nanotechnology on your skin. It can fly through an open window, or it can attach to your clothing until you take it in your home. Given their propensity to request macro-sized drones for surveillance, one is left with little doubt that police and military may look into these gadgets next.Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/government-collected-dna-and-future-micro-drones-are-downright-scary-2012-10#ixzz2TEO1q2fJ

Gross

studiesinforcedoptimism:

afortunateson2:

Micro-Drones Combined With DNA Hacking Could Create A Very Scary Future

An insect spy drone for urban areas, already in production, funded by the US Government. It can be remotely controlled and is equipped with a camera and a microphone. It can land on you, and it may have the potential to take a DNA sample or leave RFID tracking nanotechnology on your skin. It can fly through an open window, or it can attach to your clothing until you take it in your home. Given their propensity to request macro-sized drones for surveillance, one is left with little doubt that police and military may look into these gadgets next.

Read more: http://www.businessinsider.com/government-collected-dna-and-future-micro-drones-are-downright-scary-2012-10#ixzz2TEO1q2fJ

Gross

Reporters should be prevented from “selling” National Security Agency documents, Gen. Keith Alexander says in a videotaped interview with Department of Defense blog Armed With Science. In a discussion designed to reassure the American public that its government is not spying on them, the NSA chief calls for an end to the publication of documents leaked by former contractor Edward Snowden. “I think it’s wrong that that newspaper reporters have all these documents, the 50,000-whatever they have and are selling them and giving them out as if these — you know it just doesn’t make sense,” Alexander said. “We ought to come up with a way of stopping it. I don’t know how to do that. That’s more of the courts and the policymakers but, from my perspective, it’s wrong to allow this to go on.”

Previously in the interview, Alexander compares the public’s negative reaction to the necessity of intelligence collection to a child’s refusal to take a bath. “It’s like when you were younger — well, this is for boys,” he said. “You know, when you’re younger, you say, ‘I don’t want to take a bath.’ You say, ‘No, I’d never take a bath. Why would we want to take a bath?’ Well, you’ve got to take a bath, cleanliness, (et cetera). I said, ‘But isn’t there a better way?’ Well we don’t, so we had to take baths, right, or showers. What about here, what’s a better way to stop terrorists?”

President Barack Obama’s administration is urging the Supreme Court not to take up the first case it has received on controversial National Security Agency cybersnooping.
US government attorneys argue that the Supreme Court does not have the jurisdiction to take the case, filed in July by the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC).
EPIC believes the NSA overstepped its authority by carrying out broad communications monitoring and surveillance worldwide, and demanded the program be stopped.
A US Supreme Court decision to take the case would be “a drastic and extraordinary remedy that is reserved for really extraordinary causes,” argued Donald Verrilli, an administration lawyer, in a statement released late Tuesday.
The US administration also believes the EIPC suit cannot move forward because it argues the court lacks authority under the 2001 Patriot Act to weigh in on the legality of NSA activities.
“This court lacks jurisdiction to issue a writ of certiorari to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court,” the secret intelligence affairs court, Verrilli added.

From Silicon Valley to the South Pacific, counterattacks to revelations of widespread National Security Agency surveillance are taking shape, from a surge of new encrypted email programs to technology that sprinkles the Internet with red flag terms to confuse would-be snoops.

Policy makers, privacy advocates and political leaders around the world have been outraged at the near weekly disclosures from former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden that expose sweeping U.S. government surveillance programs.

The National Security Agency has broken privacy rules or overstepped its legal authority thousands of times each year since Congress granted the agency broad new powers in 2008, according to an internal audit and other top-secret documents.

Most of the infractions involve unauthorized surveillance of Americans or foreign intelligence targets in the United States, both of which are restricted by statute and executive order. They range from significant violations of law to typographical errors that resulted in unintended interception of U.S. e-mails and telephone calls.

The documents, provided earlier this summer to The Washington Post by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, include a level of detail and analysis that is not routinely shared with Congress or the special court that oversees surveillance. In one of the documents, agency personnel are instructed to remove details and substitute more generic language in reports to the Justice Department and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

In one instance, the NSA decided that it need not report the unintended surveillance of Americans. A notable example in 2008 was the interception of a “large number” of calls placed from Washington when a programming error confused the U.S. area code 202 for 20, the international dialing code for Egypt, according to a “quality assurance” review that was not distributed to the NSA’s oversight staff.

Exclusive: U.S. directs agents to cover up program used to investigate Americans

A secretive U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration unit is funneling information from intelligence intercepts, wiretaps, informants and a massive database of telephone records to authorities across the nation to help them launch criminal investigations of Americans.

Although these cases rarely involve national security issues, documents reviewed by Reuters show that law enforcement agents have been directed to conceal how such investigations truly begin - not only from defense lawyers but also sometimes from prosecutors and judges.

The undated documents show that federal agents are trained to “recreate” the investigative trail to effectively cover up where the information originated, a practice that some experts say violates a defendant’s Constitutional right to a fair trial. If defendants don’t know how an investigation began, they cannot know to ask to review potential sources of exculpatory evidence - information that could reveal entrapment, mistakes or biased witnesses.

"I have never heard of anything like this at all," said Nancy Gertner, a Harvard Law School professor who served as a federal judge from 1994 to 2011. Gertner and other legal experts said the program sounds more troubling than recent disclosures that the National Security Agency has been collecting domestic phone records. The NSA effort is geared toward stopping terrorists; the DEA program targets common criminals, primarily drug dealers.

Rep. Rush Holt has long been one of the most outspoken critics of the surveillance state. First elected in 1998 to represent central New Jersey, the Democrat sermo ved on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, which oversees U.S. intelligence agencies, from 2003 until 2011. He is currently seeking the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate from New Jersey, running against Newark mayor Cory Booker.

Last week, Holt introduced the Surveillance State Repeal Act. A number of members of Congress have offered proposals to rein in domestic surveillance, but Holt’s bill may be the most ambitious. It would repeal the 2001 Patriot Act, which the NSA has cited as the legal basis for its phone records surveillance program. It would also repeal the 2008 FISA Amendments Act, the legal foundation for the government’s PRISM program. And it would extend whistleblower protections to cover employees of intelligence agencies.

The movement to crack down on government surveillance started with an odd couple from Michigan, Representatives Justin Amash, a young libertarian Republican known even to his friends as “chief wing nut,” and John Conyers Jr., an elder of the liberal left in his 25th House term.

But what began on the political fringes only a week ago has built a momentum that even critics say may be unstoppable, drawing support from Republican and Democratic leaders, attracting moderates in both parties and pulling in some of the most respected voices on national security in the House.

Back in May, we noted the oddity of the charges in Bradley Manning’s trial, in which he was accused of aiding three different “enemies,” with the last one being classified. Specifically, he was accused of aiding Al-Qaida, Al-Qaida of the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP, which is different than AQ itself) and… mystery enemy. Back at the beginning of July, the government quietly dropped the charge against the classified enemy, so that’s no longer in play in that case. That said, apparently this concept of classifying who we’re at war with wasn’t just limited to the Manning trial. ProPublica has the ridiculous and frightening tale of finding out that the answer to the simple question of who the US is at war with, is apparently classified as well.