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FTR #827 Brave New World: Update on the Adventures of Eddie the Friendly Spook

Dave Emory’s entire life­time of work is avail­able on a flash drive that can be obtained here. The new drive is a 32-gigabyte drive that is current as of the programs and articles posted by 10/02/2014. The new drive (available for a tax-deductible contribution of $65.00 or more) contains FTR #812.  (The previous flash drive was current through the end of May of 2012 and contained FTR #748.)

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This program was recorded in one, 60-minute segment

Aw, Angie! Why the long face?

Introduction: Supplementing the many programs already recorded about Eddie the Friendly Spook [Snowden], this broadcast updates us on developments in the Snowden/WikiLeaks “op,” as well as presenting information which will enrich listeners’ understanding of the admittedly complex and complicated line of analysis presented on this topic.

(The Snowden gambit is a fairly obvious intelligence operation, aimed at, among other things: the destabilization of the Obama administration, the destabilization of the NSA and GCHQ, an attack on U.S. high-tech and internet business, an attempt by Germany to force inclusion in the “Five Eyes Club” and an interdiction of U.S. diplomatic policy. In the latter regard, we will further analyze the Snowden “op” in the context of the negation of Obama’s “reboot” with Russia in an upcoming broadcast.)

After all the international caterwauling about Angela Merkel’s mobile phone supposedly having been hacked by the NSA, the probe into the alleged hack has been dropped “for lack of evidence!”

The Germans have been consummately hypocritical about the Snowden “op”–not only does German intelligence do exactly what it has berated the NSA for doing, it has partnered with the NSA in its surveillance activities.

Germany has allowed Blackberry to purchase a company that handles security technology for mobile phones, on the condition that it turns over its source-code to the German intelligence! The suspicion in these quarters concerns Germany’s desire to use the technology to compromise the mobile phones of targeted individuals.

GCHQ's Menwith Hill Facility

After reviewing the BND’s monitoring of cell phone calls made by Hillary Clinton and John Kerry and expulsion of the CIA station chief from Berlin, the program undescores BND’s circumvention of rules designed to prevent illicit spying by the agency.

In addition to classifying targeted citizens as “office holders,” in order to circument German regulations on espionage, BND rationalizes satellite communication intercepts by classifying those as outside of  German territory–they technically come from space.

Germany is asking Google to disclose the algorithm used in its search engine, which would enhance Germany’s ability to conduct electronic espionage.

Concluding with two stories that highlight the extent to which we are living in a “brave new world.”

A Turkish pipeline exploded in 2008 after a sophisticated attack neutralized normal security devices and procedures that would have protected the pipeline. The “Wikification” of society has brought us into an entirely different technological and political era.

Two private citizens built a tiny, mobile drone that usurps cell-phone tower functions and can mimic a tower in order to intercept calls. This, too, highlights the Brave New World in which we find ourselves.

This Brave New World is among the reasons we are supportive of NSA and GCHQ, warts and all. We exist in a new landscape of civilization and it is essential, in our view, that the government have a major agency involved with monitoring such technologies.

Sadly, we are not convinced that NSA is up to the task at hand–perhaps that is an unrealistic expectation.

Program Highlights Include: Review of  specifics of BND’s spying on calls made by Hillary Clinton and John Kerry;  Angela Merkel’s opposition to net neutrality; Google’s development of AI technology to refine its search engine algorithm; review of the expulsion of the CIA station chief from Berlin for receiving transcripts of BND spying on Clinton and Kerry.

1. After the international rhetorical storm over the hacking of Angela Merkel’s mobile phone by the NSA, the Germans have dropped the investigation due to a lack of evidence!

“Ger­many to Drop Probe into US Spy­ing on Merkel” [Focus]; TheLocal.de; 11/23/2014.

Ger­many is drop­ping a probe into the alleged tap­ping of Chan­cel­lor Angela Merkel’s mobile phone by US spies, due to a lack of evi­dence, mag­a­zine Focus said Saturday.

Six months after the inves­ti­ga­tion began, the experts have failed to find any solid proof to back the case, and have there­fore rec­om­mended that it be dropped, the mag­a­zine reported, quot­ing sources close to the Ger­man jus­tice ministry.

“The result (of the probe) is almost zilch. A lot of hot air, but noth­ing done,” one source was quoted as saying.

Accord­ing to sources close to the judi­ciary, the fed­eral pros­e­cu­tor will heed the experts’ rec­om­men­da­tion to drop the probe.

In June, Ger­man jus­tice had announced that a case had been opened into the alleged spy­ing by for­eign intel­li­gence ser­vices on Ger­man soil.

2a. In an attempt to stave off the oust­ing of CIA sta­tion chief in Berlin, Ger­many was offered inclu­sion in the Five Eyes Club and turned it down. One won­ders what is going on behind the scenes and what they want in return?

“U.S. Offered Berlin ‘Five Eyes’ Pact. Merkel Was Done With It” by Patrick Don­ahue and John Wal­cott; Bloomberg News; 7/12/2014.

U.S. Ambas­sador John Emer­son made his way to the For­eign Min­istry in Berlin armed with a plan to head off the worst diplo­matic clash of Angela Merkel’s chancellorship.

Emer­son came to the July 9 meet­ing with an offer autho­rized in Wash­ing­ton: pro­vide Ger­many a U.S. intelligence-sharing agree­ment resem­bling one avail­able only to four other nations. The goal was to assuage Merkel and pre­vent the expul­sion of the Cen­tral Intel­li­gence Agency’s chief of sta­tion in Berlin.

It wasn’t enough.

The same morn­ing, across the bound­ary once marked by the Berlin Wall, Merkel con­vened her top min­is­ters fol­low­ing the 9:30 a.m. Cab­i­net meet­ing on the sixth floor of the Chan­cellery and resolved to ask the U.S. intel­li­gence chief to leave German soil.

Merkel, who ulti­mately deter­mined the government’s course, had to act. Pub­lic and polit­i­cal pres­sure after more than a year of accu­sa­tions of Amer­i­can espi­onage over­reach, stoked by indig­na­tion at the lack of a suf­fi­cient response from Wash­ing­ton, had left the Ger­man gov­ern­ment with no alternative.

“We don’t live in the Cold War any­more, where every­body prob­a­bly mis­trusted every­body else,” Merkel, who has pre­vi­ously reserved her Cold War-mentality accu­sa­tions for Russ­ian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin, said in an inter­view with Ger­man broad­caster ZDF today.

No Trust

The spy­ing scan­dal has blown open a rift between the U.S. and Ger­many, a nation once under Amer­i­can tute­lage in the decades after World War II. The lat­est alle­ga­tions, involv­ing U.S. dou­ble agents, rekin­dled anger over the dis­clo­sure last year that Merkel’s mobile phone had been hacked by the U.S.

“The notion that you always have to ask your­self in close coop­er­a­tion whether the one sit­ting across from you could be work­ing for the oth­ers -– that’s not a basis for trust,” Merkel told ZDF. “So we obvi­ously have dif­fer­ent per­cep­tions and we have to dis­cuss that intensively.”

Merkel also sig­naled dis­plea­sure with U.S. spy­ing at a news con­fer­ence in Berlin on July 10. Within an hour, her office issued a state­ment say­ing that the two new inves­ti­ga­tions into U.S. cloak-and-dagger meth­ods, on top of “ques­tions over the past months” fol­low­ing leaks on National Secu­rity Agency activ­ity, forced the gov­ern­ment to take action.

Invited to Leave

At that point, the U.S. intel­li­gence offi­cer was invited to leave the coun­try rather than suf­fer the diplo­matic ignominy of being declared “per­sona non grata” and expelled under the Vienna Con­ven­tion. Merkel’s spokesman, Stef­fen Seib­ert, said yes­ter­day that the gov­ern­ment expected the uniden­ti­fied offi­cial to leave the country “soon.”

The evic­tion was “a nec­es­sary step and a mea­sured response to the breach of trust that took place,” Ger­man For­eign Min­is­ter Frank-Walter Stein­meier told reporters yes­ter­day. He’ll meet U.S. Sec­re­tary of State John Kerry in Vienna tomor­row to dis­cuss the mat­ter on the side­lines of talks on Iran’s nuclear program.

The onus is on the U.S. to sug­gest solu­tions, and Ger­man offi­cials are wait­ing to hear what Kerry will pro­pose, accord­ing to a Ger­man diplo­mat who asked not to be iden­ti­fied dis­cussing the conflict.

The rev­e­la­tions at once dis­rupt the U.S. secu­rity rela­tion­ship with a core Euro­pean ally and expose Ger­man anx­i­ety over the bal­ance to strike between pri­vacy issues and com­bat­ing ter­ror­ism. Ham­burg was home to three of the Sept. 11, 2001, sui­cide pilots.

Intel­li­gence Sharing

The arrange­ment, ini­ti­ated in 1946 between the U.S. and U.K., calls for the U.S. and the other English-speaking coun­tries to share most of the elec­tronic inter­cepts and some of the other intel­li­gence they col­lect, with the under­stand­ing that they will limit their spy­ing on one another.

“We are not cur­rently look­ing to alter the Five Eyes struc­ture,” said Caitlin Hay­den, a spokes­woman for the White House’s National Secu­rity Coun­cil, in an e-mailed state­ment. “But we remain open to dis­cus­sions with our close allies and part­ners, includ­ing Ger­many, about how we can bet­ter coor­di­nate our intel­li­gence efforts.”

Post­war Ger­many has had a more mod­est intel­li­gence estab­lish­ment than the U.S. or U.K., focused largely on the for­mer East Ger­many and Soviet Union and on ter­ror­ist groups. Ger­man offi­cials balked at expand­ing their col­lec­tion and shar­ing under such an unwrit­ten arrange­ment, accord­ing to the U.S. official.

The alle­ga­tions of snoop­ing have par­tic­u­lar res­o­nance for Merkel, who lived for 35 years in com­mu­nist East Ger­many and who, as the daugh­ter of a Protes­tant pas­tor, endured spe­cial scrutiny from the state-security ser­vice, the Stasi.

Big ’If’

While German-U.S. rela­tions dipped dur­ing the 2003 Iraq war when Merkel’s pre­de­ces­sor, Ger­hard Schroeder, refused to join Pres­i­dent George W. Bush’s coali­tion against Sad­dam Hus­sein, ties improved under Merkel. She was awarded the Pres­i­den­tial Medal of Free­dom by Obama in 2011.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest declined to com­ment on the details of the alle­ga­tions, telling reporters at the begin­ning of the week that accu­sa­tions over spy­ing were sub­ject to a “a big ‘if’.”

“We highly value the close work­ing rela­tion­ship we have with the Ger­mans on a wide range of issues,” Earnest said, “but par­tic­u­larly on secu­rity and intel­li­gence matters.”

U.S. law­mak­ers, includ­ing some fre­quently crit­i­cal of Obama, have been sim­i­larly reticent.

Law­mak­ers’ Concerns

“I don’t know how much the admin­is­tra­tion could have done to defuse this,” Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Ed Royce, the Cal­i­for­nia Repub­li­can who heads the House For­eign Affairs Com­mit­tee, said yes­ter­day at a break­fast with reporters hosted by the Chris­t­ian Sci­ence Mon­i­tor. “Given the cir­cum­stances, the admin­is­tra­tion is attempt­ing at this time to deal with the Ger­man gov­ern­ment, and I’m hope­ful that they’re successful.”

Sen­a­tor Mark Udall, a Col­orado Demo­c­rat and Intel­li­gence Com­mit­tee mem­ber, has told reporters that he was eager to learn more about the sit­u­a­tion at a clas­si­fied brief­ing for the panel mem­bers next week.

“I am con­cerned that we’re send­ing the wrong mes­sage to a key ally,” Udall said.

Before the cur­rent ten­sions, the U.S. and Ger­many had a his­tory of exten­sive intel­li­gence coop­er­a­tion. For many years, much of U.S. elec­tronic spy­ing on Iran was con­ducted out of a CIA sta­tion in Frank­furt known as Tefran, accord­ing to a for­mer U.S. intel­li­gence offi­cial who described the coop­er­a­tion on con­di­tion of anonymity.

Review Agree­ments

A num­ber of peo­ple in the U.S. gov­ern­ment say that, more than two decades after the Cold War ended, it’s time to con­sider agree­ments with more coun­tries to help track ter­ror­ists, weapons pro­lif­er­a­tion and espi­onage, accord­ing to U.S. offi­cials who asked not to be identified.

They said the con­flict with Ger­many also has under­scored con­cern that intel­li­gence agen­cies lack any good risk-assessment model to judge the ben­e­fits of oper­a­tions against friendly pow­ers against the potential risks.

“This is so stu­pid,” Ger­man Finance Min­is­ter Wolf­gang Schaeu­ble, Germany’s longest-serving law­maker, said July 9, reflect­ing frus­tra­tion and amaze­ment about the turn of events in U.S.-German relations.

Schaeu­ble, who helped nego­ti­ate Ger­man reuni­fi­ca­tion 25 years ago this year, said, “It makes you want to cry.”

2b. In yet another example of the consummate hypocrisy manifested by Germany and the EU, it now emerges that Germany monitored phone calls by both John Kerry and Hillary Clinton.

Germany’s for­eign intel­li­gence agency eaves­dropped on calls made by U.S. Sec­re­tary of State John Kerry and his pre­de­ces­sor Hillary Clin­ton, Ger­man mag­a­zine Der Spiegel reported Saturday.

The respected news weekly reported that the agency, known by its Ger­man acronym BND, tapped a satel­lite phone con­ver­sa­tion Kerry made in 2013 as part of its sur­veil­lance of telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions in the Mid­dle East. The agency also recorded a con­ver­sa­tion between Clin­ton and for­mer U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan a year ear­lier, Der Spiegel claimed.

The mag­a­zine didn’t give a source for its infor­ma­tion, but said the calls were col­lected acci­den­tally, that the three offi­cials weren’t directly tar­geted, and the record­ings were ordered destroyed imme­di­ately. In Clinton’s case, the call report­edly took place on the same “fre­quency” as a ter­ror sus­pect, accord­ing to Der Spiegel.

The tap­ping of Clinton’s call was reported Fri­day by Ger­man pub­lic broad­caster ARD and Munich daily Sued­deutsche Zeitung.

If true, the rev­e­la­tions would be embar­rass­ing for the Ger­man gov­ern­ment, which has spent months com­plain­ing to Wash­ing­ton about alleged Amer­i­can spy activ­ity in Ger­many. Last year Ger­man media reports based on doc­u­ments leaked by for­mer NSA con­trac­tor Edward Snow­den prompted a sharp rebuke from Chan­cel­lor Angela Merkel, who was allegedly among the U.S. intel­li­gence agency’s targets.

A spokesman for the U.S. embassy in Berlin and the State Depart­ment in Wash­ing­ton declined to com­ment on the lat­est reports.

In its report Sat­ur­day, Der Spiegel also cited a con­fi­den­tial 2009 BND doc­u­ment list­ing fel­low NATO mem­ber Turkey as a tar­get for Ger­man intel­li­gence gathering.

The Ger­many intel­li­gence agency didn’t imme­di­ately respond to a request for com­ment Saturday.

2c. Here’s an inter­est­ing twist to the recent uproar over the BND spy that was caught sell­ing secrets to the CIA (lead­ing to the expul­sion of the CIA chief in Ger­many): One of the doc­u­ments the BND agent–Markus R–sold to the CIA was the tran­script of the recorded phone calls that the BND picked up between Hillary Clin­ton and Kofi Annan when Annan was giv­ing Hillary a brief­ing fol­low­ing nego­ti­a­tions with Syria.

After the chem­i­cal weapons attacks of August 2013, there was quite a bit of dis­cus­sion of Syr­ian offi­cial con­ver­sa­tions picked up by Ger­man intel­li­gence, and both Kerry’s and Clinton’s phone calls were appar­ently get­ting picked up while they were fly­ing over con­flict areas. So the CIA knew these satel­lite phone calls were get­ting picked up by the BND. Note that 2012 phone call between Clin­ton and Kofi Annan report­edly involved a brief­ing of Annan’s nego­ti­a­tions with Syria. Also note that Annan announced his res­ig­na­tion as the envoy to Syria in early August, 2012 and that Markus R. approached the CIA via email with his offer to sell the doc­u­ments in 2012.

If true, that would sug­gest that the CIA knew these phone calls were get­ting picked up by 2012, and yet the “acci­den­tal” cap­ture of Clinton’s and Kerry’s phone con­ver­sa­tions kept tak­ing place while they fly­ing over con­flict areas.

Those inercepted calls involved quite a bit of dis­cus­sion over how to address the Syr­ian chem­i­cal weapons sit­u­a­tion.

 The Ger­man For­eign Intel­li­gence Agency has admit­ted tap­ping “at least one” phone call each by cur­rent U.S. Sec­re­tary of State John Kerry and then-Secretary of State Hillary Clin­ton while they were aboard United States gov­ern­ment jets, accord­ing to Ger­man media reports.

The reports claim Kerry’s inter­cepted com­mu­ni­ca­tion was a satel­lite phone call from the Mid­dle East in 2013. Clinton’s com­mu­ni­ca­tion was also a satel­lite call, in 2012, and was report­edly to then-United Nations Sec­re­tary Gen­eral Kofi Annan. Both calls were reported to have been inter­cepted acci­den­tally while Ger­man intel­li­gence was tar­get­ing ter­ror sus­pects in the Mid­dle East and north­ern Africa.

The intel­li­gence agency (the Bun­desnachrich­t­en­di­enst or BND) told Ger­man media that ter­ror groups often use the same fre­quen­cies that the sec­re­taries’ phone calls were made over, so the calls were picked up. The calls were among what the Ger­man news­pa­per Sud­deutsche Zeitung said intel­li­gence sources described as sev­eral cases of U.S. offi­cial phone calls being picked up acci­den­tally dur­ing anti-terror com­mu­ni­ca­tions monitoring.

The BND is the Ger­man equiv­a­lent of the Amer­i­can Cen­tral Intel­li­gence Agency. German-American rela­tions have chilled in the past year — since for­mer National Secu­rity Agency worker Edward Snow­den began leak­ing doc­u­ments detail­ing the extent of America’s global elec­tronic spy­ing and eaves­drop­ping pro­grams. Media reports about Snowden’s leaked doc­u­ments led to the rev­e­la­tion that Ger­man Chan­cel­lor Angela Merkel’s pri­vate cell­phone had been tappedsince the years when she was a lower rank­ing Ger­man min­is­ter, and con­tin­u­ing at least until the sum­mer of 2013.

The spy scan­dal includes the elec­tronic spy­ing on mil­lions of pri­vate emails and elec­tronic com­mu­ni­ca­tions, the tap­ping of offi­cial phones and even the hir­ing of Ger­man offi­cials to act as Amer­i­can agents and pass on secret Ger­man gov­ern­ment information.

The news reports out­raged Ger­mans, lead­ing to favourable atti­tudes about the United States falling to their low­est lev­els in years and cre­at­ing a pub­lic and pri­vate sense of mis­trust. Merkel has repeat­edly called the U.S. spy pro­gram a breach of trust and noted that “friends don’t spy on friends.”

In a twist that con­nects this tale to the broader spy­ing scan­dal, the new reports note that after Clinton’s phone call was picked up, an order from the BND lead­er­ship was sent out to delete the com­mu­ni­ca­tion. But the Ger­man charged with delet­ing the con­ver­sa­tion was Markus R, who has been charged with sell­ing 218 secret offi­cial doc­u­ments to U.S. intel­li­gence and, rather than delet­ing the con­ver­sa­tion, sold the tran­script to his Amer­i­can con­tacts. Markus R, who under Ger­man law can­not be fully iden­ti­fied unless he is con­victed, allegedly made a total of €25,000, or about $32,500, by sell­ing the doc­u­ments to the CIA.

He has been charged with spy­ing for a for­eign intel­li­gence agency.

The BND denied that there was any sys­tem­atic phone tap­ping of U.S. offi­cials while admit­ting other phone calls had been swept up. Ger­man intel­li­gence offi­cials have told Ger­man media that the fre­quen­cies the Amer­i­can offi­cials use are also favourites of ter­ror groups in north­ern Africa and the Mid­dle East.

Both Kerry’s and Clinton’s phone calls were picked up while they were fly­ing over con­flict areas. The Ger­man phone-tapping pro­gram in the Mid­dle East is well known to U.S. offi­cials. Dur­ing the Syr­ian con­flict, and par­tic­u­larly after the chem­i­cal weapons attacks of August 2013, there was quite a bit of dis­cus­sion of Syr­ian offi­cial con­ver­sa­tions picked up by Ger­man intelligence.

3. In related news, the Ger­man gov­ern­ment just signed a new “no spy” agree­ment. But it wasn’t with another nation. It was a no spy agree­ment with Black­berry in exchange for allow­ing Black­berry buy Ger­man secu­rity firm Secus­mart (which pro­vides secu­rity for Merkel’s phone), where Black­berry agrees to not share pri­vate infor­ma­tion with any for­eign gov­ern­ments and Germany’s intel­li­gences ser­vices get to audit Blackberry’s source code:

“Ger­man Gov­ern­ment Says “Ja” to BlackBerry’s Acqui­si­tion of Secus­mart” by Cyrus Fari­varArs Tech­nica; 11/28/2014.

The Ger­man gov­ern­ment has signed off BlackBerry’s acqui­si­tion of the Ger­man com­pany Secus­mart, accord­ing to local media. (Google Translate).

Secus­mart is the com­pany that devel­ops soft­ware and hard­ware to pro­tect gov­ern­ment phones, includ­ing the “Merkel Phone” used by Chan­cel­lor Angela Merkel. She moved to a more secure device after it came out that the National Secu­rity Agency had been [allegedly] mon­i­tor­ing her com­mu­ni­ca­tions.

Back in July 2014, the Cana­dian hand­set maker announced that it would acquire the Düsseldorf-based company.

In order to get Berlin’s approval, Black­Berry appar­ently had to agree to a num­ber of gov­ern­ment demands. It was required to give full access of its source code to the the Ger­man infor­ma­tion secu­rity agency, known by its Ger­man acronym, BSI.

Fur­ther, Berlin stip­u­lated that Secusmart’s devel­op­ment would con­tinue to take place in Ger­many, and a “bind­ing” agree­ment dic­tates that Black­Berry would not share pri­vate infor­ma­tion with for­eign gov­ern­ments or intel­li­gence agencies.

Nei­ther Black­Berry nor the Ger­man gov­ern­ment gave any fur­ther com­ment to Ger­man press.

4.  And in other spying-related news…

“BND Spied on Ger­mans Liv­ing Abroad”; TheLocal.de; 11/28/2014.

The Bun­desnachrich­t­en­di­enst (BND), Germany’s for­eign intel­li­gence ser­vice, spied on some cit­i­zens liv­ing abroad, a for­mer lawyer for the spies told MPs on Thursday.

Dr Ste­fan Bur­baum, who worked at the BND from 2000 to 2005, said that some Ger­mans were tar­geted as “office hold­ers”, a legal loop­hole the spies used to cir­cum­vent the law that pro­tects Ger­mans cit­i­zens from being spied on by its own intel­li­gence agency.

Nor­mally, the intel­li­gence agen­cies must over­come high legal hurdles laid out in the so-called “G10 law” to spy on Ger­man cit­i­zens, includ­ing when they live abroad.

Oth­er­wise, infor­ma­tion regard­ing Ger­man cit­i­zens has to be fil­tered out from any for­eign com­mu­ni­ca­tions inter­cepted by the BND.

But the Ger­man spies argue that a cit­i­zen work­ing for a for­eign com­pany abroad is only pro­tected in his pri­vate life, not in his pro­fes­sional com­mu­ni­ca­tions, Bur­baum told the Bun­destag inquiry com­mit­tee into National Secu­rity Agency (NSA) mass spying.

“The office holder is the legal per­son,” Bur­baum said. “It’s a small excep­tion. But a Ger­man cit­i­zen can func­tion as an office holder in a for­eign organization.

“The deci­sive thing is whether he’s com­mu­ni­cat­ing as a cit­i­zen or as an office holder.”

“This con­struct of an office holder is just as absurd in prac­tice as it appears in the law,” Kon­stan­tin von Notz of the Green party said.

Fur­ther, for­eign­ers’ com­mu­ni­ca­tions con­ducted abroad are not pro­tected, even if they are in con­tact with Ger­man peo­ple or work for a Ger­man company.

MPs from the Social Demo­c­ra­tic (SPD), Green and Left (Linke) par­ties all crit­i­cized the BND’s abil­ity to oper­ate in a “law­less zone” when it came to spy­ing on foreigners.

Under the “G10 Law” the BND is also allowed access to data from Ger­man tele­coms firms to search for specif­i­cally iden­ti­fied sus­pi­cious traffic.

But Bur­baum told the MPs that the BND reg­u­larly retains traf­fic which it had not received spe­cific per­mis­sion to inves­ti­gate which it col­lects dur­ing such trawls.

In this way, access acquired under the “G10 law” becomes a “foot in the door” to oth­er­wise closed-off sources of data, Bur­baum said.

5.   More about how BND and  other German intel­li­gence services skirt German law.

“BND Data Protection Officer Tells How Work with NSA Trumps German Law” by Lisa Caspari [Die Zeit]; WorldMeetsUs; 10/13/2014.

The Foreign Intelligence Service’s data protection officer told the Bundestag’s NSA Committee of Inquiry about an argument she had with her boss Gerhard Schindler. Her concerns fell on deaf ears.

For a fully-qualified lawyer, Dr. F. certainly has an unusual job. For the past nine years she has worked for the Bundesnachrichtendienst [Federal Intelligence Service or BND] and for the past two-and-half-years as the BND’s data protection officer. She reports directly to BND President President Gerhard Schindler, and her duty station is Berlin.

As stipulated by her employer, committee members weren’t provided with more detailed personal information, such as Dr. F.’s full name, for example. Nevertheless, the statement of the secret service employee before the Budestag’s NSA Committee of Inquiry on Oct. 9 was quite interesting, as it revealed the seriousness, or rather lack thereof, with which the BND has for many years treated – and continues to treat – the issue of data protection. . . .

. . . . The dispute centered on Bad Aibling Station, where German intelligence officers capture and analyze satellite data from abroad – telephone calls in Afghanistan and Pakistan, for example. Members of American intelligence attached to the NSA are also stationed on the grounds.

According the testimony of Dr. F., BND President Schindler considers the satellite data as existing largely in a legal vacuum as it is gathered from space where German law does not apply. . . .

6. The EU’s net neu­tral­ity laws just got the kiss of death:

“Angela Merkel Argues Against Net Neu­tral­ity, Calls for Spe­cial Access Fast Lane” by Dante D’Orazio; The Verge; 12/6/2014.

Ger­man Chan­cel­lor Angela Merkel has laid out her vision for the future of the inter­net, and net neu­tral­ity pro­po­nents won’t be pleased. In com­ments on Thurs­day in Berlin, Merkel argued for a two-lane inter­net. One lane for “spe­cial,” high pri­or­ity ser­vice, and another that’s meant to resem­ble the inter­net as it exists today.

While sup­port­ers of net neu­tral­ity argue that it is key to the con­tin­ued growth of the inter­net, Merkel believes just the oppo­site. She argues that fast lanes are nec­es­sary for the devel­op­ment of new, advanced uses of the inter­net, like telemed­i­cine or dri­ver­less cars. Accord­ing to Merkel, with­out guar­an­teed, fast-access inter­net con­nec­tions, such inno­va­tions won’t come to market.

It’s not clear how such a two-lane sys­tem would be imple­mented or reg­u­lated. For instance, it’s unknown if there would be lim­its on what sort of com­pa­nies could pay for access to fast-lane inter­net. A report from Frank­furter All­ge­meine cites sources inside the Ger­man gov­ern­ment who say that on-demand inter­net video stream­ing ser­vices would be among the com­pa­nies that would be able to pay for access for high-speed service.

The Euro­pean Union cur­rently man­dates true net neu­tral­ity, though dis­cus­sions have been under­way for the future of inter­net reg­u­la­tion. Merkel believes that her posi­tion is a mid­dle ground, but the idea that the gen­eral traf­fic lane will oper­ate under net neu­tral­ity depends entirely on how much band­width it receives from inter­net providers.If the main traf­fic lane isn’t fast, and any com­pany can opt for fast-lane access, com­pa­nies will likely find it nec­es­sary to pay up for direct access just to com­pete — the exact oppo­site of net neutrality.

7. Next, we present an arti­cle that acts as a reminder that the new EU anti-monopoly reg­u­la­tory par­a­digm of forc­ing Google to sub­mit its search results algo­rithms to reg­u­la­tor review is going to get might messy in a sin­gu­lar way that could com­pli­cate patents and copy­right laws in all sorts of strange ways. Keep in mind that Google’s search engine still forms the core its busi­ness, with Google search ads bring­ing in a major­ity of Google’s $60 billion revenues, making it unlikely that they will surrender the keys to the kingdom.

“Ger­many Just Asked Google To Do The Impos­si­ble: Reveal Its Secret Search Algorithm” by James Cook; Busi­ness Insider; 9/16/2014.

Ger­man jus­tice min­is­ter Heiko Maas is call­ing on Google to become more trans­par­ent by dis­clos­ing exactly how it ranks search results.

This, of course, will sim­ply never hap­pen. The algo­rithm is the heart of Google, the source of all its wealth and power as the planet’s best index of knowl­edge. Google is just never going to give that up. CEO Larry Page will fight to the death.

Nonethe­less, in an inter­view with the Finan­cial Times, Maas explains that Ger­many is unhappy with the search giant’s actions in Europe and wants it to reveal the details of its search algo­rithm in the inter­ests of con­sumer protection.

Google Search remains the most impor­tant part of Google’s busi­ness, with adver­tis­ing on the plat­form form­ing the major­ity of its $60 bil­lion in annual rev­enue. But now, Germany’s gov­ern­ment has esca­lated its antitrust case against the com­pany by request­ing that Google pub­lishes how web­sites are ranked on Google Search.

Google has appar­ently pushed back against the request, claim­ing that pub­lish­ing the search engine algo­rithm would mean reveal­ing its busi­ness secrets and open­ing up the ser­vice to exploita­tion by spam­mers.

8. Lets hope Google isn’t cor­rect in pre­dict­ing that reveal­ing its secrets would result in spam­mers using Google’s search secrets because that would be scary.

But also keep in mind that even casual search algo­rithm dis­clo­sure regimes by the EU or any­one else might get really com­pli­cated in the future. So com­pli­cated that only a super AI will be able to keep up with the reg­u­la­tory over­sight work­load. Why? Because one of the first project Google is assign­ing its “Deep­Mind” self-learning super AI project to is devel­op­ing bet­ter and bet­ter search algo­rithms, and as Deep­Mind learns more about self-learning, it’s only going to get bet­ter at it.

“Arti­fi­cially Intel­li­gent Robot Sci­en­tists Could Be Next Project for Google’s AI Firm” by Sage Laz­zaro; BetaBeat; 12/03/2014.

In the future, humans may not be the only ones con­duct­ing lab experiments.

In late Octo­ber, we wrote about the Neural Tur­ing Machine, a Google com­puter so smart it can pro­gram itself. In the time since, it’s become clear that this is only the begin­ning and we should expect a lot more from Deep­Mind Tech­nolo­gies, the little-known startup acquired by Google who devel­oped the human-like com­puter and sports the mis­sion “Solve intelligence.”

In dis­cussing Deep­Mind Technologies’s delve into the future of com­put­ers with MIT, founder Demis Has­s­abis detailed the company’s research and men­tioned that he wants to cre­ate “AI scientists.”

He explained that although they’re cur­rently work­ing on some smaller AI activ­i­ties like search­ing for ways to apply Deep­Mind tech­niques to exist­ing Google prod­ucts such as Search and YouTube rec­om­men­da­tions, his plans for the future are big­ger than a bet­ter search engine. He dreams of cre­at­ing arti­fi­cially intel­li­gent “sci­en­tists” that could develop and test their own hypothe­ses in the lab. He men­tioned that there’s also a future for DeepMind’s soft­ware in robotics.

“One rea­son we don’t have more robots doing more help­ful things is that they’re usu­ally pre­pro­grammed,” he told MIT. “They’re very bad at deal­ing with the unex­pected or learn­ing new things.”

9. A pipeline explosion highlights the digital brave new world into which we have entered.

“Mys­te­ri­ous ’08 Turkey Pipeline Blast Opened New Cyber­war Era” by Jor­dan Robert­son and Michael Riley; Bloomberg; 12/10/2014.

The pipeline was out­fit­ted with sen­sors and cam­eras to mon­i­tor every step of its 1,099 miles from the Caspian Sea to the Mediter­ranean. The blast that blew it out of com­mis­sion didn’t trig­ger a sin­gle dis­tress signal.

That was bewil­der­ing, as was the cam­eras’ fail­ure to cap­ture the com­bus­tion in east­ern Turkey. But inves­ti­ga­tors shared their find­ings within a tight cir­cle. The Turk­ish gov­ern­ment pub­licly blamed a mal­func­tion, Kur­dish sep­a­ratists claimed credit and BP Plc (BP/) had the line run­ning again in three weeks. The explo­sion that lit up the night sky over Refahiye, a town known for its honey farms, seemed to be forgotten.

It wasn’t. For west­ern intel­li­gence agen­cies, the blowout was a water­shed event. Hack­ers had shut down alarms, cut off com­mu­ni­ca- ­tions and super-pressurized the crude oil in the line, accord­ing to four peo­ple famil­iar with the inci­dent who asked not to be iden­ti­fied because details of the inves­ti­ga­tion are con­fi­den­tial. The main weapon at valve sta­tion 30 on Aug. 5, 2008, was a keyboard.

The rev­e­la­tion “rewrites the his­tory of cyber­war,” said Derek Reveron, a pro­fes­sor of national secu­rity affairs at the U.S. Naval War Col­lege in New­port, Rhode Island.

Coun­tries have been lay­ing the ground­work for cyber­war oper­a­tions for years, and com­pa­nies have been hit recently with dig­i­tal broad­sides bear­ing hall­marks of gov­ern­ment spon­sor­ship. Sony Corp.’s net­work was raided by hack­ers believed to be aligned with North Korea, and sources have said JPMor­gan Chase & Co. blamed an August assault on Russ­ian cyber­spies. Secu­rity researchers just uncov­ered what they said was a cam­paign by Iran­ian hack­ers that tar­geted com­mer­cial air­lines, look­ing for vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties that could be used in phys­i­cal attacks.

Energy Pol­i­tics

The Refahiye explo­sion occurred two years before Stuxnet, the com­puter worm that in 2010 crip­pled Iran’s nuclear-enrichment pro­gram, widely believed to have been deployed by Israel and the U.S. It turns out the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline hack­ers were ahead of them. The chief sus­pect, accord­ing to U.S. intel­li­gence offi­cials, is Russia.

The sab­o­tage of the BTC line — which fol­lows a route through the for­mer Soviet Union that the U.S. mapped out over Russ­ian objec­tions — marked another chap­ter in the bel­liger­ent energy pol­i­tics of Eura­sia. Days after the explo­sion, Russ­ian fighter jets dropped bombs near the line in neigh­bor­ing Geor­gia. Alexan­der Dugin, an influ­en­tial advo­cate of Russ­ian expan­sion­ism and at the time an adviser to the Russ­ian par­lia­ment, was quoted in a Turk­ish news­pa­per declar­ing the BTC was “dead.”

Kinetic Effects

The obit­u­ary was pre­ma­ture, but the attack proved to U.S. offi­cials that they were right to be con­cerned about the vul­ner­a­bil­ity of pipelines that snake for hun­dreds of thou­sands of miles across Europe and North Amer­ica. National Secu­rity Agency experts had been warn­ing the lines could be blown up from a dis­tance, with­out the bother of con­ven­tional weapons. The attack was evi­dence other nations had the tech­nol­ogy to wage a new kind of war, three cur­rent and for­mer U.S. offi­cials said.

“The tim­ing really is the sig­nif­i­cance,” said Chris Blask, chair­man of the Indus­trial Con­trol Sys­tem Infor­ma­tion Shar­ing and Analy­sis Cen­ter, which works with util­i­ties and pipeline com­pa­nies. “Stuxnet was dis­cov­ered in 2010 and this was obvi­ously deployed before that. This is another point on the time­line” in the young his­tory of cyberwar.

U.S. intel­li­gence agen­cies believe the Russ­ian gov­ern­ment was behind the Refahiye explo­sion, accord­ing to two of the peo­ple briefed on the inves­ti­ga­tion. The evi­dence is cir­cum­stan­tial, they said, based on the pos­si­ble motive and the level of sophis­ti­ca­tion. The attack­ers also left behind a tan­ta­liz­ing clue.

Infrared Cam­era

Although as many as 60 hours of sur­veil­lance video were erased by the hack­ers, a sin­gle infrared cam­era not con­nected to the same net­work cap­tured images of two men with lap­top com­put­ers walk­ing near the pipeline days before the explo­sion, accord­ing to one of the peo­ple, who has reviewed the video. The men wore black military-style uni­forms with­out insignias, sim­i­lar to the garb worn by spe­cial forces troops.

“Given Russia’s strate­gic inter­est, there will always be the ques­tion of whether the coun­try had a hand in it,” said Emily Stromquist, an energy ana­lyst for Eura­sia Group, a polit­i­cal risk firm based in Washington.

Niko­lay Lyaschenko, a spokesman for the Russ­ian Embassy in Wash­ing­ton, didn’t respond to two e-mails and a phone call.

Eleven com­pa­nies — includ­ing majority-owner BP, a sub­sidiary of the State Oil Com­pany of Azer­bai­jan, Chevron Corp. and Norway’s Sta­toil ASA (STL) — built the line, which has car­ried more than two bil­lion bar­rels of crude since open­ing in 2006.

Cir­cum­vent­ing Russia

It starts in Azer­bai­jan, tra­verses Geor­gia and then enters Turkey, end­ing at the port city of Cey­han. It was routed south to cir­cum­vent Rus­sia, a blow to that country’s aims to reassert con­trol over Cen­tral Asia, a major pipeline delib­er­ately built out­side Russ­ian ter­ri­tory to carry crude from the Caspian.

Tra­vers­ing strate­gic, polit­i­cally unset­tled ter­rain, the line was built to be one of the most secure in the world. The 3-foot 6-inch diam­e­ter pipe is buried under­ground and punc­tu­ated by fenced valve sta­tions designed to iso­late sec­tions in case of emer­gency and to con­tain leaks.

Accord­ing to inves­ti­ga­tors, every mile was mon­i­tored by sen­sors. Pres­sure, oil flow and other crit­i­cal indi­ca­tors were fed to a cen­tral con­trol room via a wire­less mon­i­tor­ing sys­tem. In an extra mea­sure, they were also sent by satellite.

The explo­sion, at around 11 p.m. on a warm sum­mer night, was spec­tac­u­lar. Res­i­dents described feel­ing the heat a half mile away, and patients at a nearby hos­pi­tal reported hear­ing a thun­der­ous boom.

First Mys­tery

Almost imme­di­ately, the Kur­dis­tan Work­ers’ Party, or PKK, an armed sep­a­ratist group in Turkey, claimed credit. It made sense because of the PKK’s his­tory of bomb­ing pipelines. The Turk­ish government’s claim of mechan­i­cal fail­ure, on the other hand, was widely dis­puted in media reports. Hilmi Guler, then Turkey’s energy min­is­ter, said at the time there was no evi­dence of sab­o­tage. Nei­ther he nor offi­cials at the Energy Min­istry responded to requests for comment.

Huseyin Sagir, a spokesman for Botas Inter­na­tional Ltd., the state-run com­pany that oper­ates the pipeline in Turkey, said the line’s com­puter sys­tems hadn’t been tam­pered with. “We have never expe­ri­enced any kind of sig­nal jam­ming attack or tam­per­ing on the com­mu­ni­ca­tion lines, or com­puter sys­tems,” Sagir said in an e-mail. He didn’t respond to ques­tions about what caused the explo­sion. BP spokesman Toby Odone referred ques­tions to Botas.

The BTC was shut down because of what BP referred to in its 2008 annual report sim­ply as a fire.

Mali­cious Program

The inves­ti­ga­tors — from Turkey, the U.K., Azer­bai­jan and other coun­tries — went qui­etly about their busi­ness. The first mys­tery they set out to solve was why the elab­o­rate sys­tem in place to detect leaks of oil or a fire didn’t work as planned.

Instead of receiv­ing dig­i­tal alerts from sen­sors placed along the line, the con­trol room didn’t learn about the blast until 40 min­utes after it hap­pened, from a secu­rity worker who saw the flames, accord­ing to a per­son who worked on the probe.

As inves­ti­ga­tors fol­lowed the trail of the failed alarm sys­tem, they found the hack­ers’ point of entry was an unex­pected one: the sur­veil­lance cam­eras themselves.

The cam­eras’ com­mu­ni­ca­tion soft­ware had vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties the hack­ers used to gain entry and move deep into the inter­nal net­work, accord­ing to the peo­ple briefed on the matter.

Once inside, the attack­ers found a com­puter run­ning on a Win­dows oper­at­ing sys­tem that was in charge of the alarm-management net­work, and placed a mali­cious pro­gram on it. That gave them the abil­ity to sneak back in when­ever they wanted.

Exten­sive Reconnaissance

The cen­tral ele­ment of the attack was gain­ing access to the oper­a­tional con­trols to increase the pres­sure with­out set­ting off alarms. Because of the line’s design, the hack­ers could manip­u­late the pres­sure by crack­ing into small indus­trial com­put­ers at a few valve sta­tions with­out hav­ing to hack the main con­trol room.

The pres­ence of the attack­ers at the site could mean the sab­o­tage was a blended attack, using a com­bi­na­tion of phys­i­cal and dig­i­tal tech­niques. The super-high pres­sure may have been enough on its own to cre­ate the explo­sion, accord­ing to two of the peo­ple famil­iar with the inci­dent. No evi­dence of a phys­i­cal bomb was found.

Hav­ing per­formed exten­sive recon­nais­sance on the com­puter net­work, the infil­tra­tors tam­pered with the units used to send alerts about mal­func­tions and leaks back to the con­trol room. The back-up satel­lite sig­nals failed, which sug­gested to the inves­ti­ga­tors that the attack­ers used sophis­ti­cated jam­ming equip­ment, accord­ing to the peo­ple famil­iar with the probe.

Inves­ti­ga­tors com­pared the time-stamp on the infrared image of the two peo­ple with lap­tops to data logs that showed the com­puter sys­tem had been probed by an out­sider. It was an exact match, accord­ing to the peo­ple famil­iar with the investigation.

‘Ter­ror­ism Act’

Years later, BP claimed in doc­u­ments filed in a legal dis­pute that it wasn’t able to meet ship­ping con­tracts after the blast due to “an act of terrorism.”

The explo­sion caused more than 30,000 bar­rels of oil to spill in an area above a water aquifer and cost BP and its part­ners $5 mil­lion a day in tran­sit tar­iffs dur­ing the clo­sure, accord­ing to com­mu­ni­ca­tions between BP and its bankers cited in “The Oil Road,” a book about the pipeline.

Some of the worst dam­age was felt by the State Oil Fund of the Repub­lic of Azer­bai­jan, which lost $1 bil­lion in export rev­enue while the line was shut down, accord­ing to Jamala Aliyeva, a spokes­woman for the fund.

A pipeline bomb­ing may fit the pro­file of the PKK, which spe­cial­izes in extor­tion, drug smug­gling and assaults on for­eign com­pa­nies, said Didem Akyel Collinsworth, an Istanbul-based ana­lyst for the Inter­na­tional Cri­sis Group. But she said the PKK doesn’t have advanced hack­ing capa­bil­i­ties. “That’s not their modus operandi,” she said. “It’s always been very phys­i­cal, very basic insur­gency stuff.”

Poten­tial Rivals

U.S. spy agen­cies probed the BTC blast inde­pen­dently, gath­er­ing infor­ma­tion from for­eign com­mu­ni­ca­tions inter­cepts and other sources, accord­ing to one of the peo­ple famil­iar with the inquiry. Amer­i­can intel­li­gence offi­cials believe the PKK — which accord­ing to leaked State Depart­ment cables has received arms and intel­li­gence from Rus­sia — may have arranged in advance with the attack­ers to take credit, the per­son said.

The U.S. was inter­ested in more than just motive. The Pen­ta­gon at the time was assess­ing the cyber capa­bil­i­ties of poten­tial rivals, as well as weak­nesses in its own defenses. Since that attack, both Iran and China have hacked into U.S. pipeline com­pa­nies and gas util­i­ties, appar­ently to iden­tify vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties that could be exploited later.

10. We conclude with discussion of a brand new spy drone that mim­ics cell­phone tow­ers. As some­thing that could be built in a garage for less than $6,000, it, too,  is indicative of the brave, new tech world in which we live. Note that it’s tiny, as well.
“Spy Drone Hacks WiFi Net­works, Lis­tens to Calls” by Erin Van der Bellen; WUSA; 12/12/2014.

It’s small. It’s bright yel­low, and it’s capa­ble of crack­ing Wi-Fi pass­words, eaves­drop­ping on your cell phone calls and read­ing your text mes­sages. It’s an unmanned spy drone and it just landed in Wash­ing­ton, D.C.

Long-time friends and for­mer Air Force bud­dies, Mike Tassey and Rich Perkins, describe their state-of-the-art cyber drone as hard to take down, hard to see and vir­tu­ally hard to detect.

They built it in a garage, using off the shelf elec­tron­ics to prove a drone can be used to launch cyber-attacks.

It needs a human for take-off and land­ing but once air­borne, it can fly any pre-programmed route pos­ing as a cell phone tower and trick­ing wire­less cell phones.

While it’s fly­ing those points, the spy drone has a num­ber of anten­nas for pick­ing up your cell phone con­ver­sa­tion, for pick­ing up blue tooth, and for pick­ing up and mon­i­tor­ing Wi Fi signals.

“We passed tele­phone calls, hacked into net­works, cracked the encryp­tion on Wi-Fi access points all of that sort of evil­ness is pos­si­ble,” said Tassey.

And now their spy drone has landed in Wash­ing­ton so every­one can see it.

“I think it’s fan­tas­tic to have an arti­fact like this in the Spy Museum,” said Vin­cent Houghton, Inter­na­tional Spy Museum Cura­tor.

“It’s the first of its kind, it’s a piece of mod­ern espi­onage equip­ment,” said Houghton. “This is some­thing gov­ern­ments should be doing and per­haps only gov­ern­ment should be doing.

“If two guys from the Mid­west can build this for six-thousand dol­lars in a garage, what can Iran do? What can nation states do?” said Rich Perkins.

The drone has a 50 mile range and while its cre­ators chose a cyber-attack test, they say this tech­nol­ogy can be used things like anti-IED mis­sions and search and res­cue operations.

Discussion

9 comments for “FTR #827 Brave New World: Update on the Adventures of Eddie the Friendly Spook”

  1. http://www.vanityfair.com/business/2015/01/first-look-media-pierre-omidyar#

    Can First Look Media Make Headlines That Aren’t About I…
    When a crusading billionaire bankrolls several of journalism’s most prominent mavericks to create a investigative news organization, it’s a recipe for turmoil.
    View on http://www.vanityfair.com

    Preview by Yahoo

    Omidyar’s track led him to Arianna Huffington, who in early September 2013 had flown to Hawaii to launch Huffington Post Hawaii in partnership with Omidyar’s own Honolulu Civil Beat, an online investigative news organization established in 2010. Civil Beat was created to provide an alternative to what some saw as the relaxed “aloha spirit” of Hawaiian journalism. The co-founder, Randy Ching, is a former eBay executive, and the first editor was John Temple, who had been the editor and publisher of Denver’s Rocky Mountain News and a top editor at The Washington Post. (Both men would figure prominently in First Look Media.) Huffington spent three days in Hawaii with Omidyar, flying together from island to island for a series of events to celebrate the launch. “Nothing was too much,” Huffington remembered. “That’s one of the things I love about him.” During those three days, Omidyar says, he began to see Huffington as “a trusted friend and adviser.” In New York, Huffington organized a dinner at her apartment so that he could meet various media figures. “It ended up being so many people I had to build a new top for the round table,” Huffington told me. The guests included Facebook co-founder and New Republic owner Chris Hughes and his husband, political hopeful Sean Eldridge; ProPublica editor Stephen Engelberg and his wife, author Gabrielle Glaser; advertising executive and social-strategy author John Gerzema; political and corporate adviser Ian Osborne; CBS anchor and interviewer Charlie Rose; and Facebook C.O.O. Sheryl Sandberg. Omidyar, Huffington says, wrote copiously in a little black notebook that was “small enough to fit in a woman’s purse.” (Huffington says she has now bought the same kind of notebook to preserve a record of interesting conversations.) At the dinner, Omidyar didn’t divulge his interest in launching his own organization, but the guests talked about the challenges and opportunities in digital media, and Omidyar’s blood continued to warm.

    Soon after, Omidyar and Huffington flew to Dharamsala, India, where the Dalai Lama was hosting a five-day Mind & Life Institute gathering of Buddhist monks and scientists. During the trip, the two discussed the difficulty of launching a destination news site. “That train has left the station,” Huffington says she told him, meaning that unlike the Huffington Post, which had launched nine years earlier, when big niches were there for the taking, anything Omidyar did would have to rely more on social-media sharing to build an audience.

    Posted by Tiffany Sunderson | December 22, 2014, 9:56 am
  2. Here’s an article from back in July about BlackBerry’s acquisition of Secusmart that highlights something rather important about BlackBerry’s purchase: purshasing Secusmart doesn’t just get BlackBerry Secusmart’s technology. BlackBerry also views Secusmart user Angela Merkel as a “trophy” customer that can help differentiate BlackBerry from its many competitors in the global secure communications marketplace:

    ZDNet
    BlackBerry acquires Secusmart, ups voice security ante

    Summary:BlackBerry’s acquisition of German software firm Secusmart is aimed at securing voice and data and putting better mobile security in every president and chancellor’s hand.

    By Larry Dignan for Between the Lines | July 29, 2014 — 13:13 GMT (06:13 PDT)

    NEW YORK–BlackBerry said Tuesday that it will acquire Secusmart, a German mobile security company. The purchase highlights how BlackBerry is doubling down on the enterprise as well as mobile security.

    The two companies have been partners since 2009. The plan is for Secusmart, known recently for its anti-eavesdropping software, is to become a core component of BlackBerry’s security portfolio and enterprise mobility management pitch.

    Terms of the deal weren’t disclosed.

    BlackBerry CEO John Chen announced the deal at the company’s BlackBerry Summit. Secusmart CEO Dr. Hans-Christoph Quelle said that the company’s informal goal is to put its software in the hands of every chancellor and president in the world.

    “There should be no need to wait to get to a secure landline,” said Quelle. Quelle’s point is that voice needs to be better secured. He pointed out that any call can be monitored via computer systems or eavesdropping. “It’s easy to listen in and easy to create transcriptions,” he said. “You need to protect voice. It’s as important as PowerPoint.”

    The Secusmart Security Card is the centerpiece of Secusmart’s technology. The smart card is a mini-computer integrated into the micro-SD card. This system contains the NXP SmartMX P5CT072 crypto-controller with a PKI coprocessor for authentication. An additional high-speed coprocessor encrypts voice and data communication using 128 bit AES. The upshot: Text messages, emails and voice communications are secure.r

    Secusmart has a BlackBerry partnership with integrated security as well as voice security software that runs on multiple platforms.

    Doing more — to Chen and BlackBerry — revolves around security and regulated industries. With the acquisition of Secusmart, BlackBerry can boast top security and reference customers such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

    The two companies have provided Secusmart-equipped BlackBerry smartphones to German government agencies, ministries and leaders.

    Chen acknowledged that BlackBerry has had its struggles in North America, but the company’s strategy is global. Chen said EMEA has been strong, as has Asia.

    BlackBerry’s strategy with its security message as well as trophy customers such as Merkel is to differentiate itself in a crowded market.

    VMware has acquired AirWatch. IBM and Apple have forged an alliance that uses Big Blue’s mobile device management tools. Citrix is a enterprise mobility management player, as is Microsoft; and there are dozens of other vendors ranging from Good to MobileIron.

    BlackBerry’s challenge is to convince enterprise buyers that the company can manage and secure their mobile devices, applications and messaging.

    The uber-secure message assumes that security and managing risk will be the winning selling point for BlackBerry. After all, if BlackBerry can nail security for regulated industries it’ll be good for all enterprises.

    BlackBerry boasts customers that include all G7 governments, 16 of the G20 governments, 10 out of 10 of the largest global enterprises in the pharmaceutical, legal and automotive industries, and the five largest oil and gas companies. The big question is whether those governments and enterprises see BlackBerry as a legacy provider or innovation partner for the future.

    Here’s the problem: Other EMM players are focused on collaboration, document management and productivity. Everyone from Citrix to Microsoft highlights how mobility management is also about collaboration on the fly. BlackBerry lacks a story on the collaboration and document container fronts.

    If enterprise buyers go with the argument that you can never have enough security and risk management, BlackBerry has a pitch. If companies believe security is good enough and collaboration is the win, then BlackBerry may struggle.

    BlackBerry and Chen’s strategy appears to cede the collaboration argument a bit. There’s a reason that BlackBerry is focused on the big four regulated industries where security matters more. It remains to be seen if enterprise leaders will buy BES 12 because they want to be as secure as Germany’s Angela Merkel.

    As Secusmart CEO Dr. Hans-Christoph Quelle put it, the company’s informal goal is to put its software in the hands of every chancellor and president in the world. And now that BlackBerry owns Secusmart the Secusmart technology is certainly poised to spread, especially since the Secusmart technology used by Angela Merkel is intended to be a chief aspect of the new BlackBerry branding attempts.

    But also keep in mind that the above article was written before it came out that part of the terms of the Secusmart acquisition involve letting the BND examine BlackBerry’s source code, which changes the “Merkel-friendly” nature of the new brand quite a bit. Because it’s one thing for BlackBerry to tell customers “even Angela Merkel trust us!” but it’s a very different kind of sales pitch to tell people “Angela Merkel trust us because Germany’s security services got to examine the source code”.

    If there are vulnerabilities in the platform Germany’s security services are probably know about it. Does that help the brand? Sure, a lot of people probably aren’t going to care about BND spying just as many don’t care about NSA spying or any other intelligence service. But for a product that’s targeting world leaders and CEOs, it’s not as if finding out the BND gets to go ‘back-door hunting’ on your smartphone is necessarily a product feature.

    Keep in mind that the Secusmart technology works with BlackBerry’s BES 12 operating system, but it’s not the only BlackBerry phone using that system. For instance, Boeing recently announces its plans to team up with BlackBerry to make a Boeing/BlackBerry self-destructing super-securephone that will also run on the BES 12 operating system. So will the BND have access to the same BES 12 code used on the Boeing phone too?

    It’s all part of the weird emerging global marketplace for government-proof secure communications technology where if you want to brand something as “secure”, you’d want the best hacking organizations out there to vet it and all those top organizations with the resources to do the best vetting are government intelligence agencies. For instance, will other governments start demanding access to BlackBerry source code or other secure manufacturers? Will it just be large governments with a lot of market clout?

    Perhaps the idea is to have lots of different governments vet the same code. Just imagine if China, the US, Russia, and Germany all vouched for the same Secusmart technology. Well that would be quite a stamp of approval, wouldn’t it? Is that the future of secure technology for global leaders? Joint vetting?

    The German/BlackBerry deal also raises an interesting question that could complicate any future efforts to create a “Germany”-specific brand for internet security and services: In the post-Snowden world we have a situation where Cypherpunks advocate “unbreakable encryption for all!” and governments like Germany’s and Brazil’s have tried to ride that anti-NSA wave by pleading to set up infrastructures that are NSA-proof, but you never hear about government plans to implement a Cypherpunk-style regime of unbreakable encryption that the governments, themselves, are also unable to break.

    Instead, there’s more a of “you can trust us not to abuse our power over you” messaging campaign to go along with calls for the development of full-spectrum domestic IT industries to replace the current US-based standards. That’s certainly the case for Germany an Brazil. But it’s much more complicated in Germany’s case because there have been calls for both a “German internet” and a “Shengen area internet” that covers the EU (minus Ireland and the UK). And if you’re just talking about a German internet it’s just a matter of saying “you can trust Germany’s intelligence *wink*” but when you’re talking about a Schengen Area internet you’re now implying that “you can trust Germany’s intelligence agencies plus all the other EU intelligence agencies too“.

    Sure, the “you can trust Germany’s intelligence agencies” meme is rather laughable, but it’s still a much easier sell to the global public than the “you can trust the Schengen Area intelligence agencies. All of them! Really, you can!” meme that’s going to be required to sell the world on the notion that German-vetted secure tech is truly secure as the EU intelligence agencies merge into one super-agency.

    It’s all part of what’s going to make the looming power struggles over the future of an “EU Intelligence Agency’ potentially so dramatic: as national intelligence service reputations become a growing part of the national “brand” (or supra-national brand for the EU) in the realm of digital services and the digital economy, there’s going to be a growing economic incentive for “cleaning house” across all the EU intelligence agencies and consolidating them for the sake of the “brand”. Customers won’t have to worry about 26+ separate spy agencies. Just one EU-super agency. And while that “house cleaning” could result in some overdue reforms and disclosures, it’s also going to be a great opportunity for the largest EU members to effectively take over the intelligence agency roles of their smaller neighbors. For the sake of the “brand” and therefore the economy.

    It’s pretty undeniable that the profits and power would be enormous if a government can brand itself as super-secure communications technology-friendly so we should probably expect a lot more of these kinds of branding attempts going forward although given the contradictory nature of government-backed government-proof communication services, it’s probably not going to be easy.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | December 22, 2014, 6:21 pm
  3. Here’s some random German-related articles involving the Cyberwar.

    http://www.itworld.com/article/2861675/cyberattack-on-german-steel-factory-causes-massive-damage.html

    A German steel factory suffered massive damage after hackers managed to access production networks, allowing them to tamper with the controls of a blast furnace, the government said in its annual IT security report.

    The report, published Wednesday by the Federal Office for Information Security (BSI), revealed one of the rare instances in which a digital attack actually caused physical damage.

    The attack used spear phishing and sophisticated social engineering techniques to gain access to the factory’s office networks, from which access to production networks was gained. Spear phishing involves the use of email that appears to come from within an organization. After the system was compromised, individual components or even entire systems started to fail frequently.

    [ See also: Natural defenses: 8 IT security tactics found in nature ]

    Due to these failures, one of the plant’s blast furnaces could not be shut down in a controlled manner, which resulted in “massive damage to plant,” the BSI said, describing the technical skills of the attacker as “very advanced.”

    The attack used spear phishing and sophisticated social engineering techniques to gain access to the factory’s office networks, from which access to production networks was gained. Spear phishing involves the use of email that appears to come from within an organization. After the system was compromised, individual components or even entire systems started to fail frequently.

    Due to these failures, one of the plant’s blast furnaces could not be shut down in a controlled manner, which resulted in “massive damage to plant,” the BSI said, describing the technical skills of the attacker as “very advanced.”

    The attack involved the compromise of a variety of different internal systems and industrial components, BSI said, noting that not only was there evidence of a strong knowledge of IT security but also extended know-how of the industrial control and production process.

    The hack sounds similar to attacks involving the Stuxnet worm. Considered the first known cyberweapon, Stuxnet is believed to have been created by the U.S. and Israel to attack Iran’s nuclear program. Discovered in 2010, the worm has espionage and sabotage functionalities that were used to destroy up to 1,000 uranium enrichment centrifuges at a nuclear plant near the city of Natanz in Iran.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/top-german-court-blocks-hackers-extradition-to-us/2014/12/02/c3731a88-7a20-11e4-8241-8cc0a3670239_story.html

    A Turkish man accused of stealing almost $60 million in a series of hacking raids against credit card companies has won a legal victory, after Germany’s top court blocked his extradition to the United States.

    Ercan Findikoglu was arrested at Frankfurt Airport in December 2013. U.S. authorities accuse him of masterminding a group that carried out the online heists between 2011 and 2013. The group allegedly hacked into the computer networks of payment processing companies to raise the limits on prepaid credit cards and withdraw large sums of money.

    Judges at Germany’s Federal Constitutional Court granted Findikoglu’s appeal against a lower court’s decision to permit his extradition.

    Court officials provided The Associated Press with a copy of the Nov. 20 ruling, which was first reported Tuesday by German news website Spiegel Online.

    In their ruling, the three judges criticized the Frankfurt’s regional court for failing to obtain assurances from U.S. authorities that the defendant won’t receive a disproportionate sentence if convicted.

    Under German law, the maximum sentence for a property-related crime is 15 years imprisonment. According to the ruling, Findikoglu could face more than 247 years in prison if convicted in the United States.

    “This would amount to a lifetime prison sentence,” the judges said, adding that this would be incompatible with German extradition law. German courts have in the past taken a similar view in cases where the death sentence is possible; capital punishment is banned in Germany.

    Findikoglu’s lawyer, Oliver Wallasch, said he expects the regional court to quickly seek clarification on possible sentences from U.S. authorities, though their guidelines wouldn’t be binding on judges.

    U.S. Justice Department spokesman Peter Carr declined to comment on the decision.

    http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2014/11/german-spy-agency-can-monitor-its-own-citizens-via-technicality/

    Germany’s top foreign intelligence agency, known as the BND, has been revealed to claim a loophole that broadens its spying mandate, allowing it to snoop on its own citizens abroad if they are working for a foreign company or organization. Normally, the agency is not allowed to spy on German people or companies under Article 10 of the Basic Law regardless of where they live.

    On Saturday, the Associated Press received confirmation from the German government “that work-related calls or emails are attributed to the employer. If the employer is foreign, the BND can intercept them.”

    The BND did not immediately respond to Ars’ request for comment.

    This statement stemmed from the testimony of a former BND lawyer, who answered questions last week before a parliamentary intelligence committee—dubbed the “NSA Committee.” Founded in March 2014, the committee is tasked with (PDF) specifically investigating “whether, in what way, and on what scale” the US and its Five Eyes allies “collected or are collecting data” to, from, and within Germany.

    In October 2013, it was revealed that the United States had been spying on German government leaders, in particular Chancellor Angela Merkel. While many officials have expressed outrage, other opposition politicians in parliament believe that the dust-up is manufactured, as the government implicitly or explicitly supports surveillance by Germany’s own BND, a longstanding NSA ally.

    On Sunday, the German magazine Der Spiegel (Google Translate) reported that the BND informed the Chancellor’s office as early as 2005 (long before Snowden revealed himself to journalists and to the public in 2013) that Germany was a target of the NSA.

    Given recent history with both the Nazi regime and East Germany, modern Germany is very concerned with privacy rights and data protection. This reputation has enticed a number of “digital exiles” to Berlin, most notably Laura Poitras (one of the journalists who broke the Edward Snowden story), and Jacob Appelbaum, a well-known American computer security researcher and Tor developer.

    Some Germans have called for their home country to offer asylum to the famous whistleblower and have begun a “Ein Bett für Snowden” (A bed for Snowden) campaign.

    Trust us

    The former BND lawyer speaking before the NSA Committee was Stefan Burbaum, who worked at the BND from 2002 until 2005.

    “The office holder is the legal person,” he said, according to a German-language liveblog provided by the German tech policy blog Netzpolitik (Google Translate). “It’s a small exception. But a German citizen can function as an office holder in a foreign organization.”

    Under questioning from Hans-Christian Ströbele, a veteran Green Party parliamentarian from Berlin, asked as an example if the head of the German charity Welthungerhilfe (World Famine Aid), when working abroad, would be protected. (The Kabul office of Welthungerhilfe was monitored from 2005 until 2008, when it was revealed by the German magazine Der Spiegel.) Ströbele also famously met with Snowden in Moscow in November 2013.

    “The decisive thing is whether he’s communicating as a citizen or as an office holder,” Burbaum added. “Any communication from Siemens would be protected because Siemens is a German company.”

    But he assured the committee that such practice has taken place “almost never.”

    Posted by Tiffany Sunderson | December 23, 2014, 12:30 pm
  4. It looks like Berlin is about to wage a new war on its whistleblowers:

    Der Spiegel
    War on Whistleblowers: Berlin Gets Serious in the Search for Moles

    By SPIEGEL Staff

    December 01, 2014 – 06:11 PM

    Chancellor Angela Merkel’s intelligence coordinator, Klaus-Dieter Fritsche, was visibly troubled as he arrived in room 2400 of Germany’s parliament building. It’s the last straw, Fritsche told the gathered lawmakers with a steely voice and dark expression. Because of the ongoing betrayal of official secrets, Fritsche said, the German government will be filing a criminal complaint. The situation in which classified information has repeatedly found its way into the public domain cannot be allowed to continue, he added.

    The parliamentarians, members of a confidential panel which supervises the financing of Germany’s intelligence agencies, reacted with concern. Several weeks previous, Merkel’s chief of staff, Peter Altmaier, had uttered a similar threat to Germany’s parliament, the Bundestag, after internal papers from the NSA investigative committee found their way into the media. “Should it happen again,” Merkel’s top aide said, the government would resort to recourse in criminal law. The NSA committee is currently investigating US spying activities on German soil.

    Now, the two men from the Chancellery are demonstrating their resolve. In early December, a written criminal complaint against unknown persons is to be sent to public prosecutors in Berlin. Criminal investigators will then seek to determine how classified government information managed to find its way into the public sphere.

    The complaint will be broad, aimed at all informants, whether they are lawmakers or agency officials. But parliamentarians — particularly those members of the confidential intelligence financing panel, those on the NSA investigative committee and those on the Parliamentary Control Panel, which monitors German intelligence activities — will likely assume they will be the first to come under suspicion. The move is an attempt by the government to intimidate those who might be supplying secrets to the media, and although it may be commonplace in the United States, it is the kind of step that Germany hasn’t seen in years.

    Furthermore, the chancellor and her ministers have shown that they are not content to just rely on the judiciary. When it comes to the work of confidential government bodies, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government has often made it difficult for the parliament to exercise its monitoring duties. Key investigative committee witnesses are often only allowed to give testimony in secret and files have been liberally redacted out of concern that their contents might end up in the newspapers.

    On the Prowl

    Concern in Berlin has been rising as a result of several different disclosures, ranging from German intelligence agencies’ cooperation with the NSA to planned deliveries of battle tanks to Saudi Arabia. The government has the impression that the number of secret documents that have been leaked to the media has significantly increased as has the number of media outlets on the prowl for such leaks.

    The tension between the executive branch, the legislative branch and the press, often seen as the fourth branch of government, touches on the core of domestic security work. And the aggressive pursuit of leaks has become something of a trend internationally. Germany could now be facing a broader debate about the services rendered by so-called “whistleblowers,” similar to the one triggered by Edward Snowden in the US following revelations of mass digital surveillance perpetrated by the NSA.

    On the one hand, the government has a justifiable interest in keeping some information away from the public eye, for reasons of domestic security. On the other, though, the need for transparency and control via parliament and the press is greater than it has ever been. In response, the German government has vigorously sought to move entire policy areas behind closed doors.

    That has inhibited openness and has weakened voters’ faith in an executive that would seem to be unilaterally expanding secrecy — and to be arbitrarily deciding how to deal with informants. Indeed, some informants, such as those in possession of illegally compiled CDs with information on presumed tax evaders parking their money in Switzerland or other tax havens, are paid handsomely for their efforts. Furthermore, government personnel are happy to leak explosive secrets as long as it serve’s Berlin’s interests. However, those who publicize information pertaining to domestic security, can expect legal consequences.

    The catalyst for the criminal complaint now being filed is recent reports in SPIEGEL and in the influential daily Süddeutsche Zeitung. On Oct. 20, SPIEGEL reported that Germany’s foreign intelligence agency, the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), believed that pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine were responsible for shooting down flight MH17. The report cited a secret session of the Parliamentary Control Panel during which BND head Gerhard Schindler presented satellite images and other photos as evidence for the agency’s view.

    It was information that the German government wanted to remain confidential, as was material pertaining to problems encountered by the country’s domestic intelligence agency with recruiting informants, which SPIEGEL likewise reported on in October. Both reports could become elements in the government’s forthcoming criminal complaint. The Süddeutsche Zeitung, for its part, ruffled government feathers by publishing information about the BND’s technical capabilities.

    NATO Cooperation in Danger

    Once the complaint is filed, public prosecutors will be faced with the delicate challenge of identifying potential informants from among elected officials and others who work in intelligence.

    The investigators, of course, won’t be the only ones on the lookout for moles in Berlin. The Defense Ministry and the Foreign Ministry have already launched efforts to identify the sources of sensitive leaks. The two ministries are concerned about several internal NATO documents that found their way into the German press in recent months. Several allied countries have complained to Berlin, warning that cooperation could be negatively impacted should the reports not cease. An internal NATO investigation was also opened.

    Patience apparently was exhausted following a secret NATO resolution regarding the intensification of air patrols over the Baltics in response to the crisis in Ukraine. A SPIEGEL reporter wrote about the resolution in a tweet. In response, the Foreign Ministry warned the Defense Ministry of “enduring doubts” harbored by NATO and EU partners when it comes to Germany’s “reliability in the handling of sensitive processes in the field of security policy.” Such doubts must be avoided, the document noted.

    The Foreign Ministry spent weeks searching for the possible leak, with personnel having to provide official declarations that they had not shared documents from their areas of responsibility. At the same time, the number of ministry personnel receiving certain documents was reduced and some papers were assigned a higher degree of classification. Sources say the move was intended to discourage employees from disseminating sensitive information.

    Some officials in the Defense Ministry were also made to sign declarations. And following prolonged negative press focused on the problems plaguing the “Euro Hawk” drone program, the successor drone project was classified as secret.

    Such measures don’t only make it more difficult for Germany’s parliament to keep an eye on the goings on in the ministry, in the past they also hampered the work of KPMG, the consultancy group hired to optimize the management of defense projects. For months, KPMG analysts were forced to travel frequently to Koblenz in order to review classified papers on file there. It was only much later, after complaints about the volume of travel began to mount, that the ministry made it easier for the consultants to review the documents.

    Redacted Documents

    But the government’s broadening demands for secrecy have become most evident when it comes to the NSA parliamentary investigation. Important witness testimony, for example, has not been cleared for the public, limiting what journalists may write. In one of the most recent committee sessions, the testimony of one witness, a BND agent, was even classified as top secret. As a result, parliamentarians on the committee had to turn in their notes following the session and the final report may not cite the agent’s testimony. In other instances, government representatives present at the hearings stopped testimony that they believed was too sensitive.

    Preparation has also been made difficult for lawmakers on the NSA committee. It has become clear that BND witnesses have been able to study files that were either not made available to committee members or were only made available shortly before the session in which they were discussed. Furthermore, many of those documents that are made available have been redacted to the point that they can no longer be understood. Even the itinerary put together for the wife of an NSA director during his visit to Berlin was heavily redacted.

    Finally, the government has also prevented important issues from even being examined in the first place because they allegedly had nothing to do with the investigative committee’s work. Opposition lawmakers on the committee have even filed a complaint with Germany’s high court due to concerns that they are unable to fulfill their control function in the absence of testimony from Edward Snowden — testimony that has thus far been prevented.

    Imagine that.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | December 29, 2014, 3:37 pm
  5. Here’s a reminder that if the NSA’s vast spying capabilities didn’t actually exist today, the US and its allies would probably be feverishly working on building those exact capabilities right now. Especially in Europe:

    The Washington Post
    Backlash in Berlin over NSA spying recedes as threat from Islamic State rises

    By Greg Miller December 29, 2014

    BERLIN — In a crescendo of anger over American espionage, Germany expelled the CIA’s top operative, launched an investigation of the vast U.S. surveillance programs exposed by Edward Snowden and extracted an apology from President Obama for the years that U.S. spies had reportedly spent monitoring German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cellphone.

    In an address to Parliament last year, Merkel warned that U.S.-German cooperation would be curtailed and declared that “trust needs to be rebuilt.”

    But the cooperation never really stopped. The public backlash over Snowden often obscured a more complicated reality for Germany and other aggrieved U.S. allies. They may be dismayed by the omnivorous nature of the intelligence apparatus the United States has built since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, but they are also deeply dependent on it.

    Over the past year, Germany has secretly provided detailed information to U.S. spy services on hundreds of German citizens and legal residents suspected of having joined insurgent groups in Syria and Iraq, U.S. and German officials said.

    Germany has done so reluctantly to enlist U.S. help in tracking departed fighters, determining whether they have joined al-Qaeda or the Islamic State and, perhaps most importantly, whether they might seek to bring those groups’ violent agendas back to Germany.

    The stream of information includes names, cellphone numbers, e-mail addresses and other sensitive data that German security services — ever mindful of the abuses by the Nazi and Stasi secret police — have been reluctant even to collect, let alone turn over to a suspect ally.

    A senior German intelligence official compared the U.S. relationship to a dysfunctional marriage in which trust has bottomed out but a breakup is not an option. Amid what Germans see as evidence of repeated betrayal, “the question remaining is whether the husband is a notorious cheater or can be faithful again,” said the official, who like others interviewed for this article spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters. “We’re just going to have to give it another try. There is no alternative. Divorce is out of the question.”

    More than 550 German citizens have gone to Syria, officials said, and at least nine have killed themselves in suicide attacks.

    The exodus is part of a much broader flow of more than 15,000 foreign fighters who have entered Syria over the past four years from 80 countries. At least 3,000 of them are from Europe — the largest contingent of Islamist jihadists with Western passports that counterterrorism agencies have ever faced.

    As a result, nearly every country in Europe is turning over significant data on their own departed fighters to the United States. Some of these nations, including Germany, have capable security and intelligence agencies of their own. But even their combined resources probably cannot match the scope and reach of their U.S. counterparts.

    Indeed, the United States appears to be the only country even attempting to compile a comprehensive database of all the foreign fighters who have crossed into Syria. The National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) adds new entries almost every week, often starting with only fragments of fighters’ identities and then filling in other details drawn from the arsenal of U.S. intelligence assets now aimed at Syria.

    Even if only a small percentage of fighters in Syria were ever to pose any significant threat, their exposure to the country’s violence and their potential associations with the Islamic State or the al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra make them part of a generation that is likely to be monitored by security services long after the fighting in Syria and Iraq ends.

    “We’re looking at this as a decadal issue,” said a senior U.S. intelligence official involved in producing classified assessments on the Syria threat. “Even if the numbers stopped growing today — if we only had the 15,000 — you’re still looking at a global issue that is going to carry on for a number of years and that is going to test the bandwidth and resources not only of us, but our foreign partners.”

    Crossing borders

    In the past year, Germany and other nations have adopted measures to prevent citizens suspected of planning to join insurgent groups from leaving. Some have begun seizing passports of would-be fighters. But the restrictions vary by country, are riddled with holes and have only partially obstructed key paths into Syria.

    From Europe, the main route remains through Turkey, which is not part of the European Union but is effectively treated as one in terms of travel. European citizens don’t need passports to fly into the country ,where thousands of fighters have made their way by car, bus or foot across Syria’s broken borders.

    Fighters coming back to Europe face similarly inconsistent scrutiny. European laws designed to prevent discrimination don’t permit “systemic” checks of citizens reentering the E.U. from abroad, in contrast to the United States, which screens virtually every incoming traveler against counterterrorism databases.

    Security officials across Europe are pushing to relax that ban and other constraints but said doing so could take years.

    Inside Europe, borders and passport controls have been largely erased over the past two decades, enabling Europeans to move across national boundaries much the way Americans cross state lines. The result is a patchwork defense in which even countries that manage to track their own foreign fighters have addressed only a portion of the threat.

    The Snowden disclosures triggered an eruption of much greater force.

    “This is complete surveillance. It turns everybody into a suspect,” said Hans-Christian Ströbele, a member of Parliament who visited Snowden in Moscow last year. “The NSA can do much more than the East German secret police could in their wildest dreams,” he said, although he acknowledged that U.S. agencies “haven’t used their knowledge for the same ends.”

    But the Snowden files also exposed how costly it might be for officials in Berlin to sever ties with U.S. intelligence.

    One 2013 memo described how the NSA had “provided a significant amount of hardware and software” to the BND, the German foreign intelligence service, which in turn was “working to influence the German government to relax interpretation” of privacy laws. The memo referred to Germany’s repeated requests for help intercepting communications over Skype, an online network the Germans had apparently failed to crack.

    Another document disclosed that the NSA had given Germany’s domestic intelligence service a potent software tool. Called XKEYSCORE, it serves as a sort of search engine for electronic espionage, allowing agencies tapped into networks to zero in on specific cellphone numbers, keywords or even Web searches.

    The senior German intelligence official said that the domestic agency, known as the Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz, or BfV, had been given only a “test version” of the program and that it was being used to filter data gathered under domestic wiretaps approved by Parliament.

    “We’re not allowed to search the big streams of intelligence data” or U.S. stockpiles, the official said. “We need XKEYSCORE so if we have a stream on an individual, we can filter the videos they download, e-mails they send or Web sites they visit.”

    Though among Europe’s largest, Germany’s intelligence services are dwarfed by their American counterparts. The BND, which sends spies abroad and conducts electronic espionage, had a budget of approximately $650 million last year. By contrast, the CIA and NSA, which handle the same functions, had combined budgets approaching $25 billion.

    The NSA “has better technical means, far more capacity, better software to deal with more data,” said Hanning, the former chief of the BND, or Bundesnachrichtendienst. The German agency can deliver impressive results when focused on narrow targets such as the crisis in Ukraine or threats to German troops in Afghanistan. But measured against the NSA, Hanning said, the BND’s capabilities are “less than 10 percent.”

    So far, the U.S. collaboration has served as something of an insurance policy on which Germany has not had to collect. German officials said there has been near-constant intelligence “chatter” suggesting possible attacks on German soil but no evidence of a specific plot.

    German officials bristled at the suggestion of inconsistency in Berlin’s willingness to accept intelligence presumably obtained by the U.S. programs and methods it had condemned. Several made the argument that Germany should not be criticized for receiving such intelligence, because U.S. spy agencies rarely disclose precisely how they got it.

    German agencies “receive it in the form of so-called ‘finished intelligence,’?” said Binninger, the chairman of Germany’s intelligence committee. “So you cannot draw the conclusion that the German authorities are being helped by information that they criticized a year ago.”

    Others explained the relationship in coldly pragmatic terms.

    “The phenomenon of our time is the mushrooming of terrorist movements,” Haber said, describing the Islamic State as a uniquely brutal terrorist organization that casts “a specific spell” on those who join it. The seriousness of that threat compels continued cooperation between the United States and Germany, she said, despite the residual resentment.

    Hanning, the former BND chief, acknowledged the tension in Berlin’s position. “Sometimes it’s not so easy being in Germany,” he said. “We are living with this contradiction.”

    “the question remaining is whether the husband is a notorious cheater or can be faithful again,” said the official, who like others interviewed for this article spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters. “We’re just going to have to give it another try. There is no alternative. Divorce is out of the question.”

    Awwww, forgive and forget. And forget some more. How romantic.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | January 2, 2015, 6:35 pm
  6. Well look at that:

    Pando Daily
    German intelligence agency knew NSA was spying on European leaders as early as 2008

    By Nathaniel Mott
    On April 24, 2015

    Germany has been one of the harshest critics of the National Security Agency surveillance programs revealed by whistleblower Edward Snowden in 2013. Yet a new report from Der Spiegel indicates that the NSA spied on world leaders with the help of the country’s electronic surveillance agency, the German BND.

    This cooperation was revealed as the result of a parliamentary investigation into the relationship between the German BND and the NSA. The inquiry showed that the NSA asked the German BND to hand over information about defense contractors, large companies, and politicians from both Germany and France.

    Another report from the Die Zeit newspaper indicates that the German BND knew it was handing over over sensitive information to the NSA, yet it didn’t end the partnership, or limit the data it shared with the American intelligence agency. It was too worried about the NSA retaliating by limiting the information it shares.

    That wouldn’t be the last time Germany compromised its ideals to receive information from the NSA. The Washington Post reported in December 2014 that the country provided the NSA with the names, phone numbers, and email addresses of suspected extremists it feared would cause trouble in Europe.

    These revelations make Germany’s objections to the NSA surveillance programs ring hollow. German chancellor Angela Merkel was reportedly spied on (some have said there’s no said there’s no concrete evidence of this allegation) yet the German BND helped the NSA spy on other politicians across Europe. The country has condemned digital surveillance, but it reaches out to the NSA when it needs to.

    As I wrote when the Washington Post first revealed the recent data-sharing:

    There’s an inherent conflict between a citizenry’s desire to maintain its privacy and its government’s desire to defend against terrorist attacks. That’s why it’s been so hard for reform advocates to make any progress in the fear-mongering US Congress.

    Balancing the two competing ideals is difficult. The problem is that Germany is trying to shield itself from any criticism for tipping the scales in favor of security by closing its eyes, receiving NSA help, then condemning the scale’s shift from privacy.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | April 24, 2015, 2:03 pm
  7. Germany’s top prosecutor is now investigating whether or not the BND’s spying on EU government and business reportedly at the behest of the NSA broke the law:

    German prosecutors launch investigation of spying charges
    BERLIN | By Erik Kirschbaum

    Sun May 3, 2015 9:24am EDT

    (Reuters) – Germany’s top public prosecutor will look into accusations that the country’s BND foreign intelligence agency violated laws by helping the United States spy on officials and firms in Europe, including Airbus group, the federal prosecutors office said.

    A spokesman for the prosecutors office confirmed weekend media reports that an investigation had been launched as opposition politicians demanded more information about the unfolding scandal from Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government.

    “A preliminary investigation has been started,” the spokesman said. In a related development, federal prosecutor Harald Range himself will be questioned by a parliamentary committee looking into the affair in Berlin on Wednesday.

    Der Spiegel magazine said the BND helped the U.S. National Security Agency over at least 10 years, embarrassing Germany and upsetting many in a country where surveillance is a sensitive topic due to abuses by the Nazis and the East German Stasi.

    The magazine also reported that in 2013 the BND ordered staff to delete 12,000 internet “selectors” — IP addresses, email addresses and phone numbers of German government officials — that it had been tracking for the NSA.

    Opposition members of parliament for the Greens and Left party have requested more information from Merkel’s government about the BND’s assistance to the NSA. German media said there were indications EU governments and agencies, especially France, were the targets of the BND’s spying for the NSA.

    “This appears to be reaching a criminal dimension,” Christian Stroebele, a senior Greens member of parliament, told the Rheinische Post newspaper.

    Airbus Group AIR.PA said on Thursday it planned to complain to the German authorities over reports that the country’s foreign intelligence agency had helped the United States to spy on it and other European firms.

    It is an especially touchy issue in Germany because Merkel and many Germans reacted strongly in 2013 to reports that the NSA had long been tapping Merkel’s cell phone. “Spying among friends is not at all acceptable,” she said at the time.

    Well, we’ll see where this investigation goes, but something to keep in mind here is that, given Germany’s relatively strict stance on spying (at least the public stance), you have to wonder if the spying Germany did the behest of the NSA would have been legal or at least acceptable under German law if it had been done at the request of the German government instead. Because, at that point, it would be the one EU government directly spying on another EU government which might be a bigger diplomatic ‘no, no’ than, say, the NSA spying on an EU government. So you have to wonder if the NSA, by making these requests of the BND, was actually giving the BND bureaucratic ‘cover’ to spy on Germany’s fellow EU governments. If the BND got caught, at least they could tell their pissed off EU partners that they were just doing it on behalf of the Americans. At least, that could have been part of the arrangement. So in addition to the NSA making requests that the BND spying on this or that government or business, what’s to stop the BND from quietly requesting specific NSA requests?

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | May 4, 2015, 11:51 am
  8. The investigation of the NSA’s hacking of the Merkel phone just got dropped due to a lack of evidence:

    Financial Times
    Germany drops inquiry into Merkel phone tapping

    Jeevan Vasagar in Berlin
    June 12, 2015 3:46 pm

    An investigation into the alleged tapping of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s mobile phone has been dropped by Germany’s federal prosecutor, who cited a lack of co-operation from US authorities.

    The inquiry, triggered by a German media report that the US National Security Agency had a database containing Ms Merkel’s phone number, had not gathered enough evidence that could stand up in court, the prosecutor said in a statement on Friday.

    An attempt to obtain an original NSA document providing authorisation of phone-tapping had failed.

    The prosecutor said “vague statements” by the US authorities referring to surveillance of Ms Merkel’s phone were not sufficient to prove a crime.

    This was a reference to a White House statement that said the US “is not…and will not” monitor Ms Merkel’s phone.

    “These remarks were interpreted by the public as an admission of guilt, but do not release us from the requirements of the code of criminal procedure,” the prosecutor said.

    The inquiry related to a phone Ms Merkel used for party political business, rather than the encrypted phone intended for matters of state.

    Prosecutors said an inquiry into the alleged “large-scale collection” of German telecoms data by US and British intelligence agencies remains under way.

    The phone-tapping affair, coupled with Edward Snowden’s revelations about the NSA, briefly soured US-German relations and fuelled anxieties in Berlin over the security of the country’s digital and telecoms infrastructure.

    At the time, Ms Merkel’s government cast itself as the victim of high-handed American power. “Spying among friends is not at all acceptable,” Ms Merkel said when Der Spiegel broke the story in 2013.

    Since then, however embarrassing revelations have emerged that the BND, Germany’s foreign intelligence service, may have assisted the US in spying on its EU allies.

    According to German media reports, the BND helped the NSA to snoop on European targets, including the French presidency, the European Commission and Airbus, the aerospace group.

    Note that it doesn’t sound like all of the inquiries over NSA hacking were dropped, just the one related to the Angela Merkel’s party phone:


    Prosecutors said an inquiry into the alleged “large-scale collection” of German telecoms data by US and British intelligence agencies remains under way.

    Good luck with the rest of the investigations!

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | June 12, 2015, 2:24 pm
  9. Gerhard Schindler, the head of the BND was sacked late last month without any explanation from the government, although it was assumed to be part of an ongoing political battle over the nature of the BND’s post-Snowden reforms following Schindler’s recently apparent willingness to implement some reforms. Interestingly, its Germany’s right-wing finance minister, Wolfgang Schaeuble, who has emerged as one of the BND’s biggest defenders during this period. Even more interestingly, Schindler’s replace is Schaeuble’s right-hand man:

    The Guardian

    Speculation mounts that Germany’s spy chief was sacked over Snowden fallout

    Opposition MPs say Gerhard Schindler’s dismissal is sign of a pushback against attempts to overhaul the intelligence agency

    Philip Oltermann in Berlin

    Wednesday 27 April 2016 09.42 EDT

    Speculation is mounting in Germany whether the head of the country’s foreign intelligence service has been sacrificed as part of a political struggle over how to deal with the long-term fallout from the Snowden revelations.

    Gerhard Schindler, who has led Germany’s version of the CIA since 2012, is being removed two years before he reaches retirement age, the government has confirmed. He will be replaced by Bruno Kahl, a department chief at the German finance ministry with close connections to finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble.

    In a press briefing, Angela Merkel’s chief of staff, Peter Altmeier, explained that the surprise decision to replace Schindler had been made with a view to a “reform of his role in view of changing security challenges”.

    Germany’s intelligence agency, the BND, has been rocked by a series of scandals since the revelations provided by National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden in 2013. A year ago it emerged that the BND had gone against German interests and spied on European partners at the request of the NSA.

    But Schindler appeared to have survived the scandal after admitting that BND field offices had taken on “a life of their own” and promising to centralise control. The 63-year-old had also recovered from recent health problems.

    Opposition politicians now interpret Schindler’s dismissal as a sign of a pushback against attempts to overhaul the intelligence agency. A draft law, increasing parliamentary oversight over the BND, had been criticised by finance minister Schäuble last month.

    Green party veteran Hans-Christian Ströbele, a member of the Bundestag committee investigating the NSA scandal, described the timing of Schindler’s dismissal as suspicious, saying that while there had been good reasons to sack the spy chief over last year’s revelations, he had recently shown a willingness to reform.

    “The key question is whether the aim is to block the reform of the BND,” said Konstantin von Notz, also a member of the Bundestag committee on the NSA affair. “If these reforms won’t happen, then the chancellory is sitting on a ticking time bomb.”

    The chairman of the Bundestag’s committee told Mitteldeutsche Zeitung that “we need a fresh start at the BND” in order to reform the service in the light of the recent scandals. On top of the Snowden leaks, the German intelligence service has been shaken by the embarrassing revelation that one of its own employees sold on information to both American and Russian agencies.

    Privacy rights activists fear that Schindler’s dismissal is part of a wider pushback by intelligence agency officials, who feel emboldened after terrorist attacks in Brussels last month and in Paris last November.

    In an interview this month, the head of Germany’s domestic intelligence agency, Hans-Georg Maaßen, had suggested that the Snowden leaks had been directed by the Kremlin to drive a wedge between western Europe and the US.

    “Opposition politicians now interpret Schindler’s dismissal as a sign of a pushback against attempts to overhaul the intelligence agency. A draft law, increasing parliamentary oversight over the BND, had been criticised by finance minister Schäuble last month.”
    Keep in mind that Wolfgang Schaeuble was one of the German politicians to publicly defend the BND last year when it emerged that the BND was working closely with the NSA to spy on European governments and companies. And while he may have engaged in that defense on principle, it’s also worth keeping in mind that Schaeuble, as one of the lead negotiators in the eurogroup of eurozone finance ministers, probably has more use for the intelligence the BND gathers on other European governments than just about anyone other German government official with the exception of Angela Merkel. It’s also worth keeping in mind the reports last fall about how much of that BND spying on European governments wasn’t done at the behest of the NSA:

    Der Spiegel

    Governments and NGOs: Germany Spied on Friends and Vatican

    Efforts to spy on friends and allies by Germany’s foreign intelligence agency, the BND, were more extensive than previously reported. SPIEGEL has learned the agency monitored European and American government ministries and the Vatican.

    November 07, 2015 – 08:19 AM

    Three weeks ago, news emerged that Germany’s foreign intelligence service, the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), had systematically spied on friends and allies around the world. In many of those instances, the BND had been doing so of its own accord and not at the request of the NSA. The BND came under heavy criticism earlier this year after news emerged that it had assisted the NSA in spying on European institutions, companies and even Germans using dubious selector data.

    SPIEGEL has since learned from sources that the spying went further than previously reported. Since October’s revelations, it has emerged that the BND spied on the United States Department of the Interior and the interior ministries of EU member states including Poland, Austria, Denmark and Croatia. The search terms used by the BND in its espionage also included communications lines belonging to US diplomatic outposts in Brussels and the United Nations in New York. The list even included the US State Department’s hotline for travel warnings.

    The initial revelations came after Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Chancellery, which is in charge of overseeing Germany’s intelligence agencies, informed the Bundestag’s Parliamentary Control Panel, which is responsible for applying checks and balances to intelligence efforts, in mid-October that the BND had been surveilling the institutions of numerous European countries and other partners for many years.

    In October 2013, Chancellor Angela Merkel condemned spying on her mobile phone by saying, “Spying among friends? That’s just not done.” Apparently these words didn’t apply to the BND.

    “The initial revelations came after Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Chancellery, which is in charge of overseeing Germany’s intelligence agencies, informed the Bundestag’s Parliamentary Control Panel, which is responsible for applying checks and balances to intelligence efforts, in mid-October that the BND had been surveilling the institutions of numerous European countries and other partners for many years.”
    Yep. The BND doesn’t just spy for the NSA when it’s spying on other governments. Shocker. And it was apparently shocking enough that the calls to reform the BND to got so loud that it looked like that reform might actually happen. But that was then, and this is now.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | May 18, 2016, 3:04 pm

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