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This program was recorded in one, 60-minute segment.
Introduction: In this program, we examine more of the fallout from L’Affaire Snowden. We call Edward Snowden the Obverse Oswald because, like Lee Harvey Oswald, he is a spook being trafficked around as the public face of an intelligence operation.
However, whereas Oswald was infiltrated into the U.S.S.R. and leftist organizations and branded a “Commie” prior to being framed for President Kennedy’s assassination and killed before being able to defend himself, Snowden was infiltrate into China and Russia and labeled a hero.
Germany’s behavior in connection with this “op” is noteworthy. When it was announced that Germany and Brazil were upgrading their IT infrastructures because they were “shocked, shocked” that the NSA was conducting the activities “disclosed” by Snowden, we noted that it was ludicrous. Germany knew about this many years ago, as did the EU. The Germans were partners in the espionage!
In fact, far from being “shocked” about the event in which they had long been willing participants, Germany “wanted in” to the exclusive Five Eyes club. We wonder if the alleged compromising of U.S. and British spies as a result of the Snowden “op” might be a further attempt by Germany and the BND to gain access to the Five Eyes club. If American and British intel are compromised, it might strengthen the hand of the BND in this regard.
As we have noted in past updates on “The Adventures of Eddie the Friendly Spook,” American “Big Tech” is being targeted by the EU (“read Germany”). The EU is taking steps against Google that smack of protectionism.
L’Affaire Snowden was, and is, a “psy-op” designed to justiy a pre-determined industrial offensive against the U.S. and Silicon Valley! We also wonder if the EU’s “right to be forgotten,” like the other steps taken by Germany, is designed to protect the remarkable and deadly Bormann capital network about which we speak so often.
The Snowden “op” is being blamed in Britain for the compromising of British intelligence agents and the gigantic hack of the OPM is being blamed for compromising U.S. intel.
Note that the Snowden op, as discussed in FTR #762 was aimed at destabilizing the Obama administration, as well as poisoning relations between China and Russia. The OPM hack has further damaged relations with China, while making the Obama administration look weak. One of the contractors with “root” access to the OPM data is in Argentina, an epicenter of the Underground Reich.
It is being alleged that Russian and Chinese spies had access to the “encrypted” Snowden files, further poisoning relations with Russia. This is also consistent with what we presented in FTR #767.
After discussing the possibility that it was Citizen Greenwald’s computer files that were compromised, we highlight the fact that Micah Lee, the security expert hired to ramp up security on Greenwald’s computer not only was hired by the uber-reactionary Pierre Omidyar (who partially bankrolled the Ukrainian coup and the election of Hindu nationalist/fascist Narendra Modi) but came to the Omidyar empire via the Electronic Frontier Foundation, an organization with dubious credentials and numerous ties to the very elements that figure in the Snowden “op.”
We highlight the terrifying possibilities of cyber-terrorism against the U.S. and note that “Anonymous,” whoever they may be, foreshadowed problems at the New York Stock Exchange, United Airlines and the Wall Street Journal’s web site. Although officially blamed on technical glitches, we suspect that the authorities are dissembling in order to avoid panic.
Program Highlights Include: The enigmatic career of EFF founder John Perry Barlow; EFF’s role in running interference for Big Tobacco; Glenn Greenwald’s role in running interference for Big Tobacco; a deadly attack in Tunisia that claimed the lives of a large number of British citizens; speculation about the Tunisia attack being linked to Germany’s attempts to gain access to the Five Eyes club; review of Tunisia as the beginning point of the “Arab Spring” and the appolation “the WikiLeaks revolution” that was applied to the overthrow of the Tunisian government; review of technocratic fascism–the infernal ideological glue that binds Snowden, WikiLeaks, Big Tech and the far right.
1. When it was announced that a new fiber-optics cable was going to be built connecting Europe to Brazil because Germany and the EU were “shocked, shocked” that the NSA was conducting the activities “disclosed” by Snowden, we noted that it was ludicrous. Germany knew about this many years ago, as did the EU. The Germans were partners in the espionage!
L’Affaire Snowden was, and is, a “psy-op” designed to justiy a pre-determined industrial offensive against the U.S. and Silicon Valley!
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 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.
2. As we have noted in past updates on “The Adventures of Eddie the Friendly Spook,” American “Big Tech” is being targeted by the EU (“read Germany”).
Have you heard the term Gafa yet? It hasn’t caught on here in the United States — and I’m guessing it won’t — but in France, it has become so common that the newspapers hardly need to spell out its meaning. Everyone there already knows what Gafa stands for: Google-Apple-Facebook-Amazon.
In America, we tend to think of these companies as four distinct entities that compete fiercely with each other. But, in Europe, which lacks a single Internet company of comparable size and stature, they “encapsulate America’s evil Internet empire,” as Gideon Rachman put it in The Financial Times on Monday. Nine out of 10 Internet searches in Europe use Google — a more commanding percentage than in the United States — to cite but one example of their utter dominance in the countries that make up the European Union.
Not surprisingly, this dominance breeds worry in Europe, however fairly it was achieved. The French fear (as the French always do) the imposition of American culture. The Germans fear the rise of an industry more efficient — and more profitable — than their own. Industry leaders, especially in publishing, telecommunications and even autos fear that the American Internet companies will disrupt their businesses and siphon away their profits. Europeans worry about the use of their private data by American companies, a worry that was only exacerbated by the Edward Snowden spying revelations. There is a palpable sense among many politicians, regulators and businesspeople in Europe that the Continent needs to develop its own Internet platforms — or, at the least, clip the wings of the big American Internet companies while there’s still time.
I bring this up in the wake of the decision by Margrethe Vestager, the European Union’s relatively new (she took office in November) commissioner in charge of competition policy, to bring antitrust charges against Google, the culmination of a five-year investigation. The case revolves around whether Google took advantage of its dominance in search to favor its own comparison-shopping service over those of its rivals. Vestager also opened an inquiry into Google’s Android mobile operating system — and said the European Union would investigate other potential violations if need be.
Not long after announcing the charges, Vestager made a speech in Washington. “We have no grudge; we have no fight with Google,” she said. “In all our cases, we are indifferent to the nationality of the companies involved. Our responsibility is to make sure that any company with operations in the territory of the E.U. complies with our treaty rules.”
Well, maybe. But it is also true that, to an unusual degree, this investigation, especially in its latter stages, has been driven by politics. The political rhetoric around Google in Europe has been so heated that had Vestager decided not to bring a case, her political standing might have been weakened, “probably compromising her ability to pursue effectively other high-profile antitrust cases,” wrote Carlos Kirjner, an analyst with Sanford C. Bernstein & Co.
Consider, for instance, what happened last year when Google was close to settling the case with Vestager’s predecessor, Joaquín Almunia. Google had agreed to make changes that it found cumbersome and intrusive, but it wanted to get the case behind it and move on. Instead, European politicians, especially in France and Germany, and prodded by Google’s competitors, complained that Almunía was being too accommodating to the company. “The offers by Google aren’t worthless, but they’re not nearly enough,” one such politician, Günther Oettinger of Germany, told The Wall Street Journal.
At the time, Oettinger was serving as the European Union’s energy commissioner, making him one of the 28 commissioners who would have to approve any settlement. By September, he had been nominated for a new job: commissioner for digital economy and society. At a hearing before a European Parliament committee, he took credit for blowing up the Google settlement.
As the digital commissioner, Oettinger has continued to advocate for what has become the German position on Google — namely that Google’s power must be reined in. In a speech two weeks ago, he essentially said that Europe should begin regulating Internet platforms in such a way as to allow homegrown companies to overtake the American Internet giants. And on Thursday, a document leaked from his office to The Wall Street Journal that outlined just such a plan, claiming that if nothing was done, the entire economy of Europe was “at risk” because of its dependency on American Internet companies. There have even been calls in Europe to break up Google.
Europe has every right to regulate any company and any sector it wants. And it can bring antitrust charges as it sees fit. But given the rhetoric surrounding Google and the other American Internet giants, suspicion of Europe’s real motives is justified.
From here, the European charges against Google look a lot like protectionism.
3. The EU has instituted “right to be forgotten” legislation. We suspect that this may be aimed at guarding the secrets of the Bormann capital network and the Underground Reich. We have similar suspicions about the Brazil/EU deal to develop fiber optic cables to evade NSA surveillance, this supposedly because of the “revelations” of Edward Snowden.
The EU/Brazil pretense is ludicrous on its surface, because Germany has known about this for many years. Indeed, most of the information has been on the public record for a long time.
. . . . If Orwell were alive today, what would this British author, who early on warned of the evil of the totalitarianism, make of recent actions by our European allies? A troubling legal movement named the “right to be forgotten” has been gathering steam over the past year, spurred by a May 2014 decision by Europe’s highest court.
This so-called “right” gives Europeans the legal ability to demand that Internet search engines, including Google, Bing and Yahoo, remove links to news articles about themselves that they do not like — deleting history in cyber form. . . .
. . . . But under the European court’s ruling, it does not even matter whether the news articles in question are factual; search engines can be forced to remove links to web pages that fit vague descriptions such as “no longer relevant” or “inadequate.”
Who gets to judge whether links to news articles exist in Europe? It’s left to the search engines, and ultimately the European courts. Since the ruling, Google alone already has reviewed almost 1 million links and removed hundreds of thousands.
It gets worse. On June 12, France’s data-protection regulator ordered Google to expand the so-called “right to be forgotten” to all its search engines, worldwide. This means that Europeans will get to decide what news articles you and I and every person around the world can find. The French regulator is not alone in its chilling view. EU data-protection chiefs have also urged the global removal of links. . . .
4a. An interesting perspective on the OPM hack concerns the fact that an Argentine operator had total access to the information superstructure of the OPM. Argentina, of course, is a major epicenter of the Underground Reich. Argentina is, of course, an epicenter of the Underground Reich.
1. Exposed all US intelligence agents secrets making them prone to blackmail or infiltration.
2. Hurt US Chinese relations and US public opinion on China.
3. Further discredited the Obama Administration and Democrats especially, with National Security issues.
4. Had Ms. Katherine Archuleta discredited as being a competent Cabinet official – she is a female, hispanic. This will play into the hands of racists and other people disgusted by EEOC and political correctness.
As will be seen below, it has also allegedly placed American spies at risk.
. . . . Some of the contractors that have helped OPM with managing internal data have had security issues of their own—including potentially giving foreign governments direct access to data long before the recent reported breaches. A consultant who did some work with a company contracted by OPM to manage personnel records for a number of agencies told Ars that he found the Unix systems administrator for the project “was in Argentina and his co-worker was physically located in the [People’s Republic of China]. Both had direct access to every row of data in every database: they were root. Another team that worked with these databases had at its head two team members with PRC passports. I know that because I challenged them personally and revoked their privileges. From my perspective, OPM compromised this information more than three years ago and my take on the current breach is ‘so what’s new?'” . . . .
4b. In an op-ed piece in the Financial Times, Gillian Tett presents some sobering information about America’s vulnerability to cyber-attacks.
“Prepare for the Coming Cyber Attacks on America” by Gillian Tett; Financial Times; 7/10/2015; p. 11.
Another week, another wave of cyber alarm in America. On Wednesday, the New York Stock Exchange and United Airlines suspended activity for several hours due to mysterious computing problems, while The Wall Street Journal’s website briefly went down. All three insisted that the outages reflected technical hitches, not malicious atack. But many are anxious after past assaults on mighty American companies and agencies.
In February, Anthem, an insurance company, revealed that cyber hackers had stolen information on 80m customers. The Washington-based Office of Personnel Management said cuber hackers hd taken data on millions of federal employees. Companies ranging from retailers to banks have been attacked, too.
On Wednesday–just as the NYSE ws frozen–Cambridge university and Lloyds insurance group released a report suggesting that if a cyber assault breached America’s electrical grid this could create $t trillion dollars of damage. A few minutes later, James Comey, the FBI director, told Congress that it is struggling to crack encryption tools used by jihadis. In May, Mr. Comey said Islamic terrorists were “waking up” to the idea of using malware to attack critical infrastructure. It is scary stuff.
The key issue that investors, politicians and voters need to onder is not simly who might be the next target, but whether Washington has the right system in place to handle these attacks. The answer is almost certainly no. . . .
5a. According to the UK government, the Snowden cache of files (the ‘blueprint’ for the NSA as Gleen Greenwald characterized it) may be in the hands of the Russian and Chinese governments.
Downing Street believes that Russian and Chinese intelligence agencies have used documents from whistleblower Edward Snowden to identify British and US secret agents, according to a report in the Sunday Times.
The newspaper says MI6, Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service, has withdrawn agents from overseas operations because Russian security services had broken into encrypted files held by American computer analyst Snowden.
Snowden provided the Guardian with top secret documents from the US National Security Agency (NSA), which revealed that western intelligence agencies had been undertaking mass surveillance of phone and internet use.
He fled to Hong Kong, then to Moscow, and the Sunday Times claims that both Chinese and Russian security officials gained access to his files as a result.
The files held by Snowden were encrypted, but now British officials believe both countries have hacked into the files, according to the report.
The newspaper quotes a series of anonymous sources from Downing Street, the Home Office and British intelligence saying that the documents contained intelligence techniques and information that would enable foreign powers to identify British and American spies.
The newspaper quoted a “senior Downing Street source” saying that “Russians and Chinese have information”.
The source said “agents have had to be moved and that knowledge of how we operate has stopped us getting vital information”. The source said they had “no evidence” that anyone had been harmed.
A “senior Home Office source” was also quoted by the newspaper, saying: “Putin didn’t give him asylum for nothing. His documents were encrypted but they weren’t completely secure and we have now seen our agents and assets being targeted.”
The Sunday Times also quoted a “British intelligence source” saying that Russian and Chinese officials would be examining Snowden’s material for “years to come”.
5b. Against the background of the allegations of British spies being compromised, a terrorist incident in Tunisia targeted British citizens.
Shocked by the deadliest terrorist attack on Britons in a decade, Prime Minister David Cameron promised a “full spectrum” response on Monday to the assault, which killed 39 tourists at a resort in Sousse, Tunisia, on Friday. At least 18 of the victims, and possibly as many as 30, were British.
Mr. Cameron sent security officials and government ministers to the scene and promised to step up the fight against extremism in Britain. Theresa May, the home secretary, and Tobias Ellwood, a Foreign Office minister, went on Monday to Tunisia, where British officials are working with the local authorities to assess security at beach resorts frequented by European tourists.
In concrete policy terms, however, Mr. Cameron’s reaction was cautious, and he did not promise any immediate new antiterrorism measures at home or any increase in Britain’s military involvement in fighting Islamic State militants. . . .
5. Keep in mind that the giant hack of the US Office of Personnel Management (OPM) that just took place also potentially put the identities of US spies at risk.
Hackers may now have detailed biographical information and a virtual phonebook of every United States intelligence asset.
Standard Form 86 — SF86 for short — is where current and prospective members of the intelligence community put the various bits of information the bureaucracy requires of them: Social Security numbers, names of family members, countries visited and why, etc. If hackers have gotten away with those records, as the Associated Press reported Friday, America’s spies are in trouble.
Such a theft could yield a “virtual phonebook” of U.S. intelligence assets around the world and a working list of each one’s weak spot, said Patrick Skinner, former CIA case officer and director of special projects for the Soufan Group. He said such a vulnerability was unprecedented.
“The spy scandals we’ve had in the past … they gave up maybe a dozen foreign spies. It was a big deal. This, basically is beyond that,” Skinner said. “It’s not giving up foreign spies…it’s administration, support, logistics. Basically, It’s a phone book for the [intelligence community]. It’s not like they have your credit card number. They have your life.”
If there’s any good news about the disclosure, it’s that it could have been worse. Office of Personnel Management records don’t detail specific covert identities or missions, assignments, or operations. Records of that type would be held by the intelligence agencies themselves. “I don’t think it’s going to blow people’s cover but it’s going to put them at a real high counterintelligence risk,” said Skinner.
Skinner said some of the information in SF86 records is exactly the sort of information that he, as an intelligence operative, would look to get on people he was targeting. “At my old job, you would spend a lot of time trying to get that biographical information because it can tell you a lot,” he said. “It’s why marketers try to get that much information from you. If you have somebody’s entire life history and network you can craft a pitch to them that they don’t see coming.”
What can the intelligence community do to repair the damage? “I don’t think they can,” Skinner said. SF86 “reveals so much about the person that it makes them incredibly vulnerable. You can’t erase your past. These are the things you can’t change about people: you can’t change your parents, your contacts, or your travel. Foreign contacts? That’s a huge deal.”
One thing that could change as a result of the hack: OPM may begin to encrypt the data in its database. It’s a simple security precaution that many in the technology community say OPM should long since have had in place.
Certainly Skinner was taken aback. “They spend so much time training us to maintain our cover and then they keep this information in an unencrypted database? I encrypt my hard drive; why don’t they?”
6. So a treasure trove of US spy identities have just been lifted by someone and just days later the UK starts reassigning all its agents while claiming the Snowden cache was hacked. It’s quite a story, especially for any spies working in the media or other high profile areas.
Are the two events related? It’s very possible. But also keep in mind that we really have no idea who has the encrypted cache.
The strategy employed by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden to discourage a CIA hit job has been likened to a tactic employed by the U.S. and Russian governments during the Cold War.
Snowden, a former systems administrator for the National Security Agency in Hawaii, took thousands of documents from the agency’s networks before fleeing to Hong Kong in late May, where he passed them to Guardian columnist Glenn Greenwald and documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras. The journalists have handled them with great caution. A story in the German publication Der Spiegal, co-bylined by Poitras, claims the documents include information “that could endanger the lives of NSA workers,” and an Associated Press interview with Greenwald this last weekend asserts that they include blueprints for the NSA’s surveillance systemsthat “would allow somebody who read them to know exactly how the NSA does what it does, which would in turn allow them to evade that surveillance or replicate it.”
But Snowden also reportedly passed encrypted copies of his cache to a number of third parties who have a non-journalistic mission: If Snowden should suffer a mysterious, fatal accident, these parties will find themselves in possession of the decryption key, and they can publish the documents to the world.
“The U.S. government should be on its knees every day begging that nothing happen to Snowden,” Greenwald said in a recent interview with the Argentinean paper La Nacion, that was highlighted in a much-circulated Reuters story, “because if something does happen to him, all the information will be revealed and it could be its worst nightmare.”
It’s not clear if Snowden passed all of the documents to these third parties or just some of them, since Greenwald says Snowden made it clear that he doesn’t want the NSA blueprints published.
Greenwald told the Associated Press that media descriptions of Snowden’s tactic have been over-simplified.
“It’s not just a matter of, if he dies, things get released, it’s more nuanced than that,” he said. “It’s really just a way to protect himself against extremely rogue behavior on the part of the United States, by which I mean violent actions toward him, designed to end his life, and it’s just a way to ensure that nobody feels incentivized to do that.”
The classic application of a dead man’s switch in the real world involves nuclear warfare in which one nation tries to deter adversaries from attacking by indicating that if the government command authority is taken out, nuclear forces would launch automatically.
It has long been believed that Russia established such a system for its nuclear forces in the mid-60s. Prados says that under the Eisenhower administration, the U.S. also pre-delegated authority to the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), the Far East command and the Missile Defense Command to use nuclear weapons if the national command authority were taken out, though the process was not automatic. These authorities would have permission to deploy the weapons, but would have to make critical decisions about whether that was the best strategy at the time.
Snowden’s case is not the first time this scenario has been used for information distribution instead of weapons. In 2010, Wikileaks published an encrypted “insurance file” on its web site in the wake of strong U.S. government statements condemning the group’s publication of 77,000 Afghan War documents that had been leaked to it by former Army intelligence analyst Bradley Manning.
The huge file, posted on the Afghan War page at the WikiLeaks site, was 1.4 GB and was encrypted with AES256. The file was also posted on torrent download sites.
It’s not known what the file contains but it was presumed to contain the balance of documents and data that Manning had leaked to the group before he was arrested in 2010 and that still had not been published at the time. This included a different war log cache that contained 500,000 events from the Iraq War between 2004 and 2009, a video showing a deadly 2009 U.S. firefight near the Garani village in Afghanistan that local authorities said killed 100 civilians, most of them children, as well as 260,000 U.S. State Department cables.
WikiLeaks has never disclosed the contents of the insurance file, though most of the outstanding documents from Manning have since been published by the group.
6. Could Snowden have used an encryption method vulnerability that he wasn’t aware of? That seems possible, but there’s another way governments could also get their hands on the unencrypted data: hack Greenwald and the journalists working with him or anyone else with access to the documents. Micah Lee was enlisted by Pierre Omidyar’s First Look to see that Greenwald wasn’t hacked.
Note that, before going to work for Citizen Omidyar, Micah Lee was the computer expert for the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Its founder was a fellow named John Perry Barlow. A former lyricist for the Grateful Dead, he was also Dick Cheney’s campaign manager and voted for George Wallace in 1968.
In early January, Micah Lee worried journalist Glenn Greenwald’s computer would get hacked, perhaps by the NSA, perhaps by foreign spies.
Greenwald was a target, and he was vulnerable. He was among the first to receive tens of thousands of top secret NSA documents from former contractor Edward Snowden, a scoop that eventually helped win the most recent Pulitzer prize.
Though Greenwald took precautions to handle the NSA documents securely, his computer could still be hacked.
“Glenn isn’t a security person and he’s not a huge computer nerd,” Lee tells Mashable. “He is basically a normal computer user, and overall, normal computer users are vulnerable.”
Lee, 28, is the technologist hired in November to make sure Greenwald and fellow First Look Media employees use state-of-the-art security measures when handling the NSA documents, or when exchanging emails and online chats with sensitive information. First Look was born in October 2013, after eBay founder Pierre Omydiar pledged to bankroll a new media website led by Greenwald, with documentary journalists Laura Poitras and Jeremy Scahill.
Essentially, Lee is First Look’s digital bodyguard, or as Greenwald puts it, “the mastermind” behind its security operations.
Lee’s position is rare in the media world. But in the age of secret-spilling and the government clampdown on reporters’ sources, news organizations are aiming to strengthen their digital savvy with hires like him.
“Every news organization should have a Micah Lee on their staff,” Trevor Timm, executive director and cofounder of Freedom of the Press Foundation, tells Mashable.
Timm believes the Snowden leaks have underscored digital security as a press freedom issue: If you’re a journalist, especially reporting on government and national security, you can’t do journalism and not worry about cybersecurity.
“News organizations can no longer afford to ignore that they have to protect their journalists, their sources and even their readers,” Timm says.
Once hired, Lee needed to travel to Brazil immediately. First Look has an office in New York City, but Greenwald works from his house located in the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro.
Unfortunately, the consulate in San Francisco near where Lee lives didn’t have an open spot for a visa appointment. It would be at least two months before he’d be able to leave for Brazil.
Undeterred, Lee created a smart (and legal) hack — a script that constantly scraped the consulate’s visa calendar to check for cancellations. If it found any, it would text Lee, giving him the opportunity to hop online and book.
In less than 48 hours, he scored an appointment and flew to Rio within days.
“That’s what he does. He’s brilliant at finding solutions for any kind of computer programming challenge,” Greenwald tells Mashable. It’s exactly the kind of industrious initiative Greenwald needed.
When he got to Rio, Lee spent one entire day strengthening Greenwald’s computer, which at that point used Windows 8. Lee was worried spy agencies could break in, so he replaced the operating system with Linux, installed a firewall, disk encryption and miscellaneous software to make it more secure.
The next day, Lee had a chance to do something he’d been dreaming of: peek at the treasure trove of NSA top secret documents Snowden had handed to Greenwald in Hong Kong.
Since the beginning, Greenwald had stored the files in a computer completely disconnected from the Internet, also known as “air-gapped” in hacker lingo. He let Lee put his hands on that computer and pore through the documents. Ironically, Lee used software initially designed for cops and private investigators to sift through the mountain of seized documents.
Lee spent hours reading and analyzing a dozen documents containing once carefully guarded secrets.
“I wasn’t actually surprised. I was more like, ‘Wow, here’s evidence of this thing happening. This is crazy,’” he remembers. “At this point I kind of assume that all of this stuff is happening, but it’s exciting to find evidence about it.“
Sitting inside Greenwald’s house, famously full of dogs,
During his two days in Rio, Lee wore two hats: the digital bodyguard who secures computers against hackers and spies, and the technologist who helps reporters understand the complex NSA documents in their possession. In addition to Greenwald, he also worked with Poitras, the documentary filmmaker who has published a series of stories based on the Snowden documents as part of both The Guardian’s and The Washington Post’s Pulitzer-winning coverage.
For Greenwald, Lee’s skills, as well as his political background (Lee is a longtime activist) make him the perfect guy for the job.
“There’s a lot of really smart hackers and programmers and computer experts,” Greenwald tells Mashable. “But what distinguishes him is that he has a really sophisticated political framework where the right values drive his computer work.”
J.P. Barlow, founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, where Lee used to work, agrees. There are two Lees, the activist and the hacker, he says. One couldn’t exist without the other.
“He acquired his technical skills in the service of his activism,” Barlow tells Mashable.
In some ways, Lee was destined to work on the Snowden leaks. At Boston University in 2005, he was involved in environmental and anti-Iraq War activism. His college experience didn’t last long, though. After just one year he dropped out to pursue advocacy full-time.
“I had better things to do with my time than go to college, because I wanted to try and stop the war. And it didn’t work,” Lee says.
During that time, he worked as a freelance web designer, despite no formal computer education. He started teaching himself the computer programming language C++ when he was around 14 or 15 years old, in order to make video games. (Alas, none of those games are available anymore.)
Then in 2011, Lee was hired by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the digital rights organization. “My dream job,” Lee says.
As an EFF technologist, teaching security and crypto to novices was second nature for him. He was one of the people behind an initiative in which technologists taught digital security to their fellow employees over lunchtime pizza. And as CTO of the Freedom of the Press Foundation, he helped organize “cryptoparties” to teach encryption tools to journalists and activists.
Lee became a go-to source for reporters looking for computer security and encryption answers. After the first NSA leaks were published in June 2013, many reporters, not only those working on the Snowden leak, knew they’d need to protect their own communications. Lacking technical knowledge, they turned to Lee for help.
He recalls, for example, that he helped reporters at NBC get started using encryption. It was only when NBC News published a series of stories based on the Snowden documents, with the contribution of Glenn Greenwald, that Lee realized why they needed his guidance.
In early July 2013, he wrote what some consider one of the best introductory texts about crypto, a 29-page white paper called “Encryption Works.” Its title was inspired by an early interview with Snowden — a Q&A on The Guardian’s site. The whistleblower said,
“Encryption works. Properly implemented strong crypto systems are one of the few things that you can rely on.”
Those words had a profound effect on Lee.
“That gave me a lot of hope, actually, because I wasn’t sure if encryption worked,” Lee says laughing, his eyes brightening behind a pair of glasses. He is lanky in jeans and a t-shirt, behind a laptop with stickers.
He’s a true hacker, but one who happens to explain extremely complicated concepts in a way that’s easy to understand.
He was one of the first people Greenwald and Poitras, both on the Freedom of the Press Foundation board, named for their “dream team,” Greenwald says — a group that would eventually create The Intercept, First Look Media’s first digital magazine that would later be instrumental in breaking new NSA stories.
“He was top of my list,” Poitras tells Mashable.
In the wake of the Snowden leaks, which revealed the pervasiveness of the NSA’s surveillance techniques, it seems no one, including journalists, is safe. And it’s not just the NSA; other branches of the U.S. government have pressured journalists to reveal their sources and have aggressively investigated information leaks.
“Concern has grown in the news industry over the government’s surveillance of journalists,” New York Times lawyer David McCraw wrote in a recent court filing.
At The Intercept, Lee is working to make sure nobody leaves any traces. Making websites encrypted, Lee says, “is the very bare minimum basic of making it not really easy for sources to get compromised.”
All these practices aim to protect journalists’ and sources’ communications, but handling the Snowden documents, and making sure no one who has them gets hacked, is also key. Unfortunately, that’s not as easy as installing an antivirus or a firewall.
When exchanging documents, journalists at The Intercept use a complicated series of precautions. First of all, Lee says, documents are never stored on Internet-connected computers; they live in separate computers disconnected from the web. To add an extra layer of precaution when logging in to air-gapped computers, journalists must use secure operating system Tails.
So, imagine two employees at First Look Media (we’ll call them Alice and Bob) need to send each other Snowden documents. Alice goes to her air-gapped computer, picks the documents, encrypts them and then burns them onto a CD. (It has to be a CD, Lee says, because thumb drives are more vulnerable to malware.) Then Alice takes her CD to her Internet-connected computer, logs in and sends an encrypted email to Bob.
If you’re keeping score, the documents are now protected by two layers of encryption, “just in case,” Lee says, laughing.
Then Bob receives the email, decrypts it and burns the file on a CD. He moves it to his own air-gapped computer where he can finally remove the last layer of encryption and read the original documents.
To prevent hackers from compromising these air-gapped computers, Lee really doesn’t want to leave any stone unturned. That’s why First Look has started removing wireless and audio cards from air-gapped computers and laptops, to protect against malware that can theoretically travel through airwaves. Security researchers have recently suggested it might be possible to develop malware that, instead of spreading through the Internet or via thumb drives, could travel between two nearby computers over airwaves, effectively making air-gapped computers vulnerable to hackers.
If this all sounds a little paranoid, Lee is the first to acknowledge it.
“The threat model is paranoid,” Lee tells Mashable, only half-joking. But it’s not just the NSA they’re worried about. (After all, the spy agency already has the documents.) Other spies, however, would love to get their hands on the intel.
“Any type of adversary could be out to get the Snowden documents. But specifically large spy agencies. And I actually think that the NSA and GCHQ aren’t as much as a threat compared to other international ones,” Lee says. Apart from the NSA, Russia and China are the real concerns.
“It’s not just this theoretical prospect that maybe the government is trying to read my emails or listens to my phone calls,” Greenwald says. “I know for certain that they are doing that.”
“I don’t think that the threat model is paranoid at all,” Poitras says, not wanting to underestimate their enemies. “We have to be careful in terms of digital security.”
“All of the reporters who are working on these stories have a gigantic target painted on their backs,” says Soghoian.
Every precaution, in other words, is essential, and makes it “much safer for us to operate as adversarial journalists,” says Lee.
Every lock on the door is necessary, and they should all be bolted. What’s more, every door should be under the control of First Look itself.
7. The Electronic Frontier Foundation was co-founded by John Perry Barlow. A political chameleon, Barlow was a former lyriticist for the Grateful Dead and Dick Cheney’s former campaign manager. A perusal of his CV is revealing:
. . . Weir and Barlow maintained contact throughout the years; a frequent visitor to Timothy Leary‘s facility in Millbrook, New York, Barlow introduced the musical group to Leary in 1967. . . .
. . . . He was engaged to Dr. Cynthia Horner, whom he met in 1993 at the Moscone Center in San Francisco while she was attending a psychiatry conference and Barlow was participating in a Steve Jobs comedy roast at a convention for the NeXT Computer. She died unexpectedly in 1994 while asleep on a flight from Los Angeles to New York, days before her 30th birthday, from a heart arrhythmia apparently caused by undetected viral cardiomyopathy.
. . . Barlow had been a good friend of John F. Kennedy, Jr. ever since his mother Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis had made arrangements for her son to be a wrangler at the Bar Cross ranch for 6 months in 1978, and later the two men went on many double dates in New York City with Kennedy’s then-girlfriend Daryl Hannah and Cynthia. . . .
. . . . By the early 2000s, Barlow was unable to reconcile his ardent libertarianism with the prevailing neoconservative movement and “didn’t feel tempted to vote for Bush”; after an arrest for possession of a small quantity of marijuana while traveling, he joined the Democratic Party and publicly committed himself to outright political activism for the first time since his spell with the Republican Party. Barlow has subsequently declared that he is a Republican, including during an appearance on The Colbert Report on March 26, 2007, and also claimed on many occasions to be an anarchist. . . .. .
. . . . Barlow currently serves as vice-chairman of the EFF‘s board of directors. The EFF was designed to mediate the “inevitable conflicts that have begun to occur on the border between Cyberspace and the physical world.” They were trying to build a legal wall that would separate and protect the Internet from territorial government, and especially from the US government.
In 2012, Barlow was one of the founders of the EFF-related organization the Freedom of the Press Foundation and also currently serves on its Board of Directors. Barlow has had several public conversations via video conference with fellow Freedom of the Press Foundation Board of Directors member Edward Snowden, and has appeared in interviews with Julian Assange of WikiLeaks touting Snowden as “a Hero.” . . .
8. Both the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Citizen Greenwald are among those who have run interference for Big Tobacco. Greenwald worked for the powerful Wachtell Lipton law firm which helped to crush whistleblowers who could reveal the truth about Big Tobacco’s knowledge of the damage that they did.
“Shillers for Killers” by Mark Ames; Pando Daily; 7/7/2015.
9. Following yesterday’s triplet of “glitches” that took down the New York Stock Exchange, United Airlines, and the Wall Street Journal’s home page, a number of people are scratching their head and wondering if Anonymous’s tweet the previous day, which simply stated, “Wonder if tomorrow is going to be bad for Wall Street…. we can only hope,” was somehow related. Hmmm….
US officials and the impacted companies, however, strongly deny that the technical difficulties were anything other than coincidental.
Anonymous hackers suggest they may be behind New York Stock Exchange fail; White House says no indication of malicious actors in technical difficulties.
A series of technical glitches in the United States on Wednesday morning Eastern Time have sparked rumors of a coordinated cyber-attack. The New York Stock Exchange was shut down and United Airlines flights were grounded due to technical difficulties. In addition, the home page of the Wall Street Journal’s website temporarily went down. American officials, however, denied any connection between the events, insisting the United States was not under attack.
U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said technical problems reported by United and the NYSE were apparently not related to “nefarious” activity.
“I have spoken to the CEO of United, Jeff Smisek, myself. It appears from what we know at this stage that the malfunctions at United and the stock exchange were not the result of any nefarious actor,” Johnson said during a speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank.
“We know less about the Wall Street Journal at this point, except that their system is in fact up again,” he added.
On Tuesday, the Twitter account of the hacker group Anonymous posted a Tweet that read, “Wonder if tomorrow is going to be bad for Wall Street…. we can only hope.” On Wednesday afternoon, it tweeted, ” #YAN Successfully predicts @NYSE fail yesterday. Hmmmm.”
United’s computer glitch prompted America’s Federal Aviation Administration to ground all of the company’s departures for almost two hours. According to the airline, more than 800 flights were delayed and about 60 were canceled due to the problem, which was later resolved.
In a statement, United said it had suffered from “a network connectivity issue” and a spokeswoman for the company said the glitch was caused by an internal technology issue and not an outside threat.
The airline, the second largest in the world, had a similar issue on June 2, when it was forced to briefly halt all takeoffs in the United States due to a problem in its flight-dispatching system.
Just as United was bringing its systems back on-line, trading on the New York Stock Exchange came to a halt because of a technical problem and the Wall Street Journal’s website experienced errors.
The New York Stock Exchange suspended trading in all securities on its platform shortly after 11:30 A.M. for what it called an internal technical issue, and canceled all open orders. The exchange, a unit of Intercontinental Exchange Inc (ICE.N) said the halt was not the result of a cyber-attack. “We chose to suspend trading on NYSE to avoid problems arising from our technical issue,” the NYSE tweeted about one hour after trading was suspended. Other exchanges were trading normally.
A technical problem at NYSE’s Arca exchange in March caused some of the most popular exchange-traded funds to be temporarily unavailable for trading. And in August 2013, trading of all Nasdaq-listed stocks was frozen for three hours, leading U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission Chair Mary Jo White to call for a meeting of Wall Street executives to insure “continuous and orderly” functioning of the markets.
White House Spokesman Josh Earnest said Wednesday that there was no indication of malicious actors involved in the technical difficulties experienced at the NYSE.
10. We conclude by re-examining one of the most important analytical articles in a long time, David Golumbia’s article in Uncomputing.org about technocrats and their fundamentally undemocratic outlook.
What might be described as the thesis statement of this very important piece reads: “Such technocratic beliefs are widespread in our world today, especially in the enclaves of digital enthusiasts, whether or not they are part of the giant corporate-digital leviathan. Hackers (“civic,” “ethical,” “white” and “black” hat alike), hacktivists, WikiLeaks fans [and Julian Assange et al–D. E.], Anonymous “members,” even Edward Snowden himself walk hand-in-hand with Facebook and Google in telling us that coders don’t just have good things to contribute to the political world, but that the political world is theirs to do with what they want, and the rest of us should stay out of it: the political world is broken, they appear to think (rightly, at least in part), and the solution to that, they think (wrongly, at least for the most part), is for programmers to take political matters into their own hands. . . First, [Tor co-creator] Dingledine claimed that Tor must be supported because it follows directly from a fundamental “right to privacy.” Yet when pressed—and not that hard—he admits that what he means by “right to privacy” is not what any human rights body or “particular legal regime” has meant by it. Instead of talking about how human rights are protected, he asserts that human rights are natural rights and that these natural rights create natural law that is properly enforced by entities above and outside of democratic polities. Where the UN’s Universal Declaration on Human Rights of 1948 is very clear that states and bodies like the UN to which states belong are the exclusive guarantors of human rights, whatever the origin of those rights, Dingledine asserts that a small group of software developers can assign to themselves that role, and that members of democratic polities have no choice but to accept them having that role. . . Further, it is hard not to notice that the appeal to natural rights is today most often associated with the political right, for a variety of reasons (ur-neocon Leo Strauss was one of the most prominent 20th century proponents of these views). We aren’t supposed to endorse Tor because we endorse the right: it’s supposed to be above the left/right distinction. But it isn’t. . . .“