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Snowden’s Ride, Part 3: Shearing the Piglet (“We’re Shocked, Shocked . . . .”)

Inspector Reynaud (Claude Rains)

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COMMENT: Russian president Vladimir Putin had an amusing, substantive comment about the obvious spook operation being conducted by Eddie “The Friendly Spook” Snowden, which we have compared with the U-2 Incident. Putin observed that the whole affair was “like shearing a piglet: all squealing and no wool.”

Since the bulk of this has not only been known for years, but has been covered by Mr. Emory in numerous broadcasts over the better part of two decades, the affair is obviously being conducted for propaganda purposes. The primary targets appear to be President Obama, the United States and the United Kingdom. 

(This is not to say that there may be information on Snowden’s laptops and/or flashdrives that could damage U.S. and U.K. intelligence capabilities, but the information surfacing so far is the squealing of the piglet.)

The squealing reminds us of the famous scene from the movie “Casablanca,” in which Inspector Reynaud (played by Claude Rains) shuts down Rick’s Cafe because he was; “Shocked, shocked to learn that there is gambling going on in this establishment!” After he utters that line, the croupier approaches him and says; “Your winnings, sir.”

In our coverage of this affair, we have noted that other countries, including and especially Germany, do the same thing and that this, too, has been known for some time.  (See text excerpts below.) Mr. Emory has covered this as well.

(Previous posts on the subject are: Part IPart IIPart IIIPart IVPart VPart VIPart VII, Part VIII, Part IX.)

We note a number of points to be considered in the context of this “squealing piglet”:

  • In the Der Spiegel article about NSA spying on EU offices, it is noted that the telephone system was manufactured by Siemens. Siemens is inextricably linked with German intelligence. It is the safest of bets that BND is tapping the phones, as well. As one of the German core corporations, Siemens is also part of the Bormann capital network and the Underground Reich. (See text excerpt below.)
  • As noted in a German-Foreign-Policy.com post about Snowden’s Ride, German outrage about the imbroglio is “feigned.” (See text excerpt below.)
  • Some of the most hysterical rhetoric has come from the French, who–as revealed in a Le Monde article–do exactly the same thing. (See text excerpt below.)
  • European broad-based surveillance and metadata harvesting is at least equal to that of the United States. (See text excerpt below.)

“Putin Defends Snowden’s Stopover, Rejects U.S. ‘Drivel’” by Anton Doroshev, Nicole Gaouette & Nathan Gill;  bloomberg.com; 6/25/2013. 

EXCERPT: . . . .“Personally I’d prefer to keep out of such questions,” he said. “It’s like shearing a piglet: all squealing and no wool.” . . . .

“World Briefing | Europe: Report On U.S. Spy System” by Suzanne Daley; The New York Times; 9/6/2001.

EXCERPT: [Notice when this was published–9/6/2001.–D.E.] . . . The United States-led spying system known as Echelon can monitor virtually every communication in the world — by e-mail, phone or fax — that bounces off a satellite, the European Parliament was told. But in reporting on a yearlong study of the system that was prompted by concern that American companies were using data from the system to gain a competitive edge, Gerhard Schmid, a German member of the Parliament, said that many European countries had similar abilities . . .

Allied Services (I); german-foreign-policy.com; 7/2/2013. 

EXCERPT: . . . . From the very beginning, the claims by the government and the BND of having had no idea about these NSA activities have only provoked a bored smile from specialists. “Experts have known that for a long time,” insists BND expert, Erich Schmidt-Eenboom. “The German government must long since have also known about it through BND evaluations and Studies by the Federal Office of Information Security (BSI).” The “uproar” in Berlin is, “feigned, in this question.”[2] . . .

. . . . He [historian Joseph Foschepoth] has found that in 1968, Bonn concluded a secret administrative agreement, which, based on agreements of the 1950s, had obligated the German government “to carry out surveillance of post and telecommunication for the Western victorious powers, or to allow them to carry out this surveillance themselves.” According to Foschepoth, this administrative agreement “remains unaltered in force, today.” This provides the legal basis for US military intelligence agencies to autonomously execute “surveillance of the post and telecommunication traffic” in Germany.[10] . . .

“Attacks from Amer­ica: NSA Spied on Euro­pean Union Offices” by Laura Poitras, Mar­cel Rosen­bach, Fidelius Schmid and Hol­ger Stark; Der Spiegel; 6/29/2013.

EXCERPT: . . . A little over five years ago, security experts discovered that a number of odd, aborted phone calls had been made around a certain extension within the Justus Lipsius building, the headquarters of the European Council, the powerful body representing the leaders of the EU’s 27 member states. The calls were all made to numbers close to the one used as the remote servicing line of the Siemens telephone system used in the building. . . .

“France ‘Has Vast Data Sur­veil­lance’ — Le Monde Report”; BBC; 7/4/2013.

EXCERPT: France’s for­eign intel­li­gence ser­vice inter­cepts com­puter and tele­phone data on a vast scale, like the con­tro­ver­sial US Prism pro­gramme, accord­ing to the French daily Le Monde.

The data is stored on a super­com­puter at the head­quar­ters of the DGSE intel­li­gence ser­vice, the paper says.

The oper­a­tion is “out­side the law, and beyond any proper super­vi­sion”, Le Monde says.

Other French intel­li­gence agen­cies allegedly access the data secretly.

It is not clear how­ever whether the DGSE sur­veil­lance goes as far as Prism. So far French offi­cials have not com­mented on Le Monde’s allegations.

The DGSE allegedly analy­ses the “meta­data” — not the con­tents of e-mails and other com­mu­ni­ca­tions, but the data reveal­ing who is speak­ing to whom, when and where.

Con­nec­tions inside France and between France and other coun­tries are all mon­i­tored, Le Monde reports.

The paper alleges the data is being stored on three base­ment floors of the DGSE build­ing in Paris. The secret ser­vice is the French equiv­a­lent of Britain’s MI6. . . .

The oper­a­tion is designed, say experts, to uncover ter­ror­ist cells. But the scale of it means that “any­one can be spied on, any time”, Le Monde says. . . .

 “Europe’s Spy­ing Busi­nesses Thrive Amid Sur­veil­lance Uproar” by Chris Bryant;  Finan­cial Times; 7/1/2013.

EXCERPT: Europe’s politi­cians are out­raged about alleged US mon­i­tor­ing of EU tele­phone and com­puter com­mu­ni­ca­tions. But when it comes to build­ing and export­ing spy equip­ment, few are as capa­ble as Europe.

That much was evi­dent last month when the world’s lead­ing sell­ers of elec­tronic sur­veil­lance tech­nol­ogy gath­ered in Prague at the ISS World trade show.

Police and spy agency offi­cials lis­tened to closed-door pre­sen­ta­tions by a suc­ces­sion of Euro­pean com­pa­nies about their highly sophis­ti­cated inter­net and tele­phone com­mu­ni­ca­tion inter­cep­tion wares.

Hack­ing Team, a Milan-based maker of eaves­drop­ping soft­ware, demon­strated in Prague its remotely con­trolled spy­ware that can tap encrypted com­mu­ni­ca­tions, Skype calls and instant mes­sen­ger chats. The sys­tem also has audio and video capa­bil­ity, which allows police to spy using the target’s own webcam.

Munich-based Tro­vi­cor schooled agents on its “cell-based mon­i­tor­ing solu­tion” to han­dle mass record­ings while Gamma Inter­na­tional, a UK-German com­pany, demon­strated its con­tro­ver­sial “Fin­Fisher” spy­ware tool for remotely mon­i­tor­ing mobile phone communications.

At a time when Euro­pean coun­tries are loudly con­demn­ing the US and UK’s spy­ing activ­i­ties, Europe’s spy tech­nol­ogy exper­tise is a poten­tial source of embarrassment.

Pri­vacy activists and politi­cians fear that, if left unreg­u­lated, sales of Euro­pean sur­veil­lance tech­nol­ogy could infringe human rights over­seas, as well as dam­ag­ing the cyber secu­rity of peo­ple in Europe. . . .

. . . .This means that more than 50 per cent of the almost $6bn a year mar­ket for off-the-shelf sur­veil­lance equip­ment – the kind favoured by nearly all gov­ern­ments except the US – is con­trolled by west­ern Euro­pean com­pa­nies, accord­ing to Mr Lucas. . . .

. . . . In fact, it was James Clap­per, US direc­tor of national intel­li­gence, who told the US Sen­ate in March that for­eign gov­ern­ments had begun using sur­veil­lance tech­nolo­gies orig­i­nally mar­keted for “law­ful inter­cep­tion” to tar­get US systems. . . .

“German Intelligence Scrubs Euroean Records after WikiLeaks Exposure” by WikiLeaks staff; wikileaks.org; 11/16/2008.

EXCERPT: Between Friday night and Sunday morning, a massive deletion operation took place at the European Internet address register (RIPE) to scrub references to a cover used by Germany’s premier spy agency, the Bundesnachrichtendienst, or BND.

The cleanup operation comes the night after Wikileaks revealed over two dozen covert BND networks provided by T-Systems (Deutsche Telekom). The IP addresses were assigned to an unregistered company at a Munich-based PO box linked to T-Systems.

T-Systems purged the RIPE database of all addresses exposed by Wikileaks, moving the addresses into a several giant anonymous “Class B” address pools.

The move comes just a few hours after T-Systems Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT) contacted Wikileaks to demand removal of an internal T-Systems memo listing the BND cover addresses. Wikileaks refused and T-System did not respond to requests for further detail by the time of writing.

Yet an investigation into the addresses over the weekend reveals key information about the BND’s Internet activities. . . . .

Website references reveal that in 2006 numerous hosters of Internet websites complained about out of control “data mining” robots from two of the BND-linked IP addresses. One of the hosters ran a popular discussion forum on counter-terrorism operations.

The integrity and transparency of the RIPE system is not assisted by the T-Systems deletion. German citizens may wonder at the double standard. At a time when the population’s Internet addresses are being recorded by ISPs under laws derisively referred to as “Stasi 2.0”, the “real Stasi”—the BND, has had the largest telco in Germany scrub its addresses from the European record within 24 hours of their exposure.


14 comments for “Snowden’s Ride, Part 3: Shearing the Piglet (“We’re Shocked, Shocked . . . .”)”

  1. The door is still open in Germany:



    President Nicolás Maduro has become the latest Latin American leader to offer safe haven to Edward Snowden. But shouldn’t Germany also offer to take in the whistleblower on humanitarian grounds? Many believe it should, but politicians fear the consequences.
    ‘There Is a Way to Bring Snowden to Germany ‘

    Meanwhile, in Germany, where Snowden exposed cooperation between US and German intelligence agencies whom he said were “in bed together,” the debate over whether Berlin should find a way to offer Snowden asylum continues to simmer.

    In a strongly worded text in its current issue, SPIEGEL asks, “Would it not be an act of humanity to liberate him from his current state by, for example, offering him asylum in Germany?” SPIEGEL writes that Snowden could get to Germany from Moscow within a day — a stamp and a signature would suffice for Snowden to board the next plane to Germany and apply for asylum here.

    The magazine notes that German border guards could reject him, but they aren’t required to. More likely is that Snowden would immediately be taken into custody because the US has filed a formal request for extradition. The federal government, however, could intervene. Either way, a court would step in to review whether the American request could be fulfilled.

    Experienced judges who deal with such situations on a regular basis are almost certain, SPIEGEL reports, that the request for extradition would be rejected as invalid because the extradition treaty between Germany and the United States forbids the transfer of people who are wanted for political crimes. According to Nikolaos Gazeas, an expert on international law at the University of Cologne, the German interpretation of treason is that it is a political offense.

    Still, as SPIEGEL points out, “there is a way to bring Edward Snowden to Germany and to let him stay here. One just has to be willing to do it and to accept the subsequent fury of the Americans.”

    But there’s a not a willingeness to do so. “At the moment,” the magazine writes, “realpolitik means knuckling under to the Americans because Germany is politically and economically dependent on the US and economically on the Chinese, which is why there is little objection from Berlin on the issue of human rights. Germany is a country that doesn’t dare anything. The Snowden case also shows that Germany is a dwarf when it comes to world affairs.”

    dsl/SPIEGEL — with wires

    Posted by Swamp | July 9, 2013, 7:40 am
  2. @Swamp: It’ll be interesting to see what the German policians’ response will be after the latest Snowden interview. The interview was recorded back in May before the leak but just recently released:

    Snowden blows lid on German-US intel ties
    Date 08.07.2013
    Author Diana Pessler / sst
    Editor Ben Knight

    Whistleblower and former NSA contractor Edward Snowden has said there are close ties between German and US intelligence authorities. Such secret cooperation has been going on for decades, experts say.

    Edward Snowden has done it again: after blowing the whistle on US secret service the National Security Agency (NSA), he told German news magazine Der Spiegel on Monday (08.07.2013), “They work hand in glove with German authorities.”

    Only last week, German authorities had pretended they had been left in the dark about the surveillance program PRISM. The presidents of all three German secret services testified to that effect in front of a parliamentary committee monitoring German intelligence.

    The panel’s chairman, Thomas Oppermann, a member of the opposition Social Democratic Party was always skeptical. Given that the NSA is said to have monitored some 500 million phone calls, text messages, and emails per month, “I really can’t fathom that no one knew about this,” Oppermann told DW. “In any case, US intelligence operations have gotten out of hand.”

    Has Germany profited from US spying programs?

    Intelligence expert Erich Schmidt-Eenboom doesn’t just believe that German authorities knew very well about the US data collection spree. He also thinks it possible that German intelligence profited from the surveillance programs.

    According to Schmidt-Eenboom, German authorities have definitely profited from such programs “when it comes to international terrorism threats. The technical intelligence authorities of NATO states work closely together and are quite successful. And the [German foreign intelligence service] BND profits from it. That’s one reason why the violations [of basic rights] by this partner haven’t been brought to light,” the analyst told German broadcaster Deutschlandfunk.

    Intelligence insiders and other experts are striking a common note on the recent media coverage of the NSA: German authorities depend strongly on cooperation, because they don’t have the financial or the personnel resources, nor do they have the same far-reaching powers of other intelligence agencies.

    The agencies exchange “finished intelligence” reports – summarized studies derived from intelligence “raw materials,” Schmidt-Eenboom said. But things are different when it comes to terrorism and early warnings. “If the NSA discovers an acute threat, it will be sent immediately as an urgent matter to the respective German authorities and to the German chancellor’s office.”

    A well-known example of such an exchange between friends is the case of the “Sauerland group,” a terror cell. Germany only got wind of the group’s planned terror attacks when American intelligence authorities passed on information they had found on the Internet.

    Cooperation has been going on for decades

    But how does the cooperation between German and US authorities work? It’s clear that cooperation intensified after the terror attacks of September 11 shocked the world in 2001. In October of that year, all NATO states – including Germany – agreed to expand intelligence cooperation. Some of that agreement is still secret.

    According to Schmidt-Eenboom, there’s a long history of US intelligence in Germany. “Until 1968, the Allies had certain rights that allowed them to intercept on a large scale.” According to historian Joseph Foschepoth, author of the study “Monitored Germany,” this right still exists. In 1968, the German government agreed to a secret arrangement that still allows US intelligence to carry out surveillance activities in Germany.

    Snowden has now also talked about an NSA subdivision – the “Foreign Affairs Directorate” – which is responsible for cooperation with other countries. Cooperation would be organized in such a way as to ensure that authorities’ high-ranking politicians are protected from a “backlash,” meaning that governments are only partly – or not at all – informed about activities.

    Enlightening talks in Washington?

    Der Spiegel now mentions another form of cooperation: the NSA passed on programs to the BND that were capable of analyzing foreign data streams. That cooperation was reportedly confirmed by the BND’s president when he spoke before the parliamentary committee.

    But Oppermann doesn’t think these bits of information suffice – neither in regards to the German or the US intelligence authorities. “Ultimately we want to know if it’s true what Snowden said. It’s unacceptable that Snowden holds the privilege of interpretation for weeks on this matter and we can’t check this with the Americans.”

    It’s also interesting that the Snowden-affair started off as an enclusively US-focused domestic scandal and only came to include spying on foreign countries as the story unfolded over the following weeks. And yet the interviews where Snowden discusses close cooperation between the NSA and BND were conducted before the story ever went public. The public calls for Was this an intentional setup to coax European leaders into making denials that were going to be refuted later?

    This all raises an question that hasn’t been raised much during the entire Snowden-saga: If the US and UK have the most advanced spying programs in the world, but they’re also extensively sharing that data with allies, then when the predictable backlash happens where the public demands that their government cut ties with the NSA should we expect a subsequent explosion in investments in foreign spy agencies? In other words, how many countries have effectively outsourced their global spying to the NSA? And will that outsourcing need to be replaced by more “in-house” domestic spying programs in the future as a result of these disclosures? Because, just as it would require a near revolution for the US public to actually overwhelm the grip that the US’s privatized national security state has on US policy-making, it’s also kind of absurd to assume that, for example, the EU isn’t going to be strongly investing in mass surveillance going forward barring some sort of EU-wide revolt against the EU’s own oligarchs. So, barring that oligarch revolt *fingers crossed!*, the growing EU spy-tech sector might be a really good investment going forward. It also might a great time for anti-virus software firms. There’s to be a lot more mini-NSA’s going forward.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | July 10, 2013, 2:13 pm
  3. @Pterrafractyl–

    The article quotes some of the same experts as the German-Foreign-Policy.com posts.

    Again, this is all for public consumption.

    It will be interesting to find out where it all goes.

    There is no reason to suspect that German intelligence is any more responsive to popular sentiment/democratic impulse than our intelligence services.

    One wonders, however, if this will be used as an excuse to diminish cooperation.

    And, of course, that German and U.S. intelligence cooperate is less than shocking.

    No mention of Mrs. Gehlen’s baby boy Reinhard.

    Even though this is all, past a point, the “(Y-A-W-N)” that I labeled it in the title of my first post, this is clearly an Underground Reich gambit.

    Peter Thiel is someone who deserves scrutiny, as is Michael Morrell.

    Snowden clearly had help and I doubt Chinese or Russian intel was pivotally involved, although certainly interested.

    Down the line, after GOP is back in the driver’s seat and imposing “The Gospel According to Charles Murray,” some God-awful incident will be allowed to go forward.

    Don’t be surprised to see it blamed on Obama, somehow, and with the Snowden so-called disclosures being cited as part of the reason for a clamp-down.

    Keep up the good work,


    Posted by Dave Emory | July 10, 2013, 5:48 pm
  4. And now the US’s neighbors to the South gets their turn turn to be totally shocked:

    Report: U.S. spying eyes energy info in Latin America
    9:10 p.m. EDT July 9, 2013

    BRASILIA, Brazil (AP) — A U.S. spy program is widely targeting data in emails and telephone calls across Latin America, and is focusing on energy issues, not just information related to military, political or terror topics, a Brazilian newspaper reported Tuesday.

    The O Globo newspaper said it has access to some of the documents released by National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden. The American journalist who obtained the classified information from Snowden lives in Brazil and is helping write stories for the daily.

    O Globo published what it said are slides that Snowden released indicating the U.S. effort is gathering information on energy in Mexico and oil in Venezuela. There was no information released about what information was obtained, nor any companies that were targeted.

    The report also said that Colombia, the strongest U.S. military ally in South America, along with Mexico and Brazil, were the countries where the U.S. program intercepted the biggest chunks of information on emails and telephone calls during the last five years. Similar activities took place in Argentina and Ecuador, among others.

    Figures weren’t published on how many intercepts occurred.

    O Globo also reported that the documents it’s seen indicate the U.S. had data collection centers in 2002 for material intercepted from satellites in Bogota, Caracas, Mexico City and Panama City, along with Brasilia. There was no information published about the existence of these centers after 2002.

    Snowden’s disclosures indicate that the NSA widely collects phone and Internet “metadata” — logs of message times, addresses and other information rather than the content of the messages. The documents have indicated that the NSA has been collecting the phone records of hundreds of millions of U.S. phone customers, and has gathered data on phone and Internet usage outside the U.S., including those people who use any of nine U.S.-based internet providers such as Google.

    Earlier, O Globo reported that in Brazil, the NSA collected data through an association between U.S. and Brazilian telecommunications companies. It said it could not verify which Brazilian companies were involved or if they were even aware their links were being used to collect the data.

    The Brazilian government is investigating the alleged links with telecommunications firms with a Brazil presence.

    Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff said any such activity infringed upon the nation’s sovereignty — and that Brazil would take the issue up at the United Nations.

    Brazil’s Foreign Minister Antonio Patriota said that “we’ve asked for a formal explanation from the United States and we’re awaiting that response.”

    Leaders in Mexico and Colombia didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

    Argentina President Cristina Fernandez said she hopes leaders attending a meeting this week of regional trade bloc Mercosur “will take a strong stance against this and ask for explanations amid these revelations. More than revelations, they’re confirmations of what we already feared was happening.”

    Ecuador’s Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino said his nation wanted explanations from the U.S. He demanded that the spying stop and said the U.N. should take up the matter.

    Sandra Borda, a professor of international relations at the University of the Andes in Bogota, said the Colombian government “isn’t going to say anything” about the allegations, leading her to think that Latin American governments with strong U.S. ties, such as Colombia and Mexico were aware of the program on some level.

    “It’s very likely that the type of information that was being obtained through (the NSA program) is something that was being done with … the authorization, or done with the knowledge, of the government,” she said.

    Also Tuesday, Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro said that his country received an asylum request from Snowden. Venezuela, Bolivia and Nicaragua have said they would grant asylum to Snowden.

    “We have decided to give political asylum to young Edward Snowden in the name of Venezuela for dignity, of an independent Venezuela,” Maduro said hours after the announcement was made, and ratifying his earlier offer for safe haven. He said that Venezuela, Nicaragua and Bolivia, the countries that have offered Snowden asylum “are not afraid” of the United States.

    “The United States has entered into a crazy phase,” the president said at an event with the military. He also said that the “hysterical insanity of the elite who govern the United States, against all the other countries of the world, practically provoked the assassination of (Brazilian) President Evo Morales.”

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | July 10, 2013, 6:42 pm
  5. @Dave: Last week we saw Germany’s interior minister publicly recommended that German citizens “worried about NSA spying should just avoid using US web services all together“. The implication being, of course, that non-US web services are actually private which is, of course, a joke. So if we see more stunts like that going forward some unintentional hilarity might ensue. Right now, the global discourse is all focused on the NSA and the last the last thing most governments should want is a shifting global conversation about all of the other global spy agencies that are rapidly trying to play ‘catch up’ with the NSA:

    The Financial Times
    Spying questions emerge over Frankfurt’s data hub

    By Chris Bryant in Frankfurt, July 4, 2013 3:58 pm

    Adjacent to the river Main docks in the east of Frankfurt, not far from where the new headquarters of the European Central Bank are nearing completion, internet traffic from around the globe converges at an exchange.

    In an unassuming warehouse ringed by 4m-high fences and security cameras, data hops from one network to another via switching points contained in large cabinets full of blinking LED lights and yellow fibre optic cables.

    The process is not unlike the way airlines use nearby Frankfurt airport so their passengers can change aircraft.

    Thanks to Frankfurt’s geographical position linking east and west and the presence of a large financial centre, more internet data passes through the Frankfurt DE-CIX exchange each day than at any other switching point in the world; some 2.5 terabits per second at peak times.

    This is even more than rival internet exchanges in London and Amsterdam. Partisan German media therefore proclaim Frankfurt the “global capital of the internet”.

    But this week Der Spiegel magazine obtained documents from Edward Snowden, the intelligence contractor turned whistleblower, which suggested the US National Security Agency has gained access to the Frankfurt hub’s gargantuan data stream. The magazine did not say how the NSA had achieved this.

    Insiders confirmed to Spiegel that the NSA’s interest is in the traffic that arrives at Frankfurt and other exchanges in southern Germany from eastern Europe and Russia, as well as the Middle East.

    The magazine reported that since December the NSA has obtained around 500m communications metadata a month from Germany as part of its Boundless Informant spying programme, far more than it obtained France or Italy.

    Amid similar claims that Britain’s GCHQ spy agency is also harvesting data from subsea fibre optic cables these reports suggest the physical infrastructure that makes up the internet is a high-value target for global intelligence agencies.

    Frankfurt’s huge internet hub likely explains why on an NSA “heat map” obtained by the Guardian newspaper, Germany is the only European country marked yellow – indicating a high level of surveillance.

    Although Germany and the US co-operate extensively on intelligence matters, the partnership is not as deep as that between the US and UK. Germany is classified by the US as a “third-class” partner and therefore subject to possible surveillance.

    In a country that had more than its fill of spying under the east-German communist regime, the reports have triggered a public and political furore.

    Hans-Peter Friedrich, German interior minister, said German authorities had found no evidence of NSA surveillance at the Frankfurt site. Still, he added: “If a foreign intelligence service were to tap internet nodes in Frankfurt it would be a violation of our sovereignty.”

    German business is also alarmed about the possibility that the country’s treasured industrial secrets could find their way into US hands.

    Stefan Mair, at the Federation of German Industry (BDI), said media reports about US surveillance were “concerning” but “at the moment we don’t know to what degree German companies are affected by the NSA activities”.

    US President Barack Obama tried to allay some of these fears in a call with Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, on Wednesday saying he “takes seriously the concerns of our European allies and partners”. For her part, the German chancellor conceded earlier this week that harnessing online intelligence is important in the fight against terrorism.

    Indeed, the BND, Germany’s foreign intelligence agency, is permitted by law to sieve through up to 20 per cent of the country’s international communications. It does this by searching for hundreds of suspicious terms related to the trafficking of drugs, arms and people, money laundering and terrorism.

    However, due to technical and financial limitations Germany currently scans about 5 per cent of the internet traffic crossing its territory, government officials say.

    It is not known if the BND has installed monitoring equipment at the Frankfurt exchange and German law prohibits the exchange’s operators from commenting on the matter.

    But the owners and operators of DE-CIX are allowed to talk about foreign intelligence services and they are adamant that the NSA and others are not tapping its exchange. “If a foreign intelligence agency was harvesting data from our exchange then we would know about it,” says Arnold Nipper, founder and chief technology officer. “Our technicians are on site every day; if someone put in a cable we would see.”

    Andrew Blum, author of Tubes, a book about the infrastructure of the internet, is also puzzled by the Spiegel claims. “Saying the NSA is tapping all of DE-CIX is like saying the FBI is somehow searching every single passenger that passes through Frankfurt airport?.?.?.?Having seen the place up close I’m very sceptical of the notion of wholesale tapping,” he says.

    That is because a spy agency would have to penetrate not one, but hundreds of fibre optic cables at multiple sites. In addition, a big chunk of traffic is exchanged not via the Frankfurt hub but bilaterally between tech companies which rent data centre space near the node, in a process known as peering. Seizing all of this would be a mammoth and conspicuous task, Mr Nipper of DE-CIX says.

    It looks likely that Germany is going to try to brand itself as the “privacy-safe” *snicker* alternative country to route your digital data through (which would be quite a boon for the German web sector). Since such assurances are obviously a joke (barring a EU revolt against the oligarchs), it raises an interesting question for non-German businesses and citizens concerned about spying: considering that Germany has been executing a barely-stealth economic conquest of the EU, is a random EU business more threatened by spying by the NSA or the BND?

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | July 10, 2013, 7:35 pm
  6. @Pterrafractyl–

    It sounds, of course, like BND is the REAL culprit in the international surveillance game.

    Commercial traffic is key and fundamental to world affairs.

    I also think your observation about Snowden’s ride generating an attempt by EU/Germany to co-opt U.S. web traffic business is substantive.

    That is in keeping with their modus operandi.

    BTW–just check out the latest post, to get an idea where “economic control automatically yields political control,” as Dorthy Thompson wrote, can yield.




    Posted by Dave Emory | July 10, 2013, 8:46 pm
  7. And now, in addition to EU Parliamentary threats of data-sharing suspensions with the US, Merkel’s FPD partners are pressuring her to put Trans-Atlantic data-sharing “on ice” until they get answers about Snowden’s dislosures:

    Irish Times
    Pressure builds in Germany over Edward Snowden claims
    Angela Merkel under pressure to demand a freeze on transatlantic data-sharing
    Thu, Jul 11, 2013, 10:00

    German chancellor Angela Merkel is facing domestic pressure to demand a freeze on transatlantic data-sharing until Washington explains claims by National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden about massive data-collation.

    As her interior minister flies to Washington today for talks, Dr Merkel tells today’s Stern magazazine she “first took note” of the alleged practices through media reports. Her Free Democrat (FDP) coalition partner has decided to crank up the pressure in what is an area of traditional importance to the party and its core voters.

    Justice minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, a senior FDP figure, called the Snowden allegations “a Hollywood-style nightmare”. Going even further is Hartfrid Wolff, the FDP’s representative in the Bundestag committee responsible for overseeing Germany’s intelligence service (BND).

    “America wants to have certain data, for instance flight (passenegrr) data, but if this is how America deals with its partners then we in Europe have to ask whether this is how we define a partnership with sensible standards,” he told The Irish Times. “If we don’t get any satisfaction then we should put data-sharing on ice.”


    He said the Snowden allegations appeared to confirm decade-old “suspicions” and “fears” in the parliamentary committee of widespreed secret-service siphoning of telecommunications data. “But what is technically possible does not always have to be permissable,” he said.

    A week ago, the European Parliament adopted a cross-party motion backing the suspension of data-sharing deals. European home affairs commissioner Cecilia Wallström has stressed the need for “complete transparency” in an ongoing review with the US of data-exchange programmes of flight data and terrorist financing.

    “Considering the context in which these conversations will take place, we count on the US’s full co-operation in disclosing and sharing all relevant information,” she said.

    Internet providers here say the Snowden affair has exposed the yawning gap in Germany between the principle of tight privacy laws and the reality: a culture of deference when the BND comes calling. “If a court order comes, a provider is obliged to hand control of a line to the intelligence service,” said Klaus Landfeldboard, member of the German Internet Provider Assocation.

    There are no checks and balances to ensure the BND is not saving more information from a line than a court order permits, he said, nor what happens to the data recorded. “The BND is supposed to be controlled by the Bundestag control committee,” he said, “but committee members have no way of knowing anything more than what the BND chooses to tell them.”

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | July 11, 2013, 1:24 pm
  8. Well this is interesting: So last week it was reported that Snowden had actually been staying in the Russian consulate for several days while in Hong Kong:

    The Washington Post
    Report: Snowden stayed at Russian consulate while in Hong Kong
    By Will Englund, Published: August 26

    MOSCOW — Before American fugitive Edward Snowden arrived in Moscow in June — an arrival that Russian officials have said caught them by surprise — he spent several days living at the Russian Consulate in Hong Kong, a Moscow newspaper reported Monday.

    The article in Kommersant, based on accounts from several unnamed sources, did not state clearly when Snowden decided to seek Russian help in leaving Hong Kong, where he was in hiding to evade arrest by U.S. authorities on charges that he leaked top-secret documents about U.S. surveillance programs.

    The disclosure of the documents brought worldwide scrutiny of U.S. spying efforts and triggered a vigorous debate in Congress about whether and under what circumstances the government should gather data on phone calls and e-mails.

    Snowden arrived in Moscow on June 23 and spent more than a month stranded at Sheremetyevo International Airport, with his U.S. passport revoked and Washington urging other countries not to accept him.

    On Aug. 1, Russia granted him temporary asylum, angering the United States. The 30-year-old former intelligence analyst is now living in Moscow.

    Kommersant reported Monday that Snowden purchased a ticket June 21 to travel on Aeroflot, Russia’s national airline, from Hong Kong to Havana, through Moscow. He planned to fly from Havana to Ecuador or some other Latin American country.

    That same day, he celebrated his 30th birthday at the Russian Consulate in Hong Kong, the paper said — although several days earlier he had had an anticipatory birthday pizza with his lawyers at a private house.

    Kommersant cited conflicting accounts as to what brought Snowden to the consulate, on the 21st floor of a skyscraper in a fashionable neighborhood. It quoted a Russian close to the Snowden case as saying that the former NSA contractor arrived on his own initiative and asked for help. But a Western official also interviewed by the newspaper alleged that Russia had invited him.

    The Russian Foreign Ministry on Monday did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the article.

    Until now, Russian officials have said that Snowden’s arrival in Moscow was a surprise, and not entirely welcome.

    “It is true that Mr. Snowden arrived in Moscow, which was completely unexpected for us,” President Vladimir Putin told reporters in Finland in late June.

    “[W]e were unaware he was coming here,” Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told the Wall Street Journal on June 24.

    The article implies that Snowden’s decision to seek Russian help came after he was joined in Hong Kong by Sarah Harrison, a WikiLeaks staff member who became his adviser and later flew to Moscow with him.

    Harrison, the article suggests, had a role in making the plans. The article noted a statement released by WikiLeaks on June 23, shortly after the Aeroflot flight left Chinese airspace, which said Snowden was heading to a destination where his safety could be guaranteed.

    So the Russians are asserting that Snowden just showed up to the Russian consulate on his own while a “Western official” is alleging that the Russians invited him amidst a general suspicion that that Sarah Harrison of WikiLeaks played a role in establishing the relationship (which seems possible).

    And now today, we’re told in an interview of Putin today that Snowden never offered to hand over any secret information to the Russians and the Russians never took any (maybe Israel Shamir just handed them over instead, heh). But he did ask for help from the Russians in Hong Kong:

    September 4, 2013, 2:34 PM

    Putin Says Snowden Was In Touch Before Coming To Russia
    The Wall Street Journal
    By Lukas I. Alpert

    MOSCOW—Russian President Vladimir Putin has admitted that Edward Snowden contacted Russian diplomats in Hong Kong a few days before boarding a plane to Moscow but that no agreement was reached to shelter him and he decided to come to Russia on his own without warning.

    Mr. Putin had initially said Mr. Snowden’s arrival at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport on June 23 was a “complete surprise,” but now acknowledges that he had some prior knowledge that the fugitive former U.S. National Security Agency contractor might be headed Russia’s way.

    “Mr. Snowden first appeared in Hong Kong and met with our diplomatic representatives. It was reported to me that there was such an employee, an employee of the security services. I asked ‘What does he want?’ He fights for human rights, for freedom of information and challenges violations of human rights and violations of the law in the United States. I said, ‘So what?’,” Mr. Putin said in an interview with Russia’s Channel One and The Associated Press.

    He said he had been willing to allow Mr. Snowden to come to Russia but only if he stopped leaking highly classified details of U.S. intelligence programs.

    “If he wants to stay with us, please, he can stay with us, but only if he stops any activity that could destroy Russian-American relations. We are not an NGO, we have the interests of the state and we do not want to damage our relations with the U.S.,” he said. “He was told about it and he replied ‘I am a fighter for human rights and I urge you to fight with me. I said ‘No, we won’t fight, you are on your own.’ And he left.”

    The Russian leader said the next time he heard about Mr. Snowden was two hours before the Aeroflot flight that brought him to Moscow was due to land. He had initially planned to connect with a flight to Cuba and ultimately to Ecuador where he had been promised asylum, but was stopped in his tracks when the U.S. voided his passport.

    “We do not protect Snowden. We are protecting certain norms of reciprocal relations between two countries,” he said, while raising the possibility that an agreement could be reached.

    “It’s clear we will not give him up, he can feel safe here. But what’s next?” Mr. Putin said. “Maybe some compromises will be found in this case.”

    Mr. Putin said he didn’t fully understand Mr. Snowden’s thinking, and called him “a strange guy.”

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | September 4, 2013, 12:45 pm
  9. Also, regarding the question of whether or not Snowden contacted the Russian consulate in Hong Kong, note that Greenwald claimed that the Kommersant story was fabricated and never happened. If that’s true, Putin was having quite the spy-fun in that interview.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | September 4, 2013, 1:41 pm
  10. And another follow up on the Russian consulate mystery: Snowden’s lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena also denied that Snowden visited any diplomatic missions or talked to any diplomats in Hong Kong:

    Edward Snowden did not stay at Russian consulate in Hong Kong: Lawyer
    AFP Aug 31, 2013, 02.28PM IST

    A lawyer for US intelligence leaker Edward Snowden has denied reports that the fugitive had stayed at the Russian consulate in Hong Kong before his arrival in Moscow, according to an interview published on Saturday.

    “Edward told me that he never visited any diplomatic missions and that all this is inaccurate. He never had any talks with our diplomats while in Hong Kong,” Anatoly Kucherena told the Kommersant newspaper.

    On Monday Kommersant, citing a source close to Snowden, said that he had spent several days at the Russian general consulate in Hong Kong before boarding an Aeroflot flight to Moscow in late June.

    A Western source confirmed the information to the newspaper, adding that the West thought it was possible that Russian authorities had invited Snowden to come to Russia.

    And a source in the Russian government confirmed to Kommersant that Snowden was at the Russian consulate in Hong Kong for two days until he left for Moscow, but said he had turned up uninvited.

    In the interview published on Saturday, however, Snowden’s lawyer said that “he and his friends stayed at a hotel there… He understood he is being chased, so he moved often.”

    Snowden ended up spending more than a month in the transit zone of Sheremetyevo airport in Moscow until Russia gave him asylum. The move led to a new crisis in ties between Moscow and Washington.

    President Vladimir Putin had said Snowden arrived in Russia uninvited and would leave as soon as possible. He also has said that the former NSA contractor is welcome to stay as long as he stops leaking US intelligence.

    An interesting twist in this apparent dispute between Snowden’s team and the US and Russia government sources for that Kommersant article is that Snowden’s lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, has deep ties to the Kremlin:

    The New York Times
    Snowden’s Lawyer Comes With High Profile and Kremlin Ties

    Published: July 27, 2013

    MOSCOW — Anatoly Kucherena did not understand the e-mail he received this month, signed Edward Joseph Snowden. So he turned to an assistant in his law firm who speaks English. “I asked Valentina, ‘Is it a joke?’ ” Mr. Kucherena said. It was not.

    The e-mail has since thrust Mr. Kucherena into the center of the fight over the fate of Mr. Snowden, the former intelligence contractor wanted in the United States for disclosing the National Security Agency’s surveillance efforts. Days after he joined a group of Russian public figures at a surreal meeting in the international transit lounge of Sheremetyevo airport on July 12, Mr. Snowden asked Mr. Kucherena to take up his case for political asylum here. And he agreed, pro bono.

    That has made him the architect of Mr. Snowden’s effort to remain in Russia, and effectively his unexpected public champion. Since he is one of the few people who meet with Mr. Snowden, he has been besieged for updates in the proceedings — a decision, which had been expected imminently, could now be weeks away — and also for hints to his client’s strategy and mood as his odyssey unfolds.

    It was Mr. Kucherena who counseled Mr. Snowden to abandon his appeals for political asylum in more than 20 other countries, arguing that they had no legal standing while he remained on Russian soil. Instead he helped Mr. Snowden file the request for a form of temporary refuge here to avoid a drawn-out review that would ultimately end up on the desk of President Vladimir V. Putin.

    Mr. Kucherena’s role has increased his prominence in Russia. Like many defense lawyers in a country where justice is viewed as deeply politicized, he occupies an occasionally awkward space between challenging authority and being part of the system itself. At the same time, he is a political supporter of Mr. Putin’s and serves on the Public Chamber, an advisory body that critics have long derided as a Potemkin construct of actual government oversight. He also serves as a member of another board that oversees the Federal Security Service, or F.S.B.

    Those roles have prompted accusations that the Kremlin is orchestrating events behind the scenes and that Mr. Kucherena has ties to the authorities or the security service itself, which he disputed. He said he had had no contact with anyone in power since Mr. Snowden hired him and he noted that his previous clients included those who stood accused by the F.S.B., including a diplomat and writer named Platon Obukhov, who was convicted of spying for Britain in 2001 though later was declared psychologically unfit to serve his sentence behind bars.

    Mr. Kucherena said Mr. Snowden, who has been following the news about his case intently on his computer in a hotel at the airport, complained to him that such assertions were meant to discredit him and his case, especially at home in the United States.

    Only Mr. Snowden knows why he settled on Mr. Kucherena to represent him. But he was one of two lawyers, along with Genri M. Reznik, who attended the airport meeting along with representatives of advocacy groups like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch that have faced harassment from the authorities, especially since Mr. Putin returned to the presidency for a third term last year.

    Mr. Snowden selected those who attended from a list drafted at his request by officials from the border police who control access to the transit lounge. Tanya Lokshina of Human Rights Watch, who also attended, described Mr. Kucherena as a capable lawyer who also remained a “staunch loyalist” of the Kremlin.

    “He portrays himself and is being portrayed by the Kremlin as an independent actor and one of the pillars of the Russian legal community,” she said, adding that he was “one of those figures whom the Kremlin pushes forward when accused of stifling civil society.”

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | September 4, 2013, 2:47 pm
  11. Following the latest reports of US spying on Brazil and Mexico, Brazil’s Senate has now opened an investigation into US spying and their first act was to call for Federal police protection for Glenn Greenwald. Brazil is also canceling a diplomatic trip to the US. NSA whistleblower William Binny was recently interviewed and asked about issues like international spying and the proposed no spying agreement between the US and Germany. Binney describes Snowden’s revelations as completely unsurprising and just the tip of the iceberg. He also describes international spying as a normal thing nations do. It’s worth reading:

    Snowden leaks only tip of the iceberg

    Date 05.09.2013
    Author Interview: Michael Knigge
    Editor Rob Mudge

    A former NSA technical director tells DW that the revelations by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden do not reveal the full extent of NSA surveillance. He also explains why he is hopeful that Congress will finally act.

    William Binney worked for the NSA for almost 40 years, serving as technical director of its World Geopolitical and Military Analysis Working Group. The crypto-mathematician retired in 2001. Before and after his retirement Binney went to Congress to raise his concerns about the agency. During a leak investigation in 2007 Binney’s home was raided by the FBI. Three years later he received a letter of immunity from the US Department of Justice.

    DW: In response to the revelations about the NSA‘s surveillance activities in Germany, the US offered the German government to negotiate a no-spy agreement between the NSA and the German foreign intelligence service BND. How useful is such an agreement?

    William Binney: It’s hard to say. It depends on what is in the agreement, what it says and what it commits the parties to.

    What would have to be in such a no-spy agreement, how would it have to phrased and implemented to fulfill its intended purpose?

    They would have to make a universal pledge and say that one would not collect the information of the other. But you see there is a lot of common interest that goes through this here. For example in terrorism and counterterrorism that could be anywhere in the world, so that would still have to have agreements that would say you could follow that kind of activity wherever it went whether it was in Germany or the United States. And any partner could follow that so if one detected a terrorist threat they could alert the others. That would have to be built into the agreements that that kind of thing could happen.

    The coordinator of German intelligence services has said that since both the American NSA and the British GCHQ had declared in writing that they did not violate German national law and were not conducting mass surveillance in Germany, the debate about the NSA should be over. What’s your take on that?

    I am not familiar with German law so I couldn’t really say what that law restricts in terms of collection of information about individual citizens of your country. But it’s going to be hard to write up some kind of agreement that would get the parties to agree on because the international web is such that information on all kinds of countries goes everywhere virtually in the web. So you can pick that information up anywhere.

    Generally speaking what happens is service providers look for the cheapest way to send their information around the world to get it to where it has to go. So in that case it means that those who lease the fiber-optic lines the cheapest are usually the ones that are filled up first. And those could be anywhere. One country may have a lower rate today than the next. And tomorrow it may be the reverse. So that could vary and that would change the routing around the world. And if people are looking to find terrorism in any of this communications network that is set up then they have to look in many places and when they do they are going to come across this material and it’s going to be hard to sort out.

    How close is the relationship between the NSA and the BND?

    That has evolved over decades. Originally it started with the cooperative agreements forming NATO and then as NATO grew, the agreements grew. And the common interests among all the partners in NATO governed basically what they cooperated on, so intelligence became a part of that. And over decades that evolved into a greater cooperation and now with the international threats of terrorism and various other international illegal activities like weapons smuggling, I am sure that that cooperation has extended there. So it’s becoming more of a cooperative effort on many different fronts I think.

    According to recent reports, the NSA spied on the governments of Brazil and Mexico as well as the French foreign ministry. It also allegedly bugged and infiltrated UN and EU institutions. How realistic is it that the NSA also monitors the German government?

    I think it’s probably true that every government in the world tries to find out information about other governments in the world just to see what their perspective is on it and if there is anything of interest that might change the policy of one government and then create a more favorable atmosphere for agreements between the countries. I don’t think it’s malicious or anything, I think it’s more of an intention to understand the partners. But I think every government in the world ever since they started their diplomatic missions to countries, those have been collecting information about other governments so that they can feed their governments so they better understand one another or at least know their positions.

    German companies are increasingly worried about economic espionage which is rising dramatically. The head of Germany’s domestic intelligence service said recently he had no indication of economic espionage by Western services. Is that correct from your understanding?

    As far as I know it is. But the problem I see is one of trust. Because over here we have a lot of contractors that work for companies, managing these databases and datasets that are basically the collection of what’s going on in the world. So there is a hidden danger there as to whether or not those people do things for their companies to gain leverage in any kind of bidding on contracts or something. There is a fundamental and inherent danger of that kind of activity going on. It requires trust. And when you look around you say how many people can you trust in our government and I would say not very many. Because we don’t get told the truth a lot over here.

    All of the revelations we have talked about basically stem from the Snowden documents. You left the NSA in 2001. Were you surprised by any of his revelations?

    No, not at all. My basic understanding was that all that was happening and much more. He hasn’t really gotten into the extent of what’s really going on. He has only covered part of it.

    Are you saying this is only the tip of the iceberg and there is a lot more to be revealed that we don’t expect?

    Yes. And in fact members of Congress have said similar things after they have gotten briefed recently. Now I think our Congress is getting to understand the extent of what has been going on a little bit better. They had no idea before, many of them.

    And Snowden, at least so far and as far as I have seen, has only had in my view a certain limited view into what’s been happening.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | September 5, 2013, 9:04 am
  12. Heh, I never noticed this before: Back when Germany was trying to get clarification on the mystery of the multiple Prisms, the official NSA reponse to Germany regarding the multiple Prism programs actually explicitly said there were three separate unrelated programs. And it’s not even clear of that is supposed to include the Palantir version of PRISM. So are there now supposedly four Prisms?

    Der Spiegel
    Three Different Prisms? Parliament Seeks Clarity in NSA Scandal
    July 26, 2013 – 12:33 PM
    By Veit Medick and Philipp Wittrock

    A Thursday meeting in German parliament was supposed to shed light on NSA surveillance activities in Germany. It only added to the mystery. A US response to a Berlin inquiry claims that there are actually three unrelated Prism programs.

    The meeting lasted for three hours, partially the result of the complex nature of the material being addressed. The oppressive heat hanging over Berlin this week didn’t help.

    “Mr. Prism is an important witness,” Hans-Christian Ströbele said into the microphone, adding that he would love to ask “Mr. Prism” a few questions. Ströbele is the senior Green Party representative on the Parliamentary Control Panel, the body in the Bundestag assigned to keep tabs on the activities of Germany’s intelligence agencies. And the hot weather would seem to be taking its toll. He was referring to Edward Snowden, the former US intelligence officer who revealed the full extent of American data surveillance operations to the world in June and who is still stuck in the transit area of Moscow’s international airport.

    When he was made aware of his slip-up, Ströbele grabbed his head. But he is far from the only one who is having a hard time keeping things straight these days. It seems that hardly a week goes by without the name of yet another top-secret computer program hitting the headlines — combined with accusations, assertions and denials. The spying scandal focused on the activities of the US National Security Agency (NSA) has continued even as Berlin politics slows down for the summer break.

    On Thursday, for the fifth time since the first revelations from Snowden were published in the beginning of June, the Parliamentary Control Panel met, and there were hopes that it might finally shed some light onto the true nature of Germany’s cooperation with the NSA. Snowden, of course, wasn’t present. Instead, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s chief of staff, Ronald Pofalla — who is the senior Chancellery official tasked with coordinating Germany’s intelligence activities — was there.

    An Analytical Tool

    So too were the heads of Germany’s domestic and foreign intelligence agencies, there to provide more information about the programs they use. According to those present at the closed-door meeting, the officials presented several different types of software that are already in use or are planned, spending extensive time discussing the program XKeyscore, the comprehensive surveillance software written about by SPIEGEL this week.

    Gerhard Schindler, head of Germany’s Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), said that his foreign intelligence agency had used the program since 2007. But it was not, he said, according to meeting participants, used to collect data. Rather, he insisted, it was an analytical tool. He also stated that his agency’s use of XKeyscore in no way represented a violation of German law. Hans-Georg Maassen, head of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, Germany’s domestic intelligence agency, said that his agency had been using a test version of XKeyscore since 2012.

    The acknowledgement marks a significant step forward in the German debate over US surveillance techniques. Even as the German populace has been extremely unnerved by revelations that the NSA monitors some 500 million data communications each month, Merkel’s government has done little to answer questions regarding the extent to which Berlin cooperates with Washington on surveillance activities. This week’s article in SPIEGEL also cited an NSA document indicating that the German was “modifying its interpretation of (privacy laws) to afford the BND more flexibility in sharing protected information with foreign partners.”

    Schindler on Thursday appeared to be taking such accusations seriously. He issued an official statement in which he denied trying to weaken German data protection laws. He did, however, confirm that his agency feels that some paragraphs of the “G-10” law relating to passing on data should be softened. That, Schindler said, is something that he also told his US counterparts.

    ‘Focused, Targeted and Legal’

    In addition to testimony from Schindler and Maassen, officials also read a written statement from the NSA in response to a query from the German government. According to the statement, there are three separate Prism programs, all of them unconnected to each other. Meeting participants say the NSA response said that one of the Prism programs was only used internally. That program had thus far remained secret. Another of the programs was used by the Pentagon in Afghanistan. Yet another NSA tool — vaguely described in the statement and allegedly “totally unrelated to the first” — carries the name PRISM and “tracks and queries requests pertaining to our Information Assurance Directorate.”

    The NSA response, meeting participants said, focused primarily on the Prism program that whistleblower Edward Snowden made public — a tool that allows the NSA to engage in the vast surveillance of electronic communication connections. In the response, the US intelligence agency vehemently denied that the program is used to indiscriminately collect huge quantities of data in Germany. The collection of data, the response said, is subject to court authorization and is primarily used to combat terrorism. Its use is “focused, targeted, judicious and far from sweeping,” the one-page response says.

    The document sounds reassuring, but so too have many denials issued in recent days. In fact, the NSA response says little about how the monitoring of 500 million data connections each month can be considered focused or targeted. Furthermore, the court the statement refers to, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA), is secret and, according to US media reports, confirms virtually every surveillance request made by US intelligence.

    Pofalla also tried to do his part to counter the recent criticism that he, Merkel and the rest of the government had done too little to clear up the accusations of vast US surveillance. And he seemed well prepared. He issued a statement that German intelligence activities, including cooperation with foreign agencies, are vital for the protection of German citizens. As an example, he mentioned the transfer of data in connection with kidnapping cases abroad.

    Interrogating ‘Mr. Prism?’

    Still, he was unable to conceal the fact that the central questions have not yet been answered. What exactly is the nature of NSA activity on German soil? Is the German government as oblivious as it has claimed — and if so, why? Pofalla declined to answer questions from journalists following the Parliamentary Control Panel meeting.

    It’s also worth pointing out that, contrary to the latest expression of ‘shock’ by Merkel over the alleged NSA hacking of her phone, the head of German intelligence raised the this exact topic with the head of the Berlin branch of the Aspen Institute a year and a half ago:

    Europe may act against U.S. over spying
    Jesse Singal, Special for USA TODAY 2:19 p.m. EDT October 24, 2013

    German Foreign Ministry summons U.S. ambassador after allegations that the NSA targeted Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cellphone.

    BERLIN — Troubles are mounting in Europe for the Obama administration over allegations that the U.S. tapped phone conversations of leaders and citizens in Germany and France, and it may affect trade relations and long-standing cooperation on many matters.

    European Union leaders meeting for a two-day summit in Brussels are agitating for action rather than just condemnation of the United States over news reports it tapped the mobile phone of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and accessed phone records of 70 million French citizens.

    “We can’t simply return to business as usual,” German Defense Minister Thomas de Maizière said.

    France’s President Francois Hollande is pressing for the spying issue to be put on the summit’s agenda. French EU Commissioner Michel Barnier told the BBC on Thursday: “Enough is enough.”

    Barnier says confidence in the United States has been shaken and as commissioner for internal market and services he suggested Europe develop its own digital tools such as a “European data cloud” independent of American oversight.

    Arriving in Brussels on Thursday, Merkel said she told Obama in her phone call that “spying among friends cannot be.” She said there needs to be trust among allies and partners and “such trust now has to be built anew.”

    White House spokesman Jay Carney said, “The president assured the chancellor that the United States is not monitoring, and will not monitor, the communications of the chancellor.” He would not say whether her phone was tapped in the past.

    From a transatlantic free-trade agreement to cross-border data transfer, some in Europe say the NSA spying allegations threaten to create serious repercussions for the United States.

    “There will be a more systematic effort on the EU’s part to protect its communications — that’s what the real damage is to the U.S.,” said Charles King Mallory IV, former head of the Aspen Institute, a think tank, in Berlin.

    “This scandal has sensitized numerous governments to the fact that their communications security was not tight enough, and that will be a net loss for the U.S.”

    He said the outfall could damage the cooperation the United States has enjoyed with European agencies in gaining intelligence on security threats.

    Mallory said that while the allegations could do ongoing political damage to the Obama administration and its relationship with the EU, spying is a fact of modern life among allies.

    “I’m somewhat surprised that people are surprised nations spy upon each other,” he said. “This happens.”

    Germany has been one of Washington’s closest allies in Europe. The United States was West Germany’s protector during the Cold War, and the fall of the Soviet Union that U.S. administrations had worked to accomplish for decades allowed for the reunification of West Germany with communist-occupied East Germany. Germany is still home to thousands of U.S. troops.

    Mallory said the German government had long been aware of U.S. attempts to access Merkel’s communications, adding that a former chief of German intelligence told him about the spying a year and a half ago.

    “We were discussing the NSA, and he said, ‘I happen to know for a fact that they’re capable of penetrating the communications of our chancellery,'” Mallory said. “So, I think there is a certain amount of political Kabuki that is going on.”

    Other analysts said the spying points to a U.S.-German relationship that, while close-knit on issues like security, is also marked by real and growing rivalry over trade.

    “This is one of several aspects that tells me that we have a huge rivalry going on that’s getting stronger,” said Josef Braml of the German Council on Foreign Relations in Berlin. “I wouldn’t even rule out industrial espionage — that’s probably a bigger issue.”

    Similiary, Bernard Squarcini, the ex-head of France’s domestic intelligence services expressed shock at the shock expressed by current French leaders over the spying on allies. According to Squarcini, spying on allies was all in a days work:

    Paris also snoops on US, says ex-French spy boss
    Latest update: 24/10/2013
    Spying on allies is all in a day’s work, the former head of France’s domestic intelligence agency (pictured) said on Thursday, following reports that the US National Security Agency recorded millions of French phone calls.
    By Tony Todd

    France spies on the US just as the US spies on France, the former head of France’s counter-espionage and counter-terrorism agency said Friday, commenting on reports that the US National Security Agency (NSA) recorded millions of French telephone calls.

    Bernard Squarcini, head of the Direction Centrale du Renseignement Intérieur (DCRI) intelligence service until last year, told French daily Le Figaro he was “astonished” when Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said he was “deeply shocked” by the claims.

    “I am amazed by such disconcerting naiveté,” he said in the interview. “You’d almost think our politicians don’t bother to read the reports they get from the intelligence services.”

    On Monday, French daily Le Monde published a story based on leaks from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, alleging that the NSA had recorded 70 million phone calls in France in a 30-day period from December 10 to January 8 this year.

    ‘Deep disapproval’

    The following day French President Franços Hollande called his US counterpart Barack Obama to express “deep disapproval of these practices, which are unacceptable between friends and allies because they infringe on the privacy of French citizens”.

    But for Squarcini, who was questioned in 2011 over surveillance of journalists investigating alleged illegal campaign funding for former president Nicolas Sarkozy, spying on allies is all in a day’s work.

    “The French intelligence services know full well that all countries, whether or not they are allies in the fight against terrorism, spy on each other all the time,” he said.

    “The Americans spy on French commercial and industrial interests, and we do the same to them because it’s in the national interest to protect our companies.”

    “There was nothing of any real surprise in this report,” he added. “No one is fooled.”

    One of the reasons it’s important to continue to point out the deception and hypocrisy that is emerging from the US and allies like France and Germany in their responses to the steady drip drip drip of spying revelations is that any serious attempts at making the world safe from mass surveillance and spying has to address the extensive spying taking place by other nations simultaneously. A unilateral draw down of the NSA’s mass surveillance will only be temporary at best if we find ourselves with multiple NSA-like agencies operating around the world a decade from now. And all indications are that other major and aspiring powers are trying to achieve NSA-like capabilities ASAP. Many of those capabilities might not take very long to achieve. And with an overhaul of the architecture of the internet and encryption standards a likely outcome from the global spying backlash it’s not like there aren’t going to be plenty of opportunities to insert NSA-like back doors and other fun treats by the nations that lead the creation of the internet 3.0. The sheer scale of the NSA’s spying might make the surveillance by other nations look small and toothless in comparison but, as the FinFisher global spyware scandal has already demonstrated, only a small fraction of the NSA’s capabilities is required for some pretty amazing domestic surveillance capabilities. If we want to make the world safe from more than just surveillance by the NSA we have to keep pointing out how all of these governments complaining about the NSA also seem to want NSA-like capabilities of their own and a populace that is largely clueless about it. And we have to keep pointing out how many of these governments are pretty far along on in achieving those goals.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | October 24, 2013, 11:43 am
  13. Julian Assange just blew another hole in the Snowden storyline. Maybe. It might take a couple days to find out:

    Christian Science Monitor
    Assange threatens to release Snowden info that Greenwald says could endanger lives

    Julian Assange attacked Glenn Greenwald yesterday for a redaction in a recent story based on Snowden’s NSA documents. Greenwald said it was done to save lives.

    By Dan Murphy, Staff writer / May 20, 2014

    The presumed tension between anti-secrecy activist Julian Assange and Glenn Greenwald, the arch-disseminator of NSA documents provided by Edward Snowden, erupted into the open yesterday on Twitter. The two sparred publicly over Greenwald’s decision to redact a piece of information from a recent story.

    The story released yesterday and written by Greenwald and two colleagues, alleges that the US is “secretly intercepting, recording, and archiving the audio of virtually every cell phone conversation on the island nation of the Bahamas.” The story, published on First Look Media’s Intercept channel, also says that the US is harvesting cellphone metadata from four other countries and names three of them – Mexico, The Philippines and Kenya.

    The fifth country? The article says “The Intercept is not naming (it) in response to specific, credible concerns that doing so could lead to increased violence.”

    Assange is generally assumed to write the Wikileaks Twitter feed (and has been watched doing so.) And he wasn’t happy at Greenwald’s decision to withhold information.

    It is not the place of Firstlook or WaPo to decide how a people will chose to act against mass breaches of their rights by the United States— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) May 19, 2014

    If a nation wants to engage in a revolt on the basis that the US government is recording all their phone calls, that is their right.— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) May 19, 2014

    Greenwald then sought to persuade Assange that some redaction to save lives is reasonable. He wrote, among other things:

    @ggreenwald When has true published information harmed innocents? You are painting future publications into a corner with this Pentagon line— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) May 19, 2014

    @wikileaks But there was a very convincing probability in that 5th country for how innocent people would die which we all accepted.— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) May 19, 2014

    But Assange was unmoved and after some more back and forth, Assange’s twitter account dropped this bombshell:

    @GGreenwald @johnjcook We will reveal the name of the censored country whose population is being mass recorded in 72 hours.— WikiLeaks (@wikileaks) May 19, 2014

    Is Assange telling the truth? If he is, that strongly implies a major leak in Greenwald’s boat, which discredits his and Snowden’s earlier claims that all documents taken by Snowden were being handled responsibly, and that there was no chance of their leaking to anyone.

    Assange does have a track record of saying things that are provably false, for instance his claim that the trove of battlefield reports leaked by Chelsea Manning “was available to every soldier and contractor in Afghanistan.” But he’s now put himself on the spot by promising a specific detail in such a limited time-frame.

    Does he have access to documents? Have collaborators of Greenwald’s been feeding him information? Possibly, yes. This opens the door to the full Snowden trove being published without any review or redaction, as happened with the Manning documents provided to Wikileaks. Some of the anti-secrecy activists with whom Greenwald has collaborated in publishing Snowden’s revelations, like Jacob Appelbaum, have close personal ties to Assange.

    Note that Jacob Appelbaum has already treated the suggestion that he was involved as nonsense, and he was correct in the sense that there are others close to Wikileaks involved in the Snowden affair like Sarah Harrison. But Harrison has also allegedly never had access to those files while she was with Snowden in Russia. So unless Appelbaum is passing Harrison documents now that she’s staying in Berlin it’s unclear who else close to Wikileaks is in a position to send Assange the documents he needs to make that kind of a threat.

    Then again, as the article suggests, Assange could also just be bluffing. And keep in mind that there were reports yesterday about an ongoing active FBI investigation into Assange and Wikileaks so the real target of these threats might be the US government. But if Assange isn’t bluffing, might we be seeing the set up for another mega-release? If so, does Pierre get his money back?

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | May 20, 2014, 5:48 pm
  14. Wikileaks decided to go follow through with their threat and release the name of the mystery country. Drumroll….it’s Afghanistan:

    WikiLeaks Claims Afghanistan Under NSA Surveillance

    Denver Nicks @DenverNicks

    7:15 AM ET
    The secret-spilling group says Afghanistan is the country The Intercept declined to name out of concern that doing so could stoke violence

    The National Security Agency records every cell phone call in Afghanistan, claims the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks, which named the country despite the fact that other news organizations did not out of concern that doing so could lead to violence.

    That threat led many to wonder if it meant WikiLeaks has obtained access to documents leaked by Snowden or if someone with access to the documents gave someone at WikiLeaks the name of the country in question. As the leak site Cryptome noted earlier, it may be that WikiLeaks simply believes that the mystery country is Afghanistan given the already-public information available.

    Imagine that. It’ll be interesting to see if there’s any follow up reporting on this topic. It could get touchy:

    Der Spiegel
    Mass Data: Transfers from Germany Aid US Surveillance

    By Hubert Gude, Laura Poitras and Marcel Rosenbach

    German intelligence sends massive amounts of intercepted data to the NSA, according to documents from whistleblower Edward Snowden, which SPIEGEL has seen. The trans-Atlantic cooperation on technical matters is also much closer than first thought.

    August 05, 2013 – 12:32 PM

    Agents with the United States National Security Agency (NSA) sometimes wax lyrical when they look back on their time in Germany — to the idyllic Chiemsee lake and the picturesque Bavarian town of Bad Aibling. Anyone who has received “a free beer at the club email” and knows “that leberkäse is made of neither liver, nor cheese” can claim to be a real Bavaria veteran, former NSA employees write in a document called the “A Little Bad Aibling Nostalgia.”

    The profession of love for the Bavarian lifestyle and the large surveillance base southeast of Munich is among the documents in the possession of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, some of which SPIEGEL has seen. The surveillance facility is known for its large “radomes,” giant golf ball-like structures which contain state-of-the-art surveillance technology. They were officially closed in September 2004.

    The Americans, though, were quietly replaced by telecommunications experts from the German military, part of the Fernmeldeweitverkehrsstelle der Bundeswehr. They moved into the Mangfall barracks, only a few hundred meters from the abandoned NSA structures, laid cables to the radomes and secretly took over the NSA’s large-scale surveillance of radio and satellite communications.

    The supposed military site is in fact a secret facility operated by the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), Germany’s foreign intelligence agency. NSA surveillance specialists also moved onto the grounds of the barracks, into a windowless building that had been erected within just a few months. Because of its metal shell, German BND agents refer to the building, with a mixture of affection and derision, as the “Tin Can.”

    The tête-à-tête between the two intelligence agencies at the Mangfall barracks was given various code names in the ensuing years and became one of their most extensive cooperative projects in Germany.

    Day After Day

    And the site in Bad Aibling could very well provide the answer to a question that has been on the minds of German politicians and the public in recent weeks.

    The Snowden documents mention two data collection sites known as signals intelligence activity designators (SIGADs), through which the controversial US intelligence agency gathered about 500 million pieces of metadata in December 2012 alone. The code names cited in the documents are “US-987LA” and “US-987LB.” The BND now believes that the first code name stands for Bad Aibling.

    Day after day and month after month, the BND passes on to the NSA massive amounts of connection data relating to the communications it had placed under surveillance. The so-called metadata — telephone numbers, email addresses, IP connections — then flow into the Americans’ giant databases.

    When contacted, the BND stated that it believed “that the SIGADs US-987LA and US-987LB are associated with Bad Aibling and telecommunications surveillance in Afghanistan.”

    Officially, the German government is still waiting for an answer from Washington as to where in Germany the metadata documented in the NSA files was obtained. For the BND and the Chancellery, which supervises the foreign intelligence agency, the clarification of what and who are behind the two SIGADs, and exactly what sort of information was passed on, is an extremely delicate matter.

    The heads of both the BND and the Chancellery have stated their positions publicly with surprising clarity. BND President Gerhard Schindler said that data relating to German citizens was only passed on to the Americans in two instances, both in 2012. Chanceller Angela Merkel’s chief of staff, Ronald Pofalla — who is nominally in charge of coordinating Germany’s intelligence agencies — even stated that the German agencies had acted in full compliance with the country’s data privacy laws.

    Closer Cooperation than Thought

    The opposition is now waiting for an opportunity to disprove these statements. The center-left Social Democrats have made the Snowden revelations an issue in Germany’s upcoming parliamentary election. An SPD campaign poster depicts Chancellor Angela Merkel and the words: “Privacy. Virgin Territory for Merkel?”

    The fact that massive amounts of metadata reached NSA databases from German soil is likely to ratchet the discussion over the role of the BND and its cooperation with the NSA even further. New documents from the Snowden archive also show that there is much closer cooperation than previously thought in relation to the controversial XKeyscore surveillance program. SPIEGEL reported on the delivery and use of the program two weeks ago.

    According to the documents, there was a meeting not long ago between agents from the NSA, the BND and the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV), Germany’s domestic intelligence agency, in which the latest potential applications of XKeyscore were discussed. In addition, it wasn’t just Germans using American surveillance programs. According to the documents, US agents also showed an interest in two BND programs, which, according to American experts, were to some extent even more effective than their own solutions.

    Should the BND information be correct, it could provide Berlin a convenient way to save face. The data gathered in Bad Aibling apparently would seem to relate to the BND’s legal foreign surveillance targets, which consists primarily of data transmitted in Afghanistan and the Middle East.

    In response to inquiries, the BND confirmed that it does transmit connection data to the NSA. But it notes: “Before metadata relating to other countries is passed on, it is purged, in a multistep process, of any personal data about German citizens it may contain.” According to the BND, its surveillance does not apply to German telecommunications and German citizens. In addition, say BND officials, there is currently no reason to believe that the “NSA gathers personal data on German citizens in Germany.”

    Questions relating to the exchange of data become all the more pressing when one considers that Bad Aibling, according to the documents from the Snowden archive, was, at least for a time, not the only BND listening post on German soil from which large amounts of data were sent to the NSA — a “daily” occurrence, according to the NSA documents.

    In a 2006 travel report, members of an NSA delegation rave about their first visit to the BND surveillance facility in Schöningen, near Braunschweig in north-central Germany. According to the visitors’ notes, about 100 BND employees there, with the help of 19 antennas, intercepted the signals of satellite and mobile communications providers in Afghanistan and Africa.

    A ‘New Level’

    The document mentions 400,000 recordings of data from satellite telephone provider Thuraya, 14,000 recordings of data from commercial satellite operator Inmarsat and 6,000 recordings a day of mobile communications, as well as daily eavesdropping on 62,000 emails. “The NSA benefits from this collection, especially the … intercepts from Afghanistan, which the BND shares on a daily basis.”

    When confronted with this information, the BND stated: “None of the data acquired there is currently being transmitted to the NSA.”

    The NSA delegation’s trip report is also interesting for another reason. It has not yet been clearly determined exactly how much German intelligence services and the Chancellery knew about American surveillance activities and when they knew it. It has been conspicuous that many of the official denials issued in recent weeks have referred explicitly and exclusively to the PRISM surveillance program — perhaps for good reason.

    The NSA delegation’s 2006 report suggests that there was close cooperation, especially on technical surveillance issues. A “new level” had been reached in this regard, the report reads. The BND officials had apparently managed to impress their visitors. BND specialists presented various analysis tools to their US counterparts, including two systems called Mira4 and VERAS. “In some ways, these tools have features that surpass US SIGINT capabilities,” the report reads.

    If the US delegation’s trip report is to be believed, the two agencies arranged a deal of sorts at the time. “The BND responded positively to NSA’s request for a copy of Mira4 and VERAS software,” the report reads. In return, the Germans apparently asked the NSA for support.

    The cooperation apparently continued to develop in this spirit, becoming particularly close at the Mangfall barracks, headquarters of the Special United States Liaison Activity Germany, or SUSLAG, which represented the NSA locally, since 2004.

    Beyond Symbolism

    To mark the first anniversary of working in the Tin Can, the NSA representative and her German counterparts symbolically celebrated the strong spirit of cooperation in Bavaria by planting a tree in front of the NSA building.

    But their cooperation would extend well beyond symbolism and spatial proximity. The NSA office apparently embarked on a program of “strategic cooperation,” which was reflected in two specific intelligence joint ventures on German soil. According to one NSA document, two joint NSA and BND operations were already underway at the time of the tree-planting ceremony: the Joint Analysis Center and the Joint SIGINT (Signals Intelligence) Activity program.

    The existence of joint German-American surveillance task forces suggests that the agencies must have been very well informed about their respective counterparts’ surveillance options. This seems all the more likely given that the technical exchange only intensified in the ensuing years. US agents trained their German counterparts to use the especially productive XKeyscore surveillance program, which the NSA provided to both the BND and the BfV.

    According to a document from the Snowden archive, the German NSA office and the BND jointly presented XKeyscore to the BfV in October 2011.

    ‘Behavior Detection’

    “The BND XKEYSCORE system successfully processed DSL wiretap collection belonging to a German CT (counter-terrorism) target,” reads the document, which SPIEGEL has seen. As a result of the successful demonstration, the vice president of the BfV “formally requested” the software.

    The intelligence agencies continued thereafter to consult closely with one another on the productive surveillance program and its further development.

    According to the documents, this cooperation also involved discussions of previously unknown analysis tools within the program, such as “behavior detection,” or the ability to detect certain situations, groups or even individuals on the basis of behavioral patterns. The goal of training sessions provided by the Americans was apparently to familiarize the Germans with the capabilities of XKeyscore, especially its “discovery capabilities.”

    According to the documents, one of these training sessions, in which representatives of the BND and the BfV were to be told about new details in XKeyscore and, in particular, about “behavior detection,” was scheduled to be held in Bad Aibling in April — only a few weeks before Edward Snowden’s revelations about XKeyscore and other surveillance programs began.

    On the one hand, it could hardly be surprising that this is taking place in Afghanistan given the circumstance so who knows what the Afghan government’s response will be. On the other hand….

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | May 23, 2014, 2:59 pm

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