Colombian intelligence agency scandal (2009)

DAS, the Colombian intelligence agency, is out of control. It is illegally tapping journalists, judges and politicians and its services have been used by drug dealers, paramilitaries and guerrillas.

Colombian intelligence agency scandal.
Colombia woke up on Monday facing a controversy of enormous proportions, since Semana magazine revealed in its most recent edition, after a six-month investigation, that the DAS, the national intelligence agency, has been illegally wiretapping prominent politicians, journalists and judges.

Early morning, President Alvaro Uribe sent a message to a national radio station to try and control the debate, which has even spread internationally. In it he emphatically states that he has “never given an order to look into the private lives of people” and describes himself as a “loyal man who is fair with his opponents and does not cheat on them”. Juan Manuel Santos, the country’s minister of Defense, also gave his opinion on the topic, describing it as a delicate subject for national security.

Irrespective of Alvaro Uribe’s statement, the news has already spread and the first decisions have been taken. The Office of the Attorney General (procuraduría) gave the order to investigate who is in charge of the illegal tapping. Earlier, the CTI, the investigation department of the Prosecutor General’s Office (fiscalía), had taken control of the premises where the tapping was being organized, and Jorge Lagos resigned from his post as deputy counter-intelligence director. Apart from that, Felipe Muñoz, head of DAS, announced that a special committee will be set up to look into the problem.

All these decisions were taken after Semana published on Sunday its cover story on the topic. According to one of the detectives who works in DAS and who spoke to the magazine, “here (at DAS) you look at targets who can be a threat to the safety of the State and the president. Among them you can find the guerrillas, criminal gangs and drug traffickers. But also, and that is obvious because of the functions DAS is in charge of, controlling some people and institutions in order to inform the Presidency. For example, how can we not control (Gustavo) Petro, who is a former guerrilla and a member of the opposition? Or Piedad Córdoba (liberal party senator), because of her links to Chávez and the guerrilla?” The magazine confirmed this with four other members of DAS.

Other important figures who have been tapped are members of the Supreme Court and Iván Velásquez, a judge who leads the investigations regarding the links between politicians and paramilitary leaders and who had more than 1,900 phone calls intercepted. Journalists have also suffered from this problem. A counterintelligence detective told SEMANA that one of the goals behind tapping media and journalists “is informing the government of what is being done in the media, in order to give the government some time to react when critical situations arise”.

The subject of illegally tapping members of the Supreme Court and the government, journalists and opposition leaders is only the tip of the iceberg of what is happening in the intelligence agency. The disorder has not only been capitalized on by members of the government to get “political favours”. Criminal organizations such as drug traffickers, paramilitaries or the guerrilla have also found there a very valuable source of information which is sold to the highest bidder.

SEMANA obtained judicial record certificates sold to paramilitaries two years ago controlled by drug trafficker Miguel Ángel Mejía Múnera. The confidential documents, which can only be requested by a small number of DAS directors, were surprisingly in the hands of Nicolás Escobar, a close friend of the paramilitary leader who demobilized and is now in prison.

The Army also found last year a computer, owned by members of the ELN guerrilla group, which contained DAS documents about the operations of that agency against the rebels.

All in all, this debate has raised again a vital question: What must be done with DAS? The agency will never be able to carry out its main goals –provide intelligence to defend Colombian democracy- if actions such as illegally tapping people are considered by some of its workers as “normal”. Just as the body count policy led to the deadly false positives scandal, the idea that any detractor of the President or the government is a “legitimate target” resulted in the tapping of journalists, judges and politicians. It is definitely very dangerous for democracy in this country that DAS operates like a political police force and that some of its employees use their post to commit a crime.

Investigation by SEMANA.
23 febrero 2009

Find this story at 23 Feruary 2009

COPYRIGHT©2014 PUBLICACIONES SEMANA S.A.

Edward Snowden: US government spied on human rights workers

Whistleblower tells Council of Europe NSA deliberately snooped on groups such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International

The US has spied on the staff of prominent human rights organisations, Edward Snowden has told the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, Europe’s top human rights body.

Giving evidence via a videolink from Moscow, Snowden said the National Security Agency – for which he worked as a contractor – had deliberately snooped on bodies like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

He told council members: “The NSA has specifically targeted either leaders or staff members in a number of civil and non-governmental organisations … including domestically within the borders of the United States.” Snowden did not reveal which groups the NSA had bugged.

The assembly asked Snowden if the US spied on the “highly sensitive and confidential communications” of major rights bodies such as Amnesty and Human Rights Watch, as well as on similar smaller regional and national groups. He replied: “The answer is, without question, yes. Absolutely.”

Snowden, meanwhile, dismissed NSA claims that he had swiped as many as 1.7m documents from the agency’s servers in an interview with Vanity Fair. He described the number released by investigators as “simply a scare number based on an intentionally crude metric: everything that I ever digitally interacted with in my career.”

He added: “Look at the language officials use in sworn testimony about these records: ‘could have,’ ‘may have,’ ‘potentially.’ They’re prevaricating. Every single one of those officials knows I don’t have 1.7m files, but what are they going to say? What senior official is going to go in front of Congress and say, ‘We have no idea what he has, because the NSA’s auditing of systems holding hundreds of millions of Americans’ data is so negligent that any high-school dropout can walk out the door with it’?”

In live testimony to the Council of Europe, Snowden also gave a forensic account of how the NSA’s powerful surveillance programs violate the EU’s privacy laws. He said programs such as XKeyscore, revealed by the Guardian last July, use sophisticated data mining techniques to screen “trillions” of private communications.

“This technology represents the most significant new threat to civil liberties in modern times,” he declared.

XKeyscore allows analysts to search with no prior authorisation through vast databases containing emails, online chats, and the browsing histories of millions of individuals.

Snowden said on Tuesday that he and other analysts were able to use the tool to select an individual’s metadata and content “without judicial approval or prior review”.

In practical terms, this meant the agency tracked citizens not involved in any nefarious activities, he stressed. The NSA operated a “de facto policy of guilt by association”, he added.

Snowden said the agency, for example, monitored the travel patterns of innocent EU and other citizens not involved in terrorism or any wrongdoing.

The 30-year-old whistleblower – who began his intelligence career working for the CIA in Geneva – said the NSA also routinely monitored the communications of Swiss nationals “across specific routes”.

Others who fell under its purview included people who accidentally followed a wrong link, downloaded the wrong file, or “simply visited an internet sex forum”. French citizens who logged on to a suspected network were also targeted, he said.

The XKeyscore program amounted to an egregious form of mass surveillance, Snowden suggested, because it hoovered up data from “entire populations”. Anyone using non-encrypted communications might be targeted on the basis of their “religious beliefs, sexual or political affiliations, transactions with certain businesses” and even “gun ownership”, he claimed.

Snowden said he did not believe the NSA was engaged in “nightmare scenarios”, such as the active compilation of a list of homosexuals “to round them up and send them into camps”. But he said that the infrastructure allowing this to happen had been built. The NSA, its allies, authoritarian governments and even private organisations could all abuse this technology, he said, adding that mass surveillance was a “global problem”. It led to “less liberal and safe societies”, he told the council.

At times assembly members struggled to follow Snowden’s rapid, sometimes technical delivery. At one point the session’s chairperson begged him to slow down, so the translators could catch up.

Snowden also criticised the British spy agency GCHQ. He cited the agency’s Optic Nerve program revealed by the Guardian in February. It was, he said, one of many “abusive” examples of state snooping. Under the program GCHQ bulk collects images from Yahoo webcam chats. Many of these images were “intensely private” Snowden said, depicting some form of nudity, and often taken from the “bedrooms and private homes” of people not suspected of individualised wrongdoing. “[Optic Nerve] continued even after GCHQ became aware that the vast majority had no intelligence value at all,” Snowden said.

Snowden made clear he did believe in legitimate intelligence operations. “I would like to clarify I have no intention to harm the US government or strain [its] bilateral ties,” he asserted, adding that he wanted to improve government, not bring it down.

The exiled American spy, however, said the NSA should abandon its electronic surveillance of entire civilian populations. Instead, he said, it should go back to the traditional model of eavesdropping against specific targets, such as “North Korea, terrorists, cyber-actors, or anyone else.”

Snowden also urged members of the Council of Europe to encrypt their personal communications. He said that encryption, used properly, could still withstand “brute force attacks” from powerful spy agencies and others. “Properly implemented algorithms backed up by truly random keys of significant length … all require more energy to decrypt than exists in the universe,” he said.

The international organisation defended its decision to invite Snowden to testify. In a statement on Monday, it said: “Edward Snowden has triggered a massive public debate on privacy in the internet age. We hope to ask him what his revelations mean for ordinary users and how they should protect their privacy and what kind of restrictions Europe should impose on state surveillance.”

The council invited the White House to give evidence but it declined.

In the Vanity Fair interview the whistleblower said he paid the bill in the Mira Hotel using his own credit card because he wanted to demonstrate he was not working for a foreign intelligence agency. “My hope was that avoiding ambiguity would prevent spy accusations and create more room for reasonable debate,” he told the magazine. “Unfortunately, a few of the less responsible members of Congress embraced the spy charges for political reasons, as they still do to this day.”

The NSA says Snowden should have brought his complaints to its own internal oversight and compliance bodies. Snowden, however, insisted he did raise concerns formally, including through emails sent to the NSA’s lawyers. “I directly challenge the NSA to deny that I contacted NSA oversight and compliance bodies directly via email,” he stated.

Luke Harding
The Guardian, Tuesday 8 April 2014 16.49 BST

Find this story at 8 April 2014

© 2014 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved.

Orange Gives All Of Its Data To France’s NSA

Orange has been cooperating allegedly illegally for years with France’s main intelligence agency (the DGSE). According to a newly found report by Edward Snowden and an investigation by Le Monde, the DGSE was given access to all of Orange’s data (not just metadata).

Orange is the leading telecom company in France with more than 26 million clients. These clients have communicated with tens of millions of non-Orange clients. Nearly everyone in France is concerned by today’s revelation. No regulating agency has a say in this special relationship between France’s intelligence agencies and Orange. Data is shared with allies, such as the GCHQ in the U.K.

While the state still owns 27 percent of Orange, Orange has operated as a private company for years. Yet, when it comes to data collecting, it still works as if it was a state-owned company.

Orange employees help the DGSE create and develop new tools to collect and analyze data. Contrarily to PRISM, it’s not just an agreement between the government and big Internet companies, it’s an implicit “joint venture” that has been going on for around 30 years.

Both the government and the DGSE had no comment on the allegations. Orange CEO Stéphane Richard said that he wasn’t aware of what the DGSE was doing. He just granted access to Orange for employees of the DGSE in order to comply with the law. The three other main telecom companies denied the existence of similar programs with them.

Last July, Le Monde discovered that France has a PRISM-like program which collects thousands of trillions of metadata elements, collecting data on call history, recipient and sizes of text message, email subject etc. The program targets phone communications, emails and data from Internet giants, such as Google, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft and Yahoo.

The public outcry has been very moderated so far. These popular Internet services are still dominant. In other words, in France, convenience comes first, privacy second.

Update: An Orange spokesperson sent the following statement.

As is the case for all operators, Orange has relations with the French state’s services that are responsible for national security. This relationship takes place within a strict legal framework, under the responsibility of the state and appropriate legal control by judges.

Posted Mar 20, 2014 by Romain Dillet (@romaindillet)

Find this story at 20 March 2014

© 2013-2014 AOL Inc.

Orange shares all its call data with France’s intelligence agency, according to new Snowden leak

Another day, another round of troubling surveillance news. In a twist, though, today’s nugget has less to do with the US or the NSA but rather, France’s central intelligence agency, the DGSE. According to a leak by Edward Snowden to the French paper Le Monde, Orange, the country’s leading telecom, has been willingly sharing all of its call data with the agency. And according to the leaked document — originally belonging to the UK intelligence agency GCHQ — the French government’s records don’t just include metadata, but all the information Orange has on file. As you might expect, the DGSE then shares this information with other countries, including, of course, the UK, which had this incriminating document in the first place.

In a way, this isn’t surprising: the French government owns a 27 percent stake in the company. But until now, Orange has ostensibly been operating as a private firm. What’s more, the leaked document would suggest that the DGSE’s relationship with Orange has been cooperative, with Orange employees creating new tools to collect and interpret the data. If true, then, this arrangement would go beyond the DGSE merely requesting specific cell phone records and getting them. For now, both the French government and the DGSE have declined to comment, according to TechCrunch, while Orange CEO Stéphane Richard told LeMonde that he isn’t aware of what the DGSE is doing, but that Orange has granted access to the DGSE to comply with the law.

BY DANA WOLLMAN @DANAWOLLMAN MARCH 20TH 2014, AT 3:29:00 PM ET 16

Find this story at 20 March 2014

© 2014 AOL Inc.

Espionnage : comment Orange et les services secrets coopèrent

Selon un document auquel “Le Monde” eu accès, l’opérateur historique France Télécom-Orange est un acteur essentiel du renseignement français.
On apprend souvent davantage de choses sur soi par des gens qui n’appartiennent pas à votre famille. Les Britanniques, un peu malgré eux, viennent de nous éclairer sur les liens hautement confidentiels qui existent entre les services secrets français, la Direction générale de la sécurité extérieure (DGSE) et l’opérateur historique de télécommunication France Télécom, qui a pris le nom d’Orange en février 2012.
Selon un document interne des services secrets techniques britanniques (GCHQ), l’équivalent de l’Agence nationale de sécurité (NSA) américaine, la DGSE entretient une coopération étroite avec « un opérateur de télécommunication français ». L’ancienneté de leurs liens, la description des savoir-faire spécifiques de l’entreprise ainsi que l’enquête du Monde permettent de conclure qu’il s’agit bien de France Télécom-Orange.

Lire les autres éléments de l’enquête Les services secrets britanniques ont accès aux données des clients français d’Orange

Lire les autres éléments de l’enquête Les X-Télécoms, maîtres d’œuvre du renseignement

Lire les autres éléments de l’enquête Surveillance : « Les opérateurs n’ont pas les moyens de résister aux Etats »

Selon le GCHQ, la DGSE et l’opérateur historique français travaillent ensemble pour améliorer les capacités nationales d’interception sur les réseaux de communication et collaborent pour casser les cryptages de données qui circulent dans les réseaux. France Télécom est un acteur important du système de surveillance en France.

COLLECTE DE DONNÉES LIBRE DE TOUT CONTRÔLE

Cette note, extraite des archives de la NSA par son ex-consultant Edward Snowden, assure que la relation entre la DGSE et l’opérateur français constitue un atout majeur par rapport à ses homologues occidentaux. L’une des forces de la DGSE résiderait dans le fait qu’elle ne se contente pas des autorisations accordées par le législateur pour accéder aux données des clients de France Télécom-Orange. Elle dispose surtout, à l’insu de tout contrôle, d’un accès libre et total à ses réseaux et aux flux de données qui y transitent.

Cette collecte libre de tout contrôle, par le biais de l’opérateur français, portant sur des données massives, concerne aussi bien des Français que des étrangers. Elle est utilisée par la DGSE, qui la met à la disposition de l’ensemble des agences de renseignement françaises au titre de la mutualisation du renseignement technique et de sa base de données. Ces données sont également partagées avec des alliés étrangers comme le GCHQ. Enfin, l’opérateur français développe, en partenariat avec la DGSE, des recherches en cryptologie.

Au plus haut niveau de l’Etat, en France, on se refuse à tout commentaire, mais on indique au Monde que, si la puissance publique est devenue minoritaire (27 %) au sein du capital de France Télécom, le plus ancien opérateur français reste considéré comme « un délégataire de service public ». Le savoir-faire de l’entreprise, qui fut en premier lieu une administration, contribue, de manière essentielle, « aujourd’hui comme hier », à la sécurité du territoire et à l’autonomie de décision des dirigeants français.

« Le rapport entre France Télécom et la DGSE n’est pas de même nature que celui révélé dans le programme Prism de la NSA, qui a des liens contractuels avec les géants d’Internet, explique un ancien chef de service de renseignement français. En France, c’est consubstantiel. » Il n’existe pas de formalisation de cette coopération entre la DGSE et France Télécom-Orange. Elle est portée par des personnes habilitées secret-défense, au sein de l’entreprise, et pérennisée, depuis au moins trente ans, par des ingénieurs, qui font la navette entre les deux institutions.

« USAGE INTERNE ET NON OFFICIEL »

Au quotidien, dans l’entreprise, ce lien est géré par un très petit nombre de personnes au sein de trois services. La direction des réseaux, en premier lieu, gère, notamment, les stations dites « d’atterrissement », où accostent les câbles sous-marins France Télécom-Orange touchant la France et par lesquels transitent les flux massifs de données collectées. Un tri préalable peut aisément être réalisé en fonction des pays et des régions d’origine, puis tout est stocké dans des locaux de la DGSE.

« Le transit massif des données est stocké pour un usage interne et non officiel, détaille un cadre attaché à la direction des réseaux. Mais le point névralgique, c’est l’accès au fournisseur d’accès, comme ça, vous croisez la circulation de la donnée et l’identité de ceux qui l’échangent. C’est pour cette raison que la DGSE est en contact avec l’ensemble des opérateurs français. »

La DGSE s’appuie aussi sur la direction internationale de l’opérateur, qui gère les filiales de téléphonie mobile à l’étranger. Orange joue dans certains cas un rôle stratégique. Il a ainsi accompagné les opérations militaires françaises au Mali et en Centrafrique. Enfin, la direction sécurité, chasse gardée des anciens de la direction technique de la DGSE, est le principal interlocuteur des services secrets. Elle veille, avec Orange Business Services, sur les questions de protection de données et de déchiffrement.

Interrogé, le patron d’Orange, Stéphane Richard, a indiqué que « des personnes habilitées secret-défense peuvent avoir à gérer, au sein de l’entreprise, la relation avec les services de l’Etat et notamment leur accès aux réseaux, mais elles n’ont pas à m’en référer. Tout ceci se fait sous la responsabilité des pouvoirs publics dans un cadre légal ». La DGSE s’est refusée à tout commentaire.

LE MONDE | 20.03.2014 à 11h25 • Mis à jour le 26.03.2014 à 16h14 |
Par Jacques Follorou

Find this story at 20 March 2013

© Le Monde.fr

‘French intelligence agents spy on Orange customer data’

The French intelligence agency in charge of military and electronic spying is massively collecting data and monitoring networks of telecoms giant Orange, Le Monde newspaper reported in its Friday edition.

A picture taken on February 24, 2014 in the French northern city of Lille, shows people walking in front of an Orange store

“The DGSE can read, like an open book, the origin and destination of all communications of Orange customers,” the paper said.

Monitoring operations were being carried out without any external supervision with access “free and total” for spies at the General Directorate for External Security (DGSE).

Le Monde said its report was based on an internal British intelligence document made available by former US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden.

Contacted by AFP, an Orange spokesman said the company “like all (other) operators has relations with state agencies in charge of the country’s and the French people’s security.”

“These relations strictly comply with the laws and are legal under the responsibility of the State and the control of judges,” he added.

The DGSE and agents with military clearance have been working with Orange, formerly known as France Telecom, “for at least 30 years”, said Le Monde.

The DGSE would not comment on the report.

Snowden, who has been charged in the United States with espionage, lives in exile in Russia.

He said earlier this month he had no regrets over his leaks about mass surveillance programmes by the US National Security Agency (NSA), saying they sparked a needed public debate on spying and data collection.

Published: 21 Mar 2014 at 03.49Online news: World

Find this story at 21 March 2014

© 2014 The Post Publishing PCL

GCHQ and European spy agencies worked together on mass surveillance

Edward Snowden papers unmask close technical cooperation and loose alliance between British, German, French, Spanish and Swedish spy agencies

The German, French, Spanish and Swedish intelligence services have all developed methods of mass surveillance of internet and phone traffic over the past five years in close partnership with Britain’s GCHQ eavesdropping agency.

The bulk monitoring is carried out through direct taps into fibre optic cables and the development of covert relationships with telecommunications companies. A loose but growing eavesdropping alliance has allowed intelligence agencies from one country to cultivate ties with corporations from another to facilitate the trawling of the web, according to GCHQ documents leaked by the former US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden.

The files also make clear that GCHQ played a leading role in advising its European counterparts how to work around national laws intended to restrict the surveillance power of intelligence agencies.

The German, French and Spanish governments have reacted angrily to reports based on National Security Agency (NSA) files leaked by Snowden since June, revealing the interception of communications by tens of millions of their citizens each month. US intelligence officials have insisted the mass monitoring was carried out by the security agencies in the countries involved and shared with the US.

The US director of national intelligence, James Clapper, suggested to Congress on Tuesday that European governments’ professed outrage at the reports was at least partly hypocritical. “Some of this reminds me of the classic movie Casablanca: ‘My God, there’s gambling going on here,’ ” he said.

Sweden, which passed a law in 2008 allowing its intelligence agency to monitor cross-border email and phone communications without a court order, has been relatively muted in its response.

The German government, however, has expressed disbelief and fury at the revelations from the Snowden documents, including the fact that the NSA monitored Angela Merkel’s mobile phone calls.

After the Guardian revealed the existence of GCHQ’s Tempora programme, in which the electronic intelligence agency tapped directly into the transatlantic fibre optic cables to carry out bulk surveillance, the German justice minister, Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, said it sounded “like a Hollywood nightmare”, and warned the UK government that free and democratic societies could not flourish when states shielded their actions in “a veil of secrecy”.

‘Huge potential’

However, in a country-by-country survey of its European partners, GCHQ officials expressed admiration for the technical capabilities of German intelligence to do the same thing. The survey in 2008, when Tempora was being tested, said the Federal Intelligence Service (BND), had “huge technological potential and good access to the heart of the internet – they are already seeing some bearers running at 40Gbps and 100Gbps”.

Bearers is the GCHQ term for the fibre optic cables, and gigabits per second (Gbps) measures the speed at which data runs through them. Four years after that report, GCHQ was still only able to monitor 10 Gbps cables, but looked forward to tap new 100 Gbps bearers eventually. Hence the admiration for the BND.

The document also makes clear that British intelligence agencies were helping their German counterparts change or bypass laws that restricted their ability to use their advanced surveillance technology. “We have been assisting the BND (along with SIS [Secret Intelligence Service] and Security Service) in making the case for reform or reinterpretation of the very restrictive interception legislation in Germany,” it says.

The country-by-country survey, which in places reads somewhat like a school report, also hands out high marks to the GCHQ’s French partner, the General Directorate for External Security (DGSE). But in this case it is suggested that the DGSE’s comparative advantage is its relationship with an unnamed telecommunications company, a relationship GCHQ hoped to leverage for its own operations.

“DGSE are a highly motivated, technically competent partner, who have shown great willingness to engage on IP [internet protocol] issues, and to work with GCHQ on a “cooperate and share” basis.”

Noting that the Cheltenham-based electronic intelligence agency had trained DGSE technicians on “multi-disciplinary internet operations”, the document says: “We have made contact with the DGSE’s main industry partner, who has some innovative approaches to some internet challenges, raising the potential for GCHQ to make use of this company in the protocol development arena.”

GCHQ went on to host a major conference with its French partner on joint internet-monitoring initiatives in March 2009 and four months later reported on shared efforts on what had become by then GCHQ’s biggest challenge – continuing to carry out bulk surveillance, despite the spread of commercial online encryption, by breaking that encryption.

“Very friendly crypt meeting with DGSE in July,” British officials reported. The French were “clearly very keen to provide presentations on their work which included cipher detection in high-speed bearers. [GCHQ’s] challenge is to ensure that we have enough UK capability to support a longer term crypt relationship.”

Fresh opportunities

In the case of the Spanish intelligence agency, the National Intelligence Centre (CNI), the key to mass internet surveillance, at least back in 2008, was the Spaniards’ ties to a British telecommunications company (again unnamed. Corporate relations are among the most strictly guarded secrets in the intelligence community). That was giving them “fresh opportunities and uncovering some surprising results.

“GCHQ has not yet engaged with CNI formally on IP exploitation, but the CNI have been making great strides through their relationship with a UK commercial partner. GCHQ and the commercial partner have been able to coordinate their approach. The commercial partner has provided the CNI some equipment whilst keeping us informed, enabling us to invite the CNI across for IP-focused discussions this autumn,” the report said. It concluded that GCHQ “have found a very capable counterpart in CNI, particularly in the field of Covert Internet Ops”.

GCHQ was clearly delighted in 2008 when the Swedish parliament passed a bitterly contested law allowing the country’s National Defence Radio Establishment (FRA) to conduct Tempora-like operations on fibre optic cables. The British agency also claimed some credit for the success.

“FRA have obtained a … probe to use as a test-bed and we expect them to make rapid progress in IP exploitation following the law change,” the country assessment said. “GCHQ has already provided a lot of advice and guidance on these issues and we are standing by to assist the FRA further once they have developed a plan for taking the work forwards.”

The following year, GCHQ held a conference with its Swedish counterpart “for discussions on the implications of the new legislation being rolled out” and hailed as “a success in Sweden” the news that FRA “have finally found a pragmatic solution to enable release of intelligence to SAEPO [the internal Swedish security service.]”

GCHQ also maintains strong relations with the two main Dutch intelligence agencies, the external MIVD and the internal security service, the AIVD.

“Both agencies are small, by UK standards, but are technically competent and highly motivated,” British officials reported. Once again, GCHQ was on hand in 2008 for help in dealing with legal constraints. “The AIVD have just completed a review of how they intend to tackle the challenges posed by the internet – GCHQ has provided input and advice to this report,” the country assessment said.

“The Dutch have some legislative issues that they need to work through before their legal environment would allow them to operate in the way that GCHQ does. We are providing legal advice on how we have tackled some of these issues to Dutch lawyers.”

European allies

In the score-card of European allies, it appears to be the Italians who come off the worse. GCHQ expresses frustration with the internal friction between Italian agencies and the legal limits on their activities.

“GCHQ has had some CT [counter-terrorism] and internet-focused discussions with both the foreign intelligence agency (AISE) and the security service (AISI), but has found the Italian intelligence community to be fractured and unable/unwilling to cooperate with one another,” the report said.

A follow-up bulletin six months later noted that GCHQ was “awaiting a response from AISI on a recent proposal for cooperation – the Italians had seemed keen, but legal obstacles may have been hindering their ability to commit.”

It is clear from the Snowden documents that GCHQ has become Europe’s intelligence hub in the internet age, and not just because of its success in creating a legally permissive environment for its operations. Britain’s location as the European gateway for many transatlantic cables, and its privileged relationship with the NSA has made GCHQ an essential partner for European agencies. The documents show British officials frequently lobbying the NSA on sharing of data with the Europeans and haggling over its security classification so it can be more widely disseminated. In the intelligence world, far more than it managed in diplomacy, Britain has made itself an indispensable bridge between America and Europe’s spies.

Julian Borger
The Guardian, Friday 1 November 2013 17.02 GMT

Find this story at 1 November 2013

© 2014 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved.

NSA spy row: France and Spain ‘shared phone data’ with US

Spain and France’s intelligence agencies carried out collection of phone records and shared them with NSA, agency says

European intelligence agencies and not American spies were responsible for the mass collection of phone records which sparked outrage in France and Spain, the US has claimed.
General Keith Alexander, the head of the National Security Agency, said reports that the US had collected millions of Spanish and French phone records were “absolutely false”.
“To be perfectly clear, this is not information that we collected on European citizens,” Gen Alexander said when asked about the reports, which were based on classified documents leaked by Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor.
Shortly before the NSA chief appeared before a Congressional committee, US officials briefed the Wall Street Journal that in fact Spain and France’s own intelligence agencies had carried out the surveillance and then shared their findings with the NSA.
The anonymous officials claimed that the monitored calls were not even made within Spanish and French borders and could be surveillance carried on outside of Europe.

In an aggressive rebuttal of the reports in the French paper Le Monde and the Spanish El Mundo, Gen Alexander said “they and the person who stole the classified data [Mr Snowden] do not understand what they were looking at” when they published slides from an NSA document.
The US push back came as President Barack Obama was said to be on the verge of ordering a halt to spying on the heads of allied governments.
The White House said it was looking at all US spy activities in the wake of leaks by Mr Snowden but was putting a “special emphasis on whether we have the appropriate posture when it comes to heads of state”.
Mr Obama was reported to have already halted eavesdropping at UN’s headquarters in New York.
German officials said that while the White House’s public statements had become more conciliatory there remained deep wariness and that little progress had been made behind closed doors in formalising an American commitment to curb spying.
“An agreement that you feel might be broken at any time is not worth very much,” one diplomat told The Telegraph.
“We need to re-establish trust and then come to some kind of understanding comparable to the [no spy agreement] the US has with other English speaking countries.”
Despite the relatively close US-German relations, the White House is reluctant to be drawn into any formal agreement and especially resistant to demands that a no-spy deal be expanded to cover all 28 EU member states.
Viviane Reding, vice-president of the European Commission and EU justice commissioner, warned that the spying row could spill over and damage talks on a free-trade agreement between the EU and US.
“Friends and partners do not spy on each other,” she said in a speech in Washington. “For ambitious and complex negotiations to succeed there needs to be trust among the negotiating partners. It is urgent and essential that our US partners take clear action to rebuild trust.”
A spokesman for the US trade negotiators said it would be “unfortunate to let these issues – however important – distract us” from reaching a deal vital to freeing up transatlantic trade worth $3.3 billion dollars (£2bn) a day.
James Clapper, America’s top national intelligence, told a Congressional hearing yesterday the US does not “spy indiscriminately on the citizens of any country”.
“We do not spy on anyone except for valid foreign intelligence purposes, and we only work within the law,” Mr Clapper said. “To be sure on occasions we’ve made mistakes, some quite significant, but these are usually caused by human error or technical problems.”
Pressure from European leaders was added to as some of the US intelligence community’s key Congressional allies balked at the scale of surveillance on friendly governments.
Dianne Feinstein, the chair of powerful Senate intelligence committee, said she was “totally opposed” to tapping allied leaders and called for a wide-ranging Senate review of the activities of US spy agencies.
“I do not believe the United States should be collecting phone calls or emails of friendly presidents and prime ministers,” she said.
John Boehner, the Republican speaker of the house and a traditional hawk on national security, said US spy policy was “imbalanced” and backed calls for a review.
Mr Boehner has previously been a staunch advocate of the NSA and faced down a July rebellion by libertarian Republicans who tried to pass a law significantly curbing the agency’s power.

By Raf Sanchez, Peter Foster in Washington8:35PM GMT 29 Oct 2013 Comments15 Comments

Find this story at 29 October 2013

© Copyright of Telegraph Media Group Limited 2014

Officials alert foreign services that Snowden has documents on their cooperation with U.S.

U.S. officials are alerting some foreign intelligence services that documents detailing their secret cooperation with the United States have been obtained by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, according to government officials.

Snowden, U.S. officials said, took tens of thousands of military intelligence documents, some of which contain sensitive material about collection programs against adversaries such as Iran, Russia and China. Some refer to operations that in some cases involve countries not publicly allied with the United States.

The process of informing officials in capital after capital about the risk of disclosure is delicate. In some cases, one part of the cooperating government may know about the collaboration while others — such as the foreign ministry — may not, the officials said. The documents, if disclosed, could compromise operations, officials said.

The notifications come as the Obama administration is scrambling to placate allies after allegations that the NSA has spied on foreign leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel. The reports have forced the administration to play down operations targeting friends while also attempting to preserve other programs that depend on provisional partners. In either case, trust in the United States may be compromised.

“It is certainly a concern, just as much as the U.S. collection [of information on European allies] being put in the news, if not more, because not only does it mean we have the potential of losing collection, but also of harming relationships,” a congressional aide said.

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence is handling the job of informing the other intelligence services, the officials said. ODNI declined to comment.

In one case, for instance, the files contain information about a program run from a NATO country against Russia that provides valuable intelligence for the U.S. Air Force and Navy, said one U.S. official, who requested anonymity to discuss an ongoing criminal investigation. Snowden faces theft and espionage charges.

“If the Russians knew about it, it wouldn’t be hard for them to take appropriate measures to put a stop to it,” the official said.

Snowden lifted the documents from a top-secret network run by the Defense Intelligence Agency and used by intelligence arms of the Army, Air Force, Navy and Marines, according to sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive matters.

Snowden took 30,000 documents that involve the intelligence work of one of the services, the official said. He gained access to the documents through the Joint Worldwide Intelligence Communications System, or JWICS, for top-secret/sensitive compartmented information, the sources said.

The material in question does not deal with NSA surveillance but primarily with standard intelligence about other countries’ military capabilities, including weapons systems — missiles, ships and jets, the officials say.

Although Snowden obtained a large volume of documents, he is not believed to have shared all of them with journalists, sources say. Moreover, he has stressed to those he has given documents that he does not want harm to result.

“He’s made it quite clear that he was not going to compromise legitimate national intelligence and national security operations,” said Thomas Drake, a former NSA executive who visited Snowden in Moscow this month. Snowden separately told Drake and a New York Times reporter that he did not take any documents with him to Russia. “There’s a zero percent chance the Russians or Chinese have received any documents,” Snowden told the Times in an online interview last week.

Indeed, Drake said, Snowden made clear in their conversation that he had learned the lessons of prior disclosures, including those by an Army private who passed hundreds of thousands of diplomatic cables to the anti-
secrecy organization WikiLeaks, which posted them in bulk online. “It’s telling,” Drake said, “that he did not give anything to WikiLeaks.”

Nonetheless, the military intelligence agencies remain fearful, officials said. The NSA in recent months has provided them with an accounting of the documents it believes Snowden obtained.

Intelligence officials said that they could discern no pattern to the military intelligence documents taken and that Snowden appeared to have harvested them at random. “It didn’t seem like he was targeting something specific,” the U.S. official said.

The notifications are reminiscent of what the State Department had to do in late 2010 in anticipation of the release of hundreds of thousands of sensitive diplomatic cables by WikiLeaks. The department feared that embarrassing details in some of the cables would lead to tension in relations between the United States and other countries.

In the case of WikiLeaks, the State Department had a number of months to assess the potential impact of the cables’ release and devise a strategy, former State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said.

“I’m not sure there were that many startling surprises in the cables,” he said. But there was damage on a country-by-country basis, he said.

For instance, some of the cables reflected unfavorably on ­then-Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi, alleging that he feared flying over water and almost never traveled without his “voluptuous blonde” Ukrainian nurse. “All of a sudden we found there were some unsavory guys following” then-U.S. Ambassador to Libya Gene Cretz, Crowley said. “We brought him home for consultations and did not send him back.”

“But broadly speaking,” Crowley said, “relationships are guided by interests, rather than personalities, and, over time, interests carry the day.”

The fundamental issue is one of trust, officials said. “We depend to a very great extent on intelligence-sharing relationships with foreign partners, mostly governments — or, in some cases, organizations within governments,” a second U.S. official said. “If they tell us something, we will keep it secret. We expect the same of them. [If that trust is undermined,] these countries, at a minimum, will be thinking twice if they’re going to share something with us or not.”

Snowden has instructed the reporters with whom he has shared records to use their judgment to avoid publishing anything that would cause harm. “I carefully evaluated every single document I disclosed to ensure that each was legitimately in the public interest,” he told the Guardian newspaper. “There are all sorts of documents that would have made a big impact that I didn’t turn over, because harming people isn’t my goal. Transparency is.”

It is those documents that may not be subject to journalistic vetting or may be breached by hackers that worry some intelligence officials. Snowden is known to have given documents in any quantity to only three journalists: The Post’s Barton Gellman, independent filmmaker Laura Poitras and former Guardian columnist Glenn Greenwald.

So far, Drake said, no such documents have been released. Snowden’s disclosures about the NSA have prompted a global debate about the proper scope and purpose of U.S. espionage — against its own and other countries’ citizens.

“I consider that a good thing,” Drake said.

By Ellen Nakashima, Published: October 24

Find this story at 24 October 2013

© The Washington Post Company

‘Success Story’; NSA Targeted French Foreign Ministry

Espionage by the US on France has already strained relations between the two countries, threatening a trans-Atlantic trade agreement. Now a document seen by SPIEGEL reveals that the NSA also spied on the French Foreign Ministry.

America’s National Security Agency (NSA) targeted France’s Foreign Ministry for surveillance, according to an internal document seen by SPIEGEL.

Dated June 2010, the “top secret” NSA document reveals that the intelligence agency was particularly interested in the diplomats’ computer network. All of the country’s embassies and consulates are connected with the Paris headquarters via a virtual private network (VPN), technology that is generally considered to be secure.

Accessing the Foreign Ministry’s network was considered a “success story,” and there were a number of incidents of “sensitive access,” the document states.

An overview lists different web addresses tapped into by the NSA, among them “diplomatie.gouv.fr,” which was run from the Foreign Ministry’s server. A list from September 2010 says that French diplomatic offices in Washington and at the United Nations in New York were also targeted, and given the codenames “Wabash” and “Blackfoot,” respectively. NSA technicians installed bugs in both locations and conducted a “collection of computer screens” at the one at the UN.

A priority list also names France as an official target for the intelligence agency. In particular, the NSA was interested in the country’s foreign policy objectives, especially the weapons trade, and economic stability.

US-French relations are being strained by such espionage activities. In early July, French President François Hollande threatened to suspend negotiations for a trans-Atlantic free trade agreement, demanding a guarantee from the US that it would cease spying after it was revealed that the French embassy in Washington had been targeted by the NSA.

“There can be no negotiations or transactions in all areas until we have obtained these guarantees, for France but also for all of the European Union, for all partners of the United States,” he said at the time.

The NSA declined to comment to SPIEGEL on the matter. As details about the scope of the agency’s international spying operations continue to emerge, Washington has come under increasing pressure from its trans-Atlantic partners. Officials in Europe have expressed concern that negotiations for the trade agreement would be poisoned by a lack of trust.

09/01/2013 09:32 AM

Find this story at 1 September 2013

© SPIEGEL ONLINE 2013

NSA program stopped no terror attacks, says White House panel member

A member of the White House review panel on NSA surveillance said he was “absolutely” surprised when he discovered the agency’s lack of evidence that the bulk collection of telephone call records had thwarted any terrorist attacks.

“It was, ‘Huh, hello? What are we doing here?’” said Geoffrey Stone, a University of Chicago law professor, in an interview with NBC News. “The results were very thin.”

While Stone said the mass collection of telephone call records was a “logical program” from the NSA’s perspective, one question the White House panel was seeking to answer was whether it had actually stopped “any [terror attacks] that might have been really big.”

“We found none,” said Stone.

Under the NSA program, first revealed by ex-contractor Edward Snowden, the agency collects in bulk the records of the time and duration of phone calls made by persons inside the United States.

Stone was one of five members of the White House review panel – and the only one without any intelligence community experience – that this week produced a sweeping report recommending that the NSA’s collection of phone call records be terminated to protect Americans’ privacy rights.

The panel made that recommendation after concluding that the program was “not essential in preventing attacks.”

“That was stunning. That was the ballgame,” said one congressional intelligence official, who asked not to be publicly identified. “It flies in the face of everything that they have tossed at us.”

Despite the panel’s conclusions, Stone strongly rejected the idea they justified Snowden’s actions in leaking the NSA documents about the phone collection. “Suppose someone decides we need gun control and they go out and kill 15 kids and then a state enacts gun control?” Stone said, using an analogy he acknowledged was “somewhat inflammatory.” What Snowden did, Stone said, was put the country “at risk.”

“My emphatic view,” he said, “is that a person who has access to classified information — the revelation of which could damage national security — should never take it upon himself to reveal that information.”

Stone added, however, that he would not necessarily reject granting an amnesty to Snowden in exchange for the return of all his documents, as was recently suggested by a top NSA official. “It’s a hostage situation,” said Stone. Deciding whether to negotiate with him to get all his documents back was a “pragmatic judgment. I see no principled reason not to do that.”

The conclusions of the panel’s reports were at direct odds with public statements by President Barack Obama and U.S. intelligence officials. “Lives have been saved,” Obama told reporters last June, referring to the bulk collection program and another program that intercepts communications overseas. “We know of at least 50 threats that have been averted because of this information.”

White House Jay Carney is pressed Thursday over whether President Barack Obama believes that the NSA surveillance program saved lives.

But in one little-noticed footnote in its report, the White House panel said the telephone records collection program – known as Section 215, based on the provision of the U.S. Patriot Act that provided the legal basis for it – had made “only a modest contribution to the nation’s security.” The report said that “there has been no instance in which NSA could say with confidence that the outcome [of a terror investigation] would have been any different” without the program.

The panel’s findings echoed that of U.S. Judge Richard Leon, who in a ruling this week found the bulk collection program to be unconstitutional. Leon said that government officials were unable to cite “a single instance in which analysis of the NSA’s bulk collection metadata collection actually stopped an imminent attack, or otherwise aided the Government in achieving any objective that was time-sensitive in nature.”

Stone declined to comment on the accuracy of public statements by U.S. intelligence officials about the telephone collection program, but said that when they referred to successes they seemed to be mixing the results of domestic metadata collection with the intelligence derived from the separate, and less controversial, NSA program, known as 702, to intercept communications overseas.

The comparison between 702 overseas interceptions and 215 bulk metadata collection was “night and day,” said Stone. “With 702, the record is very impressive. It’s no doubt the nation is safer and spared potential attacks because of 702. There was nothing like that for 215. We asked the question and they [the NSA] gave us the data. They were very straight about it.”

He also said one reason the telephone records program is not effective is because, contrary to the claims of critics, it actually does not collect a record of every American’s phone call. Although the NSA does collect metadata from major telecommunications carriers such as Verizon and AT&T, there are many smaller carriers from which it collects nothing. Asked if the NSA was collecting the records of 75 percent of phone calls, an estimate that has been used in briefings to Congress , Stone said the real number was classified but “not anything close to that” and far lower.

The heads of top tech companies in the U.S. have ask President Obama to reform government’s surveillance laws and practices. NBC’s Steve Handelsman reports.

When panel members asked NSA officials why they didn’t expand the program to include smaller carriers, the answer they gave was “money,” Stone said. “They were setting financial priorities,” said Stone, and that was “really revealing” about how useful the bulk collection of telephone calls really was.

An NSA spokeswoman declined to comment on any aspect of the panel’s report, saying the agency was deferring to the White House. Asked Wednesday about the surveillance panel’s conclusions about telephone record collection, White House press secretary Jay Carney said that “the president does still believe and knows that this program is an important piece of the overall efforts that we engage in to combat threats against the lives of American citizens and threats to our overall national security.”

By Michael Isikoff
NBC News National Investigative Correspondent

Find this story at 20 December 2013

© 2013 NBCNews.com

NSA surveillance played little role in foiling terror plots, experts say

Obama administration says NSA data helped make arrests in two important cases – but critics say that simply isn’t true

A new NSA data farm is set to open in the fall in Bluffdale, Utah. A former CIA agent said: ‘[Data-mining] played no role in the Headley case.’ Photograph: George Frey/Getty Images

Lawyers and intelligence experts with direct knowledge of two intercepted terrorist plots that the Obama administration says confirm the value of the NSA’s vast data-mining activities have questioned whether the surveillance sweeps played a significant role, if any, in foiling the attacks.

The defence of the controversial data collection operations, highlighted in a series of Guardian disclosures over the past week, has been led by Dianne Feinstein, chairwoman of the Senate intelligence committee, and her equivalent in the House, Mike Rogers. The two politicians have attempted to justify the NSA’s use of vast data sweeps such as Prism and Boundless Informant by pointing to the arrests and convictions of would-be New York subway bomber Najibullah Zazi in 2009 and David Headley, who is serving a 35-year prison sentence for his role in the 2008 Mumbai attacks.

Rogers told ABC’s This Week that the NSA’s bulk monitoring of phone calls and internet contacts was central to intercepting the plotters. “I can tell you, in the Zazi case in New York, it’s exactly the programme that was used,” he said.

A similar point was made in anonymous briefings by administration officials to the New York Times and Reuters.

But court documents lodged in the US and UK, as well as interviews with involved parties, suggest that data-mining through Prism and other NSA programmes played a relatively minor role in the interception of the two plots. Conventional surveillance techniques, in both cases including old-fashioned tip-offs from intelligence services in Britain, appear to have initiated the investigations.

In the case of Zazi, an Afghan American who planned to attack the New York subway, the breakthrough appears to have come from Operation Pathway, a British investigation into a suspected terrorism cell in the north-west of England in 2009. That investigation discovered that one of the members of the cell had been in contact with an al-Qaida associate in Pakistan via the email address sana_pakhtana@yahoo.com.

British newspaper reports at the time of Zazi’s arrest said that UK intelligence passed on the email address to the US. The same email address, as Buzzfeed has pointed out, was cited in Zazi’s 2011 trial as a crucial piece of evidence. Zazi, the court heard, wrote to sana_pakhtana@yahoo.com asking in coded language for the precise quantities to use to make up a bomb.

Eric Jurgenson, an FBI agent involved in investigating Zazi once the link to the Pakistani email address was made, told the court: “My office was in receipt – I was notified, I should say. My office was in receipt of several email messages, email communications. Those email communications, several of them resolved to an individual living in Colorado.”

Michael Dowling, a Denver-based attorney who acted as Zazi’s defence counsel, said the full picture remained unclear as Zazi pleaded guilty before all details of the investigation were made public. But the lawyer said he was sceptical that mass data sweeps could explain what led law enforcement to Zazi.

“The government says that it does not monitor content of these communications in its data collection. So I find it hard to believe that this would have uncovered Zazi’s contacts with a known terrorist in Pakistan,” Dowling said.

Further scepticism has been expressed by David Davis, a former British foreign office minister who described the citing of the Zazi case as an example of the merits of data-mining as “misleading” and “an illusion”. Davis pointed out that Operation Pathway was prematurely aborted in April 2009 after Bob Quick, then the UK’s most senior counter-terrorism police officer, was pictured walking into Downing Street with top secret documents containing details of the operation in full view of cameras.

The collapse of the operation, and arrests of suspects that hurriedly followed, came five months before Zazi was arrested in September 2009. “That was the operation that led to the initial data links to Zazi – they put the clues in the database which gave them the connections,” Davis said.

Davis said that the discovery of the sana_pakhtana@yahoo.com email – and in turn the link to Zazi – had been made by traditional investigative work in the UK. He said the clue-driven nature of the inquiry was significant, as it was propelled by detectives operating on the basis of court-issued warrants.

“You can’t make this grand sweeping [data collection] stuff subject to warrants. What judge would give you a warrant if you say you want to comb through vast quantities of data?”

Legal documents lodged with a federal court in New York’s eastern district shortly after Zazi’s arrest show that US counter-intelligence officials had been keeping watch over him under targeted surveillance with the warranted approval of the special intelligence court. During the course of the prosecution, the US served notice that it would be offering evidence “obtained and derived from electronic surveillance and physical search conducted pursuant to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (Fisa).”

Feinstein and Rogers have also pointed to the case of David Headley, who in January was sentenced to 35 years in jail for having made multiple scouting missions to Mumbai ahead of the 2008 terrorist attacks that killed 168 people. Yet the evidence in his case also points towards a British tip-off as the inspiration behind the US interception of him.

In July 2009, British intelligence began tracking Headley, a Pakistani American from Chicago, who was then plotting to attack Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten in retaliation for its publication of cartoons of the prophet Mohammed. Information was passed to the FBI and he was thereafter, until his arrest that October, kept under targeted US surveillance.

An intelligence expert and former CIA operative, who asked to remain anonymous because he had been directly involved in the Headley case, was derisive about the claim that data-mining sweeps by the NSA were key to the investigation. “That’s nonsense. It played no role at all in the Headley case. That’s not the way it happened at all,” he said.

The intelligence expert said that it was a far more ordinary lead that ensnared Headley. British investigators spotted him when he contacted an informant.

The Headley case is a peculiar choice for the administration to highlight as an example of the virtues of data-mining. The fact that the Mumbai attacks occurred, with such devastating effect, in itself suggests that the NSA’s secret programmes were limited in their value as he was captured only after the event.

Headley was also subject to a plethora of more conventionally obtained intelligence that questions the central role claimed for the NSA’s data sweeps behind his arrest. In a long profile of Headley, the investigative website ProPublica pointed out that he had been an informant working for the Drug Enforcement Administration perhaps as recently as 2005. There are suggestions that he might have then worked in some capacity for the FBI or CIA.

Headley was also, ProPublica found, the subject of several inquiries by agents of the FBI-led Joint Terrorism Task Force. A year before the Mumbai attacks his then wife, Faiza Outalha, reported on him to the US embassy Islamabad, saying he was on a secret mission in India and was a “drug dealer, terrorist and spy”.

Ed Pilkington in New York and Nicholas Watt in London
theguardian.com, Wednesday 12 June 2013 15.51 BST

Find this story at 12 June 2013
© 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved.

Claim on “Attacks Thwarted” by NSA Spreads Despite Lack of Evidence

During Keith Alexander’s presentation in Las Vegas, two slides read simply “54 ATTACKS THWARTED.” The NSA, President Obama, and members of Congress have all said NSA spying programs have thwarted more than 50 terrorist plots. But there’s no evidence the claim is true.

UPDATE Dec. 17, 2013: In a new ruling that calls the NSA’s phone metadata surveillance likely unconstitutional, U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon cited this article in his assessment of the agency’s claims about thwarted terrorist attacks. Read the ruling here.

Two weeks after Edward Snowden’s first revelations about sweeping government surveillance, President Obama shot back. “We know of at least 50 threats that have been averted because of this information not just in the United States, but, in some cases, threats here in Germany,” Obama said during a visit to Berlin in June. “So lives have been saved.”

In the months since, intelligence officials, media outlets, and members of Congress from both parties all repeated versions of the claim that NSA surveillance has stopped more than 50 terrorist attacks. The figure has become a key talking point in the debate around the spying programs.
Interactive: How the NSA’s Claim on Thwarted Terrorist Plots Has Spread

“Fifty-four times this and the other program stopped and thwarted terrorist attacks both here and in Europe — saving real lives,” Rep. Mike Rogers, a Michigan Republican who chairs the House Intelligence Committee, said on the House floor in July, referring to programs authorized by a pair of post-9/11 laws. “This isn’t a game. This is real.”

But there’s no evidence that the oft-cited figure is accurate.

The NSA itself has been inconsistent on how many plots it has helped prevent and what role the surveillance programs played. The agency has often made hedged statements that avoid any sweeping assertions about attacks thwarted.

A chart declassified by the agency in July, for example, says that intelligence from the programs on 54 occasions “has contributed to the [U.S. government’s] understanding of terrorism activities and, in many cases, has enabled the disruption of potential terrorist events at home and abroad” — a much different claim than asserting that the programs have been responsible for thwarting 54 attacks.

NSA officials have mostly repeated versions of this wording.

When NSA chief Gen. Keith Alexander spoke at a Las Vegas security conference in July, for instance, he referred to “54 different terrorist-related activities,” 42 of which were plots and 12 of which were cases in which individuals provided “material support” to terrorism.

But the NSA has not always been so careful.

During Alexander’s speech in Las Vegas, a slide in an accompanying slideshow read simply “54 ATTACKS THWARTED.”

And in a recent letter to NSA employees, Alexander and John Inglis, the NSA’s deputy director, wrote that the agency has “contributed to keeping the U.S. and its allies safe from 54 terrorist plots.” (The letter was obtained by reporter Kevin Gosztola from a source with ties to the intelligence community. The NSA did not respond when asked to authenticate it.)

Asked for clarification of the surveillance programs’ record, the NSA declined to comment.

Earlier this month, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., pressed Alexander on the issue at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing.

“Would you agree that the 54 cases that keep getting cited by the administration were not all plots, and of the 54, only 13 had some nexus to the U.S.?” Leahy said at the hearing. “Would you agree with that, yes or no?”

“Yes,” Alexander replied, without elaborating.

It’s impossible to assess the role NSA surveillance played in the 54 cases because, while the agency has provided a full list to Congress, it remains classified.

Officials have openly discussed only a few of the cases (see below), and the agency has identified only one — involving a San Diego man convicted of sending $8,500 to Somalia to support the militant group Al Shabab — in which NSA surveillance played a dominant role.

The surveillance programs at issue fall into two categories: The collection of metadata on all American phone calls under the Patriot Act, and the snooping of electronic communications targeted at foreigners under a 2007 surveillance law. Alexander has said that surveillance authorized by the latter law provided “the initial tip” in roughly half of the 54 cases. The NSA has not released examples of such cases.

After reading the full classified list, Leahy concluded the NSA’s surveillance has some value but still questioned the agency’s figures.
“We’ve heard over and over again the assertion that 54 terrorist plots were thwarted … That’s plainly wrong, but we still get it in letters to members of Congress, we get it in statements.”

— Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.
 

Revealed: Australian spy agency offered to share data about ordinary citizens

• Secret 5-Eyes document shows surveillance partners discussing what information they can pool about their citizens

• DSD indicated it could provide material without some privacy restraints imposed by other countries such as Canada

• Medical, legal or religious information ‘not automatically limited’

• Concern that intelligence agency could be ‘operating outside its legal mandate’

The secret document shows the partners discussing whether or not to share citizens’ “medical, legal or religious information”. Photograph: Kacper Pempel/Reuters

Australia’s surveillance agency offered to share information collected about ordinary Australian citizens with its major intelligence partners, according to a secret 2008 document leaked by the US whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The document shows the partners discussing whether or not to share “medical, legal or religious information”, and increases concern that the agency could be operating outside its legal mandate, according to the human rights lawyer Geoffrey Robertson QC.

The Australian intelligence agency, then known as the Defence Signals Directorate (DSD), indicated it could share bulk material without some of the privacy restraints imposed by other countries, such as Canada.

“DSD can share bulk, unselected, unminimised metadata as long as there is no intent to target an Australian national,” notes from an intelligence conference say. “Unintentional collection is not viewed as a significant issue.”

The agency acknowledged that more substantial interrogation of the material would, however, require a warrant.

Metadata is the information we all generate whenever we use technology, from the date and time of a phone call to the location from which an email is sent.

“Bulk, unselected, unminimised metadata” means that this data is in its raw state, and nothing has been deleted or redacted in order to protect the privacy of ordinary citizens who might have been caught in the dragnet. Metadata can present a very complete picture of someone’s life.

The working document, marked secret, sheds new light on the extent to which intelligence agencies at that time were considering sharing information with foreign surveillance partners, and it provides further confirmation that, to some extent at least, there is warrantless surveillance of Australians’ personal metadata.

The DSD joined its four intelligence-sharing partners – the US, Britain, Canada and New Zealand, collectively known as 5-Eyes – to discuss what could and what could not be shared under the different jurisdictions at a meeting hosted by Britain’s GCHQ at its headquarters in Cheltenham on 22-23 April, 2008.

The notes, published today by Guardian Australia, suggest that Australia was open to pooling bulk data that almost certainly includes information about Australian citizens.

Clearly indicating the different attitudes between the intelligence partners, the Canadians insisted that bulk collection could only be shared if information about its citizens was first “minimised”, meaning deleted or removed. The various techniques used in “minimisation” help protect citizens’ privacy.

The GCHQ memo taker, reporting on this, said that “bulk, unselected metadata presents too high a risk to share with second parties at this time because of the requirement to ensure that the identities of Canadians or persons in Canada are minimised, but re-evaluation of this stance is ongoing”.

By contrast, DSD, now renamed the Australian Signals Directorate, offered a broader sweep of material to its partners.

DSD offered to share bulk, unselected, unminimised metadata – although there were specific caveats. The note taker at the meeting writes: “However, if a ‘pattern of life’ search detects an Australian then there would be a need to contact DSD and ask them to obtain a ministerial warrant to continue.”

A “pattern of life” search is more detailed one – joining the dots to build up a portrait of an individual’s daily activities.

It is technically possible to strip out the metadata of Australian nationals from bulk collection methods used by the 5-Eyes countries, such as cable taps – ensuring the information is not stored, and so could not be pulled in to searches and investigations by agents.

The Snowden documents reveal Australia’s intelligence services instead offered to leave the data in its raw state.

Australian politicians have insisted that all surveillance undertaken is in accordance with the law.

But Geoffrey Robertson, writing in the Guardian today, says if what was described in the memo took place, this would be a breach of sections eight and 12 of the Intelligence Services Act 2001. The act sets a strict requirement that ministerial authorisation is required if the data of an Australian citizen is involved, and indicates that the citizen must be a “person of interest”, such as someone involved in terrorism or organised crime.

The Cheltenham gathering, which appears to have been convened to consider the issues around the burgeoning collection of metadata and to reach common positions, resolved to avoid pre-emptive efforts to categorise various materials and “simply focus on what is shareable in bulk”.

The memo flags privacy concerns around the collection of various types of data, but the meeting, according to the record, resolved not to set “automatic limitations” – leaving judgment calls to each country’s own agencies.

“Consideration was given as to whether any types of data were prohibited, for example medical, legal, religious or restricted business information, which may be regarded as an intrusion of privacy,” the memo says.

“Given the nascent state of many of these data types then no, or limited, precedents have been set with respect to proportionality or propriety, or whether different legal considerations applies to the ‘ownership’ of this data compared with the communications data that we were more accustomed to handle.”

“It was agreed that the conference should not seek to set any automatic limitations, but any such difficult cases would have to be considered by ‘owning’ agency on a case-by-case basis.”

The document also shows the agencies considering disclosure to “non-intelligence agencies”. It says: “Asio and the Australian federal police are currently reviewing how Sigint [signals intelligence] information can be used by non-intelligence agencies.”

The record of the Cheltenham meeting does not indicate whether the activities under discussion in April 2008 progressed to final decisions or specific actions. It appears to be a working draft.

Since Snowden leaked the NSA documents to the Guardian and the Washington Post in May, controversy has raged around the world over revelations that surveillance agencies are collecting information in bulk about ordinary citizens’ day-to-day activities, without first getting a warrant.

In Australia, the Greens party and the South Australian independent senator Nick Xenophon have been pursuing questions about the extent to which Australian citizens have been caught up in the dragnet, and the extent of Australian intelligence agencies’ involvement.

So far, those questions have largely met with stonewalling, both under the previous Labor government and the new Abbott administration.

Ewen MacAskill, James Ball and Katharine Murphy
The Guardian, Monday 2 December 2013 00.20 GMT

Find this story at 2 December 2013

© 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved.

Singapore, South Korea revealed as Five Eyes spying partners

Singapore and South Korea are playing key roles helping the United States and Australia tap undersea telecommunications links across Asia, according to top secret documents leaked by former US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden. New details have also been revealed about the involvement of Australia and New Zealand in the interception of global satellite communications.

A top secret United States National Security Agency map shows that the US and its “Five Eyes” intelligence partners tap high speed fibre optic cables at 20 locations worldwide. The interception operation involves cooperation with local governments and telecommunications companies or else through “covert, clandestine” operations.

The undersea cable interception operations are part of a global web that in the words of another leaked NSA planning document enables the “Five Eyes” partners – the US, United Kingdom, Australia, Canada and New Zealand – to trace “anyone, anywhere, anytime” in what is described as “the golden age” signals intelligence.

The NSA map, published by Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad overnight, shows that the United States maintains a stranglehold on trans-Pacific communications channels with interception facilities on the West coast of the United States and at Hawaii and Guam, tapping all cable traffic across the Pacific Ocean as well as links between Australia and Japan.

The map confirms that Singapore, one of the world’s most significant telecommunications hubs, is a key “third party” working with the “Five Eyes” intelligence partners.

In August Fairfax Media reported that Australia’s electronic espionage agency, the Defence Signals Directorate, is in a partnership with Singaporean intelligence to tap the SEA-ME-WE-3 cable that runs from Japan, via Singapore, Djibouti, Suez and the Straits of Gibraltar to Northern Germany.

Australian intelligence sources told Fairfax that the highly secretive Security and Intelligence Division of Singapore’s Ministry of Defence co-operates with DSD in accessing and sharing communications carried by the SEA-ME-WE-3 cable as well as the SEA-ME-WE-4 cable that runs from Singapore to the south of France.

Access to this major international telecommunications channel, facilitated by Singapore’s government-owned operator SingTel, has been a key element in an expansion of Australian-Singaporean intelligence and defence ties over the past 15 years.

Majority owned by Temask Holdings, the investment arm of the Singapore Government, SingTel has close relations with Singapore’s intelligence agencies. The Singapore Government is represented on the company’s board by the head of Singapore’s civil service, Peter Ong, who was previously responsible for national security and intelligence co-ordination in the Singapore Prime Minister’s office.

Australian intelligence expert, Australian National University Professor Des Ball has described Singapore’s signal’s intelligence capability as “probably the most advanced” in South East Asia, having first been developed in cooperation with Australia in the mid-1970s and subsequently leveraging Singapore’s position as a regional telecommunications hub.

Indonesia and Malaysia have been key targets for Australian and Singaporean intelligence collaboration since the 1970s. Much of Indonesia’s telecommunications and Internet traffic is routed through Singapore.

The leaked NSA map also shows South Korea is another key interception point with cable landings at Pusan providing access to the external communications of China, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

South Korea’s National Intelligence Service has long been a close collaborator with the US Central Intelligence Agency and the NSA, as well as the Australian intelligence agencies. The Australian Security Intelligence Organisation recently engaged in legal action in an unsuccessful effort to prevent publication of details of South Korean espionage in Australia. ASIO Director-General David Irvine told the Federal Court that Australian and South Korean intelligence agencies had been cooperating for “over 30 years” and that any public disclose of NIS activities would be “detrimental” to Australia’s national security.

The NSA map and other documents leaked by Mr Snowden and published by the Brazilian O Globo newspaper also reveal new detail on the integration of Australian and New Zealand signals intelligence facilities in the interception of satellite communications traffic by the “Five Eyes” partners.

For the first time it is revealed that the DSD satellite interception facility at Kojarena near Geraldton in Western Australia is codenamed “STELLAR”. The New Zealand Government Communications Security Bureau facility at Waihopai on New Zealand’s South Island is codenamed “IRONSAND”. The codename for DSD’s facility at Shoal Bay near Darwin is not identified. However all three facilities are listed by the NSA as “primary FORNSAT (foreign satellite communications) collection operations”.

Coverage of satellite communications across Asia and the Middle East is also supported by NSA facilities at the United States Air Force base at Misawa in Japan, US diplomatic premises in Thailand and India, and British Government Communications Headquarters facilities in Oman, Nairobi in Kenya and at the British military base in Cyprus.

The leaked NSA map also shows that undersea cables are accessed by the NSA and the British GCHQ through military facilities in Djibouti and Oman, thereby ensuring maximum coverage of Middle East and South Asian communications.

November 25, 2013
Philip Dorling

Find this story at 25 November 2013

Copyright © 2013 Fairfax Media

New Snowden leaks reveal US, Australia’s Asian allies

Singapore and South Korea are playing key roles helping the United States and Australia tap undersea telecommunications links across Asia, according to top secret documents leaked by former US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden. New details have also been revealed about the involvement of Australia and New Zealand in the interception of global satellite communications.

A top secret United States National Security Agency map shows that the US and its “Five Eyes” intelligence partners tap high speed fibre optic cables at 20 locations worldwide. The interception operation involves cooperation with local governments and telecommunications companies or else through “covert, clandestine” operations.

The undersea cable interception operations are part of a global web that in the words of another leaked NSA planning document enables the “Five Eyes” partners – the US, United Kingdom, Australia, Canada and New Zealand – to trace “anyone, anywhere, anytime” in what is described as “the golden age” signals intelligence.

The NSA map, published by Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad overnight, shows that the United States maintains a stranglehold on trans-Pacific communications channels with interception facilities on the West coast of the United States and at Hawaii and Guam, tapping all cable traffic across the Pacific Ocean as well as links between Australia and Japan.

The map confirms that Singapore, one of the world’s most significant telecommunications hubs, is a key “third party” working with the “Five Eyes” intelligence partners.

In August Fairfax Media reported that Australia’s electronic espionage agency, the Defence Signals Directorate, is in a partnership with Singaporean intelligence to tap the SEA-ME-WE-3 cable that runs from Japan, via Singapore, Djibouti, Suez and the Straits of Gibraltar to Northern Germany.

Australian intelligence sources told Fairfax that the highly secretive Security and Intelligence Division of Singapore’s Ministry of Defence co-operates with DSD in accessing and sharing communications carried by the SEA-ME-WE-3 cable as well as the SEA-ME-WE-4 cable that runs from Singapore to the south of France.

Access to this major international telecommunications channel, facilitated by Singapore’s government-owned operator SingTel, has been a key element in an expansion of Australian-Singaporean intelligence and defence ties over the past 15 years.

Majority owned by Temask Holdings, the investment arm of the Singapore Government, SingTel has close relations with Singapore’s intelligence agencies. The Singapore Government is represented on the company’s board by the head of Singapore’s civil service, Peter Ong, who was previously responsible for national security and intelligence co-ordination in the Singapore Prime Minister’s office.

Australian intelligence expert, Australian National University Professor Des Ball has described Singapore’s signal’s intelligence capability as “probably the most advanced” in South East Asia, having first been developed in cooperation with Australia in the mid-1970s and subsequently leveraging Singapore’s position as a regional telecommunications hub.

Indonesia and Malaysia have been key targets for Australian and Singaporean intelligence collaboration since the 1970s. Much of Indonesia’s telecommunications and Internet traffic is routed through Singapore.

The leaked NSA map also shows South Korea is another key interception point with cable landings at Pusan providing access to the external communications of China, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

South Korea’s National Intelligence Service has long been a close collaborator with the US Central Intelligence Agency and the NSA, as well as the Australian intelligence agencies. The Australian Security Intelligence Organisation recently engaged in legal action in an unsuccessful effort to prevent publication of details of South Korean espionage in Australia. ASIO Director-General David Irvine told the Federal Court that Australian and South Korean intelligence agencies had been cooperating for “over 30 years” and that any public disclose of NIS activities would be “detrimental” to Australia’s national security.

The NSA map and other documents leaked by Mr Snowden and published by the Brazilian O Globo newspaper also reveal new detail on the integration of Australian and New Zealand signals intelligence facilities in the interception of satellite communications traffic by the “Five Eyes” partners.

For the first time it is revealed that the DSD satellite interception facility at Kojarena near Geraldton in Western Australia is codenamed “STELLAR”. The New Zealand Government Communications Security Bureau facility at Waihopai on New Zealand’s South Island is codenamed “IRONSAND”. The codename for DSD’s facility at Shoal Bay near Darwin is not identified. However all three facilities are listed by the NSA as “primary FORNSAT (foreign satellite communications) collection operations”.

Coverage of satellite communications across Asia and the Middle East is also supported by NSA facilities at the United States Air Force base at Misawa in Japan, US diplomatic premises in Thailand and India, and British Government Communications Headquarters facilities in Oman, Nairobi in Kenya and at the British military base in Cyprus.

The leaked NSA map also shows that undersea cables are accessed by the NSA and the British GCHQ through military facilities in Djibouti and Oman, thereby ensuring maximum coverage of Middle East and South Asian communications.

November 24, 2013
Philip Dorling

Find this story at 24 November 2013

Copyright © 2013 Fairfax Media

How we spied on the Indonesians and how expats are targeted overseas

THEIR clandestine activities may be directly in the spotlight, but Australian spies have for decades been listening in on our neighbours.

Modern spooks have two main methods of tapping the mobile phones of people of interest in cities such as Jakarta. The first option is to install a physical bugging device in the actual handset, to forward calls to a third number – but this requires access to the handset.

For high-security targets, Australian agents use electronic scanners and very powerful computers to monitor phone numbers of interest via microwave towers (small metal towers that look like venetian blinds) located on top of buildings across Jakarta and all modern cities.

The latter was employed to tap the phones of Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, his wife and key ministers.

Getting hold of a handset is a tricky business so the preferred method for the spooks employed by the Australian Signals Directorate (formerly Defence Signals Directorate) is to monitor microwave phone towers located on top of most buildings in Jakarta and indeed any other major city.

The material, known at this point as “first echelon”, is captured by computers located in secure rooms at the Australian Embassy where information is filtered before it is forwarded by secure means to super computers located at ASD headquarters. They are located inside the maximum security building ‘M’, protected by high voltage electric fences, at Defence’s Russell Office complex in Canberra. Here it is processed and analysed as “second echelon” product.

In less busy locations, or where the target phone number is known, an off-the-shelf scanner can be programmed to intercept mobile phone calls.

In cities such as Jakarta enterprising business people now offer a mobile bugging service where for a fee of between $300 and $1000 they will arrange to “borrow” a mobile phone, insert a bugging device and then return it to a relieved owner. Whenever the phone rings or is used to access a network the call is diverted to another handset or recording device.

Government staff understand that if their phone goes missing and then turns up they should dispose of it and get a new one.

But for the average citizen, say a teacher at an English speaking school in Jakarta whose phone was bugged by an angry ex-girlfriend, phone tapping is a serious matter. And it is more common than many expatriates might think.

There is a thriving business in phone tapping for private or industrial or state espionage reasons in cities such as Jakarta, Singapore and Bangkok. Industrial espionage is widespread in cities around the world including Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra.

Compared to the operations of ASD and its powerful scanners, super computers and army of analysts these operations are small beer.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott was quick to point out in the wake of the phone tapping scandal that every country spied and he was right.

However Indonesia has nowhere near the capacity for espionage that Australia and our close “five eyes” allies – the US, UK, Canada and New Zealand – posses.

After the 2002 Bali bombings the DSD, Australian Federal Police and Telstra went to Indonesia and showed Indonesian intelligence agencies how to tap into the networks of the terrorist group Jemaah Islamiah (JI).

Unlike Australia much of Indonesia’s electronic surveillance capacity is directed at internal problems such as the insurgencies in Aceh and West Papua.

According to one of Australia’s leading experts on electronic spying, Professor Des Ball from the Australian National University, there is really no point in conducting such intercept operations unless a country has the whole picture. That is satellite communications, cable communications and radio communications.

“Microwave mobile phone calls are very hit and miss,” he said.

Australia owns the big picture thanks to an expensive and extensive network of listening posts in Jakarta, Bangkok and Port Moresby and powerful satellite ground stations at HMAS Harman in Canberra, Shoal Bay near Darwin, Morundah near Wagga in NSW, Cabarlah near Toowoomba in Qld and Geraldton in WA.

This interception network is monitoring communications from Singapore to the Pacific Islands including Indonesia’s Palapa satellite.

Professor Ball said there had been huge growth in Australia’s eavesdropping capacity in recent years. For example the number of dishes at Shoal Bay has gone from six to 15 and Geraldton has more than doubled its capacity including six American dishes for the exclusive use of the National Security Agency (NSA) whose lax security allowed Edward Snowden to abscond with top-secret information that is now being leaked.

Unfortunately Australian taxpayers have no way of knowing how much is spent on these facilities or even how many staff are employed by the top-secret ASD. The numbers used to appear in the Defence annual report, but not anymore.

Professor Ball said successive governments had allowed the electronic spooks to have a virtual free rein.

“When briefings about the phone intercepts from SBY and his wife came in the government should have ordered the tapping to stop,” Professor Ball said.

“It is important to have the capacity but you only use it when there is a conflict. Put it in, test it and keep it up to date, but don’t use it because unless you have to because it will come out.”

Professor Ball also slammed Mr Abbott for saying that other countries (Indonesia) were doing exactly what Australia did, because they weren’t and they can’t.

“They are not doing what we are doing and Abbott should have apologised or done what Bob Hawke did with Papua New Guinea in 1983.”

Prime Minister Hawke went to Port Moresby after it was revealed that Australia spied on politicians there, but before he left he ordered the spooks switch to all monitoring equipment off for 48 hours. He was then able to say that Australia wasn’t doing it although as journalist Laurie Oakes pointed out he had to be “very careful with his tenses”.

Tapping a friendly foreign leader’s phone is fraught enough. Recording the fact on clear power point slides and handing them to another country is just plain dumb.

IAN MCPHEDRAN NATIONAL DEFENCE WRITER
NEWS LIMITED NETWORK
NOVEMBER 21, 2013 6:34PM

Find this story at 21 November 2013

News Ltd 2013 Copyright

Spying rocks Indonesia-Australia relations

Indonesia has officially downgraded the relationship, after Australia refused to apologise for espionage.

A spy scandal involving an Australian attempt to tap the phone of Indonesia’s president has jeopardised crucial people smuggling and counter-terrorism co-operation between the two countries, officials have said.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has temporarily suspended co-coordinated military operations with Australia, including those which target people-smuggling, after significant public outcry in Indonesia over the reports.

“I find it personally hard to comprehend why the tapping was done. We are not in a cold war era,” President Yudhoyono said.
Find out more with our exclusive interactive feature

“I know Indonesians are upset and angry over what Australia has done to Indonesia. Our reactions will determine the future of the relationship and friendship between Indonesia and Australia – which actually have been going well.”

Angry crowds mobbed Australia’s embassy in Jakarta, burning Australian and American flags on Thursday. Indonesia has officially downgraded its relationship with Australia and recalled its ambassador from Canberra.

‘Reasonable’ surveillance

The country’s prime minister, Tony Abbott, has refused to apologise for what he calls “reasonable” surveillance, but promised to respond to the president’s request for an explanation “swiftly and courteously”.

“I want to express … my deep and sincere regret about the embarrassment to the president and to Indonesia that’s been caused by recent media reporting,” Abbott told parliament.

“As always, I am absolutely committed to building the closest possible relationship with Indonesia because that is overwhelmingly in the interests of both our countries.”
I don’t believe Australia should be expected to apologise for reasonable intelligence-gathering activities

Tony Abbott, Australian Prime Minister

The situation erupted after documents leaked by former US National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, showed Australia’s Defence Signal’s Directorate recorded personal communications of President Yudhoyono, his wife, Ani Yudhoyono, and senior officials in 2009.

The surveillance is understood to be part of a longstanding spying arrangement with the UK, USA, Canada and New Zealand, known as the “five eyes” intelligence partners.

“I don’t believe Australia should be expected to apologise for reasonable intelligence-gathering activities,” Abbott told Australia’s parliament on Tuesday.

“Importantly, in Australia’s case, we use all our resources including information to help our friends and allies, not to harm them,” Abbott said.

The document leaked by Snowden was dated November 2009 and was published jointly by Guardian Australia and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation state television network.

It details the attempted interception of various targets’ mobile phones and lists their specific phone models with slides marked “top secret” and the Australian Signals Directorate’s slogan: “Reveal their secrets, protect our own.”

This leak came after previous documents released by Snowden revealed Australian embassies had participated in
widespread US surveillance across Asia, including in Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar and Thailand.

Strained relations

The combined revelations have strained a bilateral relationship already under pressure over the Abbott government’s hardline asylum seeker policy to “turn back” boats coming to Australia, a controversial and highly emotive issue in the country.

Professor Greg Fealy is an Indonesian politics specialist at the Australian National University. He told Al Jazeera the situation was becoming increasingly serious.

“Every new day brings new sanctions from the Indonesian side and so far the Abbott government hasn’t responded well to it,” Fealy said.

He believes relations between the two countries have not been this strained since the East Timor crisis in 1999, when Australia’s military went into East Timor during its transition from an Indonesian territory to independence.

“It has the potential to get worse, with the Indonesians withdrawing further cooperation [with Australia] in many fields,” Fealy said.

“If there is a sufficiently wide range of retaliation then this could possibly be worse than the crisis of 15 years ago.”

Prime Minister Abbott has been encouraged to reassure President Yudhoyono that no further surveillance is taking place – similar to the conversation between US President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel after
revelations her phone was also tapped.

John McCarthy, a former Australian ambassador to Indonesia, said Abbott must contact Yudhoyono to make amends.

“There is nothing, frankly, to prevent the prime minister saying to the president that it’s not happening and it’s not going to happen in the future. That’s what Obama did with Angela Merkel and I don’t see a problem with that,”
McCarthy said.

“It can’t be allowed just to fester. If it festers it will get worse and it will be much harder to deal with, particularly as the politics get hotter in Indonesia.”

US blame

Australian officials would also be expressing their frustration with the United States over this situation, according to Michael Wesley, professor of national security at the Australian National University.

“There are a number of reasons Australian officials can legitimately be very irritated with the Americans. We’re in this mess because of an American security lapse,” Wesley told Al Jazeera.

“I’m actually gobsmacked at both Snowden and Bradley Manning, at their ability to get highly classified documents and download them. It would be absolutely impossible for people of their level of access to do that in Australia.”

“There should be real questions asked in the American intelligence community how this could have happened,” Professor Wesley said.

Former NSA senior executive Thomas Drake said the “five eyes” utilise each other’s services for information on other nations.

“Much of it is legit, but increasingly since 9/11 because of the sheer power of technology and access to the world’s communication systems … [agencies have] extraordinary access to even more data on just about anything and anybody,” Drake told ABC.

Indonesia’s minister for religious affairs, Suryadharma Ali, also cancelled a planned visit to Australia following the response from Yudhoyono.

Author and Indonesian political expert Professor Damien Kingsbury was due to host Ali at an event in Melbourne, and
told Al Jazeera the snub was a concerning sign of the deterioration in relations.

“It is still quite significant that a senior minister felt he couldn’t come to Australia at this time,” Kingsbury said.

“It’s pretty disastrous, the issue has effectively ended ongoing diplomatic engagement between Australia and Indonesia.”

“We’ve seen the cancellation and suspension of a number of points of engagement and that has quite distinct implications for Australian government policy in some areas. There is the possibility this matter could continue to escalate if it’s not adequately resolved,” Kingsbury said.

‘Uncomfortable’

The bilateral relationship between the two nations will be “uncomfortable” but it will pass, according to former US assistant secretary of state for East Asia, Kurt Campbell.

“The relationship will be strong again, but there is a ritual quality that I’m afraid you [Australia] will have to go through, and very little you can say now or do is going to ease the next couple of months,” Campbell told ABC.

He said the practice of phone-tapping was an acceptable part of international relations.

“I can tell you that some of the most sensitive spying is done by allies and friends.”

“Some of the most difficult foreign policy challenges – terrorist attacks – actually emanated in Indonesia. Australia has good cause to understand the delicate dynamics that play out behind the scenes with regard to how Indonesia’s thinking about some of those movements and some of the actors inside its country,” Campbell said.

Australian opposition leader Bill Shorten said the “vital” relationship between the two countries must be repaired.

“No-one should underestimate what is at stake in maintaining this critical relationship on the best possible terms.

“Co-operation between our countries is fundamental to our national interest – working together on people smuggling, terrorism, trade,” Shorten wrote in an opinion piece for The Guardian.

Prime Minister Abbott is expected to respond to Indonesia’s request for a full written explanation into the phone tapping in the coming days.

Geraldine Nordfeldt Last updated: 22 Nov 2013 15:00

Find this story at 22 November 2013

Indonesia voices anger at Australia alleged spying

(CNN) — Indonesia summoned the Australian ambassador Monday to voice its anger at allegations that Australia tried to listen into the phone calls of Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

Greg Moriarty. Australia’s ambassador to Indonesia, “took careful note of the issues raised and will report back to the Australian Government,” the Australian embassy in Jakarta said.

Indonesia’s objections stem from reports in the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) and Guardian Australia that said Australian intelligence tracked Yudhoyono’s mobile phone for 15 days in August 2009, monitoring the calls he made and received.
‘We live in a post-Snowden age’
Stone: ‘We’ve bugged the whole world’
Fareed’s Take: Spying on allies

The intelligence agency also tried to listen in on what was said on at least one occasion. But the call was less than a minute long and could not be successfully tapped, ABC reported.

The two media outlets cited documents provided by Edward Snowden, the U.S. national security contractor turned leaker.

“The Australian Government urgently needs to clarify on this news, to avoid further damage,” Indonesian presidential spokesman Teuku Faizasyah tweeted.

“The damage has been done and now trust must be rebuilt,” he said in another tweet.

Asked in parliament to comment on the reports, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said, “all governments gather information and all governments know that every other government gathers information.”

“The Australian Government never comments on specific intelligence matters,” he added. “This has been the long tradition of governments of both political persuasions and I don’t intend to change that today.”

By the CNN Staff
November 18, 2013 — Updated 1033 GMT (1833 HKT)

Find this story at 18 November 2013

© 2013 Cable News Network. Turner Broadcasting System, Inc.

Australia spied on Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, leaked Edward Snowden documents reveal

Video: Watch: Michael Brissenden on how leaked documents prove Australia spied on SBY (ABC News)
Photo: The documents show the DSD tracked activity on Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s mobile phone. (Reuters: Supri)
Related Story: Live: Follow the unfolding reaction to this story
Map: Australia

Australian intelligence tried to listen in to Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s mobile phone, material leaked by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden reveals.

Documents obtained by the ABC and Guardian Australia, from material leaked by the former contractor at the US National Security Agency, show Australian intelligence attempted to listen in to Mr Yudhoyono’s telephone conversations on at least one occasion and tracked activity on his mobile phone for 15 days in August 2009.
Spy games explained

Australia’s role in the NSA spy program, including what it means for Indonesian relations.

The top-secret documents are from Australia’s electronic intelligence agency, the Defence Signals Directorate (now called the Australian Signals Directorate), and show for the first time how far Australian spying on Indonesia has reached.

The DSD motto stamped on the bottom of each page reads: “Reveal their secrets – protect our own.”

The documents show that Australian intelligence actively sought a long-term strategy to continue to monitor the president’s mobile phone activity.

The surveillance targets also included senior figures in his inner circle and even the president’s wife Kristiani Herawati (also known as Ani Yudhoyono).

Also on the list of targets is the vice president Boediono, the former vice president Yussuf Kalla, the foreign affairs spokesman, the security minister, and the information minister.

Mr Yudhoyono’s spokesman Teuku Faizasyah has responded to the revelations, saying: “The Australian Government needs to clarify this news, to avoid further damage … [but] the damage has been done.”

Asked about the spying in Question Time today, Prime Minister Tony Abbott said: “First of all, all governments gather information and all governments know that every other government gathers information… the Australian government never comments on specific intelligence matters. This has been the long tradition of governments of both political persuasions and I don’t intend to change that today.”
Documents list ‘who’s who’ of Indonesian government

One page in the documentation lists the names and the 3G handsets the surveillance targets were using at the time.

A number of the people on the list are lining up as potential candidates for the presidential election to replace Mr Yudhoyono next year.

The documents are titled “3G impact and update” and appear to chart the attempts by Australian intelligence to keep pace with the rollout of 3G technology in Indonesia and across South-East Asia.

A number of intercept options are listed and a recommendation is made to choose one of them and to apply it to a target – in this case the Indonesian leadership.

The document shows how DSD monitored the call activity on Mr Yudhoyono’s Nokia handset for 15 days in August 2009.

One page is titled “Indonesian President voice events” and provides what is called a CDR view. CDR are call data records; it can monitor who is called and who is calling but not necessarily what was said.

Another page shows that on at least one occasion Australian intelligence did attempt to listen in to one of Mr Yudhoyono’s conversations.

But according to the notes on the bottom of the page, the call was less than one minute long and therefore did not last long enough to be successfully tapped.
Factbox: Indonesia and Australia
Indonesia is one of Australia’s most important bilateral relationships.
Indonesia was Australia’s 12th largest trade partner in 2012.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott has pledged to increase two-way trade and investment flows.
President Yudhoyono has visited Australia four times during his presidency, more than any predecessor.
Asylum seekers remain a sticking point in relations; Australia seeks active cooperation.
In 2012-13, Australia’s aid assistance to Indonesia was worth an estimated $541.6 million.

Source: http://www.dfat.gov.au/geo/indonesia/indonesia_brief.html

Given the diplomatic furore that has already surrounded the claims that the Australian embassy in Jakarta was involved in general spying on Indonesia, these revelations of specific and targetted surveillance activity at the highest level are sure to increase the tension with our nearest and most important neighbour significantly.

On an official visit to Canberra last week, the Indonesian vice president publicly expressed Indonesia’s concern.

“Yes, the public in Indonesia is concerned about this,” Boediono said.

“I think we must look to come to some arrangement that guarantees intelligence information from each side is not used against the other.”

Last week Prime Minister Tony Abbott was keen to play down the significance of the spying allegations, saying that he was very pleased “we have such a close, cooperative and constructive relationship with the Indonesian government”.

That may be a little harder to say today.

By national defence correspondent Michael Brissenden
Updated Mon 18 Nov 2013, 8:11pm AEDT

Find this story at 18 November 2013

© 2013 ABC