Details

WASHINGTON — An ex-CIA worker employed as a contractor at the U.S. National Security Agency said he leaked documents and details of a top secret U.S. surveillance program in order to protect the “basic liberties for people around the world.”

Holed up in a hotel room in Hong Kong, Edward Snowden, 29, said he had thought long and hard before publicizing details of an NSA program code-named PRISM, saying he had done so because he felt the United States was building an unaccountable and secret espionage machine that spied on every American.

His whereabouts were not immediately known today. Staff at a luxury hotel in Hong Kong told Reuters that Snowden had checked out.

Snowden, a former technical assistant at the CIA, said he had been working at the super-secret NSA as an employee of contractor Booz Allen. He said he decided to leak information after becoming disenchanted with President Barack Obama, who he said had continued the policies of predecessor George W. Bush.

“I don’t want to live in a society that does these sort of things … I do not want to live in a world where everything I do and say is recorded. That is not something I am willing to support or live under,” he told the Guardian newspaper, which published a video interview with him on its website. The interview was dated June 6.

Both the Guardian and the Washington Post said last week that U.S. security services had monitored data about phone calls from Verizon and Internet data from large companies such as Google and Facebook

James R. Clapper, the director of national intelligence, said Saturday that the Justice Department had launched an investigation of what he called “reckless disclosures of intelligence community measures used to keep Americans safe.

“For me, it is literally — not figuratively — literally gut-wrenching to see this happen because of the huge, grave danger it does to our intelligence capabilities,” Clapper said in an interview with NBC.

‘I have no intention of hiding’

In naming Snowden on Sunday, the newspapers said he had sought to be identified.

“The NSA has built an infrastructure that allows it to intercept almost everything,” Snowden said in explaining his actions.

“With this capability, the vast majority of human communications are automatically ingested without targeting. If I wanted to see your emails or your wife’s phone, all I have to do is use intercepts. I can get your emails, passwords, phone records, credit cards,” he said.

“I have no intention of hiding who I am because I know I have done nothing wrong,” he was quoted as saying. He said he expected U.S. authorities to “demonize” him and said he planned to “ask for asylum from any countries that believe in free speech and oppose the victimization of global privacy.

In a 12-minute video interview posted on the Guardian website, Snowden wears rimless glasses, short-cropped brown hair and a thin beard.

Snowden identifies himself in the video as an infrastructure analyst at an NSA facility in Hawaii for Booz Allen Hamilton, a major defense contractor. He said he previously worked for the CIA as a systems administrator and telecommunications systems officer.

“I, sitting at my desk, certainly had the authorities to wiretap anyone, from you, or your accountant, to a federal judge, to even the president if I had a personal email,” he said.

Snowden said he decided to expose the NSA secrets because “I do not want to live in a society that does these sort of things.” He said the agency “collects more digital communications from America than we do from the Russians.

He said he fears authorities “will come after my family, my friends, my partner” because of his actions. The Guardian said he was born in Elizabeth City, N.C., and later he and his family moved to Maryland, near Ft. Meade.

Worked at NSA

The Guardian said Snowden had been working at the NSA for four years as a contractor for outside companies.

Three weeks ago, he copied the secret documents at the NSA office in Hawaii and told his supervisor he needed “a couple of weeks” off for treatment for epilepsy, the paper said. On May 20 he flew to Hong Kong.

The CIA and the White House declined to comment, while a spokesman for the Director of National Intelligence would not comment directly about Snowden himself but said the intelligence community was reviewing damage done by the recent leaks.

“Any person who has a security clearance knows that he or she has an obligation to protect classified information and abide by the law,” said the spokesman, Shawn Turner.

The NSA has requested a criminal probe into the leaked information. On Sunday, the U.S. Justice Department said it was in the initial stages of a criminal investigation following the leaks.

Booz Allen, a U.S. management and technology consultancy, said reports of the leaked information were “shocking and if accurate.”

In a statement, Booz Allen confirmed Snowden’s employment, saying he had worked for the company less than three months and was assigned to Hawaii. It called the alleged leaks “shocking” and “a grave violation of the code of conduct and core values of our firm.”

A spokesman for Dell Inc declined to comment on reports that Snowden had been employed at that company. In 2009, Dell acquired Perot Systems, a U.S. government contractor that did work for U.S. intelligence agencies.

Snowden’s decision to reveal his identity and whereabouts lifts the lid on one of the biggest security leaks in U.S. history and escalates a story that has placed a bright light on Obama’s extensive use of secret surveillance.

The exposure of the secret programs has triggered widespread debate within the United States and abroad about the vast reach of the NSA, which has expanded its surveillance dramatically in since the September 11 attacks on Washington and New York in 2001.

U.S. officials say the agency operates within the law. Some members of Congress have indicated support for the NSA activities, while others pushed for tougher oversight and possible changes to the law authorizing the surveillance.

Why Hong Kong?

One legal expert was puzzled as to why Snowden fled to Hong Kong, because it has an extradition treaty with the United States while mainland China does not.

In routine criminal cases, unlike this one, Hong Kong had shown a willingness in recent years to extradite people to face charges in the United States, he said.

In the video, Snowden said that “Hong Kong has a strong tradition of free speech.”

Hong Kong returned from British to Chinese rule in 1997, but still enjoys some autonomy in business and governmental functions.

However, under Hong Kong’s Fugitives Offenders Ordinance, Beijing can issue an “instruction” to the city’s leader to take or not take action on extraditions where the interests of China “in matters of defense or foreign affairs would be significantly affected.”

Typically, U.S. visitors in Hong Kong are granted a 90-day visa. According to the Guardian, Snowden left Hawaii for Hong Kong on May 20.

Hong Kong’s Security Bureau, which is charged with law enforcement and immigration matters, had no immediate response when asked about the case.

Glenn Greenwald, the Guardian newspaper journalist who broke the story and interviewed Snowden last week, told the local South China Morning Post newspaper he was not aware of the former CIA man’s current whereabouts.

The U.S. Consulate declined to comment on the case.

Douglas McNabb, a Houston lawyer who specializes in extradition, said it would not be difficult for the United States to provide justification for its request. “This guy came out and said, ‘I did it,'” he said. “His best defense would probably be that this is a political case instead of a criminal one.”

Snowden, who said he had left his girlfriend in Hawaii without telling her where he was going, said he knew the risk he was taking, but thought the publicity his revelations had garnered in the past few days had made it worth it.

“My primary fear is that they will come after my family, my friends, my partner. Anyone I have a relationship with,” he said. “I will have to live with that for the rest of my life. I am not going to be able to communicate with them. They (the authorities) will act aggressively against anyone who has known me. That keeps me up at night.”

In the video interview, the bespectacled, lightly bearded Snowden looked relaxed. He said he was ultimately hoping that Iceland, which values internet freedom, might grant him asylum.

Reuters and Bob Drogin and Katherine Skiba, Washington Bureau

Copyright © 2013, Reuters

Anonymous Just Leaked a Trove of NSA Documents

In the wake of last night’s revelation that everyone in the world has a creepy NSA-shaped stalker, defenders of online liberty and generally angry internet people Anonymous have leaked a treasure trove of NSA documents, including seriously important stuff like the US Department of Defense’s ‘Strategic Vision’ for controlling the internet.

The documents — 13 in total — were posted online, along with an accompanying message full of the normal Anonymous bluster: people won’t be silenced, they have the memory of trivia-master elephants, the governments of the world will fall, your average press release really.

The documents seem to mostly relate to PRISM and supporting operations, and mostly date from around 2008, supposedly not long after PRISM first reared its ugly head. One of the key things Anonymous has highlighted from the documents is the existence of an “intelligence-sharing network” that shares data gleaned from PRISM with “intelligence partners” around the world. Although we’re still in the process of combing through the documents, you can bet your last Bitcoin that ‘intelligence’ has been shared with British security services.

Hit up the documents for further details; just be warned that although this might look like the plot of a B-list movie starring Aston Kutcher, the docs themselves are incredibly dry and full of more acronyms than whatever presentation you should be working on. [Pastebin]

Image by Getty

For more information on what PRISM is and what it means to you, head here.

The 13 Documents are downloadable below.

 

The National Security Agency has obtained direct access to the systems of Google, Facebook, Apple and other US internet giants, according to a top secret document obtained by the Guardian.

The NSA access is part of a previously undisclosed program called PRISM, which allows officials to collect material including search history, the content of emails, file transfers and live chats, the document says.

The Guardian has verified the authenticity of the document, a 41-slide PowerPoint presentation — classified as top secret with no distribution to foreign allies — which was apparently used to train intelligence operatives on the capabilities of the program. The document claims “collection directly from the servers” of major US service providers.

Although the presentation claims the program is run with the assistance of the companies, all those who responded to a Guardian request for comment on Thursday denied knowledge of any such program.

In a statement, Google said: “Google cares deeply about the security of our users’ data. We disclose user data to government in accordance with the law, and we review all such requests carefully. From time to time, people allege that we have created a government ‘back door’ into our systems, but Google does not have a back door for the government to access private user data.”

Several senior tech executives insisted that they had no knowledge of PRISM or of any similar scheme. They said they would never have been involved in such a program. “If they are doing this, they are doing it without our knowledge,” one said.

An Apple spokesman said it had “never heard” of PRISM.

The NSA access was enabled by changes to US surveillance law introduced under President Bush and renewed under Obama in December 2012.

The program facilitates extensive, in-depth surveillance on live communications and stored information. The law allows for the targeting of any customers of participating firms who live outside the US, or those Americans whose communications include people outside the US.

It also opens the possibility of communications made entirely within the US being collected without warrants.

Disclosure of the PRISM program follows a leak to the Guardian on Wednesday of a top-secret court order compelling telecoms provider Verizon to turn over the telephone records of millions of US customers.

The participation of the internet companies in PRISM will add to the debate, ignited by the Verizon revelation, about the scale of surveillance by the intelligence services. Unlike the collection of those call records, this surveillance can include the content of communications and not just the metadata.

Some of the world’s largest internet brands are claimed to be part of the information-sharing program since its introduction in 2007. Microsoft — which is currently running an advertising campaign with the slogan “Your privacy is our priority” — was the first, with collection beginning in December 2007.

It was followed by Yahoo in 2008; Google, Facebook and PalTalk in 2009; YouTube in 2010; Skype and AOL in 2011; and finally Apple, which joined the program in 2012. The program is continuing to expand, with other providers due to come online.

Collectively, the companies cover the vast majority of online email, search, video and communications networks.

The extent and nature of the data collected from each company varies.

Companies are legally obliged to comply with requests for users’ communications under US law, but the PRISM program allows the intelligence services direct access to the companies’ servers. The NSA document notes the operations have “assistance of communications providers in the US”.

The revelation also supports concerns raised by several US senators during the renewal of the Fisa Amendments Act in December 2012, who warned about the scale of surveillance the law might enable, and shortcomings in the safeguards it introduces.

When the FAA was first enacted, defenders of the statute argued that a significant check on abuse would be the NSA’s inability to obtain electronic communications without the consent of the telecom and internet companies that control the data. But the PRISM program renders that consent unnecessary, as it allows the agency to directly and unilaterally seize the communications off the companies’ servers.

A chart prepared by the NSA, contained within the top-secret document obtained by the Guardian, underscores the breadth of the data it is able to obtain: email, video and voice chat, videos, photos, voice-over-IP (Skype, for example) chats, file transfers, social networking details, and more.

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NSA slides explain the PRISM data-collection program

Published: June 6, 2013

Through a top-secret program authorized by federal judges working under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), the U.S. intelligence community can gain access to the servers of nine Internet companies for a wide range of digital data. Documents describing the previously undisclosed program, obtained by The Washington Post, show the breadth of U.S. electronic surveillance capabilities in the wake of a widely publicized controversy over warrantless wiretapping of U.S. domestic telephone communications in 2005. These slides, annotated by The Washington Post, represent a selection from the overall document, and certain portions are redacted. Read related article.

Introducing the program

A slide briefing analysts at the National Security Agency about the program touts its effectiveness and features the logos of the companies involved.

The program is called PRISM, after the prisms used to split light, which is used to carry information on fiber-optic cables.

This note indicates that the program is the number one source of raw intelligence used for NSA analytic reports.

The seal of
Special Source Operations, the NSA term for alliances with trusted U.S. companies.

Monitoring a target’s communication

This diagram shows how the bulk of the world’s electronic communications move through companies based in the United States.

Providers and data

The PRISM program collects a wide range of data from the nine companies, although the details vary by provider.

Participating providers

This slide shows when each company joined the program, with Microsoft being the first, on Sept. 11, 2007, and Apple the most recent, in October 2012.

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