This is clearly against the US Constitution. Everyone is being spied on by the US government.
The federal Government under Federal Judge Susan Illston and company has sent this government back to the Cold War era
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said on Tuesday that foreign allies regularly conduct espionage activities against American leaders and intelligence services.
In response to a series of questions during a hearing before the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, Clapper said spying on foreign leaders was a basic tenet of intelligence operations.
(Reporting by Tabassum Zakaria and Deborah Charles; editing by Christopher Wilson)
Europe pushes US on spying amid new revelations
Washington (United States) (AFP) - Europe and Washington traded spying accusations, as envoys met to seek ways to rebuild trust after shock revelations about the scale and scope of US surveillance of its allies.
A German intelligence delegation and a separate group of EU lawmakers were in the US capital to confront their American allies about the alleged bugging of Chancellor Angela Merkel's phone.
And the visit coincided with the latest in a series of newspaper reports based on leaked National Security Agency files, this one alleging US agents hacked into cables used by Google and Yahoo.
President Barack Obama's spy chiefs are on the defensive over the reports, which have riled America's allies and exposed the vast scale of the NSA's snooping on telephone calls and Internet traffic.
The head of the NSA, General Keith Alexander, repeated the administration's argument that all countries spy on one another, and said that the allies should discuss a new working relationship.
"I think this partnership with Europe is absolutely important," he said.
US intelligence chiefs have said these reports are based on a misinterpretation of an NSA slide leaked to the media by fugitive former intelligence technician Edward Snowden."But it has to do with everybody coming to the table and let's put off all the sensationalism and say: 'Is there a better way for our countries to work together?'"
Rather than siphoning off the records of tens of millions of calls in Europe, as the slide seems to suggest, they argue that the data was in many cases gathered and shared by European agencies.
'Foreign nations spying on US'
"The perception that NSA is collecting 70 million phone calls in France or Spain or Italy is factually incorrect," Alexander said at a conference organized by Bloomberg media group.
"This is actually countries working together to support military operations, collecting what they need to protect our forces in areas where we work together as nations."
French government spokeswoman Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, speaking after a cabinet meeting chaired by President Francois Hollande, said: "The NSA director's denials don't seem likely."This argument, which Alexander and overall US spy chief James Clapper made on Tuesday before a Congressional committee, had already raised eyebrows in Europe.
Germany, angered by the revelation that the NSA tapped Chancellor Angela Merkel's phone, also issued a stern response, denying US claims that the European allies spy on US targets in turn.
Elmar Brok, Chairman of the European Parliament's committee on foreign affairs, told reporters that Alexander had admitted to an EU delegation that America had targeted Merkel.
The spy had shown the envoys evidence that much of the data from France, Spain and Germany referenced in the latest leaked slide had indeed been European intelligence shared with the NSA.
"This was given to the US by the French, Spanish or German authorities not spying on Germany, France or Spain, but on what was known in Afghanistan or Yemen," Brok said.
Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert said German officials and intelligence officers were in Washington to discuss "a new basis of trust and new regulation for our cooperation in this area."But Brok also noted that Alexander had confirmed at the same time that the NSA and other US intelligence services also "work unilaterally" in Europe, without the knowledge of their local partners.
"We are in a process of intensive contacts with US partners both at the intelligence as well as the political level," he said.
Meanwhile, a new report in the Washington Post alleged that NSA technicians had tapped into Yahoo and Google data centers around the world, winning access to vast amounts of private data.
The report said a program dubbed MUSCULAR, operated with the NSA's British counterpart GCHQ, can intercept data directly from the fiber-optic cables used by the US Internet giants.
The Post reported this is a secret program that is unlike PRISM, another NSA tool revealed by Snowden's leaks, which relies on secret court orders to obtain data from technology firms.
According to a document cited by the newspaper dated January 9, 2013, some 181 million records were collected in the prior 30 days, ranging from email metadata to text, audio and video content.
Alexander protested "to my knowledge, this never happened."
But a statement released later Wednesday by the NSA was somewhat more guarded and did not deny that foreign citizens' data is targeted.
"NSA has multiple authorities that it uses to accomplish its mission, which is centered on defending the nation," the statement said."NSA is...focused on discovering and developing intelligence about valid foreign intelligence targets only."
And, in another embarrassing chapter for Washington, the United Nations said it had received an assurance that US agencies would not bug its secret communications in the future.
Conspicuously, the United States could not promise the world body it had not been spied upon in the past.
NSA infiltrates links to Yahoo, Google data centers worldwide, Snowden documents say
According to a top-secret accounting dated Jan. 9, 2013, the NSA’s acquisitions directorate sends millions of records every day from Yahoo and Google internal networks to data warehouses at the agency’s headquarters at Fort Meade, Md. In the preceding 30 days, the report said, field collectors had processed and sent back 181,280,466 new records — including “metadata,” which would indicate who sent or received e-mails and when, as well as content such as text, audio and video.
The NSA’s principal tool to exploit the data links is a project called MUSCULAR, operated jointly with the agency’s British counterpart, the Government Communications Headquarters . From undisclosed interception points, the NSA and the GCHQ are copying entire data flows across fiber-optic cables that carry information between the data centers of the Silicon Valley giants.
The infiltration is especially striking because the NSA, under a separate program known as PRISM, has front-door access to Google and Yahoo user accounts through a court-approved process.
The MUSCULAR project appears to be an unusually aggressive use of NSA tradecraft against flagship American companies. The agency is built for high-tech spying, with a wide range of digital tools, but it has not been known to use them routinely against U.S. companies.
In a statement, the National Security Agency said it is “focused on discovering and developing intelligence about valid foreign intelligence targets only.”
“NSA applies Attorney General-approved processes to protect the privacy of U.S. persons — minimizing the likelihood of their information in our targeting, collection, processing, exploitation, retention, and dissemination,” it said.
In a statement, Google’s chief legal officer, David Drummond, said the company has “long been concerned about the possibility of this kind of snooping” and has not provided the government with access to its systems.
“We are outraged at the lengths to which the government seems to have gone to intercept data from our private fiber networks, and it underscores the need for urgent reform,” he said.
At Yahoo, a spokeswoman said, “We have strict controls in place to protect the security of our data centers, and we have not given access to our data centers to the NSA or to any other government agency.”
Under PRISM, the NSA gathers huge volumes of online communications records by legally compelling U.S. technology companies, including Yahoo and Google, to turn over any data that matches court-approved search terms. That program, which was first disclosed by The Washington Post and the Guardian newspaper in Britain, is authorized under Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act and overseen by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC).
Intercepting communications overseas has clear advantages for the NSA, with looser restrictions and less oversight. NSA documents about the effort refer directly to “full take,” “bulk access” and “high volume” operations on Yahoo and Google networks. Such large-scale collection of Internet content would be illegal in the United States, but the operations take place overseas, where the NSA is allowed to presume that anyone using a foreign data link is a foreigner.
Outside U.S. territory, statutory restrictions on surveillance seldom apply and FISC has no jurisdiction. Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) has acknowledged that Congress conducts little oversight of intelligence-gathering under the presidential authority of Executive Order 12333 , which defines the basic powers and responsibilities of the intelligence agencies.
John Schindler, a former NSA chief analyst and frequent defender who teaches at the Naval War College, said it is obvious why the agency would prefer to avoid restrictions where it can.
“Look, NSA has platoons of lawyers and their entire job is figuring out how to stay within the law and maximize collection by exploiting every loophole,” he said. “It’s fair to say the rules are less restrictive under Executive Order 12333 than they are under FISA,” the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
In its statement, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence denied that it was using executive authority to “get around the limitations” imposed by FISA.
The operation to infiltrate data links exploits a fundamental weakness in systems architecture. To guard against data loss and system slowdowns, Google and Yahoo maintain fortress-like data centers across four continents and connect them with thousands of miles of fiber-optic cable. These globe-spanning networks, representing billions of dollars of investment, are known as “clouds” because data move seamlessly around them.
For the data centers to operate effectively, they synchronize large volumes of information about account holders. Yahoo’s internal network, for example, sometimes transmits entire e-mail archives — years of messages and attachments — from one data center to another.
Tapping the Google and Yahoo clouds allows the NSA to intercept communications in real time and to take “a retrospective look at target activity,” according to one internal NSA document.
To obtain free access to data- center traffic, the NSA had to circumvent gold-standard security measures. Google “goes to great lengths to protect the data and intellectual property in these centers,” according to one of the company’s blog posts, with tightly audited access controls, heat-sensitive cameras, round-the-clock guards and biometric verification of identities.
Google and Yahoo also pay for premium data links, designed to be faster, more reliable and more secure. In recent years, both of them are said to have bought or leased thousands of miles of fiber-optic cables for their own exclusive use. They had reason to think, insiders said, that their private, internal networks were safe from prying eyes.
In an NSA presentation slide on “Google Cloud Exploitation,” however, a sketch shows where the “Public Internet” meets the internal “Google Cloud” where their data reside. In hand-printed letters, the drawing notes that encryption is “added and removed here!” The artist adds a smiley face, a cheeky celebration of victory over Google security.
Two engineers with close ties to Google exploded in profanity when they saw the drawing. “I hope you publish this,” one of them said.
For the MUSCULAR project, the GCHQ directs all intake into a “buffer” that can hold three to five days of traffic before recycling storage space. From the buffer, custom-built NSA tools unpack and decode the special data formats that the two companies use inside their clouds. Then the data are sent through a series of filters to “select” information the NSA wants and “defeat” what it does not.
PowerPoint slides about the Google cloud, for example, show that the NSA tries to filter out all data from the company’s “Web crawler,” which indexes Internet pages.
According to the briefing documents, prepared by participants in the MUSCULAR project, collection from inside Yahoo and Google has produced important intelligence leads against hostile foreign governments that are specified in the documents.
Last month, long before The Post approached Google to discuss the penetration of its cloud, Eric Grosse, vice president for security engineering, said the company is rushing to encrypt the links between its data centers. “It’s an arms race,” he said then. “We see these government agencies as among the most skilled players in this game.”
Yahoo has not announced plans to encrypt its data-center links.
Because digital communications and cloud storage do not usually adhere to national boundaries, MUSCULAR and a previously disclosed NSA operation to collect Internet address books have amassed content and metadata on a previously unknown scale from U.S. citizens and residents. Those operations have gone undebated in public or in Congress because their existence was classified.
The Google and Yahoo operations call attention to an asymmetry in U.S. surveillance law: Although Congress has lifted some restrictions on NSA domestic surveillance on grounds that purely foreign communications sometimes pass over U.S. switches and cables, it has not added restrictions overseas, where American communications or data stores now cross over foreign switches.
“Thirty-five years ago, different countries had their own telecommunications infrastructure, so the division between foreign and domestic collection was clear,” Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), a member of the intelligence panel, said in an interview. “Today there’s a global communications infrastructure, so there’s a greater risk of collecting on Americans when the NSA collects overseas.”
It is not clear how much data from Americans is collected and how much of that is retained. One weekly report on MUSCULAR says the British operators of the site allow the NSA to contribute 100,000 “selectors,” or search terms. That is more than twice the number in use in the PRISM program, but even 100,000 cannot easily account for the millions of records that are said to be sent to Fort Meade each day.
In 2011, when FISC learned that the NSA was using similar methods to collect and analyze data streams — on a much smaller scale — from cables on U.S. territory, Judge John D. Bates ruled that the program was illegal under FISA and inconsistent with the requirements of the Fourth Amendment.
Soltani is an independent security researcher and consultant.