Russian researchers expose breakthrough U.S. spying program

The U.S. National Security Agency has figured out how to hide spying software deep within hard drives made by Western Digital, Seagate, Toshiba and other top manufacturers, giving the agency the means to eavesdrop on the majority of the world’s computers, according to cyber researchers and former operatives.

That long-sought and closely guarded ability was part of a cluster of spying programs discovered by Kaspersky Lab, the Moscow-based security software maker that has exposed a series of Western cyberespionage operations.

Reporters Without Borders: constitutional complaint lodged against the BND law

Reporters Without Borders (RSF), together with five civil society organisations, has lodged a constitutional complaint against the Federal Intelligence Service Act, also known as the BND law.

In the complaint, international journalists seek to defend themselves against the powers granted to the German foreign intelligence agency, the BND, in the area of surveillance. The complainants are for the most part investigative journalists. Among these journalists is the winner of the Right Livelihood Award, Khadija Ismayilova from Azerbaijan, and the Mexican investigative journalist Raúl Olmos, who was a member of the international team of reporters that evaluated the Paradise Papers. The international organisation Reporters Without Borders, which is based in Paris, is also one of the complainants asserting before the German Federal Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe that the right to freedom of the press and freedom of communication are being violated.

U.S. Intelligence Shuts Down Damning Report on Whistleblower Retaliation

The nation’s top intelligence watchdog put the brakes on a report last year that uncovered whistleblower reprisal issues within America’s spy agencies, The Daily Beast has learned. The move concealed a finding that the agencies—including the CIA and the NSA—were failing to protect intelligence workers who report waste, fraud, abuse, or criminality up the chain of command.

The investigators looked into 190 cases of alleged reprisal in six agencies, and uncovered a shocking pattern. In only one case out of the 190 did the agencies find in favor of the whistleblower—and that case took 742 days to complete. Other cases remained open longer. One complaint from 2010 was still waiting for a ruling. But the framework was remarkably consistent: Over and over and over again, intelligence inspectors ruled that the agency was in the right, and the whistleblowers were almost always wrong.

Coalition to Congress: Uphold Section 504 of the National Security Act. In other words, don’t let intelligence agencies move money around behind Congress’ back.

A dozen civil liberties, open government, and accountability organizations joined Defending Rights & Dissent to protest a provision included in the Continuing Resolution Congress passed to end the government shutdown on January 22. The provision allowed intelligence agencies to shift expenditures “notwithstanding Section 504 of the National Security Act.” That’s the law, passed in 1947, that is designed to prevent intelligence agencies from running amok (or at least from going too rogue) by preventing them from spending money on activities that Congress didn’t appropriate money for. And requiring them to inform Congress after the fact if they do switch money around.

Courage statement on Lauri Love’s extradition ruling

Courage’s Case Director Naomi Colvin responded to today’s Lauri Love extradition ruling:

This is the result Lauri and his family have spent four years waiting for. This ruling is a massive victory for free expression online, for the fair treatment of neurodiverse people and for those of us who have drawn attention to the dire treatment of hackers and information activists in the United States. This ruling will be taken as a comment on the growing international isolation of the US under the Trump administration, and rightly so.

Demand Progress Applauds Sen. Hirono’s ‘Korematsu Day’ Resolution

Today, Senator Hirono (HI) introduced Senate Resolution 387, which recognizes January 30, 2018 as the “Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Liberties and the Constitution.” Co-sponsors include Sens. Richard Blumenthal (CT), Chris Coons (DE), Tammy Duckworth (IL), Dianne Feinstein (CA), and Sheldon Whitehouse (RI). The parallels between Sen. Hirono’s measure, which honors Americans of Japanese ancestry who were wrongly detained en mass during World War II as part of an irredeemably racist policy, and statements by President Trump aimed at immigrants and Muslims, are unmistakable.

Institutional Lack of Candor – FISA Violations

At multiple junctures, the FISA Court (FISC) has identified serious compliance problems with Section 702 of FISA, often based on the government’s repeated inability to follow basic rules that are supposed to protect Americans. Even when the government and its lawyers have promised to fix these problems, a wide variety of violations have persisted, including unauthorized collection of Americans’ communications, prohibited queries using Americans’ identifiers, and unlawful sharing of this highly sensitive information.

How US vote to extend NSA program could expose journalists to surveillance

The U.S. Senate last week approved a six-year extension to Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Amendments Act (FISA), in a move that could put journalists at risk. Because people targeted by Section 702 are often of interest to the press as well as the NSA, journalists are more likely than most to have their communications inadvertently collected under the act.

As Jim Dempsey, a former member of the independent government advisory agency Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, told CPJ, “[U.S.] journalists are more likely than your average Joe” to talk to a foreign target and have the conversation picked up. Despite this, their voices were largely absent during the debate phase of the bill, which gives the NSA broad powers to collect the communications of foreign targets abroad from U.S. companies, without warrant.

The 702 Capitulations: a Real Measure of the “Deep State”

There were two details of the Section 702 reauthorization in the House that deserve more attention, as the Senate prepares for a cloture vote today at 5:30.

First, in the Rules Committee hearing for the bill, Ranking House Judiciary Committee member Jerry Nadler revealed that the FBI stopped engaging with his staffers when the two sides reached a point on negotiations over the bill beyond which they refused to budge.

Fear and Mass Surveillance: Our Constitutionally Toxic Political Cocktail

At 12:51pm on January 18, 2018–just a day before it was set to expire–the Senate followed the House’s lead and reauthorized the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Amendments Act (FAA) Section 702 mass surveillance program for another six years by a vote of 65-34.

Writing for JustSecurity.org in October 2017, I made this prediction about the then-looming debate over extending the mass surveillance authority embodied in Section 702: