A WIRED EXCLUSIVE | Edward Snowden: The Untold Story – His MESSAGE ARRIVES on my “clean machine,” a MacBook Air loaded only with a sophisticated encryption package. “Change in plans,” my contact says. “Be in the lobby of the Hotel ______ by 1 pm. Bring a book and wait for ES to find you.” ¶ ES is Edward Snowden, the most wanted man in the world. For almost nine months, I have been trying to set up an interview with him


Screen Shot 2014-08-16 at Aug 16, 2014 5.28

—traveling to Berlin, Rio de Janeiro twice, and New York multiple times to talk with the handful of his confidants who can arrange a meeting. Among other things, I want to answer a burning question: What drove Snowden to leak hundreds of thousands of top-secret documents, revelations that have laid bare the vast scope of the government’s domestic surveillance programs? In May I received an email from his lawyer, ACLU attorney Ben Wizner, confirming that Snowden would meet me in Moscow and let me hang out and chat with him for what turned out to be three solid days over several weeks. It is the most time that any journalist has been allowed to spend with him since he arrived in Russia in June 2013. But the finer details of the rendezvous remain shrouded in mystery. I landed in Moscow without knowing precisely where or when Snowden and I would actually meet. Now, at last, the details are set.

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http://www.wired.com/2014/08/edward-snowden/

Looking back in anger: One year of Snowden’s leaks – by Joshua Eaton July 31, 2014 5:00AM ET


As Snowden awaits Russian visa renewal, the world mulls role of NSA and expects further revelations from document trove

BARTON GELLMAN/GETTY IMAGES
 

One year ago, Russia granted Edward Snowden temporary asylum after a 39-day stay for the NSA whistleblower in the transit zone at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport. Snowden had become stranded there while trying to flee to Latin America, where several countries had offered permanent asylum after the U.S. government filed charges against him for making off with thousands of classified documents about its surveillance programs.

Since then, the Snowden story has unfolded in dramatic ways for a nonstop 12 months — as the world reacted to the vast amount of information that his files contained — sparking revelation after revelation about some of the nation’s most cherished secrets. It has also sparked a fierce policy debate over how to make intelligence organizations more accountable.

In the last six months alone, reports based on Snowden’s files have included important new details about how the NSA collects large amounts of American data under the guise of foreign surveillance. It has been shown that the NSA and Britain’s GCHQ targeted Muslim community leaders and online activists — possibly crossing the line between surveillance and censorship.

For many anti-secrecy activists and civil rights campaigners, the avalanche of stories over the past year has seemed to prove many of the things they had previously only suspected, when it came to surveillance actions and the way intelligence gathering was being used.

Snowden visa
Footage on a computer screen showing Edward Snowden’s one-year asylum permit at Sheremetyevo airport in Moscow on August 1, 2013.
STRINGER/AFP/Getty Images

“The primary significance, in my view at least, of the Snowden disclosures is that it … presented to the American public documents that were actually written by the government proving, in fact, that what we [the ACLU] had been saying was true,” said Kade Crockford, who directs the Technology for Liberty Project at the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts and edits its Privacy Matters blog.

Yet while the headlines have been dominated by Snowden’s leaks, much of his own life over the past 12 months has remained in the shadows. Earlier this month, his lawyers said they had filed for an extension of his asylum in Russia beyond the July 31 expiration. According to a recent interview in The Guardian, which along with The Washington Post first reported on the Snowden leaks, it appears he spends his time in Russia working on digital privacy tools, reading Dostoevsky and giving talks about surveillance via videoconference.

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http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2014/7/31/snowden-awaits-leakscontinue.html

Before Snowden: The Whistleblowers Who Tried To Lift The Veil – by DAVID WELNA July 22, 2014 4:44 AM ET


Over the last dozen years, whistleblowers at the National Security Agency have had a rough track record, facing FBI raids and lawsuits.

Over the last dozen years, whistleblowers at the National Security Agency have had a rough track record, facing FBI raids and lawsuits.

NSA/Reuters/Landov

Seventy years old and on crutches, both legs lost to diabetes, Bill Binney worked at the National Security Agency nearly three decades as one of its leading crypto-mathematicians.

He then became one of its leading whistleblowers.

Binney recalls the July morning seven years ago when a dozen gun-wielding FBI agents burst through the front door of his home, at the end of a cul-de-sac a 10-minute drive from the NSA’s headquarters in Fort Meade, Md.

“I first knew that they were in there when they were pointing a gun at me as I was coming out of the shower,” Binney says.

Bill Binney (shown here in Berlin, Germany, on July 3) worked for the NSA for three decades before quitting after he discovered the agency was using software he created for domestic spying on U.S. citizens.i

Bill Binney (shown here in Berlin, Germany, on July 3) worked for the NSA for three decades before quitting after he discovered the agency was using software he created for domestic spying on U.S. citizens.

Kay Nietfeld/EPA/Landov

When I ask him why the agents were there, he replies: “Well, it was to keep us quiet.”

The NSA is overseen by Congress, the courts, and other government departments. It’s also supposed to be watched from the inside by its own workers.

But over the last dozen years, whistleblowers like Binney have had a rough track record.

Those who tried unsuccessfully to work within the system say Edward Snowden — the former National Security Agency contractor who shared top-secret documents with reporters — learned from their bitter experience.

For Binney, the decision to quit the NSA and become a whistleblower began a few weeks after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, when he says he discovered the spy agency had begun using software he’d created to scoop up information on Americans — all without a court order.

“I had to get out of there, because they were using the program I built to do domestic spying, and I didn’t want any part of it, I didn’t want to be associated with it,” he says. “I look at it as basically treason. They were subverting the Constitution.”

Binney says he and two other NSA colleagues who also quit tried sounding the alarm with congressional committees. But because they did not have documents to prove their charges, nobody believed them. Snowden, he says, did not repeat that mistake.

“He recognized right away, it was very clear to me, that if he wanted anybody to believe him, he’d have to take a lot of documentation with him — which is what he did,” Binney says.

‘Your Life Is Never The Same’

And that’s why, he says, Snowden has had such an impact. Others have tried to work within the system. For example, computer expert Thomas Drake thought blowing the whistle on what he considered unconstitutional NSA programs would shake things up there. Instead, what got shaken up was his own life.

“The only person who was investigated, prosecuted, charged in secret, then was indicted, then ended up facing trial and 35 years in prison was myself,” he says.

Thomas Drake (also shown here in Berlin on July 3), another NSA whistleblower, was charged with violating the Espionage Act for showing unclassified NSA information to a reporter.i

Thomas Drake (also shown here in Berlin on July 3), another NSA whistleblower, was charged with violating the Espionage Act for showing unclassified NSA information to a reporter.

Adam Berry/Getty Images

Drake had taken his case both to the NSA and Congress. After concluding his complaints were going nowhere, he showed unclassified information from the NSA to a newspaper reporter. For that he was charged with violating the Espionage Act. The FBI raided his home, too — four months after Binney’s.

“Your life’s never the same. All your colleagues and people you used to work with all disappear. You’re persona non grata, you’re radioactive,” he says.

“On top of that, you’re spending tens of thousands of dollars defending yourself with a private attorney. So now you’re practically bankrupt, you’re declared indigent before the court, your family’s questioning who you are and what you’re up to and why you brought all this on us.”

The case against Drake fell apart days before he was to go to trial in 2011; he got off with a misdemeanor plea bargain and these days works at an Apple store. Like Binney, Drake thinks what happened to him was a cautionary tale for Snowden.

“Snowden carefully saw what happened to me and others, and it was clear … there was no other recourse,” he says.

Not everyone agrees.

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http://www.npr.org/2014/07/22/333741495/before-snowden-the-whistleblowers-who-tried-to-lift-the-veil

Edward Snowden says NSA treats nude file photos as ‘fringe benefit’ – By Cheryl K. Chumley ` Friday, July 18, 2014


Edward Snowden’s latest revelation about the National Security Agency’s surveillance activities is to say that agents who stumble across photographs of naked individuals in their files don’t exactly treat them as sensitive documents. Rather, they pass them around to their office pals, he said.

Mr. Snowden made the new claim in response to a question about which aspects of the NSA’s spy program troubled him the most.

“You’ve got young enlisted guys, 18 to 22 years old,” he said, The Independent reported. “They’ve suddenly been thrust into a position of extraordinary responsibility where they now have access to all of your private records. Now, in the course of their daily work they stumble across something that is completely unrelated to their work in any sort of necessary sense, for example, an intimate nude photo of someone in a sexually compromising situation — but they’re extremely attractive.”

Mr. Snowden went on, in his latest interview given from Moscow to The Guardian: “So what do they do? They turn around in their chair and show their co-worker and their co-worker says, ‘Oh hey, that’s great. Send that to Bill down the way.’ And then Bill sends it to George, George sends it to Tom, and sooner or later this person’s whole life has been seen by other people. It’s never reported. Nobody knows about it because the auditing of these systems is incredibly weak.”

Mr. Snowden confirmed that he’d witnessed just that action occurring on several occasions.

Specifically, he described it as happening on a “routine enough [basis], depending on the company that you keep,” he said, The Independent reported. “These are seen as the fringe benefits of surveillance positions.”

The NSA Office of the Inspector General did reveal in 2013 that at least one of the agency’s employees spent his first day at work sifting through the private communications of a former girlfriend. And just such has happened on so many other occasions that agents even gave it a name — LOVEINT, a combination of HUMINT, or human intelligence, and SIGINT, or signals intelligence.

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http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/jul/18/edward-snowden-says-nsa-treats-nude-file-photos-fr/

In NSA-intercepted data, those not targeted far outnumber the foreigners who are – BY BARTON GELLMAN, JULIE TATE AND ASHKAN SOLTANI July 5


Files provided by Snowden show extent to which ordinary Web users are caught in the net

Ordinary Internet users, American and non-American alike, far outnumber legally targeted foreigners in the communications intercepted by the National Security Agency from U.S. digital networks, according to a four-month investigation by The Washington Post.

Nine of 10 account holders found in a large cache of intercepted conversations, which former NSA contractor Edward Snowden provided in full to The Post, were not the intended surveillance targets but were caught in a net the agency had cast for somebody else.

Many of them were Americans. Nearly half of the surveillance files, a strikingly high proportion, contained names, e-mail addresses or other details that the NSA marked as belonging to U.S. citizens or residents. NSA analysts masked, or “minimized,” more than 65,000 such references to protect Americans’ privacy, but The Post found nearly 900 additional e-mail addresses, unmasked in the files, that could be strongly linked to U.S. citizens or U.S.residents.

The surveillance files highlight a policy dilemma that has been aired only abstractly in public. There are discoveries of considerable intelligence value in the intercepted messages — and collateral harm to privacy on a scale that the Obama administration has not been willing to address.

Among the most valuable contents — which The Post will not describe in detail, to avoid interfering with ongoing operations — are fresh revelations about a secret overseas nuclear project, double-dealing by an ostensible ally, a military calamity that befell an unfriendly power, and the identities of aggressive intruders into U.S. computer networks.


A breakdown of the cache of NSA-intercepted communications provided to the Washington Post by Edward Snowden

Months of tracking communications across more than 50 alias accounts, the files show, led directly to the 2011 capture in Abbottabad of Muhammad Tahir Shahzad, a Pakistan-based bomb builder, and Umar Patek, a suspect in a 2002 terrorist bombing on the Indonesian island of Bali. At the request of CIA officials, The Post is withholding other examples that officials said would compromise ongoing operations.

Many other files, described as useless by the analysts but nonetheless retained, have a startlingly intimate, even voyeuristic quality. They tell stories of love and heartbreak, illicit sexual liaisons, mental-health crises, political and religious conversions, financial anxieties and disappointed hopes. The daily lives of more than 10,000 account holders who were not targeted are catalogued and recorded nevertheless.

In order to allow time for analysis and outside reporting, neither Snowden nor The Post has disclosed until now that he obtained and shared the content of intercepted communications. The cache Snowden provided came from domestic NSA operations under the broad authority granted by Congress in 2008 with amendments to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. FISA content is generally stored in closely controlled data repositories, and for more than a year, senior government officials have depicted it as beyond Snowden’s reach.

The Post reviewed roughly 160,000 intercepted e-mail and instant-message conversations, some of them hundreds of pages long, and 7,900 documents taken from more than 11,000 online accounts.

The material spans President Obama’s first term, from 2009 to 2012, a period of exponential growth for the NSA’s domestic collection.

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Former Managers Allege Pervasive Inventory Fraud at Walmart. How Deep Does the Rot Go? – Spencer Woodman  June 11, 2014  


The retail giant acknowledges that a “thorough review” is under way and vows “appropriate action” if violations are discovered.

(AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

In 2012, Erica Davidson, a Walmart veteran and store manager, took on the daunting task of turning around a struggling store on the outskirts of Greensboro, North Carolina. The store had run through its share of managers, Davidson said, and she viewed it as the sort of challenge that could make or break a person’s career.

Davidson said that one of her primary tasks was to reduce the troubled store’s high rate of “shrinkage”—defined as the value of goods that are stolen or otherwise lost—to levels deemed acceptable by the company’s senior managers for the region. As a result of fierce competition, profit margins in retail can be razor thin, making shrinkage a potent—sometimes critical—factor in profitability.

Prior to her arrival, Davidson said, the Greensboro store could see annual shrinkage losses as high as $2 million or more—a sizable hit to its bottom line. There had even been talk of closing the store altogether, she recalled.

For years, Walmart’s senior management in North Carolina had been waging a war on shrinkage, Davidson said; it had become a central priority of the company’s local leadership and a source of constant strain for store managers. Though the unrelenting pressure weighed on her, Davidson said she became an asset in Walmart’s battle against shrinkage—so much so that, in 2011, the North Carolina regional team named her a “subject matter expert” on reducing shrinkage and would send her to meetings in the Walmart regional office in Charlotte. There, she recalled, she would train district managers on her practices in the presence of the company’s most senior officers for the state.

The only problem, Davidson said, was that her superiors’ preferred methods for improving this vital metric were not always aboveboard; they included an array of improper techniques to conceal shrinkage losses and make the inventory numbers—and profit margins—look better on paper than they were in reality.

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http://www.thenation.com/article/180190/former-managers-allege-pervasive-inventory-fraud-walmart-how-deep-does-rot-go

N.S.A. Collecting Millions of Faces From Web Images – By JAMES RISEN and LAURA POITRAS MAY 31, 2014


The National Security Agency is harvesting huge numbers of images of people from communications that it intercepts through its global surveillance operations for use in sophisticated facial recognition programs, according to top-secret documents.

The spy agency’s reliance on facial recognition technology has grown significantly over the last four years as the agency has turned to new software to exploit the flood of images included in emails, text messages, social media, videoconferences and other communications, the N.S.A. documents reveal. Agency officials believe that technological advances could revolutionize the way that the N.S.A. finds intelligence targets around the world, the documents show. The agency’s ambitions for this highly sensitive ability and the scale of its effort have not previously been disclosed.

The agency intercepts “millions of images per day” — including about 55,000 “facial recognition quality images” — which translate into “tremendous untapped potential,” according to 2011 documents obtained from the former agency contractor Edward J. Snowden. While once focused on written and oral communications, the N.S.A. now considers facial images, fingerprints and other identifiers just as important to its mission of tracking suspected terrorists and other intelligence targets, the documents show.

Photo

 

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, left, who tried to bomb an airplane, and Faisal Shahzad, who tried to set off a car bomb in Times Square. The attempts prompted more image gathering. Credit Reuters; U.S. Marshals Service, via Associated Press

“It’s not just the traditional communications we’re after: It’s taking a full-arsenal approach that digitally exploits the clues a target leaves behind in their regular activities on the net to compile biographic and biometric information” that can help “implement precision targeting,” noted a 2010 document.

One N.S.A. PowerPoint presentation from 2011, for example, displays several photographs of an unidentified man — sometimes bearded, other times clean-shaven — in different settings, along with more than two dozen data points about him. These include whether he was on the Transportation Security Administration no-fly list, his passport and visa status, known associates or suspected terrorist ties, and comments made about him by informants to American intelligence agencies.

It is not clear how many people around the world, and how many Americans, might have been caught up in the effort. Neither federal privacy laws nor the nation’s surveillance laws provide specific protections for facial images. Given the N.S.A.’s foreign intelligence mission, much of the imagery would involve people overseas whose data was scooped up through cable taps, Internet hubs and satellite transmissions.

Because the agency considers images a form of communications content, the N.S.A. would be required to get court approval for imagery of Americans collected through its surveillance programs, just as it must to read their emails or eavesdrop on their phone conversations, according to an N.S.A. spokeswoman. Cross-border communications in which an American might be emailing or texting an image to someone targeted by the agency overseas could be excepted.

Civil-liberties advocates and other critics are concerned that the power of the improving technology, used by government and industry, could erode privacy. “Facial recognition can be very invasive,” said Alessandro Acquisti, a researcher on facial recognition technology at Carnegie Mellon University. “There are still technical limitations on it, but the computational power keeps growing, and the databases keep growing, and the algorithms keep improving.”

State and local law enforcement agencies are relying on a wide range of databases of facial imagery, including driver’s licenses and Facebook, to identify suspects. The F.B.I. is developing what it calls its “next generation identification” project to combine its automated fingerprint identification system with facial imagery and other biometric data.

The State Department has what several outside experts say could be the largest facial imagery database in the federal government, storing hundreds of millions of photographs of American passport holders and foreign visa applicants. And the Department of Homeland Security is funding pilot projects at police departments around the country to match suspects against faces in a crowd.

The N.S.A., though, is unique in its ability to match images with huge troves of private communications.

“We would not be doing our job if we didn’t seek ways to continuously improve the precision of signals intelligence activities — aiming to counteract the efforts of valid foreign intelligence targets to disguise themselves or conceal plans to harm the United States and its allies,” said Vanee M. Vines, the agency spokeswoman.

She added that the N.S.A. did not have access to photographs in state databases of driver’s licenses or to passport photos of Americans, while declining to say whether the agency had access to the State Department database of photos of foreign visa applicants. She also declined to say whether the N.S.A. collected facial imagery of Americans from Facebook and other social media through means other than communications intercepts.

“The government and the private sector are both investing billions of dollars into face recognition” research and development, said Jennifer Lynch, a lawyer and expert on facial recognition and privacy at the Electronic Frontier Foundation in San Francisco. “The government leads the way in developing huge face recognition databases, while the private sector leads in accurately identifying people under challenging conditions.”

Ms. Lynch said a handful of recent court decisions could lead to new constitutional protections for the privacy of sensitive face recognition data. But she added that the law was still unclear and that Washington was operating largely in a legal vacuum.

Laura Donohue, the director of the Center on National Security and the Law at Georgetown Law School, agreed. “There are very few limits on this,” she said.

Continue reading the main story

Document

Identity Intelligence: Image Is Everything

An excerpt of a document obtained by Edward J. Snowden, a former contractor with the National Security Agency, referring to the agency’s use of images in intelligence gathering.

OPEN Document

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