NSA head: We need bulk collection – By Julian Hattem – 09/24/15 04:03 PM EDT

The head of the National Security Agency on Thursday told Senate lawmakers that preventing his agency from collecting Americans’ information in bulk would make it harder to do its job.

Under questioning before the Senate Intelligence Committee, Adm. Michael Rogers agreed that ending bulk collection would “significantly reduce [his] operational capabilities.”

“Right now, bulk collection gives us the ability … to generate insights as to what’s going on,” Rogers told the committee.

The NSA head also referenced a January report from the National Academy of Sciences that concluded there is “no software technique that will fully substitute for bulk collection” because of the ability to search through the storehouse of old information.

“That independent, impartial, scientifically-founded body came back and said no, under the current structure there is no real replacement,” Rogers said.

Rogers was questioned on Thursday by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), a member of the Intelligence Committee who has become its most vocal privacy hawk.


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Senate lets NSA spy program lapse, at least for now – BY PATRICIA ZENGERLE AND WARREN STROBEL Mon Jun 1, 2015 4:24am EDT

A National Security Agency (NSA) data gathering facility is seen in Bluffdale, about 25 miles (40 km) south of Salt Lake City, Utah May 18, 2015. REUTERS/Jim Urquhart

The legal authority for U.S. spy agencies’ collection of Americans’ phone records and other data expired at midnight on Sunday after the Senate failed to pass legislation extending their powers.

After debate pitting Americans’ distrust of intrusive government against fears of terrorist attacks, the Senate voted to advance reform legislation that would replace the bulk phone records program revealed two years ago by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden.

Although the Senate did not act in time to keep the program from expiring, the vote was at least a partial victory for Democratic President Barack Obama, who had pushed for the reform measure as a compromise addressing privacy concerns while preserving a tool to help protect the country from attack.

But final Senate passage was delayed until at least Tuesday by objections from Senator Rand Paul, a libertarian Republican presidential hopeful who has fulminated against the NSA program as illegal and unconstitutional.

As a result, the government’s collection and search of phone records terminated at midnight when key provisions of a post-Sept. 11, 2001, law known as the USA Patriot Act expired.

In addition, U.S. law enforcement and security agencies will lose authority to conduct other programs.

Those allow for “roving wiretaps” aimed at terrorism suspects who use multiple disposable cell phones; permit authorities to target “lone wolf” suspects with no connection to specific terrorist groups, and make it easier to seize personal and business records of suspects and their associates.

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After Snowden, The NSA Faces Recruitment Challenge – GEOFF BRUMFIEL MARCH 31, 2015 4:58 AM ET

Not many students have the cutting-edge cybersecurity skills the NSA needs, recruiters say. And these days industry is paying top dollar for talent.

Not many students have the cutting-edge cybersecurity skills the NSA needs, recruiters say. And these days industry is paying top dollar for talent. Brooks Kraft/Corbis

Daniel Swann is exactly the type of person the National Security Agency (NSA) would love to have working for it. A fourth-year concurrent bachelors-masters student at Johns Hopkins University, the 22-year-old has a bright future in cybersecurity.

And growing up in Annapolis, Maryland, not far from the NSA’s headquarters, Swann thought he might work at the agency, which intercepts phone calls, emails and other so-called “signals intelligence” from U.S. adversaries.

“When I was a senior in high school I thought I would end up working for a defense contractor or the NSA itself,” says Swann. Then, in 2013, NSA contractor Edward Snowden leaked a treasure-trove of top-secret documents. They showed that the agency’s programs to collect intelligence were far more sweeping than Americans realized.

After Snowden’s revelations, Swann’s thinking changed. The NSA’s tactics, which include retaining data from American citizens, raise too many questions in his mind: “I can’t see myself working there,” he says, “partially because of these moral reasons.”

This year, the NSA needs to find 1,600 new recruits. Hundreds of them must come from highly specialized fields like computer science and mathematics. So far, it says, the agency has been successful. But with its popularity down, and pay from wealthy Silicon Valley companies way up, agency officials concede that recruitment is a worry. If enough students follow Daniel Swann, then one of the world’s most powerful spy agencies could lose its edge.

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Was I a CIA Spy? 50 Years On, I Still Don’t Know – Jeff Greenfield 03.29.15

A new book tells the story of how the CIA used unwitting college kids to send in reports from Third World countries. And I was one of them.

Photo Illustration by Emil Lendof/The Daily Beast

In 1963, I was a 20-year-old college senior who’d never been out of the country. With parents of modest means, summers meant working for spare cash, not backpacking through Europe or lounging on the beaches of Majorca. So when an invitation came to spend a month traveling through Southeast Asia as part of a student delegation, I leapt at the chance.

We’d be traveling under the banner of the U.S. National Student Association, a confederation of more than 300 colleges and universities across the country, and one whose liberal positions on civil rights and foreign policy had made it a target of a concerted conservative assault. (William F. Buckley’s Young Americans for Freedom was constantly urging student governments to disaffiliate). More significant, NSA (the student group, not the National Security Agency) was, I knew, a proudly independent organization, neither speaking for, nor subservient to, the U.S government—a sharp contrast with organizations like the International Union of Students, a Prague-based wholly-owned subsidiary of the Soviet Union. Indeed, the NSA gave rhetorical and financial support to dissident student groups in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, fighting repressive governments supported by official U.S. policy.

So for 30 days, a dozen of us traveled to Hong Kong, the Philippines, Indonesia, Singapore, and Malaysia. We met with government officials, got briefings from officials at various American embassies, and had conversations with fellow students that stretched far into the night. On one occasion, in Manila, we met a close friend of the son of then-Philippine President Macapagal, who was clearly well to the left of the government. As we did throughout the trip, my fellow Americans and I wrote extensive memos about who we met and what we talked about, and mailed them to NSA headquarters in Philadelphia. It was, I knew, another way of establishing links between our independent student group and young compatriots all over the world.


Silicon Valley spars with Obama over ‘backdoor’ surveillance – By Cory Bennett – 03/22/15 09:00 AM EDT

Silicon Valley and a bipartisan group of lawmakers are lining up against the Obama administration, criticizing what they see as a lack of support for total online privacy.

The steady rise of sophisticated privacy techniques such as encryption and anonymity software has put the government in a difficult position — trying to support the right to privacy while figuring out how to prevent people from evading law enforcement.

“The technologies are evolving in ways that potentially make this trickier,” President Obama said during a January news conference with British Prime Minister David Cameron.

The conundrum has led to a heated debate in Washington: Should law enforcement have guaranteed access to data?

“I think there’s a little bit of a tug of war happening in the government,” said Jay Kaplan, co-founder of the security firm Synack and a former National Security Agency (NSA) cyber analyst.

The Obama administration — from officials with FBI and the National Security Agency (NSA) to the president himself — has come out in favor of some form of guaranteed access while still endorsing strong encryption.

“If we get into a situation in which the technologies do not allow us at all to track somebody that we’re confident is a terrorist,” Obama said, “that’s a problem.”

What shape that access takes, however, is unclear.

“The dialogue that we’re engaged in is designed to make sure that all of us feel confident that if there is an actual threat out there, our law enforcement and our intelligence officers can identify that threat and track that threat at the same time that our governments are not going around phishing into whatever text you might be sending on your smartphone,” Obama said. “And I think that’s something that can be achieved.”

Privacy hawks on Capitol Hill aren’t buying it.

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AT&T’s Cozy History With the NSA Unlikely to Derail Proposed Merger – By Tom Risen March 6, 2015 | 5:55 p.m. EST

Regulators will examine customer privacy more, an analyst says, but competition remains their main concern.

An AT&T cellphone store is seen in Springfield, Va., Oct. 23, 2014.AT&T’s record of collaborating with the NSA should factor into regulators’ consideration of the company’s proposed merger with DirecTV, critics say.

As consolidation of the telecom sector is placing consumer data in the hands of fewer corporations, dozens of former AT&T business partners have warned regulators that the company has a poor record on privacy that should increase scrutiny of its proposed $48.5 billion merger with DirecTV.

[READ: Apple Will Replace AT&T in the Dow Jones Industrial Average]

The Minority Cellular Partners Coalition, a group of more than 90 former AT&T partners, wrote the Federal Communications Commission this week and accused the telecom giant of breaking the law by voluntarily handing over data to the National Security Agency following the Sept. 11 terror attacks. The company complied with data requests from the NSA without being issued a court order or other legal authorization, according to the coalition.

“By so doing, AT&T knowingly committed egregious and continuing violations” of the law and the company’s privacy policies, the group wrote.

The merger proposed by AT&T would give the telecom giant a greater market share in the pay-for-TV realm, making it easier for the combined firm to bundle satellite TV and wireless Internet and to potentially dominate in the world of online video. The coalition called for stronger privacy oversight of AT&T if the deal is approved by the FCC and the Justice Department. The DOJ reviews mergers for antitrust concerns, while the FCC considers broader public interest implications.

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Judge rules for NSA in warrantless search case – Al Jazeera February 11, 2015 2:40AM ET

A U.S. judge on Tuesday ruled in favor of the National Security Agency in a lawsuit challenging the interception of Internet communications without a warrant, according to a court filing.

Screen Shot 2015-02-11 at Feb 11, 2015 1.49

U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White in Oakland said the plaintiffs in the case — AT&T customers — had not shown that all AT&T customers’ Internet communications were currently the subject of a “dragnet seizure and search program, controlled by or at the direction of the Government,” and they therefore did not have standing to file a lawsuit under the Fourth Amendment, which protects against warrantless searches and seizures.

White said the plaintiffs’ understanding of the key parts of the data collection process was “substantially inaccurate.”

Additionally, even if the plaintiffs had standing, White said a Fourth Amendment claim would have to be dismissed to protect secret information that would damage national security if released. He granted partial summary judgment for the government.

“The Court is frustrated by the prospect of deciding the current motions without full public disclosure of the Court’s analysis and reasoning … ,” White wrote in his ruling. “The Court is persuaded that its decision is correct both legally and factually and furthermore is required by the interests of national security.”

The ruling is the latest in litigation over the government’s ability to monitor Internet traffic, and how it balances national security priorities against privacy. NSA surveillance programs have provoked worldwide controversy since they were disclosed by former NSA systems administrator Edward Snowden.

An attorney for the plaintiffs said that the judge’s ruling did not end part of the case concerning telephone record collection and other mass surveillance.

“It would be a travesty of justice if our clients are denied their day in court over the ‘secrecy’ of a program that has been front-page news for nearly a decade,” said attorney Kurt Opsahl, who is deputy general counsel at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which brought the suit in 2008, in a statement on the EFF website.

The Department of Justice declined to comment.

Nate Cardozo, a staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said the judge’s ruling was disappointing.

“What we want is a court to rule on the merits of the NSA’s program,” he said. “Is what they are doing legal? Is it constitutional? The court didn’t do that. It didn’t say `yes’ or `no’.”