Tag Archive: Booz Allen Hamilton


Fifteen hours after acknowledging that an innuendo-filled article is factually false, the Post still has not corrected it
The Washington Post

The Washington Post. Photograph: Alamy

(updated below)

On Monday night – roughly 36 hours ago from this moment – the Washington Post published an article by its long-time reporter Walter Pincus. The article concocted a frenzied and inane conspiracy theory: that it was WikiLeaks and Julian Assange, working in secret with myself and Laura Poitras, who masterminded the Snowden leaks ahead of time and directed Snowden’s behavior, and then Assange, rather than have WikiLeaks publish the documents itself, generously directed them to the Guardian.

To peddle this tale, Pincus, in lieu of any evidence, spouted all sorts of accusatory innuendo masquerading as questions (“Did Edward Snowden decide on his own to seek out journalists and then a job at Booz Allen Hamilton’s Hawaii facility?” – “Did Assange and WikiLeaks personnel help or direct Snowden to those journalists?” – “Was he encouraged or directed by WikiLeaks personnel or others to take the job as part of a broader plan to expose NSA operations to selected journalists?”) and invoked classic guilt-by association techniques (“Poitras and Greenwald are well-known free-speech activists, with many prior connections, including as founding members in December of the nonprofit Freedom of the Press Foundation” – “Poitras and Greenwald have had close connections with Assange and WikiLeaks”).

Apparently, the Washington Post has decided to weigh in on the ongoing debate over “what is journalism?” with this answer: you fill up articles on topics you don’t know the first thing about with nothing but idle speculation, rank innuendo, and evidence-free accusations, all under the guise of “just asking questions”. You then strongly imply that other journalists who have actually broken a big story are involved in a rampant criminal conspiracy without bothering even to ask them about it first, all while hiding from your readers the fact that they have repeatedly and in great detail addressed the very “questions” you’re posing.

But shoddy journalism from the Washington Post is far too common to be worth noting. What was far worse was that Pincus’ wild conspiracy theorizing was accomplished only by asserting blatant, easily demonstrated falsehoods.

As I documented in an email I sent to Pincus early yesterday morning – one that I instantly posted online and then publicized on Twitter – the article contains three glaring factual errors: 1) Pincus stated that I wrote an article about Poitras “for the WikiLeaks Press’s blog” (I never wrote anything for that blog in my life; the article he referenced was written for Salon); 2) Pincus claimed Assange “previewed” my first NSA scoop in a Democracy Now interview a week earlier by referencing the bulk collection of telephone calls (Assange was expressly talking about a widely reported Bush program from 8 years earlier, not the FISA court order under Obama I reported); 3) Pincus strongly implied that Snowden had worked for the NSA for less than 3 months by the time he showed up in Hong Kong with thousands of documents when, in fact, he had worked at the NSA continuously for 4 years. See the email I sent Pincus for the conclusive evidence of those factual falsehoods and the other distortions peddled by the Post.

There is zero possibility that the Washington Post was unaware of my email to Pincus early yesterday. Not only was it re-tweeted and discussed by numerous prominent journalists on Twitter, but it was also quickly written about in venues such as Politico and Poynter.

Nonetheless, the Post allowed the falsehoods to stand uncorrected all day. Finally, at 3:11 pm ET yesterday afternoon – 15 hours ago as of this moment, and more than 8 hours after I first publicized his errors – Pincus emailed me back to acknowledge that his claim about my having written for the WikiLeaks blog was false, and vowed that a correction would be published (he did not address the other errors):

 

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US charges NSA leaker Snowden with espionage

The Guardian via Getty Images

Edward Snowden speaks during an interview in Hong Kong.

Federal prosecutors Friday filed espionage charges against alleged National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden, officials familiar with the process said. Authorities have also begun the process of getting Snowden back to the United States to stand trial.

The officials did not describe the charges in detail because they’ve been filed under seal in federal court in Alexandria, Va. The documents are not publicly available.

According to officials, charges accuse Snowden of violating federal espionage laws by sharing classified documents with people who were not cleared to receive them.

Snowden, who is a former employee of defense contractor Booz Allen Hamilton, leaked details about far-reaching Internet and phone surveillance programs to The Guardian and The Washington Post earlier this month. He revealed his identity while in Hong Kong, where it is believed he is still hiding.

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NBC  NEWS

Julian Assange says WikiLeaks helping Snowden gain asylum

Anthony Devlin / Pool / Reuters

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange speaks to the media inside the Ecuadorean Embassy in London on June 14, 2013.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on Wednesday said members of his anti-secrecy website have been in contact with lawyers of alleged National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden and are helping him seek asylum in Iceland.

Speaking to reporters during a conference call on the one-year anniversary of his own asylum in the Ecuadoran Embassy in London, Assange said his group has a “common cause” with Snowden, but would not comment on whether he personally has spoken with supposed whistle-blower.

Assange did say, “We are in touch with Mr. Snowden’s legal team and have been, are involved, in the process of brokering his asylum in Iceland.”

Snowden leaked details about far-reaching Internet and phone surveillance programs to The Guardian and The Washington Post earlier this month. He revealed his identity while in Hong Kong, where it is believed he is still hiding.

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WikiLeaks may publish more revelations promised by Snowden – Assange

Published time: June 20, 2013 14:03
Edited time: June 20, 2013 15:04

Edward Snowden and Julian Assange (AFP Photo)Edward Snowden and Julian Assange (AFP Photo)

WikiLeaks may publish further revelations promised by NSA leaker Edward Snowden, Julian Assange hinted during a conference call with journalists. He reiterated that his legal team is helping Snowden in his quest for asylum in Iceland.

“I feel a great deal of personal sympathy with Mr. Snowden,” the WikiLeaks founder said, adding that he had been in touch with Snowden’s lawyers.

“We are in touch with Mr. Snowden’s legal team and have been, are involved, in the process of brokering his asylum in Iceland,” he said in a conference call from the Ecuadorian Embassy, where he himself has been fighting his extradition to Sweden for nearly a year.

When asked if he had spoken directly with Snowden, the former CIA contractor who fled to Hong Kong before disclosing the NSA’s PRISM surveillance program, Assange declined to offer further details.

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Washington releases Snowden espionage indictment

Published time: June 21, 2013 22:20
Edited time: June 22, 2013 00:06

US federal prosecutors have charged whistleblower Edward Snowden with espionage, theft and conversion of government property in a criminal complaint, and asked Hong Kong to detain him ahead of a move to extradite him.

Though the criminal complaint is sealed, charges of espionage and theft are undoubtedly based on Snowden’s extraction of classified documents from NSA servers, which led to publication of several articles regarding the NSA’s surveillance programs, including PRISM, which is alleged to harvest private user data through cooperation with a slew of American corporations including Facebook, Yahoo, Google, Apple and Microsoft.

The implicated companies have denied granting US intelligence services “direct access” to their servers, though during an online chat on Monday Snowden alleged that they had been purposely deceptive in their responses.

When asked to “define in as much detail as you can what ‘direct access’ means,” Snowden went into greater technical detail:

“More detail on how direct NSA’s accesses are is coming, but in general, the reality is this: if an NSA, FBI, CIA, DIA, etc analyst has access to query raw SIGINT databases, they can enter and get results for anything they want,” he said.

The specific details of how Snowden transported the classified NSA documents are somewhat unclear, with The Guardian saying they were extracted using four laptops taken to Hong Kong, though subsequent reports suggested that Snowden simply copied secret files on USB drives. Even though the use of thumb drives is banned in SIPRNET, the Defense Department’s secret network, as a system administrator Snowden had much broader access to data.

Image from scribd.com

Image from scribd.com

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WashingtonPost WashingtonPost

Published on Jun 6, 2013

Members of Congress and The White House are defending a top secret NSA program that continues to collect data from millions of phone records, but civil liberties supporters remain skeptical. The Post’s Ellen Nakashima explains.

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CATO INSTITUTE

NSA Snooping: a Majority of Americans Believe What?

Yesterday, the Washington Post and the Pew Research Center released a joint poll that purportedly showed that “a large majority of Americans” believe the federal government should focus on “investigating possible terrorist threats even if personal privacy is compromised.”

But a careful look at the poll shows citizens are far less sanguine about surrendering their privacy rights, as the facts continue to be revealed.

Pollsters faced a difficult challenge—to accurately capture public opinion during a complex and evolving story. Recall, on Wednesday of last week, the story was about the NSA tracking Verizon phone records. So the pollsters drew up a perfectly reasonable and balanced question:

As you may know, it has been reported that the National Security Agency has been getting secret court orders to track telephone call records of MILLIONS of Americans in an effort to investigate terrorism. Would you consider this access to telephone call records an acceptable or unacceptable way for the federal government to investigate terrorism?

Fifty-six percent found this “acceptable.” Thus, the “majority of Americans” lead in the Washington Post.

However, on Thursday, the Washington Post revealed explosive details about the massive data-collection program PRISM—and the public was alerted that the NSA was not just collecting phone records, but email, Facebook, and other online records. So the pollsters quickly drew up a new question, asked starting Friday, from June 7-9:

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The Independent

Are there more spy revelations to come? America rages at NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden and labels him a ‘traitor’

Snowden facing prosecution in hiding as ex-girlfriend writes of being ‘lost’ without him

Washington was in disarray last night as it attempted to determine exactly how damaging revelations of secret intelligence snooping programmes might be to American national security, as anger at the whistleblower behind them, 29-year-old Edward Snowden, continued to harden.

“He’s a traitor,” the Speaker of the House, John Boehner, declared.

The laying bare of two surveillance programmes run by the National Security Agency – and the prospect of more leaks possibly to come – had the US government scurrying in multiple directions; reassuring restive members of Congress, heading off growing complaints about the snooping activities from European allies and prioritising a nascent criminal investigation likely to lead to charges being filed against Mr Snowden.

But while President Obama would love to get Mr Snowden in a courtroom, his administration is now facing its own legal battle. The American Civil Liberties Union yesterday filed a lawsuit arguing that its mass collection of private data is illegal and should be stopped, a move that could eventually end with the programme being tested in the Supreme Court.

Top-level officials from NSA, FBI, the White House and State Department headed to Capitol Hill last night to give a behind-closed-doors briefing to the House of Representatives. They faced a likely barrage of questions about what, to some, looked like sloppy protection of secrets by the NSA.

The puzzlement is all the greater because of the background of Mr Snowden, who may or may not still be in hiding in Hong Kong. He had access to NSA data as a contract worker employed by the consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton, and the degree to which US intelligence agencies now rely on contract workers is now causing alarm. About a third of all those cleared to access classified materials last year were not government employees, the Washington Post said.

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TIME      WORLD

Beijing Reacts to Snowden Claims U.S. Hacked ‘Hundreds’ of Chinese Targets

 

 

 

Hong Kong Surveillance
Kin Cheung / AP

The picture of Edward Snowden, former CIA employee who leaked top-secret documents about sweeping U.S. surveillance programs, on the front page of South China Morning Post at a news stand in Hong Kong, June 13, 2013.

The China Daily, the Chinese government’s English-language mouthpiece, couldn’t have been handed a better story. On June 13, Edward Snowden, the former contractor for the U.S. National Security Agency who exposed a vast American electronic surveillance program before fleeing to Hong Kong, told the South China Morning Post, Hong Kong’s leading English-language daily, that the U.S. has for years hacked into Chinese computer systems. After days of silence about the presence of a U.S. whistle-blower on Chinese soil — albeit in a territory governed separately from the rest of the country — the Chinese state media swung into action. “This is not the first time that U.S. government agencies’ wrongdoings have aroused widespread public concern,” opined the China Daily in an editorial. In a separate news article, the official state newspaper wrote that “analysts” believed the bombshells dropped in the Snowden affair are “certain to stain Washington’s overseas image and test developing Sino-U.S. ties.”

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South China Morning  Post

Whistle-blower Edward Snowden tells SCMP: ‘Let Hong Kong people decide my fate’

Ex-CIA operative wants to remain in Hong Kong

Thursday, 13 June, 2013, 7:37am


Edward Snowden says he wants to ask the people of Hong Kong to decide his fate after choosing the city because of his faith in its rule of law.

The 29-year-old former CIA employee behind what might be the biggest intelligence leak in US history revealed his identity to the world in Hong Kong on Sunday. His decision to use a city under Chinese sovereignty as his haven has been widely questioned – including by some rights activists in Hong Kong.

Snowden said last night that he had no doubts about his choice of Hong Kong.

“People who think I made a mistake in picking Hong Kong as a location misunderstand my intentions. I am not here to hide from justice; I am here to reveal criminality,” Snowden said in an exclusive interview with the South China Morning Post.

“I have had many opportunities to flee HK, but I would rather stay and fight the United States government in the courts, because I have faith in Hong Kong’s rule of law,” he added.

Snowden says he has committed no crimes in Hong Kong and has “been given no reason to doubt [Hong Kong’s legal] system”.

“My intention is to ask the courts and people of Hong Kong to decide my fate,” he said.

I have had many opportunities to flee HK, but I would rather stay and fight the United States government in the courts, because I have faith in Hong Kong’s rule of law

Snowden, a former employee of US government contractor Booz Allen Hamilton who worked with the National Security Agency, boarded a flight to Hong Kong on May 20 and has remained in the city ever since.

His astonishing confession on Sunday sparked a media frenzy in Hong Kong, with journalists from around the world trying to track him down. It has also caused a flurry of debate in the city over whether he should stay and whether Beijing will seek to interfere in a likely extradition case.

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After a closed-door briefing of the House of Representatives, lawmakers call for a review of the Patriot Act

Xavier Becerra

Xavier Becerra, a senior Democrat, said there hadn’t been enough oversight of government surveillance programmes. Photograph: Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP

Anger was mounting in Congress on Tuesday night as politicians, briefed for the first time after revelations about the government’s surveillance dragnet, vowed to rein in a system that one said amounted to “spying on Americans”.

Intelligence chiefs and FBI officials had hoped that the closed-door briefing with a full meeting of the House of Representatives would help reassure members about the widespread collection of US phone records revealed by the Guardian.

But senior figures from both parties emerged from the meeting alarmed at the extent of a surveillance program that many claimed never to have heard of until whistleblower Edward Snowden leaked a series of top-secret documents.

The congressional fury came at the end of a day of fast-moving developments.

• In a lawsuit filed in New York, the American Civil Liberties Union accused the US government of a process that was “akin to snatching every American’s address book”.

• On Capitol Hill, a group of US senators introduced a bill aimed at forcing the US federal government to disclose the opinions of a secretive surveillance court that determines the scope of the eavesdropping on Americans’ phone records and internet communications.

• A leading member of the Senate intelligence committee, Ron Wyden, came close to saying that James Clapper, the US director of national intelligence, misled him on the scope of government surveillance during a March hearing. Clapper admitted earlier this week that he gave the “least untruthful” answer possible to a question by Wyden.

• Chuck Hagel, the defense secretary, said he ordered a wide-ranging review of the Defense Department’s reliance on private contractors. Snowden had top-security clearance for his work at Booz Allen Hamilton, an NSA contractor. Booz Allen issued a statement on Tuesday saying that Snowden had been fired for “violations of the firm’s code of ethics”.

• In Brussels, the European commission’s vice-president, Viviane Reding, sent a letter demanding answers to seven detailed questions to the US attorney general, Eric Holder, about Prism and other American data snooping efforts.

• Snowden was at an undisclosed location after he checked out of a Hong Kong hotel on Monday. The director of Human Rights Watch, Peter Bouckaert, said Snowden should not consider himself safe in the Chinese province.

NSA files Edward Snowden Obama Newspapers in Hong Kong feature the NSA leaker Edward Snowden. Photograph: Bobby Yip/Reuters

After the congressional briefing, Xavier Becerra, leader of the House minority caucus, said there had not been enough oversight of government surveillance programs. “We are now glimpsing the damage,” he said, referring to failures to repeal the Patriot Act sooner. “It was an extraordinary measure for an extraordinary time but it shouldn’t have been extended.”

Others said the White House and intelligence committee leaders had been misleading when they claimed all members of Congress were briefed about the mass swoop of telephone records.

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Congress briefed on US surveillance programs

NSA_FortMeade061113AP

This Sept. 19, 2007, photo shows the National Security Agency building at Fort Meade, Md. When the federal government went looking for phone numbers tied to terrorists, it grabbed the records of just about everyone in America.

WASHINGTON — Dogged by fear and confusion about sweeping spy programs, intelligence officials sought to convince House lawmakers in an unusual briefing Tuesday that the government’s years-long collection of phone records and Internet usage is necessary for protecting Americans – and does not trample on their privacy rights.

But the country’s main civil liberties organization wasn’t buying it, filing the most significant lawsuit against the massive phone record collection program so far. The American Civil Liberties Union and its New York chapter sued the federal government Tuesday in New York, asking a court to demand that the Obama administration end the program and purge the records it has collected.

The ACLU is claiming standing as a customer of Verizon, which was identified last week as the phone company the government had ordered to turn over daily records of calls made by all its customers.

The parade of FBI and intelligence officials who briefed the entire House on Tuesday was the latest attempt to soothe outrage over National Security Agency programs which collect billions of Americans’ phone and Internet records. Since they were revealed last week, the programs have spurred distrust in the Obama administration from across the globe.

Several key lawmakers, including House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, refocused the furor Tuesday on the elusive 29-year-old former intelligence contractor who is claiming responsibility for revealing the surveillance programs to two newspapers. Boehner joined others in calling Edward Snowden a “traitor.”

But attempts to defend the NSA systems by a leading Republican senator who supports them highlighted how confusingly intricate the programs are – even to the lawmakers who follow the issue closely.

Explaining the programs to reporters, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a member of the Senate Armed Services and Judiciary committees, initially described how the NSA uses pattern analysis of millions of phone calls from the United States, even if those numbers have no known connection to terrorism. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper has vigorously maintained that there are strict limits on the programs to prevent intruding on Americans’ privacy, and senior officials quickly denied Graham’s description.

Graham later said he misspoke and that Clapper was right: The phone records are only accessed if there is a known connection to terrorism.

House lawmakers had more questions and, in many cases, more concerns about the level of surveillance by U.S. intelligence agencies Tuesday after FBI, Justice and other intelligence officials briefed them on the two NSA programs.

“Really it’s a debate between public safety, how far we go with public safety and protecting us from terrorist attacks versus how far we go on the other side,” said Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger of Maryland, top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee. “Congress needs to debate this issue.”

He said his panel and the Judiciary Committee would examine what has happened and see whether there are recommendations for the future.

Rep. Brad Sherman, D-Calif., like many members, said he was unaware of the scope of the data collection.

“I did not know 1 billion records a day were coming under the control of the federal executive branch,” Sherman said.

Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., said there was a lot of heated discussion and that, “Congress didn’t feel like they were informed.”

Cohen conceded many lawmakers had failed to attend classified briefings in previous years where they could have learned more. “I think Congress has really found itself a little bit asleep at the wheel,” he said.

One of the Senate’s staunchest critics of the surveillance programs put Clapper in the crosshairs, accusing him of not being truthful in March when he asked during a Senate hearing whether the NSA collects any data on millions of Americans. Clapper said it did not. Officials generally do not discuss classified information in public settings, reserving discussion on top-secret programs for closed sessions with lawmakers where they will not be revealed to adversaries.

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said he had been dissatisfied with the NSA’s answers to his questions and had given Clapper a day’s advance notice prior to the hearing to prepare an answer. Not fully believing Clapper’s public denial of the program, Wyden said he asked Clapper privately afterward whether he wanted to stick with a firm `no’ to the question.

 

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The Jack Blood Show

Liberal Lawers vs Liberal Govt? A.C.L.U. Files Lawsuit Seeking to Stop the Collection of Domestic Phone Logs

June 11, 2013 by

 

WASHINGTON (NYT) — The American Civil Liberties Union sued the Obama administration on Tuesday over its “dragnet” collection of logs of domestic phone calls, contending that the once-secret program — whose existence was exposed last week by a former National Security Agency contractor — is illegal and asking a judge to stop it and order the records purged.

Comparing Two Secret Surveillance Programs
The lawsuit could set up an eventual Supreme Court test. It could also focus attention on this disclosure amid the larger heap of top secret surveillance matters revealed by Edward J. Snowden, the former N.S.A. contractor who came forward Sunday to say he was their source.

The program “gives the government a comprehensive record of our associations and public movements, revealing a wealth of detail about our familial, political, professional, religious and intimate associations,” the complaint says, adding that it “is likely to have a chilling effect on whistle-blowers and others who would otherwise contact” the A.C.L.U. for legal assistance.

The Justice Department declined to comment on the suit.

In other lawsuits against national security policies, the government has often persuaded courts to dismiss them without ruling on the merits by arguing that litigation would reveal state secrets or that the plaintiffs could not prove they were personally affected and so lacked standing in court.

This case may be different. The government has now declassified the existence of the program. And the A.C.L.U. is a customer of Verizon Business Network Services — the recipient of a leaked secret court order for all its domestic calling records — which it says gives it standing.

The call logging program keeps a record of “metadata” from domestic phone calls, including which numbers were dialed and received, from which location, and the time and duration.

The effort began as part of the Bush administration’s post-Sept. 11 programs of surveillance without court approval, which has continued since 2006 with the blessing of a national security court. The court has secretly ruled that bulk surveillance is authorized by a section of the Patriot Act that allows the F.B.I. to obtain “business records” relevant to a counterterrorism investigation.

Congress never openly voted to authorize the collection of logs of hundreds of millions of domestic calls, but some lawmakers were secretly briefed. Some members of Congress have backed the program as a useful counterterrorism tool; others have denounced it.

“The administration claims authority to sift through details of our private lives because the Patriot Act says that it can,” Representative F. James Sensenbrenner Jr., Republican of Wisconsin, wrote in a letter to Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. “I disagree. I authored the Patriot Act, and this is an abuse of that law.”

Over the weekend, James R. Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence, said that officials may access the database only if they can meet a legal justification — “reasonable suspicion, based on specific facts, that the particular basis for the query is associated with a foreign terrorist organization.” Queries are audited under the oversight of the national security court.

Timothy Edgar, a former civil liberties official on intelligence matters in the Bush and Obama administrations who worked on building safeguards into the phone log program, said the notion underlying the limits was that people’s privacy is not invaded by having their records collected, but only when a human examines them.

“When you have important reasons why that collection needs to take place on a scale that is much larger than case-by-case or individual obtaining of records,” he said, “then one of the ways you try to deal with the privacy issue is you think carefully about having a set of safeguards that basically say, ‘O.K., yes, this has major privacy implications, but what can we do on the back end to address those?’ ”

Still, privacy advocates say the existence of the database will erode the sense of living in a free society: whenever Americans pick up a phone, they now face the consideration of whether they want the record of that call to go into the government’s files.

Moreover, while use of the database is now limited to terrorism, history has shown that new government powers granted for one purpose often end up applied to others. An expanded search warrant authority justified by the Sept. 11 attacks, for example, was used far more often in routine investigations like suspected drug, fraud and tax offenses.

Executive branch officials and lawmakers who support the program have hinted that some terrorist plots have been foiled by using the database. In private conversations, they have also explained that investigators start with a phone number linked to terrorism, and scrutinize the ring of people who have called that number — and other people who in turn called those — in an effort to identify co-conspirators.

Still, that analysis may generally be performed without a wholesale sweep of call records, since investigators can instead use subpoenas to obtain relevant logs from telephone companies. Senators Ron Wyden of Oregon and Mark Udall of Colorado, two Democrats who have examined it in classified Senate Intelligence Committee hearings, have claimed that the evidence is thin that the program provided uniquely available intelligence.

But supporters privately say the database’s existence is about more than convenience and speed. They say it can also help in searching for networks of terrorists who are taking steps to shield their communications from detection by using different phones to call one another. If calls from a different number are being made from the same location as calls by the number that was already known to be suspicious, having the entire database may be helpful in a way that subpoenas for specific numbers cannot match.

 

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Information chiefs worldwide sound alarm while US senator Dianne Feinstein orders NSA to review monitoring program

Barack Obama nsa

Officials in European capitals denounced the practice of secretly gathering digital information on Europeans as unacceptable. Photograph: Evan Vucci/AP

Barack Obama was facing a mounting domestic and international backlash against US surveillance operations on Monday as his administration struggled to contain one of the most explosive national security leaks in US history.

Political opinion in the US was split with some members of Congress calling for the immediate extradition from Hong Kong of the whistleblower, Edward Snowden. But other senior politicians in both main parties questioned whether US surveillance practices had gone too far.

Dianne Feinstein, chairman of the national intelligence committee, has ordered the NSA to review how it limits the exposure of Americans to government surveillance. But she made clear her disapproval of Snowden. “What he did was an act of treason,” she said.

Officials in European capitals demanded immediate answers from their US counterparts and denounced the practice of secretly gathering digital information on Europeans as unacceptable, illegal and a serious violation of basic rights. The NSA, meanwhile, asked the Justice Department to open a criminal investigation and said that it was assessing the damage caused by the disclosures.

Daniel Ellsberg, the former military analyst who revealed secrets of the Vietnam war through the Pentagon Papers in 1971, described Snowden’s leak as even more important and perhaps the most significant leak in American history.

Snowden disclosed his identity in an explosive interview with the Guardian, published on Sunday, which revealed he was a 29-year-old former technical assistant for the CIA and current employee of the defence contractor Booz Allen Hamilton. Snowden worked at the National Security Agency for the past four years as an employee of various outside contractors, including Booz Allen and Dell.

In his interview, Snowden revealed himself as the source for a series of articles in the Guardian last week, which included disclosures of a wide-ranging secret court order that demanded Verizon pass to the NSA the details of phone calls related to millions of customers, and a huge NSA intelligence system called Prism, which collects data on intelligence targets from the systems of some of the biggest tech companies.

Snowden said he had become disillusioned with the overarching nature of government surveillance in the US. “The government has granted itself power it is not entitled to. There is no public oversight. The result is people like myself have the latitude to go further than they are allowed to,” he said.

“My sole motive is to inform the public as to that which is done in their name and that which is done against them.”

As media interest intensified on Monday, Snowden checked out of the Hong Kong hotel where he had been staying, and moved to an undisclosed location.

Reacting to Snowden’s revelations, Paul Ryan, the former Republican vice-presidential nominee, raised questions about whether privacy was being unduly threatened. “I’m sure somebody can come up with a great computer program that says: ‘We can do X, Y, and Z,’ but that doesn’t mean that it’s right,” he told a radio station in Wisconsin. “I want to learn a lot more about it on behalf of the people I represent,” he added.

Pressure was growing on the White House to explain whether there was effective congressional oversight of the programmes revealed by Snowden. The director of national intelligence, James Clapper, said in an NBC interview that he had responded in the “least untruthful manner” possible when he denied in congressional hearings last year that the NSA collected data on millions of Americans.

Clapper also confirmed that Feinstein had asked for a review to “refine these NSA processes and limit the exposure to Americans’ private communications” and report back “in about a month”.

In Europe, the German chancellor Angela Merkel indicated she would press Obama on the revelations at a Berlin summit next week, while deputy European Commission chief Viviane Reding said she would press US officials in Dublin on Friday, adding that “a clear legal framework for the protection of personal data is not a luxury or constraint but a fundamental right”.

Peter Schaar, Germany’s federal data protection commissioner told the Guardian that it was unacceptable that US authorities have access to the data of European citizens “and the level of protection is lower than what is guaranteed for US citizens.” His Italian counterpart, Antonello Soro, said that the data dragnet “would not be legal in Italy” and would be “contrary to the principles of our legislation and would represent a very serious violation”.

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MSNBC

Most in Congress direct anger at leaks, not NSA surveillance

, @zackroth

1:44 PM on 06/10/2013

Image: U.S. House Majority Leader Cantor takes part in a panel discussion titled "The Awesome Responsibility of Leadership" at the Milken Institute Global Conference in Beverly Hills, California
(U.S. Congressman and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (REUTERS/Gus Ruelas))

As Congress begins probing the release of documents that revealed details of a government surveillance program Monday, most lawmakers are condemning the disclosures as a threat to national security. But some in both parties are instead portraying the program as an example of dangerous government overreach.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said Monday morning that a “very serious” congressional probe of the leak would start today, when Obama administration officials will brief lawmakers on how the information became public. Cantor, a Virginia Republican, added that a broader briefing on the National Security Agency (NSA) program would occur Tuesday.

The U.S. Justice Department confirmed Sunday it had opened a criminal probe into the disclosures. Edward Snowden, a contractor working with the NSA, revealed himself as the source of the leaks, The Guardian reported Sunday.

Related: Watch Guardian’s Greenwald defends leaks as vital to democracy

Republicans have been relatively united in denouncing the leak.

“If Edward Snowden did in fact leak the NSA data as he claims, the United States government must prosecute him to the fullest extent of the law and begin extradition proceedings at the earliest date,” Rep. Peter King, who chairs the subcommittee on Counterterrorism & Intelligence, said in a statement.

 

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