#India- Supreme Court agrees to hear PIL on US surveillance of Internet data


PTI : New DelhiWed Jun 19 2013,
Court
Supreme Court. (IE Photo)
The Supreme Court today agreed to give an urgent hearing to a PIL on the issue of US National Security Agency snooping on Internet data from India and seeking to initiate action against Internet companies for allowing the agency to access the information.

Agreeing to hear the PIL filed by a former Dean of Law Faculty of Delhi University Professor S N Singh, a bench of justices A K Patnaik and Ranjan Gogoi posted the case for hearing next week.

In his plea, Singh has alleged that such large scale spying by the US authorities is detrimental to national security and urged the apex court to intervene in the matter. He has claimed that the Internet companies are sharing information with the foreign authority in “breach” of contract and violation of right to privacy.

“As per reports, nine US-based Internet companies, operating in India through agreements signed with Indian users, shared 6.3 billion information/data with National Security Agency of US without express consent of Indian users.Such larges cale spying by the USA authorities besides being against the privacy norms is also detrimental to national security,” the petition, filed through advocate Virag Gupta, has said.

Singh has submitted that it is a breach of national security as government’s official communications have come under US surveillance as services of private Internet firmsare being used by them. He has sought directions to the Centre to “take urgent steps to safeguard the government’s sensitive Internet communications” which are being kept outside India in US servers and are “unlawfully intruded upon by US Intelligence Agencies through US-based Internet companies under secret surveillance program called PRISM”.

America’s private prison system is a national disgrace


Jill Filipovic

An ACLU lawsuit against a prison in Mississippi is the latest to detail flagrant abuses at a private correctional facility

Jill Filipovic

Thursday 13 June 2013

guardian.co.uk

The privatization of traditional government functions – and big government payments to private contractors – isn’t limited to international intelligence operations like the National Security Agency. It’s happening with little oversight in dozens of areas once the province of government, from schools to airports to the military. The shifting of government responsibilities to private actors isn’t without consequence, as privatization often comes with a lack of oversight and a series of abuses. One particularly stunning example is the American prison system, the realities of which should be a national disgrace.

Some of those realities are highlighted in a recent lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on behalf of prisoners at the East Mississippi Correctional Facility (EMCF). EMCF houses severely mentally ill prisoners, with the supposed intent of providing both incarceration and treatment. Instead, the ACLU contends, the facility, which is operated by private contractors, is rife with horrific abuses. As the ACLU states, it is

“an extremely dangerous facility operating in a perpetual state of crisis, where prisoners live in barbaric and horrific conditions and their basic human rights are violated daily.”

The complaint lists a litany of such horrors, but here are a few highlights: rampant rapes. Placing prisoners in solitary confinement for weeks, months or even years at a time, where the only way to get a guard’s attention in an emergency is to set a fire. Rat infestations so bad that vermin crawl over prisoners; sometimes, the rats are captured, put on leashes and sold as pets to the most severely mentally ill inmates. Many suicide attempts, some successful. The untreated mentally ill throw feces, scream, start fires, electrocute themselves and self-mutilate. Denying or delaying treatment for infections and even cancer. Stabbings, beatings and other acts of violence. Juveniles being housed with adults, including one 16-year-old who was sexually assaulted by his adult cell mate. Malnourishment and chronic hunger. Officers who deal with prisoners by using physical violence.

One prisoner allegedly attempted to hang himself. He was cut down by guards, given oxygen and put on supervision, but wasn’t taken to an emergency room, let alone given psychiatric care during the suicide watch. Without seeing a psychiatrist, his medication dosage was increased.

A severely ill 16-year-old with “a long history of being physically and sexually abused in addition to suffering from a traumatic brain injury, limited intellectual functioning, self-harm, and psychosis” was moved to EMCF from a juvenile detention center. His cell allegedly had a broken lock, and so other prisoners were able to enter. Five or six of them beat him. He was moved to a solitary confinement unit and, when he voiced his suicidal ideations and asked to see a psychiatrist, was deemed “manipulating to be moved”.

Another told prison mental health staff that he was depressed and thinking about about suicide. The treatment plan from the prison psychologist was reportedly three words: “encourage behavioral compliance”. After being asked to provide a urine specimen, which he could not give because of a health condition, the ACLU reports:

Mr. Roe began banging on his door, smeared blood on the cell door window, threatened to commit suicide, and tied a rope around his neck. Officers sprayed excessive amounts of Mace in his cell. According to witnesses, officers waited approximately 20 minutes before pulling Mr. Roe out of his cell. By that time, he was non-responsive and cyanotic. He was taken, his hands and feet bound by zip-ties, to the hospital where he was pronounced dead.

For several days after Mr. Roe’s death, medical staff continued to ‘document’ in the daily segregation log that Mr. Roe appeared to be ‘in good health and mood.'”

These kinds of abuses are not relegated to a single prison, but they also aren’t inherent in any detention system. In the United States, though, they’re business as usual. Our prison system is increasingly built and run by for-profit corporations, who have a financial interest in increasing the number of people in prison while decreasing the amount of money it costs to house them.

Since 1980, the US prison population has grown by 790%. We have the largest prison population of any nation in the history of the world. One in three African-American men will go to jail at some point in his life. Imprisoning that many people, most of them for non-violent offenses, doesn’t come cheap, especially when you’re paying private contractors. The United States now spends $50bn on our corrections system every year.

Much of that money goes to private contractors, who are doing quite well living off of American corporate welfare – at the expense of the American taxpayer, whose dollars are funding this mass incarceration project. Large-scale imprisonment isn’t making us any safer, either. But it is putting small-time non-violent individuals – drug users and dealers – in close contact with more hardened criminals and making it significantly more difficult for them to find decent work after their release. That’s a perfect recipe for recidivism, not rehabilitation.

Prisons, as demonstrated by the ACLU case, have also become de facto mass institutions for the mentally ill, except without the oversight that pure psychiatric facilities face. With states tightening their budgets, mental health care is being cut even further. While the mentally ill are more likely to be victims of crimes than victimizers, they are imprisoned at disproportionate rates, and often lack meaningful mental healthcare in prison and even face conditions that exacerbate their diseases, like solitary confinement and total squalor. We’re effectively taking some of the most vulnerable members of society and subjecting them to ongoing torture.

We have so demonized criminals in the United States that there’s widespread acceptance of the fact that jail in modern day America means rapes, beatings, vermin, filth and abuse. But to what end? “Criminals” are punished, yes – brutally, and in ways that should repel and shame us. But rehabilitation isn’t happening in these facilities. Crime isn’t being deterred; if anything, it’s being fostered.

The American public is losing out. The only winners are the private companies who are still awarded contracts to build and maintain more prisons, and who throw their weight behind politicians who promote the supposedly “tough on crime” measures that ensure those prisons are full.

There are many ways to punish crime and protect the public. Ceding our humanity doesn’t have to be one of them.

 

#India – Who Is Qualified To Be A Whistleblower ?



In a recent judgement, the Supreme Court has argued about the basic qualifications required to expose wrongdoings by organisations. Reports Ankit Agrawal
BY  ANKIT AGRAWAL  , Tehelka

Last month a two member bench of the Supreme Court comprising Justice Surinder Singh Nijjar and Justice MY Eqbal of the Supreme Court of India gave it’s verdict on the civilian case of Manoj H Mishra v/s Union of India and Others. The civil suit was filed by Mishra to contest his sacking from the Kakarapar Atomic Power Project (KAPP) at Surat, Gujarat.

Mishra was working as a tradesman at the power-plant when on the night of 15 July 1994 Surat recorded an unprecedented rainfall of 480mm in 10 hours, causing massive flooding inside the complex. More than 25 feet of the turbine, adjacent to the nuclear reactors, was submerged before dawn. In fact, some of the barrels that contained nuclear waste were also washed away by the floodwater. Even though, the emergency was declared on the next day, due procedures, which includes alerting State authorities and deputing assistant health physicist to check contamination and radiation, weren’t implemented. Worried, Mishra wrote a letter to the editor of  Gujrat Samachar  mentioning flooding inside the nuclear facility, improper safety precautions and flouting of Action Plan for Site Emergency. Pointing towards corruption, he demanded an inquiry by a high-level committee. Subsequebntly, he was sacked by the inquiry committee for criticising the project and passing confidential information to the media.

Mishra contented this punishment in lower, high and the Supreme Court and argued that he acted as whistleblower keeping in mind the best interest of people and the nuclear facility. While dismissing his case the SC delved into the concept of whistleblower and referred to the Indirect Tax Practitioners v/s RK Jain, which defines whistleblower as “a person who raises a concern about wrongdoing occurring in an organisation or body of people. Usually this person would be from that same organisation. The revealed misconduct may be classified in many ways; for example, a violation of a law, rule, regulation and/or a direct threat to public interest, such as fraud, health/safety violations and corruption.” Following this reference Justice Nijjar observed in judgement, “In our opinion, the aforesaid observations are of no avail to the appellant. It is a matter of record that the appellant is educated only upto 12th standard. He is neither an engineer, nor an expert on the functioning of the Atomic Energy Plants. Apart from being an insider, the appellant did not fulfill the criteria for being granted the status of a whiste blower. One of the basic requirements of a person being accepted as a whistleblower is that his primary motive for the activity should be in furtherance of public good. In other words, the activity has to be undertaken in public interest, exposing illegal activities of a public organization or authority. The conduct of the appellant, in our opinion, does not fall within the high moral and ethical standard that would be required of a bona fide whistleblower.” The court further says that Mishra breached confidentiality agreement by alleging about widespread corruption in the organisation.

RTI and whistleblowers protection activists are miffed following the judgment. Prashan Bhushan, a senior advocate, who appeared for Mishra in the court, termed this judgment a “fallacy of justice”. He said, “By informing the media about the near-catastrophic accident and poor response by the authorities, Mishra did a public duty therefore he was a whistleblower.” Shekhar Singh, RTI activist, points out two dangerous points in the judgment, expertise of the whistleblower and purity in motive. He says, “What is the sort of expertise one wants to be a whistle blower? The judgement falls flat when compared to the Whistleblowers Protection Bill, 2011 as it doesn’t have any mention about the purity of intention. Important thing is to expose the wrongdoing.”

How to shield your calls and internet activity from government surveillance #privacy


June 11, 2013
Protect yourself: Mobile and internet activity.Protect yourself: Mobile and internet activity. Photo: Michel O’Sullivan

If you have followed the startling revelations about the scope of the US government’s surveillance efforts, you may have thought you were reading about the end of privacy. But even when faced with the most ubiquitous of modern surveillance, there are ways to keep your communications away from prying eyes.

A new frontier of sweeping secret surveillance is not a conspiracy theory but a burgeoning reality.

First, instead of browsing the internet in a way that reveals your IP address, you can mask your identity by using an anonymising tool such as Tor or by connecting to the web using a Virtual Private Network, or VPN.

Additionally, you can avoid Google search by using an alternative such as Ixquick, which has solid privacy credentials and says it does not log any IP addresses or search terms or share information with third parties.

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When it comes to sending emails, if you are using a commercial provider that has been linked to the PRISM spy initiative, you can throw a spanner in the NSA‘s works by learning how to send and receive encrypted emails. PGP or its free cousin GPG are considered the standard for email security, and these can be used to both encrypt and decrypt messages – meaning you can thwart surveillance unless you are unlucky enough to have Trojan spyware installed on your computer.

Novice computer users learning how to use PGP or GPG may find it daunting at first, but there are plenty of tutorials online for both Mac and Windows users that can help guide you through the process. For journalists working with confidential sources, attorneys seeking to ensure attorney-client privilege, or others whose work requires secure communications, learning how to use PGP or GPG is an absolute necessity. Organisations seeking to protect themselves from email grabs could go one step further: they could take more control of their messages by setting up their own email server instead of relying on a third-party service, helping ensure no secret court orders can be filed to gain covert access to confidential files. And if you need to store private documents online, you can use Cloudfogger in conjunction with Dropbox.

For instant messaging and online phone or video chats, you can avoid Microsoft and Google services such as Skype and G chat by adopting more secure alternatives. Jitsi can be used for peer-to-peer encrypted video calls, and for encrypted instant message chats you can try using an “off the record” plugin with Pidgin for Windows users or Adium for Mac. Like using PGP encryption, both Pidgin and Adium can take a little bit of work to set up – but there are tutorials to help ease the pain, such as this for setting up Adium and this tutorial for Pidgin.

As for phone calls, if you want to shield against eavesdropping or stop the NSA obtaining records of who you are calling and when, there are a few options. You could use an encryption app such as Silent Circle to make and receive encrypted calls and send encrypted texts and files, though your communications will be fully secure only if both parties to the call, text or file transfer are using the app. Other than Silent Circle, you could try RedPhone (Android and iOS) for making encrypted calls or TextSecure for sending encrypted texts.

A new frontier of sweeping secret surveillance is not a conspiracy theory but a burgeoning reality. But it is not an Orwellian dystopia – at least, not yet. Tools to circumvent government monitoring exist and are freely available. The onus is on us as individuals to learn how to use and adopt them.

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/digital-life/consumer-security/how-to-shield-your-calls-and-internet-activity-from-government-surveillance-20130611-2o1bg.html#ixzz2VynaHfTa

India should not delay enacting a Privacy Act #mustshare


It is time the government stopped twiddling its thumbs and took action
Livemint
First Published: Mon, Jun 10 2013.
Illustration: Shyamal Banerjee/Mint<br /><br />
Illustration: Shyamal Banerjee/Mint
By modern standards of civility governments snooping on citizens is considered abhorrent behaviour. The admission by the US government that it has been collecting billions of pieces of information world-wide, especially personal data and emails, has thus been greeted by shock and anger. Indian citizens, too, have been subjected to this sweep, carried out under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or Fisa.
It is time the government of India stopped twiddling its thumbs and took strong measures such as enacting a Privacy Act to protect the rights of citizens.
An 8 June report by The Guardian suggests that 6.3 billion reports were collected from India. The investigation followed reports that the US has been monitoring communications between US and foreign nationals over the Internet for years under a project called “prism”. The Guardian said it has acquired classified documents about a data-mining tool called “boundless informant” that was used by the US National Security Agency that details and even maps by country the voluminous amount of information it collects from computer and telephone networks.
Reacting to earlier reports on the same issue, US director of national intelligence, James R. Clapper, issued a media release on 6 June, stating that The Guardian and The Washington Post articles “contain numerous inaccuracies”, but acknowledged that, “section 702 is a provision of Fisa that is designed to facilitate the acquisition of foreign intelligence information concerning non-US persons located outside the US…” The US government simultaneously clarified that the usage of such information or metadata (analytics of the humungous amounts of data intercepted) is used only after a due legal process.
Nevertheless, this assurance provides little comfort given that around 40 countries filter the Internet to varying degrees, including democratic and non-democratic governments. YouTube and Gmail (both from Google), BlackBerry maker Research In Motion Ltd, WikiLeaks, Skype (now a Microsoft product), Twitter and Facebook have all been censored, at different times, in China, Iran, Egypt and even India.
In April, the Union government began rolling out a central monitoring system, or CMS, which will enable it to monitor all phone and Internet communication in the country. Human Rights Watch in a 7 June media release described CMS as “chilling, given its reckless and irresponsible use of the sedition and Internet laws”.
Cybersecurity experts caution that while US and European Union citizens have recourse to law under their own domestic privacy policies, India has no such safeguard. The obvious agency to take a lead in the design, framing and enactment of such a law is, of course, the Union government. But it is hard to expect the government to take any initiative in the matter as—like any government—it would want to have the capabilities to intercept private communication of citizens. On 25 April 2011, the government in a media release admitted that provisions for authorization of interception are contained in section 5(2) of the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885, read with Rule 419 (A) of the Indian Telegraph Rules, 1951, as well as in section 69 of the Information Technology Act, 2000, read with the Information Technology (Directions for Interception or Monitoring or Decryption of Information) Rules, 2009.
The release also pointed out that the Supreme Court, in its order of 18 December 1996, had upheld the constitutional validity of interceptions and monitoring under section 5(2) of the Indian Telegraph Act, but added that telephone tapping would infringe the Right to Life and Right to Freedom of Speech and Expression enshrined in articles 21 and 19(1)(a), respectively, of the Constitution of India, unless permitted under the procedure established by law.
However, these guidelines are implemented more by way of an exception rather than as a rule.
The trouble here is that while the law is clear, it has multiple exceptions built into it that allow the government to do as it pleases. The safeguards thought of by the judiciary are not sufficient to protect the privacy of citizens. It is too much to hope that the government will adhere to privacy norms on its own. Three things need to happen in case India is ever to have a reasonable chance at a decent privacy law. One, citizen awareness and activism have to assume a much higher level than what prevails now. Two, public representatives—legislators, especially in Parliament—have to realize that privacy is a right that is at par with other rights and should not be trampled at will. Finally, at an appropriate juncture, the higher judiciary should take a look at the issue carefully once again. Continuous judicial scrutiny of the government is, for now, the only viable option to check abuses of privacy.
Does India need a privacy law? Tell us at views@livemint.com

Edward Snowden: the whistleblower behind the NSA surveillance revelations


The 29-year-old source behind the biggest intelligence leak in the NSA’s history explains his motives, his uncertain future and why he never intended on hiding in the shadows

• Q&A with NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden: ‘I do not expect to see home again’

Glenn Greenwald, Ewen MacAskill and Laura Poitras in Hong Kong

Sunday 9 June 2013

guardian.co.uk

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jun/09/edward-snowden-nsa-whistleblower-surveillance

—-

The individual responsible for one of the most significant leaks in US political history is Edward Snowden, a 29-year-old former technical assistant for the CIA and current employee of the defence contractor Booz Allen Hamilton. Snowden has been working at the National Security Agency for the last four years as an employee of various outside contractors, including Booz Allen and Dell.

The Guardian, after several days of interviews, is revealing his identity at his request. From the moment he decided to disclose numerous top-secret documents to the public, he was determined not to opt for the protection of anonymity. “I have no intention of hiding who I am because I know I have done nothing wrong,” he said.

Snowden will go down in history as one of America’s most consequential whistleblowers, alongside Daniel Ellsberg and Bradley Manning. He is responsible for handing over material from one of the world’s most secretive organisations – the NSA.

In a note accompanying the first set of documents he provided, he wrote: “I understand that I will be made to suffer for my actions,” but “I will be satisfied if the federation of secret law, unequal pardon and irresistible executive powers that rule the world that I love are revealed even for an instant.”

Despite his determination to be publicly unveiled, he repeatedly insisted that he wants to avoid the media spotlight. “I don’t want public attention because I don’t want the story to be about me. I want it to be about what the US government is doing.”

He does not fear the consequences of going public, he said, only that doing so will distract attention from the issues raised by his disclosures. “I know the media likes to personalise political debates, and I know the government will demonise me.”

Despite these fears, he remained hopeful his outing will not divert attention from the substance of his disclosures. “I really want the focus to be on these documents and the debate which I hope this will trigger among citizens around the globe about what kind of world we want to live in.” He added: “My sole motive is to inform the public as to that which is done in their name and that which is done against them.”

He has had “a very comfortable life” that included a salary of roughly $200,000, a girlfriend with whom he shared a home in Hawaii, a stable career, and a family he loves. “I’m willing to sacrifice all of that because I can’t in good conscience allow the US government to destroy privacy, internet freedom and basic liberties for people around the world with this massive surveillance machine they’re secretly building.”

‘I am not afraid, because this is the choice I’ve made’

Three weeks ago, Snowden made final preparations that resulted in last week’s series of blockbuster news stories. At the NSA office in Hawaii where he was working, he copied the last set of documents he intended to disclose.

He then advised his NSA supervisor that he needed to be away from work for “a couple of weeks” in order to receive treatment for epilepsy, a condition he learned he suffers from after a series of seizures last year.

As he packed his bags, he told his girlfriend that he had to be away for a few weeks, though he said he was vague about the reason. “That is not an uncommon occurrence for someone who has spent the last decade working in the intelligence world.”

On May 20, he boarded a flight to Hong Kong, where he has remained ever since. He chose the city because “they have a spirited commitment to free speech and the right of political dissent”, and because he believed that it was one of the few places in the world that both could and would resist the dictates of the US government.

In the three weeks since he arrived, he has been ensconced in a hotel room. “I’ve left the room maybe a total of three times during my entire stay,” he said. It is a plush hotel and, what with eating meals in his room too, he has run up big bills.

He is deeply worried about being spied on. He lines the door of his hotel room with pillows to prevent eavesdropping. He puts a large red hood over his head and laptop when entering his passwords to prevent any hidden cameras from detecting them.

Though that may sound like paranoia to some, Snowden has good reason for such fears. He worked in the US intelligence world for almost a decade. He knows that the biggest and most secretive surveillance organisation in America, the NSA, along with the most powerful government on the planet, is looking for him.

Since the disclosures began to emerge, he has watched television and monitored the internet, hearing all the threats and vows of prosecution emanating from Washington.

And he knows only too well the sophisticated technology available to them and how easy it will be for them to find him. The NSA police and other law enforcement officers have twice visited his home in Hawaii and already contacted his girlfriend, though he believes that may have been prompted by his absence from work, and not because of suspicions of any connection to the leaks.

“All my options are bad,” he said. The US could begin extradition proceedings against him, a potentially problematic, lengthy and unpredictable course for Washington. Or the Chinese government might whisk him away for questioning, viewing him as a useful source of information. Or he might end up being grabbed and bundled into a plane bound for US territory.

“Yes, I could be rendered by the CIA. I could have people come after me. Or any of the third-party partners. They work closely with a number of other nations. Or they could pay off the Triads. Any of their agents or assets,” he said.

“We have got a CIA station just up the road – the consulate here in Hong Kong – and I am sure they are going to be busy for the next week. And that is a concern I will live with for the rest of my life, however long that happens to be.”

Having watched the Obama administration prosecute whistleblowers at a historically unprecedented rate, he fully expects the US government to attempt to use all its weight to punish him. “I am not afraid,” he said calmly, “because this is the choice I’ve made.”

He predicts the government will launch an investigation and “say I have broken the Espionage Act and helped our enemies, but that can be used against anyone who points out how massive and invasive the system has become”.

The only time he became emotional during the many hours of interviews was when he pondered the impact his choices would have on his family, many of whom work for the US government. “The only thing I fear is the harmful effects on my family, who I won’t be able to help any more. That’s what keeps me up at night,” he said, his eyes welling up with tears.

‘You can’t wait around for someone else to act’

Snowden did not always believe the US government posed a threat to his political values. He was brought up originally in Elizabeth City, North Carolina. His family moved later to Maryland, near the NSA headquarters in Fort Meade.

By his own admission, he was not a stellar student. In order to get the credits necessary to obtain a high school diploma, he attended a community college in Maryland, studying computing, but never completed the coursework. (He later obtained his GED.)

In 2003, he enlisted in the US army and began a training program to join the Special Forces. Invoking the same principles that he now cites to justify his leaks, he said: “I wanted to fight in the Iraq war because I felt like I had an obligation as a human being to help free people from oppression”.

He recounted how his beliefs about the war’s purpose were quickly dispelled. “Most of the people training us seemed pumped up about killing Arabs, not helping anyone,” he said. After he broke both his legs in a training accident, he was discharged.

After that, he got his first job in an NSA facility, working as a security guard for one of the agency’s covert facilities at the University of Maryland. From there, he went to the CIA, where he worked on IT security. His understanding of the internet and his talent for computer programming enabled him to rise fairly quickly for someone who lacked even a high school diploma.

By 2007, the CIA stationed him with diplomatic cover in Geneva, Switzerland. His responsibility for maintaining computer network security meant he had clearance to access a wide array of classified documents.

That access, along with the almost three years he spent around CIA officers, led him to begin seriously questioning the rightness of what he saw.

He described as formative an incident in which he claimed CIA operatives were attempting to recruit a Swiss banker to obtain secret banking information. Snowden said they achieved this by purposely getting the banker drunk and encouraging him to drive home in his car. When the banker was arrested for drunk driving, the undercover agent seeking to befriend him offered to help, and a bond was formed that led to successful recruitment.

“Much of what I saw in Geneva really disillusioned me about how my government functions and what its impact is in the world,” he says. “I realised that I was part of something that was doing far more harm than good.”

He said it was during his CIA stint in Geneva that he thought for the first time about exposing government secrets. But, at the time, he chose not to for two reasons.

First, he said: “Most of the secrets the CIA has are about people, not machines and systems, so I didn’t feel comfortable with disclosures that I thought could endanger anyone”. Secondly, the election of Barack Obama in 2008 gave him hope that there would be real reforms, rendering disclosures unnecessary.

He left the CIA in 2009 in order to take his first job working for a private contractor that assigned him to a functioning NSA facility, stationed on a military base in Japan. It was then, he said, that he “watched as Obama advanced the very policies that I thought would be reined in”, and as a result, “I got hardened.”

The primary lesson from this experience was that “you can’t wait around for someone else to act. I had been looking for leaders, but I realised that leadership is about being the first to act.”

Over the next three years, he learned just how all-consuming the NSA’s surveillance activities were, claiming “they are intent on making every conversation and every form of behaviour in the world known to them”.

He described how he once viewed the internet as “the most important invention in all of human history”. As an adolescent, he spent days at a time “speaking to people with all sorts of views that I would never have encountered on my own”.

But he believed that the value of the internet, along with basic privacy, is being rapidly destroyed by ubiquitous surveillance. “I don’t see myself as a hero,” he said, “because what I’m doing is self-interested: I don’t want to live in a world where there’s no privacy and therefore no room for intellectual exploration and creativity.”

Once he reached the conclusion that the NSA’s surveillance net would soon be irrevocable, he said it was just a matter of time before he chose to act. “What they’re doing” poses “an existential threat to democracy”, he said.

A matter of principle

As strong as those beliefs are, there still remains the question: why did he do it? Giving up his freedom and a privileged lifestyle? “There are more important things than money. If I were motivated by money, I could have sold these documents to any number of countries and gotten very rich.”

For him, it is a matter of principle. “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.

His allegiance to internet freedom is reflected in the stickers on his laptop: “I support Online Rights: Electronic Frontier Foundation,” reads one. Another hails the online organisation offering anonymity, the Tor Project.

Asked by reporters to establish his authenticity to ensure he is not some fantasist, he laid bare, without hesitation, his personal details, from his social security number to his CIA ID and his expired diplomatic passport. There is no shiftiness. Ask him about anything in his personal life and he will answer.

He is quiet, smart, easy-going and self-effacing. A master on computers, he seemed happiest when talking about the technical side of surveillance, at a level of detail comprehensible probably only to fellow communication specialists. But he showed intense passion when talking about the value of privacy and how he felt it was being steadily eroded by the behaviour of the intelligence services.

His manner was calm and relaxed but he has been understandably twitchy since he went into hiding, waiting for the knock on the hotel door. A fire alarm goes off. “That has not happened before,” he said, betraying anxiety wondering if was real, a test or a CIA ploy to get him out onto the street.

Strewn about the side of his bed are his suitcase, a plate with the remains of room-service breakfast, and a copy of Angler, the biography of former vice-president Dick Cheney.

Ever since last week’s news stories began to appear in the Guardian, Snowden has vigilantly watched TV and read the internet to see the effects of his choices. He seemed satisfied that the debate he longed to provoke was finally taking place.

He lay, propped up against pillows, watching CNN’s Wolf Blitzer ask a discussion panel about government intrusion if they had any idea who the leaker was. From 8,000 miles away, the leaker looked on impassively, not even indulging in a wry smile.

Snowden said that he admires both Ellsberg and Manning, but argues that there is one important distinction between himself and the army private, whose trial coincidentally began the week Snowden’s leaks began to make news.

“I carefully evaluated every single document I disclosed to ensure that each was legitimately in the public interest,” he said. “There are all sorts of documents that would have made a big impact that I didn’t turn over, because harming people isn’t my goal. Transparency is.”

He purposely chose, he said, to give the documents to journalists whose judgment he trusted about what should be public and what should remain concealed.

As for his future, he is vague. He hoped the publicity the leaks have generated will offer him some protection, making it “harder for them to get dirty”.

He views his best hope as the possibility of asylum, with Iceland – with its reputation of a champion of internet freedom – at the top of his list. He knows that may prove a wish unfulfilled.

But after the intense political controversy he has already created with just the first week’s haul of stories, “I feel satisfied that this was all worth it. I have no regrets.”

 

On whistleblowers and government threats of investigation


No healthy democracy can endure when the most consequential acts of those in power remain secret and unaccountable

James Clapper, the US director of national intelligence.

James Clapper, the US director of national intelligence, who called the Guardian’s revelations ‘reprehensible’. Photograph: Michael Reynolds/EPA

We followed Wednesday’s story about the NSA‘s bulk telephone record-gathering with one yesterday about the agency’s direct access to the servers of the world’s largest internet companies. I don’t have time at the moment to address all of the fallout because – to borrow someone else’s phrase – I’m Looking Forward to future revelations that are coming (and coming shortly), not Looking Backward to ones that have already come.

But I do want to make two points. One is about whistleblowers, and the other is about threats of investigations emanating from Washington:

1) Ever since the Nixon administration broke into the office of Daniel Ellsberg‘s psychoanalyst’s office, the tactic of the US government has been to attack and demonize whistleblowers as a means of distracting attention from their own exposed wrongdoing and destroying the credibility of the messenger so that everyone tunes out the message. That attempt will undoubtedly be made here.

I’ll say more about all that shortly, but for now: as these whistleblowing acts becoming increasingly demonized (“reprehensible”, declaredDirector of National Intelligence James Clapper yesterday), please just spend a moment considering the options available to someone with access to numerous Top Secret documents.

They could easily enrich themselves by selling those documents for huge sums of money to foreign intelligence services. They could seek to harm the US government by acting at the direction of a foreign adversary and covertly pass those secrets to them. They could gratuitously expose the identity of covert agents.

None of the whistleblowers persecuted by the Obama administration as part of its unprecedented attack on whistleblowers has done any of that: not one of them. Nor have those who are responsible for these current disclosures.

They did not act with any self-interest in mind. The opposite is true: they undertook great personal risk and sacrifice for one overarching reason: to make their fellow citizens aware of what their government is doing in the dark. Their objective is to educate, to democratize, to create accountability for those in power.

The people who do this are heroes. They are the embodiment of heroism. They do it knowing exactly what is likely to be done to them by the planet’s most powerful government, but they do it regardless. They don’t benefit in any way from these acts. I don’t want to over-simplify: human beings are complex, and usually act with multiple, mixed motives. But read this outstanding essay on this week’s disclosures from The Atlantic’s security expert, Bruce Schneier, to understand why these brave acts are so crucial.

Those who step forward to blow these whistles rarely benefit at all. The ones who benefit are you. You discover what you should know but what is hidden from you: namely, the most consequential acts being taken by those with the greatest power, and how those actions are affecting your life, your country and your world.

In 2008, candidate Obama decreed that “often the best source of information about waste, fraud, and abuse in government is an existing government employee committed to public integrity and willing to speak out,” and he hailed whistleblowing as:

“acts of courage and patriotism, which can sometimes save lives and often save taxpayer dollars, should be encouraged rather than stifled as they have been during the Bush administration.”

The current incarnation of Obama prosecutes those same whistlelblowers at double the number of all previous presidents combined, and spent the campaign season boasting about it.

The 2008 version of Obama was right. As the various attacks are inevitably unleashed on the whistleblower(s) here, they deserve the gratitude and – especially – the support of everyone, including media outlets, for the noble acts that they have undertaken for the good of all of us. When it comes to what the Surveillance State is building and doing in the dark, we are much more informed today than we were yesterday, and will be much more informed tomorrow than we are today, thanks to them.

(2) Like puppets reading from a script, various Washington officials almost immediately began spouting all sorts of threats about “investigations” they intend to launch about these disclosures. This has been their playbook for several years now: they want to deter and intimidate anyone and everyone who might shed light on what they’re doing with their abusive, manipulative exploitation of the power of law to punish those who bring about transparency.

That isn’t going to work. It’s beginning completely to backfire on them. It’s precisely because such behavior reveals their true character, their propensity to abuse power, that more and more people are determined to bring about accountability and transparency for what they do.

They can threaten to investigate all they want. But as this week makes clear, and will continue to make clear, the ones who will actually be investigated are them.

The way things are supposed to work is that we’re supposed to know virtually everything about what they do: that’s why they’re called publicservants. They’re supposed to know virtually nothing about what we do: that’s why we’re called private individuals.

This dynamic – the hallmark of a healthy and free society – has been radically reversed. Now, they know everything about what we do, and are constantly building systems to know more. Meanwhile, we know less and less about what they do, as they build walls of secrecy behind which they function. That’s the imbalance that needs to come to an end. No democracy can be healthy and functional if the most consequential acts of those who wield political power are completely unknown to those to whom they are supposed to be accountable.

There seems to be this mentality in Washington that as soon as they stamp TOP SECRET on something they’ve done we’re all supposed to quiver and allow them to do whatever they want without transparency or accountability under its banner. These endless investigations and prosecutions and threats are designed to bolster that fear-driven dynamic. But it isn’t working. It’s doing the opposite.

The times in American history when political power was constrained was when they went too far and the system backlashed and imposed limits. That’s what happened in the mid-1970s when the excesses of J Edgar Hoover and Richard Nixon became so extreme that the legitimacy of the political system depended upon it imposing restraints on itself. And that’s what is happening now as the government continues on its orgies of whistleblower prosecutions, trying to criminalize journalism, and building a massive surveillance apparatus that destroys privacy, all in the dark. The more they overreact to measures of accountability and transparency – the more they so flagrantly abuse their power of secrecy and investigations and prosecutions – the more quickly that backlash will arrive.

I’m going to go ahead and take the Constitution at its word that we’re guaranteed the right of a free press. So, obviously, are other people doing so. And that means that it isn’t the people who are being threatened who deserve and will get the investigations, but those issuing the threats who will get that. That’s why there’s a free press. That’s whatadversarial journalism means.

 

Google chief Larry Page calls Internet spying threat to freedoms #FOE #Censorship


AFP: SAN FRANCISCO, JUN 08 2013, 10:13 IST
Tags: Google Inc | Internet Spying | Larry Page | Mark Zuckerberg | Barack Obama | Government Surveillance Program | World News
Google Inc.jpg

Google chief Larry Page branded Internet spying a threat to freedom and called for governments to be more revealing about what they try to find out about people’s online activities. 

“We understand that the US and other governments need to take action to protect their citizens’ safety – including sometimes by using surveillance,” Page said in a blog post yesterday.

“But the level of secrecy around the current legal procedures undermines the freedoms we all cherish.”

Page put his personal stamp on the California-based Internet giant’s denial that it opened any doors for US intelligence agencies to mine data from its servers.

Google and other technology firms on Thursday were adamant that they did not knowingly take part in a secret program called PRISM that gave the National Security Agency (NSA) and the FBI back doors into servers at major Internet companies.

“We have not joined any program that would give the US government or any other government direct access to our servers,” Page said.

“Indeed, the US government does not have direct access or a ‘back door’ to the information stored in our data centers,” he continued. “We had not heard of a program called PRISM until yesterday.”

The program was reportedly set up in 2007 and has grown “exponentially” to the point where it is now the most prolific contributor to President Barack Obama’s Daily Brief, the US leader’s top-secret daily intelligence briefing.

Some of the biggest firms in Silicon Valley were involved in the program, including Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, Apple, PalTalk, AOL, Skype and YouTube, reports said.

However, Internet titans denied providing intelligence agencies with back doors to networks and held firm that they only cooperated with legal “front door” requests for information.

“This episode confirms what we have long believed – there needs to be a more transparent approach,” Page said.

Google routinely publishes transparency reports listing numbers of requests for user data by governments and how they were handled.

 

#India- Government eavesdropping ‘chilling’, says rights group #CMS #Monitoring


Agence France Presse | Updated: June 07, 2013 17:03 IST

 Indian government eavesdropping 'chilling', says rights group
New DelhiThe Indian government‘s move to implement blanket eavesdropping of online activities, telephone calls and text messages is “chilling”, Human Rights Watch said today as controversy raged in the US about Internet surveillance.The Central Monitoring System was announced in parliament late last year and is a so-called “single window” allowing Indian state bodies such as the National Investigation Agency or tax authorities to monitor communications.

New York-based Human Rights Watch demanded a full public debate about “the intended use of the system before proceeding” as the monitoring was created without parliamentary approval.

The Indian surveillance comes as reports emerged that the US National Security Agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation have been tapping into the servers of Google, Yahoo!, Facebook and six other top US Internet companies, stirring a major row in the United States.

The US White House defended the clandestine data collection as a critical tool for preventing “the threat posed by terrorists” and said it was only targeting foreigners, not Americans.

In December 2012, the Indian government said in a statement its monitoring system would “lawfully intercept Internet and telephone services”.

A government spokesman declined to comment Wednesday on media reports that the government had begun rolling out the system.

Human Rights Watch said clear laws were needed to ensure that increased surveillance of phones and the Internet does not undermine rights to privacy and free expression.

“The Indian government’s centralised monitoring is chilling, given its reckless and irresponsible use of the sedition and Internet laws,” said Cynthia Wong, senior Internet researcher at Human Rights Watch.

Indian activists have raised concerns that the monitoring will inhibit them from expressing their opinions and sharing information.

The government has released scant information about what Indian agencies will have access to the system, who may authorise surveillance, and what legal standards must be met to intercept various kinds of data or communications.

India does not have a law to protect against intrusions on privacy.

A government appointed expert group observed in a 2012 report that current privacy regulations were “prone to misuse”.

Wong said Indian authorities should amend the existing Information Technology Act to protect free speech “and be fully transparent about any surveillance system that might chill people’s willingness to share opinions and information”.

In recent years, Indian authorities have arrested people for posting comments critical of the government on social media, put pressure on websites such as Facebook to filter or block content and imposed liability on private telecom operators to filter and remove content from users.

 

Activists allege illegal detention of workers by Noida Police


 

By Newzfirst Correspondent2/28/13

New Delhi – Activists of labour organizations Thursday accused Noida police of illegally detaining seven persons and harassing them on the directions of factory-owners.

Police picked Naveen Prakash and his employee Raju Wednesday evening without stating any reason. Four persons who went to enquire the reasons were also locked up by the Police, said Satyam Verma, a leader of Bigul Mazdoor Dasta.

Naveen Prakash, who runs a DTP centre at Ghaziabad, was active in workers’ union.

After detaining them, Police made Naveen to call his friend Tapish Maindola, an activist of the Bigul Mazdoor Dasta and locked-up him too, he said.

Police took all the three without informing anybody and where they are being taken to, he said.

According to latest updates, four persons- Gyanedar, Pramod, Gajendra and Sunny- who approached police station to know the whereabouts and the reason for the detention were also detained by the Police.

The police has so far neither lodged an FIR nor charged them of any offence. Activists alleged that Police is contemplating to charge them under NSA for allegedly instigating the workers for violence.

According to the Police, they are taken into custody for suspicious activities and are being interrogated.

Bigul Mazdoor Dasta has been holding street corner meetings in different parts of Noida and distributing a leaflet since February 23.

The leaflet says that the incidents of sporadic violence during the two-day strike were only a reflection of the deep set anger and frustration in the millions of workers in Noida who were being denied even basic rights. It points out that such anarchic explosions of anger are no solutions to the problem and workers must organise themselves in revolutionary unions and political organisations to wage an organised struggle against capitalist exploitation and the state machinery hand-in-glove with the exploiters.

“It is obvious that the police, as always, are working like henchmen of the factory-owners of Noida. Bigul Mazdoor Dasta has been targeted several times before by the Noida police at the behest of the factory owners who trample even basic labour laws under their feet and rush to smother every voice of protest. It should be recalled that the factory-owners’ associations have been clamouring to book the workers under NSA for the incidents of 21-22 February.” the statement released by the activists reads.

 

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