Saturday, July 5, 2014

Is There a Second NSA Leaker in Addition to Edward Snowden?


A very interesting question has come out regarding a story on the NSA's targeting of those who utilize internet privacy tools, specifically the browser Tor (The Onion Router) and portable Linux based operating system Tails (The Amnesic Incognito Live System) as potential "terrorists" and "extremists". The question being is that the copy of the XKeyscore code published by German website Das Erste apparently was not a part of the collection of NSA documents procured by whistleblower Edward Snowden but may actually have come from a second leaker. If true this would be a bombshell as well as a game-changer that could reverberate throughout the world and shake the US national surveillance state to its very roots.

The big story which is written by Lena Kampf, Jacob Appelbaum and John Goetz originally broke in Germany's Tagesschau (you will need Google Translate) and cites the NSA targeting of a German student and internet privacy activist named Sebastian Hahn who is involved with the Tor Project. The NSA has determined that anyone who even searches for information on internet encryption and privacy tools is deemed to be an "extremist". They are then flagged for a higher level of monitoring, data-mining and retention of content instead of the limited hangout of only the metadata. This goes far beyond what has been openly admitted to by the Obama administration and the array of national intelligence goons - even if they did manage to retroactively legalize their snooping as divulged in the report by that independent executive branch internal oversight office the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board.

This is where it begins to get really scary now that NSA has been outed for officially crossing over into thought crime. Internet privacy organization the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has called out NSA for infringing upon the First Amendment "Dear NSA, Privacy is a Fundamental Right, Not Reasonable Suspicion":

Learning about Linux is not a crime--but don't tell the NSA that. A story published in German on Tagesschau, and followed up by an article in English on DasErste.de today, has revealed that the NSA is scrutinizing people who visit websites such as the Tor Project's home page and even Linux Journal. This is disturbing in a number of ways, but the bottom line is this: the procedures outlined in the articles show the NSA is adding "fingerprints"--like a scarlet letter for the information age--to activities that go hand in hand with First Amendment protected activities and freedom of expression across the globe.

The EFF also encourages the continued use of Tor and Tails:

One question that is sure to come up is whether this means people desiring anonymity should stop using Tor or Tails. Here's the bottom line: If you're using Tor or Tails, there is a possibility that you will be subject to greater NSA scrutiny. But we believe that the benefits outweigh the burdens.

In fact, the more people use Tor, the safer you are. That's why we're continuing to run the Tor Challenge. The ubiquitous use of privacy and security tools is our best hope for protecting the people who really need those tools--people for whom the consequences of being caught speaking out against their government can be imprisonment or death. The more ordinary people use Tor and Tails, the harder it is for the NSA to make the case that reading about or using these tools is de facto suspicious.

My personal take on this is that if you are currently using these tools or otherwise engaged in fighting the surveillance state then you are already on their list so just f*ck the NSA. At this point activists and those who challenge the system still have a relative degree of freedom to do exactly that so why retreat into the sheep pack when you have a vested interest in challenging the bastards - especially when that vested interest is in saving one's own skin. If someone is already on the pickup list, the primary objective is to do everything possible to keep the black vans from rolling on that day when it becomes politically acceptable to give the order - such as the next "terrorist" attack like the one that Dick Cheney has promised.

The key aspect of this story - anyone who gets it has understood for a long time that the NSA is lying their asses off and has been using their surveillance systems to build electronic dossiers on journalists, activists, bloggers, political dissidents and anyone who may one day pose a threat to the gangster state - is that the code apparently did not come from Mr. Snowden. According to a piece at the blog Boing Boing, written by Cory Doctorow and entitled "If you read Boing Boing, the NSA considers you a target for deep surveillance" I except the following:

I have known that this story was coming for some time now, having learned about its broad contours under embargo from a trusted source. Since then, I've discussed it in confidence with some of the technical experts who have worked on the full set of Snowden docs, and they were as shocked as I was.

One expert suggested that the NSA's intention here was to separate the sheep from the goats -- to split the entire population of the Internet into "people who have the technical know-how to be private" and "people who don't" and then capture all the communications from the first group.
Another expert said that s/he believed that this leak may come from a second source, not Edward Snowden, as s/he had not seen this in the original Snowden docs; and had seen other revelations that also appeared independent of the Snowden materials. If that's true, it's big news, as Snowden was the first person to ever leak docs from the NSA. The existence of a potential second source means that Snowden may have inspired some of his former colleagues to take a long, hard look at the agency's cavalier attitude to the law and decency.

Doctorow then cites security expert Bruce Schneier (who has worked with Glenn Greenwald) who writes at the blog Schneier on Security who has stated in his recent post "NSA Targets the Privacy-Conscious for Surveillance" that "And, since Cory said it, I do not believe that this came from the Snowden documents. I also don't believe the TAO catalog came from the Snowden documents. I think there's a second leaker out there." Greenwald himself seems to acknowledge this possibility in a Tweet.

That would be huge - particularly now that Greenwald's big story -that promised "fireworks show" - has been shut down by the US government which has gotten to either the Pulitzer Prize winning journalist himself or to the decision makers at the abysmal (at least to this point anyway) Pierre Omidyar backed venture The Intercept. The prospect of a second NSA leaker - who if he/she is smart, will avoid outing themselves and then being subjected to the concerted campaigns of media and establishment demonization and vilification - must send cold chills up the spines of the American Stasi high command over at Ft. Meade and the rotten to the core political class that protects it from any form of oversight.

It would be even better if there were more than two and with the website Cryptome having alluded to the coming release of all the Snowden material nothing could make for a bigger and better party than a couple of wild cards floating around out there with more seriously explosive evidence like the set of XKeyscore instructions that shows the lengths to which this monstrous surveillance colossus is prepared to go in order to lock down its gains.