While I was in Svalbard, the rest of the world did not stand still.
Not in the USA. Not in Britain.
A big scandal of governmental spying on Internet users has come to light.
From the New York Times in the USA:
President Obama’s Dragnet
By THE EDITORIAL BOARD
Published: June 6, 2013
Within hours of the disclosure that federal authorities routinely collect data on phone calls Americans make, regardless of whether they have any bearing on a counterterrorism investigation, the Obama administration issued the same platitude it has offered every time President Obama has been caught overreaching in the use of his powers: Terrorists are a real menace and you should just trust us to deal with them because we have internal mechanisms (that we are not going to tell you about) to make sure we do not violate your rights.
Those reassurances have never been persuasive — whether on secret warrants to scoop up a news agency’s phone records or secret orders to kill an American suspected of terrorism — especially coming from a president who once promised transparency and accountability.
The administration has now lost all credibility on this issue. Mr. Obama is proving the truism that the executive branch will use any power it is given and very likely abuse it. That is one reason we have long argued that the Patriot Act, enacted in the heat of fear after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks by members of Congress who mostly had not even read it, was reckless in its assignment of unnecessary and overbroad surveillance powers.
Based on an article in The Guardian published Wednesday night, we now know that the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National Security Agency used the Patriot Act to obtain a secret warrant to compel Verizon’s business services division to turn over data on every single call that went through its system. We know that this particular order was a routine extension of surveillance that has been going on for years, and it seems very likely that it extends beyond Verizon’s business division. There is every reason to believe the federal government has been collecting every bit of information about every American’s phone calls except the words actually exchanged in those calls.
Articles in The Washington Post and The Guardian described a process by which the N.S.A. is also able to capture Internet communications directly from the servers of nine leading American companies. The articles raised questions about whether the N.S.A. separated foreign communications from domestic ones.
More about this scandal, in The Guardian in Britain, is here.
See also here.
Edward Snowden, the former CIA information technology employee and contractor for the National Security Agency (NSA), has performed an immense service to the people of the United States and the world by lifting the veil on the military-intelligence spying apparatus, which operates in secrecy and in violation of the most basic constitutional rights: here. See also here.
From the daily News Line in Britain:
Monday, 10 June 2013
US-UK spying scandal – Hague to make statement
Hague is to give a statement to Parliament on the allegations today, where questioning over UK access to the American Prism snooping system will intensify.
Yesterday, Hague refused to confirm that Prism has enabled GCHQ to circumvent the legal process for obtaining personal material on British citizens, such as emails, photographs and videos.
GCHQ is to report to Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) on the matter today.
GCHQ, based at Cheltenham, is said to have generated 197 intelligence reports through the system in the 12 months to May 2012 – a 137% increase on the previous year.
Prism was established in 2007 under changes to US surveillance laws passed under President Bush and renewed last year by Obama, to provide surveillance on live communications and stored information on foreigners overseas.
Speaking on the BBC Andrew Marr show yesterday, Hague refused to say whether he had personally authorised GCHQ to engage with Prism.
‘Of course we share a lot of information with the United States,’ Hague admitted, ‘That’s been the case since the Second World War; the US and the UK have an exceptional intelligence-sharing relationship.’
The BBC interviewer responded: ‘Okay. Did you know about Prism then?’
Hague replied: ‘Well I don’t – I can’t ever – confirm or deny in public what Britain knows about and what Britain doesn’t.’
She tried again: ‘Are you going to be able to tell the British public full stop, whether or not Prism exists and whether or not you have been getting information on British citizens from it?’
Hague replied: ‘No we can talk about the framework in which we do things and we can give people the assurances about how that works. We can’t possibly go into “did we exactly do this or did we exactly do that?” ’
She tried again: ‘But if Prism is being used, it looks like you are getting round the legal structures that are in place, because you can get that information, you can get information from GCHQ about people and companies, but you have to apply for it.
‘It looks like for two or three years, you have been getting information without legally applying for it.’
Hague replied: ‘Well sometimes when people get partial information about what is really a vast complex picture, all sorts of things can look true or untrue.’
The BBC reporter said: ‘We read that there were 197 requests for information prompted and you would have authorised all of those.’
Hague replied: ‘I cannot possibly confirm or deny those things.’
Guy Herbert, General Secretary of NO2ID, told News Line: ‘It’s extraordinary that essentially intelligence services are completely unaccountable.
‘If they are making use of American intelligence sources, then it isn’t sufficient for them blandly to say they operate within the law; they should say which laws they are operating in.
‘I hope that in Parliament tomorrow somebody asks him this: “Have you issued warrants for this to be done?” ’
Britain: The government must come clean on the extent of its involvement in the US drone programme in Pakistan following allegations that GCHQ used the US Prism programme, legal charity Reprieve said today: here.
Europe: MEPs laid into Washington yesterday for snooping on its European allies as though they were “foreigners”: here.
- Prism scandal: William Hague’s vagueness on US spying fails to reassure MPs and public over covert GCHQ deal with NSA (independent.co.uk)
- GCHQ ‘snooping’ row: William Hague accused of ‘cover-up’ over internet spying claims (mirror.co.uk)
- UK dismisses US-linked spy claims as ‘nonsense’ (thehindu.com)
- guardian tecnologia: NSA Prism surveillance scandal downplayed by UK government (guardian.co.uk)
- GCHQ ‘broke law if it asked for NSA intelligence on UK citizens’ (guardian.co.uk)
- Britain’s GCHQ embroiled in spy scandal (rinf.com)
- guardian tecnologia: Ministers to reveal British link to US data spying scandal (guardian.co.uk)