Illegal FBI mass surveillance in the USA


This 8 June 2016 video from the USA says about itself:

‘State of Surveillance’ with Edward Snowden and Shane Smith (VICE on HBO: Season 4, Episode 13)

When NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden leaked details of massive government surveillance programs in 2013, he ignited a raging debate over digital privacy and security. That debate came to a head this year, when Apple refused an FBI court order to access the iPhone of alleged San Bernardino Terrorist Syed Farook. Meanwhile, journalists and activists are under increasing attack from foreign agents. To find out the government’s real capabilities, and whether any of us can truly protect our sensitive information, VICE founder Shane Smith heads to Moscow to meet the man who started the conversation, Edward Snowden.

By Kevin Reed in the USA:

FISA court documents expose illegal FBI mass surveillance

10 October 2019

In an unprecedented development, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) released redacted Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) documents on Tuesday that disclose details of the illegal FBI electronic surveillance of US citizens.

The disclosures—contained in 20 documents published on the website of the ODNI—show that since 2017 the FBI has been violating provisions of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) as well as the Fourth Amendment rights of Americans by searching through their e-mail, text messages and phone calls.

The ODNI document release stems from a FISC order on April 5, 2018, which found that the FBI’s procedures concerning the “querying of United States persons” were insufficient, resulting in violations of federal law. The Trump administration appealed the decision to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review (FISC-R), which then affirmed on July 12, 2019, the original 2018 ruling.

The portion of the FISA law that was found to be violated by the FBI is known as Section 702, which grants authority to US intelligence and law enforcement to search the online communications of non-Americans located outside the US under very specific conditions. Section 702 was adopted in 2008 as part of the FISA Amendments Act that modified the original FISA law adopted in 1976 and it specifically bars the targeting of US citizens for warrantless electronic surveillance.

In one episode reported in the FISC documents, in March 2017 the FBI queried the database of e-mail, texts and phone calls of more than 70,000 FBI employees or contractors. According to the Wall Street Journal, “The bureau appeared to be looking for data to conduct a security review of people with access to its buildings and computers—meaning the FBI was searching for data linked to its own employees.” The documents say that the agency did so against the advice of its general counsel.

In another example from April 2018, the FBI queried the e-mail addresses and phone numbers of 57,000 US individuals. In both instances, the FBI claimed the searches were necessary as part of an effort to uncover foreign intelligence information.

Several other incidents involved querying the data of specific individuals instead of the batch queries. In these cases, the FISC court of Judge James E. Boesberg determined that the FBI had not provided sufficient justification for its belief that the queries would yield foreign intelligence information.

It should be pointed out that the FISC rulings and documents released by ODNI take as a given the existence of the NSA database of e-mail, text messages and phone calls of everyone. The reprimand of the FBI is that the agency did not properly utilize the database, document its reasons for querying it and dispose of the information obtained after it was collected.

This discrepancy was noted by former NSA contractor and whistleblower Edward Snowden in a tweet on Tuesday: “The worst part? The government argues the existence of a warrantless, internet-scale mass surveillance program isn’t the problem, merely the lawless way the FBI uses it against Americans, [because] ‘of course’ the other 93-97% of the human population have no rights.”

Secret US government data collection of e-mail and phone call data has been going on at least since the days following the events of September 11, 2001. The exposures made by Snowden showed that this data collection takes two forms: upstream and downstream (also known as PRISM).

Upstream collection is the interception and storage of communications as they pass through the fiber-optic backbone and infrastructure of the global telecommunications system. This involves the collection of a large mass of data that is filtered based on IP addresses, phone numbers and e-mail addresses and made available to indexing and analysis based on the queries of targeted individuals.

Downstream collection involves government access to the servers of the telecommunications service providers and tech companies such as Verizon, Microsoft, Google, Yahoo, Facebook and Apple and copying the data that resides there. These companies are prohibited from telling their customers that their data has been retrieved by the government.

In describing the 2018 FISC order and its 2019 FISC-R affirmation, the ODNI says, “The Government subsequently submitted amended FBI querying procedures to address the issues, and the FISC found that the amended procedures were sufficient.”

However, this is not the first time that the American people have been told—after secret surveillance of the public was exposed—that the government has stopped violating constitutional rights against unreasonable searches and seizures.

In March 2013, the Director of National Intelligence James Clapper lied during congressional testimony when he said that the NSA did not collect any data on American citizens. Three months later, a massive NSA program that was gathering the electronic communications of everyone was exposed by Snowden.

In March 2014, President Barack Obama promised to end the NSA data collection and surveillance programs only to seek subsequently to reauthorize them multiple times. The Trump administration reauthorized the mass surveillance program in January 2018 and has called for the program to be permanently activated when it expires at the end of this year.

The publication of the FISC documents by the ODNI exhibit some features of the intensifying warfare between the Trump administration and the Democratic Party and US intelligence community in Washington, D.C.

Like the impeachment drive that is narrowly focused on Trump’s political skullduggery during one phone call, when the Republican President has violated the constitution multiple times on other issues such as the treatment of immigrants, the claim that the FBI’s misuse of the procedures for “querying United States persons” is a violation of the Fourth Amendment pales in comparison to the NSA’s mass system of surveillance.

Meanwhile, differences of opinion over the meaning of the ODNI revelations have been expressed in the Congress. An anonymous congressional aide told the Washington Post that the FBI’s violations were not “not particularly alarming,” while Senator Ron Wyden (Democrat-Oregon) said, “Today’s release demonstrates how baseless the FBI’s position was.”

Given its record of lying about spying on the public, nothing published by the ODNI should be accepted at face value and without a very high degree of skepticism. Under the FISA law, the FISC court—which has undergone a significant transformation since its establishment following the exposure of criminal activities by then-President Richard Nixon in the 1970s—operates in complete secrecy as an arm of US military-intelligence.

Many questions remain as to why, when the secret court approves 99.967% of the surveillance requests that come before it, the FISC has chosen to rebuke the FBI for violating procedures.

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Edward Snowden on his new book


This video from the USA says about itself:

Edward Snowden On His New Book “Permanent Record

October 05, 2019 C-SPAN News

Former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden talked about exposing the U.S. government’s mass surveillance program and having to go into exile as a result. Mr. Snowden appeared on the ACLU’s “At Liberty” podcast, hosted by ACLU executive director Anthony Romero.

The memoir Permanent Record by the former intelligence contractor and whistleblower Edward Snowden is an important account of the life of the man behind the exposure of secret global electronic surveillance programs run by the NSA and CIA: here.

Edward Snowden, MSNBC TV interview


This video from the USA says about itself:

Full Interview: Edward Snowden On Trump, Privacy, And Threats To Democracy | The 11th Hour | MSNBC

On the eve of his memoir ‘Permanent Record’ being published, NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden talked at length from Moscow with MSNBC’s Brian Williams in an exclusive interview. This is their discussion in its entirety, edited down slightly for clarity.

Aired on 9/17/2019.

Artificial intelligence, racism and sexism


This 10 April 2018 video says about itself:

We’re Training Machines to be Racist. The Fight Against Bias is On

Face recognition software didn’t recognise Joy Buolamwini until she placed a white mask over her face. Now she’s leading the fight against lazily-coded [Amazon] algorithms that work for white males but struggle to recognise the faces and voices of women and people with non-white skin tones.

Translated from Dutch NOS TV today:

Can artificial intelligence be racist or sexist?

Governments use algorithms on an increasingly large scale to predict who will do something wrong, but also to determine what citizens need, the NOS reported yesterday. Something with a risk of discrimination.

But there is also a risk outside the government. Almost all self-driving cars, eg, recognize people with darker skin colour worse than people with lighter skin colour. That is the striking conclusion of a recent study. And dangerous, moreover, because cars then do not properly anticipate pedestrians of colour.

Striking, but not new, says Nieuws en Co-tech watcher Enaam Ahmed Ali. “We can no longer do without artificial intelligence, but it is full of prejudices.” …

Artificial intelligence in courts

But it goes further, says Enaam Ahmed Ali. For example, banks use it to assess whether you can apply for a loan. And in the US, for example, experiments are already being conducted with artificial intelligence in courts. And then those prejudices suddenly become really problematic.

Who is the doctor?

A well-known example, where you see those prejudices coming back, is, eg, the translation function of Google. You can do the following experiment yourself: type she is a doctor, he is a nurse and translate this into a grammatically gender-neutral language such as Turkish or Persian and translate back. Suddenly he is the doctor and she the nurse.

Black women not recognized

Ahmed Ali: “You recently saw that very well with Amazon‘s facial recognition tool. It showed that black women were not recognized as women in 37 per cent of cases. This was due to a lack of diversity in the data.”

And while the consequences of face recognition apps are small,

No, dear NOS, these consequences are not small. Eg, Amazon sells it facial recognition software to police. And in England, London police facial recognition software ‘recognizes’ 100% of innocent people as criminals. Err … maybe it is not as bad as 100%. British daily The Independent says it is ‘only’ 98% misidentifications. And a BBC report looks at this even more through rose-coloured glasses: ‘only’ 92% of innocent people ‘recognized’ as criminals

they are big in the case of self-driving cars. Ahmed Ali: “Those cars see the black people, but do not recognize them as human in all cases. For the car, for example, it may also be a tree or pole. The danger is that a tree or pole does not suddenly cross over. In this case, the car can make a wrong and dangerous decision.”

And this also works with words. If the bulk of the data speaks of male doctors, then the Google algorithm also automatically links that together.

Edward Snowden: With Technology, Institutions Have Made ‘Most Effective Means of Social Control in the History of Our Species’. NSA whistleblower says “new platforms and algorithms” can have direct effect on human behavior: here.