In every country of the world, the security of computers keeps the lights on, the shelves stocked, the dams closed, and transportation running. For more than half a decade, the vulnerability of our computers and computer networks has been ranked the number one risk in the US Intelligence Community’s Worldwide Threat Assessment – that’s higher than terrorism, higher than war. Your bank balance, the local hospital’s equipment, and the 2020 US presidential election, among many, many other things, all depend on computer safety.
And yet, in the midst of the greatest computer security crisis in history, the US government, along with the governments of the UK and Australia, is attempting to undermine the only method that currently exists for reliably protecting the world’s information: encryption. Should they succeed in their quest to undermine encryption, our public infrastructure and private lives will be rendered permanently unsafe.
BY JENNA MCLAUGHLIN INTERCEPT
French Justice Minister Christiane Taubira thinks National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange might be allowed to settle in France. If France decides to offer them asylum, she would “absolutely not be surprised,” she told French news channel BFMTV on Thursday (translated from the French). She said it would be a “symbolic gesture.”
Taubira was asked about the NSA’s sweeping surveillance of three French presidents, disclosed by WikiLeaks this week, and called it an “unspeakable practice.”
Her comments echoed those in an editorial in France’s leftist newspaper Libération Thursday morning, which said giving Snowden asylum would be a “single gesture” that would send “a clear and useful message to Washington,” in response to the “contempt” the U.S. showed by spying on France’s president. Snowden, who faces criminal espionage charges in the U.S., has found himself stranded in Moscow with temporary asylum as he awaits responses from two dozen countries where he’d like to live; and Assange is trapped inside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London to avoid extradition to Sweden. (See correction below.)
Taubira, the chief of France’s Ministry of Justice, holds the equivalent position of the attorney general in the United States. She has been described in the press as a “maverick,” targeting issues such as poverty and same-sex marriage, often inspiring anger among French right-wingers.
A security consultant has published 10 million passwords along with their corresponding usernames in a move he characterized as both necessary and legally risky given a legal landscape he said increasingly threatens the free flow of hacking-related information. Most of the existing corpus of passwords exposed in hack attacks is stripped of usernames, preventing researchers from studying the possible relationship between the two fields. Mark Burnett, a well-known security consultant who has developed a specialty collecting and researching passwords leaked online, said his sole motivation for releasing the data was to advance what’s already known about the way people choose passcodes. At the same time, he said he was worried the list might land him in legal hot water given the recent five-year sentence handed to former Anonymous activist and writer Barrett Brown, in part based on links to hacked authentication data he posted in Internet chat channels. “I think this is completely absurd that I have to write an entire article justifying the release of this data out of fear of prosecution or legal harassment,” he wrote in a post published Monday night on his blog.
Yesterday, my wife and I squeezed into a sold-out matinee of Citizenfour, the film by Laura Poitras telling the story of Edward Snowden’s NSA leak. The film, filmed as the story develops, as Poitras was one of the two journalists (Glenn Greenwald the other) that Snowden brought into the story to tell the story, is the most hopeful fact about our democracy that exists anywhere today. It’s not hopeful on the facts: The story it tells, familiar to anyone who has followed this closely (but recognize, that’s about 5% of America, if that) is incredible. Whether or not the United States Supreme Court would uphold as constitutional the behavior of our government (and ever the optimist, I don’t believe it would), what is absolutely clear is the complete failure of democratic process. The administration lied to Congress; it conspired with foreign governments to construct the Stasi’s wet-dream of a world surveillance system.
BY RACHEL OLDROYD
THE BUREAU OF INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALISM
The Bureau of Investigative Journalism is asking a European court to rule on whether UK legislation properly protects journalists’ sources and communications from government scrutiny and mass surveillance. The Bureau’s application was filed with the European Court of Human Rights on Friday. If the court rules in favour of the application it will force the UK government to review regulation around the mass collection of communications data. The action follows concerns about the implications to journalists of some of the revelations that have come out of material leaked by Edward Snowden. These have made it clear that by using mass surveillance techniques and programs such as Tempora government agencies can not only collect, store and scrutinise the content of electronic communications but also analyse masses of metadata – the details about where digital communications such as emails originate and the subject area of those communications.
Someone just said something on the internet, and you know they’re wrong. You know because you’re an expert on the subject this bozo is spewing nonsense about. But, at the same time, you don’t want to post a response under your own name. Maybe you have an opinion that would make you unpopular with your family or colleagues. Or maybe you have a stalker and don’t want to tip them off about the sites you use.
All the remaining Snowden documents will be released next month, according to whistle-blowing site Cryptome, which said in a tweet that the release of the info by unnamed third parties would be necessary to head off an unnamed “war”.
Cryptome said it would “aid and abet” the release of “57K to 1.7M” new documents that had been “withheld for national security-public debate [sic]”. The site clarified that will not be publishing the documents itself. Transparency activists would welcome such a release but such a move would be heavily criticised by inteligence agencies and military officials, who argue that Snowden’s dump of secret documents has set US and allied (especially British) intelligence efforts back by years. As things stand, the flow of Snowden disclosures is controlled by those who have access to the Snowden archive, which might possibly include Snowden confidants such as Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras. In some cases, even when these people release information to mainstream media organisations, it is then suppressed by these organisations after negotiation with the authorities.
When I chose to disclose classified information in 2010, I did so out of a love for my country and a sense of duty to others. I’m now serving a sentence of 35 years in prison for these unauthorized disclosures. I understand that my actions violated the law. However, the concerns that motivated me have not been resolved. As Iraq erupts in civil war and America again contemplates intervention, that unfinished business should give new urgency to the question of how the United States military controlled the media coverage of its long involvement there and in Afghanistan.