Privacy experts fear Donald Trump running global surveillance network

 The NSA. Obama’s approach has been to offer a modicum of transparency, much of it forced on him by the courts, in place of reform. Photograph: Patrick Semansky/AP

The NSA. Obama’s approach has been to offer a modicum of transparency, much of it forced on him by the courts, in place of reform. Photograph: Patrick Semansky/AP

Privacy activists, human rights campaigners and former US security officials have expressed fears over the prospect of Donald Trump controlling the vast global US and UK surveillance network.

Privacy and human rights campaigners in the US and UK say a Trump presidency will tip the balance between surveillance and privacy decisively towards the former. The UK surveillance agency GCHQ is so tied up with America’s NSA, often doing work on its behalf, it could find itself facing a series of ethical dilemmas.

On the campaign trail, Trump made an ambiguous remark about wishing he had access to surveillance powers.

“I wish I had that power,” he said while talking about the hack of Democratic National Committee emails. “Man, that would be power.”

“I think many Americans are waking up to the fact we have created a presidency that is too powerful.”

John Napier Tye, a former state department official who became a reluctant whistleblower in 2014, warning of NSA dragnets, said: “Obama and Bush could have set the best possible privacy protections in place, but the trouble is, it’s all set by executive order, not statute.

“So Trump could revise the executive order as he pleases. And since it’s all done in secret, unless you have someone willing to break the law to tell you that it happened, it’s not clear the public will ever learn it did. Consider that even now, the American people still do not know how much data on US persons the NSA actually collects.”

Thomas Drake, an NSA whistleblower who predated Snowden, offered an equally bleak assessment. He said: “The electronic infrastructure is fully in place – and ex post facto legalised by Congress and executive orders – and ripe for further abuse under an autocratic, power-obsessed president. History is just not kind here. Trump leans quite autocratic. The temptations to use secret NSA surveillance powers, some still not fully revealed, will present themselves to him as sirens.”

One specific surveillance measure Trump proposed on the campaign trail was surveilling mosques and keeping a database of Muslims. “A grave concern we have is that his rhetoric is going to be perceived in some corners as a green light for unfettered surveillance activities. Our concern is not just about the NSA but also the FBI. The FBI doesn’t exactly have a great record over the last 15 years,” said Farhana Khera, the president and executive director of the US-based civil rights group Muslim Advocates.

The next flashpoint over the NSA’s powers will come late in 2017, when a major surveillance law permitting collection of Americans’ international communications is set for expiration, the legal basis for the NSA’s Prism programme which siphons information from the technology giants.

According to documents released by Snowden, now years out of date as technological advancements have developed, the NSA vacuums 5bn daily records just of cellphone locations. In April 2011, it was collecting an average of 194m text messages every day.

New report shows NSA tool collects ‘nearly everything a user does on the internet’

XKeyscore map

XKeyscore is a top secret National Security Agency program which allows analysts to search with no prior authorization through vast databases containing emails, online chats and the browsing histories of millions of individuals, according to documents provided by whistleblower Edward Snowden and reported in The Guardian.

“I, sitting at my desk,” said Snowden, could “wiretap anyone, from you or your accountant, to a federal judge or even the president, if I had a personal email”.

US officials vehemently denied this specific claim. Mike Rogers, the Republican chairman of the House intelligence committee, said of Snowden’s assertion: “He’s lying. It’s impossible for him to do what he was saying he could do.”

But training materials for XKeyscore detail how analysts can use it and other systems to mine enormous agency databases by filling in a simple on-screen form giving only a broad justification for the search. The request is not reviewed by a court or any NSA personnel before it is processed.

XKeyscore, the documents boast, is the NSA’s “widest reaching” system developing intelligence from computer networks – what the agency calls Digital Network Intelligence (DNI). One presentation claims the program covers “nearly everything a typical user does on the internet”, including the content of emails, websites visited and searches, as well as their metadata.

Analysts can also use XKeyscore and other NSA systems to obtain ongoing “real-time” interception of an individual’s internet activity.

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Read the complete article on The Guardian web site here.

Vic Toews, the dolt, pushing warrantless surveillance again.

Vic Toews must have thought George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four police state crusade against thinking and individuality needed implementation in Canada.

Thankfully, Federal Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart tried to smarten up Toews and Stephen Harper – good luck there, Jennifer – when she wrote the Harper government Thursday to register her “deep concerns” about these new surveillance powers and note that it (the Harper Government) has so far failed to demonstrate why this is the best course of action.

According to the Globe and Mail, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews has confirmed in recent weeks that the Conservatives intend to revive legislation they did not manage to pass as a minority government – bills that would give police new capabilities to conduct electronic surveillance in the Internet age.

The changes eyed by the Tories, spread out over three bills in the last Parliament, would also have given police greater power to obtain data gathered by Internet service providers by requiring Internet service providers to install surveillance technology on their networks.

It also would have forced mandatory disclosure of customer information on demand and without court oversight. This would obliged all ISPs to surrender customer details to the police including names, addresses, email address as well as the unique identifier number that every computer connection to the Internet is assigned.

Read the full article here.