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NSA leak fallout: LIVE UPDATES

Published time: June 10, 2013 15:49
Edited time: September 13, 2013 00:18
The logo of the National Security Agency (NSA) (AFP Photo)

The logo of the National Security Agency (NSA) (AFP Photo)

Former CIA employee Edward Snowden has carried out one of the biggest leaks in US history, exposing a top-secret NSA surveillance program to the media. Leading tech companies were revealed to be involved in intelligence gathering through PRISM spy tool.

RT has developed an interactive map showing the countries being spied on, those aiding the US in their surveillance operations.

Thursday, September 12

GMT 23:58: Edward Snowden’s leaks revealing mass data collection by the National Security Agency “probably needed to happen,” Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said Thursday. Speaking at a conference in Washington, Clapper acknowledged the revelations had sparked a needed debate that “perhaps” should have happened earlier. Yet Clapper maintained he was concerned about the disclosures’ “impact, frankly, on our national security and the damage caused by these continuous stream of revelations.”

Wednesday, September 11

GMT 23:52: Matthew Green, a cryptography professor at Johns Hopkins University, was asked to remove a blog post he wrote regarding the latest leak, which revealed that the NSA is capable to subverting internet encryption. While university administrators eventually allowed Green to re-post the article onto school servers, the incident prompted more questions than it gave answers. Green told RT he is unsure of where the take-down request originated and jokingly gave advice to any future cryptographers.

Somebody somewhere made a decision that there might be classified material on this blog. The instinct was to shut the blog down rather than investigate that. I think that was a mistake. I don’t think I’ll ever know exactly where that came from and I hope it never happens again,” he said.

Move down to the basement, buy a computer, and never, ever use the internet. That’s the best advice I can give you.” 

Video: /files/news/1f/5e/20/00/original_nsa-leaks-matthew-green-0000.asf 

Tuesday, September 10

GMT 21:02: A majority of Americans oppose the National Security Agency’s data collection programs as well as the secret federal court that has oversight over NSA surveillance, according to a new poll by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

Nearly 60 percent of those polled said they were uncomfortable with the amount of telephone and Internet data collected by the NSA. Fifty-three percent said the government does an adequate job protecting civil liberties, down from 60 percent two years ago. And 6 in 10 Americans said it was sometimes justified to sacrifice freedoms for security.

Also of note, Americans age 18-29 believe whistleblowers like Edward Snowden are justified in leaking classified documents if they show the government broke the law. Only 54 percent of those over age 45 agreed.

Monday, September 9

GMT 21:32: Yahoo joined Google and Microsoft Monday in filing legal action against the US government over the NSA surveillance programs revealed by Edward Snowden.

The tech giants filed motions in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which approves government requests to gain data from the companies, asking for the ability to share more about the extent of NSA demands for their customers’ information.

In its motion, Yahoo said it “has been unable to engage fully in the debate about whether the government has properly used its powers, because the government has placed a prior restraint on Yahoo's speech."

Yahoo also criticized news coverage of NSA revelations, saying the PRISM program - the subject of the first reports which resulted from Snowden leaks - does not allow the NSA to access their servers for information.

"Yahoo's inability to respond to news reports has harmed its reputation and has undermined its business not only in the United States but worldwide. Yahoo cannot respond to such reports with mere generalities,” the company claimed in its motion.

Microsoft and Google also filed legal briefs on Monday for the ability to provide more information about data requests.

GMT 01:00: The NSA intelligence agency spied on Brazilian state-run oil giant Petrobras, reports Brazil's biggest television network Globo TV, which said it received the information from Glenn Greenwald, the American journalist who first published secrets leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden.

A 2012 NSA presentation aired by the network included a slide citing an ‘economic’ motive for spying, along with diplomatic and political reasons. Earlier the US gave assurances that the Department of Defense, under jurisdiction of which the NSA operates, “does not engage in economic espionage in any domain, including cyber.” 

An official from the NSA told Globo that the agency gathers economic information not in order to steal secrets, but to monitor financial instability.

Saturday, September 7

GMT 20:19: The NSA can access data on smart phones using the world’s most popular systems including iOS, Android, and BlackBerry, Germany’s Der Spiegel reported. The agency can access contact lists, SMS traffic, notes, and users’ current and past locations.

The agency has also organized a working group for each operating system. The groups are responsible for clandestine operations to gather data saved on phones. 

Der Spiegel noted that spying on smart phones has not been a mass surveillance operation. It said the tactic was only used on specific individuals and was done without the knowledge of smart phone companies.

GMT 17:28: Thousands of people took to the streets of Berlin, Germany, on Saturday to protest against NSA surveillance activities and fight for their right to privacy. Demonstrators carried banners which read, “Stop spying on us,” along with the phrases “NSA killed by internet” and “Thanks to PRISM the government finally knows what the people want.”

The protest was mounted by Germany’s Green party, together with the Left and Pirate parties. The event hosts claimed the rally was attended by around 20,000 people. However, police declined to confirm the numbers, only stating that their “tally differs from that of the organizers.”

Friday, September 6

GMT 21:45: Tech giants Microsoft, Yahoo, and Google expressed their concern over reports that US and British spy agencies have the capability to bypass the encryption of online communications.

"We are unaware of and do not participate in such an effort,” a Yahoo spokesman said on Friday, referring to the reports of the multi-million programs of the two countries (US and the UK) to beat encryption. “Yahoo zealously defends our users' privacy and responds to government requests for data only after considering every applicable objection and in accordance with the law.” 

A Microsoft spokesperson said, "We have significant concerns about the allegations of government activity reported yesterday and will be pressing the government for an explanation."

GMT 18:47: The US defended its ability to use backdoors secretly inserted in various online services to bypass communication encryption. The office of James Clapper, director of US national intelligence, said his government would simply not be doing its job if it did not use these legally dubious techniques to quietly monitor Americans’ everyday communications.

“It should hardly be a surprise that our intelligence agencies seek ways to counteract our adversaries’ use of encryption,” read the statement issued on Friday. “Throughout history, nations have used encryption to protect their secrets, and today, terrorists, cyber-criminals, human traffickers and others also use code to hide their activities.”

The report detailing the intelligence agency’s efforts was published on Thursday by The Guardian, and is the latest result of leaks from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

GMT 01:41: US President Barack Obama has pledged to work with Brazil and Mexico to address their concerns over US spying revealed in recent NSA leaks. Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff appeared to climb down from her earlier position and told reporters on Friday that a planned visit to Washington next month may proceed as planned

"My trip to Washington depends on the political conditions to be created by President Obama," said Rousseff according to the Brazilian presidency's Twitter feed.

The two leaders had an exchange over the NSA spying scandal during the G20 summit in Russia.

Thursday, September 5

GMT 15:57: American NSA and British GCHQ have the tools to bypass sophisticated encryption methods used to secure most Internet traffic that was previously thought to be protected from prying eyes.

The Guardian says the US alone spends around a quarter of a billion dollars each year on this capability. It involves not just intricate code-breaking, but also maintaining partnerships with the tech companies that provide seemingly secure online communication outlets.

“The files show that the National Security Agency (NSA) and its UK counterpart GCHQ have broadly compromised the guarantees that Internet companies have given consumers to reassure them that their communications, online banking and medical records would be indecipherable to criminals or governments,” James Ball, Julian Borger and Glenn Greenwald reported for the Guardian.

GMT 09:12: Brazil has canceled preparations for the visit of President Dilma Rousseff to the United States over reports she was the target of National Security Agency (NSA) surveillance. A Brazilian official told Reuters that Rousseff “is completely [sic] furious” over the revelations and described the situation as “a major, major crisis”.

Wednesday, September 4

GMT 07:33: Brazil’s relations with the US are damaged after it was found the US had been spying on Brazilian President Rousseff. The country’s government accused the US of lying about NSA surveillance programs.

“[The US has] not given any reasonable explanations. In fact, all the explanations that have been given so far are false,” said Minister of Communications Paulo Bernardo after an emergency cabinet meeting called by Rousseff.

Brazil launched a probe into telecommunications companies to see if they illegally shared data with the US intelligence agency.

Meanwhile Brazilian lawmakers asked for federal protection for the American journalist Glenn Greenwald and his partner David Miranda, saying they are key witnesses in the investigation of NSA spying on Brazilians. Greenwald’s reports on American surveillance are based on documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

Monday, September 2

16:30 GMT: It has emerged, according to new documents seen by German publication Der Spiegel, that the NSA directly targeted the French Foreign Ministry in its surveillance operations. The document from June 2010, marked 'Top Secret' states that gaining access to their VPN computer network was considered a 'success story.' The NSA was especially interested in foreign policy objectives, such as weapons trade and economic stability.

Sunday, September 1

01:16 GMT:
New batch of NSA documents leaked by Edward Snowden suggest that Russian Aeroflot airlines and news broadcaster Al Jazeera were spied on by the NSA, the German Der Spiegel claims.

The publication states that based on a 2006 document, the NSA hacked into Al Jazeera's internal communications system to read communication by "interesting targets." 

The new data also revealed that reservation services for Russian airline Aeroflot, was also being surveyed. The NSA said these selected targets had "high potential as sources of intelligence."

Saturday, August 31

13:00 GMT: Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald has released a video honoring Snowden upon his reception of the 2013 'Whistleblower Prize' in Berlin.

11:00 GMT:
Snowden's lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, said that former NSA contractor and whistleblower Edward Snowden did not stay at the Russian consulate in Hong Kong prior to his arrival in Moscow, as previously reported by Kommersant newspaper.

"Edward told me that he never visited any diplomatic missions and that all this is inaccurate. He never had any talks with our diplomats while in Hong Kong," Kucherena said.

On Monday, the same paper declared that Snowden had spent his 30th birthday at the consulate, citing a Western source as having provided confirmation.

However, Kucherena did say that "he and his friends stayed at a hotel there... He understood he was being chased, so he moved often."  A Russian government source said that Snowden turned up uninvited for two days before leaving for Hong Kong.

05:04 GMT: US intelligence agencies carried out 231 cyber-operations in 2011, The Washington Post reported in detailing a more aggressive, expanding cyber-attack architecture than was previously known. In addition, a $652 million program named GENIE helps the US break into foreign networks to plant sophisticated malware in computers, routers and firewalls in tens of thousands of machines every year. Almost three-quarters of the 231 attacks in 2011 were against top-priority targets including Iran, Russia, China and North Korea, and activities including nuclear proliferation. The disclosure of US cyber-ops, defined by the US “to manipulate, disrupt, deny, degrade, or destroy information resident in computers or computer networks, or the computers and networks themselves,” were provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.

Friday, August 30 

21:00 GMT: Edward Snowden has refused to meet with American diplomats in Russia, his lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena said Friday.

“A few people approached trying to negotiating the meeting, including US diplomats. I related the message to Edward, but he refused to meet with them. His decision, he explained, was based on the campaign launched against him by the US State Department, which shows only a prejudice against him and his human rights stance. I passed this message on to the diplomats,” the lawyer said.

Kucherena, who is in constant contact with the whistleblower, said that his client was undergoing an adaptation period and is learning Russian. He also told the press that he will not violate client-attorney privilege, and would not disclose Snowden’s whereabouts. What Snowden might do next might be decided once his father arrives in Russia, Kucherena said.

The lawyer said that Snowden was still in danger. “The level of danger threatening him to this day remains high. While in the transit area, he knew he was being hunted by a huge country that can use any of its methods and tools to catch him,” Kucherena said.

Regarding the revelations of Snowden-leaked wires that appeared recently in Western publications, Kucherena said that the material was handed over to the editors before Snowden left Hong Kong. Therefore, he has not violated his pledge to President Putin not to harm US interests. 

18:58 GMT: The New York Times was asked by British authorities to destroy classified intelligence files leaked to the media by former national security contractor Edward Snowden.

Wednesday, August 28

19:27 GMT: President Obama has revealed the members of a new review panel that will assess how the US handles issues of technology in the realm of foreign policy and intelligence gathering.

The panel, originally announced on August 9 by Obama to be an independent check on federal government tech initiatives in the wake of the NSA spying revelations, will consist of four former White House and intelligence community staffers -- Michael Morell, Richard Clarke, Cass Sunstein and Peter Swire -- and academic Geoffrey Stone, who has close personal ties to Obama.

Tuesday, August 27

13:17 GMT: Mass tracking and collection of Americans' phone call data violates the US constitution, the American Civil Liberties Union said in a court motion. The National Security Agency’s surveillance program "permits the government to assemble a richly detailed profile of every person living in the United States and to draw a comprehensive map of their associations with one another," the motion says.

ACLU argues that part of the basis for the FISA court's approval of the NSA's mass collection of phone metadata involved Smith vs Maryland 1979 case, surveillance directed at a specific criminal which does not suggest “that the constitution allows the government's mass collection of sensitive information about every single phone call made or received by residents of the United States over a period of seven years."

The motion is part of a lawsuit filed by the ACLU on 11 June 2013, accusing NSA director Keith Alexander, the director of intelligence James Clapper, defence secretary Chuck Hagel, the attorney general Eric Holder and FBI director Robert Mueller of violating the first and fourth amendments.

Monday, August 26

18:05 GMT: The United Nations said it plans to contact the US officials regarding the Der Spiegel report that the NSA bugged its New York headquarters. "We're aware of the reports and we intend to be in touch with the relevant authorities on this," UN spokesman Farhan Haq said, adding that “member states are expected to act accordingly to protect the inviolability of diplomatic missions."

11:00 GMT: On of Merkel's key rivals has threatened to scupper EU-US trade talks over the NSA spying program. 

Peer Steinbrueck (AFP Photo)

Peer Steinbruck, leader of the Social Democrats, says he will delay EU trade negotiations over the NSA bugging of German government offices.

Edward Snowden was forced to stay in Russia after the US threatened Cuba with “adverse consequences” should the NSA whistleblower get on board Aeroflot’s Moscow-Havana flight, Kommersant newspaper has learnt.

Under US pressure the Cuban authorities informed Moscow the Aeroflot plane would not be able to land in Havana, a source told the Russian newspaper.

The paper also pointed out that Russian authorities did not contact Snowden or issue an invitation to take refuge on its territory, however were aware that he would arrive to Moscow en route to Latin America. 

Sunday, August 25

The United States was not just busy spying on the European Union, according to documents obtained by Der Spiegel, but had its surveillance apparatus trained on the international body as well. The US National Security Agency (NSA) successfully cracked the encryption code protecting the United Nations’ internal videoconferencing system.

Within three weeks of initially gaining access to the UN system, the NSA had increased the number of such decrypted communications from 12 to 458, the report revealed.

“NSA pickup lines” trended on Twitter worldwide. Posts sarcastically referenced NSA intrusions as they envisaged how the agency might flirt with an unsuspecting user.

Friday, August 23

National Security Agency officers have engaged in spying on their love interests. It is a popular enough practice to have its own Orwellian label within the agency called “LOVEINT”.

“LOVEINT” is deemed a ‘wilful violation’ and “very rare” misconduct by the organization. “NSA has zero tolerance for wilful violations of the agency’s authorities” and responds “as appropriate,” the agency said in a statement on Friday, published in WSJ.

Wednesday, August 21

19:30 GMT: Speaking about Army Pfc. Bradley Manning’s sentence announced on Wednesday, Edward Snowden’s lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, told RT that he is “confused.” He believes the US intelligence leaker was given a 35 year sentence as a “warning to others” who might want to “blow the whistle.”

In light of the ruling, “[we can see that] nobody will consider Edward [Snowden’s] position concerning human rights” in the United States , Kucherena stated, hinting that the NSA leaker is not keen on returning to his home country.

Meanwhile, the lawyer noted that Snowden has not yet met with his father, but is “eagerly waiting” for the reunion.

9:55 GMT: The UK’s Labour Party has called for Parliament’s intelligence watchdog to investigate Prime Minister David Cameron’s role in asking The Guardian to destroy their Snowden documents. This follows reports in the Independent and the Daily Mail that the order to destroy the files originated from Number 10.

Clearly the government does have a responsibility to protect national security. However, I think this may be another area where an inquiry by the intelligence and security committee [ISC] may be the right way forward in terms of this particular case and what the prime minister's role was," said Labour MP Yvette Cooper on BBC Radio 4.

Tuesday, August 20

12:20 GMT: Britain has defended its actions against the partner of Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald David Miranda, who was detained for nine hours under anti-terrorism legislation at Heathrow Airport.

"The government and the police have a duty to protect the public and our national security," a Home Office spokesman said in a statement. "If the police believe that an individual is in possession of highly sensitive stolen information that would help terrorism, then they should act and the law provides them with a framework to do that."

"Those who oppose this sort of action need to think about what they are condoning."

U.S. journalist Glenn Greenwald (L) walks with his partner David Miranda in Rio de Janeiro's International Airport August 19, 2013. (Reuters / Ricardo Moraes)

09:48 GMT: Russia has not received any official requests from the US concerning extradition of former CIA employee Edward Snowden, who on August 1 was granted temporary asylum in Russia, Deputy Prosecutor General Aleksandr Zvyagintsev told media. “They only informed us that his passport is annulled,” he said. Earlier the US President Barack Obama canceled a meeting with his Russian counterpart, reportedly because of the situation with Snowden. US Secretary of State John Kerry intends to address Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to discuss the case of Edward Snowden.

08:00 GMT: On Tuesday Greater London’s Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) said the detention of Miranda was both “legally and procedurally sound.”

Saying the detention of the 28-year-old was “necessary and appropriate”, the MET continued that contrary some reports, Miranda had been offered legal representation and was attended to by a lawyer.

"No complaint has been received by the MPS at this time," the police statement read.

The statement continued that Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000, which grants police the power to stop and question people traveling through British ports and airports to determine whether they are involved in planning terrorist plots, was used "appropriately and proportionately".

Monday, August 19

19:00 GMT: On Monday, Glenn Greenwald promised to release more documents, saying the UK would be “sorry” for detaining his partner David Miranda for nine hours.

"I have many more documents to report on, including ones about the UK, where I'll now focus more. I will be more aggressive, not less, in reporting," said Greenwald, speaking in Portuguese to reporters at Rio de Janeiro's international airport, Reuters reported.

On Sunday, Miranda was detained under Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000, which allows police to stop and question people travelling through British ports and airports to determine whether they are involved in planning terrorist acts.

Miranda said he was treated like a terrorist during his detention.

“They treated me like I was a criminal or someone about to attack the UK…they were threatening me all the time and saying I would be put in jail if I didn't cooperate,” Miranda told the Guardian. “It was exhausting and frustrating, but I knew I wasn't doing anything wrong."

A woman walks past the offices of the Guardian newspaper in central London on August 20, 2013.(AFP Photo / Andrew Cowie)

17:19 GMT: France’s CNIL agency says that European data protection agencies have written to the European Commission, calling for help in obtaining information needed in order to “assess independently to what extent the protection provided by EU data protection legislation is at risk and possibly breached” by the US intelligence-gathering program PRISM, AFP reported.

In the letter written to Vice President and Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship, Viviane Reding, the agencies have said “they should evaluate the exact impact of the PRISM program on the privacy and data of European citizens,” adding that "many questions as to the consequences of these intelligence programs remain.”

Sunday, August 18

11:50 GMT: David Miranda, partner of the Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald who broke several stories based on information from NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, was detained for almost nine hours by British authorities on his way home to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Miranda was detained under Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000, which allows police to stop and question people travelling through British ports and airports to determine whether they are involved in planning terrorist acts.

The 28-year-old was held for the maximum amount of time allowable by law, having been detained at 8:05 am and released without charge at 5 pm, according to a Scotland Yard statement.

Electronics in Miranda’s possession, including his cell phone, laptop, memory sticks, and “various video game consoles” were confiscated.

The Guardian said it was dismayed at the detention of Miranda and was “urgently seeking clarification from the British authorities” as to why it happened.

Thursday, August 15

23:30 GMT: It is now believed that former NSA contractor Edward Snowden actually began downloading documents of US electronic surveillance programs while working for Dell Inc in April of 2012, about a year prior to what has been reported so far, according to Reuters which cited US officials and other unspecified sources.

Snowden worked for Dell from 2009 until earlier in 2013 as a contract worker for the NSA both in the US and Japan. Snowden downloaded information while employed by Dell regarding surveillance programs led by the NSA and Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters, and evidently left behind electronic evidence of when those documents had first been accessed.

This new information could shift scrutiny away from Snowden’s later employer, Booz Allen Hamilton, which has received the bulk of scrutiny from the whistleblower’s unauthorized leaking of classified intelligence info. Snowden was with Booz Allen for three months. According to Reuters, the material Snowden downloaded in April 2012 while a Dell employee included NSA collection from fiber-optic cables, including transoceanic cables, of large quantities of internet traffic and other communications.

Wednesday, August 14

10:33 GMT: Now everybody can help Edward Snowden escape the clutches of Uncle Sam, at least in the digital world of game technology. German game developer Binji has announced the release of a free online videogame entitled, “Eddy’s Run: The Prism Prison,” Time magazine reported. The creators of the game, which takes its cue from “Mario Brothers,” is “a bow” to Snowden, the former NSA contractor who revealed the details of the agency’s vast global surveillance program.

Players are able to help Snowden escape from cameras, drones and government agents with the assistance of reporters and exploding laptops.  

It’s not all virtual fun, however. One of the game’s more interactive features involves the “Take Action” button, which directs players to sign a petition on, demanding that Snowden be “treated fairly, humanely and given due process.”

screenshot from

Monday, August 12

23:09 GMT: US President Barack Obama has appointed James Clapper, the current head of National Intelligence, to oversee a board which monitors NSA surveillance policies. Obama asserted that the board would be put in place to “maintain the trust of the people,” although Clapper was previously accused of lying to Congress under oath when questioned on the existence of a domestic surveillance database. 

The exact duties of the oversight group remain unknown, although Obama said on August 9 that it will consist of “a high-level group of outside experts to review our entire intelligence and communications technologies.”

22:10 GMT: The US Charge d'Affaires in Madrid, Luis G. Moreno, has been summoned to the Spanish Foreign Ministry for "clarifications" over a report published by Der Spiegel on Sunday, Spanish state television reported.

Der Spiegel revealed that Spain had received a mid-priority rank in the NSA’s list of surveillance targets.  Moreno said he understood the “given reasons and concerns expressed” by Spain and that he would seek to gain more information regarding the surveillance.

21:09 GMT: If the Russian capital was hosting one of the NSA servers used for surveillance by US intelligence, it would be located in the US embassy in Moscow, an unidentified Russian special services member told Vedomosti daily. The source said that he is "practically 100 percent sure" that one of the XKeyscore servers is located inside the embassy. The existence of such servers, along with NSA spying capabilities, was revealed on July 31 in the Guardian newspaper through information provided by whistleblower Edward Snowden. The leaks detailed more than 700 XKeyscore servers worldwide. One of the dots on a marked map points to Moscow.

John Graham, a former US diplomat, told RT it is no secret that world powers spy on each other, but the news that really shook the world is that America spies on its own citizens.

Video: /files/news/1f/5e/20/00/original_john-graham-nsa-scandal.mp4