Saturday 4th of July 2015

the snowden dark trickle in germany...


Inside Snowden's Germany File



An analysis of secret documents leaked by Edward Snowden demonstrates that the NSA is more active in Germany than anywhere else in Europe -- and that data collected here may have helped kill suspected terrorists.

Just before Christmas 2005, an unexpected event disrupted the work of American spies in the south-central German city of Wiesbaden. During the installation of a fiber-optic cable near the Rhine River, local workers encountered a suspicious metal object, possibly an undetonated World War II explosive. It was certainly possible: Adolf Hitler's military had once maintained a tank repair yard in the Wiesbaden neighborhood of Mainz-Kastel.

The Americans -- who maintained what was officially known as a "Storage Station" on Ludwig Wolker Street -- prepared an evacuation plan. And on Jan. 24, 2006, analysts with the National Security Agency (NSA) cleared out their offices, cutting off the intelligence agency's access to important European data streams for an entire day, a painfully long time. The all-clear only came that night: The potential ordinance turned out to be nothing more than a pile of junk.

Residents in Mainz-Kastel knew nothing of the incident.

Of course, everybody living there knows of the 20-hectare (49-acre) US army compound. A beige wall topped with barbed wire protects the site from the outside world; a sign outside warns, "Beware, Firearms in Use!"

Americans in uniform have been part of the cityscape in Wiesbaden for decades, and local businesses have learned to cater to their customers from abroad. Used-car dealerships post their prices in dollars and many Americans are regulars at the local brewery. "It is a peaceful coexistence," says Christa Gabriel, head of the Mainz-Kastel district council.

But until now, almost nobody in Wiesbaden knew that Building 4009 of the "Storage Station" houses one of the NSA's most important European data collection centers. Its official name is the European Technical Center (ETC), and, as documents from the archive of whistleblower Edward Snowden show, it has been expanded in recent years. From an American perspective, the program to improve the center -- which was known by the strange code name "GODLIKELESION" -- was badly needed. In early 2010, for example, the NSA branch office lost power 150 times within the space just a few months -- a serious handicap for a service that strives to monitor all of the world's data traffic.

On Sept. 19, 2011, the Americans celebrated the reopening of the refurbished ETC, and since then, the building has been the NSA's "primary communications hub" in Europe. From here, a Snowden document outlines, huge amounts of data are intercepted and forwarded to "NSAers, warfighters and foreign partners in Europe, Africa and the Middle East." The hub, the document notes, ensures the reliable transfer of data for "the foreseeable future."

Soon the NSA will have an even more powerful and modern facility at their disposal: Just five kilometers away, in the Clay Kaserne, a US military complex located in the Erbenheim district of Wiesbaden, the "Consolidated Intelligence Center" is under construction. It will house data-monitoring specialists from Mainz-Kastel. The project in southern Hesse comes with a price tag of $124 million (€91 million). When finished, the US government will be even better equipped to satisfy its vast hunger for data.

One year after Edward Snowden made the breadth of the NSA's global data monitoring public, much remains unknown about the full scope of the intelligence service's activities in Germany. We know that the Americans monitored the mobile phone of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and we know that there are listening posts in the US Embassy in Berlin and in the Consulate General in Frankfurt.

But much remains in the dark. The German government has sent lists of questions to the US government on several occasions, and a parliamentary investigative committee has begun looking into the subject in Berlin. Furthermore, Germany's chief public prosecutor has initiated an investigation into the NSA -- albeit one currently limited to its monitoring of the chancellor's cell phone and not the broader allegation that it spied on the communications of the German public. Neither the government nor German lawmakers nor prosecutors believe they will receive answers from officials in the United States.

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french vino instead of russian vodka for snowden?...

The centrist senator Catherine Morin-Desailly plans to bring a resolution to the French Senate that will offer Edward Snowden asylum and honorary French citizenship. Though it is not clear whether the motion will pass, Morin-Desailly says she has support from both the right and the left. She believes Snowden acted nobly by revealing the mass surveillance of the NSA and should be protected. Some have posited concerns of this move troubling Franco-American relations, but Morin-Desailly maintains that it will not bring lasting harm. Via Le Monde (in French).

illegal spying below...


Activists flew a blimp emblazoned with the words "Illegal Spying Below" over the National Security Agency's data centre in Utah on Friday in protest against the US government's mass surveillance programmes.

The one-hour flight was carried out by the environmental group Greenpeace, digital rights activists the Electronic Frontier Foundation and a conservative political organisation, the Tenth Amendment Centre.

The 41 metre (135ft) blimp, owned by Greenpeace, was adorned with a sign that read "NSA Illegal Spying Below".

In an email to Reuters the agency declined to comment. But a spokesman did note there was no restricted airspace over the data centre, housed on the grounds of the Utah National Guard's Camp Williams in Bluffdale, 23 miles (37km) south of Salt Lake City.

The NSA says the facility provides the government with intelligence and warnings about cyber security threats. It is thought to be the agency's largest data storage centre.

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no limits for the National Security Agency...


Virtually no foreign government is off-limits for the National Security Agency, which has been authorized to intercept information “concerning” all but four countries, according to top-secret documents.

The United States has long had broad no-spying arrangements with those four countries — Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand — in a group known collectively with the United States as the Five Eyes. But a classified 2010 legal certification and other documents indicate the NSA has been given a far more elastic authority than previously known, one that allows it to intercept through U.S. companies not just the communications of its overseas targets but any communications about its targets as well.

The certification — approved by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court and included among a set of documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden — lists 193 countries  that would be of valid interest for U.S. intelligence. The certification also permitted the agency to gather intelligence about entities such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the European Union and the International Atomic Energy Agency, among others.

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An employee of the German foreign intelligence agency has been arrested by authorities on suspicion of spying for the United States.

Prosecutors in Germany said a 31-year-old man was arrested and the foreign ministry has summoned the US ambassador over the incident.

The alleged American agent is thought to have been working in intelligence agency BND with documents collected by the parliamentary committee investigating a previous allegation of spying, which involved the tapping of chancellor Angela Merkel's phoneby the US National Security Agency (NSA).

That incident had already raised the feeling in Germany against American surveillance.

Two politicians who sit on the nine-person committee have told Reuters the accused spy, who is German, has admitted passing to an American contact details about the committee which oversees the work of German intelligence agencies and is investigating the spying revelations made by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

The German foreign ministry said in a statement that it had invited the US ambassador to come for talks regarding the matter, and asked him to help deliver a swift explanation.

"This was a man who had no direct contact with the investigative committee ... he was not a top agent," one of the members of parliament said.

total word domination...

William Binney is one of the highest-level whistleblowers to ever emerge from the NSA. He was a leading code-breaker against the Soviet Union during the Cold War but resigned soon after September 11, disgusted by Washington’s move towards mass surveillance.

On 5 July he spoke at a conference in London organised by the Centre for Investigative Journalism and revealed the extent of the surveillance programs unleashed by the Bush and Obama administrations.

“At least 80% of fibre-optic cables globally go via the US”, Binney said. “This is no accident and allows the US to view all communication coming in. At least 80% of all audio calls, not just metadata, are recorded and stored in the US. The NSA lies about what it stores.”

The NSA will soon be able to collect 966 exabytes a year, the total of internet traffic annually. Former Google head Eric Schmidt once arguedthat the entire amount of knowledge from the beginning of humankind until 2003 amount to only five exabytes.

Binney, who featured in a 2012 short film by Oscar-nominated US film-maker Laura Poitras, described a future where surveillance is ubiquitous and government intrusion unlimited.

“The ultimate goal of the NSA is total population control”, Binney said, “but I’m a little optimistic with some recent Supreme Court decisions, such as law enforcement mostly now needing a warrant before searching a smartphone.”

He praised the revelations and bravery of former NSA contractor Edward Snowden and told me that he had indirect contact with a number of other NSA employees who felt disgusted with the agency’s work. They’re keen to speak out but fear retribution and exile, not unlike Snowden himself, who is likely to remain there for some time.

Unlike Snowden, Binney didn’t take any documents with him when he left the NSA. He now says that hard evidence of illegal spying would have been invaluable. The latest Snowden leaks, featured in the Washington Post, detail private conversations of average Americans with no connection to extremism.

It shows that the NSA is not just pursuing terrorism, as it claims, but ordinary citizens going about their daily communications. “The NSA is mass-collecting on everyone”, Binney said, “and it’s said to be about terrorism but inside the US it has stopped zero attacks.”

intelligence collection is a bit of a crap shoot...


The recruitment of foreign journalists frequently involves providing them with information that in turn enables them to prepare what are referred to as “press placements.” Most large CIA Stations control one or more local journalists and an occasional editor. While US law prohibits intelligence agencies from feeding false information to American journalists, foreign media representatives are fair game. Many local journalists welcome the arrangement as it gives them additional tax free income while also occasionally providing them with information that can be used to further their own careers.

The curious thing about the Menendez case is that the Cuban Directorate of Intelligence appears to have picked the wrong story, believing that a sex case would prove most damaging to the Senator’s career. According to the Washington Post, Menendez might soon be charged regarding an ongoing Justice Department public integrity division investigation over his allegedly doing favors for Salomon Melgen, whom he stayed with in the Dominican Republic. Menendez reportedly twice intervened with federal health-care officials over a finding that Melgen had overbilled Medicare by $8.9 million for eye treatments at his clinics. The senator also pressured the State and Commerce departments to use their influence over the Dominican Republic to confirm a port security contract for a company partly owned by Melgen. Menendez might learn to his regret that the truth is sometimes more damaging that fiction.

The indignation of Merkel over the American spies and of Menendez over the audacity of the Cubans is understandable, but it is all part and parcel of things that spy agencies do regularly. Did Washington learn anything important by monitoring the BND reporting on NSA? Probably not, but intelligence collection is a bit of a crap shoot, looking for something that you don’t necessarily know is there, much like the Donald Rumsfeld observation that “the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, or vice versa.” Likewise, did the cleverly executed Cuban press placement succeed in bringing down Robert Menendez? No, but if it had been developed a bit earlier and been picked up in more of the mainstream media, it just might have.

Philip Giraldi, a former CIA officer, is executive director of the Council for the National Interest.

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shaken trust...



For Mr. Hahn, who sits in Parliament for the Left Party of former East German Communists and Western leftists, the story proves that, like any good spy, you should never rule out anything.

“In both cases, we only started probing because people believed it involved the Russian secret service,” Mr. Hahn said. “For me, the discussions of the past few days have shown that we think the Russians and Chinese are willing to do anything. But in the Americans we placed literally blind trust, and this trust is now really shaken.”

Others see the whole episode as proof that the United States, mired in its own problems and occupied with multiple crises overseas, cares little about Germany and will not modify its intelligence practices without drastic action from Berlin.

Expulsion of the C.I.A. chief may jolt some Americans, but it “is still not an action that will have consequences,” said Josef Braml, an American specialist at the German Council on Foreign Relations. “If you are really serious about it, you should cause some economic pain, maybe canceling contracts for some companies that obviously work together with the U.S. security apparatus.”

In fact, the German Interior Ministry did just that before the affair of the American agents broke. On June 26, it said it would cancel a contract with Verizon Communications. “The links revealed between foreign intelligence agencies and firms,” the ministry said in a statement, “show that the German government needs a high level of security for its essential networks.”


meanwhile at the futbol...


Germany has won the 2014 World Cup after Mario Goetze hit the final's only goal in a 1-0 extra-time win over Argentina at the Maracana on Monday morning.

A combination of substitutes provided Germany's golden moment as Andre Schuerrle danced past his marker on the left wing before hitting a sumptuous cross to Goetze, who chested the ball down and volleyed past Sergio Romero in one spectacular movement.


Gus: What was impressive was the general conviviality of the Germans. Angela Merkel, possibly communicating with her government in a new encrypted channel to stop the NSA spying on her, gave a kiss and a hug to all the German players and officials present. And one could see the genuine pride of being German. Already the BBC is blah blah blah-ing about it:


She's been accused of shamelessly attaching herself to the footballers and their success, and the polls have shown upward blips of support for her as the team has progressed. But will it last?

There's no doubt the World Cup has played well for her. Within an hour of the final whistle, there seemed to be a million tweets of her pictured in the middle of the sweaty, victorious team holding the trophy, the president of Germany beside her.

She is, by all accounts, a genuine football fan, going to games way before she was politically important. But nowadays the right picture in the right place doesn't do any harm either.

She was there when Germany thrashed Portugal 4-0 at the start and she was there at the final triumph when they lifted the World Cup.

She's been described as the team's lucky charm. As she and the team's supporters sometimes put it: "Our twelfth man is a woman."

But the political benefits of sporting success are not clear - or rather, they are complex and memory plays tricks.


One has to know that Angela Merkel is one of the rare scientists at the helm of a very powerful country and a woman of course... and methinks that's two of the reasons, the US is spying on her, as well as her being an East German, before reunification...




back to the old keyboard...

German politicians are considering a return to using manual typewriters for sensitive documents in the wake of the US surveillance scandal.

The head of the Bundestag's parliamentary inquiry into NSA activity in Germany said in an interview with the Morgenmagazin TV programme that he and his colleagues were seriously thinking of ditching email completely.

Asked "Are you considering typewriters" by the interviewer on Monday night, the Christian Democrat politican Patrick Sensburg said: "As a matter of fact, we have – and not electronic models either". "Really?" the surprised interviewer checked. "Yes, no joke," Sensburg responded.

"Unlike other inquiry committees, we are investigating an ongoing situation. Intelligence activities are still going on, they are happening," said Sensburg.

Last week, Merkel's government asked the CIA's station officer in Germany to leave the country after an employee of the German intelligence agency BND confessed to passing confidential documents to the US secret service. The ongoing investigation prompted speculation that the CIA may have actively targeted the Bundestag's NSA inquiry committee.

Last year, the Russian government reportedly took similar measures after the extent of US electronic surveillance was revealed by the whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The federal guard service, a powerful body tasked with protecting Russia's highest-ranking officials, put in an order for 20 Triumph Adler typewriters, which create unique "handwriting", that allows the source of any documents created on them to be traced.

But judging by the reaction to Sensburg's comments, manual typewriters are unlikely to be widely adopted in German political circles.

"Before I start using typewriters and burning notes after reading, I'd rather abolish the secret services," tweeted Martina Renner, an opposition member of the parliamentary committee investigating the activities of US and other intelligence agencies in Germany. Sahra Wagenknecht, Die Linke party's deputy chair, described the suggestion as grotesque.


May I say I made a similar suggestions (see this site: ...) to stop cyber attacks on "sensitive" organisations.

Once you are linked to the web or computerised even in the most basic program, there is no way to stop anyone with skills in encryption to go back to the source, despite firewalls and security codes... 

Keeping Spies Out


Keeping Spies OutGerman Ratchets Up Counterintelligence Measures

Officials in Berlin were long in denial that their closest allies were spying on Germany. Now, ministries are undertaking measures to improve security and counterintelligence. They're anticipating frosty relations with the US for some time to come.

Last Wednesday, German Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière paid a visit to his colleague in the Foreign Ministry, Frank-Walter Steinmeier for a strictly confidential conversation about the currently tense relationship with the United States. Specifically, they planned to address the latest spying revelations and accusations. Before the meeting began, both ministers turned in their mobile phones. Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier has a small side room he uses for this purpose; part of the Foreign Ministry is in the former Nazi Reichsbank and has very thick walls. The room is now used to store smartphones and tablet computers when sensitive discussions take place.

The precaution reflects the significant disquiet and anxiety in Berlin's ministries and in the Chancellery as the summer holidays get underway. Slowly, ministry officials are starting to grapple with the true meaning of "360 degree" counterintelligence. It means defending yourself not just usual suspects like Russia or China. But also against Germany's closest allies, particularly the United States.

A few days ago, Chancellor Merkel reportedly told US President Barack Obama in a telephone conversation that anger over the US spying activities in Berlin's government quarter as well as the recruitment of an informant inside Germany's Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND) foreign intelligence service has in no way subsided. Because Obama apparently expressed little understanding for the commotion in Germany, Merkel is now taking action.

The only thing she is lacking is a solid plan.

Thus far, most ministries are going it mostly alone when it comes to addressing the espionage threat. Some are having their internal networks tested for security problems while others have issued new rules of conduct for their employees. Still others have taken no concrete steps aside from increasing general vigilance.


See also:  war of the cybers...


spying countercurrents...


Der Bundesnachrichtendienst hat in mindestens einem Fall ein Gespräch der damaligen US-Außenministerin Hillary Clinton abgehört. Zudem hat die deutsche Bundesregierung angeordnet, einen der Nato-Partner auszuspionieren. Das ergibt sich nach Informationen von Süddeutscher Zeitung, NDR und WDR aus den Dokumenten, die ein Spion im BND an den amerikanischen Geheimdienst CIA übergab. Der im Juli verhaftete Markus R. hat inzwischen gestanden, den USA in den vergangenen zwei Jahren mindestens 218 Dokumente geliefert zu haben.

In der Bundesregierung ist inzwischen bekannt, wie sensibel Teile dieser Dokumente sind und wie groß der angerichtete Schaden tatsächlich ist. So haben die USA damit begonnen, die von Markus R. gelieferten Informationen im Streit über US-Spionageaktionen in Deutschland zu nutzen. Das abgehörte Telefonat von Clinton nehmen sie als Beleg dafür, dass auch die Deutschen die USA ausspionierten. US-Außenminister John Kerry soll seinen deutschen Kollegen Frank-Walter Steinmeier auf den Vorgang angesprochen haben. Auch Denis McDonough, der Stabschef von US-Präsident Barack Obama, soll diesen Vorgang bei einem Besuch bei Kanzleramtsminister Peter Altmaier zur Sprache gebracht haben.

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Translation by Gus:


The German Federal Intelligence Service has intercepted a conversation between the then-US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in at least one case. In addition, the German Federal Government has ordered to spy on a NATO partner. This knowledge comes from information of the Süddeutsche Zeitung, NDR and WDR documents handed by a spy in the BND to the American CIA.  Germany has arrested Markus R. in July. He has since confessed to passing at least 218 documents to the United States in the past two years. 

The German Federal Government known how sensitive parts of these documents and about how much damage can be done. The United States have begun to use the information provided by Mark R. as leverage over US-espionage in Germany. The intercepted phone call from Clinton gives them the evidence that the Germans were spying on the United States. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will have discussions with his German counterpart Frank-Walter Steinmeier about this issue. Also, Denis McDonough, chief of staff of U.S. President Barack Obama is said to have brought up this issue during a visit to the Chancellery Minister Peter Altmaier.


Meanwhile, the fairy floss counter is going broke...

Ailing Fair a Measure of German-American Ties

By Simon Pfanzeit

Berlin is home to an annual fair dedicated to all things Americana. The recent decline of the carnival says a lot about the poor current state of German-American relations.

Richard Simmons says he knew a few spies in Berlin back in the 1970s. "Everyone spied at some point for someone," he says of the Cold War era. And why, Simmons admits to sometimes wondering, should something that was considered normal back then be seen as unacceptable now?

Simmons gazes into the urban canyons of New York City; not far away, the Golden Gate Bridge arching through the air. At the German-American Folk Festival in Berlin, prints of America's most impressive sights are on display. Sand has been spread out to create a beach-like atmosphere and flower pots have been carefully wrapped in the colors of the US flag. Palm trees dot the landscape.

Simmons, 67, is sitting in front of the hamburger stand he operates. He's wearing a casual shirt and his accent when he speaks German quickly betrays his American origins. When he talks about the fair, which is now celebrating its 54th year and is meant to be a celebration of German-American relations, what comes out is a story of rapprochement and transience.

Earlier, the fair had been held in the American-occupied sector of West Berlin, where US soldiers were stationed and lived alongside their German neighbors. Germans came to the carnival in droves. At the time, they were still grateful for Germany's liberation but particularly for the Berlin Airlift, which had seen the Americans deliver provisions to the city after land routes were completely cut off by the Soviet Union in 1948. It was a time when there were clear boundaries between friends and foes. The final day of the first German-American Folk Festival was on August 13, 1961, the day construction of the Berlin Wall began.



the german miracle called merkel...

Quieter in Germany

Nothing has contributed more to this change than the chancellor from the east, Angela Merkel. She is a democrat and a champion of freedom, and she hasn't created an expanded GDR. Nevertheless, there are aspects to the way she runs the country that are reminiscent of the former East Germany.

A dictatorship fears open discourse and conflict, and it thrives on the fiction of unity. The ruler or the ruling party claims that it is executing the will of the people, and because that will is supposed to be uniform, everyone is under forced consensus. Silence in the country is treated as approval. Merkel grew up in this system.

Elements of it are reflected in her political style. She despises open dispute, she does not initiate discourse and she feels comfortable when silence prevails. She prefers to govern within a grand coalition, because it enables her to create broad consensus within small groups. Things have become quieter in Germany.

Many people in the country like that. Eastern Germans are used to it. Even in the past, the Anglo-Saxon model, with its dualisms and heated conflicts, was suspect to most West Germans. Even the French argue more heatedly than the Germans. Merkel has enabled Germans to find themselves.

Merkel's center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD) have been forged into a new kind of SED, a more social-democratic one, one which generously funds the social consensus, providing money for families and retirees, as well as a minimum wage. The only party that managed to show some sympathy for Anglo-Saxon capitalism, the Free Democratic Party (FDP), has all but disappeared.

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trying to discredit spiegel...

SPIEGEL first drew the German government's attention to the actions in the autumn of 2013 when it reported on information from an NSA database entry about the tapping of Merkel's phone. "That's why I asked the reporters at SPIEGEL to answer questions about the document or to provide it to us. But the newsmagazine, citing the right of the press to refuse to give evidence, did not comply", the federal prosecutor said during his annual press conference in Karlsruhe on Thursday. He seemed frustrated.

In his statement, Range insinuated that "the document that has been perceived by the public as proof of the actual tapping of the mobile telephone is not actually an authentic NSA order for signals intelligence." He also claimed it didn't come from an NSA database. "A SPIEGEL editor produced it himself, stating it was based on an NSA document which had been seen."

There is a risk that Range's statement could be viewed as some kind of finding in his investigation and create the false impression that SPIEGEL somehow concocted its own documents. At least, this is what some press reports about Range's press conference seemed to suggest.

SPIEGEL has never claimed that it presented an original document to the German government. SPIEGEL has consistently stated that its journalists viewed the contents of an NSA document and reported on the details contained therein. The magazine has made this clear throughout its reporting on the issue.

When SPIEGEL approached Merkel's office about the findings of its research for a response, all the details provided by its reporters originated from information included in that specific entry in the database of NSA documents. SPIEGEL did not add anything to this information. SPIEGEL also explicitly noted to the chancellor's office that what it was submitting was a transcription and not the original document.

"When asked by a journalist during the press conference if the document in question was a fake, the federal prosecutor explicitly denied this," Range's spokesperson clarified this week. While conducting research into the NSA in June 2013, several SPIEGEL reporters came across information indicating that the intelligence agency had conducted surveillance of the German chancellor's mobile phone.

The reporters then conducted further investigation into the suspected activities together with encryption expert and freelance journalist Jacob Appelbaum. An entry in an internal NSA database logging targets includes the chancellor's mobile telephone number as well as her name. SPIEGEL attempted to verify the information and subsequently made the decision to request a statement from Merkel herself.

On Oct. 17, 2013, SPIEGEL Berlin bureau chief Nikolaus Blome and reporter Jörg Schindler met with Steffen Seibert, Merkel's official spokesman. They presented him with a letter detailing the information obtained about spying on Merkel's mobile phone. The two made clear to Seibert that the paper was a copy of the details from an NSA database entry SPIEGEL had viewed. Seibert also understood it to be such.

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"encryption systems proving to be so robust"...

from Der Spiegel...


Inside the NSA's War on Internet Security


US and British intelligence agencies undertake every effort imaginable to crack all types of encrypted Internet communication. The cloud, it seems, is full of holes. The good news: New Snowden documents show that some forms of encryption still cause problems for the NSA.

When Christmas approaches, the spies of the Five Eyes intelligence services can look forward to a break from the arduous daily work of spying. In addition to their usual job -- attempting to crack encryption all around the world -- they play a game called the "Kryptos Kristmas Kwiz," which involves solving challenging numerical and alphabetical puzzles. The proud winners of the competition are awarded "Kryptos" mugs.

Encryption -- the use of mathematics to protect communications from spying -- is used for electronic transactions of all types, by governments, firms and private users alike. But a look into the archive of whistleblower Edward Snowden shows that not all encryption technologies live up to what they promise.

One example is the encryption featured in Skype, a program used by some 300 million users to conduct Internet video chat that is touted as secure. It isn't really. "Sustained Skype collection began in Feb 2011," reads a National Security Agency (NSA) training document from the archive of whistleblower Edward Snowden. Less than half a year later, in the fall, the code crackers declared their mission accomplished. Since then, data from Skype has been accessible to the NSA's snoops. Software giant Microsoft, which acquired Skype in 2011, said in a statement: "We will not provide governments with direct or unfettered access to customer data or encryption keys." The NSA had been monitoring Skype even before that, but since February 2011, the service has been under order from the secret US Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), to not only supply information to the NSA but also to make itself accessible as a source of data for the agency.

The "sustained Skype collection" is a further step taken by the authority in the arms race between intelligence agencies seeking to deny users of their privacy and those wanting to ensure they are protected. There have also been some victories for privacy, with certain encryption systems proving to be so robust they have been tried and true standards for more than 20 years.

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See toon at top...


US spying vastly more extensive than first thought...


Spying Close to Home

German Intelligence Under Fire for NSA Cooperation

US intelligence spent years spying on European targets from a secretive base. Now, it seems that German intelligence was aware of the espionage -- and did nothing to stop it.

It was obvious from its construction speed just how important the new site in Bavaria was to the Americans. Only four-and-a-half months after it was begun, the new, surveillance-proof building at the Mangfall Kaserne in Bad Aibling was finished. The structure had a metal exterior and no windows, which led to its derogatory nickname among members of the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), the German foreign intelligence agency: The "tin can."

The construction project was an expression of an especially close and trusting cooperation between the American National Security Agency (NSA) and the BND. Bad Aibling had formerly been a base for US espionage before it was officially turned over to the BND in 2004. But the "tin can" was built after the handover took place.

The heads of the two intelligence agencies had agreed to continue cooperating there in secret. Together, they established joint working groups, one for the acquisition of data, called Joint Sigint Activity, and one for the analysis of that data, known as the Joint Analysis Center.

But the Germans were apparently not supposed to know everything their partners in the "tin can" were doing. The Americans weren't just interested in terrorism; they also used their technical abilities to spy on companies and agencies in Western Europe. They didn't even shy away from pursuing German targets.

The Germans noticed -- in 2008, if not sooner. But nothing was done about it until 2013, when an analysis triggered by whistleblower Edward Snowden's leaks showed that the US was using the facility to spy on German and Western European targets.

On Thursday, though, SPIEGEL ONLINE revealed that the US spying was vastly more extensive than first thought. The revelations have been met with extreme concern in the German capital -- partly because they mark the return of a scandal that two successive Merkel administrations have never truly sought to clear up.

It remains unclear how much the BND knew, and to what extent German intelligence was involved, either intentionally or not. More crucially, it demonstrates the gap in trust that exists between two close allies.

Humiliating Efforts

The German government will have to quickly come up with answers. It will also have to decide how it will confront Washington about these new accusations. In the past two years, Berlin has made little to no progress in its largely humiliating efforts to get information from Washington.

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Gus: I still maintain with conviction that the US has always tried to make sure Europe failed. "Cooperation" of Europe with the Americans was always fraught with double dealings from the Yanks (AND THE BRITISH — and the "five" eyes)... The Yanks ARE NOT GOING TO let another "Empire" shine on their turf. Thus they have been dividing Europe in as many ways as they can.