Friday, June 28, 2013

Stuck in Moscow, Snowden Poses Mounting Challenge for Kremlin

Stuck in Moscow, Snowden Poses Mounting Challenge for Kremlin

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MOSCOW—When National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden touched down here from Hong Kong, Russia appeared to be handed an easy opportunity to taunt the U.S. without causing a massive diplomatic rupture. Instead, Moscow may have a bigger problem on its hands.
"Why did he have to fly here?" Vladimir Lukin, the Kremlin's human-rights envoy, told the Interfax news agency Friday. "In effect, China's problem became our problem. Someone has created a situation that means we are the ones who have to deal with this…. Here I see a serious problem."

Snowden on the Run

U.S. authorities sought to catch Edward Snowden before he reached his next goal: political asylum in Ecuador.
Mr. Lukin's comments came amid an increasingly pitched discussion in Russia over what to do with Mr. Snowden, the American whose high-stakes Moscow layover entered a sixth day Friday with no end in sight.
Russian President Vladimir Putin denied a U.S. request to expel the 30-year-old fugitive from Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport this week, calling him a free man and saying the sooner he chose a final destination, "the better it will be for us and him."
The comments made clear the Kremlin's approach: Russia wouldn't stop Mr. Snowden from escaping U.S. authorities but didn't want him to stay. The U.S., however, curtailed Mr. Snowden's options after he left Hong Kong, revoking his passport and pressuring intermediary countries on his path to Ecuador, the Andean nation that is considering his application for political asylum.
Both Mr. Putin and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov have emphasized that Mr. Snowden technically hasn't crossed the Russian border because he remains in the airport's transit zone. Otherwise, Russia would need to issue him a visa, raising the level of its cooperation in the affair.
Ecuador's Foreign Minister confirmed Friday that his government has held discussions with Russia about how Mr. Snowden could leave the airport. "There are some conversations that we've had in the last few days" with Russia about how Mr. Snowden could leave the country, said Ricardo Patiño , declining to give further details about Mr. Snowden's situation.
Also Friday, the former security contractor's father acknowledged that his son broke the law, NBC News reported Friday. "If folks want to classify him as a traitor, in fact, he has betrayed his government. But I don't believe that he's betrayed the people of the United States," Lonnie Snowden told NBC.
The father also said he believes his son would consider returning to the U.S. under certain conditions, including if the Justice Department promises not to hold him before trial and not subject him to a gag order, according to NBC.
Such a prospect would give the Kremlin a measure of hope that its "hands-off" approach could still succeed.
"We shouldn't hinder Snowden from doing what he wants," even going to the U.S., Chairman of the International Affairs Committee of the Russian Duma Alexei Pushkov said. He noted that the large part of Russians view Mr. Snowden sympathetically.
Mr. Pushkov attributed Mr. Snowden's ideas to the "liberal Hollywood culture" seen in movies such as "Enemy of the State" and "Three Days of the Condor," where "a hero is the person who overcomes the challenges of secret, anti-democratic powers."
"For Snowden, it could end badly," Mr. Pushkov said. "Because all these films have a happy ending. In life, I don't think a happy ending will come to pass."
Both Russia and the U.S. have said they don't want to let Mr. Snowden sabotage joint efforts to improve diplomatic relations after a year and a half of mutual hostility. With President Barack Obamaruling out any swap—the long-standing U.S.-Russian solution to such cases—and suggesting he won't be calling Mr. Putin to address the situation, Mr. Snowden may remain in Russia for a long time.
Some Russian public figures allied with the Kremlin have started building a case for granting asylum to Mr. Snowden, who is wanted by U.S. authorities for exposing domestic surveillance operations. Some such campaigns by loyalists have in the past been used to test the waters for later Kremlin initiatives.
Russia's main state-owned TV channel devoted an hour-long talk show to Mr. Snowden late Thursday in which nationalist commentator Alexander Prokhanov praised him as a soldier on the side of Russia and a "weapon of the counter-strike." One guest compared Mr. Snowden to Andrei Sakharov, the Soviet nuclear physicist and dissident. Another said he was a symbol of the beginning of the end for the U.S.
Vyacheslav Nikonov, a political scientist and grandson of Stalinist foreign minister Vyacheslav Molotov, told viewers it would be a double standard to expel Mr. Snowden. "There's never been a single case where people who betrayed Russia were handed over by the United States or any other Western country," he said.
It isn't clear whether Mr. Snowden would want to request asylum from Russia. A spokesman for WikiLeaks, which has said it is assisting Mr. Snowden in his asylum bid, said this week that Mr. Snowden is focused on Ecuador.
Any request for asylum here "will be a big problem for Russia," said Fyodor Lukyanov, editor in chief of Russia in Global Affairs, a foreign-relations journal. "To not give it to him, in this situation, would be indecent, and to give it to him would once again create a constant problem in relations with the U.S."
The Kremlin may be left with little option, though. Dmitri Trenin, Director of the Carnegie Moscow Center, said it would play poorly domestically if Mr. Putin were to forsake Mr. Snowden at this point. He said: "The more nationalist constituencies in Russia would not welcome Putin changing his mind on this guy."
—Mercedes Alvaro in Quito, Ecuador, contributed to this article.
Write to Paul Sonne at
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Puerto Rico's supreme court upholds pension reform

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The highest court in Puerto Rico ruled that the 'Act 3' major pension reform passed by the commonwealth in April is constitutional, despite reducing certain...
This news article is one of hundreds published daily by Business News Americas about the commodities, markets, movements, companies, projects, economics and politics integral to the development of Latin America. Including news and insight from South America, Central America and the Caribbean, BNamericas includes Insurance insight and forecasts for business opportunities in Puerto Rico. The business development service focuses on major projects, active companies, such as Moody's; and business and sales contacts, providing networking opportunities with leading executives throughout Latin America.

PR home foreclosures up in fiscal 2013

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Home foreclosures rose in fiscal 2013, continuing an upward trend dating back a decade, according to the Courts Administration.
“We have long seen an increase in foreclosures and the need to promote mediation in these cases, which is an effective tool that doesn’t represent a cost to consumers,” Courts Administrator Sonia Ivette Vélez said.
Some 13,672 foreclosure cases had been logged this fiscal year with a week still to go, according to Courts Administration data.
There were 13,427 cases in fiscal 2012, compared to just 7,379 in fiscal 2003.
The judicial branch has mediation centers in 12 of its 13 regions: Aguadilla, Aibonito, Arecibo, Bayamón, Caguas, Carolina, Fajardo, Humacao, Mayagüez, Ponce, San Juan and Utuado. Guayama is being added this year.

A Hint by Obama Limits Bernanke’s Sway Over Markets

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It can’t have been the send-off that the Federal Reserve chairman, Ben S. Bernanke, was hoping for.
Susan Walsh/Associated Press
One economist said comments made by President Obama instantly made Ben S. Bernanke, the Fed chairman, a lame duck.
“He’s already stayed a lot longer than he wanted or he was supposed to,” President Obama told Charlie Rose in an interview that was broadcast on June 17 on Bloomberg TV, all but confirming that he wouldn’t reappoint Mr. Bernanke when his term expires at the end of this year.
The best the president could muster was that Mr. Bernanke was an “outstanding partner along with the White House” in warding off “what could have been an economic crisis of epic proportions.”
A White House spokesman said Mr. Obama meant that as praise, but supporters of the chairman, and even many who have disagreed with him on policy issues, were quick to question both the timing and substance of the comment.
Not only did the comment come across as faint praise for a long-serving public servant who guided the nation’s monetary policy through a severe crisis, but its timing could also hardly have been worse. Mr. Bernanke was in the midst of important Federal Open Market Committee meetings and that very week began the delicate task of communicating the Fed’s plans to “taper” its latest round of quantitative easing. Markets went into convulsions and interest rates shot up. While no one blames Mr. Obama for that, adding another element of uncertainty about Fed policy may have contributed to the volatility.
Others were critical of the president’s choice of the word “partner” to describe the Fed chairman’s role, since the Federal Reserve is an independent agency overseen by Congress. “Any Fed chairman would bristle at the idea they were a partner with a president,” Senator Bob Corker, the Tennessee Republican who serves on the Senate Banking subcommittee on financial institutions and consumer protection, told me this week. “I can understand why people who want to protect the independence of the Fed would be concerned.”
Others pointed out that the Fed has taken the lead in efforts to stimulate the economy as Congress has blocked the White House from further stimulus measures, and thus “partner” overstates the White House’s role in the recovery.
By contrast, although history hasn’t been kind to the legacy of Mr. Bernanke’s predecessor, Alan Greenspan, he received a send-off commensurate with his record five terms of service. The Fed itself announced Mr. Greenspan’s decision to retire, and in late October 2005, President George W. Bush announced his choice of Mr. Bernanke at a White House news conference where he lavished praise on the departing chairman as a “legend” who had “dominated his age like no central banker in history” while Mr. Greenspan looked on. On the same occasion, Mr. Bernanke said Mr. Greenspan “set the standard for excellence in economic policy making.”
With many economists and investors fixated for months on the question of when and how quickly the Fed would curtail its extraordinary efforts to stimulate the economy, Mr. Bernanke’s suggestion, just two days after the president’s comments, that the Fed might taper its bond-buying earlier than expected sent markets reeling. Stocks fell across the globe and interest rates rose, with 10-year Treasuries hitting their highest yields since 2011. The volatility index, which was already rising the week before the president’s remarks, leapt to a new high for the year.
Mr. Obama “instantly made Ben a lame duck before the end of his term,” said one economist, who may be a future candidate for Mr. Bernanke’s position and, like many people I interviewed, asked not to be named. “He undermined his credibility both inside the Fed and in financial markets.” While Mr. Bernanke tried to reassure markets that the Fed would monitor the economy and respond as appropriate, this person said, “Part of the negative reaction in asset prices was because market participants have confidence in Ben, but now he won’t be around to oversee that.”
People close to Mr. Bernanke told me that the chairman took the president’s comments in stride, but said he was concerned about the severe market reaction. “He wouldn’t want to feed stories about this when he’s trying to articulate a complex message about monetary policy,” one adviser said.
The people close to the chairman said he had already told the president he wanted to leave at the end of his term. He is expected to return to teaching and research at Princeton, where he deliveredthis year’s baccalaureate address. He quipped in the speech that his remarks had “nothing whatsoever to do with interest rates” and observed that life was unpredictable.
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New Leak Suggests Ashcroft Confrontation Was Over N.S.A. Program

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The report, the latest document given to the paper by the former N.S.A. contractor Edward J. Snowden, may clear up a long-running mystery over which program White House officials wanted Mr. Ashcroft and other Justice Department officials to sign off on when they went to his Washington hospital room. Because of their refusal, according to the report, the Bush administration shut down the metadata collection for several months, then re-established it under a secret order from a national-security court established by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA.
The program continued to operate for the first two years of the Obama administration but has since ended, Shawn Turner, a spokesman for the office of the director of national intelligence, said Thursday.
“The Internet metadata collection program authorized by the FISA court was discontinued in 2011 for operational and resource reasons and has not been restarted,” Mr. Turner said. “The program was discontinued by the executive branch as a result of an interagency review.”
A separate N.S.A. program that has been collecting domestic “telephony metadata” — logs of all telephone calls dialed by Americans — has continued. That program was among the first of Mr. Snowden’s revelations. It is not clear whether Internet metadata collection has continued under a different program.
The N.S.A. uses the metadata to analyze links between people to try to identify networks of terrorism suspects, a process the report calls “contact chaining.” The inspector general report says they typically “analyzed networks with two degrees of separation (two hops)” from the known suspect to create investigative leads submitted to the F.B.I. and the C.I.A. in reports they called tippers.
The content of the inspector general report — a history of the Bush administration’s warrantless surveillance programs, which eventually came under court oversight — was first reported by The Washington Post.
President Bush’s original surveillance program, established on Oct. 4, 2001, had four components. It sucked up the contents of telephone calls and e-mails, as well as their “metadata” logs. This was done without court orders and outside statutory regulations, and was based on closely held legal memorandums; even the N.S.A.’s general counsel was not allowed to see them at first, according to the report, which invoked the president’s inherent powers as commander-in-chief.
Over time, however, there was turnover at the Justice Department, including the arrival of a new head at its Office of Legal Counsel, Jack Goldsmith, and a new deputy attorney general, James B. Comey,who last week was nominated by President Obama to be director of the F.B.I.
In December 2003, Mr. Goldsmith began to question the legality of some aspects of the programs, and he persuaded Mr. Comey — who took over temporarily as attorney general when Mr. Ashcroft became ill the following March — not to sign a document reauthorizing it.
The report says that the Justice Department’s concerns were focused on the Internet metadata program, which was then based on a theory that the N.S.A. did not “acquire,” for legal purposes, the bulk communications when it collected them, but instead only when human analysts selected certain data to examine because it met certain criteria.
In the hospital room confrontation of March 10, 2004, Mr. Ashcroft refused a request by senior White House aides to overrule Mr. Comey and sign off on extending the program. The report says that on March 19, after taking into account the objections of Mr. Comey and his allies, Mr. Bush rescinded his authorization to the N.S.A. to collect bulk Internet metadata and gave the agency a week to stop collecting it and to block access to its existing database.
During the same month, the report says, the Bush administration also ended the secret domestic surveillance programs against Iraq it had begun the year before under a theory that Iraqi spies were “engaged in terrorist activities and presented a threat to U.S. interests in the United States and abroad.” The credibility of Bush administration claims linking Iraq to Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups was, at the time, a subject of deep controversy. It is not clear whether ending the program was a coincidence or connected to the Justice Department’s rebellion against the White House over the administration’s legal theories about surveillance.
After Mr. Bush’s order to end the collection of Internet metadata, administration lawyers looked for a new legal basis to restart the program. Under this theory, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court could authorize such bulk collection under a “pen register/trap trace” statute, which traditionally allows law enforcement officials to keep logs of communications sent and received by particular phone numbers or e-mail accounts.
The chief judge of the national-security court, Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, issued an order on July 15, 2004, authorizing the resumption of the program, according to the report. None of the other judges on the court were apparently told about the programs or the new order; this was the first time one of the N.S.A.’s secret surveillance programs had come under the court’s oversight and authority
In 2006, according to the report, N.S.A. was faced with another legal challenge when The New York Times disclosed the existence of the warrantless surveillance program. In response to the disclosures, one of the telephone companies that was secretly providing its customers’ data to the N.S.A. on a voluntary basis asked for a court order compelling it to comply to protect itself legally, forcing the Bush administration to develop new legal theories to support other surveillance.
That May, the national-security court issued its first order to the telephone companies to log metadata from phone calls, citing a provision in the Patriot Act that allowed the government to obtain business records deemed to be “relevant” to a counterterrorism investigation.
It was apparently more difficult to get the court’s agreement on a legal justification for the collection of the contents of phone calls and e-mails than of Internet metadata. But the Justice Department came up with a theory that the word “facility” in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which had traditionally been understood to mean a specific telephone number or e-mail address, could be “changed to encompass the gateway or cable head that foreign targets use for communications” — that is, the entire line. That gave the N.S.A. access to the contents of a huge number of communications.
In January 2007, a judge on the FISA court issued two orders, one covering the collection of foreign communications and another dealing with domestic ones. After the contents were collected in that fashion, rules would be applied to screen out Americans’ communications in some circumstances and setting limits on when the database could be consulted, the report said.
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Army reportedly blocking military access to Guardian coverage of NSA leaks

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By M. Alex Johnson, staff writer, NBC News
The Army is blocking all access to The Guardian newspaper's reports about the National Security Agency's sweeping collection of data about Americans' email and phone communications, an Army spokesman said Thursday.
The Monterey (Calif.) Herald reported that employees at the Presidio of Monterey, an Army public affairs base about 100 miles south of San Francisco, were unable to gain access to The Guardian's articles on former NSA contractor Edward Snowden and his professed leaks of classified information about the intelligence programs.
Late Thursday, an Army spokesman told The Herald by email that the newspaper's NSA reports were, in fact, being blocked across the entire Army. He wrote that it's routine for the Defense Department to take "network hygiene" action to prevent disclosure of classified information, The Herald reported.

"We make every effort to balance the need to preserve information access with operational security," the newspaper quoted the spokesman as saying. "However there are strict policies and directives in place regarding protecting and handling classified information."
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NSA collected Americans' email records in bulk for two years under Obama | World news

The Obama administration for more than two years permitted the National Security Agency to continue collecting vast amounts of records detailing the email and internet usage of Americans, according to secret documents obtained by the Guardian.
The documents indicate that under the program, launched in 2001, a federal judge sitting on the secret surveillance panel called the Fisa court would approve a bulk collection order for internet "every 90 days". A senior administration official confirmed the program, stating that it ended in 2011.
The collection of these records began under the Bush administration's wide-ranging warrantless surveillance program, collectively known by the NSA codename Stellar Wind.
According to a top-secret draft report by the NSA's inspector general – published for the first time today by the Guardian – the agency began "collection of bulk internet " involving "communications with at least one communicant outside the United States or for which no communicant was known to be a citizen of the United States".
Eventually, the gained authority to "analyze communications associated with United States persons and persons believed to be in the United States", according to a 2007 Justice Department memo, which is marked secret.
The Guardian revealed earlier this month that the was collecting the call records of millions of US Verizon customers under a court order that, it later emerged, is renewed every 90 days. Similar orders are in place for other phone carriers.
The internet of the sort collected for at least a decade details the accounts to which Americans sent emails and from which they received emails. It also details the internet protocol addresses (IP) used by people inside the United States when sending emails – information which can reflect their physical location. It did not include the content of emails.
"The internet collection program authorized by the court was discontinued in 2011 for operational and resource reasons and has not been restarted," Shawn Turner, the Obama administration's director of communications for National Intelligence, said in a statement to the Guardian.
"The program was discontinued by the executive branch as the result of an interagency review," Turner continued. He would not elaborate further.
But while that specific program has ended, additional secret documents seen by the Guardian show that some collection of Americans' online records continues today. In December 2012, for example, the NSA launched one new program allowing it to analyze communications with one end inside the US, leading to a doubling of the amount of data passing through its filters.

What your email metadata reveals

The Obama administration argues that its internal checks on surveillance programs, as well as review by the court, protect Americans' privacy. Deputy attorney general James Cole defended the bulk collection of Americans' phone records as outside the scope of the fourth amendment's protections against unreasonable searches and seizures.
"Toll records, phone records like this, that don't include any content, are not covered by the fourth amendment because people don't have a reasonable expectation of privacy in who they called and when they called," Cole testified to the House intelligence committee on June 18. "That's something you show to the phone company. That's something you show to many, many people within the phone company on a regular basis."
But email is different. Customers' data bills do not itemize online activity by detailing the addresses a customer emailed or the IP addresses from which customer devices accessed the internet.
Internal government documents describe how revealing these email records are. One 2008 document, signed by the US defense secretary and attorney general, states that the collection and subsequent analysis included "the information appearing on the 'to,' 'from' or 'bcc' lines of a standard email or other electronic communication" from Americans.
In reality, it is hard to distinguish email from email content. Distinctions that might make sense for telephone conversations and data about those conversations do not always hold for online communications.
"The calls you make can reveal a lot, but now that so much of our lives are mediated by the internet, your IP [internet protocol] logs are really a real-time map of your brain: what are you reading about, what are you curious about, what personal ad are you responding to (with a dedicated email linked to that specific ad), what online discussions are you participating in, and how often?" said Julian Sanchez of the Cato Institute.
"Seeing your IP logs – and especially feeding them through sophisticated analytic tools – is a way of getting inside your head that's in many ways on par with reading your diary," Sanchez added.
The purpose of this internet collection program is detailed in the full classified March 2009 draft report prepared by the 's inspector general (IG).
One function of this internet record collection is what is commonly referred to as "data mining", and which the calls "contact chaining". The agency "analyzed networks with two degrees of separation (two hops) from the target", the report says. In other words, the NSA studied the online records of people who communicated with people who communicated with targeted individuals.
Contact chaining was considered off-limits inside the before 9/11. In the 1990s, according to the draft IG report, the idea was nixed when the Justice Department "told NSA that the proposal fell within one of the definitions of electronic surveillance and, therefore, was not permissible when applied to associated with presumed US persons".

How the US government came to collect Americans' email records

The collection of email on Americans began in late 2001, under a top-secret program started shortly after 9/11, according to the documents. Known as Stellar Wind, the program initially did not rely on the authority of any court – and initially restricted the NSA from analyzing records of emails between communicants wholly inside the US.
" was authorized to acquire telephony and internet for communications with at least one communicant outside the United States or for which no communicant was known to be a citizen of the United States," the draft report states.
George W Bush briefly "discontinued" that bulk internet collection, involving Americans, after a dramatic rebellion in March 2004 by senior figures at the Justice Department and FBI, as the Washington Post first reported. One of the leaders of that rebellion was deputy attorney general James Comey, whom Barack Obama nominated last week to run the FBI.
But Comey's act of defiance did not end the IP collection, the documents reveal. It simply brought it under a newly created legal framework.
As soon as the lost the blessing under the president's directive for collecting bulk internet , the NSA IG report reads, "DoJ [the Department of Justice] and NSA immediately began efforts to recreate this authority."
The DoJ quickly convinced the court to authorize ongoing bulk collection of email records. On 14 July 2004, barely two months after Bush stopped the collection, chief judge Collen Kollar-Kotelly legally blessed it under a new order – the first time the surveillance court exercised its authority over a two-and-a-half-year-old surveillance program.
Kollar-Kotelly's order "essentially gave the same authority to collect bulk internet that it had under the PSP [Bush's program], except that it specified the datalinks from which NSA could collect, and it limited the number of people that could access the data".

How NSA gained more power to study Americans' online habits

The Bush email program had restrictions on the scope of the bulk email records the could analyze. Those restrictions are detailed in a legal memorandum written in a 27 November 2007, by assistant attorney general Kenneth Wainstein to his new boss, attorney general Michael Mukasey, who had taken office just a few weeks earlier.
The purpose of that memorandum was to advise Mukasey of the Pentagon's view that these restrictions were excessive, and to obtain permission for the to expand its "contact chains" deeper into Americans' email records. The agency, the memo noted, already had "in its databases a large amount of communications associated with persons in the United States".
But, Wainstein continued, "'s present practice is to 'stop' when a chain hits a telephone number or [internet] address believed to be used by a United States person."
Wainstein told Mukasey that giving broader leeway to study Americans' online habits would give the surveillance agency, ironically, greater visibility into the online habits of foreigners – NSA's original mandate.
" believes that it is over-identifying numbers and addresses that belong to United States persons and that modifying its practice to chain through all telephone numbers and addresses, including those reasonably believed to be used by a United States person," Wainstein wrote, "will yield valuable foreign intelligence information primarily concerning non-United States persons outside the United States."
The procedures "would clarify that the National Security Agency () may analyze communications associated with United States persons and persons believed to be in the United States", Wainstein wrote.
In October 2007, Robert Gates, the secretary of defense, signed a set of "Supplemental Procedures" on internet , including what it could do with Americans' data linked in its contact chains. Mukasey affixed his signature to the document in January 2008.
" will continue to disseminate the results of its contact chaining and other analysis of communications in accordance with current procedures governing the dissemination of information concerning US persons," the document states, without detailing the "current procedures".
It was this program that continued for more than two years into the Obama administration.
Turner, the director of national intelligence spokesman, did not respond to the Guardian's request for additional details of the program or the reasons why it was stopped.
A senior administration official queried by the Washington Post denied that the Obama administration was "using this program" to "collect internet in bulk", but added: "I'm not going to say we're not collecting any internet metadata."
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U.S., British intelligence mining data from nine U.S. Internet companies in broad secret program

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The National Security Agency and the FBI are tapping directly into the central servers of nine leading U.S. Internet companies, extracting audio and video chats, photographs, e-mails, documents, and connection logs that enable analysts to track foreign targets, according to a top-secret document obtained by The Washington Post.
The program, code-named PRISM, has not been made public until now. It may be the first of its kind. The NSA prides itself on stealing secrets and breaking codes, and it is accustomed to corporate partnerships that help it divert data traffic or sidestep barriers. But there has never been a Google or Facebook before, and it is unlikely that there are richer troves of valuable intelligence than the ones in Silicon Valley.
Equally unusual is the way the NSA extracts what it wants, according to the document: “Collection directly from the servers of these U.S. Service Providers: Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, Apple.”
London’s Guardian newspaper reported Friday that GCHQ, Britain’s equivalent of the NSA, also has been secretly gathering intelligence from the same internet companies through an operation set up by the NSA.
According to documents obtained by The Guardian, PRISM would appear to allow GCHQ to circumvent the formal legal process required in Britain to seek personal material such as emails, photos and videos from an internet company based outside of the country.
PRISM was launched from the ashes of President George W. Bush’s secret program of warrantless domestic surveillance in 2007, after news media disclosures, lawsuits and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court forced the president to look for new authority.
Congress obliged with the Protect America Act in 2007 and the FISA Amendments Act of 2008, which immunized private companies that cooperated voluntarily with U.S. intelligence collection. PRISM recruited its first partner, Microsoft, and began six years of rapidly growing data collection beneath the surface of a roiling national debate on surveillance and privacy. Late last year, when critics in Congress sought changes in the FISA Amendments Act, the only lawmakers who knew about PRISM were bound by oaths of office to hold their tongues.
The court-approved program is focused on foreign communications traffic, which often flows through U.S. servers even when sent from one overseas location to another. Between 2004 and 2007, Bush administration lawyers persuaded federal FISA judges to issue surveillance orders in a fundamentally new form. Until then the government had to show probable cause that a particular “target” and “facility” were both connected to terrorism or espionage.
In four new orders, which remain classified, the court defined massive data sets as “facilities” and agreed to certify periodically that the government had reasonable procedures in place to minimize collection of “U.S. persons” data without a warrant.
In a statement issue late Thursday, Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper said “information collected under this program is among the most important and valuable foreign intelligence information we collect, and is used to protect our nation from a wide variety of threats. The unauthorized disclosure of information about this important and entirely legal program is reprehensible and risks important protections for the security of Americans.”
Clapper added that there were numerous inaccuracies in reports about PRISM by The Post and the Guardian newspaper, but he did not specify any.
Jameel Jaffer, deputy legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union, said: “I would just push back on the idea that the court has signed off on it, so why worry? This is a court that meets in secret, allows only the government to appear before it, and publishes almost none of its opinions. It has never been an effective check on government.”
Several companies contacted by The Post said they had no knowledge of the program, did not allow direct government access to their servers and asserted that they responded only to targeted requests for information.
“We do not provide any government organization with direct access to Facebook servers,” said Joe Sullivan, chief security officer for Facebook. “When Facebook is asked for data or information about specific individuals, we carefully scrutinize any such request for compliance with all applicable laws, and provide information only to the extent required by law.”
“We have never heard of PRISM,” said Steve Dowling, a spokesman for Apple. “We do not provide any government agency with direct access to our servers, and any government agency requesting customer data must get a court order.”
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White House Unsure What Files Edward Snowden Has

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The Obama administration expressed heightened alarm today over fugitive leaker Edward Snowden's stash of secret spy files, as a new batch of highly classified papers spilled across the Internet, revealing how the U.S. government collected online data in bulk.

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