Category Archives: Spies

ArthurPorter

Shhh… Rogue Canadian Spies Secretly Tortured and Hanged – Arthur Porter

A handful of “rogue” Canadian spies on secret missions overseas were “tortured and hanged” though the truth was covered up and hidden from the Parliament and also the sleuths’ families, according to a tell-all book “The Man Behind the Bow Tie” by Arthur Porter (pictured above – Photo Credit: Montreal Gazette), the former head of Canada’s Security and Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC), the spy watchdog of the country’s intelligence agency CSIS (Canadian Security Intelligence Service).

ManBehindTheBowTie

These spies were found to have snapped photographs of military facilities “without the formal approval” from the CSIS in a foreign country “not exactly a close friend of Canada”, according to the Toronto Sun about the release of the new memoir by Porter, a former medical doctor (oncologist) who headed the McGill University Health Center in Montreal before his SIRC spell between 2008-2011.

“Canadians ended up losing their lives. They were tortured and hanged. We had to keep the truth of how they died from their families, telling them instead that they fell off a balcony in Dubai, for example,” according to the Toronto Sun quoting Porter from his book.

“None of these incidents ever made the papers, and they were not isolated incidents. For whatever reason, agents sometimes went rogue, a bit too James Bond, and stretched the limits of their official position”.

The Sierra Leone-born Porter, always seen in his iconic bow tie, has been a controversial figure, who resigned three months prior to his SIRC term after the National Post reportedly alleged him of business dealings with a notorious international lobbyist and his own close ties to the president of Sierra Leone.

In mid-2013, the Canadian and American citizen Porter was at the center of the largest fraud investigation in Canadian history when he was arrested in Panama on alleged fraud charges relating to a kick-back scheme for the construction of the new billion-dollar hospital at the McGill University Health Center.

The release of his whistle-blowing book, to be released September 15, may raise some eyebrows considering his personal rogue history – Porter was understood to be still under arrest in Panama awaiting extradition to Canada.

NobelPeacePrize

Shhh… Norway to Arrest Nobel-nominated Snowden

The Norwegian police should arrest NSA whistle-blower and fugitive Edward Snowden if he showed up in Norway to receive the Nobel Peace Prize this December, according to a Norwegian politician.

Norwegian Right Wing Party MP Michael Tatzschner warned that bagging the prestigious prize would in no way exempt Snowden from arrest and Norway should not make a distinction between a Nobel Peace Prize winner and any other wanted American citizen.

“Norway needs to respect the agreements that we have signed,” Tatzschener told Norway’s media Dagbladet on Tuesday, with reference to international law that, given a valid US warrant, requires Norway to arrest Snowden if he arrives in the country.

MAD-Magazine-Snowden-Flee

Snowden (shown above: Photo credit to MAD magazine) has been nominated for the Peace Prize, to be announced end of the year, amid growing global support.

He was recently granted a three-year residence permit by the Russian authorities on August 1.

But the most wanted man in the world could receive Swiss asylum if he opts to travel to Switzerland to testify against the National Security Agency, according to my previous piece earlier this week.

The Swiss Attorney General has stated that Switzerland would not extradite a US citizen if the individual’s “actions constitute a political offense, or if the request has been politically motivated”.

ECHQ

Shhh… Privacy Group Took “Five Eyes” Spy Pact Inquiries to Top European Court

Privacy International, a campaigning body on issues relating to surveillance matters, has lodged on Tuesday an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) to publish the treaty behind the intelligence sharing amongst the “Five Eyes” after the British government declined their initial applications, which the civil liberties group branded as a violation of the right to access of information.

The Anglophone countries behind the “Five Eyes” – the US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand – have a treaty that bounds them to joint cooperation in signals intelligence – they don’t spy on each other but instead share the intelligence they have collected. The Snowden revelations also revealed that the NSA shared the intelligence with a host other “third parties”.

The British Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), the equivalent to the American NSA, has turned down every freedom of information requests filed by Privacy International for details on how information was shared between the intelligence agencies of this global spy pact.

According to The Guardian quoting Rosa Curling of law firm Leigh Day:

“The UK’s Freedom of Information Act precludes government authorities from disclosing to the public information directly or indirectly supplied by GCHQ.

“This absolute exemption is unlawful and contrary to article 10 of the European convention on human rights, which provides for the right to freedom of expression, which includes the right to receive information.”

The ECHR, located in Strasbourg, France, is an international court set up by the European Convention on Human Rights.

edward-snowdens-russian-lawyer-hes-almost-broke

Shhh… Snowden Could Receive Swiss Asylum

The American whistleblower and most wanted fugitive Edward Snowden could receive Swiss asylum if he opts to travel to Switzerland to testify against the National Security Agency, according to Swiss newspaper SonntagsZeitung today.

The Swiss attorney general is apparently keen in Snowden’s testimony against the US intelligence agency and said to guarantee his safety, and not have him deported to the US, according to the Swiss paper based on a document they obtained: “What rules would apply if Edward Snowden is brought to Switzerland and the United States makes an extradition request”.

It will be interesting to know if there’s any other reasons why the Swiss government are keen to keep Snowden – the NSA stationed Snowden in Geneva for 3 years through 2010, deployed as undercover with diplomatic credentials.

Snowden was recently granted a three-year residence permit by the Russian authorities on August 1.

NSA-NoGlennPic

Cloud Hacks More Than Just Nude Pics

Ever Thought of More Catastrophic Consequences?

The sensational invasion last week by hackers into dozens of pictures of nude Hollywood celebrities was a wardrobe malfunction on major scale, but it is time to take a more serious look beyond the alluring pictures. The world is heading for more catastrophic consequences in the cloud.

The leaks of the celebrities’ photos went viral online after hackers used new “brute force” attacks to break into the victims’ online accounts, casting the spotlight on the security of cloud computing.

But the disturbing and often overlooked question is, why are so many companies still blindly and trustingly moving ever more data into the cloud, where online access to highly confidential information related to clients, customers, employees, deals, business plans and performances and worst of all, our personal details, is left seemingly and increasingly more vulnerable?

Please refer to my entire column here.

CellPhoneTower-Fake

Shhh… Mysterious Fake Cellphone Towers Possibly New Foreign Threats

In what seems like invasion of privacy scaling to new heights, surpassing even the most dystopian state of any hardcore Orwellian, Americans found to their horror of not only having to live with NSA snoops on all their private communications when a recent Popular Science report revealed the existence of fake cellphone towers across the US that cannot be linked to any owner or operator and set up simply to connect to nearby phones, bypassing encryption to eavesdrop on calls and read text messages.

GSMinterceptor-USmap

As many as 17 such fake cellphone towers have been discovered in July alone, with more expected to be found, according to the map above charted out in August by ESD America CEO Les Goldsmith and phone technology expert.

What’s more disturbing is that most of the fake towers are set up near US military bases which prompts the question if these were US or foreign government interceptors.

These interceptors are radio-equipped devices to overcome the onboard encryption on our phones, Android or iOS alike. Their target is actually another operating system hidden behind every phone called the baseband processor, which channels the communications between the core OS and the cellphone towers.

And these towers are unlikely to belong to the NSA as the agency can simply go the local phone carriers to suck up all the metadata, as the Snowden revelations have revealed.

It would be interesting to keep an eye on the US Federal Communications Commission which The Washington Post announced early August that it is investigating into the use and misuse of surveillance technology by criminal networks and foreign intelligence.

Memo-Merkel

Shhh… A Memo to Merkel: “Dubious” Intelligence About Russian “Invasion” of Ukraine

It was revealed that prior to the NATO Summit on September 4-5, German Chancellor Angela Merkel received a memo from a group of US intelligence veterans (with names disclosed) warning about the reliability of Ukrainian and US media claims regarding a Russian “invasion”.

According to the veterans from the Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS), the ” accusations of a major Russian “invasion” of Ukraine appear not to be supported by reliable intelligence. Rather, the “intelligence” seems to be of the same dubious, politically “fixed” kind used 12 years ago to “justify” the U.S.-led attack on Iraq”.

You can find the entire memo below.

1Memo4Merkel

2Memo4Merkel

3Memo4Merkel

4Memo4Merkel

5Memo4Merkel

internet-undersea-cable

Shhh… NSA Ready for Google’s “Faster” Trans-Pacific Undersea Internet Cable

You can imagine the NSA getting impatient over free lunches following the announcement last month about Google’s proposed underseas fiber optic cable that will span the Pacific Ocean from the US west coast to Japan starting mid-2016.

The new cable dubbed “Faster” to transmit 60 terabits per second will be “easy to tap for sure”, according to a former NSA official quoted in a report by online news portal VentureBeat.

Google will cough out US$300 million to join hands with several parties – including China Mobile International, China Telecom Global, Global Transit, KDDI and SingTel – for the project which “could have big implications for Google on the public-cloud front and also for mobile needs”.

The involvement of some of these Google’s partners in this undertaking would blow the socks off many in the intelligence communities.

Intelligence agencies tapping into undersea cables have been well documented. The NSA’s British counterparts GCHQ, for example, have “Tempora” that could collect up to 21 million gigabytes of data every 24 hours as previously revealed by Edward Snowden, according to VentureBeat.

Apart from tapping communications, undersea cables are also left vulnerable exactly where they are.

scubaDivers-CutCables

Media reports had it that the Egyptian Armed Forces have arrested 3 scuba divers who tried to cut and sabotage an undersea internet cable in the Mediterranean.

Meanwhile lawyers representing the US government are in court hearings at the 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan this week to defend the government’s bulk collection of telephone records from millions of Americans. Please stay tune.

Drone

Shhh… New US Drone Base in the Sahara

The government of Niger has given the Pentagon the greenlight to set up a new and second drone base in the West African nation – in one of the most remote places along an ancient caravan crossroads in the middle of the Sahara, at the mud-walled desert city of Agadez.

This base, its third in the region, will allow the US military to fly unarmed drones along a desert corridor that connects northern Mali and southern Libya which allows the drones to zero on a key route for arms traffickers, drug smugglers and Islamist fighters migrating across the Sahara, according to a report by online news portal Stuff in New Zealand based on sources from Nigerian and US officials.

This move allows the Pentagon “track Islamist fighters who have destabilized parts of North and West Africa. It also advances a little-publicized US strategy to tackle counter-terrorism threats alongside France, the former colonial power in that part of the continent,” according to Stuff.

A document from the US Department of Justice dated July 16, 2010 was released to justify US drone killings.

USdronesSahara

The picture above reveals the American and French military presence in the Sahara region, courtesy of The Washington Post.

DigitalGlobe-Pool

Shhh… The Most Powerful Eye Watching From Above is Now a Commercial Satellite

The fear that the military and intelligence agencies won’t be the only ones spying on us from the sky has now become a reality.

Just last month, a company named DigitalGlobe launched into the orbit the world’s most powerful commercial satellite, called WorldView-3, a half-billion dollars gadget that can snap sharp images of the ground at a 30-centimeter resolution.

The following video shows the launch of WorldView-3 as seen from Vandenberg Air Force Base on August 13, 2014.

The WorldView-3 is now the highest-resolution commercial satellite in space. This satellite can capture images of “not only a car, but the windshield and the direction the car is going”, almost 40% sharper than what’s currently available. In fact, its images are so sharp that because of “regulatory restrictions, we can’t yet display the 30 cm native resolution data, so we’re sharing imagery resampled to 40 cm”, according to the company – see for example the featured DigitalGlobe images above and below.

worldview3-40-cm-resolution-examples-madrid-spain-1-638

The US government is said to be DigitalGlobe’s top customer but the general public can also get to view these highly precise images later through Google Maps. In the commercial sphere, potential applications could range from mapping to corporate logistics to academic research.

Click here for some sample WorldView-3 images.

syrian-internet-hack-nsa

Shhh… NSA’s Secret Technology – No-Hold-Bar Computer Penetration

The recently released book No Place to Hide by Glenn Greenwald is a page-turning thriller and I find this portion (below) really stands out:

pg118-GlennGreenwaldBook

One can’t help but wonder if this “secret technology” is beyond what’s already been known, ie. the NSA’s ability to penetrate into “air gapped” computers.

Air gapped (or air-gapped) computers are also known as “clean machines” because they are not and would never be connected to the internet – and they have to be brand new and not used computers, preferably paid by cash.

No doubt a computer that cannot be connected to the internet is pretty limited in what it can do but it is deemed absolutely safe.

These machines are usually used by the military and intelligence agencies dealing with highly sensitive or classified information.

However, it has been reported that the NSA has managed to use radio waves to break into computers disconnected to the internet.

Edward Snowden, and Wikileaks’ Julian Assange, are known to carry 3 to 4 laptops with them and it is no surprise one of these has been air gapped.

Snowden has even advised Greenwald on how to set up such a machine before the latter left New York to meet him in Hong Kong in the days building up to the Snowden revelations last year, as Greenwald wrote in his book.

But setting up and maintaining such a machine is more complex than one would initially think. Here’s a guide on the 10 rules to follow if you are still keen to have a clean machine.

2Reagan-Sign

Shhh… Mass Spying First Triggered By Executive Order 12333 Signed By Reagan

It was often widely believed the massive NSA snooping as revealed by the Snowden revelations was triggered by the aftermath of 9/11 during the Bush era but it now emerged that it’s the Executive Order 12333 issued and signed by then US President Ronald Reagan in 1981 that paved the leeway to intelligence agencies sweeping up vast quantities of Americans’ data.

This “twelve triple three”, as it’s known within the government circles, offers the underlying framework for the vast collection of metadata – including email contents, social network chats and messaging details to anything that surfs past the Internet on an incidental basis – even when Americans are not specifically targeted as it would be otherwise forbidden under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) of 1978

In a May 2014 interview with NBC, former NSA contractor Edward Snowden said that he specifically asked his colleagues at the NSA whether an executive order could override existing statutes. (They said it could not.) Snowden’s lawyer, Jesselyn Radack, said her client was specifically “referring to EO 12333”, according to a report by Ars Technica.

“President Ronald Reagan signed EO 12333 within his first year in office, 1981, largely as a response to the perceived weakening of the American intelligence apparatus by his two immediate predecessors, Presidents Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter. Later, EO 12333 was amended three times by President George W. Bush between 2003 and 2008,” according to the report.

“Bush’s reasons for strengthening EO 12333 were similar. After the United States faced another existential threat in the immediate aftermath of the September 11 attacks, Bush—and later President Barack Obama—used EO 12333 to expand American surveillance power.”

And the rest was history.

But let’s not forget Glenn Greenwald said in this recent book No Place To Hide that the personal motto of former NSA chief Keith Alexander was “Collect it all”. Period?

2angry-twitter-bird

Shhh… US Govt Sponsored “Truthy” to Monitor Tweets for Political Hate Speech

As if the Snowden revelations on NSA snoops are not enough to amplify the Orwellian state in the US, it now emerged that the American federal government has once again stepped beyond what the US Constitution permits with their sponsored “Truthy” program, through a National Science Foundation grant to Indiana University, to create a Twitter-like “web service that will monitor ‘suspicious memes’ and what it considers to be ‘false and misleading ideas,’ with a major focus on political activity online,” according to a report by The Washington Free Beacon.

According to the report, Truthy is designed to collect and analyze tweets in real time using a combination of “data mining, social network analysis, and complex networks models,” all boosted by crowd sourcing with the objective to “detect political smears, astroturfing, misinformation, and other social pollution” that might harm the general public in political discussions online.

“For the federal government to be tracking so-called hate speech or subversive propaganda is not only Orwellian but violates the very fundamental rights to free speech and privacy guaranteed to us by the Constitution,” according to Rutherford Institute president John Whitehead in a WND report.

The WND has pointed out recently that the Justice Department would submit a report related to “hate crimes” and “hate speech” with actions recommended against any Internet sites, broadcast, cable television or radio shows determined to be advocating or encouraging “violent acts.”

It said “once the report is compiled, the bill calls for “any recommendations” for action “consistent with the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States” that is determined to be an “appropriate and necessary” way to address the purported encouragement of violent acts.”

ANGRY-TWITTER-BIRD

So now it seems one can be punished simply for what one thinks, feels and believes… Yes, Tweet that and be punished.

ChinaOS

Shhh… (Another) New Chinese OS by October

A new homegrown Chinese operating system aimed to sweep aside foreign rivals like Microsoft, Google and Apple could be expected this coming October, according to a Xinhua news report Sunday.

The new OS would first target desktops with smartphones and other mobile devices to follow, according to Ni Guangnan who heads the development launched in March.

Now, it’s not that China has not attempted to create its very own OS. There was a Chinese Linux OS launched some years ago for mobile devices, dubbed the China Operating System (COS). It was developed as a joint effort by a company ‘Shanghai Liantong’, ISCAS (Institute of Software at the Chinese Academy of Sciences) and the Chinese Government. But it failed to take off and was later discontinued.

But the Chinese determination to have its very own system has risen a few bars recently, not least further sparked by the Snowden revelations that the American NSA planted “backdoor” surveillance tools on US-made hardware. Similarly the US have long been suspicious of China-made devices – Hmmm, is it still possible to get laptops with NO parts made in China? Check out my earlier column here if you are keen.

More recently, after the US made poster-boys of 5 Chinese military officers they accused of cyber-espionage in May, China swiftly banned government use of Windows 8. Just last month, it was also reported that as many as 10 Apple products were pulled out of a government procurement list as the spate of mistrusts continued.

China also lamented early last year that Google had too much control over its smartphone industry via its Android mobile operating system and has discriminated against some local firms.

Any bets on a fake Chinese OS any time soon – and sooner than October?

tor-project

Shhh… In TOR We (Can Still) Trust?

The BBC reported over the weekend that some NSA and GCHQ sleuths have been covertly tipping off developers of the Tor network as they were tasked to crack the code and find vulnerabilities in the cyber-tool most hated by the US and UK intelligence agencies, following a BBC interview with Andrew Lewman from the Tor Project.

“There are plenty of people in both organizations who can anonymously leak data to us to say – maybe you should look here, maybe you should look at this to fix this,” he said. “And they have.”

The Tor network has been favored by those who sought internet privacy and animosity. The free software conceals the location and usage of its users from anyone conducting network surveillance and traffic analysis. In other words, Tor shields one’s identity: It is difficult if not impossible to trace the internet activity of any Tor users. No wonder Tor is championed by the military, political activists, law enforcements, whistleblowers and of course, Edward Snowden.

Unfortunately, given what Tor is, it is also known as the gateway to the “dark web” as criminals and terrorists love it as well.

So it was no surprise when the Snowden revelations revealed both the NSA and GCHQ have been trying to crack Tor.

In fact, the NSA hates Tor so much it was also reported that the agency was not only targeting and cracking the Tor network but it had been taking digital fingerprints of anyone who are even remotely interested in privacy – including fans of the Linux Journal web site and anyone visiting the homepage of the Tor-powered Linux operating system Tails.

Tails-DVD

So what motivated those NSA and GCHQ spies to secretly contact the Tor developers? Lewman had an explanation:

“It’s sort of funny because it also came out that GCHQ heavily relies on Tor working to be able to do a lot of their operations.
“So you can imagine one part of GCHQ is trying to break Tor, the other part is trying to make sure it’s not broken because they’re relying on it to do their work.

Find out more about using Tor from my earlier column.

US1stPatent

Shhh… NSA Patents

Photo above: The first US patent granted to Samuel Hopkins on July 31, 1790 (Source: http://explorepahistory.com/displayimage.php?imgId=1-2-988 ).

The Foreign Policy magazine recently published an interesting piece on the number of patents the US National Security Agency has been granted by the American government since 1979.

These patents are behind the more than 270 spying devices, methods and designs used by the NSA’s “tens of thousands of cryptologists, mathematicians, and computer scientists who routinely come up with novel ways to protect — and steal — electronic data”, according to Foreign Policy.

NSApatents

Interestingly, as the chart above from the magazine shows, the NSA obtained 127 patents since 2005 – almost as many patents as it did in the previous 25 years – the year the former NSA director Keith Alexander came onboard.

Alexander retired from the NSA in March and announced last month he will seek as many as nine new patents for a computer security system he’s building at the private security firm he has co-founded, IronNet Cybersecurity, Inc.

KeithAlexander

His announcement has raised eyebrows (like the photo above) and when asked whether he was cashing in on classified information he has learned at the NSA, Alexander said he didn’t develop the idea while working at the agency.

“If I retired from the Army as a brain surgeon, wouldn’t it be OK for me to go into private practice and make money doing brain surgery?” he said.

“I’m a cyber guy. Can’t I go to work and do cyber stuff?”

NSApatentsDB

Check out the Foreign Policy link to the list of NSA Patents.