The National Security Agency on Thursday denied using a doppelganger version of Facebook, saying it lacks the ability to do so and only conducts foreign intelligence operations that are “lawful and appropriate.”
“NSA does not use its technical capabilities to impersonate U.S. company websites,” the agency said in a statement. “Nor does NSA target any user of global Internet services without appropriate legal authority. Reports of indiscriminate computer exploitation operations are simply false.”
The maligned federal agency was hit with a renewed wave of flogging Wednesday after a report by First Look Media said the NSA had at times “masqueraded as a fake Facebook server” in order to infect targeted computers with malware. Documents from 2009 provided by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden published in the report detailed a secret program called “Turbine” that was designed to hack into computers and gather data from foreign networks.
Nowhere in the NSA’s statement, however, does it definitively state that the agency has never previously posed as another website for surveillance purposes. The agency is known for its carefully worded statements couched in qualifying language.
In response to the story, a Facebook spokesman told National Journal that the NSA could not currently spoof its site in the manner described in the First Look report because the site finished integrating secure communications protocol last year. But Facebook didn’t rule out that such exploitation could have occurred in the past, when standard communications protocol was used.
The company additionally denied ever having evidence or knowledge of the spy program.
Earlier on Thursday, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg posted a public note on his page that criticized President Obama and his administration for its surveillance programs.
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Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) are threatening to block the spending bill—and prevent the Senate from leaving town—"because it would not extend benefits for retired coal miners for a year or pay for their pension plans. The current version of the bill would extend health benefits for four months. ... Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) on Thursday afternoon moved to end debate on the continuing resolution to fund the government through April 28. But unless Senate Democrats relent, that vote cannot be held until Saturday at 1 a.m. at the earliest, one hour after the current funding measure expires."
The South Korean parliament voted on Friday morning to impeach President Park Geun-hye over charges of corruption, claiming she allowed undue influence to a close confidante of hers. Ms. Park is now suspended as president for 180 days. South Korea's Constitutional Court will hear the case and decide whether to uphold or overturn the impeachment.
Participants in the women's march on Washington the day after inauguration won't have access to the Lincoln Memorial. The National Park Service has "filed documents securing large swaths of the national mall and Pennsylvania Avenue, the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial for the inauguration festivities. None of these spots will be open for protesters."
President Obama on Thursday announced a pay raise for civilian federal employees of 2.1 percent come January 2017. He had said multiple times this year that salaries would go up 1.6 percent, so the Thursday announcement came as a surprise. The change was likely made to match the 2.1 percent increase in salary that members of the military will receive.
The House has completed it's business for 2016 by passing a spending bill which will keep the government funded through April 28. The final vote tally was 326-96. The bill's standing in the Senate is a bit tenuous at the moment, as a trio of Democratic Senators have pledged to block the bill unless coal miners get a permanent extension on retirement and health benefits. The government runs out of money on Friday night.