The Day Before the State of the Union Has Been Conveniently Full of NSA Leaks

New disclosures Monday by multiple publications suggest a coordinated effort to focus attention on NSA surveillance ahead of the president’s most important annual speech.

The new NSA Data Center on October 8, 2013 in Bluffdale, Utah.
National Journal
Dustin Volz
Jan. 27, 2014, 11:17 a.m.

Rap­id-fire re­ports re­veal­ing secret gov­ern­ment sur­veil­lance pro­grams hit the In­ter­net Monday, just a day be­fore Pres­id­ent Obama will de­liv­er his an­nu­al State of the Uni­on ad­dress be­fore Con­gress.

NBC News re­por­ted Monday af­ter­noon that the Brit­ish gov­ern­ment can “tap in­to the cables car­ry­ing the world’s Web traffic at will and spy on what people are do­ing on some of the world’s most pop­u­lar so­cial-me­dia sites, in­clud­ing You­Tube, all without the know­ledge or con­sent of the com­pan­ies.”

Doc­u­ments provided by Ed­ward Snowden pur­port to show Brit­ish in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cials present­ing a pi­lot pro­gram to NSA agents in 2012 in which they could mon­it­or You­Tube in real time and col­lect data from Face­book and Twit­ter. Called “Squeaky Dol­phin,” the doc­u­ments show “broad real-time mon­it­or­ing of on­line activ­ity” that in­cludes videos watched, blog vis­its and fa­vor­ited URLs.

The story con­tin­ues:

Ex­perts told NBC News the doc­u­ments show the Brit­ish had to have been either phys­ic­ally able to tap the cables car­ry­ing the world’s web traffic or able to use a third party to gain phys­ic­al ac­cess to the massive stream of data, and would be able to ex­tract some key data about spe­cif­ic users as well.

Rep­res­ent­at­ives of Face­book and Google, which owns You­Tube, said they hadn’t giv­en the Brit­ish gov­ern­ment per­mis­sion to ac­cess data and were un­aware the col­lec­tion had oc­curred. A source close to Google who asked not to be iden­ti­fied when dis­cuss­ing com­pany policy said the com­pany was “shocked” to learn the U.K. could have been “grabbing” its data.

A top-secret slide-show present­a­tion pre­pared by Bri­tain’s Gov­ern­ment Com­mu­nic­a­tions Headquar­ters was pub­lished along­side the NBC News story. While sev­er­al of the slides de­tail the ins and outs of the pro­gram in graph­ic­al and nu­mer­ic­al terms, oth­er slides are quix­ot­ic pho­to­graphs or il­lus­tra­tions, in­clud­ing one meme-styl­ized slide ex­plain­ing “Psy­cho­logy 101 con­cepts” through use of a cat and a dog. A slide from the latest Snowden leak. (NBC News/Screen Grab)

An­oth­er slide con­tains a photo of a veiled wo­man of ap­par­ent Middle East­ern des­cent without ex­plan­a­tion.

Few ob­serv­ers ex­pect Obama to say much about NSA sur­veil­lance — or the agency re­forms he enu­mer­ated in a ma­jor policy speech earli­er this month — dur­ing Tues­day night’s ad­dress at the Cap­it­ol. Still, the two dis­clos­ures Monday in­dic­ate a pos­sibly co­ordin­ated ef­fort on the part of pri­vacy ad­voc­ates and mem­bers of the me­dia to ap­ply pres­sure on the White House ahead of the pres­id­ent’s speech.

Journ­al­ist and Snowden con­fid­ant Glenn Gre­en­wald, formerly of The Guard­i­an, is lis­ted on the NBC story’s byline.

Earli­er Monday, a num­ber of pub­lic­a­tions re­por­ted that the NSA and its Brit­ish equi­val­ent have at­temp­ted to col­lect per­son­al data from “leaky” smart­phone apps, in­clud­ing the pop­u­lar game Angry Birds. NSA doc­u­ments leaked by Ed­ward Snowden de­tail ef­forts span­ning back to 2007 to gath­er in­form­a­tion from the use of sev­er­al dif­fer­ent kinds of apps, in­clud­ing Google Maps and vari­ous so­cial net­works.

In re­sponse, White House press sec­ret­ary Jay Car­ney told re­port­ers dur­ing his daily press brief­ing that “ter­ror­ists, pro­lif­er­at­ors, oth­er bad act­ors, use the same com­mu­nic­a­tions tools that oth­ers use.”

{{ BIZOBJ (video: 4683) }}

What We're Following See More »
WORDS AND PICTURES
White House Looks Back on bin Laden Mission
6 hours ago
WHY WE CARE
NO BATTLE OVER SEATTLE
SCOTUS Won’t Hear Appeal of Minimum-Wage Law
8 hours ago
THE DETAILS

"The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday rejected a sweeping constitutional challenge to Seattle’s minimum wage law, in what could have been a test case for future legal attacks on similar measures across the country. In a one-line order, the justices declined to hear a case by the International Franchise Association and a group of Seattle franchisees, which had said in court papers that the city’s gradual wage increase to $15 discriminates against them in a way that violates the Constitution’s commerce clause."

Source:
DOWN TO THE WIRE
Sanders Looks to Right the Ship in Indiana
8 hours ago
THE LATEST

Hillary Clinton may have the Democratic nomination sewn up, but Bernie Sanders apparently isn't buying it. Buoyed by a poll showing them in a "virtual tie," Sanders is "holding three rallies on the final day before the state primary and hoping to pull off a win after a tough week of election losses and campaign layoffs." 

Source:
CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION IN JUNE
DC to Release Draft Constitution as Part of Statehood Push
9 hours ago
WHY WE CARE

"The New Columbia Statehood Commission—composed of five District leaders including Mayor Muriel Bowser, D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson, and D.C.'s congressional delegation—voted today to publicly release a draft of a new constitution for an eventual state next Friday, at the Lincoln Cottage." It's the first step in a statehood push this year that will include a constitutional convention in June and a referendum in November.

Source:
ALZHEIMER’S OUTCRY
Will Ferrell Bails on Reagan Movie
9 hours ago
THE LATEST

Amid outcry by President Reagan's children, actor Will Ferrell has pulled out of a movie that makes light of Reagan's Alzheimer's disease. A spokesperson for Ferrell said, “The ‘Reagan’ script is one of a number of scripts that had been submitted to Will Ferrell which he had considered. While it is by no means an ‘Alzheimer’s comedy’ as has been suggested, Mr. Ferrell is not pursuing this project."

Source:
×