Tag Archives: Whistleblower

UK government, Murdoch press smear of Edward Snowden unravels

By Chris Marsden
June 16, 2015
World Socialist Web Site

 

A press attack on National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden has backfired on the UK government.

This weekend’s Sunday Times ran an article under the headline, “British spies betrayed to Russians and Chinese,” citing numerous anonymous sources from within the government and security services.

The sources once again painted a picture of Edward Snowden having endangered the lives of spies and informants, jeopardising state operations. The Times article was replete with unfounded assertions, distortions and outright lies.

Both Russia and China were said to “have cracked the top-secret cache of files stolen by the fugitive US whistleblower Edward Snowden, forcing MI6 to pull agents out of live operations in hostile countries, according to senior officials in Downing Street, the Home Office and the security services.”

Moscow was supposed to have “gained access to more than 1m classified files,” after Snowden “fled to seek protection from Vladimir Putin, the Russian president.”

“Senior government sources” then “confirmed that China had also cracked the encrypted documents.”

A “senior Home Office source” accused Snowden of having “blood on his hands”, “although,” the Sunday Times immediately added, “Downing Street said there was ‘no evidence of anyone being harmed’.”

The only named source, Sir David Omand, the former director of GCHQ, called Russia and China’s supposed de-encryption of Snowden’s files a “huge strategic setback” that was “harming” to Britain, America and their NATO allies.

The Sunday Times claimed that a comment made by a “senior Downing Street source,” i.e., from the prime minister’s office, “that Russians and Chinese have information,” represented irrefutable proof of the veracity of the claims. It was, moreover, “the first evidence that Snowden’s disclosures have exacted a human toll”.

This was followed by another “senior Home Office source” declaring, “Why do you think Snowden ended up in Russia? Putin didn’t give him asylum for nothing. His documents were encrypted but they weren’t completely secure and we have now seen our agents and assets being targeted.”

All of which goes to prove the old adage, “If you tell a lie, tell a big one and stick to it.”

Glenn Greenwald, who worked closely with Snowden, issued a devastating rebuttal of the Sunday Times, noting, “The whole article does literally nothing other than quote anonymous British officials,” while offering “zero evidence or confirmation for any of its claims.”

He noted several particularly glaring falsehoods: When Snowden left Hong Kong, he took no files with him, having given them to the journalists with whom he worked, and then destroying his copy so that it wouldn’t be vulnerable as he travelled. “How, then, could Russia have obtained Snowden’s files as the story claims—‘his documents were encrypted but they weren’t completely secure’—if he did not even have physical possession of them?”

The Sunday Times states that David Miranda, cynically referred to as “the boyfriend of the Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald”, was “seized at Heathrow in 2013 while in possession of 58,000 ‘highly classified’ intelligence documents after visiting Snowden in Moscow.” Greenwald counters that Miranda “had never been to Moscow and had never met Snowden. … The Sunday Times ‘journalists’ printed an outright fabrication in order to support their key point: that Snowden had files with him in Moscow. This is the only ‘fact’ included in their story that suggests Snowden had files with him when he left Hong Kong, and it’s completely, demonstrably false…”

The claim that the Russian and Chinese governments learned the names of covert agents by cracking the Snowden file, “forcing MI6 to pull agents out of live operations in hostile countries,” he adds, “appears quite clearly to be a fabrication by the Sunday Times … [because] not even the anonymous officials claim that Russia and China hacked the entire archive, instead offering only vague assertions that Russian and China ‘have information’.”

Greenwald ends by noting, “The Sunday Times has now quietly deleted one of the central, glaring lies in its story: that David Miranda had just met with Snowden in Moscow when he was detained at Heathrow carrying classified documents.” The claim “remains in the print edition and thus requires a retraction.”

Privacy International, Liberty, MPs Tom Watson and David Davies and many others have pointed to the timing of the Sunday Times smear, suggesting that it is a counter to last Thursday’s publication of the official report on UK surveillance laws by David Anderson QC. They have cited in particular its call for judicial rather than ministerial oversight of surveillance.

This lends unwarranted credibility to a report that in fact justifies existing mass collection of phone and Internet data and the extension of such powers providing only that a “detailed operational case” and a “rigorous assessment” of the intrusiveness, effectiveness, cost and legality of extended snooping powers is made by the security services. This is meaningless, no matter what civil liberties groups might believe or suggest.

Anderson also supports the compulsory retention of “third party data” and urges the government to secure the cooperation of Google, Facebook, etc., to this end. He comes out in support of companies handing over encryption keys.

What is of greater concern for both the government and the Murdoch press is the widespread public opposition to mass surveillance, particularly when the intention is to pass the “snoopers’ charter” into law in the autumn.

The Draft Communications Data Bill creates wide-ranging powers to compel any communications service provider to collect and retain information about any organisation that interacts with users and produces or transmits electronic communications, even if this information is irrelevant to their business needs. This information includes Deep Packet Inspection that bypasses encryption software and matching data from different sources to create a central database of communications, behaviours and patterns of activity.

Last week, the Intelligence and Security Committee confirmed that Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) is still collecting “bulk personal datasets” from millions of people’s phone and Internet records. Privacy International has launched a legal claim before the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT) calling for this practice to be ended—citing the passing of the USA Freedom Act ostensibly curtailing the bulk collection of phone record metadata. In the UK, this is still legal under the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Act (DRIPA) passed in 2014.

In addition, last month GCHQ operatives and the police were made exempt from prosecution for hacking under the Computer Misuse Act (1990). The exemption move was first initiated last June, one week after a case taken out at the Investigatory Powers Tribunal by Privacy International and seven Internet and communications service providers, and was included in the Serious Crime Bill 2015. The IPT case focused on the alleged use of hacking tools to download malicious software allowing users’ cameras and microphones to be remotely hijacked.

The smearing of Snowden, like that of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, is a vital element in a general effort to create a climate of fear to justify state surveillance and repression. This has long been conducted in the name of combating Islamic terrorism. Now, in line with the predatory aims of British and US imperialism, the threat is said to come from Russia and China.

In all cases, millions of working people in Britain and internationally are identified as “the enemy within”, whose democratic rights are trampled on by a ruling elite hell bent on destroying jobs, wages and vital social services.

Don’t Grade Justice on a Warped Curve: Assessing the Case of CIA Whistleblower Jeffrey Sterling

By Norman Solomon
May 15, 2015
Global Research

 

sterling-sitting-side-courtroomYes, I saw the glum faces of prosecutors in the courtroom a few days ago, when the judge sentenced CIA whistleblower Jeffrey Sterling to three and a half years in prison — far from the 19 to 24 years they’d suggested would be appropriate.

Yes, I get that there was a huge gap between the punishment the government sought and what it got — a gap that can be understood as a rebuke to the dominant hard-line elements at the Justice Department.

And yes, it was a positive step when a May 13 editorial by the New York Times finally criticized the extreme prosecution of Jeffrey Sterling.

But let’s be clear: The only fair sentence for Sterling would have been no sentence at all. Or, at most, something like the recent gentle wrist-slap, with no time behind bars, for former CIA director David Petraeus, who was sentenced for providing highly classified information to his journalist lover.

Jeffrey Sterling has already suffered enormously since indictment in December 2010 on numerous felony counts, including seven under the Espionage Act. And for what?

The government’s righteous charge has been that Sterling provided information to New York Times reporter James Risen that went into a chapter of his 2006 book “State of War” — about the CIA’s Operation Merlin, which in 2000 provided Iran with flawed design information for a nuclear weapon component.

As Marcy Wheeler and I wrote last fall:

“If the government’s indictment is accurate in its claim that Sterling divulged classified information, then he took a great risk to inform the public about an action that, in Risen’s words, ‘may have been one of the most reckless operations in the modern history of the CIA.’ If the indictment is false, then Sterling is guilty of nothing more than charging the agency with racial bias and going through channels to inform the Senate Intelligence Committee of extremely dangerous CIA actions.”

Whether “guilty” or “innocent” of doing the right thing, Sterling has already been through a protracted hell. And now — after he has been unemployable for more than four years while enduring a legal process that threatened to send him to prison for decades — perhaps it takes a bit of numbness for anyone to think of the sentence he just received as anything less than an outrage.

Human realities exist far beyond sketchy media images and comfortable assumptions. Going beyond such images and assumptions is a key goal of the short documentary “The Invisible Man: CIA Whistleblower Jeffrey Sterling,” released this week. Via the film, the public can hear Sterling speak for himself — for the first time since he was indicted.

One of the goals of the government’s assault on whistleblowers is to depict them as little more than cardboard cutouts. Aiming to dispense with such two-dimensional portrayals, the director Judith Ehrlich brought a film crew to the home of Jeffrey Sterling and his wife Holly. (On behalf of ExposeFacts.org, I was there as the film’s producer.) We set out to present them as they are, as real people. You can watch the film here.

Sterling’s first words in the documentary apply to powerful officials at the Central Intelligence Agency:

“They already had the machine geared up against me. The moment that they felt there was a leak, every finger pointed to Jeffrey Sterling. If the word ‘retaliation’ is not thought of when anyone looks at the experience that I’ve had with the agency, then I just think you’re not looking.”

In another way, now, maybe we’re not truly looking if we figure that Sterling has received a light sentence.

Even if the jury’s guilty verdict was correct — and after sitting through the entire trial, I’d say the government didn’t come close to its burden of proof beyond reasonable doubt — an overarching truth is that the whistleblower(s) who provided journalist Risen with information about Operation Merlin rendered a major public service.

People should not be punished for public service.

Imagine that you — yes, you – did nothing wrong. And now you’re headed to prison, for three years. Since the prosecution wanted you behind bars for a lot longer than that, should we figure you got a “light” sentence?

While the government keeps harassing, threatening, prosecuting and imprisoning whistleblowers for public service, we’re living in a society where corrosive repression continues to use fear as a hammer against truth-telling. Directly countering such repression will require rejecting any claim or tacit assumption that government prosecutors set the standard for how much punishment is too much.

Norman Solomon’s books include War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death. He is executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy and coordinates its ExposeFacts project. Solomon is a co-founder of RootsAction.org, which has encouraged donations to the Sterling Family Fund. Disclosure: After the guilty verdict, Solomon used his frequent-flyer miles to get plane tickets for Holly and Jeffrey Sterling so they would be able to go home to St. Louis.

Ex-CIA whistleblower Jeffrey Sterling sentenced to three years in prison

By Thomas Gaist
May 12, 2015
World Socialist Web Site

 

Former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) officer Jeffrey Sterling was sentenced to 42 months in prison Monday by Eastern District of Virginia Judge Leonie Brinkema, after being convicted in January on nine counts relating to his alleged disclosure of national security information to the New York Times.

Sterling had been threatened by prosecutors with a jail sentence of more than 20 years for allegedly passing classified information about “Operation Merlin,” an operation launched by the CIA in 2000 aiming to sabotage Iran’s nuclear program using dirty tricks, including the provision of flawed nuclear bomb blueprints.

Sterling refused to apologize or admit guilt after the sentence was read, according to the Guardian.

For allegedly assisting New York Times journalist James Risen to expose the CIA’s involvement in large-scale industrial sabotage, Sterling was convicted on nine counts of violating the Espionage Act, a federal law passed in 1917 and used to target and silence opponents of the First World War.

In recent years, the Obama administration has repeatedly used the Espionage Act to prosecute government employees who reveal information about the government’s activities, often of a criminal character, to the press.

Before sentencing Monday, the Justice Department attorneys launched vociferous attacks against Sterling, pressing for the harshest possible sentence and denouncing the former government employee for his “crimes.”

US government prosecutors demanded a “severe” and “substantial” sentence, including 20-25 years imprisonment. Sterling was “vindictive,” “selfish,” and acted out of “pure spite,” US attorneys claimed in a document submitted to the court Monday.

Sterling’s actions had “made the agency appear hapless, even reckless, in its handling of the program,” a US government memo previously stated, suggesting another possible motivation for his aggressive prosecution.

Major figures within the US ruling elite, including former CIA Directors John Brennan and Leon Panetta, and former Vice President Dick Cheney, have been implicated in “leaks” of classified information during the past decade, without facing any official reprimand, let alone jail sentences.

On the other hand, Sterling, a man whose supposed “crime” was speaking to a journalist at the “newspaper of record” about an illegal and reckless geopolitical provocation involving attempted sabotage of nuclear weapons production, is now to be locked away for more than three years.

The ferocious assault against whistleblowers and investigative journalists spearheaded by the Obama administration has gone into overdrive in recent years. Last year saw an “unprecedented rise” in reports of retaliatory measures against whistleblowers emanating from the federal government, with a total of some 5,200 incidents, according to the US Office of Special Counsel.

The US ruling class has clearly been shaken by the emergence of growing opposition from within the lower levels of the state, including figures such as Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning.

For their combined efforts, which exposed historic US war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the erection of a vast spying apparatus by the US National Security Agency (NSA), Manning and Snowden have both faced the full wrath of the US elite.

Manning is currently serving a 35-year sentence in military prison. Snowden remains in exile in Russia, unable to return to the United States, where he is threatened by either a sham trial or state murder.

Lesser known whistleblowers have also received substantial jail sentences, including John Kiriakou and Stephen Kim, who received 30-month and 13-month sentences respectively. In each incident, US attorneys sought to exploit the cases to establish new precedents expanding the government’s power to punish those who reveal state secrets and crimes.

In the lead up to Sterling’s trial, the Justice Department sought to utilize the ex-CIA employee’s connection to Risen to assert its authority to forcibly seize the names of confidential sources from investigative journalists.

Risen has faced years of threats and harassment by the federal government for his research, publication of aspects of which was suppressed in 2003 by the editorial leadership at the New York Times at the behest of the Bush administration. As recently as last year, the Obama Justice Department was continuing to threaten Risen himself with jail time in an effort to force him to reveal his sources, including the source connected with his reporting on Operation Merlin.

Risen declared in an interview with the New York Times last year that President Obama is “the greatest enemy to press freedom in a generation.”

HEAD of the FBI’s Anthrax Investigation Says the Whole Thing Was a SHAM

By WashingtonsBlog
April 17, 2015
Washington’s Blog

 

Agent In Charge of Amerithrax Investigation Blows the Whistle

The FBI head of the agent in charge of the anthrax investigation – Richard Lambert – has just filed a federal whistleblower lawsuit calling the entire FBI investigation bullsh!t:

In the fall of 2001, following the 9/11 attacks, a series of anthrax mailings occurred which killed five Americans and sickened 17 others. Four anthrax-laden envelopes were recovered which were addressed to two news media outlets in New York City (the New York Post and Tom Brokaw at NBC) and two senators in Washington D.C. (Patrick Leahy and Tom Daschle). The anthrax letters addressed to New York were mailed on September 18, 2001, just seven days after the 9/11 attacks. The letters addressed to the senators were mailed 21 days later on October 9, 2001. A fifth mailing of anthrax is believed to have been directed to American Media, Inc. (AMI) in Boca Raton, Florida based upon the death of one AMI employee from anthrax poisoning and heavy spore contamination in the building.

Executive management at FBI Headquarters assigned responsibility for the anthrax investigation (code named “AMERITHRAX”) to the Washington Field Office (WFO), dubbing it the single most important case in the FBI at that time. In October 2002, in the wake of surging media criticism, White House impatience with a seeming lack of investigative progress by WFO, and a concerned Congress that was considering revoking the FBI’s charter to investigate terrorism cases, Defendant FBI Director Mueller reassigned Plaintiff from the FBI’s San Diego Field Office to the Inspection Division at FBI Headquarters and placed Plaintiff in charge of the AMERITHRAX case as an “Inspector.” While leading the investigation for the next four years, Plaintiff’s efforts to advance the case met with intransigence from WFO’s executive management, apathy and error from the FBI Laboratory, politically motivated communication embargos from FBI Headquarters, and yet another preceding and equally erroneous legal opinion from Defendant Kelley – all of which greatly obstructed and impeded the investigation.

On July 6, 2006, Plaintiff provided a whistleblower report of mismanagement to the FBI’s Deputy Director pursuant to Title 5, United States Code, Section 2303. Reports of mismanagement conveyed in writing and orally included: (a) WFO’s persistent understaffing of the AMERITHRAX investigation; (b) the threat of WFO’s Agent in charge to retaliate if Plaintiff disclosed the understaffing to FBI Headquarters; (c) WFO’s insistence on staffing the AMERITHRAX investigation principally with new Agents recently graduated from the FBI Academy resulting in an average investigative tenure of 18 months with 12 of 20 Agents assigned to the case having no prior investigative experience at all; (d) WFO’s eviction of the AMERITHRAX Task Force from the WFO building in downtown Washington and its relegation to Tysons Corner, Virginia to free up space for Attorney General Ashcroft’s new pornography squads; (e) FBI Director’s Mueller’s mandate to Plaintiff to “compartmentalize” the AMERITHRAX investigation by stove piping the flow of case information and walling off task force members from those aspects of the case not specifically assigned to them – a move intended to stem the tide of anonymous media leaks by government officials regarding details of the investigation. [Lambert complained about compartmentalizing and stovepiping of the investigation in a 2006 declaration.  See this, this and this]

This sequestration edict decimated morale and proved unnecessary in light of subsequent civil litigation which established that the media leaks were attributable to the United States Attorney for the District of the District of Columbia and to a Supervisory Special Agent in the FBI’s National Press Office, not to investigators on the AMERITHRAX Task Force; (f) WFO’s diversion and transfer of two Ph.D. Microbiologist Special Agents from their key roles in the investigation to fill billets for an 18 month Arabic language training program in Israel; (g) the FBI Laboratory’s deliberate concealment from the Task Force of its discovery of human DNA on the anthrax-laden envelope addressed to Senator Leahy and the Lab’s initial refusal to perform comparison testing; (h) the FBI Laboratory’s refusal to provide timely and adequate scientific analyses and forensic examinations in support of the investigation; (i) Defendant Kelley’s erroneous and subsequently quashed legal opinion that regulations of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) precluded the Task Force’s collection of evidence in overseas venues; (j) the FBI’s fingering of Bruce Ivins as the anthrax mailer; and, (k) the FBI’s subsequent efforts to railroad the prosecution of Ivins in the face of daunting exculpatory evidence.

Following the announcement of its circumstantial case against Ivins, Defendants DOJ and FBI crafted an elaborate perception management campaign to bolster their assertion of Ivins’ guilt. These efforts included press conferences and highly selective evidentiary presentations which were replete with material omissions. Plaintiff further objected to the FBI’s ordering of Plaintiff not to speak with the staff of the CBS television news magazine 60 Minutes or investigative journalist David Willman, after both requested authorization to interview Plaintiff.

In April 2008, some of Plaintiff’s foregoing whistleblower reports were profiled on the CBS television show 60 Minutes. This 60 Minutes segment was critical of FBI executive management’s handling of the AMERITHRAX investigation, resulting in the agency’s embarrassment and the introduction of legislative bills calling for the establishment of congressional inquiries and special commissions to examine these issues – a level of scrutiny the FBI’s Ivins attribution could not withstand.

After leaving the AMERITHRAX investigation in 2006, Plaintiff continued to publicly opine that the quantum of circumstantial evidence against Bruce Ivins was not adequate to satisfy the proof-beyond-a-reasonable doubt threshold required to secure a criminal conviction in federal court. Plaintiff continued to advocate that while Bruce Ivins may have been the anthrax mailer, there is a wealth of exculpatory evidence to the contrary which the FBI continues to conceal from Congress and the American people.

Exonerating Evidence for Ivins

Agent Lambert won’t publicly disclose the exculpatory evidence against Ivins. As the New York Times reports:

[Lambert] declined to be specific, saying that most of the information was protected by the Privacy Act and was unlikely to become public unless Congress carried out its own inquiry.

But there is already plenty of exculpatory evidence which is already publicly available.

For example:

  • Handwriting analysis failed to link the anthrax letters to known Ivins writing samples
  • No textile fibers were found in Ivins’ office, residence or vehicles matching fibers found on the scotch tape used to seal the envelopes
  • No pens were found matching the ink used to address the envelopes
  • Samples of his hair failed to match hair follicles found inside the Princeton, N.J., mailbox used to mail the letters
  • No souvenirs of the crime, such as newspaper clippings, were found in his possession as commonly seen in serial murder cases
  • The FBI could not place Ivins at the crime scene with evidence, such as gas station or other receipts, at the time the letters were mailed in September and October 2001
  • Lab records show the number of late nights Ivins put in at the lab first spiked in August 2001, weeks before the 9/11 attacks

As noted above, the FBI didn’t want to test the DNA sample found on the anthrax letter to Senator Leahy.  In addition, McClatchy points out:

After locking in on Ivins in 2007, the bureau stopped searching for a match to a unique genetic bacterial strain scientists had found in the anthrax that was mailed to the Post and to NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw, although a senior bureau official had characterized it as the hottest clue to date.

Anthrax vaccine expert Meryl Nass. M.D., notes:

The FBI’s alleged motive is bogus. In 2001, Bioport’s anthrax vaccine could not be (legally) relicensed due to potency failures, and its impending demise provided room for Ivins’ newer anthrax vaccines to fill the gap. Ivins had nothing to do with developing Bioport’s vaccine, although in addition to his duties working on newer vaccines, he was charged with assisting Bioport to get through licensure.

***

The FBI report claims the anthrax letters envelopes were sold in Frederick, Md. Later it admits that millions of indistinguishable envelopes were made, with sales in Maryland and Virginia.

***

FBI emphasizes Ivins’ access to a photocopy machine, but fails to mention it was not the machine from which the notes that accompanied the spores were printed.

FBI Fudged the Science

16 government labs had access to the same strain of anthrax as used in the anthrax letters.

The FBI admitted that up to 400 people had access to flask of anthrax in Dr. Ivins’ lab.  In other words, even if the killer anthrax came from there, 399 other people might have done it.

However, the FBI’s claim that the killer anthrax came from Ivins’ flask has fallen apart. Specifically, both the National Academy of Science and the Government Accountability Office – both extremely prestigious, nonpartisan agencies – found that FBI’s methodology and procedures for purportedly linking the anthrax flask maintained by Dr. Ivins with the anthrax letters was sloppy, inconclusive and full of holes.  They found that the alleged link wasn’t very strong … and that there was no firm link.  Indeed, the National Academy of Sciences found that the anthrax mailed to Congressmen and the media could have come from a different source altogether than the flask maintained by Ivins.

After all, the entire Ft. Detrick facility – where Ivins worked – only dealt with liquid anthrax.  But the killer anthrax was a hard-to-make dry powder for of anthrax. advance.  Ft. Detrick doesn’t produce dry forms; but government labs in Utah (Dugway) and Ohio (Batelle) do.

The anthrax in the letters was also incredibly finely ground; and the FBI’s explanation doesn’t pass the smell test.

Moreover, the killer anthrax in the letters had a very high-tech  anti-static coating so that the spores “floated off the glass slide and was lost” when scientists tried to examine them.  Specifically, the killer anthrax was coated with polyglass and each anthrax spore given an electrostatic charge, so that they would repel other spores and “float”.   In other words, this was very advanced bio-weapons technology.

Top anthrax experts like Richard Spertzel say that Ivins didn’t do it. Spertzel also says that only 4 or 5 people in the entire country knew how to make anthrax of the “quality” used in the letters, that Spertzel was one of them, and it would have taken him a year with a full lab and a staff of helpers to do it. As such, the FBI’s claim that Ivins did it alone working a few nights is ludicrous.

Moreover, the killer anthrax contained silicon … but the anthrax in Ivins’ flask did not.  The FBI claimed the silicon present in the anthrax letters was absorbed from its surroundings … but Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories completely debunked that theory. In other words, silicon was intentionally added to the killer anthrax to make it more potent. And Ivins and Ft. Detrick didn’t have that capability; but other government labs did.

Similarly, Sandia National Lab found the presence of iron and tin in the killer anthrax … but NOT in Ivins’ flask of anthrax.

Sandia also found that there was a strain of bacteria in one of the anthrax letters not present in Ivins’ flask.

The Anthrax Frame Up

Ivins wasn’t the first person framed for the anthrax attacks …

Although the FBI now admits that the 2001 anthrax attacks were carried out by one or more U.S. government scientists, a senior FBI official says that the FBI was actually told to blame the Anthrax attacks on Al Qaeda by White House officials (remember what the anthrax letters looked like). Government officials also confirm that the white House tried to link the anthrax to Iraq as a justification for regime change in that country. And see this.

People don’t remember now, but the Anthrax attacks were as important a “justification” for the Iraq war as 9/11.   And the anthrax letters pushed a terrified Congress into approving the Patriot Act without even reading it.

And – between the Al Qaeda/Iraq angle and Ivins – the FBI was convinced that another U.S. government scientist, Steven Hatfill, did it.  The government had to pay Hatfill $4.6 million to settle his lawsuit for being falsely accused.

Ivins’ Convenient Death

It is convenient for the FBI that Ivins died.

The Wall Street Journal points out:

No autopsy was performed [on Ivins], and there was no suicide note.

Indeed, one of Ivins’ colleagues at Ft. Deitrich thinks he was murdered.

Whether murder or suicide, Ivins’ death was very convenient for the FBI, as dead men can’t easily defend themselves.

Whistleblower from UK covert police unit reveals spying on workers

By Harvey Thompson
March 25, 2015
World Socialist Web Site

 

Former undercover officer and whistleblower Peter Francis has said Britain’s Home Office was aware that undercover police officers stole the identities of dead children to gain access to political groups.

Last week, Labour Party MP John McDonnell read out a statement in parliament from a former member of an undercover Scotland Yard police unit turned whistleblower, Peter Francis.

Francis was part of the covert Metropolitan police unit, the Special Demonstration Squad (SDS), that monitored hundreds of political groups between 1968 and 2008. The SDS was replaced in 2008 by a new spying operation, the National Domestic Extremism Unit.

Francis spent four years undercover infiltrating organisations of political activists, and has named five trade unions whose members he gathered intelligence on.

In the 1990s, Francis also infiltrated the anti-racist movement and the Militant Tendency (predecessor of the Socialist Party).

In the parliamentary statement, Francis apologised “unreservedly to all the union members I personally spied on and reported back on whilst deployed undercover.”

He stated that union members he had spied on included “those not only engaged in working in the construction industry but also those in the National Union of Students (NUS), National Union of Teachers (NUT), Communication Workers Union (CWU), UNISON and the Fire Brigades Union (FBU).”

Part of Francis’s statement read:

“I am humbled as well as honoured to be offered to speak tonight at such an important book launch here at the prestigious House of Commons.

“However I cannot appear here for a number of reasons, including and primarily, because of some very serious outstanding legal issues/difficulties with the Metropolitan police, that continue to hang over me ever since I became a whistleblower and therefore a potential criminal in their eyes.

“I have received clear legal advice that me, even speaking here today, is likely to be considered a breach of the Official Secrets Act because I have not been granted permission from the Metropolitan police or Home Secretary to speak to you.

“This remarkable, well-researched and must-read book clearly shows how police spying on political activists has destroyed lives and that I, most unfortunately and regrettably, played a part in this.

“The forthcoming Home Secretary’s public inquiry into undercover policing must include a forensic, independent (in other words, non-police) examination into all the blacklisting files compiled by the Consulting Association and then cross-reference them with corresponding Special Branch individual activists’ records to look at the areas of collusion.”

Francis is expected to give evidence to a public inquiry into undercover policing convened by Home Secretary Theresa May, and has offered to give evidence in any court case the unions and blacklisted workers may bring.

Francis said that the public inquiry headed by Lord Justice Pitchford should examine the blacklisting files alongside the police’s records of campaigners to “look at the areas of collusion”. The remit of the inquiry will be announced in July, following consultation with those who were subjected to the surveillance and others.

This month, the Daily Mirror revealed that one of the undercover officers in the SDS, Mark Jenner, posed as a joiner and was a member of the Union of Construction, Allied Trades and Technicians for three years.

The previously uncovered role of the SDS is detailed on the World Socialist Web Site here, here and here.

Further detailed information specifically on Jenner’s role is has been made available by the Spinwatch research organisation here.

Countering police denials, in his statement Francis said, “Let me state very clearly that Mark Jenner was 100 percent one of my fellow undercover SDS police officers deployed alongside me in the 1990s.”

He added that Jenner must be called to the public inquiry “to account for his spying on, amongst numerous other political protesters, the totally law-abiding construction union UCATT members whose only ‘crimes’ were being union members.”

Francis’s statement to parliament was timed to coincide with the book launch of Blacklisted: The Secret War between Big Business and Union Activists, by Dave Smith and Phil Chamberlain, which details the blacklisting of thousands of workers by multinational construction companies. Smith is a blacklisted engineer, who discovered that the construction blacklisting organisation, the Consulting Association, had a 36-page file on him. In a 2013 interview, he said, “After I lost my job [in 1998] at Schal, I couldn’t get a job anywhere and this was in the middle of a building boom.”

As a result, his annual income fell from £36,000 to £12,000, making it difficult for him to support his young family.

The book describes evidence of how police covertly shared information about workers with the blacklisters. Francis says that he personally collected some of the intelligence that was stored on the blacklisting files.

Smith is also calling for an investigation into the collusion of trade union officials in the blacklisting of workers, some of whose names he reportedly saw in blacklisting files. In his interview, Smith said, “We expect the unions to take disciplinary action against these individuals. We know who they are and we have their names.”

Smith is also opposed to the building industry’s practise of union convenors being appointed and paid for by major contractors. He states in the interview, “I’m not saying every appointed convenor is corrupt. But this system calls into question whether a trade union is independent.”

When these latest revelations are added to the revelations by former US National Security Agency employee Edward Snowden, they reveal an extraordinarily widespread police state apparatus assembled to crush the inevitable growth of social opposition.

CIA Evidence from Whistleblower Trial Could Tilt Iran Nuclear Talks

By Norman Solomon
February 26, 2015
Global Research

 

nucleaire-iranienA month after former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling was convicted on nine felony counts with circumstantial metadata, the zealous prosecution is now having potentially major consequences — casting doubt on the credibility of claims by the U.S. government that Iran has developed a nuclear weapons program.

With negotiations between Iran and the United States at a pivotal stage, fallout from the trial’s revelations about the CIA’s Operation Merlin is likely to cause the International Atomic Energy Agency to re-examine U.S. assertions that Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons.

In its zeal to prosecute Sterling for allegedly leaking classified information about Operation Merlin — which provided flawed nuclear weapon design information to Iran in 2000 — the U.S. government has damaged its own standing with the IAEA. The trial made public a treasure trove of information about the Merlin operation.

Last week Bloomberg News reported from Vienna, where IAEA is headquartered, that the agency “will probably review intelligence they received about Iran as a result of the revelations, said the two diplomats who are familiar with the IAEA’s Iran file and asked not to be named because the details are confidential.”

The Bloomberg dispatch, which matter-of-factly referred to Merlin as a “sting” operation, quoted a former British envoy to the IAEA, Peter Jenkins, saying: “This story suggests a possibility that hostile intelligence agencies could decide to plant a ‘smoking gun’ in Iran for the IAEA to find. That looks like a big problem.”

After sitting through the seven-day Sterling trial, I don’t recall that the government or any of its witnesses — including 23 from the CIA as well as former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice — ever referred to Operation Merlin as a “sting.” Instead, it was consistently portrayed as an effort to send Iran down the wrong technical path. In fact, over the years, Operation Merlin may have been both.

Near the end of the Clinton administration, CIA documents released at the trial show, Merlin was a botched effort to screw up Iran’s nuclear program. (There is no evidence that Iran’s government took the bait.) But documents also show that Merlin continued for years, with the CIA considering plans to widen the operation beyond Iran.

As a matter of fact, one CIA document was not redacted sufficiently to hide evident interest in also trying a similar tactic against Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq. History certainly tells us that the Bush-Cheney administration would be capable of seeking to cite fabricated evidence in a push to justify military action against a targeted country.

Investigative journalist Marcy Wheeler, my colleague at ExposeFacts, has written an extensive analysis of the latest developments. The article on her EmptyWheel blog raises key questions beginning with the headline “What Was the CIA Really Doing with Merlin by 2003?

An emerging big irony of United States of America v. Jeffrey Alexander Sterling is that the government has harmed itself in the process of gunning for the defendant. While the prosecution used innuendos and weak circumstantial evidence to obtain guilty verdicts on multiple felonies, the trial produced no actual evidence that Sterling leaked classified information. But the trial did provide abundant evidence that the U.S. government’s nuclear-related claims about Iran should not be trusted.

In the courtroom, one CIA witness after another described Operation Merlin as a vitally important program requiring strict secrecy. Yet the government revealed a great deal of information about Operation Merlin during the trial — including CIA documents that showed the U.S. government to be committed to deception about the Iranian nuclear program. If, as a result, the International Atomic Energy Agency concludes that U.S. assertions about an alleged Iranian nuclear weapons program lack credibility, top officials in Washington will have themselves to blame.

Norman Solomon is the executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy and the author of “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.” He is a co-founder of RootsAction.org.

Snowden Document Reveals Huge Scope of Canada’s Domestic Surveillance

Canada’s spy agency collects and stores millions of citizens’ emails each year

By Lauren McCauley
February 25, 2015
Common Dreams

 

The Tilley Building, headquarters of Canada's Communications Security Establishment (CSE), in Ottawa, Ontario. (Photo:P199/Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)

The Tilley Building, headquarters of Canada’s Communications Security Establishment (CSE), in Ottawa, Ontario. (Photo:P199/Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)

 

Canada’s electronic spy agency, the Communications Security Establishment (CSE), collects millions of emails and other information from its citizens and stores them for “days to months,” according to a document leaked by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden and revealed by CBC News in collaboration with The Intercept on Wednesday.

According to the top-secret CSE document, analysts “watched visits to government websites and collected about 400,000 emails to the government every day, storing some of the data for years,” CBC reports.

Such online activity includes Canadians filing taxes, writing to members of Parliament and applying for passports. The sweeping data collection is being carried out in an alleged effort to protect government computers.

Using a tool called PonyExpress, the surveillance agency scans the documents for “suspicious links or attachments.” The 2010 document reveals that the system detects about 400 potentially suspect emails each day, or roughly 146,000 each year, though only about four emails a day warrant CSE analysts contacting government departments directly.

The document indicates that the scale of the data collection has likely increased since that time. Under a heading marked “future,” the document notes: “metadata continues to increase linearly with new access points.”

“It’s pretty clear that’s there’s a very wide catchment of information coming into [CSE],” Micheal Vonn, policy director at the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association, told the CBC.

The document reveals that CSE is storing large amounts of “passively tapped network traffic” for “days to months,” including email content, attachments and other online activity, The Intercept reports, while some forms of metadata is kept for “months to years.”

“When we collect huge volumes, it’s not just used to track bad guys,” Chris Parsons, an internet security expert with internet think tank Citizen Lab, who viewed the document, told the CBC. “It goes into data stores for years or months at a time and then it can be used at any point in the future.”

A previously leaked document revealed in 2013 that CSE intercepts citizens’ private messages without judicial warrants. After that, CSE acknowledged it collected some private communications but did not divulge the amount being stored or say for how long. Now, The Intercept reports, “the Snowden documents shine a light for the first time on the huge scope of the operation—exposing the controversial details the government withheld from the public.”

The Intercept report continues: “Under Canada’s criminal code, CSE is not allowed to eavesdrop on Canadians’ communications. But the agency can be granted special ministerial exemptions if its efforts are linked to protecting government infrastructure—a loophole that the Snowden documents show is being used to monitor the emails.”

Israeli Claims About Iran Nuclear Program Denied By Own Spy Agency

Leaked internal assessment, obtained by Al Jazeera and the Guardian, contradicts Netanyahu’s claim in 2012 that Iran was within a year of possessing an atom bomb

By Sarah Lazare
February 24, 2015
Common Dreams

 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu presenting to the United Nations in New York in September 2012. (Photo: Getty Images/AFP)

 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s claim three years ago that Iran was within close reach of possessing a nuclear bomb was denied by his government’s own spy agency, Mossad, a top secret document obtained by Al Jazeera and the Guardian reveals.

In a September 2012 address to the United Nations General Assembly in New York, Netanyahu claimed that Iran was 90 down the road to developing an atomic weapon and would do so within the year. “By next spring, at most by next summer, at current enrichment rates, they will have finished the medium enrichment and move on to the final stage,” he stated.

However, the leaked internal documents paint a much different picture.

On October 22, 2012—less than a month after Netanyahu’s speech—Mossad sent a classified assessment to South Africa, stating that Iran was “not performing the activity necessary to produce weapons” and “doesn’t appear to be ready to enrich uranium to the higher levels needed for a nuclear bomb.”

“That view tracks with the 2012 U.S. National Intelligence estimate,” Al Jazeera notes, “which found no evidence that Iran had thus far taken a decision to use its nuclear infrastructure to build a weapon, or that it had revived efforts to research warhead design that the US said had been shelved in 2003.”

Israel, on the other hand, is the only nuclear weapon state in the Middle East, illegally in possession of at least 80 warheads, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

The prime minister has used claims that Iran is close to producing a nuclear bomb to justify military escalation and argue against ongoing diplomatic talks between Iran and the p5+1 countries: the U.S., Russia, China, United Kingdom, France,  Germany.

At the invitation of the Republican Party, Netanyahu will make a controversial address to Congress on March 3rd, in what is expected to be another attempt to sabotage talks. The planned speech has garnered widespread opposition, from within Washington as well as grassroots movements, and a push for lawmakers to boycott the address has already gained considerable traction.

Jamal Abdi of the National Iranian American Council told Common Dreams that the latest revelations make Netanyahu’s motives transparent. “It is very clear that he is opposed to any deal,” said Abdi. “The adage has been that no deal is better than a bad deal, but it is clear that for Netanyahu, no deal is better than a good deal if he can’t even agree with the assessments of his own security establishment.”

‘The Spy Cables’: Al-Jazeera Teases Massive Global Intelligence Leak

 

Hundreds of secret intelligence documents from world’s spy agencies will reportedly reveal “operational dealings of the shadowy and highly politicized” landscape of international espionage

 

By Jon Queally
February 23,2015
Common Dreams

 

Al-Jazeera says its reporting on what is calling ‘The Spy Cables’ will offer a glimpse into the world of espionage. (Image: Screenshot/Al-Jazeera)

 

Al-Jazeera is reporting that it has come into the possession of “hundreds of secret intelligence documents from the world’s spy agencies” which, in partnership with The Guardian newspaper, will be detailed in a series of in-depth exposés beginning on Monday.

According to an initial (and vague) report about the specific contents of the “top-secret” documents, the Al-Jazeera Investigative Unit reports that “unlike the Edward Snowden documents that focus on electronic signals intelligence, commonly referred to in intelligence circles as ‘SIGINT’, the Spy Cables deal with human intelligence, or ‘HUMINT’.” As such, the news outlet reports, much that is revealed is a “more humdrum, day-in-the-office level” look at the world of international espionage than some of the NSA documents revealed by the U.S. whistleblower.

“Rather than chronicling spy-movie style tales of  ruthless efficiency of intelligence agencies,” Al-Jazeera reports, the files “offer an unprecedented glimpse into the daily working lives of people whose jobs are kept secret from the public.”

Al-Jazeera began tweeting about the cables over the weekend, leading some to wonder whether the hype would be matched by the content of the disclosures.

Though nothing is indicated about the possible source of the intelligence documents, Al-Jazeera says the files come from intelligence agencies around the world, including: Israel’s Mossad, Britain’s MI6, Russia’s FSB, Australia’s ASIO and South Africa’s SSA.

On Monday, Haaretz reports that one of the revelations contained within the documents may be Mossad’s “true assessment” of the Iran’s nuclear program—a potentially explosive piece of information if it betrays public comments on the subject made by the nation’s political leaders.

Watch:

The #SpyCables hashtag is now hosting reactions to the new reporting on Twitter.

 

 

 

Explosive New Snowden Doc: NSA/GCHQ Stole Vital Cell Phone Encryption Keys

New reporting by The Intercept, based on documents leaked by whistleblower, reveals how spy agencies hacked world’s largest SIM card manufacturer

By Jon Queally
February 20, 2015
Common Dreams

 

‘One of the biggest Snowden stories yet,’ says journalist Glenn Greenwald. (Image: The Intercept)

 

Explosive new reporting by The Intercept published Thursday, based on documents obtained by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, reveals how the U.S. spy agency and their British counterpart, the GCHQ, worked together in order to hack into the computer systems of the world’s largest manufacturer of cell phone SIM cards – giving government spies access to highly-guarded encryption codes and unparalleled abilities to monitor the global communications of those with phones using the cards.

Following its publication, journalist Glenn Greenwald called it “one of the biggest Snowden stories yet.”

According to fellow journalists Jeremy Scahill and Josh Begley, who did the reporting on the top-secret documents and detail the implications of the program, the target of the government hacking operation was a company called Gemalto, based in the Netherlands, which makes SIM cards for some of the best known makers of cell phones and other portable electronic products, including AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint, and hundreds of other global brands. The acronym SIM stands for “subscriber identity module” and is a small intergrated circuit within a phone that is used to authenticate users and relay key information to the network on which the phone is operating.

As Scahill and Begley report:

With these stolen encryption keys, intelligence agencies can monitor mobile communications without seeking or receiving approval from telecom companies and foreign governments. Possessing the keys also sidesteps the need to get a warrant or a wiretap, while leaving no trace on the wireless provider’s network that the communications were intercepted. Bulk key theft additionally enables the intelligence agencies to unlock any previously encrypted communications they had already intercepted, but did not yet have the ability to decrypt.

As part of the covert operations against Gemalto, spies from GCHQ — with support from the NSA — mined the private communications of unwitting engineers and other company employees in multiple countries.

In a series of tweets, both Scahill and Greenwald offered context for the latest reporting:

For its part, Gemalto told The Intercept it was totally unaware of the security breach or that the encryption keys to any of its cards had been compromised. In fact, after being reached for comment on the operation, Gemalto directed its own security team to investigate the situation, but told the journalists they could find no trace of the hack. However, according to the top-secret document detailing the program leaked by Snowden, an operative with the NSA boasted, “[We] believe we have their entire network.”

Technology experts who spoke with Scahill and Begley said the theft of the encryption keys was highly troubling. Christopher Soghoian, the principal technologist for the American Civil Liberties Union, said the idea that the NSA has stolen these encryption keys “will send a shock wave through the security community.”

Told about the program, Gerard Schouw, a member of the Dutch Parliament, said the revelation was “unbelievable.” And repeated: “Unbelievable.”

According to The Intercept:

Last November, the Dutch government amended its constitution to include explicit protection for the privacy of digital communications, including those made on mobile devices. “We have, in the Netherlands, a law on the [activities] of secret services. And hacking is not allowed,” he said. Under Dutch law, the interior minister would have to sign off on such operations by foreign governments’ intelligence agencies. “I don’t believe that he has given his permission for these kind of actions.”

The U.S. and British intelligence agencies pulled off the encryption key heist in great stealth, giving them the ability to intercept and decrypt communications without alerting the wireless network provider, the foreign government or the individual user that they have been targeted. “Gaining access to a database of keys is pretty much game over for cellular encryption,” says Matthew Green, a cryptography specialist at the Johns Hopkins Information Security Institute. The massive key theft is “bad news for phone security. Really bad news.”