Wednesday, December 15, 2010

U.S. Tries to Build Case for Conspiracy by WikiLeaks

Charlie Savage writes in the New York Times:

Federal prosecutors, seeking to build a case against the WikiLeaks leader Julian Assange for his role in a huge dissemination of classified government documents, are looking for evidence of any collusion in his early contacts with an Army intelligence analyst suspected of leaking the information.

Justice Department officials are trying to find out whether Mr. Assange encouraged or even helped the analyst, Pfc. Bradley Manning, to extract classified military and State Department files from a government computer system. If he did so, they believe they could charge him as a conspirator in the leak, not just as a passive recipient of the documents who then published them.

Among materials prosecutors are studying is an online chat log in which Private Manning is said to claim that he had been directly communicating with Mr. Assange using an encrypted Internet conferencing service as the soldier was downloading government files. Private Manning is also said to have claimed that Mr. Assange gave him access to a dedicated server for uploading some of them to WikiLeaks.

More here.

'The Press Was to Serve the Governed, Not the Governors.'

That was a portion of the opinion of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Black, with regards to the Pentagon Papers ruling brought about by the New York Times publication of disclosures in 1971.

This is a bedrock fundamental expectation guaranteed in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

I am reminded again of the excellent documentary "The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers", which I watched again tonight, in light of all the noise surrounding the Wikileaks disclosures.

If you haven't seen it, I highly recommend doing so.

I have served honorably in the service of my country, handling very highly classified information during my service, and having said that, I believe Daniel Ellsberg to be a hero, not a villain.

Would I have done the same given similar circumstances? I cannot say for sure -- I consider myself a patriot, but I despise lies, deceit, and personal misconduct by public officials whose job it is to serve those that elected them to office.

We are now entering a period where a very similar situation is occurring with regards to Wikileaks, the U.S. Government's efforts to suppress this information, and the vilification of a man who published these documents to shed light on some very dark issues which -- I believe -- the American public has a right to know how their government has behaved.

We live in interesting times -- and it will start becoming much more interesting in very short order, as his extradition, further publication of documents, and the efforts of the U.S. Government to prosecute him under some facet of U.S. law.

We are not children, and we should not be treated as such.

My $.02,

- ferg

Court Rebuffs Obama on Warrantless Cell-Site Tracking

David Kravets writes on Threat Level:

A federal appeals court on Wednesday rejected the Obama administration’s contention that the government is never required to get a court warrant to obtain cell-site information that mobile-phone carriers retain on their customers.

The decision by the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is one in a string of court decisions boosting Americans’ privacy [.pdf] in the digital age — rulings the government fought against. The most significant and recent decision came Tuesday, when a different federal appeals court said for the first time the government must obtain a court warrant for an internet service provider to grant the authorities access to a suspect’s e-mail.

The case that concluded Wednesday concerns historical cell-site location information, which carriers usually retain for about 18 months. The data identifies the cell tower the customer was connected to at the beginning of a call and at the end of the call — and is often used in criminal prosecutions and investigations.

More here.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

FBI Accused Of Decade-Old Cryptography Code Conspiracy

Taylor Buley writes on

You might not have heard of OpenBSD, but the free operating system is at the root of many computers and virtual private networks worldwide. So too is the FBI — that is, if you believe a new accusation that surfaced on a public OpenBSD mailing list.

Theo de Raadt, founder of OpenBSD, forwarded an emailed accusation that the FBI tampered with OpenBSD’s Internet protocol security code around 2000 to 2001. The allegation was sent to de Raadt in a private email from Gregory Perry, who claims to have been at one point an FBI consultant and chief technologist at a network security company called NETSEC, which was apparently an early backer of OpenBSD.

“My NDA with the FBI has recently expired, and I wanted to make you aware of the fact that the FBI implemented a number of backdoors and side channel key leaking mechanisms into the [OpenBSD cryptographic framework],” he wrote to de Raadt. “Jason Wright and several other developers were responsible for those backdoors, and you would be well advised to review any and all code commits by Wright as well as the other developers he worked with originating from NETSEC.”

If true, Perry’s accusation — that the FBI paid programmers to slip in code that would leak private encryption keys — would prove to be quite the bombshell. But either way the truth will be hard to come by, a fact that will likely only add to the conspiracy.

More here.

Feds Probe '100 Site' Data Breach

Dan Goodin writes on The Register:

FBI agents looking into the theft of customer data belonging to McDonald's are investigating similar breaches that may have hit more than 100 other companies that used email marketing services from Atlanta-based Silverpop Systems .

“The breach is with Silverpop, an email service provider that has over 105 customers,” Stephen Emmett, a special agent in the FBI's Atlanta field office, told The Register. “It appears to be emanating from an overseas location.”

He declined to provide further details.

Over the past week, at least two other sites – one known to have ties to Silverpop and the other that appears to – offered similar warnings to their customers. deviantART, a website that boasts more than 16 million registered accounts, warned its users that their email addresses, user names and birth dates were exposed to suspected spammers as a result of a breach at the email provider.

More here.

Warrant Needed to Get Your E-Mail, Appeals Court Says

David Kravets writes on Threat Level:

The government must obtain a court warrant to require internet service providers to turn over stored e-mail to the authorities, a federal appeals court ruled Tuesday.

The decision by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals was the first time an appellate court said American’s had that Fourth Amendment protection.

“The government may not compel a commercial ISP to turn over the contents of a subscriber’s emails without first obtaining a warrant [.pdf] based on probable cause,” the appeals court ruled. The decision, one stop short of the Supreme Court, covers Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee.

Kevin Bankston, a privacy attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, applauded the decision.

“I expect e-mail providers across the country will comply with this,” he said in a telephone interview.

More here.

Monday, December 13, 2010

In Passing: Richard Holbrooke

Richard Holbrooke
April 24, 1941 – December 13, 2010