Recently in Intelligence Affairs Category

GCHQ, NSA Spying on EU, Israel and Germany

Laura Poitras, Marcel Rosenbach and Holger Stark, writing in the December 20, 2013, edition of Der Spiegel Online, explains how how Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) spy agency “monitors Germany, Israel and the European Union.”

The Journalists write: “Documents from the archive of whistleblower and former NSA (National Security Agency) worker Edward Snowden show that Britain's GCHQ signals intelligence agency has targeted European, German and Israeli politicians for surveillance.”

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Peter Maass’ revealing and thought-provoking profile of documentary filmmaker and journalist Laura Poitras (in photo below), which was published in the August 13, 2013, edition of The New York Times magazine under the headline “How Laura Poitras Helped Snowden Spill His Secrets,” should be required reading Laura_Poitras_at_PopTech_2010in all journalism classes. In fact, all editors should required their reporters to read it. It’s a great story of how investigative journalism must be done in the digital age, especially that dealing with national security issues, such as the U.S. National Security Agency’s (NSA) massive, global collection of all internet and telephone communications, including that of Americans.

Mr. Maas’ article is about how Ms. Poitras and Glenn Greenwald, a former constitutional lawyer and a columnist for The Guardian, a London-based publication with offices in the U.S., brought to light how they became the journalist former CIA agent Edward Snowden, a former system administrator at Booz Allen Hamilton, an NSA subcontractor, contacted about the NSA’s global spying operation. Mr. Maas concludes, and I concur, that:

Poitras and Greenwald are an especially dramatic example of what outsider reporting looks like in 2013. They do not work in a newsroom, and they personally want to be in control of what gets published and when. When The Guardian didn’t move as quickly as they wanted with the first article on Verizon, Greenwald discussed taking it elsewhere, sending an encrypted draft to a colleague at another publication. He also considered creating a Web site on which they would publish everything, which he planned to call NSADisclosures.
Mr. Maas said, “In the end, The Guardian moved ahead with their articles. But Poitras and Greenwald have created their own publishing network as well, placing articles with other outlets in Germany and Brazil and planning more for the future. They have not shared the full set of documents with anyone.

Conclusion: In the 1970’s, Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein inspired a generation of aspiring journalists with their reporting on the Watergate Scandal, which forced President Richard M. Nixon to resign. Now, in 2013, it’s Poitras and Greenwald. Hopefully, young journalist will follow their lead. 

Note: Laura Poitras photo by Kris Krug . Licensed under Creative Commons share and share alike.

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Richard Falk, Albert G. Milbank Professor Emeritus of International Law at Princeton University and Visiting Distinguished Professor in Global and International Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara, explains that, “there was no legal duty on Russia's part to turn (National Security Agency whistleblower Edward) Snowden over to American authorities for criminal prosecution, and a moral and political duty not to do so, especially in the circumstances surrounding the controversy over Snowden.” Mr. Snowden has been granted a one-year visa.

Mr. Falk, “the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Palestinian human rights,” writing in an August 5, 2013, post at Al Jazeera English, opines:

The most influential media in the United States has lived up to its pro-government bias in the Snowden Affair in three major ways: firstly, by consistently referring to Snowden by the demeaning designation of 'leaker' rather than as 'whistleblower' or 'surveillance dissident,' both more respectful and accurate.

Secondly, they are completely ignoring the degree to which Russia's grant of temporary refugee status to Snowden for one year was in full accord with the normal level of protection to be given to anyone accused of nonviolent political crimes in a foreign country, and pursued diplomatically and legally by the government that is seeking to indict and prosecute. In effect, for Russia to have turned Snowden over to the United States under these conditions would have been morally and politically scandalous considering the nature of his alleged crimes.

Thirdly, the media's refusal to point out that espionage, the main accusation against Snowden, is the quintessential 'political offense' in international law, and as such is routinely excluded from any list of extraditable offenses. That is, even if there had been an extradition treaty between the United States and Russia, it should have been made clear that there was no legal duty on Russia's part to turn Snowden over to American authorities for criminal prosecution, and a moral and political duty not to do so, especially in the circumstances surrounding the controversy over Snowden.

Mr. Falk said, “If these elements had been clearly articulated, the United States government would have seemed ridiculous if it complained about the willingness of some foreign governments to give Snowden asylum.”

To read the entire post, please see “Snowden's Asylum: 'It's the law, stupid.'”

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Salon.Com’s Q&A With Glenn Greenwald

Falguni A. Sheth, a professor of philosophy and political theory at Hampshire College, in Amherst, Massachusetts who writes about politics, race, and feminism at, has posted an interview with Guardian Columnist Glenn Greenwald at that I highly recommend. It’s refreshing to read a post in which the interviewee’s comments aren’t filtered or the journalist feels obligated to criticize the subject to show how patriotic he or she is.

To read the Q&A, please see “Q&A with Glenn Greenwald: Americans’ reaction “surprising and gratifying”

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Glenn Greenwald on the Reuters Article

Columnist Glenn Greenwald of the Guardian commented on July 13, 2013, about the mostly critical reaction, especially in the United States, to a Reuter’s wire service report on his interview  with La Nacion of Argentina regarding U.S. whistleblower Edward Snowden’s unprecedented revelations about the United States’ comprehensive, global spying operations, including on its own citizens. According to Mr. Greenwald:

When you give many interviews in different countries and say essentially the same thing over and over, as I do, media outlets often attempt to re-package what you've said to make their interview seem new and newsworthy, even when it isn't. Such is the case with this Reuters article today, that purports to summarize an interview I gave to the daily newspaper La Nacion of Argentina.

Mr. Greenwald said, “Like everything in the matter of these NSA leaks, this interview is being wildly distorted to attract attention away from the revelations themselves. It's particularly being seized on to attack Edward Snowden and, secondarily, me, for supposedly "blackmailing" and "threatening" the US government. That is just absurd.”

To read Mr. Greenwald’s response, please see “About the Reuter’s Article.” The columnist, who has been the subject of vicious attacks for reporting on the NSA’s spying program, views the article as the “latest effort to distract attention from the NSA (National Security Agency” and that, “it is more absurd than most.”

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‘Tracking GhostNet: Investigating a Cyber Espionage Network’

“Tracking ‘GhostNet’: Investigating a Cyber Espionage Network,” a research project conducted by the Munk Center for International Studies at the University of Toronto, in Canada, has exposed a massive, electronic spy operation in which the spies have “infiltrated at least 1,295 computers in 103 countries, including many belonging to embassies, foreign ministries and other government offices, as well as the Dalai Lama’s Tibetan exile centers in India, Brussels, London and New York,” The New York Times reported in a March 28, 2009 article headlined “''Vast Spy System Loots Computers in 103 Countries.”

The article, written by John Markoff, notes:

Although the Canadian researchers said that most of the computers behind the spying were in China, they cautioned against concluding that the Chinese government was involved. The spying could be a nonstate, for-profit operation, for example, or one run by private citizens in China known as “patriotic hackers.

I highly recommend the article. If true, it reveals a spy world most Americans probably couldn’t imagine. And while you are reading it, keep in mind that China is not the only nation that engages in this type of spying. The United States, Russia and other nations also engage in it. This is far beyond our fathers and grandfathers' spy games.

By the way, I can see a young wanna be producer or director salivating over “Tracking GhostNet.”

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