Category Archives: Military Industrial Complex

NSA Prism program taps in to user data of Apple, Google and others

Prism

A slide depicting the top-secret PRISM program.

• Top-secret Prism program claims direct access to servers of firms including Google, Apple and Facebook

• Companies deny any knowledge of program in operation since 2007

Guardian | Jun 6, 2013    

by Glenn Greenwald and Ewen MacAskill

The National Security Agency has obtained direct access to the systems of Google, Facebook, Apple and other US internet giants, according to a top secret document obtained by the Guardian.

The NSA access is part of a previously undisclosed program called Prism, which allows officials to collect material including search history, the content of emails, file transfers and live chats, the document says.

The Guardian has verified the authenticity of the document, a 41-slide PowerPoint presentation – classified as top secret with no distribution to foreign allies – which was apparently used to train intelligence operatives on the capabilities of the program. The document claims “collection directly from the servers” of major US service providers.

Although the presentation claims the program is run with the assistance of the companies, all those who responded to a Guardian request for comment on Thursday denied knowledge of any such program.

In a statement, Google said: “Google cares deeply about the security of our users’ data. We disclose user data to government in accordance with the law, and we review all such requests carefully. From time to time, people allege that we have created a government ‘back door’ into our systems, but Google does not have a back door for the government to access private user data.”

Several senior tech executives insisted that they had no knowledge of Prism or of any similar scheme. They said they would never have been involved in such a program. “If they are doing this, they are doing it without our knowledge,” one said.

An Apple spokesman said it had “never heard” of Prism.

The NSA access was enabled by changes to US surveillance law introduced under President Bush and renewed under Obama in December 2012.

Prism

The program facilitates extensive, in-depth surveillance on live communications and stored information. The law allows for the targeting of any customers of participating firms who live outside the US, or those Americans whose communications include people outside the US.

It also opens the possibility of communications made entirely within the US being collected without warrants.

Disclosure of the Prism program follows a leak to the Guardian on Wednesday of a top-secret court order compelling telecoms provider Verizon to turn over the telephone records of millions of US customers.

The participation of the internet companies in Prism will add to the debate, ignited by the Verizon revelation, about the scale of surveillance by the intelligence services. Unlike the collection of those call records, this surveillance can include the content of communications and not just the metadata.

Some of the world’s largest internet brands are claimed to be part of the information-sharing program since its introduction in 2007. Microsoft – which is currently running an advertising campaign with the slogan “Your privacy is our priority” – was the first, with collection beginning in December 2007.

It was followed by Yahoo in 2008; Google, Facebook and PalTalk in 2009; YouTube in 2010; Skype and AOL in 2011; and finally Apple, which joined the program in 2012. The program is continuing to expand, with other providers due to come online.

Collectively, the companies cover the vast majority of online email, search, video and communications networks.

Prism

 

The extent and nature of the data collected from each company varies.

Companies are legally obliged to comply with requests for users’ communications under US law, but the Prism program allows the intelligence services direct access to the companies’ servers. The NSA document notes the operations have “assistance of communications providers in the US”.

The revelation also supports concerns raised by several US senators during the renewal of the Fisa Amendments Act in December 2012, who warned about the scale of surveillance the law might enable, and shortcomings in the safeguards it introduces.

When the FAA was first enacted, defenders of the statute argued that a significant check on abuse would be the NSA’s inability to obtain electronic communications without the consent of the telecom and internet companies that control the data. But the Prism program renders that consent unnecessary, as it allows the agency to directly and unilaterally seize the communications off the companies’ servers.

A chart prepared by the NSA, contained within the top-secret document obtained by the Guardian, underscores the breadth of the data it is able to obtain: email, video and voice chat, videos, photos, voice-over-IP (Skype, for example) chats, file transfers, social networking details, and more.

PRISM slide crop


The document is recent, dating to April 2013. Such a leak is extremely rare in the history of the NSA, which prides itself on maintaining a high level of secrecy.

The Prism program allows the NSA, the world’s largest surveillance organisation, to obtain targeted communications without having to request them from the service providers and without having to obtain individual court orders.

With this program, the NSA is able to reach directly into the servers of the participating companies and obtain both stored communications as well as perform real-time collection on targeted users.

The presentation claims Prism was introduced to overcome what the NSA regarded as shortcomings of Fisa warrants in tracking suspected foreign terrorists. It noted that the US has a “home-field advantage” due to housing much of the internet’s architecture. But the presentation claimed “Fisa constraints restricted our home-field advantage” because Fisa required individual warrants and confirmations that both the sender and receiver of a communication were outside the US.

“Fisa was broken because it provided privacy protections to people who were not entitled to them,” the presentation claimed. “It took a Fisa court order to collect on foreigners overseas who were communicating with other foreigners overseas simply because the government was collecting off a wire in the United States. There were too many email accounts to be practical to seek Fisas for all.”

The new measures introduced in the FAA redefines “electronic surveillance” to exclude anyone “reasonably believed” to be outside the USA – a technical change which reduces the bar to initiating surveillance.

The act also gives the director of national intelligence and the attorney general power to permit obtaining intelligence information, and indemnifies internet companies against any actions arising as a result of co-operating with authorities’ requests.

In short, where previously the NSA needed individual authorisations, and confirmation that all parties were outside the USA, they now need only reasonable suspicion that one of the parties was outside the country at the time of the records were collected by the NSA.

The document also shows the FBI acts as an intermediary between other agencies and the tech companies, and stresses its reliance on the participation of US internet firms, claiming “access is 100% dependent on ISP provisioning”.

In the document, the NSA hails the Prism program as “one of the most valuable, unique and productive accesses for NSA”.

It boasts of what it calls “strong growth” in its use of the Prism program to obtain communications. The document highlights the number of obtained communications increased in 2012 by 248% for Skype – leading the notes to remark there was “exponential growth in Skype reporting; looks like the word is getting out about our capability against Skype”. There was also a 131% increase in requests for Facebook data, and 63% for Google.

The NSA document indicates that it is planning to add Dropbox as a PRISM provider. The agency also seeks, in its words, to “expand collection services from existing providers”.

The revelations echo fears raised on the Senate floor last year during the expedited debate on the renewal of the FAA powers which underpin the PRISM program, which occurred just days before the act expired.

Senator Christopher Coons of Delaware specifically warned that the secrecy surrounding the various surveillance programs meant there was no way to know if safeguards within the act were working.

“The problem is: we here in the Senate and the citizens we represent don’t know how well any of these safeguards actually work,” he said.

“The law doesn’t forbid purely domestic information from being collected. We know that at least one Fisa court has ruled that the surveillance program violated the law. Why? Those who know can’t say and average Americans can’t know.”

Other senators also raised concerns. Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon attempted, without success, to find out any information on how many phone calls or emails had been intercepted under the program.

When the law was enacted, defenders of the FAA argued that a significant check on abuse would be the NSA’s inability to obtain electronic communications without the consent of the telecom and internet companies that control the data. But the Prism program renders that consent unnecessary, as it allows the agency to directly and unilaterally seize the communications off the companies’ servers.

When the NSA reviews a communication it believes merits further investigation, it issues what it calls a “report”. According to the NSA, “over 2,000 Prism-based reports” are now issued every month. There were 24,005 in 2012, a 27% increase on the previous year.

In total, more than 77,000 intelligence reports have cited the PRISM program.

Jameel Jaffer, director of the ACLU’s Center for Democracy, that it was astonishing the NSA would even ask technology companies to grant direct access to user data.

“It’s shocking enough just that the NSA is asking companies to do this,” he said. “The NSA is part of the military. The military has been granted unprecedented access to civilian communications.

“This is unprecedented militarisation of domestic communications infrastructure. That’s profoundly troubling to anyone who is concerned about that separation.”

A senior administration official said in a statement: “The Guardian and Washington Post articles refer to collection of communications pursuant to Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. This law does not allow the targeting of any US citizen or of any person located within the United States.

“The program is subject to oversight by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, the Executive Branch, and Congress. It involves extensive procedures, specifically approved by the court, to ensure that only non-US persons outside the US are targeted, and that minimize the acquisition, retention and dissemination of incidentally acquired information about US persons.

“This program was recently reauthorized by Congress after extensive hearings and debate.

“Information collected under this program is among the most important and valuable intelligence information we collect, and is used to protect our nation from a wide variety of threats.

“The Government may only use Section 702 to acquire foreign intelligence information, which is specifically, and narrowly, defined in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. This requirement applies across the board, regardless of the nationality of the target.”

PRISM scandal: tech giants flatly deny allowing NSA direct access to servers

Prism
Silicon Valley executives insist they did not know of secret PRISM program that grants access to emails and search history

guardian.co.uk | Jun 6, 2013

by Dominic Rushe and James Ball in New York

prism smallExecutives at several of the tech firms said they had never heard of PRISM until they were contacted by the Guardian

Two different versions of the PRISM scandal were emerging on Thursday with Silicon Valley executives denying all knowledge of the top secret program that gives the National Security Agency direct access to the internet giants’ servers.

The eavesdropping program is detailed in the form of PowerPoint slides in a leaked NSA document, seen and authenticated by the Guardian, which states that it is based on “legally-compelled collection” but operates with the “assistance of communications providers in the US.”

Each of the 41 slides in the document displays prominently the corporate logos of the tech companies claimed to be taking part in PRISM.

However, senior executives from the internet companies expressed surprise and shock and insisted that no direct access to servers had been offered to any government agency.

The top-secret NSA briefing presentation set out details of the PRISM program, which it said granted access to records such as emails, chat conversations, voice calls, documents and more. The presentation the listed dates when document collection began for each company, and said PRISM enabled “direct access from the servers of these US service providers: Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, Paltalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, Apple“.

Senior officials with knowledge of the situation within the tech giants admitted to being confused by the NSA revelations, and said if such data collection was taking place, it was without companies’ knowledge.

An Apple spokesman said: “We have never heard of PRISM. We do not provide any government agency with direct access to our servers and any agency requesting customer data must get a court order,” he said.

Joe Sullivan, Facebook’s chief security officer, said it did not provide government organisation with direct access to Facebook servers. “When Facebook is asked for data or information about specific individuals, we carefully scrutinise any such request for compliance with all applicable laws, and provide information only to the extent required by law.”

A Google spokesman also said it did not provide officials with access to its servers. “Google cares deeply about the security of our users’ data. We disclose user data to government in accordance with the law, and we review all such requests carefully. From time to time, people allege that we have created a government ‘backdoor’ into our systems, but Google does not have a ‘back door’ for the government to access private user data.”

Microsoft said it only turned over data when served with a court order: “We provide customer data only when we receive a legally binding order or subpoena to do so, and never on a voluntary basis. In addition we only ever comply with orders for requests about specific accounts or identifiers. If the government has a broader voluntary national security program to gather customer data we don’t participate in it.”

A Yahoo spokesman said: “Yahoo! takes users’ privacy very seriously. We do not provide the government with direct access to our servers, systems, or network.

Within the tech companies, and talking on off the record, executives said they had never even heard of PRISM until contacted by the Guardian. Executives said that they were regularly contacted by law officials and responded to all subpoenas but they denied ever having heard of a scheme like PRISM, an information programme internal the documents state has been running since 2007.

Executives said they were “confused” by the claims in the NSA document. “We operate under what we are required to do by law,” said one. “We receive requests for information all the time. Say about a potential terrorist threat or after the Boston bombing. But we have systems in place for that.” The executive claimed, as did others, that the most senior figures in their organisation had never heard of PRISM or any scheme like it.

The chief executive of transparency NGO Index on Censorship, Kirsty Hughes, remarked on Twitter that the contradiction seemed to leave two options: “Back door or front?” she posted.

Bilderberg 2013: Secret Summit for World Domination…Live

Bilderberg 2013
(Clockwise from left) Christine Lagarde, a protester from the 2012 meeting in Virginia, Henry Kissinger, George Osborne and David Petraeus Photo: AP/Reuters

telegraph.co.uk | Jun 6. 2013

By Josie Ensor, and Matthew Holehouse

Bilderberg: The Secret Summit for World Domination

Four-day conference at Watford’s The Grove hotel begins
Millions spent on security as protesters demonstrate outside
Lord Healey: ‘the most useful of all the meetings I attend’

Latest

16.53 Well, as to be expected from the world’s most secretive conference, we have learnt nothing from today. The closest we managed to get was half-a-mile from the Watford hotel where the rich and powerful are gathered. We’ll therefore be wrapping it up here, but we leave you with this thought from Lord Healey:

“Lots of the stuff written about Bilderberg is a load of crap. Some people described it as a secret Communist organisation. Others said it was a secret American organisation. But it was balls.”

16.44 A great video from Alex Jones’s Youtube page of him being “provoked” by a BBC presenter.

15.45 Martin Taylor, a former secretary general of the Bilderbergs and businessman, who has been going on and off for the last 20 years, and is attending this year, spoke to the Telegraph’s Tom Rowley about the history of the conference.

“Bilderberg grew up in the early Fifties out of a feeling that if European leaders in all fields had been closer to their American counterparts before the Second World War, some trouble might have been avoided.

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Sean Hannity: I’ve Never Heard of the Bilderberg Group

“That was at a time when people didn’t cross the Atlantic very often. It was a kind of Cold War council. People got together once a year, sometimes twice, but it was usually once. The numbers originally were about 60 or 70, it is now about 120. You got people from Europe and the US. It has now been rather enlarged.”

15.37 Security is tight, people are being checked in a field, hundreds of yards away from the hotel:

15.32 Speaking to the Telegraph earlier this week, Lord Healey of Riddleden, who attended the first Bilderberg meeting in 1954 and sat on the steering committee for 40 years, said:

“Lots of the stuff written about it is a load of crap. Those who weren’t invited were very jealous. Some people described it as a secret Communist organisation. Others said it was a secret American organisation. But it was balls.”

Lord Healey, who served as chancellor to Harold Wilson and James Callaghan, added: “I found it the most useful of all the meetings I attended regularly. The Bilderberg was the best because the level of the people attending regularly was so much higher.”

15.15 American news channel CNBC is reporting that police have anti-terrorism traffic regulations and a no-fly zone in place, so worried are they that Henry Kissinger and his pals with be the subject of attacks.

14.43 More on Alex Jones, who has been the centre of many controversies. He has previously accused the US government of being involved in the Oklahoma City bombing, the September 11 attacks, and the filming of fake Moon landings to hide NASA’s secret technology.

The outspoken Texan locked horns with Piers Morgan earlier this year after arguing on his show that taking away people’s guns would lead to government tyranny.

He has told an ever-growing group of conspirists gathered today that the Bilderberg Group wants to exterminate 80 per cent of the world population and replace them with robots who will be their slaves.

14.11 That’s nice, a Bilderberg welcoming committee:

14.01 Our reporter, Matthew Holehouse, who is as close to the hotel as press are allowed to get, has said a well-known pastor-like US conspiracy theoriest has arrived on the scene. Alex Jones told the crowd of Americans gathered that he is there to “expose the puppet-masters for what they are to the world”.

He said he wanted the attendees to be put on trial for crimes against humanity. We’re not entirely convinced The Hague would find in his favour.

“It is very, very sinister,” warns Jones.

“Not everybody who goes to Bilderberg, from my research, is a scoundrel or a villain. But there are definitely villains who are there who are basically trying to organise government and business.”


Alex Jones and the scrum

14.00 Bilderberg, which formed in 1954, is making an attempt to change its reputation as one of the most clandestine and controversial meetings in the world; it is the first time the guest list and its limited agenda have been publicly released and journalists are allowed near the grounds.

13.00 David Icke, the world’s most famous conspiracy theorist, is set to come on Saturday – the third day of the conference and we hear he’s expected to bring a big crowd. He has written on his blog about the “proof” that the annual meetings dictate government policy.

12.36 Our reporter Matthew Holehouse is half a mile away from the hotel in a pen with other 50 other reporters. He says it is they are surrounded by a high steel fence that looks like the edge of a prison.

About 40 cars have gone in so far. Every time someone drives in with their luxury car, the crowds shout and heckle.

There are lots of elderly Americans, people wandering around with cameras and a man dressed up as a CCTV camera.

12.23 The cloak of secrecy surrounding the meetings, which ban journalists from attending, has fuelled conspiracy theories that so-called Bilderbergers are planning global domination and world unification.

People have been banned for booking into the hotel this week and reporters are being kept in a pen a long distance away from the entrance to the hotel.

12.14 Michael Meacher, Labour’s former Environment Minister, told our reporter Matthew Holehouse that the institution is shadowy and the public needs to know what is going on.

Michael Meacher addresses reporter in a field in Watford

When asked if it was a shadow government, Meacher replied, “You’re putting it into rather colourful language. I wouldn’t go that far but a gathering like this has that aura about it. It is a shadow organisation that the rest of us do not have access to.

“Most of them are multi-millionaires and billionaires. The idea they have a charity is a distortion.

“The people here are the leaders of the biggest banks, multi-nationals, EU commissioners, and a smattering of politicians from Europe and America. If you wanted to find a group which represented the western governance structure you would come up with a list like this.They are meeting here in secrecy with no transparency or accountability.

12.07 Delegates for the private conference of top politicians and businesspeople from around the world have started to arrive at the hotel in cars with blacked-out windows. Doesn’t look much like they’re up for a stop and chat.

We have a handy agenda and guest list. Some of the country’s politicians have managed to clear four days out of their busy schedules for the event, including:

George Osborne, Chancellor of the Exchequer
Ed Balls, Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer
Kenneth Clarke, Cabinet Minister
John Kerr, Independent Member, House of Lords

Ed Balls is a confirmed guest of the Bilderberg Group

12:04 Good afternoon and welcome to our liveblog. We will be covering the mysterious goings-on of the annual Bilderberg Group meeting which starts today and is being held in the UK for the first time … in a hotel in Watford.

NSA secretly collecting phone records, locations of millions of Verizon customers daily

nsa-tia
Under the terms of the order, the numbers of both parties on a call are handed over, as is location data and the time and duration of all calls.

NSA collecting phone records of millions of Verizon customers daily

Exclusive: Top secret court order requiring Verizon to hand over all call data shows scale of domestic surveillance under Obama

Guardian | Jun 5, 2013

by Glenn Greenwald

Read the Verizon court order in full here
Obama administration justifies surveillance

The National Security Agency is currently collecting the telephone records of millions of US customers of Verizon, one of America’s largest telecoms providers, under a top secret court order issued in April.

The order, a copy of which has been obtained by the Guardian, requires Verizon on an “ongoing, daily basis” to give the NSA information on all telephone calls in its systems, both within the US and between the US and other countries.

The document shows for the first time that under the Obama administration the communication records of millions of US citizens are being collected indiscriminately and in bulk – regardless of whether they are suspected of any wrongdoing.

Related

NSA collection of Verizon phone records sparks angry reaction

Top-secret court order reveals NSA’s daily data collection on millions of Americans

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Also Revealed by Verizon Leak: How the NSA and FBI Lie With Numbers

The secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (Fisa) granted the order to the FBI on April 25, giving the government unlimited authority to obtain the data for a specified three-month period ending on July 19.

Under the terms of the blanket order, the numbers of both parties on a call are handed over, as is location data, call duration, unique identifiers, and the time and duration of all calls. The contents of the conversation itself are not covered.

The disclosure is likely to reignite longstanding debates in the US over the proper extent of the government’s domestic spying powers.

Under the Bush administration, officials in security agencies had disclosed to reporters the large-scale collection of call records data by the NSA, but this is the first time significant and top-secret documents have revealed the continuation of the practice on a massive scale under President Obama.

The unlimited nature of the records being handed over to the NSA is extremely unusual. Fisa court orders typically direct the production of records pertaining to a specific named target who is suspected of being an agent of a terrorist group or foreign state, or a finite set of individually named targets.

The Guardian approached the National Security Agency, the White House and the Department of Justice for comment in advance of publication on Wednesday. All declined. The agencies were also offered the opportunity to raise specific security concerns regarding the publication of the court order.

The court order expressly bars Verizon from disclosing to the public either the existence of the FBI’s request for its customers’ records, or the court order itself.

“We decline comment,” said Ed McFadden, a Washington-based Verizon spokesman.

The order, signed by Judge Roger Vinson, compels Verizon to produce to the NSA electronic copies of “all call detail records or ‘telephony metadata’ created by Verizon for communications between the United States and abroad” or “wholly within the United States, including local telephone calls”.

The order directs Verizon to “continue production on an ongoing daily basis thereafter for the duration of this order”. It specifies that the records to be produced include “session identifying information”, such as “originating and terminating number”, the duration of each call, telephone calling card numbers, trunk identifiers, International Mobile Subscriber Identity (IMSI) number, and “comprehensive communication routing information”.

The information is classed as “metadata”, or transactional information, rather than communications, and so does not require individual warrants to access. The document also specifies that such “metadata” is not limited to the aforementioned items. A 2005 court ruling judged that cell site location data – the nearest cell tower a phone was connected to – was also transactional data, and so could potentially fall under the scope of the order.

While the order itself does not include either the contents of messages or the personal information of the subscriber of any particular cell number, its collection would allow the NSA to build easily a comprehensive picture of who any individual contacted, how and when, and possibly from where, retrospectively.

It is not known whether Verizon is the only cell-phone provider to be targeted with such an order, although previous reporting has suggested the NSA has collected cell records from all major mobile networks. It is also unclear from the leaked document whether the three-month order was a one-off, or the latest in a series of similar orders.

The court order appears to explain the numerous cryptic public warnings by two US senators, Ron Wyden and Mark Udall, about the scope of the Obama administration’s surveillance activities.

For roughly two years, the two Democrats have been stridently advising the public that the US government is relying on “secret legal interpretations” to claim surveillance powers so broad that the American public would be “stunned” to learn of the kind of domestic spying being conducted.

Because those activities are classified, the senators, both members of the Senate intelligence committee, have been prevented from specifying which domestic surveillance programs they find so alarming. But the information they have been able to disclose in their public warnings perfectly tracks both the specific law cited by the April 25 court order as well as the vast scope of record-gathering it authorized.

Julian Sanchez, a surveillance expert with the Cato Institute, explained: “We’ve certainly seen the government increasingly strain the bounds of ‘relevance’ to collect large numbers of records at once — everyone at one or two degrees of separation from a target — but vacuuming all metadata up indiscriminately would be an extraordinary repudiation of any pretence of constraint or particularized suspicion.” The April order requested by the FBI and NSA does precisely that.

The law on which the order explicitly relies is the so-called “business records” provision of the Patriot Act, 50 USC section 1861. That is the provision which Wyden and Udall have repeatedly cited when warning the public of what they believe is the Obama administration’s extreme interpretation of the law to engage in excessive domestic surveillance.

In a letter to attorney general Eric Holder last year, they argued that “there is now a significant gap between what most Americans think the law allows and what the government secretly claims the law allows.”

“We believe,” they wrote, “that most Americans would be stunned to learn the details of how these secret court opinions have interpreted” the “business records” provision of the Patriot Act.

Privacy advocates have long warned that allowing the government to collect and store unlimited “metadata” is a highly invasive form of surveillance of citizens’ communications activities. Those records enable the government to know the identity of every person with whom an individual communicates electronically, how long they spoke, and their location at the time of the communication.

Such metadata is what the US government has long attempted to obtain in order to discover an individual’s network of associations and communication patterns. The request for the bulk collection of all Verizon domestic telephone records indicates that the agency is continuing some version of the data-mining program begun by the Bush administration in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attack.

The NSA, as part of a program secretly authorized by President Bush on 4 October 2001, implemented a bulk collection program of domestic telephone, internet and email records. A furore erupted in 2006 when USA Today reported that the NSA had “been secretly collecting the phone call records of tens of millions of Americans, using data provided by AT&T, Verizon and BellSouth” and was “using the data to analyze calling patterns in an effort to detect terrorist activity.” Until now, there has been no indication that the Obama administration implemented a similar program.

These recent events reflect how profoundly the NSA’s mission has transformed from an agency exclusively devoted to foreign intelligence gathering, into one that focuses increasingly on domestic communications. A 30-year employee of the NSA, William Binney, resigned from the agency shortly after 9/11 in protest at the agency’s focus on domestic activities.

In the mid-1970s, Congress, for the first time, investigated the surveillance activities of the US government. Back then, the mandate of the NSA was that it would never direct its surveillance apparatus domestically.

At the conclusion of that investigation, Frank Church, the Democratic senator from Idaho who chaired the investigative committee, warned: “The NSA’s capability at any time could be turned around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left, such is the capability to monitor everything: telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn’t matter.”

Additional reporting by Ewen MacAskill and Spencer Ackerman

DARPA developing electro-optics to detect and track human targets with 3-D imaging

MIST-IR 10 March 2013

DARPA pushes ahead with 3-D electro-optical sensors for target identification and tracking

militaryaerospace.com | Mar 10, 2013

by John Keller

ARLINGTON, Va., 10 March 2013. Government electro-optical sensor researchers will brief industry this week on an advanced initiative to develop fundamentally new avionics and vetronics 3-D electro-optical sensors for target identification and tracking.

Scientists at the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in Arlington, Va., will host a technical overview and proposer’s day conference from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. this Friday, 15 March 2013, on the second phase of the Military Imaging and Surveillance Technology-Long Range (MIST-LR) program.

The MIST-IR program seeks to develop new kinds of electro-optic sensing for aircraft and ground vehicles to detect and track people and other targets. The program focus is on long-range geometric and 3-D imaging to characterize targets beyond the physical-aperture diffraction-limit of the receiver system.

Industry briefings will be at the DARPA Conference Center, 675 North Randolph St., in Arlington, Va., to provide information on the status and capabilities developed under the MIST program and promote additional discussion.

Those attending will receive details from the first phase of the MIST-LR program and related efforts; hear questions and answers from potential MIST-LR proposers; and have an opportunity to discuss their capabilities and teaming opportunities.

DARPA conducted an industry briefing and released a formal solicitation for the first phase of the MIST-IR program in February 2012. The agency has not publicized any contract awards that may have been made.

The MIST-IR program’s second phase will concentrate on new sensing methods and techniques based on computational imaging, synthetic-aperture imaging, digital holography, and multi-static laser radar (ladar).

Optical sensors available today can help identify targets, but their sizes and operational ranges can be limiting, DARPA officials say. The MIST-LR program seeks to develop new sensing methods that address physical aperture of the imaging receiver, the effects of atmospheric turbulence, performance of the receiver array, the power of the illumination source, and the image formation algorithms are the primary defining characteristics of active imaging systems.

The first phase of the MIST-IR program involved a formal preliminary design, at the system and subsystem level to establish the basis for a detailed design; experimental and simulation data validating the concept, approach, and link budget; demonstration of critical hardware and software subsystems; phenomenology measurements; evidence that the proposed designs can be manufactured affordably; and written descriptions of the architecture, design, and subsystems.

Phase 2, meanwhile, will complete the system and subsystems design, and integrate components into one laboratory system to emulate a small-scale imaging capability, as well as demonstrate processing and control software for final system designs. A future third phase will develop and demonstrate a prototype package on an aircraft or ground test range.

Those interested in attending the MIST-IR phase-two briefings should register no later than this Wednesday, 12 March 2013, by email to BAA-13-27@darpa.mil. Put MIST Conference Registration in the subject line. A SECRET security clearance is required to attend.

Scary Army robot that runs faster than humans throws huge cinder blocks around like a child throwing toys

terminator
Terminator: Could the Big Dog project evolve into something more sinister?

The pro-type is eerily similar to the powerful metal endoskeleton killing machines that feature in the Terminator movie franchise.

Daily Mail | Mar 2, 2013  

By David Mccormack

These are the latest chilling images of the LS3 Alpha Dog, the four-legged robot that DARPA, the U.S. defense agency responsible for the development of new technologies for use by the military, is developing.

Previous reports have described the prototype, part of the Big Dog project, as a robotic battlefield ‘pack mule’ capable of carrying 400lbs of equipment to help human solders in combat.

But this latest footage reveals that the Alpha Dog has developed a scary new skill – throwing cinder blocks around with relative ease.

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Previous prototypes of the mechanical quadruped were headless, but now a claw has been added which is very effective at picking up objects and flinging them around at great speed

Previous prototypes of the mechanical quadruped were headless, but now a claw has been added which as the video shows is very effective at picking up objects and flinging them around at great speed.

The footage was posted on YouTube by Boston Dynamics, the company being funded by DARPA and the Marine Corps to develop this sinister robot.

As well as the footage is a short message which reads: ‘The goal is to use the strength of the legs and torso to help power motions of the arm. This sort of dynamic, whole-body approach to manipulation is used routinely by human athletes and will enhance the performance of advanced robots.’

As technological advances improve the range of weapons and equipment at soldiers’ disposal, so their loads become heavier. The development of the Alpha Dog was supposedly being developed to help carry this heavy equipment into battle and improve the efficiency of human soldiers.

With each new prototype that is revealed, the Alpha Dog is making impressive progress. Where once it resembled ‘Bambi on ice’ and could be unsteadied by undulating ground due to its long thin legs, now the Alpha Dog’s thicker legs make it more powerful and stable.

It can now trot around on its own and is smart enough to take voice commands from its soldier masters. Soon it will be capable of traveling 20-miles in a 24-hour period without having to refuel.

These development are undoubtedly impressive from a technological advancement point of view, but what does it mean for the future of warfare?

It’s not unimaginable that it could also wear a camera and a rocket launcher and be re-purposed as an attack dog.

If the current prototype can throw heavy blocks around with comparative easy, what could it potentially throw in the near future – humans?

The pro-type is eerily similar to the powerful metal endoskeleton killing machines that feature in the Terminator movie franchise.

Fans of the films will recall that the human race is all but destroyed when an artificial intelligence network called Skynet becomes self-aware in the near future and the war machines turn on their masters.

Let’s hope the Alpha Dog isn’t a chilling premonition of what lies ahead for the human race.

Obama administration: Predator Drone strikes inside US okay in ‘extraordinary circumstance’

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A Predator drone is shown in an undated photo from the Air Force. US Air Force via Reuters

NBC News | Mar 5, 2013

By Michael Isikoff

The Obama administration has no intention of carrying out drone strikes against suspected terrorists in the United States, but could use them in response to “an extraordinary circumstance” such as the 9/11 terror attacks, according to a letter from Attorney General Eric Holder obtained by NBC News.

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., who received the March 4 letter from Holder, called the attorney general’s refusal to rule out drone strikes in the U.S. “more than frightening.”

The letter from Holder surfaced just as the Senate Intelligence Committee was voting 12-3 to approve White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan to be CIA director. The vote came after the White House agreed to share additional classified memos on targeted drone strikes against U.S. citizens overseas.

Paul had threatened to hold up Brennan’s confirmation on the floor of the Senate if the administration did not clarify whether targeted drone strikes could be used inside the U.S.

In his letter, Holder called the question of drone strikes inside the U.S. “entirely hypothetical, unlikely to occur and we hope no president will ever have to confront. … As a policy matter, moreover, we reject the use of military force where well-established law enforcement authorities in this country provide the best means for incapacitating a terrorist threat.”

But Holder then appeared to leave the door open to such strikes in extreme circumstances.

“It is possible, I suppose, to imagine an extraordinary circumstance in which it would be necessary and appropriate under the Constitution and applicable laws of the United States for the president to authorize the military to use lethal force within the territory of the United States. For example, the president could  conceivably have no choice but to authorize the military to use such force if necessary to protect the homeland in the circumstances of a catastrophic attack like the ones suffered on Dec. 7, 1941 and Sept. 11, 2001.”

In a statement, Paul said, “The U.S. attorney general’s refusal to rule out the possibility of drone strikes on American citizens and on American soil is more than frightening – it is an affront the Constitutional due process rights of all Americans.”

Paul told NBC News that the response by Holder could lead to a situation where “an Arab-American in Dearborn (Mich.) is walking down the street emailing with a friend in the Mideast and all of a sudden we drop a drone” on him. He said it was “really shocking” that President Barack Obama, a former constitutional law professor, would leave the door open to such a possibility.

Paul said he will filibuster Brennan’s confirmation over the issue but acknowledged “we probably can’t stop him.” He did say, however, he intends to co-sponsor a bill with Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, to be introduced in the next few days, that would bar the president from using drone strikes in the U.S.