We’ve been tracing the progress of Germany’s inquiry into NSA and BND surveillance since it was launched in March last year. While revelations from the inquiry have resulted in important stories about the the BND (Germany’s signals intelligence agency) and its cooperation with the NSA, there is no official transcript of proceedings, even those hearings that have taken place in open session.
This undated GCHQ presentation describes Tor Hidden Services and potential attacks against them: see the Der Spiegel story Prying Eyes: Inside the NSA’s War on Internet Security, 28 December 2014.
On Monday 27 October, Edward Snowden gave a short introduction to Laura Poitras’ documentary Citizenfour, on the occasion of its screening at Leipzig’s Dok Leipzig film festival.
As the ACLU point out in their write-up, Leipzig’s history as the place where the demonstrations that the brought the down the Berlin wall started, forms the background to Edward Snowden’s short statement.
A full transcript follows below
To coincide with the release of Laura Poitras’ film CitizenFour, which documents the causes, motivations and consequences of Edward Snowden’s momentous act of whistleblowing, Edward Snowden gave a number of new interviews and video appearances in the US and UK.
This summer, reporting based on documents disclosed by Edward Snowden gave an indication of the extent of German cooperation with NSA surveillance. In particular, Der Spiegel’s reporting drew attention to the involvement of Germany’s BND in the NSA’s corporate partnerships and the agencies’ jointly staffed projects based at Bad Aibling in Bavaria.
Originally published by the Right Livelihood Award Foundation, 25 September 2014
Being named recipient of the Right Livelihood Award for my work in revealing the global system of mass surveillance that’s monitoring all of us in secret without the consent of the public is a vindication, I think, not just of myself but of everyone who came before me to raise awareness about these issues.
Announced on 24 September 2014, awarded on 1 December 2014
Edward Snowden and Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger have been named as joint winners of the 2014 Right Livelihood Honorary Award. The awards, often referred to as the “alternative Nobel Prize” have been awarded every year since 1980 and recognise achivement in fields which do not have dedicated Nobel Prizes, but offer “practical and exemplary answers to the most urgent challenges facing us today.”
The citation for Edward Snowden’s award says he has been honoured “for his courage and skill in revealing the unprecedented extent of state surveillance violating basic democratic processes and constitutional rights.”
Switzerland’s Attorney General has raised the possibility that Edward Snowden could testify about NSA surveillance in Switzerland – and apply for asylum there – without fear of onward extradition to the United States.
The written legal opinion, seen by Swiss newspapers le Matin Dimanche and Sonntags Zeitung, states there is no legal impediment to Mr Snowden being granted Swiss asylum but leaves open the possibility of “higher state obligations” taking priority. While those “higher state obligations” are left undefined, this is – on the face of it – a rather more positive response than inquiries seeking Mr Snowden’s participation in person have received elsewhere.
The US Senate and House of Representatives have worked on multiple versions of a USA Freedom Act of 2014, in response to Edward Snowden’s disclosure and subsequent international debate regarding the NSA’s vast surveillance powers and capabilities. After the House passed a watered-down version that didn’t address major civil liberties concerns, Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont introduced a new version of the bill on 29 July 2014 that improves upon previous versions and would end bulk collection of phone data.
In a statement introducing the new version, Sen. Leahy tacitly credited Edward Snowden with its inception:
More than a year ago, the world first learned startling details about the massive scope of the National Security Agency’s (NSA) surveillance programs. Since then, the American people and all three branches of government have been debating the same fundamental questions about the extent of government power that the Framers considered when crafting the Constitution.
Various civil liberties, privacy advocates and journalists have since weighed in: the ACLU, the EFF, and the New York Times, among others, endorse Sen. Leahy’s newest bill, conceding that it isn’t perfect but arguing that it’s a step in the right direction. The Times writes, “Over all, the bill represents a breakthrough in the struggle against the growth of government surveillance power. The Senate should pass it without further dilution, putting pressure on the House to do the same.”
The bill comes just ahead of Congress’s August recess, so it might not be voted on until September. After the Senate passes it, both houses must agree on a merger of the two versions or the House would need to vote on the Senate’s newer version.
What the bill would change
The USA Freedom Act of 2014 would ban the NSA’s bulk collection of phone metadata under Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act, meaning it would, as the Times writes, “stop the flow of telephone data into the computers of the National Security Agency, keeping the information with the phone companies, where it belongs.”
It would also improve the FISA court process. The EFF lauds two changes:
First, we were pleased to see that it creates a special advocate position that will serve as an amicus in the court and is intended to advocate for civil liberties and privacy.
Second, it directs the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, in consultation with the Attorney General, to declassify “significant” FISA Court opinions. We would have preferred that this process be overseen directly by the Attorney General, with input from the FISA Court itself. On the other hand, the new USA FREEDOM bill actually defines “significant” (the original USA FREEDOM bill did not), and this definition includes any novel interpretation of “specific selection term.”
Civil liberties and privacy journalist Marcy Wheeler cautions (in a post that she later expands upon) that the bill “improves the FISA Advocate (but not necessarily enough that it would be meaningful).” She is “not convinced that makes [the bill] an acceptable improvement off of the status quo” — she considers it an improvement over previous versions of the bill, but “that’s not saying much.”
What it wouldn’t change
The EFF writes that the bill “does not adequately address Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act, the problematic 2008 law that the government argues gives it the right to engage in mass Internet surveillance”, nor does it “affect Executive Order 12333, which has been interpreted by the NSA to allow extensive spying both on foreigners and U.S. citizens abroad.”
Expounding on what it lacks, the ACLU says:
Improvements need to be made to further narrow the definition of SST, provide strict time frames for destroying all data on innocent people, eliminate loopholes that could be exploited to avoid disclosing relevant information in FISC opinions, and grant the special advocate greater authority to proactively participate in intelligence court proceedings.
Jennifer Granick of Just Security laments:
USA Freedom would not end back door searches. It would require NSA and CIA to count the number of times they do it and report to Congress. But it exempts the FBI from the reporting requirement.
However, Senators Mark Udall and Ron Wyden have “pledged to work to further strengthen the bill’s privacy protections and to close the backdoor search loophole in current law that allows the NSA and other intelligence agencies to search Americans’ private electronic communications without a warrant.”
Sen. Leahy emphasises the bill’s unprecedented nature:
If enacted, this bill would represent the most significant reform of government surveillance authorities since Congress passed the USA PATRIOT Act 13 years ago. This is an historic opportunity, and I am grateful that the bill has earned the support of the administration, a wide range of privacy and civil liberties groups, and the technology industry.
But, as the ACLU frames the bill’s omissions: “we’re running a marathon and this bill only gets us to mile five,” but it’s a start.
The EFF writes:
The USA FREEDOM Act of 2014 is a real first step because it creates meaningful change to NSA surveillance right now, while paving the way for the public to get more information about what the NSA is doing. We believe that this legislation will help ensure that the NSA reform conversation in Congress continues, rather than shutting it down.
The ACLU is similarly looking ahead:
if all the stars align, and the president signs a bill that provides real reform, millions of records that would have been vacuumed up under existing law will remain safe from government collection.
And then Congress can start work on the next NSA reform bill.