03/25/13: The New York Times reports Russian authorities on Monday raided the local headquarters of the human rights group Amnesty International, the latest in a continuing series of office searches aimed at putting pressure on nongovernmental groups. The head of Amnesty International, Sergei Nikitkin, said officials from the general prosecutor’s offices and from the tax police arrived Monday morning unannounced to conduct what they described as an “audit” and demanded a list of documents, most of which Nikitkin said were already on file with the government. “They don’t have any concrete complaints. They say it’s a regular check and other cliché phrases,” he said. Last week, the authorities conducted a similar raid at the offices of Memorial, an international historical society and human rights group that has operated in Russia for more than two decades.
03/04/13: The Washington Post has this story about Jim Scott, the son of the late journalist Paul Scott, who is involved in a dispute with the CIA over the Agency’s spying on his father in the 1960’s. In 2007 the CIA declassified a trove of documents popularly called “the family jewels,” which revealed the Agency’s unlawful surveillance of the Scott home in an operation code-named “Project Mockingbird.” For the past five years, Jim has sought to declassify and make public any documents Langley might still have on his father and why he was wiretapped. So far, the CIA has released to Jim a handful of intriguing documents, but Jim has been trying to compel the agency to cough up more. A federal declassification review panel is reviewing Jim’s case. Paul Scott died in 2001.
02/13/13: The Miami Herald reports a senior official for the Guantánamo Bay prison admitted Tuesday that the Government had placed a hidden microphone inside a meeting room but that he was assured it was not used to monitor the private conversations that prisoners have with their lawyers. Navy Captain Thomas Welsh, the senior legal adviser to Guantánamo’s commander, conceded the microphone appeared to be intended to resemble a smoke detector in the ceiling of a meeting room for men labeled “high-value"” detainees by the Pentagon and held in a special top security camp. “I agree with your point that it was not recognizable, it was not readily identifiable,” Welsh said on cross-examination by a detainee’s lawyer. The admission came during a pretrial hearing.
02/11/13: The Miami Herald reports lawyers for the five Guantánamo Bay prisoners charged in the September 11 attacks want to know if government officials have been eavesdropping on their private conversations with the defendants. The evidence for any such listening, the subject of a hearing scheduled to start Monday, is circumstantial. At a hearing January 28, the sound system in the Guantánamo courtroom was suddenly cut. The judge, Army Colonel James Pohl, later revealed that a government official following the proceedings from outside the courtroom intervened to prevent the potential release of classified information. Pohl later said the information was not classified; he ordered the government to disconnect any equipment that could unilaterally cut the sound and released a transcript of the censored remarks. But the incident has made defense counsel concerned about possible monitoring.
02/11/13: The Hill reports a cybersecurity bill that received pushback from privacy advocates and the White House last year will be re-introduced on Wednesday, setting up a potential battle between Congress and the Administration over cybersecurity legislation. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) and Ranking Member Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.) will reintroduce the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) and hold a public hearing analyzing the current state of cyber threat information-sharing between the US Government and industry next week. The bill aims to thwart cyberattacks by making it easier for private companies to share information about threats and malicious source code with the intelligence community and the Department of Homeland Security. The privacy and civil liberties groups that fought CISPA last year plan to revive their efforts to oppose the bill.
02/04/13: The New York Times reports a secret legal review on the use of America’s growing arsenal of cyberweapons has concluded that President Obama has the broad power to order a preemptive strike if the United States detects credible evidence of a major digital attack looming from abroad. That decision was among several reached in recent months as the administration moves, in the next few weeks, to approve the nation’s first rules for how the military can defend, or retaliate, against a major cyberattack. The rules will be highly classified, like those governing drone strikes. John Obama’s chief counterterrorism adviser and his nominee to run the Central Intelligence Agency, played a central role in developing the administration’s policies regarding both drones and cyberwarfare, the two newest and most politically sensitive weapons in the American arsenal.
01/30/13: Al Jazeera reports Niger has given permission for US surveillance drones to be stationed on its territory to improve intelligence on al-Qaeda-linked fighters in northern Mali and the wider Sahara. Bisa Williams, US ambassador to Niger, made the request at a meeting on Monday with Nigerien President Mahamadou Issoufou, who immediately accepted it, a senior government source said Wednesday. The drones could be stationed in Niger’s northern desert region of Agadez, which borders Mali, Algeria and Libya, the source said. Niger will be the sixth African nation to have a US drone base, joining Morocco, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Uganda, and Djibouti. A spokesperson for the US African Command (AFRICOM) declined to comment.
11/25/12: The Hill reports government officials from around the world will arrive in Dubai next month to revise a treaty that could have a major effect on the future of the Internet. The 193 member nations of the UN’s International Telecommunications Union (ITU) will meet in Dubai to update the International Telecommunications Regulations treaty for the first time since 1988. The treaty governs how telephone calls and other communications traffic are exchanged internationally. The negotiations will take place over a two-week period December 3-14. Ambassador Terry Kramer will lead the 95-person US delegation during the conference. Kramer has made clear in a series of public appearances that the US is committed to maintaining liberalized markets in the telecom industry and upholding human rights and free speech principles during the treaty negotiations.
10/20/12: Here are this week's technology updates related to National Security:
10/10/12: CNN reports the Department of Homeland Security’s Inspector General (IG) announced Tuesday that a number of incidents took place in 2010 in which Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officials placed notices in checked luggage indicating that it had been inspected without actually performing an inspection. The incidents led to the firing of thirty-six screeners at Honolulu International Airport. The IG’s report said a whistle-blower triggered investigations when he came forward with video showing some TSA officers skirting procedures. Thousands of bags went on commercial jets unscreened, risking the safety of the traveling public. The IG concluded that while the screeners in Honolulu were ultimately responsible for the failures, the situation “might not have occurred” if TSA leaders had more thoroughly evaluated protocols before changing them and provided better oversight, adequate staff, and screening equipment.
10/01/12: The Miami Herald reports the US Supreme Court won’t hear a Michigan man’s attempt to challenge the use of full-body scanners at airports. The Court on Monday denied the petition of Jonathan Corbett, which had sought to review a judgment of the US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit dismissing his challenge to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA)’s use of full-body scanners or enhanced pat-downs at airport security lines. A federal District Court in Florida dismissed the suit, holding it could only be filed with the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The 11th Circuit affirmed, and the Supreme Court denied the petition for certiorari. The TSA started allowing the use of the advanced imaging technology in October 2010.