Chinese Smartphones From Huawei And ZTE A National Threat, Security Agencies Warn

Chiefs of top intelligence agencies in the United States told the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday that Chinese smartphones posed a threat to American customers. Directors of the National Security Agency, FBI, CIA and the Defense Intelligence Agency unanimously agreed that phones of smartphone makers Huawei and ZTE should not be used by U.S. citizens. They testified the same before the committee stating they will not recommend the use of the phones manufactured by the Chinese manufacturers over products from Apple. In the past, Huawei had denied allegations about the security risk posed by the phones manufactured by the company. For years, the Chinese manufacturer relentlessly pursued the U.S. markets but its efforts were thwarted by the U.S. government in 2012 amid concerns that Chinese government can use its smartphones and other products for intelligence gathering. According to reports, the House Intelligence Committee cited security reasons and barred it from selling phones in the country.  Huawei denied the claims, calling them baseless. However on Tuesday, FBI Director Chris Wray explained the reasons why U.S. citizens and security agencies should refrain from using these products. He said any company with ties to a foreign government posed a threat to the country’s telecommunication infrastructure. Referring to this, he said, as a global leader in network equipment, Huawei was blocked from selling technology to federal agencies in the past.   “We’re deeply concerned about the risks of allowing any company or entity that is beholden to foreign governments that don’t share our values to gain positions of power inside our telecommunications networks,” he said. The Huawei logo is on display during the CES 2018 at the Las Vegas Convention Center, Nevada, Jan. 9, 2018. Photo: Getty According to reports, in January a deal between Huawei and the U.S. mobile Continue Reading

For Trump’s national security team, addressing the threats means ignoring the tweets

Sitting side by side at a long, black-draped table, six U.S. intelligence chiefs all sounded the same alarm — Russian meddling in U.S. politics didn’t stop after the 2016 presidential race and could get worse in this year’s midterm elections.It was a striking display of unanimity and one that left President Trump at odds — again — with his own hand-picked national security team.Trump has downplayed and even denied Russian meddling in the U.S. election, which he largely portrays as a Democratic hoax meant to delegitimize his victory, leaving the nation’s spy services straining to prevent a repeat performance in November."This is the largest gap I have ever seen between the urgency of the intelligence community and the response of the chief executive,” said Michael Hayden, who headed the CIA and the National Security Agency under President George W. Bush.Hayden said it will be hard to adequately address Russian political interference without presidential direction because the issue requires a coordinated response."You need emphasis, resources and restructuring — energized from the presidential level,” he said.Leon E. Panetta, who served as CIA director and secretary of Defense under President Obama, and as chief of staff to President Clinton, said U.S. intelligence officials seem determined to press forward despite disinterest from the White House.“The national security team is trying to keep the country focused on the key threats that are out there whether or not the president agrees or disagrees,” Panetta said. “I think their hope is that if they keep pressing on the importance of these threats from Russia that at some point the president will follow.”Panetta said that’s not how the process is supposed to work on sensitive national security issues. Pushback normally happens inside the National Security Council, not in public.“In any other administration that I’ve been a Continue Reading

Historic Ruling By US Judge To National Security Agency To Stop ‘Spying On’ Lawyer, His Farm

A U.S. federal court has asked the National Security Agency to stop its program of collecting phone call records, the first time the spy agency has received such a request. U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon asked the NSA Monday not to collect phone records of California attorney J.J. Little and his farm. The unprecedented ruling is marked as a symbolic victory for those who have been campaigning against the controversial program. Leon’s ruling will be effective immediately unlike previous ones against the NSA program after whistleblower Edward Snowden exposed it publicly. However, the ruling is mostly symbolic and hardly bears any major significance because it is applicable only for the lawyer and his farm. Within weeks, the NSA is supposed to stop its controversial program to collect bulk phone records. It will have a more targeted system, as mandated by Congress, which will be effective from Nov. 29. According to Leon, this might be the last time the court evaluated the NSA program. "It will not, however, be the last chapter in the ongoing struggle to balance privacy rights and national security interests under our Constitution in an age of evolving technological wizardry," Reuters quoted him as writing. According to Elizabeth Goitein, the victory is not symbolic even though it may seem so. “It may seem symbolic, but it isn’t, because there is tangible harm … There would be new data collected and stored for five years, and that’s not nothing,” The Guardian quoted the co-director of the Liberty and National Security Program at the Brennan Center as saying. The ruling ““says you can’t just sort-of comply with the law, which is what the government had been saying it was going to do. There’s not wiggle room in the constitution.” Snowden called the ruling “historic.” In historic decision, US Court finds @NSAGov spying violated Americans' rights. Victory! Continue Reading

The National Security Complex and You

This article originally appeared at To stay on top of important articles like these, sign up to receive the latest updates from To listen to Timothy MacBain’s latest Tomcast audio interview in which Engelhardt discusses drone warfare and the Obama administration, click here or download it to your iPod here.illustrated book was a favorite of ours. In a series of scenes, it described frustrating incidents in the life of a young girl, each ending with the line—which my tiny daughter would boom out with remarkable force, “That makes me mad!” It was the book’s title and a repetitively cathartic moment in our reading lives. And it came to mind recently as, in my daily reading, I stumbled across repetitively mind-boggling numbers from the everyday life of our National Security Complex. For our present national security moment, however, I might amend the book’s punch line slightly to: That makes no sense! Now, think of something you learned about the Complex that fried your brain, try the line yourself… and we’ll get started. Are you, for instance, worried about the safety of America’s “secrets”? Then you should breathe a sigh of relief and consider this headline from a recent article on the inside pages of my hometown paper: “Cost to Protect U.S. Secrets Doubles to Over $11 Billion.” A government outfit few of us knew existed, the Information Security Oversight Office or ISOO, just released its “Report on Cost Estimates for Security Classification Activities for Fiscal Year 2011” (no price tag given, however, on producing the report or maintaining ISOO). Unclassified portions, written in classic bureaucratese, offer this precise figure for protecting our secrets, vetting our secrets’ protectors (no leakers please), and ensuring the safety of the whole shebang: $11.37 billion in 2011. That’s up (and get used to the word Continue Reading

Intelligence Director James Clapper says shutdown hurts national security

WASHINGTON — The government shutdown "seriously damages" national security and gives foreign governments a field day to recruit U.S. intelligence employees, the director of national intelligence warned Wednesday. James Clapper told the Senate Judiciary Committee that the shutdown "is not just a Beltway issue. It affects our capability to support the military, diplomacy and our policy makers." He then said that the shutdown "is a dreamland for foreign intelligence to recruit, especially as our employees, already subject to furloughs driven by sequestration, will have even greater financial challenges." "From my standpoint, it's extremely damaging as this shutdown drags on," he said in impromptu remarks at a hearing on National Security Agency surveillance. Gen. Keith Alexander, the NSA director, chimed in and asserted the shutdown "has impacted us very hard." He indicated that 70% of intelligence employees are furloughed, including over 960 with Ph.D.s, 4,000 computer scientists and 1,000 mathematicians. And while Alexander said that his agency is still focusing on "the most specific threats against our nation," the shutdown "has had a huge impact on morale." Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) took issue as he wondered whether Clapper was overstating matters. He asked how bad things could be if 70% of employees could be characterized as "nonessential" under the furlough guidelines. "You either need better lawyers," Grassley said, referring to agency lawyers who determined which employees were not essential, "or need to make changes in your workforce." Clapper quickly responded that he was abiding by the definition of “nonessential” in the relevant law affecting the shutdown. That meant keeping only those workers "necessary to protect against imminent threat to life and property." Continue Reading

President Obama’s national security team acknowledges for first time that it reads and stores phone records of millions of Americans

President Barack Obama’s national security team acknowledged for the first time Wednesday that, when investigating one suspected terrorist, it can read and store the phone records of millions of Americans. Since it was revealed recently that the National Security Agency puts the phone records of every American into a database, the Obama administration has assured the nation that such records are rarely searched and, when they are, officials target only suspected international terrorists. Meanwhile, at a hacker convention in Las Vegas on Wednesday, the head of the NSA said government methods used to collect telephone and email data helped foil 54 terror plots — a figure that drew open skepticism from lawmakers back in Washington. “Not by any stretch can you get 54 terrorist plots,” said the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt. More than a decade after the terror attacks of 2001, the phone-record surveillance program has stirred deep privacy concerns on Capitol Hill, where Leahy said Wednesday during an oversight hearing: “If this program is not effective, it has to end,” adding that, “So far I’m not convinced by what I’ve seen.” In the House earlier this month, lawmakers said they never intended to allow the NSA to build a database of every phone call in America, and they threatened to curtail the government’s surveillance authority. “You’ve got a problem,” Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., told top intelligence officials weeks ago. Sensing a looming shift in the privacy-versus-security cultural calculus, the White House responded: It has ordered the director of national intelligence to recommend changes that could be made to the phone-surveillance program, and President Barack Obama invited a bipartisan group of lawmakers to the White House on Thursday to discuss their concerns about the National Security Agency’s surveillance Continue Reading

National Security Agency uses supercomputers to gather whispers, spin web of secrets

WASHINGTON — An email, a telephone call or even the murmur of a conversation captured by the vibration of a window — they're all part of the data that can be swept up by the sophisticated machinery of the National Security Agency. Its job is to use the world's most cutting edge supercomputers and arguably the largest database storage sites to crunch and sift through immense amounts of data. The information analyzed might be stolen from a foreign official's laptop by a CIA officer overseas, intercepted by a Navy spy plane flying off the Chinese coast, or, as Americans found out this past week, gathered from U.S. phone records. Code-breakers at the Fort Meade, Md.-based NSA use software to search for keywords in the emails or patterns in the phone numbers that might link known terrorist targets with possible new suspects. They farm out that information to the 16 U.S. intelligence agencies and to law enforcement, depending on who has the right to access which type of information, acting as gatekeeper, and they say, guardian of the nation's civil liberties as well as its security. The super-secret agency is under the spotlight after last week's revelations of two surveillance programs. One involves the sweeping collection of hundreds of millions of phone records of U.S. customers. The second collects the audio, video, email, photographic and Internet search usage of foreign nationals overseas - and probably some Americans in the process - who use major Internet companies such as Microsoft, Google, Apple, and Yahoo. NSA was founded in 1952. Only years later was the NSA publicly acknowledged, which explains its nickname, "No Such Agency." According to its website, NSA is not allowed to spy on Americans. It is supposed to use its formidable technology to "gather information that America's adversaries wish to keep secret," and to "protect America's vital national security information and systems from theft or damage by others," as well as enabling Continue Reading

President Barack Obama defends top secret National Security Agency spying programs in Charlie Rose interview

President Barack Obama defended top secret National Security Agency spying programs as legal in a lengthy interview Monday, and called them transparent — even though they are authorized in secret. “It is transparent,” Obama told PBS’s Charlie Rose in an interview broadcast Monday. “That’s why we set up the FISA court,” he added, referring to the secret court set up by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act that authorizes two recently disclosed programs: one that gathers U.S. phone records and another that is designed to track the use of U.S.-based Internet servers by foreigners with possible links to terrorism. He added that he’s set up a privacy and civil liberties oversight board to help in the debate over just how far government data gathering should be allowed to go — a discussion that is complicated by the secrecy surrounding the FISA court, with hearings held at undisclosed locations and with only government lawyers present. The orders that result are all highly classified. “We’re going to have to find ways where the public has an assurance that there are checks and balances in place ... that their phone calls aren’t being listened into; their text messages aren’t being monitored, their emails are not being read by some big brother somewhere,” Obama said. A senior administration official said the president had asked Director of National Intelligence James Clapper to determine what more information about the two programs could be made public, to help better explain them. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to speak publicly. Obama is in Northern Ireland for a meeting of leaders of allied countries. As Obama arrived, the latest series of Guardian articles drawing on the leaks claims that British eavesdropping agency GCHQ repeatedly hacked into foreign diplomats’ phones and emails with U.S. help, in an Continue Reading

Oliver Stone calls National Security Agency secret-leaker Edward Snowden ‘a hero’

Controversial filmmaker Oliver Stone is looking to get in on the fracas surrounding Edward Snowden, calling the fugitive secret-leaker a “hero.” “It's a disgrace that (President) Obama is more concerned with hunting down Snowden than reforming these George Bush-style eavesdropping techniques," the outspoken director said Thursday at a Czech film festival, according to entertainment website Stone, no stranger to making contentious statements, was appearing at a July Fourth appearance at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival in the Czech Republic, where he was scheduled to show two episodes of his new TV series, “The Untold History of the United States.” Stone went on to encourage foreign countries to offer asylum to Snowden, who is reportedly holed up in Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport after fleeing Hong Kong following his disclosure of confidential cellphone and Internet usage data surveillance programs run by the National Security Agency. "To me, Snowden is a hero, because he revealed secrets that we should all know, that the United States has repeatedly violated the Fourth Amendment," Stone said. "He should be welcomed, and offered asylum, but he has no place to hide because every country is intimidated by the United States,” he added. Snowden has applied for asylum in 21 countries and has been rejected by at least 12 of them, including Austria, Brazil, Ecuador, Finland, Germany, Iceland, India, Ireland, Norway, Poland, Spain and Switzerland. Bolivia and Venezuela remain possible landing places for the fugitive 30-year-old, who faces espionage charges in the U.S. Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

House votes to end National Security Agency’s bulk collection of phone records — The House voted by a wide margin Wednesday to end the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of Americans’ phone records and replace it with a system to search the data held by telephone companies on a case-by-case basis. The 338-to-88 vote set the stage for a Senate showdown just weeks before the Patriot Act provisions authorizing the program are due to expire. If the House bill becomes law, it will represent one of the most significant changes stemming from the unauthorized disclosures of former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. But many Senate Republicans don’t like the measure, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has introduced a separate version that would keep the program as is. Yet, he also faces opposition from within his party and has said he is open to compromise. President Obama supports the House legislation, known as the USA Freedom Act, which is in line with a proposal he made last March. The House passed a similar bill last year, but it failed in the Senate. Most House members would rather see the Patriot Act provisions expire altogether than re-authorize NSA bulk collection, said Rep. Adam Schiff, ranking Democrat on the intelligence committee. “I think the Senate is ultimately going to pass something like the USA Freedom Act,” he said. The issue, which exploded into public view two years ago, has implications for the 2016 presidential contest, with Republican candidates staking out different positions. The revelation that the NSA had for years been secretly collecting all records of U.S. landline phone calls was among the most controversial disclosures by Snowden, a former NSA systems administrator who in 2013 leaked thousands of secret documents to journalists. The program collects the number called, along with the date, time and duration of call, but not the content Continue Reading