BRAZIL'S SNOWDEN ONLINE PETITION HITS 1 MILLION SIGNATURES

An internet campaign calling for US intelligence leaker Edward Snowden to be granted asylum in Brazil has gathered more than one million signatures, online activist group Avaaz said Monday. Avaaz launched the campaign a month ago, hoping to gain more than one million signatories but now the group has revised its target to 1.25 million. The organization believes the fugitive Snowden should "be recognized as a whistleblower acting in the public interest -- not as a dangerous criminal" after the former National Security Agency contractor disclosed details of a vast intelligence operation monitoring millions of phone calls and emails worldwide.

ALSO: Edward Snowden offers to help Brazil over US spying in return for asylum

NSA whistleblower says in letter he is willing to help in wake of revelations that President Dilma Rousseff's phone was hacked Edward Snowden has offered to help Brazil investigate US spying on its soil in exchange for political asylum, in an open letter from the NSA whistleblower to the Brazilian people published by the Folha de S Paulo newspaper. "I've expressed my willingness to assist where it's appropriate and legal, but, unfortunately, the US government has been working hard to limit my ability to do so," Snowden said in the letterwrote. "Until a country grants me permanent political asylum, the US government will continue to interfere with my ability to speak out." Senator Ricardo Ferrão, chairman of the Senate foreign relations committee, said on Twitter: "Brazil should not miss the opportunity to grant asylum to Edward Snowden, who was key to unravelling the US espionage system." Fellow committee member Senator Eduardo Suplicy said: "The Brazilian government should grant him asylum and the US government must understand that the NSA violated rights protected in Brazil's constitution."

ALSO: Latest Snowden revelations spark anger at European commission

The latest disclosures from the Snowden files provoked exasperation at the European commission, with officials saying they intended to press the British and American governments for answers about the targeting of one its most senior officials. Reacting shortly after an EU summit had finished in Brussels, the commission said disclosures about the targeting of Joaquín Almunia, a vice-president with responsibility for competition policy, was "not the type of behaviour that we expect from strategic partners, let alone from our own member states". In Britain, Sir Malcolm Rifkind, the chair of the parliamentary committee that provides oversight of GCHQ, said he was "disturbed by these allegations." He added he could be "examining them in due course as part of the intelligence and security committee's wider investigation into the interception of communications." A prominent German MP, Hans-Christian Ströbele, who met Edward Snowden in Moscow in October, told the Guardian it was becoming "increasingly clear that Britain has been more than the US' stooge in this surveillance scandal". He suggested the snooping by GCHQ on German government buildings and embassies was unacceptable.

ALSO: Edward Snowden: There Are 'Significant Threats' To My Life

Former U.S. National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden told German TV on Sunday about reports that U.S. government officials want to assassinate him for leaking secret documents about the NSA's collection of telephone records and emails. In what German public broadcaster ARD said was Snowden's first television interview, Snowden also said he believes the NSA has monitored other top German government officials along with Chancellor Angela Merkel. Snowden told ARD that he felt there are "significant threats" to his life but he said that he nevertheless sleeps well because he believes he did the right thing by informing the public about the NSA's activities. "I'm still alive and don't lose sleep for what I did because it was the right thing to do," said Snowden at the start of what ARD said was a six-hour interview that was filmed in a Moscow hotel suite. ARD aired 40 minutes of the six-hour interview.

ALSO: Snowden Seeking Russian Protection After Threats: Lawyer

Edward Snowden, the fugitive former U.S. contractor residing in Russia under temporary asylum, is appealing to the local government for protection after receiving threats against his life, his lawyer in Moscow said. “He has no other option but to seek protection and ask for the situation to be cleared up,” Anatoly Kucherena said by phone today. “There are worries and alarm about statements and actions on the part of some officials.” Snowden received a year’s sanctuary in Russia in August after a monthlong confinement in Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport. After months of debate instigated by Snowden’s leaks, President Barack Obama responded Jan. 17 by endorsing action to ensure American citizens and allies that their privacy is protected while committing to few specifics. Asked about the reported threats, the White House didn’t answer directly. “Mr. Snowden is accused of a felony and needs to return to the U.S. to face charges, where he will be afforded all due process and protections,” said Caitlin Hayden, a spokeswoman for Obama’s National Security Council, in an e-mail.

ALSO: Snowden Calls Russian-Spy Story “Absurd”

Edward J. Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor turned whistle-blower, strongly denies allegations made by members of Congress that he was acting as a spy, perhaps for a foreign power, when he took hundreds of thousands of classified U.S. government documents. Speaking from Moscow, where he is a fugitive from American justice, Snowden told The New Yorker, “This ‘Russian spy’ push is absurd.” On NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Mike Rogers, a Republican congressman from Michigan who is the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, described Snowden as a “thief, who we believe had some help.” The show’s host, David Gregory, interjected, “You think the Russians helped Ed Snowden?” Rogers replied that he believed it was neither “coincidence” nor “a gee-whiz luck event that he ended up in Moscow under the handling of the F.S.B.” From Moscow, Snowden explained that “Russia was never intended” to be his place of asylum, but he “was stopped en route.” He said, “I was only transiting through Russia. I was ticketed for onward travel via Havana—a planeload of reporters documented the seat I was supposed to be in—but the State Department decided they wanted me in Moscow, and cancelled my passport.” As for why he remains there, he said, “When we were talking about possibilities for asylum in Latin America, the United States forced down the Bolivian President’s plane.” If he could travel without U.S. interference, “I would of course do so.” Snowden was adamant that he wants to help, not hurt, the United States. “Due to extraordinary planning involved, in nine months no one has credibly shown any harm to national security” from the revelations, he said, “nor any ill intent.” Moreover, he pointed out that “the President himself admitted both that changes are necessary and that he is certain the debate my actions started will make us stronger.”


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Brazil's Snowden petition hits 1 mn signatures


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CYBERSPACE, JANUARY 20, 2014 (DIGITALJOURNAL/TECH.COM) By AFP - An internet campaign calling for US intelligence leaker Edward Snowden to be granted asylum in Brazil has gathered more than one million signatures, online activist group Avaaz said Monday.

Avaaz launched the campaign a month ago, hoping to gain more than one million signatories but now the group has revised its target to 1.25 million.

The organization believes the fugitive Snowden should "be recognized as a whistleblower acting in the public interest -- not as a dangerous criminal" after the former National Security Agency contractor disclosed details of a vast intelligence operation monitoring millions of phone calls and emails worldwide.

The Avaaz petition calls on the Brazilian government to offer Snowden, who received temporary asylum in Russia in August, to take in the former contractor, who said last month he was willing to help Brasilia investigate US spying.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff slammed Washington after it emerged US surveillance had extended to calls from within her own office as well as major state firms such as oil giant Petrobras.

Rousseff cancelled an October visit to the United States in protest but has not commented on the possibility of offering Snowden asylum.

The Avaaz petition was started by Brazilian David Miranda, partner of Brazil-based US investigative reporter Glenn Greenwald, who published the Snowden leaks in Britain's Guardian newspaper.

Last month, in an open letter to Brazilian media, Snowden indicated that "until a country grants permanent political asylum, the U.S. government will continue to interfere with my ability to speak."

FROM THE GUARDIAN UK

Edward Snowden offers to help Brazil over US spying in return for asylum Paul Owen, Jonathan Watts in Rio de Janeiro and agencies The Guardian, Tuesday 17 December 2013 18.40 GMT


Brazilian senators have asked for Edward Snowden’s help during hearings about the NSA’s aggressive targeting of the country. Photograph of Snowden: Uncredited/AP

NSA whistleblower says in letter he is willing to help in wake of revelations that President Dilma Rousseff's phone was hacked

Edward Snowden has offered to help Brazil investigate US spying on its soil in exchange for political asylum, in an open letter from the NSA whistleblower to the Brazilian people published by the Folha de S Paulo newspaper.

"I've expressed my willingness to assist where it's appropriate and legal, but, unfortunately, the US government has been working hard to limit my ability to do so," Snowden said in the letterwrote.

"Until a country grants me permanent political asylum, the US government will continue to interfere with my ability to speak out."

Senator Ricardo Ferrão, chairman of the Senate foreign relations committee, said on Twitter: "Brazil should not miss the opportunity to grant asylum to Edward Snowden, who was key to unravelling the US espionage system."

Fellow committee member Senator Eduardo Suplicy said: "The Brazilian government should grant him asylum and the US government must understand that the NSA violated rights protected in Brazil's constitution."

But a spokesman for the foreign ministry said it was not considering Snowden's appeal, because it had not yet received a formal asylum request.

In his letter, Snowden – currently living in Russia, where he has been granted a year's asylum until next summer – said he had been impressed by the Brazilian government's strong criticism of the NSA spy programme targeting internet and telecommunications worldwide, including monitoring the mobile phone of the Brazilian president, Dilma Rousseff.

Revelations of US spying have stirred outrage in Brazil. Leaked documents have shown that the NSA spied on Rousseff's emails and phone calls, tapped the communications of Brazil's biggest oil company, Petrobras, and monitored those of millions of citizens.

Rousseff has been one of the most vocal critics of the spying revealed by Snowden. In September she launched a blistering attack on US espionage at the UN general assembly, with Barack Obama waiting in the wings to speak next.

The following month, she cancelled a visit to Washington that was to include a state dinner, and she has joined Germany in pushing for the UN to adopt a symbolic resolution that seeks to extend personal privacy rights to all people.

Rousseff has also ordered her government to take measures including laying fibre-optic lines directly to Europe and South American nations in an effort to "divorce" Brazil from the US-centric backbone of the internet that experts say has facilitated NSA spying.

Brazilian senators have asked for Snowden's help during hearings about the NSA programme's aggressive targeting of Brazil, an important transit hub for transatlantic fibre-optic cables.

In his letter, Snowden used Brazilian examples to explain the extent of the US surveillance he had revealed. "Today, if you carry a cellphone in São Paulo, the NSA can track where you are, and it does – it does so 5bn times a day worldwide.

"When a person in Florianópolis visits a website, the NSA keeps track of when it happened and what they did on that site. If a mother in Porto Alegre calls her son to wish him luck with his exam, the NSA can save the data for five years or longer. The agency can keep records of who has an affair or visits porn sites, in case it needs to damage the reputations of its targets."

He added: "Six months ago, I revealed that the NSA wanted to listen to the whole world. Now the whole world is listening, and also talking back. And the NSA does not like what it is hearing."

Snowden's offer comes a day after the White House dashed hopes that the US might be considering an amnesty for the whistleblower, insisting he should still return to the US to stand trial.

Asked about weekend comments by senior NSA official Richard Ledgett suggesting that an amnesty was "worth talking about" if Snowden returned the missing NSA documents, White House spokesman Jay Carney said: "Our position has not changed on that matter – at all. He [Ledgett] was expressing his personal opinion; these decisions are made by the Department of Justice."

Also on Monday a US district judge ruled that the NSA's bulk collection of millions of Americans' telephone records probably violates the US constitution's ban on unreasonable search. The case is likely to go all the way the supreme court for a final decision. Snowden responded to that decision with a public statement that said: "Today, a secret programme authorised by a secret court was, when exposed to the light of day, found to violate Americans' rights. It is the first of many."

The Guardian first published accounts of the NSA's spy programmes in June, based on some of the thousands of documents Snowden handed over to the Brazil-based American journalist Glenn Greenwald and his reporting partner Laura Poitras, a US filmmaker.

Following the publication of Snowden's letter, David Miranda, the partner of former Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald, started a petition on the Avaaz activist website calling for Brazil to grant asylum. Miranda wrote: "We have to thank a person for bringing us the truth and helping us fight the aggressive American espionage: Edward Snowden. He is public enemy No 1 in the US. He is someone I admire.

"Edward is running out of time. He is on a temporary visa in Russia, and as a condition of his stay there he cannot talk to the press or help journalists or activists better understand how the US global spying machine works.

"If Snowden was in Brazil, it is possible that he could do more to help the world understand how the NSA and its allies are invading the privacy of people around the world, and how we can protect ourselves. He cannot do it in Russia."

Following the extra media exposure prompted by Snowden's open letter, Michael Freitas Mohallem, the campaign director for Avaaz in Brazil, said his organisation was preparing to back the petition with a letter to all of the group's 6 million members.

"I don't see a single reason why president Dilma would say no. Snowden is a hero. He's made a sacrifice to open our eyes, particularly in Brazil. Even DIlma was involved and Petrobras. This made big news. I think Brazilian people care about it and they will stand behind Snowden," said Mohallem.

However the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has shown no inclination that it is ready to offer aslym to Snowden despite earlier campaigns by civil society organisations and social networks. One group, called Juntos, previously staged a group called Juntos outside the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which earlier indicated a reluctance to accept a request from Snowden.

Laura Tresca from the South American office of the freedom of information group Article 19 said Brazil should grant Snowden asylum.

"Brazilian society was deeply offended by the scope of the spying he revealed through his whistleblowing. Even now, social media actors are calling him a hero without a nation," she said. "As the Brazilian Government is leading the international debate about this surveillance, it should be consistent and grant asylum to the man who made this debate possible." Miranda is currently applying for a judicial review of his nine-hour detention at London's Heathrow airport in August.

Latest Snowden revelations spark anger at European commission Nick Hopkins and Patrick Wintour The Guardian, Friday 20 December 2013 20.39 GMT


Joaquín Almunia is a vice-president with responsibility for competition policy.
Photograph: Yves Logghe/AP

Officials say disclosures about targeting of Joaquín Almunia was 'not the type of behaviour that we expect from strategic partners'

The latest disclosures from the Snowden files provoked exasperation at the European commission, with officials saying they intended to press the British and American governments for answers about the targeting of one its most senior officials.

Reacting shortly after an EU summit had finished in Brussels, the commission said disclosures about the targeting of Joaquín Almunia, a vice-president with responsibility for competition policy, was "not the type of behaviour that we expect from strategic partners, let alone from our own member states".

A spokesman added: "This piece of news follows a series of other revelations which, as we clearly stated in the past, if proven true, are unacceptable and deserve our strongest condemnation."

In Britain, Sir Malcolm Rifkind, the chair of the parliamentary committee that provides oversight of GCHQ, said he was "disturbed by these allegations." He added he could be "examining them in due course as part of the intelligence and security committee's wider investigation into the interception of communications."

A prominent German MP, Hans-Christian Ströbele, who met Edward Snowden in Moscow in October, told the Guardian it was becoming "increasingly clear that Britain has been more than the US' stooge in this surveillance scandal". He suggested the snooping by GCHQ on German government buildings and embassies was unacceptable.

"Great Britain is not just any country. It is a country that we are supposed to be in a union with. It's incredible for one member of the European Union to spy on another – it's like members of a family spying on each other. The German government will need to raise this with the British government directly and ask tough questions about the victims, and that is the right word, of this affair."

The Liberal Democrats have been inching towards calling for an independent commission to investigate the activities of Britain's spy agencies and the party president, Tim Farron, said that "spying on friendly governments like this is not only bad politics, it is bad foreign policy".

"These nations are our allies and we should work together on issues from terrorism to Iran and climate change," he said. "But we seem to be spying on them in conjunction with the NSA in what seems like an industrial basis."

In its strongest statement yet on the issue, Labour called for the ISC to be given beefed up powers, with Douglas Alexander, shadow foreign secretary, saying it was time for Britain to follow the lead of the US and start a more vigorous debate about surveillance.

"I think we should also consider whether the ISC should be empowered to subpoena and to compel witnesses to appear before them as is the case for the other parliament select committees," he said.

Nicolas Imboden, head of the Geneva-based Ideas Centre, said he believed his work in Africa had been the reason he was targeted. "It's about cotton," he told Der Spiegel. "That is clearly economic espionage and politically motivated." For the past 10 years his group has advised and represented African countries such as Chad, Mali and Benin in their fight against high cotton subsidies in western countries including the US. "This was clearly about them trying to gain advantages during WTO negotiations by illegal means," Imboden told Der Spiegel.

But the strongest condemnation came from one of the groups named in the documents, Médecins du Monde.

Leigh Daynes, UK executive director of the organisation said: "If substantiated, snooping on aid workers would be a shameful waste of taxpayers' money. Our doctors, nurses and midwives are not a threat to national security. We're an independent health charity with over 30 years' experience in delivering impartial care in some of the world's poorest and most dangerous places.

"Our medical professionals, many of whom are volunteers, risk their lives daily in countries like Mali and Somalia, and in and around Syria. There is absolutely no reason for our operations to be secretly monitored. We are also gravely concerned about any breach of doctor-patient confidentiality, which would be an egregious impingement on medical ethics."

Nick Pickles, Director of Big Brother Watch, said it appeared GCHQ has "become a law unto itself". Eric King, head of research at Privacy International, added: "The targeting of the international actors tasked with caring for the most vulnerable people, particularly children, is one of the most distressing revelations yet."

Downing Street has repeatedly refused to comment on the allegations in any detail saying it is not comment on security issues. The Israeli government said it would not comment on leaks.

FROM REUTERS

Edward Snowden: There Are 'Significant Threats' To My Life Reuters | By Erik Kirschbaum Posted: 01/26/2014 6:31 pm EST | Updated: 01/27/2014 1:59 pm EST Share on Google+

BERLIN, Jan 26 (Reuters) - Former U.S. National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden told German TV on Sunday about reports that U.S. government officials want to assassinate him for leaking secret documents about the NSA's collection of telephone records and emails.

In what German public broadcaster ARD said was Snowden's first television interview, Snowden also said he believes the NSA has monitored other top German government officials along with Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Snowden told ARD that he felt there are "significant threats" to his life but he said that he nevertheless sleeps well because he believes he did the right thing by informing the public about the NSA's activities.

"I'm still alive and don't lose sleep for what I did because it was the right thing to do," said Snowden at the start of what ARD said was a six-hour interview that was filmed in a Moscow hotel suite. ARD aired 40 minutes of the six-hour interview.

"There are significant threats but I sleep very well," he said before referring to a report on a U.S. website that he said quoted anonymous U.S. officials saying his life was in danger.

"These people, and they are government officials, have said they would love to put a bullet in my head or poison me when I come out of the supermarket and then watch me die in the shower," Snowden said.

Questions about U.S. government spying on civilians and foreign officials became heated last June when Snowden leaked documents outlining the widespread collection of telephone records and email.

Snowden was granted asylum in Russia last summer after fleeing the United States, where he is wanted on espionage charges for leaking information about government surveillance practices.

The revelations shocked Germany, a country especially sensitive after the abuses by the Gestapo during the Nazi reign and the Stasi in Communist East Germany during the Cold War.

Reports the NSA monitored Merkel's mobile phone have added to the anger in Germany, which has been pushing for a 'no-spy' agreement with the United States, a country it considers to be among its closest allies.

"What I can say is that we know that Angela Merkel was monitored by the NSA," said Snowden, wearing a dark suit and loose-fitting white shirt. "But the question is how logical is it that she's the only one who was monitored, how likely is it that she was the German person the NSA was watching?

"I'd say that it's not very likely that anyone who was watching the German government was only watching Merkel and not her advisers nor other government officials nor ministers, heads of industries or even local government officials."

Snowden said the NSA is active in industrial espionage and will grab any intelligence it can get its hands on regardless of its national security value. He said the NSA doesn't limit its espionage to issues of national security and he cited German engineering firm Siemens as a target.

"If there's information at Siemens that's beneficial to U.S. national interests - even if it doesn't have anything to do with national security - then they'll take that information nevertheless," Snowden said, according to ARD, which recorded the interview in Russia where he has claimed asylum.

TARGETS

Snowden's claim the NSA is engaged in industrial espionage follows a New York Times report earlier this month that the NSA put software in almost 100,000 computers around the world, allowing it to carry out surveillance on those devices and could provide a digital highway for cyberattacks.

The NSA planted most of the software after gaining access to computer networks, but has also used a secret technology that allows it entry even to computers not connected to the Internet, the newspaper said, citing U.S. officials, computer experts and documents leaked by Snowden.

The newspaper said the technology had been in use since at least 2008 and relied on a covert channel of radio waves transmitted from tiny circuit boards and USB cards secretly inserted in the computers.

Frequent targets of the programme, code-named Quantum, included units of the Chinese military and industrial targets.

Snowden faces criminal charges after fleeing to Hong Kong and then Russia, where he was granted at least a year's asylum.

He was charged with theft of government property, unauthorized communication of national security information and giving classified intelligence data to an unauthorised person. (Editing by Sophie Hares and Bernard Orr)

FROM BLOOMBERG.COM

Snowden Seeking Russian Protection After Threats: Lawyer By Ilya Arkhipov Jan 21, 2014 5:32 PM ET 369 Comments Email Print


Photographer: Barton Gellman/Getty Images: Former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden poses for a photo during an interview in an undisclosed location in Moscow in Dec. 2013.

Edward Snowden, the fugitive former U.S. contractor residing in Russia under temporary asylum, is appealing to the local government for protection after receiving threats against his life, his lawyer in Moscow said.

“He has no other option but to seek protection and ask for the situation to be cleared up,” Anatoly Kucherena said by phone today. “There are worries and alarm about statements and actions on the part of some officials.”

Kucherena, who has represented Snowden’s interests in Russia since he sought refuge last July after leaking classified National Security Agency documents, pointed to reports on Buzzfeed this month that contained threats made by unidentified U.S. officials.

The Espionage Act Is Now Aimed at U.S. Leakers

Snowden received a year’s sanctuary in Russia in August after a monthlong confinement in Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport.

After months of debate instigated by Snowden’s leaks, President Barack Obama responded Jan. 17 by endorsing action to ensure American citizens and allies that their privacy is protected while committing to few specifics.

Obama canceled a September meeting in Moscow with Russian President Vladimir Putin after the decision to grant Snowden temporary asylum.

U.S. Charges

Asked about the reported threats, the White House didn’t answer directly. “Mr. Snowden is accused of a felony and needs to return to the U.S. to face charges, where he will be afforded all due process and protections,” said Caitlin Hayden, a spokeswoman for Obama’s National Security Council, in an e-mail.

“Edward really believes his life and safety are at risk,” Kucherena said, adding that his client has private protection. “Since he’s a temporary refugee, he has the same rights and responsibilities as any Russian citizen.”

Snowden hasn’t received notice from the U.S. that he’s being held accountable for any crime, according to Kucherena.

In an interview two days ago on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Representative Mike Rogers, a Michigan Republican and the House Intelligence Committee chairman, described the 30-year-old American as “a thief” who had possible Russian assistance and has “incredibly harmed” the U.S. military.

Rogers has offered the only public characterization of a classified Defense Department report on Snowden, saying it concluded that he downloaded about 1.7 million intelligence files while working for McLean, Virginia-based Booz Allen Hamilton Holding Corp. (BAH) No Asset

Dianne Feinstein, who leads the Senate Intelligence Committee, said while appearing with Rogers on NBC that Snowden “may well have” had assistance. Representative Michael McCaul, a Texas Republican who’s chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said the same day on ABC’s “This Week” that he thought Snowden had help.

Russia isn’t controlling Snowden as an intelligence asset or offering him aid beyond a safe haven, Putin said Dec. 19. Snowden hasn’t been questioned about U.S. intelligence activities regarding Russia, according to Putin.

“I’ll tell you in semiprofessional language: we aren’t working with him and haven’t worked with him in investigative terms,” he said.

The U.S. has accused Snowden of theft and espionage for leaking documents to the U.K.’s Guardian newspaper and the Washington Post last year that unveiled the breadth of the NSA’s collection of Internet and telephone records.

Snowden, who first went to Hong Kong after leaking the documents, has said his goal was to call the public’s attention to programs he believed had expanded with little meaningful oversight.

“There’s a reason he ended up in the hands, the loving arms, of an FSB agent in Moscow,” Rogers said, referring to Russia’s security agency. “There’s questions to be answered there. I don’t think it was a gee-whiz luck event that he ended up in Moscow under the handling of the FSB.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Ilya Arkhipov in Moscow at iarkhipov@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Balazs Penz at bpenz@bloomberg.net

REPORT FROM UK, THE GUARDIAN

D-notice system to be reviewed in wake of Edward Snowden revelations Rowena Mason, political correspondent The Guardian, Sunday 26 January 2014 19.28 GMT

Inquiry into future of system that warns media not to publish stories leads to fears that compliance may become compulsory


Stories based on Snowden's leaks raise questions about the D-notice system's usefulness, minutes of the committee's latest meeting say. Photograph: Uncredited/AP

Officials are planning to review the historic D-notice system, which warns the media not to publish intelligence that might damage security, in the wake of the Guardian's stories about mass surveillance by the security services based on leaks from the US whistleblower Edward Snowden.

Sources said Jon Thompson, the permanent secretary of the Ministry of Defence, was setting up an inquiry into the future of the committee, raising fears that the voluntary censorship system also known as the DA-notice could be made compulsory.

The committee is supposed to be consulted when news organisations are considering publishing material relating to secret intelligence or the military. It is staffed by senior civil servants and media representatives, who give advice on the publication of sensitive stories.

The MoD declined to say why the future of the committee was being considered, but minutes of its latest meeting say: "The events of the last few months had undoubtedly raised questions in some minds about the system's future usefulness."

In his latest report, its secretary, Air Vice-Marshal Andrew Vallance, raised concerns about the parallel publication of Snowden's revelations by newspapers around the world, noting that at the outset the Guardian had "avoided engaging with the DA-notice system before publishing the first tranche of information".

However, giving evidence to MPs in December, Alan Rusbridger, the editor of the Guardian, said the D-notice committee had found nothing published by the paper that put British lives at risk. He said the Guardian had consulted government officials and intelligence agencies – including the FBI, GCHQ, the White House and the Cabinet Office – on more than 100 occasions before the publication of stories. On only one occasion was there no consultation with the UK government before publication, when the editor feared an injunction could be sought, he said.

Compliance with D-notices is not compulsory, but there are fears the system could become more draconian after a review.

Simon Bucks, associate editor at Sky News and the D-notice committee's media vice-chairman, told the Sunday Times: "Any suggestion that the current system be abolished would potentially be a precursor of a coercive system, which I believe the entire British media would oppose."

A spokesman for the MoD said the department was "considering a review of the system", but no decisions had been made. There are currently five standing D-notices relating to military operations, nuclear weapons, ciphers and secure communications, sensitive installations and the security services.

FROM THE NEW YORKER January 21, 2014  in Exclusive Interview Posted by Jane Mayer

Snowden Calls Russian-Spy Story “Absurd”

Edward J. Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor turned whistle-blower, strongly denies allegations made by members of Congress that he was acting as a spy, perhaps for a foreign power, when he took hundreds of thousands of classified U.S. government documents. Speaking from Moscow, where he is a fugitive from American justice, Snowden told The New Yorker, “This ‘Russian spy’ push is absurd.”

On NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Mike Rogers, a Republican congressman from Michigan who is the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, described Snowden as a “thief, who we believe had some help.” The show’s host, David Gregory, interjected, “You think the Russians helped Ed Snowden?” Rogers replied that he believed it was neither “coincidence” nor “a gee-whiz luck event that he ended up in Moscow under the handling of the F.S.B.”

Snowden, in a rare interview that he conducted by encrypted means from Moscow, denied the allegations outright, stressing that he “clearly and unambiguously acted alone, with no assistance from anyone, much less a government.” He added, “It won’t stick…. Because it’s clearly false, and the American people are smarter than politicians think they are.”

If he were a Russian spy, Snowden asked, “Why Hong Kong?” And why, then, was he “stuck in the airport forever” when he reached Moscow? (He spent forty days in the transit zone of Sheremetyevo International Airport.) “Spies get treated better than that.”

In the nine months since Snowden first surfaced, there has been intense speculation about his motives and methods. But “a senior F.B.I. official said on Sunday that it was still the bureau’s conclusion that Mr. Snowden acted alone,” the New York Times reported this weekend, adding that the agency has not publicly revealed any evidence that he was working in conjunction with any foreign intelligence agency or government. The issue is key to shaping the public’s perceptions of Snowden. Representative Rogers, on “Meet the Press,” went on to allege that “some of the things he did were beyond his technical capabilities. Raises more questions. How he arranged travel before he left. How he was ready to go—he had a ‘go bag,’ if you will.” Gregory then asked Senator Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat from California who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, and who was also a guest on the show, whether she agreed that Snowden may have had help from the Russians. She did not dismiss the notion. “He may well have,” she said. “We don’t know at this stage.” On CBS’s “Face the Nation,” Rogers made similar allegations, saying, “This wasn’t a random smash and grab, run down the road, end up in China, the bastion of Internet freedom, and then Russia, of course, the bastion of Internet freedom.”

Asked today to elaborate on his reasons for alleging that Snowden “had help,” Rogers, through a press aide, declined to comment.

An aide to Feinstein, meanwhile, stressed that she did no more than ask questions. “Senator Feinstein said, ‘We don’t know at this stage.’ In light of the comments from Chairman Rogers, it is reasonable for Senator Feinstein to say that we should find out.”

Some observers, looking at the possibility that Snowden was in league with the Russian government before taking asylum there, have pointed to a report in a Russian newspaper, Kommersant, that before leaving Hong Kong last June Snowden stayed at the Russian Consulate. Snowden’s legal adviser, Ben Wizner, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union, denied that report, however, saying, “Every news organization in the world has been trying to confirm that story. They haven’t been able to, because it’s false.” (Kommersant stands by its story.)

Snowden told me that having a go bag packed—something that Rogers described as highly suspicious—reflected his work deployed overseas for the C.I.A. He’d had “a go bag packed since 2007. It’s not an exotic practice for people who have lived undercover on government orders,” Snowden said.

“It’s not the smears that mystify me,” Snowden told me. “It’s that outlets report statements that the speakers themselves admit are sheer speculation.” Snowden went on to poke fun at the range of allegations that have been made against him in the media without intelligence officials providing some kind of factual basis: “ ‘We don’t know if he had help from aliens.’ ‘You know, I have serious questions about whether he really exists.’ ”

Snowden went on, “It’s just amazing that these massive media institutions don’t have any sort of editorial position on this. I mean, these are pretty serious allegations, you know?” He continued, “The media has a major role to play in American society, and they’re really abdicating their responsibility to hold power to account.”

Asked about this, George Stephanopoulos, the host of ABC’s “This Week,” defended the coverage. Stephanopoulos pointed out that when the congressman Michael McCaul, a Texas Republican and the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, alleged that Snowden was “cultivated by a foreign power” and “helped by others,” Stephanopoulos pressed him for details, twice. “I did two follow-ups,” Stephanopoulos said, “and got as much as the congressman was going to give up.”

From Moscow, Snowden explained that “Russia was never intended” to be his place of asylum, but he “was stopped en route.” He said, “I was only transiting through Russia. I was ticketed for onward travel via Havana—a planeload of reporters documented the seat I was supposed to be in—but the State Department decided they wanted me in Moscow, and cancelled my passport.”

As for why he remains there, he said, “When we were talking about possibilities for asylum in Latin America, the United States forced down the Bolivian President’s plane.” If he could travel without U.S. interference, “I would of course do so.”

Snowden was adamant that he wants to help, not hurt, the United States. “Due to extraordinary planning involved, in nine months no one has credibly shown any harm to national security” from the revelations, he said, “nor any ill intent.” Moreover, he pointed out that “the President himself admitted both that changes are necessary and that he is certain the debate my actions started will make us stronger.”

“If any individual who objects to government policy can take it into their own hands to publicly disclose classified information, then we will not be able to keep our people safe, or conduct foreign policy,” Obama said on Friday. “Moreover, the sensational way in which these disclosures have come out has often shed more heat than light, while revealing methods to our adversaries that could impact our operations in ways that we may not fully understand for years to come.” And Obama told David Remnick, in an interview for The New Yorker, that the leaks “put people at risk” and that, in his view, the benefit of the debate Snowden generated “was not worth the damage done, because there was another way of doing it.”

In the end, Snowden said that he “knew what he was getting into” when he became a whistle-blower. “At least the American public has a seat at the table now,” he said. “It may sound trite,” but if “I end up disgraced in a ditch somewhere, but it helps the country, it will still be worth it.”

Photograph by Barton Gellman/Getty.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi
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