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The NSA’s Secret Campaign to Crack, Undermine Internet Encryption

The National Security Agency headquarters at Fort Meade, Md.

by Jeff Larson, ProPublica, Nicole Perlroth, The New York Times, and Scott Shane, The New York Times, Sep. 5, 2013, 3:08 p.m.

Note: This story is not subject to our Creative Commons license.

Editor’s Note: Why We Published the Decryption Story

The National Security Agency is winning its long-running secret war on encryption, using supercomputers, technical trickery, court orders and behind-the-scenes persuasion to undermine the major tools protecting the privacy of everyday communications in the Internet age, according to newly disclosed documents.

The agency has circumvented or cracked much of the encryption, or digital scrambling, that guards global commerce and banking systems, protects sensitive data like trade secrets and medical records, and automatically secures the e-mails, Web searches, Internet chats and phone calls of Americans and others around the world, the documents show.

Many users assume — or have been assured by Internet companies — that their data is safe from prying eyes, including those of the government, and the N.S.A. wants to keep it that way. The agency treats its recent successes in deciphering protected information as among its most closely guarded secrets, restricted to those cleared for a highly classified program code-named Bullrun, according to the documents, provided by Edward J. Snowden, the former N.S.A. contractor.

Beginning in 2000, as encryption tools were gradually blanketing the Web, the N.S.A. invested billions of dollars in a clandestine campaign to preserve its ability to eavesdrop. Having lost a public battle in the 1990s to insert its own “back door” in all encryption, it set out to accomplish the same goal by stealth.

The agency, according to the documents and interviews with industry officials, deployed custom-built, superfast computers to break codes, and began collaborating with technology companies in the United States and abroad to build entry points into their products. The documents do not identify which companies have participated.

The N.S.A. hacked into target computers to snare messages before they were encrypted. And the agency used its influence as the world’s most experienced code maker to covertly introduce weaknesses into the encryption standards followed by hardware and software developers around the world.

“For the past decade, N.S.A. has led an aggressive, multipronged effort to break widely used Internet encryption technologies,” said a 2010 memo describing a briefing about N.S.A. accomplishments for employees of its British counterpart, Government Communications Headquarters, or GCHQ. “Cryptanalytic capabilities are now coming online. Vast amounts of encrypted Internet data which have up till now been discarded are now exploitable.”

Read More: The NSA’s Secret Campaign to Crack, Undermine Internet Encryption – ProPublica.

Evidence: Syrian Rebels used Chemical Weapons (not Assad)

Saudi Chemicals in hands of Syrian Rebels

August 27, 2013
By  

By Walid Shoebat and Ben Barrack

Recent news of a chemical weapons attack in Syria smacks of desperation. The question comes down to who is most desperate right now, the Assad regime or the Muslim Brotherhood rebels? Consider that since June, Assad’s forces have been winning. According to a CBS News report from last month, victories for the rebels had become “increasingly rare” and that the Muslim Brotherhood-backed opposition fighters were sustaining “some of their heaviest losses” near Damascus.

The New York Times echoed this sentiment, even saying that before gaining the upper hand, concerns were that Assad would use chemical weapons; he did not.

In fact, even before Assad’s forces gained the momentum, a UN official reportedly found evidence of rebels using chemical weapons but no evidence Assad’s regime did. This, from a Washington Times article by Shaun Waterman dated May 6, 2013:

Testimony from victims strongly suggests it was the rebels, not the Syrian government, that used Sarin nerve gas during a recent incident in the revolution-wracked nation, a senior U.N. diplomat said Monday.

Carla del Ponte, a member of the U.N. Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Syria, told Swiss TV there were “strong, concrete suspicions but not yet incontrovertible proof,” that rebels seeking to oust Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad had used the nerve agent.

But she said her panel had not yet seen any evidence of Syrian government forces using chemical weapons, according to the BBC, but she added that more investigation was needed. {emphasis ours}

Today, while the rebels are more desperate than they were at the time of that article, evidence of rebels using chemical weapons is available; evidence Assad’s regime has used them is not.

Waterman wrote…

Rebel Free Syrian Army spokesman Louay Almokdad denied that rebels had use chemical weapons.

That doesn’t square with a video uploaded on August 23, 2013, in which Free Syrian operatives threatened to launch chemical weapons:

Read More & Video: Evidence: Syrian Rebels used Chemical Weapons (not Assad) | Walid ShoebatWalid Shoebat.

U.S. Tells Iran: We Won’t Join Israeli Attack

By Gil Ronen

Senior officials in the Obama Administration sent a message to Tehran in the past few days, according to which the U.S. does not intend to join Israel‘s side if it decides to attack the Iranian nuclear installations on its own, reports Israel’s second-largest paper, Yediot Aharonot.

According to the report, the U.S. sent the message to Iran in order to avoid an Iranian response military response that would target U.S. installations in the Gulf region.

The message was reportedly conveyed to Iran through two European countries that serve as a conduit of communication between Iran and the U.S. in times of crisis.

Nationalist newspaper Makor Rishon has accused Yediot Aharonot of working with the Obama Administration against the Netanyahu government’s planned strike on Iran.

According to the New York Times, senior U.S. officials have argued that Israel is “trying to corner” Obama into a military commitment that he does not yet need to make.

Source

Republicans on Leaks: Either President or Times Is Wrong

Both cannot be correct

2:46 PM, Jun 8, 2012 • By DANIEL HALPER

President Obama at a press conference this morning insisted that high-level national security leaks are not coming from the White House.

“The notion that my White House would purposefully release classified information is offensive,” President Obama said.
But a Republican memo from the Senate Republican Policy Committee maintains that either the president or the New York Times is wrong.

“It would appear the President’s statement and the New York Times statements directly conflict with each other and cannot both be true at the same time,” the memo states.

For proof, the memo highlights Obama’s denial that the White House is responsible for the leaks and certain statements in the Times‘s stories.

“If that statement were meant to serve as a denial that the Obama Administration leaked classified information, it would appear to stand in direct contrast to the New York Times article describing the President’s personal involvement in a process  ‘to designate terrorists for kill or capture,'” the memo states. “One of the opening paragraphs described the methodology for compiling the story, saying ‘three dozen’ of the President’s ‘current and former advisers’ were interview sources for the story.”

The memo cites another example that would seem to contradict the president’s statement: “A second story, about cyberattacks on Iran nuclear facilities, citied discussions with ‘officials involved in the program,’ and went on to say that program ‘remains highly classified.'”

Source: Republicans on Leaks: Either President or Times Is Wrong | The Weekly Standard.

Israeli Mossad Agents: We Developed Stuxnet Computer Virus, Obama Trying To Take Credit For It To Bolster Election Chances…

John Hudson  – Jun 8, 2012

Israel‘s officials have a message for anyone praising the CIA for its sophisticated cyber attack on Iran: It was our baby. The Stuxnet computer worm, described by David Sanger in The New York Times last week as an invention by the Bush administration, was actually developed by Mossad, according to Israeli officials speaking with Haaretz journalist Yossi Melman on condition of anonymity:

The Israeli officials actually told me a different version. They said that it was Israeli intelligence that began, a few years earlier, a cyberspace campaign to damage and slow down Iran’s nuclear intentions. And only later they managed to convince the USA to consider a joint operation — which, at the time, was unheard of.

The irony of course is that both U.S. and Israeli officials spent years denying knowledge of who carried out the attacks, which reportedly destroyed thousands of Iran’s centrifuges, ever since it became public in 2010. Now that it’s out, it’s time to claim credit! Of course, if you read Sanger’s account, he certainly doesn’t diminish the expertise of Israel’s spies:

Israel’s Unit 8200, a part of its military, had technical expertise that rivaled the N.S.A.’s, and the Israelis had deep intelligence about operations at Natanz that would be vital to making the cyberattack a success.

Regardless, these Israeli officials say Sanger’s account was too generous to the CIA. Amusingly, one of the officials tries to play it cool, in his remark to Melman:

My Israeli sources understand the sensitivity and the timing of the issue and are not going to be dragged into a battle over taking credit. “We know that it is the presidential election season,” one Israeli added, ”and don’t want to spoil the party for President Obama and his officials, who shared in a twisted and manipulated way some of the behind-the-scenes secrets of the success of cyberwar.”

Translation: We don’t need to tell anyone we’re the ones responsible for Stuxnet, but just so you know, we’re responsible for Stuxnet.

Source

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