NSA Leaked Docs Alleging Russian Hacking Prove Nothing

Official National Security Agency documents supposedly leaked by federal contractor Reality Winner allege that Russian intelligence engaged in a months-long campaign to hack U.S. election systems. However, a close look at the NSA charges show there is a noticeable lack of any evidence to substantiate the claims.

By AFP Staff

“Trust us.” Apparently, that is the basis for the U.S. government claim that the Russian military and its intelligence service hacked U.S. elections systems in order to discredit Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and promote Republican Donald Trump.

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News broke of the leaked National Security Agency (NSA) documents on June 6, when “The Intercept,” an online news and commentary website, published them on its website along with a lengthy article summarizing their contents. The article can be found here.

This is how “The Intercept” leads its report:

The top-secret National Security Agency document, which was provided anonymously to The Intercept and independently authenticated, analyzes intelligence very recently acquired by the agency about a months-long Russian intelligence cyber effort against elements of the U.S. election and voting infrastructure. The report, dated May 5, 2017, is the most detailed U.S. government account of Russian interference in the election that has yet come to light.

However, a detailed analysis shows the NSA really provides no evidence of actual hacking on the part of any official Russian agency:

While the document provides a rare window into the NSA’s understanding of the mechanics of Russian hacking, it does not show the underlying “raw” intelligence on which the analysis is based.

In other words, the NSA provides a “how-to” primer on how hackers hack people, but there is nothing definitive linking any Russian agency to an attempted hack.

One thing that is damning in the NSA report touches on something American Free Press has been reporting for years: the vulnerability of electronic voting and the ease with which unsophisticated hackers can go after electronic voting machines.

Ultimately, what we learn from the NSA documents is that this is yet another case of U.S. officials asking Americans to trust them, something that even naive people should be wary of.

“Maybe the real evidence of hacking is with Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction,” a U.S. official, who wanted to remain anonymous, told American Free Press.




Unsealed FISA Court Order Reveals Warrantless Surveillance by Obama Administration in 2016

While Trump’s Justice Department has stepped in to slightly limit the surveillance reach of U.S. intelligence agencies, we may have a much bigger problem than most Americans realize when it comes to the guidelines intended to safeguard our 4th Amendment rights.

By Robert Romano

An unsealed April 26 court ruling from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Court found that the Obama administration had violated “the NSA’s minimization procedures involving queries of data acquired under Section 702 using U.S. person identifiers. The full scope of non-compliant querying practices had not been previously disclosed to the Court.”

Under FISA, the court is supposed to determine whether the minimization procedures—those that are supposed to seal the identities of U.S. persons swept up in foreign surveillance—comply with Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches and seizures.

An example of those rules falls under USSID 18, which governs the collection, retention, and then dissemination of foreign intelligence gathered to and from U.S. persons.

Those rules are promulgated by the attorney general under 50 USC 1801(h)(2), which provides that they include “procedures that require that nonpublicly available information, which is not foreign intelligence information, as defined in subsection (e)(1), shall not be disseminated in a manner that identifies any United States person, without such person’s consent, unless such person’s identity is necessary to understand foreign intelligence information or assess its importance.”

Under USSID 18, to have kept the communications would have required either sign-off from the attorney general if he or she believes that the “contents indicate a threat of death or seriously bodily harm to any person,” under Section 5.4.a., or the director of the National Security Agency, under 5.4.d., if he or she determines the communications contain “significant foreign intelligence” or “evidence of a crime or threat of death or serious bodily harm to any person.”

For these U.S. persons to have been included in a report for dissemination could have only occurred if, under Section 7.2.c., the “appropriate approval authority” determined “[t]he identity of the U.S. person is necessary to understand foreign intelligence information or assess its importance” or “[t]he information is evidence that the individual may be involved in a crime that has been, is being, or is about to be committed, provided that the dissemination is for law enforcement purposes.”

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What the FISA Court is saying in its April 26 ruling is that these bare minimal rules, which do not even require a warrant to unmask a U.S. person, were not being followed. Since all the agents must show is that the information is relevant to foreign intelligence matters, that is saying something. The only explanation is that, in those cases, the searches had no bearing on foreign intelligence gathering.

According to reporting by John Solomon and Sarah Carter of “Circa.com,” “More than 5%, or one out of every 20 searches seeking upstream Internet data on Americans inside the NSA’s so-called Section 702 database violated the safeguards Obama and his intelligence chiefs vowed to follow in 2011, according to one classified internal report reviewed by Circa.”

Circa could not ascertain how many such inappropriate searches had occurred, as the information was classified, but it does provide a window into how the FISA Court responds to these instances even when there are violations.

The federal government under Attorney General Jeff Sessions has since applied to the FISA Court to change those minimization rules on March 30, which the court granted on April 26. Two days later, on April 28, the National Security Agency issued a statement that it “will no longer collect certain internet communications that merely mention a foreign intelligence target.”

According to the court ruling, “Under the revised procedures, the government may acquire communications to which United States persons and persons within the United States are parties when such persons communicate with a Section 702 target.”

The court praised this move, stating, “The Court agrees that the removal of ‘abouts’ communications eliminates the types of communications presenting the Court the greatest level of constitutional and statutory concern.”

This appears to indicate American citizens who were merely mentioning the name of a foreign target were being subjected to surveillance and potentially unmasked without warrants.

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Information previously gathered on this basis will now be destroyed: “Revisions to the NSA Minimization Procedures now state that all Internet transactions acquired on or before [March 17] and existing in NSA’s institutionally managed repositories will be sequestered pending destruction such that ‘NSA personnel will not be able to access the[m] for analytical purposes.’ NSA will destroy such sequestered Internet transactions as soon as practicable through an accelerated age-off process.”

The new rules appear to be a sharp departure from previous practice, but do they go far enough to reform minimization abuses?

In assessing whether minimization procedures are constitutional, the court applies the so-called reasonableness standard, that is, those exceptions to the Fourth Amendment’s warrant requirement to perform a search. These typically include situations such as a police officer witnessing a crime in progress or conducting a search during the course of a lawful arrest. Nearly all of these exceptions require some nexus to criminal activity in order to justify the search. Generally, if there is no crime, then no search can be justified.

The standard used by the FISA Court, however, does not consider any of that. Foreign intelligence gathering in itself is not focused on gathering information about crimes but about threats to national security or the workings of foreign powers.

Yet, the FISA Court still uses the same precedents and language from 4th Amendment Supreme Court cases to justify itself: “In assessing the reasonableness of a governmental intrusion under the Fourth Amendment, a court must ‘balance the interests at stake’ under the ‘totality of the circumstances.’ … Specifically, a court must ‘balance … the degree of the government’s intrusion on individual privacy’ against ‘the degree to which that intrusion furthers the government’s legitimate interest.’ … ‘The more important the government’s interest, the greater the intrusion that may be constitutionally tolerated.’”

These standards were established in various cases involving traffic stops and arrests in criminal contexts. For example, in Riley v. California (2014), where the Supreme Court ruled that the contents of a cellular phone could not be searched without a warrant even when a lawful arrest has occurred. Or Wyoming v. Houghton (1999), where the nation’s highest court ruled that the contents of a vehicle could be searched without a warrant if the police had reason to believe it had been used in the commission of a crime or contained contraband.

In every case, for a warrantless search to occur, some sort of criminality was needed, and even then, certain restrictions were applied to the extent the search was constitutional.

Not so in the FISA Court, we now know, where intelligence is gathered without regards to criminality. Which is why the disclosure of classified intelligence that includes U.S. person identifiers—so-called incidental collection as happened in the case of former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn—is such a serious crime, so that mere contacts with foreign intelligence surveillance targets are not used to create the appearance of being a foreign agent or to create legal jeopardy.

All of this raises serious constitutional questions of how FISA has been applied on U.S. soil.

Americans for Limited Government President Rick Manning urged Congress to slow down reauthorization of Section 702 of FISA in a statement, saying: “The implications of the Obama administration unmasking hundreds of targeted people unconstitutionally leads any reasonable person to wonder how precisely this illegally gained information was used. In light of the obvious abuse of power in the Mike Flynn case of leaking Flynn’s name to the press after being unmasked for political reasons, it becomes reasonable to assume that was the intent of these unmaskings all along, and calls into question the continuance of the entire program.”

NWO in Action cover

When it comes to U.S. persons and persons on U.S. soil, the American people should consider whether they want the federal government conducting warrantless searches where no criminal activity is implicated, a constitutionally dubious standard.

If a criminality standard had been applied, Flynn’s conversation might not have ever been intercepted in the first place.

But even if that were a bridge too far for Congress—because recording every conversation by foreign ambassadors on U.S. soil is somehow deemed essential—Congress should consider the fact that the attorney general can apparently, according to the FISA Court, just reinstitute “abouts” collection at his discretion.

As the court states: “This Opinion and Order does not question the propriety of acquiring ‘abouts’ communications and MCTs as approved by the Court since 2011, subject to the rigorous safeguards imposed on such acquisitions. The concerns raised in the current matters stem from NSA’s failure to adhere fully to those safeguards.”

In other words, unless Congress acts, these types of warrantless searches—where a person who says “Kisylak” or “Putin” on the phone might be intercepted and recorded and that person’s identity might be unmasked without a warrant even if no crime has been committed—could just be reinstituted later.

The Justice Department under Sessions is to be applauded for discontinuing this practice for the moment, but Congress should act to make certain these types of abuses never happen again.

The Church Committee was convened in 1975 to get to the bottom of revelations by Seymour Hersh’s explosive report to The New York Times on Dec. 22, 1974 that the CIA had been engaged in a mass, domestic surveillance program against anti-war protestors, members of Congress, and other political figures.

We are on the edge of the abyss of tyranny Sen. Frank Church (D-Idaho) warned about in 1975.

To the extent the American people presently look the other way in terms of foreign government officials being under constant surveillance on U.S. soil, even with warrants, they will not do so if they believe their own activities are under threat to come under scrutiny without warrants merely because they took an interest in foreign affairs.

Or if these powers are being used against political opponents, as apparently happened in the last year of the Obama administration, against the Trump campaign and then transition after the election.

If Congress is not currently telling itself, “Never again”—if it believes such political surveillance against the opposition party in an election year is somehow justified on the most dubious of grounds—then we’ve got a bigger problem than most people realize.

Robert Romano is the senior editor of Americans for Limited Government.




The Exponential Growth of Insecurity

When it comes to cyberspace, Dr. Roberts says, “There is no such thing as cybersecurity.” He asks a question the mainstream media has (yet again) failed to ask about the malware (malicious software) stolen from the National Security Agency by hackers and deployed to unsuspecting computer users worldwide recently. Who did the NSA intend to use this powerful cyberweapon against? 

By Paul Craig Roberts

There is no such thing as cybersecurity. The only choice is more security or less security, as the recent hack of National Security Agency (NSA) malicious software demonstrates.

Hackers stole from NSA a cyberweapon, which has been used in attacks at the time of this writing on 150 countries, shutting down elements of the British National Health Service, the Spanish telecommunications company Telefonica, automakers Renault and Nissan, Russia’s Interior Ministry, Federal Express, the energy company PetroChina, and many more.

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The news spin is to not blame NSA for its carelessness, but to blame Microsoft users for not updating their systems with a patch issued two months ago. But the important questions have not been asked: What was the NSA doing with such malware, and why did NSA not inform Microsoft of the malware?

Clearly, NSA intended to use the cyberweapon against some country or countries. Why else have it and keep it a secret from Microsoft?

Was it to be used to shut down Russian and Chinese systems prior to launching a nuclear first strike against the countries? Congress should be asking this question, as it is certain that the Russian and Chinese governments are. As I previously reported, the Russian High Command has already concluded that Washington is preparing a nuclear first strike against Russia, and so has China.

It is extremely dangerous that two nuclear powers have this expectation. This danger has received no attention from Washington and its NATO vassals.

Gideon Elite book cover

Microsoft president Brad Smith likened the theft of the NSA’s cyberweapon to “the U.S. military having some of its tomahawk missiles stolen.” In other words, with cyberweapons, as with nuclear weapons and short warning times, things can go wrong in a big way.

What if the hackers had successfully attacked the Russian Ministry of Defense or radar warning systems? Would the Russian high command have concluded that the cyberattack was Washington’s prelude to incoming ICBMs?

The fact that no one in Washington or any Western government has stepped forward to reassure the Russian government and demand the removal of the U.S. missile bases surrounding Russia indicates a level of hubris or denial that is beyond comprehension.

On May 12, I wrote in an article on my website: “The costs of the digital revolution exceed its benefits by many times. The digital revolution rivals nuclear weapons as the most catastrophic technology of our time.”

Paper files are far more secure. Malware cannot be introduced into them. To steal a person’s information required knowing the location of the information, breaking into the building, searching file cabinets for the information, and copying the information. To intercept a voice communication required a warrant to wiretap a specific telephone line.

People born into a world where the ease of communication comes at the price of the loss of autonomy never experience privacy. They are unaware that a foundation of liberty has been lost.

In our era of controlled print and TV media, the digital revolution serves for now as a check on the ruling elite’s ability to control explanations. However, the same technology that currently permits alternative explanations can be used to prevent them. Indeed, efforts to discredit and to limit non-approved explanations are already underway.

The enemies of truth have a powerful weapon in the digital revolution and can use it to herd humanity into a tyrannical dystopia. The digital revolution even has its own memory hole. Files stored electronically by older technology can no longer be accessed, as they exist in an outdated electronic format that cannot be opened by current systems in use.

Humans are proving to be the most stupid of the life forms. They create weapons that cannot be used without destroying themselves. They create robots and free-trade myths that take away their jobs. They create information technology that destroys their liberty.

Dystopias tend to be permanent. The generations born into them never know any different, and the control mechanisms are total.

Dr. Paul Craig Roberts was assistant secretary of the U.S. Treasury under President Ronald Reagan and was associate editor and columnist at The Wall Street Journal. He has been a professor of economics in six universities, and is the author of numerous books available at the AmericanFreePress Bookstore.