Let’s be clear: Everything journalists do in the digital world is open to scrutiny by suspicious minds because that’s the way intelligence agencies work. If state eavesdroppers didn’t make use of this amazing opportunity they wouldn’t be very good at their job.
Edward Snowden’s revelations about the U.S. National Security Agency‘s global monitoring should not come as a big surprise. U.S. agencies have the technology, the will, and some very loosely written laws that allow them to snoop with impunity. It was just a matter of time before someone stood up and blew the whistle.
What Snowden has told us should serve as a wake-up call for everybody in the news business because a journalist who cannot offer confidentiality is compromised, and fewer sources will trust us in the future. But the Internet has come a long way in recent years. The development of security tools, almost all of which are built by activist volunteers, can make the digital world a far safer place for journalists to operate. In this regard, journalists can learn from others who–for different reasons–have learned how to evade electronic surveillance, as I explain in my new guide, “Deep Web for Journalists,” a project supported by the International Federation of Journalists.
Here’s why you should care. Start researching sensitive subjects or visiting extremist websites, and a tracking device could be planted to follow your computer’s activities around the Internet. The tracking technology may involve an algorithm that could misconstrue your browsing activities and set off alarms inside intelligence agencies. And if these agencies become interested in you, they have the ability to monitor your online activities and read your emails. They can see who your contacts are and they can monitor them, too. Once they sink their claws in they may never let go.
All journalists are potential targets. We have contact with politicians and activists, we have our finger on the pulse and we are capable of causing all kinds of trouble, both to governments and to corporations. The key is to not draw attention in the first place, to understand how agencies operate and then figure out multiple ways to circumvent them because you cannot rely on any single security application or piece of technology.
In the final scene of the Hollywood film, “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” the Ark of the Covenant is hidden inside one crate placed among a humongous warehouse full of identical crates. The scene helps illustrate an operating principle for journalist. Simply put, if intelligence agencies do not know where to look for information they are less likely to ever find yours.
It may surprise some people to learn that there is in fact another Internet, a parallel and vast digital universe much like the one we know but that is populated by very different users. The Deep Web, as it is also known, involves hidden networks allowing people to secretly connect with each other within the broader Internet.
One way to find the Deep Web is through the Hidden Wiki. Its hidden networks are accessed via specifically configured web browsers that route users through different servers, often in different nations, to make it all but impossible for anyone to track the original location or Internet Service Provider address where someone is physically accessing the Internet including the Deep Web.
The most widely used such network is Tor, a respectable tool built by Internet freedom volunteers that is open to use by human rights activists, and also to abuse by criminal syndicates, predators, terrorists and others.
To enter Tor, you must first install the Tor/Firefox web browser to divert your traffic through a worldwide volunteer network of servers. This conceals your location and your activities, effectively hiding you among all the other users. Tor works by encrypting and re-encrypting data multiple times as it passes through successive relays. This way the data cannot be unscrambled in transit. (Tor is so effective, in fact, that many intelligence agencies now use it for their own secure communications.)
Now add to this a range of security tools and you can use Tor to access the conventional Internet without ever drawing attention. Rather like spies in a James Bond movie, journalists have an array of digital weapons to call upon to ensure that their research, correspondence, notes and contacts are secure. Learning the concepts and tools can take time, but you can access banned websites. You can continue tweeting when the authorities take down Twitter locally. You can scramble calls or send emails and messages that cannot be intercepted or read. You can pass on and store documents away from prying eyes. You might even hide news footage of a massacre inside a Beatles track on your iPod or smartphone while you slip across the border.
The Internet has evolved and so has its counter-surveillance tools. Now we must get smart and learn how to use them. We must safeguard our devices from intruders; we should take care that our smartphones are not used as tracking and listening devices. We need to learn how to stay beneath the radar.
Alan Pearce is a journalist who has reported for outlets including Time, The Sunday Times, Sky News, and the BBC. He is the author of the ebook “Deep Web for Journalists: Comms, Counter-surveillance, Search,” supported by the International Federal of Journalists.
Star Publisher H. Brandt Ayers’ recent ad hominem attack on Bradley Manning and Julian Assange is unworthy of a paper that advertises itself as an advocate for the defenseless. Whether Edward Snowden, Manning and Assange chose to reveal state secrets because they experienced dysfunctional childhoods is irrelevant. Most adults suffer damage in childhood from their imperfect parents. These men understood what the establishment media doesn’t: that secrecy is anathema to freedom.
Assange is not an American citizen but Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden, acting as true patriots, were faced with a dilemma: When does duty to a higher law necessitate disobeying lesser laws, the higher law here embodied in fulfilling an oath to serve and protect the Constitution? Perhaps if the mainstream media were truly a free press and the government not dominated by Stasi-like freaks, such actions would be unnecessary.
If only we had more men like these, we might rescue this country from fascism. Perhaps only men and women who experienced dysfunctional childhoods should be allowed in government. The “best of the best” diploma-toting, “normal” apparatchiks who run things now don’t seem very responsible, honest or conscientious. After all, as government hacks and sycophants are wont to say, if you don’t have anything to hide why would you mind if I know everything about you?
Edward Snowden took the world by storm when he released confidential information about the US government’s mass surveillance programs. Since then he has been called a traitor, a hero and a whistleblower. He isn’t the first. From Daniel Ellsberg to Bradley Manning, a handful of individuals also share the title of whistle-blower. The consequences since the release of the confidential information have all differed.
Click on the image below to launch interactive graphic
Additional research by AJ Libunao
HAVANA — We’re waiting for you in Havana, Snowden. Are you on your way?
It’s still unclear what happened on Monday, June 24, the day after leaker Edward Snowden arrived in Moscow from Hong Kong. That day, Snowden was supposed to board a plane to Havana to then transfer to Ecuador, one of the very few places willing to shield him from the American officials who regard him as a traitor. He even had a boarding pass for the window seat in row F, in economy class. But he never showed up, and his seat stayed empty.
Was Snowden trapped in the transit zone of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport against his will by the Russian security service, curious to see the data he had in his computers? Or was he afraid of flying in a plane that could be grounded while passing over the United States, where American courts were waiting to lock him up in jail for over 30 years? Until the very moment the Aeroflot crew closed the plane’s door, it looked like he was coming: Russian police surrounded Gate 28, patrolling outside and inside the airplane. The crew members on the plane looked tense and upset, as if they were facing a horrible trial. We still don’t know what happened at the last moment, but in the end Snowden stayed in Moscow.
I was on that plane, waiting for him along with several dozen other journalists from international news agencies and TV channels, all of us eager to quiz him about his claims. I wanted to ask Snowden about the evidence he had to prove his claims that the U.S. and British intelligence agencies, despite their governments’ public advocacy for freedom of the Internet, had been spying and stealing tons of personal data from people in their home countries.
For a long time, after we took off, we still could not believe that Snowden was not among us: After all, who knew what disguise he might be using? (This might seem a bit less crazy when you consider that we just saw an American spy wearing a wig last month.) Trapped on the flight for 12 hours, journalists walked around the plane looking into every passenger’s face. Other reporters were already waiting to greet Snowden in Cuba. They looked for him inside and outside Havana’s airport, asking every young blond male if he was Snowden. I’m still hoping to meet up with Snowden here in Havana, though Ecuadorean diplomats now say it may take months to issue him political asylum.
There’s one very specific reason Snowden may be having trouble finding a way out of the Moscow airport’s transit lounge, where he apparently is right now: his papers. Right now the only travel document he has is one of dubious status issued by the Ecuadoreans. After the American authorities canceled his U.S. passport on Monday, no airline wants to sell him another plane ticket. (He apparently managed to buy his ticket for Havana while his passport was still valid.)
There are other theories. “He got frightened that Americans would bring him down on that plane,” says Igor Bunin, a Moscow political analyst. “He’s a huge pain for the Kremlin, a Catch-22. Now that he’s turned into an anti-American government star, Russia can’t kick him out, but keeping him means even a bigger international scandal.” I’d love to ask Snowden about his days and nights in Russia if I ever get the chance to meet him.
My friend Olga Bychkova, a host from radio Echo of Moscow, described a scene she witnessed in the airport’s transit zone on the day of Snowden’s arrival on Sunday. “I saw about 20 Russian officials, supposedly FSB [security service] agents in suits, crowding around somebody in a restricted area of the airport,” Bychkova told me. “The Kremlin pretends they have nothing to do with him being stuck in Moscow, but in reality they’re all over him.”
What’s up Mr. Snowden? Do you really hate reporters? If you’re “a free man,” as President Vladimir Putin says, why hide from crowds of journalists waiting to talk to you in Sheremetyevo airport for three days? WikiLeaks claims that you — the biggest leaker in the history of the National Security Agency — are “in a safe place.” If you’re safe and free, why didn’t you use your ticket last Monday? You would have had a great chance to explain the reasons for renouncing your wealthy life with a beautiful girlfriend. Just imagine: 12 hours in front of the world’s major networks on the flight to Cuba! Russian commentators think that you’re not as free as the Russian leader claims, that somebody did not allow you to fly Monday. “Snowden will fly out of Russia when the Kremlin decides he can go,” says Moscow political analyst Dmitry Oreshkin. “He might not even be in the airport. The safest place would be a GRU [Russian military intelligence] apartment.” That would also explain why no one has seen your face in Moscow yet.
It has now been a year since I entered this embassy and sought refuge from persecution.
As a result of that decision, I have been able to work in relative safety from a US espionage investigation.
But today, Edward Snowden’s ordeal is just beginning.
Two dangerous runaway processes have taken root in the last decade, with fatal consequences for democracy.
Government secrecy has been expanding on a terrific scale.
Simultaneously, human privacy has been secretly eradicated.
A few weeks ago, Edward Snowden blew the whistle on an ongoing program — involving the Obama administration, the intelligence community and the internet services giants — to spy on everyone in the world.
As if by clockwork, he has been charged with espionage by the Obama administration.
The US government is spying on each and every one of us, but it is Edward Snowden who is charged with espionage for tipping us off.
It is getting to the point where the mark of international distinction and service to humanity is no longer the Nobel Peace Prize, but an espionage indictment from the US Department of Justice.
Edward Snowden is the eighth leaker to be charged with espionage under this president.
Bradley Manning‘s show trial enters its fourth week on Monday.
After a litany of wrongs done to him, the US government is trying to convict him of “aiding the enemy.”
The word “traitor” has been thrown around a lot in recent days.
But who is really the traitor here?
Who was it who promised a generation “hope” and “change,” only to betray those promises with dismal misery and stagnation?
Who took an oath to defend the US constitution, only to feed the invisible beast of secret law devouring it alive from the inside out?
Who is it that promised to preside over The Most Transparent Administration in history, only to crush whistleblower after whistleblower with the bootheel of espionage charges?
Who combined in his executive the powers of judge, jury and executioner, and claimed the jurisdiction of the entire earth on which to exercise those powers?
Who arrogates the power to spy on the entire earth — every single one of us — and when he is caught red handed, explains to us that “we’re going to have to make a choice.”
Who is that person?
Let’s be very careful about who we call “traitor”.
Edward Snowden is one of us.
Bradley Manning is one of us.
They are young, technically minded people from the generation that Barack Obama betrayed.
They are the generation that grew up on the internet, and were shaped by it.
The US government is always going to need intelligence analysts and systems administrators, and they are going to have to hire them from this generation and the ones that follow it.
One day, their generation will run the NSA, the CIA and the FBI.
This isn’t a phenomenon that is going away.
This is inevitable.
And by trying to crush these young whistleblowers with espionage charges, the US government is taking on a generation, and that is a battle it is going to lose.
This isn’t how to fix things.
The only way to fix things is this:
Change the policies.
Stop spying on the world.
Eradicate secret law.
Cease indefinite detention without trial.
Stop assassinating people.
Stop invading other countries and sending young Americans off to kill and be killed.
Stop the occupations, and discontinue the secret wars.
The charging of Edward Snowden is intended to intimidate any country that might be considering standing up for his rights.
That tactic must not be allowed to work.
The effort to find asylum for Edward Snowden must be intensified.
What brave country will stand up for him, and recognize his service to humanity?
Tell your governments to step forward.
Step forward and stand with Snowden.
Video arrival in Moscow
Ecuadorean Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino has confirmed that his government “has received an asylum request from Edward J Snowden”.
WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange this morning welcomed Educador’s decision to assist Mr Snowden.
“I would urge the Government of Ecuador to accept Ed Snowden’s asylum application,” Mr Assange said by telephone from Ecuador’s embassy in London.
“There is deep irony that the Obama Administration is charging the whistleblower who has revealed worldwide spying with the crime of espionage.
“He is clearly being persecuted by the US government for telling us the truth.”
Mr Snowden flew from Hong Kong to Moscow yesterday accompanied by WikiLeaks legal advisers. He was met by Ecuadorean diplomats on his arrival at Moscow airport.
It is expected Mr Snowden will depart Moscow later today to fly to Ecuador with a stop-over at Havana, Cuba. He will travel in the company of Ecuadorean diplomats and the Government of Ecuador has issued with travel documents to ensure his safe passage.
The United States government is demanding that Mr Snowden should “not be allowed to proceed further” overseas.
The US State Department has confirmed that the US revoked Mr Snowden’s passport due to “felony arrest warrants” against the former employee of intelligence contractor Booz Allen Hamilton.
“Persons wanted on felony charges, such as Mr Snowden, should not be allowed to proceed in any further international travel, other than is necessary to return him to the United States,” a State Department spokesperson said.
Mr Assange has confirmed WikiLeaks’ involvement in Mr Snowden’s sudden departure from Hong Kong.
In a statement issued last night WikiLeaks said Mr Snowden was “bound for the Republic of Ecuador via a safe route for the purposes of asylum, and is being escorted by diplomats and legal advisors from WikiLeaks”.
“Mr Snowden requested that WikiLeaks use its legal expertise and experience to secure his safety. Once Mr Snowden arrives in Ecuador his request will be formally processed.
“Owing to our own circumstances, WikiLeaks has developed significant expertise in international asylum and extradition law, associated diplomacy and the practicalities in these matters,” Mr Assange told Fairfax Media.
“I have great personal sympathy for Ed Snowden’s position. WikiLeaks absolutely supports his decision to blow the whistle on the mass surveillance of the world’s population by the US government.”
Mr Assange, who has himself spent a year at the Ecuadorean Embassy in London where he has diplomatic asylum, said that he was “thankful to the countries that have been doing the right thing in these matters. WikiLeaks hopes that Ed Snowden’s rights will be protected, including his right to free communication.”
“I am also thankful and proud of the courage of WikiLeaks’ staff and all those who have assisted his exit from Hong Kong.”
Former Spanish Judge Baltasar Garzon, legal director of Wikileaks and lawyer for Mr Assange said WikiLeaks was “interested in preserving Mr Snowden’s rights and protecting him as a person. What is being done to Mr Snowden and to Mr Julian Assange – for making or facilitating disclosures in the public interest – is an assault against the people”.
Mr Assange also criticised the cancelation of Mr Snowden’s passport, saying it was “a clear abuse of state power to cancel a citizen’s practical national identity when they need it most.
“The Australian government attempted to do this to me under US pressure in December 2020, but fortunately the anger of Australian people and media ultimately prevented the Gillard government from cancelling my Australia passport.”
Ecuadorean Foreign Minister Patino visited London last week and held lengthy discussions with Mr Assange at Ecuador’s embassy.
There has been an angry reaction in US government and political circles to news of Mr Snowden’s departure from Hong Kong and arrival in Moscow.
General Keith Alexander, director of the National Security Agency attacked Mr Snowden as “an individual who is not acting, in my opinion, with noble intent”.
Republican Senator Lindsay Graham earlier told Fox News: “I hope we’ll chase him to the ends of the earth, bring him to justice and let the Russians know there will be consequences if they harbor this guy.”
Congressman and member of the US House of Representatives intelligence committee Peter King said: “I think it is important for the American people to realize that this guy is a traitor, a defector, he’s not a hero.”
The Hong Kong government announced yesterday that Mr Snowden had left the special administrative region of China “on his own accord for a third country through a lawful and normal channel.”
The Hong Kong government’s statement also said the documents for Mr Snowden’s extradition submitted by Washington “did not fully comply with the legal requirements under Hong Kong law.”
“As the [Hong Kong] Government has yet to have sufficient information to process the request for a provisional warrant of arrest, there is no legal basis to restrict Mr Snowden from leaving Hong Kong.”
When you leak explosive government secrets to the news media, it’s safe to say that you open yourself up to, among other things, harsh criticism.
So it’s hardly a surprise that former vice president Dick Cheney, the hardest of the hardliners, has unloaded on National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden, denouncing him as a “traitor” who might be working for China.
But Cheney, who made his remarks over the weekend on Fox News Sunday, was hardly the first to use the epithet. Last week, in an interview on ABC’s Good Morning America, House Speaker John Boehner said flatly of Snowden: “He’s a traitor.”
And when it comes to the name-calling and the demonizing, former and current public officials such as Cheney and Boehner hardly have a monopoly. Journalists can play that game, too.
Politico columnist Roger Simon wrote a sneering piece headlined “The slacker who came in from the cold” in which he dismissed Snowden as “29 and possessing all the qualifications to become a grocery bagger.”
(An aside: Is it just me or are these constant references to Snowden being 29, as if that somehow discredits him, out of line as well as annoying? Is the idea that someone so young is incapable of doing anything worthwhile? Really?)
To former NBC anchor Tom Brokaw, Snowden is merely “a high school dropout who is a military washout.” And rather than go down in history as a significant whistle-blower, Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen wrote in a sublimely baffling outburst that he thought Snowden will “go down as a cross-dressing Little Red Riding Hood.”
All of that outrage is perfectly understandable. Acts like Snowden’s arouse powerful passions. To some he is a hero, a principled man whose alarm at the security state’s secret surveillance compelled him to act, despite the consequences to his own life. To others he is, well, a traitor, an irresponsible, self-righteous egomaniac who placed himself above the law and put his country in great peril.
But it’s important that we — the news media and society as a whole — don’t get too caught up in it. While pinning labels on Edward Snowden may be a fine parlor game, it’s not nearly as significant as dealing with the information he revealed.
Even White House Press Secretary Jay Carney says it’s “appropriate” to have a national debate on government information gathering. But we wouldn’t be having one absent Snowden’s disclosures.
Maybe the government is right. Maybe the heightened security the surveillance of all those phone calls and e-mails makes possible is worth the erosion of privacy. But that’s something we as a country need to decide, not the president, whichever president, acting without our knowledge. Remember, even if you trust this particular president and/or his predecessor, there’s no guarantee that someday the White House won’t be occupied by someone you don’t want having access to all that “telephony metadata” and the like. (See Nixon, Richard.)
Even now, it’s not an easy debate to have. The proceedings of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court are secret. Members of Congress who are briefed on the programs are constrained about what they can say. So are the Silicon Valley powerhouses that have cooperated with the PRISM initiative. On Tuesday, Google asked the surveillance court for permission to be more forthcoming about its role.
But despite the difficulties, a conversation has begun. The federal government has mounted an aggressive defense of the programs and has begun to release information to show that they are working. Some members of Congress seem committed to trying to rein in the excesses, no matter how uphill the struggle. And we’ve only just begun.
That’s where the primary focus should remain, not on whether or not Snowden is a duplicitous spoiled brat.
“Shoot the messenger” has been part of the lexicon for a long time, certainly since Sophocles’ prime, which was way pre-Twitter. It doesn’t just apply to actual old-school messengers and, as is frequently the case in this era, the news media. Ad hominem (and ad feminam) attacks are a time-dishonored way of avoiding uncomfortable subjects by beating up political opponents. And belaboring the appallingly 29-year-old slacker/traitor is a great way to change the subject.
In the wake of recent leaks that have revealed to the world the extent of American snooping, from collecting the phone records of its citizens en masse to keeping track of every single click of your mouse you make on the internet, the security establishment has been remarkably lame in its response.
Manning, who leaked the classified information on civilian casualties in Afghanistan and Iraq, and who is largely credited for inspiring the Arab Spring uprising in response to corrupt governments, is rotting in a prison cell facing a life sentence.
Julian Assange is holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, unable to leave for fear he will be snatched and deported to America to share the same fate as Manning.
This time it’s different.
The soft-spoken young man Edward J. Snowden, who has leaked the top-secret documents we have seen so far is viewed as a controversial figure.
By definition, a controversy has two sides. This means some people actually support him as opposed to the near-unanimous condemnation of Manning and Assange.
I think that’s because this actually affects us folks at home. Maybe people are finally starting to get a little uncomfortable with just how cozy big brother is in cuddling up to them in their personal lives.
The trite response to surveillance has always been, “if you’re not doing anything wrong, why should you be worried.” Well now the thinking is starting to change to, “I’m not doing anything wrong, so why do you need to know what I am doing.” The eminently credible Dick Cheney claimed if these measures had been in place before they would have prevented 9/11. Of course, this is the same man who told America that Saddam Hussein “absolutely has weapons of mass destruction” and started one of the most costly and disastrous wars in American history.
Interestingly, this second iteration of tricky Dick didn’t mention that these measures were in place before the Boston bombings and even after being warned about the two brothers beforehand by the Russians, they still failed to prevent the attack.
Then there’s the security state’s other BFF, Donald Trump. He claimed he “didn’t like” Edward Snowden because he thought he was trying to bring attention to himself and was a grandstander. Such comments seem awfully rich coming from that hair.
Just for fun, last night I took note of how many times I was watched in just the few hours it took me to go for a workout.
I was filmed when I went to the drug store for bus tickets. I was filmed and listened to when I got on the bus. I was filmed in the downtown core, in the library, in the mall, and again everywhere I went in the gym.
That is pretty much 100% total surveillance of my every move.
And how much crime does this prevent? None, so far as the experts can tell.
Studies done in England where cameras are ubiquitous have shown the crime rate to be essentially unchanged as a result of having cameras everywhere.
When Edward Snowden was asked what he expected to happen to him as a result of his actions, he replied, “nothing good.” But then added he was not trying to avoid responsibility for what he did, he was trying to be a patriot. He said the worst thing that could possibly happen would be that nothing would change.
That is entirely possibly. The security state is well entrenched.
But I have a feeling that between the time I write this and the time you read it, a lot more will have happened. There is every suggestion that there is more on the way. Hopefully that will be the case, anyway.
And hopefully a real controversy will mean debate, and debate will mean awareness.
Most importantly in my mind, hopefully Edward Snowden is the first whistleblower in recent times not to be destroyed for the courageous act of telling the truth.
By The Huffington Post News Team
By Mathew Ingram
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