All but four nations are subject to NSA surveillance – new Snowden leak

Previously undisclosed files leaked to the media by former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden now show that the United States National Security Agency has been authorized to spy on persons in all but four countries.

NSA Operations Center

The Washington Post published on Monday official documents provided by Mr. Snowden that shows new proof concerning the extent of the NSA’s vast surveillance apparatus.

One of the documents—a file marked “top secret” from 2010 and approved by the US Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court—shows that the NSA has been authorized to conduct surveillance on 193 foreign government, as well as various factions and organizations around the world, including the International Monetary Fund, the European Union and the International Atomic Energy Agency.

“Virtually no foreign government is off-limits for the National Security Agency, which has been authorized to intercept information from individuals ‘concerning’ all but four countries on Earth, according to top-secret documents,” journalists Ellen Nakashima and Barton Gellman wrote for the Post.

The reporters write that the NSA’s ability to target the communications of foreign persons and parties is “far more elastic” than previously known, and that documents suggest the agency can acquire conversations that may not involve an intelligence target directly, but concern that individual or entity to a certain degree by relying on provisions contained within the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

Unless, of course, that person of interest is a citizen of one of the ‘Five Eyes’ nations that, together with the US, are involved in a global surveillance partnership of sorts.

According to the Post, the NSA’s computers automatically filter out phone calls from Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand that would otherwise be collected using FISA. Even those nations, however, aren’t entirely sparred.

Nakashima and Gellman go on to acknowledge that the list contains 28 sovereign territories, including the British Virgin Islands, where the NSA reportedly still does permit intelligence gathering [as] filtering out those country codes would otherwise slow the system down.

One former senior defense official who spoke to the journalists on condition of anonymity said that the broad authority is allowed so that the US government is able to assess any developing situations around the world at the drop of a hat.

“It’s not impossible to imagine a humanitarian crisis in a country that’s friendly to the United States, where the military might be expected on a moment’s notice to go in and evacuate all Americans,” the official said. “If that certification did not list the country,” the source suggested, then the NSA could not gather intelligence under the FISA Amendments Act, which allows for the interception of such communications.

“These documents show both the potential scope of the government’s surveillance activities and the exceedingly modest role the court plays in overseeing them,” Jameel Jaffer, deputy legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union, told the Post. More

The 28 sovereign territories undoubtly includes the Cayman Islands and all the other British Overseas Territories (OT's). I am sure that arrangement was made with the understanding that London would get the entire feed from the OT's. The NSA has vastly superior equipment to GCHQ. Editor

 

Tomgram: Ariel Dorfman, A Tale of Torture and Forgiveness

I’ll bet you didn’t know that June is “torture awareness month” thanks to the fact that, on June 26, 1987, the Convention Against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman, and Degrading Treatment or Punishment went into effect internationally.

In this country, however, as a recent Amnesty International survey indicated, Americans are essentially living in Torture Unawareness Month, or perhaps even Torture Approval Month, and not just in June 2014 but every month of the year.

One simple fact of the post-9/11 era should make this clear and also boggle the mind, but has had almost no impact here. But for this you need a little background from the early years of what was once called the Global War on Terror. In addition to a stream of international kidnappings (euphemistically called “renditions”) of terror suspects, including completely innocent people the CIA snatched off the streets of global cities, as well as from the backlands of the planet and “rendered” into the hands of well-known torturing regimes (with the help of 54 other countries) and the setting up of a network of “black sites” or offshore prisons where anything went, the CIA tortured up a storm. And it did so at the behest of the top officials of the Bush administration, including the president and vice president who were convinced that it was time for Washington to “take the gloves off.” In those years, torture techniques were reportedly demonstrated in the White House to some of those officials, including the vice president and national security advisor. At the time, they went by the euphemistic, administration-approved term “enhanced interrogation techniques,” which was quickly picked up and used in the U.S. mainstream media in place of the word “torture” — though only when the enhanced interrogators were American, of course. The bad guys out there continued to “torture” in the usual fashion.

In the Obama years, torture was (at least officially) tossed out as a useful tactic. But the torturers themselves were given a pass, every last one of them, by the Justice Department, even two cases in which the CIA’s acts of enhancement had led to death. No charge was ever brought against anyone, including the Justice Department lawyers who wrote the tortured memos endorsing those techniques and redefining torture as only happening when the torturer meant it to, or the officials who green-lighted them. Think of the Obama administration then as Amnesty National. That administration did, however, have the guts to go after one man connected to the torture program, forced a plea deal from him, and sent him to jail for two years. I’m talking about former CIA agent John Kiriakou, the only person since 9/11 convicted of a torture-related crime. To be specific, his criminal act was to blow the whistle on his former employer's torture program to a journalist, revealing in the process the name of a CIA agent. That was considered such an indefensible act — in effect, an act of torture against the American security state — that justice, American-style, was done.

It’s quite a tortuous record when you think about it, not that anyone here does anymore, which is why we need TomDispatch regular Ariel Dorfman, author most recently of Feeding on Dreams: Confessions of an Unrepentant Exile, to remind us of what’s really at stake when one human being tortures another. Tom

How to Forgive Your Torturer

The River Kwai Passes Through Latin America and Washington

What a way to celebrate Torture Awareness Month!

According to an Amnesty International Poll released in May, 45% of Americans believe that torture is “sometimes necessary and acceptable” in order to “gain information that may protect the public.” Twenty-nine percent of Britons “strongly or somewhat agreed” that torture was justified when asked the same question.

For someone like me, who has been haunted by the daily existence of torture since the September 11, 1973 coup that overthrew Chilean President Salvador Allende, such percentages couldn’t be more depressing, but perhaps not that surprising. I now live, after all, in the America where Dick Cheney, instead of being indicted as a war criminal, sneeringly (and falsely) claims to anyone who asks him — and he is trotted out over and over again as the resident expert on the subject — that “enhanced interrogations” have been and still are absolutely necessary to keep Americans safe.

As for those Americans and Britons — and so many others around the world — who find such horrors justifiable, I wonder if they have ever met a victim of torture? Or do they think this endless pain is only inflicted on remote and dangerous people caught up in unfathomable wars and savage conflicts? If so, they should think again.

When I read these sorts of statistics a scene comes back to me. I remember a man I met 20 years ago, not in my native Latin America or in faraway lands where torture is endemic, but in the extremely English town of Berwick-upon-Tweed.

Everybody in the room that day was crying, except for the man who had moved us all to tears, the former prisoner of war whom my son Rodrigo and I had traveled thousands of miles to meet. We had hoped to do justice to his story in a biopic, Prisoners in Time, that the BBC wanted to make for television — based on the same autobiographical material used recently in The Railway Man, the film starring Colin Firth and Nicole Kidman now showing in theaters across America.

And what an extraordinary story it was!

Eric Lomax, a British officer in World War II, had been tortured by the Japanese in Thailand while working on the infamous Bangkok-Burma railroad, the one most people know about through another film, The Bridge on the River Kwai. Eric, like so many victims of atrocities, was plagued by the experience, his life destroyed by memories of his agony and the desire for revenge. What differentiated him from so many others persecuted worldwide was not only that, more than 40 years later, he tracked down the man he held responsible for his suffering, the anonymous interpreter at his beatings and waterboardings, but the astounding fact that this tormentor, Takashi Nagase, once found and identified, turned out to be a Buddhist monk. Nagase had spent the postwar decades denouncing his own countrymen for their crimes and trying to atone for his role in the atrocities he had helped commit by caring for innumerable orphans of the Asians who had died building that railroad. The one scorching image from the war he could not escape was that of a brave young British lieutenant over whose torture he had presided and whom he had presumed to be dead. More