- New Englander Scott Brown turns his gaze to the U.S. border crisis
- Toronto’s Rob Ford takes rehabbed self to kids’ playground for political props
- Sen. Joe Manchin sued by his brother over old loan: report
- New Mexico decides to use HealthCare.gov for 2015
- Satanists to use Hobby Lobby rule to skirt state abortion laws
- White House: No choice but to act now on climate change
- HHS: ‘Donut hole’ reforms saved Medicare enrollees $11.5 billion since 2010
- Boston-area tornado rips 100 homes: ‘Are we in Kansas?’
- Rush Limbaugh: ‘There is no journalism anymore’
- Scott Brown struggles for political traction in New Hampshire Senate race
US looks at ways to prevent spying on its spying
Question of the Day
WASHINGTON (AP) - The U.S. government is looking at ways to prevent anyone from spying on its own surveillance of Americans’ phone records.
As the Obama administration considers shifting the collection of those records from the National Security Agency to requiring that they be stored at phone companies or elsewhere, it’s quietly funding research to prevent phone company employees or eavesdroppers from seeing whom the U.S. is spying on, The Associated Press has learned.
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence has paid at least five research teams across the country to develop a system for high-volume, encrypted searches of electronic records kept outside the government’s possession. The project is among several ideas that would allow the government to discontinue storing Americans’ phone records, but still search them as needed.
Under the research, U.S. data mining would be shielded by secret coding that could conceal identifying details from outsiders and even the owners of the targeted databases, according to public documents obtained by The Associated Press and AP interviews with researchers, corporate executives and government officials.
In other developments Monday:
-The Justice Department and leading Internet companies agreed to a compromise with the government that would allow the firms to reveal how often they are ordered to turn over information about their customers in national security investigations. The deal with Google Inc., Microsoft Corp., Yahoo Inc., Facebook Inc. and LinkedIn Corp. would provide public information in general terms. Other technology companies were also expected to participate.
-Published reports said new documents leaked by former NSA contactor Edward Snowden suggest that popular mapping, gaming and social networking apps on smartphones can feed the NSA and Britain’s GCHQ eavesdropping agency with personal data, including location information and details such as political affiliation or sexual orientation. The reports, published by The New York Times, the Guardian and ProPublica, said the intelligence agencies get routine access to data generated by apps such as the Angry Birds game franchise or the Google Maps navigation service.
-When the New York Times published a censored U.S. document on the smartphone surveillance program, computer experts said they were able to extract what appeared to be the name of an NSA employee, a Middle Eastern terror group the program was targeting and details about the types of computer files the NSA found useful. Since Snowden began leaking documents in June, his supporters have maintained they have been careful not to disclose any agent’s identity or operational details that would compromise ongoing surveillance. The employee did not return phone or email messages from the AP. A DNI spokesman said they asked the Times to redact, or black out, the material. A Times spokeswoman blamed a “production error” and said the section was redacted.
-NBC News reported that British cyber spies demonstrated a pilot program to their U.S. partners in 2012 in which they were able to monitor YouTube in real time and collect addresses from the billions of videos watched daily, as well as some user information, for analysis. At the time the documents were printed, they were also able to spy on Facebook and Twitter. The network said the monitoring program was called “Squeaky Dolphin.”
Under pressure, the administration has provided only vague descriptions about changes it is considering to the NSA’s daily collection and storage of Americans’ phone records, which are presently kept in NSA databanks. To resolve legal, privacy and civil liberties concerns, President Barack Obama this month ordered the attorney general and senior intelligence officials to recommend changes by March 28 that would allow the U.S. to identify suspected terrorists’ phone calls without the government holding the phone records itself.
One federal review panel urged Obama to order phone companies or an unspecified third party to store the records; another panel said collecting the phone records was illegal and ineffective and urged Obama to abandon the program entirely.
Internal documents describing the Security and Privacy Assurance Research project do not cite the NSA or its phone surveillance program. But if the project were to prove successful, its encrypted search technology could pave the way for the government to shift storage of the records from NSA computers to either phone companies or a third-party organization.
A DNI spokesman, Michael Birmingham, confirmed that the research was relevant to the NSA’s phone records program. He cited “interest throughout the intelligence community” but cautioned that it may be some time before the technology is used.
The intelligence director’s office is by law exempt from disclosing detailed budget figures, so it’s unclear how much money the government has spent on the SPAR project, which is overseen by the DNI’s Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity office. Birmingham said the research is aimed for use in a “situation where a large sensitive data set is held by one party which another seeks to query, preserving privacy and enforcing access policies.”
A Columbia University computer sciences expert who heads one of the DNI-funded teams, Steven M. Bellovin, estimates the government could start conducting encrypted searches within the next year or two.
TWT Video Picks
- GOP Senate candidate: Obama needs to visit Central America
- Border surge puts Obama legacy on immigration at stake
- Obama thanks Muslims for 'building the very fabric of our nation'
- D.C. seeks to stay judge's order allowing gun owners to carry in public
- Hillary Clinton: Forget Obama, George W. Bush made her 'proud to be an American'
- White House: No choice but to act now on climate change
- Smugglers, rainstorm combine to poke holes in border fence
- Illegal immigrants demand representation in White House meetings
- Man killed in plane crash was on anniversary trip
- Romney would win popular vote in rematch against Obama: CNN poll - Washington Times#.U9ZSgi7-CXU.twi
Obama's biggest White House 'fails'
Celebrities turned politicians
Athletes turned actors
20 gadgets that changed the world