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NSA Warns "Bad Guys Are Everywhere" As Spooks Run Afoul Of German Laws Again

Submitted by Pater Tenebrarum via Acting-Man blog,

Successfully Distracted …

We can probably “thank” ISIS for having distracted everyone from the ongoing spy scandal. A new barbaric and powerful terrorist group the danger of which is blown out of all proportion by politicians and the media is no doubt a Godsend for the national security apparatus and the military-industrial complex. In fact, this reminds us that ISIS looks suspiciously like an artificial creation anyway, one that has at some point undoubtedly received assistance from one or more states.

In a previous missive (see “Equal Opportunity Spy-Fest” for details), we discussed an article in German news magazine Der Spiegel (which has by the way done some excellent sleuthing beyond merely reporting on the content of the Snowden files). The article at Der Spiegel inter alia mentioned occasions when representatives of the “national security” apparatus or government spokesmen speaking on its behalf were caught in blatant lies and noted in its conclusion:

“The next weeks and months will show whether democratic societies across the world are strong enough to take a stand against the unlimited, totalitarian ambitions of Western secret services — or not. The governments of the countries in question apparently did not have the necessary backbone. They knew full well that the kind of surveillance being undertaken lacked all democratic legitimacy. But they pursued the programs anyway, behind the backs of their electorates. It is now up to voters to defend themselves. It is up to us, whose data has landed as by-catch in the nets of Tempora. We must force our own representatives to defend our freedoms.

Our comment to this was:

“Shocker! They lied to the public! And now ‘we must force our own representatives to defend our freedoms‘. Apparently over at the ‘Spiegel’ magazine they have completely forgotten who’s who in the zoo. The secret services are not an entity apart from the State – they are part of it. The mirage of ‘democratic accountability’ is held up as a way out. But how exactly can one’s ‘representatives’ be forced to alter course? Surely no-one can be so naïve as the think that any of this can be ‘fixed’ by elections or mere protests. Too powerful and well-funded an apparatus stands behind these activities. It would be a miracle if anything changed; moreover, the couch potatoes can’t be bothered anyway. Those that have ordered and are involved in the spying are undoubtedly betting that the furor will die down again just as it did the first time around, and they are probably right. In the meantime, they will continue exactly as before. We’re willing to take bets on this. All that has really happened is that whistleblowers have been put on notice.

There is no reason to assume that this pessimistic conclusion needs to be reassessed. The Snowden revelations have had zero effect on the spying activities or the legal safeguards allegedly keeping them in check. So far, the main effect of these revelations was simply intimidation on a global scale.

To our not too great surprise, surveys have found that the public in the US and UK couldn’t care less. There is in fact a vast gulf though between the public’s reaction to the scandal in the US and the UK and elsewhere. Very likely this is a result of the fact that the US and the UK have a long history of liberty. The English monarchy was the first in Europe that lost much of its power to an elected parliament. Even if the initial construction was deeply flawed, it ensured a much faster evolution toward a democratic dispensation than in continental Europe. Obviously, in the American colonies, the British monarchy lost power entirely in the late 18th century already.

In Germany by contrast, people still remember Hitler and the GDR’s Stasi, so they are naturally more inclined to distrust state-run surveillance agencies (and rightly so). As a result, the spook agencies are also more likely to break the law in Europe, where privacy laws are as a rule much stricter than in the US. This brings us to the latest revelations about NSA and GCHQ surveillance documents.

 


A welcome distraction: the Islamist dude with the $6.500 James Bond watch.

 

The Treasure Map

In its most recent edition, Der Spiegel reports on something called “Treasure Map” – which documents the attempt by the spy agencies to map the entire internet and ensure they have access to every single user. To do so, they have apparently illegally broken into networks belonging to German telecom providers. A few excerpts:

“When it comes to choosing code names for their secret operations, American and British agents demonstrate a flare for creativity. Sometimes they borrow from Mother Nature, with monikers such as “Evil Olive” and “Egoistic Giraffe.” Other times, they would seem to take their guidance from Hollywood. A program called Treasure Map even has its own logo, a skull superimposed onto a compass, the eye holes glowing in demonic red, reminiscent of a movie poster for the popular “Pirates of the Caribbean” series, starring Johnny Depp.

 

Treasure Map is anything but harmless entertainment. Rather, it is the mandate for a massive raid on the digital world. It aims to map the Internet, and not just the large traffic channels, such as telecommunications cables. It also seeks to identify the devices across which our data flows, so-called routers.

 

Furthermore, every single end device that is connected to the Internet somewhere in the world — every smartphone, tablet and computer — is to be made visible. Such a map doesn’t just reveal one treasure. There are millions of them.

 

The breathtaking mission is described in a Treasure Map presentation from the documents of the former intelligence service employee Edward Snowden which SPIEGEL has seen. It instructs analysts to “map the entire Internet — Any device, anywhere, all the time.”

(emphasis added)

That’s quite something. However, while the spook agencies obviously believe that they are a law unto themselves (probably because

who are supposed to provide oversight), they are still breaking German law in their quest to “map everything”.

“Treasure Map graphics don’t just provide detailed views of German cable and satellite networks. Red markings also reveal to agents which carriers and internal company networks FiveEyes agencies claim to have already accessed. Of particular interest from the German perspective are two “Autonomous Systems” (AS) — networks — marked in red. They are labeled Deutsche Telekom AG and Netcologne, a Cologne-based provider.

 

[…]

 

Because Netcologne is a regional provider, it would seem highly likely that the NSA or one of its Treasure Map partners accessed the network from within Germany. That would be a clear violation of German law and potentially another NSA-related case for German public prosecutors. Thus far, the only NSA-related case currently being investigated is the monitoring of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s mobile phone.”

So only the surveillance of the German chancellor’s mobile phone has so far roused public prosecutors from their slumber, as they appear to regard surveillance of everyone else as a somewhat lesser problem. The reason for this apathy can be guessed – nearly every nation is involved in spying on the citizenry, both at home and abroad. In fact, the NSA’s “anything goes” approach is very likely welcomed by spook agencies in allied countries that are more tightly regulated, as they can get information they could not otherwise obtain in “information exchanges”. Then they don’t need to do the spying, thus remaining within the law, but will get anything they want in roundabout fashion from those operating with fewer restrictions. Actually, in the case of the “five eyes” alliance it would be better to say “no restrictions whatsoever”, as the checks and balances that allegedly exist are usually revealed as a joke upon closer examination (such as the FISA court, which basically rubber-stamps every request it gets from government agencies).

Among the activities related to “treasure map” is also the close surveillance of key employees of major internet providers. Note that these are perfectly innocent citizens, who are under close surveillance by spy agencies 24/7 merely on account of their jobs. Most people don’t care as long as they are reasonable sure that they are law-abiding and consider themeselves too unimportant to come under scrutiny. These attitudes tend to radically change once one becomes a target.

In this context, we urge you to watch a brief video in which a Spiegel reporter reveals to satellite internet provider Stella who among its key personnel is under NSA/GCHQ surveillance and how deeply into their network the spooks have already hacked – in the process obtaining sensitive passwords to major internet routers that allow them to alter links, find out the geo-location of every customer, and arbitrarily turn the internet access of Stella customers off.

The video can be seen here. Note how the faces of Stella’s engineers become longer and longer as they begin to realize what has happened. As der Spiegel reports, Stella’s CEO had a terse initial comment: “F*ck!”

The mindset of the spooks meanwhile is illustrated nicely by one of the pages from the “treasure map” overview published by Der Spiegel:

 

Bad guys are everywhere!

 

So according to the NSA, the world is brimming with bad guys. They’re everywhere! This makes them sound like Peeping Toms with paranoid delusions. As we have pointed out on a previous occasion, even in the US, where one of the worst terror attacks in history has claimed nearly 3,000 lives, the average citizen is far more likely to die from falling off a piece of furniture or drowning in his own bathtub than from a terror attack.

So what happens if it indeed turns out that German laws have been violated in the implementation of “treasure map”? Will there be any consequences? Our bet is that there will be none – in fact, our bet is that there very likely won’t even be an investigation, and if there is one, it will soon quietly die again.

 

Conclusion:

Although 99.99% of what the spook agencies collect on the internet is undoubtedly useless nonsense (which makes one wonder how effective these unfocused efforts can possibly be in catching actual terrorists), the fact that they apparently do indeed collect everything is a danger to liberty, no matter how many “bad guys” there are in the world that can be used to rationalize these activities (bad people will always exist).

There is no telling what the future will bring, what kind of governments will come to power if there is a major emergency (economic collapse due to a breakdown of the monetary system is e.g. a distinct possibility). It is after all well-known that radical political forces tend to come to power under such circumstances, and then there can no longer be even the remotest assurance that the data so diligently collected by agencies of “free societies” won’t be misused. Even democratic governments are known for their past efforts to suppress political dissent. In fact, as Washington’s Blog correctly argues, history shows beyond a doubt that ultimately, this is what mass surveillance is always about.