Week 4 News Digest

Petition calls on Obama stop intimidation of journalists and whistleblowers


Monday 8 September

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) launched a petition demanding limitations to the surveillance of journalists. They have three key components to their petition, including the prohibition of the hacking and surveillance of journalists and media organizations, the limitations of prosecutions of journalists and whistle blowers, and the termination of harassment of journalists along the US border. They were prompted to do this from evidence from the documents leaked by Edward Snowden, which reported that US and allied intelligence agencies were targeting various news organizations for surveillance. Many journalists have signed the petition, including journalists from CNN, Fox News, Associated Press, and Pen International.

Five Eyes spy pact: Transparency challenge lodged at European rights court


Tuesday 9 September

The Five Eyes spy pact that authorizes the sharing of intelligence between Britain, America, Australia, Canada and New Zealand should be made transparent, according to an appeal launched at the European Court of Human Rights. The pact outlines the collaborations between the security agencies of multiple countries and how they pass on information. The Privacy International group (PI) issued an appeal to make it transparent this Tuesday. Currently the countries that are part of the Five Eyes pact share the information of citizens around the world constantly. If the appeal goes through, then the rules of the Five Eyes pact and how they deal with this information shall be made transparent.

U.S. threatened Yahoo with $250,000-a-day fine for withholding user data


Thursday 11 September

Yahoo! Inc claimed that the government of the U.S. threatened them in 2008 of a fine of $250000 a day in they didn’t comply with national security requests for user’s data. Yahoo challenged the NSA’s requests in court in 2007, and the documents of the case have been released today. They were the only company to refuse the requests in that era, choosing to fight against the requests instead of compromising the security of their users. The case was held in at the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which usually keeps all its cases secret. Even with the recent declassification of the case, portions of the documents remain sealed and classified.

City used high-tech tracking software at ‘13 Boston Calling


Monday 8 September

The city of Boston spent $650,000 to test surveillance software during last year’s Boston Calling music festival, using the technology to record the crowds of concertgoers without their knowledge. Boston was testing the software provided by IBM called “situational awareness” software that can use existing cameras. The city of Boston confirmed the use of the software when a journalist found documents from the project off the internet, which was uploaded by an IBM employee to a public server. The city is unclear if the software is impractical, however Boston remains interested in the practical use of the product. Situational awareness software is supposed to analyze video and indicate if an event of urgency is occurring.

Redactions in U.S. Memo Leave Doubts on Data Surveillance Program


Tuesday 6 September

The U.S. Justice department has recently declassified a memo from 2004 that approved surveillance and data collection activities for the NSA. The activities regard the Stellarwind program, a secret program instated by George W. Bush after the 9/11 attacks. The Obama administration voluntarily released the memo. A version was released in 2011 that was more heavily redacted, but this version still contains several other redactions as well. Some instances of core censored information from the memo include reasons for why the Justice Department made recording bulk emails from citizens illegal but permitted warrantless wiretapping and collection of phone records. The operations of the phone collection became public in December 2005, but the email operations didn’t until the Snowden Leak.