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Zoe Schlanger

Zoë Schlanger is Frontpage Editor at TPM. Zoë was a TPM intern in 2011, and prior to returning here she was editor in chief of NYU Local, the alternative independent student news site at NYU. Zoë has interned at places like the Nation, InsideClimate News, The Rachel Maddow Show and Gothamist. She can be reached at zoe@talkingpointsmemo.com.

Articles by Zoe

Whistleblower will go down in history for exposing 'formulation of a mass surveillance state', says WikiLeaks founder. Read this story on the Guardian here.

Edward Snowden is a "hero" who has exposed "one of the most serious events of the decade - the creeping formulation of a mass surveillance state", Julian Assange said on Monday.

The WikiLeaks founder said the question of surveillance abuses by states and tech companies was "something that I and many other journalists and civil libertarians have been campaigning about for a long time. It is very pleasing to see such clear and concrete proof presented to the public."

Assange told Sky News that Snowden was "in a very, very serious position, because we can see the kind of rhetoric that occurred against me and Bradley Manning back in 2010, 2011, applied to Snowden".

Following the Cablegate exposures in 2010 there were calls from some US politicians for Assange to be tried for treason and even assassinated. Manning, who has admitted leaking classified US military secrets to WikiLeaks, is on trial facing 21 charges, including "aiding the enemy".

Assange has been confined for almost a year to the Ecuadorian embassy in London, having been granted asylum by the Latin American country in a bid to avoid extradition to Sweden to face sex assault and rape accusations, which he denies. The Australian fears answering the allegations in Sweden would make him vulnerable to onward extradition to the US to face potential charges relating to the WikiLeaks releases.

Assange had earlier told an Australian interviewer for ABC News that he had been in "indirect communication with [Snowden's] people", but declined to elaborate further.

He described Manning and Snowden as "very serious, earnest young men who really believe in something, and have shown great courage, and there is no doubt actually that history will look on them extremely favourably and perhaps, in a few years, will liberate them from their predicament."

Assange called on supportive countries to "line up" and offer support to Snowden. "It will be really telling to see which countries really protect human rights, the privacy of the public, asylum rights, or which countries are scared of the United States or are in bed with this surveillance complex."


guardian.co.uk © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

The Guardian is an independent, global news organisation that invests in original journalism and in-depth analysis. For more from the Guardian, visit http://www.guardiannews.com. © 2011 Guardian News And Media Limited.

US army confirms to Guardian NSA whistleblower enlisted as a special forces recruit but was discharged four months later. Read this story on the Guardian here.

The US army has confirmed an aspect of surveillance whistleblower Edward Snowden's military service to the Guardian.

As Snowden told the Guardian in announcing his responsibility for detailing multiple mass surveillance efforts by the National Security Agency sweeping up Americans' communications data, Snowden indeed tried to join the elite special forces.

Snowden was unsuccessful.

"His records indicate he enlisted in the army reserve as a special forces recruit (18X) on 7 May 2004 but was discharged 28 September 2004," the US army's chief civilian spokesman, George Wright, emailed the Guardian on Monday.

"He did not complete any training or receive any awards," Wright added.

The army did not release Snowden's entire service record, a form known as a DD-214, despite the Guardian's request. A DD-214 typically details a military service member's entire career history, such as locations of his or her billets, job responsibilities and honorable or dishonorable discharges - none of which the army disclosed on Monday. Nor did the army explain the reason for Snowden's incomplete special forces recruitment.

Typically, so-called 18X candidates are approved to try out for a position in the army special forces, often after passing a vocational aptitude test, but selection to the elite cadre is never guaranteed. Training is a rigorous physical and mental challenge lasting 14 weeks.

The Guardian reported, citing Snowden, that his military career was cut short after "he broke both his legs in a training accident."

The army did confirm Snowden's date of birth: June 21, 1983.


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The Guardian is an independent, global news organisation that invests in original journalism and in-depth analysis. For more from the Guardian, visit http://www.guardiannews.com. © 2011 Guardian News And Media Limited.

Exclusive: Top-secret directive steps up offensive cyber capabilities to 'advance US objectives around the world.' Read this story on the Guardian here.

• Read the secret presidential directive here

Barack Obama has ordered his senior national security and intelligence officials to draw up a list of potential overseas targets for US cyber-attacks, a top secret presidential directive obtained by the Guardian reveals.

The 18-page Presidential Policy Directive 20, issued in October last year but never published, states that what it calls Offensive Cyber Effects Operations (OCEO) "can offer unique and unconventional capabilities to advance US national objectives around the world with little or no warning to the adversary or target and with potential effects ranging from subtle to severely damaging".

It says the government will "identify potential targets of national importance where OCEO can offer a favorable balance of effectiveness and risk as compared with other instruments of national power".

The directive also contemplates the possible use of cyber actions inside the US, though it specifies that no such domestic operations can be conducted without the prior order of the president, except in cases of emergency. 

The aim of the document was "to put in place tools and a framework to enable government to make decisions" on cyber actions, a senior administration official told the Guardian.

The administration published some declassified talking points from the directive in January 2013, but those did not mention the stepping up of America's offensive capability and the drawing up of a target list.

Obama's move to establish a potentially aggressive cyber warfare doctrine will heighten fears over the increasing militarization of the internet.

The directive's publication comes as the president plans to confront his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping at a summit in California on Friday over alleged Chinese attacks on western targets.

Even before the publication of the directive, Beijing had hit back against US criticism, with a senior official claiming to have "mountains of data" on American cyber-attacks he claimed were every bit as serious as those China was accused of having carried out against the US.

Presidential Policy Directive 20 defines OCEO as "operations and related programs or activities ... conducted by or on behalf of the United States Government, in or through cyberspace, that are intended to enable or produce cyber effects outside United States government networks."

Asked about the stepping up of US offensive capabilities outlined in the directive, a senior administration official said: "Once humans develop the capacity to build boats, we build navies. Once you build airplanes, we build air forces."

The official added: "As a citizen, you expect your government to plan for scenarios. We're very interested in having a discussion with our international partners about what the appropriate boundaries are."

The document includes caveats and precautions stating that all US cyber operations should conform to US and international law, and that any operations "reasonably likely to result in significant consequences require specific presidential approval".

The document says that agencies should consider the consequences of any cyber-action. They include the impact on intelligence-gathering; the risk of retaliation; the impact on the stability and security of the internet itself; the balance of political risks versus gains; and the establishment of unwelcome norms of international behaviour.

Among the possible "significant consequences" are loss of life; responsive actions against the US; damage to property; serious adverse foreign policy or economic impacts.

The US is understood to have already participated in at least one major cyber attack, the use of the Stuxnet computer worm targeted on Iranian uranium enrichment centrifuges, the legality of which has been the subject of controversy. US reports citing high-level sources within the intelligence services said the US and Israel were responsible for the worm.

In the presidential directive, the criteria for offensive cyber operations in the directive is not limited to retaliatory action but vaguely framed as advancing "US national objectives around the world".

The revelation that the US is preparing a specific target list for offensive cyber-action is likely to reignite previously raised concerns of security researchers and academics, several of whom have warned that large-scale cyber operations could easily escalate into full-scale military conflict.

Sean Lawson, assistant professor in the department of communication at the University of Utah, argues: "When militarist cyber rhetoric results in use of offensive cyber attack it is likely that those attacks will escalate into physical, kinetic uses of force."

An intelligence source with extensive knowledge of the National Security Agency's systems told the Guardian the US complaints again China were hypocritical, because America had participated in offensive cyber operations and widespread hacking - breaking into foreign computer systems to mine information.

Provided anonymity to speak critically about classified practices, the source said: "We hack everyone everywhere. We like to make a distinction between us and the others. But we are in almost every country in the world."

The US likes to haul China before the international court of public opinion for "doing what we do every day", the source added.

One of the unclassified points released by the administration in January stated: "It is our policy that we shall undertake the least action necessary to mitigate threats and that we will prioritize network defense and law enforcement as preferred courses of action."

The full classified directive repeatedly emphasizes that all cyber-operations must be conducted in accordance with US law and only as a complement to diplomatic and military options. But it also makes clear how both offensive and defensive cyber operations are central to US strategy.

Under the heading "Policy Reviews and Preparation", a section marked "TS/NF" - top secret/no foreign - states: "The secretary of defense, the DNI [Director of National Intelligence], and the director of the CIA ... shall prepare for approval by the president through the National Security Advisor a plan that identifies potential systems, processes and infrastructure against which the United States should establish and maintain OCEO capabilities..." The deadline for the plan is six months after the approval of the directive.

The directive provides that any cyber-operations "intended or likely to produce cyber effects within the United States" require the approval of the president, except in the case of an "emergency cyber action". When such an emergency arises, several departments, including the department of defense, are authorized to conduct such domestic operations without presidential approval.

Obama further authorized the use of offensive cyber attacks in foreign nations without their government's consent whenever "US national interests and equities" require such nonconsensual attacks. It expressly reserves the right to use cyber tactics as part of what it calls "anticipatory action taken against imminent threats".

The directive makes multiple references to the use of offensive cyber attacks by the US military. It states several times that cyber operations are to be used only in conjunction with other national tools and within the confines of law.

When the directive was first reported, lawyers with the Electronic Privacy Information Center filed a Freedom of Information Act request for it to be made public. The NSA, in a statement, refused to disclose the directive on the ground that it was classified.

In January, the Pentagon announced a major expansion of its Cyber Command Unit, under the command of General Keith Alexander, who is also the director of the NSA. That unit is responsible for executing both offensive and defensive cyber operations.

Earlier this year, the Pentagon publicly accused China for the first time of being behind attacks on the US. The Washington Post reported last month that Chinese hackers had gained access to the Pentagon's most advanced military programs.

The director of national intelligence, James Clapper, identified cyber threats in general as the top national security threat.

Obama officials have repeatedly cited the threat of cyber-attacks to advocate new legislation that would vest the US government with greater powers to monitor and control the internet as a means of guarding against such threats.

One such bill currently pending in Congress, the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (Cispa), has prompted serious concerns from privacy groups, who say that it would further erode online privacy while doing little to enhance cyber security.

In a statement, Caitlin Hayden, national security council spokeswoman, said: "We have not seen the document the Guardian has obtained, as they did not share it with us. However, as we have already publicly acknowledged, last year the president signed a classified presidential directive relating to cyber operations, updating a similar directive dating back to 2004. This step is part of the administration's focus on cybersecurity as a top priority. The cyber threat has evolved, and we have new experiences to take into account.

"This directive establishes principles and processes for the use of cyber operations so that cyber tools are integrated with the fully array of national security tools we have at our disposal. It provides a whole-of-government approach consistent with the values that we promote domestically and internationally as we have previously articulated in the International Strategy for Cyberspace.

"This directive will establish principles and processes that can enable more effective planning, development, and use of our capabilities. It enables us to be flexible, while also exercising restraint in dealing with the threats we face. It continues to be our policy that we shall undertake the least action necessary to mitigate threats and that we will prioritize network defense and law enforcement as the preferred courses of action. The procedures outlined in this directive are consistent with the US Constitution, including the president's role as commander in chief, and other applicable law and policies."


guardian.co.uk © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

The Guardian is an independent, global news organisation that invests in original journalism and in-depth analysis. For more from the Guardian, visit http://www.guardiannews.com. © 2011 Guardian News And Media Limited.

Exclusive: UK security agency GCHQ gaining information from world's biggest internet firms through US-run Prism programme. Read this story on the Guardian here.

The UK's electronic eavesdropping and security agency, GCHQ, has been secretly gathering intelligence from the world's biggest internet companies through a covertly run operation set up by America's top spy agency, documents obtained by the Guardian reveal.

The documents show that GCHQ, based in Cheltenham, has had access to the system since at least June 2010, and generated 197 intelligence reports from it last year.

The US-run programme, called Prism, would appear to allow GCHQ to circumvent the formal legal process required to seek personal material such as emails, photos and videos from an internet company based outside the UK.

The use of Prism raises ethical and legal issues about such direct access to potentially millions of internet users, as well as questions about which British ministers knew of the programme.

In a statement to the Guardian, GCHQ, insisted it "takes its obligations under the law very seriously".

The details of GCHQ's use of Prism are set out in documents prepared for senior analysts working at America's National Security Agency, the biggest eavesdropping organisation in the world.

Dated April this year, the papers describe the remarkable scope of a previously undisclosed "snooping" operation which gave the NSA and the FBI easy access to the systems of nine of the world's biggest internet companies. The group includes Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Apple, Yahoo and Skype.

The documents, which appear in the form of a 41-page PowerPoint presentation, suggest the firms voluntarily agreed to co-operate with the Prism programme. Technology companies denied knowledge of Prism, with Google insisting it "does not have a back door for the government to access private user data". But the companies acknowledged that they complied with legal orders.

The existence of Prism, though, is not in doubt.

Thanks to changes to US surveillance law introduced under President George W Bush and renewed under Barack Obama in December 2012, Prism was established in December 2007 to provide in-depth surveillance on live communications and stored information about foreigners overseas.

The law allows for the targeting of any customers of participating firms who live outside the US, or those Americans whose communications include people outside the US.

The documents make clear the NSA has been able to obtain unilaterally both stored communications as well as real-time collection of raw data for the last six years, without the knowledge of users, who would assume their correspondence was private.

The NSA describes Prism as "one of the most valuable, unique and productive accesses" of intelligence, and boasts the service has been made available to spy organisations from other countries, including GCHQ.

It says the British agency generated 197 intelligence reports from Prism in the year to May 2012 - marking a 137% increase in the number of reports generated from the year before. Intelligence reports from GCHQ are normally passed to MI5 and MI6.

The documents underline that "special programmes for GCHQ exist for focussed Prism processing", suggesting the agency has been able to receive material from a bespoke part of the programme to suit British interests.

Unless GCHQ has stopped using Prism, the agency has accessed information from the programme for at least three years. It is not mentioned in the latest report from the Interception of Communications Commissioner Office, which scrutinises the way the UK's three security agencies use the laws covering the interception and retention of data.

Asked to comment on its use of Prism, GCHQ said it "takes its obligations under the law very seriously. Our work is carried out in accordance with a strict legal and policy framework which ensures that our activities are authorised, necessary and proportionate, and that there is rigorous oversight, including from the secretary of state, the interception and intelligence services commissioners and the intelligence and security committee."

The agency refused to be drawn on how long it had been using Prism, how many intelligence reports it had gleaned from it, or which ministers knew it was being used.

A GCHQ spokesperson added: "We do not comment on intelligence matters."

The existence and use of Prism reflects concern within the intelligence community about access it has to material held by internet service providers.

Many of the web giants are based in the US and are beyond the jurisdiction of British laws. Very often, the UK agencies have to go through a formal legal process to request information from service providers.

Because the UK has a mutual legal assistance treaty with America, GCHQ can make an application through the US department of justice, which will make the approach on its behalf.

Though the process is used extensively - almost 3,000 requests were made to Google alone last year - it is time consuming. Prism would appear to give GCHQ a chance to bypass the procedure.

In its statement about Prism, Google said it "cares deeply about the security of our users' data. We disclose user data to government in accordance with the law, and we review all such requests carefully. From time to time, people allege that we have created a government 'back door' into our systems, but Google does not have a back door for the government to access private user data."

Several senior tech executives insisted they had no knowledge of Prism or of any similar scheme. They said they would never have been involved in such a programme.

"If they are doing this, they are doing it without our knowledge," one said. An Apple spokesman said it had "never heard" of Prism.

In a statement confirming the existence of Prism, James Clapper, the director of national intelligence in the US, said: "Information collected under this programme is among the most important and valuable intelligence information we collect, and is used to protect our nation from a wide variety of threats."

A senior US administration official said in a statement: "The programme is subject to oversight by the foreign intelligence surveillance court, the executive branch, and Congress. It involves extensive procedures, specifically approved by the court, to ensure that only non-US persons outside the US are targeted, and that minimise the acquisition, retention and dissemination of incidentally acquired information about US persons."


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The Guardian is an independent, global news organisation that invests in original journalism and in-depth analysis. For more from the Guardian, visit http://www.guardiannews.com. © 2011 Guardian News And Media Limited.

A 4-year-old boy wandered into his grandfather's room on Wednesday, found a gun underneath his pillow, and accidently shot himself in the shoulder, the Dallas Morning News reported. Both the child's mother and grandfather were in the house at the time of the shooting, but both in separate rooms.

The child's injury does not appear to be life-threatening, police told the Morning News. Child abuse investigators are looking into the incident, but charges have not been filed.

A man was fatally shot by police in Escondido, California, reports the Associated Press. A bomb squad later searched his car, where they found seven pipe bombs and a large amount of ammunition.

The man, reportedly a known felon, was being trailed by police when he realized he was being followed and attempted to flee. His SUV crashed into a wall, and the man produced a shotgun, police told the AP. After he shot at the officers, they fired back, killing him. 

A 9-year-old boy is in critical condition after being shot in the chest in Chicago's South Side, the Chicago Tribune reports. The boy was in a car driven by his mother when five gun shots were heard Wednesday evening. Police believe the gunman was aiming for the mother's boyfriend, who was also in the car.

The boy reportedly shouted "Mommy, I'm shot." The boyfriend fled the car, and the mother continued driving straight to a nearby children's hospital.

The boy was among 11 people shot within eight hours in Chicago on Wednesday, the Tribune notes. Of those shot, a 15-year-old boy and a 20-year-old man were killed.

Managing Editor Rick Stengel appeared on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" early Thursday to present TIME Magazine's newest cover. The art is the work of Chinese contemporary artist Ai Weiwei, who was famously detained in a secret prison for his outspoken criticism of the Chinese government.

"I actually think it's the most beautiful cover we've ever done in our history," Managing Editor Rick Stengel told Morning Joe.

Weiwei used the ancient Chinese technique of papercutting for the cover design, which accompanies "How China Sees The World," a report on Xi Jinping's leadership by the magazine's China Bureau Chief Hannah Beech.

In a speech made to a gathering of Texas Republicans last month, tea party activist Ken Emanuelson claimed that the GOP does not want black people to vote unless they do so for Republican candidates.

“I’m going to be real honest with you, the Republican Party doesn’t want black people to vote if they’re going to vote 9-to-1 for Democrats,” Emanuelson said at a May 20 "Battlefield Dallas" event in Dallas, according to the Houston Chronicle.

Emanuelson later backtracked in a note posted to his Facebook page, claiming he "misspoke."

"What I meant, and should have said, is that it is not, in my personal opinion, in the interests of the Republican Party to spend its own time and energy working to generally increase the number of Democratic voters at the polls, and at this point in time, nine of every ten African American voters cast their votes for the Democratic Party," he wrote on Tuesday.

Rep. Marc Veasey, a Democratic freshman whose district includes parts of Dallas County, responded to Emanuelson's comment in an email sent today to Battleground Texas supporters.

“Together, we can turn this cowardly attack into the catalyst that makes our movement stronger,” Veasey said, according to the Chronicle. “Battlefield Dallas and its tea party ilk have shown their true colors and now it’s time to hold them accountable.”

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