The Program / by Laura Poitras  /  August 22, 2012

It took me a few days to work up the nerve to phone William Binney. As someone already a “target” of the United States government, I found it difficult not to worry about the chain of unintended consequences I might unleash by calling Mr. Binney, a 32-year veteran of the National Security Agency turned whistle-blower. He picked up. I nervously explained I was a documentary filmmaker and wanted to speak to him. To my surprise he replied: “I’m tired of my government harassing me and violating the Constitution. Yes, I’ll talk to you.”Two weeks later, driving past the headquarters of the N.S.A. in Maryland, outside Washington, Mr. Binney described details about Stellar Wind, the N.S.A.’s top-secret domestic spying program begun after 9/11, which was so controversial that it nearly caused top Justice Department officials to resign in protest, in 2004. “The decision must have been made in September 2001,” Mr. Binney told me and the cinematographer Kirsten Johnson. “That’s when the equipment started coming in.” In this Op-Doc, Mr. Binney explains how the program he created for foreign intelligence gathering was turned inward on this country. He resigned over this in 2001 and began speaking out publicly in the last year. He is among a group of N.S.A. whistle-blowers, including Thomas A. Drake, who have each risked everything — their freedom, livelihoods and personal relationships — to warn Americans about the dangers of N.S.A. domestic spying.

To those who understand state surveillance as an abstraction, I will try to describe a little about how it has affected me. The United States apparently placed me on a“watch-list” in 2006 after I completed a film about the Iraq war. I have been detained at the border more than 40 times. Once, in 2011, when I was stopped at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York and asserted my First Amendment right not to answer questions about my work, the border agent replied, “If you don’t answer our questions, we’ll find our answers on your electronics.”’ As a filmmaker and journalist entrusted to protect the people who share information with me, it is becoming increasingly difficult for me to work in the United States. Although I take every effort to secure my material, I know the N.S.A. has technical abilities that are nearly impossible to defend against if you are targeted.

The 2008 amendments to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which oversees the N.S.A. activities, are up for renewal in December. Two members of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Senators Ron Wyden of Oregon and Mark Udall of Colorado, both Democrats, are trying to revise the amendments to insure greater privacy protections. They have been warning about “secret interpretations” of laws and backdoor “loopholes” that allow the government to collect our private communications. Thirteen senators havesigned a letter expressing concern about a “loophole” in the law that permits the collection of United States data. The A.C.L.U. and other groups have also challenged the constitutionality of the law, and the Supreme Court will hear arguments in that case on Oct. 29.

(Laura Poitras is a documentary filmmaker who has been nominated for an Academy Award and whose work was exhibited in the 2012 Whitney Biennial. She is working on a trilogy of films about post-9/11 America. This Op-Doc is adapted from a work in progress to be released in 2013.}


NSA WhistleBlowers Highlight Scope of Domestic Spying
The Largest Domestic Spy System Ever Built
by Karl Bode / 27-Aug-2012

Whistleblowers the last ten years have highlighted repeatedly how the phone companies are helping the government spy on its own citizens by dumping all Internet data directly into the laps of government (pdf), who is busily building a massive supercomputer warehouse in Utah to dig through it all. The general public’s response to this has been slack-jawed apathy, and recently one of the last real chances to challenge our domestic spying programs went up in legal flames. Under current law, the government is not supposed to spy on citizens without a court order, but we’ve seen time and time again that the government and intelligence community have almost total disdain for the laws they’re supposed to follow on this front (citizens of course are supposed to sheepishly obey every dumb copyright or other law corporations demand the government support).

NSA whistleblowers continue to leak new information on the government’s post 9-11 unaccountable surveillance state, discussed in a new video documentary recently posted over at the NY Times. It specifically focuses on whistleblower William Binney, who worked as a mathematician and code breaker at the NSA. Binney is providing even more detail on what the NSA code-named “Stellar Wind” — the creation of the largest and most sophisticated domestic surveillance apparatus ever built. Of course if you’re not doing anything wrong, you have absolutely no reason to fear a government surveillance system that whistleblowers claim has gone completely out of control, right?

William Binney

NSA Whistleblower Details How The NSA Has Spied On US Citizens Since 9/11
by Michael Kelley / Aug. 24, 2012

Binney—one of the best mathematicians and code breakers in NSA history—worked for the Defense Department’s foreign signals intelligence agency for 32 years before resigning in late 2001 because he “could not stay after the NSA began purposefully violating the Constitution.” In a short video called “The Program,” Binney explains how the agency took part of one of the programs he built and started using it to spy on virtually every U.S. citizen without warrants under the code-name Stellar Wind. Binney details how the top-secret surveillance program, the scope of which has never been made public, can track electronic activities—phone calls, emails, banking and travel records, social media—and map them to collect “all the attributes that any individual has” in every type of activity and build a profile based on that data. “So that now I can pull your entire life together from all those domains and map it out and show your entire life over time,” Binney says. The 8-minute video, adapted from an ongoing project by Poitras that is to be released in 2013, has footage of the construction of the NSA’s $2 billion data storage facility in Bluffdale, Utah, which Binney says “has the capacity to store 100 years worth of the world’s electronic communications.”

The purpose of the program, according to Binney, is “to be able to monitor what people are doing” and who they are doing it with.  “The danger here is that we fall into a totalitarian state,” Binney says. “This is something the KGB, the Stasi or the Gestapo would have loved to have had.” Poitras, who has been detained and questioned more than 40 times at U.S. airports, has been working on a trilogy of films about post-9/11 America.

Wired: NSAs New Data Collection Center and Details on Its Public Eavesdropping Capabilites

by Liz Klimas  /  March 16, 2012

In the heart of Utah’s desert, the National Security Agency is well underway on a project that has been called the nation’s largest, most expensive cyber-security project. Naturally, almost all details about the building’s soon-to-be inner activities are highly classified and no one is talking — officials in Bluffdale where it is being built and the nearby Salt Lake City are kept in the dark. Still, Wired’s Threat Level has gotten some details on the building and provides analysis on some of its expected activity. Wired describes that the building is ironically and “blandly” named the Utah Data Center. When completed in Sept. 2013 it will house four 25,000 square foot halls of servers, among other things. Wired states that the cost for the project is estimated at $2 billion.

Here‘s some of the data center’s purpose:

Flowing through its servers and routers and stored in near-bottomless databases will be all forms of communication, including the complete contents of private emails, cell phone calls, and Google searches, as well as all sorts of personal data trails—parking receipts, travel itineraries, bookstore purchases, and other digital “pocket litter.”

Wired reports that the data center will store trillions of “words and thoughts and whispers” swirling on the Web. It states that “[to] those on the inside, the old adage that NSA stands for Never Say Anything applies more than ever.” In addition to public website data storage, Wired reports that it will seek out and house information on the “deep web:”

“The deep web contains government reports, databases, and other sources of information of high value to DOD and the intelligence community,” according to a 2010 Defense Science Board report. “Alternative tools are needed to find and index data in the deep web … Stealing the classified secrets of a potential adversary is where the [intelligence] community is most comfortable.”

Even with data storage as its publicized purpose, Wired reports that an official involved with the program has said “this is more than just a data center.” It hopes to be the ultimate code-cracking facility:

According to another top official also involved with the program, the NSA made an enormous breakthrough several years ago in its ability to cryptanalyze, or break, unfathomably complex encryption systems employed by not only governments around the world but also many average computer users in the US. The upshot, according to this official: “Everybody’s a target; everybody with communication is a target.”

Wired reports that the facility’s security system — an antiterrorism protection program — alone costs $10 million. The fence surrounding the building will be able to stop a 15,000 pound vehicle driving at 50 miles per hour. What’s inside that requires protections such as this? Wired has some of the specifications:

Inside, the facility will consist of four 25,000-square-foot halls filled with servers, complete with raised floor space for cables and storage. In addition, there will be more than 900,000 square feet for technical support and administration. The entire site will be self-sustaining, with fuel tanks large enough to power the backup generators for three days in an emergency, water storage with the capability of pumping 1.7 million gallons of liquid per day, as well as a sewage system and massive air-conditioning system to keep all those servers cool. Electricity will come from the center’s own substation built by Rocky Mountain Power to satisfy the 65-megawatt power demand. Such a mammoth amount of energy comes with a mammoth price tag—about $40 million a year, according to one estimate.

Wired: NSAs New Data Collection Center and Details on Its Public Eavesdropping Capabilites
NSA’s data center layout. (Image via Wired)

Wired also includes a former NSA official going on the record for the first time on the secret, domestic spying program Stellar Wind and its role in data communication collection, which when the Bluffdale facility is complete will be stored there. Former senior NSA “crypto-matematician” William Binney, who helped develop NSA’s spying capabilities before leaving in 2001, explains how the NSA deliberately violated the Constitution, which was the reason why he left, in setting up warrentless wiretapping to the extent that they did. Wired reports that much of NSA’s wiretapping practices now were made legal under the FISA Amendments Act of 2008:

Binney says Stellar Wind was far larger than has been publicly disclosed and included not just eavesdropping on domestic phone calls but the inspection of domestic email. At the outset the program recorded 320 million calls a day, he says, which represented about 73 to 80 percent of the total volume of the agency’s worldwide intercepts. The haul only grew from there. According to Binney—who has maintained close contact with agency employees until a few years ago—the taps in the secret rooms dotting the country are actually powered by highly sophisticated software programs that conduct “deep packet inspection,” examining Internet traffic as it passes through the 10-gigabit-per-second cables at the speed of light.


According to Binney, one of the deepest secrets of the Stellar Wind program—again, never confirmed until now—was that the NSA gained warrantless access to AT&T’s vast trove of domestic and international billing records, detailed information about who called whom in the US and around the world. As of 2007, AT&T had more than 2.8 trillion records housed in a database at its Florham Park, New Jersey, complex.


Verizon was also part of the program, Binney says, and that greatly expanded the volume of calls subject to the agency’s domestic eavesdropping. “That multiplies the call rate by at least a factor of five,” he says. “So you’re over a billion and a half calls a day.” (Spokespeople for Verizon and AT&T said their companies would not comment on matters of national security.)

Wired reports that in order to return to a Constitutional system, Binney suggested an idea for an automated warrant system, instead of “[subverting] the whole process.” When this didn’t happen, Binney told Wired he had hoped reform could be made under the Obama Administration. His idea didn’t take hold again. Where are we at in this country in terms of surveillance and following Constitutional privacy protections? Wired reports Binney saying  “We are, like, that far from a turnkey totalitarian state” as he held up his thumb and forefinger close together.

Check out the full story for more details on data collection, NSA’s Utah facility and the encryption-cracking capability it hopes to develop here. The article post on Wired’s Threat Level and the cover story for Wired Magazine was written by James Bamford, author of The Shadow Factory: The Ultra-Secret NSA from 9/11 to the Eavesdropping on America published in 2009.


by Jesselyn Radack  /  August 15, 2001
The Whistleblogger2012

Glenn Greenwald wrote yesterday about “secrecy creep”  – the retaliation against whistleblowers that has crept down from the White House into Executive branch agencies. Whistleblowers have always been subjected to retaliation, but the retaliation used to be focused on marginalizing the whistleblower, shifting or eliminating the whistleblower’s job duties, firing her, or yanking her security clearance. Now, with the Obama administration’s war on whistleblowers, whistleblower retaliation includes polygraphs, systematic monitoring of whistleblowers’ electronic activities, and prosecution under the Espionage Act – even at Executive agencies beyond the intelligence community.

Intelligence community whistleblowers like former National Security Agency (NSA) officials Bill Binney and J. Kirk Wiebe were targeted with criminal investigation and subjected to armed FBI raids. Even more severe, whistleblowers like former NSA official Thomas Drake and former CIA officer John Kiriakou were indicted under the Espionage Act. Now Executive branch agencies outside the intelligence community are using the secrecy and surveillance tactics to punish whistleblowers. Greenwald provides concrete examples of the secrecy creep resulting in increased whistleblower retaliation:

[1] . . . McClatchy reported on a criminal investigation launched by the Inspector General (IG) of the National Reconnaissance Office, America’s secretive spy satellite agency, against the agency’s deputy director, Air Force Maj. Gen. Susan Mashiko. After Mashiko learned that four senior NRO officials whose identities she did not know reported to the IG “a series of allegations of malfeasant actions” by another NRO official relating to large contracts, Mashiko allegedly vowed: “I would like to find them and fire them.”

[2] It was not until 2011 that the Interior Department . . .  hired . . . a hydrologist, Dr. Paul Houser, who was previously an associate professor in George Mason University’s Geography and Geoinformation Sciences Department.

But only a few months later, Houser began experiencing serious problems within the agency when he raised substantial questions, on scientific and environmental grounds, about the administration’s proposal to remove dams from a river that flows through Oregon and California. . . . About the Interior whistleblower case, Sheppard notes: “Advocates for transparency and good science within government agencies point out the apparent irony in firing a guy hired to enforce scientific integrity for his attempts to do just that.” In addition to Greenwald’s examples, other cases of secrecy creep indicate that the surveillance tools once reserved for the intelligence community are now being used by other Executive agencies to intimidate whistleblowers and silence dissenters.

  • The State Department monitored all of whistleblower Peter Van Buren’s online activities taken on his personal time using his personal computer.
  • The Food & Drug Administration targeted and spied on whistleblowers in a widespread surveillance operation that included spying on whistleblowers’ protected communications with Congress and the Office of Special Counsel, congressional staffers and reporters.
  • Feeding off the “leak hysteria” in Washington, Congress proposed a series of pro-secrecy “anti-leak” measures which would do more to silence and punish whistleblowers than stop leaks that actually harm national security.

Greenwald articulated the effects of “secrecy creep:”

Worse still, allowing the Executive Branch to leak at will information that glorifies the President and his policies, while aggressively suppressing all information that does the opposite, is the classic recipe for propagandizing without limit. What these lower-level officials are doing in threatening and retaliating against whistleblowers may very well be criminal, but they’re adhering to a mindset clearly decreed from the top.

The Obama administration’s hypocritical position on so-called “leaks” – ignoring if not orchestrating pro-administration “leaks” while prosecuting whistleblowers under the Espionage Act – steers Executive Branch agencies in wrong direction by instituting a culture of silencing dissent and condoning whistleblower retaliation.

{Jesselyn Radack is National Security & Human Rights Director for the Governent Accountability Project, the nation’s leading whistleblower protection and advocacy organization.}


Denying domestic spying & dossiers on Americans: Does NSA Chief play word games?
by Darlene Storm  /  August 13, 2012

Before any more time passes since Def Con 20, let’s look at facts that came to light when the ACLU presented “Bigger Monster, Weaker Chains: The NSA and the Constitution.” During the panel discussion, William Binney, former technical director at the NSA, claimed that NSA Chief General Keith Alexander was deceptive during the keynote and was playing word games. So let’s look at a few tidbits from Alexander’s keynote first. During the write up about day one of Def Con, I mentioned thousands of attendees were unable to get in to hear Alexander speak about “Shared Values, Shared Responsibility.” The NSA was just one of many federal agencies at Def Con trying to recruit hackers for Uncle Sam. The NSA had set up a recruitment website for Def Con hackers and Gen Alexander, wearing a jeans and a t-shirt that ironically sported the EFF logo on the sleeve, called Def Con the “world’s best cybersecurity community.” Headded, “Sometimes you guys get a bad rep. From my perspective, what you guys are doing to figure out vulnerabilities in systems is absolutely needed.”

Def Con founder Dark Tangent, aka Jeff Moss now with the Homeland Security Advisory Councilasked Alexander, “So does the NSA really keep a file on everyone, and if so, how can I see mine?” Alexander replied, “No, we don’t. Absolutely not. Anybody who tells you we’re keeping files or dossiers on the American people knows that’s not true.” Let’s stop and rewind for a minute back to March. After NSA expert James Bamford claimed NSA software secretly examines “every email, phone call and tweet as they zip by,” it spurred a congressional hearing to determine if such domestic spying were true. Gen Alexander denied such NSA total information awareness spying on Americans. In fact, he answered “no” fourteen times during the congressional probe.

Fast forward to the Hope 9 conference where NSA whistleblower WilliamBinney said the NSA has dossiers on nearly every U.S. citizen. Binney’s revelations to journalist Geoff Shively and Livestreamer Tim Pool included, “Domestically, they’re pulling together all the data about virtually every U.S. citizen in the country and assembling that information, building communities that you have relationships with, and knowledge about you; what your activities are; what you’re doing.” Alexander’s keynote did mention collecting data, but not on Americans. He said “the NSA is authorized ‘to collect foreign targets — think of terrorists — outside the United States’.” The FISA Amendment Act “allows us to use some of our infrastructure to do that. We may, incidentally, in targeting a bad guy, hit on somebody from a good guy.”  Alexander added, “Our job is foreign intelligence. We get oversight by Congress.”

But at “Bigger Monster, Weaker Chains,” Binney said, “All the oversight is totally dependent on what the NSA tells them. They have no way of knowing what [the NSA is] really doing unless they’re told.” Although Alexander was “technically” accurate, Binney said, “This thing about not keeping track of every American is absolutely true. They missed a few. That’s the kind of word game they play. I’ve been in that business for a long time.” Binney resigned from the NSA in 2001 because the spook agency started spying on everyone in America.  He believes that in the new datacenter in Utah, the NSA will go beyond archiving to indexing and “sorting information that they’re collecting, which is email, FTPs [file transfers], those kinds of things, Twitter things, all kinds of data about everybody.” Also at the panel, James Bamford agreed with Binney that it’s “technically legal” so “long as no human listens to or reads any of the harvested communications without a warrant.” Bamford said, “An intercept doesn’t take place until it’s actually listened to, until somebody puts on some earphones or actually reads some text on a screen.” We don’t know the real deal, because there is a problem with the “government’s needless classification of information.” It’s one thing if there is an actual threat to national security, but we’ve become a nation of digital distrust – for years even the cute, popular toy Furby was suspicious. The NSA banned the toy because “it was feared that Furbies would overhear top secret information, which would then be shared with others when the toys began to talk.” It’s up to you what to believe regarding if NSA’s Alexander is playing word games, but I’d like to point out the vendor area at Def Conwhere the NSA had a booth with its core values listed as “honesty, integrity, respect for the law, transparency.”

Regarding NSA transparency, have you ever seen redacted NSA documents released via FOIA requests? I’m not at liberty to say more about these at this time, but here are three such NSA documents. It’s too small to make out other than being almost totally blanked out as in redacted. Does that say transparency to you? Respect for the law? After the NSA claimed it would violate Americans’ privacy to say how many of us it spied upon, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence admitted the U.S. has violated the Fourth Amendment at least once when it comes to warrantless wiretaps done under the FISA Amendments Act.

Want the real answer to how often the feds have spied on Americans “since 9/11 through the use of drones, legal search warrants, illegal search warrants, federal agent-written search warrants and just plain government spying?” Sen. Rand Paul attended a secret security hearing and although he cannot legally repeat what he learned, Reason.com reported that Paul’s answer was “Gazillions.” Do you believe General Keith Alexander’s statements about not keeping files or dossiers on the American people? As SecurityNewsDaily reported regarding Alexander’s resassurances, security and cryptography guru Bruce Schneier said at Def Con, “You didn’t buy any of that, did you?”

RSA Conference 2012 – The Meaning of Trust in Today’s Digital World

NSA has “20 trillion+” records of US communications, says whistleblower / 07/30/2012

You’ve likely heard by now that National Security Agency chief General Keith Alexander spoke at the DefCon hackers convention in Las Vegas over the weekend. Former NSA cryptographer and high level technocrat Bill Binney also spoke at the conference, on a panel with ACLU attorneys Jameel Jaffer and Alexander Abdo, along with author and NSA expert Jim Bamford. The tone and content of the two presentations could not have been more different. The basic disagreement hinges on an explosive controversy that strikes at the heart of the imbalance between our right to know and the government’s: The NSA says it doesn’t wholesale intercept US communications, but Bill Binney and other whistleblowers say it does.

CNET’s Elinor Mills:

Asked during the question-and-answer session whether the NSA keeps a file on every U.S. citizen, Alexander said that notion was “absolute nonsense,” partly because managing 260 million or so individual citizen files would be impossible for the department to handle.
“No we don’t. Absolutely not,” he said. “Our job is foreign intelligence. We get oversight by Congress…everything we do is auditable by them, by the FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act)…and by the (Obama) Administration.”
Wired’s Kim Zetter:
William Binney, a former technical director at the NSA, said during a panel discussion that NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander was playing a “word game” and that the NSA was indeed collecting e-mails, Twitter writings, internet searches and other data belonging to Americans and indexing it.
“Unfortunately, once the software takes in data, it will build profiles on everyone in that data,” he said. “You can simply call it up by the attributes of anyone you want and it’s in place for people to look at.”
This isn’t the first time that whistleblowers have accused General Alexander of playing “word games” regarding the NSA’s monitoring of US communications.
Back in March 2012, Representative Hank Johnson asked Alexander if the NSA has “the technological capacity” to identify people “based upon the content of their emails.” Alexander said, “No…the question is where are the emails and where is NSA’s coverage. I assume by your question that those emails are in the United States. NSA does not have the ability to do that in the United States.

ACLU attorney Jameel Jaffer, author Jim Bamford, ACLU attorney Alexander Abdo, and NSA whistleblower Bill Binney at DefCon 20 in Las Vegas, July 2012.

Binney and other whistleblowers, including former AT&T technical employee Mark Klein, have stated that the NSA in fact taps the vast majority of communications in the country at switching stations nationwide, directly from the sources. The discrepancy between the two wildly differing presentations of the facts may hinge on a maddeningly obscure technical definition. The military defines “collection” peculiarly, enabling the head of the NSA to say that the agency doesn’t “collect” US communications when, using a common definition of the term, Binney and others allege it does precisely that. EFF’s Trevor Timm explains:

Under Department of Defense regulations, information is considered to be “collected” only after it has been “received for use by an employee of a DoD intelligence component,” and “[d]ata acquired by electronic means is ‘collected’ only when it has been processed into intelligible form[,]”  So, under this definition, if the communications of millions of ordinary Americans were gathered and stored indefinitely in Utah, it would not be “collected” until the NSA “officially accepts, in some manner, such information for use within that component.”


In other words, your emails may be sitting in the NSA’s giant databases, but the agency doesn’t acknowledge having “collected” them until a human being actually reads them. The next time a journalist or elected official gets to ask General Alexander questions in public, they should address this issue directly.

Opaque definitions, secret laws
It isn’t just word games that the government is playing. According to Binney, the government’s secret interpretation of Section 215 of the Patriot Act allows it to suck up all of our email and internet traffic. Senator Ron Wyden has repeatedly spoken out about this secret interpretation, warning that people in the United States would be “very angry” if we learned how the government was interpreting the statute. The question could not be more relevant today. Binney says that the surveillance of US persons has likely increased under the Obama administration, with approximately 20 trillion US to US communications assembled. “And from that data they can target anyone they want,” he said.


Rise of the AI Overlord: Machines monitor, automatically detect suspicious behavior
by Ms. Smith  /  08/21/12

When it comes to monitoring CCTV video feeds for suspicious activity, the human brain reportedly overlooks 45% of all activity after 12 minutes. After 22 minutes, the human brain overlooks 95% of all activity. But what if all the 45 – 60 million eye-in-the-sky cameras were connected to computers with artificial intelligence . . . computers with an extraordinary AI brain that can see, learn, get smarter with time, and make decisions on what behavior recognition threats to report in real-time? While TrapWire seems to use “behavioral recognition” to analyze video and camera feeds, a “video camera on its own is dumb.” Most video analytics are rule-based logic systems that continually need the rules redefined, can give hundreds of false-alarm alerts, and even miss true threats in real-time. “We are seeing more and more surveillance cameras installed everywhere, and increasingly they are being networked together. As artificial intelligence improves, video analytics may become capable of tracking increasingly complicated behavior,” the ACLU reported. “Ultimately, we need to confront the central question facing us: how are we going to handle the increasing capability of machines to monitor us in ways large and small, wide and deep?”

Globally, there are “more than 45 million CCTV surveillance systems,” according to Homeland Security Research.” This decade “will be marked by the fusion of CCTV with Biometrics, and human behavioral signatures, which will create a new multibillion premium security market of CCTV-Based Remote Biometric & Behavioral Suspect Detection.” That market is forecasted to grow from $750 million in 2011 to $3.2 billion by 2016. As of right now, the smartest AI suspicious behavioral recognition seems to be a system with military-grade technology that “has the capability to learn from what it observes, remember activity patterns and adjust to changes in the environment, field of view and equipment – without manual interaction.” That system with AiSight and Hypocepts, which allows it to “build memories and hypothetical concepts,” is the brainchild of Houston-based BRS Labs. This year at the Counter Terror Expo in London, John Frazzini, President of BRS Labs [PDF], said, “Being recognized by the security industry with the 2012 Counter Terrorism#mce_temp_url# and Security Specialist award for video surveillance innovation underscores the game changing technology that BRS Labs is delivering to#mce_temp_url# the video surveillance marketplace.”


The system is setup at Port Fourchon, located on the Gulf Coast in Louisiana, to give first responders ‘as they happen’ alerts that are “identified automatically by the surveillance system” so they “can coordinate their response in real time.” It’s also in Houston which, according to Hobby Wright, Vice President for Strategic Programs for BRS Labs, “is one of many American cities deploying and developing programs that incorporate our intelligence into their video surveillance operations.” El Paso established a Security Alert Monitoring (SAM) center that will use the BRS Labs system [PDF] to monitor water treatment plants adjacent to the Mexican border. Upon completion, the SAM Center “system will be made available via the Internet to the El Paso Fusion Center,” law enforcement and federal authorities like the US Border Patrol. It’s also set to guard the World Trade Center and “will be connected to the NYPD’s Lower Manhattan Security Initiative.” The system is expected to be completed in 2013 and will reportedly “cost tens of millions of dollars.” But Frazzini told The Post, it “is light years ahead of the old-fashioned security cameras monitored by night watchmen everywhere.”

Tampa wanted a video management system for the 2012 Republican National Convention which would “be able to track at least 300 moving objects within a single frame, monitor video feeds from at least 25 cameras simultaneously and give remote access to up to 150 users.” At that time, John Dingfelder, the ACLU’s senior staff attorney for mid Florida was concerned about using the cameras after the convention. He said, “I don’t think that that’s the kind of community that we want to be, under constant surveillance, especially constant surveillance by the government.” Even if BRS Labsdidn’t win the contract for Tampa, a $2 million deal will see the system deployed to look for bad guysin California.

According to the San Francisco Municipal Transit Authority [PDF], the BRS Labs system will be at 12 MTA train stations and is capable of “tracking over 150 objects and activities on a continuous basis.” No wonder it won the contract since it has capabilities far beyond tracking 150 objects at a time. After BRS Labs won the Government Security News Award for Best Intelligent Video Surveillance Solution, we looked at an AI controlled video surveillance society, a mix between real life HAL 9000 meets Skynet. Frazzini had said that video analytics is “dead” and fatally flawed, and “open-sourced algorithms” lack “intelligence to understand what it is seeing.” He added, “The AISight 3.0 solution can handle over 500 video feeds and can detect 350 objects per camera field of vision. The system multiplies a surveillance systems ability to detect anomalies consistently.”

Earlier this year, BRS Labs was granted a patent for its AISight 3.0 video surveillance software platform that enables “a video surveillance system to recognize complex behaviors by analyzing pixel data using alternating layers of clustering and sequencing.”

In addition to the behavioral recognition system patent, other BRS Labs’ intellectual property filings cover technical breakthroughs in background models, detection, tracking, object characterization, classification, scene characterization, target matching, techniques for unsupervised learning of spatial and temporal behavior, long term associative memories, anomaly detection using long-term memories, sudden illumination change, scene preset identification, trajectory learning, trajectory anomaly detection, spatial and temporal anomaly detection, clustering techniques in self organizing maps, classification anomalies, semantic representation of scene content, and a cognitive model for behavior recognition.

It’s the rise of the smart machines to automatically detect and report suspicious behavior. At Def Con’s Bigger Monster, Weaker Chains, both NSA whistleblower William Binney and James Bamford agreed that the NSA is playing word games when it comes to domestic spying, but “it’s ‘technically legal’ so ‘long as no human listens to or reads any of the harvested communications without a warrant’.” Do you feel better about privacy if it’s a machine doing the monitoring and not human eyes? It’s not going away; AI machines automatically monitoring CCTV feeds for suspicious behavior is projected to grow into a $3.2 billion industry by 2016.

WikiLeaks dumps Stratfor email dirt on TrapWire, a CIA-connected global spying system
by Ms. Smith  /  08/12/12

The TrapWire Threat Meter (TTM) may possibly be at high-red alert since WikiLeaks dumped more shocking surveillance emails from the hacked global intelligence company StraforPrivacy SOS reports on “the revelation of an enormous, shadowy surveillance company with deep ties to the CIA: Trapwire exploded on the surveillance scene like a bat out of hell. And people are justifiably freaked out about it.”

TrapWire is run by Abraxas Corp’s Abraxas Applications. The 2007 whitepaper [PDF] described TrapWire as “a unique, predictive software system designed to detect patterns of pre-attack surveillance.” No wonderphotographers continue to be treated as potential terrorists, since TrapWire saysterrorist pre-attack surveillance includes “photographing, measuring and signaling.” ThisPrivate Paste from Justin Ferguson, who helped spread the word of this leak, states, “It’s essentially a system setup to detect surveillance, so if you’ve ever taken a picture of basically anything ‘important’ you were probably flagged in a ‘suspicious activity report’ (SAR). It’s logged to a central database and then cross-site reports are disseminated.”

When DHS launched the SARs database, senior homeland security official John Cohen stressed that “authorized users of the [SARs] system are instructed on how to distinguish between behavior that warrants scrutiny and lawful conduct that doesn’t justify attention from the government.” Yet this Stratfor email claims a TrapWire benefit of using the system is to “help ‘walk back the cat’ after an attack to identify terrorist suspects and modus operandi.” But mission creep infects all technology and databases store everything forever on everyone waiting to be data-mined; with all the ridiculous you-might-be-a-terrorist-if lists identifying much more than real terrorists, we never know what might be considered suspicous tomorrow. This note states, “Surv footage can be walked back and track the suspects from the get go w/facial recognition software (or TrapWire) technology.” Didn’t the EFF warn us that most Americans are in a facial recognition database even now? This 2006 United States Patent and Trademark Office says TrapWire uses “pan-tilt-zoom cameras” and human reports entered into databases using a “10-characteristic description of individuals” and an “8-characteristic description vehicles.”

Public Intelligence says Stratfor emails imply “that TrapWire is in use by the U.S. Secret Service, the British security service MI5, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, as well as counterterrorism divisions in both the Los Angeles and New York Police Department” and the LA fusion center. The emails also suggest that TrapWire is in use at military bases around the country. “A July 2011 email from Burton to others at Stratfor describes how the U.S. Army, Marine Corps and Pentagon have all begun using TrapWire and are ‘on the system now.’  Burton described the Navy as the ‘next on the list’.”

This 2009 email from Stratfor Chairman Don Kuykendall says that TrapWire’s clients included Scotland Yard, #10 Downing, the White House, and many MNC’s (multinational corporations). There were also plans to introduce TrapWire to “Wal Mart, Dell and other Fred cronies.” I recall a big push by DHS involving TV screens and See Something Say Something videos at Walmart encouraging regular Wally World Joes to turn into citizen spies and report other allegedly suspicious shoppers. In 2010, Homeland Secretary Janet Napolitano said, “This partnership will help millions of shoppers across the nation identify and report indicators of terrorism, crime and other threats to law enforcement authorities.”

Public Intelligence wrote that these activities are part of a larger program called iWatch, which also feeds into TrapWire, according to a leaked email:

iWatch pulls community member reporting into the TrapWire search engine and compares SARs across the country…with potential matches being fed back to the local LE agency. An amazing amount of good quality reporting is coming in from alert citizens (and police officers) in the DC area in particular.

There are plenty of alarming TrapWire facts released in Antisec hacktivist-acquired Statfor emaildumps. In an attempt to separate fact from hysterical fiction spreading through the interwebz, Privacy SOS has nicely outlined TrapWire’s early history and the basics of what TrapWire does. The article also points to this “disturbing” leaked email from Burton stating, “Regarding SF landmarks of interest — they need something like TrapWire more for threats from activists than from terror threats. Both are useful, but the activists are ever present around here.”

The Stratfor emails were mirrored since WikiLeaks was under massive DDoS attacks, but even the mirrors were attacked. Russia Today reported, “Australian activist Asher Wolf wrote on Twitter that the DDoS attacks flooding the servers of WikiLeaks supporter sites were reported to be dropping upwards of 40 gigabits of traffic per second. On Friday, WikiLeaks tweeted that their own site was sustaining attacks of 10 Gb/second, adding, ‘Whoever is running it controls thousands of machines or is able to simulate them’.

This is just scratching the TrapWire surface, but it’s also interesting to note what Cryptome added. Regarding Microsoft and NYPD’s all-seeing Big Brother crime and terrorism prevention system aka the “Domain Awareness System,” Cryptome has a plethora of Private Paste information listed under“Renamed TrapWire Spying System – NYPD-Microsoft Domain Spying System.”

Microsoft & NYPD launch an all-seeing Big Brother crime & terrorism prevention system
by Ms. Smith / 08/08/12

It’s well known that Microsoft has a good relationship with law enforcement and intelligence agencies. It also has developed Public Safety & National Security Solutions. “Microsoft has quietly become one of the world’s largest providers of integrated intelligence solutions for police departments and security agencies,” Fast Company reported. This is regarding the NYPD and Microsoft launching an all-seeing crime and terrorism prevention system called the “Domain Awareness System” (DAS) that uses software to suck in, analyze, connect dots and otherwise monitor data that is constantly collected. Data like real-time CCTV and license plate monitoring.

“Although DAS is officially being touted as an anti-terrorism solution, it will also give the NYPD access to technologies that–depending on the individual’s perspectives–veer on science fiction or Big Brother to combat street crime.” Also according to Fast Company, “The system also allows deep, granular analysis of crime patterns in real time. Information about suspects can also be quickly called up. At a press conference, Microsoft’s Jennifer Tisch showed how integrated geographic information systems could display layers of real-time crime analysis for both misdemeanors and felonies. In addition, real-time access to multiple databases belonging to the NYC and other organizations can bring up a massive personal history–including both criminal and public domain information–from any suspect in a matter of seconds.”

Business Insider called it a “Minority Report crime fighting surveillance system.” It supposedly “bears a passing resemblance to the futuristic hologram data screens used by Tom Cruise in the science fiction film Minority Report, will allow police to quickly collate and visualize vast amounts of data from cameras, license plate readers, 911 calls, police databases and other sources.” According to The Guardian who originally posted the article, “It features live video feeds, huge databases of recent crime patterns and can take input direct from the field in real time via things like 911 calls or police radios.” New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said, “It is a one-stop shop for law enforcement.”

Apparently Fox News thinks it is super high tech as well. “Standing before a 30-foot-long wall of video monitors that looked like the set of a Hollywood TV show.” At the unveiling, Mayor Bloomberg said, “We are not your mom and pop’s police department anymore. We are leading the pack. There are about 3,000 closed-circuit television cameras connected to the Domain Awareness System, most of which are located in lower and midtown Manhattan, along with 2,600 radiation detectors carried by officers on patrol and several hundred license-plate readers mounted on police cars and deployed at bridges, tunnels and streets,” Bloomberg reported.

“In order to help ensure public safety and security and to detect, deter, and prevent potential terrorist activities, the New York City Police Department (NYPD) has developed a networked Domain Awareness System,” states the New York City Public Security Privacy Guidelines [PDF]. “The Domain Awareness System not only supplies critical supplemental assistance to officers’ ongoing security and public safety efforts, but also enhances the collaborative nature of those efforts by leveraging the resources of the private sector and other City agencies. Given the ongoing threat of terrorist attack, the Domain Awareness System is an important part of the NYPD’s integrated approach to providing protection for those who work in, live in, and visit New York City.” The document says that an “Authorized Agent” with the NYPD must give a stamp of approval before “certain action” is taken. The DAS is “part of the counterterrorism program” and will include CCTV videos that will be stored for 30 days unless the “Authorized Agent” determines it needs stored for longer than the original “Pre-Archival Period.” License plate reader data and metadata will be stored for five years. Environmental data is to be stored forever, worded as “retained indefinitely.”

Although there are “limits on the sharing of data with third parties,” all of this DAS data can be shared to help connect the dreaded dots of suspicion. “Unless otherwise provided for in a memorandum of understanding between the NYPD and a third party, any decision to share Video, Metadata, LPR Data, or Environmental Data with third parties, beyond Stakeholder Representatives, must be approved and documented in writing by the Authorized Agent, or a designee approved in writing by the Authorized Agent.” This “Authorized Agent” is not always the same person. In some cases it is the “Deputy Commissioner of Counterterrorism,” in others it is the “Deputy Commissioner for Legal Matters.”

Physical access to all of this stored data is to be protected, the guidelines states, and “is limited to NYPD personnel, authorized invited guests, and Stakeholder Representatives.” Direct access to the DAS database “is limited to authorized NYPD personnel and Stakeholder Representatives.” It would be interesting to know exactly who those stakeholders and invited guests might be. “Microsoft is in it for the long haul,” PCMag added. “The company’s vice president of American services, Lt. Gen. Mike McDuffy, made the assurance Wednesday that Microsoft is deeply committed to taking this initiative to another level.” Microsoft intends to sell DAS to other cities and through the partnership, New York City “will receive 30 percent of all revenues on future sales of the domain system.”